I know that this has been done again and again, and I maybe, technically have already done it in my post about Jang Hee Bin 1961, but I just felt like I had to do it.
Consort Hui of the Jang Clan (희빈 장씨), also known as Jang Ok Jeong (장옥정), Jang Ok Nan (장옥난), Queen Bu-ok of the Jang Clan (부옥 중궁전 장씨), or just simply Jang Hee Bin (장희빈), was born to Jang Hyeong (장형) and Mrs Yun (윤씨) (Apparently, nobody bothered to record her name.). She was appointed as a court lady (궁녀) under Queen Jangryeol (장렬대비), Grand Queen Dowager (대왕대비) and grandmother of King Sukjong (숙종). Noted for her beauty in the Records of the Joseon Dynasty (조선왕조 실록), she was noticed by the King, and was promoted from a Na-in (나인) to a Sanggung (상궁). According to some records, while projecting a humble yet determined personality on the outside, she was a jealous, scheming court lady on the inside. Because of this, she was expelled from the palace by Sukjong’s mother, Queen Myeongseong (명성왕후) (Not to be confused with Empress Myeongseong (명성황후)) for breaking Palace Rules. However, Queen Inhyeon (인현왕후), Sukjong’s 2nd Queen, begged the King to bring her back, and the King agreed.
As Ok Jeong returned, she was promoted to Suk Won (숙원), So-ui (소의), and eventually Hui Bin (희빈). Her jealousy began to show, and she was involved in many conspiracies, including the death of Queen Myeongseong, and her general ferocity in court. She held political power that she used to control her political party, the Soron (소론) (a division of the Western faction), successfully expelling Queen Inhyeon from the palace. Lady Jang then ascended to the role of Queen.
Her short tenure came to an end when his new concubine, Choi Suk Bin (최숙빈), requested for her return, and reinstated her. Lady Jang, angry at her demotion, summoned shamans to kill and denounce the Queen. When Queen Inhyeon died of an unknown illness, the King had a dream of the late Queen in a bloodstained dang-ui (당의) (robe for Royal Ladies), who pointed towards Lady Jang’s chamber. Upon arriving there, he caught Lady Jang and her brother, Jang Hee Jae (장희재), striking figurines of the poor Queen with arrows! She was sentenced to death by poison (사약), and died in 1701.
She had 1 child; King Gyeongjong, and was given a title, although she died a criminal. Her title was Lady Oksan, Great Concubine of the Palace, Prefectural Great Concubine of the Indong Jang Clan (대빈궁옥산부대빈장씨).
Now that I’ve given you the history, let’s get to why I made this post in the first place. There’ve been 2 movies and 7 dramas about Lady Jang, which gives a total of 9 interpretations over 52 years. Lady Jang’s image has slowly changed from a jealous femme fatale, to an intelligent, scheming lady, to a cold, restrained political figure, and most recently, a fashion designer.
I judge a version of Jang Hee Bin by a lot of stuff, but the 2 most important ones are the arrow scene and the poison scene. Really selective when it comes to these 2.
1961 Movie – Jang Hee Bin (장희빈), featuring Kim Ji Mi (김지미), Ju Jeung Nyeo (주증녀) and Kim Jin Gyu (김진규)
Release Date: 1961
Duration: 127 minutes
Original Story: Yi Min Gu (이민구)
Director: Jeong Chang Hwa (정창화)
Arrow scene: 5 stars
Poison scene: What poison scene?
Jang Hee Bin – Kim Ji Mi
King Sukjong – Kim Jin Gyu
Queen Inhyeon – Jo Mi Ryeong (조미령)
Queen Inkyeong – Ju Jeung Nyeo (주증녀)
Although it’s a bit lacking in the ‘epic’ area, the storyline is great, Kim Ji Mi’s acting is super, and a ton of other opinions, which you can read on my post on Jang Hee Bin 1961. Oh, I uploaded a video of the movie’s arrow scene, you can see it here: Jang Hee Bin 1961: Arrow Scene
1968 Movie – Femme Fatale, Jang Hee Bin (요화 장희빈), featuring Nam Jeong Im (남정임), Tae Hyeon Shil (태현실), and Kangshin Seong I’ll (강신성일), aka Shin Seong Il (신성일)
Release Date: 1968
Director: Im Kwon Taek (임권택)
Arrow scene: 4 stars; that was some convincing cinematography
Poison scene: We didn’t get to see her take it; the king was too busy giving the Crown Prince a lecture
Jang Hee Bin – Nam Jeong Im
King Sukjong – Shin Seong Il
Queen Inhyeon – Tae Hyeon Shil
It was really good, actually. Nam Jeong I’m was really vicious (hence the movie title), delivering 4 intense slaps where 7 years before there’d be 1 bland slap with no reaction. As this had 1961’s storyline, there was also Chun Seon’s torture (involved a tree, a lot of hair-pulling, and the reason why the show was rated 18+; I think her underclothes were ripped too, but the camera angle didn’t make it clear.
MBC 1971 Drama – Jang Hee Bin (장희빈), featuring Yun Yeo Jeong and Park Geun Hyeong
Start/End Date: July 18th, 1971 to January 31st, 1972
Arrow Scene: ?
Poison scene: ?
Jang Hee Bin – Yun Yeo Jeong (윤여정)
King Sukjong – Park Geun Hyeong (박근형)
Again, never seen it. It seems so rare, that I couldn’t even find a proper staff or cast: again, only a few pictures. But based on those pictures, I can tell that it seemed to be one of those dramas that stick directly to the book, like dramas at that time.
MBC 1981 Drama – Women of History: Jang Hee Bin (여인열전: 장희빈), featuring Yi Mi Suk (이미숙), Yu In Chon (유인촌), and Yi Hye Suk (이혜숙)
Start/End Date: October 5th, 1981 to March 12th, 1982
Broadcasting Time: Monday and Tuesday, at 9:55 pm
Episode Duration: 1hr 10 minutes
Director: Im Chung (임충)
Arrow Scene; So good, it’s scary; 5 stars
Poison Scene: More funny than dramatic; 3 stars
Jang Hee Bin – Yi Mi Suk
King Sukjong – Park Geun Hyeong
Queen Inhyeon – Yi Hye Suk
Choi Suk Bin – Yi Mi Yeong (이미영)
MBC has like a few videos of this drama on Youtube integrated with their Variety Shows. Here’s one: Dong Yi Interview: Generations of Jang Hee Bin. I saw the poison scene, and although Yi Mi Suk did her best to look really sad, I kept wondering why she would have blue eye shadow on a sageuk, along with why she was rolling up and down the stairs afterwards. Anyway, she was really convincing, and the drama put a lot of stress on how evil Jang Hee Bin was and how good Queen Inhyeon was. There was a clip of Yi Hye Suk acting as Queen Inhyeon, and the way she speaks and moves her head tells me that she’s like a slightly frailer version of Park Ha Seon (박하선) on Dong Yi (동이). Really love the shade of blue on Hee Bin’s Dang-ui.
MBC 1988 Drama – The 500 Years of Joseon: Queen Inhyeon (조선왕조 500년: 인현왕후), featuring Park Sun Ae (박순애), Kang Seok Wu (강석우), and Jeon In Hwa (전인화)
Start/End Date: January 13th, 1988, October 13th, 1988
Broadcasting Time: Wednesday and Thursday, at 9:50 pm
Episode Duration: 1hr 11 minutes
Director: Yi Byeong Hun (이병훈)
Arrow Scene: Unconvincing; 2 stars
Poison Scene: Made up for the arrow scene: 5 stars
Jang Hee Bin – Jeon In Hwa
King Sukjong – Kang Seok Wu
Queen Inhyeon – Park Sun Ae
Choi Suk Bin – Kyeon Mi Ri (견미리)
Jang Hee Jae – Yi Deok Hwa (이덕화)
Kim Chun Taek – Choi Sang Hun (최상훈)
Mrs Yun – Eom Yushin (엄유신)
Seeing as this was directed by Yi Byeong Hun (best director ever!), MBC made an entire summary video of it. It can be viewed here: Queen Inhyeon. A perfect balance of color and accuracy, along with a ton of my favorite actors/actresses, like Jeong Hye Seon (정혜선), Kyeon Mi Ri, Kim Hae Suk (김해숙), Jeon In Hwa, Yi Deok Hwa, and that actress that played Queen Jeongsun (정순왕후)’s court lady in Yi San (이산). The only reason why it’s not my favorite is for 1 small yet significant reason: the arrow scene wasn’t good enough.
Anyway, so things are a bit different from back in ’61. The storyline’s been modified a bit, the court ladies are wearing gache, and it’s no longer your average sageuk. Again, the poison scene was really dramatic and convincing, but nobody’s in their funeral clothes. That gets to me. It’s as if nobody cares about poor Inhyeon’s death, they’re too busy killing Jang Hee Bin. The door was a bit uncalled for, though. From the video, it seems like a typical Yi Byeong Hun drama, with a little of everything; melodrama, humor, and of course, history.
SBS 1995 drama – Jang Hee Bin (장희빈), featuring Jeong Seon Kyeong (정선경), Im Ho (임호), Kim Won Hui (김원희) and Kim Yeong Ae (김영애)
Start/End Date: February 20th, 1995 to September 26th, 1995
Broadcasting Time: Monday and Tuesday, at 9:50 pm
Director: Yi Jong Su (이종수) – No, not Yi San’s Yi Jong Su
Episode Duration: 1hr 10 minutes
Screenwriter: Im Chung
Arrow Scene: Satisfactory; 4 stars
Poison Scene: Scary!; 5 stars
Jang Hee Bin – Jeong Seon Kyeong
King Sukjong – Im Ho
Queen Inhyeon – Kim Won Hui
Queen Myeongseong – Kyeon Mi Ri (견미리)
Queen Jangryeol – Kim Yeong Ae (김영애)
Choi Suk Bin – Nam Ju Hui (남주희)
Here’re 2 opening title screens for the show: Jang Hee Bin 1995 (1st title screen)Jang Hee Bin 1995 (2nd title screen)
By looking at the first title screen, my first thoughts were: “So, when does she become evil?” I thought it was a drama focusing on Jang Hee Bin and King Sukjong’s love alone. But after seeing this, my thoughts on the series were completely changed: Jang Hee Bin 1995 Montage. For a rookie actress at the time, Jeong Seon Kyeong did a good job. Still not as good as the Kims, though. This also marks Im Ho’s first of many historicals with Im Chung (who, BTW, is his dad). He seems to like acting as a king/crown prince, as he’s played King Sukjong, King Jungjong (중종), King Jinpyeong (진평) and Crown Prince Sado (사도세자).
Anyway, so again, I looked at the poison scene (yes, I’m into poison scenes, especially ones that’ve been remade over and over again), and I found this one scary. It’s the first one in which Hee Bin’s actually vomiting up the poison. It didn’t help that they kept zooming into her face while she was walking and dying at the same time, or that Im Ho’s face was messed up in that scene. But, that shot viewership ratings to >40%, so SBS can’t complain.
KBS 2002 Drama – Jang Hee Bin (장희빈), featuring Kim Hye Su (김혜수), Jeon Gwang Ryeol (전광렬), and Park Seon Yeong (박선영)
Start/End Date: November 6th, 2002 to October 23rd, 2010
Broadcasting Time: Wednesday and Thursday, at 9:55 pm
Episode duration: 1hr 10minutes
Directors: Han Cheol Gyeong (한철경), Yi Yeong Guk (이영국)
Arrow Scene: Almost demonic; 5 stars
Poison Scene: Not all that; 3 stars
Jang Hee Bin – Kim Hye Su
King Sukjong – Jeon Gwang Ryeol
Queen Inhyeon – Park Seon Yeong
Queen Myeongseong – Kim Yeong Ae
Queen Jangryeol – Kang Bu Ja (강부자)
Choi Suk Bin – Park Ye Jin (박예진)
Kim Chun Taek (김춘택) – Song Il Guk (송일국)
Favorite Jang Hee Bin ever!! Kim Hye Su really put some excitement into this show. Her personality allowed Jang Hee Bin to come out of the TV and slap you silly. Her arrow scene was particularly convincing, almost creepy, and definitely evil with intent to kill. Here it is: Jang Hee Bin 2002 Arrow Scene.
The amount of kicking, smirking, shouting, shamanism and slapping this woman has done makes you wonder whether those were her hobbies. She’s probably slapped every single court lady under her rank. Japanese Advertisement for Jang Hee Bin 2002
The poison scene was okay, but it was like a failed copy of ‘Queen Inhyeon’s poison scene, door and all.
MBC 2010 Drama – Dong Yi (동이), featuring Han Hyo Ju (한효주), Ji Jin Hee (지진희) and Yi So Yeon (이소연)
Start/End Date: March 22, 2010 to October 12, 2010
Broadcasting Time: Monday and Tuesday, from 9:55 pm
Episode Duration: 1hr
Directors: Yi Byeong Hun, Kim Sang Hyeop (김상협)
Arrow Scene: It’s been 3 years, and I’m still looking
Poison scene: Dignified, but weak. And she took it willingly; 3 stars
This drama is Yi Byeong Hun’s 2nd time directing a show with Jang Hee Bin (I say with because he never actually did a drama on Jang Hee Bin), and I think that this fusion sageuk is more inspirational than a historical. Mr Yi’s said that he wanted this version of Jang Hee Bin to be more restrained, with a sense of responsibility towards her family. Still, there’s no excuse for not using a bow and arrow to kill the queen. You know what she used? A match and the Queen’s ID tag. So much for dramatic, but impression achieved, Mr Yi.
SBS 2013 drama – Jang Ok Jeong (장옥정), featuring Kim Tae Hee (김태희), Yu Ah In (유아인) and Hong Su Hyeon (홍수현)
Broadcasting Date: April 8th, 2013 to June 27th, 2013
Episodes: 24 (seriously?)
Broadcasting Time: Monday and Tuesday, from 10:00pm
Episode Duration: 1hr 10 minutes
Director: Bu Seong Cheol (부성철)
Arrow Scene: She’s a good guy here, there’s no need for it (-_-)
Poison Scene: A real tearjerker, even though it was weak and bloodless – 3 stars
Jang Hee Bin – Kim Tae Hee
King Sukjong – Yu Ah In
Queen Inhyeon – Hong Su Hyeon
Choi Suk Bin – Han Seung Yeon
The sad ending seems incomplete. It’s not like other versions, where they try to make up for Hee Bin’s death by showing her son’s ascension or anything, no! Just a minute after she dies, the show’s over! Sukjong looks as though he’s not going to make it through this, and I think that it’s Ok Jeong’s fault here. Yes, I understand that she wants the best for him, but still, you had the chance to be a fashion designer in China, Ok Jeong! Wasn’t that your dream?! Hyeon Chisu (He has unrequited love for Ok Jeong), although very reliable, probably shouldn’t have tried to take care of Ok Jeong alone; Hyeon Mu should’ve supervized the entire evacuation until the end. Oh, well.
Like most others, my favorite part was Episode 8’s kissing scene between the King and Ok Jeong (which is strange, because usually it would have been the one where she caused the Queen Myeongseong’s death). They mightn’t have the best chemistry, but it was just enough. And of course, all the slaps, schemes and shouting were appreciated. My favorite slap was when Ok Jeong (Jang Suk Won at the time) slapped Queen Myeongseong’s court lady Ju Sanggung (Sanggung: Court Lady Rank – 6th level, I think) for not properly taking care of her mother.
Of course, the Hanbok (traditional clothes) were great. Highly inaccurate at times (high heels in 17th century Joseon? Sure.), but really appealing. Ok Jeong had the best clothes of course, while everyone else was being
plain in accordance with Joseon’s customs.
All in all, a good show, but I simply can’t watch it again for a long while (How’s 2 years sound?).
Kim Ji Mi. Nam Jeong Im. Yun Yeo Jeong. Yi Mi Suk. Jeon In Hwa. Jeong Seon Kyeong. Kim Hye Su. Yi So Yeon. Kim Tae Hee. These 9 actresses have brought this enigma to life, from the days when Wonsams (traditional Royal Lady clothing for special occasions) were the norm in sageuk, to the mainstream dang-ui and hairpin, to the rediscovered dang-ui and gache (traditional wig), to the trendy Hanbok infiltrating slowly into contemporary historicals. They’ve taught us Joseon history, while providing us with the controversies and tragedy that seem to be required in a drama. As to why there’re 9 versions of this show, that’s probably something everyone has different reasons for. Will we ever find another concubine in Joseon history as
evil alluring as Jang Hee Bin? We may never know, although Kim Hyeon Ju’s putting up a good fight in Cruel Palace, War of the Flowers.