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The King’s Affection–”Romeo & Juliet” Meets “As You Like It”

In this Korean historical romance, The King’s Affection is part Shakespeare and part soap opera.  Twins are born to the royal family: a baby boy and a baby girl. Having a crown prince share his mother’s womb with a girl is culturally unacceptable for the future heir to the throne.  As a result, when the Crown Princess gives birth to twins, the grandfather orders the murder of the baby girl.  Unknown to him the twins’ mother has her baby girl sent away with a trusted bodyguard in a Moses Biblical fashion.  No one knows of her existence except for the mother, the bodyguard and two loyal court servants.       

About fourteen years later, we see the twin daughter–now a court maid named Dam-yi  (the mesmerizing star, Park Eun-bin,  of “Extraordinary Attorney Woo”, see my November 21, 2022 review)–return to the palace to work.  Her twin brother, now Prince Regent, mischievously persuades her to trade places with him, dressed as the other, on several occasions.  In a tragic scene the crown prince loses his life through a case of mistaken identity, and Dam-yi is persuaded by her mother to assume his identity.  The plot thickens as she–now he–has to manipulate the opposing forces as Crown Prince and potential coup of those either wanting power or determined to maintain power.  As the court intrigue becomes more and more convoluted, a teacher Jung Ji-woon (Rowoon, a popular K-pop musician)–who originally was infatuated with the young teen Dam-yi–becomes the Crown Prince’s tutor, not realizing that he is tutoring Dam-yi in disguise.

Over the course of twenty episodes, we are treated to unexpected plot twists, some involving court intrigue, others the romance between the court tutor and the Crown Prince, whom he loves first as a man and then as a woman.  In both situations, the intimacy and romance shift meaning in respectful ways.  Incredulous surprises and twists occur in most episodes, subverting expectations.   Enforced silences and erased selves sustain the gender role deception in almost every episode. Family secrets are revealed, most notably in the Royal Placenta Chamber.

The King's Affection

King’s Affection is a highly entertaining K-drama accompanied by cherry-blossom postcard images introducing each episode and K-pop music underscoring the emotional and romantic scenes between the two lovers.  While some of the middle episodes sag and otherwise engage in excessive soap-opera melodrama, overall this is a charming series to enjoy and savor.   The tangled hairball of lies keeps you engaged. And the loss of self when assuming another’s identity brings the family saga full circle as the finale quite cleverly ties all ends together.

Availability:  Netflix streaming

Note:  The actor Park Eun-bin is almost unrecognizable in her role in this series compared with her character in “Extraordinary Attorney Woo”.

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