Records Written in Silence
March 4, 2022 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Ed Park (Village Voice), "The Family Plot": "[I]f it is your husband who lies within, you might understandably refer to the chest, four decades hence, as 'that thing.'" JaHyun Kim Haboush's introduction [PDF] to her translation of The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong provides context for a "tragic episode" in a "literary masterpiece and an invaluable historical document"--one adapted numerous times, e.g. in the 2015 film The Throne (winner of many awards and selected for Oscar consideration; currently available in the US on Tubi [ad supported]). Yang Hi Choe-Wall's thesis Hanjungnok: Memoirs of an Yi Dynasty Court Lady translates relevant memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong: in chapter 1, much of the memoir of 1795, and in chapters 2 and 3, the memoir of 1805. Also, from a few years later, the royal manuscript Gisa jinpyori jinchan uigwe depicts ceremonial details, flower arrangements, etc. for an occasion honoring Lady Hyegyeong (more info).
posted by Wobbuffet (6 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I've been on a k-drama kick since the start of the pandemic, and watched some that are - loosely - based on that period of history, that often seem to take some inspiration from the Prince Sado story. So far "the Prince was framed" seems to be more narratively attractive - young prince innocently running afoul of corrupt ministers makes for a more romantic hero, I guess. Had "reading up on the actual histrical context" on my to-do-list for a while now, so those links are super useful! Thanks Wobbuffet!

Prince Sado and his family seem to be the Tudors of Korea in terms of on-going narrative appeal for popular culture. I should be looking for an adaptation from Lady Hyegyeong's perspective - walking the tightrope of trying to stay loyal to murderous psycho husband while also staying loyal to the King who ordered his execution must make for gripping drama. Does anyone have recommendations?

When it comes to the Tudors, I'm usually team scheming courtier - my favourite version is Hilary Mantel's Cromwell triology. Of course, a compelling treatment is usually one where everyone is various shades of morally compromised.
posted by sohalt at 2:01 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]

I don't know about TV series, but a 'tightrope' perspective is a reasonably close match for The Throne--good performances too. Framed in those terms, I guess it's mostly the camera/viewer/narrative focus that's given a balancing act to perform, but that also describes Lady Hyegyeong's role. FWIW viewers who don't watch a lot of Korean media may still recognize starring cast from Parasite or Hellbound.
posted by Wobbuffet at 6:59 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]

I'm so happy to see this post--much like sohalt, I've been finding myself watching historical kdramas lately, courtesy of my kids, and after watching The Red Sleeve, we all rushed to wikipedia to try to learn more about Prince Sado, once we realized he was a real historical figure. His ultimate fate seemed so gothic and horrifying, we really thought it must be made up, but no! Now I have to get my hands on this memoir!
posted by mittens at 7:29 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]

FWIW viewers who don't watch a lot of Korean media may still recognize starring cast from Parasite or Hellbound.

Oh, Yoo Ah-in as Sado, that is a quite the draw. He's so much fun in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (which also goes for the "Prince Sado was framed" route) and Chicago Typewriter and he sure knows how to bring the pathos too. Will definitely put that on my to-watch-list!

But that does seem like a pretty prince Sado sympathetic version too, judging from the wikipedia plot synopis. Does anyone know something more from the perspective of the terrorized wife and servants? I assume every version of the narrative will show Sado as the pitiful product of a toxic and dysfunctional upbringing which is hard to discount as a mitigating factor, but even his wife who's pushing hard for that angle reports his frequent rapes and routine murder of servants when something went wrong with the morning dressing ritual. Then again, that might just be part of the tightrope walk, justifying the man who ordered the execution, whom she needs to appease for her own survival.

I guess Sado has been quite successfully rehabilitated by his son, who seems like one of the more popular Korean monarchs, but might have taken more after his grandfather than his father....
posted by sohalt at 9:12 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]

sohalt--yeah, μ‚¬λ„μ„Έμž was a serial rapist and serial killer. The Village Voice article suggests that his crimes were sporadic--"occasionally" ending in the death of a servant. This was not the case. He raped Buddhist nuns. He raped countless court ladies, including his own sister. And he killed. He believed that his clothes were possessed by evil spirits that only he could see. He killed the servants who brought him the clothes crawling with evil spirits. He would have dozens of outfits brought to him, until he found the one outfit he could wear. And he never looked at or wore the same outfit twice. So he killed daily. Up to six people in a single day. For months on end.
posted by what does it eat, light? at 10:07 AM on March 5 [5 favorites]

Oh hell yes -- I've been wanting to see a big-budget production of this for years, ever since reading it in JaHyun Kim Haboush's translation in a grad seminar on Joseon texts. Looking forward to reading Choe-Wall's thesis -- thank you for this post!
posted by bokane at 6:12 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]

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