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Pop culture resurrects Prince Sado

July 18,2014
A portrait of Crown Prince Sado by U Seung-u, Yoo Ah-in, Lee Je-hoon
Crown Prince Sado (1735-62) is known as the “Tragic Prince” because he died after being trapped in a rice bin for eight days due to the wrath of his father, who threw him in there.

Because many consider this to be the Joseon Dynasty’s most shocking scandal, pop culture has covered the subject extensively in films such as “Crown Prince Sado” (1956) and dramas such as “Sky Sky” (1988), where Sado was depicted as a weakling or a maniac.

But recently, there has been a wave of remakes that depict Sado as a historical agent rather than a pitiful character.

The most noticeable recent work is the film “Sado,” which started filming this month. Lee Joon-ik, who was behind “King and the Clown” (2005), will direct the film, while Song Gang-ho will play Young-jo. Yoo Ah-in is cast as Prince Sado.

A TV series that reinterprets the political side of the Crown Prince Sado saga is expected to air this September on SBS.

The series, “Secret Door,” was written by Yoon Seon-joo, who previously wrote historical dramas such as “The Great King Sejong.” Han Suk-kyu will play Young-jo, Sado’s father, and Lee Je-hoon, who is finishing his military service at the end of this month, is a strong candidate for the role of Prince Sado.

If “Sado” focuses on coldhearted greed and hunger for power, “Secret Door” puts weight on the political conflict between Young-jo and Sado.

“How Prince Sado’s desire for a status-free world clashes with Young-jo’s desire to strengthen royal power will be depicted,” said an associate from SBS. “Prince Sado’s revolutionary tendencies will be highlighted.”

Sado’s desire for a revolution was largely covered in the novel “King’s Wrath.” The novel shows Prince Sado as a victim who tried to reform the land but failed.

“Prince Sado received a biased view for about 200 years,” said author Choi Seong-hyun. “I wanted to shed light on Sado’s strong faith in going against the ruling party for revolution.”

Works introducing Prince Sado base his character on the memoir “Hanjoongrok,” which was written by the royal figure’s wife, and emphasized his manic or crazy behavior.

However, “The World Dreamed by Prince Sado,” a book published in late 2011 by Lee Deok-il, the head of the Hangaram Institute of History and Culture Studies, reinterpreted Prince Sado. “Prince Sado was not a psycho, as written in ‘Hanjoongrok,’ but rather a man with good qualities who faced an unfortunate death due to his revolutionary thinking that shook the leading group’s foundation,” states the chief in the book.

Young-jo’s obsession with Prince Sado is coming into focus as the cause of the tragedy, and the film criticizes society’s excessive education fervor.

“I will show how Young-jo’s emotions toward Sado Prince evolve from happy to anticipation, then anger and hatred,” said director Lee.

“I want to give a lesson to today’s parents who obsess over their children.”

BY Jung Hyun-mok [estyle@joongang.co.kr]







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