New take on King Yeongjo and Prince Sado

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New take on King Yeongjo and Prince Sado


Song Kang-ho, left, and Yoo Ah-in, the leads in Lee Joon-ik’s upcoming period drama “The Throne,” pose for a photo shoot during a press conference on Tuesday in southern Seoul. [NEWSIS]

A tragic tale of Crown Prince Sado will ring a bell to anyone who has studied Korean history.

The dramatic story of King Yeongjo, the 21st king of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), killing his own son in a wooden rice chest has been a tempting subject for many filmmakers and TV producers. And many have taken it on.

Yet another film version coming this fall has been crafted by director Lee Joon-ik, the mastermind behind period drama hits like “Once Upon a Time on a Battlefield” (2003) and “King and the Clown” (2005). He has employed a more heart-rending spin.

Although Lee was well-aware of previous attempts to capture this particular historical event, he couldn’t resist after being captivated by the interwoven emotions in the ill-fated father-son relationship.

Titled “The Throne,” his upcoming film will revive the dreadful eight days in which Crown Prince Sado slowly died in the rice chest.

In flashbacks, he tells a tale going back 56 years.

“I wanted to depict a family tragedy,” Lee said during a press event Tuesday at the Apgujeong CGV in southern Seoul.

“I have always wanted to challenge myself with a tragedy,” he said. “However, I thought a tragedy would have life only if there is something beautiful about it instead of being merely a sad story. I dug deeper into King Yeongjo’s mind-set to understand what made him kill his own child.”

The son of King Sukjong and a concubine, who was from the lowest social strata, King Yeongjo’s legitimacy was constantly questioned. He was even accused of killing his older brother out of greed to inherit the throne.

Enduring such harsh persecution from a young age, Yeongjo always had high demands - almost an obsession - that his son be the exemplary heir in all aspects. Once his son started to diverge from the path of orthodoxy, the relationship fell apart.

Experienced actor Song Kang-ho took on his first kingly role as Yeongjo, while rising star Yoo Ah-in plays Crown Prince Sado.

“About 90 percent of our film is strictly based on historical fact which makes the film very straightforward,” Song said. “There are no exaggerations or logical jumps, but rather, Yeongjo is depicted very realistically which makes our film competitive among others.”

Yoo said that this approach to the historical facts caught his attention when reading the script.

“I thought it should be different from other renditions of the story of Yeongjo and Crown Prince Sado,” said Yoo. “When I was reading the screenplay, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, coming across stories about these characters that I had never heard before.”

The film may tackle one of the most notorious events of the history of the Joseon era, but the transcended theme of a troubled father-son relationship is expected to resonate with the current day audience.

“Some might say that the past is just the past,” Lee said. “But I believe that there is part of our DNA that will click well with elements of period drama,”

The film is slated to hit theaters in September.


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