Jung Do Jun (a.k.a. Jeong Do Jeon) Preview: A Historical Drama that makes “Gregory House” look like a nice person.

Hello. This is a Korean in America. Today, I’m previewing a new Historical drama coming out in Korea. This preview is done after watching the first two episodes.

P.S. Please go to Amazon when you want to purchase anything via any of the ads on the blog. It does not matter which one. I get some referral $ from it.

Don't get the impression that you arouse my anger. You see, one can only be angry with those he respects.
---Richard M. Nixon 

Over the past few years, Korean dramas set in the past were primarily period piece dramas with some fantastical elements. While the degree of fantastical whimsy differs from show to show, they do share one thing in common. The focus of the Korean dramas was romantic melodrama rather than the political events that happened to changed the fate of a nation.

So, some Koreans call the new Korean historical drama, ”Jung Do Jun”, a return to form for genre. If you want to go more in depth about the discussion about historical accuracy in Korean historical dramas, here is a link to my Kdrama101 article “What’s up with Korean historical dramas? I have a video link also.

What or more accurately who is Jung do Jun?
When you dealing with so called “Serious” Korean historical dramas, it is not that common for a non-royal character’s name to be on the title. Before the drama “Hur Jun” which was really the birth of the so called “trendy” Korean historical dramas, it was actually rare.

Movies are a different story!

So, this show is in the minority. It is about the historical individual, “Jung Do Jun”.

Why does he get a Korean drama with his name as a title?

“Jung Do Jun” was a high or more accurately one of the highest ranking bureaucrats of his age.  He is one of the key members that made the transition from “Goryeo” Dynasty to the “Joseon” Dynasty possible. Not only that, he is also a renowned political philosopher that built the philosophical foundation of the country “Joseon”.

So you get why he is a big thing!

At the same time, he is a rather controversial character.

Now we are getting into historical spoilers.


“Jung Do Jun” tried to create a country based on the bureaucrats with the King being restrained in his powers. In this context, to him, bureaucrats represent the ideals of Confucianism and the Kings represent the military powers in the country. To advance this agenda, he tries to mess with the succession and gets purged and killed during the first succession period of the “Joseon” Dynasty.

Even after he dies and his family gets whipped out, his reputation goes through dramatic events of its own.  Depending on the regime, his name gets rehabilitate and trashed. And the cycle continues to this day. In recent years, “Jung Do Jun” is getting linked to socialism. This is odd since his was a hard core vanguard of Confucianism which has class structures built into it.

So, you see why the dramatic life of “Jung Do Jun” is a good subject for a Korean drama. There is revolution in which one Dynasty ends and another is born. You have the tragic life of the protagonist who rises and falls. You have the controversy about how our protagonist should be evaluated in the present day. And you have the character of the protagonist!

And what a character he was!

“Jung Do Jun”… A real character with a capital A.
“Jung Do Jun” is basically a poster child for the radical political idealist.

He comes from a rather humble background and had to work up his entire life. While he had great ambitions, he was frustrated by the lack of progress. The source of this lack of career advancement lies with his steadfast idealism and personality.  While “Jung Do Jun” blames it on corruption, it is more about him.

He is stubborn!
He lacks flexibility of thought.
And he is generally pissed and does not try to hide it.

If you think about it, “Jung Do Jun” has a lot in common with “Marcus Tullius Cicero” of the Roman republic.  Both came up from lower backgrounds and had to work for everything they had. Both were stubborn in regard to their political philosophies. Both were rather radical in the ways they tried to realize their political philosophies.

And, at the end, both failed at the political game and lost their heads.

However, while watching the first two episodes, the character “Jung Do Jun” reminded me of “Richard Nixon” a lot!

Both have
 the resentment,
the self-righteousness,
and frustration
that come from having to work for everything and being always blocked from achieving one’s ambitions under the nose of people who do not have to work for what they want.  Both seem to idealize the concept of determination and pure momentum without any considerations for anyone else.

When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.
---Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Jung Do Jun” as the double edge sword
One this you notice after seeing the first two episodes is the radical personality of the protagonist.

He is radical…
He makes “Gregory House” of House M.D. look like a very accommodating person.

This is the show’s strength and weakness. Watching a radical person can be interesting which can be seen from the example of “Gregory House”. However, getting the balance right between radical interesting and radical annoying is not easy. The Korean drama “Jung Do Jun” is right on the line.

Because “Jung Do Jun” comes off as not really likable and radical sometimes, you end of rooting for the antagonists which is not the show’s intent. He can be so annoying sometimes that it becomes unrealistic that he is still alive. If you were the bad guy, you would want him dead…well at least sometimes.

That is a problem…

“We'll be remembered more for what we destroy than what we create.” 

― Chuck PalahniukInvisible Monsters

At the end
From what I have seen of the show, it has promise. The backdrop of the show is very interesting as we see how the “Goryeo” Dynasty ended. The acting is overall good especially some of the antagonists are great.  In regard to the protagonist, the show seems to push the radical aspect too far without creating aspects for the audience to latch onto.

He is just radical…

It will be interesting to see what specific political viewpoint the creators of the show are trying to endorse by using this controversial character as the show’s protagonist.  I would have to guess anti-establishment and socialism. Socialism has been popping up in historical dramas recently.

In any case, I give it an “at least watch 10 episode” recommendation. 

              Don't let the over the top trailer turn you off!

Streaming Link: Good drama net

Buy DVD via Amazon (Click On the Picture)

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