Lee Seung-gi has it all; the looks, the voice, the variety/CF gigs, and a successful acting career. We here at Seoulbeats even dubbed him as the perfect idol with the image of Korea’s son and the boy next door but he has an unsettling knack for playing rich, spoiled brats. He achieved a lot of success with Shining Inheritance which racked up a 47.1% rating and My Girl Friend is a Gumiho with a 21% rating. And in King 2 Hearts he continues his role as the arrogant spoiled brat as the Crown Prince of an alternate Korea in which the royalty still exists. The story is about the arranged marriage between the prince and a North Korean Special Forces agent, played by Ha Ji-won.
The first four episodes of The King 2 Hearts revolve around the possible re-unification of North and South Korea through the World Officer Championships–think of World Cup except with guns and people who are trained to kill–and both countries will be united as one team. This project is being headed by the King of South Korea, Lee Jae-kang(Lee Sung-min) who is fulfilling his late father’s dreams of a united Korea. Cue in King’s younger brother, Lee Jae-ha(Lee Seung-gi), your stereotypical rich spoiled brat player who gets roped into the team to prove that the royalty is not useless. The royal family in this alternate Korea has the role similar to that of the British royal family in that King and Queen are only the heads of state and hold no real political power.
Our heroine is a North Korean Special Forces agent, Kim Hang-ah (Ha Ji-won) who is one of the fiercest soldiers in North Korea and their pride. She too, like Jae-ha, went into the WOC begrudgingly with the former only doing so because the communist party promised to find her a husband. Personally I wouldn’t go that route but desperate times call for desperate measures right? Jae-ha’s character is very callous and arrogant purposely riling the fellow North Korean members and even fellow team mate, Eun Shi-kyung(Jo Jung-seok) with offensive comments. The young prince is definitely the weakest link in this group and will prove to be dangerous to the reunification efforts. The teams go through various tests, ranging from facing gunmen to ones that test their loyalty, Jae-ha somehow manages to muck them all up with his actions. Hang-ah in the meanwhile is able to discipline him through fear but it proves futile when she bears her strongest weakness to him: her insecurity over her femininity. In the end of episode two Jae-ha rips her heart apart questioning her woman-hood, a low blow especially after the fact that Hang-ah bared her soul to him and they bonded, or so she thought.
She retaliates in episode 3 by questioning his masculinity and basically telling him that he is weak and dishonorable. Oh Jae-ha, William Congreve didn’t write “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” for fun, he was being dead serious and it seemed like you had to find that out the hard way. This attack on his pride leads Jae-ha to challenge Hang-ah to a race to see who can last the longest on a treadmill. Of course during the time they were on the treadmill, a bomb went off in another treadmill in another gym, and we realize that the very treadmills that the leads are running on have them too and if someone steps off…well, let’s just the end result will end in a kaboom. While the bomb squad works to disarm it, Jae-ha and Hang-ah have to run for several hours. Through this event both sides bond as they sing songs and the two leads reconcile their differences. But that begs the question, who put those bombs in there in the first place?
Cue in Kim Bong-gu who was introduced earlier in the drama as the psychotic pen-stabber who impaled a young Jae-ha and wrote “I am King” on a frost covered window a la horror flick. Now he is the head of Club M, a private weapons dealing company who has ties to various militant groups, and he seems like the most logical choice in this event. This character is obviously going to be a source of conflict later on but we aren’t sure in what way. Is he going to challenge the throne or is he going to blow everyone up?
As a result of the bombs in the treadmills, the United Nations and the self-proclaimed World Police–the USA–get involved and decide to ransack the North Korean training camp in order to ensure safety. Of course there’s a lot of underlying politics that would occur with this action but the drama doesn’t attempt to show that and instead uses this as an opportunity to provide a conflict for the prince to solve, which he does by cursing the two representatives from US and China and calling them bastards, in Korean of course. This only ensures the warm fuzzy feelings between Hang-ah and Jae-ha that is starting to bloom. At this point, Jae-kang proposes marriage between our two leads. Both readily decline but when Jae-ha sees Hang-ah flirting with Shi-kyung, he goes green with jealousy. And he said he didn’t see Hang-ah as a woman, pffft, we saw right through that.
In episode 4 tensions escalate even higher when there is an international crisis–involving guns, a lot of them– over our favorite nine angels, SNSD. The Hallyu meta in this drama is hilarious, the references to famous celebrities in the army like Jo Il-sung and Hyun-bin had me giggling in glee. I also love how distraught one of the North Korean officers, Rhee Kang-seok(Jung Mang-shik) is over his growing love for SNSD particularly Tiffany. It was this forbidden affection for South Korea’s favorite girl group that leads to this almost international crisis. As a result, the higher-ups decide to test the two teams by giving orders to the North Korean team to kill their Southern comrades. However, after bonding through campfire songs and a bomb threat, the North Korean team tries to smuggle their southern friends out but are met by a group of North Korean soldiers with their guns aimed at them. Jae-ha freaks out and thinks that Hang-ah betrays him and doesn’t hesitate to take out the gun he had in his pocket and shoot her, right in the heart. Fortunately it was a blank but this incident painted the South in a bad light and demonstrated that they should not be trusted. Jae-kang takes responsibility for this event and disbands the North and South team. Jae-ha feels guilt and he promises to finish the original final test, running 60 km in eight hours, and if he succeeds Jae-kang must reunite the two teams. Hang-ah and the rest of the team tag along and they manage to complete the race just in time, everyone becoming buddies at the end of episode 4.
The drama is funnier than I expected, I went in thinking it would be some sort of epic melodrama rife with political tension and espionage but instead it’s pretty hilarious and outrageous. The plot drags, spending unnecessary time on the psycho Kim Bong-gu. We get it, he’s psychotic and mentally unstable but we don’t need these random scenes of him playing with a lizard. I like how he’s this outrageous caricature of a villain and it will prove for some interesting conflict later on but his crazy needs to be enjoyed in small doses. It’s hard to judge where exactly this story is trying to head, we only know that the two main leads will be in an arranged marriage but I am wary of how the various elements such as the North-South relations, the WOC, and Club M are going to play in. It’s a fine line that the drama writers walk because there is a possibility of completely screwing the drama over with logic faults and clash of events.
Going on to the characters, both Ha Ji-won and Lee Seung-gi play roles that are very typical in a rom-com. You have your pampered brat who shows pockets of goodness and you have your bad-ass heroine. However the character of Hang-ah is a good one, exploring the role of women and femininity in an environment dominated by masculinity and strength. Her insecurities about her future and her role as a woman provide a depth to her character that is hard to come by in that stereotypical role. I also enjoy the interactions between the two brothers; however there is this feeling I have that Jae-kang will end up dead at some point. Jae-ha’s constant worries about his brother’s health and refusal to ascend the throne foreshadow a possible death.
I also like how the writers embed this intense prejudice towards North Korea in Jae-ha’s character, it explores the current tensions between the two nations, is it a little bit extreme for a prince? Yes, but it’s not impossible, the clash between the two ideologies are intense (Please refer to Cold War) and I like how they portray that through him. Being a political junkie I’m shaking my head at all the random references to world events and attempts at portraying realistic diplomatic interactions. That’s not how reality works, but since this is a drama I really can’t do much about it.
Overall King 2 Hearts is a drama I would recommend watching, the characters are played well and the humor is fairly dark. It drama comes off as a farce, kind of like what Spy Myung-wol did in the beginning but I have my fingers crossed that it won’t falter towards the end.