Are saeguk heroines really strong or really stupid?

I found K-drama heaven in 2009 and was immediately quite taken with saeguk shows.

I was at times very impressed with the willingness of both noble and peasant women to support their men as they rode off to battle and pretty much inevitable dismemberment and death. I also had many moments of “WHY do they put up with all that crap?”

I wrote a poem about what I think women always feel when their SO gets obsessed with the desire to do something big, make a big impression, take a big risk. Such a desire can be beneficial to a relationship, or it can (in more ways than one) kill it. And both aspects are well-explored in K-dramas.


Friends passing on the street greet me. “Fighting! Fighting!”
See these bloody, broken hands? When am I not fighting?
What good do these do me? I want only to touch your face.

I don’t want to go out every morning, racing
across the earth, trying to catch and drag down the five horsemen
Falsehood, Pride, Misunderstanding, Ridicule, Indifference.

I don’t want to go out every morning, leaping
into the sky, trying to catch and throw down the
dragon-riding lords Time and Death.

I want only to wake every morning
knowing that today I will be able to touch your face.
You, out there on the bleak and snowy plain, sword in hand.

After the horses have stopped thundering, after the dragons
have stopped sweeping down, when you have been hacked to death
and lie in the snow with a darkening red halo around your head,

Perhaps then I can crawl unnoticed between the piles of bodies
to kiss your ear garlanded by a strand of raven-black hair
before, finally, I lay my numb fingers on your bloodless lips.



That was beautiful!

But… hasn’t this been the fate of woman everywhere on the planet, for so many centuries? Either it was the woman of a soldier or the woman of a labourer or factory worker or whatever. They had to support and endure.

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My answer to your question -
Are saeguk heroines really strong or really stupid?
I’d say strong, and by that I mean inner strength strong ( ´◡‿ゝ◡`) inner resolve strong. They are the type who speak more, who speak louder, by doing, inspiring, and motivating.

Your more recent post caused me to pay attention to this post’s topic. I had already watched just about all those shows over the years, and already loved them, and the osts.:blush:

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I agree. The well-written sageuk heroines have incredible inner strength(or they’re warriors). The writers make use of our stronger emotional quotients to create a balanced relationship. Sometimes the ML will be all brawn while the FL is the brains. Or both work together for a common goal(The Imperial Coroner). Or both kick ass together(Under the Power). Or both make each other a better person with their own pros and cons(Moonlight Drawn by Clouds).

When a writer is able to make both leads not annoying, childish, overly “independent” or bossy, I think they’re already 90% done with making a really good drama.


Rightly said, and yes, they never fail to make for a heartfelt watch.


I love the poem. Umm… I think it’s a case of “A woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.”
Mulan went to war because neither her father nor her brother was able to do so.
Deborah, the high judge and priestess of Israel, took up arms because no one else did. What was she to do? Watch as her country and home burnt to the ground?
Perhaps it was stupidity not knowing they would die. Perhaps it was strength to endure such things. Bottom line: They were there. And they felt the need to do something. Gender be damned!


Don’t forget Jael who literally drove a tent peg through an enemy general’s head after pretending to be an ally :smile::sunglasses: When a job has to get done, it has to get done.


Aaah! I love seeing both your intimate knowledge of Biblical history shine (人*´∀`)。*゚+
I too was thinking of the women in the Bible while reading @misswillowinlove’s descriptions. (•‿•)


Yeah, baby, those two Bible ladies didn’t take no [expletive deleted] from anybody!

I find it so interesting that, generally speaking, human culture at large (and it doesn’t matter which culture) tends to think that, when intelligent compassionate women think clearly, that means they are about to morph into a [expletive deleted] in a shocking fuschia pantsuit . . . or a powderpuff in a hankie-hem meet-cute pastel date dress.


That’s why I think I would call The Last Empress my absolutely favorite-est saeguk. It’s a fabulous alternate history saeguk. The “Big Mama” . . . wow is she scary . . . and yet don’t you admire her determination to keep her empire out of the hands of scumbags and traitors?

She is more like the Biblical Queen Jezebel than the amazing and truly kick-butt Queen Esther, but don’t you want to, you know, do that K-drama thing and weep for her misplaced energy and determination?


And by the way, have WE not all come a LONG way since December 2018? May I say to all of you about whom I know more that I did 2.5 years ago, “Thank you for surviving!”




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Here’s another Bible reference:


According to this article . . .

“From the 1st century, Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla grew to control the peninsula and Manchuria as the Three Kingdoms of Korea (57 BC–668 AD), until unification by Silla in 676.”

When you consider that at a certain period in the history of the Korean peninsula, women were not considered the spiritual equal of men, were “owned” by men, and pretty much gave up the right to any lasting relationship to their children the minute said children popped out of the birth canal . . .

There were queens, empresses, princesses, and “commoners” who historically had a powerful emotional and spiritual impact on their subjects and were deeply loved by those subjects.

Not too shabby, not at all.


hmm I think I saw something like this in Moonlight Drawn By Clouds… the CP was a radical ruler because his mom smuggled Catholic writings and taught him along those principles that everyone was equal and a ruler had to be humble and think of his people first. We hardly got to see the mom(she died) but she was basically the “woman behind the ruler” kinda person.

And in Imperial Coroner we had a whip-wielding ML’s mom :sunglasses: I got scared every time they showed her practicing

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Moonlight Drawn by Clouds was my first saeguk. Cried a lot there. Beautiful.

Royal mothers. Do not mess with them.

Have just started Imperial Coroner. A meet-cute among piles of corpses. I hope the Prince’s mom turns out to be more interesting than the other noble and royal women because those ladies are super-boring and shallow.


I absolutely ADORE the scenes where they try to re-enact murders :joy: The Prince’s mom doesn’t have much of a role, though, it’s mostly the main characters throughout.

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Oh, yeah. Modesty between the sexes (which I believe in) is always tested to the limit when a Joseon investigator of some kind (official, unofficial, male, female, royal/noble, commoner) has to prove a theory about a murder to some very suspicious, very rigid superior type.

“Take off my what? You’re going to touch me where with what??!!”

And in a really good saeguk, the makeup artists get the blushes right–not the red face of someone who is drunk, but the flush of someone raised literally and emotionally sheltered, the pale pink that suits a pale, naive face. Naive in the ways of real, heartfelt love.

I get a wee bit annoyed when somebody thinks adding “super blushes” in post production to any Asian drama is a good idea, and it’s very irksome to see in a saeguk.

However, the Asian version of “No Sex, Please, We’re British” is rarely for the purpose of titillating an audience when it’s in a saeguk. The characters don’t know it, but we do . . . it’s the first step to true love, and I find myself going, “Aww, that’s so dumb; they’re so cute; that’s so sweet . . .”


I know right??! I felt the same with the drama “Touch Your Heart”… for some reason, their stumbling towards each others’ hearts never came across and stupid or boring. I found them so cute and innocent that I was smiling like a fool throughout the entire drama.

Seriously, I adore the writers of Touch Your Heart and The Imperial Coroner for being able to write female characters who were innocent, cute and adorable but extremely smart and non-cringey at the same time. Even the MLs were tsunderes but never were arrogant, narcissistic or rude/ bossy. Being nice is something everyone should be, handsome, aloof tsundere or NOT.

On the issue of modesty, though, the Imperial Coroner skips a few boundaries :joy: I was SO uncomfortable and on edge when she meets him AT NIGHT in a CLOSED ROOM and she was sitting while he was standing OH THE HORROR. And then the SML jumps into the room and now it’s TWO guys with one girl in a closed room at night and I almost PASSED OUT in shock of the extreme violation of modest boundaries. :scream::joy::joy:

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So, here’s me wondering as I prepare to sign off for the night: do the subbers have a reference library? I am fairly serious thinking this idea over.

Everything, as I see it, is grist for the subbing mill (great old saying). I find myself wondering about the weirdest things. Sometimes it’s an actual non-English word; sometimes it’s an English word; sometimes it’s a name or a historical event or a tune.

I personally find that if I understand context better, I am more comfortable with content and understand it better on some level. The more I learn about the nuts and bolts of various Viki dramas, the more I find myself looking “stuff” up because I just want to know “stuff.”

I put "stuff "on 3x5 cards and organize them alphabetically (or alpha-numerically to be more accurate). And then I carry them around in my tote bag until I get tired of them. But I have them while I’m thinking about and learning about another culture, time period, or whatever.

Would having and contributing to a virtual reference library be useful at all? Nothing complicated, nothing heavy, something useful and fun.


You are so unique @misswillowinlove, your passion preceeds you, to the point of nothing less than excellence at the end of a day. I applaud you!

Not at all a bad idea :wink:

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We usually have a reference list limited to just that drama. The TEs explain everything we want to know.
I wonder if we can use the “Wiki” function to create, edit and store various bits of information about each country for context.
Most volunteers usually start volunteering after they’ve gotten used to the cultures, but I know it can be difficult for others. I had a little trouble understanding Thai culture because I had never watched a lakorn before when I was recruited as an editor on that drama.

Do you think we can start Viki threads for TW, K, C, Vietnamese and Thai dramas and fill it up with Wikis on how things work in each culture? Starting with naming conventions. However, we’ll need native speakers for a lot of it.