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Friday, May 8, 2015

Essential Words to Know for a Korean Drama Fan : The Complete Guide to Historical KDramas/Sageuk

As everyone know, the Korean Historical Dramas are really really popular. But they are so different from the usual day today drama. These following would be the essential things to know while watching Historical dramas/movies.

First of all...

Sageuk : Sageuk is the Korean term for Historical Dramas. Sageuk is a Korean Drama which story happen hundreds of years back in time. Mostly Sageuks portray Joson era, and in some times Goryeo era.

Countries and Cities
Joseon/Choseon : Joseon is the old name for Korea. Korea was Joseon from year 1392 to 1897. (Read more about Joseon here, the Wikipedia Page)

Goryeo : Korea was named as 'Goryeo' from years  918 to 1392. The name 'Korea' originated from this old name 'Goryeo'.(Read more about Ghoryo here, the Wikipedia page)

Sila : Sila was an ancient kingdom which became a part of Joseon, and then later to Modern Korea. Sila was found in 57 BC and existed till 935 AD.

Hanyang : The old name for Seoul.

Now, let's look inside the Palace and see the essential things to know... 

 Royal Titles

Jusang Johna / Wang - King
Jungjon mama - Queen
Seja Joha/Wang Seja - Crown Prince
Wangja - Prince
Gumju - Princess
Bigung mama/Sejabin - Crown Princess (Not King's daughter, but Crown Prince's wife)
Debimama - Dowager Queen (The Former Queen, King's mother or Step-mother)

Royal Addressing

The Kings and the royal family calls address their family with these terms

Abamama - It means,  'His highness Royal Father', or something similar to that. It's used by the Prince(s) and Princess(s) to address their father, the King.

Ommamama - It means, 'Her highness Royal Mother', or something similar to that. It's used by the Prince(s) and Princess(s) to address their mother, the Queen

Halmamama - It mean 'Her highness Royal Grandmother', or something similar to that. It's used by the Prince(s) and Princess(s) to address their grandmother, the dowager queen.

Adding '-mama'

Royal addressing is usually done by adding the term '-mama' to the title or term. The suffix '-mama' adds a royal reverence to the term.

Other Royal Words : 

Omyong : Royal Order. The orders that the king directly issue are 'Ohmyong'.

Okchae : The body of the king is referred to as 'Okchae', it means 'the reverent body', 'respected royal body' or something.

Adressing outside palace

Dhuryonnim - It means 'young master'. It's used to address the son of a wealthy family. In Historical Kdramas it's usually the noblemen's son that is addressed this way.

Agasshi - It means 'young girl'. It's used to address the daughters of a wealthy family. In Historical Korean Dramas usually noblemen's daughters are addressed this way.

Orabonni - It's the more respectful form of 'oppa'. Although it could be used rarely in present time Kdramas, it's a commonly heard word in Historical dramas.

Nagja - Means 'Young woman'/'Young Lady' etc. It's usually used by higher position men to adress women in a respectful way.

Dhegaam : It's the word to address the noble men.

Maanim : The word to address the wives of the noble men.


Gisaeng : Gisaengs were the female entertainers in Joson Era. They were supposed to master in dancing, music and other art forms. But despite being artists, they were used like prostitutes. Gisaengs had one of the lowest social status and people looked down on them. And their art have never been appreciated.

Gunyeo / nayin : The palace maids. The place maids are brought to the place at a young age and trained from childhood about the work and regulations to keep in the palace. It's said that each and every one of the palace maid is the king's woman, and hence the palace maids are restrained from marriage. They are not even supposed to love any other men, as that will be a disgrace to the king. 

Negwan : They are the male servants inside the place who serve king and other royal family members. These men are eunuchs, as they need to serve inside palace along with the palace maids, and they should not involve in a psychical or romantic relationship with the place maids. To prevent that from happening, they are castrated at young age.

Munyeo : The female shamans. They are supposed to have psychic powers and supposed to know magic. They were used to various supernatural things during Joseon Era, like getting rid of negative engergy by doing various rituals, or performing  magical rituals to help someone to achieve what they want, or even things like talking to the dead. Munyos were considered to be somewhat lowest in social level.

Hengsoo : The female merchant head of a commercial group, or maybe just a female head of a group of people.

Negumi jang : The head of Royal Guards

Janggun : The General of Royal Army

Sunbi : Scholar / Student. Joson followed Neo-Confucianism, which concentrated in being against any superstitions and gave more priority to education and other Confucian points like filial pity, and following social status etc. A 'sunbi' is said to be a person who is studying or had studies following these Confucian rules. They are given much importance in society.

Eewon : The old word for 'doctor'.


Goong : Palace

Sung-kyung-kwan : One of the major study school in Hanyang, which taught students according to Neo-Confucian principles. The students passing out from Sung-kyung-kwan gets placed in various Royal jobs, like from being a gate guard to even being the Prime Minister of the country.

Surakkan : The Royal Kitchen. This is the big Kitchen in side the place. though the place consists of various other big and small kitchens, Surakkan is the place where King's food is made.

Hwa-rin-seo : The public Health Center of Joseon Era. This was the place that treated common people and provided medicines for them. The treatment and medicines were free here as the money was provided by the government.

Other words 

Hanbuk: Hanbuk is the traditional Korean clothes.

Khom : Sword

Mal : Horse

Bhekseong : People of a country / citizens

Gumiho : A mythical 9 tailed fox with the ability to take human form. A gumiho is feared greatly as it's said to consume human liver.

Real People From History 

You should really knew these few people who existed in past. Because of their interesting life and twists, they are favorite characters for Korean Historical Dramas. These people re-appear many times in various Korean Drama and Movies.

King Jeongjo / Lee San : King Jeongjo, with birth name Lee San was the 22nd ruler of Joseon. King Jeongjo's father, Crown Prince Sado, was accused of bad-behavior and he was sentenced to death by his own father, king Gyeongjong. King Jeongjo was a child when this happened. When his father was put to death, Lee San was named the next heir to the throne, and he was named the 'saesunja' instead of 'saeja', the crown prince. As 'saeja' roughly mean's 'the king's son who will be the heir', and saesunja means 'the kings's grandson who will be the next heir'. And while Lee San was the crown prince, it was his grandfather who was the king.

Dramas and Movies where we can find King Jeongjo are : Yi San, SungKyungKwan Scandal, Warrior Beak Dong Soo, The Grand Heist, Painter of the Wind etc... 

King Sukjong & Jang Hui Bin : Jang Hui Bin was the only royal concubine to ever become the queen. She was the concubine of King Sukjong, the 19th King of Joseon. Jang Hui Bin. She was the mother of the later king, King Gyeongjong. Jang Hui Bin was said to be really pretty. In Lter life, she was sentenced to death by King Sukjong after finding that Jang Hui Bin had performed black magic against Queen In Hyun, the previous official wife of King Sukjong. King Sukjong is also said to have another concubine, Choi Suk Bin, who's son, King Yeongjo, became the king after Jang Hee Bin's son, King Gyeongjong. (And ya, King Yeongjo was King Jeongjo's grandfather). There are various types of interpretation in Kdrama about King Sukjong's relationship with his three ladies, Queen In Hyun, Jang Hee Bin and Choi Suk Bin. Various KDramas portray all these 4 characters differently. Sometimes one is a good character, sometimes they are bad villainous characters.

Dramas where we can find King Sukjong and his 3 Women are : Jang Ok Jung, Queen In Hyun's Man, Dong Yi, Jang Hui Bin etc...   

King Sejo / Prince Suyang : King Sejo was the 7th King of Joseon. He was considered to be the most villainous King in the history of Joseon. His nephew, King Danjong was put to the throne at a young age, after the death of previous King. But King Sejo, or Prince Suyang, at that time, plotted a coope and killed Kim Jong Soo, a major supporter of King Dajong, and all his people. Prince Suyang then pressured young King Dajong to abdicate the throne, and became the king Himself. Later he killed a lot of ministers that were against him, along with his own younger brother to keep in his position. After that King Sejo ordered, the old king, hid young nephew to be killed by poison.

Dramas and Movies were we can find King Sejo are : Princess Man, The Face Reader, The King and I...

General Lee Soon Shin : General Lee Soon Shin was a Korean Naval Commandant and he is honored the most because of his his victory against Japanese during the Imjin War in Joson Dynasty. He is also praised for his achievement against Japanese in the battle of Myeongnyang, where he destroyed 33 Japanese ships, while being outnumbered to Japanese ships by 13/133. One of the major accomplishment of General Lee Soon shin was the resurrecting and improving the Turtle Ship, an advanced navel ship design. His Statue is displayed in many major junctions in Modern Day South Korea.

Dramas where we can find General Lee Soon Shin are : Gu Family Book, Immortal Admiral Lee Soon Shin, etc... Also he is referred in many present day drama. 

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