Empire of Lust 순수의 시대(2015) Feature #1: History Lesson

Empire of Lust 순수의 시대(2015) Feature #1: History Lesson

Keywords: #EmpireOfLust #순수의시대 #ShinHaKyun #JangHyuk #KangHanNa #KangHaNeul #KMovie #KCinema #신하균 #장혁 #강한나 #강하늘 

The biggest Korean Movie opening in March is “Empire of Lust” (2015) starring Korean drama favorites Shin Ha-Kyun (신하균), Jang Hyuk  (장혁), and Kang Han-Na (강한나) from “Miss Korea” (2013).

Shin Ha-Kyun (신하균)

“Empire of Lust” (2015) is a period piece movie loosely based on real historical events.  It is loosely based because the character Shin Ha-Kyun (신하균) plays is a fictional construct and most of the events in the movie does not actually follow historical events other than the basic setting and the ultimate political outcomes.

Thus, you may think that “Empire of Lust” (2015) could be watched without any prior historical knowledge.

And you would be wrong to a degree.

The movie does not do a good job at providing exposition regarding the setting. So, I’m here to give you a brief history lesson.

King Lee Seong-gye

Birth of Joseon Dynasty
Empire of Lust” (2015) uses the events of the 1st Conflict between the Joseon Princes that occurred 1398 A.D.

In 1392 A.D., General Lee Seong-gye became the first king of the Joseon Dynasty and ended the 500 year reign of the Goryeo Dynasty through a successive Coup d'état.  While the details of the Coup is complicated,  the simple version is that General Lee Seong-gye who was given the command of the Liáodōng  invasion forces used this opportunity to turn around the army and attacked the capital. Once General Lee Seong-gye became the king, he changed the capital to the current location of Seoul.

Things looked as if all was great for King Lee Seong-gye.

He is now a king after all.

However, the early period of a new Dynasty is commonly a perilous time.

Background to the 1st Conflict between the Joseon Princes
In the case of  King Lee Seong-gye, the problems was his sons and his retainers. As with most Heroes of the age, King Lee Seong-gye had many children from two wives: his first wife Lady Han and his second wife Lady Kang. Even though Lady Kang was the second wife, she was crown queen because she came from a prominent family unlike Lady Han.

This was somewhat of an insult to the offspring of Lady Han in which there were 6 sons and 2 daughters in total.

I mean…
Even though she was lower born, you cannot say that Lady Han did not do her job.
Pumping out 8 kids 600 years ago!

The problem with this is that the 6 sons of Lady Han were all older than the sons of Lady Kang  and were established military leaders at the time who all contributed to the Coup d'état that created the new Dynasty.

Thus having these sons pissed was not a good situation.

Jeong Do-jeon

Problems got worse when the youngest son of Lady Kang was appointed heir apparent with the backing of prominent Confucianism Bureaucrat/Scholar  Jeong Do-jeon and his supporters. You may Jeong Do-jeon since he got a Korean drama named after him last year.

This created a backlash among the military leaders who supported the Coup d'état previously as they viewed this as Jeong Do-jeon making a power play against the them to establish the predominance of Confucianism Bureaucrat/Scholars over the military.

And they were right!
That actually happened but not with Jeong Do-jeon in the lead though.

Jeong Do-jeon’s policy of curving private armies further put pressure on the military leaders who had their own private armies as their power bases.

Jeong Do-jeon plays a minor character in the movie as with King Lee Seong-gye

Lee Bang-won

Lee Bang-won
At this point, I have to mention the fifth prince Lee Bang-won who was the most prominent leader among the sons of Lady Han. He is played by Jang Hyuk  (장혁) and is a pretty notorious historical figure in Korean history.

You can say he is Henry V of the Joseon Dynasty.

Jang Hyuk  (장혁) as Lee Bang-won
He was at the time thought to be the prime candidate for the position of king because of his military leadership and cunning. Even his older brothers acknowledged this to a degree.

He is basically a lion!]

And spoilers, he becomes the 3rd king of the Joseon Dynasty.

The 1st Conflict between the Joseon Princes
Things came to ahead when Jeong Do-jeon proposed a plan to invade Liáodōng again.

You remember that, the last time this plan came up, the army turned back and did some nasty things!

In the 7th lunar month of 1398A.D., Jeong Do-jeon sent out a notice to many of the princes to come urgently to the palace as the king was seriously ill. The fifth prince Lee Bang-won, who interpreted this as a conspiracy against him and his brothers, gathered their troops and attacked the capital on 5th of October.

With the success of this attack,   Lee Bang-won ended up killing Jeong Do-jeon and his cohorts and took control of the country. After things settled down, Lee Bang-won had the two sons of Lady Kang including the heir apparent assassinated.  

The second prince was appointed the heir apparent with Lee Bang-won as the power behind him. On the 14th of October, only 6 years on the throne, King Lee Seong-gye abdicated the thrown and the second prince became the second King of the Joseon Dynasty.

This event is called “the 1st Conflict between the Joseon Princes” because there was a 2nd one on 1400 A.D. with the 4th prince of previous King Lee Seong-gye who was the immediate full blood brother of Lee Bang-won.

The 4th prince wanted to be king.
Of course Lee Bang-won won.

With second abdication of the throne in 2 years, Lee Bang-won became the 3rd king of the Joseon Dynasty. He is also called Taejong.

Empire of Lust” (2015) covers a few months or so leading up to “the 1st Conflict between the Joseon Princes”. The exact dates are not clear.

Shin Ha-Kyun (신하균) plays a fictional general on the side of Jeong Do-jeon and King Lee Seong-gye and is in direct military opposition with Jang Hyuk’s  (장혁) Lee Bang-won character.

Will we see…. mano a mano?
Shin Ha-Kyun VS. Jang Hyuk?
Wait and see…

This is the first feature among many leading up to my review of “Empire of Lust” 순수의 시대(2015).

Thanks for reading this article!

Other Reviews you may enjoy!

Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island (2015) [Link]

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