Thoughts on: Daemang

(LJ 29/9/2008)


“The drama begins with a woman walking into a rich merchant’s house and leaving her newborn child claiming that the child is of the merchant’s blood.”

Yes, this is a long and rambling post about Kdrama Daemang (aka Great Ambition / Great Hope) with some pics. πŸ™‚

Spoilert! As per usual…. continue with caution.

Well, technically Daemang starts with a birth….. of our hero. πŸ˜‰ But as the above event is sort of important it always gets a mention. Anyhow, that is the start of our hero’s live as Park Jae Young, the younger son in the household of the rich merchant, Park Hwi Chan.

The next time we meet Jae Young he is a scamp of ca 10 yrs old, running wild with his 3 trusty friends from the village. And he’s already showing his trademark of not being able to resist helping others. Unfortunately his tendency to rush into things without really thinking or a backup plan and somewhat naΓ―ve nature frequently gets him in trouble. This is also the time he meets his OTP, Yoon Yeo Jin (Lee Yo Won) for the first time. She fixes his dislocated arm and he’s instantly smitten, enough to state ‘this is the girl he’s going to marry!’. XD He starts following her around and they become firm friends. Although he eventually becomes aware of Yeo Jin’s aristocratic status, he plays along and keeps that fact from Yeo Jin.

Fast forward a few more years and our hero is 18, now played by (adorably sweet) Jang Huyk. He’s still the same warm hearted, carefree Jae Young with a tendency to get himself and everyone around into trouble of one kind or other. And this is where the story really starts off….

Here’s our OTP:

Jae Young

Yeo Jin

Daemang has a very good cast and all the characters, even minor ones are great.

Jae Young’s elder brother, Park Shi Young (Han Jae Suk). He of no empathy nor moral values. A real cold fish with sociopathic tendences who only feels alive when he’s slicing someone. ;P He’s an awesome character all the same and more complex than at first seems. Is very good at martial arts thus making it hard for anyone to beat him. His only redeeming feature is his love for Yeo Jin but even that is a selfish love that will not accept the fact that her heart is now and always Jae Young’s.

Jae Young eventually runs… well, not as much runs as staggers away from home. He’s just been released from jail where he was beaten to try to make him confess something he did not do and upon release he finds out that he and his friends were used in his father’s scheme to gain more power and wealth resulting in the death of his frends. Poor woobie is shattered. Even more of a downer is the fact that he now has to give up Yeo Jin. No wonder he tries to, unsuccesfully off himself. Later on he hooks up with a humanist merchant Choi Sun Jae and his daughter, Dong Hee (Son Ye Jin) who btw passes herself off as a male.

Dong Hee

Jae Young with Dong Hee

Through the humanist merchant’s network Jae young is able to meet his birth mother, Dan Ae (Jo Min Soo), whom he has never seen. At this point in the drama, Dan Ae has become a powerful political lobbyist.

Dan Ae with Choi Jun Jae

Dan Ae’s awesome female bodygurads/fighting force/spys – this drama is littered with interesting ladies

The Crown Prince – He’s such a sweetie and totaly unprepared for his stint of living the life of a commoner. *g* I love his interaction with Jae Young, they are more like brothers than Jae Young and Shi Young ever were. Only, in this case it’s JY who takes up the role of an elder bro.

Shi Young with the usurper, King’s brother – who I swear has a ‘thing’ for SY! XD

The daughter of Shi Young’s Chinese martial arts teacher. A good fighter herself and unfortunately in love with SY.

Lee Soo – the mysterious sword master

Besides the typical murder and mayhem of sageuk drama Daemang is also a growth story. Jae Young starts out as this somewhat selfish, carefree young man who’s been indulged and loved all his life. He’s naive, almost to a fault which is why the fact that his father and brother too could use him and his friends in such a way is a massive shock and eyeopener. His disillusion is total when he asks his father; “why?” To be told that “there are things that one has to sacrifice in order to gain. Sometimes you sacrifice you pride, sometimes it’s someone dear to you”. Jae Young’s reaction is so typical for him; “I don’t want anything. Nothing at all. It will be easier to have nothing to sacrifice. I’ll start by giving up my name”. Hence from that moment on, in his own mind he does not have a name. Until a new one is given by someone who sort of takes up the position of a father to him.

I love the way Jang Huyk takes JY through all the stages of his gradual change to full grown, responsible adult. I know there are lot of people who find good guys boring but that is not so with me. I truly like Jae Young, he’s such a lovable character – even evil brother says so. πŸ˜‰ I’ve read that one reasong Daemang was not such a big hit when it aired was that it has a lead who is not an awesome fighter but rather abhors violence. JY does not fight but rather tries to talk himself out of trouble. Yes, Jae Young is a different sort of leader who has people, even those who initially can’t stand him following him for entirely other resons.

Favourite moment? Well, there are several but here’s one: JY travels with a group of merchants to a near by village to buy tobacco. Only to find that the villagers are starving and up to their ears in dept to a villaneous loan shark. He gets his usual urge to help but tries to resist, because his efforts have this tendecy to blow up on his face landing everybody in deep kimchee. He keeps muttering to himself: “Mind my own business. Mind my own business. You have enough on your hands. Just forget it. Just forget it. You’ve caused enough trouble…..” But of course he ends up helping them and ends up in trouble but this time he also finds a solution. JY is actually quite bright but he never really got any guidance how to use his talents.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on: Daemang

  1. What a great review! I love this drama. Not a lot of people have watched it and it is truly a gem. It was also a very different role for Jang Hyuk and like you said a different type of heroe. The fact that he wasn’t super strong, super smart or super brave made his journey much more interesting πŸ™‚

    • I have this tendency to fall for ‘hidden gems’, dramas that hardly anyone seems to have heard of or watched.

      I just re-watched Daemang a few months ago and my view on it hasn’t really changed much over the years (this piece was written in 2008 after all). As I wrote somewhere else after I’d breezed through all 26 epis in a couple of days; “it’s not flawless but what works, works very well and that is enough for me”. I may also have got new insights into Big Bro, he is still a murdering sociopath though. πŸ˜›

      I really like the idea of a hero who is not traditionally ‘heroic’. It’s very rare to see a good guy without all these ‘super characteristics’ as the lead. It’s definitely more interesting but unfortunately most viewers seem to thinks it’s boring.

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