Disclaimer: This article is subjective based on my own perspective.
Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers.
|Previously I discussed how through the years I have always reflected on the similarities between Jang Ok Jung and Anne Boleyn, the love of persuasion they had on their husband, and the misfortunes of their predecessors. The first two articles focused specifically on the similarities between King Suk Jong and Henry VIII as well as Queen In Hyeon with Catherine of Aragon. Therefore this one will focus on their mistresses turned Queens and Femme Fatales, Joseon's Jang Ok Jung and Anne Boleyn. The two women who had the power to control a king's heart strong enough to cast away their wives.|
Jang Ok Jung/Jang Hee Bin
Jang Ok Jung was from a middle-class family from a long line of translators connected to the southern faction. Her beauty gained the King’s heart and she bore him his first son Prince Gyun in 1688 before the Queen had given him an heir. The prince was legitimized after one year and the King elevated lady Jang’s title to Bin meaning King’s Consort, a title second only to a Queen.
In the same year, he deposed his Queen and Jang Hee Bin was elevated to Queen Consort in 1690 once her son was awarded the crown prince title. Her new position was empowered by the fact that the king gave prominence to the southern faction and cast out the western faction, as well as executed the leader Song Si Yeol who had supported Queen In Hyeon and opposed Prince Gyun’s crown ship.
The southern factions held on to power for only a few years before the western faction again rose to prominence, after succeeding a campaign for Queen In Hyeon’s re-installment as Queen. Jang was unfortunately demoted back to a bin. When Queen In Hyeon suddenly passed away not too long after her return, Jang was found to have practiced shamanism and placed a curse on the Queen using voodoo dolls. This resulted in the King blaming her for the Queen’s death and executing her by drinking poison. Lady Jang was reputed as a femme fatale who was rebellious to ideologies, stubborn till her last breath, and passionate at times while being an evil opposition of Queen In Hyeon.
Analyzing Kim Tae Hee’s Jang Hee Bin in Jang Ok Jung
While I personally enjoy Dong Yi’s Jang Ok Jung, because It was much easier to cheer for her downfall; Jang Ok Junk’s Lady Jang was much more complex. In both versions, they start off as likable, however, in the palace they face hostility and must harden their hearts to survive. JOJ’s Hee Bin was less selfish and was on her way to friendship with Queen In Hyeon despite all the years of drama between the two.
Even when they don’t like each other or see eye to eye in the beginning, Ok Jung is not publicly downright disrespectful to her senior, although she does show off the King’s affection to her. In the end, they are able to gain respect for one another. However, JOJ ended up being falsely blamed for In Hyeon’s death.
Ok Jung's relationship with the King began very innocently. However, court politics tainted their love as well as her reputation. In this version, the King falls for Ok Jang before he married In Hyeon, and is actually forced to marry the latter only so she could help him bring Ok Jung back to the palace. The two are portrayed as madly in love and devoted to each other especially after Ok Jung gave birth to a son.
It is not Ok Jung who leads to In Hyeon’s being deposed but the misdeeds of In Hyeon’s own family, and therefore opened a path for Lady Jang to become Queen. Like her rival, Jang’s family and politics also lead to her being demoted back down to consort and allowed for In Hyeon’s return as Queen.
Unlike as documented in real life, Jang Ok Jung is not the reason for the Queen’s sudden death, but that doesn't stop her enemies from blaming her. Also, unlike in real life, she maintains the love of the King in the drama, even after she is executed.
Anne Boleyn came from an aristocratic family and served as a lady in waiting for Queen Catherine, Henry’s wife before she caught his attention. Anne’s sister Mary had been Henry’s mistress until she lost his favor and therefore she refused to also become his mistress and lose favor. Her refusal helped motivate Henry to divorce his first wife who he had grown unhappy with her failure to provide a male heir. After many miscarriages, he had grown convinced his union with Catherine was being punished by God for his marriage to his brother’s wife.
After the annulment, Henry married Anne and crowned her Queen, elevating the positions of the Boleyn family simultaneously at court. Anne however, also failed to provide Henry with a male heir and her family also had many enemies who campaigned against her behavior. Henry became disillusioned by Anne. She was tried and found guilty of treason, adultery, and witchcraft and was thus executed along with her brother. Her family’s fall from grace paved the way for the rise of the Seymour family.
Anne is also described by some in history as a femme fatale, stubborn, rebellious, and challenging to the king. Like Lady Jang, Anne’s fall from grace resulted in the removal of her family from prominence and a new political shift began as Henry took in another Queen.
Analyzing Natalie Dormer's Anne Boleyn in The Tudors
Natalie Dormer’s Anne Boleyn in The Tudors is a thrill to watch! I had much respect for the sheer amount of control she held on the most powerful man in England, and also hatred for her arrogance, cruelty, and indecency for someone of her title. In conflicting ways, I enjoyed the way she disrespected Henry in the same way he did his first wife. Karma well deserved.
The more attention and importance the King placed on Anne, the more arrogant she and her family became to people in court, especially Queen Catherine. This is much the same as Kim Tae Hee’s Jang Ok Jung to Queen In Hyeon. The difference is JOJ did it to flex power to defend herself and not due to greed for the throne. Anne on the other hand had her eyes on the throne from the beginning, having learned how easy she could be cast aside as the King did to her older sister Mary.
While at first, the King enjoyed her rebellious and audacious behavior, many people in the court, specifically those loyal to Catherine despised her for it. She was successful in dethroning her predecessor. However, unlike JOJ, Anne also failed to give the King a male heir he wanted, instead of giving birth to baby Elizabeth.
Much like described in history the King grew tired of her, found another love, and tried her for treason, adultery, incest, and witchcraft. She was executed along with her brothers and other men she was accused of having relations with.
Both JOJ and Anne Boleyn's children ended up taking the throne in real life.
Hwang, K. M. (n.d.). A History of Korea. United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.
Yi, P. (2008). Women in Korean History. South Korea: Ewha Womans University Press.