Sunday, February 24, 2013

Conversation between An Jae and Choi Young ~ The Revelation

by Hanjae

Ahn Jae's conversation with Young may have been brief, but it is one of the most crucial insights we have into Young's "shaking hand" predicament and his master's parallel dilemma. Earlier I had referenced the fact that Eun Soo herself felt burdened by the thought that she is the cause of Young's shaken resolve as a warrior loyal to the king, but I believe that this was a problem that had been boiling under the surface for a long time. Eun Soo's presence simply acted as a catalyst, on top of which her best interests were constantly in conflict with those of Gongmin, thus exacerbating the situation. Young's answer to Ahn Jae's question of whether he wanted to resign because of Eun Soo offers an important clue - his response is, "I'm not sure." That clearly expresses uncertainty and also suggests that Young himself is aware, subconsciously or consciously, that there is something else troubling him. The events following Young's meeting with Eun Soo set the stage for him to come to terms with two problems that he would inevitably have to face.

1. "The sword had grown heavy in his hand." Young, like his master before him, struggled with the burden of being a life-long warrior. For someone as soft-hearted as him (which Ki Chul pointed out in a mocking manner in Episode 12), it caused him endless pain to be placed in a situation where he had to kill or be killed, day in and day out. On top of that, he had been a leader from a young age - from the day his master left the Jeogwoldae to him, he had had the burden of many lives resting on his shoulders. There was a part of Young that yearned to be free from this enormous pressure and live as a normal man, but another part of him was so conditioned to it that he did not know how else to live. We had observed these two sides warring within him from the beginning of the drama - he wanted to leave the palace and had said as much to Gongmin, but when he found himself without awaiting tasks in Episode 17, he had no idea what to do. Essentially, Young had to accept his burden and reach a decision on his own whether he would continue to shoulder it or find a way out. Being ordered to continue or forced into situations where he had to act first, think later was only going to carry him so far.

2. On the surface, many of Young's problems arose from the conflicting interests between Eun Soo and Gongmin, but under that lay the true difficulty of reconciling his own wishes (as a man and citizen of Goryeo, not as a loyal servant of the king) with those of king and country. In a way, Eun Soo was symbolic of Young's personal desires, the part of him that he had long neglected in favour of duty. Living like a ghost in the past seven years meant that he had little to distract him from his duty and he could thus ignore anything that could come into conflict with the king's orders, but Eun Soo's presence changed all that. Perhaps we can say that he was in fact blessed to serve a king who wanted to understand him and was willing to accommodate, because Young was eventually able to make Gongmin understand that even the most loyal warrior has his own personal concerns; he is not a robot! Just as you cannot win the loyal services of a man by sacrificing his whole family, Gongmin cannot expect Young to choose between him and Eun Soo when the latter's safety is on the line.

The first of these two issues had slowly manifested in Young's growing reluctance to kill, followed by his shaking hand. It's usually viewed as a problem that appeared later in the drama, but things rarely occur suddenly without prior warning. The most noticeable warning sign came at the end of Episode 12, when Young's hand began to shake as he narrated his appreciation of Eun Soo's invigorating way of living rather than living to die, all the while creating an assassin bloodbath. Sometimes I wonder whether Ahn Jae's comment about a heavy sword had the effect of bringing Young's attention to the matter and thus worsening its effect, but I suppose Young could not have fixed it if he remained unaware of its seriousness, either. The strain of protecting multiple parties, including one very close to his heart (Eun Soo), certainly affected this problem, but it was one that would have surfaced inevitably.

The second issue may have been avoided had Young not met Eun Soo and thus reawakened his desire to live - and to live, of course, comes with the need for love, friendship and human connections. And yet, as Eun Soo has said, to live comes with risks, but it would be suffocating to lock yourself inside a bubble simply because you are afraid of encountering conflict. Similarly, the fact that Young had previously avoided conflicting interests with his kings because he had no desire to live was not really a solution. Like the heavy sword problem, he would eventually have been obliged to face this dilemma head on.

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