Monday, March 25, 2013

Episode 19 Discussion: Gongmin and Choi Young

by Hanjae

It's touching how Gongmin's initial anger at Son Yoo's order for him to attend a meeting with the officials was superseded by his concern for Choi Young and Eun Soo when he hears of Son Yoo's demand - to give up the Eui Seon to placate Yuan. Gongmin's bromance with Young has been much discussed and it is obvious that a part of his concern for Eun Soo is because he knows how much Young values her, but I'd like to think that Gongmin had also come to care for Eun Soo despite their limited interaction.


Gongmin's following message for Choi Young to take Eun Soo and run away to safety underscored the leaps and bounds that his character had taken since the opening episodes, when his sense of insecurity and desire for a proof of loyalty almost drove Choi Young to his death and prevented Eun Soo from returning home. Gongmin's friendship with Young had taught him that in order to do what is best for Goryeo, it is important to first take care of the welfare of those around him. Now, instead of choosing the safe but cowardly option or sacrificing the lives of a few for the sake of many, as Son Yoo had suggested, Gongmin chose to prioritize the wellbeing of two people who are not only key players on his side, but who are important to him as friends. After all, how can you be a king worthy of respect to the masses if you do not prize the lives of your closest allies?


It is perhaps ironic that Gongmin's growing faith in Choi Young coincides with Young's increasing doubt in his own dedication to Gongmin. In Episode 18, Young's uncharacteristically hotheaded (and not entirely wise) method of saving Eun Soo from marriage to Deok Heung had resulted in his absence at the time of the Wudalchi and the royal couple's greatest need. The subsequent deaths of his subordinates and the danger that the king and queen experienced were significant enough for Young to feel forced into a choice between loyalty to his king or to the woman he loves. Of course, a wiser and more experienced soul might be aware that he cannot throw away one for another and that is no correct way to choose, but Young had been conditioned to think in such a way that he saw no alternative.

The act of fleeing from Son Yoo, then, was the second nail in the coffin that eventually led to Young's shaking hand (and shaken resolve). Gongmin had told him to flee for the sake of Eun Soo; he had probably known even before Young had admitted it in the previous episode that Eun Soo had always been Young's first priority and he worried at the emotional distress that her death would cause him. For Young, however, it is quite another matter to actually do so, and it hits him all the harder because it was a decision that he made even before he had received Gongmin's order - in essence, he might have tried his best to avoid directly disobeying orders or putting Gongmin in a tight spot, but nevertheless was prepared to disobey him for the sake of Eun Soo. When he is greeted not by opposition but with encouragement to do the very thing that he was prepared to do with or without Gongmin's agreement, it was yet another blow to his sense of self-worth as a warrior loyal to the king. To add further injury, the significance of his choice to take Eun Soo away from the king was revealed when Lady Choi told him of what really hung in the balance with Son Yoo's demands. Once again, it was a choice between the life of the king and the life of Eun Soo. Both are people to whom Young had sworn to protect, both are people he greatly valued, and he bore the burden of being unable to protect both.

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