Recently I started watching Scarlet Heart Ryeo, the Korean remake of the 2011 chinese hit drama. I think anyone who has watched the Chinese version before would agree that the Chinese version is better in terms of the intricacy of the plot, the characterization and the acting.
When I was watching the Chinese version, I felt that I was really immersed in the Qing dynasty time period, however when I was watching the Korean version I simply felt that I was watching an idol drama with the actors all donning traditional Korean costumes.
Chinese version wins in intricacy of plot
It might have to do with the shortening of the series. With just 20 episodes for the Korean version, there is quite a lot of stuff to pack in. And we all know that themes of fighting for the throne has a lot of potential for witty plots and devilish schemes, which are not really fleshed out in the Korean version. Rather, there was quite a lot of focus on the female lead interacting with the different princes in the Korean version, which actually does nothing much in developing the plot.
And because the characters in the Korean version are quite one-dimensional, it does nothing much in portraying the personalities of the characters either. To me, it was quite annoying seeing IU depicting a rather stupid? and cutesy girl in the first half of the Korean version.
Chinese version wins in characterization
In the Chinese version, it is easy for the viewer to fall in love or at the very least root for the different princes because their personalities are more complex, and they have more role to play in terms of helping either the 8th prince or the 4th prince in fighting for the throne. I mean, so many viewers fell in love with the 13th and 14th prince in the Chinese version, because their roles were really fleshed out very well, and they seem like such believable characters.
As for the Korean version, I can’t help feeling that the different princes are simply role-playing. And the princes in the Korean version somehow feel a lot more immature. Especially the 10th prince. OMG.
Having said all these though, there are still redeeming qualities to the Korean version of Scarlet Heart which led me to watch them every week without fail.
Korean version wins in portrayal of 4th Prince
The biggest and probably only reason is Lee Joon Gi’s portrayal of the 4th prince. I was just so so so impressed with his acting even though I had never watched his dramas before. This drama really converted me into a fan.
Even though the Korean version did not showcase the personalities of the other princes very well, it did succeed in showing the viewers the personality of the 4th prince. Wounded, violent, intense yet tender-hearted to loved ones. Of course, Lee Joon Gi’s acting really helped in fleshing out the character. It makes your heart bleed when you see his mother being nonchalant and malicious towards him. And you so very want him to get good ending, because he deserves it!
In the Chinese version, I wasn’t that impressed with the 4th prince even though he is supposed to be the main lead. I know many fan girls fell for Nicky Wu’s portrayal of the stoic yet intense 4th prince, but I just felt that he was slightly too intense and easily jealous for my liking. In fact I even felt that he deserved feeling lonely for snatching the rightful throne away from his brother who was a very likeable character. It is very important to root for the main lead when you are watching a drama yet I don’t even root for the main lead in the Chinese version.
Korean version wins in development of 4th Prince and female lead’s relationship
In the Chinese version, the female lead just suddenly became passionately in love with the 4th Prince which was really weird. In fact, when I was watching I wondered if I accidentally missed out some scenes cos it was that abrupt. When I watched it on youtube, many netizens also left comments wondering why is it that the female lead suddenly fell for the 4th Prince.
One fine day, the female lead just asked the 4th Prince if he is interested in marrying her. And from then on, the female lead became extremely in love with him. Which was really strange. Apparently the original book developed the relationship better, which wasn’t fleshed out that well in the Chinese drama.
As for the Korean version, the relationship between the female lead and the 4th prince was a lot more believable even though many scenes were also spent on developing the 8th prince’s relationship with the female lead initially.
Firstly, because of how inferior the 4th prince felt about his appearance, we as viewers understand why he fell for the female lead, who was probably the first girl to see his scar and to fully accept his scar. From then on, the 4th prince was steadfast in his love for her, therefore when the female lead was ‘dumped’ by the 8th prince, it was understandable why the female lead started to accept the 4th prince, who was always there for her.
Because the Korean series is still ongoing, everyone is really clueless about how the ending will be. Me too! I can’t wait to find out!