Korean Drama Review: The Red Sleeve

The Red Sleeve is probably one of the hottest Korean drama recently, and deservedly so, with a romance storyline that started light-hearted and sweet but ended on a heartfelt and bittersweet note that really tugs at audience’s heartstrings.

Of course, this is in part due to the great acting from leads 2PM’s Junho and Lee Se Young with believable chemistry.

*Spoilers ahead

Romantic Storyline with Believable Chemistry

A romantic drama starring the crown prince Yi San falling in love with a court maid Sung Duk Im who has no idea he is a crown prince, and then “teasing” the court maid by having her serve him once his identity is revealed, such a storyline is a perrenial favourite among female viewers. The drama is fast-paced and engaging, aided by good chemistry between Junho and Lee Se Young.

Junho acted convincingly as an intelligent proud crown prince San with grand dreams. Lee Se Young is youthful and looks the part of an ingenious headstrong court maid Sung Duk Im and I can understand why a crown prince can fall in love with her. In spite of her lowly status, Sung Duk Im had secretly protected her master from a young age, and this loyalty continued till adulthood as she witnesses his ascent to the throne.

Powerful King Who Only Wants The Courtmaid

As the crown prince and later on the King, he can have anyone he wishes, yet his heart is still set on the court maid. It is heart fluttering to see him smiling to himself when he overhears the court maid divulging that she has a crush on him. Or always appearing as the knight in shining armour during life-threatening moments to save Duk Im in spite of her multiple rejections.

Fated to Be Together Since Young

One thing cliche about historical dramas is that there is always this background of the leads meeting when they were young, hinting that they have always been fated to meet.

In this case, the crown prince and court maid met when they were really young, with the court maid Sung Duk Im consoling him without knowing his true identity. Not just so, she had even saved him by tearing off a crucial page of the forbidden book that Yi San was reading, without him knowing.

Such a fated loveline adds to the romance of the story.

Story Took a Serious Turn in the Second Half, Mildly exasperating to see Duk IM’s Rejection

The Red Sleeve took on a more serious note in the second half of the drama, after the crown prince ascends the throne.

Since the two leads are in love with each other, it is quite exasperating to see Sung Duk Im repeatedly rejecting the King who sincerely hopes for her to become his concubine to love and take care of her.

The reason for Duk Im’s rejection is that while she loves San too, she still hopes for a life of freedom and a man whom she can call her husband without sharing with others. Being the proud person she is, she rather continues being a court maid instead of relegating herself to a life of loneliess as a concubine.

While I guess I should applaud her for her noble sentiments in staying true to herself, I still find it really exasperating. Just get together with the King man!

Bittersweet to see The Couple’s Ending

Thankfully Sung Duk Im still followed her heart in the end and became the King’s concubine. While the King treated her with much love and respect, there were still moments of sadness like when she could no longer go out of the Palace to enjoy her leave with her friends or when she spent her whole day waiting for the King who did not visit her.

It was heartbreaking to see Duk Im’s disappointment when the King chose not to visit her upon hearing news of her pregnancy. I like that the drama realistically portrays the ups and downs of Duk Im’s life as a concubine, happy at times, interspersed with sadness other times.

Like Duk Im and the King, I am left wondering, should the King have made her his concubine? Did this decision make both of them happier?

Would Duk Im have lived longer and be happier if she continued being a court maid?

The parting of this couple’s way made the drama even better as it added a sad touch to the drama that is all the more heartrending.

What are your thoughts about The Red Sleeve? Do you like the ending?