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KajoPicks: 8 Korean dramas set during the Goryeo dynasty to watch

The Goryeo dynasty was a Korean kingdom which spanned the years 918 to 1392.

In the beginning, the once prosperous kingdom of Later Silla (one of the three kingdoms of Korea) ruled much of the Korean Peninsula since the late 7th century. Then the kingdom began to crumble in the late 9th century due to internal turmoil.

This caused the revival of ancient states of Baekje and Goguryeo which also known as Later Baekje and Later Goguryeo respectively.

From Later Goguryeo (also known as Taebong) came out a general named Wang Geon. In 918, four other top-ranked generals of Taebong; Hong Yu, Bae Hyeongyeong, Shin Sung-gyeom and Bok Ji-gyeom overthrew Taebong’s ruling king Gung Ye.

The generals then crowned Wang Geon as the king. After taking the name King Taejo, the new king renamed the kingdom Goryeo and begun the new Goryeo dynasty.

Subsequently, King Taejo peacefully annexed Later Silla in 935 and military conquered Later Baekje in 936. Hence, he successfully unified and ruled the Korean Peninsula under one ruling.

According to history, the Goryeo dynasty was a period of intense religious fervour. It was when everyone from the kings to the lowest subjects all were Buddhist.

The name “Korea” is derived from the name “Goryeo” which also spelled Koryo.

If you are looking for Korean dramas based on Goryeo dynasty, here are KajoMag’s suggestions:

1.Empress Cheonchu (2009)

This Korean period drama series is based on the granddaughter of Goryeo dynasty founder Taejo Wanggeon.

Known as Queen Heonae, she was the third Queen consort of King Gyeongjong of Goryeo who is also her first cousin.

The story plot circles around her desire to win back her son Mokjong from her brother Seongjong when he decides to have his nephew succeed him as ruler.

Seongjong believes she is not capable of raising him to become an Emperor. Plus, Seongjong and his wife do not have a child of their own.

Despite the conflict, Seongjong and his sister continue to work together to protect their country from invasion and internal power struggles.

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Directed by Shin Chang-suk and Hwang In-hyuk, the drama stars Chae Shi-ra, Kim Suk-hoon and Choi Jae-sung.

2.Empress Ki (2013)

From 1270 to 1356, the Goryeo kingdom came under the Yuan dynasty of Mongol Empire. During this time, there were many intermarriages between Goryeo and Yuan dynasties.

Empress Ki was one of the primary empresses of Toghon Temur of the Yuan dynasty. She later became the mother of Emperor Zhaozong of Yuan.

Originally from an aristocratic family of Goryeo dynasty, she came to Yuan as an imperial concubine of Toghon Temur.

The drama Empress Ki (2013) revolves around a woman named Ki Seung Nyang (Ha Ji-won). It showcases how she slowly rises to power from a consort to Toghon Temur (Emperor of Mongol Empire) to become an empress of the Yuan dynasty.

If you love political dramas in the royal court with all the betrayal and framing, Empress Ki (2013) is definitely worth-watching.

It also stars Ji Chang-wook as Toghon Temur and Joo Jin-mo as Wang Yoo, the King of Goryeo.

The drama was a domestic and international hit, winning the Golden Bird Prize for Serial Drama at the 9th Seoul International Drama Awards.

3.God of War (2012)

The Goryeosa (History of Goryeo) is the main surviving history record of Korea’s Goryeo dynasty.

It was composed nearly a century after the fall of Goryeo, during the reign of King Sejong.

One of the historical figures written in it is Kim Jun. What makes Kim Jun interesting and different from other historical figures from Goryeo dynasty is that he is not of royal blood.

He is the son of an escaped palace slave who was raised by monks.

During the Mongol invasions of Korea, Kim Jun rises in the ranks to become the top military official.

He eventually becomes the ruler of Goryeo dynasty for 60 years in place of its king.

The drama God of War (2012) is based on the story of Kim Jun. It stars Kim Joo-hyuk as the real-life historical figure.

4.The Great Seer (2012)

Mok Ji-sang (Ji Sung) is a gifted seer who was born with the ability to see into people’s pasts and futures.

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However, there are those who believe him to possess dark supernatural powers, thinking him possessed by ghosts.

As he grows up into adulthood in the late Goryeo era, he becomes a scholar of divination and fortune telling.

He eventually becomes a ‘king-maker’ who holds the key to a major political shift in the overthrow of Goryeo and the rise of Joseon dynasty.

The Great Seer (2012) is set during the turbulent decline of Goryeo when divination practitioners hold powers over the fate of the country.

5.Jeong Do-jeon (2014)

Jeong Do-jeon (1342-1398) is a real-life historical figure. He was a prominent Korean scholar-official during the late Goryeo to the early Joseon dynasty.

The drama focuses on the crucial role Do-jeon had in the planning and founding of Joseon dynasty.

Many critics hailed it as one of the most “authentic” and “realistic” Korean historical dramas.

The plot begins in 1374 during the final year of King Gongmin of Goryeo. At the time, the dynasty is marked with corruption and political chaos.

Then comes Do-jeon, a politician and aristocrat who helps Yi Seong-gye (later King Taejo) to establish a new dynasty, Joseon.

Starring Cho Jae-hyun and Yoo Dong-geun, the series won the Grand Prize (Daesang), Best Director and Best Writer at 41st Korea Broadcasting Awards.

6.The King in Love (2017)

Here is a fictional romance story based during the Goryeo dynasty. It tells the story of a young and ambitious monarch Won (Im Si-wan) and his childhood friend Wang Rin (Hong Jong-hyun) and a beautiful young woman named Eun San (Im Yoon-ah).

The three become best friends. Things start to change when both men fall in love with Eun San.

Even though Wang Rin is in love with Eun San, due to his duty to Won as his personal bodyguard and their friendship, he hides his feelings for her.

It is a romance melodrama stories about friendship, brotherhood and love.

The character Won is inspired by King Chungseon of Goryeo (1275-1325). He was the 28th king of the Goryeo dynasty. He was the eldest son of King Chungryeol and his queen from the Yuan royal family.

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7.Shine or Go Crazy (2015)

Based on the novel of the same name by Hyun Go-woon, this is a drama about romance between Goryeo prince and a Balhae princess.

The Goryeo prince is a real-life prince named Wang So. In this drama, he is exiled from the palace and shunned by the royal family because there is a prophecy which foretells that he will turn the country into a river of blood. After his loses his right to the throne, he lives an isolated life.

Meanwhile, Shin Yool is the princess of Later Balhae (927-1030/1064). This ancient state in Manchuria emerged after Balhae was destroyed by the Liao Empire.

In the series, she narrowly escaped death as child at the hand of her own people because of a prophecy. The prophecy states that she will become “the light of another nation.”

Somehow, Wang So and Shin Yool are married and begin to fall in love with each other. How do they cope with their marriage and will Wang So claim his place on the throne?

8.Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)

Here is another drama based on Wang So who later became Gwanjong the fourth King of Goryeo.

A 25-year-old 21st-century woman, Go Ha-jin (Lee Ji-eun), is transported back in time to the Goryeo dynasty.

She wakes up in the year of 941 in the body of Hae Soo, among the many royal princes of the ruling Wang family. She initially falls in love with the gentle and warm-hearted eighth Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha-neul).

Then, her heart turns to Wang So (Lee Joon-gi), the fearsome fourth Prince who hides his face behind a mask and is given the derogatory label of “wolf dog.”

As the plots unfolds, Hae Soo finds herself unwittingly caught between the rivalry and politics among the princes over the fight for the throne.

In the midst of the political struggle among the princes to fight for the throne, it is about family, love and brotherhood.

Scarlet Heart Ryeo promotional poster.
Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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