Masquerade (2012 film)

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Hangul: 남자
Hanja: 이 된 男子
Revised RomanizationGwanghae: Wang-i Doen Namja
McCune–ReischauerKwanghae: Wangi Toen Namja
Directed byChoo Chang-min
Produced byIm Sang-jin
Won Dong-yeon
Kim Ho-seong
Mikey Lee
Written byHwang Jo-yoon
StarringLee Byung-hun
Ryu Seung-ryong
Han Hyo-joo
Music byMowg
Kim Jun-seong
CinematographyLee Tae-yoon
Edited byNam Na-yeong
Distributed byCJ Entertainment
Release date
  • September 13, 2012 (2012-09-13)[1]
Running time
131 minutes
CountrySouth Korea
Budget₩9.5 billion
Box officeUS$80.8 million[2]

Masquerade (Hangul광해: 왕이 된 남자; Hanja: 이 된 ; RRGwanghae: Wang-i Doen Namja; lit. Gwanghae: The Man Who Became King) is a 2012 South Korean historical film starring Lee Byung-hun in dual role as the bizarre King Gwanghae and the humble acrobat Ha-sun, who stands in for the monarch when he faces the threat of being poisoned.[3][4]

With 12.3 million tickets sold, this historical movie is currently the ninth highest-grossing movie in Korean film history. Also, it swept the 49th Grand Bell Awards, winning in 15 categories, including Best Film, Director, Screenplay and Actor.[5][6][7][8]


The confusing and conspiratorial 15th ruler of Korea's Joseon Dynasty King Gwang-hae (Lee Byung-hun) orders his secretary of defense, Heo Gyun (Ryu Seung-ryong), to find him a double in order to avoid the constant threat of assassination. Heo Gyun finds Ha-sun, a lowly acrobat and bawdy joker who looks remarkably like the king, and just as feared, Gwang-hae is poisoned. Heo Gyun proposes Ha-sun fill the role as the king until Gwang-hae recovers fully and grooms Ha-sun to look and act every bit the king. While assuming the role of the king at his first official appearance, Ha-sun begins to ponder the intricacies of the problems debated in his court. Being fundamentally more humanitarian than Gwang-hae, Ha-sun’s affection and appreciation of even the most minor servants slowly changes morale in the palace for the better. Over time he finds his voice and takes control of governing the country with real insight and fair judgments. Even Heo Gyun is moved by Ha-sun’s genuine concern for the people, and realizes he is an infinitely better ruler than Gwang-hae. However, his chief opposition, Park Chung-seo (Kim Myung-gon), notices the sudden shift in the king’s behavior and starts to ask questions. The queen (Han Hyo-joo) is also conflicted between the real king and the fake king’s secret.[9]


  • Lee Byung-hun as King Gwanghae/Ha-sun[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21]
  • Ryu Seung-ryong as Chief Secretary Heo Gyun[22]
  • Han Hyo-joo as Queen Consort[23][24]
  • Jang Gwang as Chief Eunuch
  • Kim In-kwon as Captain Do, king's personal bodyguard
  • Shim Eun-kyung as Sa-wol, food taster
  • Kim Myung-gon as Interior Minister Park Chung-seo
  • Park Ji-a as Lady Han, chief court lady
  • Shin Jung-geun as Lee Jeong-rang
  • Jeon Guk-hyang as Lady Jeong
  • Yang Jun-mo as Kim
  • Mun Chang-gil as prime minister
  • Jeon Bae-su as Hyeong-pan
  • Do Yong-gu as Byeong-pan
  • Yu Sun-ung as Ho-pan
  • Lee Yang-hui as Gong-pan
  • Park Gyeong-geun as musician
  • Shin Un-seop as Ye-pan
  • Kim Jong-gu as royal physician
  • Lee El as Lady Ahn
  • Lee Jun-hyeok as Hyeon-gam
  • Seo Jin-weon as General Overseer Do
  • Kim Hye-weon as Pearl, courtesan
  • Kim Hak-jun as Yu Jeong-ho
  • Kim Hye-hwa as Plum Blossom Pot servant
  • Kim Seung-hun as Yi-bang
  • Lee Bong-ryeon as court woman
  • Ju Yeong-ho as Gwanghae's astrologist


Historically, Gwanghae, the 15th Joseon king from 1608-1623, attempted diplomacy through neutrality as China's Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) set their sights on the country. He also tried his hand at other reforms and reconstruction to try to make the nation prosperous, including an emphasis on the restoration of documents, but met with opposition and was later deposed and exiled to Jeju Island.[25] Since he was deposed in a coup by the Westerners faction, historians did not give him a temple name like Taejo or Sejong.[26]

The premise behind the film is an interpretation of the missing 15 days in the Seungjeongwon ilgi or Journal of the Royal Secretariat during Gwanghae's reign—designated by his 1616 journal entry, "One must not record that which he wishes to hide."[27] It should be noted that that premise is entirely fictitious in nature. This is because

  • The Journal in itself is largely incomplete due to records being destroyed several times and reproductions of the destroyed documents also eventually being destroyed, leading to large missing chunks of records or questionable reproductions that may or may not have been edited every subsequent reproduction.
  • Relevant records written during the reign of Gwanghae are also largely missing.
  • Even if the Journal were complete, it is highly unlikely the Secretariat would delete or omit records, even by order of the King due to protocol. In fact, due to that same protocol the only thing that would happen is that after having received word or having witnessed a certain incident and subsequently ordered to not record it, the Secretariat would record the incident in full and finish the entry stating the King ordered him not to do so.
  • A prime example of the above would be when Taejong fell off his horse when hunting one day and asked the Secretariat to not record this in the journal. The Secretariat however went and recorded the incident and ended his entry with 'and His Majesty asked that the Secretariat not record this'


Announced in early 2011 and initially titled I am the King of Joseon, The Prince and the Pauper-inspired historical film was to be directed by Kang Woo-suk and star Jung Jae-young as Gwanghae/Ha-sun and Yoo Jun-sang as Heo Gyun,[28][29][30] but Kang left the project over differences of opinion with production firm CJ E&M.[31]

In November 2011, they were replaced by director Choo Chang-min and actor Lee Byung-hun in his first ever historical film.[32][33][34][35][36] A month later, Han Hyo-joo was cast as Lee's co-star.[37]

The film was shot at the Namyangju Studio Complex in Gyeonggi Province.[38][39][40]


Called by one review as one of the best South Korean costume dramas in years,[41] the film drew praise for being beautifully written and emotionally involving, as well as for its accomplished acting, sure-handed direction, ambitious scale and commercial appeal.[42] It became the second biggest hit film at the 2012 South Korean box office, attracting 8.2 million admissions in 25 days of release,[43][44][45][46] then 9,091,633 after 31 days.[47] On its 38th day, it became the 7th film in Korean cinema history to surpass the 10 million-milestone attendance.[48][49][50][51][52][53][54] At the end of its theatrical run it was listed as Korea's all-time third highest-grossing film with 12,319,542 tickets sold nationwide (as of April 2015, it is currently sixth).[55]


In theater[edit]

The film was adapted into a stage play which ran at Seoul's Dongsoong Art Center from February 23 to April 21, 2013. It was produced by Lee Byung-hun's agency BH Entertainment. Bae Soo-bin and musical theatre actor Kim Do-hyun alternated in the lead role of Gwanghae.[56] As part of the promotion for the play, Lee, Bae and Kim were featured in a photo spread in the inaugural issue of Grazia Korea, published on February 20, 2013.[57]

In television[edit]

Cable network tvN acquired rights for a television adaptation, starring Yeo Jin-goo. Developed for the station by Studio Dragon and produced by GT:st, it is to air in January 2019.[a]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
49th Grand Bell Awards
Best Film Masquerade Won
Best Director Choo Chang-min Won
Best Actor Lee Byung-hun Won
Best Supporting Actor Ryu Seung-ryong Won
Best Screenplay Hwang Jo-yoon Won
Best Cinematography Lee Tae-yoon Won
Best Editing Nam Na-yeong Won
Best Art Direction Oh Heung-seok Won
Best Lighting Oh Seung-chul Won
Best Costume Design Kwon Yu-jin, Im Seung-hee Won
Best Music Mowg, Kim Jun-seong Won
Best Production Im Sang-jin Won
Best Visual Effects Jung Jae-hoon Won
Best Sound Effects Lee Sang-joon Won
Popularity Award Lee Byung-hun Won
32nd Korean Association of Film Critics Awards
Best Technical Achievement Oh Heung-seok Won
33rd Blue Dragon Film Awards
Best Film Masquerade Nominated
Best Director Choo Chang-min Nominated
Best Actor Lee Byung-hun Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jang Gwang Nominated
Best Screenplay Hwang Jo-yoon Nominated
Best Cinematography Lee Tae-yoon Nominated
Best Art Direction Oh Heung-seok Won
Best Lighting Oh Seung-chul Nominated
Best Music Mowg, Kim Jun-seong Nominated
Technical Award Kwon Yu-jin, Im Seung-hee
(costume design)
Nam Na-yeong
13th Busan Film Critics Awards
Best Actor Lee Byung-hun Won
49th Baeksang Arts Awards
Best Film Masquerade Won
Best Director Choo Chang-min Won
Best Actor Lee Byung-hun Nominated
22nd Buil Film Awards
Best Film Masquerade Nominated
Best Director Choo Chang-min Nominated
Best Actor Lee Byung-hun Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ryu Seung-ryong Won
Best Art Direction Kwak Jae-sik, Oh Heung-seok Nominated
Best Music Mowg, Kim Jun-seong Nominated
Buil Readers' Jury Award Masquerade Won
7th Asia Pacific Screen Awards[58]
Best Actor Lee Byung-hun Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Both tvN and Studio Dragon are sister entities of the film's distributor, CJ Entertainment, under the CJ Group.


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  2. ^ "Masquerade (2012)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  3. ^ Kwaak, Je-yup (14 August 2012). "Prince-pauper tale gets election-year twist in Gwanghae". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  4. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (4 September 2012). "Masquerade Turns Out to be More Comedic than Serious". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  5. ^ "Gwanghae sweeps Korean Oscars". The Korea Times. 31 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  6. ^ Lee, Jin-ho (31 October 2012). "The Daejong Film Awards are Taken Over by Masquerade". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  7. ^ "Masquerade Sweeps Daejong Film Awards". The Chosun Ilbo. 31 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  8. ^ Lee, Claire (30 October 2012). "Gwanghae sweeps Daejong Film Awards". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  9. ^ Kang, Byeong-jin (7 February 2012). "Korea's most anticipated films of 2012". Korea Cinema Today. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
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  11. ^ "Lee Byung-hun Talks About His Movies, Love Life". The Chosun Ilbo. 7 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  12. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (14 August 2012). "Lee Byung Hun Chose Masquerade to Let Out His Humor". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  13. ^ "Lee Byun-hyun Showcases Comic Side in Gwang-hae, A Man Who Became King". KBS Global. 16 August 2012. Archived from the original on 2014-05-31. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  14. ^ "Actor Lee Byung Hun wins praise for his role in Gwanghae: The Man Who Became King film". Korea Star Daily via Yahoo!. 3 September 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-02-09. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
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  26. ^ Hong, Lucia (13 August 2012). "Masquerade main stars Lee Byung-hun, Han Hyo-joo speak at presser". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  27. ^ Aquino, Rowena (24 September 2012). "A Royal Performance by Lee Byung-hun: Review of Masquerade". Asia Pacific Arts. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  28. ^ "정재영, 강우석 감독 진정한 페르소나...5번째 작품!". Osen. 4 February 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  29. ^ "강우석 감독, 첫 사극 '나는 조선의 왕이다' 연출". The Dong-a Ilbo. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  30. ^ "강우석·정재영·유준상, '광해'서 다시 뭉친다". Star News. 4 May 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  31. ^ Han, Yeo-wool (4 November 2011). "Lee Byung-hun mulling historical film role". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
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  45. ^ Lee, Tae-ho (2 October 2012). "Masquerade Continues to Steam Competition for 3rd Win". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  46. ^ Lee, Hye-ji (8 October 2012). "Masquerade Rules Box Office After Scoring 8.2 mln Ticket Sales". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
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  54. ^ Kim, Hyun-min (13 November 2012). "Hollywood Stars Out in Force for MASQUERADE". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  55. ^ Lee, Hyo-won (13 December 2012). "Masquerade Becomes Third Most Watched South Korean Film of All Time". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
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External links[edit]