The Concubine (film)

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The Concubine
The Concubine-poster.jpg
Promotional poster for The Concubine
Hangul :
Hanja :
Revised Romanization Hugung: Jewang-ui Jeob
McCune–Reischauer Hugung: Chewang-ŭi chŏp
Directed by Kim Dae-seung
Produced by Hwang Yoon-jeong
Written by Hwang Yoon-jeong
Kim Dae-seung
Kim Mee-jung
Starring Jo Yeo-jeong
Kim Dong-wook
Kim Min-joon
Music by Jo Yeong-wook
Cinematography Hwang Ki-seok
Edited by Kim Sang-bum
Distributed by Lotte Entertainment
Release dates
  • 6 June 2012 (2012-06-06)
Running time
122 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Box office ₩19,330,302,500

The Concubine (Hangul후궁: 제왕의 첩; RRHugoong: Jewangui Chub; lit. "Royal Concubine: Concubine to the King") is a 2012 South Korean historical film directed by Kim Dae-seung.[2][3][4][5] Set in the Joseon Dynasty, it centers around Hwa-yeon (Jo Yeo-jeong), who becomes a royal concubine against her will, Kwon-yoo (Kim Min-joon), a man torn between love and revenge, and Prince Sung-won (Kim Dong-wook), who has his heart set on Hwa-yeon despite the countless women available to him. These three characters form a love triangle which is ruled by dangerous passion. The struggle to survive within the tight-spaced boundaries of the palace is intense, and only those who are strong enough to overcome the hell-like milieu can survive.[6][7][8]


Set during the early Joseon Dynasty, the film begins with the queen mother and former concubine (Park Ji-young) in a precarious position of having no blood ties to the childless king (Jung Chan). She schemes to replace him on the throne with his stepbrother and her submissive young son Sung-won (Kim Dong-wook). Indifferent to his mother’s plans, the timid prince falls in love at first sight with Hwa-yeon (Jo Yeo-jeong), an aristocrat’s daughter, who has already found love with Kwon-yoo (Kim Min-joon), a low-born commoner. When her father (Ahn Suk-hwan) decides to send her to the royal palace as a concubine, the two lovers try to elope but are caught after their first night together. She only gives in to parental demands in a quid pro quo for his life. Five years later, Hwa-yeon has become the queen after producing a male heir. This infuriates the queen mother and breaks the hearts of both Prince Sung-won and Kwon-yoo, who later joins the royal palace as a eunuch for the queen mother's brother and nemesis. The king is eventually poisoned to death by the queen mother, who is desperate to be in power. She sits her son, Prince Sung-won, on the throne as a puppet king, giving the ruthless matriarch firm control over the royal court. Hwa-yeon is moved to a closely watched humble residence, with the queen mother planning to assassinate Hwa-yeon and her son to secure her position in the palace. Upon finding out she and her son are in danger, Hwa-yeon gradually becomes monstrously ambitious, using everyone around her, including her castrated former lover Kwon-yoo and now-King Sung-won ― as tools for her own survival.[9][10]


  • Jo Yeo-jeong ... Shin Hwa-yeon[11]
  • Kim Dong-wook ... Prince Sung-won[12][13][14]
  • Kim Min-joon ... Kwon-yoo / Choong-young
  • Park Ji-young ... the Queen Mother (Daebi), Sung-won's mother
  • Jo Eun-ji ... Geum-ok, Hwa-yeon's maid
  • Lee Geung-young ... Chief eunuch
  • Park Chul-min ... Pil-woon, pharmacy eunuch
  • Ahn Suk-hwan ... Shin Ik-chul, Hwa-yeon's father[15]
  • Jo Gi-wang ... Vice-Premier Yoon Jong-ho
  • Oh Ji-hye ... Lady Park
  • Hong Kyung-yun ... Lady Kim
  • Park Chung-seok ... Seung Jeon-saek
  • Park Min-jeong ... medium
  • Im Jong-yun ... Left-State Minister Jeong
  • Lee Seok-gu ... Go Won-ik
  • Chae Dong-hyeon ... Chief Military Eunuch
  • Oh Hyun-kyung ... Yoon Gi-hun
  • Jung Chan ... King
  • Hong Yeo-jin ... Suragan, court lady
  • Lee Yong-nyeo ... old woman
  • Kwon Byeong-gil

Critical reception[edit]

Reviews have been almost unanimously positive, with The Korea Times calling it "one of the best commercial films this year." Promotion and hype had singularly focused on the film's graphic portrayal of sex and Jo Yeo-jeong's nudity,[16] which local critics found misguided and demeaning to a film that according to The Korea Herald "explores the theme of betrayal, revenge and obsessions, with much nuance and depth" and "offers substance and ample entertainment, as well as almost Shakespearean psychological intricacy." Despite "too many subplots which cause the narrative flow to be awkward at times," The Korea Times said it was an "intense, multi-textured journey that is certainly worth the effort", with "psychological depths that demand multiple viewings." Hwang Ki-seok's lush cinematography was praised,[17] as were the costumes[18][19] and the cast's excellent acting, particularly Kim Dong-wook's performance.[20]

One of the movie’s highlights is the finale, a slow zoom-out on a scene that mirrors one of Christianity’s famous images, The Pietà. It summarizes Prince Sung-won’s character and his tragedy ― all stemming from the abusive relationship with his mother. Director Kim Dae-seung also said that it is a reference to salvation, or the lack thereof, in all the characters' quests. Everyone ends up in self-destruction after a lifelong struggle to save themselves, their children or in the king's case, his love.

Box office[edit]

Released on June 6, 2012, the film sold 1.4 million tickets in its first 10 days, and by the end of the month it had easily passed the 2 million admissions mark. The Korean Film Council reports that it sold more than 2.6 million tickets, making it the eleventh most watched Korean film of 2012.[21][22][23][24][25]

Distribution rights have been signed with theaters in eight countries—New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia and Brunei.[26][27][28]

Awards and nominations[edit]

2012 21st Buil Film Awards

  • Best Supporting Actress - Park Ji-young
  • Nomination - Best Actress - Jo Yeo-jeong
  • Nomination - Best Cinematography - Hwang Ki-seok
  • Nomination - Best Art Direction - Cho Geun-hyun

2013 49th Baeksang Arts Awards


  1. ^ "Hoo-gong (Royal Concubine)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  2. ^ Kwaak, Je-yup (5 June 2012). "'No one can act against self-interest'". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  3. ^ Jung, Hyun-mok (22 June 2012). "Director says Concubine sex scenes are complicated". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  4. ^ Lee, Jin-ho (3 November 2011). "Jo Yeo Jeong to Bare it All Again in New Film". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  5. ^ Kang, Byeong-jin (7 February 2012). "Korea's most anticipated films of 2012". Korea Cinema Today. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  6. ^ "2012.6.8 NOW Playing". Korea JoongAng Daily. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  7. ^ "Jo Yeo-jeong Naked on Her Back in Uncut Trailer for The Concubine". The Chosun Ilbo. 18 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  8. ^ Lee, In-kyung (22 May 2012). "Jo Yeo Jeong's Erotic The King's Concubine Poster Unveiled". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  9. ^ Lee, Claire (23 May 2012). "Actress returns in another racy period thriller". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  10. ^ Elley, Derek (4 October 2012). "The Concubine". Film Business Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  11. ^ Lim, Ju-ri (30 May 2012). "Cho Yeo-jeong keeps it steamy in The Concubine". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  12. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (3 June 2012). "Interview: Kim Dong Wook Bares All in The King's Concubine (Pt. 1)". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  13. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (3 June 2012). "Interview: Kim Dong Wook Bares All in The King's Concubine (Pt. 2)". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  14. ^ Lee, Claire (30 May 2012). "Boyish Kim Dong-wook returns in period noir". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  15. ^ "Ahn Suk Hwan from Tasty Life Praises The Emperor's Concubine Jo Yeo Jeong". Korea Portal. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  16. ^ "Is Nudity Still a Box-Office Draw?". The Chosun Ilbo. 9 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  17. ^ Paquet, Darcy (13 June 2012). "In Focus: The Concubine (Hu-gung: Je-wang-ui cheop)". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  18. ^ "Royal Concubine Kim Minjoon, Cho Yeojung, Kim Dongwook's erotic love triangle". StarN News. 12 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  19. ^ "Royal Concubine Cho Yeojung-Cho Eunji-Park Jiyoung..The Royal Beauties". StarN News. 12 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  20. ^ Kwaak, Je-yup (22 May 2012). "Concubine transcends hype over nudity". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  21. ^ Hong, Lucia (11 June 2012). "The Concubine heats up local box office with 1st win, edges out MIB III". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  22. ^ "The Concubine Attracts More Than 1 Million Viewers in 6 Days". The Chosun Ilbo. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  23. ^ Hong, Lucia (18 June 2012). "The Concubine continues to spice things up at local box office 2nd straight week". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  24. ^ "Box office, June 1–15". Korean Film Biz Zone. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  25. ^ "Box office, June 16–30". Korean Film Biz Zone. 9 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  26. ^ Suk, Monica (12 July 2012). "The Concubine signs distribution deals with 8 overseas firms". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  27. ^ "Korean film The Concubine sold to eight countries". The Korea Herald. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  28. ^ "The Concubine sold to eight Asian countries". Korean Film Biz Zone. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 

External links[edit]