The Korean romance drama, “Mr. Sunshine,” depicts the despondent yet heart-warming history of the Joseon Kingdom, evoking a variety of responses from the Korean audience.
The 24-episode drama depicts a wartime romance between Korean-American US Marine Eugene Choi and Ko Ae-Shin, the daughter of a respected noble family opposing Japanese imperialism. This drama aims to highlight the unspoken individual efforts of Korean citizens, known as the “righteous army,” to fight against the Japanese forces in a time where both their own king and military turned their backs against their citizens. The balanced mixture of romance and historical background has allowed “Mr. Sunshine” to take a strong lead among other K-dramas since its release on July 7.
“Watching this drama was a whole new experience for me since I’m not the usual K-drama lover,” said Alex Kim (10). “Although ‘Mr. Sunshine’ is categorized as a romance drama, it was a pleasant experience watching it since the drama also focuses on the historical events that occurred in the era of Joseon Dynasty, which adds a unique twist and an appealing component for non-K-drama watchers.”
Apart from its unique historical background, a component that also contributes greatly to the success of the drama is the savage and brutal portrayal of the Japanese colonial figures. Set in the post-Japanese colonial era, a majority of scenes portray the resistance of the Joseon people struggling against Japan’s efforts to wholly control Korea by utilizing their political and military power. This particular aspect of the drama engenders patriotism in the hearts of many Koreans, for such blood-shed of their ancestors shown is what allowed them to live in an independent and democratic country; such depictions also evoke a sense of antagonism toward Japan and pro-Japanese Koreans, known as chin-ils. In fact, due to such hatred roused against Japan, many dedicated watchers of “Mr. Sunshine” have not only canceled their trips to Japan, but also exposed the profiles of chin-il predecessors and the unjustified properties they have inherited from their ancestors.
“As a dedicated watcher of ‘Mr. Sunshine,’ indeed, there were some provocative scenes including Japanese figures that made my family and I uncomfortable to watch,” said Ellie Cheong (12). “However, I think this was also a strategy aimed to spark a sense of patriotism and work as an implicit reminder toward the younger generation regarding the Japanese cruelty during the Joseon Dynasty that many won’t be notified of.”
Despite its compelling patriotic message, “Mr. Sunshine” has been put under the spotlight due to several controversies regarding its historical inaccuracies, including the more humanistic portrayals of Japanese officials. However, “Mr. Sunshine” scriptwriter Kim Eun Suk claimed that the plot of the drama was inspired by historical events but aims more to present a fictional story created for entertainment purposes. “Mr. Sunshine” may be a figment of Kim Eun Suk’s imagination, but the past speaks for itself.
“As a student who has previously taken AP US History, I was able to get a deeper understanding about the context behind the drama’s plot,” said Angela Lee (11). “It was also interesting to see how the author portrayed the US as a rather hypocritical power directing their imperialistic actions toward weaker powers, which is hardly seen in any historically-referenced drama today. The author was clever to incorporate romance with history but not to an unrealistic extent, since these historical relations and issues are sensitive. Overall, “Mr. Sunshine” is a fun medium to watch, at the same time, an opportunity to further learn about the history of Korea.”