K-Drama Review: A Story Between Nation and Family on KBS’ ‘The President’

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Korean Political Drama, The President

Political dramas have definitely been a very popular genre in American television recently with hits, such as House of Cards and The Handmaid’s Tale hitting the highest of ratings and receiving awards left and right. The same, however, could not be said about Korean television, the closes that it gets to straight up political drama is chaebol-centric drama or political drama from the point of view of white-collar workers, such as journalists or judges. That is until the 2012 hit television drama, The President.

The President follows Jang Il-joon as he runs for the 18th presidential office in 2012 to actually winning the election. Unlike other political dramas, this one solely centers on the president as the main storyteller and truly revolves around his campaign. Jang Il-joon was born in an ordinary family with no special background, but graduated from a prestigious university as a law student. When the country was under military leadership, Jang Il-joon was a student activist and one of the activists involved in the demonstrations. His biggest aspiration is to become the new dream for Korea and create a better country.

Since then he has worked as a three-term lawmaker and a human rights lawyer. Now, Jang Il-joon throws his hat into the 2012 presidential election, dreaming to overcome conflicts between ideology, class, and regions with his leadership. What do you think will happen to Jang Il-joon? Well, stay tuned as we go over all the important points of the drama The President.

About the Drama The President

The President is a South Korean political drama television series starring real-life married couple Choi Soo-jong and Ha Hee-ra as Korea’s presidential candidate and his first lady, respectively. The drama aired on KBS2 from December 15th, 2010 to February 24th, 2011, on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:05 for a total of 24 episodes, a longer run than the standard 16 episodes.

Cast Members

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  • Choi Soo-jong as Jang Il-joon

Jang Il-joon is the main character of the series, a Seoul University law graduate, who, along with his brother, has fought for Korea’s freedom and rights in the late 1980s, during the military regime. During the fight for democracy, sadly enough, his brother does not make it out alive, prompting him to study abroad after the incident, where he meets his future wife, Jo So-hee. With his wife, he has two children, Sung-min and Se-bin.

  • Ha Hee-ra as Jo So-hee

Jang Il-joon’s wife and Korea’s First Lady-to-be. Daeil Group’s CEO’s daughter. A literature professor known for her sharp looks and insane smarts, who is also a women’s rights activist. She plays an active role in Jang Il-joon’s campaign for president, dubbed her husband’s shadow and is somewhat like his running mate. That all changes after her husband’s illegitimate son and embezzlement scandal come to light.

  • Jay Kim as Yoo Min-ki

Jang Il-joon’s hidden son. He left his mom, who used to work at a small restaurant in Gaui-do, and grew up to be a talented documentary director with a career in Seoul. Although he was skeptical about politics, he decided to directly jump into Jang’s home and election camp after his mother, Yoo Jeong-hye, who died in an unexpected accident.

  • Wang Ji-hye as Jang In-young

Jang Il-joon’s foster daughter and secretary. When she was 10 years old, her biological mother, who was Jang Il-joon’s secretary, committed suicide and thus she was adopted by Jang Il-joon.

  • Lee Sungmin as Jang Sung-min

Jang Il-joon and Jo So-hee’s eldest son.

Storyline and Plot

The drama tells the story of the presidential election process to shed light on the right way of politics, the qualifications of a future Korean president, and also the personal tribulations and ambitions of politicians hidden behind the power struggles, from mostly the perspective of a not-so-perfect candidate, Jang Il-joon. Three months before the presidential nomination event, Jang Il-joon, from the New Wave Party, declares his candidacy for the presidential seat. On that same day, a woman dies in a gas explosion in Sam-Chuk, who happens to be Yoo Min-ki’s mother and Jang Il-joon’s mistress. Meanwhile, Yoo Min-ki, a documentary producer, hears about his mother’s sudden death in Sam-Chuk and heads over for the procession. As he casts his mother’s ashes in the sea, he thinks about his childhood: his father always blurting out that Min-ki was not his own son whenever he was drunk.

Min-ki believes what his father used to say to him all the time, even in his drunken state, as he had seen his mother tearing up and often looking at an old photograph of a man. Min-ki discovers that the photograph is gone when he is cleaning up his mother’s belongings. After the funeral, Min-ki returns to Seoul and Jang Il-joon asks Min-ki to work as a PR agent in his campaign team. Min-ki asks Il-joon why he was chosen, and Il-joon confesses that Min-ki is his son. The man in the picture Min-ki had seen was Jang Il-joon. However, Min-ki felt something had gone wrong as he realized that the picture had disappeared. Now Min-ki suspects that his mother’s death was not an accident and that Jang Il-joon has actually killed her.

Soundtrack

No. Song Title Artist
1. 내 모습을 Kim Gun Mo (김건모)
2. Dok Go Die Shin Yong Jae of 4MEN
3. 입술을 깨물고 Super Junior
4. Loving You Luna of f(x) and Yesung of Super Junior
5. President Title Various Artists
6. BASE CAMP Various Artists
7. 평행선 Various Artists
8. Main Theme 1 Various Artists
9. Main Theme 2 Various Artists
10. So Hee’s Theme Various Artists
11. Victory Various Artists
12. 회고록 Various Artists
13. 희생 (Sacrifice) Various Artists
14. A Ray of Sunshine Various Artists

Drama Rating

2010
Episode Broadcast Date TNMS Rating AGB Rating
South Korea South Korea
1 December 15th 6.5% 6.3%
2 December 16th 6.6% 5.9%
3 December 22nd 4.7% 5.6%
4 December 23rd 4.6% 4.3%
5 December 29th 8.1% 9.8%
6 7.8% 10.0%
2011
7 January 5th 7.7% 8.9%
8 January 6th 6.4% 7.7%
9 January 12th 6.1% 7.1%
10 January 13th 5.0% 7.1%
11 January 19th 6.3% 7.3%
12 January 20th 5.6% 7.7%
13 January 26th 5.8% 7.6%
14 January 27th 6.6% 7.7%
15 February 9th 6.2% 6.4%
16 February 10th 6.3% 7.5%
17 February 16th 7.2% 8.3%
18 February 17th 6.0% 7.7%
19 February 23rd 5.9% 7.9%
20 February 24th 5.9% 7.3%

Drama Review

In retrospect, The President isn’t an awful series as it deals with some heavier, more political themes, but it does pale in comparison to another political drama titled, President that aired around the same time on a rivaling network. The President accomplishes what it had set out to, with a plot that is tightly wound around Jang Il-joon’s inner circle, detailing his trials and tribunals as he tries to reach the most coveted seat in the whole political system. Yet, the point it tries to drive, about the new wave in politics, as well as Jang Il-joon’s aspirations, is lost in the typical Korean makjang, over-the-top dramatics, which distracts from the drama’s main theme.

The rivaling drama of the same kind definitely did not help, as it just drove the comparisons up the wall. The drama boasts its star-studded cast, a married couple as the leading stars and a Super Junior member at that too, and in that, they definitely succeeded. The acting in this drama was definitely believable and full of chemistry, something that maybe fans of specific actors and actresses might want to check out. Overall, the drama is not bad by all means, but some aspects, such as the storyline, could definitely be improved.

So, what do you think of the drama The President? Is it a drama that you might want to check out? Kindly comment your thoughts and opinions in the section below!