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How Ruthless Will Kim Tae Hee Be?

BY Joan MacDonald | Mar 22, 2013 12:10 PM EDT

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So far, in at least seven dramas and films, the concubine and one-time queen Jang Ok Jang has been portrayed as a ruthless and selfish villain. But according to the new SBS drama, "Jang Ok Jung," she was also quite talented. Kim Tae Hee is the latest star to portray the woman known for her political scheming and poisonous intentions. But has history made her into more of a villain than she really was? Was there more to her than scheming and plotting?

Recent stills of the actress in flower patterned hanbok(Korean traditional dress) attest to the fact that this production will focus on her skill as a makeup artist and fashion designer. The upcoming drama, based on the chick lit book, "Jang OK Jung, Live for Love" by Choi Jung Mi, will star Yoo Ah In as King Sukjong, the ruler who made the concubine his queen and Hong Soo Hyun as the queen he deposed to exalt her.

History says that it was the concubine's good looks and fashion sense caught the eye of the Joseon Dynasty king. When they had a son, he wanted to give his first son status even though by that time he was married to Queen In Hyun. Believing the rumors he heard about his queen gave him an opportunity to depose her and make Jang Ok Jang his consort. This naturally created further conflict between the Noron clan who supported the queen and the Soron faction, which supported Lady Jang.

When the King later learned the rumors slandering his deposed queen were false, he remorsefully reinstated his innocent wife and demoted Jang Ok Jang to concubine. But that wasn't the end of the story. Queen In Hyun died mysteriously and Jang was overheard consorting with priestesses praying for the Queen's death. When she was discovered, she and her helpers were executed by drinking poison.

Known as Jang Hui Bin, Jang Hee Bin and Jang Ok Jung, her story lived on. Because she was the mother of a crown prince, she was also remembered posthumously as Lady Oksan, Great Concubine of the Palace. But her evildoing also resulted in a decree that prevented concubines from ever becoming a queen again. And cinematic history hasn't been too kind to her.

Jang has been villainous in several films and dramas, including "Lady Jang," in 1961 "Femme Fatale, Jang Hee Bin," in 1965, "500 Years of Joseon: Queen In hyun," in 1988, the KBS TV series "Jang Hui Bin," in 2002, and "Queen In Hyun's Man," starring Ji Hyun Woo and Yoo In-na in 2012.

This is Kim Tae Hee's first historical drama and it will be interesting to see if viewers love her or hate her in the role. The drama will begin on April 8th, on Monday and Tuesday on SBS at 10Pm (KST).

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