The first thing I want to say about Six Flying Dragons is wow, just wow.
The first few episodes of this drama are a bit confusing, especially for a person who is not used to Korean historical culture. There are quite a few characters that a person needs to keep track of, and I ended up having to re-watch the first couple of episodes just to be able to go on with the story. My purpose in writing this is to maybe help those who wish to watch this with a little information that I wish I had known going in.
Era: The main story starts in 1375 in the country of Goryeo (Korea) and goes until about 1400 A.D. In July 1392, the ruling Wang family is overthrown and taken over by the Lee family and the name of the country is changed to Joseon.
The Plot: This is based on a true story, the life of Lee Bang Won, who becomes the third king of Joseon. Although there are 6 flying dragons, and their stories are told, it is Lee Bang Won who is the central character or main lead, if you wish. Of course this is fictionalized, even romanticized, after all it is not a documentary, but even so it is amazingly true to historical accounts. I had to stop along the way and read the wikipedia pages about the historical figures. This is truly how history should be taught in schools. If I were home schooling I would make my kids watch this.
As a writer, the thing that impressed me the most was the character development throughout, not only of the main character, but of all the characters. Usually a literary person will lament when a story is dramatized that there was just so much information cut out that it is like an abridged story of an abridged book. In Six Flying Dragons, that doesn’t happen. You never feel like you missed out on something and you are never left trying to figure out why a character makes a particular decision; you may not like that decision, but you know why the character does it. For this reason alone, the character development; I think that everyone who wishes to tell a story should be required to watch Six Flying Dragons. Think of it as a teaching opportunity. Of course, you will also be given an intense history lesson.
The drama consists of 50 hour-long episodes, but don’t let that intimidate you; I promise you that there is not a single boring episode, there is not even a boring ten minutes. I really don’t know how they keep the suspense going like they do. The writing, the direction, the actors are perfectly cast, the costumes, every single part of this drama is 100%.
So…here are the six dragons in the order they were introduced in the show. Three of them are actual historical persons.
Yi Seong-gye (27 October 1335 – 24 May 1408), is a military general of high reputation; he has never been defeated in battle. For years he has lived on the border of Goryeo (Korea) protecting it from all kinds of attacks. He fathers 8 sons with 2 wives, and the oldest 3 have all been tested in battle. He also has a brother with whom he is close and who is his comrade on the battlefield. He has never been interested in politics, but there is a reason for that.
Actor Cheon Ho-Jin does a good job portraying the General Lee of Korea. At least I like him for the part.
Jeong Do Jeon (1342 – October 6, 1398), whose pen name is Sambong, is an idealistic scholar who dreams of creating the perfect government. He is fed up with the corruption of the Goryeo government and believes the only thing to do is start from scratch. He is like the Thomas Jefferson of Korea in that it is his writings that shaped Korea for the last five centuries.
Actor Kim Myung-Min is a good fit for the character. Personally, I didn’t like the character or the actor, but I think that just goes to show how great an actor he is. For me that actor is the character and portrayed him to perfection. Of course there are several other dramas about the character, but I haven’t watched them.
Lee Bang Won (13 June 1367 — 30 May 1422), is the central character around whom everything else in the story is woven. I could write boat loads about this character, but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. We already know he becomes the third king of Joseon; we are told this in one of the first episodes when he is introduced. Let me just say this; he becomes an absolute monarch. His later life, and the turbulent relationship with his son, is portrayed in the drama, Tree With Deep Roots written by the same screenwriters as Six Flying Dragons, but with different actors.
Actor Yoo Ah In, plays the adult Lee Bang Won to perfection. As I mentioned in my previous post, I only found out about this drama because of Yoo Ah In and how awesome he was in this part. I can promise that you will fall in love with Lee Bang Won because of Yoo Ah In’s portrayal. You will feel everything that he goes through as if it were happening to you.
Actor Nam Da Reum, portrays Yi Bang Won as a strong and idealistic child, who has a very strong sense of justice. It is his job to introduce us to the character and after he is done we have a very clear picture of who Lee Bang Won is regarding his inner character. He also contributes an enormous amount into making the viewer empathetic towards the character. He is a better actor than many famous adult actors, in my opinion.
Ddang Sae, later renamed Lee Bang Ji, is a fictional character, but I can’t imagine this story without him in it. His story is sad, but empowering. Timid and cowardly as a child, he becomes the best swordsman of the country.
Actor Byun Yo-Han does an excellent job as the adult swordsman. He also sings two of the OST for this drama; I love both songs and added them to my playlist. He has a lovely singing voice. I will add the YouTube videos at the bottom of this page.
Actor Yoon Chan Young plays Ddang Sae as a child. I like him and I plan to watch him in other dramas.
Boon Yi, is the only female dragon. She is the sister of Ddang Sae and together they are looking for their mother. She is the love interest for Lee Bang Won, and due to her strong character she becomes the leader of a large band of intelligence gatherers.
Moo Hyul is the final dragon. His character isn’t even shown until episode 4, and he isn’t “introduced” as the sixth dragon until episode 49. Moo Hyul is one of ten siblings, and his grandmother offers herself and his siblings into a life of slavery in order for Moo Hyul to get the training to become a swordsman and hopefully raise the family to a higher position. Moo Hyul is my favorite character in the drama, and although he is said to be a little dimwitted, he turns out to be not so dumb after all. He has some of the most amusing lines in the drama. He becomes Lee Bang Won’s bodyguard. The character (different actor) was also the bodyguard of Lee Do, Lee Bang Won’s son in the drama Tree With Deep Roots.
Yoon Kyun Sang plays the adult Moo Hyul, and from the moment I first saw him, in episode 5, I was smitten by him. Anything I say about him is an understatement, and he is now my favorite actor of all time. Not kidding!
Baek Seung Hwan plays the child (early teen) version of Moo Hyool. The actor only has about a total of 15 minutes screen time, but he does a good job with it.
So, those are the six dragons. Below I will post a little about some of the other characters that a person needs to remember in order to make sense of what is going on.
Other important characters are as follows:
The Lee Family
The Lee family consists of the father, General Lee Seong Gye, his brother Lee Ji Ran, and his 6 sons with his first wife (oldest to youngest) – Lee Bang Woo, Lee Bang Gwa, Lee Bang Ui, Lee Bang Gan, Lee Bang Won, and Lee Bang Yeon. Lee Seong Gye had 2 more sons with his second wife, Lee Bang Beon and Lee Bang Seok.
These scholars are introduced in the first episode, and it can be difficult to keep them all straight, but I couldn’t include pictures of all of them. However, let me just mention Jung Mong Joo (1338-1392), whose pen name was Poeun. He was a neo-confucian scholar who was extremely loyal to the Goryeo Dynasty.
The Evil Three
General Choi Young
Choi Young is a military general who is not corrupt (he is portrayed in the fantasy drama Faith by Lee Min Ho). In Six Flying Dragons, he is now old and can’t let go of the Goryeo that he has fought his whole life to protect.
Where to watch: Viki or Drama Fever
Drama Fever is only $17 dollars per year compared to Viki’s $50 dollars per year for basic. However, let me make a correction from my previous post. You can watch Viki for free – suffering through 7 commercial breaks per hour…each commercial break shows 4 commercials and most of these you can skip after 15 seconds. Viki offers most of its content for free and only a few shows are exclusive for paid viewers. Drama Fever on the other hand shows only a few episodes of each show for free (with commercial breaks) but once you pay the $17 dollars you have access to everything, unless you are watching overseas in which case the movies are not available but the dramas are still watchable in other countries. One last thing is that Viki offers subtitles in many languages versus Drama Fever only offers subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese and sometimes Arabic.
Six Flying Dragons OST
The OST (original soundtrack) is awesome, here are some of the songs with English Subtitles and no spoilers. More of the video OST can be found here.
1. Byun Yo Han (4th dragon, Lee Bang Ji) singing “Song of Chungsan”.
2. Here he is again singing Muiiya, but without subtitles.
3. This next song is called “Time Flows By Since It’s You” sung by XIA Junsu
4. This song is called “I Guess It’s You”.
5. This song is sung by Shin Yong Jae and is called “In the Middle of the World”.