Queen Seonduk: Between the fact and fiction
Queen Seonduk: Between the fact and fiction
  • Hwang Woo-ram, Reporter
  • 승인 2009.09.07 17:53
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Imagination VS. distortion of history
Like other
Like other dramas, historical dramas that handle a part of the country’s history also are based on imagination and fabrication. Recently showing a very high audience rating, MBC’s Queen Seonduk is a historical drama adding imagination. Because of the prediction of royal family in Silla Dynasty that there can be no royal bloodline if a king bears twins, Dukman(Queen Seonduk) was abandoned with a maid. And Misil was afraid of the prophecy that the kid(Dukman) who was born in the day when seven stars of the Big Dipper became eight stars would break her power. The drama Queen Seonduk is about the fight of these two women. But as the interest of viewers has increased, more controversy about historical facts has increased. Queen Seonduk is based on ‘Hwarangsaegie’, which is in dispute over its reality. Many historians don’t approve of it as a historical document. Viewers distrust that the many popular scenes in this drama really happened in the Silla Dynasty. So, The CBNU Globe will introduce the truth behind the stories to Geonjians.
Is Queen Seonduk a twin younger sister?
In Queen Seonduk, Dukman is a twin younger sister and Cheonmyung, mother of Kim Chun-chu, who will become King Taejong Mu-yeol, is Dukman’s twin sister. But actually, Dukman is described as the first daughter in Kim Bu-sik’s ‘Samkuksagie’.
 “Queen Seonduk was crowned. Her name is Dukman, King Jinpyoeng’s first daughter. Her mother is Mrs. Maya. Dukman was good, generous and smart. Because the King died and he didn’t have a son, Dukman became Queen.” (The 5th volume of Samkuksagie)
The drama Queen Seonduk describes Dukman as a twin. However, there is no historical evidence that Dukman and Cheonmyung were twins.
Do husband and paramour cooperate?
In drama, Misil’s husband Se-jong and paramour Seol-won are trying to make Misil empress together. Furthermore, after dethroning King Jin-ji, Misil crowned his nephew to be emperor. Modern people can’t understand that her husband and paramour cooperated and Misil got married many times, but the Silla Dynasty permitted women to have three husbands.
Seonduk vs. Misil
Dukman and Misil are political opponents in the drama. After Dukman becomes Queen, she will confront Misil in earnest. But it is not true. In ‘Hwarangsaegie’, Sadaham, who was Misil’s lover and the sixth Pungwolju(Leader of Hwarangdo), was born in 545. When his death was near, he said, “I will pass the Pungwolju position to Se-jong, who is the husband of my young sister.” And Misang, who is the younger brother of Misil, was born in 550. Consequently, Misil was born between 545 and 550. It means that when Queen Seonduk was crowned in 632, Misil was at least 83 years old. So considering the average life expectancy of the Silla Dynasty, Misil had already died.
Nangjanggeolwee - resolution of Hwarang
Misil dethroned King Jin-ji, who broke his promise to make her empress, and set his nephew to be king and tried to be his empress. So Misil let Hwarang (Silla chivalry), who swear their allegiance to her, do Nangjanggeolwee, and they kill themselves as they ask King Jin-ji to resign. This scene left a powerful impression to viewers. Nangjanggeolwee is a ritual wearing makeup and mustering the will to die for an important job. While a record about Hwarang’s makeup exists, there is no record about Nangjangkyoelwee.
Did glass exist in the Silla Dynasty?
Examining Mrs. Maya, a woman doctor tells Misil the fact that Mrs. Maya is pregnant with twins. While Mrs. Maya is delivering the babies, Misil plays glasses filled with water, tapping them. The viewers who saw the scene doubted if glass existed in the Silla Dynasty. Glass did really exist in that period, but the craft for making glass was not yet developed. We guess lots of glasses were imported from the West of China, Arabia and whatnot. That is why glass is more precious than gold and the glass instrument symbolized the power of Misil in this drama.
As many historians argue, if ‘Hwarangsaegie’ is really forgery, then Misil, who only exists in ‘Hwarangsaegie’ is a fictitious character. Likewise, we watched many historical dramas that are different from history for fun. For example, the drama Daejanggum was generated from only one sentence in a historical document.
 The writers of historical dramas mixed their imagination and historical fact to attract viewers’ interests. Many people insist that it should give the right information about history, but there are other opinions, too. Historical drama plays a role for viewers to have an interest in history. For example, we became interested in Goguryeo through the drama Jumong.
It is up to you to understand and take historical drama as somewhere between fact and fiction. We should try to gain plenty of knowledge on Korean history and should balance the facts and fiction for fun. It is a way to enjoy history.

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