Goong vol. 1 by Park So Hee
When I started watching the K-Drama Palace (aka Princess Hours), I had no idea it was based on a manhwa series. The fact that I actually managed to watch the entire show made me want to read the manhwa, Goong: The Royal Palace, as I’ve only attempted to read one other manhwa prior to this and didn’t finish it.
Before I get to my review (recap? discussion?) of the book, I’m going to indulge in some totally unnecessary ramblings about me and K-Drama. My mom used to watch a lot of them years ago, but I was never interested because they seemed so depressing. I mean, it sounded like they all ended with someone dying or going blind or just not having a happy ending in any way. Then my library started buying the DVDs to circulate, and hey, some of them actually sounded interesting.
There are a lot of people who are obsessed with K-Drama, and a lot of teens in my library’s community who have seen a lot more of them than me. But here’s what I’ve tried so far:
- Damo — Started off so good. Then (I thought) went in totally the wrong direction. Skipped to the end, which pissed me off, though I can’t say it was particularly surprising, so didn’t bother with the middle episodes. Did not finish, in the sense that I didn’t watch the whole thing.
- Sweet 18 — First couple episodes okay. What sticks in my mind the most were her scarves. Made me want to live somewhere cold so I could wear all those cute scarves! DNF.
- Rooftop Room Cat — Bored by the end of episode 1. DNF.
- My Lovely Sam-Soon — First episode was great. Then, oh look, it’s the guy’s old love interest coming back to turn this into a soap opera. DNF.
- Dae Jang Geum — Watched the whole thing! Okay, so most if it was at 3x speed reading the subtitles (except for the parts where they were cooking), but I did watch it. And I liked it, though I sometimes wanted to slap Jang Geum for being so self-sacrificing.
- Sweet Spy — DNF.
- My Love Patzzi — DNF.
- Palace — Probably my favorite of the bunch. Yoon Eun Hye as Chae Kyung–so cute! Her clothes–also cute! Ju Ji Hoon as Shin–so tall! And skinny. And the sets–so pretty! Yes, I’m superficial. Major drawback–Yul. Oh, stop being so passive-aggressive. YesAsia’s DVD packaging is gorgeous, as usual, and it comes with more special features than most other K-Dramas.
Now back to the manhwa…
Goong: The Royal Palace is set in a Korea very similar to the one today, but with a constitutional monarchy. Crown Prince Shin Lee is seventeen, an age old enough to marry. His mother tells him that unless he already has a girl in mind, he will be forced to marry someone who has been chosen for him. Years ago, his grandfather had a dear friend, a commoner, who agreed to betroth his granddaughter to the king’s grandson, the Crown Prince. When the agreement was made, the Crown Prince was Shin’s cousin, Yul. But when Yul’s father died, Shin became Crown Prince and the future bridegroom of the commoner’s granddaughter. As his proposal to a classmate, Hyo Rin, was turned down (and overheard by some weird girl), Shin will be forced to marry according to his late grandfather’s wishes, and is surprised to learn that his bride attends the same school as he.
Chae Kyung is the weird girl who accidentally eavesdropped on Shin’s proposal and rejection. An odd, not particularly studious girl, she has had several embarrassing encounters with the prince and is horrified to learn that she is to marry him. Shin is capable of cutting cruelty, like treating Chae Kyung and her friend like maids in the first chapter, and later telling Chae Kyung, “I agreed to this marriage because I don’t care about you… Think about it. If you were me, would you marry a girl like you? Do you know what you’re like? You should be thanking me.” Though she has her doubts, Chae Kyung ultimately chooses to go through with the marriage, and all the training that goes along with becoming a member of the royal family, in order to help her own family.
I didn’t particularly care for the art in Goong. Some of body parts seemed disproportionately sized, and the plaid of Chae Kyung’s dress in one chapter completely distracted me because it seemed so, well, loud and glaring. But overall, the art didn’t detract too much from the story, and I liked this volume enough to continue the series, if only to be able to compare it to the TV show and find out if the manhwa version of Yul is just as annoying. The knowledge of what happens in Palace helped keep me interested in Goong, oddly enough.
There are significant differences between the manhwa and K-Drama. There are several characters in the book who don’t appear in the show. For example, in Goong, Chae Kyung’s grandfather is still alive, but he has already passed away when Palace begins. What is more striking to me is how condensed the events of this first volume are compared to the television series. This volume ends the day before the wedding, whereas the wedding does not occur for quite some time in Palace. Palace is actually in the odd position of being more expansive than the manhwa. Perhaps I feel this way because I saw the show before reading the manhwa, yet it’s like their roles are reversed from the usual book/screen version dichotomy, with the manhwa having been cut to fulfill time constraints. The manhwa versions of Chae Kyung and Shin aren’t that dimensional, at least so far. Shin, though he was also a complete ass in the early episodes of Palace (oh, who am I kidding? He was an ass for most of the show, but a compelling one, I must say), still had more nuances and depth than the character as portrayed so far in the manhwa.
The only other TV show I remember watching that was based on a book series is Roswell, which departed so significantly from the books that you can’t really match the events of the show to the books. In Palace/Goong, on the other hand, you can. Though there are many events in the TV show that weren’t in the manhwa, some of the lines in the TV show seem straight out of the manhwa.
There’s a great interview with Park So Hee at end of the book discussing her background, the inspiration behind Goong, and her thoughts on the television series.
Q: People complained about the main characters. What do you think about the casting?
A: A manhwa book is a totally different medium from a TV show. And they have different systems… People who love Goong and people who worry about the casting see the characters as their friends or people they know. I think Chae-Kyung and Shin were reborn as real people who live among the readers. After the TV writer read the book, Chae-Kyung was reborn in her heart like other readers. Chae-Kyung from the book and the TV show will be different and it’s the staff’s job to cast the right person for the characters of the TV show. I hope readers understand that.
And if I hadn’t already decided to keep reading the series, this came up in the interview:
Q: Did you make any special requests of the writer of the TV show?
A: I asked her to make sure that she wrote a different ending from the book.