Monday, March 09, 2009
Originally published in the January 2007 issue of The Ulsan Pear (you can find issues in pdf format at ulsanonline.com).
Che Kyung Shin was just a normal high school girl, but now she’s learning just how much being a princess sucks. Every day is scheduled down to the last minute, she can’t live with (or even see) her family anymore and her husband (the crown prince) is a jerk.
So Hee Park’s Goong is set in a world were Korea still has a royal family and operates as a constitutional monarchy. The royal family are absurdly popular with the general public, despite, or perhaps because of, their extreme ties to tradition. So when Shin Lee, the crown price or “seja,”
starts going to Che’s school, she’s excited. Until she actually talks to him and discovers he’s a jerk who she wants nothing to do with.
Unfortunately, things don’t go that way. It turns out that Che’s grandfather was best friends with the prince’s grandfather (the former king) and before the king died they decided that their grandchildren (Che and Shin) would marry. In the twenty-first century it seems unlikely that you could convince two teenagers, especially ones that don’t like each other, that they should get married, yet in volume two they do. So what happened?
At first Che is going to say no, but having her mother prodding her towards marriage because she would rather have her daughter be unhappy for the rest of her life than her father-in-law feel guilty, doesn’t exactly help. But when Che realizes that this could be a way for her family to escape the poverty they live in, she relents. She is willing to sacrifice herself for her family.
However, Shin’s motivations are nowhere near as self-sacrificing. The prince thinks Che is a clutz and a fool and only agreed to marry her because he knows the life of a princess is horrible. “Do you think I’m crazy enough to make the one that I love be forced to live in the palace like a doll? Since I don’t care what happens to you, I am letting you be sejabin [crown princess].” He also says that later, when things get really horrible, he’ll just divorce her. How nice!
At this point you can pretty much figure out this isn’t the start to a typical romance story.
It is, however, funny and mostly undercuts things expected from this type of comic. At times a page will show what will happen in normal romance comics, and then the next page will have what actually happens in Goong (usually featuring characters doing something stupid).
The art is heavily influenced by Japanese comics (as are most Korean comics), but it looks good
and works well with the story (a lot of effort has been put into making the characters’ clothes look fashionable). At times it becomes super-deformed, which is strange the first time you see it, but is part of this artistic style.
Romance stories aren’t really my thing, but Goong is good and different enough to pull me in. Will Che fall in love with Shin (don’t do it, he’s not worth it!) or will she end up with his brother who seems nice (yes!) but may be too good to be true?
Goong is one of the most popular comics currently being made in Korea, and has also been made into a TV drama. If you want to brush up on your Korean, you can pick up the graphic novels easily enough. Thankfully, it’s also now available in English, just check amazon or somewhere.