The world in numbers: science versus belief from “The King: Eternal Monarch”

In one of my past analyses, I had already pointed out that our hero Lee Gon is first a mathematician and physician before a king hence he loves the book “Alice in Wonderland” written by the famous mathematician Lewis Carroll. But if you pay attention to Lee Gon’s world, you will actually notice his obsession for these sciences.

episode 3

Notice that the walls of his study are actually blackboards full of mathematical and physical formulas. There are not just blackboards full of equations and physics formulas next to his desk but also on different floors. We even learns that he sometimes disappeared in his study for research. This reveals that for Lee Gon, the world can only be explained with math and physics. His head is full of Natural Sciences hence when Jeong Tae Eul mentions MSD (Mixing, Shaking and Drinking), he thinks, she is speaking about Most Significant Digit. His obsession and fixation is also reinforced in another taking.

Here the windows of his suite are covered again with formulas.

In Republic of Korea, he doesn’t even abandon his old habit, although it is a new and foreign world. Sure, we could say that when he discovered the existence of the parallel world, he needed science to reassure himself and understand how this could even exist. He needed reason and logic in order not to become crazy. The more rational and logical he was, the more he was perceived by Jeong Tae Eul and the others as weird and crazy. No one could believe him, although he tried to explain this with Einstein and Quantum mechanics Theory. And now you can perceive the dilemma in this story. This is about the conflict between belief and faith against sciences (math and physics). Even theories from Sciences can be rejected by people, although it is proven scientifically. I could mention Global warming or Jeong Tae Eul who keeps denying that Earth is round, as she has never seen it with her own eyes.

And this dilemma (belief versus Sciences) is even underlined in the love confession of our king. Striking is that Lee Gon is using Math to express his feelings. Since Math are considered as a rational and logical science, it actually contrasts with the concept of love as the latter can not be scientifically measured. Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget the famous quote from the French mathematician Blaise Pascal (17th Century):

” The heart has its reasons that reason knows not.” (Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point)

As you can observe, love has nothing to do with logic and rationale… yet Lee Gon is desperately attempting to rationalize his feelings. First, when he asked her to be his queen, he added that she had just become the reason why he should stay in her world. Striking is that Lee Gon connects love with reason all the time. It is clear that he wants to marry her out of love, nevertheless he is rationalizing his decisions. When Jeong Tae Eul was explaining that thanks to the DNA analysis he could find his family, the king associated “family” to his family status (single) and led him to the proposal. As a family member, his future wife, she would be allowed to know his name and his origins. Therefore in this scene prior to the love confession, the viewer sense that Lee Gon is extremely rational and is not led by a huge passion. However, this is actually a mistake to underestimate Lee Gon’s burning passion for Jeong Tae Eul (JTE), despise his calm manners and rational words.

In fact, his love confession proves the exact opposite. Since he has been obsessed with math, he can only describe his own feelings with mathematical formulas. The more math he is using, the deeper his feelings are for her. As you can see, the love confession gives us a good insight about Lee Gon’s personality hence we need to analyze his little speech.

“Among real numbers, zero is my favorite. You have the nature of that number. A zero means there is nothing but it’s actually a number of absolute power. It can nullify any number or take everything away from it. What makes money powerful is not the number at the front but the number of zeros behind it. A number trapped in a root symbol can escape under only 2 circumstances. They need to have a square root or meet the powerful number, zero. You’re standing in front of the root symbol. I’m trapped in. Do you believe me?”

Striking is that just like JTE is a number, Lee Gon considers himself as a number too. While she is the powerful zero, he is one (1). In this love confession, he didn’t mention the number one but he revealed it much later, when they were going through the passage between the two worlds.

episode 5

Here he told her: “It’s something between 1 and 0 in my world and yours.”

In other words, Lee Gon perceives the world as a composition of numbers and physical formulas. People are numbers, that’s why we have Rose93 e.g.. However, in Lee Gon’s case, only two numbers exist: 1 (my world) and 0 (your world). And this is no coincidence. The combination of 1 and 0 is indeed a reference to the binary numeral system which is used in informatics for computer and computer-based devices. Therefore this reminisces the movie Matrix, a computer world. However, the Matrix, visible in different screens is full of different numbers and signs, where the numbers are sometimes written in reverse, as if there was a mirror in the Matrix. (see my analysis about the significance of mirrors)

That’s why the binary numeral system is also connected to other people, like Jo Young, the closest friend and right-hand man of the king. In the episode 9, we discover that the Unbreakable Sword Jo Young has as password: 10000000000000. In the decimal number system, this number would be 8192. Then in the episode 8, we hear from Goo Seo Ryung the Prime Minister that she was horrible at math hence her answers were either 0 or – 1. And here we could see a clue that GSR could be represented by -1 and could become Lee Gon’s enemy as she is walking on a small path between good and bad. This binary numeral system is shown in different episodes, the director keeps using it as a metaphor for our two main leads.

This taking happens in Monarchy of Corea
episode 3 :The bank note has been analyzed and confirmed as real.
episode 5: JTE keeps calling the palace as she has not enough money to travel back to Busan

All these shots are actually reflecting the distance between our detective and our protagonist. The more zeros it has, the bigger the gap is. He is much richer than her, but in the episode 5, she is much closer to him than in the episode 4, when he had returned to his world after her rejection.

But let’s go back to the love confession. Lee Gon is not just 1, but √ 1 = 1,000000. He uses the root as a metaphor for his actual situation. He is trapped and can only escape from his “agony”, if she reciprocates his feelings. Since JTE is a zero, she can never get trapped as she is so powerful. She can turn his love into nothing (nullify) with a rejection or she can liberate him with her acceptance, meaning that his feelings will be multiplied (“take everything away”).

But what caught my attention is the ending of his love confession. He asks her if she believes him. Here again, we have a new situation where belief and faith are connected to science. On the surface, both seem to contradict each other. A scientist and mathematician can not be a believer because in faith or belief, things can not be proven and rationalized. Yet, the mathematician Blaise Pascal even used math in order to solve this dilemma. First he presented a pragmatic reason for believing in God: the so called Pascal’s Wager about God. If God exists, the persons gains more when the person believes in God and if there is no god, the person believing in God loses nothing. Besides, the same scientist proposed the hidden God as an unverifiable hypothesis that allows signs to be interpreted in a way that fully satisfies reason. The scientific method becomes a mise en abyme of faith.

In reality, belief doesn’t exclude science but for Lee Gon it has become a principle. He only believes in ratio, in math and physics. It’s his new faith and belief. He rejects any other form of belief at all. That’s why when they are admiring the strange world between MOC and ROK, he ignores JTE’s question, if there is magic here. His only reply is that this is part of a legend. And in this moment, the viewer can realize that he represents the opposite of his uncle. Remember that in the episode 1, he looked down on people who denied the real powers of Manpaseokjik. He declared that disbelievers would call this story a myth. Legend and myth are synonyms. He doesn’t believe in that legend, he is quite skeptical. Before this scene, the viewers could observe his rejection of belief in deity in different occasions.

First, when the time stops, he uses the Euler’s number to count how long the time passed.

episode 4

He is trying to observe the phenomenon scientifically. He has no rational explanation and his unique watch can not even resist the phenomenon. But the problem is that he can not prove this phenomenon to Jo Young and Jeong Tae Eul. Both couldn’t feel or see it. Therefore he uses a note in order to prove the reality to Jo Young. When they are in the passage, he explicates that he has already determined that time flows differently here. One minute in the passage means 1 hour in her world or his world. Nonetheless we can feel a certain despair from him: “There is no air, no wind and no light”. With his knowledge and as a scientist, he fails to explain this strange world. The red balloon doesn’t move or disappear… every physical law he knows can not be applied here. Simultaneously he is not admitting that magic exists which he would see as the contradiction to his own belief. That’s why he doesn’t believe that the seeds can grow in this strange world: no light, no air, no water… He has no hope, unlike Jeong Tae Eul. She hopes that the plant will grow that’s why she is definitely deaf to his statement.

Then when he is looking at the autopsy report of his uncle, he is using math and ratio again in order to tell his friend that he thinks that his uncle is alive.

“Sometimes, symbols of mathematics or science are useful when understanding a certain phenomenon. For example, the + sign doesn’t have a meaning itself, since it’s a symbol that means adding something.”

For him, the body is a symbol that Lee Rim used. He is definitely seeking for a logical and rational explanation as his intuition is telling that Lee Rim is not dead. And the more he digs around his uncle, the more desperate he is to prove that every strange phenomenon has a reasonable and logical explication. The following scene from the episode 9 represents the climax of this denial that god or magic could exist:

episode 9: the deity is on the right playing with the yo-yo, while JTE on the left is walking in front of a bookstore named “Haesong Bookstore”.

Actually, the different videos on Jo young’s laptop were recordings from CCTV that were removed by his minion in order to erase every single trace of JTE in his world. Yet, the CCTV is dated in the future… here the numbers in which Lee Gon finds comfort are indeed shaking him and his belief. He can not understand why he has such a video. This defies any logical and reasonable explication. The child in this video is looking at the young king as if he was telling him: “Yes, that’s right… this is from the future. Stop relying on math and physical laws. Open your eyes to the truth”.

Let us summarize what we discover so far: Lee Gon has been obsessed with math and physics because he is a disbeliever. He denies the existence of god and refuses to have faith in a deity and in the existence of supernatural. The origin of his stubbornness comes from his past and the fateful night, where he almost lost his life and lost his father. The boy had learned from his father Lee Ho the duties of the king based on a prayer written on the Four Tiger Sword:

image.png

If you pay attention to the clothes, Lee Gon is wearing the same clothes than the night of Lee Rim’s coup d’Etat, just like his father. So this scene is quite important as he reveals the importance of the 4 Tiger Sword.

“The sky bestows the heart upon us, and the ground helps the spirit. The sun and the moon are formed. As the mountains and streams form, lightning strikes. A sage is moved to defeat the evil of the mountains and streams. Wield it with deep thoughts and make things right.”

Only a king is the owner of this sword and striking is that the father was passing his sword onto his son… he is unaware that he will die in a few hours. The father was preparing for the ceremony with the Manpasikjeok and like I said, this only happens every 20 years. It was his fate to die that night… and Lee Gon has already been initiated by his father, Lee Rim knows the prayer but only believes in the supernatural powers from the flute, written in the Memorabilia. Lee Gon did act like his father told him, he used the sword to defeat his uncle but failed. He could only take the half of the flute and was saved by a mysterious savior. This terrible night marked a turning point for Lee Gon: he no longer believed in the prayer written on the sword. He had lost his father due to the sword and he had failed to stop Lee Rim.

This incident explains why the sword is no longer kept in the king’s room, contrary to the past. Only in the episode 4, Lee Gon retrieves the Four Tiger Sword, full of dust, from the temple that has been neglected for many years.

episode 4
episode 4

He is still skeptical but since he feels like Lee Rim is alive (episode 4), he has the impression that he will need the sword again. However, he is still a scientist and can not be considered as a believer of the 4 Tiger Sword. To summarize, this will be a fight between two cults: the Manpasikjeok and the Four Tiger Sword. Since he is still doubtful, as he can not explain the scene from the CCTV 2022.05.27), we have to consider the symbols on his shoulder as a warning and reminder of his task as king.

episode 4

By looking carefully at the form of the burns, you will notice that it looks like “streams” and “mountains” as the streams have relief. This is an illustration of the prayer: “As the mountains and streams form, lightning strikes”. And the special sword is definitely the ultimate weapon against Lee Rim and the flute. Why? The former owner of the flute was the Dragon King of the East Sea. There is a relation between the “mountains/streams” and the “Dragon/Sea”. All streams lead to the sea and Dragons are often associated to mountain (many different fairy tales or e. g. The Hobbit). Like I had mentioned in one of my former analyses, Lee Rim took the words from the Memorabilia too literally. He is a fundamentalist and never questions the authenticity of these words. Since he doesn’t age, he believes that it is connected to the Manpasikjeok, whereas Lee Gon has already figured it out scientifically: it is related to the world between his world (1) and her world (0). At the end, Lee Gon will become a supporter of Blaise Pascal. A leap of faith is possible, even for mathematicians. There is no real contradiction in reality. A scientist can be a believer and the words from the sword will become a prayer again.

Please feel free to comment. Push the button “like” if you enjoyed reading this analysis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s