Painter Of The Night /Bongchon Bride: The terrible fate of slaves

This is where you can read the manhwas.  Bongchon Bride: (app Manta comics) or (Mature version) But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents concerning Painter Of The Night: Here, you can find more analyses about other manhwas:

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When I started reading Bongchon bride, I couldn’t help myself noticing the parallels between Yoon Seungho and Soongap. Both protagonists experience a sudden downfall, and end up living as slaves. At some point, both felt that they were living in hell. They had dark circles around the eyes revealing their mental and emotional torment. Consequently they were plagued by nightmares and insomnia and became suicidal. Anyone would think that their suffering was related to their social status, for as slaves they lived in terrible conditions. In addition, they had no longer any right and as such no freedom. The manhwaphiles should keep in their mind that Yoon Seungho was treated like a male kisaeng, for he was the sexual partner of the “mysterious lord Song”. And a kisaeng is a slave belonging to the state. However, saying that their misery was strongly intertwined to their condition as slave is not entirely correct. The reality is far more complex, like I will expose it. First, I would like to use Soongap and his family as an illustration.

1. Soongap and his brother Pilgyeon: between love, indifference and hatred

The main lead Soongap is the son of a noble and a concubine. Her name is Gwiduck and she was a slave. (chapter 6) The father was deeply in love with Gwiduck, thus he treasured her very much. He would give her jewels and good clothes. However, since Gwiduck was just a slave, the father decided to remarry after the death of his first wife. The former had two reasons for this. First, according to social norms, his household needed an official wife. Moreover, I am suspecting that the father must have been pressured by his own family as well. Soongap’s father is actually a younger master, so his elder brother, and as such the head of the household Jeon, had a right to meddle in the life of the main lead’s father. I could use the following panel as an evidence that the family’s attitude had a great influence on the father. (chapter 25) As you can see, Soongap’s aunt was rejecting Gwiduck due to her social status. One might think that the concubine had been lucky. She could live in luxury and was treated well. However, the manhwaphiles can grasp very quickly that the mother never enjoyed her position as a concubine. Why? First, her position arouse jealousy among the staff. (chapter 6) This means that she was totally isolated in the mansion, exactly like Baek Na-Kyum. Nevertheless, I believe that the main reason for her misery was that she had never been asked in the first place. Soongap’s father as a noble had used his position to impose his will. To conclude, there was no consent in the end. The manhwalovers could sense that Gwiduck didn’t love her husband by the way she reacted to his calling and she addressed to him. (Bongchon bride chapter 6) She just treated him as a master using his right. The title displays the absence of intimacy. She was not seeking his presence, it was always the father who would visit her room. As a conclusion, she was just a favored servant and nothing more. However, the father never realized his concubine’s unhappiness. He imagined that by acting as a generous man, he had showed to her that he loved her. I doubt that the man ever confessed to her. Why should he? In his mind, it was clear that he cared for her very much. Besides, we have to question ourselves if a noble would ever confess his love towards a slave. This would be beneath his dignity, just like no noble will ever apologize to a commoner. (chapter 71) Since it was all about the noble’s needs and feelings, he never paid attention to Gwiduck’s emotions and will. Did she truly want him? Not really… but she had no right to refuse him. This explicates why Soongap detected his mother’s empty gaze and her real emotional state. (chapter 6) And because the father only desired Gwiduck, he neglected his son born from his concubine. (chapter 6) What could he bring to his family? Nothing, as Soongap was inheriting his mother’s social rank: a slave. In this panel, the noble’s gaze was betraying him. He was totally indifferent towards Soongap. Thus he never took care of his son’s education. The mother was isolated, even her son’s presence couldn’t comfort her. Why? It is because her husband showed no interest in Soongap as well. Besides, Gwiduck had been forced to witness her master’s remarriage. This means that she would never be recognized as the mistress of the household. To conclude, Soongap’s father chose social norms over love. His affection for Gwiduck was not strong enough to disregard traditions. This exposes the father’s selfishness. However, when his second wife died years later, the man was actually crying over Gwiduck and not over his second wife. (chapter 20) He was missing her terribly showing that he had never understood why his concubine committed suicide. (chapter 21) Her action caught him by surprise, and even after so many years, he still doesn’t know the reason behind her suicide. It was because he never tried to get to know Gwiduck and understand her. He never detected her sadness and misery.

Striking is that Gwiduck had to take care of the son from the second wife. His name is Jilpyeon. (chapter 6) The latter would always run to Gwiduck, because he had a very strict mother. She had high expectations for her son, but because she put so much pressure on him, she used violence to achieve her goal. Her forceful way estranged her from her own son, who sought refuge to the concubine Gwiduck. This could only reinforce the wife’s jealousy towards the concubine. The main lead’s mother must have been a thorn in the wife’s eyes. Her own son preferred the slave and Soongap’s company over her own. (chapter 6) The young master felt loved there. However, if the manhwaphiles compare the last two panels, they can detect a huge gap again. Pilgyeon never realized that Soongap and his mother never truly comforted him. They just accepted his presence. The third son never comprehended that they allowed him to do anything in their family, for the simple reason that he was a noble, the younger master of the mansion. As slaves, neither Gwiduck nor Soongap could ever refuse anything. (chapter 6) Note that even here, Soongap didn’t dare to voice his true thoughts. He never complained to his brother. Soongap was never entirely honest to his brother. In other words, Pilgyeon was making the same mistake than the father. He was taking Gwiduck and Soongap for granted, he had been accepted. He was blind to their actual situation and as such their true thoughts and emotions. Yes, such an attitude could only reinforce his selfishness. He never talked to Gwiduck, thus he assumed that her smile was genuine. (chapter 21) However, she was just masking her emptiness. Naturally, I am not saying that the main lead or Gwiduck disliked the younger master. Nevertheless, their attachment towards Pilgyeon was more superficial and as such not so strong. Soongap never confided to his brother about his mother’s emptiness. He was mature enough to grasp there existed a huge distance between his brother and himself. He was thankful that Pilgyeon was teaching him how to read and write, but his affection for Pilgyeon was limited. (chapter 6) While the protagonist and his mother became a source of joy and comfort for Pilgyeon, the latter thought that they felt the same way. In truth, he was just projecting his own thoughts and emotions onto Gwiduck and her son. Thus I come to the conclusion that the second lead developed an idealized version of his childhood. He had the impression that he knew his brother so well, for they spent a lot of time together. Nonetheless, everything was revolving around Pilgyeon’s needs and wishes. Their submissive behavior towards Pilgyeon contributed to reinforce his selfishness and blindness.

Therefore it is not surprising that after their reunion, the young master imagined that Soongap would be happy, as he was. He envisioned that the slave was missing him very much, just like he was longing for his brother. (chapter 3) However, after so many years of separation, the gap between them could only increase. For the main lead, Pilgyeon was now a lord and no longer a part of his family. Only after their reunion, Pilgyeon was confronted with the truth. Their social status made it impossible to act like in the past. Hence the protagonist acted, as if he was not his brother. From that moment, Soongap made sure to keep his distance, and even rejected any offer coming from Pilgyeon. He had every reason to do so. After his mother’s death, Soongap had been sent away to the main house of Jeon. (chapter 2) The wife and the father had every reason to get rid of the main lead. The mistress of the house would get rid of her competition, and could now take control over her son’s life entirely. As Pilgyeon’s father, the son was a constant reminder of the loss of his beloved concubine. He didn’t want to see his son’s face.

2. Kindness and hell

In the mansion of his uncle, the main lead lived his life as a real slave, he was no longer perceived as the son of the concubine. That’s how Soongap discovered the true life of a slave. There was a price on his life. (chapter 2) But he was not unhappy there. He could find a new family: the staff, his grandmother and Mojil. (chapter 14) This shows that Soongap’s descent to hell was not truly related to his status. Through his mother’s misery and his life as a slave, he discovered that jewels or comfort were not really a source of happiness. This explicates why in the second season, Soongap made the following statement: (chapter 51)

The main cause of his suffering was actually the arrival of his biological brother, Pilgyeon, who got adopted by his uncle. The latter had no son on his own. And Pilgyeon who had such a fond memory of his childhood wanted to live like in the past. He was longing for his brother’s closeness. But since Soongap refused to acknowledge him as a relative, he had to used his position to meddle in his brother’s life and as such impose his will onto Soongap. As a master, he could do whatever he pleased. Thus he imagined that if he favored Soongap, the latter would appreciate his help and come to return his affection. As you can see, the son acted like the father. The irony is that contrary to the elder master, Pilgyeon met resistance. (chapter 10) The son had proposed to give the head slave’s job to his brother without taking into consideration the old head slave. Therefore his suggestion created tension among the staff so that some felt that Soongap was trying to take advantage of the new situation. At the end, Pilgyeon was forced to give up on this idea, though the main character didn’t desire to take this job. However, Soongap’s misery really started, when his lover’s health deteriorated so quickly. (chapter 11) The young master seized the opportunity and offered to give this expensive medicine to the ill Mojil. In front of his family and the staff, the antagonist appeared as a nice and generous man. (chapter 11) Mojil’s mother sensed that the main character was the cause for the noble’s generosity. Thus she was thankful towards the main lead. Thereby she was encouraging the main lead to stay close to the young master.

“Real kindness seeks no return, what return can make the world to rain clouds?” from Thiruvalluvar

On the other hand, Soongap didn’t trust his own brother. The former was well aware that Pilgyeon wasn’t giving it for free. (chapter 12) He expected something from Soongap. (chapter 14) He wanted his own brother to surrender and give himself to him. The moment Pilgyeon had discovered that his brother was a homosexual, his love for his “brother” changed. And each time Soongap fetched the medicine, the latter was scared and tormented by the thought that today would be the day he would have to pay for the drug. Besides, because his lover’s sickness didn’t improve in the long term, Soongap wondered if the medicine was real or if it was not poison. The main lead was hurt to see how Mojil was slowly losing his sense. The uncertainty of the true nature of the medicine and the pressure from his brother were slowly eating away Soongap’s energy. He feared to be responsible for his lover’s death. As you can see, the real source of his hell was his brother’s obsession for him.

The latter was haunted by the past. Back then, Pilgyeon had the impression, he was surrounded by loving people, he never felt lonely. However, his life changed so suddenly after Gwiduck’s suicide. (chapter 51) (chapter 51) He felt abandoned, he was missing warmth and love. And now you comprehend the brother’s obsession for Soongap. He will do anything to keep him by his side. He will be either a helping hand or a lover or a brother, as long as Soongap accepts him. He can not accept his rejection, for this never happened in the past. But by using every possible trick, he showed a terrible side of himself to Soongap. He was a ruthless hypocrite. This was truly perceptible after Mojil’s death. The mother requested a proper funeral. (chapter 23) Pilgyeon suggested to his adoptive father to organize a funeral for the poor slave, but to their surprise, the slaves had to pay for the expenses. Fake generosity. Strangely, no one from the staff complained about this. As time passed on, Soongap could perceive his brother’s ruthlessness and selfishness more and more. Therefore it is not surprising that the brother’s rejection and distance is perceived as hatred. (chapter 52) The younger master can not bear rejection, while the counterpart just wished to be “free”. (chapter 51)

The painterofthenight-lovers can sense the similarities between Lee Jihwa and Jeon Pilgyeon. Both wished to go to the past (chapter 51). The young master Pilgyeon wishes to relive his “childhood”, as in his eyes, this was the best time of his life. However, this was just an illusion, as neither Gwiduck nor his brother were truly happy. They were isolated, and Soongap could feel his father’s neglect and indifference. Back then, Soongap couldn’t reject his brother and reproach him for his invasion of privacy.

What caught my attention is his insistence to “help” his relative. He wished to be needed. But this is no real help, for his assistance is not even required. In truth, he is the one in great needs. He desired not to be alone. Though he could improve his social status, for he succeeded in the civil service examination and he will become the future head of the Jeon clan, he is more than ever isolated. The manhwaphiles can grasp that despite his comfortable life, the noble Pilgyeon was miserable, while Soongap felt happy. However, Soongap got to discover the dark side of being a slave, when his brother entered his life. Because of his intervention, the protagonist felt responsible for his lover’s death. With his loss and the pressure coming from Pilgyeon, the slave lost his will to live. Thus he was on the verge of committing suicide either by falling from a cliff or by taking the fall for the mistress’ crime. Due to his brother, the main character discovered that there’s nothing free in this world. This explicates why the young slave was mistrusting Bongchon in the beginning. His new master would do everything for him which was not normal at all. Consequently he imagined that the strong man would expect something in return. It took him a long time to see that his master and lover was a honest and selfless man. Bongchon stands in opposition to Pilgyeon. (chapter 1) Bongchon even had to get into debts in order to save the main lead’s life. Contrary to the brother, the strong man let the main lead to choose about his fate. He told him that he could even leave his mansion. He gave Soongap freedom, while the brother was trying to do the exact opposite: to entrap him in his world. Thus he failed terribly. (chapter 52) Even if he takes his body, he will never get his heart or soul. In this scene, Pilgyeon realized that if he kept in that direction, he would push Soongap to have suicidal thoughts again. This shows that wealth and power are ineffective, they can never stop someone from becoming suicidal. These values are nothing in front of death.

Therefore, the main issue for the slave’s condition is the loss of freedom. From that moment on, they are totally at the mercy of their master’s good will. Instead of freeing his brother from his condition, Pilgyeon contributed to destabilize his situation in the mansion. As a slave, he could keep him by his side. But by acting as if nothing had happened during their separation, the servant could only have the impression that they belonged to two different worlds. By revealing his selfishness, the antagonist pushed away his own brother.

3. Yoon Seungho and Lee Jihwa, between liberty and captivity

When I saw Yoon Seungho living in the shed, my heart was really bleeding. (Chapter 83) It looked like he had almost reached the bottom: the father no longer viewed him as a man, but as an animal. (chapter 83) This means that his condition was worse than Soongap’s. The latter would share his room with others. (chapter 4) This means that he never lived in the shed, until he got punished. He was never alone, he could make jokes and talk to his lover and the other servants. He was accepted in the household. But this was not the case for the main lead from Painter Of The night. The main lead was treated more like an animal than a slave. To sum up, Soongap lived under better circumstances. He had his grand-mother by his side, he had a real bed and was fed properly. Finally, he could move more freely around. As for the noble from Painter Of The Night, he was trapped in the barn. In addition, the brown drink (probably the drug) reminded me of animal food. He was totally isolated. The servants ignored him (chapter 83), and Kim definitely stayed as little as possible. Yoon Seungho lived secluded from all the others. Recently, the author revealed that Yoon Seungho’s mother committed suicide because of her son’s suffering. This could only contribute to push the main lead to be suicidal as well. With the loss of his mother, he had no one left by his side.

However, there’s another difference between the two main leads. The latter had lived a comfortable and pretty safe life so far, until he was sent to the shed for the first time. (chapter 77) This signifies that his descent to hell was much more abrupt and brutal. On the other hand, this exposes the father’s ruthlessness and stupidity. He might have been influenced by others in his decision. Nonetheless, the moment he agreed to this punishment, he became responsible for his suffering and misery. He trusted others’ judgement and statements. Striking is that both fathers have a similar disposition: they are quite cold and distant to their own son. On the other hand, Yoon Chang-Hyeon’s resent for the main lead is much deeper than Soongap’s father. (chapter 87) The irony is that the patriarch is obliged to recognize the main lead, for the latter has become the head of the household. This explicates why he remains in the familial mansion. On the other hand, Soongap’s father totally “ignored” his son, when he met him again after his abandonment. He acted, as if they were not related.

One major divergence is that Yoon Seungho was a male kisaeng. He had to provide sexual services. One might argue that he can‘t be viewed as a kisaeng, since he is not properly clothed. (chapter 83) The kisaengs are all dressed like noblewomen, but they are recognizable due to their hair dress and make-up. Nevertheless, this point can be refuted easily. There‘s no ambiguity that the lord was dressed up, when he was “receiving“ his sponsor. Thus the video contained such a picture: or we have this “memory“ from Kim. (Chapter 87) This contrast outlines that Yoon Seungho was indeed living more like a kisaeng. The good clothes were masking his real living conditions. Therefore the sponsor could be deceived. Despite his suffering, he smiled to his friend, the moment the latter opened the door. (chapter 83) He behaved similarly to Gwiduck. How could he refuse Lee Jihwa’s visit in the end? He was trapped in the barn anyway. The darkness around the eyes was visible, yet the childhood friend chose to ignore it. The proof for this interpretation is the presence of the drop of sweat. (Chapter 83) His discomfort indicates that he was definitely aware of the mistreatment. This means that he was in a totally different situation than Pilgyeon. First, he was older. Secondly, he had witnessed the first straw mat beating. Finally, he could see that his friend was not dressed according to his official status, while Gwiduck and her son lived in a certain comfort.

Another important element is that the lord already had dark circles, a sign that he was tormented. (Chapter 82) Because of Soongap’s suffering, I realized that the main lead must have been plagued the same way. The pressure and the uncertainty about his own fate (Would he have to serve tonight or not? and for how long?) must have been terrible. Yet, note that when the red-haired master entered the shed, he was bringing nothing with him: no food and no clothes. In other words, he did nothing to improve Yoon Seungho‘s living conditions. He appeared quite heartless in that scene. Thus I wondered why he didn’t help him. On the other hand, we shouldn‘t overlook one important aspect. Lee Jihwa was supposed to meet his friend in secret. No one should know about this. That‘s the reason why the childhood friend couldn‘t bring anything to his friend. In his mind, if he had brought something, people would have noticed it, and he could have been in trouble. He chose his own comfort over his friend. Thus the only thing he could do was visit his friend. Despite the loss of his status, Lee Jihwa was still willing to interact with him. That’s the reason why I believe that the childhood friend considered himself as a loyal friend. He was even willing to go to the shed, and even have sex there. In his mind, he would do anything for his friend, even lower himself. He would disobey his father, and trespass a propriety only to meet Yoon Seungho, who had been abandoned by everyone. I truly think, Lee Jihwa convinced himself that he was a compassionate friend. This explicates why he made such a reproach to the protagonist later. (chapter 57) However, such words implied that this was the main lead’s choice to be fooling around, while he was pretty aware that Yoon Seungho had been forced to have sex. (chapter 83) This image displays the friend’s knowledge and his lack of honesty. He knew the identity of the abuser, but he feigned ignorance. He closed his eyes to the truth, for he was well aware of his own guilt. But because he went to the shed regularly, he imagined that he had “redeemed” himself by his past betrayal. He had been forgiven. (chapter 59), yet the reality was that he never had. He had just repressed the abandonment and betrayal.

But the latter was unaware that Kim knew about his visits, and even allowed it. He was used to give a certain hope to Yoon Seungho. He was not truly alone. However, at some point, the butler must have been so annoyed that the red-haired master had benefitted the most from Yoon Seungho despite his wrongdoing that Kim chose to confront the protagonist. Lee Jihwa was not a real friend, he was taking advantage of the situation. He expected something else in exchange for his visits: sex. That’s the reason why the main lead dragged his friend to the bedchamber. He was testing his loyalty. If he was not only interested in his body, he would refuse to follow him. What caught my attention is that the red-haired master’s hesitation was not related to Yoon Seungho’s terrible condition. (chapter 83) He didn’t want to get caught. He never asked his friend, if this wouldn’t bring him any trouble. In my eyes, his comment let transpire a certain selfishness. Finally, he didn’t question the main lead: “What are we going to do?” He just wondered about the destination, which gives us a clue that they were supposed to have sex.

Like I had explained in a previous analysis, Lee Jihwa justified his blindness and ignorance with the friend’s smile. As long as he would smile, then everything was fine. For the childhood friend, Yoon Seungho’s disgrace had one advantage. He could outlive his sexual orientation. Pilgyeon only discovered homosexuality much later, he was already an adult. And this was related to his brother. That’s the reason why I don’t believe that Pilgyeon’s interest in Soongap is purely sexual. In my eyes, it is more related to his loneliness and his idealized childhood. But he is as selfish as Lee Jihwa. And this leads me to the following observation: Lee Jihwa never gave Yoon Seungho the freedom to choose in the end. When Yoon Seungho cut ties with him entirely, what did he do? He allowed Min and his father to plot against the protagonist, because he hoped that once the father had taken him away, he could still take an advantage of his friend’s imprisonment. This truly exposes that the second lead viewed his friend more as a plaything than as a real friend. (chapter 12) His words revealed that he was projecting his own thoughts onto the main character.

As a conclusion, Lee Jihwa and Pilgyeon embody “subjection and slavery”. They can’t tolerate rejection and distance from their center of interest. They both want to clinch onto their “loved one”, for both don’t want to be alone. They fear loneliness. They felt their fathers’ distance, coldness and neglect. (chapter 67) (chapter 51) Lee Jihwa might have found new “friends”, but even there he had to act, to lie to them. He could never reveal the past. Despite his comfortable life, Lee Jihwa couldn’t enjoy his life truly, for he was plagued with shame and guilt. He could never share his true thoughts and emotions to anyone, for if he did, he would have to unveil the truth: his sins. As for Pilgyeon, he couldn’t abandon his career or his family either. He had duties to attend to. Hence he couldn’t keep his brother by his side. Yes because of his position, he couldn’t do whatever he truly desired. And this was exact the same for Lee Jihwa. He needed to maintain his good reputation. Both characters were trapped in their role as “master”.

These two figures symbolize not only fake kindness and generosity. (chapter 57) (chapter 14), but also pride over love. Therefore they had to play tricks to achieve their goal.

This is no coincidence why Yoon Seungho and Soongap fell for someone else: persons who would be honest and selfless. The semes have no problem to call their partner their bride (chapter 78) (chapter 15) Both main leads gave their “wife” the liberty to choose their destiny. (chapter 14) They didn’t treat their partner as a “slave”, while the antagonists used tricks or force or their power to achieve their goal. Yet they never succeeded. The only thing they could obtain was to push their “loved one” to become suicidal. The love interest could never return their affection. (chapter 6) (chapter 57) This shows that no one could break the target’s free will in the end. Yoon Seungho was still fighting, when he had suicidal thoughts. (chapter 55)

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