Time: the invisible main character in The King: Eternal Monarch

In one of my former analyses, I compared Alice in Wonderland with this k-drama. In the fairy tale written by Lewis Carroll, the Mad Hatter considered time as a person therefore Time was written in capital letters:

“If you knew Time as well as I do, said the Hatter, you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him. “[…] I daresay you never even spoke to Time”.

Furthermore, time played a huge significance in this story as it was about growth and the passage from childhood to adulthood. Alice’s journey in Wonderland represents her quest for her own identity. And this k-drama is not different: We see Lee Gon, the protagonist changing. From a mathematician and scientist, he has become a true believer of the 4 Tiger Sword and the Manpasijeok. And as such, time is an important factor for growth and making new experiences.

Before analyzing the k-drama under this aspect, we need to remember what time is. Time is composed by past, present and future. And all along these three aspects are always present and relevant for the story and its evolution.

But now let’s go back to the start of The King: Eternal Monarch. Right in the beginning, time is present. We hear our antagonist Lee Rim telling the story dated in 632, then when he is asked, why he doesn’t look like his age (71), he mentions the year 1994, where everything all started. All this underlines the importance of the past. But time doesn’t just exist through the testimony and the reference of the Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms. In the interrogation room, the detectives Kang Sin Jae and Jeong Tae Eul put the records of Lee Rim.

episode 1

The records about Lee Rim symbolize time. He is supposed to have died, just like he is supposed to be very old. As you can see, the “person” Time never appears as such but is existent in the interrogation room. The past and the present are the elements that are alluding to the supernatural: the story about the mysterious flute, the strange appearance of Lee Rim who doesn’t age.

Then when Lee Gon is saved by the mysterious savior, he catches the ID from the future with the date: 11.11.2019. During the coup d’etat, we have a mixture of past and future. Now (episode 13), it has been confirmed that Lee Gon traveled back to the past (1994) and saved himself from Lee Rim. So here time is embodied by the ID and the mysterious savior. It was as if time could be seen or touched through the objects or the persons. The best example is when Lee Gon and Lee Rim observe that Time stops. Because nothing moves except the two main characters, the latter can sense the lack of time. Nature stands still: the snow flakes or water don’t fall anymore.

The director sometimes tried to even personify Time in different shot, when the persons were not talking about the present, the past or the future. I chose two different takings:

Here, we have the impression due to the lights on the right side that this is not a sequence but a photo. However, when Lee Gon and Jeong Tae Eul hug each other, the viewer can observe their movements, while the lights on the sight are so fuzzy and stretched. It was, as if time had stopped and nature stood still. This taking reflected the inner feelings of our two protagonists: they enjoyed the moment, the present.

Here, Time is also present in the form of the hourglass. Pay attention to its size: it is even bigger than Lee Gon and Jo Young. Through this taking, the director illustrates how powerful time is and it is a main character invisible to the people standing next to it.

While Lee Gon was looking at the CCTV in order to watch his loved one who was so far away from him, he suddenly discovered this CCTV from the future. The child with the yo-yo lets him know where Jeong Tae Eul will be on the birthday. This scene is important as it shakes the king to the core. There is no science that can explain this. On the other hand, it shows him that Jeong Tae Eul is alive and well which can comfort him. Here, it was as if the child with the yo-yo already knows the end of the story, just like the book about King Arthur. This deity can move from one world to the other, it can also travel to the future which seems to indicate that he can travel to the past as well. The child with the yo-yo has also a strong connection to time as he was the one ensured that Jeong Tae Eul would get a new ID so that the young Lee Gon would be able to receive it. Then he was the one who told Luna that he believed in the existence of god which let her say that she would be punished. So is he a personification of time? I am more inclined to believe that he embodies fate which is related to time. His main duty is to observe that the balance is well maintained. Anyway, the child with the yo-yo uses time (and good timing) so that everything predetermined will happen. Since the flute makes it possible to travel in time, then the balance has been disrupted as we know that Lee Rim travels to the future. He neglected the past as he saw no real meaning in it. The reason is simple: since he is obsessed to become king, his focus was on the future.

Another observation is the strong connection between Jeong Tae Eul and Time. Remember that she is a person who learns through experience and as such, she needs time to acquire her knowledge. We can see this strong link between these two in different occasions. When she waits for Lee Gon in the episode 6, the separation made her realize her longing for Lee Gon. Time was the reason why she realized how much she missed the king. Then in the episode 7, when she is about to confess her love to Lee Gon, her thoughts revolves around the past (“fate”) and the future (“sad premonition”) but this doesn’t stop to declare her love. She wants to enjoy the present to the maximum. This elucidates why Jeong Tae Eul seems so obsessed with the present. She doesn’t want to project herself with Lee Gon in the future as she has a sad premonition. She keeps saying to Lee Gon: Let’s enjoy the moment. Hence she doesn’t answer to his proposal. Strangely, Jeong Tae Eul meets Lee Gon from the future which somehow confirms her sad premonition, yet she doesn’t reveal her strange meeting to the present Lee Gon. In other words, Jeong Tae Eul could be perceived as the personification of the present.

Since Jeong Tae Eul is associated to the present, then which person represents the future? In my opinion, this part is reserved to Lee Gon. The latter appeared in front of Jeong Tae Eul in the episode 10, when he came from the future. But this perception is also confirmed in the episode 13, when Lee Gon looks at his reflection in the mirror.


Here, Lee Gon realizes that he is wearing the same clothes than the mysterious savior in 1994. He gets aware that he saved himself in the past. In the mirror, he sees his own past but also his future as the time travel has not occurred yet. Let us not forget that Lee Gon keeps projecting himself in the future with his girlfriend. He proposes to Jeong Tae Eul, he keeps asking her to come to Kingdom of Corea which annoys our female lead as she is someone who is focused on the present. So the mirror embodies Time as it reflects past and future together.

Since we have described Jeong Tae Eul and Lee Gon as a personification of Time (present, future), we have to wonder which person embodies the past. In my opinion, this is Luna. That’s why she is also seen in the mirror. She represents the past. She has a tragic past (abandoned with no identity) but she has no future, as she is about to die. That’s the reason why she can’t enjoy the present as well. Many have speculated that there were two saviors during the coup d’etat. I have the feeling that Luna could be the second savior if there is a second helper. She could become Lee Gon’s ally and helper in the past. Why?

First, like I mentioned above, the mirror reflect the past and the future. So when he travels back in the past, he could be accompanied by Luna, like in the mirror. Let us not forget that on Jeong Tae Eul’s cellphone there is the inscription: Back to the future and Luna is now in the possession of this precise cellphone. Since the cellphone is in her hands, she could travel back to the past as well. Luna wished, she had grown up differently, so maybe Lee Gon help her to change her fate so that when her future is changed so that she can die in peace, as her time is limited. 

All along, we have the impression that the fight between Lee Rim and Lee Gon is a fight against time. It seems that Lee Rim traveled to the future, while Lee Gon will focus on traveling back to the past. Since Lee Rim knows the future, he thinks that he’ll win as he is able to influence the events in the present so that the future is changed in his favor. That’s why he targets specific people, since he knows what they will do in the future. By switching the people from Republic of Korea to Kingdom of Corea, he is able to have the important people siding with him. But changing the past can change the present and as such the future so that all Lee Rim’s efforts become vain.

As conclusion, time is always palpable, visualized or personified in this k-drama. It was as if people could feel time, either through an object or a person.

The Earth is flat: Jeong Tae Eul’s relationship to sciences and belief

Since the beginning, Jeong Tae Eul is associated to the following expression: the Earth is flat. This expression is quite important as it reveals Jeong Tae Eul’s personality and the way she perceives the world.

While our protagonist Lee Gon is introduced as a mathematician and scientist, hence he tries to understand the world through numbers and physical laws, our heroine appears to be the opposite, she is a liberal arts person. That’s the reason why Jo Young initially rejects Jeong Tae Eul as he says that JTE is not the science type hence she is not Lee Gon’s type. The fact that she is a liberal arts person is pointed out on many occasions. First, she reveals her lack of knowledge in math, when she tries to reject Lee Gon’s proposal.

She doesn’t realize her mistake, until Lee Gon points out the issue with the 360 degrees. Sure, she corrects herself, yet this incident underlines her disinterest for math and sciences in general. Another example for her lack of interest in these topics is when she doesn’t even try to understand Lee Gon’s explanation about the existence of a parallel world. She doesn’t really pay attention to his explanation about the Quantum mechanic theory, for her it sounds so complex to grasp that she even gives up before really listening. At some point, she gets upset as Lee Gon keeps trying to explain to her about the parallel world that she yells back that for her, the Earth is still flat.

Why does she mean with this? She knows that the Earth is round as it is a planet. In reality, she wants to say that she needs to experience that the earth is round in order to accept this knowledge. She can not understand things through numbers or theories, she needs to live it with all her senses. She is so different from Lee Gon who uses his brain in order to grasp the world, she uses her other senses in order to gain knowledge: the eyes, the hands, the heart… As conclusion, she belongs to the type of people who prefer learning through experience. https://medium.com/@thestempedia/https-medium-com-thestempedia-aristotle-to-feynman-learning-through-experience-304a2d7876bb (if you want to read more about this)

This explains the choice of her career. She could have become a senior inspector much earlier, if she hadn’t opted to work as a detective. She chose to work on the field rather than behind a desk. This also explicates why Jeong Tae Eul is a Taekwondo fighter. This sport worships the following virtues: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. Through her body, our heroine learns these virtues hence she was there to help Kang Sin Jae, when the latter was bullied. First, out of courtesy, she asked the students to stop the bullying. She didn’t give up, when she got threatened (perseverance). Our female lead was able to control the students and showed no fear, when she started fighting against 5 students (self-control and indomitable spirit). That’s the reason why JTE embodies those qualities as well.

But since she met Lee Gon, she was confronted by a dilemma. On the one side, she wanted to believe in Lee Gon’s good nature, on the other side she didn’t believe in his words. Therefore, she remained by his side and even helped him to sell the diamonds or invited him to eat something. But at the same time, she wanted to reveal his lies. Strangely, she needed to use sciences for that. She asked for a fingerprint test, for a DNA test and finally for the help from the Korea Racing Authority because of the horse. Striking is that the sciences she neglected or rejected before proved that Lee Gon was not lying. With her own eyes and ears, she discovers that everything Lee Gon said is correct. While she didn’t believe in his words in the beginning, the sciences are the cause for her change of heart. Little by little, her resolve to see him as a weird or crazy person diminishes. She is more and more doubtful. She is not entirely convinced hence she wants to see Lee Gon’s world in order to believe him entirely. Once there, she wants to discover Monarchy of Corea hence she makes a trip to Seoul. Through her travel, she witnesses all the differences between her world and this world which leads her to admit the truth: the existence of a parallel world.

Just like Lee Gon who had stopped believing in gods, Jeong Tae Eul didn’t believe in the existence of the parallel world but at some point, she realized her mistake. Later, she even conceded to her colleague Kang Sin Jae that she believed Lee Gon and everything from him. She has become a true believer as she experienced the new world on her own.

Since she is a person who acquires knowledge through experience, she is really adamant to know if Lee Gon has been dating before meeting her. That’s why she focused on “first” things: first dating and first girlfriend, first snow, first cooking etc. That’s why Lee Gon asks her on the other hand if her earth has become rounder. She has gained experience and knowledge through what she has lived.

episode 6: Jeong Tae Eul says here “I was just waiting on Earth, which has become slightly rounder”. With these words, our detective confesses that her affection for Lee Gon has grown.

After parting from Lee Gon in the episode 6, she misses him more and more. Her longing lets her realize what Lee Gon means to her. At the end, she has no problem to show her affections to him therefore she hugs him. Step by step, she learns what love is. In another scene, the king complains that her Earth is still flat, which she admits (“It’s as flat as a thin pancake”). In that scene, she didn’t know how to console Lee Gon as she had never done it before. Since Lee Gon is her first love, she lacks experience but due to her love for him, she has changed. She is learning how to love and show love to someone.

While watching JTE all along, I couldn’t help myself thinking about the apostle John who is often called the doubter or sceptic. He refused to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ until he saw Christ’s wounds. The reason why I associated JTE with John is because of the painting of Caravaggio

Ausstellung: Caravaggio: Ein Berliner Liebesgruß - Kultur ...
Pay attention to John’s behavior. He is actually touching the wound and not really looking at it. Because of this experience, he believed even more in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Actually, the other apostles had also a hard time to believe in this miracle, yet only John is considered a sceptic. In reality, John is a stronger believer as he is willing to die for Jesus Christ, he is also a team player (John 20,25; John 14,5), just like our heroine. The latter says that Lee Gon can rely on 5 people next to her. She is willing to do anything for him, she trusts him so much that she doesn’t even doubt that he won’t be able to rescue her. Unlike Lee Gon who rejected faith after that fateful night (coup d’etat of his uncle Lee Rim), JTE has always felt some affinity with the supernatural. She mentions the story about the moon rabbit which our king rejects by saying that the moon is covered with regolits. Then when she is in the passage between the two worlds, she wonders if there is magic there. Magic is a symbol for supernatural.

In this scene she sows seeds

Lee Gon answers her that space can not be explained scientifically as there is no wind, no air and no time, yet his explications don’t stop her to sow some seeds. She hopes that a plant could grow. Hope has a strong connection to faith. She is different as she feels that this passage shows wonders. Her closeness to legends and myths makes it easier for her to believe in magic. Her hopeful attitude contrasts much more to Lee Gon’s behavior. She starts believing much earlier than him… only in the episode 12, he wants to pray to god with JTE. We see JTE’s praying much earlier, when she talks to the plants.

episode 6: “I know you’re from a different world, but you should sprout. Your friends are in a much harsher place now”.

Notice that Lee Gon also starts talking to the plant after his return. Nonetheless, his talking to the plant doesn’t resemble a prayer as it is an order. He orders the plant to sprout in this world. However, both protagonists have to make the same leap of faith. For JTE, her love confession should be perceived as a leap of faith. She calls it fate.

episode 7

She believes in fate hence she says:

It took me a long time to realize this. When it’s fate, there is no coincidence. The fate is determined by the choices you made but there are times, when your fate chooses you. Things that are bound to happen are taking place even at this moment. I was struck with a sad premonition that this will be short-lived but I decided to love my fate that chose me.

Since she is a learner through experiences, she needs much more time to understand the world and her own feelings. This explains why Lee Gon wants to marry her as soon as possible and it took her much longer to realize her love for him.

The more she interacts with our hero, the more she is influenced by him. She has already accepted that she is his number 0. In the episode 6, she admits that there was no way she could know what was happening in his world. Because he was a person who was beyond one and zero. With these words, she unveils her longing. She feels the huge distance between herself and Lee Gon. She is no longer rejecting numbers and science at all. Furthermore she keeps asking Lee Gon to appear within 10 minutes.

Notice that she calls the existence of the parallel world “science fiction”. One could claim that she is avoiding the topic “existence of the parallel world” as she feels that KSJ will never come to believe it too. However, I feel that her choice of words reflects her own mentality. Since JTE listens to Lee Gon’s scientific explanations (the time difference e. g.) unlike in the beginning, she has somehow combined the two worlds (science and belief/faith) in one expression. Belief was not really rejected by her, it was just that she somehow neglected it, just like she neglected sciences. With Lee Gon by her side, she has now turned into someone who believes in “sciences” and in fate (faith) as well since she has experienced it.

Lee Gon was able to change her attitude towards math and science because he used many metaphors with mathematical expressions “Root” “0” and “1” so that JTE could visualize and feel it. “I guess, you know now what root you are standing in front of. It’s my hell and my history”. He was not only trapped by his feelings for her (see his love confession) but also by his own situation as a king (his past and his family). He can not escape from his destiny, he is a king and as such he has his duties which he can not deny. Besides, he needs to catch his uncle too. Lee Gon understood very early how JTE thinks hence he changed his words towards her. Unlike our heroine, Lee Gon claims that he is a quick learner, while she needs experiences to acquire knowledge.

But the results are the same: both protagonists have changed and become both true believers. They no longer rejects science or faith. They have accepted that both can complement each other, just like Blaise Pascal wanted.

Lee Rim and Lee Gon: a fight between artificiality and nature based on “The King: Eternal Monarch”

What caught my attention are the places Lee Rim is often seen. I find it interesting that we often the antagonist in the following places:

episode 7: Lee Rim and the CEO’s son on the right
episode 7: Lee Rim’s dark room

Both places give us a huge clue about Lee Rim. In the first picture, the traitor is standing in front of a furnace. Fire is associated to hell, when you look at the different pictures of hell from the European Middle Age. Furthermore, there is also another fire behind the doppelganger who replaces the CEO. This place is illustrating Lee Rim’s true nature: he is like the Devil. Furthermore his place looks like a workshop underlining the artificiality of this hell. This hell is made by a human. It is neither natural nor a godly place. In this “hell”, the son of the CEO is confronted with the final judgement: his death… he is even tormented before his death due to the multiple stabbing. Notice the painting in red in the first picture… it reminds us of dripping blood coming from his victims.

Then the other place is the dark room where his future targets for his big plan are revealed. Even the expression “dark room” is an allusion to the darkness of his plan. The red symbolizes the blood therefore the red announces the future of the pictured people: they all are his victims, even the doppelgangers Lee Rim succeeded to seduce because once they have lost their usefulness, he will get rid of them. The camera and the furnace are both manufactured by humans, they are not natural elements which outshine Lee Rim’s true personality. There is no coincidence that artificial is a synonym for fake and imitation. He is not a real god, rather an idol like the golden calf created by humans in despair hence his realm is artificial. This is the reason why he is so dangerous. Lee Rim is trying to create a fake realm. With his plan, the balance of the world has been disturbed. And this also explains why Lee Rim uses another gate to travel from one world to the other. It is underground, next to a bridge … here again we find again the themes of darkness, artificiality and manufacturing which contrasts to Lee Gon’s gate: the bamboo forest, a natural element, presented at the beginning of this analysis.

Here, the trees are alive, unlike in the workshop of Lee Rim where you only see cut wood. The bamboo forest reminds us of water as well due to the green. Green versus Red; Forest versus Fire (destruction of wood). Lee Gon’s favorite place contrasts so much to Lee Rim’s favorite places.

Episode 6: Prince Byuong and Lee Gon on the right

It is in the open, the pavilion is surrounded by water and the tree is blossoming. Unlike with his uncle’s places, the construction is in harmony with nature. There is light, the tree can live, even if it is surrounded by a building. That’s why Lee Gon is associated to light and his uncle to darkness. And this explains why Lee Gon has chosen Jeong Tae Eul as his Queen who loves planting. JTE is also connected to nature.  

episode 6: Jeong Tae Eul is sowing seeds in the passage between the two worlds
Episode 6: Here she is even talking to the plant: “I know you’re from a different world, but you should sprout. Your friends are in a much harsher place now”.

Her gestures show that for her, nature should have its place everywhere, even in a place where there is no wind, no rain, no light and no time. Striking is that both protagonists talked to the plant. Lee Gon ordered to the plant to grow nicely as well. We can observe her influence on him. Both are close to nature, while Lee Rim is often shown in closed and dark rooms, even in a building in constructions underlining the coldness and roughness coming from him. 

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:


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.

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Lee Rim’s fight against the boy with the yo-yo in “The King: Eternal Monarch”

Now, I would like to analyse this taking because I do feel that the director wanted to outline something important.


In this scene, Lee Rim found out the identity of the guest at the palace, he sees Jeong Tae Eul’s ID as police officer. On the left you see the kid with the yo-yo. We don’t know the name of this boy but he has been shown in different scenes. He often appears in front of the book shop where Lee Rim can get info from the palace. Simultaneously, he was the one who made JTE lose her ID.

Here he appears, where the ID tag is revealed to the antagonist. It was as if the boy was following the ID from JTE. From my point of view, the boy with the yo-yo could be a deity, the one who ensures that the balance is maintained. This is no coincidence that he is playing with the yo-yo. Pay attention to the movement of this toy: it goes from one side to the other, you need to maintain a balance in the strength in order to keep the yo-yo to come back and to keep rolling. The yo-yo reflects this balance. And it was the same with the bike. You need to find the right equilibrium in order to ride a bike. The boy fell from the bike indicating that the balance has been shifted. 

Remember that I had mentioned that Lee Rim keeps looking down on children as he considers them powerless and even manipulable. But he forgets that a child is linked to innocence and purity which can be seen as strengths as well. The villain is not paying attention to the child as Lee Rim already thinks, he is a god hence strong … yet he has not realized that Luna has already been working for this boy (deity).

In the beginning, I had thought that Luna had worked for Lee Rim therefore on Lee Rim’s orders she was the one who lured Lee Gon to ROK but I was wrong. Lee Rim hasn’t met her yet and he knew nothing about JTE as well. So fate, arranged by the deity,  was what brought Lee Gon to ROK. And this is no coincidence that Luna gives the rabbit jacket to the child. It was as if she was giving it back to the rightful owner. Fate was what brought Lee Gon to JTE and Luna was destined to have the jacket and meet the boy in the end. That’s why JTE was able to see her doppelganger and the Prime Minister too. Both were getting warned. Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget about the timing. JTE saw Luna right before Lee Gon and Goo Seo Ryung saw her doppelganger before Lee Rim approached her through the newspapers. Lee Rim is not aware that his fighting is pointless as he is fighting against fate. 

Now, let’s go back to this taking. First, notice the similarities between these two rooms: both are full of books (a symbol for knowledge) and both people are put under a light underlining their power and importance. The first difference catching the attention of the beholder is the proportion of Lee Rim’s room compared to the one with the boy’s room. Lee Rim’s room occupies a bigger part of the scene illustrating his actual power. It looks like he is now more powerful than the boy. He has been working for 25 years and his labor has been fruitful. The other difference is that he is not alone. He has his minion by his side which shows that Lee Rim’s power comes from his huge base of supporters.

The boy is on his own, however he is not quite defenseless… his actual “companion” is the yo-yo. This toy represents fate and destiny as the string is often connected to a person’s life. In other words, the boy has his own minions: Lee Gon (LG), Jeong Tae Eul (JTE) and others whose fate is already predestined. JTE is well aware of her own situation hence she chose her destiny… I would even say that she embraced her destiny. We could interpret the shadows (the 4 lines) between the two rooms as a representation of the fight. The boy is fighting against Lee Rim so that Lee Rim’s room doesn’t eat up his “room”. This would mean that Lee Rim had won and would control everything.

Another contrast is the way the books are displayed. Notice the red string surrounding the piles of book… let just say that each red string is a life which means that each stack of books represents a person. If we look at the way the stack of books are displayed, we can come to the conclusion that these people are connected to each other as the stack of books are touching each other. They are all relying on other stacks implying on other people. Furthermore, the color red is significant. Red symbolizes life and love. Love is what connects each person next to the child.

On the other side, in Lee Rim’s book shop, the books are stored on shelves… If we assume that the row of books symbolize a person and as such a doppelganger lured by Lee Rim, we can see that the row of books are not connected to each other. Each life is separated by wood, Lee Rim is the one planning the shelves through his minions. There is no red indicating no real life and love. Here the wood is associated to death (see e. g. coffin). Only order and purpose are what linked them to Lee Rim. The seduced doppelgangers are just pawns and are all relying on Lee Rim in the end.

The red strings remind me of the three Moirai from Greek Mythology: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.Clotho is the spinner who spins the thread of life, Lachesis the assignor who measures the length and Atropos who cuts the thread of life. But the yo-yo is different, it is a circle and it moves like an endless loop… from one world (up) to the other (down). So the yo-yo represents a certain person (the eternal Monarch), unlike the red strings behind the boy, those are linked to normal human beings.

 There is a disequilibrium reflected in this taking and the boy, a deity, is working to recreate the balance by using people… it’s their destiny. Notice the contrast between Lee Rim and the boy. On both sides, people are asked to choose, yet Lee Rim lures them with temptations and desires for a better life but they are actually deceived, while JTE chose her destiny, although she is well aware that her love could be painful and short-lived. Lee Rim is just an idol, a false god living the illusion that he can take over two worlds, but his fight is pointless as he is limited by time. He might not age but his minions are not eternal and he can not time travel. 

The mirrors and its different meanings in “The King: Eternal Monarch”

If you look at the poster above, you will notice the presence of three important characters: the king Lee Gon, the lieutnant Jeong Tae Eul and a huge mirror. The latter even occupies a bigger place than the two main leads indicating first the existence of a parallel world. Secondly, it also manifests the huge role the mirror will play in this story. Here, the mirror is actually the reflection from water and not a simple mirror made by humans. Therefore it means that the existence of two worlds is a natural phenomenon. It is not created by humans, the latter are just inhabitants in these worlds. Furthermore when we look at the reflection, the onlookers can notice the duplication of Lee Gon and Jeong Tae Eul. And this is not a coincidence: it announces that Lee Gon and Jeong Tae Eul will interact in both worlds. The director and writer could have used the doppelgangers, Ji Hun and Luna, in this poster underlining the idea that both have “adversaries” but it didn’t happen. From my point of view, the writer is already displaying the roles that the king and the detective will play in order to keep the balance of the two worlds.

Since mirrors reflect light, this object is often associated to illumination, wisdom and truth. In a mirror, the beholder can see his own self (the truth), how he or she appears, like in this following scene.

episode 7: The Prime Minister Goo Seo Ryung

On the surface the mirror here serves a purpose: she is about to choose her clothes for a certain event. She needs to judge herself if the clothes fit her and are suited for the event. Striking is that in this scene, Goo Seo Ryung catches the attention of the viewers due to the color of her dress contrasting so much to the background: red versus blue and white. Furthermore, there is only the reflection of the Prime Minister in the mirror, we can not see the stylist and her secretary in it. I could even add that the duplication of Goo Seo Ryung illustrates her confidence and charisma. She is not afraid to stand out which is also confirmed during the conversation. She rejects all the clothes because her stylist chose rather conservative clothes.

But a mirror symbolizes vanity as well, as the spectator wants to confirm his or her own beauty and attraction. And this scene illustrates Goo Seo Ryung’s vanity too. It even outlines her egocentrism. She is only looking at herself and not at the stylist. That’s why a mirror can be a source of danger which is presented in the myth of Narcissus.

Narcissus, the son of a river god and a nymph, was walking by a pond, when he decided to drink some water. The moment he saw his own reflection, he fell in love with it and kept staring at it until he died. It was his punishment from the goddess Nemesis because he kept rejecting suitors which caused the death of a female admirer. At the same time, the mirror in this myth is also linked to desire and wish that can not be fulfilled. Narcissus can never really touch himself, as soon as he tries to grasp the water, his own reflection disappears. Furthermore Narcissus can never feel the love and the warmth from his own reflection, since it comes from water. Therefore we can connect a mirror to futility too.

In the work “Faust” written by the famous author Goethe, Mephistopheles brings Faust to a witch who owns a magical mirror. In there, he doesn’t see his own reflection but “Gretchen”, the future love interest of Faust. Just like in the myth of Narcissus, the mirror here reflects Faust’s desire. He wishes to meet the young woman, however there is more to it. The mirror is here used as a temptation, since Mephistopheles, the personification of the devil, wants to get his soul. In exchange for youth and love, Faust agrees. It was as if Faust was seeing his own future with Gretchen. In other words, a mirror can be associated to the future.

As conclusion, a mirror can be linked to qualities (illumination, wisdom and truth) and negative aspects (vanity, futility, unfulfilled desire and temptation). Equally, this object is a symbol of physical and spiritual reflection. It represents the threshold between conscious and unconscious mind. In the scene above, the Prime Minister wants to shine and appear as an attractive and confident woman (conscious mind). Coexistent, she unveils her true personality: her self-centeredness and her vanity (unconscious mind).

But now let’s take a closer look to the utilization of mirrors in this k-drama. First, we can see the presence of a mirror, when Lee Gon is about to enter Republic of Korea, the parallel world. Here, it is introduced as a magical tool, even as a portal to enter another world.

episode 1

The mirror as magical tool has a long tradition. I could mention “Snow white and the 7 dwarfs” or even a more recent story “Harry Potter”. In the first story, the mirror speaks to the Queen and tells her the truth: Snow White is now more beautiful than her. It was as if this item was a living object, since it speaks and can even make its own judgement. In the past, the queen used to be the most beautiful woman in the world, now it is Snow White. The mirror has changed his assessment and adapted to the new situation. Then in “Harry Potter”, Mirror of eriseD serves to show what a person desires the most. In the 7th book, Harry Potter uses a fragment of a mirror in order to call for help, as he is imprisoned by Bellatrix. Dobby answers to his call. This magical tool is here connected to desire, danger and signal for help. Striking is that in the picture above, the mirror implies danger as well, since it is fractured. Lee Gon can only go through the mirror, since it is broken. Just like the mirror in Snow white and the 7 Dwarfs, the mirror seems to be a living object as the mirror appears on his own (Lee Gon doesn’t summon it) and it even breaks on its own.

At the same time, this mirror is in fact the physical threshold between the conscious and unconscious mind. While people from one world are rich or healthy, they live an opposite life in the parallel world. Luna is abandoned and has no family hence her biggest wish would be to have a family and a father, to be recognized. Whereas the CEO and his son from HG Group in Republic of Corea are powerful and famous, their doppelgangers in MOC are weak und rather common. Besides, I could name another example: while Myeong NaRi doesn’t fancy Jo Eun Sub, it is the opposite in Monarchy of Corea. That’s why I come to the conclusion that there is a balance between these two world. The conscious mind in one world is the unconscious mind in the other world and the reverse. The temptation and desires are never revealed to the world, until Lee Lim appears.

And this is the reason why Lee Rim is so dangerous as he acts as the devil, similar to Mephistopheles. He lets people see their own reflection and appeals to their unconscious and inner desires. We should consider pictures taken from the doppelgangers as a transformed reflection. He only allows them to see what they want to see. Let us forget that a mirror consists of glass and in a camera, there is a lens constituted by glass as well. In a different scene, the Prime Minister sees her doppelganger in the screen.

Or it could be the opposite… Goo Seo Ryung is seen by her doppelganger. While the latter is an average woman, Goo Seo Ryung appears rich and influential which could be a temptation for her doppelganger. Our strong politician gets scared at her own image, although she didn’t react the same in the scene mentioned above. The shock came because she didn’t even recognize herself. She had the impression to see a ghost as the doppelganger’s image is transparent. Actually, we don’t know about the origin of this phenomenon. Is Lee Rim behind this or not? In my opinion, I doubt it as Lee Gon is not a god. It could be a warning as it becomes clear during the episode 8 that Lee Rim is trying to lure her to Republic of Korea. It looks like someone is already working against Lee Lim in order to keep the balance between the two worlds. If she came to ROK, she could become the future president of the country, something she can never achieve in Monarchy of Corea. Lee Rim thinks that she is trying to seduce Lee Gon because she is attracted to his powerful situation. In a republic, she wouldn’t even need Lee Gon at all. But from my point of view, he forgets that the Prime Minister is above all a woman. Remember the scene with the clothes: she never wanted to give up on her femininity. She is definitely interested in Lee Gon the man and not just the king.

In this scene, you will notice that Goo Seo Ryung’s doppelganger is holding a mug. And in a different scene, we witnessed a weird phenomenon. Jo Young and Jo Eun Sub were both holding a drink, the former had a mug of hot coffee, while the other was holding a mug of iced tea. In that particular scene, both dropped their drinks as they felt a strange sensation. Jo Young was surprised because his coffee felt so cold, whereas Eun Sub got burnt by the ice tea. It was, as if their drinks had been exchanged. Due to the scene with Goo Seo Ryung, I came to realize that the Prime Minister, Eun Sub and Jo Young had all something in common: water and mirror. All three (Eun Sub, Jo Young and the doppelganger) were holding drinks, which is linked to water. Actually, the reason why I have been connecting mirror to water isn’t  just because of the myth of Narcissus. Actually, I kept thinking about the following scene from the movie Matrix

The Matrix

Notice in this scene, the mirror gives the impression to be a magical tool. It was, as if it was alive (just like in TK:EM). Then it transforms into a liquid, it looks almost like water, and at the same time, the mirrors serves as a portal as well. Neo is able to pass from one world (dream) to another world (reality), although Neo is confused, if this reality is true as it doesn’t feel and look real at all, rather mysterious and magical.

But let’s go back to our k-drama. Since the mirror is fractured each time someone goes through the passage, we have to imagine that each time something was leaked from one world to the other, hence water and mirrors haven been affected by the opening of the passage. In other words, reflecting items like screen or water in a drink leak reflections or sensation from the other world.

Then I also think that the moving from one world to another has also affected both worlds. Remember that the people are supposed to live the opposite of their life from one world to the other. So they are not supposed to do the same thing, actually the opposite. Yet, in both scene (ES-JY and the scene with the Prime Minister), their doppelgangers were doing the exact same thing:

– YJ/ES were about to drink something

– GSR was sitting in front of her screen just like the other

The more people are going from one world to the other, the more people will do the same thing than their doppelgangers. I hope, this is understandable. 

Finally this scene from Matrix can explain why ES and JY could feel the temperature from the other drink… Neo is touching the mirror and I would even say, he is eaten by the mirror the moment he touches it with his finger. Water is well known as the best current conductor, hence it means that sensations can be transferred through water.

Like I mentioned above, the reflection in the screen could be a warning, a signal of a danger. And this meaning is even more visible in the following scene, when the lieutnant JTE sees Luna in her rear-view mirror.

episode 1

Remember that the function of a rear-view mirror is to alert the driver of potential danger. Besides, Luna as a source of thread is even reinforced with Luna’s gaze. She looks at JTE with a certain animosity.

In another scene, the detective Kang Shin Jae is looking at his own reflection in a pool of blood.

episode 7

And this is no coincidence. This single taking is referring to Shin Jae’s past. His life in ROK is linked to the death of his surrogate. We discover much later that his doppelganger was in a coma for one year. Even the mother declares to him that she considers his recovery as a miracle. It becomes clear that Lee Lim has lured the father by giving him the hope that he could get a healthy son as the mother from ROK has no idea about the switch. But for that miracle, the adoptive parents paid a huge price: their company went bankrupt and the father even landed in jail. Seeing his own reflection in the pool of blood triggers something in the detective therefore while he is trying to sleep, a souvenir resurfaced, the moment he woke up at the hospital.

But this doesn’t stop here. In another scene, Shin Jae visits the ashes of Ji Hun and here again, he sees his own reflection in the picture.

episode 8

What caught my attention is that in this taking, the detective is almost translucent. Here again, the connection between his reflection and the face of Ji Hun jogs a memory: he remembers the funeral ceremony held by the infant Lee Gon who resembles Ji Hun. Concerning Shin Jae, the writer used the mirror in order to reminisce the past, something he had buried deep inside. As conclusion, the mirror helps to see the future (see above Faust) but also to discover or remember the past.

Finally, in the last episode, we see our villain Lee Lim walking to the shop of The Prime Minister’s mother where he left an umbrella behind. Here, his reflection comes from a puddle.

episode 8

Interesting is that

– the director used a puddle which I associate to dirt and failure, as we know the expression “step into a puddle”

– his head is shown upside down. It was as if the antagonist is trying to bring chaos to the world as there is this expression to bring the world upside down.

– He isn’t even looking at his own reflection. He doesn’t pay attention to his surrounding. He is blind, since he is obsessed with his own plan. People might have wondered why the camera zoomed here but after reading this interpretation, you can sense that this taking could be a prophecy of Lee Lim’s failure. Let us not forget that I suspect that there is something else or someone else working against Lee Lim. In this scene, we can see that the mirror serves as a spiritual reflection and as such, it foreshadows the consequences of Lee Lim’s actions. He is doomed to failure and he should fear the retribution of the gods.

Then in the episode 13, the mirror plays a huge part in the discovery of the savior’s identity.


In this scene, the mirror has an important purpose. It makes Lee Gon realize that he traveled in the past and saved himself. He had already imagined that a time travel was possible. In the same episode, he had told his girlfriend: “If there’s a time axis in there as well as a space axis, then it’ll be possible”. By looking at the mirror, he discovered his future self acting in the past. He only got aware of it, the moment he identified the woman as Luna and saw his own reflection in the mirror. That’s when he realizes that he is wearing the same clothes than the mysterious savior. It was as if the mirror allowed him to see his own past but at the same time his own future. At some point, he will travel to the past.

Then next to him, there is Luna, his enemy but since she looks like Jeong Tae Eul, we have to wonder if JTE will stand by his side, when he travels back in the past. Let us not forget that she is the one who had the cellphone with the inscription: Back to the future. On the other hand, we shouldn’t forget that Luna was the one who stole JTE’s cellphone. Since the cellphone is in her hands, she could travel back to the past as well. Luna wished, she had grown up differently, so maybe Lee Gon help her to change her fate so that when she travels back to the future, she can die in peace, as her time is limited. 

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“Lee Rim: the birth of a new god?”, based on “The King: Eternal Monarch”

Anyone watching the k-drama “The King: Eternal Monarch” knows that Lee Rim is the antagonist in this story, Lee Gon’s uncle who conspired against his own brother, the king, in order to possess a mysterious flute.

Striking is that this k-drama starts right away with the introduction of the villain and not with the protagonists. This unusual move has a rather simple explanation. It exposes the true personality of the antagonist and his motivation behind the “coup d’Etat” which happens later.

However, there is more to it because in the first scene of the first episode, the viewers don’t see the villain immediately but only hear his voice. He is actually telling a story. What caught my attention in this first scene is that the story told by Lee Rim doesn’t initially match the taking. While the beholder sees a forest of bamboo, Lee Rim mentions an event recorded in the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms:

“In spring 682, King Sinmun received a bamboo flute from the Dragon King of the East Sea”.

First episode: Lee Gon’s father is taking the flute from his shrine”

Right after quoting this sentence from the historical Chronicles, the scene changes and viewers witness how the king takes the flute from a shrine. So with this move, the director wants to confirm the veracity of Lee Rim’s words. The flute does exit and it is possessed by the descendants from Silla Dynasty. Then Lee Rim adds:

“When the flute is played, enemies would retreat, diseases would be cured, rain would fall during droughts, the rainy season would end, the wind would stop and strong waves would subside. Seeing its powers, King Sinmun named the flute Manpasikjeok” and designed it as a “national treasure”.

Only after quoting this from the Memorabilia, Lee Rim appears, his face is covered in blood,

which is kind of surprising as he told the story about Manpasikjeok in a very calm manner. The head quotes from the Memorabilia outline that Lee Rim is a strong believer of the powerful flute. For him, the Memorabilia from the Three Kingdoms is similar to the bible. In other words, Lee Rim is an extremely religious man.

I would even add that he treats the Manpasikjeok as an idol. An idol is actually an image or a representation of a god used as an object of worship. So for Lee Rim, the flute has become a new religion and the owner of Manpasikjeok is a god. Interesting is his attitude towards disbelievers. He criticizes them indirectly as the non-believers call this story a myth. As you can observe, Lee Rim appears to be a radical believer, a fundamentalist. Fundamentalism is a form of religion that upholds belief in the strict literal interpretation of scripture. So the quotations from Memorabilia are taken literally by the antagonist. Like I mentioned it above, for him Memorabilia is like a Holy scripture. He believes in the true power of this mysterious flute. But his complain doesn’t stop there. He explains why he took it from his brother. Notice the words he used to legitimate his murder and coup d’Etat.

“I took it from my brother who had it but didn’t believe in it”

So for the antagonist, the king is categorized as non-believer. Nonetheless, if we look at the first picture above, the king is treating the powerful flute very carefully and it is put in a shrine. Only once every 20 years, the Manpasikjeok is revealed to wish peace to the world. This means that it is kept hidden the whole time, while in Lee Rim’s eyes, this flute should be shown to every one. For him, the cult around the Manpasikjeok should be practiced more openly and differently. We can feel his religios fervor, while his brother acts as if it was a hidden cult. I have the impression that while Lee Rim considers the flute as an idol, the king treats it as a relic. The latter is something associated with a saint, which some people regard as holy. A saint is a virtuous person, someone who does good for others. Now, you can better understand the huge gap between the two royals. While Lee Rim considers the flute as a divine object giving godly powers, the king connects it more to the human world and humbleness. This flute has to be used by a virtuous and honest man which elucidates why the flute is not revealed to the public eye.

We can feel his resent and jealousy towards his brother, when he yells to JTE that the king was able to see the Manpasikjeok each day. He didn’t cherish the flute properly. Furthermore, he reproached the king’s ignorance and passivity as he could have grasped the world with the flute. And with these words, it becomes clear that Lee Rim believes that this precious and divine flute can turn the owner into a god as the owner has the possibility to access to another world.

As conclusion, for Lee Rim, becoming the owner of the flute means becoming a god, yet simultaneously it means that Lee Rim will introduce a new religion with new rituals: sovereign’s cult. Since he is a fundamentalist, it also implies that Lee Rim expects a strict obedience to him, the new god, from his followers.

However, we can observe a huge contrast between Lee Rim and his brother. The latter keeps the Four Tiger Sword close to him and his son. Besides, when Lee Rim mentions that Lee Gon will be confronted with the legend and realize its authenticity, the camera zooms to the Four Tiger Sword. For Lee Gon and his father, the sword is far more important than the flute, whereas it is the opposite for Lee Rim. This lack of respect for the sword is actually outlined, when Lee Rim kills the king with the sword. Actually, the villain is soiling the sword. Furthermore, after using it, the uncle let the sword fall onto the ground, where Lee Gon can use it later in order to stop Lee Rim. So here is the question: why isn’t the sword as important as the flute for Lee Rim? Because it is not mentioned in the Memorabilia. Remember that Lee Rim considers it as a Holy scripture. Since Lee Rim is not a legitimate son, he has not been initiated to the secrets linked to the sword and the real story about the Manpasikjeok. He only knows the story through the Chronicles in reality. And he took these words for a reality. And we get another clue that the Four Tiger Sword is actually the real divine item with the following scene:

Episode 1 the young Jo Young is declared “Unbreakable Sword” by the young Lee Gon. We have to remember that Lee Gon has just lost his father and has already become the new King.

But now, let’s go back to our villain. While fighting with the king, Lee Rim denies the existence of gods (“God never created humans”) which contradicts his own words and belief. This actually underlines his real intention. His true goal is to become a god himself and for that, he needs the powerful flute. The flute will give him divine powers and simultaneously it serves as regalia, just like the sword. And we can clearly see that he uses the cult around the Manpasikjeok to justify his coup d’Etat. Religion in History has always been used as a justification for monarchs, see e. g. the French King Louis XIV called the Sun King. But what differs him from Louis XIV, an absolute monarch, is that Lee Rim intends to install a theocratic monarchy and not just an absolute monarchy. Now, you are wondering: what is the difference between these two? An absolute king is considered as a representative of God on Earth, whereas in a theocratic monarchy the king is considered as a god himself and has connections to gods. Since he denies the existence of god, he needs supporters in order to become a god, just like in a theocratic monarchy therefore he declares to his brother:

“it was the weak who created god”

But he fails so that he is forced to hide. Because he got the half of the magical flute, he is able to escape from Monarchy of Corea (MOF) and appears in Republic of Korea, where he discovers the existence of a parallel word. So this miracle proves him that the Manpasikjeok has godly powers and as such the owner of the flute is powerful. Then he meets by chance his half-brother who is poor and rude in this world. That’s when he realizes what he could do here. If you pay attention to his different actions from that moment, you will realize that Lee Rim as fundamentalist starts considering himself as a god.

  1. Before killing his own self, he claims that he is different and far nobler indicating that he doesn’t consider himself as a human being any longer.
  2. He shows up in front of his right-hand-man after so many years and he hasn’t aged at all. He reinforces the idea that he is an immortal.
  3. When Ji Hun’s mother returns from the morgue, she laughs as she is happy about her husband’s death. Her bruises on her face indicates that she has been abused by her husband. While laughing, she declares: “I guess, there is a god […] I prayed every day that he would die”. And here notice Lee Rim’s reaction: he waited on the wheelchair all this time listening to her laugh and her words. Then she starts mentioning her son Ji Hun which shows that her resent is only directed at her husband. She clearly loves her child. In that moment, Lee Rim stands up from the wheelchair. His behavior somehow reminded me of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the doppelganger of Lee Rim looked like he was dead (he couldn’t move and didn’t even speak). Then he confronts the mother by telling her that she has sinned with her laugh. He acts like a god who judges people for their behavior. Ironically, her sin (laughing about her husband’s death) is nothing compared to the crimes Lee Rim committed before. He had already killed three people in ROK: his brother, his other self and Ji Hun, the doppelganger of Lee Gon. He acts as if he has answered her prayer but for her sin, she should repent and confirm her son’s death as an accident.
  4. In another scene, he acts as if he would answer a mother’s prayer. Her son is paralyzed and has been mocked by children on his birthday. HE tells her that her son can never walk but she should change her prayer so that her wish would come true. He even tells her what her prayer should be: the rude children should be punished and get paralyzed just like her son. In this scene, the beholder observes the limitation of Lee Rim’s powers. He is not a god, he can only play tricks.
  5. Then we see him at a temple painting the walls. It was as if he was creating his own temple where people would come to worship him.
  6. Finally, when he meets the pregnant woman who is poor like the other people he met in ROK. He tells her that she can live a great life but for that, she needs to pay a price: kill the doppelganger in MOC. So Lee Rim asks for a bloody sacrifice. It was as if he had become a bloodthirsty god. In order to have your prayer answered by the god, a human sacrifice is required.

All these scenes illustrate Lee Rim’s belief: only weak people create a god. He acts as if he was a powerful god, yet in fact his powers are limited. He can go from one world to the other, he doesn’t age as well, nonetheless he can not turn a sick person into a healthy one. All the prayers are linked to death and punishment. He is not someone who wants happiness and peace for people, he only uses weak humans to achieve his goal. He wants them to see him as a god that’s why he acts like that.

Finally, I would like the readers to remember the story told by Lee Rim in the beginning. He mentioned the Dragon King of the East Sea. Who is this Dragon King? A real dragon or is it the king from Japan as the island is situated in the East sea? Remember that the dragon is seen on Lee Gon’s robe. Striking is that so far Lee Rim has never explained the identity of this Dragon King. For Western countries, dragons are associated to destruction and death, whereas in Asia dragons are linked to positive aspects: great power and fortune hence the dragon is seen on the robe of the king. And here I’ve got the feeling that Lee Rim is influenced by Asian mentality. He considers the Dragon King as someone positive. Yet we heard from Lee Gon that his ancestor Prince Sohyeon became the king Yeongjong and stopped the Qing invasion. While doing some research, I read that prince Sohyeon was influenced by Western ideas and was for a modernization of Joseon. So Lee Rim represents the conservative type (fundamentalism, theocratic monarchy), while Lee Gon and his father are more modern and under the influence of occidental mentality. Therefore I think that this explains why Lee Rim criticized his brother as he saw the Dragon King as someone positive, while Lee Gon and his father have been raised to see the evil nature of the Dragon King from the East Sea.

As conclusion, because of his travel to the parallel world, Lee Rim has come to see that his belief was correct and that he has become a god who could rule over two worlds. However, if we pay attention to his actions, we can conclude that in reality, he is just an “idol”, a false god. He reminds me of the golden calf from the bible symbolizing the false faith.

Alice in Wonderland, a source of inspiration for “The King: Eternal Monarch”

Before making connections between “Alice in Wonderland”, written by the mathematician Lewis Carroll, and the K-drama “The King: Eternal Monarch”, it is relevant to know about the major topics in that fairy tale. In this story, Alice is getting sleepy on a bench, when she suddenly witnesses a White Rabbit running while holding a clock. She gets curios and decides to follow him and that’s how she enters a new world: Wonderland. This land symbolizes the epitome of craziness and fantasy. Alice discovers strange animals and people like Cheshire Cat, Caterpillar, Mad Hatter and Queen of Hearts. No logical explanation can be applied in this world, like e. g. the baby of the Duchess turns into a pig or the Cheshire Cat appears and disappears or the Mad Hatter drinks tea with Dormouse and March Hare without changing the table. No rational thoughts and physical laws can rationalize the events.

Striking is that a mathematician, a representative of logic and sciences, wrote this book, where creativity knows no boundary and where sciences can not be used. However, at the same time, Alice tries to use sciences and her knowledge in order to understand this strange world because the female protagonist of this fairy tale keeps wondering if her adventure is a dream or a reality. As she attempts desperately to use her knowledge in order to solve this dilemma, she fails. Even the reader keeps wondering the same thing either as there are always allusions that she could be sleeping and as such dreaming.

Coexisting to this dilemma, the reader is following Alice on her journey from childhood to adulthood. Her strange adventure makes her experience different stressful situations (growing, shrinking, having a long neck etc.) and this should be interpret as a symbolization of her future puberty. The transformations of her body are not the only changes operating in Alice, she also questions herself and about her own identity. The Caterpillar asks her about her identity and she can not answer it right away. She even adds, she feels that she has changed since the morning too. And later after eating a mushroom, her neck streches out so that a pigeon calls her a snake. In other words, her identity quest suggests a initiatory journey. On her way to become an adult, she faces difficult and strange experiences which turns her into a different person at the end. When she leaves this land, she is no longer a child. That’s why time plays a huge part in this book. Remember that the White Rabbit held a clock in the beginning, later she meets the Mad Hatter who owns a strange clock as well. Transforming into a adult is definitely linked to time. Just before leaving Wonderland, Alice is put before a trial and the Queen of Hearts wants to condemn her. The latter embodies the adulthood, the parent who appears to teenagers strange, authoritarian and strict. At the end, Alice defies her and leaves Wonderland before getting any punishment. All this represents Alice cutting ties with her parent on her identity quest.

That’s why my comparison between the fairy tale and the k-drama “The King: Eternal Monarch” is not just about the characters, but also about the following topics: dream, reality, fantasy, sciences, identity quest, initiatory voyage, adulthood and time.

First, the fairy tale “Alice in Wonderland” is directly mentioned in the first episode. The main lead, the King of Corea Lee Gon, is reading this book in front of children. He even reads the passage where Alice is following the White Rabbit.

episode 1: Here is the scene where the king Lee Gon is reading the book “Alice in Wonderland” to children. On the left, we can see an illustration of Alice following the White Rabbit.

This scene is really important as it serves two purposes. First, it gives a first overview of Lee Gon’s personality. We discover that this story is the king’s favorite and he considers himself as a mathematician therefore he feels connected to the author, Lewis Carroll, who is also a mathematician. Here, our main lead seems to know himself quite well, unlike Alice. Lee Gon is a scientist loving Physics and Maths and even using physic laws and mathematical formulas in order to grasp the world around him. Furthermore, he shares some similarities to Alice. Just like her, he is curios and shows a certain innocence. The second purpose of this scene is to elucidate the reason why Lee Gon will discover the parallel world, Republic of Korea. Since Lee Gon reads the excerpt where Alice is chasing after the White Rabbit, the protagonist is suddenly confronted in a similar situation: he sees a person running with a rabbit costume hence he decides to follow this Rabbit. It was, as if Lee Gon had become Alice.

Since this is an adaptation of this passage from the book, we also need to compare the two scenes. The first difference is the gender. It doesn’t seem to be relevant, yet it gives us an illustration that everyone is like Alice. The second difference is that Alice is a child in the story and changes through the story so that at the end, she is no longer a child. Here Lee Gon is an adult. Yet he sometimes behaves like a child, e. g. when he yells at his captain of security Jo Young that everything in this palace belongs to him. He acts as a spoiled child who doesn’t want to share his belongings. In other words, despite his age, Lee Gon hasn’t lost his innocence completely. Therefore, when he sees a person dressed like a rabbit, he acts like Alice: he chases after the White Rabbit and the clock.

The White Rabbit in the episode 1 from “The King: Eternal Monarch”

Unlike the fairy tale, the rabbit is not a real rabbit but a person. Besides, the biggest contrast is that the rabbit jacket is not white at all but black. She doesn’t hold any clock but she is followed by thugs, hence she is under pressure. What caught my attention is that once Lee Gon notices her (the person is a woman called Luna), he says that he is chasing after the white rabbit and the clock. His words defy the reality as it is not correct. Then here is the question: why did the writer and director choose a black rabbit jacket? Is it a coincidence and is there a meaning behind it?

In my opinion, this choice could be deliberate as Luna, dressed as rabbit, is supposed to lead Lee Gon to the parallel world: Republic of Corea. Besides, during that first incident, Lee Lim, the villain and uncle of the King, appears at the rowing event. While white is associated to innocence and purity, black embodies the opposite: evil and corruption. Hereafter, this visit in Republic of Korea, is not supposed to be an initiatory voyage, rather a trap for the King.

However, the author of the k-drama has not just associated Lee Gon to Alice. During the 6 first episodes, our main lead has a terrible habit: he keeps threatening everyone to behead them, if they don’t follow his orders or disregard his wishes.

Episode 1: he is threatening his captain and friend Jo Young

He behaves just like the Queen of hearts who constantly orders the beheading of people when something isn’t to her liking (although these orders apparently never are actually carried out). In Monarchy of Corea, it is the same: no one has ever been beheaded since the beginning of the 20th Century. As I had mentioned above, Queen of Hearts, represents the adulthood and as such the absurdity of the adult world. Lee Gon had to act as an adult, the moment he lost his father. He had to fight his uncle and later assume his function as the next King. That’s why Lee Gon is a combination of Alice and Queen of Hearts. Furthermore, the latter did act like a strange and even childish person… she never wanted to lose a croquet game hence she bent the rules to her liking. However, just like Lee Gon embodying two characters from Alice in Wonderland, Luna doesn’t just resemble the White Rabbit, her actions remind us of Cheshire Cat as the latter keeps appearing and disappearing. Luna pops up in front of Lee Gon twice and in front of JTE in the car once. She just remains there for a few second. There is no logical explanation for her appearance and disappearance, only magic or fantasy can elucidate this. Our female lead JTE is a combination of two characters: the Caterpillar as she keeps asking who Lee Gon is and Alice, when she visits Monarchy of Corea. After her return, she tells her father that she was in Alice in Wonderland.

Once the king arrives in the parallel world, he is surprised and confused, just like our heroine from the novel. Nevertheless, he adjusts himself very quickly as he tries to use his knowledge and sciences to grasp this new world. Strangely, Alice has a similar attitude: just like him, she attempted to use her knowledge in order to distinguish if this world was a dream or a reality. Although their behavior is a little similar, their purpose is different. Lee Gon is not questioning himself if he is dreaming or not. First, he is not alone because he traveled with his horse Maximus. So for him, this is all real. Here, Lee Gon is trying to assess how this world works and how it is different from his own world. He makes different experiences… for the first time, he learns f. ex. the value of money. Just like a spoiled child he was in his world, he doesn’t change his way of life therefore he is too spendthrift with his money. As result, he is left with no money (end of the second episode). Here, for the first time, he makes the experience that there is nothing free in this world.

As you can observe, although Lee Gon has been sent to Republic of Korea with some bad intention, his trip to that parallel world can be seen as an initiatory journey. For the first time, he is on his own… not surrounded by his bodyguards and his Lady Head of court No. That’s why he is able to become more mature. Then he confesses to JTE for the first time. It seems to me that his change from childhood to adulthood is much shorter than the one compared to Alice. First, he is already an adult hence his body doesn’t change so that he doesn’t need to deal with transformations. Secondly, the central topic of the k-drama is to fight against his uncle and not the loss of childhood. The loss of childhood and the initiatory voyage are just side issues.

Then in both works, the quest of identity is present. Contrary to the novel, here Lee Gon is not trying to find his own identity as he is already an adult. In “The King: Eternal Monarch” Jung Tae Eul, the lieutnant, is the one who is attempting to identify the weird man. Since she keeps asking who he is, she could be linked to the Caterpillar. However she fails with every possible method. Her problem is that she doesn’t believe him at all, when he claims that he comes from a parallel universe and he is a king there. On her quest to identify him, she can’t help to find him weird and crazy. The craziness, existent in Alice in Wonderland, is shown in a subtle way in the k-drama. Lee Gon has no current money therefore he uses buttons to get money. Then what he says and the way he acts look weird to JTE and the others. They all keep calling him: “crazy bastard”, “weirdo” or “half-crazy bastard”. JTE even gives him a name connected to “dog excrement”. They sometimes give him a better description: a handsome man with a beautiful white horse. Yet JTE fails to really understand him, until he leaves her world. Only after his departure, his words are proved to be true. His weirdness fades away and JTE is finally able to identify the man.

However, there are two common denominators with the fairy tale in this drama: the importance of time and fantasy. The importance of time is already pointed out in the poster that you can see above. In the title, there are actually two clocks. And it looks like there will be a time loop. Remember in the book that the white rabbit was running with a clock. Secondly, the Mad Hatter owns a strange clock that doesn’t give time but the day of the month. Just like the Mad Hatter, Lee Gon possesses a clock that is unique in both worlds:

episode 2: the unique clock of Lee Gon that was fabricated after Maximus’ first victory

Then while talking to Alice, mad Hatter mentions time as a person: “If you knew Time as well as I do, said the Hatter, you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him. “[…] I daresay you never even spoke to Time”. He even adds that if Alice talked to Time, then he could help her to change time as she wished. She only needs to whisper to him about the time she would like to have. In my opinion, this excerpt could be seen as an indication that something similar will happen in the future. Lee Gon will time travel.

The time is even so relevant that’s why the writer uses a lot of expressions and situations around the time, like f. ex. The lady No and the prince Byeong are both annoyed by the disappearance of the king and are searching for a good excuse. Each of them keep saying “this time”. I could mention two scenes

1. when Lee Gon confesses how troubled he is. It took him 25 years to find JTE, yet this day felt so long for him. Notice the discrepancy, although 25 years is much longer than a day… Lee Gon pointed out that he felt the exact opposite. He, a scientist, who keeps measuring time in order to know the time difference between the two worlds, is making the experience that sometimes time can not be really measured.

2. when Lee Gon is asked if he has dated before then he kisses her. Indirectly, he is underlining the importance of the present. The kiss marks a turning point between the past (has he been dating before?) and the future (Is he dating now?)

The other common point is fantasy which is linked to time. Lee Gon discovers that time can stop there but first he has no idea why. Then his uncle doesn’t age. In 2020, Lee Rim doesn’t look like a 71 years old man. Then in the passage between the two worlds, Lee Gon the scientist has noted that there is no time there as the red balloon is still remaining at the same place. The air has not disappeared. This space defies the laws of Physics. Hence he wants to discover this world. Furthermore, the ID that was printed in 2019 already existed in 1994.

As conclusion, we find many elements from Alice in Wonderland existent in the k-drama and many characters from “The King” are inspired by different characters from the fairy tale. The viewer need to know the book in order to understand the insider jokes (like the beheading e. g.)

Truth and Memories: Memorist, Nobody knows, Find Me in Your Memories and The King: Eternal Monarch

Before we start to analyse different actual k-dramas under the aspect of truth and memories, we need to take a look at the definition of truth. This is what I found under the following website (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/truth)

  1. the true or actual state of a matter:He tried to find out the truth.
  2. conformity with fact or reality; verity:the truth of a statement.
  3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like:mathematical truths.
  4. the state or character of being true.
  5. actuality or actual existence.
  6. an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude.

As you can observe, truth is not just simple, although it is a short word that is often used. Truth has different meanings. Even philosophers like e.g. Plato questioned the definition and essence of truth. In our case, the second and fifth meaning are the relevant ones because truth is in the center of crime series. Fact, verity and reality are the goals of police work. Police need facts and evidence in order to retrace the events. They attempt to find the whole truth hence they need to find the culprit for the offense as the identity of the perpetrator is often unknown. As such, people think that discovering the perpetrator is a synonym for truth as it is a fact and a reality (signification 2).

But is it correct to think so? Actually, we have to question this belief. Knowing the identity of the culprit doesn’t necessarily signify that the police know the truth… Sure, in order to unveil the truth, the police investigation has to bring physical evidence and testimony of witnesses. However, the motive and justification for the crime are all subjective hence the detectives can only guess those. They can reconstitute the whole crime scene but they can never retrace the thoughts of the culprit. Moreover, it’s very difficult to prove a motive, especially if the perpetrator is motivated by emotions (anger, jealousy, etc.) and even irrational thoughts (serial killers). The profiler and detective can only guess and make assumptions but there is no guarantee that their reconstitution is the truth. Finally, retracing the events can never become the reality and as such the truth, since the victim is already injured or dead. The crime has already happened. As you can see, finding the whole truth is not physically possible. The thoughts can never be shown, the reconstitution can only give a glimpse of reality.

But even so, in order to retrace the events, the detectives have to rely on evidence and the testimony of witnesses, like I mentioned above. Evidence is quite simple as these are traces, like a bill, a phone call etc. On the other hand, it is quite different for the testimony of witnesses. The latter have to remember and we know that memory is not reliable, as people tend to forget or the witness didn’t pay attention to the scene and could only get a small part of the event, or even misinterpreted the words or the scene. In other words, memories are very subjective and even fluctuate, yet for the detectives, the memories of a witness can become facts. That’s why in memories lie a certain danger and can never served as the whole truth. Memories are quite subjective but are often treated as objective by people. This explains why during a trial, the witnesses are questioned by the lawyer and the prosecutor. By analyzing the veracity (truthfulness) of a testimony from both perspectives, the trial is trying to retrace the crime and retrace the thoughts of the accused before the events. All of this in the attempt to find the whole truth. That’s why memories play a huge part in the investigation and this topic is treated in the following k-drama, Memorist.

Poster of Memorist

Detective Dong Baek (Yoo Seung Ho) has the supernatural ability to read people’s memories, when he touches them. Armed with this power, he tackles a mysterious serial murder case. And due to his ability, he catches criminals and is able to send them to jail. Initially Han Sun Mi, a profiler, dislikes the detective because she finds his method suspicious and quite dangerous. As you can see, the detective’s ability is perceived as an objective tool. We are not shown, how the criminals he caught were really convicted. He is the only one who can read their memories and in this drama, the viewer have the impression that memories read by DB are quite objective. Strangely, our main protagonist is suffering himself from amnesia. He knows nothing about his past, he only remembers the corpse of a woman. That’s why he is using his supernatural ability, he wishes deep down to discover his own past and the culprit of the murdered woman he keeps remembering.

Striking is that although Han Sun Min kept her distance from Dong Baek for a while, she relied herself a lot on her memories. She still wants to catch the culprit of her father’s murder. Only after many years, she realizes her mistake. She thought she saw a scar on the culprit’s face, while in reality she saw the mark of a face mask. As you can observe, the memories and their interpretation misled the profiler. Later, both protagonists are confronted with a crime, where the witnesses have no memories at all. All their memories have been erased and with no evidence, Bong Baek and Han Sun Mi have no lead to find the culprit. As the investigation progresses, they realize that they have to deal with a man with the supernatural ability to erase memories. At the end of the episode 12, DB touches Lee Shin Woong, Han Su Min’s superior, and read his memories. To his shock and surprise, he sees his younger self and the police commissioner confirms that it was DB who killed 7 people 20 years ago. As conclusion, the witness and the memorist believe these memories as the truth and fact. However, seeing is not the same as knowing. Dong Baek could have a twin brother hence Lee Shin Woong misjudged the situation. He thought, he saw DB, while it was not correct. Another possibility is that Lee Shin Woong manipulated his memories in order to mislead the memorist. All these events actually outline that testimonies should never be treated as the truth. That’s why we have trials where the reliability of witnesses is questioned. The use of DB’s ability for investigation is actually questionable. He is a human being and the memories read by him are also subjective.

Nobody knows

Then in this k-drama, the writer is already pointing out through the title “Nobody knows” that it is quite impossible to find the whole truth. Sure, the title is first referring to secret. All the persons involved have a secret which is revealed one by one. CYJ was the best friend of the 8th victim in the stigmata serial killing, HMS cheated on a test, KEH had discovered the identity of his biological father etc. In other words, discovering secrets play a huge part in discovering the truth but that’s not enough. It is possible that some secret will never be unveiled hence the whole truth won’t be known. Another parameter are the memories. Thus just like in the k-drama Memorist, the writer focuses on the importance of memories too.

The teenager Ko Eun Ho fell from the rooftop of the Millenium hotel in order to escape from the minions of the villain Baek Sang Ho. Striking is that after the victim wakes up, he is suffering from amnesia and wonders how he got injured. He is actually missing one month of his life. While the mother prefers her son not remembering the past month (“she declares that missing one month of his life won’t affect his future”), the young student expresses the desire to know the truth that’s why he questions the officer Cha Young Jin and his mother (“How did I get hurt?”; “Did I tell you something strange before getting hurt?” “why won’t anyone tell me anything?”) so that at the end, CYJ gives in and tells him how he got injured. She could retrace a huge part of the events but she couldn’t tell him why his minions were really after him. As she notices the teenager’s desire to know the whole truth, she tells him this.

episode 11

Striking is that for Cha Young Jin, retracing the whole event with evidence and testimonies, it means that she will get the whole truth. However, like I pointed out before… her promise can’t never be fulfilled in reality. Furthermore, when she made this, she believed that it was related to the book JKH gave to the teenager. And she knows nothing about Baek Sang Ho’s past and trauma as well. For KEH, getting his memories back is a synonym for knowing the whole truth. He is so determined to remember his lost month that he discusses the topic with his teacher.

Scene from the episode 11
The teacher LSW: “And even if you fail to remember, people around you will tell you bits and pieces of what happened and you fill up your missing memory.”
The teenager Ko Eun Ho: “But that’s not my own memory. I want to remember what happened myself. “

As you can read in their conversation, the amnesiac teenager doesn’t accept the memories from the others as he perceives it as a false reconstruction of the past. He knows deep down that their memories is subjective as they only knew a part of him. Remember that he has a secret buried in his brain, besides the people close to him weren’t by his side all the time, as he was often on his own. His mother neglected him and spent time with her lover, the friend and officer was busy with her investigation, his friend DM was busy working. So the proposition from his teacher is rejected… he wants to remember himself as he believes that only with his memories he can get the whole truth.

However, KEH is wrong too. He makes the assumption that with his memories he knows the truth as he was the witness and the victim. Yet, while he was sitting in the car waiting for BSH, he never saw how the driver CDH was forced to drink some drugged water. While he was eating a piece of cake, the driver CDH was lying in the trunk of the car and later killed by BSH’s minions. They faked his suicide. When his short term amnesia disappears, he remembers that he discovered CYJ’s photo with the cellphone of SJ, the 8th victim from the stigmata killer. What caught my attention with his scene is that with this revelation, the viewers realize that they had been misled. All this time the viewers thought, they knew the whole truth as we were shown the events that took place before the fall from the hotel.

However, at the end of the episode 12, we get aware that we only saw the events from BSH and his minions’ perspective. KEH never left the 10th floor in a hurry because he had realized BSH’s mistake (“You already bought the book again!”). With these words, BSH revealed that he was the one who stole his school bag. In reality, KEH got scared because he discovered the photo of CYJ and SJ with the cellphone in the drawer of the desk. This was a clever move from the writer because it outlines one more time that nobody knows. The viewers didn’t know KEH’s memories until the end of the episode 12. Yet viewers are usually the ones who can get the whole truth because the crime is usually shown in his entirety. The scenes are not memories… the director and the writer are the one who hold the whole truth. But the reality is different: the detectives have no director by their side to show them what really happened. The only truth the police know for sure is: someone has been injured or killed. Everything else can not be considered as “reality” and “fact” but just “a reconstructed truth”, not the whole truth.

Find Me in Your Memory

In this k-drama which is more a melodrama than crime series, our main protagonist Lee Jung Hoon is a famous anchorman suffering from hyperthymesia. This illness gives people the ability to remember an abnormally vast amount of their life experiences in vivid detail hence they can never forget. On the surface, it doesn’t sound terrible, nonetheless they have problems to deal with loss and breaks-up as they can never forget. Remember the saying: time heals wounds, for people like LJH, this saying doesn’t work at all. As time passes one, he can not forget, hence he is unable to move on. On the other hand, the female lead Yeo Ha Jin is suffering from amnesia. She has forgotten the most important moments of her life, as she couldn’t bear the loss of her best friend. 

The thing is that since LJH is suffering from hyperthymesia, people and even LJH himself believe that he knows the whole truth. He lost in front of him his girlfriend Seo Yeon who had been abducted and later pushed by the stalker Moon from the rooftop. However remembering and knowing something are two different things. JH only knows the story from his point of view. While he was dating her, she said things that HJ, her best friend, used to like or say. Furthermore,  Seo Y’s last words were strange : “I’m sorry”. This is not something you say, especially after being pushed from the roof. If I had been in her place, I would have named the culprit immediately in order to ensure that he gets punished. Or she could have said that she loved him … But no… she feels sorry for this. Then we know for sure that HJ discussed with the stalker Moon based on a small flashback. She got a glimpse of one lost memory. The journalist saw Moon showing around SY in the past, hence when he saw his flat full of pictures of his girlfriend, JH jumped to the conclusion that Moon was a stalker. Then the latter complained that if JH hadn’t showed up, he wouldn’t have ruined their relationship. Sure, hearing such words from Moon, JH thinks that he has to deal with a delusional man. Sure, the man’s words are not entirely reliable, yet we were shown glimpses that SY was not herself with JH the whole time. She acted as if she was HJ. Just like Moon was obsessed with SY, I have the impression that SY did everything in order to catch JH’s attention. JH never investigated SY’s past and her real relationship with Moon, as he considered Moon’s words and behavior as stalking. However, JH has always been a determined journalist who wouldn’t just rely on his hyperthymesia but also get fact in order to expose crimes or misbehavior (see the case of the abusive CEO in the beginning). So the whole truth has not been unveiled and our anchorman is not aware of it. He needs to dig the past but he doesn’t do it as he relies too much on his own memories. On the other hand, he doesn’t want HJ to regain her memories as he fears, she could try to commit suicide like in the past. However, her memories are important in order to understand what really happened in the past which led to SY’s death. But since JH is now showing signs that he is moving on as he is falling in love with HJ, the stalker Moon thinks that he is the only one who really loved SY and SY’s death was in vain. He can only remember her but he lost her forever. In other words, the stalker Moon lost SY, while JH is able to find a new love. Even having the best memory is not a proof that you can get the whole truth.

Sinopsis The King: Eternal Monarch Episode 1 | Tentang Sinopsis
Lee Lim in The King: Eternal Monarch

In an earlier statement, I said that knowing the culprit doesn’t mean that you know the whole truth. The best example is proved with the k-drama “The King: Eternal Monarch”. In this story, we already know the villain: Lee Lim. He killed the king and tried to murder the crown prince Lee Gon, as he was a witness. However, Lee Gon, as a young child, couldn’t identify his savior. He doesn’t even know how the black man could show up, why he left the ID of Jung Tae Eul. First, the witness thought that she was related to his mysterious savior, yet he realized, he was wrong. We know the culprit, even his reasons, but we don’t know how and what is really happening. In other words, the whole truth signifies here to discover the mystery of the savior and his reasons. The viewers is intrigued… he has to reconstruct the whole story: why doesn’t Lee Lim age, who saved Lee Gon, what Lee Lim is going to do in the future etc.

As conclusion, knowing the truth is not really possible in reality, only in watching crime or fantasy series. Only the director and writer know the truth. Memories are not reliable, there is too much subjectivity, hence they should be analyzed carefully.