Do you have tissues ready? Because you should-unless you took some kind of magical desensitizing potion I am pretty sure you are going to cry at this finale. Or maybe I am crying so much I need someone to commiserate with…..
Suk Won enters the main hall and voices her accusation- Hee Bin put a curse on In Hyun and she has proof. To be exact she has the shaman’s doll that she stole from Chwi Seon Dang. She holds out the doll for the retainers and the King to see.
The King says that the doll is not enough proof, if Ok Jung really cursed In Hyun there must be more proof than this. Suk Won responds by saying the shamanistic altar is still in Chwi Seon Dang. Lee Soon asks Suk Won if she is ready to take responsibility for this accusation, she says that she is. Lee Soon angrily tells her if there is no altar he will sentence her to death for this.
We move to Chwi Seon Dang where Ok Jung and her maid are busy cleaning up the altar. Unaware of Suk Won’s accusation they are taking their time. Suddenly they hear the announcement that his majesty has arrived. Suk Won, the King, and the retainers enter the room and are shocked to see the partially standing altar.
Lee Soon confronts Ok Jung- did she really put this altar together to curse In Hyun?! Ok Jung tells him she only set up the altar to pray to Queen Inkyung for the Crown Prince’s health. Suk Won shouts that this is not true, Ok Jung was really cursing In Hyun. Ok Jung pleads for them to believe her- she only called in a shaman to save the Prince from small pox.
Father in law one states that just setting up an altar in the palace is a crime and that Ok Jung must be punished accordingly. The King flinches at this truth. He announces that Ok Jung will be locked in Chwi Seon Dang as the investigation is carried out, he also orders all of her maids to be arrested and interrogated. As the maids are dragged out Lee Soon looks pained- clearly upset that he has had to order this.
The maids are being interrogated by father in law one. None of them will say that Ok Jung cursed In Hyun, they insist she was only praying for her son’s recovery. With no confession the torture continues.
The retainers are up in arms at the news that Ok Jung called a shaman into the palace. Father in law one, now the leader of the Western Party tells them that this is their chance, they can ask for Ok Jung’s death now.
Ok Jung stumbles out of Chwi Seon Dang but is stopped by the captain of the royal guards. Ok Jung tells the man she needs to see the King. The captain tells her to return to her quarters, it was the King’s orders that she was not to leave Chwi Seon Dang while the investigation is taking place.
Before Ok Jung can go back inside the man himself arrives. Lee Soon asks Ok Jung if she really set up the altar to curse In Hyun, she swears that she did not. Lee Soon asks if she can swear this on the life of their son, she says she can. He believes her and tells her that he will clear her name from these baseless accusations.
We cut to father in law one and Suk Won who are busy investigating the altar. They find one of In Hyun’s favorite ornaments hidden on the altar (placed their earlier by Suk Won). They take this as proof that Ok Jung carried out the ritual in order to curse In Hyun.
The King meets with the retainers in the main hall. Father in law one announces they have found the ornament of In Hyun on the altar, clear proof of Ok Jung’s intent. The retainers demand that Ok Jung is made to drink poison as punishment for her crime. Lee Soon is beyond pissed at this suggestion but remains silent, a pained look on his face.
The scholars are back outside, demanding the same thing- Ok Jung must take her own life. I am really starting to hate those ever protesting scholars.
Uncle Prince D is meeting with the King, they can hear the scholars’ demands from inside the palace. The demands go into a fever pitch as they start to ask that the Crown Prince be removed from the palace as well. The King is disgusted that they have brought his son into their protests. Prince D tells him to stay strong in the face of this issue.
The protests continue into the night, becoming louder and louder. The King (now alone) listens to the shouts for Ok Jung’s death and his son’s deposal silently, drinking cup after cup of alcohol in the face of the peoples demands. He tells the captain of the royal guards that he misses Ok Jung.
We cut to Chwi Seon Dang. Ok Jung rushes over to the bridge where a drunk Lee Soon is waiting. They sit together holding hands, Lee Soon asks if they can stay this way for some time.
The interrogations are also still going on, middle of the night or not. The shaman who conducted the ritual is being tortured along with the maids; she suddenly says she has something to confess. Father in law one stops the torture and questions her. She proceeds to say that she cast a curse on In Hyun by request of Ok Jung. Ohhh! Seriously?! Arghhhh! Father in law smiles at the confession, there is no way the King can save Ok Jung now.
The King, who has apparently sobered up, is alone. He considers the confession, the reality of the situation hitting him.
We cut to Ok Jung, also alone. She replays Lee Soon’s vow to clear her name in her head. She remembers the happy times she has had with Lee Soon, the memories of their relationship from the beginning to the present.
Ok Jung comes to visit Lee Soon in his chambers. She tells the King she has something to ask him- will he protect their son to the very end and make him as great a king as he is? Lee Soon says that will be his only reason to keep living. I hate this dire conversation. Ok Jung says that is enough then, that he should render his command to end her life. Lee Soon looks devastated at her words. Ok Jung explains that she does not want to cause him or their son more trouble, she would rather drink poison and end her life. The King does not answer, he only looks on with a troubled expression on his face.
We cut to the King in his study. He says aloud that even in the worse situation there is a way to survive. He will make sure OK Jung survives this.
The King is in the main hall with the retainers. He announces his command at Ok Jung’s crime. After the interrogations it has become apparent that Ok Jung cursed In Hyun. The crime is so severe that he must sentence her to death. He recognizes her crime of cursing and jealousy and proclaims her death sentence (though he can barely get the words out of his mouth). He further orders Ok Jung to participate in In Hyun’s memorial service to reflect on her misdeeds. The retainers are happy but not totally happy- after all the King has made no mention of deposing the crown prince. At their words Lee Soon tells them they are crossing the line- if one of them brings this up again he will kill them. After all, he is making Ok Jung drink poison so there is nothing, nothing he would not do now.
Ok Jung is at Chwi Seon Dang when Suk Won comes for a visit. I just want to slap this girl every time I see that smug smile! Ok Jung calmly (really, she is not being vindictive or mean during this conversation just matter of fact) tells Suk Won to go ahead, keep being ambitious. But beware, as the world of Joseon politics is a bloody and unsure thing. Plus Suk Won is too low class for the Joseon upper class to every accept her- after all Ok Jung was of a higher class than Suk Won but still faced rampant discrimination and hatred over her origins.
Suk Won says that will never happen to her, she will become Queen without the complications and disasters that plagued Ok Jung. Ok Jung tells her not to be so sure, nothing is ever certain in this life- eventually Suk Won will have to pay for her sins. Suk Won just smiles, sure it will never happen to her. Plus, she asks, what has she done wrong? Ummm…I think I name about seven things off the top of my head. Ok Jung says that while others may not know of Suk Won’s crimes Suk won knows what she has done. The girl gives her bratty smug smile and leaves.
Ok Jung is alone when her Mother comes to visit, carrying the crown prince. Ok Jung tearfully hugs her son. Mom tells her she must get through this, no matter how rough the situation is. She asks if she can come to the memorial for In Hyun too. Ok Jung tells her she can come, she would be happy to have her there. Mom breaks down and apologizes for getting Ok Jung into this mess with all of her shaman talk. Ok Jung tells her not to apologize as the ritual saved the crown prince’s life. They hug, both crying.
Uncle Prince D comes to visit the King. He asks if it is true that he has ordered Ok Jung to drink poison. He shouts at the King to take back Ok Jung’s sentence, after all this could not really be what the King wants, could it?
D drops to his knees and begs for Lee Soon to save Ok Jung, if the King kills the woman he loves he will kill his own soul. Lee Soon tells Prince D that Ok Jung said she would die for him…he then begins to cry.
Master Jin has found out about the King’s orders and he is not happy. He cannot believe that the King would kill the mother of his child.
He calls for father in law one, the two meet. Master Jin gives father in law an IOU for an enormous sum of money. He tells him it is payment for destroying Ok Jung. But he has another motive- he wants father in law to bring Ok Jung to him as an offering. After all she has been sentenced to death so why should it matter if he gets her instead. Father in law calls Master Jin ignorant- how can he dare to ask for the King’s woman. He tears up the IOU and throws it back in Jin’s face. He tells Jin to leave Joseon at once.
The retainers of the Western party meet. They think it is weird that the King accepted their demands for Ok Jung’s death so quickly. Father in law one says something is bothering him- he thinks the King must have some other plan.
Ok Jung is escorted to In Hyun’s memorial service by the captain of the royal guards. She enters a plain white palanquin, her mother walking in the front of the procession.
The King is in his study when his chief eunuch comes in to announce that Hee Bin has left for the memorial service. Lee Soon gets up at this announcement and leaves the room.
Ok Jung stares out of the palanquin as it makes its way through the palace. Lee Soon runs after the procession, stopping it before it can leave the palace Ok Jung gets out of the palanquin and runs to the King. Lee Soon tells her he has not seen her in a while.
They look at each other with tears in their eyes.
The King says he was not able to protect her, she should not forgive him as he had to let go of her hand in the end. Ok Jung says that the King has done more than enough, he never left her. They stand staring at each other, neither of them making a move towards each other. Finally the King turns, crying as he walks away.
We cut to a flashback. Master Jin is meeting with Lee Soon. The King tells Jin that he had him investigated and learned the truth- he knew that Jin was acquainted with Ok Jung long ago. He also knows that Jin loves her. He tells the man that he will never let Ok Jung die, he would even give up the throne to save her. He asks Jin to take Ok Jung and run far away, to a place where he will eventually follow. Jin looks shocked that the King would give up the throne for Ok Jung.
The flashback continues as we see Ok Jung’s Mom visiting the King. She tells Lee Soon that she was the one that caused all of the trouble by telling her daughter to make an offering with the shaman. The King says he is aware of Ok Jung’s innocence but the rest of the world will not believe in the truth. He asks Mom to accompany Ok Jung to In Hyun’s memorial service.
We return to the present, with Ok Jung still in the palace, her procession to the memorial service stopped by the King. She cries as she watches Lee Soon walk away.
Ok Jung and her mother pray at the memorial service, somber amidst the reality of In Hyun’s death and Ok Jung’s death sentence. After the prayer Ok Jung sits alone in the temple for a moment, reflecting.
Suddenly someone comes in and places a rag over Ok Jung’s mouth rendering her unconscious.
The captain of the royal guards is meeting with Master Jin outside the temple. He pulls his sword on Jin and tells him by the order of the King he must save Ok Jung. Jin tells Ok Jung’s mom that he will see her daughter to safety and once they are in China he will send someone for her. Mom pleads with the man to take good care of her daughter. Jin sets out while Mom takes Ok Jung’s place in the palanquin.
Night falls. The palanquin arrives back at the palace. Mom is inside praying for her daughter to make it out safely.
Suk Won is told by her maid that Ok Jung has returned from the memorial service. Suk Won looks unfazed by the news but still wonders aloud why Ok Jung came back. After all if it was she who was sentenced to death she would have ran away when she had the chance.
Prince D rushes into Chwi Seon Dang. The courtyard has been set up for Ok Jung’s death. The visual is too much for Prince D to bare, he rushes into Ok Jung’s room. He finds that she is not there and demands to know where she has gone. The captain of the guards tells him that Lee Soon has sent her away.
Uncle Prince D bursts into the King’s chambers and asks why he has sent Ok Jung away- after all he sent her away from a death sentence he ordered. Lee Soon admits that there is no way that he could ever sentence the woman he loves to die. Prince D wants to know what the King will do next. Lee Soon says he will face the retainers and the worst case scenario will be that he will be dethroned. He tells Prince D that he has let Jin take Ok Jung far away.
Ok Jung wakes up. Jin is by her bedside. She demands to know what happened and where they are. Jin tells her it was Lee Soon’s request that brought them here. Ok Jung starts to cry at the revelation that the King has saved her. She stands up and rushes out of the room. Jin tells her a ship from China has just arrived and they need to get on the ship to depart. Ok Jung tells him she wants to return to the palace; the King ordered her death and she intends to not cause him any trouble by running away. Seriously! Take the freaking boat! Take it! Go- go now!
Jin tells her the king only wanted to save her but Ok Jung will not hear it. She says it is no good to be a coward and run away. To drink poison will protect the future of her son and Lee Soon. Jin begs her to leave to China but Ok Jung stands firm- it is now time she protect the King as he has always protected her. She says she has lived her life to die in the palace by the man she loves, she cannot go now. Jin nods, solemnly agreeing to help her return. He tells her that by helping her return he will protect his own love as well.
The retainers have learned of Ok Jung’s disappearance. They are none too happy and accuse the King of abusing his power. They decide to go to Chwi Seon Dang at once and confirm the truth of Hee Bin’s location.
The poison is prepared in the royal kitchen. Uncle Prince D watches from afar, tears in his eyes. The kitchen maid carries the poison out on a tray, headed for Chwi Seon Dang.
At the same time Jin returns to the palace with Ok Jung (hidden in a palanquin).
The King is in his study when the captain of the royal guard comes in. Lee Soon asks if there is news of the retainers demanding his dethronement but the captain has other news- Ok Jung has returned to the palace Lee Soon is shocked.
Ok Jung, successfully smuggled back into the palace, is in her room at Chwi Seon Dang with the crown prince. She hugs the child to her chest, crying.
The retainers arrive at Chwi Seon Dang, ready to confirm that Ok Jung has disappeared. The poison arrives at the same time and the order is given for Ok Jung to emerge from her chambers and receive her death sentence.
Much to everyone’s surprise the door opens and Ok Jung walks out. She has a blank expression on her face.
Uncle Prince D runs into the courtyard of Chwi Seon Dang. He sees Ok Jung walking out of her room- he begins to cry at the reality of the situation. Ok Jung slowly descends the stone steps, towards the place where she is to drink the poison that will end her life. As she walks everyone watches her with a stony expression. Ok Jung sits at the table prepared for her. With a nod of the head from the physician the kitchen maid prepares to place the poison in front of Ok Jung. Her hands are shaking at the order.
Uncle Prince D interrupts and asks that he be allowed to set the poison down. The kitchen maid hands over the tray. Prince D kneels before Ok Jung, tray in hand. He is crying as he sets down the poison.
He gets up and turns away, sobbing he holds his hand to his mouth.
Ok Jung is crying as well. She stands and makes one last bow. She sits and reaches out both hands, taking the bowl in her grasp she raises it to her lips.
Tears flow down her cheeks as she drinks; before she can finish the bowl she grasps her throat, the poison taking effect. We see Lee Soon (who was still in his study basically hyperventilating at the reality that Ok Jung would die) rush out from the room.
Ok Jung drops the bowl, collapsing and coughing as the poison courses through her.
Lee Soon rushes into Chwi Seon Dang and sees his love. He takes her in his arms and asks her why she came back. Ok Jung says she could not run away, she had to come back to his side. She chokes, crying she tells Lee Soon that to spend the last moments of her life in his arms makes her happy.
She reaches out her hand and touches Lee Soon’s face. She thinks the following:
“I, Jang Ok Jung, lived in love of Your Majesty…so I came back to protect that love to the end.”
They look into each other’s eyes, both of them crying. Within seconds Ok Jung falls limp, her life extinguished by the poison. Lee Soon quietly calls her name over and over, telling her he loves her. He hugs her lifeless body tightly to him, rocking gently as his grief overcomes him.
An indefinite number of days later we see Lee Soon at the bridge at Chwi Seon Dang. It is night. Lee Soon surveys the place where he was once so happy. He stops on the bridge and we hear a voice over of his thoughts:
“The only thing that could protect love in the end was love. So you lived a life of fire, Jang Ok Jung. The one who would pat my lonely shoulders or the one who would wipe my tears away doesn’t exist anymore.”
He begins to sob, clutching the bridge railings he falls to the ground:
“My only beloved, the only one for Lee Soon the King, Jang Ok Jung is not in this world anymore.“
He continues to cry as the camera pans out and then fades to black. The end.
As the credits play the history of Sukjong is explained- he became a great king that ushered in the Joseon renaissance. Ok Jung was buried somewhere other than the Jang graveyard. In 1969 her body was moved to be interred next to Sukjong and In Hyun.
I am crying right now so excuse what is about to be a tearful ramble.
Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love you got to me. Hard. You were not perfect, you had your rough patches, but you were always engaging. The romance between Lee Soon and Ok Jung is one of the best that I have seen in Korean Drama, or any drama for that matter. These two characters had a million reasons why they could not be together which gave me a million reasons why I cheered for them to live happily ever after. They overcame, they learned, and I really feel like I just spent ten years with these two as they went through hell and back. It just sucks that hell and back actually meant one of them dying.
Ok Jung’s sacrifice was something I hated- but not because it did not make sense for this story. I just did not want to see her die. She sacrificed herself to allow Lee Son to remain King; an action that she saw as the only way that she could protect the one she loved. I get it, I really do. But you should have ran away to China!
I guess some people are larger than life with purposes far above those of the ordinary folk. While I would have been in some place in China waiting for Lee Soon (who would inevitably be dethroned) to visit those nobler or with more of a sense of purpose like Ok Jung would have shown the courage to see everything through and protect the King until the end. Which doesn’t make me happy but makes me realize that Ok Jung was the opposite of a coward, in fact she had more courage than most people could hope to imagine. But I still hated to see her die, which tells me that this character got to me in a powerful way- I cheered for her, I cried with her, and I wanted her to have a happy ending.
This story was built on history. Ok Jung and Lee Soon were real people, as were most of the characters in this show. History paints Ok Jung as a consummate villain, full of ambition and spite she became Queen through her conniving only to die as a result of her shamanistic curses. JOJ Live in Love gave us an alternate view, what if the evil concubine was really just a woman in love? I have to say I like this telling better. I will never again watch a saguek and curse JOJ as In hyun’s foil. This show made me a JOJ fan for life.
Having watched the finale I feel like my mind is blank. I did not hate the ending but I need time to digest how I really feel and what it really meant. The last episode definitely did not betray our characters’ motivations and attitudes- I felt like they were all sincere until the end. The consistency was there and the actors did a phenomenal job. That I know but how I will remember this show remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, I loved this show and am very upset to know that it is over. Che.. sorry, wiping my tears…ers. I will miss you show.
Parting Thoughts- I know what I want for Christmas. That talisman from Queen In Hyun’s Man. So I can jump back in time and into this show. What will I do you ask? Punch Suk Won in the face. Hard. Really hard.