I totally got into a Korean drama called, Chuno or Slave Hunter. It stars Lee Da Hae, Jang Huyk, and Oh Ji Ho.
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“Chuno follows the story of Lee Dae Gil, a man of high birth whose family was ruined when Won Ki Yoon, a slave, burnt down his house and escaped with his sister, Un Nyun, who was in love with Dae Gil. Driven by his desire for revenge, he survived his harsh years on the street and made his name as a slave hunter, dedicated in his pursuit to find Un Nyun, his first and only love. Song Tae Ha is a General of the Army who became a slave after being falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, and finds himself on the run from Dae Gil’s relentless pursuit. Both men become entangled in a love triangle with Un Nyun, who is no longer a runaway slave, but Kim Hye Won, a nobleman’s daughter.”
There will be spoilers in my review below.
I totally fell in love with Chuno, because of the character of Lee Dae Gil. When you first meet this man, he is coarse, vulgar, and a slave hunter. By today’s standards, how could anyone defend a man who hunts poor slaves, men and women who suffer horribly just because they are labeled property? But as the story unfolds, we come to see a man who is forged into steel by his painful past, his loss, and his desire to survive and find the only woman he has ever loved.
The tension in the drama carries the viewer along and the music, especially the songs “Change” by the Gloomy 30’s and Stigma by Im Jae Beom, set the tone of the drama. On one hand we have the chase, where Lee Dae Gil is chasing Song Tae Ha, an escaped slave. During the course of the chase, Lee Dae Gil’s motives go from chasing this man for money, to a matter of personal pride, and in the end because he is the man that married his beloved Un Nyun.
On the other hand, we have that same Lee Dae Gil, the man who grew up as a Yangban (a member of the upper class, a man who was to be a scholar) fighting the brand/stigma of slavery. He cared for and then loved his slave, Un Nyun. He promised her they would live together in a world that would have no slaves or Yangban. He dreams about that world. And then he loses everything when a slave, who turns out to be his half-brother, kills their father and his mother. Lee Dae Gil loses his life, his parents, and Un Nyun all in one night. He almost loses his own life. That is when he starts his search. He becomes strong, and you can see that because in the flashbacks we get of the old Lee Dae Gil, he was a coward. He was soft. But now … he is hard. He is a fighter. And he continuously searches for his love. And when he finds her, it is too late. She is already another’s in his mind. Both Stigma and Change really fit the two sides of our character, Lee Dae Gil.
Chuno is mainly the story of Lee Dae Gil, the slave hunter. We get to see the layers upon layers that this man has donned over the years in order to survive. And the closer he gets to Un Nyun, we see these layers peeled away, until we are left with a heartbroken man, crying in the street because he has lost the only woman he could ever love. After he finds her, Lee Dae Gil says, “When I couldn’t see her [Un Nyun], it was driving me crazy. Now I see her everyday, and it is killing me.” Well, something like that. And in the last few episodes, you can see the pain tearing away at him.
There are other stories. Stories of corrupt politicians and one who justifiably dies at the end. Stories of a slave uprising that is quashed before anything could happen, although the slave Eopbok does get his revenge by killing the corrupt politician. He sacrifices himself to kill those corrupt men. Chuno is a story of small people who just want to survive in a harsh world.
In the end Lee Dae Gil dies, because, and I have to say this, his love was greater. Un Nyun’s and Lee Dae Gil’s pairing was the one true pairing, in my mind. But that Un Nyun, the one who had merely existed for 10 years, thinking that her master was dead, transformed into Hye Won when she escaped her arranged marriage. Hye Won met Song Tae Ha. She decided to make a life with Song Tae Ha. She moved on and let go of the past. She became his wife. She made that commitment, and could not honorably break it. Hye Won might have felt sorry to Dae Gil, and might have owed him something, but I don’t think she even felt love for Dae Gil anymore. And Lee Dae Gil sacrificed himself so that the two could live happily ever after.
In the end, we are left with a peaceful Lee Dae Gil, living in the afterlife. Surrounded by quiet, and sunshine. There is a smile on his face. The moment that Hye Won married Song Tae Ha, I knew that Lee Dae Gil would die. Being the man he is, when his only reason for living has been taken away, by a man he believes worthy of his Un Nyun, that is when he can leave peacefully. He sacrifices himself because he cannot let go of Un Nyun, and cannot live without her. I hated the fact that he had to die, but liked how the writer created moments for Song Tae Ha and Lee Dae Gil to develop an understanding. Both got to know the kind of man the other was, and I felt this allowed Lee Dae Gil to leave Un Nyun behind peacefully, because he knew that he was leaving her with a good man.
You know? Not being able to see her was driving me crazy,
but now that I can see her everyday, it’s just killing me.
He was the Lee Dae Gil that was so completely in love with Un Nyun that he spent a decade looking for her. Despite everything that happened to him, he held onto his morality and was still a good man. Many times, as I was watching the drama, I could see how aptly Jang Hyuk was able to portray Lee Dae Gil as an animal, a tiger, on the hunt. He had that ability to be silent and deadly. And when, in one scene he glimpses Un Nyun, after he has put a knife in her back, the emotions in his face were spellbinding. He portrayed the emotions that Lee Dae Gil felt beautifully, and I fell in love with that character.
I have always liked Lee Da Hae. I watched her in My Girl, and really enjoyed her, even if she was a bit cutesy. The drama worked because of her charm. Here, she does well with a character that was almost flat throughout the series. But LDH was able to portray the quiet strength of Hye Won, the wife and the mother, and the hope and love of Un Nyun, the slave.
I like Oh Ji Ho. I have to admit, that I really liked him in his drama, Get Karl! Oh Soo Jung. Here, he was the perfect Song Tae Ha. His acting wasn’t as strong as Jang Hyuk’s, but he did a wonderful job with the stoic general. He was able to act out the hidden desires of Song Tae Ha, a man committed to his cause, but who also wants to love his family. He was strong until the end, and was noble. Although I wanted Un Nyun to get with Lee Dae Gil, I wasn’t too unhappy that Hye Won ended up with Song Tae Ha instead. He was also a good man; he was a man that wanted to change the world.
I would highly suggest that you watch this drama. It’s a work of art. The writing and directing went hand in hand in keeping me on the edge of my chair, wondering what would happen next. The music, utilized correctly, also really helped set the tone of the series and the tension high in specific scenes. The scene where Dae Gil is running up that hill to save his comrades or when he throws the knife into Un Nyun’s back and then seemingly sees her face or when Dae Gil and Tae Ha are fighting their enemies or when Dae Gil and Tae Ha have it out and Un Nyun/Hye Won gets in the way…those scenes remain in my mind because of the magic created by that perfect combination of writing/directing/music. The drama was fun to watch, with just the right amount of depth to tug at my heartstrings.
Give it a chance.