Emperor of the Sea is a South Korean television drama series starring Choi Soo-jong, Chae Shi-ra, Song Il-gook، Soo Ae and Chae Jung-an It aired on KBS2 from November 24, 2004 to May 25, 2005 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 51 episodes. The period drama is based on Choi In-ho’s 2003 novel Hae-sin, which depicts the life of Jang Bogo, who rises from a lowly slave to a powerful maritime figure who dominated the East Asia seas and international trade during the Unified Silla Dynasty.

The series was received extremely well, holding the number one spot in the ratings for majority of the weeks it aired. It was also exported to eight countries earning approximately US$1.8 million in profits.

The filming set in Wando County, South Jeolla Province also became a tourist attraction.


Jang Bogo (Choi Soo-jong) rises from a lowly slave to the military commander of the sea during the Unified Silla Dynasty. Along the way, he battles pirates, and engages in a heated rivalry with Madam Jami (Chae Shi-ra), a Silla noble who squares off against Jang Bogo for trade rights in the South Sea. Yeom Jang (Song Il-gook), Jang Bogo’s charismatic comrade, supports Jang in his ascension to become the “Emperor of the Sea.” But Yeom Jang competes with Jang Bogo for the love of Lady Jung-hwa (Soo Ae).

Review : by Remember0KP (link)

Hey everyone, this is my first post here. I just finished watching Emperor of the sea recently and had a really good time with it. so I wanted to see how others felt about it, but was surprised to see there are barely any reviews or even mentions of this hidden gem here on Reddit, or even on the internet for that matter. So I wondered, maybe I should do a review and write my thoughts on this amazing historical drama. I will try to remain as spoiler-free as possible, only giving information on the 1-2 first episodes. here we go:

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Emperor of the Sea is an epic television series in every sense of the word. It has 51 episodes, which might be too long for some people, but fans of sageuk dramas should be fine with this I think. This is NOT a binge-able series. it works best as a slow-burn, meaning you’re better off watching 1 or 2 episodes a day, at most. It took me exactly 2 months to finish it.

The show also features many stunning sets and locations. The Sea, Islands green with plant-life, vast deserts full of sand, etc (this drama was filmed in China). It helps you immerse yourself into this world. The battle sequences are given epic scope, and computer graphics are used to enhance their scale. I don’t know whether to start with the costumes, the music, the plot, or the acting, but the truth is all of these elements come together and make for an emotional story of fate, love, war, and friendship.

The Premise

“The story is based on Choi In-ho’s 2003 novel Hae-sin, which depicts the life of Jang Bogo, who rises from a lowly slave to a powerful maritime figure who dominated the East Asia seas and international trade during the Unified Shilla Dynasty.”

Now this synopsis makes it look like the story is all about the life of one character, but the focus of the plot ultimately revolves around 3 characters:

The Characters (and cast)

1- Gongbok: A lowly slave who lost his mother to pirates and is now working on wrecked ships with his father. will he find his way to freedom and realize his true potential? or is he destined to be a slave and remain caged forever? (The main protagonist of the story) (Played by Choi Soo-jong).

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2- Jung Hwa: A nobleman’s daughter who loses her father and family one day (to an “accident” I won’t spoil), and is forced to work as a servant girl to restore her family name. in this era, they mostly train young girls to become perfect mistresses for the city’s rich and noblemen. but she wants to be more than that; she wants to be a merchant, and she also falls in love with a slave to make things even more complicated. (The female lead of the story, who is also the potential love interest of the other 2 main characters) (Played by Soo Ae)

3- Yeom moon: An orphan boy who was adopted by pirates as a kid. even tho he’s good-natured and kind at heart, being a pirate/smuggler is all he’s ever known in life. he loves and respects his godfather and tries to always respect his wishes and orders, even tho sometimes he doesn’t agree with them. (The ultimate anti-hero, sometimes you may root against him but you can always understand how he feels, personally I always rooted for him instead of the main protagonist lol) (Played by Song Il-gook)

Honorable mention:

In the main cast, we also find Madame Jami (Played by Chae Shi-ra)-a powerful woman, with a lot of ambition and courage, who wants power and money and does everything to achieve them. (She’s the one who raises Jung Hwa when she loses her father, but I won’t go into details) She also reminds me a lot of Cersei from GOT.

The Plot

Before you ask, YES, this story involves a love triangle (which later becomes a love rectangle when another character gets involved). but the plot isn’t solely focused on romance. hell, There are barely any kissing scenes in the whole show (I think there’s only 1 in the whole show, there’s plenty of hugging tho) Overall, the romance quality is profound and because the drama does not focus on showing intimate scenes at all, you can also watch it with your children/younger siblings.

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As I mentioned tho, romance is only a small part of the story. The plot mostly involves Action (this ranges from duels and sword fights to tournament arcs to epic battles on land and naval combat), Politics (not court politics in a palace, but mostly between merchants or pirates), Racism and freedom (the Shilla people are second-class citizens in China, and most of them are sold as slaves).

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like how some scenes feel like they were dragging longer than they should. for example when two characters who’re in love see each other, suddenly the world slows around them, and here comes the love music. I get that most kdramas do this but I just can’t get used to it. I think this is mostly on me for not watching enough kdramas 😅. and some of the songs can get a bit repetitive.

Also, the dialogue can be a bit simplistic at times but it mostly gets the job done, so I can’t complain too much.

Overall, this was a pretty amazing experience and I think those who like historical dramas and can watch 51 episodes should give it a try. A fair warning tho, this is mostly a story with dark tones/themes, and the happy triumphant moments are far and few in between. the ending is also kinda tragic. So be prepared!!

5/5 - (1 vote)

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