Korean Royal Drama: Goong Vol.14 Review

GameStop, Inc.

Written & Art By Park SoHee
Yen Press
ISBN: 978-0-7595-3158

Cvr GoongAfter her divorce from the crown prince, Chae-kyung finally severs her last ties to the palace. Her heart still longs to be with Prince Shin, but she throws herself into assuming the role of a normal student once again. While Chae-kyung might be done with the royal affairs, they’re hardly done with her as the conspiracy behind her divorce is revealed and Prince Yul won’t drop his own affection for the former princess.

Some of the best dramas these days come from South Korea. Coupled with their love for drama, people also crave stories concerning royalty and Goong combines the best of both genres. Goong is set in an alternate world where Korea never split into two and the royal family still holds their titles. The back story to the current volume is: high school student and commoner Chae-kyung found herself engaged to Crown Prince Shin through an arrangement between their grandfathers. The pair go through the marriage, despite their reservations. As time passes, Shin and Chae-kyung fall in love.   Their happiness is interrupted when the former Crown Prince Yul not only wants his title returned, but also Chae-kyung. She would have married Yul, but his place in the succession was disrupted.

The manwha (Korean comics) is part love triangle, part suspense, part comedy, and part, of course, drama. In the fourteenth book, Chae-kyung completes the last of the royal rituals that cements her divorce from Shin and ends all connection she has with the palace.   A little over halfway through the series, readers can see how the heroine has matured from a hyper, mooning manner to a young woman solidified in her resolve to complete high school and go to college. Chae-kyung has experienced more than a lot of girls her age, which separates her from her peers. Even though she is no longer an official member of the royal family, she is forever linked to it in people’s minds. Chae-kyung focuses on asserting herself to prove she’s moved on and finding happiness in the future.

The shojo equivalent of this manwha would usually see their heroines pining away for their lost loves and concocting plans to get it back. SoHee instead allows her characters to grow from the resulting heartbreak. While there is a good deal of pining on Shin and Chae-kyung’s part it doesn’t slow the story’s pace. It actually leaves the reader tense and eager to read the rest of the volume.

Goong’s strength as a series comes from the enduring relationships between its characters as well as continuingly thrusting the characters into tension-filled situations. Park SoHee has mastered the complexities that royal households endure when faced with the modern world. The ramifications of Shin and Chae-kyung’s divorce ignites a suspicious fire under more than one person, primarily the King and Queen. Each conduct their own investigation resulting in a less than shocking discovery, but the perpetrators’ punishments are all the more delicious, since they must be rendered to satisfy palace protocol. Events tangle further as Shin deliberates to propose to his former love interest, while Mi-Roo (Yul’s fiancée) tries to get the starring pair back together. Each page is filled with something new that changes the story’s balance. Though the informed manga reader will be familiar with the plot devices, they are presented in an engrossing, original way, which is a mean feat on it’s own for most romance comics.

Park SoHee’s art is another of the series strengths due to its contrast from manga. If you have been reading a lot of current shojo titles, most of them bear a striking resemblance to each other in art style. Just as the mind desires new sustenance, as does the eye, so switching over to SoHee’s work will satisfy anyone searching for a different, yet complimentary shojo style. She favors luscious details not only in her characters but also in her backgrounds. The girls are gorgeous and the boys are “oh so, bishonen!” If one isn’t familiar with the pretty boys in comics trend it will be hard to distinguish the males from the females, although skirts are a good indication of gender.

Goong is one of the few series a reader can pick up in the middle and become wrapped up in the in the storyline. SoHee knows how to connect with readers by moving the story forward, foregoing tired romantic drama clichés, strong characters, and wrapping it up in appealing artwork. It almost makes you wish there still was a Korean royal family presiding over the country.




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