Movie: I Am the King

2012 - I Am a King (Character Poster 1)


The movie depicts the three months before Choong-nyung (the future Sejong the Great) becomes king. The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, which follows the history of the Joseon Dynasty between 1413 and 1865, leaves out records of this crucial period. While to future generations, King Sejong would stand as a legendary figure for his creation of the Korean alphabet and advancing the country’s scientific research and law, as Prince Choong-nyung he was known to be a bit of a reclusive bookworm.


When his older brothers Yangnyeong and Hyoryeong fail to impress their father King Taejong, the king makes a royal command for Choong-nyung to become the next ruler of the kingdom instead. The prince, who strongly refuses to become the king and just wants to live a happy and stress-free life buried in his books, chooses to escape the palace before his coronation ceremony.

After hours of contemplation, Choong-nyung escapes by climbing over the palace wall. There he runs into a bad-tempered drunken slave named Deok-chil, who happens to be at the palace to save the love of his life who was captured by government officials and put in prison for being the daughter of a suspected spy.

Deok-chil perfectly resembles the prince, so Choong-nyung instantly grabs the chance to disguise himself as a slave and they exchange clothes with each other. In a terrible twist of fate, when Choong-nyung wakes up after being knocked unconscious, he is mistaken for a slave and Deok-chil gets put on the throne. As Choong-nyung ventures outside the palace walls, he begins to open his eyes to the people living in extreme poverty and experiences the life of the common man.

Source: Wikipedia

This is a Korean historical comedy film starring Joo Ji-hoon. There were many hilarious bits embedded in the serious topics of ruling. He portrayed double characters – Crown Prince Choong-nyung (or Chung-nyeong) and Deok-chil.

Reason to watch: Joo Ji-hoon, Joo Ji-hoon, and Joo Ji-hoon….His acting was fun to watch while being a historical drama. The difference of both characters’ dialogs was interesting. One spoke with formality as a prince even when he’s outside the palace wall, while another spoke informally yet trying to talk like a prince when he’s put in the position.

The movie is hilarious even when the acting of all actors screamed out that they were, in fact, very serious portraying their roles. Haha.

Summary of the story (meaning lots of details will be left out just to make you wonder 🙂 )

The movie begins with soldiers surround the hall where the crown prince entertains himself with liquor and women. The soldiers arrest those who lured the prince into behaving such, it’s the king’s command.

The crown prince aggressively confronts the king. In front of many officials, the king beats up his eldest son into a puppy (in a hilarious way). He then turns his attention to Prince Chung-nyeong who spent his days reading books. He’s third in line to the throne. His another elder brother has become a Buddhist monk living in a temple.


The king barges in and announces,

“Listen carefully to my command. I’ll dethrone Yang-nyeong, and you, Chung-nyeong, shall be the new crown prince! You shall be the king of this nation! “

And this is his face…..

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Meanwhile there’s a slave named Deok-chil (also portrayed by Joo Ji-hoon) who lives outside the palace having Lady Su-yeon as his guardian angel.

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During the ceremony to crown Chung-nyeong as the crown prince, the king leans over and asks Minister Young, “How long will it take an envoy to get here from Ming?”

“Around 3 months, sire.” Minister Young answers.

To everyone’s surprise, the king stands up and announces, “Listen all! In 3 months, Chung-nyeong will ascend to the throne! I shall step down as king so prepare for a new one!”


Chung-nyeong simply faints.

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Deok-chil and Su-yeon are very close. One day her father runs back home and tells them to run away. He was accused of high treason. Su-yeon doesn’t let the soldiers take her father away so they take her with them too. Deok-chil’s friend stops him from going after her.

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Inside the palace, Crown Prince Chung-nyeong contemplates hard, and comes up with a solution, he should disappear during the coronation. So he climbs the palace wall after his two faithful royal guards got drunk and fell asleep.

Deok-shil is also desperate to find Su-yeon that he tries to climb the palace wall from the other side after he learned from his friend that women charged with treason become tributes to Ming.

The crown prince jumps down from the wall into Deok-shil unintentionally, and knocks him unconscious.


Just before Chung-nyeong leaves, he trades clothes with Deok-shil.

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The two guards find their crown prince lying on the ground, so they take him back thinking he’s drunk. But the smell of Deok-shil is so bad that one of the guard takes a closer look and notices he’s not quite his prince. He turns Deok-shil over and checks the birthmark on his butt (yep, butt), and it’s gone.

They realize they could easily lose their heads losing the crown prince, so they will let Deok-shil post as crown prince while one of them will try to locate the real one.


Chung-nyeong couldn’t be happier being free, but his happiness doesn’t last long when somebody knocks him unconscious, he’s a slave after all.


While both men switch places, they also get to experience things in a hard way. Deok-shil finally gets to see Su-yeon in the palace. He’s close to tear when seeing her. He’s no happy time either because when Minister Young knows the truth, he couldn’t believe that he will have a future king under his command.


Crown Prince Chung-nyeong also has a chance of a life time to get close to his people, live through hardships like common people. He learns to be kind, to have hearts for his people’s well-being.

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While Minister Young threatens Deok-shil to become the king if he wants to see Su-yeon ever again. Deok-shil asks why he wants to put him on the throne.


Minister Young smirks, “So you can have Joseon, and I can have you.”

When Ming envoy arrives, he tries to harass Su-yeon. Deok-shil, wearing the prince garb as he is, rescues Su-yeon and runs away. At the same time, many things happen to the Crown Prince that he wants to return realizing now that his power can help so many lives.

Minister Young sends out soldiers and they successfully capture not one but two men with similar faces, only that one is dressed as the prince, one is dressed as a slave. Minister Young tells them the slave is the real prince, and orders them to behead him at once.

The royal guard protects the prince just in time, so he now returns to the palace without Minister Young knowing that he’s the real one.

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The prince meets Ming envoy and delivers beautiful speech in front of the king, with Deok-shil listens to him further away smiling.

The king asks his son what he thinks politics is.

Chung-nyeong answers, “Confucius said great politics means having ample food, having a sufficient military, and gaining the people’s trust. Do you know what is the greatest of these? The one thing that must never be forgotten out of the 3! I, Chung-nyeong, will only do politics to gain the people’s trust!”

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Minister Young sneaks out but the crown prince and Deok-shil have a good plan to repay him. They both jump and sky-kick him. We only get to see four feet on the screen though.

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It’s the coronation ceremony and this time Chung-nyeong looks confident to accept the duty. He sits down on the throne and smiles kindly to his subjects.


“Long live the king! Long live the king!” they shout.


Credits roll and we get to see Deok-shil live happily with Su-yeon and his many children.

“If I didn’t give way for him, he’d be nothing, you know?” Deok -shil brags a little.

“You keep saying that, do you regret it?” she asks.

“Of course not.”


I watched this movie many days back but kept thinking of Joo Ji Hoon in this role. The man is talented. His new drama Medical Top Team premiered October 9, 2013 on MBC.

Translations cr: official DVD


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