Queenmaker is a Fantastic Political Kdrama!

Eunsung Group’s corporate fixer Hwang Do Hee leaves her morally gray life behind after meeting Oh Kyung Sook. Can she turn Kyung Sook into Seoul’s new mayor?

This is one of those rare times when I want to gush about a great Kdrama like Queenmaker, but I hesitate to go in-depth because I truly believe that you should watch and experience this story for yourself.

What is the Kdrama Queenmaker About?

Queenmaker is a kdrama that examines what happens at the intersection of corrupt morals and abundant hope meeting.

Hwang Do Hee is Eunsung Group’s corporate fixer.

Eunsung Group’s former corporate fixer Hwang Do Hee
Eunsung Group’s former corporate fixer Hwang Do Hee

If anything slightly damaging happens to, or even within close proximity of the wealthy family – it is her job to make it ‘disappear’ as to not sour public opinion or investor favor.

Oh Kyung Sook is a civil rights lawyer nicknamed “the rhinoceros” because she is steadfast in her pursuit of justice and working women’s rights.

Seoul Mayoral Candidate Oh Kyung Sook alongside her supportive husband during a campaign run
Seoul Mayoral Candidate Oh Kyung Sook alongside her supportive husband during a campaign run

Through a tragedy that Hwang Do Hee reluctantly decided to cover-up, the two meet and Do Hee decides to make Kyung Sook the mayor of Seoul.

While that may not sound interesting on its own, I can assure you that it’s a synopsis that barely scratches the surface.

Eunsung Group’s matriarch has two daughters that she controls with an iron fist. One is married to the would-be candidate for mayor, who is really only strategically placed there to cover-up the Eunsung Group’s crimes even further.

As her children (and son-in-law) get tired of Chairwoman Son’s continued manipulations, they each rebel in their own way. However, as the Chairwoman has been playing this game of politics far longer than any of them, she always gets her way. Except…when Hwang Do Hee is involved.

Queenmaker Ending Explained

Now, I am going to get into slight spoiler territory for the ending so if you don’t want to know, revisit this page after you’ve finished the series.

“Showing, but not telling” seems to be a lost art form in modern media.

The (somewhat) Greek looking painting in Chairwoman Son's  museum-like office
The (somewhat) Greek looking painting in Chairwoman Son’s museum-like office

Before, it used to be the basis of any narrative and was recognized as the foundation of storytelling. Now, you are lucky if a “writer” or “director/producer” isn’t bashing you over the head with their “storytelling” while thinly disguising their moral policing or vile contempt for the audience.

Set design is an important element in television, film, and any form of media, really.

That is why newscasters read a script in front of a green screen – as a blank canvas can convey and manipulate emotions at will. Along with a (decent or) emotional musical score (or OST) any set of engineered responses can be triggered from an audience that will readily accept the message you are delivering.

Some of these techniques are even employed in the drama during the height of the political campaigns. Eunsung Group’s candidate Baek Jae Min has a catchy theme song written about him, along with pretty young ladies who are hired as coordinated dancers to make the crowd of onlookers feel good about themselves by getting them involved in the political charade.

Since most in the media business nowadays believe the majority of people are so dumbed-down and numb to what’s going on around them, they use sinister tactics such as repetition to make your mind subtly submit and accept the repeated commercials peddling products you don’t need.

Symbolism in Queenmaker

However in Queenmaker, you are not told to believe anything, but rather question the events you see on screen and those happening around you even in your own life.

Chairwoman Son and Carl Yoon meet under the Greek painting with a constructed tower of corruption between them
Chairwoman Son and Carl Yoon meet under the Greek painting with a constructed tower of corruption between them

There was what I want to say was a Korean proverb subtly mentioned in a throwaway line about someone being a jackass in lion’s clothing in one scene on TV. Nothing more is said about this proverb, until we start to focus more on Eunsung Group’s matriarch, Chairwoman Son.

In Chairwoman Son’s office, there is a giant portrait of a lion startling a white mare that may really symbolize an ass.  (There is also another painting ((I believe Greek)) of a woman who has killed a man and holds the decapitated head on a silver platter – we will get to that in a moment.)

As Chairwoman Son is used to manipulating all situations around her with an iron fist, she is caught off-guard when her (adopted) daughter and wife to Candidate Baek, Eun Chae Ryung, comes to threaten her.

In the frame, Chairwoman Son changes from the lion to then an ass after being manipulated. After this event and for the rest of the series until the end, Chairwoman Son remains framed as the ass as her plans and schemes backfire one after the other.

Eventually, Baek Jae Min realizes his power as a mayoral candidate and starts openly rebelling against Chairwoman Son and the powerful women of Eunsung Group.

Candidate Baek begins to swerve beyond Chairwoman Son and Carl Yoon's control
Candidate Baek begins to swerve beyond Chairwoman Son and Carl Yoon’s control

Chairwoman Son hired Carl Yoon to be Jae Min’s handler – a man who invertedly drove the latter’s father to suicide. While Do Hee later uses this information to break Jae Min at the right moment before his (scheduled) death, Chairwoman Son dangled this information over Jae Min the entire time without his knowledge.

Jae Min had confided in the man who murdered his father – and had trusted him to protect his own life.

When Chairwoman Son meets with Carl Yoon, they meet under the (Greek?) painting of a woman holding a decapitated man’s head on a silver platter. While watching, I subtly wondered if the chairwoman always meant for both Carl and Jae Min to die at each other’s hands, but due to Jae Min’s continual screwups she just ordered a hit on him, instead.

Carl Yoon may be alive after Baek's coordinated death, but I wonder just how long Carl himself has left
Carl Yoon may be alive after Baek’s coordinated death, but I wonder just how long Carl himself has left

In our last scene with Carl, he acknowledges that Jae Min is dead before it hits the morning news and, in the background, a long brown cigarette the Chairwoman favors can be seen partially smoking in a glass ashtray.

Later on, after the Chairwoman’s downfall at the hands of now Mayor Oh and Queenmaker Hwang Do Hee, we do get a slight confirmation that Chairwoman Son ordered the hit and Carl used his goons to finish him in a conversation between siblings Chae Ryung and Seo Jin when his widower asks if “mom” really killed Jae Min.

It is the subtly of a painting on a wall, or a well-placed cigarette frequently associated with a character that made me really appreciate Queenmaker’s method of visual storytelling.

Although I favor political thrillers in general, I can always appreciate a well-written story that doesn’t treat me like an infant while watching and even gives more than one confirmation for the viewers’ own interpretations of what is happening on screen.

Queenmaker is Worth Watching

If you enjoy watching Korean dramas with strong female leads that aren’t contrived or caricatures of what society believes they should be – please watch Queenmaker. While political thrillers may not be for everybody, at the heart of Queenmaker is the idea of government – and doing anything in your power to achieve a dream that can better the world you live in.

Even though people like Baek Jae Min do indeed get far in life, they never win out in the end
Even though people like Baek Jae Min do indeed get far in life, they never win out in the end

Hwang Do Hee was a corporate fixer who had never known anything but a bleak grayness in her life. Ashamed to even tell her father what she did for a living, Do Hee realized there was more to life than lies, corruption, and cover-ups when meeting passionate and warm civil rights attorney Oh Kyung Sook.

Like many throughout history, once Do Hee realized Kyung Sook was the real deal she decided to be a Queenmaker and get her elected as mayor. Do Hee’s speech about hope inspired her ex-husband and former political opponent Ma Jung Seok to flip on the corruption he witnessed in his own campaign and come to their side.

It influenced Eunsung Group’s daughters who were in a silent war over the company’s inheritance to ultimately choose sides that completely changed the paths they trod along. The belief in one person and the ideology for a better future even saved lives, and vindicated the one’s discarded along the way.

If that sounds like your type of story, then please watch Queenmaker – you will not be disappointed. ☺

Chairwoman Son's cigarette can be seen nearby Carl Yoon at the campaign HQ after Candidate Baek's death
Chairwoman Son’s cigarette can be seen nearby Carl Yoon at the campaign HQ after Candidate Baek’s death

And if you enjoy scheming, I would recommend Misty as a somewhat political Kdrama to watch after finishing this series. If you’re into anime and like the whole queenmaker/kingmaker thing, check out my post about Askeladd’s role as Kingmaker in the Vinland Saga anime.

Did you watch Queenmaker? Whose development as a character surprised you the most? And why?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more Kdrama Series Reviews and Recommendations!      

☆ In Asian Spaces  

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Author: In Asian Spaces

I write in my personal time and I haven't published much at all. I don't know if that qualifies me as a writer or not, but I'd like to change that. I have a deep passion for travel, cinema and (mainly) East Asian things, but I plan on writing various things to keep it spicy. Let's prosper together ~ よろしくおねがいします。

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