“Mr. Queen,” running for 20 episodes, was an entertaining watch with characters worth discussing. The development that each character had, along with their personas, made the series even more special. This article analyzes the major characters among the many more noteworthy ones.
The main character of “Mr. Queen,” Kim So-Yong, was at first known for her cold and heartless personality in the palace. Although her personality at home was different from her persona in the palace, she had acclimated herself to the harsh life of the palace and also to not receiving love from the one person she had loved her entire life, King Cheoljong. Unable to deal with constant aggression, the claustrophobia she felt in the palace drove her to her wit’s end. As she was unable to cope, she decided to end her life. However, as fate may have it, she found a suitable spokesperson, Jang Bong-Hwan, who would take her place to help her out until she could come out of her shell after recovering from the emotional trauma. Jang Bong-Hwan, a renowned chef and womanizer, became just what Cheoljong and So-Yong needed to deepen their relationship and also deal with the various atrocities committed in the palace. His brash, loud, and manipulative personality was perfect for dealing with the antagonists while also putting them in their place. He was not afraid to go against them and also stood with Cheoljong when the time called for it. He was kind to his court ladies and, after a while, was attuned to So-Yong’s soul to the point of eventually falling in love with Cheoljong.
So-Yong always kept a secret that Hwa-Jin closely guarded, which was So-Yong’s meeting with Cheoljong when they were young. Hwa-Jin had used that meeting as an excuse to remain with the Emperor by pretending that it was her he had met, and thus So-Yong had not disclosed the truth. Bong-Hwan had respected her wishes when he discovered the secret and had not talked about it with Cheoljong as well. Bong-Hwan’s tenacious personality made life easier for So-Yong, all the while pushing Cheoljong to be his very best. He gave Cheoljong hope and also assured him enough to take charge of the nation as the real Emperor instead of biding his time and being historically known as a puppet ruler. He helped the Emperor seize power while establishing So-Yong as the Empress and also as the Emperor’s soulmate. His unique personality got the Emperor to fall for So-Yong and also gave So-Yong the stage to express her emotions better when she had recovered from being a shell to take up being the Empress yet again.
Bong-Hwan had gotten rid of all of the misunderstandings between So-Yong and Cheoljong and had almost also had the Grand Empress Dowager in his grasp with the help of the skills he had garnered as a chef. Being a positive influence on So-Yong and also getting rid of the anomalies that had become the reason for her harsh life, Bong-Hwan’s past changed too. He had almost gone down in history as the chef who had tried to kill the Chinese ambassador, but a whistleblower had helped the detectives arrest the perpetrators. So-Yong, after Bong-Hwan had transmigrated back to his own body, became more open to expressing her will, and she could also take charge of the palace better, which was visible by the way she dealt with Sunwon and sent her to the cold palace as a punishment for the heinous crimes she had committed against the Emperor. She also paid more attention to changing the status of the court ladies and fighting for women’s rights due to the positive influence Bong-Hwan’s memories had left her with.
King Cheoljong, before Bong-Hwan’s soul had transmigrated into So-Yong’s body, had been known and also had gone down in history as a puppet king. He had been accustomed to working behind the scenes and had manipulated the loopholes in Sunwon’s orders to an extent to suit his purposes. However, he had been unable to outright defy the Grand Queen Empress Dowager, as well as the officials of the two clans, Andong Kim and Poongyang Jo. Cheoljong had portrayed himself as a foolish king and had resorted to browsing through explicit graphic materials while the Chief Eunuch was present so as to assure the officials of his incompetence. As soon as the officials relaxed their guard, Cheoljong and his two best friends, his brother, Prince Youngpyeong, and Special Director Hong, set out to hatch a plan to usurp the throne as well as the positions of the traitorous officials. Cheoljong, beneath his foolish persona, came off as a guarded yet fair king who had been wronged by the Andong Kims in his childhood. Due to that, he harbored hatred for his queen, Kim So-Yong. However, as they spent time together, he warmed up to her and also cursed himself for trying to harm an innocent. He also discovered her secret and did not blame Hwa-Jin, as he had loved her not because of their childhood meeting, which had turned out to be a lie, but for her present peaceful personality.
After Bong-Hwan had taken over So-Yong’s body and his unique and honest personality had won over Cheoljong. A meritorious quality of Cheoljong is that he would go to any lengths to protect his people, which later included So-Yong as well as a young court lady, Dam Hyang, who had been sentenced to death by poison. His fairness and loyalty to his citizens had earned him a place in their hearts. Although he had won their hearts by disguising himself as an aristocrat who had purchased his title, he was later saved by the same citizens even after they learned of his true identity. He was an excellent strategist who did not hesitate to put himself in harm’s way if it meant that he would be able to direct the situations to his liking. As a result of this, he was successful in dethroning Queen Sunwon and ruling as the Emperor. His plans and also help from So-Yong and his chosen officials helped him revitalize the corrupt bureaucracy. The document secured by Kim Byeong-In before he lost his life helped Cheoljong arrest the officials with enough evidence. He then ruled his land as a fair ruler and utilized what Bong-Hwan had taught him during the time they had been together. This led to Cheoljong changing his own future and later becoming known for the reforms that his rule had brought about.
Jo Hwa-Jin was the woman Cheoljong had loved before he fell in love with So-Yong. However, this was under the pretense that Hwa-Jin had been the one to save him. Hwa-Jin’s character had come off as somebody clever who would stop at nothing to save the person she loved. She loved Cheoljong and had been ready to serve him in the disastrous palace. But she had also placed her trust in a love that had been built on a lie, and she had refused to tell the truth to Cheoljong at first. Her jealousy when she saw that Cheoljong had been falling in love with So-Yong had pushed her to collude with the Queen Dowager, Daebi Jo. Her character growth is immense throughout the series as she later realizes the errors of her ways. She reflected on herself after she had been confronted by So-Yong, who pointed out to her that she had been losing herself to petty politics. Hwa-Jin immediately rectified the situation after she realized the crime she had committed by entrusting the secret ledger, which contained all of the evidence needed to persecute the officials. She tells Cheoljong the truth about everything and asks that he let her exit the palace as a fallen concubine. She then proceeded to help Cheoljong and So-Yong after So-Yong personally informed her of the news of Cheljong being alive. She rectified her ways, apologized to Prince Youngpyeong for overlooking his emotions, and decided to live her life diligently.
Kim Byeong-In had truly been the unfortunate character of the series. He had been adopted by Kim Jwa-Geun and had fallen in love with his adoptive cousin. He had loved So-Yong without ever forcing her to love him back. However, he could not tolerate the emotional torture So-Yong had gone through, which had ultimately driven her to take her own life. Byeong-In had been loyal to So-Yong, and thus to protect her, he had used his wits to gain power. He had become the Commander of the State Tribunal Forces to keep his Majesty in check as well as to keep an eye out to protect So-Yong from the involvement of external forces colluding to depose her as the Empress. He did turn against her when Bong-Hwan admitted the truth in front of him about So-Yong’s soul being replaced; however, looking at her face and respectful of their memories together, he refused to remain against her and died protecting her from Kim Jwa-Geun’s assassin. His love for her had also helped him collect the signatures of the officials on the document declaring treason. He had planned to use the document to help So-Yong and also teach the Emperor a lesson, but before he succumbed to his wounds, he had handed So-Yong the document to help her and Cheoljong lead their army to victory and take the throne from the corrupt officials. His entire life, he had lived for So-Yong and had helped her from behind the scenes. Although his jealousy had taken hold of some of his actions as he went against Cheoljong on multiple accounts to avenge the assassination attempt on So-Yong, he ultimately spared his life because it would upset So-Yong. His character had projected the image of a forlorn lover, and Byeong-In had died to avenge the lover; he pledged his loyalty to till his last breath.
The true antagonist of this series is the most ruthless among many. Queen Sunwon, to make sure her rule would not be usurped before she decided to end her era, had ruthlessly killed her own son, the successor to the throne, and installed a puppet king. She had even brought in So-Yong at first to keep a watch on Cheoljong so as to limit his actions as well as destroy his plans for rebellion. She had killed his family when he was young and had installed him as the puppet ruler as her way of showing mercy. She had also been portrayed as vain as she hankered for products to keep her youth intact. Her obsession with her youth had been a key point that had helped Bong-Hwan keep So-Yong in her good books. She had also loved the food Bong-Hwan had prepared for her and had looked forward to the dishes he would serve her next.
However, once she had made sure of So-Yong’s uselessness in her plans and of So-Yong’s collusion with Cheoljong, she was quick to dispose of her. However, she had failed each time, and thus she had ruthlessly thought of disposing of both the Emperor and the Empress by installing yet another child Emperor to keep her reign going. This was an answer to the end of her reign imposed on her by Cheoljong. However, when the time came to accept her downfall, she gracefully accepted her end and left for the cold palace with only her trusted court lady, who had stayed with her till the end. Sunwon had been one of the most formidable enemies of Cheoljong, and with the help of her brother Kim Jwa-Geun, she had ruled the nation with an iron fist where women were not allowed to enter the court. She was quick to cut off anybody threatening her power and was able to establish herself as the Empress, ruling through three generations. If she hadn’t been portrayed as an antagonist, she would have been a heck of an ambitious lady to whom Cheoljong and her other successors looked up.
The brother of Kim Sunwon, Jwa-Geun, had been a formidable antagonist, rivaling his own sister. He had supported his sister’s rule while taking care of her opponents behind the scenes. Jwa-Geun had been a cold-hearted, manipulative, yet intelligent individual who would use the weaknesses of other individuals to ensure Sunwon’s rule. He had also been the main strategist behind the murders of the previous Emperor and his Empress. Jwa-Geun loved his adopted son and had given him a choice to stay away from politics and follow his own dream. When Byeong-In had expressed his wishes to join the ministry through the civil exam, he had been upset that Byeong-In had not made the most of his privilege; he was, however, still proud of him and had supported his decisions.
Jwa-Geun, being the observant person he was, also had an inkling that assured him of Byeong-In’s feelings for So-Yong. He had not said a word against it; rather, he had asked him to return home even when Byeong-In had gone against him. Although his priority was always the throne and his sister, he did not hesitate to do away with Byeong-In after he had sided with So-Yong and Cheoljong at the very end. He could have been a formidable ruler had he tried to gain the throne; however, he had been content with being a ministry official because he knew the perils that came with the throne. His biggest weakness had, however, been his pride as a noble, which Cheoljong had wielded against him at the end while he and Sunwon had been unable to instate the new king before Cheoljong had invaded the nation with his army. He had ultimately conceded to being paraded through the villages after his titles were stripped off of him as he was demoted to a mere commoner. This marked the end of absolute monarchy, as Cheoljong’s rule went on to set the foundation for democracy in South Korea later.