'The King's Affection': SF9 Rowoon's K-drama hits new high rating with LGBT storyline

Fans were pleasantly surprised with the handling of the male lead's feelings for the female lead who is pretending to be the male crown prince

'The King's Affection': SF9 Rowoon's K-drama hits new high rating with LGBT storyline
Park Eun-bin and SF9's Rowoon star in 'The King's Affection' (@kbsdrama/Instagram)
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‘The King’s Affection’ is one of the popular ongoing K-dramas at the moment. The historical K-drama stars idol actors like SF9’s Rowoon and Victon’s Byungchan, along with K-drama favorites Park Eun-bin, ‘Extracurricular’s Nam Yoon-su and Lee Il-hwa of the ‘Reply’ series. Produced by KBS, it is also available on Netflix due to its immense popularity. The drama was already much talked about as it is based on the manhwa of the same name where a twin sister has to impersonate her dead brother who is the crown prince and falls for her male teacher.

While the premiere of ‘The King’s Affection’ was average with a viewership rating of 6.2% nationwide, it has hit a new peak with the airing of its latest episode (Episode 12) on November 16. Nielsen Korea recorded a nationwide viewership rating of 8.8% with the drama ranking #4 in South Korea. It is an impressive rise from the last episode’s 7.1% rating and also happens to be the first time the drama recorded above 8% rating. International fans have been eagerly waiting for the show to pick up in conservative South Korea for its positive portrayal of LGBT+ issues.

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‘The King’s Affection’ includes an LGBT+ storyline

Park Eun-bin plays Dami who has to let go of her female identity and pose as her twin brother, the Crown Prince Lee Hwi. Her teacher, Jung Ji-un is played by SF9’s Rowoon, whose first love was none other than Dami before she disappeared and replaced her brother. The drama is set in a Joseon era where the birth of royal twins was seen as a curse and the female twin is usually killed. ‘The King’s Affection’ was promoted as a melodrama as Lee Hwi is torn between her love for her teacher and her duty to protect her kingdom which will fall into chaos if her identity is revealed. But the drama has progressed in a slightly different path that has everyone pleasantly surprised.

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Spoilers for ‘The King’s Affection’

Rowoon’s character, Jung Ji-un falls for Lee Hwi. He first sees Lee Hwi in her female appearance when she has a hunting accident. However, she escapes and convinces Ji-un that she is the male Crown Prince and not the girl he had met earlier. With 20 episodes, the female lead’s secret identity is yet to be revealed with Jung Ji-un thinking that the Crown Prince is a man. Yet, they have several intimate moments as they are affectionate with each other. In these moments, while Lee Hwi’s feelings grow for Jung Ji-un, so does his.

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But what fans appreciated was that Ji-un falls for Lee Hwi thinking that he is a man. When he realizes that he is in love with a man, he is not disgusted nor does he try and excuse his feelings. Additionally, Ji-un’s romantic confession to Lee Hwi is not mocked or used for sensationalism which many appreciated as LGBT+ storylines still aren’t given justice in K-dramas. Ji-un and Lee Hwi have several tender moments and even share a kiss. While she finally tells Ji-un she is a woman at the ending of the 12th episode, fans applaud the sensitive handling of Ji-un’s sexuality in the drama.

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Fans found parallels with another historical K-drama, 'Mr. Queen'. A 21st-century man travels back in time and gets trapped in a Joseon queen's body. After struggling, he ends up falling for the king and even gets pregnant which led to a discourse on gender fluidity and pansexuality. 'The King's Affection' has been further applauded for their open portrayal of Ji-un's bisexuality especially since it stars K-pop idols who are mostly told by their agencies to play it safe since the general public are quite conservative with LGBT+ still being a taboo topic in South Korea.

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