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The Concubine (film)

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South Korea


Drama, History


A movie poster of the film The Concubine featuring Jo Yeo-jeong as Shin Hwa-yeon.

Release date
6 June 2012 (2012-06-06)

Yoon-Jung Hwang, Dae-seung Kim, Mi-jung Kim

Initial release
June 6, 2012 (South Korea)

Kim Dae-seung, Yoon-jeong Hwang, Mi-jung Kim

Jo Yeo-Jeong
(화연 (Hwayeon)),
DongWook Kim
(성원대군 (SeongWondaegun)), (Geum-ok), (Hwayeon's father), (Kwon-yoo / Choong-young)

The Servant (2010 film), The Magician (2015 film), Blood Rain (film)

The concubine movie trailer korean movie 2012

The Concubine (Hangul후궁: 제왕의 첩; RRHugoong: Jewangui Chub; lit. "Royal Concubine: Concubine to the King") is a 2012 South Korean historical film directed by Kim Dae-seung. Set in the Joseon Dynasty, it centers around Hwa-yeon (Jo Yeo-jeong), who becomes a royal concubine against her will, Kwon-yoo (Kim Min-joon), a man torn between love and revenge, and Prince Sung-won (Kim Dong-wook), who has his heart set on Hwa-yeon despite the countless women available to him. These three characters form a love triangle which is ruled by dangerous passion. The struggle to survive within the tight-spaced boundaries of the palace is intense, and only those who are strong enough to overcome the hell-like milieu can survive.


Jo Eun-ji as  Geum-ok and Jo Yeo-jeong as Shin Hwa-yeon bathing together in a scene from the film The Concubine, 2012.

The concubine 2012 youtube


Jo Yeo-jeong as Shin Hwa-yeon covering her undressed body with her arms in a scene from the film The Concubine, 2012.

Set during the early Joseon Dynasty, the film begins with a concubine of the previous king (Park Ji-young) in a precarious position of having no blood ties to her step son, the current childless, widow king (Jung Chan). She schemes to replace him on the throne with her submissive young son Sung-won (Kim Dong-wook). Indifferent to his mother’s plans, the timid prince falls in love at first sight with Hwa-yeon (Jo Yeo-jeong), an aristocrat’s daughter, who has already found love with Kwon-yoo (Kim Min-joon), a low-born commoner. When her father (Ahn Suk-hwan) must send her to the royal palace as a concubine for the king, the two lovers try to elope but are caught after their first night together. Hwa-yeon agrees to enter the palace in exchange for saving Kwon-yoo's life.

Promotional poster for The Concubine featuring Kim Dong-wook, Jo Yeo-jeong and Kim Min-joon.

Five years later, Hwa-yeon has become the Queen from giving birth to a son. Sung-won comes back from traveling to see the King upon hearing of his ill-health. In a private conversation, Sung-won gifts a hair stick to Hwa-yeon as a present and confession of his feelings.

Jo Yeo-jeong as Shin Hwa-yeon posing naked along some curtains in a scene from the film The Concubine, 2012.

The king dies of a mysterious illness, and the former concubine sits her son, Prince Sung-won, on the throne as a puppet king, naming herself Regent and Queen Mother and taking firm control over the royal court. Hwa-yeon is moved to a closely watched, humble residence, where she is being under surveillance constantly. When Hwa-yeon's father, a royal court minister, attempts to prove that the previous king died from poisonous assassination, he and all of the ministers disloyal to the queen mother are arrested for treason.

Jo Yeo-jeong as Shin Hwa-yeon being embraced by someone in a scene from the film The Concubine, 2012.

Hwa-yeon discovers her former lover, Kwon-yoo, working in the castle among the eunuchs. Initially glad to see him, she reaches out for comfort and assistance, hoping some of their original feelings remain. Though his life was spared, Kwon-yoo was castrated by Hwa-yeon's father for daring to elope with her and he is now resentful and embittered towards both of them. Kwon-yoo has aligned himself with Minister Yoon and the Queen Mother to find power in his new position and rebuffs Hwa-yeon. Hwa-yeon's efforts to free her father and rescue him from execution are sabotaged by Kwon-yoo, who directly undermines Sung-won's exoneration orders to ensure the man's death. Kwon-yoo agrees to assassinate Hwa-yeon and her child with a block of poisonous aconite received from Minister Yoon by the orders of the Queen Mother, who wishes to secure her position and remove Hwa-yeon from influencing Sung-won.

Jo Yeo-jeong as Shin Hwa-yeon being interviewed while wearing Joseon Dynasty outfit in a scene from the film The Concubine, 2012.

Sung-won is still very attracted to Hwa-yeon, bestowing favors and attention. In a fit of pique, he takes Geum-ok, Hwa-yeon's personal maid, as a minor concubine so he can inquire about Hwa-yeon's private habits. One night, Sung-won enters Geum-ok's room and is frothed into a rage when he sees her wearing the hair stick he had gifted to Hwa-yeon. To save her own life, Geum-ok reveals that Kwon-yoo had a relationship with Hwa-yeon, and that the young prince had been born prematurely, making his parentage suspect. Sung-won confronts Hwa-yeon, accusing her of hiding her lover as a fake eunuch, but dismisses the accusations after pulling down Kwon-yoo's pants to reveal his castration. Sung-won attempts to rape Hwa-yeon, but Hwa-yeon shoves him off and tells him to "come back when you become a true King."

Jo Yeo-jeong as Shin Hwa-yeon with her faced being held by someone in a scene from the film The Concubine, 2012.

After this incident, Kwon-yoo believes that he is the father of Hwa-yeon's child from the night they eloped together and has a change of heart about helping her, swearing to protect her and her son at any cost. In order to place his son on the throne and place a trap for the Queen Mother and King, Kwon-yoo turns on Minister Yoon by placing the poison in Sung-woo's medicinal drink. However, Kwon-yoo is left with no choice but to drink his own concoction to allay suspicion from Hwa-yeon and his child. After Kwon-yoo's violent reaction to the poisonous medicinal drink, the interrogated physician admits that Minister Yoon, who is directly beneath the Queen Mother, is head of medicine.

Hwa-yeon has sent her son away for his safety and been imprisoned by the Queen Mother, who charges Hwa-yeon with treason and orders Minister Yoon to end both the mother and son's life. Sung-won accuses his mother of trying to poison him, leading to her admission that she had poisoned the previous king to place Sung-won on the throne, which horrifies him since he had loved his brother and never desired to be king. Kwon-yoo and Minister Yoon are brought in to confirm or deny the plot to poison the current king. Keeping his promise to Hwa-yeon to protect her and her son, Kwon-yoo lies, saying the Queen Mother was behind Sung-woo's assassination attempt, with Minister Yoon providing the poison. Sung-woo orders the men's execution and for the Queen Mother to be permanently placed under house arrest in her chambers.

In a carriage heading towards his execution, Kwon-yoo says his goodbyes and asks Hwa-yeon to protect their son after he dies, but Hwa-yeon replies "Our son? The prince is no one's son. He is my son." Kwon-yoo is devastated he has sacrificed his life for Hwa-yeon's child, who may not be his own, and Hwa-yeon has her revenge for her father's death.

Sung-woo, now a true king, is greeted in his room by Hwa-yeon and the two engage in sexual intercourse before Hwa-yeon kills him. Queen Mother is quickly disposed of after him.

The last scene shows Hwa-yeon smiling at her son playing on the throne in the empty royal court, before her face turns when the door shuts and she realizes she can't go back.


  • Jo Yeo-jeong ... Shin Hwa-yeon
  • Kim Dong-wook ... Prince Sung-won
  • Kim Min-joon ... Kwon-yoo / Choong-young
  • Park Ji-young ... the Queen Mother (Daebi), Sung-won's mother
  • Jo Eun-ji ... Geum-ok, Hwa-yeon's maid
  • Lee Geung-young ... Chief eunuch
  • Park Chul-min ... Pil-woon, pharmacy eunuch
  • Ahn Suk-hwan ... Shin Ik-chul, Hwa-yeon's father
  • Jo Gi-wang ... Vice-Premier Yoon Jong-ho
  • Oh Ji-hye ... Lady Park
  • Hong Kyung-yun ... Lady Kim
  • Park Chung-seok ... Seung Jeon-saek
  • Park Min-jeong ... medium
  • Im Jong-yun ... Left-State Minister Jeong
  • Lee Seok-gu ... Go Won-ik
  • Chae Dong-hyeon ... Chief Military Eunuch
  • Oh Hyun-kyung ... Yoon Gi-hun
  • Jung Chan ... King
  • Hong Yeo-jin ... Suragan, court lady
  • Lee Yong-nyeo ... old woman
  • Kwon Byeong-gil
  • Critical reception

    Reviews have been almost unanimously positive, with The Korea Times calling it "one of the best commercial films this year." Promotion and hype had singularly focused on the film's graphic portrayal of sex and Jo Yeo-jeong's nudity, which local critics found misguided and demeaning to a film that according to The Korea Herald "explores the theme of betrayal, revenge and obsessions, with much nuance and depth" and "offers substance and ample entertainment, as well as almost Shakespearean psychological intricacy." Despite "too many subplots which cause the narrative flow to be awkward at times," The Korea Times said it was an "intense, multi-textured journey that is certainly worth the effort", with "psychological depths that demand multiple viewings." Hwang Ki-seok's lush cinematography was praised, as were the costumes and the cast's excellent acting, particularly Kim Dong-wook's performance.

    One of the movie’s highlights is the finale, a slow zoom-out on a scene that mirrors one of Christianity’s famous images, The Pietà. It summarizes Prince Sung-won’s character and his tragedy ― all stemming from the abusive relationship with his mother. Director Kim Dae-seung also said that it is a reference to salvation, or the lack thereof, in all the characters' quests. Everyone ends up in self-destruction after a lifelong struggle to save themselves, their children or in the king's case, his love.

    Box office

    Released on June 6, 2012, the film sold 1.4 million tickets in its first 10 days, and by the end of the month it had easily passed the 2 million admissions mark. The Korean Film Council reports that it sold more than 2.6 million tickets, making it the eleventh most watched Korean film of 2012.

    Distribution rights have been signed with theaters in eight countries—New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia and Brunei.

    Awards and nominations

    2012 21st Buil Film Awards

  • Best Supporting Actress - Park Ji-young
  • Nomination - Best Actress - Jo Yeo-jeong
  • Nomination - Best Cinematography - Hwang Ki-seok
  • Nomination - Best Art Direction - Cho Geun-hyun
  • 2013 49th Baeksang Arts Awards

  • Best Supporting Actress - Jo Eun-ji
  • References

    The Concubine (film) Wikipedia
    The Concubine (film) IMDb The Concubine (film)