Where do I begin?
Mr. Sunshine is a Korean drama that is based on historical events of the Joseon dynasty. This show was epic – I smiled. I cried. I laughed. I cried some more.
Mr. Sunshine focuses on a Joseon-born slave, Eugene Choi, who escapes to America with the help of a potter and an American missionary. Eugene eventually grows up in America and becomes a Marine Corps officer who is assigned to Joseon for a mission. Eugene ends up returning to the country he was born in (but feels disconnected to) and falls in love with Go Ae-shin, who is part of the Righteous Army. During the mission, Eugene discovers the plot by the Empire of Japan to colonize Korea and meets members of the Righteous Army along the way, who he ends up helping in their fight for Joseon’s sovereignty.
This show depicted details focused on three historical events: the Battle of Ganghwa (1871), the Japan-Korean Treaty of 1905, and the Battle of Namdaemun.
The Battle of Ganghwa occurred on June 10, 1871 between USA and Joseon Dynasty where American ships entered the Ganghwa Straits to establish trade. The Americans destroyed the army of Joseon and gave Joseon 10-days to apologize, but they refused. As a result, the ships fired their weapons and wiped out the Joseon army. This battle was thoroughly described in the beginning of Mr. Sunshine with the character Jang Seung-goo who was a teen at the time and lost his father from the battle. From this battle, Jang became a gunner and decided to become a rebel because he believed that the King abadoned his own people to let them die.
The Japan-Korean Treaty was made between the Empire of Japan and the Korean Empire where Japan effectively overtook diplomatic control of Korea. Mr. Sunshine did not demonstrate this treaty in detail, there was a scene where reporter Kim Hui-seong took pictures of the pro-Japanese Korean officials. This highlighted the corruption in government.
The Battle of Namdaemun was fought between Korean and Japanese armies on August 1, 1907 at the Namdaemun Gate in Hanseong. It was a revolt of Korean army against the order of disbandment issued as a result of the Japan-Korea treaty. This battle was depicted thoroughly in Mr. Sunshine with Jang Seung-goo sacrificing himself to protect his soldiers, his country, and an emperor that he dislikes.
Without giving away more spoilers to the show, I suggest anyone who wants to learn about the history of Joseon to watch Mr. Sunshine. I also recommend this for anyone who is a fan of historical fiction because this K-drama was very well done. Although a part of me wanted to see the romantic relationship of Eugene Choi and Go Ae-sin grow, given the context of the story, it was fitting to end the way it did. You will grow to love each of the main characters and become empowered by the spirit of the Righteous Army because if you’re going to lose, at least go down fighting with all you got.