Portraying The Crown Prince Image: Can Lee Jun Ho’s ‘The Red Sleeve’ Surpass Park Eun Bin’s ‘The King’s Affection’?

The Red Sleeve and The King’s Affection are 2 historical series that recently drew keen attention. Also portraying the Crown Prince image, will Lee Jun-ho be able to surpass Park Eun Bin’s performance?

Broadcast one month earlier than The Red Sleeve, The King’s Affection was produced based on the webtoon of the same name, telling the tragic life of the young girl Dam I. The story is set in the Joseon dynasty, at the time when twins were considered an omnibus sign. In order to hide the truth about the twins’ birth, the Crown Prince’s wife secretly sent her daughter Dam I (Park Eun Bin) out of the palace. A few years later, as her fate, Dam I becomes a maid in the palace and unexpectedly meets her twin brother – young Crown Prince Lee Hwi of that time.

During a trip out of the palace, Lee Hwi is mistaken for his sister and gets killed. Because of that, Dam I has to pretend to be her brother and live the life of Crown Prince Lee Hwi. Ever since the very first episodes, Park Eun Bin has surprised all the viewers with her appearance in the image of a man who is strong, decisive, and has a rather “manly” voice. Compared to other actresses who also play the role of “a woman pretending to be a man”, Park Eun Bin received a lot of compliments for her excellent transformation. The second thing that helps this KBS2’s drama attract audiences’ attention is the hurtful but lovely romance between the Crown Prince and teacher Jung Ji Woon (Rowoon). The two fall in love with each other in the appearance of a man, creating an unbelievable love story during the Joseon dynasty.

In the case of Lee Jun Ho in The Red Sleeve, a drama produced based on a novel of the same name by Kang Mi Kang, he plays Crown Prince Yi San, a talented man who has an emotional trauma but loves with all his heart. After many unexpected meetings with the intelligent court lady Seong Deok Im (Lee Se Young), he begins to have feelings for her. The motif of the love between the king and a maid is not new to drama viewers, but it was the great chemistry of the 2 actors that drew the attention of netizens.

There are no differences between The Red Sleeve and The King’s Affection. Both are historical drama projects produced by national broadcasters. Their content also tells about the fights between royal families seeking power and the love story of the main characters that begin in their childhood days. Moreover, the two dramas also made big success and gained similarly high ratings. Therefore, it is understandable when the viewers keep putting these two dramas next to each other to compare the actors’ acting and how well they portrayed their characters.

Both act as the Crown Princes but Park Eun Bin was praised a little more than Lee Jun Ho due to one reason

Acting in a historical drama genre for the first time, Lee Jun Ho not only defeated all the preconceptions that people raised about him as an idol but he also got recognized for his improvements in acting. Receiving explosive responses from the audiences, MBC decided to extend the drama with 1 more episode and end The Red Sleeve in episode 17, instead of 16 as their first plan. Lee Jun Ho received many compliments for his voice tone, his line acting, and diverse expressions.

This male idol turned to be an actor in  2013 in Cold Eyes. In 2017, Lee Jun Ho drew attention by appearing as the arrogant boss in Good Manager. However, it is his current drama The Red Sleeve that has become a turning point in Jun Ho’s acting career.

In terms of seniority, Park Eun Bin has more experience when she started acting at the age of 5. She has starred in various movies and TV shows. The actress’ most successful work is Hot Stove League (2019) with a rating of 20%. The series also won Best TV Drama at the 56th Baeksang Arts Awards. The key factor that makes Eun Bin’s performance stand out more comes from the fact that she is a cross-dressing heroine. The question is how to both reconcile and separate the gender factor without making the viewers uncomfortable?

First of all, instead of trying to draw a line between Lee Hwi as a man and Lee Hwi as a woman, Park Eun Bin is able to make Lee Hwi convincing as a person. Therefore, viewers can feel that she is not trying to pretend to be a man, but is portraying a mature man in the most natural way. Typically, Lee Hwi’s half-smile is what fans find the most charming.

The nature of the character is that no matter how hard she tries, she cannot hide her feminine qualities completely. This leads to doubts about her identity, putting her in dangerous situations. Lee Hwi’s subtly jealous moments towards the male lead are delicately portrayed by Park Eun Bin. Viewers can obviously spot her jealousy, but if you consider yourself one of the characters, it is not that easy. The King’s Affection also pushes the situation to a climax when Crown Prince Lee Hwi becomes a king and gets married.

Lee Hwi’s mind is complicated because important things that she owns, including the throne and noble identity, are not supposed to be hers. Lee Hwi looks calm and cold on the outside but has complex emotions inside. She is desperate enough to bury her true identity for good in order to protect the biggest secret of her life and the lives of her close servants. She is also not willing to let go of everything and run away because of love. This forces her to become stronger and tougher. She goes through a lonely life and always has to be cautious.

Cross-dressing characters and gender-bending storylines are not new in Korean dramas, but with Park Eun Bin’s performance, viewers don’t see her as a woman acting as a man, but simply getting immersed into the journey of Lee Hwi as a central character. Lee Jun Ho’s acting is good, but when it comes to experience and character depth, it’s Park Eun Bin for the win.


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