OWLS Topics

OWLS: The Failures and Success of Wang So in Scarlet Heart Ryeo

In a previous OWLS post, Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews gave us his perspective of “Dreamers” in The Devil is a Part-Timer. For my post, I’m stepping away from the anime world and into the Kdrama world to discuss the “dreamer” in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, the 4th Prince of the Royal Family, Wang So (Lee Joon-gi). 

If you are just tuning in to this month’s OWLS Topic, here it is:

“What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over–

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?”

-Langston Hughes

Due to recent events that happened in September, this month’s OWLS topic will be on “Dreamers.” Every individual has a goal or ambition that they devote their whole life to with passion and courage—whether it’s landing your dream job, traveling, or finding the love of your life. However, there are those who spent their whole life working towards a dream but it was cut short due to an unexpected occurrence. Those people are left only to dream and wonder about the possibility.

This month’s topic will be dedicated to these characters in pop culture entertainment. We are not going to focus on the individuals that achieved their aspirations but instead, we will focus on characters that weren’t able to. We will explore what happens to characters who had their wings forcefully cut off as well as those who gave up before they even started their journey. We will also discuss what it means for “a dream to be deferred.”


Before I go further in-depth with this series, I would like to warn you that there will be spoilers and if you don’t want that, please watch the series first and then come back to this post.

(Via Dramafever)

Scarlet Heart Ryeo Synopsis:

If you never heard of this kdrama series, I strongly recommend that you go check it out. It’s one of my personal favorites despite some disappointment people have with the ending.

A modern young woman, Go Ha-jin (Lee Ji-eun) gets transported back to the Goryeo Dynasty. She wakes up as Hae Soo and gets involved in the lives of the royal princes of the Wang family.  She initially was infatuated with the 8th Prince Wang Wook but then finds romance and love with the 4th prince, Wang So, also known as the “wolf dog.” She, then, finds herself caught in the family drama as all the princes are competing to become the next emperor.

Wang So’s True Desires

When I created this topic for OWLS, I already had Scarlet Heart: Ryeo in mind. I was thinking about Wang So’s character and how he’s the one lead character in a kdrama series who truly has a bittersweet ending.

(Via AsianWiki)

As I mentioned before, Wang So is labeled as the “wolf dog,” which is a derogatory term given by not only the public but also some of his family members. In addition, Wang So was also said to have an “ugly” face: he has a scar on his face due to being scratched by a knife when he was younger.

Wang So keeps to himself. He doesn’t bother to get close to anyone, especially his brothers, as they fear him, and also, his own mother shows disgust when seeing his face. Despite being unloved by his own family, he still secretly yearns to be accepted by them, hence as to why he moved back into the royal grounds as opposed to being hidden away.

His strong desire for affection and acceptance manifests to love with Hae Soo, and Hae Soo became the definition of happiness to him. She’s someone that he hopes to be with for the rest of his life and he is willing to give up everything for her.

Personal Dreams Vs. Social Obligations

However, Wang So soon learns that he can’t get whatever he wants. His social obligations as Emperor puts a strain on his relationship with Hae Soo. Hae Soo soon realizes that their love can never be as his destiny is to be the Emperor that reunites all his people. As a result, Hae Soo steps aside and subtly “forces” Wang So into performing his role as the Emperor.

Wang So is the rightful heir to the throne. Yet at the same time, there is a numbness he has internally. He performs his duties as Emperor (governing the lands, forming laws, and being a “husband” to his wife), but there is some unsatisfaction to it all. In fact, he tells his wife that they are husband and wife by name but she can never have his heart as it belongs to only Hae Soo.

At the end of this series, you see the two lovers, Hae Soo and Wang So, longing for one another but unable to see one another.

What Can We Learn From Wang So’s Life?

Wang So didn’t live the life he wanted to live. Right off the bat, he had a difficult childhood and soon after, he became part of the race for the throne. However, if he wasn’t obligated to be the next heir, I think he would have run away with Hae Soo and they would live as hermits in the mountains.

(Via Soompi)

Yet, he was unable to do so as his destiny lies in becoming Emperor and Hae Soo knew this as she read about him in her history books (she is from the future). Thus, she had a duty to make sure that history remains the same because if she made any significant changes in this era, like marry Wang So, the future would most likely change as well.

Wang So’s life can be applied to our own personal lives. We have a habit of prioritizing social obligations or things that we “have” to do before doing the things we “want” to do. As a result, our personal desires and dreams are pushed aside and we live a “busybody” life, fulfilling other people’s wishes rather than our own.  In addition, we strive for success and are willing to make sacrifices because of it; however, we sometimes don’t realize the price we paid and when we do, it is usually too late to make up for it. One example is someone that is career driven and prioritizes that over his or her family. He or she soon miss out on family activities because of work and before you know it,  their children are already grown up. Yet, one can argue that some families don’t have the luxury to do that as their parents need to work in order to survive and put food on the table for them. With this in mind, we see that dreams are a luxury to have as not many people are able to fulfill their dreams due to other responsibilities.

Thus, “social obligations'” will always be a priority rather than personal desires at any stage. It’s something that we embedded into our lifestyles and probably won’t be able to break anytime soon. However, once we recognize that we put other people’s wishes before our own, we should change it up a little—there should be times when you put yourself first and care for your needs before others.

That being said, the message that you should get out of my post is that one should never settle in life and be just a labor worker for other people’s dreams. Instead, one should live a life full-filling their own desires and passions, whatever that may be.

I hope you enjoyed my post and check out Rai‘s next!

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6 comments

  1. This is a K-drama that unfortunately isn’t available here (but do I sometimes hate living in Holland lol 😂), but I have heard a lot of great things about this one. Really enjoyed reading your post, and your message is so true: could not agree with it more 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it ended on a sad note. But it made sense as to why they can’t be together. She was a “Time Traveler” and they can never be. But I still love this drama though.

      Liked by 1 person

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