Continuing on the Queen Seondeok character analysis series, moving onto the characters of Jilsuk and Sohwa. I will be talking about them both separately and together since their lives are tied by fate in this series. It actually saddens me to see how everything turned out between them but I’ll write more about it later in this post. My analysis of the two together will be woven throughout this post so you’ll see Sohwa’s name mentioned often in Jilsuk’s part and vise versa. (Warning: contains spoilers!!)
Jilsuk was part of the Hwarang during his younger days and he served Misil faithfully. He was her bodyguard and the one who did all the dirty work for her. Any task she gave him he would do. He loyally served her and killed many for her sake. We don’t know much about Jilsuk’s history, but it can be assumed that Misil helped him and his family greatly, which caused Jilsuk to remain so loyal to her.
Jilsuk’s biggest assignment (and the one he failed at accomplishing) was to find Deokman (when she was born) and bring her back to the palace so that the prophecy of twins would run in Misil’s favor, causing the royal family to back down from the throne. Jilsuk was in a deliberate pursuit of Sohwa, who was escaping with baby Deokman in her arms. Sohwa hid in a cave and Jilsuk had his men set fire to the cave, but then, as she was trying to escape without being seen, Jilsuk’s swift eye caught her. Luckily, Munno came to the rescue (not sure if I’ll be writing a character bit on him yet…) and Sohwa managed to escape and hide with Deokman for 15 years.
Jilsuk wandered for those 15 years because he couldn’t accomplish his task and as a result, he was ashamed to return to Misil empty-handed. Yet fate brought him and Sohwa (and Deokman) back together – at his realization of who Deokman was, he attempted killing her but also failed in that.
As the drama progressed however, and Jilsuk returned to the scene (after we thought he died in the sandstorm), it seemed as if he became a good guy now, and he did. He saved Sohwa after he came out alive from the sandstorm and wanted to live a quiet life with her. He came to love her and desired to protect her, even as his own vision was leaving him. When Misil found him, he tried to conceal Sohwa’s identity for as long as he could so that she wouldn’t be put in harm’s way.
Yet, Jilsuk’s failure to protect Sohwa and his simple-mindedness in listening and believing every word of Misil’s caused him to go down that path of blind loyalty to her again. He began to serve her again and her alone. Because he chose this path (and let himself get tricked in a way by Misil’s words), he reverted back to his old self, although he also grew a soft heart for Sohwa. Yet towards Deokman he remained against her, siding with Misil until the very end.
When Misil died, he led a rebellion because he had no other reason to live without her, and killed himself in the process.
In the end, it’s not necessarily that Jilsuk was “bad” if not for the fact that he was on the wrong side. He was loyal until death and remained faithful in his service to Misil. What more could you ask for in a person? He was every bit as good as Sohwa except for the fact that his loyalty was blind, and that he did not truly think about the consequences of his actions, or whether or not his obedience was harmful.
Sohwa’s character is not at all like Jilsuk’s. While I felt that Jilsuk never knew what love was until he met and cared for Sohwa, Sohwa lived out love all the time. She obeyed the King (Deokman’s father) in escaping with Deokman despite her great fear and lack of smarts or expertise. She did it out of loyalty to the King. That is similar to Jilsuk in a way. Both were willing to risk their lives for those that they served. Yet while Jilsuk did not serve out of love, Sohwa did. Especially as we examine her life with Deokman, she was willing to risk her life multiple times for Deokman’s sake. Not because the King commanded that she take care of his daughter but because she loved Deokman as if she were her own child. That is why, despite her physical weaknesses and her aging body, Sohwa was willing to stab Jilsuk and run with all her might in order that Deokman may live.
Even up until her death, Sohwa planned the entire escape route so that Deokman wouldn’t die at the hands of Misil. Instead, Sohwa took her place – she was willing to put her life on the line without any hesitation – because she loved Deokman. Jilsuk was also willing to die for Misil, but out of loyalty, and loyalty isn’t always the same as love.
Sohwa is that character who isn’t so intelligent but saves the day due to her loyalty and obedience (which I would add, isn’t always blind). She doesn’t always think twice but manages to make some wise decisions, and everything she does is not selfish but selfless. Similarly, Jilsuk was very selfless in his service to Misil – he loved Sohwa and wanted to be with her (which was probably the most selfish thing he ever wanted to do) but left those desires in order to serve Misil. Yet even that was twisted because he was brainwashed to change sides in a way.
I loved the character of Sohwa – perhaps she was the simplest character of all in the drama, for her life and actions could be easily described by any viewer. She was not a complicated character with complicated thoughts or twisted intentions – she was very pure, and remained that way until her death. (On a side note, can you believe that the actress playing Sohwa is the same age as the actress playing Queen Seondeok?! Crazy what make-up can do.)
Both Jilsuk and Sohwa lived for the person they served and that was their sole purpose. They were so loyal that they never really lived for themselves. I find it a pity that they devoted their lives to people on opposite sides and as a result could never get together even when their emotions were tied to each other. Had Jilsuk turned around towards Sohwa, I could foresee a happily-ever-after type of ending. But as the story went, they never did end up together – it’s just that their fates were continually tied to each other, up until the very end of their lives.