Selection: The War Between Women (aka Queen: Love and War) is a fictional historic Kdrama centered around the process of selecting a queen for His Highness Lee Kyung, and the wicked people who view the selection as a chance to overthrow the king.
The plot as seen through the eyes of His Majesty Lee Kyung…
After King Lee Kyung marries Kang Eun-Ki, the love of his life, the royal procession back to the palace is attacked and both the king and queen are shot. The royal physician declares the king dead but miraculously His Majesty revives and is immediately devastated to discover that his bride of less than a day is now dead. To make matters worse, the deceased queen’s father has been accused of treason and even though the king does not believe the lies, he has the heartbreaking duty of ordering his father-in-law’s execution. A short while later, his grandmother, the Queen Dowager, decides it is time for him to stop grieving and put the horrible incidents surrounding the Kang family to rest. In order to do that she orders her grandson to remarry and produce an heir, thus giving the people of the country trust in the strength of the monarchy once again. A royal selection is prepared and on the first day the king is shocked to see that one of the candidates looks exactly like his beloved Eun-Ki. Although the girl’s name is Hong Yeon, and she informs him she is the daughter of a governor, His Royal Highness believes she is really his resurrected love who has now come back to him.
The plot as seen through the eyes of Kang Eun-Bo…
Because of an ominous prophecy, twins Kang Eun-Ki and Kang Eun-Bo were raised in hiding, their parents only allowing one child out in public at a time in order to pass each girl off as the same child. While still very young, Eun-Bo meets a boy who claims to be the crown prince and, while spending the day together, the two fall in love. Unfortunately, Eun-Bo’s family is forced into hiding and during the move an accident happens that separates her from them and causes her to loose her memory. She is raised in a shaman temple and later comes to be employed by a man who provides information for a living. When she finally gets her memories back she discovers that not only was her beloved sister, who had become the queen, assassinated, but her father who was accused of treason has been sentenced to die, and all she can do is watch among the crowd as he is executed. Devastated, she vows to find her sister’s murderer and clear her father’s name. With the help of her father’s dear friend and the head shaman, she enters the royal selection with the hope of winning and becoming the queen, thus giving her access to the power she would need to find the person who killed her sister and exact proper revenge for her father’s unjust execution. However, as she gets to know the king she realizes what a kind and just man he is and she can’t help but renew the feelings she had for him as a little girl.
The day he met Eun-Bo, as the crown prince, Lee Kyung promised her he would grow up to be a wise man who would rule his subjects with sympathy and compassion. Now that he is the king he tells a close advisor, “I’m not interested in the fight between the political parties. My only concern is to become more and more caring for the people in this country. It’s because I grew up eating, sleeping, and getting dressed thanks to the blood and sweat of the people. It’s because I owe my bones and flesh to them. Therefore, that’s my duty as the king.” He sincerely loved the little girl he met so many years ago and is ecstatic now that she is a young woman and actually gets to become his queen. (Since Eun-Bo was only able to tell him her father’s name, and not her own, when it comes time for the king to marry he is thrilled when he discovers that particular man’s daughter has been chosen to participate in the selection and, of course, thinks Eun-Ki is his long lost love.) Because he is able to see his mother’s selfish shortcomings he is naturally closer to his kinder, wiser, and more understanding grandmother. Ever since he recovered from his gunshot wound, he has had prophetic dreams whenever Hong Yeon (Eun-Bo) is about to be in danger.
As a young girl Kang Eun-Bo was more mischievous than her older twin sister Eun-Ki. Eun-Bo much preferred going fishing with her father than staying in the house and embroidering like her sister. She is strong-willed, loyal, and brave – unafraid to dress up as a man in order to help her partner, Wol (whom she thinks of as a big brother), get information for his business. Although she begins her mission for revenge thinking the young boy she met many years ago has grown into an unfeeling ruler, she soon changes her mind when she realizes he is exactly the kind of man he promised to be.
Other main characters are…
Wal is a womanizer who loves to drink and wander from place to place. He says what he thinks which has a tendency to get him into trouble. He may not be educated but the man is quick witted and prefers to use his brain rather than his muscles. He is protective of Eun-Bo and loves her like a little sister.
Jo Young-Ji was only six years old when she and her aristocrat family were invited to the palace. She fell in love with Lee Kyung that day when he came to her rescue, scolding the kids that were bullying her. She may look innocent but ever since she lost out to Eun-Ki on the first selection she has decided she’ll do whatever it takes to be chosen Lee Kyung’s queen the second time around.
Kim Song-Yi is the queen mother’s niece and she wants nothing more than to marry Lee Kyung, not because she likes him but because she is hungry for power. She is mean, conniving, selfish, and plain old rotten to the core. She will stop at nothing for the chance to be queen.
Lee Jae-Hwa is the king’s cousin. He was not raised in the palace because his side of the family was kicked out for plotting treason, although he claims the evidence was faked. He comes to Eun-Bo’s aid several times and, as a result, falls in love with her.
Twenty-five year old model/actor Kim Min-Kyu is a Christmas baby (born December 25th)! He began acting in 2013 when he appeared in both the movie The Five and the Kdrama Monstar. He has since not only been in movies and dramas (the ones I’ve seen him in are Who Are You: School 2015, Signal, Because This is My First Life, Melo Holic, and most recently a supporting role in Perfume), but also webdramas and music videos. And speaking of music, he sang on both the Special Law on Romance and Drunk in Good Taste soundtracks (he was in both shows). The part of King Lee Kyung is his first starring role and I think he nailed it! I hope to see him in more leading man roles soon.
Born Kim Yoon-Jung, Jin Se-Yeon began her entertainment career as an idol trainee for the girl group Jewelry but it didn’t take long for her to start appearing in commercials and from there she went into acting. Her agency claimed she was a year older than she really was to get her out working sooner. Her first starring role came in the form of a daily drama called My Daughter the Flower for which she won a New Star Award. She’s been in movies, dramas, and the theater. I wasn’t impressed with her performance in Doctor Stranger but I did like her acting in High End Crush. In this she plays both Kang Eun-Bo (who also goes by Hong Yeon) and Kang Eun-Ki.
The drama’s title, Selection: The War Between Women, refers to the three main women who compete against each other in the selection to be queen, each one wanting the spot for their own reason. Kang Eun-Bo desires justice for her family, Jo Young-Ji wishes to be beside the man she loves, and Kim Song-Yi is desperate for power – and yes, at times it becomes an all out war.
We get to see a selection for the queen in the drama Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency but this drama shows the process in much greater detail, taking up several episodes. After the show was over I went online, did a little reading, and found Selection: The War Between Women actually portrays the process pretty accurately. As shown in the drama, a selection for the queen had three stages, the first two eliminating girls until just three young ladies were left to participate in the last stage. The selection process in this drama captured my attention enough that, even when the queen was chosen I happily continued watching to see how everything would play out.
There is much, much more to this story than just choosing a queen for Lee Kyung. The real plot is about the traitors that conspire to commit treason with the intent to dethrone the king and take over his spot. There are actually three different factions that plot against King Lee Kyung, and we discover who they are at different times throughout the show. At first I thought there was just one evil group, then realized there was another, and then finally understood it was actually three distinct gangs the king was unknowingly fighting against. That made things much more exciting because I didn’t know if they were going to join together or fight each other (and I’m not telling you what happens).
Around episode 14 the thought did cross my mind that it might end a certain way – and I was correct. The writer could have wound things up differently but I liked the way it was done. A good ending always raises its score, in my book.
It’s really strange for me to see a palace and traditional Joseon clothing at the same time people are shooting guns (like in Mr. Sunshine). It makes me think the timing is off somehow. But the fact of the matter is, there were guns in the Joseon era. However, one thing I have to call out as a mistake is that we are told Eun-Bo was born in 1895 and it has been 20 years since the prophecy (when she was born). That means the show is taking place in 1915, right? Well, the Joseon dynasty ended in 1897, two years after Eun-Bo was born. Unless it was a translating mistake we have to admit the show is deliberately off by almost two decades.
I had a difficult time with the way His Majesty Lee Kyung and Eun-Bo spoke to each other. Their voices were soft, slow, tender, and just shy of sickeningly sweet. I guess the director thought that since they can’t physically show their love for one another they’ll just have to do it audibly. In other words, quiet = affection. Okay, but it still bothered me.
Forty minutes into this show I was battling whether or not I wanted to continue watching but, remembering my experience with Playful Kiss, told myself I was going to finish at least the first episode. Pushing through, I made the conscious decision to let it automatically play into episode two, and then three, and before I knew it, I had actually become interested. So my advice to you is, if you’re thinking of quitting early on, persevere because it definitely improves as it goes along.
Selection: The War Between Women’s theme song (opening song) fits the feel of the show perfectly, however, I wasn’t a fan of the moaning soprano voice, and the fact that it sounded like she was singing in Latin didn’t help endear me to it either. As is fitting with an ancient love story, all the songs are ballads. There isn’t one that overwhelmingly stood out as amazing but each one is pretty in its own right. You can find the soundtrack on YouTube by using the drama’s alternate title – Queen: Love and War.
The scenery is as beautiful as what we have come to expect from a historical Kdrama. From the gorgeous palace and stunning clothing to the exquisite nature backgrounds – everything is so lovely. However, the story doesn’t forget to show the stark contrast of the lavish beauty surrounding the rich and powerful people compared to the monochromatic poverty that was the norm for the common folk.
It took a little while for me to get into this drama but I’m very glad I saw it. Royalty, villains, power, revenge, betrayal, love… Selection: The War Between Women has it all.
Detailed portrayal of the selection process for the queen
Three sets of bad guys makes us keep guessing
Interesting premise of the king having prophetic dreams
Decent sword fight scenes
Timing is off historically
King and Eun-Bo speak way too lovey-dovey to each other