Queenmaker features two brilliant and powerful women on one side and a rich man on the other in a tense race for the job of mayor of Seoul, South Korea. This political K-drama has all the ingredients normally found in such a story but tells the events in a particularly Asian manner.
Queenmaker has 11 episodes, and like most television out of South Korea, it moves at a slow pace. It’s amazing how something that moves along with so much deliberate detail can also be riveting and tense, but that’s what happens here. The first few episodes set the stage and by the end suspense is high.
As the story begins, Hwang Do-hee (Kim Hee-ae) is the fixer for a family with big corporate money. She does anything they need done to cover up their various crimes, corruption, and disregard for the needs of the people they exploit.
Baek Jae Min (Ryu Soo-young) married into this rich family. He planned to run for mayor to garner even more power for himself and his business. He had secrets. He was a womanizer. He pushed himself on a young woman who wanted a public apology. They argued and he pushed her off a tall building. (He’s a pushy guy.) The fixer helped make it look like suicide, even though she suspected otherwise.
The death of the young woman was too much for Hwang Do-hee. After 10 years as the family fixer she deserts them and joins forces with Oh Kyung-sook (Moon So-ri). Oh Kyung-sook was a human rights lawyer and an activist for the workers. She was on the side of the workers and honest government. She was not a politician, but she was convinced to run for mayor.
Hwang Do-hee wanted to help Oh Kyung-sook defeat her old employer out of revenge for her friend’s death. Eventually she came to believe in what Oh Kyung-sook stood for and supported her political ambitions because of that. By the end, Hwang Do-hee was ready to make personal sacrifices to ensure that Oh Kyung-sook won the election. The two developed a strong relationship and friendship.
The series covers the 80 days before the election. It takes you through all the usual dirty tricks you expect in a political campaign. Lies, bribes, blackmail, spin, manipulation, and more. There are many characters but the two women fighting at the top dominate the series. Character development is well done for all the many players in the drama.
All the themes running through American political drama at the current time were explored in this one. There were issues of class privilege vs. the needs of working people. They used manipulation of the press with lies and manufactured scandals to incite the public to hate and violence. There was greed and the sense that people with money could do anything they wanted.
While Queenmaker doesn’t have the pace of the American The Diplomat or the Danish Borgen, it has plenty of intrigue to keep you going. K-dramas are on the soapy side, too. You can see it on Netflix. If you give it a look, let me know what you think.