“Moonshine” is proof that the historical drama genre in Korea will continue to birth new engaging plots for its growing audience. The drama, starring Lee Hyeri, Yoo Seung-ho, Byeon Woo-seok, and Kang Mi-na, veers away from the typical life inside the palace. Its plot focuses on something perhaps many can relate to– the prohibition of simple joys–in this case, alcohol consumption.
“Moonshine” is a drama that tackles Korea’s love for alcohol as it goes back to the time when drinking liquor was strictly prohibited. Lee Hyeri is Kang Ro-seo, who’s poor despite her noble status. She’s willing to do anything to pay off her brother’s debts, including brewing and selling alcohol. Meanwhile, Yoo Seung-ho is the always upright Nam Young who becomes an inspector tasked to go after the alcohol peddlers and brewers. The two play cat and mouse but eventually fall for each other.
Unlike the usual historical dramas, the prince plays second fiddle in “Moonshine.” Byeon Woo-seok is the rebellious crown prince Lee Pyo who loves to drink and befriends Ro-seo. Kang Mi-na is Han Ae-jin, the spoiled daughter of the minister of war. These two characters prove that money and status don’t always equate to happiness. As Lee Pyo puts it, “Everything you can afford with money seems futile, does it not?”
Korea’s Drinking Culture
As we are well aware, drinking is a huge part of Korea’s culture. We see this in dramas where employees go out drinking after work. Characters eat and drink in ‘pojangmachas’ or street stalls. They even have the most unique and fun drinking games. It’s therefore interesting to see this part of Korea’s history when drinking alcohol was strictly forbidden.
Kang Ro-seo puts it simply: “What is so bad about liquor? The liquor my father taught me to make was like milk to babies with mothers who could not breastfeed them. And for those who work hard, it was like a meal. When it gets cold, it would warm them up like a folk remedy.”
“Moonshine” gives us a peek at what it’s like to live at a time when simple desires were prohibited. It also gives us a perspective on why the prohibition was imposed, which ultimately comes down to the king’s desire to remain in power.