Sageuks have several very distinctive plot devices and if you have watched as many as I have then you can see them a mile away.
A case of Noble Idiocy arises
There have been cases of noble idiocy in all the sageuks I have watched but the one that stood out was the case of Solnan (King’s daughter Soo Baek Hyang) This lady had viewers on several internet forums questioning her sanity and even wanting to beat some sense into her for her own good. Some of the sacrifices she made were painful to watch and pointless and even cost many people their lives. All the sacrifices were made in the name of protecting her sister and the prince she loved but like someone once said the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Bad hair day and a visit to the local jail
The obligatory bad hair day and white prison outfit. A Sageuk is just not a sageuk if our characters, both good and bad do not wind up in a wooden jail cell. Which always brings up the question “why do these people not conceal a sharp saw or a file in their clothes as they are carted away?”
Once in jail the perfect hair undergoes an amazing transformation, it seems the local police muss up your hair on the way to jail. It must be a strange form of hazing, anyway the rule of thumb in a Sageuk is that the hero must go to jail and get a bad hair day.
Once in jail the character has to face torture to confess to a crime they did or did not commit, they even have special custom-made chairs for that activity. The torture sessions are called “investigations” sometimes the King gets to watch. I always ask myself who wouldn’t confess to any crime under that kind of torment. I keep hoping that the next Sageuk I watch should have a human rights movement or something.
The Obligatory request for death
Okay fine so a character makes a mistake, it happens! Wrong not when you are in the Sageuk universe, in this universe the characters will say things like “Please kill me” “take my life now” and similar hair raising requests. These types of requests would be okay if the person you are speaking to doesn’t hold your life in their hands but usually they do and are prepared to kill you.
Every hero or heroine in the sageuk has the obligatory sidekick, either in the form of a servant or a not too bright friend. Some of the sidekicks are entertaining and some of them well… not so much!
The girl is a boy
This could arguably be one of the most common plot devices equally carrying over to the modern Kdrama as seen in Coffee Prince. Sageuks have used this plot device with varying degrees of success.
Painter of the wind
Shine or go crazy
A plot device is an object or character in the story whose purpose is purely to drive the Plot, maintain its flow, or resolve situations within it. It could be something everybody wants to obtain, a device that must be destroyed, or an annoying character who must be protected at all costs.