Asian Drama Synopsis Fail: Scholar Who Walks the Night

I love Lee Jun Ki. I loved him in My Girl and King and Clown. He’s got some great acting chops. So…I finally broke down and tried out his latest drama 밤을 걷는 선비 (Scholar Who Walks the Night). I…really don’t know what I think about this drama overall. I don’t buy the affection between the bookseller and scholar. Plus…there’s some scenes that just end up being trite and over the top. It’s sad. There is potential, but I’m not quite certain the drama is reaching it at this moment.

It may seem silly to be calling the synopsis a failure before the drama finishes its run, but I can’t help it because the plot really is horribly misleading. I guess if they mention vampires and political intrigue and cross dressing that is enough to get anyone on board. Sigh. I know they can’t reveal too much of a plot in a synopsis, but seriously? Aigoo. Every synopsis I come across is very wrong.

From DramaWiki:

Set in a fictional imperial dynasty, the story centers around the young daughter of a nobleman who loses everything when her father is framed for a crime. She starts crossdressing in order to sell books to make ends meet, and ends up meeting a handsome and mysterious vampire scholar. The mystery also includes an evil vampire residing in the palace who is the master puppeteer in the political arena, and will stop at nothing to prevent the Crown Prince from ascending the throne.

From DramaFever:

When Jo Yang Sun (Lee Yoo Bi) is driven out of house and home after her father is framed for a crime, she is forced to crossdress in order to make ends meet as a bookseller, where she meets Kim Sung Yeol (Lee Joon Ki), a handsome, but mysterious scholar who is actually a vampire. Meanwhile, an evil presence at the royal palace stops at nothing to keep the Crown Prince from claiming his rightful throne.

I also found a few different ones in the main Soompi thread for the drama that are longer and give you some more (somewhat) accurate synopses, but I don’t know if they are based on official synopses or not. One is completely wrong and I don’t know if it follows more of the web comic story line (this is based on a popular web comic, btw) or not since I’ve never read it.

Okay. So how are these synopses fails? It is true that our heroine is the daughter of a nobleman who loses everything, including his life, when he is framed for a crime he did not commit. It is true that Jo Yang Sun does crossdress to support her family. But…the events are not what you would believe from both these synopses. Jo Yang Sun’s birth father was a scholar who was close to Crown Prince Sadong who was framed for treason against his father. Since he was framed for treason, his most trusted aides were all murdered and the rest of his followers were sold into slavery. Thanks to the traumatic events of her birth father’s death, Yang Sun loses her memories of the time before she was 10 years old. She is taken in by the Jo family whose head was actually a scribe and bookseller to the Sadong. Jo is completely aware of Yang Sun’s identity (he keeps it from himself and his wife wrongly thinks Yang Sun is from an affair), but he loves and cares for her as his own. His health declines and Yang Sun becomes a bookseller to support the Jo family. See? If you go by what’s mentioned above, it really is nothing like what’s really happening in the drama!

Also, they make it sound like Yang Sun crossdresses to hide herself as if she’s aware of her identity and she needs to make a living. Wrong! Yang Sung, for whatever reason (after 10 episodes we still don’t know the reason her true sex was hidden), has been living as a male for her entire life. The current Crown Prince who is looking for his beloved best friend Jin (aka Yang Sun) doesn’t think that the eerily familiar Yang Sun can possibly be the person he seeks since he knows she’s only masquerading as a male. So yeah. Yang Sun isn’t really forced to crossdress to make a living. I would like to know why her birth father kept her sex a secret. She is definitely more comfortable living as a male versus a female, though, since she’s lived that way her entire life.Night Scholar posterIt is accurate that her bookselling leads her to meet a mysterious scholar who is also a vampire… this makes it sound kind of trivial in a way. While our heroine is a big part of this drama in certain ways, this drama does focus way more on the vampire scholar than our always in trouble crossdressing bookseller. Truthfully, a good portion of the first episode is set up to introduce our scholar who is close friends with yet another Crown Prince. Yes, there is a vampire who has really been the puppet master to the Joseon throne for who knows how long. This vampire called Gwi quite enjoys manipulating humans. If any of the royals tries to go against him, he arranges them to die and be framed for treason. Thus our scholar loses his best friend… and his humanity to an elder vampire who is out to stop Gwi, but whom Gwi finishes before that can happen. We then fast forward 120 years which puts our bookseller in contact with our vampire scholar.

It’s also kind of wrong that both synopses point out that Gwi is doing everything to stop the Crown Prince from ascending the throne. As long as the Crown Prince is loyal, Gwi doesn’t care who sits on the throne. He only thwarts Crown Princes if they are against him. The Crown Prince in the synopses seems more like an after thought. There are times we hardly ever get to see him, true, but his existence is still very important to the drama, although his plots against Gwi are met with epic failure in the long run.

Truthfully, our present day happenings really are all just repeats of what happened originally 120 years, but I guess synopses can’t mention that, huh? Oh…and the Soompi ones talk about some other characters. Like Myung Hee/Hye Ryeong. Myung Hee was our Scholar’s fiancee until Gwi forces his hand and she kills herself to save Scholar Kim’s life. Her doppleganger in the present time was raised by Gwi so her father could become Prime Minister. She’s got a bad personality and it’s really hard to gauge just whose side she’s on. Maybe only her own? The Soompi synopsis implies she is Myung Hee’s reincarnation and will come to realize her past life with Kim. I find that doubtful myself. They also mention Soo Hyang who has been with Scholar Kim for 10 years and is totally in love with him. They hint that she will turn vampire and join Gwi because of Kim’s affections for our young bookseller.

My synopsis?

The royals of Joseon are shadow puppets of a power-hungry vampire who allowed them to gain the throne in return for them and their descendants serving him…forever. When one prince has had enough, his best friend and scholar tries to help end the curse of Gwi. The coup ends in failure and the scholar becomes a vampire bent on finding the secret to killing the powerful Gwi. 120 years pass and events begin to repeat themselves. In the search for the secret journal of the deceased prince which could carry the secret to destroy Gwi, Scholar Kim comes across the crossdressing bookseller Jo Yang Sun who has a hidden past that even she is unaware of. Also searching for the secret journal is the current prince who is desperate to finally end the curse of Gwi and avenge his framed and murdered father.


  • Hahaha! I like your version much better, NeeNee!! I’m beginning to think that you ought to just rewrite ALL the drama synopses in the blogosphere! XD

    • Aww, thanks! I always feel I never quite capture what I really want to say about drama plots, but I’m happy you are enjoying them. 🙂

  • I have left this drama on episode 5, I might drop it. Are they still looking for the journal? Is the female lead still pretending to be a boy?

    • By episode 10 the female lead’s true sex is revealed to all so she’s forced to dress like a girl and the long sought after journal is found. They really did drag out these two things for all they could. I don’t dislike this drama, but I really think that there were things they could have done to make it better. And even though the acting isn’t bad, I really just can’t buy the love between the scholar and bookseller.

  • while watching this, I think I got disappointed because of the wrong synopsis and the misleading character descriptions. I think from now on, I should just watch the drama without reading character descriptions so I won’t get wrong assumptions.

    • I don’t think you’ll find too many character descriptions or drama synopses that are quite right, so if you put much faith in them, you’ll be greatly disappointed. Plus…trailers. Trailers are also horribly misleading at times.

  • I’ve watched the drama but I don’t really understand how Yang Sun is the secret weapon to kill Gwi? Can someone explain it to me?

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