Moon Embracing the Sun (Hangul: 해를 품은 달; Hanja: 擁抱太陽的月亮, also known as The Sun and the Moon) is a 2012 South Korean historical television drama series, starring Kim Soo-hyun, Han Ga-in, Jung Il-woo and Kim Min-seo. It aired on Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) from January 4 to March 15, 2012 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 20 episodes.
The series is adapted from the novel of the same name written by Jung Eun-gwol and directed by Kim Do-hoon and Lee Seong-jun. It tells of a secret, poignant love story between a fictional king of the Joseon Dynasty and a female shaman against the backdrop of Korean traditional palace; and the conflicts and conspiracy of vying political powers. This production marks Han Ga-in’s first historial drama and return to television since Bad Guy in 2010. It also marks the second historial drama for Jung Il-woo following The Return of Iljimae in 2009.
The series won for Best Drama and Best Actor in the television category at the 2012 Baeksang Arts Awards, and multiple awards at 2012 MBC Drama Awards, including Drama of the Year.
Thirteen-year-old Heo Yeon-woo, the daughter of a high-ranking official, accompanies her mother to the royal palace to attend her brother, Heo Yeom’s civil service examinations congratulory ceremony. By chance, she meets Crown Prince Lee Hwon in the midst of escaping to see his older half brother, Prince Yang-myung. They fall in love and Heo is chosen as the Crown Princess of Joseon. However the Dowager Queen secretly orders her death; in order to install Yoon Bo-gyeong, the daughter of a family clan, as Crown Princess in order to gain more power for herself. She orders head shaman Nok-yeong of Star Mansion to cast a spell on Yeon-woo to stricken her with an unknown sickness. Where upon she is returned home for the last remaining days of her life. Nok-young unbeknown to the Dowager Queen has promised her friend Ari, whom Yeon-woo’s mother had saved before she was born, to protect her. So Nok-young secretly visits Yeon-woo’s father and tells him how to break the spells. Upon being resurrected from her grave, Yeon-woo lives her life as a shaman but loses her memories. All believe her to be dead, including the Crown Prince Lee Hwon, who loves her and whom she was to marry. Eight years later, Yeon-woo returns as a shaman named Wol. She has not been forgotten by those she left behind, and her fate is still intertwined with Hwon, who is now the king. She must contend with the current Queen of Joseon, the Queen’s Father, and the Queen Dowager in order to reclaim her rightful place as Queen of Joseon.
Yeo Jin-goo (15 years old)
|Crown Prince / King Lee Hwon||‘Sun reaching for the moon’: Destined to be the first Sun, he experiences love for the first time when he meets Yeon-woo; unfortunately she suddenly falls ill and dies. Eight years later he becomes a King who hardly smiles. One day, he encounters a shaman who resembles Yeon-woo. Naming her Wol, he starts to have doubts on her death and decides to investigate.|
Kim Yoo-jung (13 years old)
|Heo Yeon-woo (烟雨）/ shaman Wol||‘Moon containing the sun’: Destined to be the first Moon, she was born in the interim of Ari’s execution. The daughter of a noble family who is gaining power in the royal court, who is smart, bright and well-loved. Chosen as the Crown Princess, she mysteriously fell ill and passed away before the royal wedding ceremony. Just when she was believed to be dead, she was saved by Jang Nok-young, the head shaman upon the request from her late friend Ari. However, Yeon-woo lost all her memories. Eight years later, she returns to the palace as a shaman, who is named Wol by Lee Hwon. Lee Hwon must decide if he loves Yeon Woo or the female shaman Wol.|
Lee Min-ho (young Yang-myung)
|Prince Yang-myung||‘Overshadowed by the sun’: The second Sun, he is the elder half brother of Lee Hwon. He always seems to be unfairly treated by his father, King Seongjo, however his father reveals that while Yang Myung is still his beloved son, he is treated harshly to protect Lee Hwon. Seemingly a carefree man while he is fiercely loyal to those he loves, he has to struggle between his long, unrequited love for Yeon-woo and his brotherhood with Lee Hwon.|
Kim So-hyun (young Bo-kyung)
|Yoon Bo-kyung （尹宝静）||The second moon who enters the palace as a playmate for Princess Minhwa. She was used as a tool by the Dowager Queen to achieve more power by trying to make her the Crown Princess, which was successful after Yeon-woo’s supposed death. Later, she became Lee Hwon’s queen. Although she loves Lee Hwon all her life, Lee Hwon loves Heo Yeon Woo deep inside.|
|Sunwoo Jae-duk||Heo Young-jae||Yeom and Yeon-woo’s father. Trusted by King Sungjo for his loyalty. He is viewed by Yoon Dae-hyung as an opponent.|
|Yang Mi-kyung||Shin Jung-kyung/Madam Heo||Yeom and Yeon-woo’s Mother. Mother-in-law of Princess Min-hwa. She is a very warm person but because of her daughter and husband’s death, she is at the edge of losing her vitality. Princess Min-hwa is the one that helps her recover her smile.|
Yim Si-wan (17 years old)
|Heo Yeom||Yeon-woo’s older brother and Hwon’s tutor, he is a high-ranking official scholar. Females swoon when he passes by because of his good looks. He has a close friendship with Hwon whom he mentored and later when Hwon become the king he become his loyal subject. After Yeon-woo’s death becomes the husband of Princess Min-hwa. Eventually, he falls for the much younger Min Hwa and is hurt when he finds out Min Hwa had to do with Yeon Woo’s murder. He forgives her eventually. He has a child, Heo Ui, with Min Hwa.|
Seo Ji-hee (young Seol)
|Seol||She was the maid serving of Heo’s family. She was named Seol by Heo Yeom and harbors an unrequited love for him. She is a swordswoman who protects Yeon-woo during her time as shaman Wol. She later dies for Heo Yeom while fighting to protect him.|
|Kim Young-ae||Queen Dowager Jung-hui||Mother of King Sungjo and Grandmother of Lee Hwon who has political relationship with Yoon Dae Hyung. The death of crown princess was manipulated by her. Although she is an antagonist of the series, all the evils she has committed was to secure the throne of Lee Hwon.|
|Ahn Nae-sang||King Sungjo||Father of Hwon, Yang-myung and Min-hwa. The king is with both intellect and military ability. The involvement of his beloved brother Prince Uiseong, in conspiracy which brought the latter death, is a faded memory that can make him shed a tears. At the same, he loves his son Yang Myung deeply, but never shows it. In order to the crown prince Hwon can become strong king he implements the correct politic to support him. He teaches the king Lee Hwon that being a king is all about bargaining.|
|Kim Sun-kyung||Queen So-hye||Mother of Lee Hwon; not of noble birth. She wants Yeon-woo to become the crown princess. She believes that the worsening health condition of Hwon is due of spirit of dead Yeon-woo.|
|Kim Ye-ryung||Lady Park||Mother of Yang-myung. The concubine of great King Sungjo. Similar to Great Queen Han, she has no political ambition and has a quiet and gentle nature. After the death of King Sungjo, she retires to live a quiet life in a nunnery. She was made concubine by the King Sungjo because he pitied her.|
Jin Ji-hee (young Min-hwa)
|Princess Min-hwa||Lee Hwon’s younger sister. As a child, she fell in love with Yeon Woo’s brother, Heo Yeom, and always wanted to marry him. Marrying Heo Yeom however, would equal the cost of Yeon Woo’s life. Her marriage with Yeon-woo’s brother caused her guilt after she realized what she had done after she gave birth to her son, Heo Ui. She is later demoted to a slave status.|
Lee Won-geun (15 years old)
|Jin Chae-woon||A 23 year old young warrior. He is the top swordsman in Joseon and is the loyal bodyguard of Hwon. He is blessed with the looks of his courtesan mother and the swords skill of his noble father. Though talented, he obtained a lowly status as he was born by a concubine to a noble man, he received care from the official wife of his father. He has deep friendship with Yeom and Yang-myung. His loyalty to Lee Hwon causes trouble for his friendship with Yang Myung.|
|Jung Eun-pyo||Hyung Sun||Chief of Neasi eunuch. By the side of Lee Hwon since he is crown prince. Very close friendship with Lee Hwon as he is his aid. He watched the growth of Lee Hwon and understands his feelings. He is often used by Hwon in his many antics in the palace. The character is also used as comic relief during intense scenes.|
|Kim Min-kyung||Court Lady Min||From Yeom family in Bukcheon, she is lady-in-waiting to Princess Min-hwa. It is revealed she dies later.|
|Chu Gwi-jung||Court Lady Jo||Queen Bo-kyung’s gungnyeo (lady-in-waiting) since entering the palace as a Crown princess.|
|Jeon Mi-seon||Jang Nok-young||State female shaman of Seongsucheong, the top shaman of Joseon. She has all information about the incident of crown princess death. She has strong strength in cursing that nobody dares to stare at her. Because of constant opposition from scholars, Seongsucheong is in danger. In order to save Seongsucheong she decides to help the Great Empress Queen Dowager Yoon.|
|Kim Ik-tae||Hye Gak||Guru of Sogyeokseo. Who helped Nok-young to escape with Yeon-woo. He misunderstood Shaman Jang after discovering her plan to become the accomplice of the Queen Dowager. He risk his life to oppose her spells.|
Jo Min-ah (young Jan Shil)
|Jan Shil||Slave shaman the successor of Jang Nok-young. She has constant fear of her own divine power. Her stare penetrates a person’s thoughts. She has the ability to foresee the future unknowingly.|
|Jang Young-nam||Ari (cameo, ep 1)||A shaman who is friends with Jang Nok-young. She has strong divine powers, and can be seen having visions of the future. She was saved by Yeon-woo’s mother. In gratitude, she to protect Yeon-woo in life or death as payment for Yeon-woo’s mother saving her life.|
Yoon clan and official
|Kim Eung-soo||Yoon Dae-hyung||Father in-law of Hwon, the Father of Bo-kyung and the leader of consort clan. He is an experienced politician and would stop at nothing to gain money and power, even if it means he would lose his family. He is the main reason why Bo Kyung is evil. It is shown at the end of the series that he does not truly love Bo Kyung–he even had plans to depose her.|
|Jang Hee-soo||Mrs Kim||Wife of Yoon Dae-hyung and Mother of Bo-kyung. Unaware of the evils behind Yoon Dae Hyung.|
|Seo Hyun-chul||Shim San||From deputy minister of personnel elected to Chief Royal Secretary.|
|Lee Seung-hyung||Han Jae-gil||Elected from mayor to Minister of Defense.|
|Kim Seung-wook||Yoon Soo-chan||Ministry of taxation promoted to minister oat ministry personnel.|
|Yoon Hee-suk||Hong Gyu-tae||Guru at Uigeumbu (royal guard and secret police). The way he talks and acts are different from his colleagues. He is favored by King Hwon and accepted the king’s secret instruction. He investigates wearing commoners clothes and goes everywhere to investigate.|
Author Jung Eun-gwol also wrote the novel-turned-television drama Sungkyunkwan Scandal. The screenplay was written by Jin Soo-wan (writer of Capital Scandal); and directed by Kim Do-hoon (who previously directed Royal Family) and Lee Seong-jun (who previously directed Gyebaek).
In February 2012, there were talks of an extension of four episodes to the 20-episode drama. The production company, Ten Entertainment later confirmed that there would be no extension and the series was to end on its original date of March 8, 2012. However it did not end till March 15, 2012, because director Kim Do-hoon joined the MBC strike leading to the last two episodes being delayed for a week, and replaced with two special episodes.
Most of the royal palace scenes were filmed on location at MBC Dramia located at Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si in Gyeonggi-do Province. Where other historical dramas such as Dong Yi, Jumong and Queen Seondeok were also filmed. Other locations included the Residence of Choi Champan used as Yeon-woo’s childhood home and Korean Folk Village was used for local markets, private residences of commoners, and night scenes.