The King 2 Hearts (Hangul: 더킹 투하츠) is a 2012 South Korean television series, starring Ha Ji-won and Lee Seung-gi in the leading roles. It is about a South Korean crown prince who falls in love with a North Korean special agent. It aired on Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) from March 21 to May 24, 2012 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 20 episodes.
It is set in an alternate universe, where modern-day South Korea is governed by a constitutional monarchy descended from the Joseon Dynasty. Lee Jae-ha (Lee Seung-gi) is a handsome yet materialistic crown prince who doesn’t care about politics and feels total reluctance to being the second in line to the throne. Lee Jae-kang, the current king, tricked him into joining a joint military collaboration with North Korea as a means to help “make him grow up”.
Meanwhile, Kim Hang-ah (Ha Ji-won) is a North Korean Special Forces Officer who is also the daughter of a North Korean military high command official. Both Jae-ha and Hang-ah meet at the joint military training, a crucial part in establishing friendly relations between the two separate countries. Although the two met each other with a fiery disposition, Jae-ha unwittingly sparks a friendship with Hang-ah and he subsequently falls in love with her. Soon, an arranged marriage is set up between the two and they eventually become engaged. While they attempt to set their differences aside and build a growing relationship, things suddenly take a turn for the worse when King Jae-kang and his wife were assassinated in cold blood by the devious Club M, who are led by John Meyer/Kim Bong-gu, a mysterious magician who wishes to remove the Royal Family and rule in their stead. Now crowned the new King of South Korea, Jae-ha must learn to be responsible and protect the country before it is too late.
- Ha Ji-won as Captain Kim Hang-ah
The main heroine – A North Korean Special Forces officer and instructor known in the military to be an “Iron Lady” with absolutely no femininity within her. She is the only daughter of the Deputy Minister of the North Korean Ministry of Unification. Although tough and fearsome on the surface, at heart she is a shy maiden who struggles to find her companion for life. After a few incidents involving her and the South Korean prince (“the archenemy of the socialist state and the people”), Jae-ha falls in love with her during the training mission. After Prince Jae-ha confesses his feelings for her on TV, Hang-ah is assigned to spy on the royal family and goes to South Korea. Hang-ah gets engaged to the Prince and moves into the palace, but she struggles to learn about the South Korean lifestyle and tries her best to impress the Queen Mother with her newly learned, but poorly pronounced South Korean dialect and manners. Then King Jae-kang is assassinated and Princess Jae-shin becomes permanently crippled. Inspired by her faithful love to Prince Jae-ha, the first man in the entire universe who actually considers and treats her as a woman, Hang-ah decides to stay behind and hold up the royal roof along with the newly crowned King Jae-ha.
- Lee Seung-gi as Prince Lee Jae-ha (later King Jae-ha)
- Kang Han-byul as young Jae-ha
The main protagonist – The Crown Prince of South Korea with an assumed IQ of 187. An arrogant and irresponsible individual who surprisingly displays a lot of charisma. Unknown to many, Jae-ha chose to be an arrogant man due to his reluctance to take the throne. When his brother, King Jae-kang, ascended to the throne, he assumed that he can live an indulgent “playboy” lifestyle for the rest of his life. As his two years of conscripted service comes to a close, he was unknowingly tricked by his brother into participating in a joint military exercise between North and South Korea, organized by the King and the North Korean Military Command. King Jae-kang also used this as an opportunity to teach his brother a lesson and “help him grow up”. However, his personality did not sit well with his teammates, who eventually saw him as a royal pain.
As a means to whip him into shape, North Korean Representative and Captain Kim Hang-ah “threatened” him into submission right after their first encounter. After a bumpy ride through each undertaken mission and a love/hate relationship with Hang-ah, Jae-ha eventually realized he had an attraction to the hard yet innocent female, a fact he constantly denied. Long after the completion of their training, a rumor “King Jae-kang once considered North Korean Captain Kim as a potential candidate for Prince Jae-ha’s consort” was spread against the palace’s wishes. As a means to stem the rumors and assuage the public, Jae-ha decided to publicly state that he is “indeed in love with the North Korean” to ease the political fire targeted towards his elder brother. He was subsequently engaged to Captain Kim Hang-ah and now must somehow transform their “marriage of convenience” into a real romantic relationship. However, before any of that could take place, Jae-ha only found himself in a bigger mess after the assassination of the royal couple. Now crowned the King of South Korea, he must act fast and be mature and responsible like his so-called “old-headed” brother, before everything he cherishes in his heart falls apart. Faced with the possibility of his future wife being responsible or remotely related to the assassination, Jae-ha must now choose to trust his heart or his adviser. Heart triumphed over logic and the two found themselves growing deeper affections for one another throughout the ordeal. Even though so, public sentiment could not rest and continual accusations unto Jae-ha’s bride comes in waves. Succumbing to deceitful persuasion from the King’s oldest and most trusted adviser, Hang-ah was forced to undergo public persecution.
Jae-ha, once known never to care for another being in his life, didn’t sense how much the persecution was straining Hang-ah and their relationship. His lack of display of concern was wrongly translated as being uncaring which deeply hurt Hang-ah. Harsh words were spoken against him and Jae-ha being the immature and egocentric self he is ordered for her exile back to the North. All seemed to be lost in this relationship, Jae-ha seemingly complacent and proud of his decision, until time wrought by the separation made him come to terms with his own true feelings. Regret and remorse stemmed his very soul during these times but with Hang-ah far-away in the North, out of reach and sight, there was little hope for reconciliation.
The timing could not have been worse when a public news report came from the North reporting that Hang-ah had suffered a miscarriage. Jae-ha is now faced with negative press not only for being an irresponsible king but also a selfish, sex-crazed monster. In spite of the horrible accusations, Jae-ha can only think about how hurt and pained Hang-ah must be and immediately devised a plan against his adviser’s wishes.
All great men have their sidekicks and this came to be no other than Eun Shi-kyung whose loyalty would surpass familial relations. With courage behind their back, King Jae-ha heads North and crosses the border with his life at stake. All this won him a chance meeting with Hang-ah but did nothing to impress her or soothe her wrath and pain towards the loss of her child. His “clever and heroic” ways were scoffed at by Hang-ah who believes with all her heart that he only knows how to look good. But that won’t do for her, as her heart will never change for him again.
Though grossly misunderstood, Jae-ha insistently stayed in the North, knowing many enemies are after his head, in the hope that Hang-ah will believe in him again.
- Jo Jung-suk as Eun Shi-kyung
The son of chief adviser Eun Kyu Tae, he is a South Korean military man who participates in the joint collaboration. Later promoted to the Royal Guard, he is absolutely loyal and strict by nature, initially detested by Prince Jae-ha due to his “old-headed”-ness resembling King Jae-kang. He is romantically interested in Princess Jae-shin.
- Yoon Je-moon as Kim Bong-gu
The main villain, a magician by day and an arms dealer by night. He decides to assassinate the South Korean king after peace talks are established between both sides of 38th Parallel which threatens the interest of his weapons business. He also has an even darker side waiting to be revealed.
- Lee Yoon-ji as Lee Jae-shin (Princess Jae-shin)
The Princess of South Korea, Prince Jae-ha and King Jae-kang’s younger sister, a royal by day and an underground rock band singer by night. She has a somewhat naughty sense of humor, which once got her arrested by Eun Shi-kyung (not knowing her true identity) when she dressed down and made fun of her royal self. However, she is paralyzed after her brother Jae-kang’s death and her kidnapping.
Jae-ha’s and Jae-shin’s oldest brother is the King of South Korea, a caring and responsible man to both the Royal Family and the rest of the country. After witnessing the collapse of the Berlin Wall on TV during childhood, he was inspired and later organized a plan to join the North and South Korean militaries in a world-scale competition between military officers. He also he sent Jae-ha into the team to be trained with the hope of transforming him into one who can be sufficiently responsible as a member of the Royal Family. He was assassinated along with his wife Queen Hyun-joo during their vacation. It was later revealed that one of his deepest desires in life is to retire from the throne and go work as a farmer in the countryside. Also revealed is that the entrance password of his Royal Diary is the cheering slogan for the South Korean football team in the FIFA World Cup, which was later bitterly commented by King Jae-ha to be “lame.”
- Yoon Yeo-jeong as Bang Yang-seon (Queen Mother Yang-seon)
The Queen Mother, mother of King Jae-kang, Prince (later King) Jae-ha and Princess Jae-shin. She was the first commoner-born Queen of South Korea. She knows the secret recipe of an ancient Korean clam soup that the members of the Royal Family like; only Korean queens are entrusted with this recipe. She becomes fond of Hang-ah after seeing her take care of Princess Jae-shin. She is outraged when King Jae-ha sends Hang-ah back to North Korea after a fight. She is later kidnapped along with Hang-ah by Kim Bong-gu, the murderer of her son Jae-kang and daughter-in-law Hyun-joo.
- Lee Soon-jae as Eun Kyu-tae
The palace chief adviser who plays a key role in the scheme plotted against the South Korean royalty by John Meyer. Jae-ha later finds out the truth about Eun Kyu-tae’s involvement with Club M.
- Jung Man-shik as Rhee Kang-seok
A North Korean military man who participates in the join collaboration. Though he publicly denounces South Korean pop groups like Girls Generation, he secretly admires their music and get outraged when someone discover this side of his character. Skilled in a variety of Asian martial arts, he is seen precisely throwing dart-knives and using a Rocket-propelled grenade as a spear.
- Kwon Hyun-sang as Yeom Dong-ha
A South Korean military man who participates in the joint collaboration. Later he is promoted to the Royal Guard. He offers advice to Prince Jae-ha in several schemes involving the capture of Hang-ah’s heart.
- Choi Kwon as Kwon Young-bae
A North Korean military man who participates in the joint collaboration. He suggested a group photo between North and South Korean officers during the farewell party after the training mission. It is later revealed that he is a skilled sniper and his marksmanship was proven useful in saving King Jae-ha when he was threatened by a North Korean terrorist sent by John Meyer.
- Lee Do-kyung as Kim Nam-il
Deputy Minister of the North Korean Ministry of Unification and Captain Kim Hang-ah’s father. He is concerned about the fact that his daughter is having a hard time trying to get married. When Hang-ah becomes the target of public suspicion for King Jae-kang’s death, he quickly revealed the North Korean investigation result to King Jae-ha. Although constantly upset by Jae-ha’s attitude towards his daughter, he manages to cast his political influence within the North Korean command in order to save him from the radical faction within the Korean People’s Army.
- Jun Gook-hwan as Hyun Myung-ho
Chairman of the North Korean Supreme Commission of People (aka the Head of State). He had secretly met the South Korean ambassador concerning the fact that there was a black box of coal ashes and a “North Korean model” smart phone found at the death site of the late King Jae-kang. While he does not like King Jae-ha, he is reluctant to fight against him.
- Yum Dong-hyun as Park Ho-chul
Prime minister of South Korea. He was threatened by King Jae-ha that if he does not publicly reveal the investigation results for the late King Jae-kang’s death, he would not only vote against passing the bill to raise the salary of government officials, but he would use his royal power to veto it instea
- Lee Yeon-kyung as Park Hyun-joo (Queen Hyun-joo)
The wife of King Jae-kang and sister-in-law to Jae-ha and Jae-shin, she loves her husband deeply and dreams about having a lot of kids someday. She was assassinated along with her husband during their vacation.