Review: Sungkyunkwan Scandal (By Canto)

Sungkyunkwan Scandal <성균관 스캔들> 
South Korean KBS Drama 2010
Genre: Korean period rom-com
Episodes: 20


Micky Yoochun as “Lee Sun Joon”  or “Perfect Husband”
Park Min Young as “Kim Yoon Hee”
Bang Joon Seo as “Young Yoon Hee”
Song Joong-Ki as “Gu Yong Ha” or “Yeo-Rim”
Yoo Ah In as “Moon Jae Shin” or “Crazy Horse”
Seo Hyo Rim as “Ha Hyo Eun”
Jun Tae Soo as “Ha In Soo”


Sungkyunkwan Scandal, despite its odd name, is about cross dressing. It’s also about a bunch of youngsters like F4 dressed in saeguk grab and spouting Confucianism.

Identity crisis…? Heck cares…


 “A scholar who only knows words of strong righteousness but fails to understand ordinary citizens…. If those who sell penmanship in order to survive are considered thievery, then can those who sell smooth words to gain power in parliament are considered loyal citizens? If someone should be accused of thievery, that person would be me.”

These words were written in ink on the expensive dress of our hero’s back, in a prank played on him by the heroine, Kim Yoon Hee, on the grounds of an imperial exam hall.

“Is this a new way of cheating?”  The invigilator asked.

There starts the funny and yet heart-warming F4 in saeguk disguise that is Sungkyunkwan Scandal.

Lee Sun Joon, played by Micky Yoochun, is the son of the current Prime Minister. He is a Confucian scholar, learned and humble, something of a genius as he tops his cohort in every exam, and straight laced to the point of being “stiff,” “fuddy-duddy,” “wise beyond his years”  and dare I say it, “bookworm.”

Our heroine, Kim Yoon Hee, took on the identity of her sick brother, Yoon Shik, to provide for her family as unmarried girls cannot work in ancient times. Her father, a university lecturer, had died mysteriously. Since a child, Yoon Hee had eagerly absorbed the teachings of her father by listening secretly while her father educated her brother. Although learning was frowned upon for girls, she shows a great aptitude for academics.

She cheats for a living by sitting for examinations on behalf of rich men’s sons who were too lazy to do well on their own by pretending to be them. She encounters Sun Joon when she was pretending to be a man at the imperial exam. When the king singles her out for her well written essay and personally appoints her to Sungkyunkwan University, she has no choice but to continue using her brother’s identity card.

The fun begins when Yoon Shik walks into the halls of Sungkyunkwan, a prestigious learning institution for nurturing the nation’s next generation of leaders.

Picked on by the male students for her pretty boy face, she strikes up an odd friendship with the F4, namely Sun Joon, Moon Jae Shin (played by Yoo Ah In) and Yong-ha (played by Soong Joong Ki).

Hands up everyone who has a gross nickname in school!

Our F4:

1. Sun Joon – a.k.a. Garang meaning “Perfect Husband”. Because he is the perfect man that every girl wished to marry.

2. Jae Shin – a.k.a. Geol-Oh meaning “Crazy Horse”. Yeah, he is crazy alright.3. Yong ha – a.k.a. Yeo-rim meaning he is a playboy and flirt.

3.  Yong ha – a.k.a. Yeo-rim meaning he is a playboy and flirt.

4. Yoon Shik – a.k.a. our heroine in disguise as her brother. Nicknamed Daemul  which she hates because it means something dirty. Yeah, like he has a “Big Shot” between his legs.

How did a girl get named “Big Shot”? During an initiation rite where the seniors pulled pranks on newbies, Yoon Shik was tasked to obtain the undergarments of Cho-sun, the most beautiful and haughty courtesan in Joseon. Don’t ask me how she did it, but Cho-sun, the haughty beauty, was so taken by this pretty boy that she offered her undergarments to Yoon Shik as a welcome present. Hm, some kind of welcome present… And she wrote a poem on her underwear too. That was how Yoon Shik acquired the title of Daemul “Big Shot”.

I must admit. The bed scenes are my favorite.

Yoon Shik finds to her dismay, that she is sharing a room with Sun Joon “Perfect Husband” and Jae Shin “Crazy Horse” in a cozy threesome.

Let me explain:

  • “Crazy Horse” usually sleeps naked and only puts on his pants when he has room-mates.
  • Daemul “Big Shot” is too afraid to undress and sleep fully clothed, even though Confucius says that is rude to walk around in wrinkled clothes.
  • “Perfect Husband” doesn’t sleep at all and prefers to study through the night.

So they end up looking like this:

Not a pretty picture.

Seriously, Sungkyunkwan Scandal is a little gem of a drama that I discovered, so now I am sharing my secret with you.

Only that it isn’t that much of a secret. I think it has a following of many fans. It won the below awards since it was aired:

  • 2012 New York International TV & Film Festival: Bronze World Medal for Best Mini-Series
  • 2011 47th Baeksang Arts Awards: Popularity Award (Micky Yoochun)
  • 2011 47th Baeksang Arts Awards: New Actor (Micky Yoochun)
  • 2010 KBS Drama Awards: Excellence Award, Novella Drama – Actress (Park Min Young)
  • 2010 KBS Drama Awards: Newcomer Actor Award (Micky Yoochun)
  • 2010 KBS Drama Awards: Popularity Award (Song Joong Ki)
  • 2010 KBS Drama Awards: Netizens’ Award (Park Min Young and Micky Yoochun)
  • 2010 KBS Drama Awards: Best Couple Award (Park Min Young and (Micky Yoochun)
  • 2010 KBS Drama Awards: Best Couple Award (Song Joong Ki and Yoo Ah In)

For me, what worked for the show were:

1. Confucian sprouting

Hey, it’s pretty cool to see words appear in the air when the characters recite from the analects. Seriously, the academic competition between Sun Joon, “Crazy Horse,” and Yoon Shik were pretty cool as well. Welcome to the official club of bookworms!

2. Puzzling why the boys in the university cannot see that Yoon Shik is a girl. Yeah, I know she is in a man’s attire and such, but she has a girly face, right?

3. The bro-mance between Sun Joon and “Crazy Horse,” between “Crazy Horse” and Yeo-rim, between Sun Joon and Yeo-rim, yeah you got the picture. Nothing like a bout of tender, tear-wiping brotherly love!

4. Sun Joon wondering if he has gone crazy falling for a pretty face boy.

I would almost pity the poor guy if it weren’t so darned funny. At one point he felt that he was sullying Confucian virtue by harboring secret lust for his room-mate.

Alas, the tribulations of first/ young love!

5. And lastly, a very satisfying discovery scene when Sun Joon finally discovered that Yoon Shik is a girl with a very tightly bandaged chest. It was not funny at all. In fact it was sweet and tender.

I hope you liked my introduction and review to the drama.

This review was written by Canto, a Contributing Writer at

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    1. Yeah you are right it is.

      I thought of Butterfly Lovers when I first watched it but forgot to mention it.

      Thanks for this.

      1. I watched the Show Luo-Noel Leung version of that and really liked it (by memory). I was sooo shocked to find out so many years later that Show was the main guy!

      2. Just checkout the pictures of the drama. Wow, I didn’t recognise Show at all. She looks so different back then.

  1. Wow very good review………so nicely and aptly reviewed..and is a must watch for me..thanks canto for the review…so funny and tempting

  2. Never be able to watch Korean movie….Not even for 1 minute…Sorry….Not interested.

    1. You really should give Korean series a try and not be so close minded. They can be really good but you just need to give them a chance.

  3. From Canto’s review, the drama sounds light and refreshing. I would be interested in watching it, whereas The Princess’ Man sounds more heart-wrenching.

    The plot of Sungkyunkwan Scandal, which focuses on a woman posing as a man (thus confusing the hero into thinking he fell for another man) reminds me of “Shakespeare in Love,” Anita Yuen’s movie, “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” and Korean drama, “Coffee Prince.”

    I think female audiences especially may find the idea of dressing as a man liberating, where she can hang out with the guys and get inside their heads. So there is a secret thrill to this aspect, which is why it appears to be a plot device we see quite often.

    1. Yes, it’s a common prop in dramas and movies and been’s done many times.

      In reality though, I think it’s quite impossible for a girl to look like a guy without the guy knowing. I would imagine in order to succeed the girl would have to look quite manish.

      1. Every time I see a girl dressing up as a girl in the movie, I just think : “ADAM’S APPLE PEOPLE!”

      2. I agree that they should just look to see if they have an adam’s apple. I remember in Saga of the Lost Kingdom(old TVB series), Dicky did that to Jacqueline to check if she was a guy since she always dressed as one. He was right…

      3. Yeah, the butterfly lovers in Chinese literature should be a work of fiction then.

        Girl dressed as guy are used as a drama prop. Can’t think of any with guy dressed as girl.

  4. This is a korean drama. I saw it. It is try good. very funny i thought as he is trying to deal with the fact he is attracted to a guy who really is a girl. Kinda like the korean drama Coffee Prince

  5. This cross dressing drama is highly recommended and is a must watch for those learned scholars out there to learn a thing or two haha 🙂 whoa Canto you rock for intro a superb k drama long live k drama

  6. This is one hell of awesome drama n the main reason i fall hard for Micky Park Yu Chun….Please watch his latest drama currently still showing in Korea..Rooftop Prince..another great hilarious drama!

  7. Totally awesome k drama. Loved it be it whatever era and genre but like Jayne says it is really very refreshing and it is love at first sight for me just by reading the review and I have to watch it now. Thanks Canto for the good review and the pics are really funny.

  8. What a review. Make me gotta watch it but 20 episodes is kinda easy to watch compared to those never ending episodes in some k drama which puts me off….but this review by Canto is amazing and that sparkles the interest and ignite the passion for k show again especially ancient period and yeah the pictorial review is just enticing and captivating. Good work

    1. I must say that some Korean series are like NEVER ending… I used to like the fact that they were a lot shorter, but lately the ancient ones are just so long. I just saw one that was 124 episodes and it was sooo boring and redundant that I couldn’t stand it… Goodness…

      1. The annoying thing about long Korean dramas is that it is filled with crazy dramatic shiz.. I prefer TVB sitcoms, more relaxing to watch, funny moments.

    2. Thanks Tek! I just wrote this review cos I like the drama.

      I am not a fan girl or anything… 🙂

      But looks like Micky Yoochun has lots of fans…

  9. SSK Scandal is a must-watch. Only 20ep. Enligtening. Amusing. Drama-comedy Make u a sudden scholar. Chemistry between the 4 leads is damn good. Storyline flow is fast, once u start, u will not stop. In the story, Confucian say, a scholar must be consistent, once u start something, u must finish it. Better not start, if u stop half-way. That teach u to be persistent, passionate in life no matter what . Learn a lot from this drama “SSK Scandal” – long live. Don’t get scare off due to its “period-drama” theme. SSK is the best. I love it, read the recap many times, watch many times, even when it’s air on KBS, its repeat airing, watch all its Behind-The-Scenes, Uncut Scenes. It’s my duty to pass this scandal around. Hilarious, touching.

  10. Hi Canto,
    Thank you for starting this thread on SKK Scandal. Appreciate your review. Of course, anything on SKK is welcomed by us. SKK is so special to us. Also thank you Jaynestars for this website.
    Watching SKK definitely worth your time. Worth watching. You won’t regret it. In our humble opinion, as the story progresses, we are captivated by SKK. We have the urge and interest to know what the next storyline is. Fun yet suspense. SKK make us wanting more. SKK grows on you.
    Lines from SKK on Analects of Confucius 論語 such as:
    “How can a Confucius scholar be so fickle and inconsistent?”
    “Smile once, once younger; frown once, once older”
    “Every smile takes away a year, every frown add on one”
    “One shouldn’t start something, one can’t finish”
    “Stopping in the middle is worse than not having started at all”

    SKK 1398 is a real college, still exist today 2012, and affiliated to Confucius 孔子 values. We are amazed by the Koreans on their creativity in producing a lot of excellent quality Kdramas.
    Do support the lead male “Lee Sun Joon” Micky Park Yoochun 朴有天 current kdrama SBS “Rooftop Prince”. It is no.1 in rating 12.5% still rising (in comparison to other 2 dramas airing at the same time i.e. 21:55) in SKorea now (every Wed, Thurs on SBS @21:55). Currently airing. Next week 2012-04-11 ep7, 8. Like SKK, also total 20ep. Another comical funny drama. Life is so tense, fast pace, it is soothing to go home and watch a comedy drama. Prepare to laugh.

  11. Yes totally agree this is the scandal of the year….thanks canto and Jayne for sharing with us this every episode…must watch for all k fans

  12. Thanks Canto…just about to finish watching it now..must say it is superb…very nice show and really deserving the best k drama period…will intro to all k fans out there and all drama lovers….very comical…and the actors are solid

  13. Yoo Ah In + his mane of glory! <3

    To be honest, I found the drama rather dull and it was only thanks to the bromance brewing between Jae-shin and Yeo-rim that kept me on board. (Not to mention, Jae-shin's perpetual bouts of hiccups around Yoon Hee.) No wonder they snagged the best couple award ahead of the main pairing.

    I have to say, I much prefer Micky's current series, Rooftop Prince. Shame it's up against King 2 Hearts and I have to catch up with both.

    1. Hi skinnymocha,

      Yoo Ah In (Jae Shin) is in Fashion King. Are you watching that too?

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