We are now halfway through the series and it’s time to put together the mythology of the parallel universes in The King Eternal Monarch (TKEM). These are the rules we know so far:
1. The manpashikjeok
The portal is only accessible by those who possess the magic bamboo flute (or half of it), called the Manpashikjeok. The flute was sliced into half during an encounter between Gon and Rim in 1994 when Gon wielded the Four Tiger Sword. Whenever the portal is open, the sound of the flute is heard, though strangely in Episode 2, Head Court Lady Noh says that the flute make no sound.
In Episode 1, we are told that this flute has much more power than just opening a portal – it can apparently heal diseases, bring rain and defeat enemies, calm waves and what not – but thus far, we have only seen its power of healing – possibly why Rim has not aged at all, and why Gon did not die that night.
2. The location of the gate
The gate is located in a bamboo forest and is made up of two huge stone slabs that emerge when the song of the flute is heard. It is usually accompanied by thunder and lightning. In between the stone slabs, the portal appears to be mirror-like, a nod to the show’s constant reference to Alice in Wonderland. In fact, the parallels with Carroll’s work go beyond just the mirror as we have Gon even reading that book to the children.
3. The portal in between the worlds
Travellers through the worlds of Korea and Corea do not immediately enter the other world. They temporarily enter a portal which apparently has no light, no wind or air. Time flows differently there and watches do not even work in this portal. Gon is able to understand how time flows in this world because he calculates the Euler number. In episode 6, Tae-eul plants seeds in the soil in the portal, though Gon tells her there is no way the seeds will flower – of course we know they eventually will, since this is a world that does not work according to science, but through legend.
4. The effect of travelling through the portal
Whenever Gon or Rim travel across the portal, time pauses temporarily in whatever world they are in. However, we have also seen that both Gon and Rim have experienced extreme pain whenever there are bouts of thunder, with vein-like patterns on their faces (for Rim) and shoulder (for Gon). At this point, it’s not exactly clear whether the pain inflicted during those periods of thunder are related to movements across the portal.
5. Doppelgangers in both worlds
Though we have had Na Ri comment on how doppelgangers cannot co-exist in the same world, we have not seen that really happening. Yeung and Eun-Seob are in the same world, with no discernible effects.
The two doppelgangers have the same DNA and finger prints, but beyond that, it is perfectly possible for the characters in both worlds to have different fates and statues. The character parallels between the two worlds do exist, but there is no hint that their fates are intertwined in any way. We know that Rim has been killing people in the Republic of Korea and bringing their Corean-counterparts over, supposedly with the intent of building his own army. We learn in Episode 8 that Shin Jae was also from the world of Corea and brought over when he was young.
Putting together all the pieces thus far, here are some further questions I’m hoping the rest of the show will explore:
- The flute: The manpashikjeok was a tool for good and meant to bring forth peace and victory. Thus far, the portal has mainly been used for destructive purposes by Rim, but Gon is slowly discovering that as the monarch, he has a responsibility not only in Corea, but in the Republic of Korea and that is why he brings Yeong over. What is interesting though is that Gon is learning that as the monarch, his responsibility is not only over Corea, but also the world of Korea. I would like to see Gon using this portal more meaningfully and purposefully in time to come. Has the flute lost some of its power since it’s been split into half? What will happen when either Rim or Gon hold the entire flute?
- Time travel: Thus far, we have not been told or shown that the portal allows for travel through time. However, we know that time travel is on the cards for this show, so I’m hoping there will be a clear explanation of how that can work. Clearly, the person who saves Gon back in 1994 (in the opening sequence) has certainly travelled back in time as he is holding Tae-eul’s police badge from 11 Nov 2019. In episode 8, Song Jun-hye also hints that she has been resurrected several times, regardless of her attempts to commit suicide. The portal thus enables one to even play god by tinkering about with life and death.
- The sword: I’m really loving the literary references in this show, and in a more recent episode, we have seen references to the Excalibur, a sword that can only be wielded by someone who is worthy. This has definitely been hinted at earlier when Lee Gon’s father told him that the Four Tiger Sword has a calling and can only be wielded by the king to defeat evil. I would be disappointed if the sword was ultimately only a tool to kill Lee Rim. I’m hoping that in the episodes to come, we will indeed see a mounting force of “evil” that goes beyond just Lee Rim – a darkness that comes about as both universes start to collapse. We have already seen national tensions being dramatised in this show. What I’m hoping to see is a kind of ‘war’ breaking out across both universes, perhaps even in that timeless space in between, where the sword will play a decisive role.
It has been so much fun pulling together the puzzle pieces in The King Eternal Monarch. This is truly the joy of a KES drama – she writes dramas that lend themselves to endless analysis and theorising. If you are keen to read more, do go over to this site with so many articles analysing so many different aspects of the show!