New K-Drama Struggles Amid Critique Over Female Lead’s “Pretty Face”


Captivating The King is a new tvN-made weekend K-Drama on Netflix, starring high-profile cast members like Jo Jung Suk and Shin Se Kyung. Following the first few episodes, however, viewers are divided—in particular, over the female lead’s character.

“Captivating The King” | tvN

Shin’s character, Kang Hee Soo, is described to be the Chief State Councillor’s daughter. On a mission to earn ransom for captives taken to Qing, Kang disguises herself as a man named Kang Mong Woo and makes bets around town as the unnamed baduk master.

Shin Se Kyung as “Kang Mong Woo” | tvN

Since an @star1 critique pointed out Shin’s “full face of makeup” being the most unconvincing feature of the K-Drama, viewers have chimed in via posts on online communities like theqoo.

The critique read, “While it is evident that Shin Se Kyung tried her best to create a woman-pretending-to-be-a-man character,” the actress’s pretty face “gets in the way” of make-believe.

| tvN

Shin Se Kyung’s face, even as the disguised male version of the character, glows. It’s too pretty to convince the viewers, even with some room for flexibility considering it is a K-Drama after all. From her silky smooth skin to the perfectly arched eyebrows, and rose-pink lip gloss, there’s nothing masculine about the character who is supposed to be tricking people into believing she’s a man.

— Hwang Yeon Do for @star1

Some viewers agreed that the excessive makeup is unconvincing—comparing Shin to other actresses like Moon Geun YoungYoon Eun Hye and Park Eun Bin who also took on characters that disguised to be seen as a man.

| theqoo “I thought of it as her pretending to be a delicate aristocrat man… But I guess people could’ve seen it in a different light.” “What can the actresses do, though? Their faces are beautiful. Nothing is going to make them look 100% masculine. Just sit down and watch it.” “But that is legit what she looks like. It’s a K-Drama. Watch it for what it is.” “What is she supposed to do, then? Change what she looks like?” “We are aware that men can be beautiful, too. Right?” | theqoo “I like Shin as an actress. But the makeup for this K-Drama is a bit much. It doesn’t go with her character and it’s unconvincing TBH. Too bad.” “The makeup around her eyes does seem a bit excessive.” “She did mention in an interview that she was directed not to change her voice to be masculine. So…” “I mean, it is true that her makeup is quite feminine. I would not believe that she’s a man. I don’t even believe that she’s portraying a character that’s supposed to be disguising as a man.”

Others slammed the critic for “basically picking on [her] for being beautiful.”

| theqoo “Admit it. You all think the makeup is a bit much.” “I haven’t seen the show. But seeing from the pictures, it does look like her makeup is on the feminine side.” “I don’t care too much about the makeup. But Park Eun Bin did a much better job portraying a female character disguising to be a man. She tried to splash masculinity in the way she acted or talked. But, IMO, Shin Se Kyung is portraying a woman.” “Color makeup for a character who’s supposed to be disguising as a man?!” “The pictures made me crack up as soon as I clicked. Haha. I wasn’t expecting all of that.” “I mean, based on the pictures, it does feel like she should’ve cut down on the amount of makeup. Is the critique wrong?” “I haven’t watched the show, but based on the pictures of Shin Se Kyung in her role… It does seem unconvincing.” “Let’s be real. Yoon Eun Hye in Coffee Prince was the only one who REALLY pulled off the ‘disguise as a man’ thing. LOL. Shin Se Kyung is definitely wearing way too much makeup for this. So feminine, haha.”

Captivating The King is set to run for 16 episodes. Will the upcoming episodes be able to turn things around—as the plot thickens between a king with no one to trust and a baduk master-turned-spy?

The viewer ratings for “Captivating the King” episodes 1 through 5.

Watch Shin Se Kyung’s portrayal of Kang Hee Soo (Kang Mong Woo) in Episode 5 below.

 Will the upcoming episodes be able to turn things around? 

Related Posts

Scroll to Top