Aired on tvN in 2018, the drama Mr. Sunshine is set in Hanseong during the Korean Empire in the early 20th century, which period did not receive many highlights in historical dramas. This drama stirred various discussions about its historicity and historical investigation by mixing the landscape of Hanseong in the 1910s and that of Gyeongseong in the 1930s through intentional time and space entanglement. Why does it summon the “modern” custom of the colonial period? How is the background of the drama, Gyeongseong in the 1930s, related to its narrative and romance? This study set out to examine the drama on an extension of “colonial modern” reproduction that was in vogue since the 2000s and investigate the meanings of its character’s nation and gender that received little attention in previous discussions.
In this drama, time and space entanglement is not restricted only to materials. It happens partially based on even conventional characters and narrative structures in romance that unfolds in the time and space of colonial Gyeongseong, thus holding importance. The drama critically inherits movies and dramas set in colonial Gyeongseong made since the 2000s. Here, the main characters’ relations with a nation are apparent as they are formed differently according to the characteristics and gender of characters. Unlike the old “modern boys,” Eugene Choi has no conflicts between Japan and Joseon. Instead, he shows off his transnational and military masculinity based on his American nationality and soldier status and keeps protecting the heroine. On the other hand, the heroine Go Ae-shin is set as a confident and independent character but ends up similar to other heroines in colonial romance since the 2000s as she serves as an opportunity for the hero to return to Joseon through romance.
This discussion offers an inquiry into the changing patterns of reproducing “modern” during the colonial period and shows how the appearance of new romance reflects the current perceptions of gender and nation as dramas project the desire and logic of “current” times in historical events and characters. There is a special need to focus on the risky companion of fascination with modern and nationalist logic in the reproduction of colonial Gyeongseong in the 1930s since the 2000s. It shows that the complex and sometimes contradictory perceptions of individual and gender and people and state have been expressed in the landscapes of the 1930s. Both the achievements and limitations of Mr. Sunshine are the results of stitching up this issue of risky companion properly through romance.