Those who have read my previous posts as well as old tweets may have known that I love Kusanagi Mizuho‘s series Akatsuki no Yona (The Girl Standing in the Blush of Dawn) so much. I love how it’s a great historical fantasy/romance! It’s one of those series with well-written characters and intriguing plot. I love a lot of its characters, but for now, after re-reading the series, I decided to write a post focusing on the series’ antagonist — Soo-won.
Warning! This will include some spoilers from the manga!
Soo-won is an interesting character surrounded with a lot of mysteries. He is the antagonist of the series, but he’s not purely evil. 158 chapters in and I think we just barely scratched the surface of his character. Looking at how things are going in the latest chapters, however, I believe we’re closing in on events that will let us see more of his character. For now, I’d like to have a run-through of most of what we’ve seen of him so far along with some of my thoughts about them.
Soo-won: The pure, bright, young boy
We know that Soo-won is Yona’s cousin as he is the son of General Yu-hon, King Il’s brother. He clearly cares for and loves Yona and Hak. He did his best to cheer Yona up whenever she’s down, even volunteering to be like a mother to Yona when she was sad after her mother’s passing. Soo-won was a boy with a kind and cheerful attitude. Even when he was down with a cold, he was still seen smiling.Speaking of that cold, we also see that he’s also understanding of his father. He knew that Yuhon had a lot of things to do. Despite it being understandable and completely natural of a child to look for his parents, he still felt embarrassed that Yuhon had to visit him while he was sick. Still, he was clearly delighted that his father went all the way to do that.
It might have just been a small interaction between father and son, but it also shows just how much Soo-won respects and loves his father. It’s also seen during the time Soo-won recalled how his father said he didn’t mind not getting the throne as he would continue protecting the land and its people.
Even when young, I believe Soo-won was able to understand a lot of things. He is, after all, a bright boy. Nothing demonstrates this more than the time when Yona was kidnapped after they sneaked out of the castle.
Soo-won, even at such a young age, was able to mobilize a lot of people. This is all thanks to him being friendly and never judging people by their looks. He knows how to deal with people. Actually, he loves people in general and I think this is what makes him loveable and respectable even to those one would deem as “crude” people. That instance already displayed his potential in ruling the people.However, even when he was young, King Il was already standing in his way to be king. Not that it’s clear that he dreamed of being one ever since he was young. Honestly, I don’t think he dreamt of it already during that time. In any case, it was shown that Soo-won never got to set foot on the shrine of King Hiryuu because King Il strictly forbidden him. And it was a surprisingly scary King Il. Like he’d do anything just to prevent Soo-won from entering the place. Being who he is, Soo-won obeyed the late king.
At nine years old, Soo-won lost his father. It’s still a mystery how much he knows about the truth, but after knowing something about it, he’s changed.
Soo-won: The gentl– who are you?
Nine years later, he came to the castle to celebrate Yona’s birthday for a week. Someone pursued Yona and he happened to be there to calm her. I’m still skeptic about whether this is all orchestrated for her to have such a conversation with him or whether it’s truly an act done outside of Soo-won’s knowledge. Anyhow, Yona confessed to Soo-won but Soo-won admitted that he’s not knowledgeable about things like ‘love’. Even until the present time, around the latest chapters, it’s become a running joke how he’s teased about marriage by the older guys despite him dismissing them. (Poor Lily being dragged into it.
Though I honestly ship those two, too.)Anyway, five days after that, on the night of Yona’s 16th birthday, Yona witnessed her father fall down dead before her eyes as a never-before-seen Soo-won, bloody and with a sword in hand, stood in front of her. He admitted to killing the king and when Yona asked him, he told her how he was living for that day. Soo-won claimed that King Il killed his father after ascending the throne. I’d say that revenge is not all there is to it as he also wanted the throne to make the nation stronger. Killing the king is the option if he wouldn’t want to marry Yona.Honestly, I’m still baffled by the fact that he persistently refused to marry Yona. It seems he never had the desire even if that’s the easiest way to be king. He had Hak’s support. Yona liked him. The biggest interference to that would be King Il himself. Though it may be that he knew about it.
BUT HE DIDN’T HAVE TO KILL HAK AND YONA, DID HE? I used to think. But not killing Yona would mean that there would be another person with a royal blood. She’s also the daughter of the previous king, so she would be the fitting one to inherit the crown, her would-be husband the king. But Soo-won didn’t want to be Yona’s husband. It may be because of guilt of being her father’s killer; in any case, the only option left is to get rid of her. Along with Hak, because Hak spells trouble. And, I don’t know, maybe Soo-won also thought that Hak could unveil the truth and be a nuisance to them?
So, Hak and Yona ended up running away from the palace after Min-soo created an opportunity. This resulted in rumors that Hak killed the king and kidnapped the princess. After that, the five generals decided to crown Soo-won as king because he’s the only one left with royal blood. Not before having problems getting Mun-deok’s approval, though. But it shows that Soo-won knows what he was doing. He was wise and brave enough to threaten Mun-deok.Soo-won grew up with Yona, Hak, and with the people around them including King Il and Mun-deok. Soo-won knows just how much Mun-deok cares for the people of the Wind tribe, so he was confident when he said that the approval will be given. Mun-deok wouldn’t want to endanger his beloved people’s lives.
Kan Soo-jin asked him if they shouldn’t pursue to kill Hak and Yona because they could spread the truth and Soo-won told him that Hak wouldn’t be a fool to do such a thing as cause an uproar that would harm Yona. Soo-won is observant and is good at analyzing people. He knows exactly what approaches he should take towards other people.
I think that’s part of why he chose to act as if nothing happened when Kan Tae-jun went to tell him what happened after his guys pursued the two by the valley. Maybe it’s just also my wishful thinking, though, but I think he did that so that Tae-jun would feel so much remorse after killing Yona and Hak. Soo-won obviously got surprised and sad after knowing the two died. However, that was only for a short time as when the coronation day came, he stood with head held high.
He easily won a lot of people’s heart. Yu-hon had a fairly good reputation. He was even the expected king not just because he’s the elder son, but also because of his accomplishments. Some people already thought that Soo-won would be a magnificent king.
Soo-won had been preparing for the time he would be king. Slowly but surely, he had people supporting him. His love for Yona and Hak must be what caused him to doubt (he resolved not to doubt himself anymore during the coronation) himself. He must have moments when he thought twice about the plan, but his love for the people weighed more than his love for the two people he cared for ever since they were young.
Soo-won: A bunny or a tiger king?
Now a king, he is seen with two very different personalities. The usual one is a seemingly carefree, gentle, and innocent young king. He could jokes around the generals and doesn’t look serious most of the time. He is adorable every time he is like that. It’s impossible to think that he’s pretending because those moments look so genuine. I’m with Yona in thinking that his actions even before that fateful night aren’t fake at all. However, even during those times when he looks unharmful, he can manipulate things to stir up for a greater purpose.
Meanwhile, his other side is a cunning, passionate king, ready to do anything for the kingdom. Both of these were shown when he visited Chi’shin to solidify his relationship with General Geun-Tae.
It’s a wise move, actually, to get the Earth Tribe to his side. Soo-won knew that the tribe serve strong kings and Soo-won had to prove himself to be fitting of the throne. He visited the place to make a festival, to visit the mines, to make use of Yun-ho’s hobby. Everything he calculated to gain the respect of the Earth Tribe’s general. As Soo-won said, with the morale of the tribe being high with their leader being Geun-tae, they are a force important for the kingdom to be able to stand on its own.With Soo-won’s close relationship with Ogi the information broker, it must not have been difficult for Soo-won to be updated with the things happening around the kingdom. He must have been informed with the various problems existing in the tribes. Because of his passion — and most likely some prodding by shadier characters (*cough* Kye-sook *cough*) — he aimed to get the throne.
It has become clear that Soo-won is working toward that goal of uniting Kouka kingdom. Because of how King Il handled things, Kouka became vulnerable to attacks from outside nations. The tribes were divided. They had no political influence. It would have been just a matter of time before they could have been invaded had King Il continued to be on the throne. It is necessary to gain the trust of all the five generals.Soo-won is careful not to do something that will jeopardize his plans, which is why he can’t just do anything to Yona and Hak. Especially not now that Lili and Princess Tao declared how they are good friends with Yona. It would stir up trouble within the kingdom if they just brashly captured them.
I believe that Soo-won just wants to genuinely strengthen Kouka kingdom. I can’t assume yet if he’ll plan to resign after everything stabilizes and to entrust it to another person, but for now, it’s clear that he means no harm. Unless there’s someone threatening the unity of the kingdom. He’s ready to kill if it means that’s what’s needed to attain that goal. This is why he initially didn’t think twice of killing Yona and Hak even if they were important to him.This line could very well be a slap back to King Il. We still don’t have a full grasp of King Il’s character, too, because he is just as mysterious as Soo-won, Yu-hon, and Hiryuu are, but we can assume that King Il is a king that “prioritized one individual” over his country.See, this is from Soo-won’s flashback. It means that he knew that Yona is the reincarnation of King Hiryuu. And this may very well be a reason for King Il to protect Yona at the expense of the kingdom. It could be that he was avoiding conflicts so that she wouldn’t experience war. She was sheltered in the castle to be protected, ignorant of the growing need of the people. This resulted in the unresolved, growing problems of the tribes. They were ignored because he was focusing on protecting her too much. But these are all assumptions. It’s still a mystery if he really killed Yu-hon or not. If Soo-won saw it with his own eyes or not. King Il’s motivation for the possible murder is still a wonder, too. Another thing that baffles me is the fact that Soo-won actually admitted to Kye-sook at one point just some days after the regicide that King Il was a kind man. (Where he said one of his memorable lines — “Kindness is not a crime. But sometimes, it awakens weakness and greed in others.”)Anyway, Soo-won shows just how much his deep sense of responsibility is as a king with how everything he is doing is relevant to the the country. His thinking of marriage isn’t because of love, but because of a benefit he may gain out of it.
These points show that Soo-won is definitely not a black or white character and this makes him so intriguing. It makes you wonder how the future events will develop especially because he holds that power to move a nation.
Similarities and differences with Yona
Anyhow, it’s difficult to completely hate him for what he did to Yona because he shows just how much he cares for the country. Unlike Yona and friends who just happened to be traveling to the places where there were issues needed to be solved, Soo-won has plans. At times it felt like he could be a step later than the bunch, but he’s working with clear goals in mind. From that issue with the human trafficking in Awa, the nadai incidents in the Water Tribe, as well as the poverty in Fire Tribe. Soo-won was working to solve each of them in his way.Yona and Soo-won are similar in that respect — they want to solve the problems of the country because they care for the people. It’s just that Soo-won was capable of doing more things because of his position. They have the same goal of making Kouka a better place. Soo-won was sincerely doing those things. And he’s as indiscriminating as Yona is. That’s why I think Ki-ja and Shin-ah didn’t really feel something bad about him.That’s also how they are able to work together during that nadai issue with Hiyou in the Water Tribe territory. And, in extension (because Hak and Yona are on the same side, anyway), even during that time when Lily was rescued in Sei fort.
However, they could differ in methods, too, as in that approach when dealing with Xing Kingdom. When Soo-won was ready to march in to battle against Xing, Yona desperately did her best to persuade him to negotiate. Yona believed it was the way so that there would be less shedding of blood. Though I guess the difference in their stance is that Yona actually knew someone from Xing and it’s the second princess Tao to boot, so she understood more of the situation. So, in a sense there, I think Soo-won was similar with Princess Kouren in that they didn’t mind some more innocent lives to die so long as they win the battle.It’s interesting to note that after everything Yona experienced outside the castle, she came to accept that Soo-won is a strong leader and that he’s not leading a tyrannical government. I’m looking forward to seeing how Yona will view him after some time!
I think we’ll see more of his similarities and differences in the near future episodes.
Soo-won as Hak’s dear old friend
Now, Soo-won is a really important person to Hak, almost as much as Yona. Hak wanted Soo-won to be king. He wanted the two of them to be happy. He believed that Soo-won can bring Yona that happiness, especially because she loved him.
But Soo-won betrayed him. Even if Hak wanted Soo-won to be king, it happened in the gravest possible way. King Il murdered and Yona attacked and even attempted to be killed. They were chased out of the castle and had a near-death experience. All those happened the same day as Yona’s birthday, the day when Soo-won, with a smile, gives Yona a hairpin which she was so delighted to accept. Hak, betrayed by a dear friend and witnessed Yona’s devastated state, understandably got filled with rage so intense that he didn’t care if he hurt his friends back when they were in Sensui after dealing with the nadai dealers.
That time was the first time they saw each other so all of the bottled-up anger Hak was feeling so he just went ballistic. But Soo-won didn’t move an inch even if there’s just a few centimeters apart from them after Hak threw all of Soo-won’s guard then, including Joo-doh. I think this is because part of him felt that he deserved it for all that he did.
After that, he promised that he wouldn’t hold back anymore, but the next time was in Sei fort. Both sides aim to rescue the people taken, especially Lily and Yona. The first encounter in that place, Hak ended up with wounded (I think?) fingers as they spoke on the opposite sides of the wall. Then, as both their companies aimed to rescue the people, both sides targeted the enemies. It went so far as to see Hak and Soo-won teaming up to save Lily and it was such a heart-wrenching moment.It just leaves Yona’s question — if these two are allies, how much could the both of them have accomplished? Why did it turn out like this?
After that event settled, Joo-doh was ready to attack Hak, but Soo-won stopped him because it would cause a rift between them and the Wind Tribe whose alliance has always been with Hak. As I said earlier, this shows just how much Soo-won wants for the country to be united.
I honestly am hoping for Hak to forgive Soo-won (after he admits his mistakes and apologizes) so that they can be friends again even if it’s just casual because I still think that Soo-won cares for the two of them deep down in his heart. The first possible proof being their first encounter with just the two of them while in Awa, where Soo-won discovered that she’s still alive. He hid her from Joo-doh and his other guards. It was a deserted place so he had the opportunity, yet he chose to leave her. What other explanation could there be but that he cares for her? (Okay. Just let me dream and hope.)
The gods and the prophecy
“Darkness has befallen the land. The blood of the dragons will revive once more, and the ancient pact will be kept. When the four dragons are gathered, the sword and shield which will protect the king shall awaken. And the Red dragon shall be restored from the dawn at last.”
From the start, when Soo-won was crowned king and Mun-deok told him about how the gods are watching what he’ll do, Soo-won already made it clear that he doesn’t want the power of gods, but the power of people. He declared how he plans to restore Kouka as a mighty nation that if the gods would be against him, he won’t think twice about crushing them.
Kye-sook once found the book about the legend of the four dragons atop Soo-won’s table and he pointed it out, but Soo-won told him that he didn’t believe in a “fairy tale”. After knowing that the dragon warriors truly exist, he still didn’t show any interest in them. (Unlike that old fart Gobi.)Zeno, being the straightforward man that he is, asked Soo-won directly about it and Soo-won clearly told him that he isn’t interested in the four dragons. That look that Zeno gave him somehow gives me the feeling that Zeno actually understands Soo-won. When Soo-won first met him, Zeno was surprised he stopped in the midst of his sentence. This brings the assumption that Zeno, having observed Yona for a long time, has seen and known what Soo-won knew and did. Besides, Zeno wasn’t on the defense mode. I doubt he would let Yona be near him if he really thought that Soo-won was dangerous.With how things are going in the recent chapters, I doubt Kye-sook will stand still knowing that someone else is gaining a lot of influence than the king. Ever since before, the gods was revered higher than the kings. This is why the priests were chased out of the castle — their existence was threat to the kings.
As Yona is a reincarnation of the King Hiryuu and she was with the legendary four dragons, it’s not going to be a surprise anymore if a lot more people will target them in the near future. (OH PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM MY BABIES!!! ALL I WANT IS FOR THEM ALL TO BE SAFE AND SOUND AND HAPPY.)
On another note, Ik-soo gave the prophecy to them. The four dragon warriors have finally been gathered. They are to keep the pact to protect Hiryuu with their lives. The sword and shield supposedly awaken after they are gathered, but Ik-soo said that both probably aren’t ready yet. I’m sure that the Red dragon pertains to Yona because Hiryuu was the red dragon god who descended from heaven. Yona will surely be the key to bringing peace to the land.
And comes the the discussion of who the sword, shield, and the king may be though I’ll just make some separate post about it to cover some other thoughts. For now, I’ll focus on Soo-won. Some people think that Hiryuu’s soul was split into two — one in Yona while the other is in Soo-won. Honestly, I don’t think it’s the case.
Here, they’re looking at a bright star indicating that their “light of fire” has finally been born. I’m betting it was the time Yona was born. Zeno most likely went to check on the baby reincarnation of Hiryuu. He’d have known if Soo-won has something to do with Hiryuu because Soo-won is three years older than Yona. Also, Yona’s one of the four people who Zeno hugged by the end of the chapter (105) which showed Zeno visiting Ki-ja, Shin-ah, and Jae-ha when they were younger. A younger Yona wasn’t shown. But the star was there. So it could only pertain to Yona.
Moreover, the other three (Hakuryuu, Seiryuu, and Ryokuryuu) didn’t experience that ‘initiation’ they had when they saw Soo-won. I think that if ever Soo-won had at least part of Hiryuu’s soul, he’d at least have an effect on them but he didn’t.
Anyway, one of the possible meanings of the prophecy is that the “king” may not necessarily refer to king Hiryuu himself. It may literally mean the current king, as in Soo-won. And why would he need protection? It’s because he may be endangered. I mentioned earlier that I think the people with him are shady. Kye-sook, particularly, is a bothersome character. He’s always so adamant about killing Hak and Yona. And in the recent chapters, he’s so salty about Yona and it seems like he’s plotting something against them. Soo-won is too wise to let himself be used by others, but he can be deceived, too, if Kye-sook is the cunning person I think he is.
One other possibility — the first one I thought of before — is that Soo-won may be the ‘sword’ in the prophecy, while Hak is the ‘shield’. If this is so, then the ‘king’ and the ‘Red dragon’ should be one and the same. With this theory, the sword and shield aren’t ready yet because Hak and Soo-won aren’t in good terms yet. Hak will have to forgive Soo-won while Soo-won has to make a way to reconcile with Hak.
No matter if Soo-won is part of the prophecy or not, he’ll surely be part of the bigger things that will happen in the future. Darkness may mean a big uproar within Kouka or a huge war with, most likely, Kai Empire (as Xing and Sei Kingdoms are vassal kingdoms of Kouka now, after all). How excited I am to see more of him!
- He was a pure, bright child when he was young. (I wish a lot more would be taught not to discriminate people while young.)
- He changed after knowing his father’s death, but we can’t conclude if he really saw the crime in person.
- He can sacrifice those that he love for the greater good. (Still a question of whether it’s worth it.)
- He is genuinely aiming to unite Kouka because he wants it to stand strong and independent of other nations.
- While sharing the same desire for the betterment of Kouka, his methods may be different from Yona’s.
- It’s possible that he still cares for Hak and Yona.
- He and Hak could have accomplished lots of kickass things together!
- He doesn’t desire the power of gods but its existence may cause trouble with his plans.
- He may or may not be part of the prophecy told by Ik-soo.
- He is a fascinating character worth looking into!
- It’s exciting to look forward to his appearances!
I SHIP SOO-WON X LILY! HE’S HOT!
- I LOVE LOVE LOVE SOO-WON!
The end. Bows.
Somehow I keep starting segments that I fail to have follow-up posts on. I hope that this time, I’ll be able to do better. Ugh.
Also, if you reached this part, congratulations! And thank you thank you thank you very much for bearing with this post! It became longer than I expected. I actually doubt many people will finish reading it. If you got to the end of it, I’m so grateful! I just hope I didn’t bore you too much. And I’d love to discuss Soo-won and Akatsuki no Yona with you!
Thanks for reading!