Why So Shy? Lee Do’s Intelligence as Leadership


Lee Do and the empty lunchbox his father sent, traditionally a suggestion of suicide

At the beginning of Tree with Deep Roots, Lee Do is already king, though his father is still alive. His father overshadows him; Taejong acts like he is still king. However, once Lee Do realizes it’s his intelligence that defines his leadership, he’s able to challenge his father and assert his rightful place as leader.

Clever Boy

At the beginning of the series, Lee Do hides from his father and his responsibilities by playing Sudoku. Clearly, he’s intelligent, but he seems too afraid for it to do any good. When his father sends him this empty lunchbox, it’s all the push he needs. He sees his Sudoku game in the lunchbox, and not only is he able to solve the game in the box, he solves his giant puzzle on the floor. He’s found his own way, through this math game and his game of wits with his father, to rule, rather than using his father’s way. Before sending the box, Taejong ridicules his son for his games and gave Lee Do his advice: “Remove every number except the one,” which is to say, keep all the power to yourself, and then you win. Lee Do decides his Joseon requires a balance between politics and intelligence. But in order to do that, he must outwit his father. The following confrontation between father and son is clearly tense, with both sides both concealing from the other and trying to figure out what the other is concealing. But when Lee Do finally gets his father to agree to build Jip Hyun Jun, his place of study with his scholars, it’s a win, though Taejong doesn’t realize. It is here, through this battle of wits and his acknowledgment and use of his intelligence, that Lee Do begins to make progress in becoming the leader he was born to be.


Lee Do’s intelligence is the defining characteristic of his leadership style. It’s ironic that his father is the one to push him into discovering this, through what is intended as an order of suicide. Lee Do takes this and twists it, turning it into a guiding principle for the rest of his reign.


“Episode 2.” Tree with Deep Roots. . 6 Oct. 2011. Television.

“Episode 3.” Tree with Deep Roots. . 12 Oct. 2011. Television.

Image Citation: http://i630.photobucket.com/albums/uu26/dramabeans/TWDR02/TWDR2-00598.jpg

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