Nine years after this worldwide hit Korean drama series Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum) was first shown in the Philippines in 2005 and was a phenomenal success among Filipinos, It is also a drama that my Korean intellectual friends know. I finally watched the drama in July 2014. I am not really a full-fledged drama addict; I do not like sad endings and tearjerkers and do not have the patience to watch dramas in installments. I have a preference for light comedy-romance dramas that are usually between 10-20 episodes max, so I was hesitant to watch a 54-episode historical drama even when everybody was raving about it. But after watching my first “serious” Korean historical drama, I was not disappointed.
Jewel in the Palace is a fictional drama based on a Korean historical figure Seo Jang-geum (played by Lee Young-ae) during the reigns of King Seongjong (1457–1494), King Yeonsan (1494–1506) and King Jungjong(1506–1544). It follows the story of Jang-geum, an orphaned kitchen cook who went on to become the Joseon dynasty king’s first female royal physician. Min Jeong-ho (played by Ji Jin hee) is a goodlooking and intelligent outstanding Korean scholar who became romantically involved with Jang geum.
Lee Young-ae’s portrayal of Jang-geum, marked by her warm smile despite all the challenges that came her way is very powerful. The child actress who portrayed the little girl Jang geum was really good; I liked the way she recited the memorized passages from the classics and the medicinal properties of herbs. Ji Jin-hee was really dashing and one of the more good-looking Korean actors that I have encountered.
Jewel in the Palace sparked my interest in Korean historical dramas. I thought Jewel in the Palace would be boring, but this drama combined the elements of history, Korean culture (Korean royal court cuisine and traditional medicine), comedy, romance, tragedy, mystery and intrigue to make the plot interesting. Moreover, Jang geum’s perseverance in a time when women’s status in society was low was truly inspiring. The use of traditional Korean music in the theme song “Onara” also enhanced the drama.