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[Revisiting Dramas] Dae Jang Geum: Third time’s the charm

By TheCynicalOptimist

As soon as I saw the post for this Theme of the Month, I went, “YES!” This summer has been the summer of rewatching for me. I’ve always had an on-and-off relationship with my interests. It’s been off for a while with dramas and I really wanted to switch it back on.

It was hard for me to start watching K-dramas again. I felt daunted by how much commitment and attention it required of me. The length of each episode is insane. In the very beginning, dramas burned me out. I would have to crawl to the finish line. I was determined to enter dramaland again this summer. I tried to reflect on what brought me back to dramaland last time, and it was Splish Splash Love, a short but sweet two-episode drama which was perfect for easing me into dramas again. I just rewatched it and loved it. There’s a scene in it where Dan-bi asks King Sejong where that Jang Geum palace maid is and the song “Onara” starts playing. That was the catalyst for my decision to rewatch Dae Jang Geum—all 54 episodes of it.

Dae Jang Geum was my first K-drama; I was ten years old the first time I watched it. I joined my parents crowded around a laptop to watch it in Korean with Chinese subtitles. I couldn’t understand the subtitles very much nor could I understand the dialogue. It still made me fall in love with Korean culture and history though. In the beginning, I gravitated towards sageuk when choosing dramas to watch because of this drama, although I don’t anymore.

A few years later, the summer before I started high school, I watched Dae Jang Geum with English subtitles, so I could understand it this time around. With the English subtitles, I didn’t feel the need to focus on the drama so much and missed huge chunks of it.

Now, the summer before I start college, I watched it for the third time. I love love love it. What changed in my opinion? Practically everything. It’s probably because I paid attention more. I was looking forward to watching the palace maid episodes, but I was dreading the doctor episodes. Turns out, it was the opposite. I was most drawn to her life after becoming a slave and the climb back to the palace as a female physician. Court Lady Han was her first teacher, but it felt too motherly for me to see her as such. Her second teacher, the renowned female physician of Jeju Island, Jang-deok, was a different story. I did not want to miss a second of her every time she was onscreen.

Her character also brought up the ultimate ethical dilemma of all medical practitioners: to do no harm. She practices medicine as a means to avenge her parents, which is why Jang Geum wants to practice medicine. The line that stood out the most to me from her was, “And when others were learning the needle points of healing, I was also learning both the needle points of healing and killing. When others were learning about life-saving medicine, I was learning about both life-saving medicine and poison.” Thankfully Jang-deok and Jang Geum never go against the oath. However, down the road when Jang Geum has become recognized by the royal family and the queen fully trusts Jang Geum, she asks Jang Geum to “take care of” the crown prince, the child of the previous queen who threatens her and her son’s position as the current queen. Jang Geum is so disturbed by the request that she asks her love interest, the scholar Min Jeong-ho, to take her away. (They’re caught and brought back to the palace.)

Speaking of her love interest, my first two times watching I didn’t care for the romance. This time, I adore the romance and its development. I just love how he falls in love with Jang Geum for her character; he supports her and sees past her gender. He says something along the lines of “Society discriminates, but books do not.”

Jang Geum has another teacher when she trains to be a female physician who teaches her to humble herself, but it’s a man this time. He was admirable. Her time as a female physician-in-training is the same as her time as an apprentice palace maid. She stands out because of her smarts and wows her teachers, but is shunned by her peers. As an apprentice palace maid, it was her lowly background as a peasant. As a female physician-in-training, it was her smarts that made her intimidating which isolated her. I identified so much with the latter. Jang Geum is a hard worker, but when asked to share in class, her intelligence comes off as natural and effortless. There is some innate talent in there, but it was nurtured with hard work and determination to be the very best.

What remains unchanged is my lack of interest in her adoptive parents and palace politics. I skipped ahead whenever they were onscreen. I don’t feel particularly strongly about the Choi female duo or their minion either. Geum-young was the most nuanced since we see her compromise her morals, but I still don’t care very much. Maybe it’s because I understood them the previous times I watched the drama and they were no surprise.

As I mentioned at the top, it’s been the summer of rewatching, but it’s also been the summer of realizing. I finally understood Koro-sensei’s lesson from the manga Assassination Classroom because it was prominent in this drama. He scolds the class for “not wielding a second blade.” Jang Geum wields two blades in this drama. Her first blade is cooking, her second blade is healing. And that made a big “if” in my plans change into a big “when.” At first it was, “If I decide to attend law school and practice law,” now it’s “When I decide to attend law school and practice law.” My first blade is teaching and I want my second blade to be lawyering. As mentioned earlier, my interests tend to vacillate. I am signed up for a major, but am thinking of minoring in something else, though I’m not sure what. But thanks to Dae Jang Geum, it swayed me to want to pick East Asian cultures as my minor. Who knows what will change my mind again? Hopefully something sticks, but for now, I know what to thank for the current candidate.

 

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By cassie23

How can you read my mind? Revisiting old dramas is exactly what I wanted to do.

I have rewatched Dae Jang Geum since watching Seven Day Queen (I’m a die-hard fan of this drama). When I saw its trailer about the love story of King Jungjong and Queen Dangyeong, I googled it and found that King Jungjong was portrayed in Dae Jang Geum too, which was my very first historical drama. I watched it when I was in elementary school and become my family’s favorite drama.

I was intrigued to rewatch Dae Jang Geum. I still feel the same excitement as twelve years ago while watching it. I’m still amazed by how great the kitchen ladies were portrayed, mesmerized by the royal food served in the palace, amazed by the attire worn by women in the palace, the hairstyles used by them, the variety of cooking skills, recipes, herbs, medical skills, and other knowledge, and also by the palace buildings that are still preserved until now.

I was just a kid who loved watching K-drama before. I wasn’t aware which king’s reign it was, whether it was in accordance with historical fact or not, or if there was any similar knowledge that I have about this drama. The character Jang Geum was the center of this drama back then, but the royal family members are my new points of view now. I’m curious about the historical facts behind it, how King Jungjong and Queen Dowager Jasun were. I have deeper knowledge about Joseon history than I did then, especially the historical facts behind Dae Jang Geum.

Dae Jang Geum portrays five kings’ reigns: Seonjong, Yeosangun, Jungjong, Injong and Myeongjong. But the main story focus is on the reign of Jungjong, the first Joseon king to be enthroned after a coup by government officials. He was a righteous man who never wanted to be king until he was backed by politicans to depose Yeonsangun and ascend the throne. In this drama, Jang Geum was used to persuade Jungjong to ascend the throne, but in fact, it was his beloved wife, Queen Dangyeong, who persuaded him.

He is said to have been a competent ruler but had a tough time trying to straighten out the court after Yeonsangun’s reign. He was not a particularly happy king. The drama shows him worrying about the hard life of his starving people, and it makes him live a frugal life, as shown when he demands simple dishes that ordinary people eat in a cooking competition. We see Jungjong is a lonely king who lost his love and has never really loved again. But in this drama, he starts to have feelings for Jang Geum when she becomes a young doctor.

The other thing I get now is the status and roles of women in Joseon palace. Queen Dowager Jasun is portrayed as the highest status and strongest influence of all women in the palace. She has the power to persuade the king to change his mind on decisions he makes whether through emotional blackmail or not. The queen who ruled in Dae Jang Geum is Queen Munjeong, King Jungjong’s third queen, and her position is politically fragile, as the crown prince is the son of the previous queen. Then after that are the concubines and court ladies. Jang Geum is not a court lady, but a royal physician.

What caught my attention recently is when Jang Geum lost her senses to free the charges against her adoptive father. She asks to have bee sting therapy performed on her tongue. It turns out this has really been applied from ancient times, and I didn’t give any attention when I first watched it.

Watching the drama is not only to have fun or releasing fatigue after a day’s activities, but it can be a means for us to learn something else. I’ve watched K-dramas for years, and they give me more knowledge about life, a chance for dreaming something out of the box, treasures of history, and exploring another country’s culture. Like Leonardo da Vinci said, “Nature is wise, you can learn everywhere and from everything.”

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This also awaken my curiostiy deviating a bit from Queen for Seven days.....Most like king JungJong admired her and even proclaimed the first female physician in the palace... Maybe because she reminds her of his first wife, Dangyeon (Chae Kyung in 7dq), who always treats his wounds....
I think, Queen for Seven Days is more accurate when it comes to the 2 royal brothers...

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I can't say since I haven't watched Queen for Seven Days...yet. King Jungjong does mention the first queen in the penultimate episode of this drama. The typical, "I never thought I could love again after she died, but then you came into my life."

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this makes me happy to know that after chae kyeong dies, Jungjong still remembers her [not that I thought he wouldn't], I am happy to know that other drama also treasures her.

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Sorry to burst your bubble, but Chea Kyeong lived longer than the King. She passed in 1557, the King passed in 1544.

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"Onara onaraaa". This is the tune that opened the world of Asian music to me, and I went on to explore their singing techniques and instruments. I've only seen the drama once. Maybe I'll watch it again in a few years, as it felt like the kind of wine that gets better with age. Like a pot of vinegar (?) that sits under a tree for twenty years.

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Yes, persimmon vinegar :)

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Jewel of the Palace was my first K-Drama. (What a way to start, 54 episodes!) My husband and I watched it together and laughed at the "Big Trouble!" line of dialog said by different characters at the end of every other episode. (Maybe not every other, but so many times it got to be a reoccurring joke.) Still, I loved the story and the people. And it held our interest for the entire duration. It has a special place in my heart.

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Ooh, this is on my To Watch list--all 54 episodes of it! Heh.
The premise and her story sounds so intriguing. I love the fact that she worked her way up and became the first female royal physician. It's an even more incredible feat considering the time and era this was set in. I came across some articles about the sequel that never was, and that alone, is such an interesting tidbit. I was so confused because it says online that the sequel was supposed to come out back in 2014, but nada. Welp, there's always the original.

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A sequel? How? About her life after she and her family left the palace? Or is it like "Yi San" and "Dong Yi", where they technically take place in the same universe? The director is the same for all three, so I like to pretend all his dramas are in the same universe unless they are too different. :P

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I am currently watching it for the first time, and am fascinated. What's not to like about all the food prep, and info about properties of different ingredients...
It's my first 24+ episodes though, so I have ended up with spurts of binge-watching. Interest has been waning, but am intrigued that TheCynicalOptimist likes the physician part more...maybe this input will keep me going! Thanks both!!

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It had a lot to do with stamina and age the first two times. I was able to fast forward through the cooking the third time around because I already knew what was going to happen. The physician part feels like a repeat of the beginning, but her past and the people she's encountered made it feel different.

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I love this. I was going to submit a piece about my love for Jewel in the Palace but never did it. It is so nice to see that there are others loving this show as much as I do, until now.

There is something so satisfying and inspiring about following Jang Geum's journey as she navigates through the ugly hardships with work ethics, curiosity, and grounded values. I find the lessons that she went through and her personalities applicable to many situations in life.

No matter how outdated the show becomes, I will always come back to it for inspiration and the beautiful acting that Lee Young Ae put into the show.

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DJG is a drama that made my love started for sageuks back to 2000s and I was still a school student / around 13 /14 years old that time. This drama really bring back the memories as I watched it with my friend. Even my mother who is not really watching kdrama watched it. Although I have other sageuks that I love more, but DJG has a special place in my heart and memory. Aired on 2003-2004 in Monday-Tusday timeslot, the average rating of this drama was 46.3% which is impossible to get these days.

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Aww memories. This is my first K-drama as well and what makes me addicted to Sageuk. I remember watching it in national telivision dubbed in my home country when I'm in 4th grade and even though I didn't quite understand the plot then since I guess I was too young to do so, I was mesmerized by beautiful hanboks, food arrangement, culture and all which eventually lead me to the paradise of made in heaven shows. ♥

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First Sageuk K-drama as Autumn in My Heart is my very first K-drama***

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that's really me ?
i always compare the attire and hairstyle used in other saeguk dramas with dae jang geum
i always excited to watch other drama which has similar attire and hairstyle haha
and since i love eating,,i really love the portion when jang geum is a court lady ? foods are everywhere ?

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When I was in Germany I realized how successful this drama is.
I met a Korean girl and she said she loved Dae Jang Geum. There were a Malaysian guy and two Thai people too and they were all so excited about it. I told them I haven't watch yet and they were shocked haha. I just said I had too much dramas to watch.

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This brings me memories of those nights i stayed so late to complete this drama, and this was my first ever 50+ episodes korean drama and also the drama which got me watching saeguk. I used to really avoid watching history based korean dramas, because i thought i would find it damn boring. Believe me, this was because of Goong, where the grandmother in that talked so slowly it made me sleepy and i always had that prejudice about watching saeguk ,until i watched this great drama.

I loved this show, because the flow of the story was so smooth and intriguing at the same time. Not one episode i felt it was boring. The character Jang guem was wise, sweet and kind and i absolutely loved her character. Lee young ae truly portayed the beauty of the character so well.

Seeing this really brought me back to memory lane , and i bet if this show is aired around this time in the year 2017, it is going to be a mega hit. This show deserved all the accolades it got, and it would remain as one of the best saguek in the dramaland.

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Dae Jung geum sure is one of my most favorites! I watched it many times and still re-watch episodes from it time to time!

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Dae Jang Geum was my very first K-drama as well! Every time Onara plays I'm immediately transported back to my childhood, watching every episode with my sister on the edge of our seats. For the first time, it wasn't the romance in a K-drama that truly captivated me, but the fact that Jang Geum was an amazingly strong and smart underdog who's every triumph made me more addicted to the show.

I've also finished (and BAWLED over) Seven Day Queen and I had NO idea that King Jungjong was the King here!

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Oh man, all the feels for Min Jeong Ho nauri - this was the drama that made me a fan of Ji Jin Hee. And possibly began my impossible journey in looking for a man who would be that supportive of my career goals! XD

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My first ever drama! My friend's aunties had the first volume because apparently it was a thing that some Manhattan foodies enjoyed watching. A group of my friends used to all get together and watch it, and marvel over the uniqueness of sageuks that was all new to us. Then we got so into the story, and I proceeded to purchase the rest of the episodes on DVD because it was ages ago and I didn't know that KDrama streaming was a thing. As time and episodes went on, the number of folks in the group slowly dwindled, and I'm the only one who actually finished it and continued down this path of Kdrama watching...none of us knew then what I would become all these years later! X'D My friends and I still sometimes talk about Mamanim. I still sometimes inadvertently hum Onara when I'm cooking, and it's always a special moment that I absolutely love when there are references to it in modern dramas. While I adore this drama and own it, I don't know when I'll be ready to rewatch it! It's a shining memory!

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Wow! @mtran12 TheCynicalOptimist.. Thank you! :)

I think DB has a recap for Jang Geum/ Jewel in the Palace and I want to include it in the My Show list. It turned out that the search brought me to this article! Very happy to know that I am not the only one who feels late falling in love with this series. Last September I just spent 54 episodes in 9 days! An extraordinary achievement for a sense of curiosity and longing to follow the struggle of the life of a child grow into a beautiful ladu that full of twists and turns.
I most like the part of Jang Geum practicing with Han Dayang. It made me realize that giving example was very important in the mentoring process. Second, the part of Jang Geum's interaction with the King. And the last should not be forgotten is how the development of his feelings for his lover. It was very, very touching. It didn't feel tears flowing to see the scene after scene from the 3 parts that I mentioned earlier.

It could be said that I learned a lot from Jang Geum and did not regret having invested my hours watching it.

:)♡

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