"I watched all 71 episodes, give or take missing 1 episode in combined total so that in itself is a testament how addictive this series was."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
In Korean, Dae Jang Geum. In Cantonese, Dai Cheung Kam. Very close eh? After watching this series I suspected the roots to the Korean language is Hokkien and Cantonese with a tinge of Mandarin and the rest they filled in the blanks with a lot of "Shiup So" & "Shi Mi Ka"s. Anyway, Dae Jang Geum (pronounced as Day - Chang - Kam) does not mean BIG Cheung Kam but rather the Great Cheung Kam, the title conferred to the heroine of this series in I think Episode 70. You see women back in those imperial Korean days (yes, they did have Kings), women were given little regard of their importance in the society. No woman had ever been conferred any official title, more so an official title which will give her the right to sit in so called parliamentary discussions, in this case the King. But she got that right and her role was as the King's personal physician but in effect the health minister. She was conferred this title together with the title of a 3rd rank official (I suspect like the chinese they had 9 ranks, 9 being the lowest and 1 being the highest). Her rank could not be inherited. You see in those days official rankings and titles can be inherited from one son to another. But not hers of course.
2003 but only shown in HK and Malaysia in 2005, causing much stir as in good stir.
MBC, South Korea
No. Of Episodes
71 but from the looks of the last 2 episodes, it should have been 73 because the last 2 were much longer.
Originally in Korean of course. There is a DVD version with English subtitles distributed in Malaysia by PMP Entertainment. Let me comment a bit on PMP Entertainment. Their box sets look gorgeous. If I am not mistaken there are 4 VCD box sets, each RM99-00. But there is also a DVD box set of all episodes, costing I think RM200-00 plus? I am not sure since this you have to buy online. The VCD one is Korean/Mandarin with Malay & Chinese subtitles. The DVD version I saw online at Sensasian.com and maybe Coolwin-Video.com also have is the Malaysian version, meaning Korean/Mandarin with Chinese/English/Malay subtitles. I could not vouch for the English subtitles since I didn't see that version but if the Malay version is like the one shown on ASTRO, I say grab that copy. The translation is very good, if compared with the quality as translated from the Cantonese version.
Ok, in Malaysia there is only the Mandarin version which I saw 2 episodes of via 8TV (still showing at the time of posting of this review) and I simply shut off the TV. The dubbing was horrible because the voices were so not the characters. The version I saw was ASTRO's Wah Lai Toi's HK version, as in Cantonese version. I find the Cantonese version more superior than the Mandarin version because the voices are closer to the Korean counterparts and though cartoonish, but not as cartoonish as the Mandarin version. Moreover I understand Cantonese better but that doesn't make any difference because even in Cantonese you wouldn't recognise the title of certain officials so it is like new to us all. The version I watched also had Bowie Lam introducing the various aspects of this series for 5 min before the series began and Kelly Chan singing the themesong. But my preference has always and will always be the Korean version because nothing beats the original version.
Case in point, the character of Choi Pan-Sul (that brother of scheming Lady Choi). In Cantonese version, I was very irritated with his scheming looks but yet his voice wasn't scheming enough. When I discovered ASTRO had dual language and much to the chagrin of my entire family, I watched the Korean version and I realised his voice was as scheming as his looks. In fact he was always whispering. Therefore, my conclusion is suffer a bit and watch the Korean version with the subtitles. I know, by the time you read the subtitles you could not see their expressions but believe me, after 5 episodes, your eyes will be sufficiently trained to dart up and down very very fast. After 30 episodes or so, I became an expert already.
So in summary, get the DVD version with the 3 languages and if can get the Cantonese version instead of the Mandarin version but since if you watch it in Korean, it doesn't matter.
One note. I have some people arguing that watching the original version with the subtitles will kill your mood. I can't see why. Expressions is as important as the voice and dubbing, if done well may do justice to the original voice but still can't beat the pleasure of hearing the language being spoken by the native tongue. Bad acting will also sometimes be covered by dubbing which is not fair. After watching this series I began to see the beauty and the verocity of the Korean language which I find very musical to the ears when spoken by the right actors with the right voice. A viewer must not be denied of that pleasure simply because it is so much easier to watch in your own language. Unless of course you can't read, that I can't blame you for watching the dubbed version. So I admit, my opinion expressed in my review of Hotelier is wrong. I am now obsessed with everything original.
Oh so many people that I could not name. Since I watched it in Korean, I shall name the Korean names but frankly I didn't catch half the characters' name except for Choi Pan-Sul, Shin Ik Pil and Min Jung-ho that really stuck in my mind for some unknown reasons.
Taken from imdb.com, some spelling are not those I thought they're. Just so you know the surname is at the back, to lazy to update it. I am going to depend heavily on the names as found in imdb.com. Those in bracketts are the Cantonese name that I do know of.
Young-ae Lee .... Jang-Geum Seo (So Cheung Kam)
Jin-hee Ji .... Jung-ho Min (Man Jing Hou)
Ri-na Hong .... Keum-young Choi (Chui Kam Ying)
Mi-ri Gyeon .... Court Lady Choi (Chui Seung Kung)
Mi-kyeong Yang .... Court Lady Han (Hon Seung Kung)
Ho Im .... King Jungjong
Bo-ra Geum .... NaJudaek (Mrs Kang)
Ji-min Han .... Shin bi
Jung-Eun Jo .... Young Jang-geum Seo
Kyeong-hwan Jo .... Prime Minister, Gyeom-Ho Oh (Ng Kim Hou)
Hye-seon Kim .... Myeong-Hee Park, Jang-Geum's Mother (Bak Ming Yee)
Yeo-jin Kim .... Female Dr. Jang-Deok
Hie-do Lee .... Pan-Sul Choi
Hyeon-shik Im .... Deok-Gu Kang (Keung Tak Gau)
Chan-hwan Park .... Cheon-Soo Seo, Jang-Geum's Father
Eun-hye Park .... Yeon-Saeng Lee (Lin Sang)
Eun-su Park .... Dr. Ik-Pil Shin
Jeong-su Park .... Queen Munjeong
Woon-gye Yeo .... Court Lady Jeong (Zheng Seung Kung)
Unknown .... Daughter of Jang geum
Unknown .... Court Lady Min
Unknown .... Empress Dowager
Unknown .... Nurse Rie
Se-eun Lee .... Yeol-I (Cheung Yee)
Se-yeong Lee .... Young Geum-yeong Choi
Ip-Sae Lee .... Yong Non (Ling Lou)
Unknown .... Lady Qi Jyu, Madam Park
Sang-hun Maeng .... Dr. Woon-Baek Jeong
And many many many more.
This link here will take you to the newspaper cuttings I scanned some time ago of several key characters.
Picture of the cast
Some key cast members are missing in the picture.
Ok, King is called Cho-na, Empress Dowager is Te Bi Ma Ma and basically the female royalties will be referred to as Ma Ma. My Lord I guess is Nao-Ri. Uncle I think is Aja-shi although this could be Mister. Many more which I shall update later when I can remember them.
I am not familiar with the Korean imperial dynasties. But what is evident in here is that the King of Korea (if it was called Korea back then) is answerable to the great Ming of China. Even choosing the crown prince must get their consent. Anyway it was set in Joseon Dynasty or Chosun period, during the times of Ming Dynasty which is not to far into the past.
A very long chronicle of the adventures, ups and downs and the struggles of Jang Geum to regain the honour of her parents' name and later on how she became from a skilled cook to a widely recognised skilled lady doctor and becoming maybe the 1st female official and the King's personal physician in the olden days Korea, something unheard of back then. By the way this is a true story but as usual, got some artistic license also. For one the real Jang Geum it seems was never a palace maid or skilled cook but rather maybe a nurse. She never had any love affair with anyone called Min Jung-ho who existed back then and apparently, she did marry the King but most websites did not mention this so I am not sure how true it is. Her name was not mentioned much in the records most probably because she was a woman therefore her achievements were denied a place in history. For more on this, check out Interesting History.
I do not know where to begin so I guess I shall begin like how this series began.
A palace guard was one told by a fortune teller that he would one day meet 3 women whose fates would intertwine with his own. The first he would have to kill though he didn't want to. The 2nd would die for him even if he did not wish so. The 3rd would cause his death but will in return save lots of lives. And so the story begins.
The one he killed though he didn't want to
The palace guard was ordered by the then King to kill his Queen for reasons I am not quite sure since I missed the first 30 min of this series. I was informed by netizens that the King wanted to kill off his wife for meddling too much into politics OR for visiting her son whom he barred her from doing OR that the Queen was a busy body causing a lot of problems and scandals. Anyway he killed her by orders but he was forced to live in exile like a criminal as a result.
The one who would die for him
The story then shifted to a palace maid who saw a fellow palace maid who would later become Lady Choi putting some unknown substance into some gravy. She reported this to her superior but was instead later accused of having an affair with another palace guard which was forbidden.
Why was it forbidden to mingle with palace guard? Simple. For one, no inter office relationships so to speak. But more importantly, palace maids are supposed to be the King's women. They were meant either to become maid until their death or for some lucky few picked by the King to be concubines. The King was also free to sleep with them without conferring any titles so every palace maid knew she was the King's woman, meant only for him.
She was thus sentenced by their own internal investigative team (which was illegal since no secret punishment can be meted out on anybody) to drinking poison. Her best friend, later called Lady Han tried to save her best friend in vain. She then in the last minute managed to put some counter poison in that bowl of poison which wad forced into the poor palace maid's throat and then thrown out and left to die. Lady Han thought her best friend died and withdrew herself from mingling with others and lived with regret whilst Lady Choi succceded in her first mission for her Choi family and caused the death of her friend. She too lived with regret but reasoned that she had no choice.
Who is the Choi family? They have been controlling the kitchen in the Imperial palace for generations. This time it was Lady Choi, who will later be succeeded by her niece, Kam Yeong. Lady Choi and aided by her brother, a dirty businessman Choi Pan-Sul, in trying to maintain her family's influence in the kitchen had to do many things to get to her position and once in position she had to safeguard the interest of her family by doing dirty deeds for big time officials, such as Oh Gyeom-Ho, a very corrupted high ranking official.
The palace maid was later rescued by the exiled palace guard and through many harrowing moments, he fell in love with her but was afraid to tell her so because of what the fortune teller said. But the palace maid had no place to go and decided to follow him and together they ran away in exile in Korea and married but lived in constant fear that they would be discovered. The palace maid fear that Choi will find her. The palace guard was afraid that he would be arrested.
During this time a new King was crowned who proved to be the most violent King in Korean history, or so the story goes. He was actually the son of the murdered Queen and he vowed to find the guard and those involved in her death. So that was why the palace guard had to hide as some lowly citizen.
What is a lowly citizen? It is interesting to note that during that era there existed a caste system in Korea. Sons of high ranking officials will inherit the position and will have the privilege of going to school and learn to read and write. These officials would include palace maids and palace guards. Ordinary citizens would not have that privilege. But girls are not allowed to go to schools, but I am sure they're allowed to be privately tutored. In that era also all books were written in the Chinese language. Not sure about the spoken language though. The Chinese influence in their literary life was very strong. And like Bowie Lam narrated, poor people did not have the resources, time or privilege to learn the Chinese language so many were illiterate. When you know how to read and write, everybody would know you come from a good family. It was much later that the country undertook a huge makeover in the written language in what was to become the current Korean written language which is in much simpler form so that even the most ordinary citizen could learn to read and write. It is also interesting to note that lowly citizens could not become palace maid or if they do they'll become low ranking palace maids. Daughters of high ranking generals and officials would be picked to become palace maid since palace maids may become a concubine.
8 years later they both had a precocious and intelligent but highly rebellious daughter named Jang Geum. She was always off to learning how to read and write in schools and playing with officials' children eventhough she was forbidden to do so and she never understood why, so she took a lot of caning from her mother. Her father was more flexible and later she was home tutored. But tragedy struck one day when she was going home with her father and saw some martials arts troupe. She begged her father to perform and he reluctantly did so and people insulted him saying he was a lowly citizen and should not have won. Jang Geum tearfully revealed her father was really a palace guard and not some lowly citizen and this was heard by some guards passing by who was looking for her father. During that era, everybody lived in fear as the then King in an attempt to avenge his mother's death took to killing a lot of innocent people and respected officials and he was also a sex addict since he took on so many palace maids no one was left running the kitchen! Anyway Jang Geum last saw her father being dragged away and she ran home to her mother who quickly packed and left to follow the father's trail. But they never saw him again.
At the meantime, Jang Geum's mother had no choice but to contact Lady Han who was very relieved to see her best friend alive. She didn't know the existence of Jang Geum but Lady Choi knew, but thought Jang Geum was a boy as she was dressed like one. Lady Han agreed to help but it was too late. Jang Geum's mother was pursued by the guards and a killer and in a last attempt she surrendered to the guards but the killer got to her first and she was shot by an arrow. She ran away with Jang Geum and before she died she wrote Jang Geum a letter narrating her sad life story and in a cave told Jang Geum to become the Chief of the Imperial Kitchen, to retrieve a cooking notebook she hid in the imperial kitchen, open the letter she gave Jang Geum and to write her life story in the book inherited by the Chief for generations after generations. Jang Geum tearfully agreed and her mother died. Jang Geum buried her mother under the stones in the cave and walked to a nearby village where she earlier encountered a very greedy woman who asked her mother for money when her mother asked where the guards were taking the prisoners. She ended up befriending the woman's husband, Kang Deok-Gu who would later become her surrogate father. The woman liked her and she was allowed to stay on.
Why the Chief of Imperial Kitchen? Of all the women in the palace, palace maids are considered a class above the others (except for concubines but they even snub the new concubines) and of all the palace maids in the palace, the ones controlling the kitchen, especially the King's kitchen is considered the highest ranking so to speak. They have their own chambers, their own assistants who have their own assistants. Food is considered very important in the imperial days, since good health comes from good healthy food. So the one dictating and cooking for the King is of the highest rank. There is one who controls the entire palace maids but the ones in the kitchen are considered of almost equal rank sometimes. Controlling the kitchen also meant controlling the goods supplied to the imperial kitchen, and prices for salt, pepper, etc so that was how Chois made their fortune for many generations. They can also use their influence to poison some concubines or cause miscarriages. It is a highly political position for a woman without many knowing she is involved in politics. And she remains in that position until she gets killed, sacked or dies from some disease. No one is allowed to die in the palace except for the royal family. So whoever sits in this position gets to inherit the cookbook passed down by the previous chiefs and also can write their live story in the book as a reminder to all. The Chois were then controlling the kitchen.
The one who would cause his death but save many lives
So we know Jang Geum is the 3rd predicted woman but it was only like 60 episodes later how she saved many lives.
Anyway 2 years has passed and Jang Geum is now 10 years old and living with the Kangs selling wine. Kang Deok-Gu is also somewhat like a chef for the King although he supplied wine to the imperial palace. Jang Geum was obsessed with finding a way to enter the palace but couldn't because she is not from a noble or official type of family. But she got her chance one day when she unwittingly became embroiled in the biggest coup of that time to overthrow the current evil King (the one who caused her father's death but we never get to see him).
She was asked to deliver some wine to this prince at his residence outside of the palace I think. But she was given very specific instruction by I think Oh Gyeom-Ho's man on how he should drink the wine. The message was actually to tell the prince that they will kill off the current King and instal him as the new King. When Jang Geum saw this prince who would become King Jung Jong (I suspect in his early 20s) who had a palace maid sitting next to him, she immediatly knelt down and begged to be taken into the palace. The Prince was surprised by her eagerness and was even surprised by her ability to read the labels on the wine and was able to articulate his worries very well. He didn't want to become King but had no choice. She left and later on a palace maid and took her into the palace, much to the displeasure of Mrs Kang who didn't want her to go.
And so she began a new phase in her life as the palace maid in training. In there she would meet her best friend, the timid Yeon-Saeng, a good friend who would become her arch enemy, Keum-young (nice of Lady Choi and very much favoured to succeed her and a few years older), her ultimate enemy Lady Choi who was then not yet the chief of kitchen and her mother's best friend who was appointed as her teacher/guide but both didn't know who each other was.
Many months passed as she received her harsh training from the cold but fair Lady Han and she impressed everybody with her intelligence. Keum-young became her friend and she found out Keum-young was in love with an older 15 year old scholar who just passed the imperial exams as no. 1 in the list but we never knew who he was until later. Whilst Jang Geum faced many adversities, she impressed Lady Han enough to soften a bit towards her but not much.
At the meantime the old chief of kitchen had to leave because she was sick and a new person must be appointed. Lady Choi was then too young to take on the position so the chief of the maid, with the ranking known as Lady Qi Jyu schemed with Lady Choi an appointed someone who wasn't that much into politics and was old and therefore disposable later. They apppointed Lady Jung who was then happily and in a carefree attitude taking care of the sauce department. She reluctantly agreed to the position, knowing full well she would be a puppet to the Chois and Lady Qi Jyu. But she is someone who hold fast to the her principles that politics and food should not mix and for the next decade or so she battled with the Chois and Lady Qi Jyu to regain control of the kitchen.
Then 10 years passed and we see Jang Geum as a shy but tenacious and pretty 20 year old girl. Her friendship with Yeon-Saeng became more like sisters and she is on friendly terms with Keum-young who by then was gaining a reputation as a capable chef. By then the power struggle for the kitchen was on as Lady Jung was getting older but try as Choi could do, she could not dispose off Lady Jung because the King liked Lady Jung and her stories. And Lady Jung used this fact to set the rules right; before she retires she wanted to hold a competition to appoint a new chief that is based on talent and not influence. Her mind was set on Lady Han who did not want to get herself involved in politics as she was still distraught over the disappearance of her best friend, that is Jang Geum's mother.
At the meantime Jang Geum was facing worse and worse obstacles as her cooking abilities got better and better. It started mainly with a Golden Chicken segment where the Golden Chicken Keum-young was taking care of (a gift from the Ming King) disappeared and Keum-young had to leave the palace to buy a new one. Jang Geum followed along and they both went separate ways looking for the chicken. Keum-young found hers thanks to her uncle Choi Pan-Sul but Jang Geum was late because she encountered some people attacking some more people and a young man was hurt and fainted. That man was Min Jung-ho and Jang Geum took hours to take care of his wounds and left behind a gift (pen and sword) given by her late father, without realising it. When Min Jung-ho woke up he went in search of the owner but didn't know who until much later. Jang Geum meanwhile returned to the palace very late, and Geum-yeong was distraught that because of her Jang Geum may be expelled from the palace since no maids are allowed out of the palace except on holidays. But Jang Geum was never expelled because Lady Han and Lady Jung both agreed to cut salaries to make sure she stays and Jang Geum was very grateful but she had to go and work in the "Inn of Many Hazzards" (I swear, that is the literal translation but I could be wrong) where it is considered a fate far worse than being expelled because that is an herb plantation which never produced anything for many years. But Jang Geum after some heavy duty crying refused to give up and went on to clean up the place. There she met the chief of that plantation Jeong Woon-Baek who was formerly an imperial doctor. The doctor was actually suffering from heart disease and refused to work because he didn't see any point to it until he saw how Jang Geum went about and successfully planted some expensive herbs that he began to work harder and vowed to cure himself. Meanwhile the plantation was near the training camp of the imperial guards and many times she bumped into Min Jung-ho but he didn't recognise her. In what is this series inconsistencies, she recognised him (but later the story changed - see my comments below) but didn't say hi. Anyway, in recognition of her success, Jang Geum was allowed back into the kitchen. But before she left the doctor gave her a letter to be delivered to the librarian of the imperial library.
She did and there she met again Min Jung-ho who was the librarian plus scholar plus palace guard plus secret spy who was checking out Choi Pan-Sul and Oh Gyeom-Ho. Anyway the letter asked the librarian to give books to the bearer of the letter as she is an avid reader. Min Jung-ho was impressed by her thirst of knowledge and so he lent her many books, mostly medical books which was how she learned many things. It was during this entire process that Min Jung-ho fell for her whilst she too liked him. But when Keum-young found out about this relationship, she was incensed with jealousy because the boy she loved was Min Jung-ho. Knowing she could never get his heart, she vowed to help her auntie to gain position as the chief of imperial kitchen, but reluctantly and tearfully so. So her first duty was to place some curse thingy into the kitchen so that the Queen could not give birth to a son. Lin Sang was Keum-young was up to something, Jang Geum silly her was busy looking in the kitchen for her mother's special notebook hidden in the kitchen which she found but the next day I think the cursing thingy was found and Keum-young and Jang Geum were arrested. Jang Geum knew it was Keum-young but Keum-young denied it and accused Jang Geum. That was really the end of their friendship. Anyway they survived and I can't remember how. Then there was a segment on how Jang Geum lost her tasting ability when she tried to find the cause of the young princess' illness and how she regained it back.
Once back into the kitchen, from thereon the story shifted to how Choi tried to wrestle the position from Jung. But Choi didn't get it that Jung had the support of the King and she proposed an imperial competition between Choi and Han for the position. But of course that got a lot of opposition but Jung also got the support of the Queen. So the competition was held for a course of many days on various aspects, they win some they lose some and Han was very disappointed that Jang Geum became too arrogant in her ability that they lost in one of the competition and Han sent Jang Geum away but later took her back in. Anyway final day came and Han and Choi were supposed to cook for the King, Queen and Empress Dowager but Han was kidnapped. Min Jung-ho went to save Han whilst Jang Geum had no choice but to take her place, secretly. She cooked and she won some she lost some and in the end Han was rescued, she came back but Jang Geum won the competition thanks to the King's support and in the end Han became the new chief. Choi was angry and managed to stage a coup to blacklist Han saying Han didn't cook the foods herself. Han wanted to give up but Jang Geum told her not to in memory of Lady Jung who left the palace a sick woman and died outside the palace. Han then went to the Queen and the Empress Dowager and proposed a deal; that a new competition be held between herself and Choi and if she wins, she will get complete control of the kitchen which includes firing certain people. The Queen agreed and the competition was to be held on a theme of cooking rice. The judges were the kitchen helpers themselves, those who opposed Han and Han ended up the winner because she managed to make the rice the way each every individual liked as she remembered each of their tastebud. So Han was the new chief for the 2nd time and she didn't fire anybody. But to ensure the safety of the kitchen, she banished Choi and Keum-young and Yong Non to another department but Choi was planning Han's downfall.
During that time Jang Geum and Han found out who each other were. I can't remember how but their reunion was a tearful one and Han saw Jang Geum as her daughter and Jang Geum saw in Han her mother.
Anyway, the downfall of Han. The opportunity came when Han cooked the King a duck soup, using ducks from a village. The King fell ill for some unknown reason, Choi used this opportunity to fuel the scandal and Han was accused of collaborating with a Qiu Chong Ngan (name something like that - which we never meet - a high ranking official who was having some power struggle with Oh Gyeom-Ho) and even Jang Geum was arrested. Tests were carried out and the ducks were proven safe for consumption though the ducks were drinking poison so to speak. Kang Deok-Gu did his tests and proved the same. But when one palace maid ate the duck and fainted (this was planned by Choi herself)but the medical department refused to recognise their own inability to find the cause to the illness and therefore blamed it on the ducks. Han and Jang Geum were banished from the palace as slaves to Cheju Island. Yeon-Saeng was distraught and begged to follow Jang Geum whilst Choi officially became the new Chief. When Min Jung-ho heard what had happened, he ran off to Cheju Island in search of Jang Geum and Keum-young was heart broken. Because Min Jung-ho abandoned his post, he was supposed to be punished but his benefactor, another high ranking official quickly asked the King to give him a title (as in a job) in Cheju Island and he became the chief guard there. On the way to board the ship to Cheju Island, Lady Han could not take the torture anymore and died whilst whispering to Jang Geum she will meet Jang Geum again in the palace. Jang Geum was so distraught she didn't want to go on anymore. But once there Min Jung-ho became her source of inspiration to live on and her desire to return to the palace to avenge Lady Han's death was her way of dealing with her pain over the loss of her 2nd mother.
Why Cheju Island? Cheju Island back then was what Australia was to England you know. Criminals are banished there in that secluded Island. I mean not that bad what since they can have their own lives there although banished from mainland but people from the mainland can enter the island.
Once there Jang Geum tried many ways to escape but failed. One time she was locked inside a shack with another woman, Jang-Deok who told her to feign illness and run to the beach and quote her name to escape. She did but instead she was arrested. She then found out Jang-Deok was actually the island's famed lady doctor and this lady doctor, harsh as she was took a instant liking to Jang Geum and gave her an opportunity to return to the palace; that is by being a nurse. So Jang Geum became her assistant and learned about medicine whilst Min Jung-ho accompanied her.
Why nurse can go back into palace? Jang Geum is a slave, lower ranked than any ranks. So she and Min Jung-ho can never ever ever marry because he is of higher rank. She is not supposed to even look into his eyes when talking. Anyway, the only way a slave can go back into the palace is by becoming a nurse. And talented nurses are routinely picked from various states for training in the palace every few years. They can only enter when someone else leaves though.
3 years passed. By now Jang Geum was very skilled but suffered a major setback when she was learning acupuncture and she nearly killed the lady doctor herself. So she had lost her confidence. Then Min Jung-ho had to leave Cheju together with the lady doctor to attend to some medical problems in some other place and the Japanese then attacked. They wanted a doctor to heal the illness of their commander and Kang Deok-Gu who was there to visit Jang Geum quickly said Jang Geum can cure him but he didn't know Jang Geum's problem. When Jang Geum refused, the Japanese threatened to kill Kang Deok-Gu and Jang Geum panicked and agreed. She almost couldn't do it but with shaking hands and the lives of the few citizens in the Japanese's hands, she did and the commander was ok. Later that night Jang Geum got a message that Min Jung-ho was back and will attack the Japanese and she led them to an open field and they were all arrested. The island is saved! BUT Jang Geum was arrested for saving a Japanese and branded a traitor and was taken to the mainland. Min Jung-ho's efforts were not recognised as Oh Gyeom-Ho's men took credits for themselves but the lady doctor asked a high ranking friend to write a letter to the King who angrily ordered Oh Gyeom-Ho to release the nurse AND to award Min Jung-ho.
So Jang Geum was on her way back to Cheju Island when she bumped into Jeong Woon-Baek (I am not sure of his full name since not frequently mentioned but I assume this is him) who by now returned to the palace as the palace imperial doctor. He knew there would be some nurse selection process coming up but he didn't tell Jang Geum because he didn't want Jang Geum to use medicine for revenge. He didn't see her fit to be a nurse. So Jang Geum left but on her way she met a sickly young astrologer when she was busy attending to Lady Han's grave by the sea who was buried on this boy's land. She managed to cure him. This young astrologer was her first patient who believed in her and when she asked why he believed in her he said "I knew from the reading of the stars and my fate someone would cure me, I didn't know it would be you".in gratitude to her saving his life, his father agreed to care for Lady Han's grave.
Then she found out there was a nurse selection process and she managed to pass with flying colours though I think she failed the interview session when that doctor, Jeong Woon-Baek asked her if she was treating her enemy what would she do? She couldn't answer him but she passed anyway.
So again she entered the palace again but as a nurse but life as a nurse was hard.
How come life as a nurse can be so bad? Apparently food is even more important than medicine! I think as a nurse she is free to marry but she can't marry Min Jung-ho because they work in the same place and because she is still considered a slave or maybe a bit higher rank. So she can only be his second wife. He is not married by the way. Anyway nurse had to wash feets, massage the maids and worse still, act as companion to some men in some parties, the Malay translation equated their roles as "prostitute"! Anyway a nurse is supposed to assist the male doctors. There were no female doctors by the way. Their assistance is much needed when they're taking care of sick women, Queen, etc except the King. They're there to take instructions and to act as instructed by the doctors. Like nurse but they too must have medical knowledge.
First of, the training doctor, the morose looking Shin Ik Pil did not like Jang Geum. He felt that she was too arrogant to be trained and did not have the ethics as a doctor as she simply administered medicine on the young boy though she cured him. But she convinced him she was ethical and through much hardship she passed her training.
She was then a nurse and she was shocked to see Geum-yeong as the new chief of kitchen and Lady Choi the new Lady Qi Jyu (the old one was banished from the palace thanks to the scheming Lady Choi). Everybody was shocked to see her and she met Yeon-Saeng again who by now was the forgotten concubine of the King (he saw her crying for Lady Jung and Jang Geum one day and took an instant liking to her, took her as his concubine but never visited since because Lady Choi did something that was not told and prevented his visits of her and he also forgot about her). Yeon-Saeng was leading a terrible life, and she was not even respected by the lowly maids. But Lady Min (a young Lady who was looked upon highly by Lady Jung and Lady Han but not banished by Choi into doing mundane duties because she backed Jung and Han although her assistant and her own philosophy was don't get into politics, stay out of it to lead a happy life but she got embroiled when her loyalties lie with Han and Jung) was there to comfort her. Jang Geum was told every day Yeon-Saeng would pray near the sauce pots and everybody laughed at her, thinking she was praying for the King to visit her but in actual fact she was asking Lady Jung (who was her mentor before she became chief of kitchen) to bless Jang Geum and her early return into the palace. They had a tearful reunion.
Jang Geum also bumped into the King's trusted eunuch (I think he is an eunuch but he is also the chief of internal security and administration - he has little power as he had no influence but he is a good man who truly is loyal to the King) and he remembered Jang Geum as the palace maid. He promised to help her since he was fond of Lady Jung and Lady Han and so Jang Geum asked him for his help. One night the King visited Yeon-Saeng and thereafter she became pregnant.
At the meantime Jang Geum was gaining reputation as a competent nurse when she came head to head with a jealous nurse, Rie who was actually secretly working for the former Lady Qi Jyu and she was trying to please Choi and Geum-yeong to gain their trust and later their downfall to avenge for what they did to Lady Qi Jyu so the first thing she had to do was to get rid of Jang Geum when she did not tell Jang Geum when they were in a village caring for the sick peasants in a widespread plague no one knew the cause of that they were abandoning the village and closing the village. So Jang Geum was left behind and Min Jung-ho rushed into the village to rescue her but couldn't leave. The angry peasants wanted to kill Min Jung-ho but Jang Geum begged them to believe her, to let her cure them and so she sent Min Jung-ho away for medicine when in actual fact she wanted him to leave the village. When he realised what was happening, he rushed back but found Jang Geum locked in a shack by the angry villagers and the village was set on fire by the orders of the King. He rescued her and they confessed their love for one another.
Meanwhile after some investigation, Jang Geum successfully found the cause of the massive plague that was causing the citizens' to suffer which turned out to be food poisoning. Choi didn't believe her that veges can poison people so Min Jung-ho challenged her to eat the vege which she did and she fell ill, much to the chagrin of Geum-yeong who was hoping Jang Geum was wrong. Jang Geum and Min Jung-ho So Jang Geum had to administer needles and she was tempted to kill Choi but she didn't. Geum-yeong asked Choi why she allowed Jang Geum to administer the needle, that wasn't she afraid she would kill her and Choi interestingly replied "I wished she had".
When Jang Geum left Choi's room, she finally understood the wisdom of the lady doctor's advice some time ago; the lady doctor became a doctor so that she can one day meet the official who took her mother away and made her his concubine so that she can kill him but instead she didn't when she met him as a banished official at Cheju island, very sick also. The lady doctor told Jang Geum to forget her hatred and to embrace medicine, to learn and to save lives. Jang Geum saw the light of this wisdom and vowed to learn medicine to save lives, putting aside her hatred for Choi.
But it all doesn't end there. Choi wanted to get rid of her because she couldn't rest with her there all the time. By the way by that time plus 3 years before she already knew Jang Geum's identity but couldn't kill her because Jang Geum is like famous you know. She couldn't bump Min Jung-ho off because Keum-young threatened to expose them (that was how much she loved him). Keum-young was angry because of Min Jung-ho basically. But Choi did all she could, every little thing she blamed it on Jang Geum but bigger fish needed to be fried.
Oh Gyeom-Ho was sick of the Chois. At the instigation of former Lady Qi Jyu, he wanted to get rid of Choi and control the business. At the meantime the King fell ill again, and this time Keum-young and Choi were blamed. Oh Gyeom-Ho took this opportunity to get rid of them whilst the medical department's head (as in Chief medic) refused to own up to the fact that he didn't know what was wrong with the King. Jang Geum investigated as she knew this was same symptoms as like before. So she got the Queen' permission to enter the royal medical archives to see the Queen' medical records (forbidden for women to enter) but she instead stole the King's reports one by one and copied them. Soon Choi found out and proposed that she be killed for it. The eunuch of the King tried to help but to no avail. The Queen was disappointed that Jang Geum lied to her. So she was bundled off and was rumoured to be killed. But as Min Jung-ho knew, he went to the Queen first and begged her to spare Jang Geum's life. The Queen made a pact with Jang Geum; find the illness and cure the King or simply, die! So Jang Geum went out and found several patients like the King's illness and found the cause. But she was not certain although by that time the chief medic proposed a different medicine. The Queen followed his advise amid pressure from scholars why should they listen to the nurse. But the King got worse. Jang Geum proposed for her to check the King's pulse, and Min Jung-ho swore that Jang Geum will cure the King. So Min Jung-ho was dumped into prison and Jang Geum given a chance to feel the pulse. She went into investigation though every step the scholars kept complaining and one day, the King became blind. But she found the cause (which was arsenic due to the natural environment - nobody was trying to poison him - which was why the King was always sick) and cured him. The King was grateful and in the process Choi and Keum-young were saved. But that was not the end of it as investigations revealed the corruption in the palace and with regards to what happened to Lady Han. So Keum-young was sacked and before she left she gave to Jang Geum's her mother's letter which she took many years ago, Lady Choi commited suicide, Oh Gyeom-Ho was banished and Choi Pan-Sul could not withstand the torture died on his way to become a slave in some island.
Lady Min was appointed the new chief of kitchen based on her cooking skills.
But new crisis emerged. Jang Geum was asked by the Queen to ensure the natural death of the crown prince (who was dying of heart disease but don't know when) but Jang Geum refused. When the King asked her what the Queen was up to, she refused to say. So in the end she begged Min Jung-ho not to ask question and to elope with her and he agreed. And so they ran.
Why the Queen wanted her own son to die? The Crown Prince is not her son. The King had another Queen who was banished many years before as advised by his officials for reasons I do not know. The new Queen has another son, a younger one. The thing is Queen and concubines are not allowed to stay in the palace after the King dies. Whoever is the mother of the King is free to live in the palace, the rest must either live with their sons in the sons' home OR if no children then go and become a nun. This is of course different from the Chinese system. So the Queen to ensure her position wanted her son to become King.
But Min Jung-ho's benefactor and mentor caught up with him and told him to go back. Jang Geum went back but found out she was to be conferred the title of King's personal physician, much to the complaints of the scholars. She didn't want to become his physician because that would be disrespect to her teacher, Shin Ik Pil who felt he was to be beneath his student and felt very inadequate and told Jang Geum he would not help her.
The King thought for a long time and decided to give Jang Geum a title of 9th ranked official but it was protested. The more they protested the more he increased the ranking and finally Jang Geum was to become an official of the 6th ranking. More protests from the Empress Dowager who told his son "If you wanted her by your side, by all means take her as your concubine". The Queen thought everybody misunderstood the King but when the King found out Jang Geum was the little girl he once met and never quite forgotten about her thereon, the King was smitten with Jang Geum. So when Min Jung-ho found out the King's intention, he didn't know what to do. Jang Geum was lost and Min Jung-ho can't fight the King over a woman. The King knew they were deeply in love but he loved Jang Geum by then. He felt he could talk to her and felt at ease with her. In the end Min Jung-ho begged the King to allow Jang Geum to continue practising medicine and he was willing to be punished with the disrespect of falling for the same woman. Min Jung-ho said this was the way he would show how much he loved her.
Why Jang Geum cannot be a concubine? Kinda defeat the purpose of her being a doctor in the first place, logically speaking since as a concubine she can't practice medicine.
The King thought long and hard and in the end met with Jang Geum and confessed he loved her and it was a wonderful feeling he had never felt for many years since the banishment of his first Queen. But he said he will allow her to practice medicine and will not make her his concubine but she must remain by his side forever, and that was his way of showing how much he loved her and he begged her as a man to allow him to do so. Due to pressure by the idiotic scholars again, the King banished Min Jung-ho to some faraway land as the scholars thought Min Jung-ho betrayed them and influenced the King in appointing Jang Geum as personal physician. And Min Jung-ho and his descendant will not be allowed to inherit his title until the passing of 2 Kings.
The medical department, by way of Shin Ik Pil was willing to listen to Jang Geum's orders as they did so when there was an outbreak of measles (or maybe chicken pox - in Chinese Tin Fah so I really do not know what it was) whilst the Queen did not mind Jang Geum at all as Jang Geum saved her beloved son from that Tin Fah outbreak.
So the King appointed Jang Geum as his personal physician, gave her the title of the Great Jang Geum and made her an offical of the 3rd ranking. No more protests as the King was very decisive in this and Jang Geum tearfully said goodbye to Min Jung-ho who told her to practice medicine well.
For a long time Jang Geum took great care of the King and became his confidante. She became the Health Minister in a way by proposing measures to up the health of the citizens. Many still disliked her and criticised her but she remembered the words of Min Jung-ho that "People may discriminate, but books do not" and she found comfort in the books and her memory of him.
Then the King became gravely ill. She wanted very much to cut him up and remove some part of his intestines to save him but the King refused. He was thinking of her safety because he might live but if he were to die Jang Geum would be executed. By then he was deeply in love with her and he ordered his internal security to take Jang Geum out. Jang Geum didn't know what was going on but she was reunited with Min Jung-ho and the King's last dying order was for Min Jung-ho to take Jang Geum to China as this was the only way to ensure her safety as he could no longer fight the scholars and ministers and he could no longer protect her. He also apologised to Min Jung-ho for putting the blame of his decision with regards to Jang Geum on him and he thanks Jang Geum for being there for him. Jang Geum was shocked but she insisted on going back to the King as by then her feelings for him was of deep gratitude.
You mean she loved the King? No. She loved Min Jung-ho but she was indebted to the King's belief in her abilities and you could say given time she may be in love with him, who knows. When everybody was protesting about her, the King believed in her and never wavered in his belief in her. Moreover his one last act as the King to ensure her safety was that of a man deeply in love with a woman.
But when they reached nearby notice board they saw all citizens crying and found out the King has died. Jang Geum wanted to go back but she was stopped by the guard who told her it was the King's last dying wish. Min Jung-ho had to practically dragged her away and they ran.
Another 8 years passed by. They were now married and blessed with a daughter who was as precocious and intelligent as was Jang Geum, only more annoying. Anyway they had to constantly run from one place to another to avoid arrest as Jang Geum was always treating illnesses everywhere. But one day came when Kang Deok-Gu came looking for Jang Geum and came across the little girl who reminded him of Jang Geum but he took no more notice of that.
Meanwhile in the palace after the King died, he was succeeded by the sickly young King who also died and now succeeded by the Queen' young son. The Empress Dowager has since died and the Queen became the Queen Dowager. Yeon-Saeng was allowed to stay on as the Empress Dowager knew the King did liked her very much. Yeon-Saeng became very brave and inform the Queen on Jang Geum's whereabouts and the Queen quickly told her guards to take them back and return to Min Jung-ho his title since 2 Kings have died. Jang Geum got back her ranking and she met and said hello to all her friends. All those old grudges were gone and suddenly everybody was smiling happily. She also met with the Kangs and she acknowledged them to be her parents and respectfully call them her father and mother, both were touched by Min Jung-ho and her gesture.
But Jang Geum begged the Empress Dowager to allow her to practice medicine outside. Knowing it was also the King's dying wish the Empress Dowager allowed her to do so and so Jang Geum, her husband and daughter left and she encountered a pregnant lady in a cave dying from difficult childbirth. She performed a revolutionary surgery (which the King refused 8 years before) and saved both mother and child.
The series ended with Min Jung-ho narrating something along the line that this was a woman who never took no for an answer and one should never tell her no as she was so much ahead of her time.
PHEW! Finally! 71 episodes summarised into ... 5 pages? Anyway, many more I did not say because I couldn't remember most details or the chronology of it but the gist is all there.
If All About Eve was why I became addicted to Korean drama series (a select few but anything with Jang Dong Gun I will watch), Jewel In The Palace was the reason why I saw the beauty of the Korean language. Truth be told, I wanted to watch this series because it was so popular. So when ASTRO was going to show it on every Saturday and Sundays from 4pm to 7pm, my weekends were stuck with this series. Quite a curse because I had to turn down my friends' invitation to go watch movies and jalan-jalan and also my family cursing that I was hogging the TV. And when I discovered the dual language available on ASTRO, well suddenly my house every weekend became mini Korea.
Anyway this series I will admit is addictive. Some scholars wondered why. Could it be the food? Not really, all look the same to me. In fact I find the Korean Imperial family, food and system very funny because they were so inadequate in so many things. Could it be the written Chinese language? Maybe since for a moment I thought this was a Chinese series except that their hair was far more cumbersome. Could it be because of Jang Geum, a never say die character who bounced back again and again and again despite all adversities? Not really. After 15 episodes one can only take so much of scheming and bouncing back and prisons. After awhile I find Jang Geum's adversities and obstacles rather repetetive. Could it be handsome men? Technically only 2, the King and Min Jung-ho but the King was always weak in my eyes except for his dying wish which moved me to tears and Min Jung-ho was after a while unbelievably dedicated to Jang Geum. Could it be the story? Over the top, quite unrealistic and too modern but maybe. Could it be the acting? Generally good acting, more so if you watch it in Korean BUT some aren't that good and I will explain why.
SO WHY ON EARTH DID I SPEND SO MANY WEEKENDS WATCHING THIS?
I wonder too and I kinda realise once you begin watching this series, you won't be able to stop. It's like a kiasu mentality, must watch, must watch it ALLLLLL! Frankly though, this series has many highlights, many moments, most of them lost to me because of being way too long, I can't remember most of them. Characters wise I remember most.
If any compliments you can give to this series it letting us know the characters and loving them in the process.
Take for instance Kang Deok-Gu. Didn't quite like him at first but for 60 odd episodes I saw how he went after Jang Geum when Jang Geum was banished, how he treated her like his daughter and his bond with her, I can't help but like him and find his many arguments with his much temperamental wife very funny to watch. He is one of my favourite characters. More lighthearted characters like Lady Min became my favourite as the series went by. Her funniest moment was when she was told the winner of the competition who would become the new Chief of the Kitchen and the name was "Lady Min" and she quickly looked at everyone and asked "Who is Lady Min? Who? Who?" and then she realised it was her. To me that was the funniest moment in this series. She became my favourite character towards the end for her unquestionable loyalty to Jang Geum although when she started she was not as decisive. Another firm favourite is also the assistant of Lady Min, I think her name is Yeol-I though frankly I didn't catch her name.
As for serious characters, I really like little Jang Geum, who was acted brilliantly by the young actress Jo Jung-Eun. Very lively, very intelligent, a bit NOT like Lee Young Ae who looked like "picking up gold also won't smile" type. But my firm favourite for the serious character has to be Keum-young. I find her such a conflicted character. Though towards the end she had little to do, by far she displayed such emotional complexities I pitied her. I was hoping she would get something out of the whole deal but she was left with nothing. I also like the Queen except for that one fleeting moment when she asked Jang Geum to do something Jang Geum will never do. I find her a fair and just character except for that one time and I truly liked her. Min Jung-ho also for being handsome and extremely loyal to Jang Geum and last but not least, the King himself whom I learned to like only in the last episode where he displayed the integrity and the honour of an King on his death bed.
So really, why this series is so likeable and addictive is because after 71 episodes you seem like you know these characters and there must be at least one you can identify with since 71 episodes would allow for many personalities to walk in and out of this series.
But 71 episodes also is in a way a death sentence for a series if you have nothing consistent to say. Some parts of this series is highly inconsistent that sometimes I wondered why is this series being butchered this way. For one the Queen sudden request, the King's inability to stand on his decision and often being pushed around, the arrogance of the palace maid for snubbing the appointment of a concubine earlier in this series which was ridiculous, the downfall of Choi and Ng which was really very childish. And I also wondered what happened to Keum-young. I mean after watching her for 60 odd episodes I would hope to see her ending, a good end for her.
But in a way this is also a compliment in the sense that this series is really focused. Nothing would deviate from Jang Geum, not even politics which after a while became rather like "Jang Geum this..Jang Geum that.." like she was one super human who could do so much. Unrealistic but pivotal to this series simply because she is the main character. In TVB series by the 10th episode the series would be talking about everybody but Jang Geum, in a Korean series, Jang Geum was constantly mentioned. Sometimes it felt tedious, sometimes I thought too much credit has been given to her and she seems to know so darn much to the point of disbelief that is it frustrating to watch but watched on I did because this is the style of Korean series, so take it or leave it.
But nothing beats the one major criticism I have for this series.
This series attempted and did white washed many violent aspects of the history and some circumstances. For one, it was said the King before Jung Jong was very violent, the most cruel in the history of Korea but I find nothing of that in this series. It mentions his cruel regime but nothing much was shown. The death of Lady Han was another. She basically died of torture because she looked tortured but we are spared from her torture scenes. Too little blood, too little scars but we know why she died. The way Lady Choi died, we are spared from watching her fall, just she letting go of the branch, and the falling of the red ribbon. I would have wished to see her fall. Why must I be denied of that when seeing her die is in the end an ending of all those inhouse fighting we have been seeing? I was even denied the chance to see the King die. I mean let me see him die but no, you won't. The worse was the sudden death of Yong Non. I didn't even know she died and I thought maybe it was a hoax but really, she died. Last scene was her looking at some direction and next she died. The connection was cut off so as to spare us the pain or horror of whatever but this kills the mood you know. I wanna see blood, I wanna see bodies, I wanna see death! But none. The entire series simply skipped this aspect and in the end it felt disjointed, it felt like something was not right and that is the one major weakness of this series.
As I have mentioned before, the other weaknesses of this series can also be seen as the series went by. I mean the technical aspect.
For one, Jang Geum recognised Min Jung-ho as the man she saved but he couldn't recognise her. BUT much later when she was banished to Cheju Island, she was shocked to know Min Jung-ho was the man she saved, at which point he found out she was the one who saved him. I was very surprised by this inconsistency and I swear that she knew who he was before. Sometimes being far too long makes for double take on a few facts.
Another would be the complete disregard of Mrs Kang for Jang Geum's fate when she was being shipped to Cheju Island. She didn't seem to care but a few minutes later she seemed to care a lot since she scolded Min Jung-ho. It was not feigned concern since she truly scolded him and earlier it was not feigned disregard since she sounded like she didn't care. I never liked this character and that inconsistency didn't make me like her more either.
Also the non movement of certain characters. Like Yeon-Saeng. Horribly inadequate character that is only redeemed for the fact that she is extremely loyal to Jang Geum but really very stupid in my opinion. She knew these few people caused misery to Jang Geum and yet she was quite nice to them and all of a sudden when she was concubine she was like stern and decisive. The fact that she cries at the drop of the hat was really annoying and tedious to watch.
There is also the Empress Dowager. She meddles into the politics again and again and again and each time she sounded like she regretted meddling and yet she did again and again and again. It's like she's here for nothing else but meddle into this, meddle into that causing the King high stress.
I must not forget also the character of Yong Non. From mean little girl to mean adult to even as mean in death. She was like holed up in one dimension. This also applies to the character of Rie. I thought her character must serve a higher purpose and suddenly we are told she's here to avenge for Lady Park's (former Lady Qi Jyu) banishment. That was unbelievably oh so boring. And she is out to hurt Jang Geum. As if having Lady Choi, Keum-young, Choi Pan-Sul. Oh Gyeom-Ho and countless of others as enemy is not enough, we have one more to the list. It was as if after a while each new character introduced is either to help Jang Geum or to hurt her. There is no middle ground.
And then the ending. She returned to the palace and everybody was smiling. Even those that opposed her to death also were smiling, even at Min Jung-ho. I was like what changed their mentality? Time?
There are also characters that are introduced and then nothing happened like that young astrologer. Question then is like "SO?". Is he going to teach her astrology? Are they going to meet ever ever again?
What about Shin Bi? A competent nurse that after 8 years is still the same rank? Because higher rank wear red cap and her cap is still black. I mean give her a promotion for Heaven's sake.
But nothing beats this one technical aspect which I thought at this point the series became silly.
After Cheju Island, which was 3 years after, Jang Geum returned to the palace as a nurse and with Keum-young as the Chief of Kitchen. Isn't she a bit too young? I mean politics is politics but wouldn't her appointment must have the sanction of at least the Queen? I was shocked to see her the Chief of Kitchen which was ridiculous.
And then the story itself is very repetetive. First half is on Jang Geum's struggle for recognition as a cook, the many obstacles to her love life and the politics, also on her friendship with Yeon-Saeng and her dissenters, the other cooks. Then second half is on her struggle as a nurse and her struggle for recognition as a competent nurse, the many obstacles to her love life and the politics and on her friendship with Shin Bi and her dissenters, the other nurses. See the pattern? Only occupation changed, the rest are basically the same, maybe nursing is less mouth watering than being a cook.
The many aspects of this series analyzed
But all that being said, for all the weaknesses and the repetetive stories, there are a number of gems in this series, in terms of some solid acting and some very solid characters.
So her downfall was silly, since it basically herself opening the can of worms with Oh Gyeom-Ho digging his own grave, mostly due to her arrogance and her miscalculation that Jang Geum can be as shrewd as her, but this character's internal struggle with her conscience is interesting.
She does have a conscience. She didn't want to do all those bad deeds but she had to to safeguard the Choi family interest. Jang Geum wanted her to apologise to her mother but she only did it to save herself. I find her final ending scene very poignant and very sad, that I can't help but cry for her death. I DID CRY I SWEAR. I mean how can you not? She is not really evil, she is just forced into a corner and did what she had to do. Her ending scene was one of the best in this series. She truly loved Keum-young like her own daughter and she was ready to surrender herself after apologising to Jang Geum's mother at her grave. But she qualified her apologies by saying she did so to save Keum-young but really she recognised what she did to her and Lady Han was wrong. But she felt little remorse for Lady Han's death because she thought Lady Han had lived a good life but not Jang Geum's mother. On her way back she saw a red ribbon on a branch and it brought back some old buried memories of her childhood. She went to take the ribbon but it was the cliff and she fell, as she held on to the branch for her dear life. She then saw this in the past, when she was very little and she and Lady Han and Jang Geum's mother were very good friends and she was like this, hanging onto the branch. But the other two told her to "Let go! Let go! Don't worry, we will catch you, let go!" and she was crying "No No!" but they said "Come on! We are here, we will catch you!" and she remembered how she let go and they caught her and they were all laughing happily together. At that moment she stopped struggling and she let go of the branch.
It was poignantly sad.
One of my favourite characters in this series, I find her having more personality than the sometimes bland Jang Geum. I also find her to be a very conflicted character. She has a conscience but everything she did and will do was driven by one fact; that because Min Jung-ho loved Jang Geum. She didn't blame him, she didn't hate him but she channeled all her hatred on Jang Geum which was interesting. A woman scorned, best beware fellow girlfriends. When she decided to do evil on Min Jung-ho, she cooked him one last meal. In a way Min Jung-ho felt guilty towards her, for his inability to love her but he respected her and see her as someone different from the usual Choi clan. Anyway, I like her ending scene. When Lady Choi died, she cried for a very long time and Jang Geum stood outside the prison walls, feeling very guilty but it was something she had to do. When she was sacked, she asked Jang Geum to see her and gave to her Jang Geum's mother's letter. She then said to Jang Geum, that "I was supposed to destroy this letter, but I didn't. This is me; this has always been me. I knew I should have destroyed the letter, but I didn't. I knew I wasn't talented enough, but I never tried harder to improve my skills. I didn't want to do the things my family asked of me, I tried to say no but I did it anyway because I couldn't say no and I was weak, and yet I didn't do it all the way, my way of rebelling against my family. I love a man who could not love me back. This is me." and she left and then met Min Jung-ho halfway who said to her "I am sorry" but she said "I hope in our next life, you no longer feel the need to apologise to me" and she left. What happened to her next I do not know because her story, frustratingly stopped there.
I didn't know her name was Munjeong since I never heard her name being mentioned at all. I also didn't know historically she was the King's 3rd Queen. I thought she was the 2nd. In fact I didn't know she wasn't the 1st until that twisted plot about her which I shall describe below happened.
I like her character. Her character went from strength to strength and playing a very prominent and important role in this series. Although I was disgusted she had to play such dirty politics like asking Jang Geum to kill the crown prince, like so out of character but overall this is one fair and just woman who did everything to protect the man she loved and the son she adored. Her one very good scene was when her son was very sick and when the King asked Jang Geum to treat the son, she was disgusted. She thought it was an insult. I find this a deviation from her character again because she trusted Jang Geum and yet she discriminated against Jang Geum when it comes to treating her son. Anyway she tearfully said to the King "Do you not care for our son? Your son? Why have you asked Jang Geum to treat our son? Why do I feel you do not love our son?". Anyway the real historical figure is even more interesting than in the series. Do check out Interesting History.
Shin Ik Pil
A very stony faced man like the world is going to end with the thickest lips I have ever seen, except for Angelina Jolie! I like this character because he has a character. Although at first I did not understand why he discriminated against Jang Geum and kept telling her she is not fit to be a nurse, but he explained himself. I will spare you the details. Anyway, later on he became kinda jealous. But not really jealous. He felt his pupil has surpass the master and he was disappointed and in a way ashamed to remain in his position. But when he saw how Jang Geum selflessly took care of the kids with measles (Tin Fah, which could be anything but I just put measles), he had a double take. I think he kinda remembered what he told Jang Geum when she was training to be nurse and he realised that's what being a doctor is all about. So he supported Jang Geum. I like him though, and his name is so catchy.
A very gutsy character, she seems very harsh at first but she had her reasons. She trained Jang Geum until the day she could no longer train her anymore. This is one woman who means what she says and gets it done. Not like Jang Geum who gets shocked easily though.
King Jung Jong
Not my favourite character at first because he was so weak. He can be easily dissuaded from anything by his mother kneeling before him or scholars complaining about his decision. But in the last 2 episodes, he stood by his decision on matters with regards to Jang Geum and the way he told her "You will stay by my side from now on. This is an order from a King and as a man I beg you" was really a very emotional scene. Then in one scene where he defended Jang Geum's treatment of his grave illness,Jang Geum walked in and he tearfully told Jang Geum "I am feeling much better because of you" but he looked gravely ill. Then Jang Geum tearfully said "Thank you, thank you for believing in me" and the King said "I have been through a lot. I have been through sadness, difficulties, obstacles but you have been my source of energy for me to continue on this long journey, you are my encouragement, my inspiration" and Jang Geum said "I have been through sadness, difficulties, obstacles too but you have been my source of energy for me to continue on this long journey, you are my encouragement, my inspiration". I thought for a moment Jang Geum did love him a little. And as he lay dying, he noticed her every movement, her lips, her eyes, he hands, her neck and then he made his final decision. The way he sent her away, refusing to take her revolutionary treatment (as in the first of its kind - surgery) for fear that if he died she wouldn't have time to run away was really what made me cry buckets. Then he died. I was like "What?! He died?! How can! How can!". I was in complete denial. His death was the saddest for me.
Another mournful looking character, strict but actually nice and fair and just. Not my favourite character and her death scene played out too long (I knew from the start she was going to die so her extra long prison sentence and thousands of flashback was tedious to watch). But anyway a more better character than some caricatures.
One of my most favourite characters. She hold fast to her ideals and never wavered. They thought they nominated a puppet but this puppet can actually cook and is stern but kind. Her death scene was sad though, that she was simply carted off the palace just like that, not one farewell dinner was really cold and cruel. She is also memorable because sometimes she is forced to a corner unable to move due to politics but she will navigate through other ways. At times it was frustrating she couldn't do more due to her not so huge influence in the kitchen but well she tried many ways.
As in personality-less characters like Shin Bi the nurse. Nice, nice and really nice. So? But I guess Jang Geum needed a friend in the medical dept, hence her presence.
Yeon-Saeng, best friend in the world but cried too much to the point that I expected her to cry when she appeared. She is so nice, she is sometimes rather dumb if you know what I mean. She knows these people meant harm to Jang Geum and herself yet she seemed so friendly and concerned about them. But when she became concubine seok waen, she was suddenly quite stern. But one redeeming factor about her is her loyalty to Jang Geum never wavered and Jang Geum's concern for her is almost sister-like. By the way she almost died of child birth but Jang Geum saved her. More on that later.
Lady Qi Jyu as in that Lady Park (former Lady Qi Jyu), her exit from this series was very sudden. It was like Jang Geum returned after many years of exile as slave and suddenly Lady Qi Jyu was no longer there. Even when she was there she seemed to look from scheming to worried scheming to angry scheming. Even after 3 years, her hair all suddenly white, she was still scheming but this time revenge scheming. The point is her character evolved from a character with some importance to the plot to simply another casualty of Lady Choi. And just as suddenly, she disappeared from the series altogether. You can say she has little personality and very little characterisation.
The sons of the Kangs. We see a young boy at the beginning, who is the son of Kang Deok-Gu and wife. Then suddenly when Jang Geum grew up, he simply disappeared from the screen. I thought he married and moved elsewhere but much much much later, in just one line we would find out he died when he was very young due to illness. The director did mentioned there was no time for the development of this boy's story, so he was axed from the story. And so what is the point of making Mrs Kang pregnant again only to be told the child died some time later again due to illness, and yet we never see the child at all? Is it to show the Kangs have no luck in bearing a child? I was wondering why not show Jang Geum help the Mrs Kang deliver a sickly child and then heal that sickly child. Wouldn't that be more meaningful and in a way a good end for the Kangs? But then too many childbirths in this series then. Instead we have Jang Geum after decades of being with the Kangs finally calling them mom and dad, and that was because Min Jung-ho said so. It was a sudden turn of events that should have happened much earlier instead of like this which made it look like afterthought. Like to end this series nicely but instead created a lot of loopholes.
Yong Non is really very pointless in this series. She started out as a mean bully and grew up into a mean bully who had the honour of dying suddenly and I didn't even know she died. Last scene was her being escorted away by Choi's men and then some sound, she looked behind with an expressionless face and then next scene she was supposed to be dead. Didn't even see her body. And her uncle who works for Choi is also as pointless. When I say useless character, I meant this character is not being used enough.
Oh Gyeom-Ho, so fearless, so powerful and yet his downfall was rather juvenile. I won't even waste my "breath" to describe it because you have got to watch it to know it. All I could think of when he fell from power together with Lady Choi was Jang Geum didn't even have to do anything. Like Lady Han, they all dug their own graves and buried themselves in it.
Villain, where art thou?
Many felt Lady Choi was despicable, she was evil, she was the villain but really I do not see a real villain in here. What Lady Choi did, she had to do for reasons she justified at the end but really of not much justification. Like what Jang Geum said to her husband at the end of this series when her husband asked "Will you miss the palace?" and she answered "It was in the palace I found my happiness, it was the palace who gave me sadness, I learned from the palace and yet it was the palace who took away everything from me..." which translates to "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn". Even Keum-young is not a villain. She is just a woman scorned and funnily, like I said above she blamed Jang Geum for being loved by Min Jung-ho. Oh Gyeom-Ho is just greedy, Choi Pan-Sul just a schemer. Of course they kill along the way but those are unavoidable casualties if you ask me. After all the fight for power, as illustrated in this series but undeniably white washed, is ugly.
Anyway I notice those that are supposed to be mean and villains in a Korean series have thin pointy face, little flesh on their hollow cheeks and thin lips. Those that are supposed to be nice and cute have chubby or moderately filled cheeks. Which is why Keum-young is not a villain.
Power? What power struggle?
One wonders what power struggle in this series. What I mean is usually we see power struggle as in I wanna be king, so play far far away and let me be king type of series. This one is different. It is the series that showcases and empowers women in the power of struggle of men. Men as in businessmen trying to safeguard their own interests, politicians trying to control the administration of the palace and ordinary women trying to find wealth and security by aiding those doing such deeds. It is from the viewpoint of women and coming from South Korea and filmed during an era where women were not even allowed to go to school, it was a very interesting prospect. Of course when the struggle began in the kitchen, I did wonder what power struggle? Who is the best chef?
Ahhhhh this series illustrates that when one controls the kitchen, one controls the dietary habit of the royals thus one can just poison someone without anybody detecting it. Or cause abortions. The same pwer struggle also extends to the medical department where a nurse can cause the miscarriage of a royal baby and yet amazingly escape detection.
I am sorry to say this part of the storyline is plain ridiculous.
Let's see this from the viewpoint of the Chinese Kings.
Imagine you wife kept having abortions for no reasons, or maybe ill health. Wouldn't as the King you will blame the chef for cooking perhaps the wrong food? Maybe the doctors for not detecting a health problem and preventing it? What about the scenario that the abortion was natural, the ill health was years of neglect or abuse of ones own body but as an King you want answers so naturally you will blame the doctors, the chefs and the maids for doing a bad job though they didn't. My point is working for the King is a hazardous job. In whichever way you see a scenario, these people will have their heads chopped off by the next day.
This is where this series became ridiculous apart from instant promotion for Keum-young and non promotion of Shin Bi. The palace seems to just accept the sudden death of the Queen, the miscarriages of the royal babies, overall bad health of the royals that there are no consequence. I thought wahhh so understanding.
Anyway back to power struggle. This series shows how important food is and how important controlling the kitchen is. But what I find funny though doctors and nurses are not given the respect they should. It was as if drinking one bowl of soup can cure that particular illness when the effects are slow, it takes time, acupuncture is also very important. This series over emphasise on the importance of food to ones health at the beginning but Jang Geum was right when she told the King "The best doctor is the patient himself" and not the food, herbs or soups.
Food? What food?
The first half of this series, we see a lot of chopping, dicing, slicing, steamboats, gravy, etc. Not really mouth watering but interesting and looks healthy. The ingredients look the same though. I was quite surprised at how poor the palace was. For one, flour is a luxury. Beef and milk also. I am sure sugar, white rice also. They have never heard of certain veges, chillies and peppers were not introduced until much later which I guess explained for the absence of Korean's favourte pickled veges or kimchi. They ate a lot of soy sauce, and I suspect Miso soup is a big hit there though Miso soup is from Japan. Their main dishes are mostly salad based (as in tossed in some special sauce), grilled, fried or stir friend. Steamboat also a favourite with more emphasis on soup than meat or fish. In fact rarely see seafood. Sauce is always maybe bean type or malt I think. As for porridge, there are some amazing porridge cooked using the internal organs of oysters I think which gave it the colour of green. But basically the dishes are really the same that after awhile it gives me an impression that the variety is quite limited. And all these dishes must fit into small round tables.
You mean they remove the top themselves?
One scene shocked me. It may also show a lack of attention to details or maybe I am so used to Chinese Kings not having to lift their hands at all when eating. Anyway it was the food competition and some bowls came with a cover. Imagine who will open the cover? The Queen, Empress Dowager and the King themselves! I was thinking what was the palace maid sitting at each side doing? Day dreaming? Shouldn't they be the one to take off the cover? Or maybe tho Korean royalties were that humble. Maybe I am too used to big scale stuff that such small gestures kinda shocked me.
Furniture? Where is the furniture?
Lack of furniture is the impression I get. Not even a chair for the King to sit on. Those sat by the officials are woods, looking like it came from some kampung canteen. All of them sleep, eat and even discuss politics on the floor. What is interesting is how the women sat. I can't describe it but it's not conventionally ladylike yet I do not find their way of sitting unladylike. And yet their hands must remain side their outer coat (or whatever you call them) at all times. And what is interesting is also the fact that they had to sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand that I suspect Korean men and women's leg muscles must be very very strong. By the time a character stood and sat for the 3rd time, I felt tired for him or her. It looks tedious to stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, especially in the scenes where Jang-Deok and Jang Geum were treating patients, 5 in a row. They walked to eahc patient, sit, then stand, walk then sit then stand then walk...you know what I mean. What is worse is the way the women saluted the King; they will have to literally stand, and then sit all the way down and the using extremely strong leg muscle pull themselves up without the hands pushing themselves. I can never ever do that.
Big hair, glossy lips and my God! Look at the blusher!
Lady Choi seems to have overdone herself on some days. Her lips was so glossy, so red and the cheeks so rosy. And their hair, that standard hairstyle is so cumbersome. It is only a wig and a very heavy one. The bigger and higher the hair, the higher the status of that woman. But I wonder, why the pillow on top of the head? Some so big you can sleep on it! My neck felt painful looking at their hair and imagine having to sleep with that thing on your head. Shocking hairstyles. Even the normal ones, those unmarried type of hairstyle looks cumbersome.
The dress! So airy!
I am in love with Han Boks, the ones worn by the women. Here we see the low quality type and also the satin high quality type. You see also the royals type, a bit too flashy for my taste. But I never thought of a coat or overall worn outside of the Han Boks, mainly to hide the hands. You can even hide your AK 47 in it. Jang Geum hid a bowl, a clothe and a rather large spade in it. The aprons worn by the palace maids looks very suitable with the overall whilst the nurses' Han Boks look like scholar type together with their cumbersome head gear. Jang Geum's official 3rd ranked doctor's Han Book perhaps had the nicest pattern but generally Han Bok gave me an impression, fat, thin, tall, short all look the same in it which makes it so comfortable and less discriminating of ones figure, unlike qipaos or cheongsams. And you can even sit with one leg tucked under and the other like a manly type of way to sit but surprisingly looking very ladylike. But my God, this is one costume that used so many layers of clothing!
Ropes! Colourful ropes!
Do check out the ropes used to tie the prisoners. I have never seen such colourful ropes before!
Scenery. Is that IT?
Tourism in South Korea is starting to cater for those wishing to revisit Jewel In The Palace, I guess like "this was where Lady Han was buried, this was where she became a slave" type of tour. There is even a museum of Dae Jang Geum mind you! But in this series, they do have sceneries but 80% of the scenery is confined to one shot of the palace, then mostly in the kitchen or inside the King's chambers or more chambers. The only time any scenery is seen at all that is slightly different is on Cheju Island and even that not much is shown. Really, I was thinking IS THAT IT? But you get to see snow, plantation, poor villages, etc.
Information overload! Information overload!
If there is any information overload in here, it is knowing too much of the King's health; from his marks on his body to the condition of his stool and that he basically died of constipation. Nowadays one can have surgery to remove the waste from our body (as in intestine) which we can't you know force out which is really not a very nice condition. Imagine having your feaces removed by a team of surgeons, if not you will basically die of toxic waste, pun intended. But the King was suffering from this and to me his illness was very sudden. He kept saying he's getting old therefore his body is failing him. But hey, those scholars who protested everything he did ... aren't they old too? In fact older? For all the good food Lady Jung, Lady Han and even Lady Choi cooked for him, he is always suffering from illnesses. Which shows, he is basically a weak man physically. Still, information overload! I don't need to know THAT about his stool!
Never ending scene(s)
As in the investigation into Choi Pan-Sul's business deals with Oh Gyeom-Ho and the Japanese. From the first moment Min Jung-ho appeared until almost the last, he was investigating this matter. And even until the end I was like HUH? The politics in this series was very confusing and I never paid enough attention anyway.
The expressions perfected
If there are two expressions the Koreans are good at, and I have watched a few of Korean drama series to know those looks are the utterly shocked look and the utterly dismayed look.
Utterly shocked look consists of being shocked until don't know what to say, couldn't say or stuttering say. All the same reaction really. Eyes really big, very very very big, mouth opening and closing for a few times and one word also couldn't get out. They're really good at this expression and what is frustrating about this look is Jang Geum herself. Why is she so utterly shocked of what Choi is capable of doing after being done in like millions of times in this series? Shouldn't she feel angry instead of utterly shocked? She stutters when she couldn't answer but she shouldn't stutter because she came to a point where she should be street smart, world smart and everything smart. Never has there been one character that so many people have tried so many ways to get rid of and yet by the 50th episode she still had that utterly shocked look.
Utterly dismayed look is those eyes looking down, not smiling, even looking like the world is going to end and perhaps a single tear rolling down the cheeks. You see that from Jang Geum and Keum-young a lot, especially Jang Geum in some scenes where she looked like gold raining on her face also she won't smile. Keum-young tears will automatically roll down her cheeks everytime she sees or hears about Min Jung-ho. Always.
The quiet crying scenes
I notice there is a great big departure from some older series and some newer series when it comes to crying scenes or maybe it was just Models. In Models the women cry like wailing like "Hoooooo hoooooo sob sob sob hoooooo" type which is annoying. In this series, like All About Eve, the crying are mostly silent which really I am not complaining. Just an obervation. But people cry too much in here, or rather get teary eyed too easily. But thank God they don't cry like every minute.
Repetition of words
If the translation is to be believed, they talk like Taiwanese series like "Why must you do that? Should you do that? How can you do that? Please tell me, please I beg you, tell me? Please you must tell me, you shall tell me, you have to tell me, you need to tell me, you can tell me, oh please just tell me" and that was before the other had a chance to even say anything. Very frustrating to read all that but don't know if the Korean part is like that also.
Follow up please!
Especially with regards to Keum-young's character. I wanted to know what happened to her but never knew because never shown.
Miss Know It All
Jang Geum knew everything and one wonders where she knew all these. This series is truly an advocate of books. Got a problem? Refer to books! She reminded me of Hermione Granger but less hoity toity type. Every medical solution can be found in books as depicted in this series. She is still know it all though. She even knew CPR! She was the first to advocate surgery! She knew innoculation! She knew everything! Isn't that giving too much credit to her? Isn't she like superwoman after a while?
The description of human pulses
Like "her pulse is like wood floating on a raging river", "her pulse is like feather floating in the windless air", "his pulse is like a musical harp out of tune". Really?! I was almost bored to death with these description.
How grateful are the people?
I find some adults in here very mean to children. I find some children very mean to other children. I find the people who was helped rarely said thank you. Overall this series highlighted a lot of ungrateful people. Watch and you'll see.
Pararells of two generations
Maybe it was intentional that Jang Geum and Min Jung-ho's lives were almost the same as Jang Geum's mom and dad. But it does make for a very tedious watch as I was thinking "Haven't I seen this somewhere before?".
I was wondering, why can't Jang Geum remain as the minister with Min Jung-ho continuing his work at the palace, and Jang Geum become a travelling royal doctor serving the people on behalf of the royal palace? Why must she just leave, her job, her friends, her rank? I find it unfair to Min Jung-ho who has been consistently showed as a potentially gifted politician, so to speak. Why must he sacrifice his career for her when she can still have her career by requesting to the Queen that she be allowed to travel Korea to continue with her work but still remain as representative of the palace? Can even publish books.
Most Favourite Scene
When the King was very very sick and he was teary eyed as he spoke with a teary eyed Jang Geum. It was very sad really.
Most Memorable Scene
Being 71 episodes, I can't remember which is most memorable to me because frankly can't remember much. I do remember little Jang Geum. But overall, it had to be the scene where the King wanted to make Jang Geum an official and everytime it is protested, he raised her rank by 1 notch so by the end of the discussion she was to be official of the 6th rank. Very funny scene and for once a very decisive King.
Another memorable scene was when the King confessed to Jang Geum that he felt he was not a good King, that he was wrong for the job and that he in a way contributed to the mess in the administration. He said he liked hunting, travelling, reading and writing books and so he may not have been trained or cut out to be King unlike his brother who was trained all his life. You can call this the William-Harry dilemma. But Jang Geum replied that he created a meteoroligal system, new way of plantation, written books, found ways to streghten defence, all these learned whilst he was travelling, all of which came in handy and useful when he became King. To Jang Geum he was a good King and the King was very touched by what she said. I agree with her. Very memorable scene.
Most Romantic Scene
Plenty, all between Jang Geum and Min Jung-ho. I like the scene where he carried her whilst walking in knee high snow, I like the scene where he ignored her so that she will know how it felt to miss someone terribly, I like the scene where he placed a ornament (or whatever you call it) on her dress, I like the way he stutters when she is angry with him, I like the scene where she ran to him as she had been trying to find him for the whole day whilst he was trying to look for her too and when she saw him she tearfully said "Where were you? Where were you when I needed you? You said you will always be here for me, where were you?" and he was stunned into complete silence (yes, THAT look again) with her sudden outburst of emotion (usually she is bland you see). It is romantic you know. I have said this before and I shall say it again; it takes the Koreans to show to us how a gentleman and a dedicated lover should be depicted and I am like so convinced at how chilvarous they're but maybe they're MCPs for all I know. But the depiction of their concern for the women they love is really very convincing and makes me hope to meet a Min Jung-ho or a Yoon Hyung Chul one day when I know these are dying breed.
As described above, Lady Min's reaction when she was to become the Chief of Kitchen.
Most Unnecessary Dramatic Scene
Like Jang Geum having kicked out Choi and gang, she requested to the King so that she can do something and that something was her being Chief of Kitchen for the time being so that she can write her mom's story into the cookbook as mentioned somewhere above! Everybody's reaction when seeing her dressed like that was "Oh my God!".
Most Necessary Dramatic Scene
But the most dramatic scene, necessary though is the one where Choi faked the Chief's doctor's suicide note and revealing that the circumstances of Lady Han's death was because due to his wrong diagnosis of the King's illness back then and so Lady Han's food was blamed. Ng then used this to overthrow a fellow official and gain power whilst Choi Pan-Sul gained more business. But the thing is the doctor didn't die! He pretended to die and then he revealed everything. The reaction of those who was looking at someone walking in, and the viewers wouldn't know who until everybody's face was zoomed and held for like 3 seconds before moving to the other and there were quite a number of people there so imagine the time it took to show the shocked look and to know who they were looking at. But I was shocked. Truly shocked. I thought Yong-non didn't die, I thought they were looking at her but it turned out to be the doctor.
The King looking at Jang Geum's every gesture and then he made that final decision and then dying. Very shocking because he died! But before he died, and Jang Geum already sent away, the eunuch saw the King sitting up. He quietly told the King, "Your Majesty (ok maybe not Your Majesty but "cho-na"), you shouldn't be sitting up. The great Jang Geum would not like it and she will chastise you again..." and the King smiled at that memory and said "Yes she would not like this..." and he lied down again. So sad!
Almost saddest scene(s)
A collection of some sad scenes like Lady Jung's passing. I mean we know about her and yet you know her dying was like someone you knew dying which was sad but her passing was spoilt by those flash back footages which were way too long.
Jang Geum being abandoned in the village where there was an outbreak of plague and Min Jung-ho found her with that utterly dismayed look and she had a tear rolling down her tears and she quietly said "I have been abandoned. They don't want me anymore. My colleagues have abandoned me."
Lady Choi's passing.
No feeling type of scene
Choi Pan-Sul's passing. I laughed.
Most oversentimental scene(s)
Lady Han's passing was sad but for the repetition of her previous scenes were tedious to watch.
Lady Jung's death was also sad but to show new scenes that never seen before with regards to Jang Geum and her relationship was truly badly inserted. I mean Jang Geum respected Lady Jung but were they THAT close as depicted? The scenes were like afterthoughts and it was oversentimental.
That part where Yong Non died and Yeon-Saeng remembered their adventures together where she was mostly nasty. I wonder what was the purpose? Nobody was supposed to even pity her or even like her and the flashbacks proved why the viewers would not mourn over her passing.
I would have loved to see Jang Geum returning to the palace and paying respect to the dead King's grave, if there is one. That would have been a powerful scene because it would show even after 8 years she missed him and was grateful for his belief in her. It will show she still remembered him and that she is one grateful person.
I would have love to see Min Jung-ho encountering perhaps a married Keum-young or something, for some closure.
i would have love to see Jang Geum taking her daughter to see Lady Han and her mom's grave.
Hmmm what happened to Min Jung-ho's father? He did have one you know.
I would have love to see the King's eunuch one last time, like what happened to him. But suddenly he disappeared when the King died.
Worst Scene aka Most Ridiculous Scene
There is one. The ending scene where Jang Geum returned to the palace and everybody was smiling happily and the ministers sudddenly so friendly to Min Jung-ho. Suddenly! I mean 8 years has passed but mentality is still the same, Jang Geum is still the same rank. Does it mean these ministers weren't happy with King Jung Jong and so everything he said they will protest but when he died, everything was ok?
The King became a favourite of mine for what he did in the end but he was for most part a wimp of a king.
The Queen was a favourite of mine until her character was bastardized by the writer but she quickly became my favourite again for being fair and just.
Lady Min, a firm favourite after more than 60 episodes of this series. It was funny she became the Chief of the Kitchen, as she was never ambitious and was afraid of power. Her asistant also is a firm favourite of mine.
Min Jung-ho, gallant, handsome, so supportive, very protective and unbelievably understanding.
Shin Ik Pil simply because I remember his name so well and his stony face. His fellow colleague also a firm favourite.
Kang Deok-Gu for his concern of Jang Geum though he is noisy.
Little Jang Geum.
I have to say the first few episodes about Jang Geum's childhood and somewhere towards the end. The middle parts are ok but sometimes too slow and repetetive.
Most Annoying Character
Jang Geum and Min Jung-ho's daughter. Not cute, so annoying, talked too much.
Jang Geum became from likeable to not so likeable to my least favourite for her constant stuttering and her utterly shocked look and her overly too positive type of character who seems to know too much. A know it all but not her fault just that I didn't like that aspect of her.
Jo Jung-Eun as Little Jang Geum
Shaky at first but got better and better as the series went on and on. Charming girl who is not only cute, pretty and girly but also very intelligent looking. I find her sharp and attentive and a very good actress. In person she is polite and yet playful, just like kids her age. She is at the writing of this review 11 years old so she was about 8 or 9 when she acted in this series. Great charming performance that often surpasses the performances of the adults and also especially Lee Young Ae who has a tendency of being wooden.
Unknown as Little Yeon-Saeng
Very cute looking girl but acting very shaky. I still find her cute though.
Lee Se-yeong as young Geum-yeong
Looking like the adult Geum-yeong she is quite a good actress with those tears rolling down her cheeks. One of the highlights was when she was chastised by Lady Choi for losing to Jang Geum, knowing that she is not as talented as Jang Geum she sat quietly crying whilst Lady Choi softened a bit.
Gyeon Mi-ri as Lady Choi
She looks young for her age. Saw her in All About Eve and recognised her instantly. Anyway, her role is huge in here but her ending a bit abrupt although sad. She plays a despicable Lady Choi but yet I can't help but feel pity for her because she was forced into many situation to do what she had to do. I find her performance very satisfactory; full of anger, dissatisfaction, those self assured smile, those arrogant stares, the panic and yet cold looks, her cold stares at Jang Geum. She is determined to hate Jang Geum and you could feel it in her every pore. Her best scene was confessing to Jang Geum's mother her apologies and why she did what she did. Excellent performance if you ask me. She does look like Christine in many angles, but prettier.
Kim Hye-seon as Jang Geum's mother
I was very annoyed with this actress stony expression and even stonier voice but when I watched the Korean version, her face is a representation of utter hopelesness actually with a very sad voice. So an ok performance. She does look a bit like Ruby Lin in some angle.
Park Chan-hwan as Jang Geum's father
Jang Geum's father was never really found dead and it had me guessing maybe he was still alive. Anyway not much to say since very short performance.
Yang Mi-kyeong as Lady Han
A major character that was supposed to die earlier but her death scene was dragged for a few more episodes due to her popularity and when she died, anti climax. Anyway a competent performance. I do think she has a very strict, dead pan but somewhat kind face. I do find her wooden at times or unresponsive but I guess that's her character; Lady Han is supposed to be not so friendly, a bit of a loner, living with regrets over her inability to save her friend Myeong Hee. However. I find Gyeon Mi-ri as Lady Choi much better because her eyes speak volume,whilst this Lady Han is too stony faced. And she cries a lot towards the end.
Park Eun-hye as adult Yeon-Saeng
Horrible performance. She was really bad at first, annoying me to no end with her constant crying and looking pitiful and these expressions never changed even until the end. She became bearable in the end but still as nervous, pitiful type of acting that annoys me.
Lee Ip-Sae as Yong Non
Very bad performance probably due to very bad characterisation which never went beyond sniggering at others. Frankly not much depth.
Unknown as Rie
A very pretty girl, quite a competent performance but in more dramatic scenes she falters. She was better when she was having jealous bouts over Jang Geum's achievements.
Unknown as Lady Min
I wish I knew her name. A very lively performance, funny and very cute. I like her performance as she really brought to life Lady Min's cowardice and yet later became much firmer in her opinion of others.
Lee Se-Eun as Lady Min's assistant, Yeol-I
Very cute girl who gave a very competent performance of a character that had little to do. She has great chemistry with the actress who played Lady Min.
Park Eun-Su as Shin Ik Pil
A stony faced man but I find his performance very satisfactory because I supposed that's how Dr Shin was supposed to be. And he looks quite fierce.
Maeng Sang-Hun as Dr Jeong Woon-Baek
A more friendlier looking one and a good performance. He did bring out the dedication of the character though frankly his character hardly needed to lift his eyebrow at all, meaning nothing much happens to him anyway. I remember seeing him in All About Eve, but he looked very different in modern clothing.
Kim Yeo-Jin as Lady Doctor of Cheju, Jang-Deok
An excellent performance. I thought she was too young looking to play such an experienced doctor but she managed to give this character extra zing, loads of personality and never ever cross her path.
Unknown as the incompetent doctor
I do not know his name but he plays the doctor in green colour who talks more than works but didn't mean no harm and came from a family of distinguished doctors. Also in awe of Jang Geum. He looked the part and though I thought he talked too much, his performance was really very competent one.
Im Hyeon-Shik as Kang Deok-Gu
Excellent performance. At times the comic relief and he talked too much in like breathless manner but he managed to be so funny most of the time. I find his performance very lively and full of character. Truly a memorable character made memorable by a very excellent performance.
Geum Bo-ra as Mrs Kang, NaJudaek
I didn't even know her name was NaJudaek! Although I did not like Mrs Kang not do I find her consistent, I find this actress' performance excellent and she paired off well with the actor who played her husband. The way she pronounced certain words were over the top but very appropriate. Also a character full of personality. Lookout for the scenes when her shoulders suddenly twitched and she danced as she was celebrating Lady Choi's downfall.
Unknown as Lady Park (former Lady Qi Jyu)
Not a very good performance simply because she had so little expression or reaction. She looked pissed most of the time and the rest of the time very pissed.
Park Jeong-su as the Queen Munjeong
A competent performance for this favourite character of mine but faltered a bit in more dramatic scenes. She does look like a royal, with a very commanding presence and really quite a nice voice. But acting could do better of course.
Unknown as the Empress Dowager
Excellent performance of a very meddlesome Empress Dowager, as is always the case with mothers of Kings and Emperors, the difference is whether her intention was good or vindictive. Her voice is full of authority that one can hear the fear of the son towards this commanding presence.
Yeo Woon-gye as Lady Jeong
Excellent performance of a very kindly but decisive Lady Jung. Not much more I can say.
Lee Hie-do as Choi Pan-sul
The catchiest name in this series apart from Shin Ik Pil. Anyway he looked like the world was going to end. You have to watch the Korean version to appreciate this actor's performance because he is always speaking with a whisper and with a face that looked burdened with worries over the sins he committed for many years. But he wasn't that repentent and I find Lady Choi feeling more guilty than this Choi Pan-sul. Overall a competent performance that can only be appreciated if you watch the Korean version. By the way I remember him from Models and he already had that "World is going to end" look wayyyyy back in 1996.
Hong Ri Na as Keum-young
Excellent performance. I found out this actress was actually in her late 30s and yet she looked quite young with a very unique face that one would remember though not necessarily pretty. I love to hear her voice as it was full of expression though her face remained stony sometimes. She perfected the one tear rolling down whilst staring at another look and I find her performance, especially her anguish towards Min Jung-ho's love not for her but for Jang Geum and that Jang Geum never die but kept coming back excellent beyond description. She is one of the highlights of this series and I feel she gave this character much needed life and personality. And also a favourite character of mine. Her best scene was the ending scene as she quietly confessed to Jang Geum her personality. Very good scene.
Im Ho as King Jung Jong
Excellent performance. He gave this King a unique interpretation, like being puppeted and couldn't move beyond what he was supposed to do. His King truly looked stuck in dire situation sometimes. Although a wimp for most of the series and make that an undecisive wimp, this actor managed to give this King a certain sense of justice and kindness, although very little superiority. Never doubted for a moment this King would do the right thing and let Jang Geum go because he was always just and fair. His final scenes were his best, managing to capture his desire for the one woman who didn't love him like he wanted and his acceptance of his impending death. I can't help but rave more about him and I find his acting one of the best in this series.
Ji Jin Hee as Min Jung-ho
Interesting performance. He is not the best actor in here, nor the worst. He is really not that good as he tends to overact in some scenes and underact in others but he shares a great chemistry with Lee Young Ae and even Hong Li Na. He cuts a very dashing figure and definitely a leading man with screen presence too. He reminds me a bit of a cross between Emil Chow (same strong jaw) and Bae Young Jun (same eyes, less fair) but unlike Bae Young Jun's coolness and aloofness, Ji Jin Hee looks more warmer and approachable. But can he be as big a star as his seniors? Only time will tell. For me, his performance was good enough for what his character had to do but I do believe a more competent actor as in more varied actor would have given more to Min Jung-ho. But still I love this man.
Lee Young Ae as Jang Geum
She had a heavy burden; she carried the entire series and the focus around her was never quite off. When she started she looked surprisingly young and fresh, almost cute due to her chubby face and as the series went on she looked older. I find Litle Jang Geum more livelier though but that doesn't mean Jang Geum herself was bad. Quite the contrary, Lee Young Ae has the tendency of being really good and really bad in the space of one scene. She is really good in crying scenes as in quiet crying scenes but she was horribly inadequate in dramatic crying scenes (like Lady Han's death). She is quite ok in happy scenes with Ji Jin Hee and the others but horribly inadequate in some medical scenes, like describing medical terms. I didn't understand Korean but I could detect reading the script type of acting when I see one. She looked like she was memorising scripts during such scenes that it was frustrating to watch. Her cooking scenes are ok but one of her worst was discovering she lost her sense of taste. Her acting was truly horribly inadequate. I am not saying she is a bad actress but I am saying she should have done more in some scenes but didn't and should have done less but did a whole lot more. Sometimes she looked utterly happy and yet most of the times when she is not smiling she looked utterly mournful that it kinda turned me off. So overall I wasn't satisfied with her performance but you must admire her ability to carry through this series. She shared a great chemistry with everybody in here though, especially Ji Jin Hee. Anyway, if this was a TVB series and let's say Shirley Yeung was Jang Geum, I don't think I can last 2 episodes.
I watched all 71 episodes, give or take missing 1 episode in combined total so that in itself is a testament how addictive this series was. You get almost everything in here; food, medicine, struggle, never say die attitude, being the underdog, romantic love, etc what more can you ask for? Granted this series has serious flaws in characters, plot, timeline, stories and editing but being 71 episodes, mistakes are bound to happen, it is just a matter of how severe it is. The plot may concentrate on one character but is varied enough to not to bore you to death. It is engaging, addictive, interesting and really a very good series which really could have been much much better if the script was carefully edited for certain events and characters. You can learn a thing or two about the Korean culture and the similarities with our Chinese culture. I was very surprised to learn so many similarities that this series became very interesting earlier on. More importantly, this series boasts generally very good acting and memorable characters with various scenes that can move you to tears. It is also highly positive since Jang Geum although almost gave up never did and she achieved what she wanted to achieve. Although the ending was anti climax but it is on a positive note. This is also the very few rare series where a woman takes central theme and the men merely the subplots, more so in the Korean culture. So the true story may have been distorted or perhaps more fiction than fact, but Jang Geum once lived and she must have been very good at what she did, if not she would have have been the King's personal physician. You can say this series is a series that celebrates fighting against all odds and winning against all adversities and also highlights the role and unfluence of women. I find the English title very apt. In fact this series is a jewel amongst the many titles. My complaints are mostly my own fussy need for consistency and my need for a coherent and down to earth storyline but look, I stayed home every weekend to watch this series, flaws and all. The ending was weak but overall, this is the series to watch.
A must rent, if not buy.
Where to buy this series
Depending how lucky you're by where you're staying. I do hope you'll click on my yesasia.com affiliate link before buying so that I can earn some commission.
For Central and South American countries (lucky lucky people!), you can get the supposedly excellently English subtitled version of the DVDs at yesasia.com. The direct links are ...
Vol 1 Vol 2 Vol 3 Vol 4 (Not released yet)
By the way, shopping at yesasia.com is a breeze and they're done very professionally. I shopped there once and I bought a lot of DVDs and luckily my customs did not confiscate the items BUT shopping at yesasia.com for me was fast, reliable and surprisingly effortless.
For Malaysians or those from South East Asia region who aren't that lucky, you can but all the episodes in DVD or VCD format which are distributed by PMP Entertainment. I saw the box sets, which are attractive and high quality. The VCD version which you can find at coolwin-video.com (reliable, fast, quite cheap if buying from Malaysia, very professional) comes with dual language (Mandarin/Korean) with Malay/Chinese subtitles. If the Malay subtitles are the same or almost same quality as the one I saw on ASTRO, buy this version because the version I saw was very good. It comes with either 3 or 4 box sets. You can buy it from coolwin-video.com, Speedy video, Jusco stores, S&M (next to Kota Raya) or for the bootleg version (apparently at RM1.50 per VCD and RM2-00 per DVD) try Berjaya Times Square or one that I know of, at Plaza Low Yat ground floor I think. I don't encourage you to buy bootleg version because some VCD or DVD cannot be played for some unknown reason so buy it at the stores or for DVD version (which you can't find at the stores) check out the info below.
For DVD version which I remember seeing from sensasian.com and I am sure coolwin-video.com will have it soon, also distributed by PMP Entertainment, with attractive box sets and comes with all episodes in one boxset I think. It comes with Korean/Mandarin with English/Chinese/Malay subtitles. Not sure about the English subtitles though but if 100% of the effort used to translate the lines to Malay is used for this English version, I am sure the translation is commendable.
Where to buy the soundtrack (CD)
Can't find it in the stores so try yesasia.com (not cheap) or coolwin-video.com (cheaper, at least the delivery cost less).
If all else fails, download the entire soundtrack plus some more songs which you may not find in the soundtrack at soompi.com. Quality is ok lar. Some songs can be found in my Downloads > Movies/TV series Media Files page.
About the series. One fact stuck in my mind. The character of Lady Han was so popular, when the director had to kill her off, he had to go on TV to explain why she had to die. A bit over the top don't you think? Anyway if she didn't die, the story won't move at all which at one point was becoming incredibly tedious to watch. Apparently she was going to die a horrific death at the hands of Lady Choi but the director softened her death a bit. I find this destructive to the story because for one I ended up sympathising with Lady Choi and second, a bit too white washed.
About Min Jung Ho
Sorry my friends, apparently he was fiction.
Min Jung Ho, acted by Ji Jin Hee in Dae Jang Geum (aka Jewel in the Palace) did not actually exist in history of Korea. This fact has been mentioned by the director and script writer of Dae Jang Geum drama.
There are some interesting comments about who seems to be the model of Sir Min in the history of Joseon Dynasty on the Internet. There seems to be 2 person who likely to be able to be be Min Jung-ho’s model in the history? They’re Kwon Ye (1495~1549) and Yi Jang-gon (1474??). But they were not Sir Min Jung-ho.
However, it does not mean that there was no Sir Min Jung-ho, as there might be somebody who had the same name, but he most likely was not linkable to Jang Geum.
Dae Jang Geum (Jewel in the Palace) fans in Taiwan went further to actually check the history books about the character of Min Jung Ho, and their conclusion is:
He did not exist.
Source : http://daejanggeum.blogsome.com/category/history/
About the King in love with Jang Geum
Read in some fan forums that the King in real life did fall in love with the real Jang Geum and did marry her. True or not I will not say so but really, I seriously doubt it.
So how old in the end is Jang Geum?
10 - entered palace ( Min Jung-ho 15 at that time, I suspect the future King probably 20 plus? and Keum-young probably 13?)
20 - adult Jang Geum
3 years (or maybe 2 years, can't remember) - banished to Cheju Island
6 months - nurse training
8 years - in exile
In between got some years of training. I would say late 30s or early 40s would be just right. So the King did die young but historically he died in his mid 50s. Check out Interesting History.
Anyway, I found the following in a fans' fansite. The timeline is a bit shaky but just give you an idea of the events that transpired. If you look at the dates below, from the day Jang Geum was born to the day the King died plus 8 years more, she should be about 55 at the end of the series. Min Jung Ho should be 60! Ahhh forget about the timeline!
The chronological time line of the Jewel in the Palace drama
King Seong-jong’s queen was ousted from the palace.
The reason is that she dared to scratch on the king’s cheek because of her jealousy.
The ousted queen was executed by poison, coughing up blood.
She left her mother a piece of fabric permeated by her blood, saying “show this blood when my son becomes a king”
(* The execution was fictionally carried out by Jang-geum’s father in episode 1.)
Her crown prince “Yeon-san” became the 10th ruler of Chosun dynasty.
King Yeon-san was not so bad at the beginning. He was just a lonely king dreaming about a kingdom of an absolute monarch.
Jang-geum was born.
King Yeon-san finally knew the truth of his mother’s death.
He almost got mad and killed all the people related to his mother’s death remorselessly without weighing their sin.
(* Jang Geum’s father was arrested and mother was killed, leaving Jang Geum alone, in episode 2.)
Coup d’etat. King Yeon-san was ousted 12 years after his coronation.
King Jung-Jong (1488~1544), the 11th ruler of Chosun dynasty, mounted the throne at the age of 18. He was Yeon-san’s younger brother by a different mother.
(* Little Jang Geum took part in the coup without intention, which made her go to the palace as a royal kitchen maid in episode 3. )
However, King Jung-jong’s first wife was also forced to be ousted by cabinet ministers who led to the coup, because her family members were related to the deposed king.
(* King Jung-jong was deeply grieved over losing his beloved wife, but he had no actual power to protect her. He knew that he was just a kind of puppet king appointed by ministers. )
King Jung-jong’s second queen died soon after giving birth to a son. Later, the son became crown prince.
“Jo Gwang-jo (1482~1519)”, a famous social reformist, passed the state exam to be a government officer.
King Jung-jong married his third wife, Queen “Mun-jeong” (1501~1565).
(* It is the young queen who is appearing on “The Great Jang-geum” drama.)
“Jo Gwang-jo” eventually came into power of the government with supports of the king.
Jung-jong took advantage of him in order to weaken the political power of ministers as well as to strengthen his position as an absolute monarch.
Ministers entrapped Jo Gwang-jo by using leaves saying “Jo will be a new king”. Rumors spread. Jo Gwang Jo was finally expelled and executed with an allegation of high treason.
(* Jang Geum and Lady Han was also expelled in connection with this case, although they didn’t have any connection in actual.)
The (dead) second queen’s son was chosen as crown prince.
(* He would be “In-jong (1515~1545)”, the 12th king of Chosun dynasty)
Queen Mun-jeong (the third queen) gave birth to Prince “Kyeong-won”.
(* He would be “Myeong-jong (1534~1567)”, the 13th king. )
Conflicts over the throne between the two legitimate heirs of the kingdom kicked off.
(* Sir Oh and Choi family are on the side of the crown prince, while the Queen tries to make her son the crown prince.)
King Jung-jong died of intestinal obstruction.
The crown prince mounted the throne and became King “In-jong”.
King In-jong died just one year after his coronation.
His younger brother “Myeong-jong”, the son of Queen Mun-jeong, became a king at the age of 12. The Queen Regent Mun-jeong’s reign began.
The year of episode 37 or 38 could be 1536 or 1537.
The flow of story line is approximately the same as the time line of the history. But age of characters does not fit in. You’d better ignore the inconsistency of their age with their appearance.
It is interesting to note I could not find much about the Chosun Kings but I found out some very interesting facts about the Queen that I find fascinating. I am also surprised Chosun dynasty lasted into the 19th century and the descendants are still around. Check out the facts below.
Dae Jang Geum - Did she lived?
Whether she lived or not is still in dispute. I checked several websites and was disappointed that even the Joseon dynasty wasn't that old, can't even find a painting of her. I suspect it was more because of the fact that she was a woman and her records were probably destroyed so we know her achievements through the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty but not much after the King died. I believe she existed since she was listed in the Annals but was she THAT great and was she the first who performed first surgery back then, at least in Korea? I do not know and I seriously don't think so. But I am sure she was never a palace maid. That part was written to spice things up in this series. By the way Joseon is sometimes spelt as Chosun.
Dae Jang-geum was a real person documented in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (Chosun Dynasty Chronicles) as well as a medical document of the time. Descriptions of and references to her, though, were few and mostly short. Many assert that Dae Jang-geum was the first female royal physician of the king in Korean history, and was trusted and favoured by Jungjong very much. However, there are some who continue to believe that Dae Jang-Gum is merely a fictional figure drawn from various references of female doctors in the Annals. The argument continues to this day.
Jang-geum appears about 10 times in Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, not as a royal kitchen maid but as a medical woman. There are few details about her personal life, therefore, most of the royal kitchen story and the drama story in this Jewel in the Palace drama was fictionally created by 39-year-old female writer Kim Young-Hyeon and the director Yi Byeong-Hoon.
The following texts are excerpt from Annals of Joseon Dynasty that mention about Dae Jang Geum. Its were translated and interpreted by Choko from Chicago Korean Drama Fan Club.
1. In 1515, King Jung-jong’s second wife, Queen Jang-gyeong, died of sequelae caused by her childbirth. Cabinet ministers maintained that royal doctors and medical women related to her death, including Jang-geum, should be punished severely. However, the king told them: “Jang-geum deserves to get a big credit for leading to several safe childbirth of palace ladies, but I have never awarded her for the performance until now because of other affairs. Now you told me to punish her because the queen was dead, but I won’t do that as well as I won’t reward her. That’s enough.”
It was a kind of offset. It could be interpreted that the king trusted her as an able medical woman.
2. In 1524, the chronicles wrote that “Dae (Great) Jang-geum” was better than any other medical women in the palace, so she was permitted to look after the king.
It is the first time she was called “Dae (Great) Jang-geum”. It can be translated she has got an honor to be the only royal physician in attendance on the king, and she is heading the palace medical group, the nation’s top post in this area.
3. In 1533, the king said: “I recovered my health from several month’s sickness. Royal doctors and pharmacist deserve praise. (Omission) Jang-geum and Kye-geum, the two medical women, also will be rewarded with 15 rice bags, 15 bean sacks, and 10 cloths respectively.”
She is the last person to be named in this list because, unlike the male doctors, medical women have no government position. (They are officially “slaves” who serve the royal family). However, although she belonged to low-class, her excellent performance was duly recognized.
4. In January 29th, 1544, the king said: “I haven’t done my duty for a long time since I caught a cold. A few days ago, I held a seminar, but the cold weather made my condition worse. I already told Bak Se-geo and Hong Chim, the royal doctors, and top medical woman Dae Jang-geum to discuss about the prescription. Let medical minister know that.”
Chosun’s kings held academic seminars regularly to debate on politics or philosophy. Medical minister is a nominal leader in charge of the royal medical department. The person is an aristocrat without any medical art. By the way, medical women have no right to write out any prescription in principle, however, as the record shows, Jang-geum was an exception.
5. Finally, in February 9th, the king recovered from the cold and gave Jang-geum credit for it.
6. In October 25th, 1544, King Jung-jong is approaching his death. One of his ministers asked Jang-geum how the king was, and she answered, “He slept around midnight yesterday, and has also slept for a short time at dawn. He just passed his urine, but has been constipated for more than 3 days.”
7. The next day, the king’s health worsen. He told his cabinet members, “I’m still constipated. What prescription should be made is under discussion.” (Omission). “The female doctor (Jang-geum) knows all of my condition” Then, Jang-geum explained her prescription for the king’s symptoms to the ministers.
Here, for the first time, the king called her “female doctor”, not medical woman. (Very interesting difference). He shows his confidence in her ability by saying that Jang Geum knows his condition better than any other doctors or medical women.
8. In October 29th, the king recovered his health for a short while and said “I feel better than before. I’ll grant all of you to return to your home and take a rest”. However, he died in November 15th, 39 years after sitting on the throne.
There’s no record regarding Jang-geum after that.
[Source : http://daejanggeum.blogsome.com/category/history/ ]
Probably had her head chopped off by dissenters - Funn Lim
Medicine woman Jang Geum, surname unknown, unable to trace nowadays, in the eighteenth year of the eleventh generation King Jungjong was awarded the declaration of Dae Jang Geum by the King. She has character, knowledge and skill, stayed in the palace and was praised for her skill.
At the ninth year of King Jungjong, Jang Geum worked in citizen’s hospital and improved the acupuncture skill from Ming Dynasty. Kim Sanggoong from kitchen also taught her with theory of food health. In the internal palace, all palace maids respected Jang Geum. The Queen also awarded Jang Geum a jade to express gratitude.
Meanwhile, the body of the King never been treated by a medicine woman before. The king allowed her, just because she is Jang Geum.
The food treatment method is a soup made of red ginseng medicine.
Later a poet described Jang Geum as the first woman since the start of Joseon Dynasty, firstly in kitchen and later in internal hospital, the best among all, and was awarded with the title Dae Jang Geum.
[Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dae_Jang_Geum ]
About the Joseon Dynasty & the people in it
Interesting for the fact of LACK of information but also fascinating because the descendants are still around and the dynasty is pretty late in history. But what is fascinating is about the Queen Munjeong though.
King Jung Jong
Jungjong of Joseon (1488–1544) began his rule in 1506 during the 14th century in what is now Korea. He succeeded Yeonsangun because of his bad ruling, which culminated in a rebellion that toppled him.
Jungjong is generally considered by many to be along the best Kings of Joseon Korea, as his policies were not harsh and helped the nation economically.
He did die of intestinal obstruction which I guess means constipation. You can visit his grave in Korea.
[Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseon_Dynasty ]
Queen Munjeong is a major female figure in Korean history. Driven by political ambitions, she murdered her stepson to make her natal son the king, purged political adversaries, and then administered state affairs from behind the veil for eight years. It is remarkable that she retained absolute power when gender inequality and sexual discrimination prevailed during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).
She was a devout Buddhist by the way and you can visit her grave in Korea.
I find the Korean language fascinating because of this series. For one you will definitely hear some familiar Cantonese words.
Anyway Jang is pronounced as Chang so that means the J word of Ch right? Geum I thought was Gam but turned out to be Kam so it means that G is pronounced as K and EU is A. Saeng is pronounced as Seng so that means Ae is pronounced as E. Deok is pronounced as Duk so that means Eo is U? Lee is pronounced as Yee, which means L is Y.
Bae Yong Jun is Pae Yoong Joon from what I could hear. Jang Dong Gun is Chang Tong Koon. I can go on forever!
And I found so many variations to the spelling that I am utterly confused. But what I am certain is the words are more similar to Cantonese and Hokkien than Mandarin from what I could hear. But I do wonder though, did the people during Joseon Dynasty speak Korean or Chinese?
Interesting Written Language
This series said that back in those days and even now many old records in Korea were written in the Chinese language which made oridinary folks not able to study the language because Chinese language is difficult to grasp. So they came up with the present written language but currently there are calls for the reintroduction of the Chinese written language to be taught in schools so that new generations can view the old records in Korea. I do support this move. Doesn't hurt to learn more than to learn just enough. Anyway I kinda thought the Korean written words a bit the same, loads of O and very cartoon like. BUT when written nicely do look nice and uncomplicated but like their women, all look kinda the same. I kinda realise it's not difficult to learn actually. Chinese language, especially the traditional chinese written language can be confusing but I taught myself to recognise certain words and then came the bad news; simplified chinese written language. Aren't we all lazy nowadays?
Anyway I wonder what does my name in Korean look like? My actual FULL name does spell like a Korean name mind you!