Jewel in the Palace | The K-Drama That Started the Korean Wave
Jewel in the Palace is one of the historical K-drama series credited with starting the Korean Wave.
- Since the 1990s, the popularity of South Korean culture has risen worldwide. Two hashtags, #KoreanWave or #Hallyu, are used to refer to this global phenomenon.
- Jewel in the Palace was released in 2003; and is based on the life of Jang-geum, the first female Royal Physician during the Joseon Dynasty.
Meet Jang Geum’s Parents
Seo Cheon-soo was a royal guard present at the poisoning death of Queen Yun. When the queen’s son grows up, he decides to kill everyone who was involved. Cheon-soo flees and meets an old man who tells him 3 women hold his fate.
Queen Yun was the 1st woman. If he never meets the 2nd woman, the 3rd woman will not cause his death.
Myeong Yi is a court lady in the Royal Kitchen. She discovers a plot to kill the king and the court ladies involved in the plot try to kill her with poison. They fail because Myeong’s close friend gives her an antidote and also they did not bury her body.
For years Seo Cheon-soo avoids women, but he still meets the 2nd woman. He stumbles across Myeong, injured and unconscious, and saves her life. They fall in love, marry, and have a daughter, Jang Geum.
Young Jang Geum is the 3rd Woman
One day Jang Geum and her father followed a carnival. She begs her father to participate in a wrestling match which he wins but is accused of cheating. Upset by the accusation, she blurts out that her father is a military officer and that he is honorable. Her father gets arrested and taken away. She runs home to tell her mother what happened. Immediately, her mother tries to escape and take her daughter to safety. When the people who tried to kill her in the past realize Myeong is still alive, this time they finish the job. Young Jang Geum gets away from the killers and ends up being adopted by a childless couple. Because the court ladies do not know her identity, they accept her into the palace as a court lady. She is assigned to work in the Royal Kitchen, just like her mom.
From the Royal Kitchen to the Royal Clinic
Jang Geum starts with the dream of becoming the best cook to fulfill her mother’s wishes. From this point, she goes from one adversity and an obstacle to another. With incredible determination and fortitude, she overcomes every barrier.
The court ladies were so jealous and envious of her exceptional culinary skills, they slander and falsely accuse her. She is removed from her position and assigned to work as an herbalist. This work was supposed to be a dead end, but she finds a way to return to the palace as a nurse. She earns the trust of the king and the royal family by showcasing her remarkable medical skills and culinary skills. Anyone who disagrees with the concept of “food as medicine” will likely change their mind after watching Jewel in the Palace.
Was Jang Geum a Real Person?
It is clear that in the Joseon Era, by applying a strict division of the sexes, the rights of women, even noble women, were practically trampled upon. Women were powerless. Some people choose to debate the existence of Jang Geum as the first female Royal Physician.
However, consider this: “In 2021, around 26.8 percent of physicians in South Korea were women.” (Source)
Someone must have opened the door of opportunity for female physicians.
Jewel in the Palace is 54 episodes. Watching her mature from childhood to adulthood, the viewer can’t help but admire her courage and tenacity. Seo Jang Geum was played by Lee Young Ae, and she made you believe Jang Geum must have been a real person.
- From September 2003 to March 2004, it aired on MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation). In 2004, the series was the 10th highest-rated Korean drama of all time.
- Subsequently, it was made available for viewing in other countries. To date, this historical drama television series day is credited as being “one of the primary proponents of the Korean Wave by heightening the spread of Korean culture abroad”.
- In an article published by CastKo dated April 2018, it was still listed as one of the 3 Historical Dramas with Highest Viewership Rating.
3500+ Viki viewers rated this series 9.7 out of 10 stars. I agree.
(NOTE: No trailer available with English Subtitle available. Sharing video of the first episode, Korean subtitles.)
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