My Dearest is an historical period romance released in 2023, and has 21 episodes. (Part 1: Episodes 1 through 9; and Part 2: Episodes 10-21.) For those who enjoy historical Korean dramas, this series is perfect! There is WAR and LOVE. Certain events are loosely based on the Qing invasion of Joseon, and the love story between the main characters is fictional.
Why do people choose to fall in love when a war is raging? Don’t they know everything and everyone they hold precious and dear can be destroyed or taken away by the enemy?
Of course, they know. But to let someone into your heart is worth it! No matter what happens they stay with you in that special place and you can always call them “My Dearest”. The enemy can’t get to them there.
♦ The Barbarians Are Coming!
My Dearest opens with a scene in Neungguri-ri, a village in Joseon, untarnished by war, where the people are innocents who live together peacefully. The inhabitants are noblemen, mainly scholars, learning the teachings of Confucious; and noble ladies, pampered maidens, hoping to marry one of the scholars. The commoners are content to farm the land. The slaves are treated well and even though it would be better if they were free, they humbly serve their masters. All of this will change when the barbarians declare WAR!
♦ The King Flees But Orders Scholars to Fight
When the king of Joseon realizes that war is inevitable, he flees to the Fortress for safety. Then he sends a royal order to scholars in Neungguri-ri demanding they take up arms and defend him. These are men with no military training or experience on the battlefield. They must fight against skilled warriors who are experts at killing people. Do they try to find excuses not to serve? On the contrary, they willingly obey the king’s command.
♦ Not All Men Obey the King’s Command
Lee Jang-Hyun is a seasoned man of the world. He has experience dealing with the barbarians. But he did not come to fight in a war. Why should he be loyal to a cowardly king? When he enters the village, he asks to study at their school and promises to provide the villagers with things they need to make their lives more comfortable.
Yoo Gil-Chae is one of the noble ladies who catches his eye. He knows she’s arrogant, spoiled, selfish, vain, and conceited, and has her eyes set on one of the young scholars. Even though that scholar loves her best friend, that doesn’t stop her from trying to win his heart. She’s certain the scholar loves her. He just doesn’t know it!
♦ The Man in Her Dreams
Yoo Gil-Chae is young and inexperienced in the ways of the world, especially the ways of men. But she has a recurring dream where the man who will be her dear husband appears. She has yet to see his face but she thinks it’s probably the young scholar. Who else? Surely it can’t be Lee Jang-Hyun. He’s a womanizer, a scoundrel, and a coward because he said he has no intention of fighting. Plus! He wants to stay “unmarried”.
♦ Listen to the Voice of Wisdom and Experience
Lee Jang-Hyun is very attracted to Yoo Gil-Chae. In fact, he is falling in love with her. But she lacks maturity; needs to get rid of her proud and selfish ways; and recognizes that the world does not revolve around her. Knowing that nobody in the village has been confronted by the barbarians, he helps her to prepare herself and the villagers for a possible attack.
- First, he gives her a knife to defend herself.
- Second, he clearly explained to her what the barbarians were capable of doing to her and the rest of the villagers, in graphic detail.
- Third, he tells her that if she sees smoke plumes in the mountain, it’s time to seek refuge.
That advice saved her life and the lives of the villagers. The knife he gave her also came in handy.
♦ Sometimes the Hero Isn’t Always Obvious
The group of scholars who went off to fight met up with some soldiers who were already stationed at a camp. Sadly, they were ambushed by the barbarians and most of them along with the soldiers were killed. When Lee Jang-Hyun crossed paths with the scholars who had survived the ambush, he helped them get medical treatment and food. He took them to the place where Yoo Gil-Chae and some of the villagers were staying.
Then he decided that he would help them fight. Not because of his loyalty to the king. But because the barbarians had brutally killed an elderly couple that lived in the village. He intended to make the barbarian who killed them, pay with his life. Before he left he gave Yoo Gil-Chae more advice. He told her to get to Ganghwa Island. It was the safest place to be. Of course, she was willing to heed his advice. He’s already proven he’s not a coward. While he may be a womanizer and a scoundrel; he doesn’t LIE!
♦ “My Dearest” is a Beautiful Love Story
Once she experiences the harsh reality of war, Yoo Gil-Chae matures into a strong woman; beautiful on the outside and the inside. Lee Jang-Hyun is not a coward or a scoundrel or selfish or proud. He’s a decent honest brave man, who genuinely loves the people in his country. Most importantly, when he falls in love, he is wholly devoted to that one woman. But will these two people survive the war and be able to have a life together?
- Lee Jang-Hyun (played by Namkoong Min, “Taxi Driver 2”)
- Yoo Gil-Chae (played by Ahn Eun-Jin, “The Witch’s Diner”)
Viewership and Rating:
- IMDb Rating: 9.1 out of 10 stars
- My Drama List: 8.8 out of 10 stars
- Viki viewers rated the series 9.7 out of 10 stars
My personal rating is 9 out of 10 stars. By Episode 6, I was completely wrapped up in this love story. Why not 10 out of 10 stars? The OST (original soundtrack) was OK. To get a perfect score a K-drama series or movie must have a memorable soundtrack. That’s just my unwritten unofficial rule. But “My Dearest” is definitely binge-worthy.
LINKS OF INTEREST:
KOCOWA TV. “[TEASER] My Dearest | KOCOWA+.” YouTube, 28 July 2023, www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZlxbotr8Ms.