Korea: ‘Dae Jang-Geum’

Korea: ‘Dae Jang-Geum’

For most people, history and entertainment do not come to mind as one and the same. Korea’s 2003 hit soap opera, “Dae Jang-Geum,” experienced extensive success throughout Korea and other Asian countries.

This 52-episode drama series combines myth and historical fact in a highly entertaining, yet accurate, picture of what life in the palace was like in 16th cen­tury Korea.

The story is based on the historical figure, Jang-Geum, who was the first and only woman physician to the Emperor. She is also credited as the first Asian doctor to study surgery and consider it as an effective way to treat certain condi­tions.

Filmmakers build a rich backstory of Jang-Geum’s life as the daughter of an ex-palace chef and an army deserter.

Jang-Geum’s mother is shot in the chest with an arrow and dies, leaving her daughter with a letter urging her daughter to fulfill her dreams to become the highest palace chef and avenge the wrongs done to her before she was cast out.

Jang-Geum is left to uncover the secrets buried deep in the politics of the time- both in court and within the hierarchy of the palace staff.

Filmmakers are able to recreate the Chosun dynasty in Korea with beauti­ful costumes and historically accurate events and characteristics. Many people watch this soap opera for the food. After all, half of the series is set in the royal kitchen where palace chefs compete to become the top chef who prepares food for the Emperor and his family.

Later, when Jang-Geum is exiled she learns to become a doctor and the series acquaints viewers with traditional Eastern medicine including acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Whether it’s love, betrayal, conflict or extravagance, “Dae Jan-Geum” has it all. Part of the reason why this series is so enjoyable is the producers’ ability to command attention by varying comedic and serious scenes.

Though the historical background is heavily emphasized, information is dis­pelled at a comfortable rate and stimulates viewer’s thoughts on how societal interaction really hasn’t changed that much. As long as subtitles do not defer you, the many hours spent watching the drama is worth it to watch the journey of a woman who was far ahead of her time.

Priscilla Liu

Staff Writer