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[2003] Nàng Đê Chang Kưm - Dae Jang Geum - Lee Young Ae, Ji Jin Hee

Nàng Đê Chang Kưm

Nàng Đê Chang Kưm

Dae Jang Geum (2000)


Dae Jang-geum (Hangul대장금hanja大長今Romaja quốc ngữDae Jang-geumMcCune–ReischauerTae Chang-gǔmHán Việt: Đại Trường Kim) là một bộ phim dã sử được sản xuất năm 2003 của truyền hình Hàn Quốc dưới sự chỉ đạo của đạo diễn Lee Byung Hoon và nhà sản xuất là đài MBC.

Bộ phim kể về nhân vật chính là một cô cung nữ mồ côi làm việc trong khu bếp hoàng gia đã trở thành ngự y nữ đầu tiên cho nhà vua. Trong một xã hội phong kiến Nho giáo mà phụ nữ đóng vai trò thứ yếu, cô gái trẻ Jang Geum thử sức mình trong việc nấu và phấn đấu để tìm ra những bí mật tạo nên sự độc đáo cho ẩm thực thời Joseon cũng như y học cổ truyền Triều Tiên, từ đó dùng chữa bệnh cho nhà vua cũng như hoàng tộc. Bộ phim được dựa trên câu chuyện có thật về nàng Jang-geumngự y nữ hoàng gia đầu tiên của Triều đại Joseon. Nội dung xuyên suốt bộ phim khắc họa hình tượng người phụ nữ truyền thống Hàn Quốc với sự kiên trì và quyết tâm theo đuổi mục tiêu tạo ra những món ăn bồi bổ và có lợi cho sức khỏe theo quan niệm truyền thống và tiến tới bào chế các bài thuốc cổ truyền.

Với chi phí sản xuất khoảng $15 triệu, bộ phim đã nhận được đến 57% tỉ suất người xem tại Hàn Quốc và đã thu về gần $40 triệu cho việc phát sóng ở nhiều nước khác nhau kể từ năm 2003

Vai diễn

Nhân vật chính

Nhân vật phụ

Thời còn nhỏ
  • Jo Jung-eun vai Seo Jang-geum lúc nhỏ
  • Park Chan-hwan vai Seo Cheon-soo - cha của Jang-geum
  • Kim Hye-seon vai Park Myeong-yi - mẹ của Jang-geum
  • Im Hyun-shik vai Kang Duk-gu - người nhận nuôi Jang-geum
  • Geum Bo-ra vai Na Joo-daek - vợ Duk-gu, và là mẹ nuôi của Jang-geum.
Thời gian làm trong bếp Hoàng gia
  • Park Eun-hye vai Lee Yeon-saeng (Thục Phi nương nương)
  • Lee Ip-sae vai Yoon Young-roh
  • Kim So-yi vai Min Mee-geum (mama Min)
  • Yeo Woon-kay vai Jung Mal-geum (mama Jung)
  • Park Jeong-soo vai Park Yong-shin (mama Park)
  • Choi Ja-hye vai Chang-ee
  • Jo Gyeong-hwan vai Oh Gyeom-ho (Đại giám Oh)
  • Lee Hee-do vai Choi Pan-sul - anh của Mama Choi
  • Na Seong-gyun vai Yoon Mak-gae - chú của Young-roh
Thời gian làm y nữ

Cốt truyện

Câu chuyện được kể diễn ra kéo dài trong 5 Triều đại tại đất nước Triều Tiên từ thời vua Triều Tiên Thành Tông (1457–1494), Yên Sơn Quân (1494–1506), Triều Tiên Trung Tông (1506–1544), Triều Tiên Nhân Tông (1544-1545) và vua Triều Tiên Minh Tông (1545-1567). Câu chuyện được kể qua nhiều tuyến nhân vật, có thể tạm chia thành các mốc thời gian.

Thời còn nhỏ

Câu chuyện bắt đầu bằng việc Triều Tiên Thành Tông ra lệnh hành quyết bằng độc dược vương hậu của mình là Tề Hiến Vương hậu (hay Phế vương phi họ Doãn) chính là mẹ ruột của thế tử (vua Yên Sơn Quân tương lai) do lo sợ rằng tính cách độc đoán của bà sẽ ảnh hưởng tới vị vua tương lai. Sau cuộc hành hình, một binh sĩ Hoàng gia là Seo Cheon-soo (cha của Jang Geum sau này) đã bị ám ảnh về tội lỗi đó. Trên đường về nhà, anh ta gặp một tai nạn và tình cờ được cứu bởi một ẩn sĩ, người này đưa ra một tiên đoán đầy bí ẩn rằng: "Cuộc sống của anh sẽ được định đoạt bởi 3 người phụ nữ, người đầu tiên sẽ chết dưới tay anh; người thứ 2 sẽ được anh cứu nhưng lại vì anh mà chết; người phụ nữ thứ ba sẽ giết chết anh nhưng ngược lại sẽ cứu được mạng của rất nhiều người".

Nhiều năm sau, sau khi vua Triều Tiên Thành Tông băng hà, vua Yên Sơn Quân kế vị ngai vàng, trở thành vị vua thứ 10 của Triều đại JoseonPark Myeong-yi (mẹ của Jang Geum sau này) là tân cung nữ phục vụ trong gian bếp Hoàng gia. Cô tình cờ chứng kiến được bạn đồng môn của mình là Choi Seong-geum đang lén bỏ độc dược vào thức ăn của Nhân Túy Đại vương đại phi (tức tổ mẫu của nhà vua) vì bà đang cố gắng triệt để quyền lực của gia tộc họ Choi đã truyền chức vị Tổng quản thượng cung ngự trù thiện phòng qua năm thế hệ, tạo thế lực và lợi ích cho gia tộc họ Choi thông qua việc buôn bán sinh lời các vật phẩm vào hoàng cung. Cô đã bẩm báo hành vi này của bạn mình cho tổng quản của gian bếp đó, nhưng cô không ngờ rằng Thượng cung Tổng quản Kim và người bạn đồng môn của mình đã thông đồng với nhau lên kế hoạch cho một âm mưu hạ sát Đại vương đại phi.[2] Lo sợ rằng âm mưu bị bại lộ, họ quyết định trừ khử cô bằng thuốc độc. Một người bạn thân rất tốt của cô là Han Baek-young, tìm cách cứu cô bằng cách pha loãng thuốc độc mà họ ép cô uống, sau đó lén cho cô uống thuốc giải độc. Cô bị hôn mê bên cạnh con suối, rất may cô tình cờ gặp người lính Seo Cheon-soo năm nào, người lính ấy đã cứu sống cô, họ yêu nhau, kết hôn và có với nhau một cô con gái thông minh là Seo Jang-geum.

Lúc làm cung nữ tại bếp Hoàng gia

Trong một lần được cha dẫn đi tìm mẹ, Seo Jang-geum đã rất trẻ con khi yêu cầu cha mình thử sức tranh tài đấu vật với quân lính. Khi cha cô sắp giành chiến thắng thì không may vào phút cuối, đối thủ dùng dao tự làm mình bị thương và hô hoán cha Seo Jang-geum mưu hại mình. Seo Jang-geum khóc lóc cầu xin tha cho cha và đã vô tình tiết lộ danh tính cha mình từng là quan lính trong triều đình. Chính điều này đã khiến cha Seo Jang-geum bị bắt giải đi. Sau đó mẹ Seo Jang-geum dẫn nàng đi tìm cha nhưng không được và cuối cùng phải tìm cách liên hệ với Han Baek-young là bạn đồng môn xưa kia ở gian bếp chính để nhờ đưa Seo Jang-geum vào làm cung nữ, hy vọng sau này báo thù rửa sạch nỗi oan ức của mình.

Bất hạnh thay, gia đình họ Choi biết được rằng cung nữ Park Myeong-yi (mẹ Seo Jang-geum) vẫn còn sống, họ quyết định phái sát thủ thủ tiêu mẹ Jang-Guem. May thay, Jang-geum được cứu sống và tìm tới một gia đình thường dân nuôi dưỡng. Jang-geumtrong một lần được sai đi đưa rươụ cho Hoàng tử Lý Dịch (vua Triều Tiên Trung Tông sau này) đã xin và được đưa vào cung để làm cung nữ. Tại đây, cô lớn lên và duyên số trời định lại được chính Thượng cung Han Baek-young (bạn của mẹ Jang-Guem) hướng dẫn và dạy cách chế biến món ăn.

Trong một cuộc thi để chọn ra người làm Thượng cung tổng quản của gian bếp chính, cô đã giúp đỡ Thượng cung Han (lúc này Han Baek-Young đã biết Jang-Guem là con gái Park Myeong-yi) chiến thắng cuộc thi trước mọi nỗ lực phá hoại của gia đình họ Choi và Thượng cung Choi (người cung nữ Choi Seong-geum năm xưa, từng lén bỏ độc dược vào thức ăn của Nhân Túy Đại phi). Thượng cung Choi ôm mối hận trong lòng và tìm cách để trả thù. Trong một lần vua Triều Tiên Trung Tông đi suối nước nóng nghỉ dưỡng, Thượng cung Han và Jang-geum là người chịu trách nhiệm cho món ăn của nhà vua. Mama Choi âm mưu bỏ chất khoáng vào món vịt do mama Han và Jang-geum làm. Sau khi vua Trung Tông ăn món đó thì bị hôn mê nhiều ngày liền, khi các ngự y chẩn đoán bệnh tình vua sai lầm thì nhân cơ hội này mama Choi cùng ngự y chính Yoon-Su âm mưu đổ tội cho thức ăn. Thượng cung Choi đã vu oan và tung tin rằng Thượng cung Han và Jang-geum cùng liên kết với Đại nhân Jo Gwang-jo (Triệu Quang Tổ) để làm phản. Vì thương cho học trò của mình, Thượng cung Han đã nhận hết tội về mình, rằng toàn bộ kế hoạch đó là do một mình bà làm, không có liên quan đến Jang-geum.

Tuy vậy, do thế lực mama Choi với sự chống lưng của đại giám Oh Gyeom-Ho (chủ trì vụ án) đã phán quyết cả hai đều bị có tội và bắt trở thành nô lệ phải lưu đày ra đảo Jeju. Trên đường tới đảo Jeju, Thượng cung Han qua đời do thương tích của việc tra khảo. Thượng cung Choi nhanh chóng đẩy cả mama Park và mama Yoon là người từng cùng phe với mình để thay thế vị trí của mama Han và trở thành Thượng cung Tổng quản gian bếp chính, từ lúc đó Jang-geum hứa với lòng sẽ có ngày quay trở lại Hoàng cung làm sáng tỏ sự việc và báo thù cho Thượng cung Han.

Cấm vệ quân Min Jeong-ho trong một lần bị thích khách ngoại tặc tấn công bị thương đã vô tình được Jang-geum cứu thương và sống sót, sau đó đã quý mến Jang-geum và đã theo cô đến tận đảo Jeju. Anh đề nghị giúp cô bỏ trốn, tuy nhiên cô từ chối và nói rằng nếu như vậy thì cô không thể nào quay trở lại Hoàng cung và rửa sạch được nổi oan ức của Thượng cung Han được, đồng thời cũng đi tìm công lý cho cái chết của mẹ cô. Min Jeong-ho quyết định ở lại với cô và giúp đỡ cô chừng nào cô rời khỏi đảo Jeju.

Trên đảo Jeju, Jang-geum gặp một người phụ nữ tên là Jang-deok, cô sớm phát hiện ra Jang-deok là một Y nữ nổi tiếng nhưng lại chọn cách ẩn dật để sống. Ban đầu, tính cách thẳng thắn của Jang-deok đã làm tổn thương Jang-geum, nhưng dần dần, Jang-geum nhận ra rằng nữ y sĩ đó là người rất tận tụy và giàu lòng nhân ái. Ngày qua ngày, Jang-geum nhận ra rằng chỉ có một cách có thể giúp cô được trợ lại Hoàng cung là học và trở thành một Y nữ (uinyeo). Cô cầu xin Jang-deok dạy mình y thuật. Jeong Woon-baek, một người bạn của Jang-geum đồng thời cũng là một thái y lập dị trong triều, phản đối quyết định theo đuổi nghề y để trả thù gia tộc họ Choi của Seo Jang-geum. Bỏ mặc sự phản đối, Jang-geum kiên trì tập luyện và giành được vị trí nữ y thực tập trong cung.[3]

Lúc làm y nữ trong cung

Nhờ vào tài năng của mình, y nữ Jang-geum đã tìm ra nguyên nhân và cách điều trị chứng mang song thai nhưng một thai nhi bị chết lưu của Hoàng Hậu Văn Định vương hậu Doãn thị và được Hoàng hậu ân sủng. Jang-geum đã xin phép hoàng hậu được vào nội y thư khố để đọc tài liệu y thư về lịch sử bệnh tình của hoàng tộc với mục đích lấy y thư lịch sử bệnh tình của vua đem về sao chép và nghiên cứu. Mục đích là để tìm cách rửa oan cho mama Han trong vụ án món vịt chất khoáng năm xưa. Phát hiện Jang-geum lấy trộm y thư của Vua, phủ Nội Thị dưới sức ép của thế lực mama Choi phải buộc tội và bắt Jang-geum xử tử. Rất may tổng quản Thái giám và đại nhân Min Jung-Ho đã đi trước một bước báo lại cho hoàng hậu. Nhờ thế hoàng hậu đã cứu sống Jang-geumvà ra lệnh nàng phải tìm ra nguyên nhân chứng bệnh của vua mắc phải trong vụ án đó.

Về phần mình, Jang-geum cũng đã cùng Min Jung-Ho âm thầm điều tra đại giám Oh (phe cánh mama Choi) có âm mưu giao thương với ngoại tặc cũng như có liên quan đến việc nâng đỡ nhằm giúp Choi Pan-soon (anh trai mama Choi) buôn bán sinh lời các vật phẩm vào hoàng cung. Hoàng hậu Doãn thị rất thích Jang-geum và yêu cầu cô chữa trị âm thầm và qua loa cho Thái tử (vua Triều Tiên Nhân Tông sau này) để cho Thái tử chết vì bệnh nhằm mục đích con trai bà ta lên nối ngôi (cũng là vua Triều Tiên Minh Tông trong tương lai). Trước tình thế này, Jang-Geum từ chối, việc đến tai nhà vua khiến cho vua Trung Tông rất ưa thích đức tính của nàng.

Trong một lần xảy ra dịch bệnh lớn, Jang-geum cũng đã lập công khi khống chế được dịch bệnh và nhất là chữa khỏi bệnh phong hàn, chứng mù mắt của vua Triều Tiên Trung Tông và được nhà vua cực kỳ ân sủng. Trong việc này, ngự y Yoon-Soo (cũng là ngự y âm mưu cùng mama Choi trong vụ án năm xưa) và y nữ Yeul-Yee (phe mama Park năm xưa) đã âm mưu đổ tội bệnh của vua là do các món ăn về phía mama Choi như đã làm với mama Han.

Lúc này là sự đấu đá nội bộ giữa mama Choi, đại giám Oh và ngự y Yoon-Soo nên Jang-geum và Min Jung-Ho đã dàn xếp cho ngự y tự vẫn và để lại di chúc để đánh lừa mama Choi, đại giám Oh. Jang-geum đã gặp mama Choi và cháu gái bà ta là Choi Geum-Young để nói rằng mình đang giữ di chúc của ngự y chính Yoon-Soo. Điều này khiến nhà mama Choi bán tín bán nghi, để che đậy sự việc sắp bị bại lộ, mama Choi và anh trai bà ta là thương nhân Choi Pan-Soon đã làm di chúc giả đưa cho y nữ Yeul-Yee đem đến phủ quan báo cáo toàn bộ sự thật nhằm đổ lỗi cho đại giám Oh. Mama Choi và đại giám Oh không ngờ ngự y Yoon-Soo bất ngờ được Min Jung-Ho đem vào đối chất tại phủ quan. Jang-geum và Min Jung-Ho đã vén màn vụ án món ăn vịt năm xưa.

Vụ án kết thúc khi cả nhà Choi Pan-Soon, đại giám Oh Gyeom-Ho bị lưu đày, riêng mama Choi Seong-Geum vì ám ảnh nên trượt chân rơi xuống vực chết, cháu gái bà ta là Choi Geum-Young (người thầm yêu Min Jung-Ho) bị cách chức và trục xuất khỏi gian bếp chính, y nữ Yeul-Yee, quan ngự y Yoon-Soo cũng bị cách chức và tất cả những người khác có liên quan đều bị đuổi khỏi cung.

Sau khi trả thù được gia đình nhà mama Choi, với việc chữa khỏi bệnh đậu mùa cho hoàng tử Lý Hoàn (tức vua Triều Tiên Minh Tông tương lai) - con trai của hoàng Hậu Văn Định vương hậu Doãn thị, Jang-geum đã cởi bỏ sự căng thẳng giữa cô và hoàng hậu (trong chuyện hoàng hậu ép Jang-Geum để mặc thái tử chết vì bệnh). Nàng cũng được vua rất quý mến tài nằng và đề bạt chức quan lục phẩm làm ngự y cho vua. Tuy nhiên do sự phản đối gay gắt của các quan đại thần, Thái hậu, nhà vua đã không thể thực hiện được.

Một điều thú vị xảy ra khi nhà vua Triều Tiên Trung Tông đã yêu Jang-geum từ lúc nào không hay, biết được việc vua hay cho gọi Jang-geum đi dạo cùng mình, thái hậu đã yêu cầu nhà vua tấn phong Jang-geum làm phi tần. Thông qua Lee Yeon-Saeng nương nương (bạn thân thời là cung nữ với Jang-geum), nhà vua biết được sự thật Jang-geum và Min Jung-Ho đang yêu nhau; Sau một cuộc thi đấu bắn cung với Min Jung-Ho, nhà vua chấp nhận thua cuộc (thực tế là vua cố ý thua khi bắn trượt) vì không muốn xen vào giữa hai người họ. Để tránh cho Jang-geum trở thành phi tần và làm tổn thương nàng ta, cuối cùng vua cũng đã phá lệ bằng cách phong cho Jang-geum mang họ "Dae" cao quý và mang chức vị Dae Jang-geum tương đương chức quan tam phẩm, chuyên chủ trì ngự ỵ chữa bệnh cho nhà vua (Jang-guem chính là ngự y nữ đầu tiên và duy nhất trong lịch sử Triều Tiên đến nay, nên biết rằng đến tận bây giờ, ở Bắc Triều Tiên và Hàn Quốc vẫn chưa có một ai sau Jang-guem thuộc phái nữ làm người đứng đầu ngự y hay bộ trưởng bộ y tế theo cách gọi ở thời đại này).

Về phần Min Jung-Ho, dưới sức ép của các quan đại thần, vua buộc phải lưu đày Min Jung-Ho vì các quan đại thần cho rằng người này là kẻ duy nhất tuân lệnh vua và ủng hộ phong cho Jang-geum làm quan tam phẩm.

Phim kết thúc với việc nhà vua bị bệnh tắc đường ruột, biết mình không thể qua khỏi, và nhầm bảo vệ cho Dae Jang-geum sau khi vua băng hà; vua sai tổng quản thái giám bắt Dae Jang-geum ra khỏi cung đưa đến chỗ lưu đày của Min Jung-Ho. Vua ra lệnh đưa hai người trốn đi nơi khác trước khi những người muốn hãm hại Dae Jang-geum bắt về chịu tội vì không thể chữa khỏi bệnh cho vua. Đồng thời các đại thần ngăn cản ý định của hoàng hậu (thái hậu sau này) Văn Định vương hậu Doãn thị gọi và khôi phục danh phận cho Dae Jang-geum trong Triều đại của vua Trung Tông và Nhân Tông.

Sau khi vua băng hà, vua Triều Tiên Nhân Tông lên ngôi, nhưng chỉ sau thời gian ngắn chưa đầy 1 năm vua này cũng qua đời, con trai của Hoàng Hậu Văn Định vương hậu Doãn thị là hoàng tử Lý Hoàn lên ngôi kế vị là Triều Tiên Minh Tông. Biết được Dae Jang-geum và Min Jung-Ho vẫn còn ở trên đất Chosun sau 8 năm trốn chạy, thái hậu Văn Định vương hậu Doãn thị (đang là nhiếp chính) cho gọi về và khôi phục danh phận cho Dae Jang-geum và Min-Jung-Ho.

Cảnh cuối của phim kết thúc khi Dae Jang-geum mổ bụng cứu lấy thai nhi và sản phụ của một người nông dân.


=========== Phim cổ trang số 1 của xứ Hàn?===========

Đã qua 13 năm và cho đến hiện tại, “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” vẫn là phim cổ trang Hàn được nhiều khán giả yêu thích.

Mỗi khi phát lại thì các fan phim Hàn vẫn chăm chú theo dõi và bình luận về từng tình tiết trong phim.

Lý do nào mà “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” có sức hút bền bỉ như vậy? Hãy cùng 2Sao tìm hiểu nhé:

Nàng Dae Jang Geum: Vì sao mãi là phim cổ trang số 1 của xứ Hàn? - Ảnh 1.

“Nàng Dae Jang Geum” là phim có rating cao, trung bình 45.6%

Nội dung mới lạ đầy thu hút

“Nàng Dae Jang Geum” kể về cô bé mồ côi Jang Geum vừa xinh đẹp, thông minh lại tốt bụng. Cô vào hoàng cung ở tuổi lên 10 và có ước mơ trở thành đầu bếp giỏi nhất.

Sau đó, vì dính vào một âm mưu trong hậu cung nên cô phải trở thành người hầu.

Không nản lòng, Jang Geum đã học nghề thuốc và quay lại hoàng cung, cuối cùng đã trở thành nữ thầy thuốc đầu tiên phục vụ trong cung cấm.

Nhiều khán giả đã không thể quên được cuộc đời đầy sóng gió của Dae Jang Geum trong suốt 54 tập phim.

Họ đã cùng khóc, cùng cười với cô, cùng hòa vào bộ phim như bản thân là một thành phần trong đó.

Nàng Dae Jang Geum: Vì sao mãi là phim cổ trang số 1 của xứ Hàn? - Ảnh 2.

Nội dung phim xoay quanh cuộc đời trong cung của Dae Jang Gum

Lựa chọn đề tài hậu cung thời phong kiến vốn có sức hút đặc biệt, thông qua cuộc đời của nàng Jang Geum, phim đã có sức hút mạnh mẽ từ khi phát sóng.

Tuy nhiên khác với các phim motif tranh đấu hậu cung, “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” lại xoay quanh chuyện về những người hầu, cung nữ và thầy thuốc.

Vì vậy phim bỗng trở nên mới lạ và hấp dẫn, khi những con người vốn tưởng như mờ nhạt lại được thể hiện sống động trên màn ảnh.

Nàng Dae Jang Geum: Vì sao mãi là phim cổ trang số 1 của xứ Hàn? - Ảnh 3.

Phim lấy đề tài y học tạo sự mới mẻ cho khán giả

Suốt 54 tập phim, khán giả dõi mà không có cảm thấy nhàm chán, đó là thành công của biên kịch Kim Young Hyun.

Bà đã bỏ thời gian 2 năm thu thập tư liệu về nhân vật Dae Jang Geum ngoài đời thật, cùng cuộc sống hậu cung của triều đại Chosun cách đây trên 500 năm.

Sự tài tình của kịch bản là Kim Young Hyun đã tái hiện hình ảnh nhân vật chính trong một bối cảnh lịch sử cụ thể theo phong cách kể chuyện với 85% tình tiết hư cấu.

Việc khắc họa tâm lý nhân vật cũng như những diễn biến nội tâm cũng được bà khắc họa vào phim rõ nét, tạo được cao trào và thu hút khán giả theo dõi.

Dàn diễn viên tài năng phù hợp vai

Thành công của “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” còn đến từ diễn xuất của các diễn viên.

Phim được giới chuyên môn ở Hàn đánh giá cao, đặc biệt là ở dàn diễn viên của phim. Họ có sức hút tới nỗi số lượng khán giả xem tác phẩm này tăng dần sau mỗi buổi phát sóng.

Đây cũng là lý do mà đoàn phim luôn nhận được lời khen ngợi từ truyền thông và báo đài. Bản thân các diễn viên tham gia cũng là những gương mặt thực lực và tên tuổi.

Nàng Dae Jang Geum: Vì sao mãi là phim cổ trang số 1 của xứ Hàn? - Ảnh 4.

Thành công của “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” phần lớn nằm ở Lee Young Ae

Linh hồn của “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” chính là Lee Young Ae. Dù đã tham gia nhiều phim như “Anh em nhà bác sĩ”… thì phải qua “Nàng Dae Jang Geum”, tên tuổi của cô mới vụt lên hàng sao hạng A ở Hàn Quốc.

Tài năng trong diễn xuất với sự nhập vai tài tình của cô đã tăng thêm sức hấp dẫn của tác phẩm.

Cô được báo chí Hàn Quốc bấy giờ ca ngợi nếu không có Lee Young Ae thì “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” sẽ không thể thành công như thế.

Đây cũng là phim truyền hình chia tay khán giả của cô khi xong bộ phim, cô không quay lại màn ảnh nhỏ.

Cuối năm 2016 này, Lee Young Ae sẽ trở lại màn ảnh nhỏ sau 13 năm với phim “Saim Dang, Light’s Diary”.

Nàng Dae Jang Geum: Vì sao mãi là phim cổ trang số 1 của xứ Hàn? - Ảnh 5.

Cô đã không đóng phim suốt 13 năm qua và sẽ sớm quay lại màn ảnh nhỏ

Các diễn viên khác như Ji Jin Hee (vai đại nhân Min), Hong Ri Na (cung nữ Choi), Yang Mi Kyung (Mama Han)… cũng thể hiện xuất sắc vai diễn của mình.

Họ phối hợp với Lee Young Ae rất nhịp nhàng và tự nhiên, mang lại những vai diễn sống động trên màn ảnh.

Nàng Dae Jang Geum: Vì sao mãi là phim cổ trang số 1 của xứ Hàn? - Ảnh 6.
Nàng Dae Jang Geum: Vì sao mãi là phim cổ trang số 1 của xứ Hàn? - Ảnh 7.

Các diễn viên như Ji Jin Hee, Yang Mi Young đều góp phần làm nên thành công của phim

Là một trong những phim cổ trang đầu tiên của Hàn

Thập niên 90, phim Hàn Quốc dần tạo được vị thế ở châu Á bởi dàn diễn viên đẹp cùng nội dung đau buồn đẫm nước mắt.

Tuy nhiên phim Hàn chỉ quanh quẩn ở thời hiện đại và không tạo được sự đa dạng, khi HongKong, Trung Quốc, Đài Loan… đều có các phim cổ trang hay và phong phú.

Vì vậy vào những năm đầu 2000, Hàn Quốc cũng bắt đầu thử nghiệm với dòng phim cổ trang của mình và “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” là một trong số các bộ phim thời gian đầu đó.

Nàng Dae Jang Geum: Vì sao mãi là phim cổ trang số 1 của xứ Hàn? - Ảnh 8.

“Nàng Dae Jang Geum” đã tạo nên cơn sốt hâm mộ phim cổ trang Hàn Quốc

Sự thành công vang dội của “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” là bàn đạp để các nhà làm phim Hàn tiếp tục với dòng phim cổ trang vốn còn mới mẻ lúc bấy giờ ở xứ kim chi.

Dần dần, dòng phim cổ trang trở thành “đặc sản” của phim Hàn, bởi văn hóa thời cổ của Hàn hoàn toàn khác biệt với Trung Quốc.

Vì thế họ có nhiều điểm để khai thác hơn và mang lại sự mới mẻ cho khán giả.

Vì vậy nếu “Nàng Dae Jang Geum” không thành công thì dòng phim cổ trang của Hàn cũng không phát triển mạnh như hiện tại. Vì vậy sức sống của phim còn tồn tại đến nay là vì thế.

============  Số phận dàn sao phim sau 14 năm ===========

Ngay khi lên sóng vào năm 2003, Nàng Dae Jang Geum đã lập tức nhận được nhiều sự chú ý. Bộ phim xoay quanh cuộc đời của cô bé mồ côi Dae Jang Geum thông minh, xinh đẹp và tốt bụng. Từ năm lên 10, cô mang ước mơ trở thành đầu bếp xuất chúng nhất ở hoàng cung. Nhưng vô tình bị vướng vào âm mưu đen tối chốn hậu cung. Từ đó, sóng gió liên tục kéo đến cuộc đời Dae Jang Geum nhưng cô không hề bỏ cuộc, quyết tâm học nghề thuốc và cuối cùng trở thành nữ ngự y đầu tiên phục vụ trong hoàng cung đầu tiên trong lịch sử Hàn Quốc.

Nội dung mới lạ và tình tiết hấp dẫn giúp Nàng Dae Jang Geum thành công níu chân khán giả xuyên suốt hơn 50 tập phim. Sau 14 năm, Nàng Dae Jang Geum vẫn là bô phim kinh điển số 1 của truyền hình xứ kim chi mà khi nhắc đến không ai không biết. Và ngần ấy thời gian trôi qua, dàn sao trong phim cũng thay đổi không ít.

Lee Young Ae vai Dae Jang Geum

Thời điểm đóng Nàng Dae Jang Geum, Lee Young Ae khi đó 32 tuổi đã là ngôi sao hạng A được săn đón bậc nhất xứ Hàn. Nhưng đồng ý đảm nhận thể hiện Dae Jang Geum và cuộc đời gian truân của nữ ngự y đầu tiên phục vụ trong cung cấm chính là quyết định sáng suốt nhất trong sự nghiệp diễn xuất của cô.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 1.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 2.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Thành công vang dội của Nàng Dae Jang Geum không chỉ nâng tầm tên tuổi của Lee Young Ae mà còn giúp cô thu về khoản tiền không nhỏ từ các hợp đồng quảng cáo và trở thành nữ hoàng thống trị lĩnh vực này. Sau vai diễn “để đời” ấy, Lee Young Ae tạm gác lại sự nghiệp diễn xuất để tập trung vào học tập, quảng cáo và các hoạt động xã hội.

Năm 2009, Lee Young Ae kết hôn với doanh nhân người Mỹ gốc Hàn, Jung Ho Young. Cô hạ sinh cặp song sinh trai gái 2 năm sau đó. Ở tuổi 46, nữ diễn viên vẫn giữ được nhan sắc trẻ trung, xinh đẹp thuần khiết, bất chấp mọi quy luật thời gian. Nhờ đó, 2 đứa con thừa hưởng nét đẹp của mẹ cũng nhận được nhiều sự chú ý và lời khen “có cánh” từ công chúng.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 3.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 4.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Năm 2016 vừa qua, Lee Young Ae đánh dấu sự trở lại màn ảnh nhỏ sau hơn 13 năm vắng bóng trong siêu phẩm Saimdang, the Herstory song lại không gặt hái thành công như mong đợi bởi nội dung phim bị đánh giá chán và lê thê.

Ji Jin Hee vai Min Jung Ho

Nhờ vẻ ngoài hiền lành, thư sinh, Ji Jin Hee được nhà làm phim “chọn mặt gửi vàng” cho vai diễn đại nhân Min, người luôn ở bên cạnh yêu thương và cùng Dae Jang Geum vượt qua mọi sóng gió. Mối tình khắc cốt ghi tâm hiện lên chân thật, đầy cảm xúc nhờ lối diễn xuất tự nhiên, dày dặn kinh nghiệm của 2 ngôi sao thực lực đã để lại ấn tượng sâu sắc trong lòng khán giả.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 5.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Thành công của vai diễn mang cái tên Ji Jin Hee đến gần với khán giả hơn. Anh nhận được nhiều lời mời đóng phim và không ngại làm mới mình trong từng tác phẩm. Năm 2010, Ji Jin Hee lần nữa kết hợp với đạo diễn Lee Byung Hoon của Nàng Dae Jang Geum trong phim truyền hình cổ trang Dong Yi. Một lần nữa, nam diễn viên chứng tỏ khả năng chọn phim “mát tay” khi được khán giả nhiệt tình đón nhận.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 6.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Một năm sau thành công của Nàng Dae Jang Geum, Ji Jin Hee kết hôn với nhà thiết kế đồ họa Lee Soo Yeon sau 6 năm yêu nhau. Trải qua 13 năm chung sống bên nhau cùng 2 cậu con trai kháu khỉnh, nam diễn viên 46 tuổi không ít lần khiến công chúng ghen tị với hôn nhân viên mãn của anh. Không chỉ là ngôi sao thực lực được công nhận, Ji Jin Hee còn là người đàn ông mẫu mực và hình mẫu người chồng lý tưởng trong mắt các cô gái.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 7.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Hong Ri Na vai Choi Geum Young

Nhắc đến Nàng Dae Jang Geum ngoài cặp đôi thì không thể không nhắc đến nhân vật phản diện, đảm nhận nhiệm vụ đày đọa và làm khổ Dae Jang Geum, cung nữ Choi Geum Young có tài nhưng mưu mô, xảo trá. Với khả năng diễn xuất biến hóa cùng ánh mắt sắc sảo, toát ra “tà khí”, Hong Ri Na thành công thể hiện một nhân vật khiến khán giả ghét cay ghét đắng.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 8.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Sau Nàng Dae Jang Geum, danh tiếng của Hong Ri Na cũng nổi đình đám không kém 2 nhân vật chính. Nhưng sau đó, cô chỉ đóng thêm 1 bộ phim truyền hình trước khi kết hôn và theo chồng sang Canada sinh sống. Từ đó, nữ diễn viên 49 tuổi rút chân ra khỏi làng giải trí và chọn cuộc sống yên bình cùng gia đình êm ấm.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 9.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Park Eun Hye vai cung nữ Yeon Saeng

Có thể nói Park Eun Hye là nữ thứ nhận được nhiều sự chú ý nhất trong “siêu phẩm” Nàng Dae Jang Geum. Cung nữ Yeon Saeng luôn sát cánh và giúp đỡ Dae Jang Geum nhận được nhiều thiện cảm từ phía khán giả. Cộng với vẻ đẹp dịu dàng, ngọt ngào của Park Eun Hye, nhiều người quá yêu mến vai diễn cho rằng cô sẽ không bao giờ có thể đóng vai ác vì gương mặt trông quá hiền lành, nhân từ.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 10.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Năm 2008, Park Eun Hye lên xe hoa với một doanh nhân giàu có hơn cô 4 tuổi. Nữ diễn viên từng trải qua thời kỳ khủng hoảng tâm lý trầm trọng khi bị sảy thai đứa con đầu lòng. May mắn thay, sau này Park Eun Hye đã tiếp tục mang thai và hạ sinh cặp song sinh 1 trai 1 gái hết như Lee Young Ae. Quyết định tập trung tất cả tâm trí cho tổ ấm gia đình nên 2 năm trở lại đây, cô không hề nhận bất kỳ kịch bản nào và vẫn chưa có ý định trở lại màn ảnh trong thời gian tới.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 11.

Park Eun Hye bế con đến dự sự kiện (Ảnh: Internet)

Han Ji Min vai cung nữ Shinbi

Cũng như Park Eun Hye, Han Ji Min cũng có cơ hội tỏa sáng sau vai diễn cung nữ Shinbi – người bạn tốt bên cạnh Dae Jang Geum. Với vẻ ngoài xinh đẹp, nụ cười hiền lành và ánh mắt “biết nói”, nữ diễn viên may mắn lọt vào “mắt xanh” của các nhà làm phim. Sau thời gian chăm chỉ đóng phim, cô vươn lên trở thành sao hạng A và thật sự tỏa sáng khi vào vai nữ chính trong Hoàng Tử Gác Mái.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 12.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Song sự nghiệp vài năm trở lại đây của Han Ji Min chững lại trông thấy, nhất là sau tác phẩm “thảm họa” Hyde, Jekyll and I. Kết quả là 2 năm qua cô mất hút trong mắt truyền thông lẫn khán giả. Trong suốt sự nghiệp diễn xuất, người đẹp 35 tuổi chưa một lần vướng scandal tình cảm và vẫn duy trì tình trạng “độc thân vui tính” đến tận ngày nay.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 13.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Lee Se Young vai cung nữ Choi Geum Young lúc nhỏ

Trước khi đến với vai cung nữ Choi lúc nhỏ, Lee Se Young đã có bề dày 6 năm “ăn cơm phim trường” và được đánh giá là sao nhí sáng giá lúc bấy giờ. Giữa hàng trăm ứng cử viên khác, sở dĩ đạo diễn quyết định chọn cô có lẽ là nhờ gương mặt thông minh, lanh lợi cùng khả năng diễn xuất tự nhiên, đầy tinh tế. Và quả thật, Lee Se Young không bao giờ khiến mọi người thất vọng khi lột tả thành công vai phản diện khá “khó nuốt” dù thời điểm ấy đó cô chỉ vừa tròn 11 tuổi.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 14.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Tuy nhiên, dù nhận lời mời đóng phim đều đặn nhưng Lee Se Young vẫn chưa tìm được vai diễn thật sự giúp cô vụt sáng thành sao giữa trị trường đầy rẫy cạnh tranh và nhanh đào thải như Kbiz. Có lẽ điều khán giả mong chờ ở cô cũng là một lần “lột xác” để chứng tỏ khả năng diễn xuất cũng như thoát khỏi cái bóng sao nhí quá lớn trong quá khứ.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 15.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Yang Mi Kyung vai Mama Han

Là bạn của mẹ Dae Jang Geum, Mama Han là người phụ nữ hiền lành, nghiêm khắc nhưng hết mực yêu thương Dae Jang Geum như con gái ruột. Bà cũng là người thầy đầu tiên dạy cô những bài học đầu tiên cũng như bí quyết nấu ăn quý báu. Về sau, cái chết oan ức của Mama Han trở thành động lực tiếp thêm sức mạnh cho nữ chính cho cô nỗ lực vươn lên và đạt được vinh quang sau này.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 16.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Được biết, Yang Mi Kyung không phải là sự lựa chọn đầu tiên của nhà làm phim dành cho vai diễn này. Sau khi bị nhiều người từ chối vì sợ ít đất diễn, nó mới đến với tay nữ diễn viên 56 tuổi. Chẳng hề lo sợ không đủ đất thể hiện, Yang Mi Kyung với lối diễn xuất biến hóa, đã tạo nên sức sống và nét cuốn hút riêng biệt cho nhân vật Mama Han. Đây cũng là vai diễn đáng nhớ nhất trong sự nghiệp 20 năm của cô.

Nhờ vẻ đẹp nho nhã, phong thái điềm đạm, Yang Mi Kyung thường được giao đảm nhận những vai diễn người mẹ hiền lành. Những bộ phim tiêu biểu gần đây cô góp mặt có thể kể đến Mặt Trăng Ôm Mặt Trời, Nữ Hoàng Tháng 5, Mask, Giới Thương Lưu…

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 17.

(Ảnh: Internet)

Gyeon Mi Ri vai Mama Choi

Người ta nói nếu như không phải Gyeon Mi Ri chắc chắn khán giả sẽ không bao giờ ghét Mama Choi nhất phim. Điều này phần nào chứng tỏ khả năng nhập vai cực kỳ xuất sắc của nữ diễn viên khi thể hiện nhân vật mama tổng quản nhiều mưu mô, xảo trá. Ánh mắt ác đến ám ảnh của Gyeon Mi Ri chắc hẳn không khán giả nào yêu mến Nàng Dae Jang Geum có thể quên được.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 18.

(Ảnh Internet)

Gyeon Mi Ri sinh năm 1965, từng trải qua 1 lần ly hôn và đã có 3 con. Trong đó, Lee Yoo Bi và Lee Da In hiện đang hoạt động nghệ thuật với tư cách diễn viên. Dù nhận được rất nhiều lời mời sau Nàng Dae Jang Geum nhưng Mama Choi vẫn là vai diễn đình đám và đáng nhớ nhất sự nghiệp của bà. 

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 19.

Hai ái nữ của Gyeon Mi Ri là Lee Yoo Bi và Lee Da In. (Ảnh: Internet)

Năm 2009, Gyeon Mi Ri vướng vào vụ cáo buộc thao túng cổ phiếu trong khi chồng bà bị nghi ngờ về giao dịch nội gián. Thời điểm đó, bà đã mua 55.000 cổ phiếu trị giá 900 triệu won (tương đương 18 tỷ đồng) của một công ty startup, sau đó thu về 4,59 tỷ won (tương đương 91,8 tỷ đồng). Nữ diễn viên Nàng Dae Jang Geum hết mực phủ nhận cáo buộc và khẳng định bản thân chỉ là một nhà đầu tư đơn thuần.

Dàn sao Nàng Dae Jang Geum sau 14 năm: Người vai chính viên mãn, kẻ vai phụ lận đận chưa thể tỏa sáng - Ảnh 20.

(Ảnh: Internet)

=======================================

Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum)

Jewel in the Palace (Korea)

Korean Title: Dae Jang Geum (translates to "The Great Jang Geum")
Chinese Title: "Dai Cheung Kam" (with the same meaning)
# of episodes: 71
Theme Song: sung by Kelly Chen
Producer: MBC

Cast: (with Cantonese names in brackets)
Lee Young-Ae as Seo Jang Geum (Chui Cheung Kam)
Ji Jin-Hee as Min Jung-Ho (Man Jun Ho)
Hong Ri-Na as Choi Keum-Young (Chui Kam Ying)
Gyeon Mi-Ri as Lady Choi (Chui Seung Kung)
Yang Mi-Kyeong as Lady Han (Hon Seung Kung)
Ho Im as King Jungjong
Park Jeong-Su as Queen Munjeong
Yeo Woon-Gye as Lady Jeong (Cheng Seung Kung)
Supporting Cast
Park Eun-hye as Lee Yeong-Saeng (Lin Sang)
Im Hyeon-Shik as Kang Deok-Gu (Keung Tak Gau)
Geum Bo-Ra as Na Ju Daek (Mrs. Kang)
Park Chan-Hwan as Seo Cheon-Soo (Jang Geum’s father)
Kim Hye-Seon as Park Myeong-Hee (Bak Ming Yee, Jang Geum’s mother)
Lee Hie-do as Choi Pan-Sul (Choi Fan Sau)
Kim Yeo-Jin as Dr. Jang-Deok (Cheung Dak)
Jo Jung-Eun as Young Seo Jang Geum
*Thanks to point2e.com for the cast information

Foreword
The hype around this Korean series is more than that of Korea's "Endless Love", TVB's "Triumph in the Skies" and "War & Beauty" combined. I've seen many Korean series, but this is the very first ancient one that I have watched and, to my knowledge, probably the only ancient Korean series that has attracted so much attention in recent Korean TV. So, is it really that good? It is good in the sense that the characters are strong, the plot is focused, and the acting is solid. It is bad in the sense that the plot is too focused (after about 40 episodes, you really don't care about Jang Geum anymore), there are too many flashbacks and the length is for those who really have a lot of time on their hands. However, precisely because of the length, this series, its story, and its characters, end up drawing you in making this a recommended Korean series from me.

Plot Summary

I'm going to try to offer a relatively compact plot summary of this series because too much happens in 71 episodes to retell every detail. The series basically traces the trials and tribulations of the accomplished Seo Jang Geum, who grows up working in the palace with the ultimate goal of regaining her family’s honour, clearing the names of her parents (who both worked in the palace and were framed) and avenging their deaths. First she is trained to work as a palace kitchen servant, her goal was to become Chief of Kitchen. Here, she excels under the mentorship of Lady Han (her mother’s best friend). Lady Han and Lady Choi compete for the post of Chief of Kitchen, the former with Jang Geum’s help and the latter with help from her niece, Keum-Young, a talented young girl who also works as a palace kitchen servant.

Lady Han becomes Chief of Kitchen, but their joy is brief when she and Jang Geum are accused and framed of attempting to harm the Emperor by the Choi family, who has always held the post through cruel means and palace politics. Lady Han ends up dying from torture while Jang Geum is banished to a land that houses palace criminals. There she meets the accomplished but tough female doctor Jang-Deok, who takes Jang Geum under her wing after discovering her talent for cooking and for recognizing medicinal herbs. Jang Geum becomes determined to work as a female doctor, since this is the only way in which she can re-enter the palace to avenge the deaths of her parents and of her mentor Lady Han. However, an older man who once cured Jang Geum when she lost her sense of taste, gives her a few words of wisdom: "Someone who is full of hate and vengeance cannot become a great doctor". Alas, Jang Geum decides to become one anyway and finds her way back into the palace.

All along her little journey, she falls in love with one of the palace’s only morally upright officials, the dashing Min Jung-Ho. He also happens to be the long-admired object of affection of Keum-Young. This doesn’t exactly make life easier for Jang Geum when Keum-Young realizes that Jang Geum is the one that Jung-Ho loves. However, Keum-Young is the Choi family member with the strongest conscience, who refuses to turn Jung-Ho in when the rest of her family discovers that he is on their tracks for their history of corruption and cruelty. In fact, Keum-Young ends up channeling all her hate onto Jang Geum while threatening to sacrifice her family shall they try to harm Jung-Ho in any way. Of course, this pisses her family off, especially Lady Choi whose butt still isn’t warm in the seat of Chief of Kitchen.

So what happens in the end? Jang Geum gets noticed by the Emperor for her intelligence and accomplishments, which is not good news for her and Jung-Ho. After all, all the women who work in the palace are considered to be the Emperor’s property (this is different from the Chinese imperial system). However, the Emperor, though he is in love with Jang Geum, only asks her to remain by his side but he does not make her his concubine. Through the influence of the palace scholars, he also banishes Jung-Ho. Jang Geum becomes the first woman to be recognized as an official, personal physician to the Emperor no less. The Emperor’s officials aren’t too happy with this and continue to attempt to get the Emperor to change his mind. However, with his ailing health, the Emperor realizes he can no longer protect Jang Geum from the rest of the officials (useless King, really… he ends up dying), and Jang Geum and Jung-Ho end up escaping from the palace, eloping and having a daughter together.

Evaluation of Cast and Characters

A strong acting foundation is crucial to a series of this length, and I’m happy report that in general the acting is up to par. Of course, there is always the bland, wooden, overacting bunch, but overall "Jewel in the Palace" delivers in the acting department.

Gyeon Mi-Ri / Lady Choi
An impressive performance as the gray figure of the series. Many may mistake her as a villain, but I personally believe that she has a conscience. After all, she never wanted to harm Myeong-Yi but felt she had to for the interests of her family. Anyway, this photogenic actress performed from beginning to end. Her hatred towards Jang Geum/Lady Han, egotistical demeanor, cold personality and self-satisfying smiles were portrayed wonderfully. A charismatic, natural actress who gave Lady Choi a depth that pulled her away from being mistaken as “The Ultimate Villain”.

Hong Ri-Na / Keum-Young
An actress with an exotically beautiful face who portrayed the complex Keum-Young very competently. In fact, I would describe her performance as “grace under fire”. Keum-Young is a complex character in the sense that she hates Jang Geum for her talent and for being the one who ‘stole’ Jung-Ho away, but she also admires Jang Geum for the same reasons. As well, though she is very devoted to her family, she is prepared to sacrifice them for the man she has loved since childhood, even though she knows that her love is not returned. She works hard to perfect her talent, but refuses to betray her conscience to protect her family and attain her goal. Hong Ri-Na’s acting spoke volumes about these inner conflicts, and I believe that she turns in one the series’ strongest performances. Keum-Young is also my favourite character of the series for her complexity, intelligence, ultimate conscience and compassionate nature.

Yang Mi-Kyeong / Lady Han
She appears wooden for most of the series, but that’s just her character. Lady Han is a stoic, strict, and almost boring woman as she keeps her feelings from everyone else until she meets Jang Geum, the daughter of her deceased best friend. Though she seems stiff for the most part, Yang acts well in the dramatic parts of the series, as in when she discovers that Jang Geum is Myeong-Hee’s daughter. Her role as mentor towards Jang Geum was also portrayed naturally. A very adequate performance and I’m pretty satisfied.

Ji Jin-Hee / Min Jung-Ho
This very handsome and dashing actor showed promise in the beginning but falls flat towards the end. Though his romantic scenes as the gallant knight-in-shining armour to Lee were wonderful to watch, his scenes as the morally upright, accomplished young man thirsty to defend righteousness were boring, if not badly acted. The spirit just isn’t there. I see Jung-Ho as a scrupulous and virtuous man who will stop at nothing to render justice for others, but Ji’s performance is sorely lacking in this aspect. Most of the time he comes off as a narrow-minded official who seeks to protect only Jang Geum’s interests. Though this protection is very romantic on his part, Ji’s acting makes Jung-Ho only seems interested in promoting justice where Jang Geum is concerned, and that is simply not the case. If one thing is missing from his performance, it’s spirit.

Lee Young Ae / Jang Geum
Her acting is inconsistent in the sense that sometimes it’s really good (when she discovers that Lady Han is her mother’s best friend) and sometimes it’s really bad (as in when she’s reciting cooking ingredients or the names of medicinal herbs). Though she should be applauded for not making me hate her towards the end of the series, I have to admit that she really isn’t that great of an actress. While Lee’s chubby face makes her cute but not pretty, sometimes she just seems confused and even empty as an actress. This is especially the case when she’s reciting long lists of medicines or cooking ingredients, Lee literally seems to be reading off the script. And really, Jang Geum’s holier-than-thou attitude and the fact that she knows basically everything get pretty annoying after hitting episode 40. But her love story with Jung-Ho was very touching, since Lee shares an unspoken kind of romantic chemistry with Ji Jin-Hee. Although neither are amazing actors, and although there is no lust and almost no physical contact between the two, their love was still portrayed as very warm, very tender, and very romantic. In any case, I can’t decide whether Lee is a good or bad actress, I can only say she is very inconsistent. But she must be admired for generally carrying through all 71 episodes. After all, one can only imagine the disaster if Song Hye-Kyo were cast in this role. I shudder at the thought.

Other Characters:
Park Jeong-Su was great as the Empress, this actress has a regal and royal presence and her performance was commendable, topped by yet another face with unique character. Ho Im hit the nail with his portrayal of the ‘useless King’ part of his character, but his dramatic scenes fail to move the audience. Im Hyeong-Shik and Geum Bo-Ra were equally funny as the bickering elder couple. However, though they provided some comic relief, they get irritating when we near the end.

Both Park Chan-Hwan and Kim Hye-Son turn in disappointing, forgettable performances as Jang Geum’s parents, a true pity because their characters set the drama. Park Eun-Hye is cute enough as the wide-eyed, innocent, and childish Yeong-Saeng in the beginning, but after she became a concubine Park ended up overacting and at times her cuteness/innocence comes off as fake (Gigi Lai from "War and Beauty").

Lee Hie-Do has one expression: worried. Except that look is exactly the way Choi Pan-Sul is supposed to be and Lee honed that look to perfection, so an ok performance. Notable performances were delivered by Kim Yeo-Jin, who did the fiery, tough doctor Jang-Deok justice and by the actresses who played the Emperor’s mother and Lady Min. However, one of the best performances of the series comes from child actress Jo Jung-eun, who, like many other child actors, reigns supreme over many of the adult, even so-called veteran actors. Jo is cute, perceptive, bright and an absolute joy to watch. Most importantly, she gives the young Jang Geum the spirit and tongue-in-cheek intelligence that she’s supposed to have, something Lee Young-Ae fails at conveying.

In General
The costumes are absolutely gorgeous, although the Han-Boks (the traditional Korean dress) are huge and make all the women look bottom-heavy. The hairstyles of the higher-status women are also very bothersome; apparently in history they were constructed by wrapping the hair around some kind of wooden frame; the entire thing weighed up to 14 pounds each! Imagine having that on your head for the entire day. The palace, however, is much less grand than I thought it would be - perhaps I am too used to the Forbidden City in TVB ancient series. And I was surprised at how physically close the Emperor and his officials were when they spoke. In TVB series, the Emperor sits on a throne and his officials all stand when they discuss something. In "Jewel in the Palace", however, they all sit on the floor with only a few feet between them. The theme song is easy on the ears, as is Kelly Chen’s voice. The food looked good too…until I noticed that the producers started using the same clips of food being prepared. For example, I kept seeing the same soup pot and the same tofu being chopped up. I also find it hard to believe that women in ancient Korean society were so powerful. In its patriarchial society (that is still the case today), how could women have held such high positions? How could they have gone in and out of the palace with such ease? Even after 71 episodes, I remain completely unconvinced that this reflects history. However, Jang Geum actually existed!

To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question
A recommended series, provided you have the time and energy to be dragged through. There is something for everyone in here, I believe, whether you want to explore the ancient Korean series genre, identify with one of the series’ many characters, or just want to look at some good food.


Review of Dae Jang Geum


Jang GeumDae Jang Geum (aka Jewel in the Palace), directed by Lee Byoung-hoon. Written by Kim Yeong-hyeon. Released on September 15, 2003 (South Korea)

Rarely does one encounter a work of art that profoundly affects one’s life. Even less frequently does one find such a work in the form of a television series. So what are the odds of finding such a work in the form of a subtitled Korean television series? Well, here is a reminder that the highly improbable is not impossible.

Dae Jang Geum is a 54-hour television series about an orphaned girl in 15th-century Korea who rises from her servant-class beginnings to become the first woman physician to the king. Her journey is laced with heroes and villains, achievements and setbacks, twists and turns from beginning to end. And the story is driven from start to finish by the various characters’ choices and values—primarily by those of the passionate, persistent, and principled Jang Geum (acted by Lee Yeong-ae and Jo Jung-eun).

From the moment she appears onscreen as a seven-year-old, Jang Geum (who is loosely based on an actual historic figure) acts on her own judgment for her own purposes irrespective of what others say or do. When her values are at stake, she routinely disregards social conventions and even disobeys her parents, whom she loves. For instance, as a member of the lowly servant class she is prohibited by custom, and consequently by her mother, from learning to read or write. As a girl, she is also prohibited from learning to hunt, an activity deemed appropriate only for boys. Nonetheless, Jang Geum sneaks off to the local school to learn the written characters and goes hunting for rabbits with the boys. When reprimanded by her mother for breaking these rules, Jang Geum demands to know the reasons behind them: “Why can’t I learn to read and write and hunt when I love it and am so much better at it than the [higher-class] boys?” Such early scenes set the stage for Jang Geum’s character and choices throughout the series.dae-jang-guem

After losing her parents, Jang Geum sets her sights on the long-range goal of entering the Royal Palace and becoming the highest kitchen lady. She pursues this goal in part out of personal passion, and, in part, to record in an official logbook an injustice committed against her mother, who had once been a kitchen lady. After gaining admittance to the training program for kitchen ladies—a feat in itself for a servant-class girl—Jang Geum works tenaciously to learn everything she can and to perfect her skills. But in the Palace, obstacles abound—especially for a girl whose intelligence, skill, character, and achievements bring out the worst in the envy-ridden, power-lusting family of the Chois.

The central conflict in this drama is between Jang Geum and the Choi family, who have corruptly controlled the royal kitchen for five generations, using this position as a means to gain power and wealth. They correctly see Jang Geum as a threat to their operation and work to remove her from the Palace by any means necessary. As the two sides pursue their respective goals, nearly every episode ends with a cliffhanger that makes it almost impossible to resist starting the next episode immediately. Will Jang Geum be able to pass her kitchen lady exam despite sabotage by the Choi family? Will Jang Geum be imprisoned and sentenced to death for high treason? Will the evil plotting of Lady Choi (Gyeon Mi-ri) finally be exposed for the world to see?

Unlike the Chois, Jang Geum and her mentor, Lady Han (Yang Mi-kyeong), see their role in the royal kitchen as a supreme responsibility to prepare delicious, beautiful, and healthy food. In one episode, a high-ranking Chinese ambassador and his envoy visit the palace for several days, and the kitchen is charged with preparing for them only the tastiest dishes in accordance with their importance. When the envoy arrives, however, Jang Geum and Lady Han discover that the ambassador is diabetic. They proceed to prepare dishes of mostly vegetables, which they know will improve the ambassador’s health but which are seen by him as an outrageous insult. When Lady Han is imprisoned and awaiting punishment for this impudence, Jang Geum even more impudently speaks directly to the ambassador to explain Lady Han’s actions. He is so impressed with Jang Geum’s passionate and well-reasoned argument that he agrees to try eating her healthy dishes for five days—on the condition that, if he does not notice an improvement in his health, she will submit to any punishment he decrees, including, possibly, death. Jang Geum accepts the challenge and ultimately succeeds, freeing Lady Han and earning praise and gratitude from the royal family—but further enraging her enemies, who feel increasingly threatened by her integrity and accomplishments.

In another episode, Jang Geum’s hopes of achieving her goals seem permanently ruined when she is framed for high treason, demoted to a slave, and exiled to a remote island. But even in the face of such devastating setbacks, she refuses to give up. Upon learning that the only way a slave may enter life in the palace—where Jang Geum still has goals to achieve—is as a physician lady, she begins studying and training in the field of medicine. We see her passion for knowledge directed at a new target, seemingly unsolvable medical puzzles; we marvel at her ability to discover new and ingenious ways to diagnose and treat illnesses; we again see her firsthand approach to solving problems, always looking at the facts of a situation, integrating new data with her existing knowledge, and disregarding any customs or taboos that stand in her way.

Like Jang Geum, all the major and minor characters in the series are beautifully conceived and portrayed, and there are scores of characters. Other major characters of note include Lady Jung (Yeo Woon-gye), Keum Young (Hong Ri-na and Lee Se-yeoung), and Sir Min Jung Ho (Ji Jin-hee).

Lady Jung, one of the key protagonists, is first seen singing and joking with the young kitchen girls in training. She has spent the past ten years in a menial position in the sauce pantry, and she comes across as mild mannered, even passive. Consequently, the Choi family, unable at the time to place one of their own in the position of highest kitchen lady, plans to install Lady Jung in that position as a puppet for them to control. Once Lady Jung assumes the position, however, we see this seemingly docile woman’s iron will take charge of the kitchen, which she is determined to run according to her own exacting standard: The purpose of the kitchen is to prepare nutritious and delicious food, bringing good health and happiness to those who eat it. Contrary to the Chois’ plans, Lady Jung will not permit the kitchen to be used as a battleground for palace politics. At the first meal prepared under her leadership, Lady Jung encourages the kitchen ladies to practice their skills diligently because she will ultimately hand her position only to the most talented—not the highest ranking or most politically connected.

Keum Young, slightly older than Jang Geum, is a kitchen lady in training as well. Talented, ambitious, and competitive, Keum Young is the youngest girl in the powerful Choi family, and she is being groomed to become highest kitchen lady. Because of her skill and connections, she has a special place in the kitchen and is trained in more advanced cooking methods. She is initially friendly and even helpful to Jang Geum; however, as she watches Jang Geum’s abilities blossom, Keum Young feels her place as star pupil threatened and becomes increasingly jealous. Further fueling her animosity toward Jang Geum are a mutual love interest in Sir Min, and Keum Young’s family, who ultimately call on her to betray Jang Geum and Sir Min.

Keum Young is constantly torn between what she knows is right and what her family demands, and her steady degeneration is a tragic depiction of the consequences of moral compromise. In one scene she agrees to place in the vicinity of the queen an evil charm that is supposed to change the prince in the queen’s womb into a princess, thus protecting the Chois’ position of power. Keum Young does not want to do something so dishonorable and initially refuses. But she finally acquiesces to the pressure from her family and reluctantly carries out the task after vowing that when she becomes highest kitchen lady, she will put an end to such repugnant practices. She soon discovers, however, that in order to protect the position she unjustly obtains, she will have to engage in even more horrendous crimes, resulting in a downward spiral that eventually destroys this initially virtuous girl.

Late in the series, looking back on her life, she acknowledges to herself that she was neither fully true to her own values (honesty and integrity) nor fully obedient to the demands of her family. Her evasions and compromises have destroyed her soul, and she leaves the palace an empty shell of a person.

Amid the dramatic events, power struggles, and palace politics, a beautiful and moving love story develops between Jang Geum and Sir Min. We first encounter Sir Min in his capacity as an expert military officer, fighting to protect the country. After their initial and anonymous encounter, in which Jang Geum saves Sir Min’s life without either of them seeing the other’s face, they officially meet in the palace when Jang Geum visits the library where he studies. Sir Min is at first intrigued by a simple kitchen lady who frequents the library eager to read the classics of Korean literature and philosophy. As the story unfolds, we see his esteem for her grow as he admires her intelligence, courage, and tenacity.

In a particularly moving scene, after Jang Geum has suffered a gross injustice that utterly demoralizes her, Sir Min reminds her what this means and what really matters. “It is just another obstacle for you. It is the obstacle of people. As you accomplish more and more, and as your medical skills get better with time, the obstacles may grow bigger. You must overcome it. No matter what great achievements you accomplish, if you cannot overcome [the obstacle of people] you will crumble down. . . . Brush off the dirt and stand up again. I do not like the weak [Jang Geum]. You must stand up.”

Less important to the story, but worth mentioning (along with a caveat) are Jang Geum’s adopted parents. Their role is largely that of comic relief, which is indispensable to the often-tense drama. Viewers may initially find the antics of these quirky characters annoying, particularly their stylistic overacting. But as the story develops, viewers will come to love the parents, not only for their offbeat humor, but also for their devotion to and protection of Jang Geum.

The acting in the series in general is highly stylized and more like stage acting than film acting, which is an asset to the production. The ideas conveyed and emotions evoked in this story are broad and sometimes complex, and the actors need every technique at their disposal to perform effectively.

The only significant weakness in the epic is that the first few episodes, in which much necessary background is established, provide no indication of the drama, excitement, and heroism to come. By the end of episode 4, however, the viewer is likely to be hooked, and, if so, he is in for a life-changing experience.

Dae Jang Geum episode summaries

Just for a bit of nostalgia, here is a summary of the sageuk drama Dae Jang Geum (A.K.A Jewel in the Palace MBC 2004) starring Lee Young Ae as Jang Geum and Ji Jin Hee as royal official Min Jung Ho. For more information on the making the drama see my notes from the director, Lee Byung Hoon’s book here.

The drama is set in the palace during the reign of King Jungjong (r.1506-1544) a serious king who tried in vain to set the court straight after he comes to the throne in a coup to depose his cruel, tyrant half-brother Yeonsangun. (r.1494-1506. But King Jungjong is fighting a losing battle against the corrupt and powerful hungu officials helped by the powerful Choi family. The women of the family have held the highest court lady positions for 5 generations and will do anything to keep it that way including poisoning the food of anyone they need to get rid of in the royal family! Merchant Choi provides the money they need for bribes etc with this monopoly on trade to the palace.

But fighting the baddies is Jang Geum, a woman who became an orphan at a young age but rises to become the first and only female doctor to a king in Joseon history. She does this through hard work and honesty always refusing to use her skills to cause harm to anyone – even her enemies. A main theme of the story is to never use food or medicine as a weapon…

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EPISODE 1  THE KING’S ORDER

The story begins in 1482, the 13th year of King Seongjong’s reign (r.1469-1494), when he orders the deposed Queen Yun (Yeonsangun’s mother) to drink poison. One of the officials sent to carry out the task will become Jang Geum’s father. Before she drinks the poison she prays that her son the crown prince will punish all those involved when he becomes King!

Back at court we see the young crown prince innocently playing hide and seek with the court ladies. (perhaps this is a reference to his infamous ‘love’ of women later!!) There is still no sign of the cruel and violent king he becomes.

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Deposed Queen Yun drinks poison while Jang Geum’s future father looks on …

2nd year of Yeonsangun 1496 …

14 years later and Jang Geum’s dad is 40 years old and still not married after a fortune teller’s words frightened him off women! Yeonsangun is on the throne and known to be cruel. There are rumours that he killed his teacher and killed his own father’s beloved deer. Afraid for his safety having taken part in the death of Yeonsangun’s mother, Jang Geum’s dad decides to quit his job and leave the palace.

Over in the palace kitchens the food is being prepared for the king and his family. But court lady Park watches another cook (Lady Choi) putting wolfsbane in the queen mother’s dish, an ingredient which is bad for her. Fearing for the queen mother’s health, Lady Park reports this to her superiors. Next thing we know Lady Park (Jang Geum’s future mum) is framed by Lady Choi and poisoned for ‘fraternising with male officials’. But she is saved by her friend, Lady Han, who slips her an antidote.

Jang Geum’s future father finds Lady Park nearly dead but takes her to a temple where she is saved. They end up becoming a couple and have a daughter, Jang Geum.

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Lady Park watches Lady Choi putting wolfsbane in the queen mother’s food. Lady Park is forced to drink poison, but is saved by an ex-royal guard. They have a daughter, Jang Geum.

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EPISODE 2  LITERATI PURGE 1504

Jang Geum’s parents are now low class baekjong (백정 白丁 literal meaning – butcher) and they make a living making and selling knives. They live in fear of being caught by palace guards and have heard how terrible the king is. Jang Geum’s mum is strict and punishes her for playing with yangban kids. But Jang Geum is smart and wants to study with them but she is not allowed because her family is low class.

Yeonsangun meets his grandmother – mother of Queen Yun – and she gives him the blood-stained cloth from his mother. Angrily the king begins his revenge and punishes all those who took part in the death of his mother. Wanted posters are put up and ministers tortured and put to death by drinking poison. In the countryside Jang Geum’s father takes her to a local festival but there they get into a fight with the locals and Jang Geum reveals the secret she was not supposed to tell –  that her father is NOT low class but was a royal guard. Her father is arrested but Jang Geum and her mother escape.

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Literati Purge of 1504: Yeonsangun sees his mother’s blood-soaked cloth and begins his revenge.

Searching for her husband, Jang Geum’s mum takes Jang Geum to the capital and manages to meet with Lady Han who is now a high kitchen lady. But when Lady Choi (and family)  realises that Lady Park is STILL ALIVE she’s shocked and worried and has her killed: shot with an arrow.

Lady Park is badly injured but on her deathbed hiding in a cave she manages to write two letters to her daughter but tells her not to open them until she has reached various positions in the palace. She also tells her to become the Highest Kitchen Lady in the palace, find her mother’s recipe book which is hidden there, and reveal the truth about what happened to her mother in the Highest Kitchen Lady’s diary.

After her mother dies, Jang Geum buries her and starts her new journey alone but determined to enter the palace.

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Lady Choi is shocked that Lady Park is still alive and is determined to get rid of her again

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EPISODE 3 중종반정의 주체세력 Jungjong banjong

Two years later 1506 12th year of Yeonsangun’s reign. A coup is planned by the hungu faction to depose Yeonsangun and bring  Prince Jinsung 진성대군 to the throne.  The merchant Choi Pan-Sul (Lady Choi’s brother) is providing the hungu faction with funds in return for favours. And the female members of the Choi family in the kitchens will do whatever it takes to help too.

Jang Geum now lives with Duk Gu and his stingy wife who provide alcohol to the palace. Because she is an innocent child, Jang Geum is chosen by the hungu officials to deliver a coded message to the prince when she delivers the regular supply of alcohol. The  message reveals the plans for the coup to the prince. The prince is in a catch 22 situation – he doesn’t want to become king if they succeed with the coup and he doesn’t want to be killed if they fail! Next thing we know it’s the enthronement of King Jungjong. But he looks solemn.

Jang Geum is accepted as a court lady! (She told the prince this was her dream when she met him so he helped her!) Palace life is strict and hierarchical. The girls must join the palace as virgins as they belong to the king. Jang Geum is bullied when the others hear she is a peasant as they themselves have been picked from middle and upper class families.

But Jang Geum wants to go to the main kitchen to find the book her mother left. She sneaks in with her friend but they are breaking the rules and get caught.

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hungu officials plan a coup to depose Yeonsangun. The coronation of King Jungjong.

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EPISODE 4  A BOWL OF WATER

Jang Geum is punished for disobedience and has to clean instead of study. But she still manages to pass the test that allows her to stay in the palace. She tells her mentor Lady Han that she wants to become the Head Kitchen Lady so Lady Han begins her training with a simple request – bring her a basin of water. But Lady Han is never happy with the water Jang Geum brings her and she has to perform the task over and over again. Finally Jang Geum realises that she has to bring appropriate water for Lady Han’s health which means asking questions first. Lady Han has a sore throat so Jang Geum brings her slightly salted warm water and passes her test!

Sandstorms are blowing. The food has gone bad in the king’s mother’s kitchen and the prince’s kitchen. But the food is ok at the main kitchen thanks to Jang Geum who, left to wash all the dishes by herself, is busy boiling water because her mum told her to do this in sandstorms.

The girls get ready for a cooking competition. Jang Geum practises putting pine nuts onto pine needles late into the night. Another girl shows her how to thread the pine nut on the end without looking. (This is Choi Geum Young who will become her enemy)

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Jang Geum is punished for disobedience but studies well with her mentor Lady Han

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EPISODE 5 

Choi Geum-Young always wins all the cooking competitions (her powerful family have been training her already for the head court lady position). Jang Geum comes second.

The Head kitchen Lady is sick but doesn’t want to be forced to retire before Lady Choi is old enough to take over. She gets caught illegally smuggling in a male doctor so she could be in big trouble. But the hungu official Lord Oh helps sort out the problem and Choi Pan Sul (Lady Choi’s brother) rewards him well.

 

The Choi family want to keep a member of their family at the top but as Lady Choi is too young to take over they decide to put a puppet leader their until Lady Choi is old enough. They choose Lady Jung who is now in charge of sauces and pickles. Lady Han is suspicious of their choice and tries to persuade Lady Jung not to take the job.

Lady Jung turns out to be a better head than expected. She questions why Geum Young is getting special treatment. Lady Choi tries to explain it’s because she has a perfect palate but when Lady Jung tests her about the food they are eating she gets the answer wrong and Jang Geum gets it right. The rivalry begins …

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The Head Court Lady smuggles in a doctor, Merchant Choi ‘thanks’ Lord Oh for ‘dealing with the problem’.

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EPISODE 6 THE GOLDEN PHEASANT

Geum Young continues to get special treatment helping Lady Choi make special food for Princess Hyo-hye 효혜공주 because she hasn’t eaten in days. Meanwhile Jang Geum has been demoted to dish washing but she is also experimenting with food prep. She tells Geum Young she has discovered that charcoal takes away the bad smell from soy sauce. Geum Young has an idea and makes rice soup for the princess. The princess finally eats because the rice ‘doesn’t smell’. Geum Young admits that she put charcoal in the rice when cooking and got the idea from Jang Geum.

Envoys from Ming bring a gold pheasant from the Imperial Palace as a symbol of good luck  for the king’s birthday gift. But the king is worried that the envoy has come for more silver as Ming helped overthrow Yeonsangun. The king wants the whole stay to go with no problems…BUT…

Geum Young is in charge of looking after the pheasant and it escapes from the coup! Jang Geum wants to help Geum Young so they both secretly leave the palace to get another pheasant. They separate but on the way back to the palace Jang Geum sees a man (Sir Min) get attacked with a dart and stops to save him. She’s late getting back to the palace and gets caught. Everyone in the kitchen is punished and Jang Geum is to be whipped and thrown out of court!

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The golden pheasant escapes, Jang Geum and Geum Young leave the palace to get another one but Jang Geum stops to help an injured yangban (Sir Min)

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EPISODE 7  THE HERB GARDEN

Jang Geum is saved by Lady Jung and not thrown out of court after all. 🙂  Instead she is sent to the herb garden where nobody does any work and they are led by a doctor with a drinking problem! 🙁 They are supposed to be trying to grow herbs from Ming to use for medicine but the herbs won’t grow in Joseon. So the workers have given up.

But Jang Geum won’t give up and finally succeeds in growing the herbs. But someone is trying to stop her and in the night the shoots are destroyed. Jang Geum and Dr. Jung catch the criminal but superiors tell Dr. Jung to forget about it!

Lord Oh doesn’t want the herb garden to succeed because he is financially supported by the merchant Choi Pan Sul who has a monopoly on selling imported herbs from Ming which are very expensive. If they can grow the herbs he will lose out. But Dr Jung finds a way to let officials hear what has really been going on! Jang Geum is sent back to the kitchen as a reward for successfully growing the herbs.

Meanwhile we see Sir Min again with his arm in a sling. He is training the royal guards and trying to catch spies in his free time! He is also looking for the lady who helped him and left her knife behind.

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Jang Geum is sent to the herb garden as a punishment. Lord Oh wants to stop them growing the herbs successfully.

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EPISODE 8  MANDU

On her way back to the palace Jang Geum is told by Dr Jung to stop off at the library to deliver a letter requesting she be allowed to borrow books as she is so smart. (court ladies aren’t actually allowed in there though!) Sir Min is there but she doesn’t recognise him as the man she saved. He is a Lt. general in the royal guards (내금위) and seems impressed with her and tells her to come and see him in his department to borrow books.

Back at the kitchen it’s business as usual as the girls have to get ready for the cooking competition. Anyone who fails the test will have to leave the palace. But in the night Jang Geum realises that her flour has been stolen. Other ingredients have disappeared too. Her roommate stole her flour to make mandu for her mother, an old court lady who is soon to leave the palace. (She is not really her mother. Her mother was raped by a Ming envoy but the court ladies managed to keep the baby a secret and made the mother commit suicide because of the shame!)

Jang Geum has no flour for the competition so she uses cabbage from the herb garden instead of the precious flour. The food tastes good but the ladies want her expelled for not following the rules. Geum Young comes first as always. Jang Geum FAILS…

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The young kitchen ladies get ready to cook mandu for the test

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EPISODE 9 COLD NOODLES 

It looks like Jang Geum is OUT of the palace but then the queen mother arrives at the end of the competition and tastes the food. She likes Jang Geum’s food and saves her from being fired. Geum Young looks jealous though …

The king decides to go hunting and the ladies have to cook a banquet. But at the last minutes he decides that he wants to have nengmyeon (cold noodle soup) instead. But Lady Han and other ladies have got sick from food poisoning. So Jang Geum and Geum Young have to make the noodles themselves. Sir Min looks on as they serve the king. Geum Young notices Sir Min looking at Jang Geum. But Geum Young has had a crush on him since she was very young …

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Jang Geum and Geum Young nervously make noodles for the king. Sir MIn looks on.

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EPISODE 10 BAD LUCK CHARM

Luckily the king enjoys the noodles. Jang Geum gets moved up to the main middle kitchen where her mother’s book is hidden. Sir Min gives her a book to read but Geum Young sees them together and is jealous.

Lady Choi makes Geum Young hide a bad luck charm in the middle kitchen that will hopefully make the queen give birth to a girl because they don’t want her to have a prince. Geum Young doesn’t want to do it but Lady Choi explains that this is their family’s fate – they can never be yangban but they can make more money than yangban by doing their dirty work. And they have to support Lord Oh and the hungu faction.

Meanwhile Jang Geum is doing extra night shifts in the kitchen so that she can search for her mother’s book. She bumps into Geum Young who has come to hide the bad luck charm! But they are both caught and the bad luck charm is discovered. Jang Geum finds her mother’s book too but hides it. Neither girl will admit to anything.

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Jang Geum finds her mother’s recipe book. Duk Gu and his wife discover the meaning of the bad luck charm.

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EPISODE 11 POISONOUS DUCKS? 

Lady Jung has now been head of the kitchen for 10 years when another crisis arises: the prince has been poisoned. It’s an unknown poison that even a silver spoon can’t detect.

Duk Gu (Jang Geum’s adoptive father and cook) is arrested for poisoning the prince with his duck soup so Jang Geum is determined to find the real reason for the prince’s sickness. She discovers that the prince couldn’t sleep so was taking nutmeg (from Ming) which if given in large amounts can stiffen the body. The Joseon doctors don’t know much about this spice. She asks Sir Min for a medical book and ends up trying the concoction of nutmeg and ginseng herself to see what happens. She gets paralysed much to her joy!

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Duk Gu is arrested for poisoning the crown prince who has become paralysed

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EPISODE 12 TASTE PALATE

The prince gets better but the king is frustrated that the doctors know so little about products from Ming. Is everything from Ming good? He asks. He rewards Jang Geum with beef. And Duk Gu is released from prison.

Lady Jung is not well and so gets Jang Geum to help her prepare a meal for the head court lady’s birthday. But the head is offended when she tastes the food – it tastes bad because Jang Geum hasn’t realised she has lost her sense of taste -the after effects of taking ginseng and nutmeg together!

Lady Jung is getting old and weak and wants to step down as head kitchen lady and suggests to the king that Lady Han and Lady Choi compete for the top position! Lady Choi thought the job was automatically hers! But the king likes Lady Jung and agrees to a competition. So they have to find a cure for Jang Geum’s numb tongue ASAP!

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The king is frustrated that the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with the crown prince. Jang Geum and Lady Han go in search of a cure for her ‘numb tongue’

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EPISODE 13 UNLUCKY BEAN PASTE

Nobody knows that Jang Geum has lost her sense of taste – it’s bad news for a cook and she could get fired! Lady Han makes Jang Geum practise cooking with instinct rather than tasting the food.

Suddenly the palace bean paste is tasting strange. There is uproar in court as people see this as a sign of bad luck for the country. Lady Han and Lady Choi have to find the problem. Lady Choi is worried there may be a problem with the salt her brother sells to the palace. And she’s right – to give Lord Oh money he mixed poorer quality salt in with the good stuff. They quickly cover up the problem so when Lady Han and Jang Geum check the salt everything is fine. But there is also no problem with the soy beans or the ceramic pots.

Finally Jang Geum realises the taste of the soy bean paste has changed because the trees surrounding the pots have been cut down so there is less pollen in the air which affects the taste as the pots can breathe…

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Jang Geum and Lady Han go in search of the cause of the bad tasting soy bean paste

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EPISOE 14 COOKING WHALE MEAT

Jang Geum makes new soy bean paste and the king is pleased that the taste has returned to normal. But Lady Choi realises that Jang Geum has lost her sense of taste and sees an opportunity to get rid of her: she suggests Jang Geum should only be allowed to remain a cook if she can make a tasty dish with an ingredient she has never tasted before …

Desperately, Jang Geum goes back to the herb garden and begs Dr Jung to give her a bee sting – an experimental process – to cure her numbness. He agrees but after the treatment she breaks out in itches and it doesn’t seem to have worked. She asks Duk Gu what whale meat tastes like and he says ‘beef’.

So now they have to cook whale for the king. But no one has every tasted it before as it is so rare. Of course Lady Choi gets secret whale recipes from her brother. But out of the four dishes Jang Geum’s dish is chosen as the best! Jang Geum then tastes her own dish and realises her sense of taste is back.

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Jang Geum gets a bee sting acupuncture treatment to cure her numbness

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EPISODE 15 COMPETITION FOR THE HEAD KITCHEN LADY

Jang Geum makes a food gift for Sir Min as a thank you for lending her books etc. He looks pleased. Then Geum Young turns up to with an ink well he wanted. But he is not so pleased to see her although she is clearly still infatuated with him …

The queen mother is put in charge of the cooking competition and the king’s concern for his people is reflected in the first task: as there have been floods and famine he wants a frugal meal – rice, soup, and a side dish. The dishes must be made with foods that are thrown away but can be eaten such as fish heads and windfall fruit.

Jang Geum is very confident they Team Han can win and she stays out late getting special meat from the butchers. But Lady Han seems displeased.  For the competition Lady Han cooks plums and Lady Choi uses fish gills for the side dish. The queen mother chooses Lady Choi’s dish. Jang Geum is shocked but Lady Han says she knows the reason why they lost …

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The queen mother is the judge of the cooking competition to decide the next head kitchen lady

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EPISODE 16  EXILED TO THE TEMPLE

Lady Han is annoyed with Jang Geum’s arrogance and scolds her because she didn’t think about WHO they were cooking for – ordinary people with little money. How could they use good meat from the butcher? Jang Geum is upset as she just wanted to win. But Lady Han is furious and as a punishment sends her away to a temple to help an old court lady who is dying. Once Jang Geum leaves the palace other kitchen girls quickly want to take her place as Lady Han’s assistant. But none of them pass Lady Han’s water test!

At the temple Jang Geum still hasn’t learnt her lesson. She is rushing around trying to find cooking short cuts. The dying court lady wants to taste a specific rice before she dies. Jang Geum realises that she wants to eat ol-gae – late harvested rice. She sees the temple cook drying the rice but he tells her it’s not ready to use yet. She ignores him saying she has a ‘special technique’ to speed up the drying process. But still the old lady is not happy with her rice. Days later the temple cook brings a bowl of rice and finally the old lady is satisfied and can die in peace. Jang Geum realises she was wrong to try to hurry.

There is time for romance too – at the sea she bumps into Sir Min and they frolic in the water and get to know each other better. Later she tells him what she has learnt about cooking at the temple. But in the background a jealous Geum Young has arrived and glares at her…

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Jang Geum gets to know Sir Min better at the temple but Geum Young becomes more jealous

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EPISODE 17  COMPETITION PART 2: RAW FISH

Geum Young’s jealousy grows when she sees Sir Min buying a small writing brush for Jang Geum. Sir Min and Jang Geum have been getting to know each other at the temple it seems! But then the old court lady dies holding rice in her hand, so they can go back to the palace. But Jang Geum receives a cold reception from Lady Han!

Meanwhile another task has been assigned by the queen mother for the head kitchen lady test: prepare fish so that it can be served fresh (not pickled) all year round. Lady Han works on a raw skate dish. Lady Choi is still thinking what to do. But then Lady Jung discovers that Lady Choi has been keeping the Head Kitchen Lady Diary (the one that should be passed down from head to head and the one Jang Geum’s mother wants her to write in). Lady Jung realises that clearly the Choi family think this is THEIR book!

Suddenly an epidemic breaks out in the palace and anyone with cold symptoms must leave the palace. The Choi family sees an opportunity to get rid of Lady Jung who is already weak. They pretend she also has flu symptoms and have her removed from the palace. The competition is postponed.

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Jang Geum receives a cold reception from Lady Han. Lady Jung is removed from court with ‘flu symptoms’

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EPISODE 18  THE DIABETIC ENVOY

The queen mother agrees to let Lady Choi be in charge until Lady Jung gets back. Due to the epidemic they are short staffed and Chinese envoys are arriving for the investiture of the crown prince. With Lady Choi in charge, Lady Han and Jang Geum are sent to the guest house to cook for the envoys – a notoriously difficult job. The king is stressed because the envoys always find fault. And even though this is his only legitimate heir to the throne he is concerned that they may not accept him.

When Lady Han hears that the envoy has diabetes she makes him simple food with veggies but the envoy is furious at the frugal food. Lady Han is dragged away by guards but Jang Geum begs him to eat the healthy food. She is put in charge of cooking for him but if he doesn’t feel better after 5 days there’s going to be trouble! Lady Choi is happy that the envoy is upset and arrives ready to take over and save the day. But Jang Geum insists on cooking for the 5 days. Lady Choi is only to pleased to sit back and watch her fail as the envoy doesn’t seem to enjoy her food …

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Lady Han and Jang Geum are put in charge of cooking for the envoy from Ming.

***

CHAPTER 19  THE SECOND TEST

After the five days of eating healthy food, the envoy allows Lady Choi to take over and she makes a huge banquet looking very pleased with herself! The envoy enjoys the food BUT wants to go back to the simple menu as he is feeling better. In fact the envoy is feeling SO good that he agrees with all the business about the crown prince and the king is pleased. 🙂

Lady Choi is disappointed but still accepts all the praise from the queen mother as she was in charge of the kitchens after all! But later the queen mother hears what really happened with the envoy and announces that this event will be considered as the second part of the competition and so Lady Han is the winner! It’s 1-1.

Outside the palace Lady Jung is still quarantined (although she has kidney problems not flu!) and realises that Lady Choi has knowingly been sending her medicine to make her kidney problem worse not better!  So she threatens to reveal this fact if she is not allowed back to the palace asap!

The final stage of the test is announced: cook a simple dishes (there is a famine after all) for the king and queen mother on her birthday. Lady Han gets the persimmon vinegar she buried in the palace grounds with her friend Lady Park years ago …

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Lady Jung returns to the palace

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EPISODE 20  THE KIDNAP

Kitchen cook Young Ro is working for the Choi family and sabotages Lady Han’s preparation so she has to go out all night looking for new ingredients. But while she’s out she gets kidnapped.

Back at the palace Lady Han is missing so Jang Geum has to stand in for her until she gets back ( although Team Choi know she is NOT coming back!)

The first dish is served. The queen mother and the king both prefer Lady Choi’s dish – five seed rice porridge. She wins the next course too. But for the third dish Jang Geum uses her mother’s persimmon vinegar which her mother told her was buried in the palace grounds. The royals are impressed by the flavour and even more impressed when they hear about the devotion it took preparing the vinegar and keeping it buried in the earth for years. Jang Geum wins!

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Young Ro sabotages Lady Han and Jang Geum’s preparations for the competition

***

EPISODE 21  WILD BERRIES

Round 4 of the cooking competition. It’s now 3 -1 to Lady Choi and she wins the next course too with her ‘drunken prawns’.

The next dish – baby boar that melts in the mouth – is her best dish so she’s confident! Jang Geum has made a rather humble baked chicken with spices, but to everyone’s surprise she wins due to the tangy unusual flavour. Lady Choi is speechless. 😉 Jang Geum wins the next round too for innovation – rice cooked in a stone pot specially for winter. By now Lady Han has been saved by Sir Min from the kidnappers and returned to the palace  but she wants Jang Geum to finish the competition by herself. It’s 3-3.

Finally for dessert Jang Geum presents her best dish: wild berries. She tells the king she fed her mother berries on her deathbed and prepared the dish for the king as though she were making it for her mother. The king is moved and quick to choose her as the winner!

Sir Min is moved by Jang Geum’s words too. He has caught the kidnappers but later hears that they were released as they were ‘just merchants and it was all a big misunderstanding’. He realises there is something fishy going on between Choi Pan Sul and Lord Oh.

Lady Han is announced the winner of the cooking competition and new Head Kitchen Lady. But Lady Choi is not having this and stages a strike against the competition decision since Lady Han didn’t actually compete herself. She bullies and bribes other court ladies until all refuse to accept Lady Han because she is ‘of low birth’. (her mother worked in a gisaeng house and was raped by a yangban) Lady Jung collapses from stress.

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Lady Choi can’t accept that she has lost the cooking competition

***

EPISODE 22  THE STRIKE

Lady Jung is ill and weak and leaves the palace again. But the court is in chaos as the kitchen ladies go on strike and it’s kimchi making season. Jang Geum finds a few girls to help her make all the kimchi. But the ladies continue to strike before a party for the king’s concubine too.

Lady Han is ready to resign as people are starting to complain about the state of the kitchen staff! But Jang Geum refuses to let her resign. In the end Lady Han asks the queen mother for a REMATCH. But if she wins, she wants to have FULL authority! (that means Head Court Lady won’t be able to interfere in the kitchens!)

Lady Jung dies.

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The kitchen is in a mess as Lady Choi has staged a strike. Lady Jung dies.

***

EPISODE 23  THE COURT LADY ACCOUNTANT

The queen is put in charge of the rematch for Head Kitchen Lady. The task: cook rice! And the court ladies will judge which rice is best. Lady Han knows how all the ladies like their rice cooked and she manages to cook the rice in different ways in one pot! So Lady Han wins and is given the head kitchen position and Lady Choi has to go to the sauces department. Ouch! 😉

Jang Geum wants to meet her mother’s friend who made the persimmon vinegar with her so she hides a letter for her with the buried vinegar! (She doesn’t realise that Lady Han is her mother’s friend!)

Sir Min has moved to Internal Affairs and is investigating Choi Pan Sul’s monopoly on sales to the palace. To help him Jang Geum is given the job of accountant and must write down everything that comes into the kitchens. It becomes clear that there are dodgy things going on in the kitchen accounts because although King Jungjong is frugal compared to Yeonsangun who had feasts every day, the accounts don’t reflect this.

Lady Choi realises something must be done otherwise many of the court ladies (especially she herself) could be in trouble. She instructs Young Ro to steal the account books from Jang Geum’s room.

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Lady Han wins the cooking competition fair and square this time. Jang Geum becomes court accountant and discovers fishy things going on in the palace accountants …

***

EPISODE 24  TRUE IDENTITIES ARE REVEALED

Jang Geum is desperate to get her mother’s recipe book back after she discovers everything has been stolen from her room. Lady Choi discovers the book hidden in with the account books. And she works out that Jang Geum must be Lady Park’s daughter. :0 To make matters worse Young Ro then finds the unopened letter from Jang Geum’s mother hidden in the palace grounds which reveals everything that happened to her at the palace. Lady Choi wants to destroy the letter.

Jang Geum is causing stress with her accounts around the palace and everyone is being more careful with their budgets. This is affecting Choi Pan Sul and of course Lord Oh who is financially supported by him. Lord Oh wants to get rid of whoever is investigating them.

Geum Young tries to warn Sir Min about this and begs him to back off from the investigation. He tells her he is disappointed that she is no different from the rest of her family and he’s adamant that he can’t stop. But then she threatens to reveal his illegal ‘relationship’ with Jang Geum if he doesn’t back down – he would be sacked and Jang Geum would be killed. Later she hears that he has taken another job. But it’s bitter sweet as she knows he did it to save Jang Geum.

Lady Han finds the letter from Jang Geum with the buried vinegar and realises who she is.

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Team Choi realise who Jang Geum really is. The king looks over the palace accounts.

***

EPISODE 25  MORE POISONOUS DUCKS

Jang Geum and Lady Han hug each other catch up on the past. Lady Han hears how her old friend died with the arrow and is sure the Choi family did this. Jang Geum wants to show her the letter from her mother when she goes to find it, it’s GONE. They realise the evidence must be written in the letter and the Choi family could be very dangerous now.

Geum Young gets a mystery package from her uncle. They are obviously going to do something dodgy to the food again but before she can do anything she gets sent out of the kitchens to the guest house by Lady Han where she believes they can do less damage but Lady Choi is in tears!

Sir Min is working as a secret agent now in the capital. Jang Geum asks him to help her find justice for her mother and find out what happened to her father but surprisingly there is no info about him in the official records.

The king takes a party to the hot spring for his health. Choi Pan Sul sees an opportunity to get rid of Jang Geum and Lady Han while they are out of the palace and sends his assassin to follow them. Luckily Sir Min also sends bodyguards after them and the royal guards protect Jang Geum and Lady Han. Lady Han makes the king a duck soup. But after he eats it he collapses!

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Jang Geum realises her mother’s friend is actually Lady Han. The king collapses after eating Lady Han’s duck soup.

***

EPISODE 26  THE INTERROGATION 

The court is in panic now that the king is sick. The doctors are worried that it’s their fault and have misdiagnosed him. Merchant Pan Sul suggests they blame the FOOD instead of the DOCTORS. So they set Lady Han up by finding someone who is willing to say that they sold her poisonous mushrooms. Lady Choi gets ready to take over the kitchen.

But they don’t need the mushrooms as an investigation reveals that the ducks used in the soup drink the hot spring water which has sulphur – a poison.  Lady Han is arrested. But no one else is getting sick so it seems the ducks can filter out the poison. But still the duck seller and Jang Geum are also arrested and interrogated for treason.

But eventually it is revealed that the ducks are harmless and as always Sir Min helps to get them released. Sir Min is becoming a pain to the Choi family though and they want to get rid of him. But Geum Young refuses to let them touch him and admits that she loves him!

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Lady Han and Jang Geum are arrested for treason

***

EPISODE 27  THIRD LITERATI PURGE OF 1519

Jang Geum and Lady Han have to remake the duck dish to prove that it’s NOT poisonous. A kitchen girl is chosen ‘randomly’ to taste the soup. But this is a set up by the Choi family too as the maid was given dodgy abalone on purpose by Young Ro BEFOREHAND. So after eating the soup she gets a fever just like the king did – only due to the abalone.

Lady Han and Jang Geum are tortured until they ‘confess’. Sir Min is also locked up for aiding and abetting Jang Geum and the other ‘traitors’. Lord Oh wants them to admit they committed the crime because they support the ‘traitor’ Jo Gwang-jo, (a member of the sarim faction who made political reforms and tried to get rid of corruption in the government. He was framed by the hungu faction officials and exiled and then forced to drink poison by the king’s command. This part of the story is based on the Third Literati Purge of 1519.)

Evidence presented at the last minute by Sir Min helps Jang Geum and Lady Han escape the death penalty but they are demoted to servants and will move to Jeju. On the way to Jeju Lady Han dies.

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Jang Geum and Lady Han are demoted but on the way to Jeju Lady Han dies.

***

EPISODE 28  JEJUDO

The soldiers bury Lady Han on the side of the road. Jang Geum becomes a slave in Jeju but she’s always trying to escape. She wants to get back to the palace and clear Lady Han’s name. Sir Min turns up and persuades her to stay – for now. He left his post in the capital to be with her but has now been given an official position in Jeju!

Lady Choi finally becomes head of the kitchen and promises to put everything back to how it was before including getting rid of the accountant lady position!

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Jang Geum and Sir Min are reunited in Jeju where Jang Geum works for a female doctor.

***

EPISODE 29  JEJUDO WATER

In Jejudo Jang Geum is working for a lady doctor called Jang Dok. At first Jang Geum just wants to leave Jeju but then she realises that the lady doctor is a famous doctor being head hunted by the palace. She is building a well for rain water as there is not enough clean water on the island so the poor people suffer. (the water is too salty). Jang Geum realises that if she retrains as a doctor she can get back to the palace.

Sir Min spends lots of time with her and encourages her to study and get back to the palace and take revenge! He is in charge of dealing with the invasions from foreign pirates.

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Sir Min follows Jang Geum to Jejudo. Jang Geum begins to study to be a doctor.

***

EPISODE 30  A NEW MENTOR

As part of her medical training Jang Geum has to study face colours to diagnose health.  She tells Sir Min that his face is ‘red’ meaning he has a fever. He takes her hands agreeing that he does have a FEVER! Jang Geum runs away embarrassed! 😉

Dr Jung from the herb garden turns up. He has a tumour and has discovered new ways to use ginseng to treat himself. Jang Geum tells him that she wants to go back to the palace as a doctor and get her revenge. He is angry to hear this and doesn’t think she is fit to be a doctor.

Back at the palace Jang Geum’s friend Yeon Saeng cries because she misses her. One evening the king passes by and notices her. Next thing we know she’s become a special court lady – not a concubine yet though. Lady Choi is now in charge but to her annoyance Geum Young still follows Lady Han’s teaching methods and believes they are the real losers as they didn’t win the competition fairly.

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Jang Geum’s friend Yeun Saeng becomes a special court lady. Dr Jung turns up in Jeju.

***

EPISODE 31  JAPANESE INVASION

Two years later Jang Geum is struggling and punishing herself for making a mistake doing acupuncture that could have killed the patient.

Her adoptive father Duk Gu arrives suffering from severe seasickness. Too scared to to do acupuncture she does a moxa treatment on him instead. His health improves and Jang Geum hears that when Lady Choi became the head court lady, he lost his job at the palace and times are hard for others related to Lady Han too.

The Japanese invade. Jang Geum is forced to perform acupuncture on the sick Japanese leader as the invaders threaten Duk Gu’s life if she doesn’t help them. But she is secretly in contact with Sir Min and she leads the invaders straight to the Joseon soldiers. Sir Min goes to Hanyang to report the attack. The good news is Jang Geum has got over her fear of acupuncture! The bad news is she is arrested for saving the leader of the enemy!

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Jang Geum gives Duk Gu a moxa treatment. The Japanese invade and Jang Geum saves the leader’s life.

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EPISODE 32  BACK IN HANYANG

Lord Oh wants Jang Geum punished for helping the enemy but Sir Min proves that she is not a traitor as she wrote him a letter during the invasion helping him. The king insists she be rewarded. They want Sir Min back at the palace too. But he’s not happy about that – he’s enjoying his innocent romance with Jang Geum in Jeju.

Jang Geum persuades Sir Min to stay in Hanyang. But on her way back to Jeju she stops off at the grave of Lady Han and wants to make a proper mound for the grave. There she meets a young sick yangban boy. She recognises his symptoms and cures him even though no other doctor has been able to. To thank her he promises to bury Lady Han’s body in a decent place.

The yangban family are surprised she isn’t taking the lady physicians test tomorrow. She didn’t know about the test! Jang Geum rushes back to the capital. She passes the test although Dr Jung who is now working at the palace is worried that she should not be a doctor when she has revenge in her heart. So now Sir Min and Jang Geum are back in Hanyang together. 🙂

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Jang Geum cures a yangban boy and then learns about the palace test for physician ladies

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EPISODE 33  ARROGANT JANG GEUM 

The new recruits meet the head trainer who is very strict. But the Confucian classics teacher likes smart Jang Geum because he can leave her to teach the class by herself. He clearly doesn’t see the point of a teaching a bunch of girls! Later he wants to send the lady doctors to act as hostesses/prostitutes to entertain the minister of finance!  The king has tried to ban this habit continued from Yeonsangun’s time.

Only two students Shin Bi and Jang Geum refuse to entertain the ministers and turn up for practical study with Dr Shin. They have to diagnose patients – Again Jang Geum is too hasty and makes the wrong diagnosis. Dr Shin is worried that she is too arrogant to be a doctor.

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The new lady doctors begin study with strict Dr Shin

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EPISODE 34  ROYAL LADY PHYSICIANS

The training period is over and the results of the exams are announced. The Confucian classics teacher tries to fail Jang Geum and Shin Bi for refusing to be prostitutes! The king is furious as he tried to ban this habit that started during Yeonsangun’s time. But Lord Oh defends the decision saying not letting the female doctors be prostitutes is bad for morale! 😕

Jang Geum will now work in the Royal hospital and receives an ID pass to get into the palace. Lady Doctor Jang Duk is also joining the hospital again but warns Jang Geum that a  lady physician is not the same level as a male doctor. But Jang Geum is happy to fulfil her wish and get back in the palace. But the hierarchy within the lady doctors is just as bad if not worse than at the kitchens. And the court ladies look down on female doctors.

Suddenly there’s a crisis – the queen is sick. A meeting is held with the head eunuch and heads of department. Geum Young is now Head Kitchen Lady and is shocked to see Jang Geum!

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Jang Geum finally gets back into the palace as a doctor this time

***

EPISODE 35 DUCK SOUP AGAIN!

In the queen’s quarters a bamboo curtain is put up so that Dr Jung can stand behind it and give advice to the lady doctors treating the queen. But she has a miscarriage. Lady Choi is now Head Court Lady after ousting the other head. She is still up to her old tricks as the miscarriage is declared ‘good news’!

Jang Geum’s old friends from the kitchen have been demoted to (복이궁녀) – maids in charge of the king’s baths and toilet routine. Not a pleasant task! Although Yeun Saeng is a special court lady (승은상궁) the king never sees her so the court ladies don’t respect her. All she does is pray everyday for Jang Geum’s safe return.

The king is still trying to balance power in the government but the hungu faction want to keep their hold on power. Sir Min is still trying to investigate Choi Pan Sul. With his boss they serve the same duck soup that Lady Han made to Lord Oh and Pan Sul pointing out they know that it was they who set Lady Han and sarim official Jo up all those years ago.

Geum Young tries to humiliate Jang Geum by making her massage her feet. But Jang Geum merely massages and points out all the illnesses that Geum Young has – stomach and spleen. Her life choices have taken a toll on her health. Jang Geum is already making enemies in the hospital as she disagrees with the head lady physician about the queen’s diagnosis.

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Yeun Saeng prays for Jang Geum’s safe return. Sir Min informs Lord Oh that they know what he’s up to.

***

EPISODE 36  PREGNANCY PULSE

At the medical meeting Jang Geum admits that she felt a different pulse to the head lady doctor. She thinks the queen still has another baby inside her – from the miscarriage. At first the others don’t believe her. But she’s right. Later the queen recovers and hears that it was the new assistant Jang Geum who helped her.

Sir Min is working on improving security in the country but they need money and don’t want to burden the people with any more tax. They suggest to the king to decrease the land for one out of 10 officials. Lord Oh is AGAINST this! But they need to improve the weapons as other countries Japan etc have developed but theirs have stagnated since Sejong. Lady Choi says she will stop the land reforms going ahead. Next thing we know the queen mother is on strike refusing health treatment!

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Department heads meet to decide what to do about the sick queen. Jang Geum and Sir Min are together again at the palace.

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EPISODE 37  THE RIDDLE

The queen mother is refusing to take her medicine saying the king has allowed a dodgy doctor (on the side of the sarim officials?) who caused the death of her relative to look after her. Maybe he’s trying to kill her too?!

But it’s all just a ploy to get the king to stop the land bill going ahead. The plan works. When his mother continues to refuse treatment and her health gets worse, the king takes back his words, fires Dr Shin and is prepared to stop the land being returned too – all for filial piety!

But Jang Geum begs the queen mother not to gamble with her life with the king! In the end the queen mother agrees to gamble with her instead. Jang Geum gives her a riddle to solve. If the queen mother can answer the riddle Jang Geum will pay with her life, if she can’t, the queen mother will take the medicine. But the answer to the riddle is ‘mother’ so the queen mother realises she should help her son no matter what. So she has to take the medicine! But then she vomits! She’s getting worse.

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Jang Geum steps in when the queen mother continues to refuse medical treatment

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EPISODE 38 BERIBERI

The queen mother has beriberi. The Choi family have always had the support of the queen mother but now they are not bothered if she dies as long as it will reflect badly on the opposition! Very cold and heartless. 🙁

Jang Geum realises that the foods that are good for curing beriberi are the same foods the queen mother doesn’t like. So she makes a tasty garlic snack. The queen mother likes the snacks and can eat them. Her health improves and the head eunuch announces Team Jang Geum will be rewarded with a feast from the king. The queen recognises Jang Geum from the kitchen and admits the whole duck business was dodgy and Lady Han shouldn’t have been punished.

The head lady physician is jealous of Jang Geum and approaches Team Choi. She bows to Geum Young and offers her Jang Geum in return for wealth.

Finally the king comes to see his special court lady Yeun Seung.

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The queen mother’s health improves with Jang Geum’s snacks. Yeun saeng gets a visit from the king.

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EPISODE 39 THE PLAGUE

The queen asks Jang Geum to make her an evening snack. But that’s Geum Young’s job so we have an awkward moment as the queen tells Geum Young that she wants to eat Jang Geum’s snack instead! The queen also wants Jang Geum as her personal doctor.

An epidemic is spreading in the country and they have to contain it. Jang Geum has to go to the plague zone but gets set up by the head lady physician and gets trapped in the quarantine area. Sir Min realises she’s missing and goes to look for her. When he finds her she is upset having realised that she was abandoned by the others at the pharmacy …

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Sir Min goes back into the quarantine area to look for Jang Geum

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EPISODE 40 FOOD POISONING

Sir Min and Jang Geum get surrounded by disgruntled peasants with weapons who are angry that they have been abandoned in the village even though they are not sick. Jang Geum persuades them to let Sir Min get medicine from another village. But then she gets sick and the peasants lock her in a barn for quarantine when a fire starts.

There is nothing in the neighbouring village and Sir Min realises that Jang Geum knew this and was trying to save him from being killed by the peasants. He hurries back and saves her from the barn. They hug – FINALLY! They realise that the sickness is not contagious but food poisoning – after the floods, starving people have been eating vegetables that have gone bad.

At the palace Sir Min and Jang Geum’s disappearance is noticed and people think they ran away from fear of the plague. The head lady doctor orchestrated the whole thing and wants the Choi family’s herb garden as a reward for getting rid of Jang Geum. But she is just about to get the contract for the herb trade when Jang Geum and Sir Min return.

Lady Choi refuses to believe that veggies can cause food poisoning and tries to suggest there’s funny business going on between Sir Min and Jang Geum. She agrees to eat the diseased veggies! She gets sick and Jang Geum turns up with medicine!

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Sir Min rescues Jang Geum from the burning barn in the quarantine zone.

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EPISODE 41 SUK WON CONCUBINE

At first Lady Choi is afraid to get treated by Jang Geum. But then she says she has nothing to be ashamed of! (REALLY?! :0 )

Even though Sir Min helped find out the cause of the sickness Lord Oh manages to get him fired for disobeying orders. But when the king hears what he did he has him promoted to second highest pharmacy official. But gossip starts about his relationship with Jang Geum.

Yeon Saeng is pregnant. The court ladies who treated her badly are worried now and come to beg for her forgiveness. She is promoted to forth class 8th in rank – Suk Won. Geum Young has to bring her food but Suk Won pretends to feel sick every time she sees the food. 🙂

Jang Geum is now in charge of the queen’s health and the head lady physician is put in charge of Suk Won. Lady Choi asks her how she is going to make her have a miscarriage. Jang Geum soon realises something is wrong: the lady doctor is treating Suk Won for anaemia when she has high blood pressure knowing this will kill the baby.

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Yeon saeng becomes pregnant and promoted to a Suk Won concubine

***

EPISODE 42  THE KING’S MEDICAL RECORDS

Jang Geum tells Dr Shin about Suk Won’s symptoms. They realise she has high blood pressure and the head lady physician is in trouble! It’s catch 22 for her – if she admits she knew she is in big trouble, if she says she didn’t know she looks ignorant. So she says she didn’t know. Dr Shin wants her removed from the palace to the welfare clinic but the head doctor lets her stay with a demotion. Jang Geum tells her she won’t forgive her again if she uses food or meds as a weapon again.

Jang Geum wants to find out what really caused the king to be sick after he ate Lady Han’s duck soup. But she can’t check him herself because only male doctors can treat the king. So she pretends she needs to see the queen’s medical records and smuggles the king’s medical records out instead!

Geum Young has finally decided to let Sir Min go. She cooks him a meal and then tells Lady Choi to do whatever she wants with him –  they plan to get rid of him for good!

The king is showing flu symptoms again. The head physician notices that a book is missing from the library and then the eunuchs arrest Jang Geum.

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Geum Young finally lets go of Sir Min leaving him in danger from her family. Jang Geum and Jang Dok copy the king’s medical records.

***

EPISODE 43  THE KING’S FLU

Jang Geum is in big trouble for stealing the king’s medical records. She is taken out of the palace by eunuchs with what looks like a bottle of poison. The Choi family congratulate themselves on getting rid of her!

But then the king collapses after eating Geum Young’s food and she is taken away by the eunuchs to be investigated. Lady Choi and the head doctor get into an argument about whose fault this is! The kitchen serves food from Ming (not Joseon) so that could be the problem, or did the Dr misdiagnose the king’s illness?

Jang Geum is not poisoned to death after all – she finds herself in front of the queen who wants to know why she took the king’s medical records and if she really can cure him …

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Jang Geum is arrested by the eunuchs and interrogated

***

EPISODE 44  POISONOUS MUSHROOMS

Everyone is told that Jang Geum has been sent back to Jeju but really she is in hiding trying to find a cure for the king.

Dodgy poisonous mushrooms are found in Geum Young’s special sauce. Jang Geum realises this is not the cause of the king’s illness and is a set-up. We discover the head lady doctor has been pretending to side with the Choi family but is really working for the ousted head of court ladies, Lady Park, who wants revenge and her job back. So she planted the poisonous mushrooms.

The Chois are tortured about the food they’ve been serving. Jang Geum visits them in prison and tells them to apologise to Lady Han for what they did but they refuse. Even so Jang Geum and Sir Min step in and stop the torture to say that the king’s health is not related to the food – it is a misdiagnosis. She doesn’t want them to suffer for this as they are innocent. She wants them punished for their crime against Lady Han.

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Lady Choi gets a taste of her own medicine as she is set up for trying to poison the king

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EPISODE 45  THE KING GOES BLIND

The Chois realise that their lives are in Jang Geum’s hands and that she is still alive by order of the queen. The head physician scrambles to find the real cause of the king’s sickness as he has just been covering up his ignorance so far. With limited knowledge he still disagrees with Jang Geum about what they should do.

Lord Oh is appalled that they are listening to a FEMALE doctor and the queen is forced to go with the head doctor’s prescription. But Jang Geum’s predictions come true and the king’s health gets worse. Jang Geum takes over.

The King gets better and the Chois are released from prison but then Jang Geum and Sir Min are arrested because the king has gone blind. But Jang Geum predicted that the king would go blind and says it’s just temporary. She is finally allowed to check the king’s pulse and realises there is something wrong. She inspects the king’s water well and bathing pool and finally the cows saved for the king’s food. She gets arrested when there is no improvement. The Chois are in the next cell but Jang Geum says the only thing she is afraid of is dying without clearing Lady Han’s name.

Just as Jang Geum and Sir Min are about to get tortured the queen announces that the king is getting better. Jang Geum performs acupuncture on him. His skin is better but he is still blind. She performs a back passage on him for a LONG time until he can see again!

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Sir Min is arrested until Jang Geum finds a cure for the king.

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EPISODE 46  THE SUICIDE

Jang Geum explains the king had Behcet’s disease just as the head doctor said. But it was caused by liver problems. And he also had arsenic poisoning from drinking milk from cows that drank from the hot spring with small traces of arsenic. Sir Min is released from prison and Jang Geum hugs him IN A PUBLIC PLACE!

Sir Min realises Lord Oh is involved with illegal silver mining. He catches his men trading with the Japanese which is also illegal.

Suk Won serves the king Lady Han’s sulphur duck dish with no problem. Then she begs him to clear Lady Han’s name. But he doesn’t want to open old wounds as he knows that bringing this up again will cause more bloodshed.

The head doctor is humiliated as he misdiagnosed the king. A masked assassin from Choi Pan Sul comes to kill him as Sir Min is investigating the duck soup incident and the doctor knows too much. But the head doctor has already committed suicide.

Jang Geum tells the Chois that the doctor left her a letter of confession so she wants them to give themselves up and ask for forgiveness before she takes it to the queen. They don’t believe there is a letter but Lady Choi bribes Young Ro to leave town for a while – she is the only one who knows everything – but Lord Oh’s men bribe her to go to the police and tell them what she knows. Young Ro doesn’t know what to do.

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Jang Geum is pleased that Sir MIn is released from prison. Investigations continue about the past and an assassin comes to kill the head doctor.

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EPISODE 47  THE GHOST

Young Ro doesn’t want to go into hiding but she doesn’t trust Lord Oh either so she offers to side with Jang Geum IF she helps her become head court lady. Jang Geum refuses to play these games and tells YR to go and tell the police what she knows.

Finally Lady Choi asks Jang Geum to take her to Lady Han’s grave where she kneels and asks for forgiveness. She thinks this apology is enough but Jang Geum still insists she go to the police and confess and be punished!

Young Ro decides to go to the police but is intercepted by the Chois who force her to report Lord Oh’s wrong doings to the police instead! Then they send her out of the palace promising to bring her back when things calm down. But later she is found murdered.

Internal Affairs are presented with the head doctor’s (forged) will (from Lady Choi). The king discharges Lord Oh for the minor offences that Young Ro revealed. Trying to save himself he announces what he knows what Lady Choi did to Jang Geum’s mum and Lady Han. Lady Choi claims she is innocent and everything is written in the ‘will’. Then all are shocked when Dr Jung the head doc walks in – he didn’t commit suicide after all.

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Young Ro is in danger as the Choi family are being investigated and she needs to decide whose side she’s really on. Lady Choi visits Lady Park’s grave to ‘apologise’

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EPISODE 48  THE CLIFF, REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS

The investigation reveals Lady Choi’s guilt. Lady Choi is put under eunuch guard and Lord Oh house arrest. Tied up ready for torture Lord Oh still claims he’s innocent until Sir Min points out that he has traded with the enemy and given Choi Pan Sul a monopoly on trade with the palace and received land illegally! Lord Oh is silenced!

But Lady Choi escapes and is still determined to get back into power! She visits Lady Park’s grave again still claiming she had no choice. Then she plans to hand herself in to try to save Geum Young. But on the way back to the palace she sees a red hair ribbon. It reminds her of her childhood, but she slips and falls trying to reach it and falls off the cliff!

Lord Oh is exiled to Huksan Island. Choi Pan Sul gets 20 floggings and becomes a nobi labourer in a mine in Hamkyung but he collapses and dies on the way there. Geum Young is fired but before she leaves she gives Jang Geum the letter from her mother. She couldn’t burn it although Lady Choi told her to. The head doctor is discharged and forbidden to work as a doctor again.

Jang Geum is rewarded by the king with 77 bushels of rice, 77 bushels of beans and 3 pounds of ginseng. She has three wishes from the king – restore Lady Han’s name, restore her mother’s name, and let her become the highest kitchen lady for a few days (so she can write her mum’s story in the head kitchen lady’s diary.)

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Team Choi receive their punishments. Lady Choi falls off a cliff …

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EPISODE 49  THE CROWN PRINCE

Jang Geum asks the king to be sent to the public health centre because she wants to help the people and improve her skills.  The king admits if she had been born a male she would be his personal physician now. Other doctors are promoted. She deals with lots of patients including sucking the pus out of boils with her mouth!!!! 🙁 Sir Min comes to visit her often.

But then the queen (Queen Mungjeong) is upset and worried having found a bad luck charm aimed at her son the prince. She asks Jang Geum to come back and cure her ‘ill heart’. The queen is speaking in code. She wants Jang Geum to kill the crown prince (son of the late Queen Jang-kyung).

Jang Geum knows she can’t do what the queen asks. So she gives Sir Min her father’s precious knife before telling the queen that she can’t use medicine as a weapon so the queen must take her life. But the king overhears part of the conversation and guesses the rest. He decides he can trust Jang Geum and wants to make her his personal physician. But Jang Geum  doesn’t know this and prepares to run away with Sir Min.

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Queen Munjeong orders Jang Geum to kill the crown prince. Jang Geum wants to run away with Sir Min.

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EPISODE 50 RUNNING AWAY

Everyone at court agrees that the king can’t possibly have a woman doctor! Sir Min gives up his yangban status, resigns and leaves with Jang Geum. But just as they are about to get on a boat, guards arrive. His boss demands they both return to the palace and that Jang Geum refuse the job (although she didn’t even know she’d been offered it!)

Jang Geum overhears the minister telling Sir Min about the problems that will arise if he leaves. She feels guilty and refuses to leave with him. But she ACCEPTS the job with Sir Min’s encouragement. Soon scholars gather outside the palace to beg the king to change his mind. Doctors in the pharmacy including the women are writing letters of resignation in protest!

Suk Won is dragged into the situation too and the stress brings on premature labour. She has a difficult birth and nearly dies. This makes Jang Geum rethink. She wants to decline the king’s offer now since it’s killing people! But now there’s another crisis – Queen Munjeong’s son is sick.

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Sir Min and Jang Geum run away but are forced to return to the palace

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EPISODE 51 SMALL POX

Queen Munjeong’s son is sick with fever (he becomes King Myeongjong later but died young without an heir and his mother ruled while he was too young). The queen is frantic with worry, but when the king suggests Jang Geum take a look at the prince, the queen is upset and insulted (since Jang Geum is ONLY a woman). She feels the king does not have the same feelings for her son as he does for the crown prince.

Jang Geum turns down the job and things get back to normal but Sir Min is disappointed. But he is in trouble for supporting her and the officials want to impeach him and have him exiled for leading the king astray.

There is an outbreak of smallpox and the prince has smallpox too. But there is no cure. But Jang Geum finds a cure. The king rewards her with rice and cloth and makes her a level 9 official and his personal doctor. The officials complain but the doctors agree to accept her. The king moves Jang Geum up to a level 7 official. The officials complain again so in frustration the king moves her up to a level 6 and Sir Min is told to deliver the message.

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Jang Geum finds the cure to small pox and is rewarded for saving the prince’s life

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EPISODE 52  THE KING BACKS DOWN AGAIN

The opposing political sides join together (for once) to go against the king’s command. They tell Sir Min not to execute the order and remind him that the job of the officials is to correct the king when he strays from the right path. They think the king is going against the gyeongguk daejeon (constitution). The queen mother sits on a cushion outside the king’s quarters in protest too and the king backs down.

The king starts to spend time with Jang Geum. He apologises to her for being weak and reveals that he didn’t want to be king and wasn’t prepared to be king and became a puppet of the officials who put him on the throne. But Jang Geum encourages him to talk about the things he has achieved: he revised the national geographical book, rebuilt the astronomical observation device which people use to plant their crops, and built thunder canons to drive out the Japanese. He also restored the palace from its weakened state caused by Yeonsangun. Sir Min watches them jealously.

The queen mother has heard the rumours about the king spending time with Jang Geum and suggests he make her a concubine. That will mean she can’t practise medicine so the officials think this is a great idea. They also still want to exile Sir Min.

Suk Won goes to beg the king not to make Jang Geum a concubine because she is in love with Sir Min! The king looks shocked. But still the queen gets ready to announce that Jang Geum will become a concubine.  The king asks her if she really is in love with Sir Min and she says yes!

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The king backs down after all the complaints against making Jang Geum his doctor. But he grows fond of her as they spend time together.

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EPISODE 53 THE KING’S PHYSICIAN

Jang Geum is worried what will happen to Sir Min now that she admitted she loves him to the king. But he is overjoyed that she admitted her feelings to the king. The king hears this and makes them both meet him the next morning for an archery contest! The king wants a wager and bets his good bow for Jang Geum’s father’s knife! We were told earlier how Yeonsangun put an arrow in a eunuch when he was displeased so the atmosphere is tense.

The competition is a draw as they both shoot bulls-eyes until the last arrow. The king misses but just as Sir Min is about to shoot, the king says he is in love with Jang Geum too! The king aims his bow and arrow at Sir Min’s face but Sir Min just closes his eyes ready for the hit. The king throws down the bow and marches off. (He’s not like his half-brother Yeonsangun!)

Later Sir Min begs the king to allow Jang Geum to follow her true path: she should become the king’s doctor and it is his job as a scholar to put her there. He also asks to be put to death as he can not come between the ruler and a woman. The king stops the concubine order at the last minute.

The king reaches a compromise. Jang Geum is promoted to level 3 in the government and is to be called Dae Jang Geum. But her position is not hereditary and she will not be in charge of the royal pharmacy. She is promoted but the officials still keep pushing for Sir Min to be exiled for causing problems for the nobility. The king agrees.

Dae Jang Geum starts to look after the king and continues to improve her skills. But the king has weak bowels which are getting worse as he gets older. His bowels are blocked – and he’s getting old. There is no way to help the king now but Dae Jang Geum wants to cut out part of his blocked intestine. The king is horrified!

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Jang Geum has to say a tearful goodbye to the exiled Sir Min. The king is on his deathbed.

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EPISODE 54  CLEARING NAMES

The king needs an operation to survive but Dae Jang Geum will never be allowed to operate on the king as surgery is still in its experimental stages! The king knows she is in danger because he is dying. He tells her he could bear all the fear and loneliness as king because of her and then he sends her away secretly via the eunuchs to Sir Min.

Several years later Jang Geum is just like her mother and Sir Min is just like her father. They have a daughter who is clever but they are always on the run.

Jang Geum and Sir Min finally return to the palace and their titles are restored. There’s no problem for them to return now as Queen Munjeong is Regent (while her son is too young to rule) as the previous King Injong died early.

But they decide to leave the palace anyway. Jang Geum wants to continue being a doctor for the ordinary people. Sir Min begs her not to try any dodgy operations as this is taboo in Joseon. She agrees but on the way they find a pregnant woman in labour needing a caesarean section. Jang Geum has no choice – she has to do the operation. the operation is successful and Sir Min proudly admits she is ahead of her time. 🙂

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For more info on the making of Dae Jang Geum see here. I also have some notes from Director Lee Byung Hoon on the making of Heojun and how he changed sageuk in Korea, and the director’s approach and views on making sageuk🙂

 


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