‘Dae Jang Geum’: The glorious life of a Joseon physician


Korean historical blockbuster tells the tragic life of Dae Jang Geum – an orphaned palace maid who became the first female physician in the Joseon period.

September 15 marks the 18th anniversary of the broadcast of the 54-episode MBC drama. The content revolves around the life of Dae Jang Geum – a real medical woman in the Joseon Dynasty (1506-1544), but the scriptwriter has fictionalized all events, details and characters besides the female lead.

Seo Jang Geum (played by Lee Young Ae) was originally a radio lady, a big mandarin in the Seo dynasty. After the massacre, she lost her parents and was adopted by a commoner’s family. When she worked as a palace maid in the royal court (the cooking place of the royal palace), thanks to the high court Han (Yang Mi Kyung) leading her, she became the best chef in Joseon. Her natural talent is also a thorn in the eyes of the Choi family.

Wind and waves surrounded Jang Geum and the upper Han palace. They were falsely accused of harming the king and were exiled to Jeju Island. She studied more medicine, determined to return to the palace to take revenge when the Han palace was killed. With intelligence and ingenuity, Jang Geum combines food and medicine, bringing culinary quintessence to medicine. Later, she was given the title “Dae”, becoming the famous Dae Jang Geum in history.

Besides the court battle, the emotional line also creates attraction for the film. King Jung Jong (Im Ho) and military guard Min Jung Ho (Ji Jin Hee) both fall in love with Jang Geum, helping her fulfill her great ambition.

Lee Young Ae became “Korean Treasure” thanks to the role of Dae Jang Geum – a character who saves history by his culinary and medical skills. Photo: MBC

Follow Daum, the work achieved the 10th highest viewership rating in Korean television history, the last episode was up to 57.8% (March 23, 2004). For every 10 TVs, there are 5-6 open ones Lady Dae Jang Geum. With a production budget of 15 million USD, the crew earned 103.4 million USD by selling broadcasting rights in 91 countries and territories. The project has also been adapted into musicals, plays, animations, comics, books…

In 2010, TNMS – viewer rating research company – surveyed the ratings and popularity of 674 dramas (aired from 2000 to 2010). Result, Lady Dae Jang Geum ranked first, contributing to the spread of Korean culture to the world.

Sheet Chosun believes that the film succeeds by conveying the message of perseverance, not giving in to adversity and upholding the spirit of feminism. Suffering many injuries from a young age and being harmed by power, Jang Geum did not stoop or fear, trying to create a foothold in the royal kitchen, and then overcame famous doctors to become the first female royal physician. and only Joseon period.

“Her tenacity, will, and inquisitiveness conquers all audiences, especially women, making them want to become modern day Dae Jang Geum.” according to Woman DongA. Housewives also learn many cooking tips, simple but effective folk remedies. Many publishers release a series of cookbooks, combining cuisine and traditional medicine based on the film’s plot. Follow Hand Maker, royal dishes – an intangible cultural heritage recognized by UNESCO – attract viewers, helping Joseon cuisine to reach audiences inside and outside Korea. MBC has invited experts who study the Joseon Dynasty and good chefs at the filming site as advisors.

Lee Young Ae in 'Dae Jang Geum'

Lee Young Ae in the movie “She Dae Jang Geum”. Video: MBC

The film gathered a strong cast of nearly 300 people. In it, Lee Young Ae was praised for her kind face, showing well the image of Jang Geum from her twenties to forties. At the 2003 MBC Drama Awards, she was named in the categories of Daesang (highest award ceremony) and “Famous Actor”.

Actors Lim Hyun Sik (playing adoptive father Dae Jang Geum) and Yang Mi Kyung (as the upper court Han) won the “Special Acting” award for their in-depth acting and emotional support for juniors. Particularly, Yang Mi Kyung also won the “Most Popular Actor” award at Baeksang 2004, expensive advertising shows and receiving many scripts.

Lee Byung Hoon won the “Best Television Director” award. At the award ceremony, he expressed his emotion and gratitude to the scriptwriter, actors, backstage team… for working continuously, regardless of rain or shine.

In his autobiography about the director’s profession, Lee Byung Hoon said the project has attractive material and story, but falls into a difficult position because the actors repeatedly turn down the role. “After reading about Jang Geum in history books, the first star I thought of was Song Yoon Ah, but she shook her head. I continued to recommend Kim Ha Neul, whose image is suitable for a smart, studious role. asked. I also contacted Song Hye Kyo, Jang Jin Young, Myung Se Bin… but they refused for their own reasons.” Next, he invited Lee Il Hwa, but she wanted to take a break because she just got married.

Follow Heraldpop, the director was so frustrated that he considered looking for a rookie actor, even wanting to choose Hwang Soo Jung – a female star who once caused a “fever” with Hur Jun but ruined his career because of possession and use of drugs. After much consideration, he ventured to invite the top star of that time – Lee Young Ae. “She said she wouldn’t act in historical dramas, but after reading the synopsis, she expressed interest and signed the contract.”

The rolling form (both filmed and broadcast) puts pressure on the crew, but the audience’s reaction can be measured. The crew constantly edited the script according to the fan’s suggestions. According to the magazine Monthly Chosun, scriptwriter Kim Young Hyun initially left open the love story of Jang Geum and military guard Min Jung Ho. However, before the audience’s controversy, she changed her mind, so that they should be married and give birth to a daughter.

Great man Min Jung Ho, a widower for many years, fell in love with Jang Geum because of her energy and talent.  Photo: MBC

Great man Min Jung Ho, a widower for many years, fell in love with Jang Geum because of her energy and talent. Photo: MBC

Writer Kim Young Hyun spent several years researching Dae Jang Geum, but there wasn’t much material about her life, so she made up the character according to her taste. Kim also bought dozens of books on royal cuisine and oriental medicine, including Chronicles of the Joseon Dynasty, Chronicles of King Jung Jong.

“During the seven months of the show airing, I had to complete the script at 12 o’clock every Saturday, constantly discussing ideas with the director and two assistants. At that time, I lived like an owl, waking up in the morning. From 15 to 16, work until morning and sleep at sunrise. If the script is stuck, I can’t sleep,” Kim Young Hyun said above. Woman DongA.

The scene where Jang Gem competes with palace maid Choi Geum Young (Hong Ri Na) - the villain in the film.  Photo: MBC

The scene where Jang Gem competes with the palace maid Choi Geum Young (Hong Ri Na) – the villain in the film. Photo: MBC

However, the film has some basic flaws, typically most of the cooking scenes are taken on by the beautiful ladies. Follow Chronicles of King Jung JongDue to the influence of Confucian thought, the palace maids were in charge of preparing the ingredients, setting the table, serving the calves… and the person who directly prepared the dish was the king.

The banquet table for the ambassadors of the Ming Dynasty (China, 1368-1644) in volume 18 was also historically wrongly criticized, because the dishes presented on the table were of Manchu and Han people (Qing dynasty, 1636-1912). . Costumes, radios and some details related to the context of the royal palace are also inaccurate. “However, these errors do not affect the plot much, the audience easily ignores it”, according to Pann.

Thien Lam

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