Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum)


Reviewed by: Artanis

November 10, 2009

Rating: four

Actors: Lee Young Ae as Jang Geum, Ji Jin Hee as Min Jung Ho

Description: A historical piece by MBC that portrays a fictionalized account of Medical woman Jang Geum’s life.

Despite its advertisement as a story based on ‘historical facts’ this is largely a fictional story in a historical setting, as nothing personal about the life of the real Jang Geum was ever known. Its real historical value is that Jang Geum represents an obscure but shinning example of women’s achievements in a highly patriarchic society. Dae Jang Geum is a soap at heart but well-executed, somewhat restrained and the production values are high, so you can watch it for entertainment.

What to watch out for: DJG is all over the place and hardly needs recommendation. What attracted me was the court setting. Who doesn’t want a low-down on the dark side of court life, masked by all its splendor and formalities? Lady Jung and Lady Cui’s speeches before their respective deaths were also rather touching. Yeo Woon Kye is moving in her curt advice, while Kyeon Mi Ri fleshes out the third dimension to her two-dimensional villianous character, who had hitherto been required only to glare and shout.

Performances: Performances were even across the board and the actors(f) played off well against one another. It helps that every one looks good (in an understated way) in the neat costuming.

Downsides: The usual downsides of soaps. No matter how stylish and understated it is, Dae Jang Geum is a soap. It would do better if they injected more moral ambiguity, take out a few deaths and stop throwing obstacles at Jang Geum unrelentingly. It gets repetitive and tedious. Min Jungho, the perfect gentleman even by modern standards, is highly unrealistic. Which Joseon scholar, deeply steeped in Confucianist beliefs, would give up his own career for a woman’s career?


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