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Series / Dae Jang Geum

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Dae Jang Geum (Hangul: 대장금; Hanja: 大長今; RR: Dae Jang-geum; MR: Tae Chang-gǔm; literally The Great Jang Geum; also known as Jewel in the Palace in some countries) is a 2003 epic South Korean television series directed by Lee Byung Hoon and produced by MBC. Starring Lee Young Ae, it tells the tale of an orphaned kitchen cook who went on to become the king's first female physician. In a time when women held little influence in society, young apprentice cook Jang Geum strives to learn the secrets of Korean cooking and medicine in order to cure the king of his various ailments. Produced for $15 million, the show received as much as 57% of viewers in South Korea and has pulled in $40 million worldwide since it first aired in 2003.

It is based on the true story of Jang-geum, the first female royal physician of the Joseon dynasty. The main themes are her perseverance and the portrayal of traditional Korean culture, including Korean royal court cuisine and traditional medicine.

This series provides examples of:

  • Born in the Wrong Century: At the ending Jung-ho laments that Jang-geum could achieve even more had she been born in a different era.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: In the cooking competition Lady Choi arranged to get Lady Han kidnapped and their ingredients ruined. This backfires on her as Jang-geum manages to win in the end, so Lady Choi suffered a much more humiliating defeat to a mere ""assistant"".
  • Decadent Court: Usually once per episode someone's life is being threatened because of this.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Jang-Geum's parents raised her with love and taught her many things that would carry her throughout her life.
  • Faking the Dead: The head physician. It was part of a larger plan to reveal the Choi's and Yul-yee's wrongdoings.
  • Happily Adopted: Kang Duk-gu and his wife Na Joo-daek treated Jang-geum like their own child because their two sons died in smallpox.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Myeong-yi dies from an arrow while shielding Jang-geum from the Choi's assassination plan. Later, Lady Han falsely admits to charges of poisoning in order to save Jang-geum's life.
  • Last Request: The king makes one to have Jang-Geum and Min Jeong-ho escape to China so that Jang-Geum won't be executed by the officials who still hold a grudge against her for holding a government position.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Myeong-yi came to Hanyang simply to see her husband before he gets sentenced to death, and presumably, go back into living as commoners. When Lady Choi sees her, she assumes that Myeong-yi has returned to take revenge, so she and her brother plot to get Myeong-yi killed. Which led to her death wish to be for Jang-geum to enter the palace thus setting off the entire plot.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Lady Suk-Won was NOT impressed when Lady Min and Chang-ee expressed pity at Lady Choi's death and calls them out for it. Contrast this to her crying over Young-ro's death.
  • Plucky Girl: Jang-Geum in spades. Considering all she's gone through and lost, most people would have given up, especially considering the culture at the time.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Even with all the political intrigue, there are a few for the protagonist, such as Lady Han, Jeong Yoon-soo and the king.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Lady Choi's Death by Falling Over lead to this..
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Geum-young gives one to Lady Choi about how they're the ones who lost.
  • Riddle Me This: Jang-Geum does this to the Queen Dowager. If the Queen Dowager answers correctly, Jang-Geum dies, otherwise the Queen Dowager will allow Jang-Geum's mentor to continue treating her. She finds the answer from somebody else, but defaults by not answering, as the answer made her realize the harm she was doing.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Variation. When Jang-Geum is in hiding in the countryside, the few royal guards loyal to her attempt to locate her, then come across a particularly sharp young country girl who immediately reminded them of Jang-Geum. Turns out the child is her daughter.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Seo Cheon-soo to Myeong-yi. Justified in that he was given a prophecy that told him he should avoid Myeong-yi to avoid both their inevitable deaths, so he could only follow and help her from a distance.
  • Supreme Chef: Pretty much a given for most of the royal kitchen ladies, since that's their job.
  • Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: Geum-young had been in love with Min Jung-ho for a very long time.
  • Visible Boom Mic: A little after the halfway point in the series these typically show up about once or twice an episode. One even slightly knocks Min Jung-Ho's hat during a pivotal scene.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Park Myeong-yi, the mother to the main character in Dae Jang Geum, and her husband live as lower caste commoners, but she is a wonderful cook for her family as well as very calm but strict with her daughter.
  • You Owe Me: The queen tries to invoke this on Jang-Geum to get Jang-Geum to kill the crown prince. Jang-Geum would rather choose death instead, but is interruped by the king.