Thursday, February 2, 2012

Great Jang Geum

Yo! I just finished watching the entire series of the famous Korean television drama Dae Jang Geum. I know, big deal right? Well it's 58 episodes and I've been watching it since 2007!!! (because I suck at committing to consistent television watching.) So... you may be wondering why I decided to undertake such a brutal endeavor. Well back in 2003 Dae Jang Geum was sweeping the Korean nation! It got so popular in Korea and eventually became such a success that it was translated, dubbed or subtitled in just about every East Asian and South East Asian dialect and exported all over the eastern continent, where it continued to explode. Ask anyone who knows a thing or two about Asian TV and they have probably heard about it.

 The drama takes place mostly in the late 1400's to early 1500's during the Chosun dynasty (a Korean dynasty which reigned for 500 years;  the longest uninterrupted rain of any dynasty if my sources are correct.) and follows the story of Suh Jang Geum, a girl who becomes a worker in the royal Chosun kitchens and who is destined to save many people. Though it is a historical drama, there is little in the way of great battles and sword fighting as this drama is much more focused on the lives of women in the palace and their various jobs or functions. Naturally of course, there is much palace intrigue as multiple family factions are fighting discreet battles over all manner of things ranging from exclusive food supply rights to royal succession. Makes me feel pretty happy to not be working in a palace.
This is a correlation chart that someone actually made for the series, looks complicated no? 
 Where the series really shines is its depiction of the various processes of the workers in the palace. When Jang Geum is working in the royal kitchen we see, in great detail, the preparation of myriad foods that looks REALLY DAMN GOOD! Several times throughout the show I had to stop it and grab something to eat cause it made me hungry and gave me a insatiable craving for Korean food. Later on in the series Jang Geum is eventually kicked out of the kitchen and later becomes a royal physician and the viewer is then given an interesting and detailed view of how Chinese or traditional East Asian medicine works.

 By now you should probably have figured out if this holds any interest for you at all, but for an East Asian Studies nerd, like myself, its pretty AWESOME! This drama is pretty old hat, but if you are at all interested in historical Korean drama and somehow missed this, then go find it and watch it! You'll be glad you did.                   

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