Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jewel in the Palace

I have gotten so hooked on a wonderful Korean soap opera, Dae Jang Geum. It, regrettably, is coming to a close. We are at Episode 51 of 54 episodes. I don't know how I came to know about it, except that maybe one night I was channel surfing and came upon it.

Dae Jang Geum, also known as “Jewel in the Palace”, was the most popular TV show all over Asia when it premiered in 2004 - and that's a lot of people. It is set in 14th century Korea and has all the elements of a great story: love and romance (of a chaste variety), treachery and intrigue (the Lady Macbeth-like character is always trying to poison her enemies, and sometimes succeeds), beautiful Palace scenery and court dress. But most of all, it extols classic human virtues of remaining true to your principles, being the best you can be both professionally and personally, assisting all those around you, staying modest, sacrificing personal happiness for the greater good, but finally, standing up for yourself and finding personal happiness.

Of course, our interest is also in the beautiful cinematography. Some scenes are sweeping epics, others are warm and intimate portraits of daily life. It is all the more compelling because it is based on an actual woman who started from humble beginnings, rose through the ranks to head the royal kitchens, and then through one plot twist or another, started as a servant again and became the royal household's personal physician at a time when only men could hold such a position.

With just 3 episodes left, the romantic in me hopes that the man (Sir Min) who has supported, nurturing, cherished and loved our heroine for years will be rewarded by her hand in marriage. That would be a satisfying ending for me and for Dae Jang Geum.

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