A historical drama based on a true story, Dae Jang Geum tells the tale of Jang-Geum, the first woman to become the King's personal physician. In a time when women held little influence in society, young apprentice cook Jan... more »g-Geum (Lee Young-Ae of Joint Security Area and One Fine Spring Day) strives to learn the secrets of Korean cooking and medicine in order to cure The King of his various ailments. But palace intrigue and politics impede Jang-Geum, as her fellow ladies compete to earn the King's favor and secure the top female positions in the Royal Kitchen. But Jang-Geum is far from ordinary. With her remarkable determination and wisdom, she takes on even greater odds, challenging numerous foes and even society to achieve a position never-before-held by a woman in Korean history!
Dae Jang Geum makes its US debut with high-quality English and Chinese subtitles that capture all the fascinating details of the royal cuisine and ancient medicine of the 16th century time period. Co-starring Ji Jin-Hee (Love Letter), and full of stunning plot twists and clever political intrigue, Dae Jang Geum is an epic television event that redefines Korean popular entertainment!« less
Magnificent-Superb Historical-Costume Drama of Ancient Korea
Gerard D. Launay | Berkeley, California | 01/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are interested in foreign films, ethnic food, or foreign cultures, this is the DVD set (1-3) for you...based on the true story of a woman, an orphan. who struggles from poverty to become a doctor to the king and other members of the Korean monarchy. Indeed no other woman in the history of Korea had this distinction since normally no otherwoman but a wife or concubine could "touch" the king. How a woman could accomplish such a feat is due due her determination, her kindness, and scientific intelligence. As her rival describes her, even if you succeed in banishing her from the court, she will come back like coarse grass. Mesmerizing in every way: plot, scenery, characterization, historical detail, romance, cliff-hanging endings, herb science, costumes, sets. Too few films "in any language" provide meaningful role models for young women unconnected to violence. I LOVED this series and the principal female character. DAE JANG GEUM is not so much an episodic film as it is an experience. This mini-series became the most popular show in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea. As one reviewer put it, once you see a few episodes, you are "addicted" to see this series to conclusion. Purchase the First Set for Christmas or Birthday Gifts and your friends and loved ones will not be disappointed. Five stars? Absolutely."
Fantastic, engrossing, wonderful, beautiful!
Leigh Melton | Dawsonville, GA | 09/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're a fan of historical drama, costume drama or just drama in general, Dae Jan Geum is for you. This is some of the best televison I have ever seen, in any language. It ranks with some of the best feature films in its production values. The sets are so incredible and detailed that after the end of the series, it was converted into a theme park so that one could tour the realistic recreations of the Chosun royal palace kitchens.
While words like "mouth-watering" have been used to promote the show, it's really not about cooking though a lot of cooking scenes do take place - many episodes of the series revolve around food and the preparation of it. Food is just a touchstone used to explore differing philosophies of life and how even the most mundane things can be used as tools in the hands of the good - and weapons in the hands of the evil. There's plenty of intrigue, from the lowest servant rebelling against authority by making onions too salty to the hastening of a royal death by the serving of too-rich meals, but also an exploration of love and hate and what it means to live in such an artificial and repressed atmosphere as that of a royal palace.
It's not all backstabbing and stir-frying though - there are minor characters who give welcome comic relief. A sweet romantic thread also runs through the story. There are even martial arts scenes and a short display of ssrieum, the Korean counterpart of sumo.
One thing not to be overlooked is the beautiful and sometimes haunting soundtrack. Western instruments playing music with a Korean flavor (a kind of reverse 12 Girls Band!) give the series the right ambience without alienating those who might not enjoy traditional Korean melodies. The soundtrack is worth buying on its own merits.
Because it's a television series, each episode begins with a synopsis of earlier plot points and those tend to become tedious when watching the DVDs. There are many flashbacks also used to remind viewers of past incidents and that can also slow down the flow. Of course that's what the fast-forward button is for.
Shop around. Amazon does not have the best price by a long shot. The entire series can be had in one huge boxed set (complete with additional trinkets referenced in the show).
This series is certainly addicting - expect to spend all of your free time for quite a while wallowing in the trials and triumphs of the great Jang Geum."
Beginning of an amazing epic
NutMac | Mountain View, CA | 12/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dae Jang Geum (The Great Jang Geum) is a drama set in the 15th century Korea when it was called Chosun. Set against the historical backdrop -- still very much superstitious but the country was at the height of Korean renaissance (and struggling to become more than a puppet of China) -- it tells a fictionalized story of Jang Geum, a briefly documented but real-life and only female royal physician in Korean history. She held a 3rd class officer position within the royal ranking system (equivalent to a General), the highest title given to any woman. This is a significant fact, since due to severe class and sex discriminations, it was not possible for a woman to attain positions higher than 5th. In fact, low-class citizens were effectively cast as slaves. Although not much is known about this historical figure, this remarkable precedence must have fascinated Yeong-Hyeon Kim, a female writer of Dae Jang Geum.
Dae Jang Geum interweaves the coming-of-age elements of Charles Dickens, social commentary tone of Jane Austin, and Cinderella elements common in Korean dramas. It originally aired on 2003-2004, over the span of 54 full-hour episodes without commercial interruptions. A caution to some viewers: watching this series can be highly addictive. 5 or more episodes in one sitting was not uncommon for me.
Leading the cast is beautiful Young-ae Lee (Lady Vengeance, One Fine Spring Day, and Joint Security Area). Although she is a bit old to play post-adolescent Jang Geum (she was 31-32 when the series was filmed), she does a marvelous job at very difficult role often in freezing winter. Performances of some of the supporting cast members are also notable, such as Jin Hee Ji as the romantic interest (Jung Ho Min), Mi Kyeong Yang as Lady Han, and Hyeon Sik Lim as Duk Gu. Some of the remaining cast members tend to overact at times, but solid by Asian TV drama standard. The production value is mostly high, but the use of video cameras lends to soap opera-style look.
Each DVD box set contains 6 dual-layer DVDs, each DVD with 3 episodes for 18 episodes per volume. The packaging is simple but tasteful. Encoded in high bit rate, presented in original 4x3 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0 Korean soundtrack, and English and Chinese subtitles, Dae Jang Geum looks and sounds as good as it can be. There's a bit of interlacing artifacts and overblown exposure, but these are all present in the original source elements. Overall, this is a very faithful presentation. The English subtitle contains some typos and occasionally mistranslated, but still laudable given the complex dialogs that trouble even native Koreans.
I wish it was given more exhaustive chapter stops, as each 1-hour episode has about 4 chapters each. An episode synopsis would have been useful as well. Unfortunately, the box-set does not contain any extra materials, except for pitifully small photo gallery on volume 3. No making of documentary, cast reunion special, no historical information, no interviews, no food recipes, nada.
This volume 1 features the first 18 episodes. The first episode introduces Jang Geum's parents, their background, their struggles, and how they met. It starts on over-the-top and saccharine notes, but eventually settles down to its zone. This episode is significant for setting up the story's arc, enabling viewers to be just one step ahead so they can anticipate how everything unfolds. Episodes 2 through 4 chronicle 7-10 year old Jang Geum and how she enters the palace. In episodes 5 through 9, Jang Geum struggles to become the official royal palace kitchen cook. Episodes 10 through 11 concern Jang Geum's search for her mother's past. The meat of the series starts from episode 12, where Lady Han (with Jang Geum) and Lady Choi (with Geum Young) compete for the title of highest royal kitchen position. The volume 1 ends with a cliffhanger, so be sure to purchase volume 2 ahead.
Although overuse of flashback sequences tests viewer's patience at times, the series does not lose any steam through most of the 54 episodes. If you enjoyed volume 1, you will love the next 2 volumes. Please look for my reviews of volumes 2 and 3."
Dai Jang Geum better than Law and Order or West Wing
alizyb_spokane | Spokane WA USA | 08/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been watching this series on AZN cable channel. It is absolutely engrossing! It is a fascinating story which has been wonderfully adapted for television and is beautifully acted and filmed. It has the drama and suspense of "West Wing" and the intellectual interest of "Law and Order". This young woman's life story weaves through the palace intrigues of the Chosun dynasty in Korea, which for most Americans is totally unfamiliar territory. However, on a personal level, any modern person will identify with the problems Jang Geum encounters fighting a corrupt administration. In addition, the Korean philosophy of life which underlies individual's choices and the events in the story makes the story unpredictable and even more fascinating to Westerners."
LOVE THIS SERIES
John C. Zak | Hollywood, California | 11/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must confess that I am hooked. I bought the first two boxed sets and I am purchasing the third. I never thought I could get hooked on a TV series again after producing and directing American soaps for many years. But I was wrong. The series is produced elegantly with many exterior locations. The leading cast members offer touching and full performances that cross the language barrier with ease. One element of the directorial and acting style that I really love is the way actors are given long moments to play emotional reactions. I also enjoy the occasional sequences where dialogue is played over wide traveling shots that feature spectacular Korean countryside. The actress who plays Jang Geum is refreshingly unconventional as a heroine; beautiful, but not in a typical way. She exhibits a fascinatingly complex mixture of sweetness and iron-willed determination. I would love to see her in an American production. Lady Choi and Lady Han are embodied by two deliciously accomplished actresses, and the poignant relationship between Jang Geum and Lady Han left me emotionally bereft. Jang Geum's protective military officer is equally captivating. I have rarely been as caught up in a film or television program as I am with this one. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of volume 3."