Tuesday, May 03, 2016

“A Jewel in the Palace” aka “Dae Jang Geum” synopsis by episode (Eps. 1-54, no spoilers)

Theme song O Na Ra (with English lyrics)

Scenes from “A Jewel in the Palace”

Part 3 of “I am Lee Young-ae” 2008 documentary where she remembers the drama’s filming, plus the drama’s international popularity (Iran, Turkey, Zimbwabe, etc.). For the English sub, watch this video on Youtube.

In Part 2 at the 4:19 mark, she visits the “Dae Jang Geum” set.
Jump to synopsis of Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28; 29; 30; 31; 32; 33; 34; 35; 36; 37; 38; 39; 40; 41; 42; 43; 44; 45; 46; 47; 48; 49; 50; 51; 52; 53; 54; Links to English-subbed videos of “A Jewel in the Palace” in Kissasian website; Animated version of “A Jewel in the Palace”; Videos of theme song; Historical backgrounders and other information (including recipes of snacks and dishes featured in this drama; Free, 500-plus interactive English grammar and vocabulary exercises based on “A Jewel in the Palace” and other Korean historical dramas (external link); Lessons in photography from “A Jewel in the Palace”

I’m writing this post for two reasons:

(1) I love this Korean drama and its lead star Lee Young-ae; and

(2) Lee Young-ae’s newest TV drama “Shin Saimdang” will be shown later this year.

“A Jewel in the Palace” was first aired in Korea more than 10 years ago and has been broadcast in 96 countries. In the Philippines, it has been aired three times already. It’s a huge commercial success, having earned more than US $100 million. Lee Young-ae has since then become Korea’s most-loved actress and an ambassador of goodwill. She’s also well-known for her generous acts of charity.

Shin Saimdang” is currently being filmed and will run up to 36 episodes. Expectations are so high for this new drama that it has already been pre-sold to 6 countries based simply on Lee Young-ae’s reputation. If it becomes a critical and commercial hit, today’s generation of high school and college students might become interested in watching “A Jewel in the Palace.”

“A Jewel in the Palace” is 54-episodes long, and I’m writing two kinds of synopsis: a spoiler-free synopsis by episode and a theme-based synopsis.

Synopsis by episode with no spoilers: meant for people who are watching “A Jewel in the Palace” for the first time or who may have seen a few episodes but are not completely familiar with the drama’s storyline.

Jump to Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28; 29; 30; 31; 32; 33; 34; 35; 36; 37; 38; 39; 40; 41; 42; 43; 44; 45; 46; 47; 48; 49; 50; 51; 52; 53; 54
Theme-based synopsis: meant for people who have already seen “A Jewel in the Palace” but would like watch again certain scenes or episodes.

For example, Jang Geum’s father gave her when she was eight years old a triple trinket (writing brush, ink well, and knife). The trinket played a big part in the relationship between Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho. I will point out and describe the scenes or episodes in which the trinket appears.

How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers

1. I assumed that you will be reading these episode summaries and watching the videos chronologically.

2. I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

3. At the beginning of each summary starting with Episode 2, I placed in a table some of the major twists and turns of the previous episode. But because you have already watched the video of the previous episode, they aren’t spoilers anymore.

(I used this same structure in my recaps of “Jumong,” “Dong Yi,” “Six Flying Dragons,” “The King’s Doctor,” “The Flower in Prison,” and “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.”

Links to English-subbed videos of “A Jewel in the Palace” in Kissasian website

Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28; 29; 30; 31; 32; 33; 34; 35; 36; 37; 38; 39; 40; 41; 42; 43; 44; 45; 46; 47; 48; 49; 50; 51; 52; 53; 54

The videos are available in 360, 480, or 720p for viewing or free download; simply register, and you can start downloading the videos.

Spoiler-free synopsis by episode


Episode 1: The prophecy

Court officials and royal guards carry out Queen Yiun’s execution by poisoning. Later, the queen’s death haunts one of the royal guards, Seo Chun Soo, and he falls while wandering aimlessly in the forest.

Seo Chun Soo wakes up inside a cave where a hermit has taken care of his injury. The hermit then prophesies about how his fate will be determined by three women: “The first one, you killed her, but she didn’t die. The second one, you will save her, but she will die because of you. The third one, she will kill you, but because of this, will be the savior of many.”

A Buddhist monk tries to understand and explain to him what the hermit’s prophecy means. Years later, driven by guilt and fear, he resigns from the royal guards and begins working at a temple.

Meanwhile, Park Meong Yi is a junior court lady working at the Royal Kitchen. She reports to a senior court lady what Choi Cheng Qing, another junior court lady, did with the food meant for the Queen Mother. But the senior court lady betrays Park Meong Yi to the Highest Kitchen Lady; they take her to the forest and force her to drink poison.

Episode 2: Jang Geum

Episode 1 recap: Seo Chun Soo explains to Park Meong Yi that, based on the prophecy, she will die because of him and that she should therefore stay away from him. But Park Meong Yi says that their fates are now intertwined.
Eight years later...

Seo Chun Soo and Park Meong Yi are now married. They live under false identities to escape from King Yeonsan’s intensifying persecution of all the people responsible for the death of his mother, Queen Yiun.

Their only child is Jang Geum, an intelligent girl who always gets punished for her inquisitiveness and desire for learning.

During a festivity in the village, Seo Chun Soo gets arrested. Park Meong Yi takes Jang Geum to Hanyang – Joseon’s capital — to try to save him. She secretly contacts her best friend in the Royal Kitchen, who’s now Lady Han.

But before Lady Han can help out, Park Meong Yi and Jang Geum are captured by the henchmen of the merchant Choi Pan Sul – the brother of Choi Cheng Qing, who’s now Lady Choi.


1. This drama’s main character is based on a historical figure with the title and name “Dae Jang Geum.” She’s mentioned 10 times in the “Annals of the Joseon Dynasty” as the personal physician of King Jungjong, who reigned from 1506 to 1544. The title “Dae” means ‘great.”

2. King Yeonsan (Yeonsangun) was Joseon’s most cruel king. As opposed to the romanticized and deodorized portrayal of Yeonsangun in the 2017 drama “Seven Day Queen,” two of Korea's top-grossing movies deal with Yeonsangun’s evil rule:

(a) “The Treacherous” 2015 movie that grossed US $8.09 million from 1.11 million admissions; and

(b) “King and the Clown” 2005 movie with over 12.3 million tickets sold; it is the 9th highest-grossing film in South Korea and was chosen as South Korea's official submission for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. (Wikipedia)

Caution: “The Treacherous” has so many explicit scenes that will turn your stomach.

Episode 3: Survival

Episode 2 recap: Park Meong Yi gets hit by an arrow while trying to protect Jang Geum.

In her dying moments, she realizes that Jang Geum is the third woman in the prophecy. She writes two letters to Jang Geum, asking her to become a court lady and to eventually become the Highest Kitchen Lady.
Jang Geum buries her mother and then tries to survive on her own. After a few misunderstandings, she later on gets “adopted” by Gang Duk Gu’s family. She helps out with the household chores and in selling their home-brewed wine.

After King Yeonsan is overthrown in a coup, Jang Geum is taken in, with other young girls, as a “new bride” in the Royal Palace. If Jang Geum passes the test and the training in court etiquette, she can be assigned to further training in one of the departments, including the Royal Kitchen.

Jang Geum becomes friends with Yeung Seng, another new bride, who’s being bullied just like her. One night, they begin searching for the Middle Kitchen where Jang Geum’s mother hid her book of recipes. On their way, they meet a new bride whom they have never seen before.

Notes: 1. The man who succeeded Yeonsangun was his younger brother Yi Yeok (King Jungjong). He ruled from 1506 to 1544 and had three queens (as you can read in the note for Episode 6 below).

2. At the 15:44 mark of Ep. 3, notice the painting on the wall behind the men who are conspiring against the King. That painting of two cats playing can also be seen in other places in other episodes. Examples, in Jang Geum's quarters (Eps. 12 and 15), in the bar where Choi Pan Sul meets Minister Oh (Ep. 5), and in Lady Choi's quarters.

That painting is a historical painting titled “Myojakdo” (literally, “Painting of Cats and Sparrows”) by famous Joseon painter Byeon Sang-byeok, who lived during the late period of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. His birth and death dates are unknown, but was active in the mid 18th century during the reigns of King Sukjong (r.1674–1720) and King Yeongjo (r. 1724–76).

Cats and sparrows were often subjects for Korean paintings drawn to celebrate the joy of longevity because of their similar pronunciations with other words that have auspicious meanings.

“Myojakdo” is painted on silk with light coloring over the ink and wash painting (sumukhwa). It is 93.7 cm in height and 42.9 cm in width; it forms part of the collection of the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, South Korea.

Episode 4: The selection

Episode 3 recap: While Jang Geum is searching the Middle Kitchen for her mother’s book of recipes, Yeung Seng gets injured, and they are discovered there by Lady Han.
The head trainer lady becomes angry with Jang Geum because of the trouble she caused at the Middle Kitchen and thus bans her from attending the training sessions. But Jang Geum perseveres.

The head trainer lady gives Jang Geum a condition — if she can hold a big bowl of water overnight without spilling it, then she can join the other girls in the selection by the senior court ladies.

The senior girls start bullying Jang Geum, piling on her all their assigned work. As she endures the bullying, the Royal Kitchen is thrown into chaos when the food begins becoming spoiled.

Episode 5: The pine needles competition; Lady Jung

Episode 4 recap: Jang Geum prevents the food from becoming spoiled by washing all the dishes in boiling water. Lady Han begins seeing her in a new light.

Jang Geum’s bullying by the senior girls gets worse when the mysterious new bride joins the pine needles competition.

The Highest Kitchen Lady, a member of the powerful Choi family, is removed from her position. The Head Lady and Lady Choi think that they can manipulate the elderly and eccentric Lady Jung, and so, they get her appointed as the new Highest Kitchen Lady.

After the sugar versus persimmon incident, Lady Han finally realizes Jang Geum’s potential and begins training her in a unique manner.

Note (spoiler alert): In the first picture above right, Jang Geum is in the middle, while, from our perspective, Yeun Seng is on the left. An unnamed, new bride is on the right; that girl will play the role of Jang Geum’s daughter in Ep. 54, Finale.

Episode 6: The golden pheasant

Episode 5 recap: Lady Choi trains Keum Young according to the traditions of their family from which has come the last five Highest Kitchen Ladies. On the other hand, Lady Han trains Jang Geum to be resourceful and inquisitive.

Ten years later ...

Jang Geum has grown into a beautiful, young woman with a boundless curiosity about anything related to food. But her curiosity always gets her into trouble with Lady Choi.

The King, Queen, and Queen Mother become agitated when the Princess loses her appetite and becomes weak. No matter what the Royal Kitchen prepares, she won’t eat the food.

Keum Young loses the golden pheasant that is supposed to be served to the entourage of Ming officials. With Jang Geum’s help, she escapes from the Palace to try to find another golden pheasant with her uncle Choi Pan Sul’s help.

Jang Geum also sets off on her own to get a golden pheasant through Gang Duk Gu, her adoptive father. After a long wait, she’s able to get a golden pheasant, and she hurries through the mountain to get back to Keum Young.

Notes: 1. The young Jang Geum (Eps. 2-5) was played by Jo Jung-eun, who was seven years old at the time. She’s still acting today; you can see how she looks now in her supporting role as a court attendant in the 2018 rom-com “Princess and the Matchmaker.”

2. King Jungjong (the king in this drama) had three queens, namely:

(a) Queen Danyeong: she appears for about five seconds in Ep. 3 when King Jungjong was enthroned. In history, she was deposed by political opponents of her father. She was portrayed by Park Min-young in the 2017 drama “Seven Day Queen.”
Queen Janggyeong

(b) Queen Janggyeong: She appears in this drama, without speaking parts, from Ep. 6 to 15. In history, she died at age 23.

Queen Munjeong
(c) Queen Munjeong: She appears in this drama from Ep. 19 to 54. In history, she ruled as Regent from 1545 until 1565 for her son, King Myeongjong. She was portrayed as the Queen Mother in the 2016 hit “The Flower in Prison.” For more information about this remarkable queen, please read “Queen Munjeong’s (1501-1565) Statecraft and Buddhist View in Confucian Joseon” (PDF).

Episode 7: The herb garden

Episode 6 recap: Jang Geum chances upon a deadly fight on the mountain. She treats the unconscious man’s wounds but, in the process, fails to make it back to Keum Young on their agreed time. (She also loses the triple trinket her father gave her.)

With Lady Choi’s insistence, Keum Young goes back to the Palace, leaving Jang Geum behind.
Jang Geum gets caught trying to sneak back into the Royal Palace. But because of Lady Jung and Lady Han’s sacrifice, she isn’t cast out of the Palace but, instead, is exiled to the herb garden.

There, Jang Geum meets men and women who either sleep or drink wine all day, having lost all hope of ever leaving the herb garden.

Fighting against despair, Jang Geum begins organizing the herb garden. She pesters the garden’s supervisor about all the plants that the garden was tasked to cultivate. She sets as her personal goal the growing of astragalus, a precious medicinal plant from Ming. But it’s a daunting task because no one has ever successfully grown astragalus before. What’s more, the import of astragalus from Ming is monopolized by the merchant Choi Pan Sul.

Note: Memorable scene - Jang Geum and the man she saved on the mountain pass each other by, not knowing who the other one is.

Episode 8: The dumpling-cooking competition

Episode 7 recap: Jang Geum successfully grows astragalus. The Royal Court finds out about it through the herb garden’s supervisor and rewards her by reinstating her to the Royal Kitchen.
On her way back to the Royal Kitchen, Jang Geum stops by the library on an errand from the herb garden’s supervisor. There she meets Ming Jung Ho who, unknown to her, is the wounded man whom she helped on the mountain. (He is an officer with the Royal Guards in charge of tracking down some Japanese spies.)

Jang Geum is happily welcomed back to the Royal Kitchen, but Lady Jung cautions her that if she loses in the dumpling-cooking competition, she will be forced to leave the Palace.

On the night before the competition, someone steals Jang Geum’s flour.

Episode 9: The hunting trip

Episode 8 recap: Jang Geum finds the girl who stole the flour, but after knowing her reason, she lets the girl keep the flour. Instead of the flour, she decides to use some vegetables from the herb garden.

But the competition’s judges, led by the Head Lady and Lady Choi, argue that using ingredients other than flour violated the rules. Jang Geum loses in the competition and must therefore leave the Palace.
The Queen Mother arrives. She tries Jang Geum’s dumplings and then commends her for using ingredients that are not only nutritious but also affordable by common folks. She orders the officials to allow Jang Geum to stay.

Jang Geum finally becomes a court lady, and after visiting her adoptive parents, she goes to her mother’s grave.

Min Jung Ho learns from the Japanese spy that the woman who saved him on the mountain had a golden pheasant with her. He starts questioning people in the villages, and his search leads him to Gang Duk Gu’s house.

After the solemn induction ceremony for the new court ladies, Lady Han is ordered to supervise the cooking for the King’s hunting trip. She takes along with her Lady Min, Jo-bang, Keum Young, and Jang Geum.

At the hunting grounds, however, Lady Han, Lady Min, and Jo-bang all become sick and unconscious, without having prepared the King’s food.

Episode 10: Back to the Middle Kitchen

Episode 9 recap: Before passing out, Lady Han orders Keum Young to take over.

Keum Young starts to prepare the cold noodles, while Jang Geum runs off to get some spring water from the forest.
The King enjoys the cold noodles that Keum Young and Jang Geum prepared, and Lady Han commends them afterwards.

Later on, Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho meet each other again. Min Jung Ho notices that Jang Geum is using a brush that’s too big for writing. He begins searching in his pockets for the triple trinket. As they’re talking, Keum Young arrives.

Lady Min and Jo-bang are punished for their carelessness, and Lady Han allows Jang Geum to work in the Middle Kitchen. Jang Geum uses this opportunity to search again for her mother’s book of recipes.

On the other hand, Lady Choi forces Keum Young to secretly put in the Middle Kitchen a pouch that contains a curse against the Queen.

Note: Jang Geum and Keum Young first met each other as new brides in Episode 2; the boy whom Keum Young loves and was saying goodbye to back then was Min Jung Ho.

Episode 11: Harmony

Episode 10 recap: Jang Geum finally finds her mother’s book of recipes.

But when the pouch containing the curse against the Queen is found, Lady Jung orders that Jang Geum and Keum Young be confined in a storage room. Later on, she orders that they be brought to the authorities for interrogation.
The Head Lady orders Lady Jung to stop investigating who placed the pouch with the curse against the Queen, but Lady Jung remains defiant, saying that treason must be dealt with.

Lady Choi pleads with the Head Lady to help Keum Young; meanwhile, Minister Oh orders his men and Choi Pan Sul to frame Jang Geum.

After looking for whatever it is that Jang Geum found in the Middle Kitchen, Lady Han pleads with her to tell the truth. Later, remembering what happened to her best friend Park Myeong Yi years ago, she begs on her knees for Lady Jung to save Jang Geum. But Lady Jung still leaves to report to the authorities what happened in the Middle Kitchen.

On the Head Eunuch’s order, Gang Duk-gu is arrested for selling aphrodisiacs to a eunuch and to the palace guards. Later, he gets into deeper trouble when the Royal Physician accuses him of poisoning the Crown Prince through the duck porridge that he prepared.

Note: Touching/funny scene - Jang Geum’s adoptive mother breaks down and begs her to save Gang Duk Gu. She says that although he’s a henpecked husband, she can’t live without him.

Episode 12: Sense of taste; Lady Jung’s proposal

Episode 11 recap: Jang Geum finds out that the doctors had given nutmeg to the Crown Prince as medicine. She tries to learn what nutmeg is all about by borrowing a book of medicine from Min Jung Ho.
Jang Geum discovers that the combination of nutmeg and ginseng caused the Crown Prince’s paralysis. She herself became paralyzed when she drank the combination.

Knowing the cause, the doctors are now able to treat the Crown Prince. After being treated by a lady physician, Jang Geum is rewarded by the King. Later on, however, Jang Geum begins to lose her sense of taste.

During her birthday celebration, the Head Lady becomes angry with Lady Jung. Taking advantage of this situation and of Lady Jung’s failing health, Lady Choi urges the Head Lady to ask the Queen Mother to retire Lady Jung and to appoint her as the next Highest Kitchen Lady.

Episode 13: Drawing up a taste; the first assignment

Episode 12 recap: Lady Jung suggests to the King that a cooking competition be held between Lady Han and Lady Choi to determine who will succeed her as the Highest Kitchen Lady.

Despite Jang Geum’s loss of her sense of taste, Lady Han still chooses her as her assistant for the competition.
Inspired by the fish merchant’s ability to select fresh fish despite his blindness, Lady Han begins teaching Jang Geum how to “draw up a taste” or to combine ingredients without tasting the food.

Lady Choi, on the other hand, teaches Keum Young all the culinary secrets handed down from members of their family who have previously been the Highest Kitchen Lady.

As the competition’s first part, Lady Han and Lady Choi are assigned to find out why the taste of the bean paste has suddenly changed. The change is an omen that bad things are about to happen to the kingdom.

Note: Funny scene - Alarmed by the omen, Gang Duk Gu sneaks into the Palace to perform a ritual for changing back the taste of the bean paste.

Episode 14: The bee stings and the cooking test

Episode 13 recap: Lady Jung finds out that Choi Pan Sul has been cheating the Palace with the quality of salt that he has been delivering.

Lady Han and Jang Geum visit a village where the taste of the bean paste is much better than that of the Palace.
Lady Han and Jang Geum discover that the fermentation of the bean paste has been disrupted by the cutting down of the trees near where the jars of bean paste are stored.

Later on, Jang Geum goes to the herb garden to see Jeong Woon-baek (the supervisor and doctor who helped her when she was exiled there). She begs him to try on her the bee sting treatment that he has been experimenting on. But he refuses because he can’t control where the bee will sting her; it’s dangerous and can cost Jang Geum her life.

Jang Geum carries a big saw as she
prepares for the new dish competition.
In the herb garden, Jang Geum meets Min Jung Ho who comforts her and later lends her more books on medicine that might provide the solution to her problem.

Lady Choi finds out that Jang Geum has lost her sense of taste. She tells Lady Jung that Jang Geum and Lady Han must be cast out of the Royal Kitchen. But Lady Han claims that Jang Geum can cook anything well even if she can’t taste it. To determine if Lady Han’s claim is true, Lady Jung arranges a cooking test.

Episode 15: Food for common folks

Episode 14 recap: Jang Geum finally convinces Dr. Jeong to try the bee sting treatment on her tongue using a method that she suggested.

The cooking test involves whale, which no one in the Royal Kitchen has ever cooked. But Lady Choi asks her brother Choi Pan-sul to find a book of recipes for whale.
Lady Jung picks Jang Geum’s dish to be served to the King.

Lady Choi believes that Jang Geum and Lady Han cheated in some way and angrily demands that Jang Geum be tested on differentiating tastes in front of the kitchen ladies.

For the second part of the competition, Lady Han and Lady Choi are assigned to cook the food for the Prince’s birthday. They are told by the Queen Mother to prepare food that common folks eat.

Note: Romantic scene - In gratitude, Jang Geum prepares food that she gives to Min Jung Ho.

Episode 16: The Queen’s nanny, the temple’s cook, and the secret to cooking

Episode 15 recap: Lady Han loses the competition because Jang Geum used milk, something that common folks can’t afford and thus do not use.
Lady Han scolds Jang Geum for focusing only on how to beat Keum Young and forgetting all the principles she has taught her.

As a punishment, Lady Han sends Jang Geum away to a temple to help take care of a sick, elderly court lady who was the Queen’s nanny.

In Jang Geum’s absence, Yeung Seng, Young Ro, and Chang Yee apply to become Lady Han’s new assistant for the cooking competition.

In the temple, Jang Geum meets her adoptive father and Min Jung ho. She and Min Jung Ho spend time together — in happiness, in solemnity, and in danger.

Jang Geum also meets the man who prepares the food in the temple; she begins following him around and asking about his secret to cooking.

Note: Romantic scene - Jang Geum meets Min Jung Ho on the beach, and they frolic in the surf as the sun goes down.

Episode 17: The journal

Episode 16 recap: Because of the rice that the temple’s cook prepared for the Queen’s nanny, Jang Geum realizes that great cooking comes only from patience and devotion.

Keum Young goes to the temple to visit Min Jung Ho, the man whom she has loved since childhood. But she finds him and Jang Geum happily talking to each other.
Keum Young finally realizes that Min Jung Ho’s heart belongs to Jang Geum.

The Queen Mother has set as the final competition the preparation of fresh seafood that’s available all throughout the year. Lady Choi and Keum Young leave the Palace to ask for Choi Pan Sul’s help in getting the ingredients.

That night, the Palace guards chase a man who snuck into the Palace and has hidden himself in Lady Choi’s quarters. After the guards finish searching the quarters, Lady Jung orders Yeun Seng, Young Ro, and Chang-yee to clean up the mess. After discovering the journal that’s handed down from one Highest Kitchen Lady to the next, she gets mad that the journal has been kept away from her.

Lady Choi and the Head Lady scheme together on how to prevent Lady Jung from revealing to the Queen and Queen Mother how they kept the journal away from her.

Note: Funny scene - Gang Duk Gu tries to bribe his way into becoming Min Jung Ho’s wine supplier. Jang Geum comes to his rescue.

Episode 18: The Ming ambassador

Episode 17 recap: An infectious disease spreads throughout the Palace. The Head Lady and Lady Choi use this opportunity to get Lady Jung out of the Palace.
Lady Han, the other kitchen ladies, and Lady Jung herself can’t understand why she was forced to leave the Palace when she doesn’t have the symptoms that other sick people have.

Consumed by her anger and jealousy towards Jang Geum, Keum Young conspires with Lady Choi, the Head Lady, Minister Oh, and a Royal Physician to blame Lady Jung for the spread of the disease among the kitchen ladies. Despite the Head Eunuch’s protest, the Head Lady petitions the Queen Mother to replace Lady Jung as the Highest Kitchen Lady.

The Ming ambassador arrives in Joseon on a mission that could lead to the designation of the Crown Prince. Lady Han and Jang Geum are ordered to supervise the kitchen at the ambassador’s residence. But Lady Han is later arrested for offending the ambassador. Jang Geum pleads for mercy on Lady Han’s behalf, but she also gets into trouble.

Episode 19: The final competition

Episode 18 recap: Lady Choi is appointed as the interim Highest Kitchen Lady. To permanently get rid of Lady Han and Jang Geum, she assigns them to the Ming ambassador’s residence.

Keumg Young secretly tells her uncle Choi Pan Sul where Lady Jung is staying and what medicines are being given to her.
The Ming ambassador honors his promise to Jang Geum to eat only her vegetable dishes for five days. But the Head Lady reports to the Queen Mother that the ambassador’s anger was appeased because of Lady Choi.

Lady Han is released from her arrest. Meanwhile, Lady Jung finds out about the Head Lady’s scheme against her. When she threatens to expose the scheme, the Head Lady agrees to send her back to the Palace.

In fairness, Lady Jung offers to let Lady Han read the secret journal that has been handed down from one Highest Kitchen Lady to the next. Jang Geum stares at the journal that her mother told her about some 20 years ago.

The Queen Mother gives Lady Han and Lady Choi their final assignment — to present their best dishes for the King during her birthday feast.

Episode 20: Jang Geum vs. Lady Choi

Episode 19 recap: The Queen Mother finds out that Lady Choi and the Head Lady falsely claimed the credit for appeasing the Ming ambassador’s anger. She declares Lady Han as the winner of the second round.
The Head Lady finds out that Lady Han has left the Palace. She wants to cancel the final competition, but Jang Geum pleads that she will take Lady Han’s place until she returns. When Lady Choi protests, Lady Jung asks her if she’s afraid to compete with Jang Geum.

While Jang Geum’s adoptive father, Gang Duk Gu, runs to the police for help, his wife goes to the Palace to warn Jang Geum about what happened to Lady Han.

With Yeun Seng’s help, Jang Geum tries to get whatever ingredients she can within the Palace. Lady Min and Chang Yee also help her out.

The competition begins.

Episode 21: The wild berries

Episode 20 recap: Choi Pan Sul orders his minion and Young-ro to mess up Lady Han’s kitchen; later, his men kidnap Lady Han.

Jang Geum loses the first two rounds.
The Queen Mother finds out about what happened in Lady Han’s kitchen and wants to disqualify her. But the Queen urges her to let Jang Geum continue the competition.

With Lady Han nowhere in sight, Jang Geum has no choice but to continue the 7-round competition by herself. She turns to her mother’s recipe book to inspire and strengthen her.

Min Jung Ho rescues Lady Han. While he and his men chase the kidnappers, Lady Han hurries back to the Palace.


1. This episode is one of the watershed episodes in this drama because of the odds against Jang Geum in her competition against Lady Choi. And more than any other episode, this episode highlights what Korean royal cuisine is all about. To ensure the authenticity of the cuisine featured in this drama, MBC, the production company, retained the services of Han Bok-ryeo, director of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine.

You can learn more about Korean royal cuisine through “Jewels of the Palace, Royal Recipes from Old Korea” written by Han Bok-ryeo and published by The Korean Food Foundation. As the title suggests, this free resource presents 70 recipes for the snacks and dishes featured in this drama or which were served to the Joseon royal family. It also narrates interesting facts about the royal kitchen, the court ladies who served there, and the “suksu” (male cooks, like Jang Geum’s adoptive father Gang Duk-gu). You can read more about this resource and others like it in the historical backgrounders section below.

2. The character “Lady Han” is based on the historical figure Han Hui-sun (1889-1972), the last court lady of the royal kitchens of Joseon and Korea’s premier chef of royal cuisine. She served King Gojong, King Sunjong, and Empress Sunjeong, up to 1965. Her legacy has been passed on, at present, to Han Bok-ryeo, director of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine.

Episode 22: Dissension in the Royal Kitchen

Episode 21 recap: Jang Geum touches the King’s heart with her story about how she fed her dying mother with wild berries. Because of the King’s enthusiasm, the Queen Mother appoints Lady Han as the new Highest Kitchen Lady.

But Lady Choi and the Head Lady cause dissension among the senior court ladies in the Royal Kitchen. They all boycott Lady Han’s induction ceremony.
Lady Jung finally retires as the Highest Kitchen Lady. Because of her frail condition, Jang Geum and Yeun Seng accompany her and take care of her needs.

The senior court ladies in the Royal Kitchen continue to boycott Lady Han. She’s left to deal with all the duties with only a few assistants like Jang Geum, Yeun Seng, the slaves, and the new brides.

The Head Lady and Lady Choi create misunderstandings between Lady Han and the Head Eunuch that affect Suk-won, the King’s newly-appointed concubine. After Suk-won complains to the Queen Mother, Lady Han decides to resign as the Highest Kitchen Lady.

Spoiler alert: Lady Jung dies, and after being cremated, her ashes are scattered to the winds on the mountainside.

1. From “Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture”:

Cremation (“hwajangmyo”) was introduced to Korea around the 5th century; it became a practice during the mid-Goryeo period. It was performed in two stages: incineration and subsequent burial of the remains.

During the Joseon Dynasty, however, cremation was prohibited because it conflicted with the Confucian view of filial piety; when the practice continued among the people, violators were punished.

“Sangol” is the grounding of cremated bones into powder and scattering them in a designated place or over a mountain, river, or sea.

2. Relevant article on surging popularity of cremation and natural burials in modern Korea: “Burial traditions changing fast” from Korea Joongang Daily (in 2012, 74 percent of the dead were cremated in Korea).

Episode 23: The rice-cooking competition

Episode 22 recap: Lady Jung dies, and her ashes are scattered to the winds on the mountainside.

To put an end to the boycott, Lady Han asks the Queen Mother and the Queen to hold a final competition between her and Lady Choi.
The Queen arranges a rice-cooking competition between Lady Han and Lady Choi, with all the senior court ladies of the Royal Kitchen acting as the judges.

Lady Han visits with Jang Geum the place where Lady Jung’s ashes were scattered. Later on, they visit the cave where Jang Geum buried her mother.

Jang Geum sees the caterpillar mushroom in the meal that was prepared for the King and remembers what her mother said. She decides to place in the buried jar of persimmon vinegar a letter introducing herself to her mother’s best friend.

After Min Jung Ho becomes an official with the Office of Internal Affairs, he asks Lady Han for help in investigating the corrupt activities of Minister Oh and merchant Choi Pan Sul. Agreeing to help, Lady Han appoints Jang Geum as the “Accounting Lady” to inventory all the supplies coming into the Royal Kitchen.

Episode 24: The secret revealed

Episode 23 recap: Lady Han wins the rice-cooking competition and officially becomes the Highest Kitchen Lady. Lady Choi, on the other hand, asks to be demoted to the pantry.

Although she has been given full powers by the Queen Mother, Lady Han refuses to take revenge against those who boycotted her.

Jang Geum’s and Min Jung Ho’s investigations are now causing fear and apprehension among the senior court ladies in the Royal Kitchen and the other court officials under Minister Oh.
After examining all the accounting books and the recipe notebook that were stolen from Jang Geum, Lady Choi asks Young Ro to secretly return them. But Young Ro keeps for herself the notebook. Later on, as she and Yeun Seng fight over the notebook, Lady Han confiscates it.

Agitated over losing the notebook and with her letter in the jar of persimmon vinegar still unread, Jang Geum decides to go to all the kitchens and look for her mother’s best friend. But unknown to her, Young Ro has stolen the letter that her mother wrote for her in the cave.

Piecing things together, Lady Choi realizes that Jang Geum is Park Myeong Yi’s daughter. She and her brother Choi Pan Sul therefore decide to kill Jang Geum and Lady Han.

After Min Jung Ho submits to the King his report on the rampant corruption in the various government offices, Minister Oh orders his men and Choi Pan-sul to stop Min Jung Ho at all costs.

Rebuffed by Min Jung Ho, Keum Young assures Lady Choi that she herself will bring down Lady Han and Jang Geum.

Episode 25: The revelation

In Episode 24, Keum Young warns Min Jung Ho that if he doesn’t stop his investigation, she will report to the authorities his relationship with Jang Geum.

Jang Geum finally finds out that her mother’s best friend is none other than Lady Han.

Having found out their common bond, Jang Geum and Lady Han have a tearful meeting.

But Lady Han also realizes that Lady Choi now knows who Jang Geum really is. She must act quickly to prevent Jang Geum from falling into mortal danger. She locks Young Ro up in a storage room, and later on, calls Lady Choi and Keum Young to her quarters for their new assignment.

Jang Geum seeks out Min Jung Ho and asks for his help in finding out what happened to her father. Sensing that Min Jung Ho has special feelings for Jang Geum, Jang Geum’s adoptive mother warns and reminds her that she is a court lady. Later on, Min Jung Ho entrusts the triple trinket to Gang Duk Gu.

The King and his entourage decide to go to the hot springs of the village that Lady Han suggested. Lady Choi finds out about it and tells his brother Choi Pan Sul — Lady Han and Jang Geum will be vulnerable once they’re outside of the Palace.

Episode 26: The sulfur ducks

Episode 25 recap: Lady Han protects Jang Geum by banishing Lady Choi, Keum Young, and Young Ro to the Ming ambassador’s residence.

Lady Han takes Jang Geum to visit the place where Jang Geum’s mother spent her childhood. On their way back, Lady Han and Jang Geum are attacked by Choi Pan Sul’s men.

Keum Young tries but fails to put poison in the food that was prepared by the Royal Kitchen for the King.
The King collapses after suffering from fever, but the Royal Physicians don’t know what the problem is. Lady Choi and her brother Choi Pan Sul take advantage of the crisis by conniving with the Royal Physicians to place all the blame on Lady Han.

After Minister Oh orders that Lady Han be confined to quarters while the matter is being investigated, the Head Lady tells Lady Choi to take charge of the Royal Kitchen. But Lady Choi refuses.

Upon learning that Jang Geum has been taken by one of the Royal Physicians and some court officials back to the hot springs, Gang Duk-gu tries to find out by himself if there was something wrong with the food that Lady Han prepared for the King.

Based on the investigation by the Royal Physician and the court officials, Minister Oh orders that Lady Han be arrested for poisoning the King. Jang Geum rushes to the herb garden to ask for Dr. Jung's help. Later, Min Jung Ho takes Gang Duk-gu and a local doctor to the hot springs to investigate what really happened.

On Minister Oh’s orders, Jang Geum is arrested on the charge of treason; she and Lady Han are then tortured.

Choi Pan Sul finds out that Min Jung Ho has been investigating his illicit activities with Minister Oh. He orders his man Pil Du to eliminate Min Jung Ho.

Note: Minister Oh and the Head of the Royal Guards (Min Jung Ho’s superior) both mention the name Jo Jung Ahm (aka Jo Gwangjo). Minister Oh wants to make it appear that Jo Gwangjo, in exile, masterminded the King’s poisoning.

Jo Gwang-jo (23 August 1482 – 10 January 1520 ) was “a Korean Neo-Confucian scholar who pursued radical reforms during the reign of Jungjong of Joseon in the early 16th century. He was framed with charges of factionalism by the power elite that opposed his reform measures and was sentenced to drink poison in the Third Literati Purge of 1519.”

Episode 27: The confession

Episode 26 recap: Through the triple trinket, Jang Geum finally learns that Min Jung Ho is the man whom she saved on the mountain.

Keum Young warns Lady Choi and Choi Pan Sul not to harm Min Jung Ho.
Based on Min Jung Ho’s report, the Head of the Royal Guards stops the interrogation of Lady Han and Jang Geum. But Keum Young devises a plan to make it appear that the ducks that were served by Lady Han caused the King to collapse.

Minister Oh accuses the local doctor who advised Min Jung Ho and the royal guard who protected Lady Han and Jang Geum at the hot springs of being Jo Jung-am’s followers.

The man who sold the ducks to Jang Geum later cracks under torture and falsely confesses that the royal guard, Lady Han, and Jang Geum connived to poison the King.

Choi Pan Sul urges Minister Oh to have Lady Han and Jang Geum executed along with Jo Jung-am. Meanwhile, Min Jung Ho begs the Head of the Royal Guards to save Lady Han and Jang Geum.

Notes: 1. During the Joseon Dynasty, the system of justice was inquisitorial, that is, accusation was synonymous with guilt. The purpose of investigation (which included the use of torture) was not to find out the truth but to exact confession from the accused. Please read “Notes On The Development Of Korean Law” by Michal Tomášek (pages 110-111).

2. Spoiler alert / emotional scene - Lady Han tells Jang Geum why she falsely confessed to poisoning the King.

Episode 28: Jeju island

Episode 27 recap: Min Jung Ho has been ordered locked up by his superior to prevent him from being implicated in Lady Han’s case.

Instead of being sentenced to death, Lady Han and Jang Geum are sentenced to become slaves and to be exiled to Jeju island. But on the way there, Lady Han dies.
Jang Geum pleads with the soldiers to bury Lady Han. Later on, she’s put into a boat that will take her to Jeju.

After learning that Lady Han died along the way, Yeun Seng begs the Head Lady to send her to Jeju; Gang Duk-gu, meanwhile, steals the money that his wife has been hiding for years so that he can go to Jeju.

Lady Han dies along the way to Jeju Island (no English
subs, but the emotional scenes speak for themselves)

In Episode 16, the ocean brought joy and a sense of complete freedom to Jang Geum. But in Episode 28, the ocean has become her prison walls.
In Jeju, Jang Geum tries time and time again to escape, but she always gets caught. Locked up in storage room, she meets a woman named Jang Duk; she asks Jang Duk to help her escape.

In the Palace, Lady Choi becomes the new Highest Kitchen Lady, and she immediately gets rid of the accounting system that Lady Han instituted.

Min Jung Ho finally learns that Jang Geum is the woman who saved him on the mountainside. Leaving his responsibilities in the capital, he follows Jang Geum to Jeju. There, he talks to the non-commissioned officer in charge of Jang Geum; he also secretly hires a boatman who can help Jang Geum escape from the island.

Note: At the 6:37 mark of Ep. 28, soldiers bury Lady Han. At the 6:50 mark, Jang Geum begs the soldiers to build a mound, but they refuse.

Later, in Ep. 32 (27:18 mark), Jang Geum’s adoptive father, Gang Duk-gu, suddenly realizes that Lady Han’s grave does not have a mound over it. He then forces the Jeju officer to go back to town and get some tools to build a mound.

The article “Funeral Rites” (AsianInfo) explains the practical reason why mounds were built over graves: “The earth was packed into a mound shape to prevent water seepage. Called ‘dalgujil,’ this process of packing the earth by stamping on it was done with the accompaniment of music. It also had to be done in odd-number layers (usually three to five layers).”

At the 25:53 mark of Ep. 32, Jang Geum picks off the dried grass on Lady Han’s grave. In traditional Korean burial and funerary customs that are still practiced today, relatives visit annually the graves of their deceased loved ones and replant the grass on the burial mounds. These visits usually take place during the “Hansik” or “Cheongmyeong” days.

Episode 29: Jang Duk

Episode 28 recap: Min Jung Ho offers Jang Geum a way to escape, but she stays, relying on his word that he will work even for years to clear Lady Han’s name.
Min Jung Ho becomes the highest military officer in Jeju. Jang Geum, on the other hand, is assigned to work for Jang Duk, Jeju’s lady physician. But she rebels against what she sees as Jang Duk’s rudeness and greed for money. She impresses Jang Duk, however, with her intelligence and experience.

Gang Duk Gu has bought all the sulfur ducks from the hot springs and, with his wife, has been eating them for the last three months. And yet he and his wife haven’t collapsed like the King or the slave Hong.

As Yeun Seng continues her rebellion in the Royal Kitchen, Lady Choi punishes her, Chang Yee, and Lady Min. Later, while wandering around the Palace, she comes across the dog that the Ming Emperor gave to the King.

Jang Geum protests against Jang Duk’s uncaring attitude towards a sick, peasant boy. She borrows money from Min Jung Ho to buy medicine for the boy; she also tells him that Jang Duk and Officer Park Gu-man (the non-commissioned officer) are building something private by using government resources.

Jang Duk is ordered locked up after she treats a political exile. Later on, however, Jeju’s governor informs her that she has been ordered to go to the capital and work for the Royal Pharmacy.

No English subs,but the cute scene speaks for itself.
Note: Cute scene - Jang Geum was chastised by an official for talking to Min Jung Ho in a familiar way even though she’s a slave; she later starts acting and talking with Min Jung Ho in a formal manner. Min Jung Ho pleads with her that she can talk and act in a friendly manner when they’re alone, but she refuses. Her tone and demeanor, however, immediately change when he mentions that he brought sulfur with him.

Episode 30: The way back to the Palace

Episode 29 recap: Jang Geum learns that by becoming a lady physician, she can work her way back to the Palace.
Jang Geum begins her medical training under Jang Duk, despite the protests of the three women who have been helping Jang Duk for the last several years.

Jang Geum perseveres despite Jang Duk’s rapid-fire system of teaching; she also gets whipped by Jang Duk every time that she makes a mistake.

In the Palace, as Yeun Seng spends her lonely nights wandering around, she plays with and feeds the dog that was given to the King by the Ming Emperor. But then, the Head Lady comes upon her and scolds her.

Lady Choi and Choi Pan-sul have brought into the Royal Kitchen a young girl whom they want to take over from Keum Young in the future. But Keum Young begins training the girl, not in the culinary secrets of the Choi family, but in the way that Lady Han trained Jang Geum.

In Jeju, Jang Geum unexpectedly meets a long-lost friend. But her friend and Jang Duk soon begin to oppose each other. She also learns why a talented person like Jang Duk lives in Jeju, a place for soldiers, slaves, and exiles.

Jang Geum becomes torn between her desire for revenge and medicine’s noble purpose.

Note: Starting at the 32:29 mark of Ep. 30, Jang Geum learns about the different kinds of pulses from her mentor Jang Duk. Throughout this drama, you can see numerous scenes of a character checking or reading the pulse of another character. Two of the earliest scenes of pulse reading are in Ep. 6 (Jang Geum checks the pulse of Min Jung Ho to see if he’s still alive) and in Ep. 7 (Dr, Jeong checks the condition of the slave who ate some poisonous fruits). The pulse-reading theme reaches its climax in Ep, 36 when Jang Geum and Yeul-yee take turns in checking the Queen’s pulse.

For more information about pulse reading in traditional Chinese medicine, please surf to:

“The 29 Pulses in Chinese Medicine (TCM) Pulse Diagnosis”

“The Significance of Traditional Pulse Diagnosis in the Modern Practice of Chinese Medicine”

“Pregnancy pulse checks will be put to the test” (China Daily)

“Can a pulse test confirm pregnancy? Chinese medicine says yes” (USA Today)

Episode 31: The pirates

Episode 30 recap: Jang Geum is torn between Dr. Jeong (the former herb garden’s supervisor) and Jang Duk, between her desire for revenge and medicine’s noble purpose.

In the Palace, Yeun Seng becomes one of the King’s concubines.
Two years later ...

Jang Geum is traumatized by her mistake in acupuncture that nearly killed Jang Duk.

Min Jung Ho, his soldiers, and Jang Duk are ordered to go to another island. Jang Geum is left in charge of the pharmacy, but she refuses to accept the responsibility.

That night, Japanese pirates invade Jeju. They threaten to kill everyone unless Jang Geum treats their leader.

Episode 32: The young master

Episode 31 recap: Jang Geum is forced to treat the leader of the pirates when they threaten to kill the prisoners one by one, beginning with Gang Duk Gu. Despite her trauma with acupuncture, she’s able to treat the leader. She’s also able to contact Min Jung Ho, and their plan succeeds in driving away the pirates.
Jang Geum is ordered arrested and brought to Hanyang for supposedly aiding the Japanese pirates. When Min Jung Ho finds out that the Jeju governor is taking all the credit for driving off the pirates, he hurriedly submits a report of what really happened. But Minister Oh refuses to back down and says that Jang Geum must be punished.

While in Hanyang, Jang Geum is visited by her adoptive parents and by Dr. Jeong. Jang Geum tells Dr. Jeong that her desire for revenge only grew stronger when she saw the Palace again.

The Head of the Royal Guards wants to recall Min Jung Ho for a promotion in the Palace, but Min Jung Ho turns it down so that he can return to Jeju with Jang Geum.

On the way back to Jeju, Jang Geum visits Lady Han’s grave. While Gang Duk Gu and the Jeju officer are building a mound for Lady Han, a young master orders them to stop.

1. In Korean, young master is “doryeonnim” while a young lady is “agasshi.” For more information about terms for parents, grandparents, spouses, in-laws, and terms of endearment, surf to “Korean Family and Kinship Terms” from The Talking Cupboard.

2. At the 27:18 mark of Ep. 32, Jang Geum’s adoptive father, Gang Duk-gu, suddenly realizes that Lady Han’s grave does not have a mound over it. He then forces the Jeju officer to go back to town and get some tools to build a mound.

The article “Funeral Rites” (AsianInfo) explains the practical reason why mounds were built over graves: “The earth was packed into a mound shape to prevent water seepage. Called ‘dalgujil,’ this process of packing the earth by stamping on it was done with the accompaniment of music. It also had to be done in odd-number layers (usually three to five layers).”

At the 25:53 mark, Jang Geum picks off the dried grass on Lady Han’s grave. In traditional Korean burial and funerary customs that are still practiced today, relatives visit annually the graves of their deceased loved ones and replant the grass on the burial mounds. These visits usually take place during the “Hansik” or “Cheongmyeong” days.

Episode 33: Dr. Shin and the training for lady physicians

Episode 32 recap: Jang Geum correctly diagnoses the young master’s sickness and treats him. Out of gratitude, the young master’s father offers a better resting place for Lady Han. He also informs Jang Geum about the selection and training for new lady physicians.

Despite Dr. Jeong’s misgivings about Jang Geum and her desire for revenge, he allows her to become part of the training.
On the first training day, Dr. Shin, the professor in charge of the medical training, warns Jang Geum that he will definitely fail her. On the other hand, the Confucian-classics professor praises Jang Geum and turns over the class to her.

Because of Dr. Shin’s anger towards her, Jang Geum is ostracized by her fellow trainees. The only one who agrees to be her study partner is a shy and insecure trainee named Shin-bi.

Because they have been banned from selling their goods to the Palace, Gang Duk Gu and his wife swallow their pride and seek Choi Pan Sul’s help. Meanwhile, Min Jung Ho tries to encourage his former comrades to rejoin the government.

Despite Jang Geum’s excellence and her persistence that includes washing the laundry of the other trainees, Dr. Shin tells her that she doesn’t have what it takes to be a lady physician.

Episode 34: The conflict

Episode 33 recap: Jang Geum becomes friends with Shin-bi, a fellow trainee. By observing how Shin-bi methodically questions patients, she learns what her mistakes are and how to become humble.
A conflict arises between Dr. Shin and the Confucian-classics professor. As a result, Jang Geum, Shin-bi, and all the other girls fail the training.

Angered by the waste in government funds that were used for the training, a court minister intervenes in the conflict. Dr. Jeong also appeals to Min Jung Ho to help Jang Geum.

Episode 35: The reunion

Episode 34 recap: Jang Geum and Shin-bi pass the re-examination, and they’re both assigned to the Royal Pharmacy. Jang Geum, her adoptive parents, Min Jung Ho, and Jang Duk celebrate her accomplishment.

At the Palace, Jang Geum and Shin-bi are treated coldly by the senior lady physicians. They are also humiliated by the junior court ladies who order them to wash their feet.
At a meeting called to discuss the Queen’s health, Jang Geum and Keum Young meet each other again. Keum Young is now the Highest Kitchen Lady, and she’s shocked to see Jang Geum back in the Palace.

Later on, while Jang Geum hastily attends to the Queen in her quarters, Lady Choi rushes in. She’s now the Head Lady, and, just like Keum Young, she’s shocked to see Jang Geum.

Jang Geum begins searching for Lady Min, Chang Yee, and Yeun Seng. Meanwhile, Lady Choi tells her brother Choi Pan Sul that Jang Geum has returned to the Palace; later, she plots with the Head Royal Physician on how to get Jang Geum kicked out of the Royal Pharmacy.

Min Jung Ho’s superior petitions the King to appoint to national defense positions those who were associated with Sir Jo Jung Ahm. To discuss the petition, Min Jung Ho and his superior invite to dinner Minister Oh, his subordinate, and Choi Pan Sul. After the meeting, Min Jung Ho follows Choi Pan Sul and warns him not to threaten or harass Jang Geum.

Note: Minister Oh, Min Jung Ho's superior, Lady Choi, and the King mention (in the subtitles) the name “Sir Jo” numerous times in this episode. If you listen closely to the Korean dialogue, they refer to “Jo Jung Ahm” who is the former close adviser of the King who was deposed and executed. “Jo Jung Ahm” aka Jo Gwang-jo is a historical character; read more about him in the note for Ep. 26.

Episode 36: Jang Geum’s diagnosis

Episode 35 recap:Jang Geum meets both her friends and her enemies. While Yeun Seng tearfully welcomes her, Keum Young humiliates her by asking her to massage her feet.

The Head Royal Physician appoints the incompetent and bumbling Dr. Jo to train Jang Geum and Shinbi on acupuncture.

The Queen suffers a miscarriage, and, later on, Jang Geum tells Shinbi that something’s wrong with the Queen’s pulse reading that was done by Yul-yee, one of the lady physicians.
During a meeting of the Royal Pharmacy, Jang Geum shocks everyone by what she thinks is wrong with the Queen.

Dr. Jeong becomes torn between Jang Geum’s diagnosis and the opposition from the Chief Royal Physician and the senior lady physicians. To help settle the issue, he asks Jang Geum and Yeul-yee to take turns in reading the Queen’s pulse.

Min Jung Ho and his superior lay out plans to improve Joseon’s weaponry. When their plans threaten Minister Oh and other court officials, Lady Choi seeks the Queen Mother's support.

Note: Funny scene: Lady Min scolds Jang Geum for not keeping her mouth shut and Shin-bi for being another troublemaker.

Episode 37: The riddle

Episode 36 recap: Jang Geum is proven right that the Queen has a dead fetus in her womb. She is praised by Dr. Jeong and Dr. Shin, but Yul-yee becomes her enemy.

Min Jung Ho’s superior, the Left Prime Minister, convinces the King that court officials like Minister Oh and his allies must voluntarily give back part of their lands to the royal treasury.
Despite the King and Queen’s urgent pleas, the Queen Mother refuses to accept any medical treatment; she also wants Dr. Shin fired.

Lady Choi tells the King and Queen that the Queen Mother resents how the King refuses to restore Taoism and how he is appointing Jo Jung Ahm’s followers to government positions. But the Left Prime Minister fights back, saying that he’s ready to reveal the truth behind the sulphur ducks incident.

To save Dr. Shin, Jang Geum dares the Queen Mother to to gamble with her. If the Queen Mother can’t answer her riddle, then she must accept medical treatment. But if she can answer the riddle, then Jang Geum will forfeit her life.

Jang Geum gives the Queen Mother only one day to answer the riddle. Young-ro orders the junior court ladies to review the Confucian classics that Jang Geum used to read. When Keum Young finds out the answer, Lady Choi immediately visits the Queen Mother.

Note: Funny scene - Gang Duk Gu and his wife try to find the answer to the riddle.

Episode 38: The medicine pills

Episode 37 recap: The Queen Mother accepts medical treatment even though she knows the answer to Jang Geum’s riddle.

But the delay in treatment has worsened the Queen Mother’s condition. She can’t eat the food that the Royal Physicians prescribe, and she vomits the medicine given to her.
The Royal Pharmacy doesn’t know how to deal with the Queen Mother’s condition. Later, the Queen Mother becomes worse when she contracts beriberi. The Royal Physicians prescribe for her some medicine, but she vomits it again.

Jang Geum studies the list of food that the Royal Kitchen has been serving to the Queen Mother. After coming up with a plan that Dr. Shin approves, she then secretly prepares the medicine in Yeun Seng’s kitchen.

Yul-yee feels insulted that Dr. Shin bypassed her authority. She spies on what Jang-Geum is doing with the Queen Mother’s medicine and then reports it to the Head Royal Physician. When the Queen finds out about it, she orders Jang Geum to stop what she’s doing; she also fires Dr. Shin from his position.

Episode 39: The plague

Episode 38 recap: Jang Geum skillfully hides the garlic in the Queen Mother’s medicine pills by using her culinary skills.

The Queen Mother’s condition improves, and she praises both Dr. Shin and Jang Geum.

The Head Eunuch recognizes Jang Geum and promises to help her in some little ways. Jang Geum asks him to get the King and Yeun Seng to meet each other again.

The Queen also recognizes Jang Geum and asks her to make the buckwheat cakes that she prepared during the competition.
Keum Young feels humiliated when the Queen prefers Jang Geum’s buckwheat cakes over what she prepared for the Queen’s late-night snack. She asks Yeul-yee to help her get Jang Geum kicked out of the Palace. Yeul-yee cautions Keum Young, however, that she will ask for a big reward in return.

As a result of Yeul-yee’s intrigues, the Head Royal Physician disciplines Jang Geum. He takes Jang Geum and the incompetent Dr. Jo as part of a medical contingent to a village where a plague has started. In the village, Jang Geum gets into more trouble.

The plague soon spreads out of control and threatens even the capital.

Note: Continuity error in Ep. 39?

In the last few minutes of Ep. 38 (1st picture), the Queen asks Jang Geum to make for her some buckwheat cakes. Notice that Jang Geum is wearing a cyan and pink uniform.

In the first minutes of Ep. 39 (2nd picture), Jang Geum returns to the Queen’s quarters after making the buckwheat cakes. Notice that Jang Geum is now wearing the formal uniform of lady physicians (white blouse and dark blue skirt).

Is this an egregious example of a continuity error, with no one among the production staff noticing that Jang Geum was wearing the wrong uniform?

I don’t think this is a continuity error. Episode 39 isn’t the only instance when a character changes clothes in successive scenes. Examples:

1. Episode 4: Lady Jung goes to the kitchen to prepare her first meal for the King. You can see that she’s wearing her formal robe (dark green blouse and dark blue skirt). While she’s cooking, she’s wearing a light green dress with white overalls. Later on, while serving the King, she’s again wearing her formal robe.

2. Episode 21: Lady Choi wears a light green dress with white overalls while cooking. But when she serves the food to the King, Queen, and Queen Mother, she’s wearing the formal (light-green) blouse and (dark-green) skirt.

3. Episode 34: Jang Geum and Shinbi report to the Royal Pharmacy wearing the formal uniform of lady physicians (white blouse and dark blue skirt). After being reprimanded by a senior lady physician, they visit the haughty court lady in her quarters; notice that they have changed to their cyan and pink uniforms.

4. Episode 35: Jang Geum wears her cyan and pink uniform while meeting Min Jung Ho and attending the Royal Pharmacy meeting later on. On her way out of the Palace to go to Min Jung Ho’s house, she sees Lady Choi and the Head Royal Physician together. Notice that she’s wearing her formal white blouse and dark-blue skirt.

5. Episode 39: Keum Young likewise changes clothes while cooking the food and later while serving the food to the Queen.

Based on these examples, I think that in Episode 39, Jang Geum changed into her lady physician’s uniform (white blouse and dark blue skirt) in order to show respect to the Queen while serving the cakes.

(But the only problem with my analysis is that in Episode 21, unlike Lady Choi, Jang Geum and Keum Young didn’t change their clothes while cooking the food and while serving them to the King, Queen, and Queen Mother. Maybe, because they were just assistants? I’ve got to look deeper into this matter.)

Episode 40: The quarantine

Episode 39 recap: All medical personnel have been ordered out of the village because the plague can no longer be controlled. But Yeul-yee misleads Jang Geum by not telling her about the order.

Min Jung Ho leaves his responsibilities and breaks through the blockade to get to Jang Geum.

The villagers think that the government has abandoned them, and they turn their anger towards Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho.

When the medicines run out, the villagers allow Min Jung Ho to leave to get some from another village. But they threaten to kill Jang Geum if Min Jung Ho doesn’t return the next day.

In the Palace, Minister Oh and the Head Royal Physician accuse Min Jung Ho and Jang Geum of abandoning their responsibilities and running away. On the other hand, Yeul-yee asks Keum Young for her reward in getting rid of Jang Geum.

When the villagers suspect that Jang Geum has become infected with the plague, they lock her up in a storage shed. But then, fires start all over the village, sending the villagers into panic.

Episode 41: Yeun Seng

Episode 40 recap: Min Jung Ho rescues Jang Geum from the fire. He has returned to the village not only with medicine but also with Jang Duk.

Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho find out that what has been causing the people’s sicknesses is not a plague but food poisoning. They rush back to the Palace, but their disappearance for 15 days causes a stir among court officials and the Royal Pharmacy. Their finding is confirmed, however, when Lady Choi gets sick after she eats an infected vegetable.
Jang Geum goes to Lady Choi’s quarters to treat her, but Keum Young orders her to get out.

Minister Oh claims all the credit for finding out that it was food poisoning and not a plague. He also misleads the King into dismissing Min Jung Ho from his government post. Finding out about Min Jung Ho’s dismissal, Jang Duk and the villagers become outraged.

When Yeul-yee sticks to her lies, the Head Royal Physician demotes Jang Geum to the civilian office.

Yeun-seng becomes pregnant, and Yeul-yee is assigned to look after her.


1. Memorable scene: After being appointed as “Suk-won” (4th rank below the Queen), Yeun-seng humiliates Keum Young (and later, Lady Choi) for all the hurts that they brought on her beloved Lady Jung. She asks Keum Young to prepare one table after another, saying that her food is inedible.

2. Funny scene: After Yeun Seng’s promotion, the kitchen maids profusely apologize to her. Lady Min scolds them by using Lady Han’s words in Episode 24.

Episode 42: The King’s medical records

Episode 41 recap: Jang Geum finds out about Yul-yee’s deliberate mis-diagnosis of Yeun Seng’s condition and reports it to Dr. Shin.
Dr. Shin questions Yul-yee for her mis-diagnosis, while Jang Geum warns Lady Min and Chang Yee about Lady Choi’s plot against Yeun Seng.

Jang Geum decides that it’s time to investigate why the King collapsed during the sulfur ducks incident that led to Lady Han’s death. But Min Jung Ho tells her that lady physicians are not allowed to examine the King.

Jang Geum gains access to the King’s medical records that are kept inside a room that’s closely guarded by eunuchs. As she secretly takes the records out, she and Jang Duk copy them overnight.

Lady Choi orders Keum Young to get Jang Geum kicked out of the Palace based on immorality. Later, Keum Young arranges a late-night meeting between herself and Min Jung Ho.

Note: Jang Geum’s adoptive mother warns her to stop her relationship with Min Jung Ho. She reminds Jang Geum that, under Joseon’s strict laws on distinction between social classes, she (a government slave) can only be a concubine to Min Jung Ho (a “yangban” or nobleman).

For more information about the various social classes, please surf to “Social Strata of Joseon Dynasty” (The Talking Cupboard).

Episode 43: The blame game

Episode 42 recap: Keum Young meets Min Jung Ho and prepares a table for him. She tells him that she has loved him all these years.

Jang Geum is caught by the eunuchs. The Head Eunuch intervenes on Jang Geum’s behalf, but Lady Choi confronts him.
The Head Eunuch defends Jang Geum and tells Lady Choi that the matter is outside of her jurisdiction. But, despite the Head Royal Physician’s hesitation, Lady Choi, Minister Oh, and Choi Pan Sul pressure the eunuch-inspector to punish Jang Geum.

The King becomes more sick, but the Head Royal Physician doesn’t know the cause and the cure. He tells Yeul-yee to prepare various kinds of medicine, but Jang Geum asks Shinbi to secretly watch Yeul-yee. Meanwhile, Keum Young prepares exotic mushrooms and meats for the King’s food.

The Queen finds out that Jang Geum has stolen the King’s medical records. Feeling that her trust has been betrayed, she orders the Head Eunuch and Lady Choi to punish Jang Geum. The eunuchs snatch Jang Geum and, later, bring her to the forest. One of the eunuchs carries a bottle of poison.

Notes: 1. Deja vu - In Episode 1, Jang Geum’s mother was dragged to the forest to be poisoned to death. Now, it’s Jang Geum’s turn to be dragged to the forest.

2. Notice the screen behind the Queen which shows the moon, sun, mountain peaks, and streams; you’ve probably seen this screen before in other K-historical dramas. The screen is called “Ilwolobongdo” or “Irworobongdo” (Sun, Moon and Five Peaks); it symbolizes the authority of the Joseon monarchy. It originated from Taoism, as you can read in “Exhibition on Taoist Culture in Korea: the road to happiness.”

Episode 44: Betrayals and alliances

Episode 43 recap: The King collapses, and to Lady Choi’s surprise, the Head Royal Physician blames the Royal Kitchen. Keum Young is later arrested.

The Queen fakes Jang Geum’s death. She secretly meets Jang Geum and tells her that if she can’t find out what’s wrong with the King, then she will disappear forever.
Jang Geum is brought by the Head Eunuch to the herb garden where she meets Min Jung Ho and Jang Duk. Their assignment from the Queen is to find out the cause of and the cure for the King’s sickness.

The conflict intensifies between the Head Royal Physician, on one hand, and Lady Choi, Keum Young, and Choi Pan Sul, on the other. On Min Jung Ho’s instructions, the Royal Guards search Choi Pan Sul’s house. Meanwhile, as the eunuch-inspectors search the Royal Kitchen, they find a suspicious mushroom in Keum Young’s jar.

The situation becomes even more complicated when the former Head Lady appears and allies herself with Minister Oh against Lady Choi.

Note: Yeun Seng becomes distraught when Young Ro tells her that she saw the eunuchs drag Jang Geum through the “gate of the dead” (aka “Shigumun” or “Sigumun Gate”).

During the Joseon Dynasty, the capital Hanyang (modern Seoul) was surrounded by a series of walls known as “Hanyangdoseong.” It was 18.6-kilometers long and was originally constructed from 1396 to 1398 by 200,000 laborers. It had four major gates, which represented the basic tenets of Confucianism, namely, benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom.

The first picture (on the right) of Hanyang’s walls comes from the 1904 book “Korea through Australian eyes” by George Rose; the second picture, meanwhile, shows part of the modern, reconstructed wall.)

Between the four main gates, there were four ancillary gates. The southeast ancillary gate was used for bringing dead or dying people out of the capital, thus the name “gate of the dead.” Besides “Shigumun (Sigumun) Gate,” this gate was also called “Sugumun Gate” (Water Channel Gate}; in 1719, the gate was officially named “Gwanghuimun Gate.”

If you have seen the 2010 hit drama “Dong Yi,” you might remember that, in Episode 4, the young Dong Yi and her friend Gaeduara escaped from the policemen by hiding behind the “Shigu Gate” (“mun” is Korean for “gate”).

For more information about these walls and how tourists can trek the trails around the reconstructed walls, surf to “Follow the Trails of History and Culture, Hanyangdoseong” and “The walls and gates of Seoul.”

Episode 45: In and out of jail

Episode 44 recap: Yul-yee acts on behalf of the former Head Lady and frames Keum Young by planting poisonous mushroom in the Royal Kitchen.

Minister Oh orders the arrest of Lady Choi, Keum Young, and Choi Pan Sul.

Jang Geum faces a dilemma — if she reveals the truth about the King’s sickness, it will get Lady Choi and Keum Young released from prison. She visits them in their jail cell and tells them to ask for Lady Han’s forgiveness.
Jang Geum reports to the Queen that she has found the cure but not the cause or the name of the King’s sickness. Having read Dr. Jo’s rare medical book, however, the Head Royal Physician tries to regain the Queen’s favor by saying that the King is suffering from Behcet’s disease and that he knows the cure.

The Queen is torn between the contrary advice given by the Head Royal Physician and by Jang Geum. Meanwhile, the court ministers are outraged that the Queen bypassed the authority of Minister Oh and the Royal Pharmacy by relying on a mere lady physician.

Later on, however, the Queen allows Jang Geum to treat the King. When Jang Geum tells the Royal Pharmacy to acupuncture the King at certain points, Dr. Jeong and Dr. Shin protest that her proposed treatment is dangerous.

When the King becomes blind, the Queen orders that Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho be arrested.

Episode 46: Revealing the truth

Episode 45 recap: The Queen releases Jang Geum but keeps Min Jung Ho locked up.

Jang Geum continues investigating the cause of the King’s sickness by reading books and doing field work under guard.

After she prescribes the ginseng that Dr. Jeong showed her in Jeju, Jang Geum applies acupuncture on the King and then massages him throughout the night.
The King regains his sight, and Jang Geum explains to everyone what has caused the King’s sickness all these years. But later on, Minister Oh complains to the King about the Queen’s secret order that bypassed the Royal Pharmacy; he also says that Jang Geum must be punished for stealing the King’s medical records.

After she and Keum Young are released from prison, Lady Choi immediately deals with the former Head Lady and threatens Minister Oh against abandoning her. Later, Minister Oh orders his subordinate and Young Ro’s uncle to find out everything about Lady Choi, Lady Han, and Jang Geum.

Jang Geum, Jang Duk, and Min Jung Ho decide that it’s time to reveal how Lady Choi and the Head Royal Physician connived with each other during the sulfur ducks incident that led to Lady Han’s death. Through Yeun-seng, Jang Geum arranges a secret meeting with the King.

Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho decide to try and convince the Head Royal Physician to testify against Lady Choi. But Choi Pan Sul has already sent his bodyguard Pil-du to kill the Head Royal Physician.

Note: Emotional scene - Jang Geum rushes to see Min Jung Ho as he is being released from jail. He tells her that he regrets having encouraged her all these years because it has brought her to danger.

Episode 47: The tug of war

Episode 46 recap: The Chief Royal Physician is found dead.

Jang Geum tells Lady Choi and Keum Young that she has the Head Royal Physician’s will and that she will give it to the Queen unless they confess.

Young Ro’s loyalty is torn between Lady Choi and Minister Oh, who both offer large bribes to her.
Young Ro offers to Jang Geum the large bribes from Lady Choi and Minister Oh; in exchange, she wants Jang Geum to use her influence with the Queen so that she can be appointed as the new Head Lady.

Later on, the tug of war between Lady Choi and Minister Oh escalates, with Young Ro caught in the middle.

Both the Queen Mother and the King learn that the Head Royal Physician left a will. After the King orders an investigation of everyone involved, Minister Oh and Lady Choi begin hurling accusations against each other.

Episode 48: The Highest Kitchen Lady

Episode 47 recap: Lady Choi orders that Young Ro be killed. She also forces Yeul-yee to forge a will of the Head Royal Physician that implicates Minister Oh.

Lady Choi asks Jang Geum to take her to her mother’s grave.

While the accusations are flying back and forth, the Head Royal Physician suddenly turns up alive.
The Head Royal Physician faked his death, according to Min Jung Ho’s plan. During the investigation, he reveals how Lady Choi and Minister Oh connived in the sulfur ducks incident.

The King orders the arrest of Lady Choi, Minister Oh, Choi Pan Sul, Keum Young, Yul-yee, and the Head Royal Physician.

But Lady Choi disappears.

Note: Emotional scene - Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho go out to the field at night, and she remembers her parents and everything that she has gone through.

Episode 49: The Queen’s order

Episode 48 recap: Lady Choi revisits the grave of Jang Geum’s mother. Later, walking around in a daze, she plunges to her death.

Minister Oh and Choi Pan Sul are sentenced to death, while Keum Young is stripped of her position and banished from the Palace.

On Jang Geum’s request, the King restores the status of Lady Han and of her mother. The King also grants Jang Geum’s wish that she be appointed temporarily as the Highest Kitchen Lady. She is finally able to write her mother’s grievances in the secret journal.
The King finds out that Jang Geum was the little girl who brought him the wine the day before he was enthroned.

The King reluctantly grants Jang Geum’s wish that she be assigned to a public health center outside of the Palace. She begins learning how to treat diseases that she did not encounter while she was at the Royal Pharmacy. But her days are clouded by some misunderstandings with Min Jung Ho.

Meanwhile, in the Palace, a new competition is held to choose the next Highest Kitchen Lady.

Later on, the Queen reminds Jang Geum that she owes her life to her. Jang Geum must therefore do something for her.

Note: Why are the King, Min Jung-ho, the Royal Pharmacy staff, and her adoptive parents so concerned about Jang Geum's decision to be assigned to the “public health center”?

Starting in Ep. 35, Lady Choi and the Head Royal Physician connived to kick Jang Geum out of the Royal Pharmacy and to have her demoted to the “civilian office.” If you listen closely to the Korean dialogue (for example, 51:58 mark of Ep. 35), you will hear the Head Royal Physician say the word “Hyeminseo.”

In Ep. 49, Jang Geum surprises everyone when she asked the King to assign her to the “public health center.” If you listen carefully to the Korean dialogue (for example, 3:45 mark), you will hear Jang Geum and the King use the word “Hwalinseo.”

During the Joseon Dynasty, there were two hospitals for the public — Hyeminseo and Hwalinseo. The Hyeminseo was the general hospital, while the Hwalinseo (where Jang Geum wanted to be assigned) was the hospital for beggars, prisoners, and those with infectious diseases.

For more information, please read “Medical licensing examination (uigwa) and the world of the physician officers (uigwan) in Korea’s Joseon Dynasty” by Nam Hee Lee, Department of Korean Culture, College of Won Buddhism, Wonkwang University, Iksan, Korea.

Episode 50: The runaways

Episode 49 recap: The Queen wants to protect her position and that of her young son. She asks Jang Geum to end the Crown Prince’s life.

But Jang Geum refuses, putting her life on the line. The King overhears her conversation with the Queen and orders her to reveal what the Queen asked her to do.

Pressured by the conflict between the King and the Queen, Jang Geum decides to elope with Min Jung Ho.

Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho elope, but Min Jung Ho’s superior sends soldiers to pursue them.

Meanwhile, at the Palace, the King’s plan to appoint Jang Geum as his personal physician causes an uproar among the court officials, the Royal Pharmacy, and the Queen Mother.

The Queen Mother and the Queen call Yeun Seng to ask her about the meetings she arranged between the King and Jang Geum. Because of the Queen Mother’s stern words and demeanor, Yeun Seng becomes agitated and goes into labor prematurely.


1. Yeun Seng, who’s suffering from high blood pressure, gives birth prematurely. During labor, she loses consciousness twice; Jang Geum revives her first by using acupuncture and then by rubbing the pressure points. After Yeun Seng finally gives birth, she bleeds profusely and loses consciousness for the third time. (This is one of the most highly-watched scenes of this drama, with over 1.9 million views in the MBC Classic YouTube channel.)

2. During the third time when Yeun Seng loses consciousness, Jang Geum uses a tube to blow some medicine into her nostrils (starting at 6:48 mark). She then pumps Yeun Seng’s chest to revive her.

There’s a similar and explanatory scene in Episode 16 of “The King’s Doctor” (2012) where Kwanghyun tries to revive Eun-so. He remembers Jinyung telling him to use indigo and wild ginger for victims of asphyxiation, but he doesn’t know exactly how. But he starts pumping her chest nevertheless. Jinyung later arrives and applies the indigo and wild ginger above Eun-so’s lip and then blows them into her nostrils. This makes Eun-so cough and start breathing again. For more information about Joseon medicine, surf to “Heo Jun: brilliant physician in 16th century Korea.”

Episode 51: The smallpox outbreak

Episode 50 recap: Yeun Seng nearly dies giving birth prematurely, but Jang Geum saves her.

Because of Yeun Seng and Dr. Shin, Jang Geum decides to decline the King’s appointment.
As Jang Geum pleads with the King to recall his order that makes her his personal physician, the Head Eunuch rushes in and says that the Queen’s son, Prince Kyung-won, has collapsed and is seriously sick. While Dr. Jung tries to diagnose the sickness, the King asks the Queen to allow Jang Geum to treat her son. But the Queen refuses.

Jang Geum returns to the public health center, but petitions continue to reach the King, asking that Min Jung Ho be dismissed from his office and be sent into exile.

Dr. Jeong and Dr. Shin finally diagnose that Prince Kyung-won has been stricken with smallpox. The smallpox also spreads throughout the city. Jang Geum quarantines all the sick children in her area in an isolated hut on a mountainside; she risks her life in taking care of them. But the Royal Pharmacy staff are skeptical that her methods will prevent or cure smallpox.

In desperation over her son’s worsening condition, the Queen visits Jang Geum in her isolated hut and begs her to come back to the Palace and treat her son.

Episode 52: The King’s concubine

Episode 51 recap: The Royal Pharmacy staff, acting under Jang Geum’s directions, are able to save the Queen’s son.

The Queen gratefully thanks Jang Geum and asks her to forget what she asked her to do with the Crown Prince. She promises Jang Geum that she will from then on be a source of strength to her.

Dr. Shin shocks the court officials by endorsing Jang Geum as the King’s personal physician.
The Royal Court is thrown into turmoil over the King’s decision to promote Jang Geum and by Min Jung Ho’s refusal to disobey the King’s order. But later on, the King is forced to rescind his order.

The King and Jang Geum begin spending time together, with Jang Geum helping the King to relax and unburden himself. When the Queen Mother finds out about it, however, she orders the Queen to appoint Jang Geum as the King’s concubine.

The news that Jang Geum will be appointed as the King’s concubine spreads like wildfire. But Jang Geum pleads with the Queen that all she wants is to practice medicine.

Episode 53: The sacrifice

Episode 52: Yeun Seng learns about Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho’s love for each other. She visits the King to plead on Jang Geum’s behalf.
The King confronts Jang Geum on whether she really loves Min Jung Ho. Later on, at the archery range, the King aims his bow and arrow at Min Jung Ho.

The Queen signs the order appointing Jang Geum as a Royal Concubine.

The King sends Min Jung Ho into exile.

Note: Emotional scene - As Min Jung Ho is marched into exile, Jang Geum runs after him and gives him the triple trinket.

Episode 54: The finale

Episode 53 recap: Min Jung Ho tells the King that he is willing to die if that will allow Jang Geum to be all that she can be.

The King promotes Jang Geum to be his personal physician, despite opposition from the court officials. But he bows to the demand of the court officials that Min Jung Ho be sent into exile.
The King orders Min Jung Ho to take Jang Geum to Ming in order to escape the wrath of the court officials and for her to continue practicing medicine.

Eight years later …

Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho have been leading the lives of fugitives, moving from one village to another to evade the authorities looking for them.

They now have a daughter, who’s as inquisitive, bright, and willful as Jang Geum was at the same age.

Jang Geum hasn’t given up practicing medicine and treats people from all walks of life. But she gets into trouble when she suggests a radical way of treating a woman in labor. As the villagers pursue Jang Geum, Min Jung Ho, and their daughter, Gang Duk Gu catches a glimpse of them.

Yeun Seng musters up her courage and asks the Queen Regent to restore Jang Geum’s status.

Spoiler alert: Video below (no English subs) shows Jang Geum, Min Jung Ho, and their daughter returning to the Palace.

Historical backgrounders and other information

1. The worldwide success of this drama sparked interest in Korean royal and traditional cuisine. For more information about Korean royal cuisine, please surf to “Jewels of the Palace, Royal Recipes from Old Korea” (written by Han Bok-ryeo and published by The Korean Food Foundation). Besides giving the recipes (with modern food-styling techniques) of 70 dishes featured in this drama or which were served to the Joseon royal family, this resource traces the development of Korean royal cuisine. It also provides some behind-the-scenes information about the filming of this drama.

Starting at the 7:37 mark, Lee Young-ae and
her twins lead the hosts of the “Master in the
House” reality show (2019) to her backyard
vegetable garden; her cabbages are gigantic!
In Part 2, she recounts how she cut her finger
with a knife while filming a scene in “A Jewel
in the Palace.” (English subs available.)
Among other recipes, “Jewels of the Palace, Royal Recipes from Old Korea” provides the recipes for the following snacks and dishes featured in this drama:

Episode 3: Jang Geum and Yeun-seng spilled the milk porridge (“Tarakjuk”) that was supposed to be served as the King’s midnight snack. As a substitute for the King’s snack, Lady Han hastily prepared honeyed ginger sweets (“Saenggangran”).

Episode 5: For the first meal that she prepared for the King, Lady Jung served grilled, sliced pork (“Maekjeok”) that was marinated in soybean paste (“deonjang”) instead of soy sauce. The dish that Lady Jung asked Keum-young to taste is “Hongsijuksunchae” or seasoned bamboo shoots with soft persimmon.

Episode 8: Jang Geum competed with the other kitchen ladies in making “mandu” (dumplings).

Episode 9: During the Royal Hunt, Jang Geum and Keum Young prepared for the King cold noodle soup with pear and radish water kimchi (“Bae-dongchimiguksu”).

Episode 15: To show her gratitude to Min Jung Ho, Jang Geum cooked “Samsaek-danja” or tri-colored, glutinous rice cakes.

Episode 19: Because the Ming envoy was suffering from diabetes, Jang Geum served him assorted vegetable dishes known as “Gaksaekchae.”

My only complaint against this resource is that it doesn’t have the recipe for the brimstone (sulfur) duck that Lady Han served to the King in Episode 26 or that was cooked by Gang Duk-gu in Episode 29.

For more information about Korean royal cuisine, please surf to “Royal Cuisine of Joseon Dynasty” and Savor Korea (28) Korean royal cuisine uncovered” (Korea Herald).

2. Historical inspiration for “Lady Han” character

“Lady Han” is one of the most-beloved characters in this drama. In the original script, she was supposed to die in Ep. 19; when the fans revolted, however, the production company had to rewrite the drama so that her death was delayed up to Ep. 28.

“Lady Han” is based on the historical figure Han Hui-sun, the last court lady of Joseon’s royal kitchen (picture on the upper left). Han Hui-sun passed on her legacy to Hwang Hye-seong (picture on the lower left), who in turn passed on her legacy to Han Bok-ryeo, current director of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine (picture on the lower right).

In the picture on the upper right, you can see Han Bok-ryeo teaching Lee Young-ae during the filming of the drama.

“Janggeum’s Dream” (animated version of “A Jewel in the Palace”)

From Wikipedia: “Janggeum’s Dream” is a production by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation. The animation was done by Sonokong and Heewon Entertainment. The animation centers on Jang Geum who enters the Royal Kitchen as an apprentice court lady. The animation program has been sold to Tooniverse, resulting in the broadcast of a second series in 2007.

Note: While most of the characters in this animated version are the same as in “A Jewel in the Palace” (Jang Geum, Min Jung Ho, etc.), the stories are different.

Janggeum’s Dream Season One, Episode 1

Janggeums Dream Season Two, Episode 1 (New Beginning)

Videos of “A Jewel in the Palace” theme song

O Na Ra (with English lyrics)

Little Angels - Ohnara, DMC Festival 2015

With memorable scenes from “A Jewel in the Palace”

Children’s choir

Chinese Orchestra “Dae Jang Geum” theme

Lessons in photography from “A Jewel in the Palace”

Rule of thirds, natural frame, cool colors

Golden hours, sidelighting, focus on the eyes

Sidelighting, shallow depth of field, out-of-focus highlights

Rim lighting, out-of-focus highlights

Form and depth through light and shadow

Golden hours

Stacked or compressed perspective

Partial natural frame, rule of thirds

Shooting portraits

Rule of thirds, quality and direction of light

Quality and direction of light

Shallow depth of field, out-of-focus highlights

High contrast sidelighting, light and shadow

Natural frame, backlighting

Silhouette, rule of thirds, natural frame

Silhouette, rule of thirds

Silhouette, rule of thirds

Rim lighting, rule of thirds, high-angle shot

Linear perspective, natural frame

Color temperature, warm and cool colors

Partial natural frame, rule of thirds


Natural frame

Natural frame

Linear perspective, natural frame

Diagonal lines, high-angle shot, rule of thirds

Low-key lighting, high-angle shot, hidden geometric pattern

Partial natural frame

Rule of thirds, high-angle shot

Rule of thirds, diagonal lines

Low-angle shot, rule of thirds