This is a episode commentary. It is intended for someone who has seen this episode, and will contain episode spoilers.

Jewel in the Palace: Episode 2 Commentary

Collage of Jewel in the Palace screenshots.

Hour long episodes are difficult to write anything about because so many things happen. I can’t remember it all by the end of the episode!

This episode was one full of surprises for me, both because of my knowledge of the animated series, and within Jewel in the Palace itself.

First, I’ll have to document some names for personal reference. Jang-Geum’s parents were Suh Cheon-Su and Park Myeong. And Lady Han is Han Baek-Young. That’s the first surprise, to learn that Myeong’s friend from her court lady days it actually Lady Han. I’m left to wonder if the same is true for the animated series, or if the animated series is intended to have no relation to the events of the original series. In the animated series, Jang-Geum never mentions her father, and she holds two rings which have some relation to her mother. There is no mention of her mother having been a court lady.

The other surprise is, of course, that the third woman is Jang-Geum. This makes sense on so many levels. “How can I not meet the third woman” Cheon-Su asked the wise man. “Do not meet the second woman,” the wise man answered back. It isn’t that Cheon-Su will meet the third woman by first meeting the second. It’s that the third would never even have been born. And in the end, Cheon-Su dies because of Jang-Geum. Just as it was told to happen. Likewise, the second woman died because of Cheon-Su, as she set out on travel to see him one last time.

Before I started watching the first episode, I figured, “The events from the animated series will probably seem fantastic compared to the original series,” what with the animated Janggeum going on such a journey, and even meeting a wise man who vanishes. Now I see the animated series stuck nicely to the source material in essence.

Now that Lady Han’s name is known, I’m waiting for Lady Choi’s name. Her brother, Pan-Sul, appeared in the second season of the animated series, so his name I knew. Looking back on the first episode, I believe the young Choi was spoken of only by surname.

Lady Choi has learned well over the past six or so years about the way of the Choi family. She knows what must be done to preserve what her family has. I imagine her family always has children at least in twos: one female, to become a court lady in a high position, and one male, to carry on the family line. After all, the court ladies are unable to sociate with any males, their serving being to the king alone. (Is sociate even a word? If it isn’t, it should be, as it would be based on the Latin socius, meaning companion. Socius is the root word in associate and social both, so I don’t see why sociate isn’t in the dictionary by my desk.)

Looking at the younger Lady Choi, and my remarks about her hair, and how I used the difference in her hair on the sides to differentiate her from Han in the first episode, I realized that that’s the same style that Lady Choi has in the animated series. Realizing that removes any chance I have of mistaking which character is Choi. It’s nice to have a point of reference. It’d be even nicer to have a given name for her, though. Also, the lady who took the money to give advice reminds me of Dong-I’s mother from the animated series. I wonder if she isn’t just a one-shot character.

No child should have to bury her parent. Jang-Geum is a bit young to be looking at her own future, but she has already agreed to be like her mother, as her father had told her to. Myeong wrote for Jang-Geum to become a court lady. Why is this? Does she believe this is where Jang-Geum will do the most good? Or does she hope giving Jang-Geum direction will keep Jang-Geum going, knowing no other direction to give? Scenes are shown of Jang-Geum and her mother cooking meals, giving the impression that Jang-Geum may enjoy cooking as much as her mother must. Still, she’s so young to have lost her mother, and this after being the cause of losing her father.

These two first episodes could have been put side by side and released as a stand-alone movie. It could have ended right where it ended, and been a satisfying movie. It could perhaps have had a few screens of text saying what would become of Jang-Geum.

I’m trying to date Jang-Geum’s birth by looking at some characters and dates. The prince became King Yeonsan-Kun in 1494, and ten years later, 1504, marked the massacre after learning of his mother’s death. This is supported by the on-screen message, subtitled as “10th year of Yeonsan-Kun’s Rule, Massacre of 1504″. If Jang-Geum is eight years old, this would have her born in 1496. First historic records of Jang-geum date to her position as a doctor in 1515. If this Jang-Geum ends up following in her life the history laid out for her, this would place her as a doctor before the age of 25. She is mentioned historically as being the King Jungjong’s doctor up until his death in 1544. She would be 48 years old at this time, if this Jang-Geum follows history’s notes. This also places Jungjong, born in 1488, as ten years older than Jang-Geum.

If I recall correctly, Jang-Geum’s father was about 40 when he met her mother. This places him born around 1456. The queen was poisoned in 1482, putting Cheon-Su as a guard during the poisoning at age 26. That seems a bit young, but maybe just a little.

All years in the two paragraphs above not listed in the episode I’ve taken from Korean: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary, by Keith Pratt and Richard Rutt (with additional material by James Hoare). Exceptions are guessing the fictional Cheon-Su to have been born in 1458, the birthdate of Jungjong, and the dates for Jang-Geum.

I age Jang-Geum in this episode as being eight after reading an article from late 2005 which put her actress, ์กฐ์ •์€ (Jo Jung Eun), at age ten. The second episode of Jewel in the Palace aired in September 2003, so it was filmed when Jung Eun was eight. Otherwise, I would have guessed her to be six years old.

I very much enjoy piecing information together, and trying to decipher things.

There was one thing that bothered me in this episode: the silver amalgam filling in one of Jang-Geum’s lower-right teeth. Reading up on silver amalgam, it’s said to have originated in China in the 7th century as a dental filling, so it’s very possible for Jang-Geum to have a filling in one of her teeth. And since it’s probably a baby tooth, the older Jang-Geum needn’t have it. The reason it bothered me was due to my not knowing how far back these silver fillings went, but history checks out as supporting the filling here.

2 Responses to “Jewel in the Palace: Episode 2 Commentary”

  1. just few clarifications Says:

    I love Jewel in the Palace and have watched several times already. For some reason, i felt an urge to watch it again, so I was googling and found your post.

    As much as I enjoyed your piecing the information together, I just have to point out (I’m sure you already know) that the whole story isn’t really true – almost all of the story is created by few screen writers. They said the real woman lived, but that’s about it. And I hear that the animated series doesn’t have anything to do with the original series. I mean except for the character development, the story line doesn’t correspond exactly it seem – I watched only a few on youtube.

    Another thing is the names. Lady Han (Han sang-goong)’s name is Ae-Kyung, and the name of Jang-Geum’s mom is Myung-Hee or Myeong-Hee however you want to write it. Also Lady Choi’s brother isn’t really named Pan-sul. It’s just a title for his status, which is invariably related to his merchant background (and only the middle class could be a merchant back then).

    Though the story isn’t exactly true to the T, I think the beauty of this drama is that it tells the stories on so many different levels. I’m finding every possible emotions on earth by going through each episodes.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of the episodes. I’m sure there will be many sleepless nights.

  2. Chris Says:

    Thanks for your comment!

    Many of my writings on this site involve me trying to “piece together” information about what I’m watching. I understand that “the real Janggeum” is simply a name in some old records, and that this historic drama series is completely fabricated. Still, it’s fun to compare it with actual historic names and events, and piece together the exact time period it intends to portray.

    I will have to search on Google the name Ae-Kyung. The subtitles list “Baek-Young” for Han’s name. I didn’t realize that Pan-sul was a title, so I will have to search on Google about this, too.

    Thanks for the information; it’s very much appreciated!