Korea boasts a rich history with exhilarating tales featuring compelling figures. But it can often be that much more intimidating to take on with a clean slate. From the unfamiliar phrases to intense plots, it is quite a lot to wrap your head around. But once you get your foot in the door, you may find yourself wanting to dig deeper! To inspire you to do just that, here is a list of dramas to satiate your Korean history curiosities.
Feed your hanbok obsession with “Hwangjini”
This drama tells the story of Hwang Jin Yi (Ha Ji Won), an infamous Joseon Dynasty gisaeng. Gisaeng were women highly-skilled in the arts that provided a refined form of entertainment to upper-class men. Each episode spurred interest over traditional Korean attire, as Hwang Jin Yi’s ensembles always consisted of luxurious and alluring garments. “Hwangjini” is a great series to watch if you would like to gain insight on gisaeng culture and the role of women during the Joseon Dynasty.
Watch “Hwangjini” below:
Get your dose of fairy tale magic with “Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter”
Korea has its fair share of fairy tales, and “Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter” covers one of the most essential ones. While the plot preserves much of the original narrative, the story unravels in the present. This fusion of traditional folklore and modern interpretation keeps the classic tale relevant and relatable. A story of a wingless fairy (Moon Chae Won) on a centuries-long search for her lost wings is too good to leave behind as an outdated myth, don’t you think?
Watch “Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter” below:
Be on the edge of your seat with “Mr. Sunshine”
The late 1800s and early 1900s, in which this drama is staged, was a time of heightened tension between Korea and Japan prior to Japanese invasion. The plot follows characters with various backgrounds, like noble lady Go Ae Shin (Kim Tae Ri) and Korean-born U.S. Marine Eugene Choi (Lee Byung Hun), on their perilous efforts to keep Korea an independent nation. The level of suspense is intense throughout the whole series, so be warned. Although “Mr. Sunshine” is historical fiction, it manages to shed light on the harsh reality faced by numerous freedom fighters. It also depicts how life changed for Koreans as they started adapting Western customs.
Live out your royal fantasy with “Princess Hours”
Life in the palace is hard to relate to for us common people, but this works as a plus in this case. “Princess Hours” presents royal life in a relatable manner by telling the story through Shin Chae Gyeong (Yoon Eun Hye), an ordinary high school girl-turned-Crown Princess. As she navigates through uncharted waters of palace rules and customs, you’ll find yourself learning alongside her. Of course, this drama is based on the assumption that the Korean monarchy never ended. While it is not historically accurate, it does allow us to experience Korean royalty in an indirect and fun way!
Watch “Princess Hours” here:
Keep your mouth watering with “Jewel in the Palace”
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with a few aspects of Korean history, you are certainly ready to watch this boss level of a drama. Aired in 2003, it reached commendable viewer ratings over the course of its 54 episodes. The extensive story line covers the life of Jang Geum (Lee Young Ae), Joseon Dynasty’s first female royal physician. Her humble beginnings as a cook in the palace allows us to get mouth-watering glimpses of the time period’s royal cuisine. Also, her progress moving up the social classes gives insight into the social hierarchy of the times.
Watch “Jewel in the Palace” below:
Have you watched any of the mentioned works? Which one sounds the most intriguing? Let us know in the comments!
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