“Dae Jang Geum” (The Great Jang Geum) or “Jewel in the Palace” is currently the hottest Korean drama showing in the Philippines. I never expected that it would be a hit back home since it’s a historical drama with a lot of Korean culture thrown in. I thought that most Filipinos are not interested in anything “cultural.” I don’t remember “Noli Me Tangere” enjoying the same popularity when it was shown on TV more than a decade ago.
Honestly, I wasn’t able to watch this drama in full. I had just arrived in Korea when it was being aired. I just remember that people were talking about it. When we were in a “kalbi” restaurant in Jongno3-ga, I remember salarymen still dressed in their suits talking about this drama. I remember them saying that it was a big comeback for Lee Young Ae, the actress playing “Jang Geum”. She was in almost every CF (short for “commercial film” as they call TV ads in Korea) and billboards in Seoul with her long and milky white legs gracing the ads of “Whisen”, an electronic appliance maker. That was more than two years ago.
Lee Young Ae is still enjoying her immense popularity after the drama was shown here. She was the lead of the hit and critically acclaimed movie “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” where she played “Geum Ja”. Recently, she was invited by the Berlin Filmfest to be part of the jury. A first for a Korean actress.
Going back to “Dae Jang Geum”… My husband and I had planned to go there in October of last year but we had so much weekend activities that it was hard to include it on our schedule. Last weekend, my friend Katie had to do a report on the Dae Jang Geum craze in Korea and we thought it was the right time to go there. My husband drove the four of us (Zoe, Katie, Anna and I) in our compact but very reliable Matiz to the the Dae Jang Geum theme park. The drive was about an hour from downtown Seoul (Jongno-gu, where we live).
The theme park is located at the MBC Cultural Valley in Yangju, Gyonggido. We got there at around 2 PM. The entrance fee is 5,000 won ($5)… very expensive! Don’t expect a Disneyland-like theme park. This place is where some of the scenes in the drama was shot, so expect to see a replica of a palace and a traditional village. There are similar and better places that you can visit in Korea but the difference is that, it was a location for some of the scenes in Dae Jang Geum!