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Home » Jewel in the Palace Drama Recaps episode 1-10

Jewel in the Palace Drama Recaps episode 1-10

by AcklinEHuey

Feeling nostalgic? Jewel in the Palace (MBC 2004) is one of those dramas that I can watch again and again. I can’t believe it’s nearly 20 years old! The story is exciting with great baddies. And who doesn’t want to know about food! So here are Jewel in the Palace drama recaps. (episodes 1-10)

Jewel in the Palace episodes 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-final

The drama stars Lee Young-ae as Jang Geum and Ji Jin-hee as royal official Min Jung Ho. It was directed by famous sageuk director Lee Byung Hoon.

Discover seven interesting facts about the making of this drama

Chart of Joseon Kings and historical dramas


Infamous tyrant Yeongsangun is on the throne. But the Hungu political faction soon depose him  in a coup and King Junjong comes to the throne. 

So most of the drama takes place in the palace during the reign of King Jungjong (r.1506-1544). He’s a serious king who has to deal with a court of corruption and dodgy morals after the reign of his half-brother Yeonsangun. (r.1494-1506). 

But King Jungjong is fighting a losing battle.

The powerful Hungu officials are corrupt too and the powerful Choi family help them.

More on the mid-Joseon kings

Why do some kings have the title JO and others JONG?


The ladies of the Choi family have held the highest court lady positions for 5 generations and will do ANYTHING to keep it that way!

They’ll even poison food to exterminate unnecessary members of the royal family! Merchant Choi provides money for bribes with this monopoly on trade to the palace.

Jewel in the Palace Jang Geum

Jang Geum became an orphan at a young age but rises to become the first and only female doctor to a king in Joseon history. She does this through hard work and honesty always refusing to use her skills to cause harm to anyone – even her enemies. 

A main theme of the story is to never use food or medicine as a weapon…

Jang Geum is played by Lee Young-ae who also stars as the most famous Joseon lady Shin Saimdang in the drama Saimdang: Memoir of Colours.

Where is the home of renowned artist Shin Saimdang?

Who are the top 10 Korean Women in historical drama?


Episode 1 


The story begins in 1482. It’s the 13th year of King Seongjong’s reign (r.1469-1494) when he orders the execution of deposed Queen Yun (Yeonsangun’s mother). 

She has to drink poison, but first she prays that her son will punish all those involved when he becomes King! Back at court we see the young crown prince innocently playing hide and seek with the court ladies. (perhaps this is a reference to his infamous ‘love’ of women later!!)

There is still no sign of the cruel and violent king he becomes.

Jewel in the palace episode 1 Queen Yun
2nd year of Yeonsangun 1496 …

One of the officials sent to carry out the task will become Jang Geum’s father, but right now he’s afraid for his own safety.

It’s 14 years later, Yeonsangun is on the throne and he has a reputation of being cruel. There are rumours that he’s become an unpredictably violent murderer and killed his father’s beloved deer and even his own teacher.  

So Jang Geum’s father-to-be decides to quit his job and leave the palace. He’s also frightened of getting married after going to a fortune teller! So he’s 40 years old and still single.

Jewel in the Palace episode 1 Lady Choi tampers with the queen mother's food

Meanwhile over in the palace kitchens, court ladies are preparing food for the king and his family. But Court Lady Park watches in horror as another cook (Lady Choi) put wolfsbane in the queen mother’s dish. 

This is an ingredient which is bad for her!

So fearing for the queen mother’s health, Lady Park reports this to her superiors. Next thing we know Lady Park (Jang Geum’s future mum) is framed by Lady Choi and poisoned for ‘fraternising with male officials.

Jewel in the Palace episode 1 Jang Geum's mum is poisoned

It’s a brutal scene as the court ladies gather around and force feed her poison.

Luckily, her friend Lady Han saves her just in time by slipping her an antidote. But she is weak and close to death out in the mountains while the ladies go back to the palace.

By chance, Jang Geum’s future father finds Lady Park and takes her to a temple. She recovers and they become a couple and have a daughter, Jang Geum.

Read about the status of court ladies

more medical dramas by Director Lee Byung-hoon

mid-Joseon kings

see more from dramasrok about life in Korea on Facebook Pinterest and Instagram 

Jang Geum's mother recovers at a temple


Episode 2


Although they both worked in the palace, Jang Geum’s parents have had to downgrade to the lowest social class – baekjong (백정 白丁 literal meaning – butcher). They make a living making and selling knives.

But they hear terrible rumours about the king and they live in fear of the palace guards finding them.

The young Jang Geum is smart and wants to study and play with the yangban aristocratic kids. But the class structure is strict, and her mum punishes her for playing with them.

Jewel in the Palace episode 2 Jang Geum is punished for playing with the yangban children

Over at the palace, the king meets his grandmother, the mother of Queen Yun who drank poison in episode one. She gives him the blood-stained cloth from his mother when she died.

Yeonsangun is distraught and in a rage when he sees the blood. He was bad before, but now the blood bath of revenge really begins.

Jewel in the Palace episode 2 Yeonsangun

Furious, the king orders the deaths of anyone who took part in the execution of his mother. Officers put up Wanted posters. Guards torture ministers and force them to drink poison.

In history this is the Literati Purge of 1498.

Due to his tyrannical reign,Yeonsangun was not given a temple name after he died and so his title remains ‘Prince’ not ‘King’. He has a modest grave in the north of Seoul and is not buried with other monarchs.

Read more about the reign of Yeonsangun

Jewel in the Palace episode 2 literati purge 1504

Meanwhile in the countryside, Jang Geum and her father are at a village festival. They’re having fun, but suddenly things take a tragic turn for the worse when they get into a squabble with some locals.

It shouldn’t be a big deal, but then Jang Geum innocently blurts out their family’s secret: her father is NOT low class. He was a royal guard. As soon as she says this, her life is turned upside down.

Guards arrest her father. Jang Geum and her mother escape and then hurry to the capital to look for him. But it’s dangerous for them in the capital.

While it’s great to see Lady Han who is now a high kitchen lady, baddie Lady Choi (and family) is there too. And now she realises that Lady Park is STILL ALIVE…

Lady Choi in Jewel in the Palace episode 2

And of course, Lady Choi tries to KILL Lady Park again!

This time it’s a shot with an arrow right in the chest. Jang Geum helps her mother to a cave, but she’s dying. First, she manages to write two letters to her daughter, but tells her not to open them yet. 

Then she gives Jang Geum an order: become the Highest Kitchen Lady in the palace, find her mother’s secret recipe book and reveal the truth about her death. 

After her mother dies, poor Jang Geum buries her and starts her new journey alone but determined to enter the palace.

See the chart of Joseon Kings and related historical dramas

Read about the status of court ladies

see more from dramasrok about life in Korea on Facebook Pinterest and Instagram 

Jang Geum's mother is killed with an arrow


Episode 3


Two years later (1506) 12th year of Yeonsangun’s reign. The Hungu faction plan a coup to depose Yeonsangun and bring Prince Jinseong to the throne. (future King Jungjong r.1506–1544)

The merchant Choi Pan-Sul (Lady Choi’s brother) is providing the Hungu faction with funds in return for favours. And the female members of the Choi family in the kitchens will do whatever it takes to help too. It’s important to have their choice of king!

future King Junjong in Jewel in the Palace

Jang Geum now lives with Duk Gu and his stingy wife who provide alcohol to the palace. One day,  Jang Geum is told to deliver a coded message with the alcohol.

The  message is for the prince and reveals the plans for the coup. But the future King is in a catch 22 situation. He doesn’t want to be King. But on the other hand, he doesn’t want to die if the coup fails! Next thing we know it’s the enthronement of a sombre-looking King Jungjong!

But meeting King Jungjong is great for Jang Geum as he helps her enter the palace! However, palace life is strict and hierarchical. The girls must join the palace as virgins as they ‘belong to the king‘. And the other girls bully Jang Geum when they hear she’s from the lowest class. (Most of the court ladies are from middle and upper class families.)

But Jang Geum has her mission to find her mother’s book. So she sneaks into the kitchen with her friend, breaking the rules. Needless to say, they get caught. It was never going to be that easy!

related posts:

Mid-Joseon Kings and historical dramas

Who is the king in Jewel in the Palace?

Why do some kings have the title JONG and other JO?

The coronation of King Jungjong in Jewel in the palace


Episode 4  


After breaking into the kitchen, Jang Geum is punished for disobedience.

She has to clean instead of study, but she still manages to pass the test that allows her to stay in the palace! She tells her mentor, Lady Han, that she wants to become the Head Kitchen Lady. So Lady Han begins her training with a simple request: ‘bring me a basin of water’. (I love this 💕 )

Jang Geum as a child in the palace

But Lady Han is never happy with the water Jang Geum brings her. And so she has to perform the task over and over again.

FINALLY,  Jang Geum realises that she has to bring appropriate water for Lady Han’s health. This means she has to ask her questions first. Lady Han has a sore throat, so Jang Geum brings her slightly salted warm water. And so she passes her test! 💕

Meanwhile, sandstorms are blowing.

And the food has gone bad in the Queen Mother’s and the Prince’s kitchen. But the food is ok at the main kitchen. And it’s all thanks to Jang Geum. She had to wash all the dishes by herself and is busy boiling water because her mum told her to do this in sandstorms.

But it’s all go at the palace and time for a cooking competition. Jang Geum practises putting pine nuts onto pine needles late into the night. Another girl shows her how to thread the pine nut on the end without looking. (This is Choi Geum Young who will become her enemy…)

Read about the status of court ladies

see more from dramasrok about life in Korea on Facebook Pinterest and Instagram 

Jewel in the Palace Lady Han and Jang Geum


Episode 5 

Choi Geum-Young always wins all the cooking competitions.

But this isn’t surprising since her powerful Choi family are training her for the head court lady position! (Jang Geum comes second). But the Choi family are constantly worried about keeping their top jobs at the palace.

Now the Head kitchen Lady is sick. But she doesn’t want to be forced to retire before Lady Choi is old enough to take over. So she smuggles in a male doctor to treat her. Unfortunately, this is illegal and she gets caught.

the head cook in Jewel in the Palace episode 5

But the Hungu official Lord Oh helps sort out the problem and Choi Pan Sul (Lady Choi’s brother) rewards him well. Lady Choi is still too young to take over, so they decide to put a puppet leader in place for the time being.

They choose to ‘promote’ a Lady Jung who’s currently in a rather lowly position in charge of sauces and pickles. Lady Han is suspicious of their choice and tries to persuade Lady Jung not to take the job.

The family clearly thought Lady Jung would be a pushover, but she turns out to be a better head than expected. She questions why Geum Young is getting special treatment.

Lady Choi tries to explain it’s because she has a ‘perfect palate’. So Lady Jung tests her. Embarrassingly, she gets the answer wrong. And to add insult to injury, Jang Geum gets it right. 😂 And so the rivalry begins …

Lord Choi rewards the Hungu leader in Jewel in the Palace


Episode 6


Nevertheless, Geum Young continues to get special treatment.

She’s helping Lady Choi make special food for Princess Hyo-hye who hasn’t eaten in days. Meanwhile Jang Geum has been demoted to dish-washing, but she’s also experimenting with food. She tells Geum Young she has discovered that charcoal takes away the bad smell from soy sauce.

Geum Young and Jang Geum in Jewel in the Palace episode 6

Geum Young has an idea and makes rice soup for the princess.

The princess finally eats because the rice ‘doesn’t smell’. Geum Young admits that she put charcoal in the rice when cooking and got the idea from Jang Geum.

Meanwhile, Envoys from Ming have brought a gold pheasant – a symbol of good luck – from the Imperial Palace as a birthday gift for the king. But the king is worried that the envoy has come for more silver as Ming helped overthrow Yeonsangun.

The king wants the whole stay to go with no problems…BUT…

Sir Min in Jewel in the Palace

Geum Young is in charge of looking after the pheasant and it escapes from the coup! 

Jang Geum wants to help Geum Young so they both secretly leave the palace to get another pheasant. They separate but on the way back to the palace Jang Geum sees a man (Sir Min) get attacked with a dart. So she stops to help him.

But as a result, she’s late getting back to the palace and gets caught. Everyone in the kitchen is punished and Jang Geum is to be whipped and thrown out of court!

see more from dramasrok about life in Korea on Facebook Pinterest and Instagram 

What to eat when you are feeling sick in Korea: Rice porridge

Sir Min is hit with a poisonous dart


Episode 7  


Lady Jung steps in to help Jang Geum and so she doesn’t have to leave the palace after all! But as a demotion, she has to go to the herb garden.

It’s a very different vibe in the herb garden compared to the hectic and competitive palace. Nobody does any work here and the head doctor has a drinking problem! They are supposed to be trying to grow herbs from Ming to use for medicine, but the herbs won’t grow in Joseon. So the workers have given up.

Jang Geum is demoted to the herb garden

But Jang Geum won’t give up. After lots of trial and error, she finally succeeds in growing the herbs. But then she discovers that someone is trying to stop her by destroying the shoots. Jang Geum and Dr. Jung organise a stakeout to catch the criminal.

But then superiors warn Dr. Jung to forget about it! Everything comes down to money, doesn’t it? Sure enough Lord Oh doesn’t want the herb garden to succeed because merchant Choi Pan Sul financially supports him.

And Merchant Choi has a monopoly on selling imported herbs from Ming which are very expensive. So if they can grow the herbs themselves, he will lose out. (Boooo! 😡)

But Dr Jung finds a way to let officials know what has really been going on! And as a result, Jang Geum can go back to the kitchen as a reward for successfully growing the herbs.

Meanwhile we see Sir Min again with his arm in a sling. He’s training the royal guards and trying to catch spies in his free time! He’s also looking for the lady who helped him and left her knife behind. 💕

Lord Oh of the ruling hungu faction in Jewel in the Palace


Episode 8  


On her way back to the palace, Jang Geum stops off at the library to deliver a letter from Dr Jung. (He wants her to be able to borrow books as she’s so smart. But this is usually forbidden for court ladies!) Sir Min is there but she doesn’t recognise him as the man she saved. 💕

He’s a Lt. general in the royal guards (내금위) and seems impressed with her. He tells her to come and see him in his department to borrow books. Back at the kitchen it’s business as usual as the girls have to get ready for the cooking competition. Anyone who fails the test will have to leave the palace.

Court lady cooks

But in the night, Jang Geum realises that someone has stolen her flour. Other ingredients have disappeared too. It seems like someone is tampering with her chances in the competition.

But then she discovers that her roommate stole her flour to make mandu for her mother, an old court lady who is soon to leave the palace. (She’s not really her mother. Her mother was raped by a Ming envoy, but the court ladies managed to keep the baby a secret and made the mother commit suicide because of the shame!)

Jang Geum has no flour for the competition, so she uses cabbage from the herb garden instead of the precious flour. The dish tastes good, but of course the ladies want to expel her for not following the rules. Geum Young comes first as always. And Jang Geum FAILS…

read more about the status of court ladies

Head Court Ladies judge the mandu


Episode 9


It looks like Jang Geum is definitely OUT of the palace this time. But hold on, the Queen Mother arrives just in time and wants to taste the food. She likes Jang Geum’s food and saves her from being thrown out. Geum Young looks jealous though …

Meanwhile, the king decides to go hunting and the ladies have to cook a banquet. But at the last minute he decides that he wants to have nengmyeon (cold noodle soup) instead. But Lady Han and the other ladies are incapacitated with food poisoning.


So it’s up to Jang Geum and Geum Young  to make the noodles themselves. Sir Min looks on as they serve the king. And Geum Young notices Sir Min gazing at Jang Geum. This is going to be a problem, because Geum Young has had a crush on him for a long time …

see more from dramasrok about life in Korea on Facebook Pinterest and Instagram 



Episode 10


Luckily, the king enjoys the noodles. As a result, Jang Geum gets moved up to the main middle kitchen where her mother’s book is hidden. Sir Min gives her a book to read but Geum Young sees them together and she’s clearly jealous.

bad luck charms in Jewel in the palace

Lady Choi makes Geum Young hide a bad luck charm in the middle kitchen. It’s supposed to make the queen give birth to a girl. Geum Young doesn’t want to do it, but Lady Choi explains that this is their family’s fate.

They can never be yangban aristocrats, but they can make more money than yangban by doing their dirty work. And they have to support Lord Oh and the hungu faction.

Jang Geum finds her mother's book

Meanwhile Jang Geum is doing extra night shifts in the kitchen so that she can get a chance to search for her mother’s book. She bumps into Geum Young who has come to hide the bad luck charm!

But they are both caught and the bad luck charm is discovered. Jang Geum finds her mother’s book too but hides it. For very different reasons, neither girl will admit to anything!

related posts:

Jewel in the Palace episodes 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-final

What can we learn about the status of women in the Joseon palace watching Jewel in the Palace?

Chart of Joseon Kings and historical dramas

Who are the top 10 Korean women in historical drama? 

Notes from the book by Jewel in the Palace Director Lee Byung Hoon


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