When is a life authentic? Is it when you have open and honest relationships at the center of your life? When you’re in a place in your career that you’ve earned through honest effort and hard work? When you know where you stand with those around you? In Saimdang:Light’s Diary, Lee Young Ae is playing art historian Seo Ji Yoon who has discovered her happy life isn’t very authentic at all, and neither does the painting her academic advisor recently confirmed as the work of An Gyeon appear to be what it seems. When all of this comes crashing down around her, can Ji Yoon now find a more authentic life while she uncovers the true story of the painting? Join Wendilynn and me, Kate, as we discuss this week’s episodes of Saimdang: Light’s Diary.

Wendilynn: This show was not what I was really expecting when I sat down to watch it. Seo Ji Yoon’s life really unraveled on her while they were setting up our story. I wasn’t expecting to get sucked into this story so completely.

Kate: The episodes are definitely not short on conflict. Her husband has been lying to her and they’ve lost their house and most of their finances, she gets completely discredited and thrown out of her final phase of graduate school, and much of this is up for public display. What are the changes her outburst in Italy would wind up on Youtube and found by her advisor? My only qualm is that it all happens so fast. With thirty episodes I thought it might take another episode or so for all of this to be in place. I think it would have been more effective for her to lose these things when we knew more about who Ji Yoon was before she lost them.

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Wendilynn: That they’ve gone at this pace tells us we have one packed story to tell. They are probably going to use every minute unraveling the mystery of Saimdang’s diary and the true location of the Mount Geumgang painting. Mind you, I don’t think she would be as eager to time travel if she wasn’t desperate. Her professor is a right scoundrel. He deserves to be flayed alive for using her the way he is. I hope that Museum director, played by Kim Mi Kyung, does it slowly.

Kate: Professor Min is a complete jerk. In my years in academia, I’ve never come across anyone as villainous as he is, though I’ve definitely seen people act a little like him in moments from time to time. Advisors have a lot of power over their graduate students. In order to get to the place that Ji Yoon is in her career, she’s likely had to work with him closely and do whatever he asks of her (imagine how much more advantage someone could take in Korean culture where seniority is much more important than in general!) in addition to all the hard study, writing, research, and teaching of lower-level classes. To be thrown out in the end stages can be losing years of work and the rest of your career to boot.

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Wendilynn: This is not the first drama I’ve seen where a Senior fellow usurps the work of a younger colleague. She was totally at the mercy of Professor Min and he chopped off her neck. What gets me is that those who knew she’s innocent are not willing to help her when she was trying to find people to look at those restored pages. You’d think curiosity would have grabbed one or two to help her, but they all turned their backs. I was surprised they took this story to Italy to find a lost or unknown Joseon artist’s work. It has lent an air of mystery and romance to this story.

Kate: I know! I also watch a number of European dramas as well, and the beginning scene made me question whether I’d clicked on the correct streaming channel when I saw the Italian historical setting. Once I saw Lee Gyeom run into the scene, I was suddenly hooked. There is not a lot of Korean travel to places like Italy in that era, and that has a lot of possibility for storytelling there. Why is Gyeom in Italy? Why does he appear mad? How does this all connect to the painting everyone’s disagreeing over in the present?

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Wendilynn: I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, I had no clue Song Seung Heon was in this drama. I was actually excited to see him. It's been awhile since I saw his sexy face and he didn’t disappoint. As we find out in episode 2, our lovers somehow didn’t end up married so he probably went to the land of the Masters as a form of escape from a broken heart. That would be my guess. I hope our present gets a happier ending than the past clearly had.

Kate: Gyeom has already lost her by the events of episode 2, which makes me think there must be something else that has to happen to compound the tragedy of star-crossed love. Maybe the wife his aunt sets him up with truly turns out to be terrible? It’s hard to believe that, though. I loved their interactions. She was working hard to set him up for a proper scholarly life when a teen and then a proper marriage, but he knows he doesn’t have to take her threats seriously. Underneath them all, she seems to really care for him. Perhaps he finally does get fed up and unwisely agrees to a marriage that is unhappy? Or he wrongly begins to believe that there is a chance for he and Saimdang again?

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Wendilynn: OH, that would be heartbreaking to watch them try a second time only to lose again. Gah! I hope they don’t do that to us. They probably will, though this is a historical drama and they love star-crossed lovers. Speaking of lovers. I’m amused that our younger colleague is also playing the young version of Gyeom. I wondered if we’d end up with a noona romance as they look like our young lovers have been reborn to different ages. Lol

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Kate: Anything’s possible with romantic tension in a kdrama! I was wondering in the earthquake if Ji Yoon’s husband was going to bite the dust to pave the way for some more of a love interest to develop between Ji Yoon and her colleague as they work together to translate the diary and uncover the mystery of the painting. That was my first impulse when they got into the car accident rather than thinking Ji Yoon would wind up in some sort of short-term time traveling coma. Or perhaps she’s just remembering one of her past lives? I’m not sure we can rule a lot out at this point, other than Ji Yoon’s husband isn’t going to die...yet.

Wendilynn: After watching Goblin, I can’t see butterflies without thinking the gods have gotten involved in our story. And she was holding that flower her Joseon son gave her when she woke up in the hospital, so this could go either way. Let’s hope they are going to make things right by her. She absolutely doesn’t deserve what she’s been dished out. Her husband seems to care for her even if he has been neglecting his family. At first, I figured this was a marriage heading for divorce because he didn’t care about her, but when his business folded, he could have just been stressed out. So, I’m waiting to see what they do. In either case, I’m not really expecting a happy romance out of this drama. I think that would be setting myself up for trouble.

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Kate: I agree. With so much conflict in the first couple of episodes, and Ji Yoon being at such a low point, happy romance seems unlikely. Maybe this is also why I found Ji Yoon’s relationship with her mother-in-law to be so refreshing as well. It seems the more melodramatic a kdrama is, the more likely there is to be an evil mother-in-law that does nothing but plot how to keep her daughter-in-law down. I was delighted to see a mother-in-law who was sad and stressed over her son’s recent business failures, but who was also proud of Ji Yoon’s academic career and supportive of it as well. They genuinely seemed to care for one another in a mother-daughter kind of way. Again, at least this is how it looks so far. With twenty-eight episodes to go, who knows if MIL will break under the stress and hold it against Ji Yoon?

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Wendilynn: I hope that relationship stays good. Ji Yoon needs her MIL to stay grounded and take care of her son while she runs all over trying to fix her reputation and prove that the Mount Geumgang painting is a fake by finding the real one.

Kate: The last relationship that was wonderful to see was Ji Yoon and her best friend, Hye Jung. You mentioned, Wendilynn, that all of Ji Yoon’s colleagues abandoned her when she was pushed out. No one was willing to help her, though some of them said they were busy and just gave lame excuses. All of them except for Hye Jung. She opened up her home. She took time off to testify on Ji Yoon’s behalf. She’s using her skills to help make the diary as legible as possible. Maybe because she is outside of their field enough Professor Min doesn’t have a hold on her career, but even with that in mind, I think Hye Jung is shaping up to be a great friend who will do anything for Ji Yoon. It is definitely something she needs right now!

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Wendilynn: I agree, Hye Jung is a good friend and a wonderful source for authentication of what Ji Yoon is finding. The two of them will make a good team if they are successful in proving the fake and bringing to light the diary. I’m excited to see where this goes.

Is Ji Yoon suffering from brain injury, traveling in time, or in experiencing some sort of past life? Will she find what she needs to make her life authentic? Will she find the true story of the painting? Is there noona romance coming? Let us know in the comments.

For more from your Drama Club check out:

Wendilynn: As the Kimchi Turns | DF video drama club | My Shy Boss | Past Drama Clubs

Kate: Let’s Fight Ghost | Answer Me 1988 |Entertainer| Orange Marmalade| Fall in Love Like a Star


Saimdang: Light's Diary (Herstory)

Starring Lee Young Ae and Song Seung Hun

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