Who is Watching Dong Yi?

According to this article about the viewer ratings of Dong Yi in Korea, there was a lot of interest in Dong Yi when it first aired because it is directed by Lee Byung hoon who as we know also directed the hit palace kitchen drama Dae Jang Geum, (Jewel in the Palace). However, although Dong Yi has a loyal following, it has not been able to keep the interest of many other viewers. So why is this?

It seems that due to the leisurely pace of the plot and lack of thorough historical research the drama has not been able to keep the interest of middle aged men and younger viewers in their 20s. According to TNS Media Research, the drama is mainly watched by female viewers in their 30s and 40s. Followed by ladies in their 50s and 60s and then men in their 40s.

Seo Jang geum (Lee Young-ae) with her cooking teacher Han Baek young (Yang Mi kyung) in the 2003 MBC drama Dae Jang Geum (Jewel in the Palace)


Dae Jang Geum also had a female lead and was popular with women in the same age group as Dong Yi viewers. However it reached over 40% ratings because it was able to attract male and female viewers of all ages, and according to TNS Media Research, it was even able to attract the attention of men in their 30s too who don’t usually watch dramas very much.

In some ways we can’t compare the drama ratings because things have changed in the 7 years that have passed since DJG aired – viewers have more choice of dramas to watch for example, but it does seem that this drama is only of interest to the female target audience. Some say that apart from wanting to see the romance develop between King Sukjong (Ji Jin-hee) and Dong Yi (Han Hyo-joo) there is no other reason to watch this drama. Whereas in DJG there was the kitchen and oriental medicine. According to AGB Nielson Media Research the national ratings for episode 30 of Dong Yi were 18%.

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I’ve also heard complaints that in other dramas the main characters are able to sort their problems out for themselves but in Dong Yi she is always saved by the king. I have to say that I’m also finding the plot a bit on the slow side. I watched DJG and Heo-jun on DVD and often spent hours in one sitting watching them because I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen in the next episode. There was always a cliff hanger at the end. And it was interesting to learn about the court food preparation and oriental medicine. Sang-do (The Merchant) took a little longer to warm up for me but once again I became addicted following the plotting and intrigue in the lives of merchants in the Joseon period. These dramas were all dramatically entertaining with baddies constantly scheming to bring the heros down. And they all had a hint of romance too.

Ji Jin hee as King Sukjong, Dong Yi, MBC

The relationship between Dong Yi and the King is cute and I find Ji Jin-hee very charismatic as the king. It’s fun that the romance is done in a humorous way. He’s like a teenager in love for the first time. But I don’t worry as much about Dong Yi as I did for the other main characters because she has the king to protect her. And there is often not much of a cliffhanger at the end of the episodes, so although I’m enjoying the drama and intend to watch it till the end, I am not on the edge of my seat waiting for the next episode.

3 thoughts on “Who is Watching Dong Yi?

  • February 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm
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    People korean tv shows are for everyone for all age it dont matter and em korean dramas never gets borning compared to american tv shows like private practice and greys automy which aint got no action no emotion no adventure like they do on dong yi so age and gender does not matter wen u are into korean dramas so it dont matter if ur male or female korean dramas are for everyone

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  • July 20, 2013 at 9:50 pm
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    Having a European background I found Dong Yi quite entertaining and interesting from a historical point of view – it was also the first Korean period drama I have watched.

    But there were enough nags to make the movie seem rather ..tedious at times. I wondered if it was because of my little knowledge&understanding of a different culture, or difficulty to understand habits of old times, as seen through modern eyes – and here is where this blog came in very handy to clear my thoughts. Thank you for writing it.

    To come back to the movie… I blame the screenwriter(s) – it wasn’t only the scarcity of information about the main heroine (or the many others), but the blurred feeling of the characters, to just mention a few flaws – the lines feel at times unrealistic for their part, repetitive & bland, the physical aspect doesn’t change for most of them (although there are decades passing) or ,aside the main characters, they don’t have a life of their own… The movie can’t decide if it’s a drama, a historical drama, a slapstick comedy, an action movie or a romance , and keeps bouncing between these without choosing a clear line.
    The action scenes were handled well, the tension was credible, but for most of the rest , it felt uneven, engaging yet clumsy at times – even the romance scenes at times felt awkward : Dong Yi didn’t use to call the king on his name in their most intimate emotional moments?

    All in all , the settings, the costumes were wonderful, the landscape awesome, the actors beautiful and very good (well, they did it despite the script ), the stunts were done well, the cultural part entertaining , and I learned some new things about the history of this part of the world… so, I guess I’ll even buy some Dong Yi box set , would it ever be made in the future :o)

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  • October 11, 2014 at 9:01 pm
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    As Dong Yi fan, I really don’t have problem with the plot.
    Maybe because I like manga as well, and Dong Yi has the same fell: it’s clearly divided into arcs, DY as slave, as Investigation lady, as concubine, fight with HB, getting the Queen back, discovery of the origins, exile and return to palace, the new Queen.
    I can re-watch an arc without watching the show from beginning to get a whole “show”.

    Also, I don’t get the feeling, that DY has to be saved by the king all the time, because for me they are partners. DY investigates, take action, put things in motion, and the Kings role is to finish it of, put the knowledge and proofs DY gained to use.
    I newer saw DY as hopeless lady in distress waiting for her king in shining armour. I find her as someone who would find a way out of any situation of her own. She is also smart and reasonable, and since most of her actions is about the court, why not let the (eager) king to do it?

    I do agree though that the history is an excuse for the plot, not a real part of it.
    The whole show is very idealistic and fairy-tale one. As some D-Addics complain: where are the hens that make mess on the ground?
    It doesn’t have the serious of it’s a real life: dirty, unjust and helpless in face of other people schemings feeling of DJG or HR (that for me were at some points boring to watch because the main characters [like real people] were too passive at times).
    And that’s why I like it.

    Would they add the fights and three bodyguards from Yi San, for me it would be an ideal (fairy-tale) show.

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