K-Drama Premiere: “When The Camellia Blooms” Delicately Hints At A Beautifully Entwined Blossoming Of Love And Mystery

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The triumphant and long-awaited return of Gong Hyo Jin and Kang Ha Neul did not disappoint in When the Camellia Blooms.

When the Camellia Blooms premiered this week and hit the mark for everything any drama fan longs for: an interesting ensemble and an intriguing story line enough to keep one guessing.

When Camellia Blooms


Scoring 7.4% and 8.7% for its nationwide viewership ratings, the humble beginnings of Dong Baek’s Camellia bar set tongues wagging. Gong Hyo Jin portrays Dong Baek as a timid and shy bar owner. But don’t take her lightly because she still somehow knows how to defend herself. Gong’s character is beautiful and reserved, leaving men to gawk at her as she passes by.

Meanwhile, Kang Ha Neul makes a comeback after his discharge in the mandatory military enlistment. As Yong Sik, he yearns to be sophisticated and suave, but his hot-headedness gets ahead of him. He is simple-minded to say the least, but his sincerity and kindness helps us overlook this slight flaw. The moment he sees Dong Baek, he’s impossibly smitten. And from then on out, it’s adorable to watch Yong Sik fumble his way through his admiration for Dong Baek.

When The Camellia Blooms


Premiere Week Recap

The premiere week leads its viewers immediately to a dark and ominous scene. A murder may have just taken place and viewers follow behind a police officer walking slowly to the scene. As paramedics lift the dead body, the arm falls, revealing a bracelet.

Up next, a small and quiet neighborhood watches with curiosity as a beautiful young woman moves in. Dong Baek, with her long hair flowing behind her, appears suddenly and glances around her. Men gawk at her beauty, the women see her as a threat. As she lifts down a baby stroller from the moving truck, there’s a collective sigh of relief among the women.

Meanwhile Yong Sik’s mother rushes about, sighing in despair over her wayward son. A still unknown lad called Yong Sik, who seems to always be in the right place to catch a robber or a pickpocket. His desire to help and flaring temper get ahead of him all the time, defying any threat of danger. The police are familiar with the brave young man, often having to cite him for his accomplishments. Inevitably, he becomes a police officer.

When The Camellia Blooms

However, even as Dong Baek strives hard to befriend her neighbors, they decide against the beautiful Dong Baek. They already see her as a threat, and when they find out that Camellia is not a flower shop but a bar, she’s even more disliked. They turn against her and gossip about her up to the point of even harassing her. In short, she’s not welcome. They cruelly predict that she won’t even last three months.

However, Dong Baek provides what the men in this neighborhood longs for; a safe refuge from their gossiping wives, mothers, and daughters. They work under the strict arm of their wives and never catch a break. As Dong Baek opens the doors to the Camellia, men flock in. Not because of Dong Baek herself, but because of what the Camellia provides: a place to relax and have a beer.

The Potential Men in Dong Baek’s Life

As previously mentioned, Yong Sik is instantly attracted with Dong Baek. After seeing her in a bookstore, he follows her outside, obviously smitten. He mistakes her for a lawyer, and is surprised when she owns the bar his co-workers drag him to.

But Yong Sik’s huge crush on Dong Baek is refreshing. He offers to be her friend and on her side when he sees the neighborhood ladies harass Dong Baek. He comes to her aid and goes as far as stealing No Kyu Tae’s wallet just to pay back the 8000 won Mr. No refused to pay. Yong Sik follows Dong Baek around like a lovesick puppy.

Meanwhile, Kang Jong Ryeol is a doting father who currently stars on Return of the Superman, Jong Ryeol sighs over his vain wife Jessica. She’s more obsessed over her verified mark on her social media than her own daughter. She keeps away from both her husband and child, living in her own narcissistic bubble.

READ: Gong Hyo Jin & Kang Ha Neul Character Sketches In “When Camellia Blooms”

Jong Ryeol goes back to his hometown Ongsan to shoot for the variety show. Dong Baek’s son Pil Gu faces off with Jong Ryeol because he’s pissed off. The brave young boy is obsessed with baseball, and hates that they can’t practice because of the filming. Dong Baek comes running because she heard Jong Ryeol was in her hometown. She calls to Pil Gu as Jong Ryeol looks at her in surprise.

It turns out that they used to be lovers, and Jong Ryeol is the mysterious missing father of Dong Baek’s son. Dong Baek sees the panicked look on Jong Ryeol’s face and lies that she has a husband.

Dong Baek is caught however, when she arrives at the Camellia with Yong Sik. Jong Ryeol waits for her in the shadows, and sees the pair arrive. He guesses that Yong Sik is the husband Dong Baek referred to. Dong Baek grabs Yong Sik’s hand and walks away. But both Mr No and Jong Ryeol are left staring at the two. Are they dating? Dong Baek is stuck with the three men waiting for her answer.

Premiere Week Afterthoughts

Once in awhile I struggle with getting through with some dramas. The story is slow, the cast members don’t have the right chemistry, or the setting seems totally off. But then life rewards me with gems like When the Camellia Blooms and I feel all is right in the world again.

I have been a Gong Hyo Jin believer ever since. I love her drama choices and her chameleon like acting. No matter what kind of role she portrays, she embodies the character and totally forget about the actress. I’ve seen her in quiet roles and in demanding roles. She was a struggling actress once and even a clairvoyant in another drama.

But this is the first time I’ve seen her take on a mother role. I admire her courage for this, and I can see why she got this role. She nailed it as Dong Baek in the premiere week. She was timid and shy, and I thought the neighborhood ahjummas would walk all over her. But she stands her ground. Well, tries to at least. She’s aware of her place in society, but she’s unapologetic about it.

I’ve seen Kang Ha Neul in several dramas before, but never really paid that much attention to him. But believe me, I’m paying attention now. He’s adorable. His acting actually stole the show for me. I saw how he wanted to be sophisticated and how he wanted a mature Princess Diana-like woman from Seoul. But he falls immediately in love with Dong Baek. He’s hilarious too because he’s so awkward that it’s endearing.

With that said, I can’t enthuse enough about the story. I like it when there’s mystery intertwined with the romance and comedy. I don’t want too much mystery though since I easily get stressed out. And the drama seems to feel the same way. It’s basically just that scene where Yong Sik, as it was later revealed, walks toward a murdered body. The bracelet on that body’s arm is the same one Dong Baek has on. It’s also the bracelet that Jong Ryeol won for her. Is it Dong Baek? We’ll have to wait and see. Another mystery waiting to unfold is the mysterious person watching over Dong Baek. But then, all the more reason to tune in to next week to find out.

Overall, I enjoyed the premiere week so much. I love that Netflix picks up on great dramas to binge-watch over. It makes me feel like Netflix is like my best buddy who instantly knows the junk food I like and gets them ready for when I come over.

Image credit : KBS

When the Camellia Blooms updates weekly on Netflix and can be watched every Wednesday and Thursday on KBS2 TV.

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