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%.
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.