Saimdang Light's Diary -- Official Horizontal Poster 1

‘Saimdang, Light’s Diary’ K-Drama Debuts With Double-Digit Viewership — SBS Continues To Dominate Korean TV With Past/Present Timelines And Dual Role Concepts [Video And Spoilers]

In the final K-drama season of 2016, the one that is technically a year-to-year swing season from 2016 to 2017, the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) dominated with two of the most entertaining K-dramas seen on Korean public television: The Legend of the Blue Sea and Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim.

Starting with the former, The Legend of the Blue Sea received the most hype as it was the long-awaited K-drama comebacks for both Jun Ji Hyun (My Love From Another Star) and Lee Min Ho (Boys Over Flowers, Heirs). It would also be the last K-drama Min Ho would star in before he fulfilled his conscription of two years in the South Korean military. However, Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim starring Han Suk Kyu, Yoo Yeon Seok, and Seo Hyun Jin was the far more popular K-drama. It was also a testament to SBS being king of medical K-dramas as it is consecutively the fourth successful series since 2014.

Now it seems SBS plans to continue its domination of Korean viewership as the two K-dramas now occupying the time slots in which Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim and The Legend of the Blue Sea previous occupied have debuted with high double-digit viewership ratings: Defendant and Saimdang, Light’s Diary. For this article, we will concentrate on the more popular of the two as of now, Saimdang, Light’s Diary, a period K-drama that utilizes the two timeline and dual role concepts seen in recent past SBS K-dramas.

Saimdang Light's Diary -- Two Character Posters
‘Saimdang, Light’s Diary’ is the new period K-drama currently airing on SBS. It stars Lee Young Ae (left) in her first K-drama role since 2003 and Song Seung Heon (right). [Image by the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]

For those who are unfamiliar with Saimdang, Light’s Diary, which is also known as Saimdang, the Herstory, it is a period and modern time K-drama starring Lee Young Ae and Song Seung Heon. Young Ae plays Seo Ji Yoon, a Korean art history lecturer who is suddenly fired and disgraced when she chooses to be honest about the authenticity of an art piece that humiliates her superior. By happenstance, she discovers the diary of the historical figure of Shin Saimdang which is the key to unraveling the secret of a mysterious portrait painted by Lee Gyeom, a royal during her era. However, things take a twist when Ji Yoon ends up in a car accident. During her unconscious state, she relives a flashback to a previous era, the same one Saimdang lives in. It is there she starts to see in a previous life, she was Shin Saimdang. This “ability” will help her regain her lost status as a Korean art history lecturer.

Apparently, K-drama fans are loving Saimdang, Light’s Diary as it has achieved double-digit viewership ratings in its debut and second episodes. According to TNmS Media Korea, the first episode earned 13.9 percent for the nation and 16.0 percent for the Seoul National Capital Area while the second episode dropped a little for 11.8 percent for the nation and 13.4 percent for the Seoul National Capital Area. As for AGB Nielsen Korea, the first episode earned 16.3 percent for the nation and 16.6 percent for the Seoul National Capital Area and dropped a little for the second episode with 15.6 percent for the nation but remaining the same for the Seoul National Capital Area.

The Legend of the Blue Sea -- Horizontal Poster
‘Saimdang, Light’s Diary’ seems to utilize concepts used in past SBS K-dramas, especially from ‘The Legend of the Blue Sea.’ [Image by the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]

[WARNING: Spoilers Ahead! Skip To Final Paragraph To Avoid!]

What is peculiar about Saimdang, Light’s Diary is the fact it utilizes concepts from previous SBS period and modern K-dramas such as Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo and The Legend of the Blue Sea and amplifies on those points. The first is two timelines jumping from past to present in which Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo jumped from the present to the Goryeo Dynasty and The Legend of the Blue Sea did the same, but jumped back to the Joseon Dynasty instead. The second is dual roles in which IU played Go Ha Jin in the present and Hae Soo in the Goryeo Dynasty in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo while six actors played dual roles in the present and Joseon Dynasty in The Legend of the Blue Sea.

In Saimdang, Light’s Diary, it switches back and forth from the present to Korea in the Joseon Dynasty. In the present, we have the situation of Seo Yi Joon trying to clear her name that caused her to lose her position as an art history lecturer. In the past, we learn more about Shin Saimdang’s life and romance with Lee Gyeom. Apparently, the K-drama is heading in a direction in which present day people may have lived another life during the Joseon Dynasty in which Yi Joon may be the reincarnated Shin Saimdang. Other dual roles include Choi Jong Hwan playing Min Jung Hak, the humiliated art director who is trying to destroy Ji Yoon’s professional life, and King Joongjong of the Joseon Dynasty.

Probably the most unique dual role is that of Lee Gyeom. Song Seung Heon may be playing Lee Gyeom in the Joseon Dynasty, but his younger self is played by Yang Se Jong who happens to also play Han Sang Hyun, the art student who stands up to Min Jung Hak for corruption and Ji Yoon’s neighbor. This is extremely smart because we might see both a traditional “oppa” relationship in the past and a “noona” relationship in the present. Since the Lee Gyeom is presumably older than Shin Saimdang in the Joseon Era but his reincarnation in the present is younger than the reincarnation of Shin Saimdang.

We can only wait and see what will happen in Saimdang, Light’s Diary within the coming 15 weeks as the K-drama is scheduled for 30 episodes. It airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10 p.m. KST on SBS. For those who do not have access to Korean public television, it can be viewed on DramaFever, Viki, and OnDemandKorea pending region.

[Featured Image by the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]