Saimdang, Light’s Diary

Saimdang, Light’s Diary (2017)

Your Rating:
Ratings: 7.8/10 from 425 users
Reviews: 3 users

What deep, dark secrets are hidden in the diary? Seo Ji Yoon is a modern-day art history professor who happens to stumble upon the secret diary of Shin Saimdang (1504-1551), a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist and poet who was the mother of Yi I, one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars during the Joseon Dynasty. The diary sheds new information on the life of Saimdang and her relationship with Lee read moreGyeom, a painter, calligrapher and musician who was a childhood sweetheart and soulmate of Saimdang. Will the diary help Ji Yoon unravel the mysteries surrounding a painting of an unknown woman from the Joseon Dynasty?

  • Native title:

    사임당, 빛의 일기
  • Also Known as:

    Saimdang, the Herstory; Saimdang, Bitui Ilgi;

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8 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
May 4, 2017
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 9.0
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
Despite being one of the most anticipated and hyped-up dramas of the year and in spite of the fact that it marked the comeback of acting-giants, Saimdang ended up being rather disappointing and underwhelming failing to live up to expectations according to the majority of viewers. While I can’t completely argue against any of it and having said all that, I can’t deny that Saimdang turned out to be quite special for read more me against all odds.

Having had studied Art History in Uni and with it being my favourite module, you can understand my initial excitement when I realized this is a drama about art history but in Korea! Only 2 of my biggest interests intertwine like that. I wouldn’t miss the chance to savour this rare opportunity!

Saimdang is a wonderful drama but not without flaws. It takes place simultaneously in the past and the present, depicting the past and present lives of the characters. Starting in the present it centers on a woman who tries to prove that a painting is or is not authentic facing serious enemies in this endeavor of hers.

Simultaneously and very flexibly the story travels to the past as we get to see the whole story behind the painting in question and how this is connected to our main flawless female character Saimdang and her life.

I can totally understand why viewers found this boring and disappointing. Most of the drama depicts Saimdang’s life but focuses a lot on events rather than romance, politics or other juicy things saeguks are known for. First half of the drama focuses on how Saimdang grew to become a memorable and powerful figure of her time creating and sustaining her own business. There are classic villains who try to destroy her but everything is more connected the job development rather than her personal life. The second half was a bit rushed because of the trimming of 2 episodes and the re-editing was very obvious to the point it reduced the drama’s quality. Still, it stays in the same lane of events.

I read comments from Korean netizens expressing their disappointment in the drama’s direction. More specifically, they disliked the fact that there wasn’t much of Saimdang’s drawing and painting showed. I cannot argue with that. Simultaneously, I can safely say the story line that took place in the present was rather disappointing and ill-developed. I can totally understand their idea behind it but they spent too much time perfecting the past story –which ended up being, understandably, a tad boring for some people- that the present one just rounded up being a constant back and forth.

All that being said, I cannot quite put my finger on it but this drama just charmed me to the point I was completely unfazed by all the -otherwise- stern drawbacks.

I thoroughly enjoyed the backstory. Some of it a bit clichéd – classic evil 2nd female lead who is just too self-centered for her own good- but all of it really interesting and really well-written as far as I’m concerned. Against all odds, I loved the business part of the story, it was inspirational seeing a woman overcome so many pitfalls and achieve greatness!

One of the main parts that I especially appreciated was the female empowerment of the drama. Saimdang on her own is such an incredible character, empowering and just inspirational. Even if we barely got to see her drawing, the passion for it was well-depicted and the characterization was just brilliantly presented!

Moreover, I enjoyed several parts of the past story illustrated like the education for non-wealthy citizens, or how women were looked down upon but were undeterred by it. Plotlines that involve weak and easily manipulated kings are nothing new and play significant roles here as well.

Continuing to my favourite part, the romance. I'm not the biggest romance fan, I tend to rather cringe but here… here it was special! I can understand why some people would find the romance here disappointing. There is no skinship at all; barely any intimacy while everything is kept on a platonic level. Rather frustrating. However, there is no need for obvious affection when you have Song Seung Heon’s eyes just depicting everything better than a gesture ever could. My heart ached in every scene he looked at Saimdang and I was completely blown away by their tragic and heartbreaking love story. Strongest part of the drama for me, but you have to be into doomed couples to like this.

The drama did have some boring parts, but I enjoyed it throughout. I can’t say I felt fulfilled by it, rather depressed especially during the last 5 episodes, but it just felt special in ways I can’t put into words.

Overall exquisite.

Lee Young Ae. Acting giant and I feel a bit intimidated to actually judge her acting. She was amazing, overflowing with charm and experience; she was a blast to watch on screen. I thoroughly hope it won’t take her another decade to comeback.

Song Seung Heon was luscious in ways I can’t describe. I usually complain about kdramas lacking actual manly characters since all those flower boys have taken the industry by storm. He brought exactly what I wanted to see. Manliness, masculinity all spiced up with actual emotions and sentiments. His character just elicited unlimited emotions out of me, his acting was out-of-thing-world good and he had amazing chemistry with Lee Young Ae.

Other than them, the full casting was amazing and most of it quite memorable, namely Oh Yoon Ah as the evil 2nd female lead, Choi Jong Hwan, Yang Se Jong and the rest really made the drama shine.

Considering most of the reaction I saw was rather negative or indifferent I wouldn’t openly recommend this to everyone. Saeguk fans would probably like it and people interested in tragic and unfulfilled love.
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3 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
May 5, 2017
  • Overall 8.5
  • Story 7.5
  • Acting/Cast 9.5
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 8.0
lee gyeom is the epitome of a true gentleman

God knows how much i love his character. the one who would clear the path for the comfort of the person he dears, a person that remains loyal even after all those years of finding solace by wandering, a man with virtue. on the last episode when they recap lee gyeom's life i cried shit loads of tears. i felt terribly happy for read more him (terribly because of his tragic life; happy because he found his inner self in that tragedy)

and of course Saimdang. this drama depicts her journey from a carefree teenager to a mature woman. Saimdang has to be the strongest female character i've ever known, having to go through such ordeal in life. an obedient daughter to a loving mother and a respectful wife. i swear her patience and perseverance are on a whole new level. and i really love her conversations with her children especially the one she had with maechang under the blooming trees so heartwarming and she's very well composed.

my favourite part of this drama is of course the romance. No u dont have over the top lovey-dovey romance in here, no u dont have romantic scenes with all the sugary conversations that makes u want to jump off the window due to the sweetness. the romance in here is very subtle. u know there's love but u can't see it, u just feel it's there (i'm not making any sense here, too blinded by their love). the look on lee gyom's eyes every time he look at Saimdang is so deep that it pierced through the screen right into my heart XD.

now for the plot i think the modern part is totally unnecessary because; 1. very little screen time 2. it feels out of place. i read people commenting on how the plot is very cliche with political fights and vengeance etc. honestly that cliche plot is critical for the characters development. it's not that bad, the plot was just okay but interesting enough to make me watch it until the end. one thing for sure is that this drama is really really really slow and i usually drop slow dramas by 3-10 episodes in but this drama? theres something about it that kept me going, weird enough i dont know why. if and only if they had not cut the episode to 28 i personally think the ending would be better. u know when they introduce the characters they write the character's future below the name, like how woo was supposed to be an artist hyun rung a successful scholar. i thought they were gonna show it but no hmm. all and all i really love this drama and will definitely watch it again.
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Comments (221)

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  • Reply
    EBN Jul 3, 2017 - edited

    I love it so far ~ my best historical drama ..
    finished this last week , but everyday I think about the eternal love between Saimdang & Lee Gyeom , how sad . for this drama I cried so much that before , never did ~ please don't mention of ratings , it's the best . believe me ..
    full of emotional moments & so interesting . about the music just say "WOW"
    I rate it 10/10 & Highly recommended ^_^

  • Reply
    LPA Jun 14, 2017 - edited

    I loved this drama! It is now one of my favorites. The storyline was so interesting and the characters, cinematography and acting were excellent. It is the perfect love story with the portrayal and development of moral character and heartfelt love, in all aspects, throughout the story to the very end. I am very surprised that more people have not watched this so far--maybe it's the number of episodes, but I wish it were longer, although I did feel satisfied the way and where it ended. This drama is worth watching every minute and I will watch it again. I recommend watching right now if you are searching for something new and amazing. It is very beautiful, poetic, and enduring with plenty of action and intrigue. Also, the OST is really good--hope I can find it online. I rated "Saimdang" 9.5 out of 10.
    Great work to all involved. Take care.

  • Reply
    Martina May 13, 2017

    I have to say that I dopped this drama after first ep because it looked boring but I decided to give it a second chance. I do not regret that decision becuase it was amazing! I loved all those artsy stuff and the chemistry between the main lead is just awesome! Nice story, wasn't so predictable as the historical dramas usually are. I have to say that I was heartbroken the whole time but only great drama can leave so much emotions in you so good job!
    Only time that I felt bored was during the presence so I skipped some parts but it was still really good. I like how they described so many of the characters and how strong were the women. Definitely something new and especially in historical dramas. I hate it when the women are just stupid and useless, always annoyed with the main woman charcter but it was different this time...

  • Reply
    Martina May 13, 2017 - edited
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    • Reply
      Betty_Boop May 13, 2017

      wow thanks.. ill surely apreciates ur information about this :)

  • Reply
    Betty_Boop May 12, 2017

    why they cut the last 2 epi???.. still i do love this drama.. thumbs up in so mamy ways.

  • Reply
    etcetera May 11, 2017 - edited

    i have seen the 30-episode version and it was better. i kinda already expecting plot holes when they reduced the 2 episodes. but they did pretty good with the trimming just a lil bit of confusion. but i can pick up the idea here and there but yeah the omitted the most critical part of the ending.

    one thing, despite all the good reviews why is the rating still low?

    • Reply
      etcetera May 12, 2017

      it was airing in my country :)

    • Reply
      OliCT May 12, 2017

      You can find it in youtube..but the subtitle is in a different language/not english haha

    • Reply
      Betty_Boop May 12, 2017

      nooooooo :(

    • Reply
      namopanik May 13, 2017

      because it's harder to write a negative review. You have to finish a drama you dislike while taking notes in your head to make valid points and not just rant. Yet dropping something and/or rating it low is a matter of seconds. Hence reviews with high rates and not so high average (but 7,8 is still a decent score in my book).

    • Reply
      Betty_Boop May 13, 2017

      i totally agreed w you namopanic.

  • Reply
    OliCT May 8, 2017 - edited
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      OliCT May 11, 2017 - edited
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      etcetera May 12, 2017 - edited
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    • Reply
      OliCT May 12, 2017 - edited
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    • Reply
      etcetera May 12, 2017

      really? thats too bad. their roles are very minor i could not be bothered about them at all lol. alright no big deal.

  • Reply
    titisi May 7, 2017

    ahh no sad love story not about to waste my time

  • Reply
    layla May 5, 2017

    this drama was a beautiful story about love,pride an bravery of one woman and her man....third dimension of love,indescribable,powerful,beautiful and pure as it is...that kind of love many people dream of but rarely live through.....

  • Reply
    sunflower63 May 5, 2017 - edited

    This is truly the most poetic/artistic Korean drama I have seen up to now (the only one that gets a little close to this is Painter in the Wind) and one which I will not easily forget.
    The most outstanding features here were definitely the sceneries, the OST and the amazing chemistry between the leads (in the part concerning the past).
    The only flaw in this drama for me was the part in the present which wasn't as involving as the one in the past and was also a little frustrating at times.
    I think on the whole this is a perfect representation of romance in its purest and most delicate form.

  • Reply
    Marooya May 5, 2017

    Love the OSTs they were so fitting with this drama, very haunting too. LYA didn't disappoint me, I enjoyed her as much as I did over a decade ago. Yes the drama had it's pausing moments, but I don't think it was trying to be anything else than what it is, poetic and artistic.

  • Reply
    Aza Apr 27, 2017 - edited

    should I watch this? Just watched SSH in The 3rd Way of Love and wanna see him more..

    • Reply
      OliCT Apr 27, 2017

      He's not really in it until like ep 5-6 lol. Other than that I'm on ep.15 and I like the plot..but I just don't really like it when it's about the present world/time.

  • Reply
    Poia Apr 26, 2017 - edited

    I'm so into Korean that I don't even recognize my own language in first episode!! I was reading sub and after a couple of phrases in my mind was like... wait a second, why I can understand them, omg but it's Italian! LoL.
    Your comment about cut of episode scares me, should I keep watching ?

    • Reply
      Poia Apr 27, 2017

      actually the convention's city it's Bologna. When they kick her out of the hotel, you can see her in piazza maggiore/grande in Bologna, you can check with foto on internet. I know because we have a famous song called like this place from singer Lucio Dalla!

    • Reply
      namopanik Apr 27, 2017 - edited

      Are you sure? In that scene when the professor talks to Kim Mi Kyung's character and later when they're all having a meeting and he sends her to buy him a toothbrush and socks it looks like Florence to me... And now she comes back to get a scolding, she and her professor are standing on the balcony and there's the cathedral on the right (00:31).
      But you're absolutely right, later when she walks with her suitcase it really is Piazza Maggiore in B.! I was so fixated on the panorama (and hating the professor) I missed it then. Not so sure about river and bridge in the next scene though. Quite a walk.

    • Reply
      Poia Apr 28, 2017

      On the balcony, before she leave for shopping, you can see a Clock Tower seems a lot like the clock tower in piazza signoria in Firenze.
      So inside the convention you can read bologna everywhere but they are in Firenze !? But then she get kick out form the hotel and she is in Bologna....
      the bridge part seem Firenze again....but when in the morning she goes arount looking for "siesta di luna" you can see her in a street call "via clavature nr. 16" and it's in Bologna.
      You can street view that on google, there is the fruit and levi's shop at the corner like in the episode. LOL.
      At this point, they probably film in two different city.
      They made a cut and paste, And put it all together in a really extravagant way

    • Reply
      namopanik Apr 28, 2017

      I guess they were just aiming for pretty views. Which is fine and doesn't really matter since there's no such conference in either of those cities and it's rather unlikely to come to Europe to discuss such a discovery on a random convent. Plus, the crew get a longer trip, good for them. More ice cream for the crew! :D
      They generally tend to put pretty over realistic in this episode. It bothered me when she was taking a supposedly workable picture of the painting through a glass in a dark room or when she just took a centuries old painting out of its safe hiding place and hanged it in the garden, in a full sunlight and air. Shouldn't she know better? Or threw it in her suitcase and brought back to Korea without any custom issues. And how come she hadn't had enough money to stay in a hotel, but could afford a trip? But ok. With two connected lifetimes, why can't she have a handy teleport too.
      I hope it's resolved in some satisfactory way how Lee Gyeom ended in Italy.

    • Reply
      Poia Apr 28, 2017

      I agree with everything, sometimes I think we just need to accept that it's just a drama....... but then other drama don't make so many mistake so it's difficult not get upset when mistakes are so obvious.

  • Reply
    etcetera Apr 22, 2017 - edited

    i really hate it when they cut the drama short for whatever reason. worst it happens to the drama that i reaallyyy like. seriously. some characters in episode 24 were neglected and i do not like that(i hope they explain in the remaining episode). then suddenly u have 1 full episode of the modern day. we're left with only 3 episode they better not ruin the ending urgh! the last few episodes are the crucial part, it s a terrible terrible idea to cut it down now. it would have been better if they had edited earlier. still, i love this drama!!!!

  • Reply
    Betty_Boop Apr 20, 2017 - edited

    why they need to cut the last 2 remaining epi? not even a bad drama.. tsk..


  • Country:

    South Korea
  • Type:

  • Episodes:

  • Aired:

    Jan 26, 2017 to May 4, 2017
  • Aired On:

    Wednesday, Thursday
  • Network:

  • Duration:

    60 min.


  • Score:

    7.8 (scored by 425 users)
  • Ranked:

  • Popularity:


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