K-DRAMA REVIEW: “When The Camellia Blooms” Celebrates A Woman’s Fortitude In Thought-Provoking Story

After the results of 56th Baeksang Arts Awards, attention arises again for the year-end hit KBS2 drama, When The Camellia Blooms.

PRO TIP: Gong Hyo Jin rarely stars in a bad drama. That’s the reason why I added When The Camellia Blooms on my watch list last year. It’s definitely a great choice since I sealed 2019 with a life-affirming and woman empowering story from Dong Baek.

Kang Ha Neul winning the best actor in Baeksang is expected considering his portrayal of a love-struck country bumpkin is utterly amazing.

  • Main Cast: Gong Hyo Jin | Kang Ha Neul | Kim Ji Suk | Kim Kang Hoon
  • Network & Episode Count: KBS2 TV | 20 Episodes
  • Romance/Addictive Meter:
  • Overall Rating:
  • Rewatch Value:
  • K-Dramas of Similar Vibe: Romance is a Bonus Book | Search: WWW | City Hall |

abbyinhallyuland watched When The Camellia Blooms on Netflix

When The Camellia Blooms Series Recap

Orphan Dong Baek (Gong Hyo Jin) settles in a new town with her son. In a place famous for marinated crabs, she puts up a bar business which at first earned the irritation of the neighborhood wives. As the sole refuge of men and husbands after a long day, and with Dong Baek’s innate beauty, she is often a target of envy and condescending attitude.

Six years after, Dong Baek withstood the neighborhood bet that her business will not last long. Raising her son Pil Gu becomes a normal routine. Things change when Hwang Yong Sik (Kang Ha Neul) returns to his hometown from Seoul. Falling in love at first sight to the charming single mother, he works his way slowly but surely – and gives not just the love Dong Baek was deprived of, but the encouragement to be confident so people won’t think she can be trifled with.

At the same time, people from her past resurfaced just as the town’s serial killing chase appears to be burning again. Dong Baek, who survived one of the murders, is again put to test while struggling to reconnect with her mother who abandoned her. Her predicament to the father of her son also arises, just as her good relationship to Young Sik’s mother turned sour after learning of their romantic relationship.

When The Camellia Blooms Series Highlights

Dong Baek & Young Sik Love’s Story

Chuckling multiple times on Gong Hyo Jin and Kang Ha Neul’s portrayals of the main love pairing is normal. Their love is pure, encouraging, and heartwarming. Deviating from excessive drama and taking the middle-aged romance route makes the story more appealing to people in their 30’s.

Just like every woman who waits for a memorable love, whether it arrived or not, Dong Baek brims with resilience carved in her life. Albeit struggling to show confidence owing to her history, the kindness deep in her heart sustained the grievances in her life.

Her fortitude was eventually blessed with a lover who is willing to tackle the Herculean task of shielding Dong Baek against the mishaps haunting her. No doubt, Yong Sik deserves the “Best K-Drama Boyfriend” label this season. His overflowing optimism and sensitivity to know when he is needed by his woman beat any riches or supernatural powers from the rest of K-Drama male leads this year.

While Gong Hyo Jin carried the weight of the story’s movement, Kang Ha Neul’s perfect fusion of his energizing role to Gong’s passive character cemented the binding romance of the story.

Yong Sik’s approach to make life less complicated and just live it incidentally with the woman of his dreams speaks about finding joy in the simple things. That makes him also one of the best actors who owned his role genuinely this season.

Familiar Plot With Inspiring Lessons

Set in a neighborhood, When the Camellia Blooms is a drama you can watch in solace. The practical and heartfelt storytelling easily stirs the viewers to root for each character. Picturing relatable characters that viewers might have encountered once in their lives, it reminisces the relationship we had to let go of.

The serial-killer chase and the romance buildup between Dong Baek and Yong Sik sum up the connecting points of the narrative. Fortifying the plot are scenes about the woes of Pil Gu, and the various mother-child relationship highlighted in the series.

At the same time, the family situations touching relationships and marriage projected in the series left brooding moments. It enlightens parents and children in the same bind to understand the perspective and emotions of their family members.

It also bravely called attention to irrational societal viewpoints about single parents. Aside from that, it left contemplative lessons about discrimination, the generation gap, and the special bond between children and parents.

Commendable Character Portrayals

From the main characters down to the small roles, When the Camellia Blooms meticulously wrapped sensible messages conveyed by the characters. Dong Baek and Yong Sik mounted an ideal relationship of trust and love.

Child actor Kim Kang Hoon is a natural in pitching the angst and woes of his 8-year-old character, who matured early, to protect his yielding mother. Veteran actresses Go Doo Shim and Lee Jung Eun both depicted mothers who showed unconditional love for their children.

Oh Jung Se and Yum Hye Ran effectively chipped in support by playing as a couple with evident intelligence disparity. Once divorced, the two rediscover the affection they lost along the way.

Holding the torch of the character who escalated the exciting unveiling of the town’s murderer is Son Dam Bi. Just like the balanced good and flawed sketches included in all the characters, Hyang Mi’s role left an enigmatic impression. Her deplorable life is made more harrowing when her back story was shown.

Lastly, Kim Ji Seok who portrayed Pil Gu’s father captured the message of how there are problems we hope we could have resolved when we are at the age when we can handle its pressure. Kang Jong Ryul meets his first love who left him so as not to be a hindrance to his promising baseball career. Finding out he fathered a son with her, amidst a rocky marriage of his own, he realized his past choices came back serving an agony he deserves.

When The Camellia Blooms Series Musings

A single mother who discovered love in a small town hounded by an unsolved serial killing stigma appears heavy on paper. Hence, the comforting feel of When The Camellia Blooms strangely does not fit its premise. Therefore, it layers as an additional charm of the narrative.

When a drama with a big cast makes you remember all the characters that paraded and their connection to the main leads; that is considered commendable. Moreover, the thrilling elements of the plot indirectly highlighted the goal to make its heroine blossomed to her very best version.

Dong Baek’s character gives a new meaning to “girl power”. Her neon label tag as “unfortunate woman” drove the narrative of a unique underdog story that did not utilize annoying villains. Instead, it focused on her inner challenges to strengthen herself so she can face all demons, may it be self-encouraged or life inflicted.


Fully understanding that her being soft-hearted left her fewer retreat routes to protect herself and her loved ones, she moved to change. Her character development served as the lingering impression of the series. The endearing at times mushy romance was just a bonus.

With a woman-empowering theme, this drama is a superb encouraging watch not just for single mothers, but for women of all ages. More so, the parent-child relationship scenes abundant in the drama provided thoughtful lessons making the series perfect to watch with your family.

When the Camellia Blooms reminds us that happiness is not supposed to be chased. It has to be savored right at the very moment it happens. Although problems decorate life, and it’s not something that we want to welcome – it inevitably arises to make us stronger.

Photos: KBS Drama

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