'When the Camellia Blooms' Plants a Sinister Seed into the Typical K-Drama Rom-Com

By snackfever

This highly-anticipated drama took the internet by a storm when its teaser was released, featuring  rom-com queen Gong Hyo-jin (The Master’s Sun, The Producers, Don’t Dare To Dream), the return of  Kang Ha-neul (Midnight Runners, Forgotten), and Kim Ji-seok (The Rebel, Children of the 20th Century). KBS2’s When the Camellia Blooms is the story of a single mother, Dong Baek, played by Gong Hyo-jin; who opens a bar in a small countryside town and how her life changes when she meets a good-hearted cop, Hwang Yong-sik (Kang Ha-neul). 

Minor spoilers ahead.

There are dramas that make you feel warm and cozy, and then there are dramas that get you wide-eyed and fist-clenched while waiting for the next episode. From what we’ve seen in the first two episodes, this one seems to fall right in the middle. Right off the bat, the editing and cinematography of the show are utterly beautiful. Juxtaposed with the perfect sound score, When the Camellia Blooms sets the tone for what one can expect from the series. 

Episode 1 starts off rather unexpectedly with a narrative that might seem a little too dark. A woman is found dead in a river and one of the cops recognizes her due to a piece of jewelry. There is no hint as to whether this is in the future or the past. The next scene is filled with a completely different mood; lighthearted humor that fills the remainder of the episode.

A new bar is opening up in a busy street of small town Ongsan and a beautiful woman is the owner. The women of the town quickly start to speculate about her, but their admiration turns into despise when they find out she’s a single mom who’s never been married. Gasp! From that moment on, Dong Baek becomes the talk of the town, gathering nasty looks from the women whose husbands spend too much money at her bar. 

On the other hand, Hwang Yong-sik is a good cop who can’t control his anger in the face of injustice. Although Yong-sik is good at his job, this leads him to be demoted so he returns to his hometown to work at the local police station. While visiting a library, Yong-sik falls head over heels for a beautiful woman that he meets there. He comes off as a bit awkward and stalker-ish, so the woman leaves without paying him much attention. Later, Yong-sik goes out to the town’s most popular bar with his boss and meets the woman again who turns out to be the owner. Although Dong Baek doesn’t like Yong-sik at first, their lives become more intertwined as he continues to pursue her and defend her at every possible occasion. 

In the second episode we’re introduced to Kim Ji-seok’s character, Kang Jong-ryul, a famous baseball player who returns to his hometown of Onsang while filming an episode for The Return of Superman with his baby daughter. It is there he meets Dong Baek, and secrets from the past start to surface. We’re also taken back to the first scene with the dead woman and a hint that a serial killer may be lurking around the lives of our protagonists. The pairing of suspense and rom-com does a great job at keeping the viewers wanting to know more while making the wait for another episode an unbearable one. 

The drama has shown only a peek into the lives of the people we will be witnessing over the course of the show, but we can clearly see how the characters are carefully built. Each one has their own little quirks, making them likeable and relatable. Furthermore, the representation shown in the drama makes it all the more worthwhile!

The main protagonist might seem to come off soft-hearted at first, only to emerge as a strong woman who can stand up for herself. Plus, the portrayal of Dong Baek as an unmarried, yet successful, business woman with a child takes a step in the right direction to normalize single moms. The dialogue is also written in a powerful yet natural way with plenty of witty remarks that will bring a smile to the viewers’ faces. We expect the story to reach a wide audience and to unfold in a way that is meaningful and enjoyable!  

When The Camellia Blooms is available to stream on Netflix with new episodes every Wednesday and Thursday. Let us know if you’re adding it to your queue!

Cover Image: When the Camellia Blooms (KBS2)
Written by Dianelys Fuentes & Sayantani Banerjee

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