When the Camellia Blooms primarily revolves around the life of Dongbaek (Gong Hyo-Jin), a single mom and an orphan, who opens up a bar in the fictional town of Ongsan to raise her son Pil-gu (Kim Kang-hoon). Dongbaek bears the brunt of her mean neighbors who deem her life as lowly, shameful and unlucky. Dongbaek later falls in love with a do-gooder policeman Yong-sik (Kang Ha-Neul). Meanwhile, Ongsan’s serial killer Joker resurfaces, putting Dongbaek’s life in danger.
What I Like about This K-Drama
• The Themes – For the most part, this K-drama talks about what a mother can and will do for her child. Dongbaek draws her strength from her son Pil-gu, the only family she has, having been abandoned by her own mom when she was little. Breaking stereotypes is another theme covered in this K-drama. While it’s unthinkable for her Ongsan neighbors to see a woman and a single mom at that open up her own bar, it did not stop Dongbaek to pursue what she sees is the only way she can support the needs of her son Pil-gu. When the Camellia Blooms also touches on love of family, kindness and resilience, as well as women empowerment.
• The Actors – Gong Hyo-Jin shines in this K-drama, portraying the timid, kind and pushover (well, initially, she was) female lead Dongbaek. She finds a perfect partner in Kang Ha-Neul as the headstrong, chatty and romantic police officer Yong-sik who showers Dongbaek with compliments, pure love and genuine concern. Kang Ha-Neul’s brilliant performance in this K-drama earned him the Best Actor award in the recently concluded 56th Baeksang Arts Awards, beating the likes of Hyun Bin (Crash Landing on You) and Park Seo-joon (Itaewon Class). Not to be outdone in When the Camellia Blooms is Kim Kang-hoon who plays Dong-baek’s son Pil-gu, a quick-witted grade-schooler, quite mature for his age, who goes out of his way to protect his mom from people who degrade her.
• The Life Lessons – Being a single mom (or a single dad for that matter) is not something that society should look down upon. If anything, society should be kinder to them and more accepting. Being a mom and a dad to your child at the same time is no mean feat. It requires twice the love, strength and sacrifice to raise a child on one’s own. I cannot imagine myself doing that, which is why I have so much respect for single parents. Another take-away I got from this K-drama is this: We should not let other people’s opinions define us. For as long as we are living a decent life and not harming others, we can be what we want to be and do as we please.
• The Pick-up Lines – Romance is alive and well in this K-drama. I was particularly taken by the romantic lines of Yong-sik to Dongbaek, clearly conveying his sincere and honest intentions. He is also always complimenting Dongbaek and making her realize her self-worth. These pick-up lines from Episode 4 alone will surely make your heart flutter.
“You may be an orphan and a single mother, but you managed to raise Pil-gu so well, and you even run your own business. You don’t blame others or live a cheap life. On top of that, you still manage to stay so kind and diligent. That’s how you live. People should respect you and compliment you for that.”
“If anyone else were in your shoes, they would’ve lost it already. No one has the right to badmouth you. Dongbaek, in this entire neighborhood, you’re the strongest, the most strong-willed, the most magnificent, and the most admirable person I know.”
“I’m not like Kang Jong-ryeol. I don’t care who Pil-gu’s dad is. I promise that I will never make you or Pil-gu cry. I’ll remind you every day what a great person you are so that you’ll never forget.”
When the Camellia Blooms is one of my most favorite K-dramas because of the themes it conveys, the superb acting skills of the lead characters, the lessons it imparts and the wonderful pick-up lines. Go watch it if you haven’t already. I’m sure you’ll love it, too!