Written by Isabelle Alyssa Mortega

When the Camellia Blooms - AsianWiki
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If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” – Buddha

Let me start this review with that quote as we unfold what does it mean. 

Have you ever wondered why of all flowers camellia is chosen to be the title of this drama?

Well, I did some research regarding a camellia flower, on how it grows, where and when it grows and I bet the writer did it well to incorporate those in the story. 

First, the camellia is a flower known to be a “Survivor”, “Winter’s Rose” and “Queen of Winter Flower”. If we are to relate it, the character portrayed by Gong Hyo Jin as Dong Baek represents what the camellia flower had been through. Dong Baek is a girl who was born during winter, grew up to be an orphan and a single mother. As we unfold the story, you will see how Dong Baek survived all her struggles in life. 

When the Camellia Blooms | Netflix Official Site
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Second, the colors of camellia. There are three colors of this flower. White camellias symbolize adoration and are given to someone well-liked. We know that from the start of the story, Dong Baek is being hated and criticized by the neighborhood of Ongsan since she is an orphan and an unmarried woman with a child. The story revealed that somehow Dong Baek became a white camellia who bloomed to be the most adored and liked person in Ongsan. The next color is the pink camellias which symbolize a longing for someone and is given to someone who is missed. This represents the longing for love that Dong Baek wants, the love of her mother and the love of the father of her son whom she waited in Ongsan for quite some time but as the story continues, she found new love and the mother’s love she longed for and that made her bloomed into a pink camellia. The last color is the red camellias which symbolize love and passion. This color represents Dong Baek who has a passionate love for her son to make ends meet. Also, a love she has found for Hwang Yong Sik (Kang Ha Neul). The love that is compared to how a dumpling is cooked. A slow and warm kind of love that bloomed beautifully.

Camellias of assorted colors.
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Lastly, the symbols for camellia. Camellia flowers represent understanding and patience. It needs a lot of care because it is a slow-growing flower. This goes for both main characters. The understanding between Dong Baek and Yong Sik as they develop their slow-warm-love-hate relationship. The patience showed by Yong Sik to Dong Baek and Pil Gu to get the so-called brownie points.

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Now, why is this drama representation of life? Let me break it down each character and their significant representation.

Gong Hyo Jin as Dong Baek
An orphan, a single mom, and a woman. Her character represents how an orphan can grow into a nice person despite the dark days she had. A mom who is being ostracized for being unmarried and who awkwardly runs a bar. She is so nice and understanding despite the criticism and rumors she had to take. On the other hand, she represented how the camellia would grow slowly and bloom beautifully. The character development did portray it and how she courageously overcame the fear, doubt, and insecurity.

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Kang Ha Neul as Hwang Yong Sik 

Kang Ha Neul Wins Best Actor At The 56th Baeksang Arts AwardsWhen the Camellia Blooms Korean Drama Review | Kdrama Kisses
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The “country bumpkin charm” in the story. A simple man with a simple heart.  A representation of a lucky man. I want to share how his character correlates with the title and the female lead. 

As a reference, in China, the camellia represents the union between two lovers. He knew that Dong Baek is the one for him at first sight. The Princess Diana he wants to be with.

The delicately layered petals represent the woman, and the calyx (the green leafy part of the stem that holds the petals together) represents the man who protects her. In the story, Yong Sik protected Dong Baek at all costs from the mysterious serial killer Joker. It’s like saying “You are my calyx that holds my everything”.

When the petals of a flower fall off, the calyx will stay intact which is why the camellia also represents eternal love or long-lasting devotion. As we go along the story, there were many times that Yong Sik was being rejected by Dong Baek but Yong Sik was so devoted to loving and protecting his Dong Baek-ssi. The “petals that fall off” is the scene where Dong Baek always gave up and broke down and showed how the calyx (Yong Sik) holds on to it and never leaves until Dong Baek became ready to be a woman to him. At last, they ended up together breaking the stigma that a single parent cannot marry and have a happy married life. 

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Kim Ji Suk as Kang Jong Ryeol        

When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 17-18 » Dramabeans Korean drama ...
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A man who represents easy go lucky life. A YOLO concept but regrets what he should have done before. A don’t-know-how to be a father but tries his best. In the end, he kept everything he has and began to be a real man. 

Ji E Suu as Jessica     

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This character represents the attention-seeker and at the same time the people-pleaser where she showed how the social media world works in one’s individual life. A like, a share and a comment begin to be the affirmation and confirmation of belongingness. A sense of temporary fame that we all dream to have. A place where we fake our reality into something ideal but behind those are hate, envy, jealousy, insecurity, and inferiority. 

Oh Jung Se as No Kyu Tae and Yum Hye Ran as Hong Ja Young 

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Mr. No Peanuts represents the person who has a lot of dreams but has an inferiority complex, especially towards his competent wife. Mr. No Peanuts and his wife is a representation that divorce is not just because of incompetency and third-party but a realization of how can love spark once again. It’s cliché but as the saying goes love is sweeter, the second time around. 

Jeon Bae Su as Captain Byun

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The sajangnim (superior) who will support you when he knows you are correct and fight with you with the things you truly believe and stand for. He is also a representation that love is not just for younger people but for his age too.

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Son Dam Bi as Hyang Mi

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Her character is a mirror of oneself who needs to survive in life. A kleptomaniac in the making due to her past experiences in order to live especially she felt betrayed by her brother. A representation of a lost soul who wants to have a family she can call her own. This character also portrayed that despite the gloomy days she had, she still found a family. 

Kim Kang Hoon as Pil Gu     

When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 9-10 » Dramabeans Korean drama ...
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A representation of a deprived child and grew to be the one who carries the burden of his parent/s. A protector of his mother because of the hate and rumors thrown at them. A child who cannot enjoy his childhood because he felt responsible for his mom’s sake. A painful representation of a child but in the end, he chose what makes her mom happy. 

Ko Du Shim as Kwak Deok Sun and Lee Jung Eun as Jo Jeong Suk

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These eomonnies (mothers) are the epitome of survivor despite the struggles that life thrown to their faces. One mother who knows how to deal with criticism and who survived to raise her children and the other gave up her child in order to survive and wished to have a better life. A mother who wants the best for his child whom she raised from all the struggles and a mother who did not really abandon her baby but watches from afar. These mothers are the toughest.

Lee Kyu Sung as Park Heung Sik and Shin Mun Sung as Park Seok Yong    

A representation of Nature-Nurture Development Theory. Is a monster naturally born or nurtured? This father-and-son figure showed that parenting affects how the child would turn when they grow old. The son represents a person who developed this behavior and personality because of misguided childhood and less appreciation of his existence. This is a rare case of social disorder and a father who is willing to protect his child because he knew it was his fault that his child grew that way. This character simply represents a father who is ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of his child.

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It might spoil you but for me, these scenes are the best that highlights the story.

  • A surprise birthday gift from Yong Sik. A trail of notes going to something special. It was cheesy.

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  • When Yong Sik was accidentally kissed by Dong Baek. That was a jackpot for him and it was heart-fluttering.
  • When Dong Baek realized that Pil Gu is growing up while she turned into a child. A realization of how a child can carry a parent’s burden as well. It pains you.

When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 35-36 » Dramabeans Korean drama ...
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  • A recap scene between Yong Sik’s mom and Dong Baek’s mom, a destiny indeed for Yong Sik and Dong Baek as baby Dong Baek’s feet touches Yong Sik’s mom tummy while Yong Sik was still in inside. It’s sweet.

When the Camellia Blooms: Episodes 27-28 » Dramabeans Korean drama ...
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  • A recap scene where young Dong Baek is being protected by young Hyang Mi and as they crossed paths to each other to represent sisterhood. As they grow fonder to each other and how to help and understand each other. There is also a scene where Hyang Mi, running by foot, followed Dong Baek as she rode the motorbike. It was touching.
  • A scene that I think dedicated to all moms in the world, this is in Episode 14 of the drama. A mom would move every mountain for her child. A mom who would make ends meet and a mom who endures pain to let her child experience joy and happiness. A heartfelt scene. 
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  • The scene where Dong Baek is reading her mom’s farewell letter. It reveals that she was never really abandoned and loved. The most painful scene that will leave you in tears. 
  • The epic scene of unity. The scene where the Ongsan community helped Dong Baek to have her mother operated. The ambulance scene with Gyu Tae, the traffic light with Chief Byeon, the back-up police, and mostly the ahjummas who said that they have to take action before fate does. An ideal picture of one harmonious community.

Images from KBS


The lines being narrated in every episode gave us a slice of life especially the lines narrated by Yong Sik in every ending of the episode. But what is the most inspiring line here was the one delivered by Dong Baek while talking to her mom:

“You don’t chase after your happiness, you savor it”. 

 I guess that line will help you realize that happiness is not something we should run after but enjoy it while it lasts. This drama is a taste of the reality of an individual. A person who has problems emotionally, physically, and financially and that represents us, living in what we call cruel life.   

Image courtesy of KBS


Image courtesy of KBS and Netflix

The sweetest about this drama is the message at the ending:

“Cheers to all of you, who are the strongest, the toughest, the most splendid and the most praiseworthy in the world and who are making your own miracles every day by overcoming obstacles in life.”

This sums up all the things transpired in the story. It is a message that the writer wants us to see and realize that no matter how hard life may be, how harsh the reality we face and how much the struggle we encounter, there is a miracle and that goes to the quote I have mentioned at the start:

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change”.

It simply implies how camellia blooms through the winter. Wherein winter represent cold days of our lives and how camellia miraculously survived that cold season to grow into the most beautiful flower and that goes to the title of the last episode of the drama “Do Miracles Happen?” and the episode showed that as long as there is HOPE, miracles do happen and gives you another day to live a wonderful life.  

To conclude this review, I highly recommend this K-drama if you feel tired and if you feel life has thrown mud at you. This is drama is right for you. 


Featured image courtesy of Netflix

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