Nokdu Flower Korean Drama Review

Nokdu Flower Korean Drama - Yoon Shi Yoon, Jo Jung Suk, Han Ye Ri

Nokdu Flower is set in 1894 during the Donghak Peasant Uprising and follows the story of two brothers who end up on opposite sides of the conflict: one is the legitimate son (Yoon Shi Yoon) born of the father and his wife and the other (Jo Jung Suk) is born of the father and a slave. They also get involved with a peddler (Han Ye Ri) who gets in the middle of the conflict.

Jo Jung Suk plays Baek Yi Kang. He is the oldest son of the family, but since he is born of a slave, he doesn’t enjoy the same rights as a legitimate son. He carries out his father’s bidding though and has a reputation for being tough around town.

Yoon Shi Yoon is Baek Yi Hyun. He is Yi Kang’s younger brother and the legitimate son of the family. He is a kind, smart, and moral man who cares for his older brother and treats him nicely despite his status.

Then we have Han Ye Ri as Song Ja In. She is the daughter of the head of a large peddler group and carries out the business too. She is calm and intelligent and becomes deeply involved with everything going on during the uprising.

Nokdu Flower was a pretty anticipated drama for me. I’m always up for historicals, plus Yoon Shi Yoon is one of my favorite actors. Then we’ve also got Jo Jung Suk and Han Ye Ri who are both excellent.

And not to leave out the amazing supporting cast. This is one of those dramas where almost everyone is recognizable, and the amount of talent these actors have is through the roof.


This definitely isn’t the usual kind of historical I go for though as I tend to like more of the fusion sagueks while this is much more realistic with a very somber tone to it. The drama did take me about five episodes to really start warming up to it.

The story drops us right into the middle of a lot going on while also having to set things up and introduce us to the characters and all of the dynamics at play. It’s a lot happening.

The plot moves ahead quite briskly leaving little chance to really take it in. The story itself was good, and I was slowly taking interest in the characters, but I wasn’t exactly engaged with the series yet.

But finally, things seemed to click with me. I began to adjust to the overall tone of the show and was very interested to watch this story that is based on real historical events surrounding the Donghak Peasant Uprising (with fictional happenings added in too of course).

Nokdu Flower is fairly unique as historicals go since the story is more centered around average people rather than royalty and palace politics. So if you’re interested in seeing something a bit different, Nokdu Flower is a nice change.

Now there is still a fair amount of military plotting as the nobles and army are pitted against the peasants during the uprising. Lots of battles and war type stuff. Definitely not my usual cup of tea.

But once I settled into the tone of the show and got more in depth with the characters, I did become more invested. Though even though this is a highly emotional story, I didn’t get very emotionally engaged myself until towards the end of the series. I think it’s more just because it’s not a favorite style of drama for me rather than any particular weakness of the show.

One other complaint I do have about the drama though was the lighting. This show isn’t just figuratively dark, it’s literally dark. A whole lot of scenes take place at night from conversations, to plotting, to action, and those scenes just weren’t lit that well.

It makes it harder to appreciate the action as well as see the emotions on the characters’ faces. I really wish they would have done better with the lighting considering how many night scenes there were.

The daytime scenes were perfectly fine though. Excellent cinematography and depictions of some very large scale battles were certainly a feast for the eyes. We get to see a lot of the weapons of the time and how more advanced weapons were changing the way battles were fought.

One of the most interesting elements of the show is the conflict between the two brothers Yi Kang and Yi Hyun. With Yi Hyun being the legitimate son and Yi Kang being born of a slave, they live very different lives and are treated differently by their father. Despite that, the brothers have a good relationship.

All of that begins to change with the peasant uprising though. Yi Kang ultimately joins the Donghak group responsible for the uprising while Yi Hyun enlists in the military. The two men set off on different paths that change their lives.

Because of this, we don’t actually get a ton of scenes with the brothers together. This was disappointing since I was always very captivated by them when they were together, and their relationship was just so intriguing. The scenes we do get of them together were some of my favorites.

On their individual journeys, Yi Kang seems to improve in character as his life has new meaning, but Yi Hyun in thrown into the midst of battle and witnesses the atrocities of war. This sends Yi Hyun down a very dark path that was truly difficult to watch.

And what a performance by Yoon Shi Yoon! As a favorite of mine, I already know what an amazing actor he is, but this was another nice addition to his resume. He really captures the inner turmoil that Yi Hyun goes through as he struggles with morals, PTSD, and his entire world changing. I just felt so bad for what he went through and what he ultimately became.

The drama does have a dash of romance with both Yi Kang and Yi Hyun having a love interest, but those stories are both very much smaller subplots of the show.

Nokdu Flower also eventually takes us into the beginnings of the Japanese occupation which adds a whole other element to the story. This early part of the occupation is still a fairly unique setting for dramas. Last year’s Mr. Sunshine was also set around this early period.

It’s a tumultuous time of rapid change that literally turns the world of Joseon upside down with everyone scrambling to adjust. And if things weren’t serious enough before, they go to a whole new level at this point.

Those latter episodes of the drama are absolutely gut wrenching to watch as we see the Joseon people attempt to take back their country from Japan. They are at a complete disadvantage without the weapons needed to stand a chance in the fight.

The battles are horrible to watch as thousands of people are slaughtered in one battle after another. A good chunk of this is shown on screen and is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is inspiring to see that the Joseon people just won’t back down though. Of course, we know from history how it all ends.

Nokdu Flower wasn’t exactly the kind of historical I usually go for because of the strong military elements, but ultimately, I warmed up to it. It’s well-written with good pacing, has complex characters, and a vast amount of talented actors. It also tackled a unique portion of history that changed the face of Joseon. All of these elements came together to make for a pretty solid drama.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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About Kay

Greetings! I’m Kay, creator and author of Kdrama Kisses. Kdrama Kisses is dedicated to bringing you the latest in kdrama casting news, drama trailers, reviews, and more. Happy drama watching to everyone!
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22 Responses to Nokdu Flower Korean Drama Review

  1. raistlin0903 says:

    Interesting to be sure! I like the fact that this seems to be centered around common people, which is definitely a unique take. The lighting issue definitely sounds annoying though. I have had some movies/shows where that happened as well, and that was something that could really take you out of whatever it is you were watching. I do like military elements though, so that certainly is something that I would really enjoy! Overall, this sounds pretty good, and something I hope to eventually check out at some point. As you know currently I have my hands full with Novoland, so it might be a while before I get to this one. Terrific review as always! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Thank you so much πŸ™‚ It really is a solid drama with a lot of positive elements. The common people as a focus was definitely refreshing too. The night scenes were a bit annoying for sure though. It kind of sucks when the characters are being emotional and you’re trying your best to see their face clearly to understand what they’re feeling πŸ˜› But most of the drama was during the daytime, and all of that was perfect. But yes, maybe a good one to keep on your list for later. Glad things are going well with Novoland πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • raistlin0903 says:

        Yeah, I really usually don’t like it when that happens: especially during pivotal scenes. But as most of the drama was at daytime, I can understand why it wasn’t too much of a problem then 😊 I have actually waited a bit until there were more episodes translated for Novoland (they were so slow lol πŸ˜‚) But luckily right now they have translated up to 23. I do think I’m going to cut my review for it up. The show is just too long to capture in one single post Unless I make it 3000 words, but I don’t think that will interest people lol πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚.
        Definitely keeping this one on my list though: you can count on it! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kay says:

          Yep, waiting on subs is awful. It’s yet another reason I almost always wait until a drama has just a week left until its finished before I start it. I hate waiting! lol

          Long shows are definitely harder to review. I think my longest reviews are around 2000 words while I usually average about 1200. Usually the longer reviews are for longer series or complex subjects that need to be discussed. Now I’m curious what my longest review is. But my big year end posts are 5000-6000 words, so that’s a WHOLE lot. Gotta get all of the dramas in there, so the word count hasn’t stopped me! Hopefully, people don’t mind, hehe. I understand breaking up the review though. It makes it much more easily digestible πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

          • raistlin0903 says:

            Haha…yeah, me too! But well, sometimes I can’t resist, and in the case of Novoland it was too hard not to give it a try 😊
            I don’t mind long posts at all to be honest, but I do know that for some people it can be a turn off, especially with reviews. (again that’s not me 😊)I think it’s different when it comes to wrap up posts like end of year things, because for most bloggers those posts tend to be very long (unless your blog has one post for the entire year lol πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚).
            In the case of Novoland there is so much to talk about I think it’s almost impossible to capture it in a single post πŸ˜…πŸ˜… (In fact I think it’s going to be a hard one to review in the first place but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚).

            Liked by 1 person

            • Kay says:

              Yeah, it really just comes down to individual preference. And I agree, I think a lot of people want something they can quickly read and then move on. And it’s not like only doing a part 1 review that’s like 1000 words is short or anything. I consider that medium length. Plus, by breaking it up, you get two posts out of the deal πŸ™‚

              I can imagine how difficult reviewing a drama like Novoland would be. One of the longest dramas I’ve watched was the historical Empress Ki. I did a 2000 word review for it and no where near covered everything I would have liked to. There was just so much going on and so many story lines that appeared throughout the drama. Stuff inevitably gets left out. I was still happy with it in the end, but I loved the drama so much I wouldn’t have minded doing a series or something on it so that I could talk about everything, hehe πŸ™‚

              Liked by 1 person

              • raistlin0903 says:

                Well, there are people in the community that do episodic reviews for either anime/tv shows/K-dramas. But as I’m running a blog that deals with multiple subjects, I think that would eventually become boring for some readers if I were ever to go down that road (as not everyone likes the same content). I also honestly would not really know how to handle something like that lolπŸ˜‚
                But yeah it’s going to be a difficult review to be sure. As you say for the drama you once covered, there is a lot going on in this show, especially character wise. But we will see. I hope to catch up this weekend to at least episode 20, and then try to already make a first rough draft 😊
                Yeah, that really is true. Most of my posts are a little over the 1000 words mark 😊 I don’t mind longer posts as mentioned at all but as you say people do usually seem to prefer posts that are easy (and shorter) reads. I think time is probably the biggest factor for that 😊

                Liked by 1 person

                • Kay says:

                  There are definitely plenty of blogs that do episodic coverage. I considered doing that, but I really prefer series reviews myself, plus with covering news and such, there’s not really time to do that also.

                  I did once do short impressions for each episode of a kdrama though, and I really regretted it. The drama I chose to cover ended up being my least favorite kdrama I’ve ever completed! lol I’ve dropped dramas I liked far more. I wanted to drop it, but I also wanted to see the episode posts through to completion, so I stuck it out. It certainly confirmed my desire to just stick with full series reviews, hehe

                  Liked by 1 person

                • raistlin0903 says:

                  Lol, well that experience alone is definitely enough to not consider doing that ever again πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ I completely understand. There might be one episodic review coming up in september for an anime series that I and another blogger are both huge fans of and are considering doing a collab for. But we haven’t yet spoken about any details, so it could be that it’s going to end up entirely different.
                  But other than that I’m the same. I always just like to do a full series review too. And as mentioned it always fits my blog more too 😊

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Kay says:

                  Ah, well that would be fun doing it as a collab with another blogger πŸ™‚ And if you’re fans of the series, then you should be safe with the commitment, hehe. I’m with you on series reviews being the go to though πŸ™‚

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. Snow Flower says:

    I have not read your review yet, in order to avoid spoilers. I am definitely interested in this drama!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      It was a pretty good drama overall πŸ™‚ I didn’t include any specific spoilers in the review. I talk about a few plot points vaguely but tried to leave out any big stuff. And when I do include spoilers in my reviews, I do try to signal before and after. We all have different levels were what we consider spoilerly though. I don’t mind minor spoilers in a review, but I always try to avoid any big spoilers πŸ™‚

      Like

  3. Kate says:

    Really nice review! I’ts not my kind of genre so I don’t plan to watch but thanks to your review it confirms it’s not for me πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Thank you! Yep, it’s not my favorite genre either. My love of historicals and Yoon Shi Yoon made me check it out though. And while it still wasn’t a favorite, luckily, I warmed up to it pretty well. Glad to save you some time on this one though πŸ™‚

      Like

  4. Snow Flower says:

    I just started it. It is intense, fast-paced, and with plenty of character development already (only 4 episodes in). I am definitely sticking with this drama!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Oh that’s great! It’s really well done, and if you’re already liking it after 4 eps, I think you’ll have a good chance of enjoying it all the way through πŸ™‚

      Like

  5. Snow Flower says:

    3 episodes left! So far it’s a masterpiece…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Snow Flower says:

    Yes, the last couple of episodes were heart wrenching, but it ended on a very hopeful note. One of the best dramas of the year. I liked the story and the acting. I liked how the stories of fictional characters were skillfully blended with real historical events and people. This was a valuable history lesson for a history buff like me. I totally understand now why fluffy sageuks exist: to help us recover after super intense dramas like Nokdu Flower.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Yep, it was tough there at the end, but I’m glad they were able to end on a positive note. I agree, this one was so well written and blended everything beautifully. I’m a big history buff too, so I really enjoyed seeing this story brought to life.

      Haha, yes on the fluffy sageuks! When I finished Nokdu Flower, I was like I’m really going to need some fluffy romance and flower boys in my next historical in order to recover πŸ˜‰

      Like

  7. Snow Flower says:

    For now Rookie Historian is my perfect antidote to a heavy sageuk like Nokdu Flower. However, things are getting serious there too. I hope they retain the lighter tone, but I also hope that all the mysteries from the past will be revealed soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      That one is high up on my watch list and does look like a good one. Even a lot of the fluffier historicals tend to get more serious as they go, and I usually don’t mind that. Plus, it would be hard to get anywhere near as heavy as Nokdu was, hehe

      Like

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