Can a secret diary shed light on the authenticity of a centuries-old painting?
Seo Ji Yoon (Lee Young Ae) is an art history lecturer who has devoted the best years of her life to earning her Ph.D. and working under her mentor, department chairman Min Jung Hak (Choi Jong Hwan), in the hopes of being named a full-time professor at her university.
When Jung Hak entrusts Ji Yoon to write the thesis for his find-of-the-century historical painting, “An Gyeon’s Mount Geumgang,” Ji Yoon is ecstatic and finally feels like she is about to earn her professorship. But in a matter of days, her whole world comes crashing down around her.
First, her husband, Jung Min Seok (Lee Hae Young), suddenly becomes a fugitive when his company comes under investigation and the Russian Mafia comes after him for dirty money, forcing Ji Yoon, her son, and her mother-in-law, Kim Jung Hee (Kim Hae Sook), to be kicked out of their home. Then, Ji Yoon’s career comes to a crashing halt when grad student Han Sang Hyun (Yang Se Jong) publicly challenges the authenticity of the Mount Geumgang painting and Ji Yoon does not adequately defend Jung Hak’s reputation.
An enraged Jung Hak has Ji Yoon fired and ostracized from the art history community. At the bottom of her life, Ji Yoon discovers the secret diary of Shin Saimdang (1504-1551), a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist and poet who was the mother of Yi I, one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars during the Joseon Dynasty. The diary sheds new light on the life of Saimdang (also played by Lee Young Ae, her relationship with painter Lee Gyeom (Song Seung Heon), and the Mount Geumgang painting.
With the help of Sang Hyun and her best friend, Go Hye Jung (Park Jun Myun), an antiquities researcher, can Ji Yoon get her life and career back?
“Saimdang, Light’s Diary” is a 2017 South Korean drama series directed by Yoon Sang Ho.