Based on the 1996 essay by Mansudae ballerina Shin Young-hee Until the Rhododendron Blooms, which portrays North Korean society during Kim Il-sung's regime, the show dramatize her life in the north of the peninsula, the public execution of Woo In-hee, a mistress of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, which she personally witnessed, and her defection to South Korea.
The first two episodes achieved a viewership rating of 16–21%, but the series was criticized for being overly sensational, ridiculing North Korea and distorting the original work. The author herself, in early October, tried to stop the show from airing, filing an injunction against KBS for copyright infringement and asking for a halt of the production of the drama.
Until the Azalea Blooms, remembered nowadays as one of the first entertainment programs that portrays North Korea without propaganda purposes, was negatively received by North Korea, which threatened to kill the staff and bomb KBS headquarters if the channel aired it, as the drama deals with corruption in the North. North Korea banned it too, but it has nevertheless circulated and people have been punished and executed for watching it.