In 1890, Korea is just emerging from a centuries long isolation. New ideas flood this ancient land and tension between old and new, peasant and upper class, foreigner and native push the culture to the breaking point. Idealistic missionaries, Robert and Elinor Mackenzie, travel from small town Pennsylvania into a maelstrom of change. While establishing a school and hospital in rural Korea, the couple struggle to find their place in an alien world. Help comes from many local people. Pobai, a young upper class woman, becomes a teacher in the mission school, Han Kae-jun, is passionate about reforming Korea and his uncle, Han Shen-Su is just as determined to maintain the balance of the old ways. When civil war erupts, new loyalties are tested and old prejudices revealed. Friendship transforms the Mackenzies as well the Koreans who befriend them.