Korean Drama Review: The First Shop of Coffee Prince

The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince

Image via Wikipedia

Coffee Prince is available on HULU and Viki.

SYNOPSIS:

Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) is the hardest working part-timer tomboy in Korea. Eun Chan splits her time between waitressing, sewing on doll eyes, cracking chestnuts, teaching taekwondo, waitressing, being a milkman, and delivering food. The 24-year-old Eun Chan works nonstop to support her sister who has informed her family that she plans to enter college and her mother who is a shopaholic. Eun Chan has no time for herself, instead of pursuing her own dreams, she seems to be caught up in the drudgery of day to day life.

One day she delivers food to the apartment of a handsome guy in a towel. This handsome guy in a towel is Choi Han Kyul (Gong Yoo), the heir to a food conglomerate that specializes in selling coffee beans. When Eun Chan walks in, she is shocked, whereas Han Kyul thinks nothing of it, because he mistakes Eun Chan for a guy. Eun Chan is often mistaken for a guy, due to her hair cut and wardrobe. After delivering food, Eun Chan rushes out of Han Kyul apartment extremely embarrassed.

However, that is not the last of Han Kyul. Han Kyul has just returned from abroad and is getting in touch with all of his old friends, including a woman he has had a crush on for nine years, Han Yoo Joo (Chae Jung Ahn). Unfortunately,  Yoo Joo dated his cousin Choi Han Seong (Lee Sun Gyun). Yoo Joo has also returned to Korea, because she has finally realized that Han Seong is the one after leaving him heartbroken. Despite knowing Yoo Joo’s true feelings, Han Kyul cannot give up on Yoo Joo. Han Kyul continues to hang out with Yoo Joo, even though he knows he has been friend-zoned.

One night while Han Kyul is out with Yoo Joo, a robber tries to snatch Yoo Joo’s purse. When the robber appears Han Kyul is not around. Fortunately, Eun Chan is on her motorbike, see the robbery, and chases the robber down. Eun Chan reclaims Yoo Joo’s purse, but ruins her bike in the process. While taking down the robber, Eun Chan realizes that the robber is Hwang Min Yeop, a guy that has a crush on her sister. Min Yeop explains to Eun Chan that he is trying to get money to pay for Eun Chan’s sister’s music classes. Min Yeop then conceives a plan to make it look like Min Yeop escaped her grip.

In the meantime, Han Kyul has reappeared and watches the act that Min Yeop and Eun Chan put on. Yoo Joo is thankful for Eun Chan’s help, but Han Kyul sees right through it. Han Kyul says that he will pay for the repairs to Eun Chan’s bike, if Eun Chan admits that the whole thing was a set up. Eun Chan rejects his offer and leaves disheartened. Since, Eun Chan no longer has a bike, so she is out of a job.

That loss in income is a real problem for Eun Chan and her family. Now, Eun Chan is forced to choose between money and her dignity. If Eun Chan takes the money from Han Kyul, she will be admitting that she is a schemer, but if she doesn’t her family will not be able to pay the rent. Eun Chan succumbs to Han Kyul’s wishes and admits that it was all a set up. When Eun Chan finally meets up with Han Kyul he gives her less than what she is expecting, but provides he with another offer. Han Kyul, who is still under the impression that Eun Chan is a guy, asks Eun Chan to act as his lover, so that his family will not set him up on anymore dates.

Han Kyul is almost 30 and has never had a real purpose, therefore, his family is fed up with his lack of direction and wants to get him settled and participating in family business as soon as possible. Han Kyul is trying to avoid the life planned by his parents at all cost. Han Kyul wants to use a gay lifestyle as an opportunity to prevent him from following his parent’s plans. When Han Kyul makes the offer to Eun Chan, who is now desperate for money, it is an offer she cannot refuse. Nonetheless, Eun Chan has no clue what she is in for.

While Eun Chan is acting like Han Kyul’s boyfriend, she starts falling for him. Eun Chan is torn and has no one to talk to except for Terry, the dog who stays at one of the houses on her milk route. Terry’s owner happens to be Han Seong, Han Kyul’s cousin and Yoo Joo’s ex-girlfriend. Eun Chan and Han Seong eventually meet and bond as they discuss the problems that they are having in their relationships, leading to a new love line.

Furthermore, Han Kyul’s family has not given on up on Han Kyul’s future outside of love; they still see him as the successor to the family business. Starting small, Han Kyul has now been tasked with the mission of running a coffee shop to sell his family’s coffee from. When Eun Chan learns of Han Kyul’s plan to open a coffee shop employing attractive males, she volunteers herself for the job. Seeing Eun Chan’s work ethic, Han Kyul hires her.  Min Yeop also finagles himself into the Coffee Shop, along with a cast of other intriguing characters.

Questions: Will Han Kyul parents finally be proud if the coffee shop be a success? Will Han Kyul fall for Eun Chan, despite the fact that he thinks he is a guy? Will Han Seong ever get back together with Yoo Joo, despite the way she left him? Will Eun Chan ever pursue her own dreams?

REVIEW:

To be truthful, I wasn’t quite sure how much I enjoyed Coffee Prince, the first time I watched it, although I realized it was top tier.  At the time, I truly did not value all of the factors that it had going for it. Most good dramas have a few ingredients that make it stand out, but not enough to watch it over and over and over. My doubts may have been a result me believing that there really was not much meat left to the story after Han Kyul discovers that Eun Chan is a woman, but oh there was so much more.

Dynamics of the Princes: I am all for girl power, but this is seriously the best cast I have scene in drama. The interplay between the characters makes you feel as if the cast was really a family and that they took pleasure in coming to work everyday. Several times, I have tried to decide which one of the princes I like the best outside of Han Kyul and Eun Chan. Hwang Min Yeop (Lee Eon) is the not so smart loveable younger brother to Eun Chan and turns into her protector. No Sun Ki (Kim Jae Wook) is the waffle making japanese immigrant who is too wise for words because he has his own tragic love story. Jin Ha Rim (Kim Dong Wook) is one of Han Kyul’s good friends who is the quintessential player and a guy’s guy. Although, Ha Rim thinks that he may be batting for the other team when he is love struck by Eun Chan’s cuteness. Hong Gae Sik (Kim Chang Wan) is elder statesman, the barista, and co president of the shop. Mr. Hong indirectly challenges Han Kyul to become a better person. During the scenes where the princes play basketball, perform at the concert, and go on the trip to the orchard, the audience can tell that there is a tight bond between the actors.

Note: Lee Eon, who played Min Yeop, tragically passed away in a motorcycle accident in 2008.

Secondary Love Line: Yoo Joo should be hated, but it is almost impossible not to love her and overlook her selfishness. Han Seong really loves Yoo Joo and admires her, he always makes clear his intentions with her. However, Yoo Joo wants to be free and like every stereotypical artist, her career comes first. In her 20s, Yoo Joo believed that Han Seong wanted to possess her and would force her to give up her freedom. However, in her 30s Yoo Joo realizes that Han Seong was really offering her support and understanding. When Yoo Joo comes back, Han Seong is unwilling to take her back because he knows that he loves her more than she loves him as exhibited by her leaving him. Han Seong would never do that and sees himself in Eun Chan through her love for Han Kyul. The way that Yoo Joo and Han Seong reverse roles when Yoo Joo sees Han Seong with Eun Chan was unexpected. The plot really made me believe that the writers could have made a whole new drama from this storyline. The pain in Yoo Joo’s heart when she realizes that Han Seong no longer only thinks of her makes viewers empathize with her character. Yoo Joo’s resolve to get Han Seong back by becoming a better person is admirable.

Gong Yoo as Han Kyul: Han Kyul is more complex than the average male heir to a conglomerate. In the beginning of this drama, Han Kyul is the one soul searching. Before Han Kyul meets Eun Chan he is floating through life. He doesn’t want to grab onto anything, but when he sees Eun Chan’s hardships he decides that he wants to hold on to him/her. Eun Chan is the first person that Han Kyul can talk to and Han Kyul asks Eun Chan to be his sworn brother. Eun Chan also teaches Han Kyul about responsibility, how to become a man, and how to take care of a family. Han Kyul finally gets serious about life wanting to make his father proud. Han Kyul is at odds with his father based on a lie from his past. They have not really gotten along, since he found out that he is the son of his father and his mistress. Although, over time, Han Kyul discovers all the sacrifices his father has made and continues to make for his happiness and to protect Han Kyul. This realization only adds to Han Kyul’s ambition and his quest for happiness.

Yoon Eun Hye as Eun Chan: At first I didn’t understand why she would not tell Han Kyul that she was girl, but then when you don’t know what to do you just stand. Maybe you shouldn’t stand to the point that you are starting to become physically intimate with someone that thinks that you are the same gender, but that is just my two cents. Nevertheless, going back to standing, the audience understands why Eun Chan feels like she is being backed into a corner. Eun Chan would rather live with him as a man, then without him as a woman. Eun Chan is in a vulnerable position, because she is the breadwinner, lost her father, did not go to college, and really needs her coffee prince job. In Eun Chan’s eyes, she could lose the best job she has ever had, her looks are not good enough for Han Kyul, and her background is not good enough for Han Kyul’s family. So when Eun Chan cries over the fact that she does not know what to do, the audience feels her pain. This whole plot sounds funny, but Yoon Eun Hye made this comical scenario surprisingly turn into a tearjerker. It only gets harder when Eun Chan tells Han Kyul and he doesn’t accept her. Then when he does accept Eun Chan, Eun Chan realizes that even though she lives for Han Kyul, she also has to live for herself. I applaud the writers for making this drama deeper than expected.

Am I gay?: At several points I felt that Eun Chan was torturing Han Kyul. Han Kyul tries so hard not to fall in love with Eun Chan, but can’t help himself. It is so sad, when Han Kyul asks Eun Chan to be his sworn brother, because he knows that it is as far as his relationship can go with Eun Chan. Soon, Han Kyul realizes that sworn brothers is not enough. The scene where Han Kyul and Eun Chan are on the beach and he wants to hold her as she goes to sleep, but resists because he knows that he shouldn’t is tragic. At that pivotal moment, I fully supported Han Kyul going gay. This is in spite of the fact that I already knew that Eun Chan was a girl. Then when Han Kyul finds out Eun Chan is a girl, viewers were able to accept Han Kyul’s motives for pushing her away. Han Kyul felt betrayed by Eun Chan, because she lied to him for so long

O.S.T.

Seriously good and Happy O.S.T.

Coffee Shop Happy –> “Mocha” by Casker

Pure Happiness –> “Lalala, It’s Love” by The Melody

Sadness that sound happy –> “Goodbye” by The Melody

Sentimentally Happy–> “White Love Story” by As One

Driving you to Happy –> “Joeun Gieok” by Tearliner

Happiness from Laughing at Han Seong’s singing–> “Badayeohaeng” by Lee Sun Gyun

Romantic Happieness –> “For a While” by MNI MinJae

Just Happy–> “Go Go Chan” by Tearliner

Highlights:

  • Eun Chan’s mother’s love triangle
  • Yoon Eun Hye looks good as a girl or a guy
  • Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun Hye are both good kissers and make for a cute romantic scenes
  • Han Kyul’s mother, father, and grandmother are all excellent actors and only add to the depth of the cast
  • Han Kyul’s date that says she can lick her armpit
  • Eun Chan’s mother stating that Eun Chan’s face is a weapon to protect her
  • Eun Chan’s eating habits are a constant source of amazement
  • Han Kyul’s “am I gay check” in the elevator with Yoo Joo
  • Eun Chan piggybacking Han Kyul
  • Do you want me to prescribe some anti-gay pills? Really.
  • Min Yeop’s last stand against Eun Chan’s sister’s harsh treatment
  • Han Seong’s voice as long as he was not singing
  • Yoo Joo’s proposal
  • Han Kyul’s shirts with statements like “get laid,” and “golden boy,”
  • Han Kyul’s man cleavage
  • Eun Chan’s statement that Han Kyul is dangerous in a black shirts <— This
  • Han Kyul’s slide out bed
  • Jin Ha Rim’s player tactics, and later his submission to his girlfriend
  • Min Yeop as a back model

Ugh

  • Mr. Hong’s love gone awry
  • So many wine glass around when Yoo Joo is preggers
  • Episode 10 Eun Chan is still a guy, it was such a long wait
  • Barista 2 year hardcore training in Italy
  • No Sun Ki visiting ex-girfriend’s child’s day care
  • What Eun Chan’s mother and sister consider a makeover was just weird
  • Weirded out by the stocking finger puppets

5 stars good cast, good characters, good plot, and showing that you really make a lot out of a seemingly silly storyline.

Side Note: After watching 3 dramas with Yoon Eun Hye multiple times, I will admit that she has become one of my favorite actresses. However, I will say that not every drama ranks as high as the ones I have reviewed, I cannot finish Take Care of the Young Lady (plot leaves something to be desired and like but don’t love lead couple as couple) and The Vineyard Man (feel like male lead is written as a push over and slow). I just wanted to clarify those things and acknowledge that this drama still deserves 5 stars. But, seriously guys I am waiting for this team up…

Credit: Snowcedarplanes on Youtube.com

Up Next: Secret Garden, The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry, or City Hunter.

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6 comments

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  3. blucat

    Thanks for this. I’ve finally succumbed to watching Korean dramas and this is my second. I’m still halfway thru (left it at epi 10 last night and as such am dying in office replaying the last scene when Han Kyul kissed Eun Chan). I was also going crazy cos I absolutely loved the depth of the storyline, characters, themes etc and I couldn’t find many people discussing these properly online! The only thing I’m still thinking about at this point is: Does anyone else think Han Seong would be so good with Eun Chan? (altho I might think differently after finishing watching the series).

  4. blucat

    Thanks for this. I finally succumbed to watching Korean dramas and this is only my second so far. I’m not done with it, left it at epi 10 last night, and as such, am dying to get home to finish it later cos the kissing scene between Han Kyul and Eun Chan keeps replaying in my head – so agonizing & heart wrenching. Anyway, I was going crazy cos I loved the depth of the storyline, characters, themes etc and the chemistry between actors amazing – and yet, I couldn’t find people discussing them in detail online (in English at leats). What I do want to know is: did anyone else thought that Han Seong should have ended up with Eun Chan? (altho I might change my mind once I’m done with the whole series).

    • peevishmagnifyingglass

      I am glad that you are enjoying Coffee Prince. It starts slowly, but is never boring and then suddenly you speed to the ending. Thus, I am guessing that you have finished by now. Personally, I never that Han Seong should have been with Eun Chan, even though in many ways he was a better man Han Kyul. Han Seong was always in love with Yoo Joo. Han Seong seemed to be using Eun Chan to get back at Yoo Joo, and later he fell in love Eun Chan because he saw himself in Eun Chan. Han Seong and Eun Chan love the same way; they both love people with many emotional shortcomings and commitment issues wholeheartedly and without regret. Hope you had a great drama watching experience and bring Coffee Prince back out sparingly for relief from stress.

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