Tagged: Kim Sun Ah

Korean Drama Review: Scent of a Woman

Scent of Woman Poster

SYNOPSIS:

Lee Yeon Jae (Kim Sun Ah) is a woman in a rut. Yeon Jae is in in her mid-thirties, has not gone college, is sexually harassed and otherwise demeaned by her boss, spends no money on herself, and has been working for more than ten years as the equivalent of an NBC Page at a travel agency.  A new world opens up when Yeon Jae gets the assignment of finding an expensive car for one of the travel agency’s customers. Yeon Jae is almost out of luck, but then she discovers that the President of the travel agency’s heir, who is also a director, has come back to town and owns the exact car she is looking for.

In the process of tracking down this car, she gets into a car accident. At the hospital, they perform several tests and x-rays on Yeon Jae. At the hospital, Yeon Jae’s doctor turns out to be a friend from childhood, Chae Eun-suk (nicknamed poopy pants). Eun Suk (Uhm Ki Joon)is not pleased to see Yeon Jae. First, because Yeon Jae is a symbol of the fatal day when he pooped his pants in school, and second because he has to tell Yeon Jae about her health. Yeon Jae immediately brushes aside Eun Suk’s disconcerting looks, because she is happy to see an old friend and is perfectly content living in her small, predictable, yet unsatisfying world. Next think you know, Eun Suk has is telling Yeon Jae that she has a tumor.

Yeon Jae’s policy is avoidance, so she returns to work. At work she sees the director, her dream man, and wonders how her life would be with Kang Ji Wook (Lee Dong Wook). Ji Wook quickly turns into a symbol of all the things that she has wanted to experience, but does not have the guts to do. However, she is still the same Yeon Jae, so she stares dreamily, eye stalks, and gives herself pep talks in preparation for the inevitable meeting with the man of her dreams.

At work, things are getting worse when a famous pianist, Andy Wilson, comes to town and Yeon Jae is volunteered as his personal tour guide. This tour forces her to miss her appointment with Eun Suk regarding the results of the tests. Everything goes wrong with the tour, from the lack of halal cuisine to being falsely accused of stealing Mr. Wilson’s ring. In addition to being berated by her boss, Yeon Jae gets slapped by Im Se-kyung, whose company is responsible for Andy Wilson’s performances in Korea. Im Se Kyung is another  rich corporate heir. Se Kyung has a sense of entitlement, which includes not abiding by any social graces for those below her economic status. Se Kyung also happens to be Ji Wook’s future fiance.

Since a hungry stomach has no ears, Yeon Jae returns to work wondering if her life can get any more dismal.  And it does, when Yeon Jae gets the first physical signs that her illness is real. When Yeon Jae finally makes it back to the hospital, she is told she has a rare form of cancer and only has six months to live. Her life suddenly becomes more vivid and her race to do everything she always wanted, ensure that the people she loves most will be okay without her, and right all past wrongs is on. Part one is going on a vacation, quitting her job, and getting new wardrobe .(I really like this plan.)

Off to Okinawa, Japan.  While Yeon Jae is on vacation, and looking what can only be described as fabulous, she runs into the man of her dreams, Ji Wook. Ji Wook’s trip to Okinawa is just one more thing to appease his Dad. Ji Wook is there to work on plans for a vacation packages to Okinawa. Ji Wook is jaded and nonchalant, but without angst. Therefore, Ji Wook goes with his father’s wishes in hope that one day his life may become meaningful, but the reality of that happening is weak considering he is waiting for something to happen rather than willing to change his own course.

When Yeon Jae spots Ji Wook, and figures out that Ji Wook is waiting for a tour guide from his company to take him around Okinawa, Yeon Jae pretends to be her. There is a little bit of confusion, given that Yeon Jae and the tour guide have the same last name. However, once Yeon Jae discovers the mix-up, she keeps the charade going. Yeon Jae knows everything about Okinawa from her time at the travel agency and wants to get a shot at seducing her dream man. Yeon Jae and Ji Wook are drawn to each other immediately and end up hanging out and touring for days. Ji Wook finally realizes this is what he has been waiting for, love.

However, things take a turn for the worse when Ji Wook discovers that Yeon Jae is an imposter and an ex-company employee accused of stealing. There growing friendship that blossomed on a house full of lies collapses. Sometime later, Ji Wook sees Yeon Jae in Korea and meets a totally different woman. What Ji Wook doesn’t know is that he is looking at someone who is carrying the the burden of believing that her best years are behind her. At this point, Yeon Jae is bogged down from constant trips to the hospital to receive her treatments.

Yeon Jae has not told anyone about her diagnoses, including her mother who she lives with. Thus, Eun Suk is the only one Yeon Jae confides in and he becomes her rock. Eun Suk tells her that she has to let other people in, but Yeon Jae resists. Yeon Jae also vehemently resists Ji Wook in Korea. Now, times have changed and Ji Wook wants to reunite with Yeon Jae after he finds that he can’t go back to his life before her. Even though, Yeon Jae loves Ji Wook, she doesn’t want him to have to go through the heartbreak of loving someone and then quickly loosing them. But, Ji Wook doesn’t care…

REVIEW:

 1/2

Yeon Jae and Ji Wook (Kim Sun Ah and Lee Dong Wook):  And I will go down with this ship… (seriously drama character wise it’s this and Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin in It Started With A Kiss. I don’t care if its not real life, just love these OTPs. They give me so much happiness, I could cry. Thank you writers!) The reason why a drama that would normally be a melodrama, is actually just a romantic drama and almost could be a romantic comedy. Don’t be concerned about the sadness, although I did cry. There were really just too many cute and loving scenes to the point I just spent most of the time with a big grin on my face. Don’t even get me started on the BTS, because I try to restrain myself from becoming delusional. Anyways, this drama makes you believe in love at first sight and the power of meet-cute. When Yeon Jae and Ji Wook met, it was a thrilling calm, two characters that were made to be together finally met. Their initial interactions were seamless, in that they exhibited some awkwardness, wariness, disbelief, but all of their reticence was overcome by their enchantment.

Kim Sun Ah as Yeon Jae: Another great heroine played by Kim Sun Ah. Yeon Jae had several great story lines that involved redemption, rebirth, and renewal: finding her niche in the travel industry; figuring out that she is actually quite pretty; telling her teacher who was in love with her mom that she is sorry for falsely accusing him of sexual assault; providing for her mom’s future and finding her a husband; choosing love over comfort; and recognizing that she deserves someone of Ji Wook’s stature. What stood out the most was Yeon Jae’s strength, she went from a weakling to becoming a person that others leaned on when they were attempting to grasp Yeon Jae’s circumstances. All of these story lines intertwined impeccably, sometimes you hated Yeon Jae, other times you felt sorry for her, and most of the time you loved her and hoped that she would find all that she was missing before it was too late.

Lee Dong Wook as Ji Wook: This is my favorite Lee Dong Wook drama character. While there seems to be little on the surface, Ji Wook has a convoluted set of her characteristics stretching from being a recluse to becoming a desperate man searching for meaning in his life, and later trying to hold on to it. Whereas there were many sweet scenes between Yeon Jae and Ji Wook, most of Ji Wook’s development came through his interactions with: his father, who does not want his son to fall in love with a girl that is older, relatively poor, and whose diagnosis will break his heart; his fiance (arranged by his dad), who thinks that she has found the perfect man based on her previous dating experiences with men who use her, who won’t give Ji Wook up because he has been so good to her, and who knows Yeon Jae’s condition; and Eun Suk, who challenges him by showing him the type of dependable man that Yeon Jae needs while she is traveling through a physical and emotional rollercoaster.

Seo Hyo Rim as Im Se Kyung: One of the best written and portrayed evil second female leads I have seen in awhile. Se Kyung is evil in all the right ways. She is mean and not out of no where psycho, meaning that the writer actually found a way to make her actions consistent with plausible motivations. Most of her slapping fury comes from the pain of being mistreated and abandoned by her former lover. Im Se Kyung tries to prove her self-worth and compensate for her low self-esteerm by distinguishing herself from others the only way she can, which is by treating people who are less fortunate than her  like crap. Ji Wook is the only one who sees Se Kyung as a better person than she sees herself, therefore she is determined not to let him go. Once she realizes that this is the same way Ji Wook feels about Yeon Jae, she releases him. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, we all know that a small part of Se Kyung is waiting for him to come back to her.

Ramses, Yeon Jae’s Boss, and Eun Suk, the Other Guys: Ramses, Yeon Jae’s Boss, and Eun Suk play special roles in Yeon Jae’s journey. Ramses, played by Kim Kwang Kyu, and Yeon Jae’s Boss, played by Shin Jeong-Keun, are some of the best character actors in the business and both were also in City Hall. Ramses leads Yeon Jae into the world of tango, finally Yeon Jae has an interest of her own. Yeon Jae’s Boss, who mistreated her in the past, has a hard time acknowledging Yeon Jae’s hard work and dedication to the travel agency, but after she leaves for good he misses her ethos the most. Eun Suk’s relationship with Yeon Jae transforms him from a cynical and aloof doctor to one who engages life, friends, and most shockingly his patients.

Highlights

  • Yeon Jae’s hospital friend who turns into a younger sister (she is so cute and so was her dance with Eun Suk)
  • Eun Suk’s race with Yeon Jae at their old school
  • Vacation in Okinawa was refreshing and I could have spent 5 episodes there
  • “How do you save money: eat at work cafeteria, buy clothes from street vendors, have  2 pairs of shoes, don’t even look at designer clothes or handbags, and don’t dream of vacation” (This drama has several sayings that speak the truth.)
  • Can someone tell me what kind of car Ji Wook is driving, it’s cool
  • Camping Trip
  • Breathless Tango Dance with Ji Wook
  • Post-Intimate Session Back Hug
  • The story of the guy in Okinawa watching his child’s wedding from a distance (so many good stories and good characters)
  • Yeon Jae’s best friend, Hye Won
  • Yeon Jae’s teacher is an old school player when it comes to courting Yeon Jae’s mom
  • Yeon Jae, “I’m rich until I die.”
  • Mother-Daughter Spa Day (watch this with your mom if you can)
  • Ji Wook lonely in Tango class (like a puppy)
  • Spell you’re sorry with your butt
  • Yeon Jae’s cute bathing suits
  • “Does someone like you even have a reputation to be insulted” so mean Se Kyung, but yet you’re so good.
  • The rescue of Mal Bok and his adoption by Eun Suk
  • Eun Suk and Yeon Jae’s performance at the hospital and Yeon Jae’s dress (loved it)
  • Date with personal fireworks, it works every time for me. (It is not even a wedding, just a date.)
  • Yeon Jae’s Mom to Yeon Jae about Ji Wook “Because if I tell him how much I like him, he’ll think you are not precious to me.” (tears)
  • Getting Ramses a new toupee
  • Yeon Jae to girls in the office, “Wish your heart was as pretty as your face.”
  • Cell Phone Ringtones
    • Another Day by Buckshot LeFonque
    • Hawaiian Couple Song by Humming Urban Radio 
  • You Are So Beautiful by Junsu (JYJ)

Ugh

  • Not the greatest performance by Junsu
  • Andy Wilson, you know how to piss people off with your petulance
  • Ji Wook as Captain Save a Vulnerable Girl
  • Yeon Jae skipping out on her appointments
  • Ji Wook’s Dad is just too much
  • The fate of an oncologist is sad
  • Too much slapping

So that is a 4 and a half out of 5. I have already re-watched and can only imagine that I will love it more as I get older. It is great drama to watch with your mom, so if you have time to watch it over the holidays, you will not regret it. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

Up Next: Queen In Hyun’s Man, Answer Me 1997, or King2Hearts (I have been struggling to get to the end, but only have 4 episodes left… yipee!). I have given up on City Hunter for now, because I keep having to start over to keep up with all the information, so hopefully sometime next year.

Korean Drama Review: I Do I Do

I Do I Do is available on VIKI

(Happy Birthday to Lee Jang Woo with Kim Sun Ah, on the set of I Do I Do.)

SYNOPSIS:

Hwang Ji Ahn (Kim Sun Ah) is in her mid-30s and is the director of design at a shoe company. Ji Ahn is one of those women who is a workaholic to the point that she misses out on everything else, like dating and family functions. A trip to the doctor’s office reveals that Ji Ahn is n the brink of early menopause.  Something finally has to give when she misses her father’s birthday party, which she planned and paid for due to a problem at a fashion show. Ji Ahn arrives at her father’s party, after it ends.  Her father is really upset to the point that he cast her off. He is furious, because Ji Ahn no longer seems to value what is important in life, family.  Therefore, what else is there to do when one faces the perils of the world other than get extremely drunk.

Earlier that day, Ji Ahn almost got ran over by a man in his mid-20s on a bike, Park Tae Kang (Lee Jang Woo). If there is a statement that would sum up Tae Kang’s character, he named his bike Beyonce (apparently Betty in A Gentleman’s Dignity is a name used by older bachelors). Fortunately, this meeting was an opportunity for Ji Ahn to convince Tae Kang to give her ride to the fashion show.

As K-drama fate would have it, the two meet later that day. By the time, Tae Kang had also been cast off by his father. Since “abandoned children need to stick together,” they both decided to drown in their perils together.

Then, something happens, that often happens to people who get extremely intoxicated; Ji Ahn and Tae Kang sleep together. When they wake up, they are surprisingly calm about the situation. Tae Kang is actually pretending to be calm, because he just lost his virginity to Ji Ahn. Tae Kang was trying to save it for someone who was worth it, but I guess that didn’t work out in the way he wanted it to.

Tae Kang and Ji Ahn move on with their lives, but they begin to have some hiccups as a result of their encounter. In another chance meeting, Ji Ahn finds Tae Kang with counterfeit shoes and calls the police. Ji Ahn feels personally harmed, because shoes are her life and a one night stand is not going to prevent Ji Ahn from having Tae Kang arrested. Tae Kang accepts the charge, because he is covering for his father. Tae Kang’s father used to design shoes and had a store, but all of that fell apart once his wife, Tae Kang’s mother, left him and a fire burned down his shop. During the same period, Ji Ahn attempts to reconcile with her parents by going on a blind date with the son of one her parent’s friends. Of course, this guy happens to be a gynecologist. The doctor, Jo Eun Sung (Park Geon-hyeong), is the perfect man for Ji Ahn. Eun Sung is not the type that wants to get married and Ji Ahn is not the type to let a man get in the way of her career.

Eun Sung and Ji Ahn begin to believe that love may have a place in their lives, and marriage could be a possibility. However, Ji Ahn begins to feel sick. After,  another quick trip to the doctor, Ji Ahn discovers that she is pregnant with Tae Kang’s child. Just when Ji Ahn started to believe that she could have it all, her heart breaks. Ji Ahn struggles to tell Eun Sung and her parents, who are all very much in love with the possibilities.  When Ji Ahn tells Eun Sung, he also becomes distressed, because Eun Sung does not feel he can become the father of another man’s child. However, Eun Sung is also against an abortion. Eun Sun, not wanting to lose the connection with Ji Ahn, and knowing the strife she has to deal with, offers to be her doctor. Although, to clarify, this is after all the other doctors are “unavailable,” due to the fact Ji Ahn has the type of personality that even doctors don’t want to deal with.

Not only does the baby provide Ji Ahn problems in her love life, the baby is also detrimental to her career. Ji Ahn’s company is seeking a new president and Ji Ahn is currently number one in the running, because she has the backing of the current president’s wife, Madame Jang. Madame Jang has enough shares to control the appointment. However, the daughter of her husband mistress, Yeom Na Ri, just came back to town and also wants the appointment. Yeom Na Ri just graduated from graduate school, and believes that her attitude qualifies her to be president. Yeom Na Ri idolized Ji Ahn in the past, but does not believe Ji Ahn’s experience trumps her family connection. In addition, Na Ri is pursuing the position so that Madame Jang will treat her like a daughter, instead of being treated with contempt.

Ji Ahn is now in fierce competition with Na Ri, and Na Ri attempts to sabotage Ji Ahn at ever corner.  This includes agreeing to hire Tae King, after he surprisingly wins a shoe design competition sponsored by the company. Tae King is high on talent, but low on skills. Nevertheless, things only get worse for Ji Ahn, when the company finds out that she is pregnant. Madame Jang insists that Ji Ahn get married immediately to the Eun Sung, who she mistakingly deduces is the father of her child.  Accordingly, Tae King also doesn’t that he is th father, and begins to get jealous of Eun Sung, because Eun Sung spends so much time with Ji Ahn. This misconception is bolstered by the fact that Ji Ahn has persuaded Eun Sung to keep up the facade for a short period.

As a result of the their deepening connection, and against Eun Sung’s wishes, Eun Sung has now fallen head over heels for Ji Ahn. When Eun Sung starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together, he realizes that Tae Kang is the father. Eun Sung watches as Tae Kang becomes closer and closer with Ji Ahn in their working relationship. Ji Ahn becomes Tae Kang’s mentor, and he grows as a designer by leaps and bounds. Tae Kang’s father is extremely proud of his son, but is unhappy with the growing relationship between Tae Kang and an older pregnant woman. Na Ri is also watching Tae Kang blossom, and thinks that maybe they should strike up a romance. However,  Na Ri quickly realizes that Tae Kang only has eyes for Ji Ahn, as a result, the race for president intensifies.

REVIEW

As much as it pains me to give a Kim Sun Ah drama 3 stars, the drama was watchable and enjoyable, but my personal allegiance Kim Sun Ah is the only thing that kept me on board. I will re-watch Scent of A Woman as soon as possible, so I can get all of my satisfied feelings back.

Reasons to Watch:

Kim Sun Ah as Ji Ahn: Really is there anything more to be said. Well there is. Here, Kim Sun Ah plays a woman that is stuck with the problems of living in a man’s world; if Ji Ahn’s girlfriend was pregnant things would be perfect. The fact that Ji Ahn struggled in deciding whether to keep the baby, may offend some viewers. However, I always give gratitude to a writers and actors who know how to tackle difficult issues without them coming off as taboo or otherwise abhorrent. Kim Sun Ah drew me into her character’s world, Ji Ahn was contemplating whether: she would ruin Tae Kang’s life by telling him he is the father; she missed out on her last opportunity to be happy with perfect man, Eun Sung; her parents would ever forgive her; she is fit to have a baby; and whether all her hopes and dreams will go up in smoke because she got pregnant.

Father and Son: This is one of the best father-son story-lines I have seen to date. Park Yeong-gyu played Tae Kang’s father, he also played the male lead’s father in Protect the Boss. It was intriguing to see a Dad not want his son to fall in the trap of being in love with an older pregnant woman, due to Tae Kang’s one-sided love.Tae Kang’s father was afraid that his son’s future would be ruined , and that eventually Ji Ahn would leave his Tae Kang, like his mother. Tae Kang’s father always wants the best for his son, and makes the ultimate sacrifice, when he says he won’t copy any of Ji Ahn’s shoes. On the other hand, Tae Kang knows his father’s hopes and fears, but still decides to pursue love. Tae Kang has no fear, and that is what Tae Kang’s father fears the most. As the drama evolves, viewers get to see Tae Kang enter adulthood and take more responsibility for Ji Ahn and his father. When Tae Kang’s father observes a more mature Tae Kang, and he releases some of the grip he has on his sheltered son.

What Could Have Been: Ji Ahn and Eun Sung were really perfect for each other. Their demise rested on the fact that they were so clos, yet so far from what they wanted. (Note: If you want to watch a drama with longing, where a perfect pair actually get together, you should watch In Time With You.) Along with Kim Sun Ah, Park Geon-hyeong, who played Eun Sung, does a well executed portrayal of what happens when a man gets a glimmer of a life that he never knew he wanted, and then, in a split second, it all goes away. Since Eun Sung couldn’t get what he wanted, he decides to settle for something that is as close to his goal as possible, so he asks Ji Ahn to marry him. So much angst here. I have never felt like I wanted a 3 person marriage, or, at least if things didn’t work out with Tae Kang, then a second marriage with Eun Sung was okay by me. (This is the preeminent reason why I had to stop watching Take of the Young Lady, yes I do feel that Yoon Eun Hye and Jung Ill Woo owe me a drama).

Major Issue:

I think the main reason why I had trouble buying into this drama, even though Ji Ahn and Tae Kang were exceptionally cute, was that their emotional relationship was far from being promising. Ji Ahn said truly awful things to Tae Kang and about him behind his back. Ji Ahn did not think Tae Kang was worthy to be a father. Tae Kang consistently took her criticism with rare push-back. I think Ji Ahn’s critiques had little to do with Tae Kang’s age, and more to do with his station in life.  Ji Ahn’s treatment of Tae Kang was never really resolved. Throughout the drama Ji Ahn made all the decisions in their relationship, including the decision to let Tae Kang start taking care of her. Tae Kang followed her like a puppy, even after his realization that he should not to go to America. Thus, I never really felt like Tae Kang grew all the way up, because Ji Ahn was too overbearing. This was in contrast to Eun Sung, Eun Sung seemed to be able to easily maneuver Ji Ahn in an unassuming manner, because Ji Ahn had greater respect for him. (But I guess he still did not get her down the aisle?)

Highlights:

  • A 50-year-old uterus in a 36-year-old woman
  • Dad wrestling Tae Kang in an attempt to give him some common sense
  • Doctor Eun Sung’s eyeshadow (and then the girl that thought nothing of it)
  • The harmonica playing of Tae Kang’s best friend at work
  • Pregnant Ji Ahn’s need for pigs feet
  • Lee Jang Woo’s dimples
  • Drunk love confessions
  • Ji Ahn’s Dad’s consistent face of displeasure, except when Eun Sun is around
  • Tae Kang pulling Ji Ahn in a cart, so that she could make it to the bathroom
  • Eun Sung’s self-massage lessons at a restaurant
  • Ji Ahn’s reaction, when Tae Kang picks up Ji Ahn in his friend’s late 80s, early 90s, Nissan
  • Tae Kang’s line of pregnant women and baby shoes
  • Tae Kang’s father’s wig
  • Tae Kang said, “Skinship and kissing is good for the baby.”
  • Ji Ahn’s best friend tells it like she sees it (that’s what best friend’s should do)
  • Tae Kang’s best friend support Tae Kang no matter what, but also makes fun of him in the process (that is also what best friends should do)
  • Kiss in episode 13
  • I can’t say I love Lee Jang Woo after this drama, but he held his own and look forward to more dramas from him

Ugh

  • Jake, irrelevant and annoying, but eye-candy
  • Na Ri’s character also seemed to have lost its way towards the end of the drama
  • Eun Sung’s proposal through stethoscope
  • Eun Sung’s lack of latex gloves
  • Translator who is speaking during the shoe presentation
  • The fashion, seriously someone consult the stylists from Still, Marry Me or Lie to Me
  • Where do Ji Ahn’s clothes go, same issue I had with Gong Yoo’s slide out closet in Coffee Prince
  • Had to wait forever for a kiss, you guys are not spring chickens, like in Skip Beat. (Same problem in A Gentleman’s Dignity). However, note episode 13.
  • Baby saying something about shoes, what? no
  • Grandma licking lollipop
  • Na Ri “I am not stupid Mother” (really it was only bad, because that storyline wasn’t written well)
  • Worst couple outfits ever
  • The guy from the other shoe company, even if what you are saying is a real reflection of others opinions, I am sure you could deliver the message in a nice manner
  • Tae Kang’s acting like a 12-year-old girl after a kiss and other tender moments.At first there is giggle, because Tae Kang is cute, but at a certain point I reverted to ceiling eyes. (Same feeling during Playful Kiss, because some of the kiss scenes were not great or otherwise really awkward, in spite of the cuteness of the Jung So Min and Kim Hyun Joong. I guess I could blame in on the fact that they were supposed to be young, but then I remembered Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin in It Started with a Kiss…. So maybe there is a difference in the way Korea wants to portray kids in highschool? Hmm, maybe I will try to get past episode 1 of Dream High….)

That’s 3 stars, because while I think that Ji Ahn and Tae Kang would date, but I think they need therapy prior to marriage.

Up Next: A Gentleman’s Dignity, King2Hearts (maybe?), or CityHunter (errr)

Korean Drama Review: My Lovely Sam Soon/ My Name is Kim Sam Soon

Image Via Wikipedia

My Lovely Sam Soon is available on HULU

SYNOPSIS:

Kim Sam Soon (Kim Sun Ah) is 29 years old, carrying animosity over her old-fashioned name, overweight (not fat), unmarried, a pastry chef, living with her mother, and recently out of a job because of her ex-boyfriend, Hyun Woo. Woo is a nitwit. On Christmas Eve, Sam Soon’s discovers that her ex-boyfriend is cheating on her. Sam Soon decides to follow him to a hotel for one of two reasons, either to make him ask for mercy or to kill him. Unfortunately for her, she is not strong willed enough to do either and fails miserably.

While sneaking toward his door, her legs fail her. At the exact same moment, Hyun Woo comes out of the room and sees her. Then, Sam Soon and Woo go downstairs to talk about their relationship, which lasted for several years and was now quickly coming to an end. As they sit down in the hotel dining room, Woo proceeds to tell Kim Sam Soon that she is not the person she used to be, the cute lovely pastry chef that bakes every day that aspires to own a bakery. Next, Woo leaves her at the table to sulk in her tears, Sam Soon is still yelling at him. As he walks away, Sam Soon yells across the room “Was there ever a time you loved me?” Woo, then says that he no longer loves her and he doesn’t know why or when his heart changed, it just did.

Sidenote: Even though his feelings may be true, these are one of the worst kind of break-ups. When there is no big incident or no clear signal that things are going down, but things just slowly decline until there is no love. After ignoring the fact that you no longer feel the same way about your significant other, when reality hits, both sides hit bottom and think about the way rhey were. If you want to watch something that focuses on this, watch The Way We Were with Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford. Beware, if you watch this movie, it will give you the same type of frustration that this type of breakup will give you. Luckily, in My Lovely Sam Soon this is only episode one and things get better.

In the same dining room, Jin Heon (Hyun Bin) is on a blind date at his family’s hotel. Sidenote: Sam Soon nicknames Jin Heon, Sam Shik, this is a source of confusion when reading subtitles. Hyun Jin Heon overhears the commotion from the Sam Soon and Woo break up. Jim Heon shows his lack of tact to his date by laughing at Sam Soon’s heartbreak. Jim Heon, then sees Woo exit, soon afterwards Sam Soon also leaves shedding tears. At the same time, Jim Heon is still grinning at Sam Soon’s displeasure, when his date sees this she throws her glass of water in his face and also leaves. Jim Heon shakes it off and finds Sam Soon.

Sam Soon, in her distressed state, accidentally enters the men’s bathroom and goes into a stall to relish in her emotions. Jin Heon finds her in the midst of her breakdown, which includes a lot of yelling and crying. Jim Heon recognizes that this is a problem; the men, who are also in bathroom, are mystified that moaning myrtle can also be found outside of Hogwarts.

Jin Heon bangs on the stall door until, Sam Soon finally opens up. Jin Heon then verbally thrashes Sam Soon. Per Contra, Jin Heon follows the thrashing with the oh so helpful there are other fish in the sea line.  Then, Jin Heon kicks Sam Soon out of the hotel. Now,Sam Soon has lost her boyfriend and her job, because she was supposed to be working on Christmas Eve. Instead of working, she took part in an episode of cheaters.

Sam Soon has to figure out what to do with her life, since, she is unmarried and jobless. What to do, what to do? She tries to earn a job that she is overqualified for and tries out a dating agency. Needless to say, neither of these options work out. However, one job interview is in the kitchen of Jin Heon’s family’s hotel. Jin Heon has stopped by the kitchen also. Since, the pastry chef at Jin Heon’s restaurant has left, Jin Heon needs the hotel to supply the restaurant with desserts or borrow a chef.

On her way out, Sam Soon sees Jin Heon and tries to avoid him, but miraculously her hair gets caught in the button of his suit jacket. After struggling over how to detach his jacket from her hair, Jin Heon does the unthinkable. Jin Heon cuts a sizable amount of Sam Soon’s hair. Sam Soon is furious, because she asked him to cut as little hair as possible. This is the final straw. Sam Soon decides to take out the cake that she brought for head chef to taste and plants it on Jin Heon’s face. Then, Sam Soon flees the scene.

Sam Soon’s nerve caught Jin Heon, off guard. Perplexed, Jin Heon stood and tasted the cake. To Jin Heon’s delight the cake was delicious. Jin Heon may have found a new pastry chef, if he is able to chase her down. Jin Heon runs after Sam Soon, but when Sam Soon sees him coming after her, she thinks that he is coming to kill her. Sam Soon races into a cab, nevertheless, Jin Heon manages to get in the cab with her. More bickering ensues while Jin Heon attempts to offer Sam Soon a job. Jin Heon gives Sam Soon his card, but Sam Soon is too proud to look at it. As soon as the cab arrives at Sam Soon’s destination, she makes haste.

Eventually Sam Soon does look at the card and realizes that she almost missed a big opportunity. After a series of events, Sam Soon gets the head pastry chef position at Jin Heon’s restaurant. Sam Soon, also has other issues: her sister is getting a divorce, her mother is trying to marry her off, and her family home was listed as the security on her deceased Dad’s friend’s loan, which is past due. Sam Soon asks the only one she knows with money for help, Jin Heon.

Jin Heon sees this as an opportunity to the avoid his mother’s relentless will to send him on blind dates. Jin Heon will lend Sam Soon the money in exchange for the deed and a contract agreement that stipulates that Sam Soon will act as Jin Heon’s girlfriend until she pays him back. Being the jerk that Jin Heon is, Jin Heon states that the only reason he chose Sam Soon is because there is no way he would ever fall in love with old and fat Sam Soon. Sam Soon is irate, but is desperate and accepts Jin Heon’s offer to save her house. Sam Soon believes that their courtship will only last until her sister, who is returning home, sells her house.

As per Korean Drama, the storyline focuses on Jin Heon and Sam Soon fallling in love through contract dating. See Lie to Me, Coffee Prince, and Full House (This is one of the original contract dating plots). Jin Heon is smitten with her soft belly, feisty manner, and listening skills. Sam Soon appreciates Jin Heon’s abhorrent back talk, good looks, strength, good will, and determination.

Ah, but as always there are some hoops to jump through before they can truly become a couple. The largest obstacle to their coupledom is Yoo Hee-Jin. In addition to the fact that she has Sam Soon’s dream name, Yoo Hee-Jin also has the heart of Sam Soon’s new man, Jin Heon.

Jin Heon and Yoo Hee-Jin were high school sweethearts. After an accident that took Jin Heon’s brother, took his sister in law, left him to be a father figure of  his niece, and left Jin Heon in the hospital, Hee-Jin mysteriously leaves the Korea  for the U.S. Unbeknownst to Jin Heon, Hee-Jin left because she was seriously ill with a stomach disease. In addition, Jin Heon’s mother thought it would be best for Jin Heon not to have to deal with another tragedy. Hee Jin returned to her family in the U.S. ending her 6 year relationship with Jin Heon. Jin Heon was befuddled and distressed when Hee Jin abandoned him. Hee Jin is the reason why Jin Heon has not looked at another woman during the 3 years since Hee Jin departed.

Hee Jin has survived by reflecting on the moments she and Jin Heon shared. In Hee Jin’s heart, Hee Jin believes that Jin Heon is waiting for her. Nonetheless, while waiting, Hee Jin was not as lonely as Jin Heon. Hee Jin has been doted on by her overzealous doctor Henry Kim. Henry Kim has nursed Hee Jin back to health. In addition Henry truly cares for Hee Jin, to the extent that he takes an extended sabbatical from his job to follow her back to Korea. While in Korea, Henry hopes to monitor her health and win her love.

And now we have a love triangle, I guess that is where I will leave you. Enjoy!

REVIEW:

5 Star disclaimer: 1) I will only give dramas 5 stars after I watch them twice. 2) Any drama currently ranked 4 or above can be given 5 stars status after a second viewing. 3) Factors needed to achieve 5 stars; I have to like a) the writing, b) the lead actors, c) the majority of supporting actors, d) the chemistry between the main couple, e) 90% of the storyline, f) the drama to the point I don’t get bored or fast forward, and g) the sound track.

Top 5 Reasons to Watch This Drama:

1) Character of Kim Sam Soon: The idea of Kim Sam is probably one of the most well thought out and best written characters in Korean Drama. For some, there may be too many scenes on the toilet, but other than that her character is written well enough for many people to identify with her or at the very least sympathize with her. Kim Sam Soon is fighting for a better life. She was once going to settle for mediocre life, that included:  a career as a sous pastry chef, a never-ending wait for Woo to realize her worth and marry her, and living under the same roof with a mom that continually harasses her. Kim Sam Soon’s break up became her breakthrough and set her back on the path of becoming a woman who fights for love and aspires to have the best pastry shop in Seoul. Sam Soon is funny, cute, needy, and sad, but never to the point where the character loses her edge.  Therefore, when she realizes that this may be her last chance at love, she makes herself vulnerable and pursues a relationship with Jin Heon.

2) Kim Sun Ah and Hyun Bin: It is nice to see two actors that do an equally good job. Kim Sun Ah and Hyun Bin both have an excellent ability to highlight their character’s progression throughout a story.

To be truthful, I was not totally in love with Jin Heon’s character. Jin Heon made some inexcusable, but not unforgivable, mistakes in his relationship with Sam Soon. Some of the mistakes were: let’s get you pregnant, I will lay on your belly and then leave you for my ex, and I will send you post cards and think nothing of it when you don’t respond. Jin Heon was a have your cake and eat it too type of guy. Nonetheless, the fact that Jin Heon was at war with his emotions, in love with both female leads, immature, and hurt only added to his character. Hyun Bin did a great job at making a sordid character understandable.

Since I already talked about Sam Soon’s character, I’ll just add that there are few people that can consistently get a laugh and a cry out of me. Kim Sun Ah does both of these.

3) Confronts Uncomfortable Situations Head On: At first, I was a little uncomfortable with the Kim Sun Ah and Hyun Bin’s relationship, because of the age difference. Although, the second time watching it, I realized that is was less about age and more about Jin Heon’s immaturity. The way that Jin Heon treats Kim Sun Ah made me uncomfortable; older women usually are not treated in that manner by younger men. To a certain extent, Jin Heon suffered from a lack of emotional intelligence, i.e. men will say different things to an 18 year old woman, a 25 year old woman, and a 30 year old woman. Again, the fact that the writers were able to write these quirks into Jin Heon’s character, only made Jin Heon more fascinating.

4) Realistic Relationships: This drama does not sugar coat much, so if you are looking to completely escape then you should probably watch something brighter like Boys Over Flowers. The relationship troubles go on and on, but it makes a good storyline and connects the viewer. Here is short list:

  • Kim Sam Soon is in love with Jin Heon, but still wants her comfortable ex, Woo. Eventually, Sam Soon realizes that Woo will never be the person she wants him to be and has to give him up.
  • Woo realizes that Kim Sam Soon loves him more than 99% of other women. So Woo then goes back to Sam Soon, even though he cannot give her the  same unrequited love. However, Woo is surprised when Sam Soon also realizes that her love will never be returned by him. Thus, Sam Soon moves on to someone who can fulfill that void. Woo is now left to think about whether he will ever find someone that devoted to him again.
  • Jin Heon is in love with Hee Jin and Sam Soon, but since he was in love with Hee Jin first, his loyalty is with Hee Jin. Quickly after choosing, Jin Heon acknowledges that he is more in love with the memories of Hee Jin. After three years apart, Jin Heon understands that they are different people and moved apart. Furthermore, even when Jin Heon and Hee Jin attempt to get back to the point before Hee Jin left, they can’t because there are other forces. Sam Soon and Henry are the force that are pulling them apart. What’s worse, is that they have to accept that they are better off with their new mates and the fairy tale that the envisioned in their head will never come true.
  • Jin Heon also has to grow up and take responsibility. This is part of the reason why Jin Heon goes on that 2 month trip.  After Jin Heon’s trip, it is clear that Jin Heon has a vision for his life, will take more responsibility for his actions, and will no longer let the little things get in the way of his dreams. Sam Soon, also comes to the realization that Jin Heon will continue to make mistakes, but she can live with his shortcomings. Some mistakes, include: trying to get Sam Soon pregnant so she can win Jin Heon’s mom’s approval, asking Sam Soon to come back to work instead of opening her own shop, and   not calling her on his trip. The ending basically summarized that relationships are about focusing on the day by day and not about promising forever.
  • Hee Jin has to accept  that even though she thinks she has not changed, she has and so has Jin Heon. Hee Jin made a bad decision by not telling Jin Heon the reason for her departure. (I love that Henry told her that this is where you messed up.) Henry is also there to continuously put in Hee Jin’s face, through his actions, that he cares more about her than Jin Heon. Henry’s presence made it clear that Hee-Jin and Jin Heon were over.
  • Henry is fighting for a girl that does not realize his worth. Poor Henry. Henry did teach the viewer that if you keep with it and it is meant to be, then things can work out.
  • Sam Soon’s sister and the Head Chef showed how hard it is to open up after a divorce. I felt that this storyline helped to push this drama over the top. It highlighted how hard it was to open up and trust someone. These two decided to give love one last shot, when they though that they would never find it again.

5) Soundtrack:

I cannot get enough of Clazziquai.

  • Be My Love: Doesn’t this make you happy? Don’t you get happier when you realize that a horse is neighing in the background?
  • She Is: Alex, the male singing, has a really beautiful voice. If you want to check out Alex’s acting skills, you can see him in Pasta, where he is the secondary male lead. Horan, the woman singing, has a cross between Janet Jackson, Norah Jones, Nicole from the Pussycat dolls, and Sade, also known as a sexy voice singing.

Ji Sun

  • Farewell Without Farewell: Quintessential soft ballad. I can feel it and I didn’t know what she was saying the first time I heard it.

Jung-eun Kim

Extras: 

  • Everyone is good looking, my face does not drift from the screen.
  • Again the issues of what is fat and what is old in Korea come up.
  • “I hate you, you suck” classic words that should be said in the middle of any guy on guy pool fight
  • Kim Sun Ah is not the greatest runner.
  • Scene with Sam Soon and Jin Heon at DVD watching place was hilarious.
  • Jin Heon’s mom is really violent toward her son. No need to call child services, since he is 27.
  • Jin Heon’s niece is so cute and can also be seen in Oh My Lady.
  • What a way to reject your son’s girlfriend; you’re too sick to date my son.
  • Blood type toilet paper situation made me question what this writer does in their free time.
  • How many bathroom scenes are there? Count and let me know.
  • Hee Jin almost ran Sam Soon over. Sam Soon was like a deer in the headlights, I almost died.
  •  Sam Soon is audacious, especially when trying to mark her territory. See the scene when Jin Heon took a sick Hee Jin to his home. Even after Sam Soon left, she made sure to come back at dawn.
  • This drama will make you hungry, so be prepared with snacks.

Subtle Annoyances:

  • Too many scenes with disgusting bodily functions.
  • Jin Heon is a player, you can tell by the way he text messages and answers his phone. Poor Hee Jin and Sam Soon.
  • Anorexia and stomach problems, too much.

Yes, I am giving it 5 stars.

Up Next: Spy Myung Wol, Then Secret Garden.

Korean Drama Review: City Hall

I Pick Gu Ae Jung_The Greatest Love

Cha Seung Won, Image by Petirrojo via Flickr

City Hall is available on dramafever.

Synopsis:

Shin Mi Rae (Kim Sun Ah) is the lowest level government official in a small bucolic town. By lowest level government official, I mean she is the one that gets everyone coffee and is an assistant to the secretary. In addition, she is 36, unmarried, and without any prospects, which in the Korean drama world is a hopeless case. She also has a crush on a director, Lee Hyung Chul, who is married to a shrewd, spoiled, and selfish councilwoman, Min Joo Hwa. Min Joo Hwa is Shin Mi Rae’s frienemy.

Min Joo Hwa is pushing her husband Lee Hyung Chul away, so Shin Mi Rae may have a shot. But wait, enter Jo Gook (Cha Seung Won). Jo Gook is a high ranking civil servant that is on the fast track to the national assembly and is outpacing his former classmate Lee Hyung Chul. Jo Gook also has ties to the David H. Koch (U.S. Republican party mastermind/ strategist) of Korea. Jo Gook is sent back  to his hometown  by his mentor/political mastermind. Jo Gook’s mission is to help his political party by ousting the current Mayor and replace him with a party puppet. Most importantly, Jo Gook is good looking and Shin Mi Rae has found a new crush.

Shin Mi Rae is also having debt problems, so to solve her debts she enters the town’s beauty contest defying the contest’s age limits. While Shin Mi Rae’s journey focuses on repaying her debts and realizing her self worth, Jo Gook falls in love with Shin Mi Rae. Jo Gook recognizes her strengths and cajoles her into running for Mayor.

For Jo Gook and Shin Mi Rae to be together they both have to overcome several hurdles. Jo Gook has to break up with his fiance, soothe his mistreated mother, escape the powers of the Korean political mastermind, and make it to the national assembly as an independent. At the same time, Shin Mi Rae has to pay back her debt, win a beauty pageant, run for mayor, and overcome an administration that does not think she is worthy of her title.

Review:

Not Another Slow Female Lead: After seeing My Lovely Sam Soon, I really started to appreciate Kim Sun Ah’s acting. Kim Sun Ah can portray multidimensional characters well. Oftentimes, the women in romantic comedy dramas are stupid, slow, or lacking common sense to the point where it is unbelievable (see Personal Taste). Kim Sun Ah comes off as insecure and inexperienced, but never dumb.

More than a Love Story: Kim Sun Ah’s characters seem to be fun with a side of crazy. In City Hall rather than going against a straight man like in My Lovely Sam Soon, she goes against Cha Seung Won who also has a knack for playing pompous and hilarious characters. The scenes between Kim Sun Ah and Cha Seung Won were the highlights of this drama, i.e. the tango.  My favorite scene was when they were pretending to be in a relationship at the chicken shack. On the other hand, the focus of this drama is less about the relationship between Shin Mi Rae and Jo Gook, and more about their individual journeys. Both characters face their fears, go against the grain, and find solace in each other.

Friendship: It is nice to see true friendships on display. Everyone should have a friend like Jung Boo Mi and Lee Jung Do. Jung Boo Mi always did right by Shin Mi Rae, even when it was not in her best interest. Lee Jung Do repressed his feelings for Shin Mi Rae after he recognized the power of Jo Gook and Shin Mi Rae’s relationship. It was also nice to see a love triangle where the 3rd party was not trying to ruin his competitor’s life.

Lessons on Korean Government and Business: City Hall is very informative for those not familiar with the Korean government and how their party system works. There was also some environmentalist action. Query, what is more important employing citizens or preventing the building of an energy plant that imports toxic waste from foreign countries to make energy?

Transformation: I really enjoy when dramas take a woman that does not have it together in the presentation department and transform her into a sharp well-dressed confidant woman. Still, Shin Mi Rae is not and never was King Kong, so stop calling her that. 

Disappointments in the Storyline: How Much Can You Overlook?

The problem with having a plot that combines two hero’s journeys with a love story is that it can create too many subplots. Here, there were too many subplots. Even though the subplots were great and added to the story, City Hall’s theme was diminished because the subplots highlighted the story’s shortcomings.

  • Jo Gook it is not okay to have fiance and a lady on the side. Furthermore, don’t go on a trip and do other things with your new lady when you have not broken up with your fiance.
  • Jo Gook I know that is not technically your kid, but he is yours so spend more time with him and less time trying to please your awful father.
  • While Jo Gook’s mother had a lot of depth, her character was never fully explored.
  • It wasn’t clear why Min Joo Hwa and Lee Jung Do stayed together. I am happy that they did, but the storyline made her close to unforgivable.
  • It is unfathomable that Shin Mi Rae would work with the directors after they beat her, tore her dress, and threw stuff at her.
More Trivial Issues:
  • I really enjoyed the public servant dance scene, but Jo Gook and Lee Jung Do should have joined in. How did the actors escape that?
  • Why is Jung Boo Mi’s husband portrayed as weird and unemployed, at least give him a steady job. Jung Boo Mi deserves better.
  • How many scenes are there with fried chicken? When I watch it again, I am going to count.

Since I am not as forgiving as characters of Shin Mi Rae, Jo Gook, and Lee Jung Do, (they would remain friends with the person that stole their dog), I give this drama 4 stars.

Up Next:  Hani Yori Dango