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Review on Korean drama

Athena: Goddess of War Review

There’s several reasons why I think Athena was a failed drama.

  • Jung Woo Sung had no charisma or muscles to show off during the whole series in comparison to Lee Byung Hun in IRIS.
  • Kim So Yun appeared in episode 17 of Athena and I don’t know why. Her family is killed by North Korean government and she swore that she would have her revenge. After that there were no sign of Kim So Yun. Was it a cameo in order to get higher ratings for this series? Will she be back in IRIS 2?
  • Did Yoon Hye In really have no choice to become a cold-blooded killer? She was a victim of riot in L.A.. Her parents died and she was saved by Son Hyuk. She thought of him as her older brother and was strongly influenced by him. But this is not enough for me to believe that she had to become a killer.
  • Soo Ae is not a right fit for Yoon Hye In. She has such an innocent-looking face, it was hard to believe that she killed anyone.
  • Han Jae Hee saw her father get killed by Song Hyuk’s gang. She should behave more professional like a real agent would. In episode 19, she went by herself with one handgun against a group of terrorists. This was very foolish of her and she died because of that.

Athena is a drama with a lot of action scenes but it failed to make me believe the story.

‘Mary Stayed Out All Night’ Ends With Little To Show

Mary Stayed Out All Night was an absolute waste of its young and talented leads comprising of Jang Geon Seok, Kim Jae Wook, and Moon Geun Young.  Being an adaptation, there probably was a bare minimum the producers had to follow, but from a one hundred plus episodes manhwa they could’ve and should’ve been able to reap better scenarios and sewn them into a cohesive mural of beauty instead of a dishevel quilt of patches.

There wasn’t anything fresh about the titular character Mary (played by MGY), but more unfortunate was she wasn’t root-worthy. She came off bland, not having fatal cons, but neither having strong nor endearing pros which made it difficult to buy that both the male leads fell in love with her so quickly and completely. The massive mob of unflattering curls overpowering MGY’s small face and frame didn’t help her character’s case either.  Even though she had a killer wardrobe of eclectic bohemian pieces, it wasn’t necessarily, for the most part, combined and matched well nor fitted in the right size on her. In fact, her wardrobe and hair were very distracting throughout the whole duration of the drama. 

Moving on, JGS’s character Mu-gul was simply a messy character to witness and endure. He had the unfortunate mixture of mopiness, insecurity, attachment isssues, rashness, and bringing it all to its disagreeable rim a lack of sufficient noogans between the ears to connect a row of vision impaired friendly numbered dots even with a How-To-Connect-the-Dots-for-Dummies besides him for reference. In terms of the character’s style, it has nothing on JGS’s real life style. In fact, Mu-gul’s style was rather tame compared to the usual ensembles JGS shows up in public in, but it does make one wonder if the stylist did his/her research or instead slacked off and just decided to pile on all the style stereotypes and prejudices of what he/she believes a young alternative bohemian rocker looks like and dresses in on Mu-gul.

Last in this trio is KJW’s Jung-in, styled from head to toe reminiscent of Jude Law’s futuristic artificial intelligent robot character in Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence(2001). His hair was too slick and high, his face too shiny and structured, his suits too stiff and manufactured that one can almost smell the starch in the collar and hear the last snip from the tailor’s scissors before the garments were draped over his lean almost mannequin-like frame.  The character’s traits were the usual stuff of second male leads- overflowing family wealth, unreasonably good looks, daddy issues, self-sacrificing (for the female lead) inclination, touch of vulnerability, and perfected I’m-rejected–but-I-sincerely-wish-them-the best-even-though-I-still-love-her martyr expression.  Again, nothing fresh about his character, but at least in KJW’s ownership, the character emoted naturally.

Mary’s storyline was a joke. It had an unlikely and confusing premise to begin with, but winnable in more capable scripting hands. (Case done oh so very right: soul switching fantastical romantic comedy Secret Garden.)  Like déjà vu, the same sequence of events and emotions kept playing over and over again so that even if one missed two or three episodes, unavoidably or purposely, one really wouldn’t miss much of the storyline at all- only difference is change of clothes and setting. The sequence of Mary agreeing to marry then breaking it off with the rich alpha Jung-in because she’s really in love with the poor boho Mu-gyul, was repeated several times even to the last predictable episode. The only unpredictable, creative even, though this is not meant to be a compliment, was what kind of manufactured wacky obstacles and hijinks would nonsensically turn up to instigate and try to move the not very romantic, not very comedic story that, if logical is slightly forgivable, but in the case of Mary is nowhere to be sensed.  The characters’ reactions and decisions were so frustrating to watch… that it’s better to just not.

I’m Sorry, I Love You Review

I'm Sorry, I Love You

I recently had the chance to watch the 2004 KBS drama, I’m Sorry, I Love You. If you haven’t watched this drama, I kindly ask that you stop reading this review as it contains spoilers.

This drama is about a Cha Moo Hyuk (So Ji Sub) and Song Eun Chae (Im Soo Jung). Cha Moo Hyuk was adopted by an Australian family and after he was abused, he ran away and lived on the streets. Song Eun Chae is the coordinator of a popular Korean singer, Yune (Jung Kyung Ho), and who she loved since they were children.

Eun Chae is in Australia for Yune’s commercial shoot and is robbed of all her belongings. She meets Moo Hyuk who finds her things and returns them to her.

After a terrible accident, Moo Hyuk was shot and because of the risk of killing him, doctors could not surgically remove a bullet from his head. He has only a few months to live. He returns to Korea in search for his mother who he believes abandoned him and his twin sister. He seeks revenge when he finds out his mother is a very wealthy woman and has a son that she loves so much. Moo Hyuk becomes Yune’s manager and starts to get to know Eun Chae day by day.

I’m Sorry, I Love You is a drama with a sad ending. In the final episode, Eun Chae finally confesses her love for Moo Hyuk. She tells him “I love you” seven times before she started crying and burst into tears. This is when Im Soo Jung’s acting shined for me.

In the final scene, Eun Chae visits all the places where she spent time with Moo Hyuk and lies down by the grave of Moo Hyuk. The news reports finding a dead body of a Korean girl in Australia.

“He was very lonely even when he was alive. I could not just let him be. In this lifetime, from this moment forward, I want to live for myself. I will receive the punishment.”

– Song Eun Chae

I have mixed feelings about this drama. The disappointing part is the late realization of the characters. It was only during the final episode where Moo Hyuk learns that his mother did not abandom him and that he always loved her. Eun Chae and Moo Hyuk tells each other that they love each other right before Moo Hyuk dies. Had they confessed their love earlier, they could have had more pleasant memories.

This drama was very fun to watch and it was great to see a face I have not seen before. Im Soo Jung is beautiful and I hope she returns to a Korean drama someday. It was sad seeing her character die beside her love’s grave but at the same time, I was touched and I ask myself, can you love someone that much?

I Am Legend’s Legacy

I Am Legend was not a melodrama but the overarching effect was one of sadness. There was no death, illness, long separation, and other cruxes of traditional Korean melodrama, but it was sad from another source- identification.  There was a strong element of dreams deferred, gnawing regret, and hopes dashed. Many can identify with the fear of having their lives turn out as such. I Am Legend anchors these universal emotions in the microsphere of its flawed heroines and heroes.

Legend revolves around the lives of the four members of the Comeback Madonna Band who also happen to be pegged in Korean society as ‘ajummas’. A woman would be called an ajumma if she looks or is past her late twenties and/or is a mother.  The four ajummas are lead vocal and guitarist ­Jeon Seol Hee played by Kim Jung Eun, bass Hwa Ja played by Jong Ji Min, 2nd guitarist Ah Reom played by Juni, and drummer Jang Shin Yeong plays Su In.

The drama introduces the individual lives of the members, which includes their hobby of almost weekly private jam sessions together as a means of relieving the stress from the daily grind in their lives. There were suggestions that the storyline would go the way of struggling ajummas conquering stereotypes, ridicules, and other societal and legal hurdles to become a successful female rock band. Instead, that became the backdrop to a manifesto on the temptations and pitfalls of fame.  With a lick of fame, motherly responsibilities are thrown in the blender, with ambition of marrying well, pride and dignity can practically be sacrificed, and with fear of failure, priorities sidelined.

The characters were initially two dimensional and the effort to give them character arcs fell short, not due to effort and good intention but to the time constraint of the drama. It was hard to swallow how everyone can abruptly become such prodigal moral sons and daughters  in the short span of an episode or two.

In regards to the music, which naturally was the drama’s OST, it was a running commentary on the story and characters’ emotional development. Furthermore, as all the members really have some musical background and inclination, it wasn’t too difficult to transform their collaboration from a fictional band to a real one with scheduled live performances.  In the drama, the performance scenes of the band were training ground of sorts as they were filled with real invited audiences attending ‘real’ concerts.  The drama’s extensive OST was packaged and sold like a real debut of the Comeback Madonna Band. With many nods from fans and enough interest, although the drama is over, the Comeback Madonna Band is still alive and well rocking at venues near Seoul.

Although I Am Legend didn’t turn out to be any notable legend, it did shine a flashlight on many unglamorous aspects of Korean females entering the autumn of their lives hedged in their circumstances between traditional expectations and modern aspirations. For that alone, it is worth a watch.

Gu- to Il-Miho, But Still Going Strong

Although it’s not rare, it’s not a common feat either for a show, may it be movie or drama, to spawn a double swirl and bevy of new colloquial slangs and mannerism into the cultural lexicon and physio-mechanic.

Trending in Korea and anywhere else in the world that has watched My Girlfriend is a Gumiho over the last couple of months and still going strong are such speech imitations like ‘mating’, ‘bubbly water’, and ‘cow’ to mean ‘having sex’, ‘soda’, and ‘beef’ respectively.

In the physical realm, old and young are imitating moves to show compliment, love connection, love confession, and synchronization. Instead of just complimenting your beau, act it out instead: while cocking one’s head to the side, smile with the cutest, exaggerated, and most innocent expression and raise one hand with the thumbs up motion to the side of the cocked downward  cheek saying anything complimentary like ‘mashita!’ (delicious!) or ‘fashionista’ (fashionista). Of course, doesn’t hurt if one is endowed with crater deep dimples.

You're so cool!
Wow fashionista!

Potential or current lovers can show how in tune they are with each other in a secure wave frequency through a love antenna: do air quotes besides each temple. I get you!

From me to you- can you tune in to my waves?

If you’re already in a relationship, greet your partner with a E.T originated finger kiss: swirl your forefinger and say ‘hoi’, then your partner does the same, then ‘kiss’ each other with your forefingers.

Hoi Couple greeting

Confession of love has never been so cutely expressed until this gumiho showed it to us: Say “I really really really really really really really really really like you” then do some love finger gun shots at your love target.  Winking is optional but highly recommended.

I really really really really really really really like you!

It’s an old catchphrase that imitation is the highest form of flattery and if this is true, Gumiho is certainly feeling the flattery even post broadcast. Shin Min A’s portrayal of the mythical gumiho was epically cute. It’s save to say her Mi Ho is cuteness deitified with a fuzzy white tail. This may be her best and most memorable performance so far in her career. Ms. Shin has always been popular, but never for any particular role or acting prowess. She just happens to be at the right place at the right time, star with the ‘’it’ actor in the right month and been able to remain popular through her style, many commercials and endorsements. Finally, she has an acting project under her belt that she can really brag and be proud of.

Lee Seung Gi, who stars opposite Shin Min A, had great chemistry with her which added to the audience’s huge support for this Hoi Couple besides LSG’s already sizeable fanbase and reputation as an eom-chin-a (a shortened slang for the perfect boy to bring home to mom) to k-drama ratings’ bread and butter- housewife ajummas.  The biggest critique watching LSG is the annoying head twitch every time he starts his lines. Is this how he really speaks carried over to his character or is this a conscious character mannerism choice? Either way, it makes his performance appear extremely overacted.  He is the male lead so imagine how many scenes, how many lines, and ensuing head twitches that had to be endured.

Another critique about the storyline is the underdevelopment and under utilization of the initially interesting second lead character played by Noh Min Woo. His backstory as a smoldering mystical blue-glow sword wielding, thousand years old, porcelain skinned, half-human half-spirit, more smoldering, demon vanquisher just hits a dead end in episode 2 after he saw Mi Ho look like his long dead love. Nothing as interesting came out of his character anymore and anything he subsequently did was ineffectual or just lame. No more action, no more mystique, no more real expectation and no more anticipation. O’Asian Druid Warrior, you had so much potential!

Overall, the Hong Sister did a fantastic job with this drama on two major points dear to my attention span and patience- low angst level and short angst period. Additionally, the angst involved was narratively necessary, not just some device to separate the couples just to separate them. The mystical powers that be ordained that love had to be proven through a long unspecified time of separation with unguaranteed reunion. Thus the couple had to choose whether to wait or not, knowing they’re separated by different dimensions and space. Will their love fade as time goes by? That makes the ubiquitous angst in a Hong sister drama bearable for this drama. They are certainly improving with their storytelling and development of narrative drives. Hurray for them and for all fans of their work.

Giant Review


Giant is a drama that contains typical ingredients, love, betrayal and revenge. But why has this drama received such high TV ratings in Korea? There are several factors that make this drama a big hit.

Let’s first look at the cast. Lee Bum Soo and Park Jin Hee are two of the biggest stars in the entertainment industry of Korea. Jung Bo Suk, who was last seen in the High Kick Through the Roof, makes a return to the television scene as a totally different character. In the Korean sitcom, he played the role as a foolish and rather easily manipulated person and in this drama, he is Jo Pil Yun, a cruel and deceptive government officer.

Yeo Jin Goo and Nam Ji Hyun, who played the role of the young Queen Seon Duk, does an excellent job as the young Kang Mo and Jung Yeon.

The second factor that makes this drama a huge success is the story itself. Giant begins its story during the 1970s and Kang Mo describes how the value of the land in Gangnam, a region is Seoul, increased several hundred thousand times during just a forty year time period. All the conflicts in this drama occur during these forty years. Kang Mo’s father is killed by Jo Pil Yun, the family gets separated and he and his older brother, Sung Mo, try to have their revenge to the people that ruined their lives.

One aspect of this drama that I found a little bit unfitting is the transition from teenage Kang Mo and Jung Yeon to what appeared to be their early 20’s. Lee Bum Soo is now 40 years old and Park Jin Hee is 32 years old. They are too old to look appropriate for this age.

Giant portrays the corruption between politicians during this time period very well. Overall the drama is quite good and it will attract many viewers.


Enjoying Pasta

I had happily first met actor Lee Sun Gyun as the music producer, Choi Han Sung, in The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince. At the time, he was pining away for his ex‐girlfriend Han Yoo Joo played by Chae Jung Ahn and I was swooning over his deep, rich voice. My love for him led me into the basement kitchen of the restaurant La Sfera where I watched him play the hot tempered chef, Choi Hyun Wook, chased after by his pasta line cook, Seo Yoo Kyung played by Gong Hyo Jin, in the drama Pasta. Like its namesake, Pasta looked simple, was delicious, and turned out, surprisingly, to be quite complex. Though it had the typical ingredients found in a Korean drama, (i.e. love square, unrequited love, and a very determined heroine who despite all odds gets her man and fulfills her dreams), director Kwan Seok Jang did a great job freshening up the typical grab bag of Korean story plots.

In Pasta, Seo Yoo Kyung is an aspiring pasta chef. After enduring three years of being a kitchen assistant at LaSfera, her hard work finally grants her the opportunity to cook on the pasta line. This acknowledgement is shattered as the head chef is replaced by Choi Hyun Wook, who declares (very loudly) that he will not have any female cooks in his kitchen. So begins Seo Yoo Kyung’s tangled journey to not only have her pasta dishes acknowledged by Choi Hyun Wook but also her love.

Compared to a lot of other current dramas, Pasta is short with only 20 episodes and there are no sequences of dramatic events. The main character is not hit by a car and has amensia; please look elsewhere for that story plot.  So what is there? Well, there is a group of very talented actors who are provided characters with understandable motivations and personalities honed from their distinct backstories. So well developed that after setting the stage in Episode 1, director Kwan seems to simply allow the characters to take over the drama and have the events unfold as they may.

If you plan to start on Pasta, stock your pantry full with linguine and kiss that no-carb diet good-bye. About 70+% of this drama is filmed in the kitchen or around food and you will unwittingly find your lips coated in tomato sauce, slurping up linguine as you watch the charming cast toss about pasta, insults and themselves at one another.

Overall rating, yum.

The Highlight of “Bad Boy”

Kim Nam Gil
Kim Nam Gil's Character Shot

…is Kim Nam Gil. The substantial and versatile acting talent of Mr. Kim can’t be subdued regardless of any deficiencies nor outshined by any merits in the production he participates in. He had since left civilian life to fulfill his mandatory military service for the next two years whilst the final episodes of Bad Boy was still airing, and his excellent performance branded on this last project certainly will keep his far-reaching fans and k-drama audience anticipating greatly for his return in 2012. Cold and tender, suave and goofy, vengeful and forgiving, he convincingly brought out all these contradictory characteristics of his Shim Gum Wook/Hong Tae Sung role with amble charisma to boot.

Bad Boy is a drama about Kim Nam Gil’s character out to exact revenge on the conglomerate family that adopted him because it thought he was the illegitimate son but then unapologetically kicked him out to the curb when it thought he was a fake. It was a drama with great potential- helmed by a reputable director, Lee Hyeong Min, who directed Winter Sonata (2002) and Snow Queen (2006), co-produced by respected Korean and Japanese production teams with filming done in both countries, and starred by a stellar cast of talents from its lead to supporting cast. It became a drama with beautiful cinematography, well developed three-dimensional characters, but sideswiped by coverage of real-time current events i.e. FIFA World Cup, peppered by extraneous scenes throughout the vicinity of episodes 6-11 wasting precious story time, and unexpected departure of its titular lead.

Originally planned for 20 episodes, the drama was forced to cut back to 17 episodes when Kim Nam Gil received his non-extendable draft notice before all the scenes were written, much less filmed. After watching the finale episode with much anticipation and no small amount of trepidation, the final verdict after the initial pre-Orbit mouth outcries is a favorable one. Given these characters’ personalities, the progress of the situation already unveiled, and the time restraint the production had, of all the possible scenarios that could be played out, the one that did was believable enough, in temper with the characters, unforced in tying all the loose ends, and ultimately offered closure. This drama gets a 7 out of 10 stars, keeping in mind the same reviewer gave the monstrous hit Queen Seon Deok an 8.5 out of 10, and abysmal Personal Taste 3 out of 10.

Bad Boy
(from left to right) Kim Jae Wook, Han Ga In, Kim Nam Gil, Oh Yeon Su, Jung So Min

Baker King, Kim Tak Goo Review

Baker King, Kim Tak GooIn this drama, Yoon Shi Yoon stars as Kim Tak Goo, who is an illegitimate son of the rich Goo family. His father had an affair with a nurse and she delivered a son. Through jealousy and selfishness, the mother of the family also has an affair and gives birth to a son, Ma Joon, so that the family’s inheritance can go to him. She and her lover deceives the entire family and they do everything it takes to separate Kim Tak Goo from the family.

Yoon Shi Yoon’s last appearance in a Korean television series was in the very popular Korean sitcom High Kick Through the Roof, where his character, Jung Joon Hyuk, was much different than Kim Tak Goo. The character, Jung Joon Hyuk, was very spoiled and he often disrespected his English tutor. It was only after meeting Shin Se Kyung when Jung Joon Hyuk started to mature and learned to take care of other people and love them. The character, Kim Tak Goo, was raised by his poor mother and she often teaches Kim Tak Goo many important virtues. Kim Tak Goo is a loveable character and you will see just what I mean when you watch this Korean drama. He cares for other people before himself and as he becomes a very skilled baker, he starts to use his hands to make wonderful bread for people and to become the very best baker.

Kim Tak Goo’s step brother, Ma Joon, played by Joo Won, is quite the opposite of Kim Tak Goo. He was raised by a rich family but he wants to be acknowledged and be loved by his father and does not care about anything else.

Baker King, Kim Tak Goo is an intense drama that will keep you entertained.