Snow Queen

If Hong Gil Dong was unappealing because of its cover, Snow Queen had the opposite effect. There are mountains! Snow! Icicles! People in in fur coats! A Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale I really liked! Aaaand mathematics!

(2 friends assured me I would like this because the main character was a math genius.)

Title: Snow Queen/눈의 여왕 / Noon Eui Yeo Wang

Genre: Drama/16 episodes

Plot: Han Tae Woong (Hyun Bin) is an economically deprived genius in mathematics. He wins a scholarship to a top middle school whose niche area is in mathematics and the sciences where he meets Kim Jeong Kyu (Lee Sun Ho), a bright, competitive, economically advantaged boy who has been lauded for his achievements in mathematics since young. After a sticky start, the two became very good friends (I refuse to use the term ‘best friends’ here for reasons I will explain later.). Unfortunately, Jeong Kyu couldn’t deal with the embarassment of losing in a Math Olympiad and killed himself. Tae Woong, who did win, felt so guilty over winning that he decided to drop out of school and become a boxer, using the name Han Deuk Gu in honour of his friend’s favourite boxer. 8 years later, he encountered his dead friend’s sister, Kim Bo-ra (Sung Yu-ri), who was equally highly-strung and had a serious disease – myasthenia (hey, at least its not cancer.) She has a cold streak that supposedly hid a soft heart. Will Tae Woong melt the icy facade of his Snow Queen, wash out the shards of glass in her heart and live happily ever after?

From the tone of this synopsis, I think you can guess Continue reading

Star Swap 2: You’re Beautiful (by Bubbleteatalk’s Bubbly Sister)

The thing about my sister is she’s not very good at promoting ANY show. I used to think that maybe she was not the type to rave about anything anyway, but, here was a show she was raving about. Yet, from her description, it made me think it was a ho-hum teeny-bopper show with a fantastically good-looking guy in it (who, from the cover of the DVD, seemed more girly to me than good-looking).  Sorry, Adik, but there it was. So, I bargained to watch ONE episode…I mean, how hard can it be to sit through one hour of Korean drama?

[front cover where I was unsure which was the girl.]

One hour led to two and three episodes later, I conceeded defeat. You’re Beautiful was addictive. *hangs head in shame* Continue reading

You’re Beautiful

While my family was avidly watching Hong Gil-Dong, the latest Hong Sisters’ drama DVD was being actively promoted in Singapore. There was this Great Singapore Sale CD/DVD promotion in the basement of my neighbourhood mall with a huge banner advertising You’re Beautiful (called here He’s Beautiful). I generally don’t like pop-idol based movies/series but there was something familiar about the lead actor and his guyliner. Oh wait, it is Prince Chang Hui from Hong Gil-Dong with shorter, flatter hair.

So, I am attributing my getting this DVD to FCW too because he got me Hong Gil-Dong, without which I would never have bought this k-drama. Without this drama, I would have never thought of watching obscure movies such as Baby and Me and The Itaewon Murder Case so…you have a lot to answer for 🙂

Title: You’re Beautiful/He’s Beautiful/ Minami Shineyo (If I am reading this correctly, its a nice pun on the main character’s name.)

Genre: (back to) Romantic Comedy/16 episodes

Plot: Ko Minyo (Park Shin Hye) was a trainee nun who had lived all her life in a convent after being abandoned with her twin brother at a young age. Her twin, Ko Minam successfully auditioned for a place in pop idol band A.N.Jell but could not join the group due to a botched plastic surgery. To help her brother, Minyo took on his identity for a month and lived with the other three band members as Minam. Her not-too-subtle subterfuge was soon discovered by leader/songwriter Hwang Tae-kyung (Jang Geun Suk) and guitarist Kang Shin Woo (Jung Yong Hwa) and later, drummer Jeremy (Lee Hong Ki). In different ways, all three guys were drawn to her and they helped her when her impersonation started unravelling  in a complicated comedy of errors.

What was especially effective for me, was that the plot centered around the issue of seeing. All the elements of the show are geared towards asking – when we love a person, do we see him or his image he wants to show us? The main characters being pop idols who lived by their image, the impersonation of Minam by Minyu, Tae Kyung’s night blindness, the persistent imagery of stars reflecting and blotting out light; they are constructed so that the characters have to keep looking in order to see. This was captured by a memorable line by Tae-kyung “I told you not to go where I can’t see you!”

So, despite the fact that this drama drew the lowest ratings Continue reading

Hong Gil-Dong

Hong Gil-Dong was definitely a series I wouldn’t have picked up myself. Firstly, it was a saguek drama (ie. set in ancient times, in this case around 16th century) and I have always been more inclined towards contemporary shows. Secondly, the title was a bit obvious – Hong Gil Dong THE HERO (literally “sharp blade”). Finally, the DVD had a rather tacky cover; among the pictures was the lead actor in 16th century garb but wearing sunglasses.

I couldn’t figure out, from the cover blurb, whether this was a contemporary hero imagining himself into the 16th century or a 16th century hero written in a contemporary way. When you are puzzled by the cover, you tend to dismiss the show.

These are, of course, very superficial reasons. I am glad someone else chose it and I was forced to watch it. It was a fascinating series that made me want to learn more about Korean history.

Title: Hong Gil Dong, the Hero \ K’waedo Hong Kildong

Genre: Fusion Saguek \ 24 episodes

[the cast in costume vs in normal clothes]

Plot: Hong Gil-Dong (Kang Ji Hwan) was the illegitimate son of the Yipan (Interior) Minister (Kil Yong Woo)  during the rule of King Lee Kwang Whe (Jo Hee Bong).  Unknown to many, the king himself was also illegitimate and gained the throne after setting fire to the palace to kill his stepbrother and legitimate brother (who, of course, didn’t die.) For Gil-dong, however, his illegitimate birth and his dead mother’s slave status meant that he was constrained to remain a pseudo-slave in his father’s household.

[I call it pseudo-slave because he could apparently do anything he liked as long as it wasn’t constructive. Go out boozing? Go ahead! Meet women? By all means! Study for exams? ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN! It was a rather peculiar position to be in. I don’t blame the guy for being confused.]

A local monk (Jung Eun Pyo) taught him martial arts during his abundant free time in the hopes that he would fulfil his potential as a leader. Initially, Gil-Dong used these skills mainly to annoy other people. When he encountered bubbly, orphaned Yinok (Sung Yu Ri), her grandfather, a group of thieves, a mysterious guild and fugitive prince Lee Chang Hui (Jang Geun Suk),  he became embroiled in a series of adventures that opened his eyes to the possibilities for combating injustice. Forming an outlaw group which robbed the rich to give the poor, the Hwaibindang, he started an uneasy alliance with Chang Hui to help the latter regain his throne in the hopes of  creating a better world.

Continue reading

My Girl

My Girl was the most popular of the Hong Sisters’ dramas according to television ratings. My desk-mate back when I was teaching raved about it when it first came out in Singapore at the end of 2007. I borrowed the DVD from her and watched one episode.

I fell asleep.

Ok, I decided to give it a second try after a bad day at work. Watching the first episode again, the heroine’s over-the-top acting really annoyed me. Why was she so perky? Did she overdose on anti-depressants?

Since I borrowed the series, I felt obliged to finish it but couldn’t bring myself to. So, the series sat there for months. It must have warped or something in my cupboard because when I finally returned it  (so sorry!), it kept getting stuck in my friend’s player. So, I got her a new copy and kept the old one.

It was only in 2009 when I watched Chun Hyang and found out that Chun Hyang and Mong Ryong made a cameo in this show that I finally sat down to get through it. My mother kept me company. I think she liked it more than I did. The DVD problem resolved itself.

Title: My Girl/ Mai Geol

Genre: Romantic Comedy/24 episodes

Plot: Joo Yoorin (Lee Da Hae) works as a tourist guide on Jeju Island to support herself and her shiftless father who had run up huge debts with loan sharks. He finally cut and run when the loan sharks started pressing for their money leaving Yoorin to face the music. Turned out of her house, she took temporary illegal occupancy of a summer villa belonging to Seol Gong-Chan (Lee Dong Wook), the CEO of a large hotel. Gong Chan needed to find his long-lost cousin to ease his grandfather’s death bed. When he found the illegal squatter in his villa who bore some resemblance to his cousin, he decided to pay her to pose as his cousin and installed her in the house to cheer his grandfather up. As Yoorin gets acquainted with the family, a love quadrilateral develops between her, Gong Chan, his fiancee Kim Seo Hyun (Park Shi Yeon) and his irresponsible male cousin Seo Jung Wook (Lee Jun-ki).

I think what separates purely fluffy entertainment and good entertainment is not a didactic message Continue reading