July 1, 2012

KBS Drama Specials - Korean short drama reviews

KBS regularly airs short dramas with 1-5 episodes under their “KBS Drama Special” umbrella. They used to be buried in late night/weekday day timeslots, but KBS World recently added a Saturday afternoon timeslot that makes them more accessible to working viewers. I’ve reviewed a couple of these previously – For My Son and The Most Glorious Moment in Life. Here are some others:

Amore Mio

This 4-episode drama is a great partner to Love Rain, for a grittier version of the same era of Korean class struggle and political unrest. Jeong Woong In delivers a fabulous dual performance as his younger self, and as a present-day dad, in the most convincing portrayal of the same character at different ages that I’ve ever seen. The youthful character was so unsympathetic that I stopped watching the drama after the first episode. [It aired in January, before I’d caught on to the Kdrama convention of showing characters at their worst before transforming them.] However, I came across the series again at episode 3 and got pulled back in to the story.
Jeong Woong In and Dana walk away from a confrontation with a man from their past
True to the title, there is a romance at the heart of Amore Mio, and the requisite supreme self-sacrifice for love, which Jeong Woong In sells well. There is also violence – be warned. If you are only interested in Kdrama as entertainment, you may find Amore Mio too raw, but if you want a window into 1980s Korea, check it out.


Crossing Yeongdo Bridge

My memory of this one-episode drama is a bit hazy, but I thought it was a well-acted story about a troubled father-daughter relationship. As often occurs in Korean dramas, drinking is semi-recognized as an issue without really being understood in its full implications as alcoholism. Deals somewhat more frankly with sexual matters than many dramas.

Park Hae Sol, Maiden Detective

The quaintly Victorian title of this drama caught my attention – when’s the last time you heard the word “maiden” in casual conversation? It sounded promising – young woman uses psychometric gifts to solve crime. Psychometry is a favorite with Koreans, though here it’s more like aura-reading.

Alas, this 4-episode drama was so slight that it wasn’t even worth recording, much less staying up late for.


Strawberry Ice Cream

I watched this one-episode romance last night (new to me, but it was a re-broadcast of a 2011 drama), and appreciated the writing as well as the acting. It’s a sad but ultimately hopeful story of a woman who doesn’t fully appreciate her boyfriend until after she breaks up with him, and has to come to terms with some major guilt and regret. Eom Hyeon Kyeong carries many scenes without dialogue, and ably projects emotion that could have easily become maudlin or repetitive in the hands of an actress with less range. Kim Yeong Hoon also delivers a nicely understated performance, as the boyfriend who “gets” her, even when she is not at her best. Their chemistry is charming.

A language note may be useful to non-Korean-speaking viewers of Strawberry Ice Cream. Korean sentences don’t necessarily include pronouns. KBS World helpfully adds them to the English subtitles, but that’s a little confusing for this drama. Just bear in mind that the Korean sentence translated as “I miss you” literally means “want to see,” without any specifics about who wants to see whom. Also, questions are formed by simply making a statement with an upward inflection at the end – there is no rearrangement in the word order. This means that the exact same sentence would be used to express “let’s meet,” “I miss you,” and “do you miss me?” Other sentences are similarly flexible.

Drama elements can seem a bit heavy-handed in the KBS Drama Specials – perhaps because they are packing a series-sized story into a smaller number of episodes. Nevertheless, some of these short dramas are of high quality. Don’t overlook them just because they are aired outside of primetime.

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