July 22, 2012

Can Love Become Money? – Episodes 10-13 – Korean drama review

In episodes 10 through 13 of Can Love Become Money?, there is further development along story lines that have already been introduced. Ma In Tak (Yun Jung Hoon) and Yoon Da Ran (Uhm Ji Won) start to see each other as people. Da Ran experiences a crisis of conscience, and concludes that no matter how bad her situation becomes, she will draw the line at “becoming a scumbag.”
Da Ran and In Tak gaze at each other over a bowl of soup she has prepared for him
In Tak is confronted with his own black and white thinking, and the shades of grey required by a more compassionate perspective. They learn more about each others’ backstories, grow closer, and deny it to themselves, each other, and everyone else. They regard their upcoming separation with obvious but unexpressed reluctance. Both wrestle with ambivalence towards their problematic parents. We are given reason to question whether In Tak’s mom actually behaved as badly as he believes she did.

In Tak's Dalmatian dog Ttak Jji looks attentively into the cameraWe know where all of this is leading, of course, and it’s not entirely good. Da Ran gets to dress more like herself, but develops an annoying childish cutesiness. Ludicrous plot twists to throw couples together (like those that brought Da Ran and In Tak together in the first place) are practically mandatory in Korean drama, but the justification for the opening scene of Episode 10 rises to new levels of absurdity. Poor Ttak Jji appears and disappears from the plot as needed. If he understands the significance of kissing, that’s more than can be said for Da Ran and In Tak!

As for Kim Sun Woo (Jo Yeon Woo), we discover another reason for his escalatingly inappropriate interest in Da Ran. But why is he so blatant about it in front of his girlfriend’s (alleged) family, endangering a scheme into which he has invested so much?? Despite this, he manages to charm In Tak, who ought to know better, with a skillful blend of disarming honesty, flattery, and chutzpah.

We have learned Sun Woo’s motivation by now, thanks to Hong Mi Mi’s relentless jealousy (but understandable! the man is a total flirt!), but his plans for In Tak have yet to be unveiled. And there are hints of other conspirators lurking in the wings. As for Mi Mi, I fear he’s using her shamelessly. I don’t like her very much, but still. I hope he’s not that nasty.

In Tak and Da Ran sleep on the couch. His head is in her lap, and hers is on his shoulder

Mi Mi still eludes me, despite the new secret we learn about her, which is apparently unknown to Sun Woo. Wang Bit Na portrays Mi Mi competently enough in each of her several aspects, but somehow there is no center to unite them into a believable character. Once I started thinking about it, I realized this is true to a lesser extent of the other major characters as well (possibly excepting In Tak). Already-established personalities are bent to fit to the plot, which is a shame, since performances are definitely the best thing about Can Love Become Money?

Cha Eun Sol, poutingWe finally learn what In Tak was doing in the private room with Eun Seol. If anyone knows the name of this actress, please post a comment – she’s hilarious, a Princess of Pouts. In Tak’s other transgression develops a silver lining.

Yun Jung Hoon’s speech to visiting business partners is golden. He is utterly believable as a charismatic CEO. However, his daily working life and Da Ran’s role at the office are less convincing. For a high-level executive, he sure has a lot of leisure time to lounge around at home reading magazines (have you ever seen a man read so many magazines?!), and building models. And Da Ran may work like a slave at his home and on trips, but she seems to be primarily a water-bearer at the office. Drama writers, do your research! Executive assistants work their tails off, and your mostly female audience knows it, if you don’t.

Like a lot of Korean drama, the themes and storylines in Can Love Become Money? are quite Victorian (downright Dickensian at times). Characters refer to works of Victorian-era writers Victor Hugo and Hans Christian Anderson, and quote the Confessions of St. Augustine (also popular in that era). Western cultural references are not unusual, but these are more classical than most (compare to Love Rain, which references 70s tear-jerker Love Story). Weird, but fascinating.
In Tak's mom in a hospital gown begs his uncle to let her see her baby just once
Can Love Become Money? could go either way from here. I can’t tell whether it’s losing steam, or just pausing to deepen and gather momentum. I had no trouble watching 4 episodes in a row (twice), but I’m a lousy barometer, since I don’t fight very hard once I’m hooked. It’s still better than I thought it was when I watched it without subtitles, but less intriguing than I found it during episodes 8 and 9. I hope DramaFever doesn’t release the last 7 episodes all at once, or I’ll be in trouble!

Also with Yeon Jeong Hun:

More Can Love Become Money? reviews
Vampire Prosecutor (Season 1) reviews

June 23, 2012

10 Obstacles to Love in Korean Drama

Wherever there is romance in Korean drama, there are obstacles, and lots of them. Here are 10 common (but temporary) obstacles to love in Korean drama:

1). Your Dad Killed My Dad. Rarely fazes determined young lovers, but is a real deal-breaker for their families. Luckily, the murder always turns out to be an unfortunate accident, or was actually committed by somebody else. Sometimes dad even turns out not to be dead.

2). Your Dad IS my Dad. AKA “Omo, you’re my half-sibling!”
Usually (but not always) the audience knows all along that the apparent incest is a misunderstanding, or a plot by an opponent of the romance. However, it gives the lovers a few episodes of severe angst and guilt, since they either refuse to believe it despite apparently strong evidence, or can’t keep away from each other even if they do believe it. Incest scares are very, very common in Korean drama (why?).
unhappy lovers stares at each other, as the man reaches out to the woman but does not touch her

“Why did you have to be my sister?”
Chun Jung Myung to Park Min Young in Glory Jane
(aka Man of Honor or Young Love Jae In)

3). Your Parents Hate Me. Completely over-the-top alcoholic single mothers are a particular favorite.

4). Your Ex Won’t Let You Go. So ruthless and malicious that we wonder what the Hero/ine ever saw in them.

5). Alternate Suitors. Alternate female suitors are either conniving, obsessed control freaks, or clingy, immature surrogate daughters to above-mentioned binge mom. Alternate male suitors, on the other hand, are typically rich, handsome, and nicer than the Hero.

6). You’re a Criminal/Player/Immature Jerk/Non-Human. Heroines are obstinately confident that past performance is no indication of future results.

7). I Have a Life-Threatening Illness. Terminal self-effacement, usually. I don’t want to be a burden, so I’m breaking up without telling you why, because that won’t hurt you.

8). You’re Rich, I’m Poor. Resolved by overnight career success or revelation of previously unsuspected wealth for the poor partner, or financial catastrophe for the rich one. Can happen to either gender, but if a poor girl becomes richer than her BF, she loses the money in a plot, or spends it in a worthy cause.

9). My Friend/Sibling Likes You. You don’t like them, but better that I renounce you so we can all be miserable.

10). Our Parents Are Involved. OK, double-dating would be weird, but is this really a reason to break up?? In Korea, yes. In-law incest is not illegal, but it is taboo, since families are considered merged upon marriage, therefore your in-laws are your own relations. Up-and-coming as a substitute for half-sibling incest scares, which is a great relief to western viewers!

NOT an Obstacle to Love in Korean Drama

You’re My Boss/Employee. Sexual harassment policies? What’s that? Korean drama contrives the most unnatural plot twists to throw romantic partners together, frequently involving the workplace. Koreans work long hours, and are expected to socialize after hours with co-workers in the interest of group cohesion. Heavy drinking is often involved. You’d think this would make workplace romances even more problematic, but not in Kdramaland.

You Have No Interest in Me. Stalking? What’s that? Again, this is gender-neutral. No matter how often an object of desire may reject, insult or shun the would-be lover, the truly determined Kdrama suitor never gives up. There’s a hideous double-standard where conniving exes or alternate suitors who do this are highly unsympathetic characters, while lead characters in the very same drama engaging in the very same behavior are portrayed as passionate and courageous, and get the girl/guy in the end.

We Have Nothing in Common Except Attraction. Compatibility? What’s that? First the drama highlights all the reasons these people should not be together. Most of these reasons do not change, but by the end of the drama they are together anyway, and we are to believe they live happily ever after. This is not particularly Korean. We see it all the time in US movies, and in long-running will-they/won’t-they TV series, where they eventually have to, because we’ve waited for it for so long, but they really shouldn’t.

It’s pretty obvious that the target audience of Kdrama romances is women. With some life experience and a robust grasp of the distinction between fantasy and reality, the unlikeliness of romance plots and characters is all in good fun. I wonder about girls and women who lack one or the other, however. Is this story about a Japanese woman husband-hunting for the kind of Korean man she sees on TV a rarity? Let’s hope so.

Related posts:
5 signs that you are watching a Korean drama
7 familiar characters in Korean drama
10 Common Kdrama Phrases, and What They Really Mean
Love Rain: Romance vs. Family in Korean Drama

June 10, 2012

Love Rain – Romance vs. Family in Korean Drama

Yoona and Jang Geun Suk huddled together under a yellow umbrella walking across a leafy summer campus in the rain;I stumbled across Love Rain (사랑비) on KBS World, and hopped on over to DramaFever where I watched all 20 episodes in 2 days (or was it 3? it’s a bit of a blur).
SPOILER ALERT – Quit now if you haven’t seen it yet.

April 2, 2012

Now watching: The Most Glorious Moment drama special

The latest KBS World Drama Special is called The Most Glorious Moment (in Life). I don’t know how many more episodes it has, but one was really enough. It’s a story about a mildly dysfunctional family that is united by a medical crisis (three guesses which disease). The acting is quite good, but the hardworking actors deserved fresher material. The Most Glorious Moment has all the originality of an after school special, and all the tension of a 10-year old rubber band, with the Valuable Lesson revealed in the opening scene (not to mention the title). The predictability of American TV is what I turned to Korean TV to get away from, but in this case I could’ve stayed home.

Update: Watched the second episode of The Most Glorious Moment drama special today. Two is all there are, thankfully, since it is every inch the tearjerker it promised to be. If you decide to watch, pull out the tissues. It’s a two-boxer.


Here’s a song by one of my favorite YouTube artists that may be of interest to people who watched this drama. It has nothing to do with Korean drama, but it’s my blog, so I can be off-topic if I want to…

February 8, 2012

Sageuk Review - Emperor of the Sea

Emperor of the Sea, also known as Sea God, Hae Shin or Haesin (해신), is the highly fictionalized life story of Goong-bok, or Jang Bogo, an 8th century Korean historical figure. There is almost no surviving historical record, and most of what there is was written centuries later, so author Choi In-Ho had a free hand for poetic license in the novel upon which the book is based. And he used it. MORE…