Tag: k-drama

lonely goblin

I picked up Lonely Shining Goblin and Legend of the Deep Blue Sea at the same time, but only Goblin felt truly inventive.  It was brooding and patient (occasionally too much so), and Lee Dong Wook’s grim reaper was reminiscent of another drama I liked, although it didn’t quite reach its potential, Blade Man.

For me, the best thing about this drama is the mood.



Highlighting Lee Dong Wook as an actor isn’t to imply that it wasn’t great to spend time with Gong Yoo on the small screen again, but as much as I hate to say so, Gong Yoo’s gravitas may have overgrown the TV medium.   Although he did well embody the longing one might expect from a goblin who had brooded for 500 years, reflecting on tragedy and injustice, suffering without intimacies.

Yet having seen him in films like A Man and a Woman, I couldn’t shake the feeling that a mature partner for him would have been more appealing.

Kim Go-Eun did move my heart in scenes, even out-shining her more seasoned costars.  Especially, her capacity for anguish was startling for one so young.  But the ultra light-and-girly way her character was written didn’t allow for deep enough chemistry between the two.  By contrast, her Cheese in the Trap character held to a grounded center.  I much preferred her there.

Overall, I was pleased with facets of time and memory, overlap and questioning of identities, virtue and vice, even though some connections weren’t quite made.  Long episodes were appropriate, fitting to the desired epic scale.


Finally reaching the place I hoped it would, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is officially far more than beautiful to look at, and IU officially an actress coming into her own. I thought the main players did wonderfully with episode 11, and that great care must have been taken by all involved, to do what Korean drama does best of all.



Han or Haan is a concept attributed as a unique Korean cultural trait which has resulted from Korea’s frequent exposure to invasions by overwhelming foreign powers. Han denotes a collective feeling of oppression and isolation in the face of insurmountable odds (the overcoming of which is beyond the nation’s capabilities on its own). It connotes aspects of lament and unavenged injustice.

The minjung theologian Suh Nam-Dong describes han as a “feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one’s guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong—all these combined.”

(snip)The term derives from the Chinese term, hen (恨), a concept of deep hatred and resentment towards an aggressor who had forsaken the victim, a feeling of anguish and ultimate failure due to animosity that could only be relieved through revenge, which may seem like an impossible task. The hanja for Han is 恨. (from wikipedia)


[Spoilers!] Continue reading “Wow”

The Cure

So the cure for malaise turned out to be watching a few Korean films and a British series based on a book I’ve read a few times and have given several friends.

Starting with the films:

A Man and a Woman (Korean)The french film is the one that probably comes to mind for most when reading the title, and it was my fondness for that film that brought me to this one, along with actors Jeon Do-Yeon and Gong Yoo. On the heels of watching the Korean version of The Good Wife, I watched both this film and Memories of the Sword: the first which I was totally absorbed in, and the second which was interesting but not especially novel if as familiar with martial arts revenge and/or historical films as I am. A Man and a Woman had most of the elements of Korean storytelling that I love, and a few nicely steamy scenes, but ultimately was about adult aloneness, a theme I very much relate to.

Dong Ju: Portrait of a PoetThis is a telling of the talented Korean poet Yun DongJu, who lived and died in jail quite young, during the time of the Korean Independence Movement. Kang Ha Neul was my draw to this film, but also stills I had come across that displayed artistry and care. This was a case where I wanted to see more of his life outside of jail than the film offered, but wanting to see more does not at all constitute a negative review.

Up where the seasons pass,
the sky is filled with autumn.
In this untroubled quietude
I could almost count these autumn-couched stars.
But why I cannot now enumerate
those one or two stars in my breast
is because the dawn is breaking soon,
and I have tomorrow night in store,
and because my youth is not yet done.
Memory for one star,
love for another star,
sorrow for another star,
longing for another star,
poetry for another star,
and oh! mother for another star.
Mother! I try to call each star by some such evocative word, names of school children with whom I shared desks, names of alien girls like Pai, Kyunh, Ok, names of maidens who have already become mothers, names of neighbors who lived in poverty, names of birds and beasts like pigeon, puppy, rabbit, donkey, deer,and names of poets like Francis, Jammes and Reiner Maria Rilke.
They are as far away
and intangible as the stars.
You too are in the distant land of the Manchus.
Because I have a secret yearning,
seated on this star-showered bank,
I have written my name thereon
and covered it with earth.
In truth, it is because the insects chirp
all night to grieve over my bashful name.
But spring shall come to my stars after winter’s delay,
greening the turf over the graves,
so this bank that buries my name
shall proudly wear the grass again.
-Yun DongJu


 The Handmaiden I hadn’t seen the BBC adaptation of this novel, nor read The Fingersmith in the first place. I was simply curious about the buzz, and to find out what ‘the twist’ would be. No disappointment! This is a “not for everyone” film. It is disturbing, redemptive, and goes beyond ‘sexy’ sex scenes.


The Mini Series


Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – It was no small feat to make an 8-episode series out of an over 1000 page book, and definitely no small feat to make it well, considering the book’s grand magical elements, which >whew< turned out visually and emotionally fitting for the world and story. 

The trickiest part for adaptation of the book must lay in the novel’s genius footnotes, some of which take up entire pages. Those footnotes contain much of the cheeky humor and were my largest concern when news of the mini-series first broke.  I still can’t quite believe they pulled it off, but the film feels like the book – quite distinctly English – while standing on its own, and takes nothing from my desire to read the novel again and again. 


I was afraid it might happen – that opening a blog about K-dramas would shift my viewing style into a more scrutinizing outlook – and that I would not want to write that way. I can’t tell yet, but to have delighted in Oh Hae Young Again and yet not have much to say about it, or about Beautiful Mind, which I found a great deal of value in, brings me to question, “What is going on?!” Perhaps I am just thin stretched, since work for me is also writing. It can be tricky to erect proper boundaries.

And speaking of proper boundaries, W – Two Worlds.


This is a fun drama full of existential questions and rather seamless effects, so it is easy to believe in these characters, and to enter their worlds as though traveling through possible layers of existence. Gazing into my screen, in which they gaze and fall in to their screens… W is a story of coming fully ALIVE.

I’m facilitating a book discussion about similar questions, specifically the unraveling of one’s usual world that can happen as natural course when a wider or more potent context appears, throwing the former world into question.  The book uses terms like ‘thawing of reality’ and doesn’t suggest overthrowing the illusion a la The Matrix, but rather including what one can as perhaps differently real.

If you think about it, we do this with our past selves all the time… look back with new knowledge and work to embrace the innocence, or redeem the ignorance, in order to move forward. It is the work of self cultivation. Sometimes we re-cast characters whose motives weren’t apparent before, or give them alternate story lines.

Elon Musk is among those who are sure our very world is indeed a kind of sophisticated simulation, and while I’m not sure, there is something in the idea that rings true.


Update (SPOILERS): Very sadly, but not quite Cheese in the Trap sadly, the show has spun its wheels in less interesting ways during the second half, leaving my mind to wander. I liked these characters and these worlds, but the story doesn’t stay with meaningful moments long enough to feel harmonious. As I write this there is one more episode, so maybe I’ll have to eat my words when they come up with some brilliant redemptive conclusion?

Updated at finish:
With so much promise, W – Two Worlds still managed to devolve at the end, rather than opening fully.  Along the way I lost what was already a frail attachment to the characters and the story line.


This is not about Dear My Friends

I tried not to watch Dear My Friends. I’ve been wondering lately, if Korean TV isn’t making me a little too thoughtful, a little too melancholy, but that might have been just the feeling of watching 3 episodes of this emotionally affecting drama, in a row.

dear my friends
(image: Dramabeans)

For most of my youth, I wasn’t interested in deep historical details, nor in characterizations of one nationality in contrast to another. My impression had been that those who greatly concerned themselves that way were less tolerant of others in the present, thus less likely to move forward. Which is not to say I was disinterested in the undercurrents underlying patterns in politics and world events along the way.

However, historical dramas sparked something new. Suddenly I needed to know details about the Korean turtle boat. I needed to better understand Soviet dynamics at the end of WW2. And I wanted to understand the feelings that linger between various countries, of justice denied, acknowledgements withheld… why some seem to have a greater emphasis on justice, or revenge.

Continue reading “This is not about Dear My Friends”

Oh Yes, and Yes Again

[Lightly Spoilery Mini Review]

In Oh Hae Young Again, the writers manage to tweak aspects of common drama devices, such as the emergence of heart that happens when a character is given supernatural insight. This process, at least at first, is reversed: she is the one who sees into him, although he has the premonitions. In response, he grows more expressive and self-aware.

Simply, I loved this. It may be that I related to OHYA so personally because of the central featured profession of sound engineering, which offered deep metaphors and a reason for a more subdued way of relation.


Most of the praise I have read for the drama is for the character of  ‘plain Oh Hae Young’, who is direct, vulnerable, and quite beautiful, which she feels outside of comparisons with ‘pretty Oh Hae Young’. What I was drawn into though, is the quality of Eric‘s unusual and grainy voice. This is the third time I have seen him in a drama (Discovery of Love, Que Sera Sera), but the first time his voice has all but slayed me.

Sadly, the show was given a 2 episode extension that amounted to added filler and dragged scenes out strangely, but by then I was totally in love with the characters, especially OHY’s parents (screenshot above). That love is what the producers bank on when they push through an extension, and I can see there is a payoff for them in the short term. Long term, it is a bit of broken trust.

PS: I’m not sure how Kim Mi Kyung chooses her projects, but she does have a gift!

Beauty Inside

I felt fortunate this weekend, to find The Beauty Inside, a film whose title I kept coming across when I looked for other kinds of information. So many top actors starring in the same film?

beauty inside

Woo-Jin wakes up truly new every morning, in a body he cannot predict… one that may be a beautiful man, an older ajumma, young child, ordinary lady, etc. He builds a life, hones a talent, while never investing too deeply with others.

The film dances beautiful edges, and we come to believe in the many strong underlying connections between the two lovers, transcending appearance, although sadly, in some ways the film still plays quite safe, and can be insensitive at times.

Still, the blind spots didn’t leave me wanting on the whole. It was a soft and fluid film, meaningful, and strangely realistic for the premise, which could have gone so… wrong.