If you’re not heard of the 2004 SBS drama Magic, you’re not alone. It’s rarely discussed in online forums because so few people have watched it. Which is a pity, actually, because it has a compelling story and pretty good acting.
Okay, I confess. The reason I bought this drama was because of Kang Dong-won. And he’s indeed excellent here in a very dark and complex role. As the events in the drama take their toll on his character, you can literally see the actor himself look more careworn and haggard in the later episodes. This is one of my favorite Kang Dong-won roles for sure.
The drama is not without its warts, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it when it was over. In fact, the day after I finished the last episode, I was so absorbed in my thoughts about it that I took a wrong exit while driving and ended up miles away from my destination.
Without further ado, here’s a look at the main characters in Magic:
Cha Kang-jae (Kang Dong-won)
“My talent is indifference. I’m not interested in anyone except myself.”
Abandoned by his mother and raised by an irresponsible and often absent gambler father, Kang-jae grows up learning to fend for himself. Charming yet seemingly callous, he views life and events like a disinterested spectator.
One day, while trying to protect his father, he is assaulted by the latter’s creditors. To his bewilderment, his father runs off and leaves him to be beaten. That selfish act will forever be seared on Kang-jae’s mind and harden him even further.
The injured Kang-jae is saved by the magician Lee Da-hae. An instant bond forms between the two and Lee asks Kang-jae to be his assistant. Eager to escape his wretched life with his father, Kang-jae happily accepts the magician’s offer.
Yoon Dan-young (Kim Hyo-jin)
“Dad, my birthday wish is to see my brother.”
The second daughter of a wealthy businessman, Dan-young is a happy-go-lucky high school student. Confident and optimistic, she is adored by her father and older sister but merely tolerated by the woman she calls “Mom.” Dan-young does not mind her mother’s cold treatment; she accepts it as cheerfully as the knowledge that she is adopted.
Separated from her brother Do-young at the age of 5, she awaits the day when she can see him again. However, on the day of her birthday when they are supposed to be reunited, he fails to turn up.
She instead bumps into a young man who gives her a teddy bear and invites himself audaciously to her family’s hotel suite. As if they had always known each other, the two strangers hit it off immediately in a comfy sort of way. Years later, she will bump into him again and find out his name is Cha Kang-jae.
Lee Sun-mo (Yang Jin-woo)
“Don’t talk about Mom. It pisses me off when you mention her.”
To fulfil his mother’s dying wish, Sun-mo goes to live with the father that he has always despised. He is accompanied by his good friend, Do-young. Father and son have not seen each other since the former left the family to pursue his dreams of a career in magic.
In Sun-mo’s eyes, his father is an irresponsible and unworthy man who promised his wife and young son that he would return but never did. Despite his bitterness, Sun-mo is unhappy to see the warmth that his father displays towards the injured stranger who stumbles into their lives one day. Unlike the gentle and kindly Do-young, Sun-mo views Kang-jae with distaste and the two have an uneasy relationship that will worsen years later.
Through her mother’s 2nd marriage, Yeon-jin becomes the heiress to her stepfather’s business and riches. Quiet and sickly, she comes out of her shell only when she’s around her immediate family. Although she and Dan-young have no blood ties, she dotes on her younger sister who in turn adores her.
After she returns from her studies in America, Yeon-jin starts work at her father’s company. A confident young man, Kang-jae, comes abruptly into her life and announces his intention to be her suitor and protector. His forwardness both frightens and flatters her.
Comments [SPOILERISH for Episodes 1-4]
~ I have chills watching Kang-jae at his most charming with Yeon-jin. He is so suave and convincing it is scary. He has no qualms, absolutely none, about his deception. No wonder I read countless stories of people who get conned into parting with their money or bodies or affection. What do you do when you meet someone like Kang-jae who is smart, handsome, caring and hardworking, and who sweeps you off your feet with his every look and gesture? Yet it’s all just a carefully constructed facade. FRIGHTENING.
~ It hurts to see Kang-jae hurting because of the magician. Their relationship is one of the main reasons I love Magic. It’s refreshing to see a drama where the father-son relationship is explored in depth and Magic does this excellently.
~ The first four episodes reveal the many layers in the characters. Kang-jae is dishonest certainly but so is Sun-mo. Kang-jae’s dad is despicable, but Sun-mo’s dad is just as irresponsible. And Yeon-jin’s mom… It’s unbelievable how she can discard Dan-young so easily. After all, she raised her for at least 10 years! Watching Magic the first round, I kept thinking all these questions: “Is blood really thicker than water?” “Does Kang-jae really hate his dad?” “What are the magician’s true feelings for Kang-jae?” “Can a 3rd party really drive apart two sisters who love each other so deeply?”
~ I love watching Kang Dong-won’s expressions. Like that slight quizzical raise in his eyebrow. Or his wink. The way he bites his lips. The gangly way he runs. He can look so fierce, too. The way he controls the steering wheel with his open palm. Oops, I’m paying too much attention to the little details, ain’t I? I’ve always liked him, but Magic is rekindling my Kang Dong-won crush more than I expected. It helps of course that his acting is really good here and he’s such a central character so he’s in most scenes.