In which I surreptitiously suss out Lee Min-ho

Standing in the middle of the store. Whining under my breath: “It’s always here when I don’t want it, but right when I need it, it’s nowhere to be found!”

Was it only last week? When City Hunter knocked my socks off and left a gigantic humble pie at my feet. So this is what an out-of-body experience must feel like, when I’m driving and all of a sudden I blush, the fifth time that day, as I ponder how very surreal this whole thing feels.

I’m in love with an Lee Min-ho drama (that’s still airing). I’m googling him. I’m making up for lost time. I’m about to cry because I can’t find Boys Over Flowers.

This post is about my journey into a universe so otherworldly I feel like an alien with two heads. My mission is simple: to validate my newfound Lee Min-ho appreciation. I will start with Personal Taste (because I had downloaded all sixteen episodes last year) and end with Boys Over Flowers (which I eventually find in the store, eyes glinting).

As if egging me on, even though she was unaware of my plans, blue penguin (a TP reader) surprised me with a folder of Lee Min-ho pics. My very first set of LMH pics that aren’t City Hunter screencaps.

On that same day I found a series of articles on Lee Min-ho’s childhood, told in the first person by his mom. I was mesmerized by the stories she shared, and dumbstruck by these absolutely adorable baby pics that she unveiled:

Now that I’ve gotten a glimpse of the guy beyond his City Hunter role, the desire to watch more of him intensified. I must hurry!

So I sat down to watch Personal Taste. Within the first ten minutes I wanted to hurl. At the end of that excruciating sixty minutes, I went on Twitter and grumbled like one who was just served leftovers at an overpriced restaurant. What a terrible opening episode. Hands down one of the worst I had ever seen.

That was Saturday. By Monday I had watched 2.5 more episodes and wanted to keep going. What stopped me was my self-imposed deadline for this post, to get it published before Episode 17 of City Hunter aired. I remembered I still had Boys Over Flowers to watch.

What caused that swift about-turn? An image (among several) that I found while looking for Personal Taste posters. Be still, my heart!

Lee Min-ho’s Jeon Jin-ho in glasses. Not in Episode 1. So quitting was now out of the question. I had to keep going, of course.

Why was the first episode so unpalatable? It wasn’t Lee Min-ho. On the contrary I finished it because of him, and him alone. Like he has done in every episode of City Hunter, he commands the screen with his sheer presence and physical beauty (that height; that near-perfect face). It’s impossible to look away.

On the other hand…

These two made me want to poke my eyes out. I wanted to throw things. I wanted to scream.

Seriously, what’s with that frightful hair, Kim Ji-seok? It’s rekindling memories that I want to bury forever, where the sight of you (and your “unforgettable” acting) was enough to make crows drop dead from trees and sundry other places.

And what’s with the overacting, Son Ye-jin? You look like a newbie actress whose every expression is magnified tenfold so that everyone knows that YOU. ARE. ACTING. You stand with your legs splayed wide, like some duck. You walk with your shoulders curled in, so that from the back it’s as if you’re wearing a tortoise shell. You show every tooth in your mouth when you grin; you scrunch every muscle in your face when you wail. Your Park Kae-in is not only writ larger than life so that she comes across as a cartoonish caricature, she is an insult to women because of how dimwitted and desperate she is when it comes to affairs of the heart.

Thanks, Show, for hammering home the point that Kae-in isn’t the brightest bulb around. Yes, we get that she hasn’t the faintest of inklings that she’s getting two-timed by her sorry excuse of a boyfriend. With her friend, the one who lives with her!

But did you have to give us Most Distasteful Wedding Ever? That sort of cheap melodrama where every player involved comes off looking stupid and needy.

But as I’ve learned since last week, daily servings of a certain (humble but oh so delectable!) pie means that the old rules no longer apply. Forget lousy writing and shrill setups; Lee Min-ho makes the mediocre bearable. What a relief that his Jin-ho isn’t highly strung like Kae-in, although he did blow his top when she pawed his bums and ruined his 3-D architectural mock-up on the bus.

So I stay the course, keeping a sharp eye out for two particular scenes captured in these images that I had found while poking around the Internet:

The second image takes my breath away. I can’t get over how good-looking the guy is. I can’t get over how blind I was the last two and the half years.

But in an industry where good looks are a dime a dozen, the important question remains: Can he act? Of course I had found my answer in City Hunter last week (when I finished sixteen episodes in six days). But what I wanted to find out on this new journey was whether he was as charismatic in his previous outings. Why was there so much ado about him in 2009? Did he live up to the hype the following year, in Personal Taste?

I don’t know if Lee Min-ho improved in Personal Taste because as I write this I have not watched Boys Over Flowers yet. (I’m writing down my PT thoughts first before they get all mixed up with my BOF review. I’m also afraid that I might get so turned off by THAT HAIR in BOF that I get brain freeze.) The truth is that I’m bringing spillover good will from City Hunter into Personal Taste, loads of it. That doesn’t mean that I’m watching him with an amoeba’s discernment, though. I’ll be very disappointed in myself if I cut Jeon Jin-ho a lot of slack just because I’m smitten with Lee Yoon-sung. (Oh, get off your high horse, Thundie So Contrary; we’re not dumb like Kae-in.)

Thankfully, I like Jin-ho and Lee Min-ho’s assured and charming portrayal of him, his eyes as expressive here as they are in City Hunter. I like that our architect has a good heart and also possesses a certain gravitas; it’s such a welcome change from Kae-in’s buffoon-like character.

That’s right, Jin-ho, grit your teeth and hang in there, like what I’m doing. Even if that crazy woman greets visitors at the door with morning breath, flings her underwear everywhere, and yells to a roomful of people that you’re gay.

You’re not, of course.

Because he needs to study her house in order to understand the kind of design that would score for him a lucrative project, Jin-ho moves in and becomes her lodger, under the pretext of needing a place to stay. On her part, the rental income alleviates some of her financial woes; as a bonus she gets to paw him everywhere.

The setup, after we’re done raging in envy, is actually quite funny to watch; I admit I laughed out loud several times. For all its unevenness, there are moments in the drama that hit all the right notes and make me forget how much I disliked the opening episode. Take, for example, the piggyback scene in Episode 3 where Kae-in is semi-passed out and with an injured ankle to boot. This is after she has announced his supposed sexual preference to the world. Seeing her immobile state, the hapless Jin-ho has no choice but to carry her on his back and he does so rather grumpily.

And so the two set forth on the road home, swaying and staggering, lurching comically in all directions. She looks like she might fall off but manages to hang on and eventually he walks steadily, she yakking away, he listening quietly. A silly scene has become a scene that’s rather sweet to behold.

Somehow I have a feeling that Personal Taste is going to be like that piggyback ride, ungainly at first but finding its footing after a while. It’s too soon to tell because I’m skipping scenes as I watch (mostly scumbag ex-boyfriend and his dad and wife) and I’m not invested in any of the characters at this stage except Jin-ho.

But I know I like Episodes 2-3 (and half of Episode 4) much more than Episode 1. I know I want to keep watching, at least until the bespectacled resident HOT appears.

Okay, Personal Taste in the bag, now for Boys Over Flowers. Anyone wants the box set, in mint condition and with excellent English subtitles? Said set’s owner watched just one episode (which felt like an eternity to her) and has no plans to watch the remaining twenty-four, never mind that she had found the set after some difficulty, it being shelved under a more superior drama called Coffee Prince.

To think I went into this looking for MH (Min-ho) and got a lifetime’s worth of HM (Her Mouth) instead.

That mouth is just begging for someone to stick a pacifier into it, don’t you think?

In fact, for the first nineteen minutes and fifty seconds, I was fixated on that mouth. That mouth overshadows everything: the grandeur of the Shinhwa High campus, the utter superficiality of its students, the spectacle of the suicidal boy with the blood-streaked face. That mouth inspires “poetry” from people who have no business writing poetry, much less a haiku:

Oh, have you seen such
Agility in a mouth
Who else but Jan-di!

Poor Gu Jun-pyo. When he finally makes his appearance at 19 minutes and 51 seconds into the episode (what took you so long?!), stepping off a helicopter onto grass that has obviously been readied specially for His Highness to step on, his (much-dreaded) hairdo registered not a blip on yours truly. Nothing, absolutely nothing can be a match for Geum Jan-di’s mouth. In fact, never in the history of kdrama has an oral orifice overacted exerted itself to this extent. I think I’m scarred for life.

But Gu Hye-sun does not have a monopoly on the overacting. Going head to head (or is it mouth to mouth?) with her are the three resident airheads. When, at 26 minutes into the episode, the third airhead introduced herself tremulously as “Miranda,” the lizards in my room dropped their dinner in fright and abruptly sprouted hair that stood on end. Me? I hailed a cab and took off.

Sure, this is just a drama, but I don’t remember watching anything that dumbs down schooling so much. We get our first glimpse of a classroom only after 50 minutes. There is no teacher in sight the entire episode, not when an injured boy is about to leap off a building, not when Jan-di is getting pelted with eggs and flour, not when all manner of garbage has been dumped into the indoor swimming pool, and not when Jun-pyo strides into school wearing a dead raccoon around his neck.

What in the world is going on, Shinhwa High?

But nothing takes the cake in the disgust factor like Jun-pyo decorating a fellow student’s face with the cake that she baked for him.

I can’t watch anymore, I can’t. Maybe if I had followed the drama as it was airing, I might have caught the Lee Min-ho fever like everyone else. That’s a long shot, though. His Jun-pyo character is so unlikable I doubt I would have stuck around to see how he would eventually redeem himself. Compare him with two other 2009 male lead roles: Hwang Tae-kyung (You’re Beautiful) and Hwan (Brilliant Legacy). Tae-kyung matches Jun-pyo sneer for sneer, but he’s never mean; he would never mastermind bullying that could lead to death. Hwan matches Jun-pyo strand for strand in the bad-hair department, but he would never ask a girl to lick his shoes.

Fortunately, there is karma. Fortunately, there is our spunky Jan-di. (And apparently it takes a sweet dessert to get her mouth to stop performing those chill-inducing gymnastics.)

Oh dear, Jun-pyo. Nothing like ice cream to highlight your perfect features, no? For a sec there I even felt sorry for you. Here, wipe your face with my limited-edition hanky. Embroidered in France one gold thread at a time.

I must confess, though. Much as I disliked asshole Gu Jun-pyo, I could feel my resolve weakening the longer I watched…

Hmm, maybe I might keep those DVDs after all. For a day in the distant future when my eyes can no longer see clearly and I can’t cringe at the overacting and the underacting that’s being dished out in spades. (Of course you’re not guilty of any deficiency, Lee Min-ho. Even in the little screen time you had, you exuded an aura that proclaimed: “Watch out, world.”)

But for now I’m done with Boys Over Flowers. I don’t want the drama marring my heart-fluttery recollections of sweet Kim Bum in The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry. He’s such a non-entity in the first episode it makes me want to cry. All he does is stand… and smile!

That smile can make trees flower and stop a lizard dead in its tracks, a juicy fly be damned.

Conversely… trees die and lizards swear off all insects when a vision of loveliness comes clothed thusly:

That’s too much, really. So, although it has been fun and eye-opening, I’m getting off this journey (into the past) pronto and resuming life as I like it, with my City Hunter.

Oops, OUR City Hunter. (I may be late to the party but even I know the consequences of riling millions of Minoz. Heh.)


74 thoughts on “In which I surreptitiously suss out Lee Min-ho

  1. O, Thundie! I thought I was some unfaithful fan and needed some assurance I am normal and so this morning, I popped over to your blog for help and bingo! Right under my nose is the cure.

    You see, I am a die-hard Park YuChun fan who eats, breathes, sleeps YuChun 24/7 eversince I discovered him as LeeSunJoon in SKK Scandal last year. I now listen to JYJ’s songs 24/7 because of him.

    Because of YuChun, I bought 3 sets of SKKS DVD. One set I gave away to spread his name, one set I lend to friends and foes to spread his name and one set I keep as a treasured memory of the first Korean guy I fell in love with. And I am now into my 18th re-watching of SKKS. I am so smitten with YuChun or was it LeeSunJoon, I have to keep my addiction under wraps. Or my family will disown.

    What of Lee Min Ho? When “Boys Over Flowers” was first shown, I tried to watch but that stupid hair irked me no end. I was told the original Japanese manga demands that curly , wavy ridiculous bunch to sit above his eyebrows. I didnt get beyond Episode 2. I dont possess the patience of snails that can go on and on. The main actress did nothing for me – her crooked mouth, straight face, dead locks. Neither did all the 4 pretty boy faces. Last month, it was re-shown on cable TV in my country. I tried watching it but again, Gu Jun Pyo’s hair came back to poke my eye . 5 episodes was about all I could tolerate for a person of my Patience Quotient. Watching Eps 6 would have elevated me to sainthood.

    I was told to watch Personal Taste. Again I tried but that woman’s (so her name is Son-Ye-Jin?) exaggerated expressions made my skin crawl. I dont understand why the director has to cast actresses that appear to have some facial nerve problem. Maybe they are cheaper to engage.Again, I wrote Lee Min Ho and PT off after Episode 1. I thought he could just be another talking pretty face. No big loss.

    Lee Min Ho is big in my country and is a distraction for me. His face is plastered on commercials at bus stops. So I stopped taking buses.

    But when I drive , it’s worse. I am confronted by his face on HUGE billboards at traffic junctions. I was so irritated by his popularity, I started to moan to fellow YuChun fans what a pain it is to see Lee Min Ho’s face on commercials all over.

    Last week, I was persuaded by my colleague to watch City Hunter. I wasnt interested in another Lee Min Ho project. But she kept giving me different websites to view from. And since last week, I was dumbstruck by his acting in City Hunter. I lost sleep, lost appetite , trying to play catch up on the drama. Verdict : I love him.

    How could I live without knowing him ? And pangs of guilt sprang up.How could I like another as intensely as I like Park YuChun?

    I found the answer this morning when I stumbled across this posting of yours. You give me hope I am normal.:)

    Now, I am desperately trying to shut off the” idiotrics ” of Son Ye Jin as I concentrate my full attention on Lee Min Ho in Personal Taste.

    A new Minoz is born today in a city in the far east. BTW,he is trending No.4 in my country now. I guess City Hunter had taken many of us captive.

    • Oh Hottie, you killed me with your hilarious comment! 😆

      18th SKKS rewatch? Good grief, you need to head our SKKS Addicts Anonymous!

      Hmm, should I start one for City Hunter? Because what am I going to do when the drama ends this week, waahhh??

      I really love LMH in CH. He just makes my heart swell when I watch him. Lee Yoon-sung is strong yet so gentle, just like Kim Jae-won’s character in Can You Hear My Heart!

      • “Lee Yoon-sung is strong yet so gentle”.
        Yeah! We all love such men , dont we? Do we find them when we hunt for them in any city? Or must it be in Seoul?

        Is your SKKS Addicts Anonymous still alive? Do you think you can ask them if they would sponsor a scholarship for me to do a PhD on SKKS or LeeSunJoon? I am non Korean and used to watch K dramas dubbed in Mandarin while speed reading the English subs on TV. But thank God for inventing the “rewind” button.

        But with SKKS, I switched to Korean audio. I just had to listen to how beautiful a Joseon University student would sound in the ancient language. I like it so much I could possibly quote the script lines backwards. You have to, after 18 times listening to he same stuff ad nauseam. Unless you are born deaf. But I still dont understand a word they say. Except “saranghae” because I heard it when KimYoonShik was reading the Chinese worded love note in the library.

        SKKS has been over 8 months ago but I still think of LeeSunJoon and ParkYuChun.

        Thundie, shall this week be a mournful moment when we huddle together and weep “Goodbye, Lee Yoon Sung, and thank you, Lee Min Ho” ? Saranghae

  2. hahaha .. Though I’m not obsessed like u about Lee Min Hoo, I appreciate many stuff about Lee Min Hoo in your blog, From your hillarious header to your lovely article about Lee Min Hoo. Thank you Thundie.. It make my addiction for city hunter become higher Ha! Really, I love when we share the same addiction 🙂

  3. oh thunder

    LMH’s hamsum face is the only thing that is keeping me going at CH! the plot is much-ado-about-nothing, the romance is a non-event, the chemistry non-existence!

  4. Hi Thundie – Just read your post on LMH and I just had to comment. It was hilarious. I enjoyed reading every line. What lead me to reading was of course LMH. Thanks for the good read and nice pics. 🙂

  5. that lee min ho guy sure hot I think I have to take a deep breath every time I see him onscreen. I really like him in BFF becoz of his smiles ( he has many types of smiles ) but thats it coz I was so in love with Ji hoo sunbae at that time. like him more in PT but the drama just so so even though he is heavenly good looking, and now in city hunter he defines hotness!!!

  6. Would you be willing to share the crumbs of that humble pie? I’m a little late to the game because I’ve been fighting! battling! to suppress that tiny seed of LMHo-my -goodness. But alas, I’ve lost. Now I have this silly and embarrassing crush on this kid. Although I can’t bring myself to start BOF, I am sampling Personal Taste and thinking I should just be content with City Hunter. And this may be blasphemy for some but I thought there was more chemistry in his split second with YEH than the intended OTP so I was foolishly shipping LMH & YEH knowing it was only a cameo. But HwanHye-ah, you’re still my first love so no worries. I typically don’t fangirl but FAAANN!! Just a sucker for glasses and dimples. Thundie, thanks for the gratuitous LMH headers, pictures, and posts.

  7. Pingback: In which I mourn the end of City Hunter – thundie's prattle

  8. I may be saying this in vain, but you should give Boys Over Flowers another chance. I hated Gu Junpyo when I first watched too. It took me all the way to episode 10 to fully be on the Junpyo ship.
    Jan Di doesn’t get better, in fact she actually gets worst. xC But think that if you excuse her, and maybe Kim Hyun Joong (Along the way), you’ll find that the good definitely out weights the bad.
    You probably wouldn’t believe me when I tell you this, but Boys Over Flowers is, or atleast WAS, my favorite Kdrama. (I don’t know how I feel about it anymore, now that I have City Hunter.) Give it another chance, and finish it before you make your final verdict.

  9. Thundie – All rights to Kdrama bloggin must be earned.
    Did I spend 25+ hours listening to Almost Paradiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiise, watching KHJ be kinduv there and fake play instruments, and JanDi be the most annoying first lead in the history of fiction because it was good?
    Did anyone?
    You watch BOF because LMH (with his mother) is a wonderfully complex and sad character. He is amazing in the show despite the hair, and his scenes will break your heart.
    (Oh yeah, he is fracking gorgeous!)

  10. The hing about BOF is that it’s not really good, but it’s fun. And, even after it descends all the way into the depths of Crazytown, It doesn’t stop being fun. I’ve watched a lot of “good” dramas that were just no fun and I couldn’t finish them. But I will say that I always looked forward to BOF because I knew that the plot and characters were going to enrage me and do the most nonsensical things ever but at least they wouldn’t bore me.

  11. I appreciate the amount of almost-audible squee I can read in this recap, its only fitting for a LMH post. I’ve seen both BBF (terrible) and PT (I actually liked it), and I’ve always thought LMH was attractive, but I think that City Hunter was where he really came into his own. If he wasn’t such a good actor, I doubt we’d find him as attractive as we do – that’s my theory, anyway.

    P.S. I’m so glad there are people who were as turned off by how annoyingly over-acty Jan-Di was as I was. It was my first kdrama, and I thought that maybe it was a cultural thing I’d just have to get used to (like all the melo in Taiwanese dramas), lol. So glad I watched Coffee Prince afterwards and discovered that female leads in kdramas weren’t going to annoy the shit out of me every time.

  12. I totally recommend that you try BOF again because LMH’s acting is just as good there. BOF was my first forage into the kdrama world and it was all because of LMH. I happened upon BOF by chance, I was channel surfing and happened upon BOF – it was already episode 9 so maybe if I had watched the first episode, I wouldn’t have continued 🙂
    I was mesmerized by his acting and has jumped onto the LMH bandwagon ever since. He is that good!

  13. BOF started my addiction to kdramas, but then i realized it was not all k dramas but lee min ho, he was cute in BOF, handsome in personal taste, but hottttt in city hunter, seldom is an actor that is so goodlooking that can act as well. waiting for his next project…………………….

  14. haha, oh my. Even though BOF is one of the most insane dramas i ever watch, it did the unthinkable for me; that is to introduce me to a talent like LMH :)) maybe it was relative, but compared to the others, the entire Gu family were really the ones holding the show together and making it work.
    DId you finish watching BOF dear?? you must, okay?? bear the craziness, the ludicrous hair, the only 2 expressions kim hyun joong has, the abuse and exploitation of ALMOST PAAAAAARAADIIIIIISEEEEEE
    because there are many a moment where LMH absolutely shines in his glorious intense splendour!!!

  15. hi though boys over flowers is a very flawed project,Gu junpyo is definitely its most brilliant and complex character mostly because he is the only character I have ever come across in drama who start out hating intensely then loving just as much and Kim Bum has a story of his own than comes out later on.

  16. LOL I fell in love with Lee Minho in BOF, and the first episode was hard for me to get through, actually the first three. But BOF was the very FIRST K-drama I had ever watched, and I must beg you to give it another try!
    After the first three or four episodes was when I fell in love, and I HATED Joonpyo at first and yes he was very unlikeable but trust me, you will fall in love with the real Joonpyo as the drama goes on. The drama made me cry multiple times, and I’ve watched it three times total, and this drama was what got me into others and BOF is one of the very best dramas I have ever seen.
    PLEASE GIVE IT ANOTHER CHANCE! If not, I will diffently take the DVDs from you 😉

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