Prologue: This story must be a modern folk tale. Getting passed down from viewer-to-viewer – the story of Sang Doo and his Eun Hwan, the story of Eun Hwan and her Sang Doo. Like all folk tales that have come before it, it feels both real and whimsical. Like all folk tales that will come after it, it will linger in your subconscious.
Was it a dream? Perchance it was. But the tears you cried, that was not a dream. Was it an illusion? Mayhap it was. But the laughter you experienced, that was not an illusion. Let us once again believe that true love never dies, only the chance to love pass us by. When you get that illusive second chance, it must not slip through your grasp.
Come meet a pair of fateful lovers that loved and lived, in celluloid and in an existence that is neither real nor fiction. One day you will be sitting somewhere, an errant cloud will pass by, and you will wonder what Sang Doo and Eun Hwan are up to. Are they laughing? Are they arguing? Are they content? They feel so real, did we really not just dream it all?
It was about two weeks ago that I had this ‘brilliant’ idea to create a poll of our favorite actors and their most-loved roles. So I posted the first poll (male roles) and then the second (female roles), patted myself on the back and went about my merry way, whistling.
And then it started. A reader told me I had left out Song Il-gook. Oops. Then, while happily sipping my Diet Coke at a mall, I nearly choked when one missing name popped into my head. Uhm Tae-woong!
Still, I resisted. I’m made of sterner stuff, after all.
But last night I was brushing my teeth before bed (and I tend to get some of my wildest ideas for recaps and posts when my mouth is full of toothpaste foam, don’t ask me why) when it hit me.
If you’re in the midst of watching Stairway to Heaven (2003) and are rooting for Han Tae-hwa (Shin Hyun-joon) to win the girl, don’t.
None of the guys in this post gets the prize they most covet: their beloved. Consider that your Wet Blanket Statement of the Week.
Not all kdramas feature a love triangle (or quadrangle). But for those that do, it’s almost a sure bet that the ones playing second fiddles will not emerge victorious. Still, that does not stop many of us from fervently hoping the tide will finally turn in our favorite second fiddle’s favor. Even after getting our hopes crushed multiple times, we still believe there’s a writer out there farsighted enough to write a different ending for the traditional loser. Haha.
This post is for all the second fiddles in our kdramas, who are left with nothing in the end but heartache. Most of the ones here I have loved ardently, a few I have heaped venom on. All of them deserve our sympathy. (Or perhaps not.)
Let’s start with my Numero Uno Detesto. (Excuse the mangled Spanish, but you get the gist.)
Are first impressions important? Definitely. If I had watched Bi (a.k.a. Jung Ji-hoon) in either Full House or A Love to Kill first, I would have fled from his subsequent work. But my first look at Bi was in Sang-doo, Let’s Go to School! (2003).
His Cha Sang-doo role (student, single dad, gigolo, security guard, conman) was lovable and well-acted, and I felt so entertained watching him. Sang-doo’s indomitable “I’m not afraid of being hurt” spirit also left a deep impression.
No matter the kind of trials that life threw at him, he remained positive and cheerful, especially with the two people who meant the world to him: his daughter, Bori, and his first and only love, Chae Eun-hwan (Gong Hyo-jin). The moment he approached Bori’s hospital room, he would put away all his sadness so that she saw only his happy face. He invented many stories to tell her, games to play with her, and songs to sing to her. He didn’t mind making a complete fool of himself just to see and hear her laugh. She was everything to him.
Bi’s portrayal of Sang-doo and Sang-doo’s relationship with Bori were the two main reasons why I loved this drama. He seemed to be really enjoying himself in his role and as a viewer I found his enthusiasm catching. The way Sang-doo interacted with Bori also made me think that Bi would be a terrific father in real life. He was just so natural with her. I missed seeing that ease and exuberance in his next two dramas. He just seemed overly self-conscious afterwards.
Like its title, Sweet 18 (2004) is sweet indeed. Some of us might find ourselves floating out of our skins because as feel-good dramas go, this one is hard to beat. Some of us (especially if we watch the drama now) might experience an attack of the sniffles. Why? Because the happy-ever-after that we wanted for the leads (the actors, not their characters) did not quite materialize in the end, that’s why! WAHHH! But I digress…
Yoon Jung-sook (Han Ji-hye) is a ditzy 18-year-old high school student with equally ditzy friends. Her mother owns a modest drycleaning business and Jung-sook drives her mom crazy because she keeps
stealing wearing the customers’ clothes. Kwon Hyuk-joon (Lee Dong-gun) is a 28-year-old public prosecutor. She in her school uniform and psychedelic-colored winterwear. He in his plain white shirt, black suit and tie. You get the picture.
The first time they actually speak to each other is when he almost arrests her at a nightclub and she shoots a sassy retort back at him. His first impression of her: “What a brat!” Her first impression of him: “This old fuddy-duddy!” Imagine their mutual horror then when they find out that they are supposed to marry each other in a pact their respective grandfathers made years ago.
I watched Ruler of Your Own World back in mid-2004 and fell instantly in love with it.
Here’s what I wrote after I finished the drama:
If you are looking for an atypical Korean drama, I recommend watching RULER OF YOUR OWN WORLD. It will touch your heart and soul. This is the most touching and heartwarming drama I’ve ever seen.