Original Title: 신기생뎐 / Shin Gisaeng Dyeon / New Gisaeng Story
Country: South Korea
Theme: Romance, Makjang, Birth Secrets
Plot: A huge 52 episode drama, New Tales of Gisaeng is as complicated as it is long. An intensely makjang piece, New Tales is an often overlooked gem. This drama focuses on the developing relationship between a young couple as well as the relationships of family and friends beside them. The story starts with the blossoming romance between Saran and DaMo, a young classical dancer from a poor family and the rich haughty heir to a company. While Saran keeps her dignity amongst her rich friends, DaMo lives looking down on women, a trait he had learned from his affection-less father. Intrigued by SaRan’s dignified demeanor, DaMo slowly opens up his heart to her and the two enter a clean relationship focused on honesty and trust. Though as all dramas will have it, SaRan encounters financial difficulty as well as learning that she was adopted. Coupled with a hurtful breakup with DaMo who lied because he was afraid of their status differences, SaRan makes drastic decision to enter a gisaeng house, Buyounggak.
At this place, she performs songs and dance, and of course serve as high class hostesses to the top 1% of business men in the country. However, DaMo, who is still in love with her, tries to get her out of the place. SaRan, increasingly cold and distant, due to her acceptance that she can’t increase her status in life anyways and needing to work to put food in he family’s mouth, rejects DaMo harshly. Not deterred, DaMo who decides he can’t live without her, actually moves into the gisaeng house, stripping himself of all airs and titles, working as a servant, and groveling for her forgiveness. At a stalemate, with SaRan rejecting his every move, yet can’t help still caring about him and DaMo refusing to leave until she leaves, they live at the gisaeng house for period of time. Meanwhile, SaRan’s friend, RaRa, encounters her own family drama as she finds out that she was actually raised by her aunt who she thought was her mother and that her biological mother was the aunt who she was annoyed and ashamed of. Of course, it so happens to be that SaRan’s real parents are still alive, looking for her, and had been at arms length the entire time. With parent switcheroos, friends who are actually siblings or cousins (more than one pair), the drama spends most of its time pairing the right OTPs together, resolving family conflicts, and reuniting the right children to the right parents! By this time, the standstill between SaRan and DaMo is broken when Saran makes the drastic sacrifice to have a gisaeng wedding with a rich CEO to set up her family for life. Unable to let her go, DaMo at the last moment burst in and disrupts the wedding and begs on hands and knees for her to reconsider him. The once haughty heir felt like he could not live without her and accepted all the flaws that came with her family background.
The last resolve of SaRan broke as she bent to finally accept him into her arms after suffering so long by herself. Now all that was left was to convince DaMo’s parents into accepting her even though she had been a gisaeng, was from a lower class, and had no real parents. The last leg of the drama then takes an abrupt and odd turn by introducing ghosts who take their time possessing DaMo’s father’s body! This jarring section of episodes almost makes it feel like its part of a another ddrama. However at the very end, all is resolved when SaRan’s family reunite with her and she finds out her social class is on par with DaMo’s anyways. Weddings are had and babies are born with grandparents fighting in the background to take care of the new addition to the family!
Comments: For me New Tales is hard to watch for every minute of the show. What drew me in was the intense romantic journey of SaRan and DaMo. Without too much fanfare, their relationship started off pure and sweet and evolved into lifelong partnership that had been tested to its core. Instead of not having certain conversations to “spare” the others feelings as couples usually do in dramas, these two hash everything out so there are no misunderstandings. The drama shows a great character arc for DaMo who transforms from a haughty sexist jerk into one who treats the women he loves as an equal, one that he utterly can not live without. Meanwhile SaRan is one of the few female heroines I have seen who held on for so long in trying to stand for herself, and have a shield of steel against the man that she loves. While the side stories were cute and at times heartwarming, I held onto the drama for so long to see resolvement of Saran and DaMo’s issues. That was how gripping their tale was. It was also interesting to see a civil converstaion bteween mother-in-laws and prospective daughter -in-laws and great to root for the demise of SaRan’s horrible stepmother. However, the episodes in the 40’s was a real weird jarring section for me. Introducing supernatural into what had been a makjang-ish drama felt unnatural and unneeded. To be honest, if the drama had ended around the late 30s, it would have made more sense in my opinion. It was as if the writer of the drama had changed suddenly! Though the journey was long, the longest drama I have ever watched, it was definitely worth it.
Actor Review: Newbie actor and actress Im Soo Hyang and Sung Hoon played SaRan and DaMo. Although in the beginning you could tell their greenness and stiff acting expression, their developing relationship evolved into a fiery romance by the middle. It was interesting to see the growth in their acting within the drama. Han Hye Rin played sassy RaRa very well as did adorable Jun Ji Hoo who played Son Ja, family friend of SaRan turned RaRa’s younger brother.
Quotes: A woman with a beautiful face, but without intelligence is like a flower without fragrance. And a flower without fragrance is the same as a fake flower. But the wild flowers that are simple in looks, but abundant in fragrance … they tend to attract people continuously. And make people want to look closely at their face.