Age of Youth: College Days

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So honestly, I am ambivalent about this drama. I like it for what it is, but I guess I came into it with higher expectations. I started it due to the hype about how it was so unique and different than your usual drama. To that, it definitely hit the mark. However, it did not hold my attention the way I thought it would. Age of Youth tells the story of five young adults who live together at Belle Epoche during their university years. Each young lady has a story of her own and goes through growing pains. Jin Myung, one of the older girls at the house is busy trying to survive by working multiple part time jobs to attend university as well as pay rent and her vegetable brother’s medical bills. She never gets any sleep and is always exhausted. Next is senior Yi Na uses her beautiful appearance to give herself an easy life of luxury. She entertains multiple boyfriends who pay all her living expenses and more. Then we have Ye-Eun who is very devoted to her boyfriend and has strong opinions. Sometimes she may be a little tactless in her words. rooming with Ye-Eun is quirky Ji Won who is desperate to find a boyfriend and goes on multiple blind dates. She has a bright personality and likes to drink. Finally we have newcomer Eun Jae from a rural town and who is very innocent. She is also quite timid and at first is at odds with the rest of the house’s occupants. Age of Youth takes us through each girl’s hardships whether that be with life or love. We see how at times they fight each other like crazy, but also how they are pillars of strength for each other. Slowly, they warm up to each other and have each other’s backs.

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Empress Ki: Two Kingdoms

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This is it. This is the longest Korean drama that I will ever watch at 51 episodes. I had put this one off only because of the length for quite some time, and only recently decided to brave it. I am totally glad I did as it is turning out to be one of the best dramas I have watched in awhile. It has all the fixings of a saguek that I love. Ha Ji Won plays Suenyang, a Goryo born woman who lost her mother during her childhood as they were being hauled off to be the Chinese Yuan Kindom’s concubine tribute. After seeing mother and daughter being beat badly, young crown prince of Goryo, Wang Yu, attempts to free them. However, in her attempt to escape the slave caravan, her mother is shot down by Tanqishi, son of the all powerful Regent of China. Seungyang ends up crossdressing as a boy for most of her life to hide from the authorities and to have more independence. She ends up working for Wang Go, uncle to the Goryo Crown Prince, but secretly undermining him as he is the one fueling the concubine trade. She passes along information to the royal officers to take him down. She and her loyal group of followers manage to thwart Wang Go’s plans with the help of the now grown up Wang Yu. However, she does not know he is the crown prince. They end up forming a brotherly bond as they help each other out. Wang Yu is portrayed as a handsome and passionate man who tries to follow the just path. As they go their separate ways after, she manages to find her long lost father who is a General for the royal family. During her stay with him, they are tasked with making sure the exiled Crown Prince of China would stay alive and lately return back to China. The current Regent of China was El Temur, a brutal tyrant who was trying to obtain all the power for himself by killing off the Crown Prince of China in Goryo lands so that he can also oppress Goryo. Two birds with one stone. The Crown Prince of China is Ta Hwan, who will name as baby emperor as all he does is cry, whine, and pout. He is scared for his life and cowers whenever there is a fight. He manages to escape the Regent’s first attempt at killing him off because he was hiding and ends up being shunted to an isolated island for his protection.

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Madame Antoine: Fortunes Told

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An interesting fortune is being told here! Madame Antoine is about the bickering of a fortune teller versus a renowned psychologist. Han Ye Seul plays Hye Rim, a fortune teller who has a knack for being observant and being a good guesser. Often she is described as conning people, but in reality she is just handing out life advice. Meanwhile, Sung Joon plays Soo Hyun, a psychologist who doesn’t have any morals when it comes to his experiments. He is focused on the female psyche and especially does not believe in love. In fact, the drama is based on an experiment he is conducting. His hypothesis is that most women will choose a man who gives them financial stability and that true love does not exist. However, even with his first pilot study, he is unscrupulous and plays with other people’s feelings. After moving into the center above the cafe, these two butt heads as each derides the other for their work. Thus, in a form of revenge Soo Hyun decides to apply this experiment again, but using Hye Rim as the subject. He sets three men of varying characteristics upon her. One is his own genius protege, Ji Ho, to be the young flower boy type. The second is his younger athlete brother, Seung Chan, as the one who has a sexy body. He plays the third guy, a rich man in the mid-thirties. Each pushes their “fake” feelings onto her and tries to make her fall in love with them. However, as time goes by, each man develops their own true feelings for her. Most importantly, Soo Hyun, himself begins to have feelings for her. Now he is in a rocky spot of pulling out of the experiment, revealing what he has done, or setting up a new third man. Of course, when this experiment falls apart, Hye Rim will definitely be very hurt. Will they be able to rekindle or forgive?

This is an interesting concept, if unscrupulous. It is always horrible to play with another person’s feelings for the sake of an experiment, in my opinion. However, for now, the drama has enough of comedic element to level this distaste in my mouth. Hopefully,there will be some heavy groveling from Soo Hyun for doing such a thing. I very much enjoy Han Ye Seul’s acting here which is has been a hit or miss in the past with her other other projects. She is funny and endearing. I absolutely love the parts where she pretends to talk to Madame Antoine’s ghost while reading a fortune, but is really just saying nonsensical phrases in French since no one understands. Meanwhile, Sung Joon’s facial tics are hilarious. I am so used to seeing him in sulky brooding roles, but I think comedy is really his element here. While the other flower boys are cute, I do wish they were given more of a background or depth rather than the stereotypical roles, literally, that they are forced into. Other than that, Madame Antoine is a quirky fun drama to watch in between my other obsessions.

Local Hero: Homegrown

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OCN never disappoints! As some of you may know, Park Shi Hoo has come back to the acting world with a new drama. After his highly publicized scandal in 2013, he laid low and now after two years, he ventures back, albeit a smaller cable channel. His name is still highly controversial and thus, many will probably shun this new drama of his. While I am disgusted by his past behavior, I cannot say the same of his acting. His acting ever since The Princess’s Man, has been brilliant and impressed me. He continues his excellent acting in Local Hero.

Local Hero tells the tale of Baek Shi Yoon, an ex-secret agent who was on a large scale mission before he was told to stop his efforts. Due to him not listening to this command, the mission becomes botched and a fellow agent ends up dead. He ends up going to prison for 3 years for being insubordinate. After getting out of prison, he buys the bar, “Neighborhood”, which doubles as a chill location for former agents. Secretly, he wants to revenge on the ones who told him to halt his mission and is haunted by his friend’s death. However, ex-agents are not allowed to dabble back in intelligence, so he is forced to act like a regular person instead of a highly trained agent. Meanwhile, Im Tae Ho, is a detective who is short on money to manage his wife and three kids. He ends up taking a side job from a ex-intelligence officer and sets up a “monitoring” company to make an extra buck. He hires Chan-Gyoo, a young man who wants to get into the police academy, but fails the exam. Chan Gyoo is ordered to follow ex-agents and take notes on their routines. However, one day the man Chan Gyoo is following ends up dead. The same guy who had told Shi Yoon years earlier to halt his mission. Shi Yoon, who comes into contact with Chan Gyo, tries to make friends with this young man, thinking he will be of use in the future. While being the new owner of this bar, Shi Yoon grows closer to its employees and even begins sympathizing with their plights. A few times, he takes action using his martial arts skills to help get his employees out of sticky situations. All the while, wearing a hat and mask to not reveal his identity and skills.

While I am definitely attracted to this plot, the drama is still laying down its groundwork in its first two episodes. Characters are introduced and their backgrounds are explained. People’s missions and ambitions are being established. As we know from The Princess’s Man, Park Shi Hoo does that brooding angst thing perfectly as well as stubborn on revenge part too. I get the added deliciousness of his abs in a workout scene as well! But beyond his abs, I enjoy the Batman, local hero type theme. And looking at the preview for episode 3, I can see that Chan-Gyoo, played by Lee Soo Hyuk (very steady actor in my opinion), will be his disciple in local crime fighting!

D-Day – Comes to the Rescue

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As an RN, I thoroughly enjoy medical dramas when they are done well. D-Day is the story of how a natural disaster makes what had been a team of medical staff who had been more focused on prestige and profits grow into ones that are focused more on saving lives using whatever means possible. Kim Young-Kwang plays an ER surgeon, Hae-sung, who rebels against his hospital system and tries to save whatever traumas that come into his center no matter if they have a small survival rate. Unfortunately, the director of the hospital is more focused on the statistics of his hospital and pushes Hae-sung out to a branch hospital because of his “impulsive” actions. Hae-sung also has a mother who is in a coma and he is pushed out to the branch hospital because he refused to compromise his morals. Hae-sung has basically lost his rights to using the scalpel as he is relegated into only doing colonoscopies (using scopes up people’s rectums).

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Yong Pal: Healer on the Run!

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If Good Doctor had a revamp coupled with flavors of Innocent Man, Doctor Stranger, and Healer, you would have the drama baby of Yong-Pal. Joo Won of Good Doctor reprises his role as a doctor, but this time, one of great ability, fearlessness, and genius, rather like Doctor Stranger. Joon Won is Tae Hyun, a gifted resident who works at a famous hospital, but makes money on the side to pay off his enormous debts to a loan shark. Professional by the day, he receives calls at night to go on jobs, mostly to stitch up gangsters, who then pay him loads of money. With this money, he slowly pays off the debts he has from treating his sister’s renal? failure (dialysis treatments). However, his money grubbing doesn’t stop there. He also subtly threatens rich VIP families at the hospital for extra “money gifts” for saving their loved ones. Even with his doctor income, shady surgeries at night, and bribe receiving, he is barely making ends meet and has barely made a dent in his own medical school tuition expenses. At the hospital, he is well known for his skills and even the professors ask him for help, no matter the humiliation from asking a mere resident. However, hidden well in the hospital is a special lady who is kept in a medical coma by her devil of a brother. After her lover had died in a brutal car accident, Yeo Jin played by Kim Tae Hee, tried to commit suicide by throwing herself out the window. She survived, but cannot wake as her brother takes control of the family fortunes. One of the Chief Surgeons is also in on this scheme as he is paid a heavy sum for keeping her under. Meanwhile, Tae Hyun who is known by Yong Pal on the streets, comes across a bad deal. He is forced to save a gangster boss, but has a run in with the police. After a long police car chase, he and the boss end up on the railing of a bridge. Tae Hyun, who must not get caught, decides to inject him and the boss with epi pens in order to up their body function for a mere few minutes and jumps into the river below. Though he is affectionately called the quack doctor on the streets, he is well known for keeping people alive if they can’t go to the hospital.

A thousand times yes for this drama! I LOVE Joo Won, even though I may not love all his projects. However, he is one of those special actors who throws himself wholly into whatever character he is playing. He has a totally different role as a doctor in Yong Pal versus the timid one in Good Doctor. Yong Pal has a Healer type personality (pun intended) where he is tenacious, ambitious, money hungry, and fearless. But he has Innocent Man issues where his little sister requires hospital treatments that are sucking the lifeblood out of him. He is pushed to unsavory actions in order to make ends meet. I not only love the medical aspect, but also the dash of action thriller. Yong pal is sassy and a likable character. When the police were chasing him, I definitely had a flashback to Gaksital. Oh Yong Pal, a mask again? Better not let them find you and keep that double identity!

As for the other half of this story with Kim Tae Hee, at the moment, I have no judgement of her yet. She is breathtakingly beautiful in motion and stillness. I hope to see how her acting career has helped her improve as I have heard that she did very well in that traditional drama. However, the section of the hospital where she is kept is so gorgeous in technology and aesthetics. Really, wow! However, I am not used to this VIP section of a hospital idea. In the US, no matter how famous or rich you are, EVERYBODY is the same and everybody is treated the SAME! So, let this sleeping beauty wake soon!

PS. The posters are just a treat for the eyes. Beautiful graphic design!

Last: The Last One Standing

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Cable channels just give me a unique selection of dramas these days that mainstream can’t compete with. JTBC has just released Last on what I feel like as the down-low, even though fairly famous actors, Yoon Kye Sung and Lee Beom Soo are headlining it. In Last, we have a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of story. Yoon Kye Sung plays Tae-Ho, a skilled go-getter stocks trader who is not afraid to use insider information to manipulate trends. However, his wolf on Wall Street attitude and arrogance unfortunately makes him lose 35 billion won in one feel swoop. Of course the money he was playing with came from a loan shark who did not hesitate to make the hit on him and his buddy. Although he gets dumped in the sea and almost drowns inside the locked car, Tae Ho’s pride will not allow him to die this way. He manages to escape, but loses his good friend. Now, without money and friends, he roams the streets as a homeless person. However, his pride will not allow him to beg in the streets or even take a free meal at the homeless shelter. He vows to gain everything back that he had lost. To do this, he manages to take out one of the 7 Seoul Bosses who run a homeless money laundering operation. The operation takes the money that the homeless makes through different means and funnels it up to the top boss who actually makes more than 10billion this way. Tae-Ho takes out the lowest ranking boss and aims to work his way to the top. However, he doesn’t know that the money he had lost through stocks had been part of the top boss’s money. He convinces boss number two to help him and teach him how to fight. Tae Ho is a quick learner, but he crunches numbers and not people.

While I had never been an avid fan of Yoon Kye Sung, I am definitely won over by his portrayal in this show. I had always remembered him as a kind ahjussi from The Greatest Love who does that Daddy Long Legs roles. However, I am loving this arrogant, but hard working attitude he shows here. You can feel his passion and ambition. I am definitely looking forward to him taking out each level of boss and finally going head to head with the top boss. The story is not your run of the mill fight or crime drama. There is heart and humor as well. We see an interesting aspect of a world that many of us don’t usually take into consideration. It shows a fairly structured homeless population infrastructure that actually generates more money than you would expect. What an interesting concept! I started this drama on a whimsy, but will definitely follow it closely!

 

Birth of a Beauty: Let’s Dig A Little Deeper

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Plot

Tae Hee, a rich heir to a Korean company, takes on the challenge to transform Geum Ran into a gorgeous woman. The result: Sara. Sara undergoes change to take revenge/rekindle with her ex husband. Geum Ran had been apart her husband Kang Joon for seven years. During all those years, she believed her husband was working in the United States. It turns out that Kang Joon has been back in Korea with a new job and a new love. Kang Joon is now with the news anchor Chae Yeon.

Geum Ran tries to kill herself, but survives. While everyone thinks Geum Ran is dead, Sara is using this occasion to seduce Kang Joon.

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Through the Looking Glass: New Tales of Gisaeng vs The Empress

Sometimes some dramas plots seem really similar! These two particular dramas really caught my eye. I watched New Tales Of Gisaeng first and then The Empress. However, I think of The Empress as the darker reflection of the two.

Points of Reflection:

1. Birth Secrets: Parents are not who they seem to be. The illicit love affair between a prominent member of society and a member that hides away.

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