Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kdrama Fathers

Last year I did a Mothers Day post on Kdrama mothers, and decided that this year I would do a Fathers Day post. Forgot. Here we are, a little late, but it's still June, so...

There are an awful lot of bad fathers in Kdramas, perhaps because there has to be conflict somewhere in the story. Doesn't have to be the main characters' families though, just saying. There are your loser dads who desert their families because they are hiding from loan sharks (Mary Stayed Out All Night) or other reasons. (Tomorrow With You - was the heroine's dad just hiding from his wife?)  There are your tyrannical chaebol dads who think they can run everyone else's lives. (Heirs and Heard it Through the Grapevine) And there are your dads who are corrupt heads of a company or hospital. (Chief Kim and Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim - although these were dads of supporting characters.) In W: Two Worlds the dad cycles between good and bad and is perhaps the most distasteful of the lot.

Bad fathers can be charming though. The heroine in I Am Sam had a rather lovable, rather inept gangster dad. The dad in Protect the Boss was a hard-minded CEO and gang leader, who nevertheless had a soft chewy center when it came to his mother and his son, and was pretty adorable when it came to masquerading as an invalid in pajamas and a wheelchair.

The father is not the main character in too many dramas. The one in Ms. Temper and Nam Jung Gi was kind of a beta hero, and you suspect the heroine liked his little boy as much as she liked him. Please Come Back Mister featured a dad who had died and was allowed to return to earth (in another body) to redress some wrongs. He was very tender with his little girl.

Some dads don't know they are a dad. The hero in Oh My Lady suddenly finds out he has a five-year-old daughter and the one in Gentleman's Dignity gets a teenager. We watch them accept and then start to care and become responsible. There's a pretty great scene in a police station when Dad arrives and takes charge.

There are some good solid, reliable fathers who hang around in the background. (Reply 1997,  Another Oh Hae Young, Kill Me Heal Me, and even Secretary Dad in Heirs.) Some are more involved in the plot like the tough-minded North Korean general in King 2 Hearts who had a wonderful trusting relationship with his grown daughter. One of my favorites is Dad in an apron, backed up by Grandpa, Uncle, and Brother in Miss Korea.

And I can't forget the dads who aren't really the dad. In Pinocchio we have the heroine's grandfather thinking the hero is his son and raising him. In King of High School we have a foster dad and grandpa creating a family. In Couple or Trouble we have an uncle taking care of orphans.

The one I remember the most fondly is the adoptive dad in Healer, who dances to pop music with his daughter over breakfast, and chose her at the orphanage because she was so shy and needed someone so much. He's a lawyer who runs a cafe on the side to employ his ex-con clients and keep them out of trouble. They in turn become uncles to the heroine and teach her things like lock-picking.

A good dad is invaluable to a family, and in Korean dramas we have some excellent examples. Families are very important in Korea, and some of the best dramas showcase that.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Four Years of Kdramas

It's the Ides of March and time to review the year of Korean dramas. This week we not only have the Ides of March, but Pi day (apple pie this time) and St. Patrick's day as well. What a busy week! We have branched out into Japanese and Chinese dramas more, which I should write about sometime. We have briefly tried and dropped quite a few dramas this year, coasted along with some, and found a lot we really liked.  Rated out of 5 stars.

Baby-Faced Beauty: is the first one of the last year; Jang Nara plays a woman in her thirties who takes the place of her younger sister at a fashion company, and falls for a man her sister's age. She is good at her work, but has cultural troubles with dating a younger man. Amusing, but too many contests.***

Page Turner: a three episode mini-drama about high school pianists who compete with each other. Problems come from a stage mother and one of them becoming blind. Great acting, we will see rising teen actress Kim So-Hyun again. *****

Please Come Back Mister: Great plot idea, not quite well executed. Two middle-aged men (an office worker and an ex-gangster) die and get sent back to earth for a second chance to fix things. One becomes a handsome young man (Rain) who should not have hit on his (previous life) wife so much, and the other a beautiful young woman (Oh Yeon-Seo) who hilariously channels the gangster. The conductor on the train to heaven steals the show. ****

He Who Can't Marry: might as well be called He Who Can't Get Along With Anybody. Two 40-year olds become interested in each other: a female doctor (Um Jung-Hwa) and a male architect who seems to have Aspergers and can't relate to anyone. It all falls apart in the end. Watched it because Yoo An-In was in it. **

Ms. Temper and Nam Jung-Gi: an overbearing middle manager is hired to save a floundering company and develops a relationship with one of the employees and his little boy, who also live in her apartment building. Very cute scenes with her (Lee Yo-Won) and the little boy (Choi Hyun-Joon). ****

Drama World: an Australian kdrama fan is pulled inside her phone and becomes part of her favorite drama. Funny but cheesy, improves as it goes along. **

Oh My Lady: a woman (Chae Rim) becomes housekeeper for a popular actor who is very self-centered. When he finds out he has a five-year-old child (the adorable Kim Yoo-Bin), she has to help take care of her and he has to learn to become thoughtful and responsible. Very good character progression by Choi Si-won. ****

Bong Soon, a Cyborg in Love: a mini drama in which scientists develop a robot that they can market to be a perfect girlfriend. One of them falls in love with her. ***

Shining Inheritance/ Brilliant Legacy: When a businessman is thought to be dead, his wife kicks out her two stepchildren. The girl(Han Hyo-Joo) takes care of an injured old woman, who turns out to be wealthy and offers to give her company to the girl over the head of her slacker grandson played by Lee Seung-Gi. ***

Another Oh Hae-Young/ Another Miss Oh: A young man gets jilted at the altar. A year later he hears that his ex-fiancee is marrying someone else, and accuses the groom of graft and gets him arrested. However, the bride was someone else with the same name and the groom breaks up with her the day before the wedding without telling her why. Likeable guy, too shrill girl. He sees visions which don't get explained. ***

Squad 38/ Task Force 38: a tax collector gets help from con artists to run scams on tax evaders to get their taxes paid. Starts well, mostly very entertaining, somewhat weak ending. Great bromance with Seo In-Guk as the con man and Ma Dong-Seok as the tax collector. ****

Thumping Spike: short web drama. A pro volleyball player in the middle of a slump becomes a temporary high school coach and helps their team excel. **

Let's Fight Ghost: a college student (with a couple of comic sidekick friends) makes money by ghostbusting. He (Taecyon) comes across a girl ghost (Kim So-Hyun) who makes friends and  helps him. They discover that they can help some of the ghosts solve problems and pass on. A suspicious professor holds the secret of why the boy can see ghosts, and why the girl became a ghost.  Cute; memorable characters; the sidekicks were very popular. *****

W/ W-Two Worlds: A manga artist starts to go crazy when characters from his story come alive. His daughter (Han Hyo-Joo) is sucked into the manga world and falls in love with one of the characters, played by Lee Jong-Suk. Amazingly exciting beginning, but plot holes and general craziness lead to a weak ending. ***

Six Flying Dragons: excellent historical drama about King Taejo becoming the first king of Joseon, and his son Yi Bang-Won who becomes King Taejong. Great writing and acting; 50 episodes, all of which are good - no slow spots. Yoo Ah-In plays Bang-Won, and Byun Jo-Han and Yoon Kyun-Sang play fictional characters with amazing fight scenes. *****

Another Parting: mini drama - an alien is sent to Earth to find out why humans cry. **

Go Ho's Starry Night: mini-drama about five men in one office who like the same girl. **

Jealousy Incarnate: a tangle of people who are jealous of each other: Gong Hyo-Jin plays a weather caster who is jealous of the news reporters. Jo Jung-Suk is a reporter who is jealous of her boyfriend. Her brother is jealous of the guy who likes his niece. His brother has two ex-wives (Lee Mi-Sook and Park Ji-Young) who are jealous of each other. She is indecisive and he is inconsiderate, so they are not really likeable, but the show is really well done and one of the best. *****

Shopping King Louie: watched it for Seo In-Guk. Cute and fluffy but not convincing. He is an amnesiac who spends money like water and falls for a poor cheerful girl who forgives him everything. Nobody in this show seems to be able to think, even the villains are incompetent.  **

The K2: the saving grace of this show is Ji Chang-Wook's fight scenes and the beautiful background music. You can tell there is really no plot from the first few episodes which mainly consist of Yoona running around Spain in her nightgown. She plays the illegitimate child of a Korean politician who is trying to keep her a secret. He is the bodyguard. The most interesting character is the evil stepmother played by Song Yoon-A. **

1% of Something/ 1% of Anything/ Something About 1%: this is a remake and is much better than the earlier one, so be sure you watch the one made in 2016. A kindergarten teacher helps an elderly man who has fallen. He is impressed by her and makes his cold-hearted grandson date her in hopes that her kindness will rub off on him. Fun and cute. ****

The Beauty Inside: a movie. A man wakes up every day looking like a completely different person and has great difficulty having friends or a job. He is played by a lot of different actor and actresses. Very well done. ****

Tree With Deep Roots: a fictionalized story of how King Sejong (played by Han Suk-Kyu) developed hangul, the Korean alphabet. It begins when he is a child (played by a very cute teenage Song Joong-Ki) and his father King Taejong is a tyrant who kills anyone who threatens his position. A boy whose family is killed returns as an adult policeman to solve continuing murders. This drama takes place after the events of Six Flying Dragons, although it was made first. Very good, fun to spot actors in both shows, slow spot 3/4 of the way through. ****

Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim: Han Suk-Kyu plays a doctor who is forced out by a corrupt official, changes his name, and works at a small country hospital. There he becomes a mentor for younger doctors played by Seo Hyun-Jin and Yoo Yeon-Seok (who are way better here than in their previous dramas Oh Hae Young and Warm and Cozy). *****

Goblin/ Guardian the Lonely and Great God: Gong Yoo plays an immortal goblin who helps deserving souls, and was in his previous life a general who was killed by the king. Lee Dong-Wook plays a grim reaper who doesn't remember his previous life. Though at first antagonistic, they become friends and are very cute together helping the goblin's bride (Kim Go-Eun) and his sister (Yoo In-Na). This was great both in atmosphere and in the characters. *****

Shows we are in the middle of watching; Chief Kim and Tomorrow With You. Also 30 episodes into Nirvana in Fire, which is Chinese.

Shows we tried and dropped so then 0 stars: Remember (the hero's super hearing was forgotten after two episodes and the villains kept walking over him); Grandpas Over Flowers Investigation Team (haphazard plot); Moorim School (they sent kids hiking in the middle of a wolf pack? really? their tests consist of a party?) Good Doctor (couldn't buy that someone with autism could be a doctor or get cured of it); Descendants of the Sun (couldn't take the weekly rescues of the heroine); High End Crush (can't remember anything about this one at all...); Haeundae Lovers (a story about a family of morons who do stupid things); Secret Message (couldn't figure it out at all); Sweet 18 (slow, a married couple lying to each other); Cinderella and Four Knights (aww Jung Il-Woo, you're supposed to be perky and cute, but I can't take six episodes of moping around); One More Happy Ending (too mindless); Mr. Baek (don't like the characters, the story is tanking); One Percent of Anything ( the one from 2003 which is confusing); Dear My Friends (couldn't take a whole episode of old ladies yelling and hitting each other); Legend of the Blue Sea (wanted to like a mermaid story, but just draggy except for the episode with the merman); Queen of Office (actually we watched this one out of focus and can't find it anywhere).

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Six Flying Dragons Summary Episodes 46-50

Episode 46

Bang-Won tells Moo Hyul he is going to kill Bang-Seok (crown prince) and Jung Do-Jeon (Sambong), and uses Young-Gyu's funeral as cover for meeting his allies, including Jo Mal Seng and Lady Min's brothers. The big difficulty is that the king has forbidden private armies, and even though they have men outside the capital they can't get them in. Ha Ryon figures out how to smuggle them in under cover of working on the Queen's tomb. Boon-Yi finds the hidden weapons and confronts Bang-Won; he refuses to move them and she keeps his secret.

The Ming Emperor dies and King Taejo gets ready to attack Liaodong. Taejo plans to leave a week before this scheduled day to work on the tomb, but then he falls ill and postpones the departure date.
Jung Do Jeon brings his brother Do Gwang and young nephew Jung Gi-Joon to Granny's cafe for lunch the day before the army is to depart. She gives safety amulets to Bang-Ji and Moo-Hyul who know they will have to fight each other. Boon-Yi asks Sambong if the people really are the foundation of the country. He says the nobles rule with the welfare of the common people at heart. The commoners are too busy working and can't learn to read. She encourages him to find a way.

Granny catches Moo-Hyul moving the weapons and makes him promise to quit working for the prince after the fight. The scariest part of this show is worrying if annoying screechy Granny will let out the secret. Yeon-Hee gives Bang-Ji some armor and he gives her the amulet. Bang-Won leaves his house, collecting men along all the side streets.

Note: The Queen's tomb was being built in the capital city, with different nobles sending men to work on it every day. Yi Seok Boem sided with Bang-Won and brought soldiers in on the day he was scheduled for work. Jung Do-Gwang and Gi-Joon are fictional, but appear in Tree With Deep Roots, the main plot of which is finding a way for the common people to read.

Episode 47

Once Bang-Won has collected his army, he sends Juk-Ryong (Eyeliner Monk) to divert Bang-Ji. Bang-Ji meets Yeon-Hee, we get a little hugs-and-kisses, then she gives him back the amulet and heads home; but Juk-Ryong and his men capture her. When Bang-Ji feels danger looming and runs back to find her, Juk-Ryong sends him on to another village.

Gab Boon overhears Boon-Yi and Granny in the storage shed talking about the attack. She warns Sambong at Officer Nam's house, and they escape to Sungkyunkwan. Bang-won and older brother Bang-Gan capture Nam's house and the military office, and surround the palace. Bang-Won has papers with the names of their prime targets, throwing them into the fire as they are killed. Bang-Gwa, the oldest brother now, spends the evening with “Uncle” Ji Ran to prove he had nothing to do with the coup and has clean hands.

Bang-Ji finds Yeon-Hee in the forest with Jo Mal-Seng and his men, who threaten to kill her if he moves at all. She knows they are preventing him from protecting Sambong, so she falls on the sword herself. The men scatter, and Bang-ji tries to find Sambong, only to run in to Moo-Hyul.

Scholar Woo at Sungkyunkwan finds out that Sambong is there and warns Bang-Won. Officer Nam escapes, but Sambong gives the village elder some papers for his brother, goes out to meet Bang-Won, and is killed. The last view is of the paper with Jung Do-Jeon's name burning.

Historical note: Bang-Gwa actually did not know about the revolt. Jo Mal-Seng was a real officer but did not have anything to do with Yeon-Hee, who is fictional. The Woo family helped Poeun impeach Sambong back in Episode 32; after he regained power, Sambong nearly exterminated that clan. This Scholar Woo was getting revenge. The Joseon annals state that Sambong was found hiding, but that was written by the victors so no one really knows.

Episode 48

We get to see Bang-Ji and Moo-Hul fight, slashing and jumping, eventually stopped by Boon-Yi and Grandma running in with the news that Sambong is dead already. Sa Gwang sees Moo-Hyul mourning and decides she needs to take out Moomyung and whoever owned those hidden weapons.

While the Mins try to talk Jo Joon around, Bang-Gwa tries to pacify Ji Ran. The crown prince Bang-Seok is dragged out and Bang-Won kills him, poor kid. When the king finds out he calls for Bang-Won and nearly kills him, but Ji Ran stops him.

King Taejo abdicates and Bang-Gwa becomes king. He assures Bang-Won he doesn't really want to be, and doesn't have a son from his wife anyway. Officer Nam is chased down and badly injured. He sees Shin-Jeok and tells him to preserve the Hidden Roots group by turning his body in so Bang-Won will trust him.

When Bang-Ji retrieves Sambong's body the village elder meets him and hands over the papers. It is a trap; the elder is killed and Bang-Ji escapes down a cliff. His mother (the Moomyung leader) finds and nurses him, and he asks to work with them to kill Bang-Won as revenge for Sambong.

Historical note: This rebellion, called the First Strife of Princes, was August 26, 1398. Bang-Seok and Bang-Beon were killed separately by assassins when they left the palace later. Nam Eun escaped but turned himself in and ended up being beheaded. King Taejo abdicated September 5.

Episode 49

Bang-Won decides to destroy Moomyung by attacking their base of court servants, merchants, and Buddhism. He allows the tribunal to interrogate (torture) the Banchon people; Moo-Hyul can't stand it and asks to return to his hometown.

Bang-Ji finds that among Sambong's papers is one signed by all Moomyung members, including Shin-Jeok. He approaches Shin-Jeok, gets a draft of Ha Ryun's about expelling Buddhism, and passes it on to his mother. She makes a plan to invite Bang-Won to a meeting in the countryside.

Bang-Won sees Granny begging Moo-Hyul to give it all up and leave, and finally gives permission. Boon-Yi meets him too, and he agrees to release the village people and let them resettle elsewhere. She invites Sa-Gwang to go with them but is turned down. As the villagers are loading onto boats at Mapo port, their remarks make her realize that Sa-Gwang is out to kill Bang-Won and she runs to the meeting site. Moo-Hyul decides he can't leave without taking formal leave and heads for the same place.

Sa-Gwang arrives first and confronts the Moomyung soldiers. Moo-Hyul finds the bodies and rushes on. Boon-Yi gets there in time to stop Bang-Won from being poisoned, but the Moomyung men attack Bang-Won's. Sa-Gwang attacks them in turn. Bang-Ji is momentarily stunned by seeing his sister, but when Sa-Gwang charges his mother, he engages her. Bang-Won escapes with Boon-Yi; Gil Seon-Mi attacks them but is intercepted by Moo-Hyul in a flying leap.

Historical note: Mapo is a district in western Seoul by the Han River. In old days there was a ford there. Buddhism was very corrupt, with a lot of property (donated in order to keep it from taxation), and many temples and rituals taking a big toll on the country.

Episode 50 (Final)

Moo-Hyul and Gil Seon-Mi's fight is pretty impressive but Bang-Ji and Sa-Gwang's is faster and involves more flying. Bang-Won is nearly captured, but Ha Ryun brings reinforcements. Granny's amulet saves Moo-Hyul; he leaves Gil mortally wounded but still able to kill Yooksan when he strikes at Yeon-Hyang (Bang-Ji's mother).

Moo-Hyul breaks into the other fight with another flying leap. Sa-Gwang tells them she is after Moomyung for forcing Prince Wang Yo onto the throne, Yi Seung-gye and Jung Do-Jeon for killing all the Goryeo royal family, and Yi Bang-Won for the hidden weapon storage. She attacks them both and they help each other and finally cut her down.

Moo-Hyul officially resigns and Bang-Ji goes away – apparently not to China with his mother. Boon-Yi takes the villagers to an island. Monk Juk-Ryong bring in the bodies of Gil and Yooksan, claiming to Ha Ryun that Moomyung is defunct now (but really on the orders of Yeon-Hyang). Since merchants are being restricted, he offers to be a leader of government sanctioned peddlers, and admits his real name is Baek Dal-Won.

Bang-Gan revolts, is caught, and spared by Bang-Won. Bang-Gwa abdicates, and Bang-Won is crowned third king of Joseon. He makes the Min brothers drink poison when they plan a coup and try to kill his younger sons.

Bang-Won visits his third son Yi Do and is surprised when he answers questions the way Sambong and Boon-Yi had done. They visit Moo-Hyul's village and get him to come back as Yi Do's bodyguard. Moo-Hyul takes them to Boon-Yi's island; she meets Yi Do and talks to the king; she is worried about pirates so he orders a raid on their stronghold on Tsushima Island.

Boon-Yi, now turning gray, visits the mainland. She sees people from Tree With Deep Roots: a young woman teaching hangul to children, and a couple of guards (Cho Tak and Park Pol) who tell her how easy the new letters are. She realizes that this is the answer to Sambong's problem of helping the commoners communicate and goes to visit his grave, which is unmarked.

The end of the show is a montage showing how Yi Do is similar to all six of the Flying Dragons.
Historical note: In January of 1400 Yi Bang-Gan rebelled and was exiled; Bang-Won never killed any of his full brothers. In February he was named crown prince, and in November Bang-Gwa abdicated and Bang-Won was crowned as King.  The Queen's brothers were eventually executed for trying to take power, two in 1410 and two in 1416. Baek Dal-Won was a real peddler who saved Yi Soung-Gye's life when he was fignting Jurchens in the north and did become head of a peddler's union.