Haeundae Lovers: First Impressions

Episode 1 wasn’t that funny. Episode 2 established the tone – and that’s when it got funny. When you have a drama that’s uneven in tone – switching from camp to melo in just one scene – it’s hard to figure out whether or not the drama is good or bad. However, I’m going to give this drama a chance – mainly because I like Jo Yeo Jung and I trust Kim Kang Woo’s acting.

Quick summary: Tae Sung (Kim Kang Woo) is a hard-nosed prosecutor who can’t rest until he completes his task. He is chasing after a drug boss, Oh Jung Chul, and that brings him face to face with Go Sora (Jo Yeo Jung), the daughter of a former mobster in Busan who now works with her “uncles” at a fish store. When Sora ends up replacing a geisha act at a club where Jung Chul’s girlfriend works, Tae Sung mistakes her to be Jung Chul’s girlfriend. He figures that she’ll be his way in to Jung Chul’s gang and thus bring him down.

Meanwhile, he’s also getting married to Lee Se Na (Nam Gyu Ri) but she gets appendicitis before they can even go on their honeymoon. While she’s recovering in the hospital, Tae Sung goes off to take down Jung Chul for his own peace of mind, and to make his adoptive father proud.

 

Go Sora’s family used to own the swanky Haeundae Hotel 20 years ago, and it was a place where everyone of all classes could come in. His second in command – Yang Man Ho – ousted Go Joong Shik (Sora’s dad) and made it an elite hotel that was so expensive it was ridiculous. Man Ho’s young wife Tam Hee is a bit of a shrilly idiot, and she hates Sora to the core. But she gets a new adversary in the form of Vice President Choi Joon Hyuk (Jung Suk Won), who has no problems working with Sora for fish deliveries.

After episodes 1 and 2, I’m still feeling a tad indifferent to the drama. It’s definitely because of the tone, but now I know that it’s really going for cheese. It reminds me a bit of Spy Myung Wol, where it mixed humor with serious issues (North Korean values! Oh no!), but I’m hoping that Haeundae Lovers will be a better story. The romance part is the huge puff ball, even though it’s very much like Romeo and Juliet; the actual plot line is very serious and melodramatic, and helps ground the drama. Mobsters battling it out, daddy issues, power struggles – dark stuff. However, I’m expecting something like Spy Myung Wol mixed with the disappointment of Big – how can you justify a married man falling in love with Sora, and have me be ok with it? Even though I’m not as fond of Nam Gyu Ri as I am of Jo Yeo Jung doesn’t mean I’m going to like it when he chooses Jo Yeo Jung in the end. I’m hoping that the story will tread carefully around this; though I bet it’ll end up with Se Na saying “I’ll let you go, oppa.”

 

I dislike some of Tae Sung’s actions towards Se Na as he can be very selfish. However she’s equally at fault because she’s so passive. It’s nice she supports her husband, but she let’s him walk all over her. It makes Sora a great foil to her because she can defend herself and stand her ground. She can tell Tae Sung how it is, and he needs the challenge. He needs to stop being a daddy’s boy and man up. It’s a testament to Kim Kang Woo’s acting that he can play quite the ass, and yet be comical at the same time.

This drama is shot on location in Busan, which makes me giddy with excitement because it contains a lot of scenes from places I visited while there. It’s definitely a place where the really rich areas look vastly different from the poorer areas (not that the city is poor but that certain areas just don’t elicit the same kind of awe and modernity.) However, the drama exaggerates the difference with Go Sora’s family, and Tam Hee and Haeundae Hotel. In addition, Busan is one of the smallest worlds ever in this drama. Sora is classmates with Tam Hee, who’s married to Yang Man Ho, who’s the father to Tae Sung, who’s married to Se Na, who’s friends with Joo Hee, who’s also friends with Sora and works for Tam Hee as an assistant. I almost want to say Tam Hee is Jung Chul’s girlfriend on the side? That would REALLY tighten this ship.

I may sound like I dislike this drama, but I actually don’t. It’s more like my way of keeping expectations low, because the payoff feels much better. It’s insane in a good way, and it’s meant to be campy and cheesy and fun. It can’t be taken seriously. If it can keep up the cheesiness with a straight face, then I am really going to enjoy this bit of lighthearted romance.

I’ll be recapping this over at Dramabeans, but episode 1 is ready thanks to Gummimochi!

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