Friday Drama Review – “When A Man Loves”

When_a_Man_Loves_-_Korean_Drama-p1Gangsta Love (No, it’s sweet, really.)


I fell in love with this drama when Han Tae Sang hit the internet for serious dating help. With no experience of his own, he was seeking advice the best way he knew. With the naiveté of a young teen he takes advice from all sources and self-consciously attempts to put into practice what it takes to woo a woman. For a rough-around-the edges former loan shark enforcer, it’s pure charm.

Yet it’s also dark, sexy, full of tension and angst.


Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 6/10

Honest and uncomplicated in love, Han Tae Sang is a character that brings something new to the table when it comes to Korean dramas. He does not play the usual games or follow the standard formalities because he simply does not know how. It’s a refreshingly delicious combination that excites and confuses the heroine of the story. The charming and adorable way that he attempts to court Seo Mi Do, the young woman he once terrorized, draws the empathy of the viewer as he obsessively bumbles around creating a romance.



Yet the dark past that was forced upon him as a young man remains as a stain that colors the way he handles potential loss – be it business or love. And that same dark past makes it difficult for the woman he pursues to completely trust him, especially when suspicious incidents inspire distrust. Her past is colored with the shame of poverty, the memory of injustice, inexplicable mercy, and unwanted financial support from the man who humiliated her father. And now that same man is pursuing her as a man pursues a woman.

Enter the sweet, young Lee Jae Hee, raised by his brother, educated by Han Tae Sang, and who fatefully runs across Mi Do in Guam and falls in love with her. Her attraction for the young, earnest, fun-loving Jae Hee threatens to complicate a life that is finally settling into something resembling a secure and settled, if not entirely satisfactory, existence.


Script/Acting: My rating 8/10

Looking back, the storyline itself was not the main focus of the drama. The extremely interesting cast of characters and their development throughout the drama provided the focus and charisma. Indeed, there were parts of the script that seemed a little sensationalized and not necessarily true to the characters. In order to pull off this sort of production, extra care had to go into casting and I believe some excellent choices were made.

When_A_Man_Loves-KD-0005Song Seung Hun (“Dr. Jin”, “Autumn in My Heart”, “Summer Scent”) was cast in the difficult role of Han Tae Sang. As a gangster manager he was rough and tough, but still had the integrity to instill complete loyalty in his friends and subordinates, much to the dismay of his mobster boss. His ability to empathize with Seo Mi Do’s strength was the beginning of a journey towards love for the first time in his tragic life. The ability to show such strength and determination in one scene and be so completely, emotionally vulnerable in another was stirring.

shinThe fickleness and coldness of Seo Mi Do’s character made her a difficult one with which to empathize. However, the ‘cold fish’ aspect of her character is one of the defining features that made her uniquely compatible with Han Tae Sang’s stoic personna. Shin Se Kyung (“Fashion King”, “Deep-Rooted Tree”) was intriguingly enigmatic throughout the drama. Unlike so many of today’s heroines whose motives are easy to parse and who emotions are displayed for everyone to see, the character of Mi Do kept her thoughts and feelings a little closer to the vest, partly because she was growing and changing, but also because her character maintained an uncertainty of purpose and will throughout. This sense of indecision was something that did not have to be spoken, but was conveyed through the script and acting. I know that this style of acting is not going to be everyone’s “cup o’ tea”, but an overdramatic portrayal of the Mi Do character by a more expressive actress would have, I feel, ruined the ambiance of the drama.

When-A-Man-Loves Jae HeeYeon Woo Jin (“Arang and the Magistrate”, “Cinderella’s Sister”) was Lee Jae Hee, Lee Chang Hee’s ‘dongsaeng’ (little brother), and Han Tae Sang’s employee. Chang Hee and Tae Sang were best friends, so to accidentally fall in love with his boss’s girlfriend, (the man who also put him through school) was a tragedy indeed. Yeon Woo Jin’s manner of portraying the sweet, honest yet recklessly in love Jae Hee was definitely entertaining and in some places rather spicy. His character grew and changed into something darker as the competition for Mi Do’s affections intensified.

Kim Sung Oh (“Man Of Honor”, “Midas”, “Secret Garden” and countless others!) was Chang Hee, Jae Hee’s brother, Tae Sang’s friend and right-hand man. When I first looked up this drama on I admit to being more than a little disappointed when I saw Kim Sung Oh listed in yet another minor “cameo” role. I was gratified to find that the site was wrong! This is not a cameo role! Sung Oh-씨, I am indignant on your when a man - chang heebehalf! This was a fantastic role and I was thrilled to finally see Kim Sung Oh in a major part. OK, he was still type-cast as a thug, but at least he was a caring, empathetic man with the scruples to care unceasingly for his younger brother, and to always do the right thing when it came to friends. It must have been an interesting challenge to play an ‘enforcer’ who ‘mother-hens’ his baby brother and is caretaker and moral compass for the other guys as well. Additionally, his role was one of the main sources of character inconsistancies in the script. Despite the discrepancies, Kim Sung Oh created a much-loved and credible character.

When_A_Man_Loves-Korean_Drama-0034Baek Sung Joo was the head mobster’s woman who actually loved Han Tae Sang. (This, also, did not endear Han Tae Sang to the head mobster…) Chae Jung Ahn played a character who single-mindedly pursued – nay stalked – Tae Sang throughout the entire drama. As one of the ‘villains’, she went too far in her pursuit of Tae Sang, but in some ways it was difficult not to empathize with her. The character was predictable and one-dimensional, but necessary to the story.

when a man gapAn interesting person orbiting around the main characters was Goo Yong Gap, right-hand-man to the head mobster, and the man who had a long-standing one-sided love for Baek Sung Joo. Also a ‘bad guy’, his personality changed little throughout the drama, although his character brought in many a plot twist. This was the villain that everyone wanted to hate and Lee Chang Hoon did a superior job in provoking that ire.


blackboardCinematography: My rating 6/10

Part of the drama was filmed on location in Guam. The scenes were lovely and photography was fun. Costuming was nice. Using the cinematography to play up the ‘classic movie’ melodrama feel that the musical scoring lent to the ambiance would have been an interesting touch. There were a few recurring themes/props that were especially touching: the blackboard – used to express what cannot be said in words, the bean-sprout soup – used to express comfort and remembering.


Music: My rating 8/10

The violin-laced music had a texture that sometimes gave the drama a feel similar to classic romantic movies from the 40’s. There was definitely a quality to it that was unique with respect to current dramas. Then the mood would shift to a funky 60’s beat. The background melodies were indeed moving. The vocal music was also first-rate:

“Introduction to Love”  Bae Ah Yeon

Fabulously, smoky, jazzy, feel: “First Button” Jung Dong Ha

Soft, sexy: “Same Place” Hwa Yo Bi

“Bye Bye Love” BEAST & BTOB

Another haunting, sexy, ballad: “Secret Note” JeA of Brown Eyed Girls

“Goodbye Is Coming” Sung Hoon of Brown Eyed Soul

“Don’t Go” PIA


WhenOverall Charisma: My rating 7/10

A stronger, more consistent storyline was really all this drama needed to created a truly masterful piece of dramatic work. Since character development was accomplished so nicely, the story is still worth following and the characters are ones in which you will want to invest. I think an appreciation for subtlety is key in recognizing the value of this drama. Because it does not follow the same ‘formulae’ as many Korean dramas, I predict a somewhat less than stellar popularity rating for this drama. I, on the other hand, appreciate the elusiveness and restraint used in the acting and filming of this drama. Perhaps you will, too?


Happy Drama Watching!



Writer: Kim In Young

Director: Kim Sang Ho & Choi Byung Gil

Friday Drama Review – “Nine: Nine Time Travels”

9-Times-Time-Travel-Poster4It’s a Fantasy. It’s a Melodrama. It’s Science Fiction. It’s Romance.


Director Kim Byung Soo and Screenwriters Song Jae Jung and Kim Yoon Joo, the time-travel dream team that created “Queen Inhyun’s Man” teamed up again to create another stunning drama. It’s like “The Monkey’s Paw” in drama form – a tale in which what the granting of a special power – in this case, going back in time to fix things that went awry in the past – comes with horrible consequences when hitherto unknown side effects occur as a result. Everyone knows that mucking around with timelines is a bad idea, right?

And yet, I found myself desperately wondering, from episode to episode, how and if everything was going to be set to rights.


Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10 

Park Sun Woo is a TV anchorman who has been hiding his love for fellow reporter Joo Min Young for five years. His father died years ago in a tragic fire. His mother lost her sanity. His brother wandered aimlessly for years until Sun Woo learned of his death in Tibet. Left behind in his belongings are incense sticks that when lit have a more than curious effect: they transport the individual who lights the incense back 20 years in time. After realizing what it does, Sun Woo decides to travel back and change things around a bit – save his father, bring the culprit responsible for his father’s death to justice and try to make his brother happy by allowing him to marry the girl he chose, but of whom dad disapproved.

The change is managed, but it also set in motion a future far different from the one Sun Woo had hoped for. With 8 more incense sticks, can he set things back on the right track and still keep everyone happy?

Here’s the trailer (Sorry – I couldn’t find one with English subbing!)


nine-4Script/Acting: My rating 8/10

Lee Jin Wook, who starred as Park Jung Woo, the main character of our story,  is one of my new favorite actors. He recently starred in “I Need Romance” (2012), “Myung Wol the Spy” (2011), and “City of Glass” (2008). His acting style is a little understated but powerful, nonetheless. His ability to convey, with a glance, emotions that are hard to script is incontestable.

Park Hyung Shik and Ze:A – Hollywood Bowl, May, 2013

Park Hyung Shik who played Park Sun Woo in his younger iteration was also quite compelling. Before I looked up the cast list I kept looking at this young man knowing I had seen him somewhere before finally realizing I had innumerable pictures of him on my hard drive from the Korea Times Music Festival at the Hollywood where he was moonlighting in his ‘second’ job as a member of Ze:A.


brideJoo Min Young was portrayed by actress Jo Yoon Hee.  While the character was likeable and engaging the ‘couple-hood’ of the two main leads was not as appealing. Both characters were very charismatic in their own right and I found myself cheering them on despite the fact that I just did not “ship” those two.

Jung WooJun Noh Min played the part of Park Jung Woo, Sun Woo’s brother. The character was a challenging one as he changed personalities frequently depending on the timeline involved.  His was a character that, while weak and somewhat wretched, commanded empathy from the viewers. Seo Woo Jin played the young Jung Woo. The emotional struggles of the young man were perceptively portrayed.

docAnd let’s not forget Lee Seung Joon who played Sun Woo’s best friend Dr. Han Young Hoon, a type A personality if ever there was one. Nervous, excitable, constantly worrying but always supportive and ready to give good advice, the quirky doctor added a certain amount of comic vlcsnap-2013-04-09-03h49m57s227relief with his high energy angst. His younger self, played by Lee Yi Kyung might be a familiar face to those who watched School 2013. Although he did not get a lot of screen time, his character was was the perfect foil to the young, serious Sun Woo.


Cinematography: My rating 9/10

Due to the fantasy nature of the drama – time travel, alternate timelines, timelines changing abruptly – special effects were definitely needed and most expertly accomplished. No cheesy, low budget sci fi effects here. Everything was tastefully and artistically filmed. The use of the incense smoke as a method of change – the ‘up in smoke’ changeovers, as it were, were creatively done and effectively used.

In episode 11 there’s a musical number with fabulous cinematography featuring creative close-ups, wonderful blurs and great lighting as Sun Woo chases around town in the rain, searching for Min Young.

The filming in the Himalayas was beyond spectacular. In fact, I very much enjoyed so many aspects of the cinematography in this drama.


Music: My rating 7/10

If you like ballads, this OST is one you’ll definitely enjoy! The music commissioned for this drama was poignant and beautiful.

“Nine Scents” Lee Ji Hye

My favorite: “Because It’s You” Kim Yeon Woo

“Oh Please” Natthew

A close runner up: “Just a Little Bit” Urban Zakapa


Overall Charisma: My rating 8/10

Compelling characters, great cinematography, nice music and an intriguing storyline. The only thing that could have mucked it up would be a bad ending, but happily the ending was perfect. Enigmatic, somewhat thought-provoking. No loose ends, but no hasty, conveniently tied up knots, either. My kind of ending. Happy sigh.

For a drama that didn’t get great ratings or much attention, I was more than pleasantly surprised. This drama will go on the favorites list.

Happy Drama Watching!

sun woo9-Times-Time-Travel-Poster3

[Get Drama] Friday Drama Review – “What’s Up”

What'sUpAnd on to the genre of Musical Dramas.


An absolute sleeper of a drama, “What’s Up” definitely has some great vocals, given that Kang Daesung, main vocalist for Big Bang has a starring role. Due to an unusual number of setback and struggles, the drama was finally aired months after the final episode was produced, but with a notable lack of fanfare. To this day, the drama is relegated to the discount bin, forgotten and unseen by most. What a shame. Well worth viewing, “What’s Up” was robbed of the accolades it richly deserved.


Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

Unlike other musical dramas whose plot-lines are thinly constructed covers for the music they purvey, “What’s Up” features a real plot, real characters and a story worth following. And for good reason, too: well-known script writer Song Ji Na stretched her wings and wrote something for young people. A variety of misfits find camaraderie, love and purpose as they struggle together through their first year as students in the Musical Theatre department of a university.

What'sUpcastHa Do Sung (Daesung) is the shy, hidden child of a politically connected woman. Seething with natural talent, he yearns for the approval he knows he can win from appreciative audiences, much to the dismay of a family who want to hide him as a shameful secret. Jang Jae Hun (Im Ju Hwan) has a chip the size of Montana on his shoulders. He’s a bit older than the general student population, having spent a few years rough-housing on the streets before deciding to straighten out his path and pursue his newfound passion – the theatre. Oh Doo Ri (Im Joo Eun) is a big personality trapped in the conformist trappings set forth by her domineering stage mother. College is her opportunity to bust loose. Eun Chae Young (Jang Hee Jin) is well known actress whose career is faltering and, before she crashes and burns, decides to take a break and go to school. She’s definitely one of the ‘cool kids’, though. Park Tae Yi (Kim Ji Won) is a character. Goofy. Scattered. Sweet. Her father is killed in a tragic car accident and she is trying to fend for herself in a world for which she’s not entirely ready. Kim Byung Gun (Jo Jung Suk) desperately wants to be a musical theatre actor but suffers horrible stage fright.

The cool guys? Teacher Sun Woo Young, for one. Played by Oh Man Suk, he comes to epitomize what we want great teachers to be: creative and caring. He does, however, have issues of his own. On the cool student list: Lee Soo Hyuk as Lee Soo Bin, songwriter extraordinaire, with a cult following all his own, even though he’s only a sophomore in college.


Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

daesungThe plot is on the dark side, with main character, Jang Jae Hun, trying to escape from, and eventually atone for the mistakes of his past. The story intertwines characters’ stories in an expert fashion, bringing them to a ‘coming-of-age’ culmination that heals and redeems. The teacher, Sun Woo, in need of redemption of his own, grows and changes along with the kids in the story.
It came as no surprise that Daesung used his epic voice to belt out glorious tunes. Kim Ji Won’s voice, however, was a pleasant surprise in it’s sweet, freshness, with a beautiful alto range as well as a clear, natural soprano. Jo Jung Suk also has an amazing voice. Note, however, that as the soundtrack is mysteriously unavailable, even though the drama was released in 2011, there is no way of verifying who, exactly, sang the musical numbers in the OST.


Cinematography: My rating 6/10

Fun dance numbers, including a few American vintage tunes are notable. Costuming was adequately done. While nothing stood out as overtly outstanding (in terms of cinematography, that is) the general impression was one of a well-balanced, well-timed drama with focus resting squarely on character development.


Music: My rating 8/10

For the most part, the music is Impossible to locate. Only the Daesung sung, “Lunatic” appears to have been released and is readily available.

Dub-steppy background music. I love the silly, funky music that plays whenever Park Tae Yee is Lost and/or confused.

A scene from episode 18 features a montage set to the music of “What’s Up”, The character of Doo Ri sings at the beginning and the end, but the original soundtrack (4 Non Blonde) is fused into the middle.

The OST tracklist the following music, but as I’ve stated, it appears never to have been released.

”Lunatic”  Daesung

“Look Upon Your Path”  Vois Sur Ton Chemin

“This is the Moment”  Daesung

“Those Magic Changes” Jo Jung Suk

“Stupid Cupid” Kim Ji Won

“You & I”


Overall Charisma: My rating 8/10

Despite the fact that the drama was so highly anticipated, that it had a fabulous writer (Song Ji-nah of Sandglass, Story of a Man, and Legend), and an incredible cast, it had an incredibly rocky path on its way to airing. First SBS canceled its timeslot which delayed things for a few months as the producers scrambled to find another home view time, then Kang Daesung got into the car accident that caused a motorcyclist’s death, which despite Daesung’s resultant innocent verdict, caused inevitable delays and more than a little scandal.

Perhaps the bad luck surrounding the drama account for it’s low ratings and resultant descent into obscurity.

Regardless, the drama needs to be resurrected from the shadows and brought back out into the daylight where it belongs.


Happy Drama Watching!

 WhatsUp couple


Director: Song Ji-Won

Writer: Song Ji-Na

Trader Joe’s offers Dried Kimchi

kimchiAdventures in Korean Snack-Eating

Trader Joe’s 에서 판매하는 “말린 김치 스낵”. 도대체 어떤 맛인가?!

Yesterday, dedicated taste-testers Cheryl and Jini procured a small 0.7 oz package Trader Joe’s “Dried Kimchi: a crispy, crunchy snack and condiment”. Always keeping an eye out for interesting and/or unusual Korean-related food, the foil vacuum seal pack naturally grabbed our attention. The burning question? How would it taste? We opened the bag and with a fair amount of skepticism, put it to the test not only with our own somewhat jaded taste buds, but also with the staff at Korea Daily San Diego.

I like kimchi. I am a bit particular about my kimchi, but I like kimchi. This stuff ain’t kimchi. Kind of crunchy, kind of chewy. It felt sort of like chewing on thick, crispy paper. It was very salty, had a pungent fish aroma and a strong pepper kick to it.

kimchiReactions from others ranged from surprise, to amusement, to utter, unrestrained distaste. Facial expressions were priceless. Indeed, in retrospect, I am regretful that only an audio recording was made of the event and not a video production. “Salty” was the main comment. “Fishy” was also used to describe both the odor and the flavor. The drying process seemed to concentrate the saltiness, fishiness and spiciness of the natural kimchi flavors. No one tested particularly liked the product. Indeed, two taste-testers reacted vehemently with “I hate it!”

To be fair, the product recommends using it as a condiment or a snack and we only tried eating it plain. Online reviews report better results sprinkling into soup. Personally, I’m going to stick with fresh kimchi and save myself the $2.99. However, for those wanting to carry kimchi in their glove compartments, this may just be the ticket….

[Local News] UCSD Chancellor Khosla Welcome Reception UCSD 총장 코슬라 환영식

On Sunday, March 24, at the Marriott hotel in Del Mar, a reception was held to welcome the new Chancellor of UC San Diego, Dr. Pradeep Khosla. He is the 8th chancellor of the university. This event was prepared by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association , also known as APAPA and the San Diego Indian American Society (SDIAS)

지난 24일 일요일 델마에 위치한 마리오트 호텔에서
UC샌디에이고에 새로임명된 8번째 총장 프라딥 코슬라 총장을 위한 환영식이 열렸습니다.

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