Doc: Shouldn’t it be “The Doctor is JIN”?
Ha-eung: Sure, sure. There’s a 100-nyang bounty on your head, but we’re not at all worried about that, are we? Why don’t you just march to the police bureau and give yourself up? Save the officers there the trouble of hunting for you. In fact, I might as well take you there myself now.
Doc: All right, no need to flap; it was just an innocent question. Back where I come from, it’s basic courtesy to tell people your name.
Ha-eung: I don’t know what backward village you hail from, but over here you lie low and stay out of trouble, you hear? You treat the people who come, I collect the payment, and together we…
Doc: But I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m neurosurgeon Dr. Jin Hyuk!
It’s one and the half years since we bade farewell to 2007. Yet many people continue to discover what a gold mine that year was, giving us some of the best Korean dramas ever made.
Among 2007′s quality offerings was a relatively unknown period drama aired on cable TV. Eight Days – The Mystery of Jeongjo’s Assassination did not blow me away like Conspiracy in the Court did, but that’s like comparing a Pulitzer Prize to the Nobel Prize, a Lexus to a Lamborghini.
Both of these two 2007 dramas are short: Conspiracy at just eight episodes and Eight Days ten. Both deal with the same subject: King Jeongjo.
You will see a very different king in each, but both are unforgettable and portrayed brilliantly by actors at the top of their game. Eight Days’ Jeongjo is played by Kim Sang-joong. I love his version more than Ahn Nae-sang‘s in Conspiracy, if that is even possible. Ahn Nae-sang’s king made me sad, but Kim Sang-joong’s made me swoon, so smitten was I by his charisma.
How many Korean dramas do you know that are named after animals? And a carcass-loving, bone-crushing one at that.
Like most people who watch K-dramas, I feasted (and sometimes choked) on the offerings from the three main Korean TV stations: KBS, SBS and MBC. It never occurred to me that I could sample other cuisines until a good friend raved about a certain cable drama and even offered to translate it for our fansub group. So that was how I was introduced to Hyena (tvN, 2006).
Likened by some to Sex and the City, Hyena subverts the premise of the famous American version by having four men (Kim Min-jong, Oh Man-seok, Shin Sung-rok and Yoon Da-hoon) in the lead roles. The drama is frank, funny and smart. Okay, the honesty and humor can be rather risque at times and we don’t even have to wait a whole episode to see a few bed romps.
But you know what? The drama isn’t just about sex. Far from it, in fact. It’s about (male) bonding and falling in love, friendship and family, trust and forgiveness, hopes and fears. You’ll laugh often, but prepare the tissues because you’ll need them. Sometimes you may even find yourself crying and giggling at the same time.
So yes, I love Hyena. Not the spotted version roving the plains and scaring the birds with its blood-curdling laughter, but the one that I savored for sixteen episodes, smacking my lips all the way. Come revisit the first episode with me.
What “altercation” was Teddy privy to in this scene?
Read on for more Hyena teasers >>>
If Gyeongsuk, Gyeongsuk’s Father (2009) is a forerunner for what we can expect from Korean dramas this year, then 2009 looks like it’s going to be a great year. At least streets better than the dismal pickings of 2008.
Set during the turbulent years of the Korean War, this four-episode drama is a delightful surprise. Extremely funny but also suspenseful, quirky but also sad, affecting but disturbing, it is a perfect concoction of comic and tragic. I lost count of the number of times I burst out laughing, squealed even. Or the times my heart pounded, afraid for the characters’ well-being.
The antics of Jung Bo-seok, playing a rascally and irresponsible father, further entrench him as one of my favorite actors. Although his conduct is reprehensible indeed (abandoning his family in the middle of the war), just like Jung Bo-seok’s characters in Shin Don and La Dolce Vita, it is impossible to hate Jo Jeolgu. He is tremendously flawed, yes, but he still manages to make me shed tears for him. That is the power of Jung Bo-seok’s acting.
But the best acting in the drama comes from someone who is only one-third of Jung Bo-seok’s age. Playing his daughter, Shim Eun-kyung is magnificent as Jo Gyeongsuk. She is the heart of the drama, the one her mother depends on, the one sent out to search for her missing dad. Smart as a whip and more mature than some of the adults in the drama, yet never letting us forget for a moment that she is still a young girl who gets easily afraid and hurt, Shim Eun-kyung is a joy to behold. Put daughter and father together in a scene and watch the sparks fly!
Let’s revisit the first episode of Gyeongsuk, Gyeongsuk’s Father, a shoo-in for my Top Five dramas of the year.
What is Gyeongsuk holding and why is she all sweaty?
If you need a pick-me-upper, look no further than Bad Family (2006).
Centered around a fake family born of tragedy and threats, it’s a delightful combo of hilarious and heartwarming. Laugh-out-loud funny and touching in all the right places, this is a drama you won’t tire of. In short, it rocks!
Since I’ve been nostalgic lately for some of my old favorites, let’s revisit the first episode of Bad Family, shall we? See if you can remember these scenes.
Why is our ajusshi mad?
Why is Yang-ah in tears?
More spoiler-free Bad Family teasers here… >>>