We’re back with another Yak! We discuss the dramas we’re currently watching and how Paroma’s recommendations cannot be trusted. (Recorded on 28th Feb)
The transcript below was provided by our awesome fellow drama nerd – Kdramadaydreamer!
Listen to the episode right here:
00:03:35 – Her Private Life
00:33:48 – My Fellow Citizen
00:43:14 – Beautiful World
00:53:35 – He is Psychometric
01:03:59 – I picked up a celebrity
01:08:33 – Rec: Playlist global
—Awesome Patrons who support us—
Saya: Hi everyone, this is Saya.
Anisa: This is Anisa.
Paroma: And this is Paroma – so how are we all doing?
Anisa: I’m just tired, it’s the end of the semester – how about you guys?
Saya: I’m wiped out from drama partying with my real life drama friends. Laughs.
Paroma: That’s not something you can complain about!
Saya: I wasn’t complaining. But I’m laughing at the fact that our very grown up adult party, which is sitting around the table eating food and talking about the vagaries of human life and also dramas, is like me partying.
Paroma: To tell the world what you are talking about – this is a mini party that Anisa and I are not a part of because we are not in the UK. This is a UK party.
Saya: Well, it’s more like a London-specific…
Anisa: Well, you didn’t invite us to Skype in either. Excuse me.
Paroma: Oh my God, yeah. That’s true.
Saya: Well, I’m still low tech so…
Paroma: We need to find out after the fact. After she’s had her party –
Saya: I spent like three weeks telling you that – oh my God I’m having a drama party! In three weeks, in two weeks, tomorrow, yesterday!
Paroma: I think she’s confused about whom she told because she didn’t tell us.
Saya: But also…I didn’t mention it this time, because I thought that I’m actually quite sad to tell you about something that I know you guys would love to go to but can’t – so this time I was like – I’m keeping it on the down low.
Anisa: I appreciate that.
Paroma: Ok, so my week started great, because Her Private Life – this week was awesome and then I watched He is Psychometric which depressed me to no end. But then the week kind of improved – because I’m not sure if it actually improved, but well I watched Avengers: Endgame yesterday, so, there’s that – which we can talk about later.
Anisa: Yeah, that was great – so it’s an improvement. So shall we jump into Her Private Life?
Paroma: Okay – are we all up to date?
Paroma: Ahhh – how cute is it!?
Saya: Are we going to start this with a squee? We have to start this with a squee.
Anisa: It’s so good. So good.
Paroma: I have a mild quibble – a pretty serious quibble about how it handled the fan violence – two weeks ago, but aside from that everything else has been so well done, so sensitive and self-conscious and just nicely done.
Paroma: Yes, self-aware.
Anisa: It’s interesting because when we read the premise of this when it was upcoming, we were like – love the casting, don’t love the premise, but actually they did a great job executing it and I really like the unexpectedly sensitive and well-written well rounded way –
Paroma: I remember my primary worry about this drama being the premise – you are going to have Kim Jae-wook and he’s the boss and I was afraid that they were going to go on that “the boss abuses his power to get what he wants” trope, which is supposed to be sexy in drama, but I never really found it so and I was really scared that they were going to go down that road, but this guy who is so self-aware of the power imbalance and just – everything – I’m just – yeah. Wow.
Anisa: I know that we loved the first half of Secretary Kim, but this is the respect that I was missing, even in the real cute moments of Secretary Kim – it had a problem with boundaries. Let’s just be honest, that show did not understand boundaries, and this one really does respect boundaries – he respects boundaries, and like everybody in the show, except for the childhood friend/fake brother that she has who like has no concept of boundaries, they do understand boundaries – oh and Cindy! But she’s like not being portrayed as a rational human being so I’m okay with that.
Paroma: Yeah, but she has like the weirdest mom – I think that is supposed to be…
Anisa: That would twist a person.
Saya: With Kim Jae-wook’s character, I do wonder – K-dramas do this a fair bit, and I wonder if it’s like a conscious decision on their part that his character has like a foreign origin – they use that foreign origin as a way of giving them a perspective that’s very different to maybe the standard Korean cultural perspective – the way that he approaches – is almost revolutionary, yet it feels very natural – are they able to do that because they can attribute it to his American roots or origins that way, because that happens – I’ve just been noticing it in a few dramas, but also – you know when you are given this character who is meant to have been an international adoptee and grown up in the US all their life and then they come to Korea – and they’re fluent in Korean and it does not work that way in real life. I find that an interesting choice of protagonist – it’s almost romanticizing that international adoptee status – there is some really well-done YouTube documentaries and then there is that one about the twins – Twinsters, they were Korean adoptees.
Anisa: Oh, I loved that documentary – it made me cry so much.
Saya: Yeah, I was like sobbing through the whole thing. But that’s closer to the real story than this kind of story, but I just find that an interesting sort of connection.
Anisa: No, for sure, and like I have read a lot about Korean adoptees and obviously they are going to hand-wave all of that away because they want to have the best of both worlds, right? They want to have – to re-embrace this person who was lost by the nation and obviously it is no accident that they’re all from the US, because America’s romanticized as the land of prosperity and freedom and progressive values – which is not necessarily the case – and a lot of things that America represents for a lot of people in other countries that haven’t necessarily experienced America for themselves, and so like that’s just part and parcel of US hegemony, especially cultural hegemony across the world, but that’s a really interesting observation, Saya, about how at times that international background is sort of a way in which they are given a more broad minded perspective. And I do think that being diasporic does give you a broad minded perspective, but it’s not because of the country that you grew up in being like better than the one that is your ancestral homeland.
Saya: It’s just because you have a literally broader perspective.
Paroma: It’s not what you guys are saying, but it didn’t occur to me that that was a connection we were drawing – that him growing up abroad is – like I did get that sense that him growing up outside of Korean culture, Korean society would give him a broader perspective – that was there, but I also thought it was generally sort of implied that he is more sensitive and introspective than general run of men and he is so introspective, I don’t remember the last time I saw a main lead –
Saya: I love him as a hero. He is so – not run of the mill at all, and yet, he’s got that stiffness, and he’s got that sort of – that brusque edge and that formal – you know all of that stuff that you would normally associate with a normal tsundere hero, but he’s not like that – the last time we saw a version of this was Lee Dong-wook in Touch Your Heart but then he turned into a marshmallow within two episodes, but here he retains that kind of stiff demeanor, but he’s also like – you can see that he is not that person.
Anisa: And it’s also established pretty quickly considering the runtime of the drama that that stiffness is just a defense mechanism because he is such a marshmallow on the inside. I just wanted to mention one thing before we move on to the growing up abroad thing – I haven’t really thought about it in the way that you mentioned Saya, but I felt personally that it tends to be a way in which the writers give him power that comes from somewhere that is outside of Korean society, so like a lot of times –
Saya: He’s not bound by the hierarchy.
Anisa: Yeah, so when the characters are kind of trapped within a particular societal structure – company structure or social hierarchy, being from another place, having grown up in America or Germany or whatever – it allows them to kind of buck a lot of the social expectations – sort of like the rigid…
Saya: It’s being an outsider with status.
Anisa: It’s like the same thing with 30 but 17, where the hero is just basically like – he just does whatever he wants, and part of that is that he’s a genius, but it’s also because – oh he grew up abroad –
Saya: The same rules don’t apply to you because of that.
Anisa: So it gives him like an additional sort of power – and it’s coming from outside the structure, which allows them to do things that maybe sort of a traditional homegrown hero or heroine would not be able to do and it’s usually a man.
Saya: Because you have more inhibitions as well.
Paroma: But I would like to point out that Ryan Gold here understands Korean culture and hierarchy pretty well.
Saya: He just doesn’t care.
Paroma: No, it’s not that he doesn’t care – he cares a lot and he can work within it, because when that ex-director – what’s her face – I love the actress by the way.
Anisa: The actress is one of my favorites.
Paroma: She was in Romance is a Bonus Book. Kim Sun-Young –
Anisa: The previous director
Paroma: I’m just going to say Dr. Eom – so the ex Director Eom slaps Sung Deok-mi – it happens because of a sort of – not a straight lie, but something that Ryan says where he’s deliberately trying to misdirect Director Eom – he does it for her sake, but then the Director Eom goes and slaps Deok-mi who is a subordinate and therefore can’t react, and Ryan sees it but he doesn’t do anything about it, aside from apologizing to Deok-mi later – because he understands hierarchy – he – that is not something we would tolerate watching in any other – imagine an American show that shows us that – that won’t happen man – that would be a flashpoint, that would be something that you would feel compelled to protest against – you understand -but since it is shown in the context of Korean society or culture, abuse from higher ups is actually pretty regular, yeah.
Anisa: Yeah, but I’m not arguing that these magical unicorn Korean adoptee characters who suddenly cross the border and they understand Korean perfectly, I’m not arguing that they don’t understand Korean culture because they have to in order to function as main characters a lot of times, most of the time – it’s just that being somewhere else gives them this get out of jail free card.
Paroma: No, I completely agree with you, but what I’m saying is, in the context of this drama, I don’t think Ryan gold is doing anything that would be so surprising – he is not exactly using his get out of jail free card.
Anisa: Oh, yeah – I got ya.
Paroma: He hasn’t done anything that is so…oh he’s a foreigner so he’s allowed to do that type of thing. He’s shown personal integrity and consideration which especially does Deok-mi but
Anisa: That’s true – even when he gets one up on Director Eom, it’s because he has dirt on her that she didn’t want to get out.
Paroma: Like for instance, when Director Eom sends her daughter to work for the company, he just swallows it and says what are you going to do?
Anisa: Okay, I’m sorry I like sent us off on this long tangent.
Paroma: I’m saying it’s interesting that he’s flawed that way – he’s not the perfect hero – who is going to – just because he’s a more sensitive man doesn’t mean that he doesn’t understand the politics of society. So I like that about this character, and having covered Ryan Gold’s awesomeness, can we spend a moment talking about the awesomeness of Deok-mi?
Anisa: Oh my God, she makes me cringe but I love her so much!
Paroma: She does not make me cringe…I have never loved her more.
Saya: I nearly dropped the show by the first episode because I was just like – I can’t – this is too – don’t be like this – that level of fangirling that I feel embarrassed by – and – it’s just – you are a grown woman, you need to stop being this into an idol or whatever…
Anisa: At least the idol is not jailbait, I don’t think, so that’s good.
Saya: At least the idol became a character, which I didn’t expect and I found that very interesting.
Anisa: I’m looking forward to them like getting to know each other and her being like – oh, you are just a human like me – that would be fun.
Saya: Exactly. And the whole idea – I mean, it’s clearly set up and I love where this is going – it’s clearly set up to take that discussion of, will having a relationship that is actually real and meaningful to her – a romantic relationship, will that eventually replace that fandom feeling that she has toward Shi-an?
Anisa: But I also –
Saya: Is the fandom relationship a stand-in for a real relationship? I find that question interesting.
Anisa: But I don’t think that the show is arguing that it is her stand-in for a real relationship, because like, her best friend has a husband and a child and she’s like still loves Shi-an.
Saya: She’s totally disappointed in her husband and the only reason that she married him is because she got pregnant.
Anisa: I mean that’s true – she says that, but you can see that they have a lot of affection for each other, and like – he’s never around so I don’t know, but…
Saya: Well, I’m kind of worried now because you know – Joo-hyuk…
Anisa: It’s going in a weird direction
Saya: Yeah – like why are you – I feel like if she wasn’t married I would be shipping them, so I don’t know where this is going.
Paroma: No, but I think – see you guys have a different perspective on this, but the way they packaged fangirling from the very first episode, to me was a bit different. It looked a bit – and that’s how Deok-mi and Sun-joo talk about Shi-an for instance, it is like he is their baby – he needs to be protected – he’s precious to them because they’ve invested so much of their time and energy into sort of protecting his reputation, about talking about him, analyzing his music, everything – everything he does, his whole career is something that is based, at least partly, on their effort as well. So, he is part of their lives – in that there is so much of them invested into his career. That is how it came across to me, because I didn’t understand that level of fangirling either, it seemed very odd to me and I couldn’t see how they thought to humanize that, but the stratagem they used was to show us through Dok-min’s character that you don’t need to sexualize him in your mind, though I have to say that there has to be an aspect of that, I’m sorry – you are not following around such a pretty boy –
Anisa: It’s not a platonic kind of…
Paroma: It’s not a completely platonic thing – it’s not a sexual thing either – Deok-mi is pretty, she’s pretty inexperienced as far as romantic relationships are and as Saya says that could be because this fandom has taken the place of a romantic relationship in her life, but it could also be because there are some people who are so absorbed by certain things that they have no room in their lives for romantic relationships – I’m raising my hand right now because I’m exactly this sort of a person.
Saya: We are a bunch of fangirls.
Paroma: Totally – we are not obsessed with a single actor or actress in the way that she is obsessed with this singer, but we have seen in her past that she has shown obsessive focus on other bands as well – it’s not like it’s always been Shi-an like she’s a stalker, obsessed fan – it’s not like that – she’s capable of progressing from one idol to another, just like her friend seems to be progressing from Shi-an to her coffee boy. It’s more like a patron, someone supporting someone’s talent – that is how they seem to be showing – which is not for everyone – that’s what we saw in the episode where the fangirls came and attacked Deok-mi because they thought Deok-mi was dating their Oppa –
Anisa: I do appreciate that they show different types of fandom and how they do portray sasaeng fans as being really problematic – like Sindy – she’s a stalker, but I don’t know if I’m on board with this portrayal of Deok-mi’s fandom as the most healthy way to stan someone, or like a normal way to stan someone – maybe part of her journey is being able to love him as a fan but not quite invest all of her free and personal time on him and actually use that time for herself in a way that would be a benefit to her own life. So in that case I’m on board with that, but I also appreciate how it kind of shows us how being a fan of something can bring joy to your life – especially when your life is kind of hard. She’s had a tough job working under this really horrible boss who doesn’t allow her to have any creative freedom and part of the way that she has helped Shi-an’s career is by taking really amazing photographs and like maybe she doesn’t consider that to be art in the same way as the kind of art that she drew when she was a child and that she didn’t get to go to school for, but she’s an artist and creating that art and those pictures of them which – he even puts some of those up in his house because he thinks that they’re like really good pieces of art which is a little self-centered, but he’s an idol – I appreciate that that was her outlet when at work she had to give up her dreams and she’s not even allowed to do the kind of exhibits that she wants to so I like that aspect.
Paroma: And don’t you love that Ryan notices that? Like there is that moment in the contest where he asks her if she likes taking portraits and she misunderstands, but it’s – he clearly notices that – at least I think he does, I mean they haven’t gone anywhere with that yet. But I agree, I think that is definitely a line that – yeah.
Saya: I was going to say, just to skip back a couple of minutes – I really enjoyed – I didn’t realize, and this is, as a student of Korean – the fact that deokjil is something different to sasaeng, because like in English I don’t think that we have that much variation, we are just their fans, or their obsessive stalker fans and isn’t stanning like a really new word that just kind of emerged quite recently…but long before you had stanning you had the word sasaeng but the fact that there is a distinction between Deok-mi as a deokhu and what she does is deokjil – it’s fangirling, it’s not sasaeng, which is what Sindy does – the other really funny bit was how she describes everyone else as Muggles – you’re a Muggle, you wouldn’t understand. That was great. But I do agree about the part about having Deok-mi – her kind of fangirlness, being shown as something that is a bit supportive in a way, and that whole protectiveness, but it’s not just that she has an outlet for her to do those things, but also it creates a community – like her website is something that she’s created, a community of people, it’s not just between her and the idol – there is all of the other people, it’s kind of like us and Dramabeans I guess – you love your dramas, but you need your people, and she has that as well, which I really enjoy and I really like how Ryan has gotten himself in there.
Anisa: Oh my God!
Saya: When you are watching the promos and he’s like – how do you become a fanboy and I was like how is this story ever going to happen, I don’t understand – I just never expected for this character to be up with the fanning part – to be like – I want to do this – I want to be there and he’s like getting the answers to the questions.
Anisa: I really love that he found out so early and that –
Saya: And that he thinks it’s so cute – that is so cool!
Anisa: When he’s watching her around the corner – I’m like oh my God, kill me.
Paroma: He’s stolen my heart completely. Oh my God.
Anisa: Oh my gosh, the chemistry is like off the charts. This doesn’t even compare to her chemistry with Park Seo-joon – as much as love him and it breaks my heart to say that
Paroma: What? No, who is Park Seo-joon, I’ve completely forgotten who that is.
Anisa: This is a whole other level – it’s like very grown up, that’s all I’m going to say
Saya: You guys are going to hate me, but like I still – I can’t quite buy Park Min-young – her character completely – and this was much stronger in Secretary Kim, but she had this kind of self-consciousness to her acting, like she was always trying to look as pretty as possible, I was like – you are gorgeous woman, you are always going to look pretty no matter what you do – but it’s like she knew it – she knew it and she was constantly trying to show her good side and stuff like that and like she doesn’t quite let go enough to get fully into the character, and I feel like she’s still got that in this role as well.
Anisa: I kind of know what you mean. I think I felt it a lot more in Secretary Kim – especially more towards the end of the drama, where she doesn’t let go of her professional façade ever, even in personal moments,
Saya: Yeah – like her veneer of perfection which feels fake
Anisa: But I feel like in this drama she only has that face on at work, personally – I think that in her non-work times –
Paroma: Even not at work – at work or not at work, I agree with Saya when it comes to Secretary Kim, even if she was making faces she was looking gorgeous and there was no bad angle in that drama – I took so many screen shots during the airing of that drama, and I never got a bad face, and this has never happened – how do you take hundreds of screen shots and get not a single weird face?
Saya: I’m comparing her to my favorite version of her which is her character in Healer which is so, utterly different – she had thrown out every ounce of self-consciousness – like she was that character and that’s what made me excited about her from everything post-Healer and I’ve never seen that since. I feel like she is the new queen of rom-com now, but there is just a little –
Paroma: In Healer she was a reporter, it was a very deglamorized role, so she went for it – now I don’t know anything about her personal life and what her issues might be –
Saya: This isn’t anything about that, this is about how she’s showing the character.
Paroma: Okay, yeah if it’s just about the character, her character here is glamorous – one of the reasons that you get picked for the curator is not because you have immense knowledge of the arts which you need, but also because you’re pretty.
Saya: That’s true for any women’s job.
Paroma: Yeah, that’s actually true, but you know that especially in a place like Korea, we’ve seen this repeatedly.
Saya: Where you have to apply for a job with your head shot.
Paroma: Exactly. So that makes sense to me, that she would be glamorous and look especially glamorous, but through the years she has just become prettier and her roles just sort of seem to really focus – just look at how glossy the filming of – the production of this is and compare it with Healer – I’m not talking about the action scenes, I’m talking about the general production value here – just the palate of colors here – the focus is on getting the best look of each character, that’s true for even Ryan Gold – he’s never even remotely ugly, his perfection –
Anisa: And that’s partly just the rom-com aesthetic – you know that part of the reason that your audience is here is to look at pretty people – that’s just a fact when it comes to rom-coms.
Paroma: That’s true, and also, to emphasize on what Saya just said – she’s definitely the queen of rom-com and because of her range of emotions here and man, the woman has gone through a range of emotions – just that episode where she meets Cha Shi-an it’s like, what is even happening to her face? I love her so much – it was amazing and her internal scream where she’s like murdering buildings – going all Godzilla on cities inside her head, because she can’t express her feelings – that was really well done.
Saya: Just quickly, to word drop the whole – the idea of parasocial relationships which is the one-sided relationship you as a fan can have with something like an idol – I was doing a bit of reading about this just after we recorded the last yak, so I’m not fresh about it, but if anyone wants to go and read about it, there have been like really interesting studies about fan culture and parasocial relationships, and how the way that these idols are marketed as like your boyfriend, and how idols are products and fans are consumers.
Paroma: Exactly, and we have this episode – the one that I have a quibble with, where they have these fangirls coming and beating Deok-mi with eggs and Deok-mi is angry, justifiably initially, but then she thinks back to her own experience as – they have that incident in school where her fake brother sort of gives her an umbrella that had been given to him by a girl who had a crush on him and the girl goes and beats Deok-mi up because the girl was obviously hurt and angry and she’s like how can you give me her umbrella – she gave it to you because she likes you.
Saya: And you are disregarding her feelings.
Paroma: Exactly. So she understands how that girl felt – and she takes that instance and she transposes it to the current situation where these young teens or preteens come and beat her up – that was just violence man, that’s not a joke and all because they thought that their Oppa was in a relationship with her – it’s – I’m not sure if it’s exactly that, because they have given him gifts – it’s not exactly the same situation, you know what I mean?
Anisa: It’s not the same situation, and it’s like – it’s problematic.
Paroma: It’s problematic that Deok-mi forgave them – that she softened – she was like oh, I understand how they feel.
Anisa: If she had actually been going out with him – also, like – that’s assault…you can’t –
Saya: You can’t let them off!
Anisa: You can’t be like – oh, I understand how you feel.
Saya: Because that’s love – how many crimes are carried out in the name of love?
Paroma: Exactly. How terrible – what if he was like actually going out with a woman? Would you go and do that to Deok-mi – you wouldn’t – they had that moment, right, where Deok-mi found out what the rumor was, she went through the five stages of grief! That was amazing, but she did come to acceptance, I mean whatever – I don’t even understand why you would object to a singer you like dating, but fair enough – fine. And they acknowledge it by the way – they say it in the show – that they are marketed as our boyfriend, so how can they go ahead and do this?
Anisa: You shouldn’t reinforce that idea, you should be like – actually, you don’t own them, because they’re a person that you should respect.
Paroma: Yeah, so that’s like the only quibble I have with this drama.
Saya: The show hasn’t gone there yet, looking at it from Shi-an’s perspective.
Anisa: I hope that it does. It probably will, because the writing –
Paroma: They did a bit though, the tiniest bit, when Shi-an was having that discussion with Ryan about how he’s so tired from all of these fan-meets that you have to do, that he doesn’t have time to do his music – so he pretends that his hand is broken, just to get time to work on his music – and I liked that they had that moment, and I really want them to do more because we definitely need more from Shi-an’s perspective.
Anisa: I don’t love that Sindy is now at the office and I get that they had to have her there so that they could continue with their charade, but it bothers me that Deok-mi is so aware of her, and it bothers me that every time something happens she like looks at Sindy and checks her reaction in a really obvious way and I’m like – dude, you are just making it worse, just ignore her! If she was the intern, you would ignore her – if she was a regular intern, you wouldn’t care what she thinks. Why are you giving her so much space and answering her questions – just be like – that’s a personal question, go do your work! I don’t know, it’s weird. Anyway, I just wanted to bring that up because it bothered me. So next we have My Fellow Citizens. Who is watching that other than me? Saya, are you watching that?
Saya: I just started it like earlier in the week so I’m only a few episodes in.
Anisa: Okay. I’m like half-way through – I am up to date with where it is now on April 28th. It’s about half-way through its run.
Saya: I think I’ve watched half of what you’ve watched.
Anisa: I think so, looking at your notes. So, I won’t spoil where we are now, I’ll just give my general thoughts. I really love this show. It’s exactly what I needed right now, in terms of – it’s really funny, it’s very – the dialogue is very quick, it’s very witty, it’s very funny – the directing is really clever – there’s been a couple of scenes so far where it’s like intercutting between two different conversations in a really interesting way that – it just does so much work in a very economical way, which I really appreciate, because the thing with comedies is that you need it to move quickly – especially in a comedy like this where the premise is so weird. The directing is really smart in that way, and the writing is really well done and it really does a good job because, like, if you haven’t heard the premise, it’s basically a – Choi Siwon plays a con man who gets married to a cop played by Lee Yoo-young, who is like a violent crimes detective when they first meet, and he doesn’t find out that she’s a cop until their wedding day, after they are already married.
Saya: After – yeah, on the way to the honeymoon!
Anisa: On the way to their honeymoon, and he’s like, what? The thing is that they really love each other, but that fact causes him to distance himself from her and she also – so their marriage is not in a good place. I think it’s like two years after they got married – they are not in a good place in their marriage.
Saya: Like it freezes everything – he’s in constant terror of – the thing that a conman fears the most, the police.
Anisa: Yeah, and he was going to pull off like one last con or whatever, in the beginning of the drama like two years after they got married – that doesn’t work out because she is now investigating him, although she doesn’t know it’s him.
Saya: And he doesn’t even know it’s her until an episode or two later.
Anisa: And the villain is the daughter of this really rich loan shark who he conned a while back, and she’s now here to get revenge for her dad – so that’s the whole reason why he starts running for the National Assembly – because she wants a puppet in the National Assembly so that she can get this land restriction, or this law, basically repealed so that she can do something corrupt with that land, and so that’s your whole motivation and she’s like I’ll kill you and I’ll kill your wife, so now he has to run for office, even though he has no interest in running for office – it’s just so funny – there are so many aspects in it that are hilarious, including Hoo-ja who is played by Kim Min-jung – she is hilarious.
Saya: Is she incompetent?
Anisa: She is kind of incompetent, but she’s also really evil and I don’t know how they make that work, but somehow she’s a real threat to him, while also being like ridiculous. They do that balance really well in a lot of ways – they have the sadness of what kind of relationship the main couple are in, the real pain they feel with the fact that they love each other but there’s like this big thing in between each other –
Saya: I can’t figure out with Kim Min-jung’s character, whether she is blazingly incompetent and yet, as we say, she’s dangerous – but also is she meant to be a mad genius? I’m not sure.
Anisa: No, I don’t think she’s a genius in any way – she’s just –
Saya: I mean – is that going to – I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it sounds like there is no other shoe.
Anisa: Yeah, I don’t think that there is another shoe, I think she was just raised by a really evil loan shark family so she knows the basics about how to be an evil loan shark. And she also has more guts than brains – her guts are impressive, but she doesn’t really have the brains to back that up.
Saya: Right, she’s got good follow-through but bad ideas. Or good ideas but bad follow through – I’m not sure which one. One or the other. But yeah, she’s fun. But, what I really liked about this and I’m quite early on in the show, is I was surprised because I knew the premise was con-man marries a detective, but I thought that part of the con would be that he married this detective and that’s part of the con – that’s why he married her, but actually it is not that at all, they coincidentally end up meeting – both of them have had bad breakups and they are like – so should we give this a shot? Why not? They do, and they end up having real feelings, and there is a genuine relationship, and then –
Anisa: Everything is so well done in this show.
Saya: And you are really, really rooting for them and I feel like there is – you can see the possibility for where they can meet in the middle of all of this – between his criminal activities and her law enforcement activities – there is a space for them to meet in the middle, still.
Anisa: I hope so. Things have gotten more complicated at the point that I’m at, but I’m still really rooting for them to work it out because the fact that their relationship is so real, and it feels so real –
Saya: And the fact that he does all of this so that she doesn’t get killed.
Anisa: Yeah, not only the fact that he’s doing it for that one reason, but they feel like a real married couple and they act like a real married couple, and that really grounds this pretty wacky premise and gives it a heart which I think is the only way that this show could have worked.
Saya: This is from the writer of Police Unit 38 also called Squad 38 also called something else 38, and I had forgotten about that and for some reason when I came across it I was like why aren’t I watching this and then I started. Also the guy from Bad Guys 1 and 2 – Bad Guys 2 I really didn’t like – Police Unit 38 – this is more in the vein of that.
Anisa: And I think the last thing I want to say about this show is that I think – I don’t want to spoil the most recent development, but there is the most – I think in the last episode or the second to last episode that I’ve watched is that he – Siwon’s character Jung-kook – he goes through this sort of ethical crisis and he has to think about what he’s going to do, and he has to think about whether he’s going to be genuine or whether he’s going to lie about an important thing, and he has a series of conversations with the different people in his life and they tell him different things, and those conversations come together in a really powerful way in the decision that he finally makes – and it’s about what does it mean to be a con man, and why would you be sincere even when you are pulling off a con? And I don’t really want to go further than that because I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s just a really interesting way that it brings together these themes and with who says what to him in his life and what that says about his relationships with these people, and I just thought that that was really, really well done for a comedy about this premise, I thought it – it’s got a lot of emotional smarts. I like that about it. Highly recommend. Also Choi Siwon’s face is amazingly mobile – his expressions are great. He is the best at comedy.
Saya: I do have one more thing to add, which is that I love Lee Yoo-Young – she is so good and I’ve loved her since the first drama I saw her in which was Tunnel, and she’s been amazing in everything since, but I think this is her best character.
Anisa: I’ve only seen her in Your Honor, but she’s so different in this and she’s so good, and she’s such a bad ass.
Saya: She’s so badass. Dragging that baseball bat.
Anisa: That whole sequence of events was amazing. Yeah. So good. Saya, I think you are the only one watching Beautiful World, that’s another new show now, right?
Saya: Mmhmm – and I was actually a little bit not quite right about this last month when I was like “Nam Da-reum is headlining the show,” he’s not headlining the show, but he is the central character at the heart of everything that’s happening in the show. It’s not quite the same thing, but still. The premise of the show is that a young middle school student apparently attempts to kill himself and he jumps off a building and he ends up in hospital in a coma. So this sets off an entire chain of events – like, why did he do that and what led to that? And initially they try to wrap this up as a simple suicide, but his mom just cannot understand why her cheerful, happy kid would kill himself, so she really starts to dig into it. Choo Ja-Hyun is the actress who plays the mom – Nam Da-reum’s character is Sung-ho, so Sung-ho’s mom is really the one who is driving everything in this story, and it’s such a raw, emotionally brutalizing watch. I think I watched the first few episodes together back to back, and then when it came to episode three I think it took me like a week to watch it. I’m not actually up to date on it, I’m three episodes in, but it’s so difficult to watch. You have just this – the family – Sung-ho’s family is this tight knit and close and warm and each member of his family is dealing with this in a different way – his mom, his dad and his little sister – they all have to sort of go through this process of trying to understand why their son or their brother would do this, and as things go on, details come out – like a video emerges of – and Sung-ho has this group of four “friends” and it turns out – a mild spoiler as you find out in the first episode – it turns out that there is video of him being really badly beaten up by them, and they share these in their private chat room and then when the authorities question the friends and stuff they have to go through this thing of deleting the videos, and making sure that they have got their story straight, and at one point they are like isn’t this chatroom evidence? All of these echoes of things that are happening right now, in current affairs, so it feels like it consciously riffing on that, but in a completely different context and then you have got the emotions of it – a mother trying to – her grief is driving the show and it’s so unbridled, and she’s an amazing character, and then you’ve also got his dad who is a little bit harder to read, and he’s played by Park Hee-soon who hasn’t done a drama for a little while.
Anisa: Oh, I like him.
Saya: He is really good – you’ve got this – it’s kind of trans-generational – is that the right word? Cross-generational story where you’ve got stuff that’s happening at the adult level and you’ve got stuff happening with the kids and you dip a little bit lower in the age to his little sister and all of the other stuff that is going on there and it really, it cuts that – the whole thing open of this process of just everything – it’s so hard to watch, but it’s also kind of – good is not the right word, but you are gripped the entire time. So, the way that the scenes are cut – you know how you were saying in My Fellow Citizens, Anisa, about the way that the conversation was like cut between lots of different people? So, you have – there is a lot of cutting between past and present, so you’d have these memories – memories that other characters have of Sung-ho – and it’s intercut with stuff that’s happening in the present day, or that they’ve treated him in certain ways. There was this one part in episode 3, his mom is watching this video – this is when she discovers the video for the first time, and it cuts with scenes of when he was born and when she was holding him for the first time, and all of these important milestones – the tiny baby – when he starts crawling, when he starts saying words.
Anisa: It sounds really brutal to watch.
Saya: It really is – and that cuts – you know how you automatically smile in that – it suddenly cuts back to that violent beating, and it goes back and forth like that and you are in so much pain, and the character is in so much pain, and it’s amazing but it’s so hard, and then also the circle of kids who do this assault – they’re four very different characters, so you have like the ringleader, you have the one who is sort of beat first, ask questions later, you have the one who is kind of quietly taking orders and not rocking the boat, and you have those – they’re kind of archetypes, but they are also full people. The most disturbing of them is the silent ringleader, the one who gives orders, the one who’s taking the films, but he’s never – he doesn’t incriminate or implicate himself, so he’s very shrewd in that way, and then you see where he gets it from when you see his dad who is also the Chairman of the Board of the school and there is this really powerfully disturbing scene where the kids are about to be discovered and his dad sits him down and he tells him a story – this is what happened – and as he is telling him the story, his son’s expression is changing. It’s brightening, he can see a way out, and by the end of it he’s this happy kid, and his mom is sitting opposite of him watching this change, becoming more and more horrified, but at the same time she’s still protecting him and it’s like – you know – it’s so interesting because you get to go into those emotions of – could you really give up your kid – even though he’s a monster or he’s becoming one?
Anisa: There was another show which kind of touched on that which was about your own child being a monster – I loved this show until the very end – Lookout. I think Lookout did a good job with that until the end.
Saya: Lookout was much darker – way darker than this.
Anisa: Yeah, I don’t think I’ll watch it, but thanks for sharing.
Saya: There is just one more thing I want to add to that – it’s because there was a little discussion about this in the fandom about why is it set in the middle school rather than high school – because as I’m watching this I remembered a case that was really huge here in the UK in I think it was ’93 – it’s the James Bulger murder case which was two ten year old boys had abducted a two-year-old child from a shopping center in Northern England and they had taken him away and tortured him and it was really, really horrible – don’t ever look this up unless you want to never sleep again, and how those cases kind of set legal precedent, not because of – because of popular opinion rather than legal opinion – for example, in the UK the age of criminal responsibility is 10 and they weren’t able to raise that even though they wanted to, because of that case – that is the case that people are like you cannot raise that age because otherwise these kids could literally get away with murder, which is the argument – it’s not necessarily true. But the whole point about how kid’s brains develop and whether or not they know what they are doing and the argument is that they still know the difference between good and evil, but the UK actually has surprisingly low age of criminal responsibility compared to other countries like in South Korea the age of criminal responsibility is 14 which is why that age that these characters are at is really important, because they are just below the age of criminal responsibility.
Paroma: There was another case in UK – I remember watching a documentary about it last year, I don’t remember the particulars – there were middle school kids – siblings, I think they were Muslim middle school kids who had – the brother had been beaten up by some of the school kids and the beating had been filmed and uploaded on Facebook.
Saya: Oh yeah, they were refugee kids, I think.
Paroma: Right, yeah – so that actually sounds far more similar to this particular show, because it was the parents who took up the thing to find out what happened, how it actually happened, who wasn’t doing much about it initially, so yeah.
Saya: Yeah, they didn’t get very far if I remember rightly.
Paroma: Okay, that was cheery.
Anisa: A low note, but let’s move on to…
Saya: More murderers, in He is Psychometric!
Anisa: Ok, so you guys are up to date on this? I only watched one episode, so…
Paroma: And how was that for you?
Anisa: Well, you guys were really highly recommending it in the last Yak so I tried it out but… it was fine, but I didn’t really care that much about anyone in the cast and I think a lot of the charm for this show is the main character for a lot of people, but I don’t really find him that charming personally. Sorry! He just didn’t capture my interest, and neither did the female lead – the young girl who is supposed to be…I like the medical examiner?
Saya: She’s the detective.
Anisa: Yeah, I just didn’t find it that interesting. So I didn’t continue with it. I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling the whole story line – the hyung who might be suspicious – I don’t know, I’m sorry guys.
Paroma: Okay, so do you want us – there’s going to be spoilers in our discussions – many spoilers.
Anisa: I don’t think I’m ever going to watch this, to be honest , so you guys go ahead.
Saya: Your favorite character is no longer on the mortal coil.
Anisa: Okay, well I’m glad I didn’t continue then, because I really liked her. Oh, wow – that’s dark.
Saya: Yeah, it was – I don’t know man…I feel like the show is – like it’s been getting, like it started off really strongly and yeah and it’s gotten a lot darker in a really convoluted way that I couldn’t always follow – it’s not as cohesive as it needed to be, and although it hit the right notes in terms of what was happening, it didn’t quite come together for me, so I’m at that point where I’m like – I’m watching it because I’m still interested in what happens but I’m not quite sure that it still works as a whole and especially with like – I don’t know – the hyung character, I just don’t get him.
Paroma: Yeah, me either – and the thing is I almost didn’t watch this week’s episodes – it’s just – morbid curiosity made me, not even interest.
Saya: Well, at this point I’ve committed to writing a review, so it’s you know – I’m more invested in trying to figure out what’s actually happening, and because I’m looking at it more closely, I’m having a harder time, which shouldn’t happen.
Paroma: Yeah – you know like last time we were talking about how Lee Ahn’s character was so endearing to us because he’s not the smartest cookie, but he’s got heart and he’s got talent, of course, but it’s just that the brains of the operation is Yoon Jae-in, and he doesn’t mind that, and that was so endearing, but right now, he’s like I’m the smartest person on the team – he’s solving all of the clues, he’s figuring out everything and dude, he’s figuring out stuff that you need training to figure out.
Saya: It’s not fun anymore.
Paroma: It’s not fun anymore.
Saya: And the things that I loved about those characters – it’s just like they’re gone, and you killed Ji-soo and where we’re at now with hyung and being brought in for questioning and what really happened in the apartment fire and – did he do it or did he not do it – just tell me.
Anisa: I’ll just say that I never found the main character to be endearing at all, I just found him to be annoying.
Paroma: Which main character? The older brother or the younger one?
Anisa: The younger one.
Paroma: He was cute.
Saya: I still think he’s adorable.
Paroma: I do too, I do too, I think just the show –
Saya: It’s just, he’s been so hurt all the time, everything that is happening is designed to rip him up.
Paroma: Yeah, but also that the show, I think, mistook its own genre I think, it thinks that it’s a thriller whereas it’s more a character driven drama, that’s why we liked the show – not because of the plot, the plot was never super amazing to begin with
Anisa: But also, the so-called “sci-fi” – it’s so kind of gimmicky and it makes no sense and it doesn’t have internal logic even from one episode.
Saya: I thought it did in the beginning.
Anisa: Maybe I’m being like overly picky then.
Paroma: There are things I like about Korean dramas – supernatural stuff, is that there is often no explanation why supernatural stuff happens – it just does, and then all the characters roll with it, which I’m fine with – that is how I would expect supernatural stuff would happen if it happened in real life – there would be no explanation.
Anisa: That’s true. And it does work a lot of times, but sometimes it just doesn’t.
Paroma: Absolutely – and I was comparing it with I Hear Your Voice last time and how I liked that in this case – Park Soo-ha already knew how to use his gift, but in this one Lee Ahn is learning in every episode – that was the best part of this drama – the first ten episodes or so where his talent was getting stronger, but right now he’s just finding out information – the exact information he wants by touching a person.
Saya: And it’s not like – like how could you have gotten this entire scene from touching this part of the wall – it’s just – no…
Paroma: Any random like piece of furniture is giving him this sign, like from exactly the date and time –
Saya: Yeah, an unedited reel of video – what?
Paroma: Exactly. This talent of his should never have had that kind of clarity.
Saya: It should always have been a bit more fragmented, and a bit more…yeah, I’m trying to not be disappointed, but I think I low-key am.
Paroma: Yeah, me too.
Saya: And there’s one week to go until it finishes.
Paroma: Here’s the thing, I think I would have been a lot more invested in last week’s episode if, instead of Ji-soo dying, she had been terribly hurt and they had hammered in the fact that it was because her father had refused to send in reinforcements – she had been calling everyone for reinforcement, he never responded…she went in there without backup because of her father – that should have really been hammered in and they completely missed that – her father felt guilty so he was like, hey, I’m going to try to support your investigation now – you guys go and find out stuff but once they replace me…I don’t care – I don’t care about your moral plan right now – ugh. And Yoon Jae-in has been relegated to a side character – what is she even doing?
Saya: I feel like with Yoon Jae-in and with what’s his name, Lee Ahn, they were driving the show to begin with. Once the focus went off them, the direction of the show just kind of went wonky.
Paroma: Did you notice where the focus went wonky is when the two of them got together, after that –
Saya: Exactly – that’s exactly it – it’s like once you got them together, their role in the story – the tension that was in the story was just done and like the stakes, everything kind of fell flat after that – it was like, up until that moment, everything was great and then after that it just was like pffft.
Paroma: Yeah – and how do you feel about Kang Sung-mo’s arc at this point?
Saya: The thing is – they have so many interesting elements to his character, but it’s become so confused and convoluted that you can’t follow it and if you can’t follow it, you can’t have emotions about it and at this point I’m like – what even is your game? Do I even care? I’m really frustrated – you know, because you are rooting for hyung to just not be terrible and there’s that point where you are like, oh my God, he did it and then after that – they are still trying to give you that, oh, maybe he didn’t and then the other thing I thought about as he’s sitting in there being questioned by Yoon Jae-in about his involvement in all of these events, is that maybe this is what his character is trying to achieve – that he’s pointing out, that this is the flaw, using himself and perhaps his crimes – he’s highlighting how broken the system is – like I did it, you know I did it, but you can’t get me because your system’s broken and like maybe that’s the point he’s trying to make.
Paroma: I agree completely – I am so confused about what I am supposed to root for with Kang Sung-mo. On the one hand they are asking – was he the perpetrator of the original apartment fire? And did he know that there was an assassin going around killing women so that they could steal their ID and give it to his mother? That’s one aspect of it, and the other one seems to be – look how Machiavellian he is that he’s getting his revenge, and then he’s getting away with it because the police can’t catch him, so I’m super confused about what I’m supposed to…anyway, that’s where we are – we are confused and there are two more episodes to go which we’ll watch because…I’m a masochist and you have a review to write.
Anisa: Alright, so I guess I have my own story of disappointment to share. I picked up I Picked Up a Celebrity on the Street – because Paroma had recommended it – I don’t know if it was like last Yak or the Yak before, and I watched – I started hating it by episode 2 and I was like – okay, Paroma said this was good and I really like the actors so I like kept watching it and then like episode 4 and I was like I can’t take this anymore.
Paroma: You watched more than I did – I only watched like an episode and a half!
Anisa: Oh no! I was trusting you!
Saya: Never trust Paroma when you don’t like a show.
Anisa: Oh my God – okay – so I’m not going to spend a long time on this, but I just want to say the premise – like you talked about the premise before, she accidentally hits – well, she doesn’t actually accidentally hit him, she hits him thinking that he’s her evil boss, on the back of the head with her shoe, which like seems pretty extreme, but anyway. Then she’s like – oops, I killed him, and I don’t really feel bad, but what if somebody finds out? So she like drags him to her house and tries to figure out how to get rid of the body, and then he wakes up and she’s like – oh no – what have I done? He’s alive, thank God, but oh no, I’m going to get in trouble and I’m never going to be able to get married, so she keeps him hostage in her house – first he’s tied up, then he tries to escape so she puts him in chains – now, oh my god, it just keeps getting worse and worse and then he’s like just let me go, I promise I won’t report you and like, obviously, every time he has a chance he like tries to escape because she’s holding him hostage. She’s a horrible human being but she’s like, oh, I can’t trust you, so I’m not going to let you go, and then she like forces him through violence – like seriously, they establish that she’s like a wrestling genius, so she’s also intimidating him using physical violence, it’s so abusive and messed up – and then she’s like Oh, you have to sign a contract that says that you will live with me for three months so that I can save enough money to like escape and immigrate to Vietnam because It’s cheaper to live there, and then she’s going to let him go so she can run away. And then he tries to escape and he gets almost all of the way to the police station and she sees him and she’s like – no – and then she like plants one on him, because she doesn’t want the police to…so now there’s a sexual assault too – I just can not – and then he like goes back with her – I’m like what is that? And then he’s supposedly like starting to have feelings for her? – I was like – this is the worst…and people in the comments were like this is a black comedy – if you don’t like it why are you watching it? I was like no, no – a black comedy is something that is commenting on society, not like embodying all of the worst tropes in an abusive relationship and making them think that you are laughing at it and enjoying it – like what the hell?
Paroma: I just said I liked the actress, I never said I liked the drama!
Anisa: Oh no! You led me down the wrong path.
Paroma: You have to admit that the opening shot was amazing – like the opening credits for the first episode.
Anisa: Just watch the opening credits, and don’t go any further.
Paroma: Yeah, exactly that’s the part that I was happy about.
Saya: She trusted you P!
Anisa: I don’t know why – I thought it would be smart and interesting and funny and different, but anyway.
Paroma: Oh no – shoot.
Anisa: And also, it was ten episodes, and I was like – it’s something short that I can watch while I have exams, or like papers to write and I won’t get sucked into a long drama – I should have just watched Fiery Priest like I was planning to.
Paroma: Which is a drama that I did start, but I don’t want to talk about it right now – I like it, but I don’t want to talk about it right now, I want to finish watching it and hopefully talk about it next yak.
Anisa: Okay, we can be less fiery and talk about Fiery Priest. I’m feeling fiery right now. So I guess that’s all the dramas – sorry to end on such an angry note, but I needed to vent my feelings about that.
Paroma: Oh, just a general recommendation…
Paroma: Yeah, but this one you can trust me on! I would like lay my life on the line for this because it’s really good. So there is this YouTube channel called Playlist Global – it has short Korean web series, it introduces short Korean web series, and the girl from He is Psychometric – the cop girl, not the dead one – Yoon Jae-in, the young cop girl from He is Psychometric, she is in one of the dramas and I actually looked it up because of her, she’s in this drama called Eighteen which is spelled A-TEEN for some reason – and it’s a really good drama by the way. Just watch it – it’s adorable, and it’s short – it’s really good, and it reminds me a lot of – a bit like Sassy Go Go, a bit like Reply 1997 – because it focuses a lot more on the high school relationships, the romances and the crushes and the breakups in a very – it’s well written. So A-TEEN is good and Seventeen is also good, but I think A-TEEN is much better written, and there are some other drama web series too – and some of them are more mature, they have a lot of characters, and some of them have younger characters – so go to YouTube, watch it for free, they are short dramas, and I’m sure you guys would love it.
Anisa: Okay – yes – watch those and don’t watch I Picked Up a Celebrity on the Street, because it’s terrible and it should be condemned. Alright, I’m going to get off my soapbox.