2016/10/25 | | Permalink
Apparently Goryeo is still in chaos even as Prince So has fully stepped in to his role as King Gwangjong. Yet rather than explore the potentially interesting political crisis "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" instead devotes most of its runtime to the slow, agonizing death of two of its minor characters. Why does it take so long for anyone to die in this drama? I wouldn't generally mind this so much except that, as was the case with Prince Eun and Soon-deok, neither of these characters was all that well-developed in the first place...More
Na-ri (played by Soo-ae) is a senior flight attendant for whom life appears to be decent. Sure there's always the occasional jerk on the plane who needs to be dealt with, but Na-ri is a real trooper for her co-workers, even the somewhat ethically dubious Yeo-joo (played by Jo Bo-ah). Na-ri's boyfriend Dong-jin (played by Kim Ji-hoon-I) is clearly committed to her, and Na-ri has a good relationship with her family. Until the timeskip anyway...More
At long last "Drinking Alone" has hit the point of serious self-reflection on the part of its characters- although for me this is too little too late. The grand output of Jeong-seok and Ha-na's relationship consits of a couple of decent dates at the tail end of Jeong-seok acting like a jerk. The way he keeps talking about "quality" is, I think, supposed to be cute but all it ever does is remind me how generally mean-spirited the man is...More
It's the end for King Jeongjong, as the former Prince Yo melts down over...his mom I guess? I'm really not being sarcastic when I discuss how the elder brother has just straight up stolen his younger brother's character arc. It's kind of hard to feel sorry for King Jeongjong, though, when up until now he's just done explicitly evil stuff in pursuit of the throne and it's only now all of a sudden that the guy's starting to question why this was such a big priority...More
"Lucky.Key" retains pole position after screen boost despite "Inferno"...
Lee Gye-byeok's drama "Luck.Key" gained a few more screens during its second week out and retained pole position by adding another 1.4 million admissions (66%) to its total tally. Since its release mid-October, "Luck.Key" has banked $4.3 million (4.3 million admissions) and so moves to number ten in the country's list of highest-grossing films of the year...More
Hope is often a punishing concept in Dramaland. The appearance of Seong-won as a possible antagonistic force gave me hope in light of a passive and lacking in focus Gwam-soo. Seong-won has sadly proven but an instigator of temporary drama. The series is at a point where it struggles to find a lifeline, be it in the form of forced romance and angst, unnecessarily extended scenes and dead-end conflicts...More
Cohabitation has come to a boiling point in episode 18 of "Incarnation of Jealousy". Emotions run high as Na-ri dates both Hwa-sin and Jeong-won. Add to the mix a belatedly active second lead, Anchor Hong Hye-won (Seo Ji-hye), and we have quite the sizzling episode.
Hye-won has been in the drama for a while, putting moves on Hwa-sin and flirting like the seductress that she is...More
Episode 8 of "Woman with a Suitcase" bravely tackled a very difficult subject: homosexuality. It treated the character in the episode with respect and touched upon the issue in an honest way. Of course, as a drama on a public station it couldn't challenge societal precepts, but I'm glad that the social commentary was made.
The backdrop for the episode was the case of the week, which focused on a murder revolving around the homosexual relationship of a prominent citizen...More
So-hye continues to be sick. While "Fantastic" is fairly ambivalent about So-hye's exact fate for some time, it's the same basic holding pattern the drama has had ever since So-hye had to be hospitalized. All there really is to do anymore is look at the various relationships between the main characters, and admire the depth and strength of their social bonds. Even when it leads to somewhat humorous scenes like So-hye and Hae-seong one-upping each other in the prior sacrifice department...More
If Gwan-soo has not met your quota for constant giggling annoyance, Seong-won proudly takes it upon himself to do so in episode nine of "The K2". Yoo-jin's "brother dearest" gives everyone a scare with Ahn-na and injures a frantic Yoo-jin's authority over her staff. The romance leads to a secret confession and probably a fair amount of tears to come as the antagonists tighten their grip on Ahn-na...More
"Incarnation of Jealousy" revolves around complex triangles and quadrangles of emotions that will be nearly impossible to resolve. Situations mirror each other in that choices must be made to move out of limbo, but those choices aren't easy.
Before we jump into the choices being made, let's cover a touchier subject: sexual tension...More
After twenty years in prison Yeong-il (played by Jin Yong-wook) has been released into the freedom of the outside world. This "freedom" largely consists in Yeong-il going to work everyday, operating a press machine to create flat metal surfaces for industrial use. Yeong-il's makes a hobby of trying to fix one old pressing machine in particular, which while old and somewhat dangerous, is still largely functional. The device is difficult to repair largely because it's from a bygone era. So, too, is Yeong-il's inability to adjust to the world...More
Hye-ri (played by Park Hyo-joo) is an investigative reporterand Seok-hoon (played by Lee Hyeon-wook) is her cameraman. Together they just sort of wander around the Korean countryside arbitrarily looking for news stories. Circumstantial evidence pointing to a business operation run by slave labor leads Hye-ri and Seok-hoon to a salt farm located on an isolated island, whose mentally infirm residents lead credence to the rumors. From there, it's a matter of collecting evidence and notifying the police. Or is it really that simple?...More
Jae-wook (played by Hwang Jeong-min) is "A Violent Prosecutor" who doesn't play by the rules. I mean really, the guy straight up tortures suspects, and locks them in cold rooms overnight hands bound. It's kind of a mixed message considering how the main villain, Jong-gil (played by Lee Sung-min) is an explicitly corrupt public official who eventually makes a run for government. Meanwhile, Chi-won (played by Kang Dong-won) is a petty con artist who, having been caught, ends up striking a deal with Jae-wook to use their powers for good rather than evil...More
Local independent films honoured at BIFF, KOBIZ's latest infographic puts Busan in the spotlight, Justin Lowe reviews Kim Seong-su's "Asura: The City of Madness" for the Hollywood Reporter, and learn about the history behind Korea's 'old Seoul' and the films that captured it...More
My Korean Kitchen has simple steps for making Korean-style BBQ ribs, The Korea Herald reveals what baseball fans enjoying putting down during a game, 10 Magazine shows us what unique dishes to track down in Jeju, and what does a South African think about South Korean food?...More
Check in with the Korea Herald to hear about upcoming cultural events, discover where to go in Seoul for the best beauty treatments, 10 Magazine puts the top hot springs in the spotlight, and find out what's happening around town with The Korea Times...More
The New York Times looks at how K-pop has infiltrated Korea's army culture, My Korean Husband's latest video takes your questions and tackles K-pop rivalries, the Korea Herald sounds off on Korea's chanting at sports events, and was Samsung's Note 7 a product of the country's "ppalli-ppalli" culture?...More
Catch Jeju's incredible "sea women" in a series of stunning images, the National Museum of Korea sheds light on the urbanisation of the Joseon dynasty, British photographer Nick Knight has his first exhibition in Korea, and enjoy some low-key snaps of Korea's tattoo culture...More
2016/10/21 | | Permalink
And now, Seol's in-laws move to force some last minute conflict in a predictably abortive attempt to scuttle a happy ending. Jin-sook's plan is pretty dumb. Really, So-hye should have mentioned the extortion attempt back when she was at the police station. Besides that even if it's not technically a breach of contract nobody going to want to work with Jin-sook when the best case scenario is that she's an idiot who keeps important information in a non-secure phone...More
2016/10/20 | | Permalink
Grab your nearest pillow, plushie, pet or child and prepare for a lot of toe-curling sweetness as our duo becomes a couple. Ji-seong navigates the world of the rich with his attachment to his new life intact. Seon-goo and Ma-ri are probably in need of anxiety medication and Bok-nam's possible fate threatens with dark times ahead. Our adorable pair need all the strength they can get...More
2016/10/20 | | Permalink
The vicious circle of rationalization takes hold in this episode of "Road to the Airport"- and I was surprised to find that it actually motivates Soo-ah and Do-woo to make constructive long-term decisions rather than destructive ones. Major confrontations force them to realize that there are few things in life they genuinely care about at this point. All the same, given the general enmity Soo-ah and Do-woo feel toward their current spouses, they're making the tactically sensible decision not to try and solve their problems with more romantic love...More
Jae-in is a bit of a jerk, and oddly enough, I'm actually mostly all right with that. Mainly this is just a matter of the guy not being all that malicious. Jae-in treats Da-hyeon the same way he treats most people in his life, and at minimum this does give him some credit for consistency. There's an odd sort of philosophical quality to Jae-in's conversations with Da-hyeon, where they're talking about the abstract quantity of dating rather than each other...More
Right away Soo-ah acts impulsively this episode...for the sake of Hyo-eun. This caught me a little off-guard. After last episode I had thought inattention to Hyo-eun was being built up as a potential pratfall to Soo-ah's increasing intimacy with Do-woo but no, apparently Soo-ah is just as self-aware of the obvious life lessons flying around "Road to the Airport" as the rest of us and is capable of making important life decisions accordingly...More
Things take a turn for the romantic in episode eight of "Shopping King Louis" as our leads return to their not-so-cozy apartment following the successful capturing of the local serial killer. Louis/Ji-seong starts climbing up the ladder of life and makes some money, which gives him the confidence to approach Bok-sil. With the drama now at its eighth episode, dark times will be ahead, but perhaps this one can manage them...More
"Woman with a Suitcase" is losing it's steam the more it goes along. The root of the problem is the lack of chemistry between the leads and the looseness with which the main intrigue is treated. There is so much potential buried within the premise, but after seven episodes the show still hasn't found its stride.
The biggest lack is the relationship between Bok-geo and Geum-joo...More
The last we saw of Prince Eun and Soon-deok they were in a no-win certain-to-die situation. This has not improved as Soo's prophecy predictably comes to pass, and for the rest of the runtime everyone just mopes around about this all upset. While I liked Prince Eun and Soon-deok well enough, it's a little off-putting how in death they are apparently far more important as characters than they ever were in life. I'm still a little lost as to how they ended up becoming the lynchpin to Prince Yo's final ascension to power as King Jeongjong...More
The Golden Tree legal family is starting to learn to work as a team and the only person who feels removed is Bok-geo. His jealousy over Geum-joo's attentions and his secrecy about his old case have inserted a wall between him and the others. That's okay, though. We got enough wonderful material coursing through the veins of this show to take us a long way.
One aspect of the show I am not enjoying, although I do love it for the most part, is the very dominant Bok-geo flirtation with Geum-joo...More
Generally speaking "Drinking Alone", has been pretty clear that Jeong-seok is not the most likable guy on a personal level. But time and again, the typical Jeong-seok just leaves me thinking, this guy is a jerk. No one likes him, for good reason. That by the end of this episode someone has finally gotten the courage to say that to Jeong-seok's face does not change how "Drinking Alone" is mostly an exploration of how Jeong-seok is a jerk who rarely ever gets punished for his behavior...More
"Incarnation of Jealousy" has become a battle of the jealous in a very literal sense. Jeong-woo and Hwa-sin have not stopped fighting over Na-ri's attentions despite her explicit plea for them to stop. Most of the episode is dealing with the trios antics and a few big, long-awaited reveals.
The back and forth between the best friends is becoming wearisome, especially because Na-ri is not happy about it...More
2016/10/17 | | Permalink
At this point "Drinking Alone" is making a deliberate concerted effort to portray its characters in about as negative a light as possible. I can think of no other reason why Jeong-seok starts off his relationship with Ha-na by being a weird control freak, engages in some weird stalking of her, and then the episode concludes as if Jeong-seok has learned a serious life lesson. To most people this is just the bare minimum standard of being a decent partner...More
2016/10/17 | | Permalink
"Lucky.Key" opens its account and scores...
Lee Gye-byeok's sophomore film, "Lucky.Key", was officially released on Thursday and shot to the top by capturing 68.2% of the box office pie. Lee's drama, which stars Yoo Hae-jin, Lee Joon and Jo Yoon-hee, attracted 1.6 million filmgoers from 1,158 screens to dislodge Tim Burton's dark fantasy flick from pole position...More
Je-has is a man on a mission and while he and the writer still seem undecided on what it is, at least our hero gets things done and thinks reasonably. Episode eight presents a big turning point in the story. Ahn-na has great work ahead of her and she is not as fragile or as immature as others think, which means Yoo-jin is now the one at a disadvantage...More
"Incarnation of Jealousy" is in full blown "jealousy and turmoil" mode with breakups, fights, tears, and irrational drinking, heartbroken leads. There is also quite a hilarious cameo by Lee Seon-gyoon that rounds out the episode quite nicely. Before we get to that delightful tidbit, let's review the rest of the episode.
After Na-ri cheats on both Hwa-sin and Jeong-won, she breaks up with both of them by telling them the truth, feeling horribly...More
Working in the legal profession has always been important to Geum-joo. She's good at it, and she finds it fulfilling. But events as of late have made her question her work's role in her life and how it fits in. Mix that together with Bok-geo's burgeoning feelings for her and his secrets, and with Seok-woo's likability and we have one entertaining show.
Seok-woo has joined Golden Tree and the romantic triangle is starting to heat up...More
Asian Film Festival puts the best that BIFF has to offer in the spotlight, KOBIZ's latest infographic highlights the top indie films of 2016, Variety sits down with BIFF's director to talk about the turmoil, and Variety explores the challenges of crowdfunding in Korea...More
21 photos to inspire you to visit the Land of the Morning Calm, the Lonely Planet puts Jeonju in the spotlight, discover what cultural events are happening later this year with the Korea Herald, and the Telegraph wonders what it's like being a tourist in the world's most secretive state: the DPRK...More
My Korean Kitchen helps us make a delicious and nutritious noodle stir fry, hear what Korea's 'philosopher chef' has to say about eating and living well, Zen Kimchi puts local franchises in the spotlight, and the Best Ever Food Review Show explores the palatability of pupa on Korea's streets....More
My Korean Husband gives us an inside look at life in Seoul, learn how Korea's online feminist are making waves, get some tips for navigating Korea's business culture, and can you fall in love with a culture that's not your own?...More
Citizens in Seoul venture out to identify praiseworthy pieces of street art, check out these great spots in Busan to snap up a storm, a British sculpture discusses Korea's maturing art identity, and learn more about how issues of art censorship disputed the country's biggest film festival...More
On one end I'm somewhat annoyed that the situation regarding Joon-gi continues to be stretched for time when it appeared to have largely been concluded last episode. But then again, isn't that what melodrama has always been about- stretching the pain out for as long as possible? It's a sensible strategy really, because death is at its most especially unpleasant when it lasts for a really long time. And even after that, grief is a factor...More
Hyeong-wook (played by Yoo Hae-jin) is a cool, stylish, skilled man whose work is violent in nature and of generally dubious legality. Jae-seong (played by Lee Joon) has very different plans in life- he's chronically out of money, and not doing so hot career-wise either. One random mishap at the bathhouse, though, ends up wildly reversing the fortunes of these men. All of a sudden both have to make sense of a wildly different life situation in "Luck.Key", a remake of the Japanese comedy film Key of Life...More
Three different women, all named Woo-joo, exist in about the same continuum when it comes to life choices. The thirty-something Woo-joo (played by Kim Ji-soo) is an entrepreneurial mother, who has given up a life centered around aesthetic appreciation for the sake of something more stable. The twenty-something Woo-joo (played by Heo I-jae) is debating how deep she wants to go into more romantic life goals, now that she better knows the emotional impracticalities. The teenage Woo-joo (played by Yoon So-mi) is also oddly hesitant about following her dreams, even though she's just starting out...More
Official South Korean state propaganda when it comes to North Korean defectors is pretty straightforward. South Korea is the obviously superior country, ergo, any and all North Koreans can and should flee here at the first possible opportunity. In reality the lower-class conditions North Korean defectors are stuck with in South Korea are often so bad as to make North Korea seem nicer by comparison. "Spy Nation" delves into an even more bizarre potential problem for would-be defectors- the tendency of the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) to use illegal measures to try and bully defectors into confessing that they're spies...More
The focus on So-hye's weirdly melodramatic disease symptoms is removed here for the sake of instead focusing on Joon-gi's more traditionally tragic melodramatic disease symptoms. The results are about what might be expected. The acting is unavoidably corny as the emphasis is instead placed on the inherent empathy of the situation. Friends don't like it when other friends are in for a bad time. Even if Hae-seong hates letting go of So-hye for even a moment, well, Joon-gi is a bro. And that's what bros are good for...More
Episode seven of "The K2" is not very plot-heavy, but the relationship between Ahn-na and her father is explored, which has been a long time coming. We also learn more about Yoo-jin and Ahn-na's characters, how they feel about each other and how they have been shaped by their attachment to Se-joon. Je-ha's role is shaping into that of an observer and a disruptor of the messed up reality everyone has accepted for so long...More
The rooftop incident initiates an investigation and Joong-won's troubles multiply when he takes both Louis/Ji-seong and Bok-sil in. The two men start realizing the love triangle they are in, which of course leads to love rival hijinks. The rooftop incident and Ji-seong's patch-covered run grant him temporary television exposure and finally bring his presence to light for his family. I see all kinds of excitement in our future...More
2016/10/13 | | Permalink
It's impressive how quickly "Road to the Airport" has gone from making Soo-ah and Do-woo's situation look romantic to making it look like a horribly bad idea. Soo-ah is, by nature, such a forthright person that she simply lacks the proper energy necessary to maintain any kind of romantic affair. It's a weird contrast to Jin-seok, whose main natural resistance to extramarital entanglements is his tendency to get bored very quickly with silly women who want to get entangled with married men...More
As Do-woo has to deal with the fallout from a second funeral, I do find myself wondering whether "Road to the Airport" is taking matters a bit far in the whole "make Do-woo sad" department. In order to maintain sympathy for the lead characters as they edge into an affair, Do-woo really has to break down completely with regards to emotional support. Given how unresponsive Hye-won was when it came to her own daughter, it's little surprise the woman is similarly unhelpful with the death of her mother-in-law...More
Our adorable duo get to spend some time apart and re-evaluate their relationship when Joong-won steps in and kicks the romantic shenanigans up a notch. Ma-ri steps up her antagonist game, but the people looking for Louis/Ji-seong will not rest either. Meanwhile, Bok-sil discovers some valuable information about Bok-nam and detective Nam makes progress in finding Ji-seong's roots. A dangerous figure stalks our couple's home, causing a suspenseful event...More
...So apparently, even though the first episode of "Something About 1% - 2016" was pretty close to an hour, subsequent episodes appear to be only thirty minutes. This requires a change of strategy when it comes to reviews, since a single episode lacks enough content for a full review. But it also requires more managed expectations. "Something About 1% - 2016" is aiming fairly low in the narrative storytelling department...More
Now that he's become King Jengjong, the royalist formerly known as Prince Yo immediately makes a point of taking out all potential threats to his rule. Which in all fairness sounds pretty reasonable. Consider that the last two kings fell victim to assassination attempts largely because they weren't paying careful attention to immediate domestic threats. Granted that threat was Prince Yo himself, but even so, he's clearly not a very popular guy right now...More
Episode 14 of "Incarnation of Jealousy" is jammed full of raw emotions. Na-ri rallies and proves what she is made of at work while with Hwa-sin she emotionally crumples. Hwa-sin is more certain than ever about what he wants, and it isn't what he thought it would be. Jeong-won is painfully caught in the middle, wanting something that his mother doesn't support and that he ultimately can't have: Na-ri...More
Jeong-seok has finally come to understand that he's a pretty big jerk. This is sort of acceptable. Jeong-seok then goes straight from that realization to stalking Ha-na. This is...not really acceptable. I'm just not a big fan of sexual harassment, is the thing here, and given how Ha-na does not have access to Jeong-seok's thought process, that's pretty much the only reasonable interpretation of his behavior...More
At least a year has passed since the previous episode of "Scarlet Heat: Ryeo", as it is now the second year in the reign of King Hyejong (played by Kim San-ho). I never felt much need to discuss King Hyejong back when he was just the crown prince, and unfortunately, his new regal title is of no help in making the character any more important. King Hyejong has a few scenes of pointless paranoia, makes a very bizarre demand of Prince So, then inevitably falls victim to the machinations of Prince Yo...More
...I was kind of expecting by this point in "Drinking Alone" that some effort would have been made to make Jeong-seok's character sympthetic. It wouldn't even have to be full on sympathy. I would be satisfied if he was at least making progress toward becoming a better person but if anything Jeong-seok's behavior has gotten worse. As the bathroom scene demonstrates, Jeong-seok is willing to make a greater effort to be a jerk than would be necessary to fulfill the standards of basic decency...More
Tim Burton's "Miss Peregrine" and "Breathe" trump "The City of Madness"...
It's been weeks since a foreign film topped the charts in Korea, but after entering the fray in second place last week, Tim Burton's dark fantasy drama, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" (starring Eva Green), managed to top the charts with 660,702 admissions (35.3%). Last weekend, Burton's latest, which is based on Ransom Riggs' 2011 novel of the same name, entered in second place with 23.5% of the sales from 810 screens, but an increase in screens to just under 900 helped propel the film to the top as its total tally in Korea moves to 1.9 million ($14.6 million)...More
Korean dramas often make me wonder if there is a ghost writer involved and I get this feeling a lot with "The K2". We are showered in heavy subjects, great drama and layered characters, but then it all disappears with one ridiculous element, such as magical smooches which take away the swelling of severe allergic reactions. The good news is, episode six of "The K2" delivers more of the former than the latter, making it almost an hour well spent...More
Korea Portal explores why Kim Jee-woon's latest film is a unique addition to his filmography, Slash Film flags two South Korean films from the recently concluded Fantastic Fest in Austin, Pierce Conran tracks the appearance of trains in modern Korean cinema, and catch all the winners from the 2016 edition of the DMZ Korean International Documentary Film Festival...More
My Korean Kitchen shows us how to prepare a popular sweet and sour side dish, Al Jazeera explores Korea's love of food in a short documentary, learn where and what to eat from one blogger's food adventures, and discover thirteen delicious vegan dishes...More
Lonely Planet looks at the best slopes to hit in Korea, read all about a nature-loving travel blogger's two week trip, see why the village that brought us bibimbap is one of the best travel destinations in Asia, and explore Korea's "hidden gem" that's tucked away in the mountains...More
The Korean Herald explores how a new law has drastically changed Korea's dining scene, K-cultural fans in New Zealand gear up for a month-long Korean festival, read why Indonesians are falling in love with all things Korean, and avoid any cultural shocks with Mindful Banter Travel...More
South Korea's largest art fair is coming soon to Seoul, enjoy a captured moment from the UN's multimedia archives from 1950, Street Art Utopia has an extensive collective of Korean street art to marvel at, and see some of the beautiful creations of a florist qua tattoo artist...More
So-hye has a form of brain cancer. Up until now I never really thought that the specific kind of cancer So-hye has was ever going to be all that important, since its usefulness as a plot device was in the generic way disease forced So-hye to reconsider her life. Well, here, So-hye ends up coming down with symptoms that I'm pretty sure are completely made up. So what we're left with is a woman in her thirties suddenly turning into a character from a very different kind of melodrama...More
"The K2" was off to quite a worrying start, but the drama has now settled in to its routine. Said routine includes some very nasty people and some generally nice people all mixed up in the former's power games. Yoo-jin gets a hefty dose of her reality when the time comes to claim her company's shares, our CCTV romance is taking its sweet time forming and the drama seems to have found a balance in its tone and flow...More
In rural North Korea Cheol-woo (played by Ryoo Seung-beom) is a fairly unremarkable fisherman who lives with his wife and daughter. Cheol-woo has to cross a checkpoint every day to go to work because he lives perilously close to the Demilitarized Zone. Far from having especially tight security, the North Korean border fence is actually fairly ramshackle, and because Cheol-woo knows the guards personally, they are hesitant to follow strict policy when an accident forces Cheol-woo's boat adrift. And there starts Cheol-woo's unfortunate journey to South Korea's modernland...More
Da-hye (played by Song Hye-kyo) lives happily with her boyfriend Sang-woo (played by Ki Tae-yeong). A freakish turn of events separates the couple. Da-hye deals with the trauma by trying to forgive the person responsible for what happened to Sang-woo, although this process turns out to be surprisingly unsatisfying and pointless. That much is a fairly accurate description of "A Reason to Live" as a whole. Some of its ideas are good, but almost nothing of consequence is done with them...More
Yoon Yeo-jeong, Lee Mi-sook, Ko Hyeon-jeong, Choi Ji-woo, Kim Min-hee, and Kim Ok-bin all play...themselves, in "Actresses", who are also all somewhat confusingly given credit as screenwriters. This is because director Lee Jae-yong intentionally produced "Actresses" without a script. Which makes sense. The whole raison d'être of the film is to answer a hypothetical "what-if" situation. Specifically, what if all these famous actresses had to get together for a photo shoot. What would they talk about?...More
A disproportionate amount of the action in "Fantastic" takes place in the hospital. Granted the entire premise is that So-hye has a (possibly not) terminal illness, but matters do take a turn for the slightly silly when both leading men also end up needing medical care for completely unrelated problems. Then they have silly hospital-related adventures together as they bond, and aw, who doesn't love some good male bonding on-screen?...More
"Woman with a Suitcase" is moving right along. Nothing loses steam as the episodes plow forward. Characters' backgrounds have bits and pieces revealed. Those same characters grow, however painfully. The case of the episode is interesting and full of fun twists and moral dilemmas that everyone tackles in different ways. What a refreshingly mature and fun drama this is.
Perhaps the only downside to the drama is Bok-geo's very dominant personality and his penchant for abusing his legal powers over Geum-joo...More
This week sadly brings us only one episode and one major cliffhanger, but things move forward in "Shopping King Louis". Our titular character has secret enemies and helpers, he makes progress as a person and our romance finally has proper sparks going. We also get to know more about Bok-sil's life and fears. The budding romance brings budding rivalry, as Joong-won and Louis/Ji-seong begin the battle for Bok-sil's affection...More
2016/10/06 | | Permalink
There's a very great look, near the beginning of this episode, on Do-woo's face. What's he looking at? The reaction on Soo-ah's face as she takes in another good look at scenery. Ever since Annied died this is something that has been missing from Do-woo's life- someone who likes looking at things simply for the sake of looking at things. As an architect Do-woo is a strong appreciator of aesthetic. So it's with a keen sense of irony that he comes to realize no one else in his life pays attention to that stuff...More
2016/10/06 | | Permalink
As truths come to light, those who learn them and share them are forced to reckon with them. Love and dating and how they interact with the career paths of our character are the focus this episode. Social hierarchies dictate the moves of some characters, and squish the dreams of others. All throughout, love weaves its tendrils and keeps a vice-like grip on her victims.
Jeong-won's mother, a powerful figure in broadcasting, has decided Jeong-won should not date Na-ri and only date the woman of her choosing...More
Jae-in (played by Ha Seok-jin) is a hotel manager who is very well-tuned to making sure he is running the best high-class hotel possible. Jae-in is less accomodating to his staff, or people in general really. Through complicated legal shenanigans Jae-in's eccentric grandfather Gyoo-cheol (played by Joo Jin-mo-I) tries to bully Jae-in into marrying ordinary schoolteacher Da-hyeon (played by Jeon So-min), for silly reasons...More
Once more we're left to stark contrasts about how Soo-ah and Hye-won react to grief. Well, really, we don't actually know if Hye-won is reacting to grief, something else, or just a combination of all these factors. What we do know is that Hye-won is legitimately acting really weird, and Do-woo is increasingly bothered by her attempts to straight-up expunge Annie's existence from all living memory. Observe how her attempt at seduction is just...very awkward...More
There is something that is so wonderfully introspective and real about "Woman with a Suitcase". It is rooted in the fact that Geum-joo is a delightful human being, a powerhouse paralegal, and confident, but also a little closed off to the opinions of others because she's lost sight of her sense of justice. It is Seok-woo who reminds her of the humanity inherent in the law and Bok-geo who gives her the means with which to practice it. These elements come together to form a great drama.
In this episode, Geum-joo is in fine form...More
A wide-angle camera shot better explains the cliffhanger for the last episode and...apparently Woo-hee was nowhere near King Taejo? What's more, the monarch had other more immediately pressing problems in the whole "staying alive" department, so that leaves Woo-hee's entire storyline as being completely pointless with no pay-off. Even so, other characters have to devote energy to saving Woo-hee, because Soo likes her, even though we don't actually know how or why Woo-hee and Soo are friends...More
"Cinderella and the Four Knights" was an adorable ride from beginning to end. Our Cinderella and her Kang cousins went through a lot, learned a lot, and grew a lot closer throughout the sixteen episodes. Ha-won got her prince, and the other prince's got their happy endings. The ride wasn't a smooth one, but it was very enjoyable.
This show's largest flaw was a lack of follow through...More
This far in I'm honestly a little surprised at how much I don't like most of the characters in "Drinking Alone". To write that I dislike them is probably a little harsh, but all the same, I can't come up with any good reason for Jeong-seok and Ha-na to be together. Shoot, I can't think of any good reason for Jeong-seok to be together with anyone. Does he seriously need to obsess about quality every waking moment? That was never a charming personality trait in the first place, and now it's just plain annoying...More
Last episode's actions were so intense that apparently the entire cast needed to take a yearlong break. It's times like this I wish "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" was more clear about how much time has progressed in general. Of course Prince So and Prince Wook are still pining for Soo, but all the same, when nearly every character action in "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is a careful calculation based on a long-term plan, how Soo fits into that is pretty essential information...More
Jin-i gets a good chance for positive characterization quite quickly, as she's the one who has to wrangle a distraught drunken Ha-na somewhere the younger woman can sober up. Incidentally, I'm surprised Jin-i hooked up with her boyfriend at a motel when she has such a nice apartment. I'm less surprised that Jin-i and Ha-na's silly plan leads to an equally silly and comedic situation but what can I say, I'm a sucker for decent slapstick...More
"Incarnation of Jealousy" is more than a love story; it's a story of friendship. Nothing made that clearer than this episode. Jeong-won and Hwa-sin are so endearing in their friendship that I wish we had more of them throughout the drama. The romance is compelling, but not in the way their friendship is.
Even when fighting pangs of sharp jealousy, the two gentlemen are more concerned about whether or not they're still friends than who won the fight...More
"Woman with a Suitcase" wastes no time in moving past introductions and getting to the heart of the show: the alliances and the battles that Geum-joo has to forge and wage along her long road up. Ma-seok gets more than a few minutes of screen time and we see Geum-joo's telltale smarts and tenacity carry her through her transition back into the real world.
After serving a year of jail time, Geum-joo comes back to divorce papers, no home, and no money...More
"The Age of Shadows" falls to "The City of Madness"...
Kim Seong-su's fourth film, "Asura: The City of Madness", arrived at the end of last month and has risen to the top of Korea's box office during the first weekend of October. The film, which stars Jeong Woo-seong, Hwang Jeong-min, Joo Ji-hoon and Kwak Do-won, captured 43.8% of the box office pie (1 million admissions from 1,278 screens) to claim the top spot from last weekend's winner, Korea's official Oscar submission, "The Age of Shadows"...More
Hwa-sin wants to act on his feelings, but his conscience and his friendship with Jeong-won prevents him. His desire to be honest with his friends causes plenty of problems. Mix that together with the two moms vying for Ppalgang's attention, awkward love trios sprinkled throughout, and broadcast station politics and we have one exciting episode...More
All conflicts come to a head in this penultimate episode of "Cinderella and the Four Knights". Hyun-min finally starts to push himself to be something besides passive; Ha-won is forced to reckon with her situation; the Kang cousins come together to save something important to them. Even Yoon-seong is not what he seems.
By this point, Ji-woon has changed the most due to Ha-won's presence...More
"Woman with a Suitcase" is the story of a woman who has it all: brains, beauty, knowledge, tenacity, and a keen intuition. All she's missing is the society's seal of approval the test results to catapult her into a position of respect. This first episode is her story and how she, her sister, and those around her deal in the very tricky business of the law and the people who seek to manipulate to their will.
Kwon Eum-mi (Gapdong) is no stranger to penning procedurals or mystery, and has set up quite the story...More
Je-ha's encounter with someone who has wronged him in the past motivates him into accepting the job as a JSS bodyguard. Our hero has to fight through the dislike and distrust of other members as he begins his work, which is none other than keeping an eye on Ahn-na. Meanwhile Yoo-jin and Gwan-soo have the most polite confrontation over their hostilities. We get new characters, shower fights and a lightness in tone as we move into the main story...More
With So-hye out of the hospital, "Fantastic" enters into a fairly predictable holding pattern. Obviously Hae-seong is quite pleased to have her around again, and this is a significant booster to his mood. But the sacrifice dynamic has been reversed in a possibly more risky direction. Even doing his own stunts Hae-seong isn't in that much physical danger. So-hye, however, knows full well that her health is at risk, and has to make a conscious effort to ignore that...More
The man we will now know as Je-ha is in quite a dire situation in episode three of "The K2" and he will need all the help he can get in a world of monsters. After rescuing Yoo-jin from a mysterious attack and clearly affecting her emotionally, he finds himself offered a job as her bodyguard. Meanwhile the vultures gather around the injured Yoo-jin, ready to gloat and capitalize on the event for their political gain...More
Gang-jae (played by Park Hyeok-kwon) is trapped in the closet. That's not a metaphor for his being gay, I mean he's literally trapped in the closet and it's quite some time before "A Break Alone" gets around to explaining the context for this initial dark, incomprehensible scene. That context though, soon proves to be generally depressing. Gang-jae is one of those married men who, for no particularly good reason, becomes obsessed with a nearby sexually attractive woman...More
Former cop Do-kyeong (played by Jeong Woo-seong) lays out the basic theme of "Asura: The City of Madness" pretty clearly in the opening narration panorama above his local wasteland. People are terrible. And we should hate them all. Every last one. Especially Sung-bae (played by Hwang Jeong-min), the crooked mayor who Do-kyeong works for on account of needing the money. All right, then, what about the anti-corruption unit, led by Cha-in (played by Kwak Do-won)? Never mind, he's just as savage as Sung-bae. Maybe action rookie Seon-mo (played by Joo Ji-hoon) can inspire some optimism? Ha ha, no...More
The most immediately striking feature of "Breathing Underwater" is how it's a nature documentary where the predators are humans. Observe the beautiful underwater sequences where black-garbed women divers in Jeju masterfully swim through vibrant underwater ecosystems, only to grab or stab prey animals and then come to the surface, putting the defeated creatures in bright floating containers. If you've ever wondered where South Korea's ridiculous variety in seafood comes from, well, the women divers have a lot to do with that...More
So first of all, if you're looking for a list of everywhere I've been to on this trip, just scroll down to the bottom and you can find links to all the Korea Diaries I've written this year. I'm going to remain in South Korea until mid-October, but for the moment we feel this is enough writing about the more obscure parts of the country...More
Pierce Conran goes through the impressive lineup for the 11th London Korean Film Festival, NPR looks at the fascinating history behind Korea's first cinema couple, KOBIZ reveals the country's favourite films over Chuseok in their latest infographic, and the Los Angeles Times reviews Korea's official Oscar submission: "The Age of Shadows"...More
Jamie Oliver kicks off his new "Superfood" series with some Korean spice on a volcanic island, The Korea Times explores the rise of craft beer and its effects on local tastes, see what snack was trending in Korea over Chuseok and how you can make it yourself with My Korean Kitchen, and hear how the chairwoman of the Korean Food Foundation wants to keep refining Korean cuisine with the times...More
Discover Korea during the winter months ahead of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, follow a biker crew as they ride from Busan to Seoul, read about Changdeokgung Palace and its "Secret Garden", and Pacific Holiday puts South Korea in the spotlight...More
Explore three of Seoul's most popular districts with Nom Adventure, Changdong is on its way to becoming the new K-pop "Mecca", Seoul Design Week gives us a taste of the near future, and get to know more about Korea's million-dollar gaming industry...More
Sun Mu turns North Korean propaganda on its head, enjoys some beautiful photographs of the deserted grounds from the Yeosu Expo, see one daring photographer's definition of a self-portrait, and The Culture Trip has ten contemporary Korean artists you really should get to know...More
It all starts out fun and games- the usual romantic hijinx as So-hye prepares to go into more serious treatment and Hae-seong simply reassures her. But the main plot quickly turns troublesome as Hae-seong is threatened by a scandal. To be honest it's kind of a silly scandal. The closest analog I can think of is what happened with Gary awhile back, and that was so obviously unverified Gary's agency didn't even respond to it until the guy in the video asked them to, because as a Gary fan he was deeply hurt by the idea that someone would use his tattoo to defame Gary...More
Like a puppy waiting for the mail person, I am always excited by the possibility that a drama will avoid repetitive plot devices and major drops in quality. Much like said puppies, I also sadly set my expectations too high for the eventual pay off. "Shopping King Louis" is still a delightful show, but we are now introduced to certain familiar and frustrating concepts. I am not panicking just yet, however, as I also see its good sides persevere...More
Looking back on this Korea Diaries project, what's always struck me as the most interesting landmarks are not the special tourist sites, but the very normal physical locations where people go in and out doing their daily business. Like this completely unremarkable narrow covered market. When I think about imminently coming back to the United States, it's weird to think that I'm not going to be able to see these anymore...More
2016/09/29 | | Permalink
While It's tempting to just write Hye-won off as being evil, I have trouble doing so because Hye-won's situation is very complex. And besides that, no one especially wants to confront a grieving mother, especially Do-woo, who is not Annie's biological father. But even if Hye-won's failings as a mother are defendable, her failures as a wife most certainly are not. Scene by scene, Do-woo continues to suffer and Hye-won simply obliviously refuses to so much as acknowledge him...More
2016/09/29 | | Permalink
"Shopping King Louis" falls back into old habits in episode three, as our poor duo settle into their new home and start making money. A new character enters Ji-seong's and Bok-sil's life, the lady of the house gets a big promotion and things move forward with our plot as Ji-seong slowly starts to remember fragments of his life. Meanwhile, Ma-ri questions her sighting of Ji-seong and so does her father, who is hiding a not-so-secret truth...More
Initially it was easy to peg Jin-seok as being exactly the kind of man who would have an extramarital affair. Yet I wasn't sure why. Jin-seok is a tad brusque, but aside from obviously high self-esteem there's nothing in his attitude that makes adultery seem all that inevitable. As we see this episode, that much really is enough. The very fact that Jin-seok seems so attractive, and obviously enjoys the presence of attractive women, is enough to draw attractive women to him...More
Truths and lies whittle away at the happiness of our main characters, but not as much as the failing health of CEO Gramps. His lack of consciousness is a trigger for many to try to usurp power including his new wife, those in his company, and potentially our Kang cousins.
First, the CEO's wife digs her claws into the company and into Yoon-seong in order to attain her goals: money and power...More
The adorable manifestations of a mutually shared love never last long and that between Ji-woon and Ha-won lasts the length of this episode before its conclusion promises big changes on all fronts.
Ha-won has quite conveniently forgotten her contract with CEO Gramps that contains the "no dating" clause, and now it comes back to get her...More
Jealousy blooms in full force and begins to inform bigger decisions for Hwa-sin than just his stalker-like tendencies. His emotions grow larger and more powerful than his ego and can no longer be ignored or excused away. As Hwa-sin gets a handle on his feelings, Jeong-won and Na-ri are growing closer through time spent together, earnest conversation, and rather adorable interactions...More
2016/09/27 | | Permalink
Prince So's solution to the assassination plot against his brother was, as we see recapped at the beginning of this episode, rather needlessly dangerous. It was only through sheer force of will that Prince So was able to prevent an immediate crisis from breaking out. The actions of the other actors in the carnival of Goryeo politics render that sacrifice meaningless anyway, even if for another day, Prince So is able to save his brother. But is this really a sustainable plan?...More
2016/09/27 | | Permalink
Jeong-seok's dinner of choice has been getting incrementally more social. The nuances are a bit hard to explain but that food he's eating at the beginning this episode is generally intended to be eaten by multiple people, and we can see this reflected in the environs of the restaurant, which is very crowded and loud. Headphones or not Jeong-seok is out of his milleu. This is all a very effective symbolic representation of his warming up to Ha-na...More
There's some good use of close-ups here as we can see Prince So's make-up is slowly wearing off. It's a good metaphor- Prince So is somewhat less vicious with Soo's influence, and it's unmistakable how the more we see of the scar, the more it seems like Prince So is turning back to rage and hatred. Even Prince So himself is surprisingly cognizant of just how scary he is, and how this can be off-putting to Soo...More
The main particularly interesting aspect to Jeong-seok's character is the complicated way he drinks alcohol by himself, but "Drinking Alone" keeps undermining this by making him act weirdly lovey-dovey. What's worse is that Myeong, in additiion to being really nice, apparently has some pretty amazing abs. Surprisingly enough that scene isn't just eye candy. It's also a lead-up to a fairly impressive joke...More
Korea's Oscar submission approaches 7 million admissions...
The last weekend of September was a relatively subdued affair, but the country's official Oscar submissions, Kim Jee-woon's "The Age of Shadows", was still able to secure pole position by capturing 38.6% of the box office pie. From the 1,105 screens allocated, "The Age of Shadows" recorded 459,046 admissions (38.6%) which moved its bottom line now to just under 7 million (6.8 million admissions/$51 million)...More
2016/09/25 | | Permalink
The action thankfully calms down in episode two of "The K2" and the necessary emotional stakes to give it meaning are added. The music is still an issue, but it sees some improvement as well. Either that or I am getting used to it, which is sad as much as it is convenient. The episode delivers a little exposition and characterization, which is also welcome. It is still not a show I would call good at the moment, but we are getting somewhere...More
A brief flashback fills us in on the question of how much Hae-seong knows, and also when he knew about it. It's noteworthy how just because Hae-seong is discretionary with the information he has doesn't necessarily mean that So-hye is happy with all the implications. While on the surface level it can seem rewarding to be dealing with a stand-up guy like Hae-seong, on the deeper level it can seem rather unfair if one and only one partner is making noble sacrifices...More
Kang-ho (played by Lee Jeong-jin) and Poong-ho (played by Lee Joo-seung) are brothers who have always fought. Not in the general normal way brothers fight, but in actual straight-up fistfights. Kang-ho has usefully parlayed this skill into becoming an action movie detective, which is like a regular detective except they get into a lot more massive Hong Kong style action sequences. Through the mysterious disappearance of an Indonesian immigrant, the brothers run across Jae-hee (played by Oh Ji-ho), a wealthy businessman who beats people into disability and/or death mostly just for the fun of it...More
Joo-ri (voiced by Kim Seo-yeong) is a young girl participating in a simple traditional children's play at Changdeok Palace. On the approach of adolescence, Joo-ri is of course mortified by the prospect of her parents coming to watch and embarrass her. Yet paradoxically, Joo-ri also dreams of dancing in the spotlight herself- this is the first of many wonderful animated fantasty sequences from director Kim Hyun-ju-I, and these only increase in prominence as a chance encounter thrusts Joo-ri into the spirit realm, with all the joys and danger that experience entails...More
One fairly disconcerting day, director Lee So-hyun learned that her grandmother had tried to commit suicide. If that opening line sounds morose and out of nowhere, well, just imagine how it felt to Lee So-hyun. Throughout "Dear Grandma", Lee So-hyun tries to capture her grandmother's unique and somewhat anachronistic personality which is constantly rather at odds with the documentary's premise. Far from seeming at all suicidal, the main character in "Dear Grandma" is oddly sarcastically acerbic...More
As this will be my last article this year about visiting South Korean film festivals firsthand, I'd like to take this opportunity to salute the volunteers. Any film festival you go to, odds are volunteers are doing most of the work, bless their souls, and they can always be easily identified by their matching t-shirts. The ones at Jecheon were especially exuberant. This is no small accomplishment, given the excruciating weather, even when it came to just having casual fun...More
See how South Korean horrors "reclaims the occult", Hangul Celluloid reviews Korea's highest-grossing film of the year, Korea gets its first mountain-themed film festival, and explore the history of Korean animation at the Animation Museum in Chuncheon...More
Beyond Kimchee has 6 beef stir-fry recipes to tuck into, Buzzfeed highlights 15 awesome street-side dishes to sample on Korea's streets, NPR explores why Gangnam's Shake Shack is still so popular, and enjoy one blogger's short and sweet review of Wiki Cafe in Seoul...More
The biggest K-pop festival is coming soon to Busan, 10 Magazine hits seven museums in one day with their trusty Discovery Seoul Pass, read one travel bloggers experience of Seoul's eastern mountains in fall, and enjoy the beauty of Korea's landscapes and countryside by taking the train...More
Learn more about Korea's drinking culture with 10 Magazine, the BBC examines K-pop's influence on the world's stage, Variety shows us how China-Korea relations are strengthening, and find out what a North Korean thinks about all the information that finds its way to citizens over the DMZ...More
CNN reveals 15 stunning "architectural wonders" around Seoul, Artsy reports on the "Five Buddhas" paintings that were removed from Korea over 40 years ago, discover the abstract works of Choi Wook-kyung, and catch the "Old & New" exhibition at the Ginseng Art Museum...More
"The K2" has promised heavy action and episode one delivers on that promise. The series starts off with a bang, continues with a bang and ends with one, which unfortunately creates a very underwhelming premiere episode. At the same time, we have some basic character introductions and some interesting people involved in what looks like a messy, sad, dark fate between them. This is not exactly fun for the whole family, but it may turn out well...More
Mi-seon (played by Kim Jae-hwa) is the third best friend of So-hye and Seol- the one who everyone has to call when they're in trouble. Mi-seon never really has any plotlines of her own, she's just a useful shoulder to cry on. Consequently, her character offers some much needed perspective when it comes to difficult questions like, am I happy, and should I do such-and-such risky behavior considering the possible trade-offs?...More
This episode was Hwa-sin's and the struggles he faces between his unwanted feelings for Na-ri, and the implications of having breast cancer. Surrounding his plight is Ppalgang's sad situation and all the people rotating around her like planets around a sun.
What I love most about this show is how deeply it is layered...More
Last week's episode left us with a very emotionally confused Hwa-sin, but he finds himself trapped even deeper into an emotional mire he doesn't know how to extricate himself from. Around him Jeong-won and Na-ri deal with the problems that come their way while he watches with pain in his eyes. The decisions he makes are indicative of how much he's grown over the past five weeks; and also of how much his jealousy has grown.
We know that Hwa-sin has it hard...More
Outside of the giant flashy ampitheater venues, most of the musical action at the Jecheon International Music and Film Festival took place at this simple outdoor sidewalk area near the local Megabox. People filtered in and out of this area mostly at random, in between film screenings and the like. Jecheon is murderously hot at this time of year, to the point I'm surprised anyone willingly performed at all...More
Our "Shopping King Louis" falls from throne and grace as we fast forward through an apparent car accident to a now homeless and amnesiac Louis/Ji-seong. Episode two does not advance the plot much, but we get valuable interaction between our two main characters and we learn a little more about our second leads. What we learn sadly raises some concerns for me, but it is not enough to sully a lovely drama for now...More
Hye-won (played by Jang Hee-jin) is Do-woo's wife and Annie's mother. In the aftermath of what happened to Annie, Hye-won's behavior is...odd. She doesn't really act like a grieving mother. Everyone grieves in a different way, and this is why Do-woo doesn't push hard on this point, but the scenes we see which Do-woo does not clearly imply that Hye-won's actions are suspicious. Soo-ah's husband Jin-seok (played by Sin Seong-rok) similarly does not see eye-to-eye with his loved one on what to do, although their situation is admittedly far less extreme...More
"Shopping King Louis" has a premise one does not expect much from. Rich man meets poor woman and understands love. It is the standard Korean romantic drama tale. Much to my surprise, the series makes a start much more contemplative and impactful than its stock premise does it justice for. Underneath all the familiar elements lies what I hope will be a story about appreciating value and finding meaning in the right places...More
There was a lot of progress in episode 12 and we have Ha-won and Ji-woon to thank, but especially Ha-won. The traits that the CEO hired her for came through for her again: her faith and tenacity. Her influence causes a waterfall effect in the behavior of the Kang cousins, making them problem solve and take charge of their own lives.
As Ha-won deals with her own problems, although she wants someone to lean on, she proceeds to take care of things on her own...More
2016/09/21 | | Permalink
Soo-ah (played by Kim Ha-neul) is a flight attendant. This is not a profession well-suited for family life, but through technology, Soo-ah tries to maintain a close relationship to her daughter Hyo-eun (played by Kim Hwan-hee), who goes to an international school in Malaysia. There, Hyo-eun shares a room with her best friend Annie (played by Park Seo-yeon), who in turn stays in touch with her architect father Do-woo (played by Lee Sang-yoon) through the use of technology...More
2016/09/21 | | Permalink
As anticipated, Hye-ji moving into Sky House causes problems, especially because her passive aggressive behavior towards Ha-won is rather viperous. The Kang cousins have trouble adjusting to her presence and the awkwardness makes Ha-won not only feel self-conscious, but lonely for the first time since she entered Sky House. That loneliness is such an interesting twist in her story...More
2016/09/20 | | Permalink
As usual Prince So doesn't have that much screentime. But continuing the trend from last episode, "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" very effectively manages to drive up the tension by making nearly everything the other characters do be a reaction to Prince So. While poor Prince So himself is fairly oblivious to most of what's going on, it's very easy to see what brings on his bad moods. Even when Prince So does good, people are too terrified over his very existence to act all that grateful...More
2016/09/20 | | Permalink
Jeong-seok continues to leave me less-as-impressed as a character. It's not that he's a bad guy, or especially unlikable. The problem is he almost never actually does anything. Jeong-seok is, by his own life's plan, excessively passive, and he's also so successful that Ha-na can't even really approach him. This makes for a terribly unsatisfying romance, especially when more immediately pressing crises come up like Ha-na's inevitable embarrassing collapse on camera...More
The soundtrack in "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is really anachronistic, to the point it even manages to overshadow Soo. I'm not saying everything has to be traditional Korean musical instruments all the time. It's just a little off-putting when we're watching a traditional Goryeo ritual with everyone acting like standard characters in a classical costume drama, but then a modern pop song shows up and all of a sudden the immersion is ruined...More
A harder turn toward serious romance this episode sours me somewhat on "Drinking Alone". It's mainly an issue of Jeong-seok being too ridiculously passive to be plausible as a romantic lead. What's more, Ha-na is such a cipher I'm actually hard-pressed to see why Jeong-seok should like her romantically at all. Now, Myeong, he has a very good reason to like Ha-na. She's his teacher. What more reason does he need?...More
Feelings are starting to escalate to a point of high tension because there is still a lot of denial even more deception running amuck. Tricksters lurk around those with money, and those with money are dealing with problems of their own. Luckily for us, our heroine is forthcoming with most things besides the emotions she doesn't quite understand.
Ha-won chases after Ji-woon in the best way she knows how: with a mixture of third grade antics and brutal honesty...More
"The Age of Shadows" looms large in the wake of the Chuseok festivities...
Kim Jee-woon's historical action flick, "The Age of Shadows", Korea's official submission to the Oscars, retained pole position over the weekend and moved its total tally passed the 6 million admissions mark. South Korea recently celebrated one of its biggest national holidays, the harvest festival Chuseok, and over 2 million filmgoers (38.6%) came out to see Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo, and Han Ji-min feature in Kim's latest outing. Last weekend, "The Age of Shadows" captured 41% of the box office pie, and with the weekend's admissions added, the film's new bottom line pushes it to number seven in the list of the country's highest-grossing films...More
2016/09/18 | | Permalink
Terminal illness is a common and very old theme in Korean drama, but like everything else rich with melodramatic potential, it has often been subjected to shallow and cheap treatment. Love for tears and tension over love for meaning is less common these days, however and so we see productions which make the effort to treat serious topics with more respect. It is too early for me to say "Fantastic" is such a production, but it is on the right path...More
The top two most popular independent Korean films of all time are documentaries. "Old Partner", a 2008 film which dealt with an old rural man and his working cow, nearly hit three million admissions. "My Love, Don't Cross That River", a 2014 film about an elderly couple who have been together for several decades, nearly hit five million admissions. But it's worth noting that documentaries about old rural people do not necessarily always make bank, regardless of how good they are. Consider "With or Without You", about an elderly woman living with a retarded woman who she bought several decades ago for her husband to impregnate with a son after their own sons unexpectedly and tragically died. That one only got close to thirty thousand...More
While Jong-gi clearly skirts the line of medical ethics, all of his actions are very clearly in line with trying to calm So-hye down and see herself as a person whose life has value. It's very noteworthy how Jong-gi has gotten So-hye to go from mental breakdown in earlier episodes to participating in a support group this episode. The support group scene is wonderful, by the way, precisely because it really gets at how the mental toll of illness is just as bad as the physical, and how it really helps just to get positive encouragement from peers...More
Love is in the air and with that love comes jealousy and complicated love lines. In a story as cute as this one those love lines aren't heinously annoying - just a tad annoying. The pairings of the Kang cousins and Ha-won are charming, and I like how Yoon-seong is slowly being integrated into the texture.
Ha-won hurts herself this episode, which inspires a lot of reverse harem servitude and stirs up a lot of feelings...More
It is time for romance, political intrigue and action in tvN's "The K2", a drama which has a promising premise, even if not yet a clear story. The series has been releasing action and drama packed teasers. The cast looks good and everything else does as well, but I will be brutally honest in saying that writer Jang Hyeok-rin of "Yong Pal" has a lot to prove with this.
Kim Je-ha (Ji Chang-wook) is a bodyguard who is hired by Choi Yoo-jin (Song Yoon-ah), the ambitious wife of presidential candidate Jang Se-joon (Jo Seong-ha) for protection. Ko Ahn-na (Yoona) is Se-joon's illegitimate daughter and she lives her life as a shut in...More
If you missed cute romances with a good dose of amnesia and slapstick comedy in the form of physical engagement, "Shopping King Louis" is here for all your nostalgia needs. The drama could not look more cookie-cutter romance, but few will hold this against a yummy cookie, which is what the drama is being presented as. This comes with its own set of dangers, of course, but one can always hope.
Louis (Seo In-guk) is a man who believes he can have anything with money. Go Bok-sil (Nam Ji-hyeon) is a kindhearted woman who meets Louis after he ends up in a situation leading to loss of his memory and homelessness. The two find themselves living together...More
Shaoxing (played by Yang Mi) is studying to be a police officer. A disastrous accident involving family disables Shaoxing to an extent that people constantly underestimate her. But ultimately Shaoxing really just underestimates herself. A chance encounter with evil, however, makes Shaoxing into "The Witness" with all the information necessary to bring down a notorious criminal. Assuming she can survive that long anyway...More
The homeless and generally dispossessed population in South Korea doesn't get all that much attention. In all fairness they don't really get that much attention anywhere, since acknowledging the existence of a homeless population is detrimental to any country's self-image. Moreover, what spotlight there is rarely ever falls on the dispossessed people themselves, but rather the organizations which try to help them, and what they want potential donors to see...More
Jjang-goo (played by Jeong Woo) is a normal high school student who wants to be something special, like a high school delinquent. The circumstances are perfect- this being the nineties, there's still a very corporal bent to the South Korean educational system, and Jjang-goo's school already has a local gang. The problem is, this gang doesn't actually do anything except generic masculine posturing. And Jjang-goo is such an unremarkable student he can barely even do that right...More
Episode 7 of "Incarnation of Jealousy" is about doing wrong and the consequences of doing so. Will our characters right their wrongs? Pout about the outcomes? Ignore the advice of those closest to them? Ignore their own feelings? In this episode, it's a little bit of everything.
Let's start with an unusual character, Ppalgang. She is an important character in that she is the center around which many people rotate...More
Old film posters make fairly frequent appearances at South Korean movie theaters, especially the independent ones. Granted, the Megabox in Jecheon is not strictly speaking an independent movie theater, but it used to be, and why bother taking down such neat decorations located so inconveniently close to the ceiling? These are all American movie posters, of course, but it's striking how much they resemble their South Korean counterparts, right down to the Chinese characters...More
CNN lists seven spectacular K-horrors, Pierce Conran explores how foreign filmmakers and companies are shaping Korean content, KOBIZ interviews Moon Yong-chan about his location scouting skills for Park Dae-min's "Seondal: The Man Who Sells the River", and The Washington Post speaks to a North Korean defector about his cartoons and comedy moving forward...More
The 'horror' of dining alone in Korea is being exorcised, My Korean Kitchens wows us with a bulgogi-based dish, My Korean Husband explores convenience store lunch boxes, and is the "Gyeondyo bar" Korea's secret weapon against hangovers?...More
K-culture exports are keeping the Korea Tourism Organisation on its toes, get the most out of your trip to the beautiful Jeju Island, explore Changdeokgung's Secret Garden, and the Hoengseong Hanu Festival takes full advantage of one Korea's most beloved seasons...More
Big Date reveals how K-culture has spread from Asia to North America, All K-pop puts Korea's gay community in the spotlight, hear what it's like being a teenager in North Korea, and cultural leaders gather to discuss the spread of culture across national boundaries...More
'Concept Korea' brings the Wave to New York Fashion Week, catch a peek of daily life in North Korea, Observer Culture gets political at the 11th Annual Gwangju Biennale, and see why North Korean defectors were asked to draw a picture of their homes for Ik-Joong Kang's "Floating Dream" project...More
2016/09/16 | | Permalink
Joon-gi (played by Kim Tae-hoon) is So-hye's doctor. Given that So-hye is dying, that's a very awkward position to be in. While Joon-gi obviously wants So-hye to get better, So-hye's problems are just as much mental as they are physical at this point. In So-hye's general desperation to find some last minute meaning in life, she has been willing to latch onto any kind of validation possible- even if it means an obviously unethical relationship with her own physician...More
It is an episode of goodbyes as one life comes to an end and others continue on after having loved and learned. The end of this story is the start of others, but the end doesn't mean that its true meaning does not persist. That is what Joon-young means to those he loves and to those who love him. His life was short, but his memory lasts in the hearts of those who cherished him. In that way, the ending of "Uncontrollably Fond" was beautiful. In others, it was rather puzzling...More
Each episode of "Incarnation of Jealousy" has a gimmick and something to give it weight. This episode's weighted subject matter sends the genre into black comedy and gives Hwa-sin a great amount of screen time to work out his personal issues.
Whereas last episode made use of fart jokes as a vehicle to talk about the hefty effect of cancer on one's life, to provide a lot of humor, and to have Na-ri bond with Jeong-woo, this episode's funny schtick centered around brassieres...More
The relationship between Hwa-sin and Na-ri is just so utterly delightful that it carries the entire show on its back. They are both quirky adults stumbling through life and battling the obstacles as best they can. On their journey they are joined by a great host of characters who fill out the story very nicely, especially on the comedy side. The hilarity keeps taking me by surprise, and I absolutely love it...More
2016/09/14 | | Permalink
It's uncanny how "W" closes out with an exploration of loss and withdrawl that has less to do with what's happening in the actual story and more to do with how we, as viewers, come to terms with the reality of the story finally ending. Make no mistake- Yeon-joo is almost entirely a passive observer here. And whether or not Yeon-joo gets a happy ending, she is leaving us in much the same way that Cheol is leaving her. The epilogue can't really change that...More
Soo begins her adjustment to palace life under the harsh eye of Lady Oh (played by Woo Hee-jin). It's hard to feel sorry for Soo because while aspects of her new life are obviously unpleasant, they're also fairly unremarkable considering this is Goryeo. You know, none of the other maids get to have pick me ups in the form of handsome princes chasing them around every few scenes. Although I'll admit getting mad at Soo for giving immediate medical attention to the man angrily demanding immediate medical attention was kind of silly...More
Episode 19 is when we begin to say goodbye to Joon-young. His loved ones are coming to terms with his very near mortality and the results of his campaign to clear Eul's name. The results are an acute attack of moral conscience for many of the characters and a tearful denouement.
Joon-young has completed his revenge on Eul's part and starts to sit back to live out his remaining days...More
The main problem with Jeong-seok repeating his proper drinking rules all the time is that it becomes easier to see the flaws in his thinking. Jeong-seok's happiness appears to be entirely dependent on other people not showing up and annoying him. So he has to live like a hermit, except that Jeong-seok's job literally just involves talking to people and his hobby necessitates going out to public places. And even at home Myeong is hanging around being an annoying little brother...More
Ha-na (played by Park Ha-seon) is the obvious foil to Jeong-seok. Whereas Jeong-seok is an antisocial jerk who is nonetheless high on the respect chain in the teaching profession, Ha-na is the exact opposite. She lacks much in the way of authority or reputation, and is in point of fact not much older than the students she's supposed to be instructing. If Jeong-seok is a reminder of how our betters can be rude and snooty, Ha-na shows us that simply having a title does not necessarily make a person competent...More
I'm having trouble grasping how much time has progressed in "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo". Last episode had all this beautiful winter scenery and yet this episode there's...none? Does that mean that Soo has been in Goryeo for several months? Because it sure doesn't feel like it's been that long. Mainly this is a consequence of the story having slowed to a crawl, as politics take a backseat to everything revolving around Soo for no good reason...More
Korea's official Oscar submission wows local audiences...
After a month-long run as Korea's number one, Kim Seong-hoon's action thriller "Tunnel" (Ha Jeong-woo, Bae Doona, Oh Dal-soo) was finally dethroned over the weekend following the release of a string of new films. The most successful of which came in the form of Kim Jee-woon's latest, "The Age of Shadows": Korea's official submissions to next year's Oscars...More
I promised to discuss crowdfunding this week, I know, but Willa Schitz had a really good question in the comments section last week that I felt warranted a full explanation. Here's her post, the first part being a quote from last week's article-...More
The production team continues with the very wise decision to be more about drama than forced comedy. We see this episode even more clearly that Hae-seong, as utterly obnoxious as he can be given the opportunity, is really just looking for the chance to be a good guy. It's uncanny how well Hae-seong is able to compose himself during action scenes. While ostensibly acting is the actual important part of his job, note how Hae-seong does not appear to be using a stunt double. That's dedication which can't easily be faked...More
Drama remakes of North American shows seem to be on the rise lately and there are as many expectations as there are worries. Summarizing multi-season shows into less than twenty episodes is not an easy task and there are many differences to consider. As someone who has not seen the original series, I look at "The Good Wife" as an independent work with its own strengths and flaws...More
"Wanted" is a show which made big promises about its realism before release. This is a powerful statement for fiction and an industry so liberal with its bending of reality. The idea of combining a suspense thriller about a kidnapping with a twisted reality show is a solid one and the series does surprisingly well in some aspects. It is also held back by safe choices in others...More
The time is 1923. Jeong-chool (played by Song Kang-ho) is a Korean man turned Japanese crimefighter. Unlucky for him, the main criminals the Japanese are chasing happen to be nationalist Korean terrorists, led by Woo-jin (played by Gong Yoo). Oddly enough Gye-soon (played by Han Ji-min) is the more identifiable leader, less because she's important and more because as the token woman Gye-soon stands out more obviously. Ditto the foreign guy, who has few lines and even less apparent motivation but who's noticeable because everyone has to talk to him in English...More
The time is the nineteenth century. Jeong-ho (played by Cha Seung-won) is obsessed with the abstract concept of maps. This is a very necessary personality attribute considering the time in which he lived. Back before satellites the only way to make a halfway decent map was by traveling in person to whatever physical location you want to make a map of and taking detailed notes. Even in a small country like Korea, this is a very time-consuming task. Lucky thing there's so much beautiful scenery to keep the task engaging...More
Tenzing Rigdol is a Tibetan artist who lives in New York. Way back in 2011, following the death of his father, Tenzing Rigdol decided to construct an art installation made of Tibetan soil in India. The task proved to be more difficult than expected. Smuggling a few water bottles of Tibetan soil across the border, that's one thing, but Tenzing Rigdol needed much, much more than that...More
Jeongdongjin is the terminus of a rural railroad line that stretches to, among other places, Jecheon in the north-center part of the country, which as it happens was the next film festival I needed to go to. Sadly, there aren't a lot of places along the way. Or so I thought. From the very beginning Yeongwol was a very distinctive location. Observe the giant spooky bridge at three in the morning. Not that it's much more crowded during the daytime...More
"Train to Busan" is a harsh critique of modern Korean society, Kim Jee-woon's new film "The Age of Shadows" is Korea's official Oscar submission, watch a 2D animation by Yoodowon on the power and purpose of blinds, and KOBIZ's latest infographic features some of the country's most famous films about ghosts...More
Going Somewhere Slowly gives us the low-down on Korean street food, read about one blogger's experience of finding food in Seoul, the BBC explores why Spam is so popular, and get to know more about Seoul and its culinary delights with a great guide from Migrationology...More
Lonely Planet gives 10 reasons why Jeonju should be your next travel destination, hear more about one teacher's experience of finding a job in South Korea, Living Nomads highlights some of the country's biggest shopping attractions, and would you stay a night or two in a luxury liner that didn't go anywhere?...More
Vlogging couple My Korean Husband share their thoughts on life in Seoul as an interracial couple, see what happen in Suwon when the major banned cars for a month, discover how South Koreans handle their hangovers, and how are foreigners influencing Korean culture from the inside?...More
Enjoy some beautiful landscape paintings from Yeong-A Yeo, Korea's biggest media art show is now on, pop art and political satire collide on the streets of Busan, and see how architects are redesigning rural homes through "idea-driven" design practices...More
There's some badly needed sympathetic characterization for So-hye and Hae-seong this episode as they respond to the aftermath of the big kiss at the last cliffhanger. In contrast to the normal romantic comedy implications of that trope, "Fantastic" instead gets into the issues of self-worth that provoked So-hye and Hae-seong into acting that way. So-hye has, of course, been in a generally rotten mood since getting her bad medical prognosis. Hae-seong, however, has really bad insecurities when it comes to his lack of acting talent...More
Well, I just have to say it. This show is ridiculously cute. Jeong Il-woo brought out the aegyo and Ha-won manages to soften up the Kang family and friends even more with her honesty and sincerity. Again, the episode really focuses on Hyun-min and his introspection, but it also focuses on relationship development and tossing in a few more obstacles for our heroes to surmount.
The utterly horrible step-mother and step-sister are still scheming to hurt Ha-won as much as possible and plan to foist Ha-won off on a man who may or may not be her biological father...More
"Cinderella and the Four Knights" has a surprising amount of depth for its premise, reverse harem co-habitation set-up, and episodic focus on missions to solve. What follows through and really touches people is the way the boys deal with their issues. Ha-won helps the boys while also receiving something she's been lacking for many years: acceptance and love...More
2016/09/08 | | Permalink
Even though there's not all that much physical violence this episode the morbidity is pretty strong. As the main characters find themselves with increasingly little ability to change the webtoon world they become more and more resigned to fate. Well, Cheol and Seong-moo do anyway. Yeon-joo, having largely managed to recover from her near fatal bullet wound, is determined to keep trying to make an effort to shoot for a happy ending...More
2016/09/07 | | Permalink
At this point "W" is in a stage of kind of being an epilogue but not quite. Yeon-joo is in the hospital, and everyone is of course worrying about how that's going to work out. However, another more nagging question yet remains. I'm not referring to the worldbuilding aspect of "W", but rather how all these silly webtoon antics have consistently resulted in people actually getting killed. Watching characters seriously react to the prospect of a loved one dying puts all of this in sharp perspective...More
Receiving the YesStyle Korean Beauty Box was such an exciting opportunity given to HanCinema. It had ten hot beauty projects for us to review and we tried them all! There were a few particular favorites amongst all the goodies. HanCinema made a video review and below you can read more on this TL;DR! Prices shown reflect yesstyle.com pricing! Good to note: YesStyle ships almost everywhere and within 24-hours. Top-quality, fast beauty. Aw, yeah!...More
Now that the basic shock of the premise has worn off "Drinking Alone" isn't quite as interesting as it was initially, although there are still plenty of moderately engaging bits. The production team appears to be sticking with the format of framing each episode around Jeong-seok pointedly enjoying his quiet peaceful meals. This is more a point of comparison than it is a matter of plot, because the absurdly stressful situations that pop up at work really are best dealt with via silent time alone...More
Lady Hae (played by Park Si-eun) is Prince Wook's wife. She doesn't really do anything, I just thought it was worth acknowledging her existence since it puts Prince Wook in a fairly unusual situation as second lead. Normally we feel sorry for him getting the short end of the stick in a love triangle, since he's always such a nice guy, but hey! When Soo inevitably breaks Prince Woo's heart, he still has his wife, and she's really nice too...More
"Uncontrollably Fond" has pulled out all the stops. Rich people who care nothing for others. Trucks that come out of nowhere to obliterate people. Sad breakups. Tearful confessions. Late stage cancer. You name it; it's on this table. It's an excitedly lead into this last week, but I wish there had be more of the little things. More character development. More subtle play on emotion. Less dramatic camera panning. Fewer wildly used melodramatic elements...More
What is beautiful about "Incarnation of Jealousy" is how it explores very real issues and still manages to be engaging, funny, and heartwarming. Even though I dislike Hwa-sin's behavior, I empathize with his plight. Even though I think Na-ri does wrong, I still root for her. It is the flaws of the characters, in their histories, and in their present decisions that make the characters and the stories relatable...More
Jeong-seok (played by Ha Seok-jin) is an educational lecturer of wide repute. He despises people. And bizarre though this may seem, "Drinking Alone" does not seem terribly interested in disagreeing with him. When Jeong-seok describes how wonderfully ideal it is to spend an evening drinking by oneself, there's a real Yoon Doo-joon quality to how absolutely devoted Jeong-seok is to this idea of good food and liquor. It's just that, in stark contrast to Dae-yeong of "Let's Eat", Jeong-seok does not believe this is a sentiment that can or should be shared...More
Empress Yoon (played by Park Ji-yeong) is the closest thing Prince So has to a parental figure. Unlucky for him, she's a huge jerk. After his murderous rampage last episode I never thought I'd feel sorry for Prince So but, well, this episode does a surprisingly good job humanizing the guy. We can see that his generally vile behavior is, twisted though it may seem, really just a desperate if inevitably doomed to fail effort on his part to gain some level of normal emotional satisfaction...More
"Tunnel" eyes 7 million admissions...
"Tunnel", Kim Seong-hoon's adaptation of So Jae-won's novel, is still leading the pack and remains unmoved as Korea's film of choice. Released early in the second week of August, Kim's third film (after "A Hard Day" and "How the Lack of Love Affects Two Men") has managed to fend off its cinematic rivals to claim its fourth straight week at the top of the charts. 344,729 admissions were added to the "Tunnel"'s total tally during the first week of September which brings the film's bottom line now to 6.9 million admissions, making it the fourth highest-grossing film released in Korea this year...More
Seol (played by Park Si-yeon) is So-hye's old friend, and a bit of a wreck. Literally, even, considering the last episode's cliffhanger, and the woman's precarious life situation isn't much better. We very quickly go from Seol giving standard reassurances to So-hye to seeing her get in a huge fight with her current partner to even bigger existential crises as violence and base hostility quickly become the order of the day...More
Last week I discussed the South Korean film industry in broad perspective. As is often the case with markets, it's oeasy to lose track of the human element. Historically domestic Korean films have struggled at the box office and needed government quotes to stay even. Yet today they're pretty much at parity with foreign releases with relatively little government support. They're doing especially splendidly this year. As of this writing two of the top three spots and seven of the top ten are all Korean films. This change has obviously been affected by Korean audiences being more interested in Korean movies as of late. But why?...More
Joong-pil (played by Sin Ha-gyoon), Soo-tak (played by Park Hee-soon), and Eun-dong (played by Oh Man-seok) are three close college friends who unexpectedly reunite quite later in life upon some unexpected news. Their life positions are in varying states of malaise. Eun-dong has a semi-famous job but he's kind of bored. Joong-pil has a decent job but he's fixated on a long finished romance. Soo-tak has no job at all and is contemplating suicide. The solution to all of these problems is, of course, a trip to Jeju Island...More
Mi-kyeong (played by Park Ji-yeong) is a meddling mother. She's able to mind her own business now that her son Ik-soo (played by Kim Dae-hyeon-I) is safely away in Seoul studying for exams, but a strange incident at Mi-kyeong's own residence soon sends Mi-kyeong packing off to find out what Ik-soo is up to. No matter how much Ik-soo resists her presence, Mi-kyeong is unwilling to leave until she finds someone who can be brought up on criminal charges for something. She is "The Queen of Crime" after all...More
Not to be confused with "Shadow Island", "The Island of Shadows" does offer a similar perspective about a seemingly random, obscure part of the South Korean landscape- it too, a portrait of the Yeongdo district in Busan. But where "Shadow Island" was a fictional depiction of the malaise of an urban wasteland, "The Island of Shadows" is a documentary that deals with hope in the midst of darkness- it's the story of the Hanjin shipyard worker's union...More
I came to Jeongdongjin, a region in the southeasternmost part of Gangneung's city limits, for the Jeongdongjin Independent Film Festival (JIFF). About the last thing I was expecting to see was Kawsay, the native Ecuadoran band featured in "El Condor Pasa - 2014", hanging around outside the local train station doing street performances and selling their various wares. It was a pretty dumbfounding moment, realizing that they do in fact wander the Korean countryside at random. Well, seemingly at random. They have a Korean manager and I presume they do at least get invitations rather than just showing up unannounced...More
South Korea's advanced cinematic technologies reach Wales, Short List explores North Korea's fascination with moving images, Taste of Cinema has 20 South Korean thrillers you won't to miss, and visit Darcy Paquet's website on Korean films for the best reviews and insight around...More
My Korean Kitchens shows us how to make sticky honey soy chicken drumsticks, The Daily Meal lists some of the essential ingredients used in Korean cooking, discover how kimchi can help chefs innovate, and learn more about the food culture on the other side of the DMZ from a man who spent 14 years eating there...More
Discover seven more reasons why South Korea should be on your travel itinerary, The Korea Herald shares some exciting events happening around the country later this year, beat the Korean heat by visiting an "Ice Museum", and Christine Lyer visits three Korea cities and shares her magical experiences...More
South Korea's drinking cultural favoring quality over quantity, a North Korean defector shares his story in the fight for hearts and minds, the South Korean government encourages its citizens to make more babies, and what will Asia's "cultural Olympics" really look like?...More
Kim Ran talks about how art and diplomacy can come together, get a sobering glimpse into life as a young artist in Korea, artists in Seoul hope to save a high-rise complex from development, and celebrate the works of Yoo Youngkuk at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art...More
2016/09/02 | | Permalink
So-hye (played by Kim Hyeon-joo) is a drama writer. Her sense of confidence and competence is well-displayed metaphorically in the opening action scene of "Fantastic". To succeed in the cutthroat world of drama production, So-hye has had to be the best of the best. But no matter how good she is, every so often So-hye has to rely on the help of such disreputable persons as Hae-song (played by Joo Sang-wook). A handsome and arrogant actor, to date the only notion we have that Hae-song may be a good person is the man's genuine love toward his grandmother...More
Cheol's two reactions to the discovery that his world is a webtoon are completely opposite of one another. This is entirely a matter of context. The first Cheol discovered the existence of the "Real" world through standard deductions as a part of his normal everyday work, and the revelation destroyed him. This Cheol hit absolute rock bottom, to the point of contemplating suicide- so the existence of a "Real" world to him was a form of salvation...More
Joon-yeong's memory starts falter due to his cancer and he seems to realize his mortality and becomes even bolder in his plans to set everything in Eul's life right. In fact, he becomes downright reckless, revealing dangerous truths, challenging those with terrifying amounts of power. The path he has chosen causes pain to others and himself, and I can't say watching him self-destruct is pleasant in any way, shape, or form...More
"Incarnation of Jealousy" has taken on the idea of identity and how that is shaped whether it be by gender, career, or social status. Both Na-ri and Hwa-sin suffer identity crises on a strangely parallel journey as they try to redefine themselves after a period of hardship.
Hwa-sin's dilemma mirrors one that many women with cancer of the breast and reproductive organs suffer...More
For once, an episode of "W" ends without a shocking revelation prompting an intense cliffhanger. To date director Jeong Dae-yoon has done a very good job keeping the excitement quotient so high that the general craziness of the overall proceedings has never been in question. But this time, with Cheol focused as he is on life in the "Real" world, rather than his revenge fantasy, well, the more magical aspects of the story are more difficult to ignore...More
Now that it has been established that Ha-won is an important person in the Kang family we get to see how the boys go out of their way to protect her when school-aged kids turn mean, and when jealousy incites terrible behavior. As of yet, the Kang cousins haven't yet gone head to head romantically, but a declaration from one of them makes such an occurrence a bit difficult. The perfect stuffs of K-drama.
The step-family has stepped in to meddle with Ha-won's life...More
Love is in the air and it is Ha-won's earnest desire for the Kang cousins to live well that really touches them and makes their hearts flutter. Not only is she working for their benefit, but she also draws very clear lines with them, speaking her mind and keeping it real. This is a quality not found in the cousins' parents, grandfather, or any other people in their lives - its a winning quality that keeps their attention and makes it difficult to follow the "no dating" rule...More
The true ending to the huge fight is a slight improvement to what closed out the last episode, since it at least involves proper use of the artifact. But overall I still felt a pretty strong general sense of emptiness at the close of "Bring It On, Ghost". A few sympathetic encounters with his mother can't change the fact that Hye-seong did some pretty horribly evil things, spiritual posession or not...More
At first, it seems like it's finally starting to dawn on Soo that Goryeo is a pretty vicious world. Then the danger passes and she's mostly back to her normal happy-go-lucky self, even if the neck scar is a constant reminder as to what will happen if she steps out of line again. The attitude is actually rather oddly appropriate- everyone else in Goryeo has to deal with the prospect of death on a constant basis, but if they worried about that twenty four seven there'd be no time for sexy bath parties...More
The pacing in "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" really is top notch. While I still psychologically recognize the obvious discordance between the political powerplay scenes and Soo's vastly more simplistic interpretation of plot, the tones are quite well balanced. We go from one to the other without any real sense of whiplash. Prince So is an uncommunicative jerk with his brothers, and he's also an uncommunicative jerk with Soo. But in both cases Prince So is also the main guy who's all about getting things done even if it means his hands get dirty in the process...More
Soo (played by IU) is a woman in the modern world with relationship problems. She also quickly gets into the unfortunate situation of being in close proximity to a child who cannot swim yet somehow manages to make his way into improbably deep water without anyone noticing. From there, Soo is plunged into the Goryeo era, where the King's many children, in addition to having sexy baths together, also engage in major political plots. Prince Wook (played by Kang Ha-neul) is the clear heir apparent while Prince So (played by Lee Joon-ki) has a chronically bad attitude due to childhood trauma...More
At long last, Myeong-cheol has explained the plot to Bong-pal so that it is here, in the fifteenth episode of a sixteen episode drama, that the main character finally learns that the villain even exists. Writer Lee Dae-il-I is also fairly liberated- he no longer has to come up with convoluted explanations for how Hye-seong is able to commit such horrible crimes without anyone noticing. Lucky thing his plan of hanging out with Hyeon-ji until her memory relapse actually worked...More
Joong-won and Hye-kyeong engage Tae-joon and his team in a final battle which tests everyone's character and most of all Joong-won's. It also tests his relationship with Hye-kyeong as well as her own resolve and confidence. The ending of "The Good Wife" is not what many will expect and the teasing for a possible second season is clear. Unfortunately, the series fails to make that teasing appropriate for its story thus far...More
The "Tunnel" enjoys its third weekend at the top of the pile...
Kim Seong-hoon's action thriller "Tunnel" enjoyed a third straight weekend at the top of Korean box office this past weekend by attracting 665,351 admissions (20.8%). "Tunnel", Kim's third film after "A Hard Day" (2013) and "How the Lack of Love Affects Two Men" (2006), is based on So Jae-won's novel of the same name and stars Ha Jeong-woo, Bae Doona and Oh Dal-soo. The film has sold 6.2 million admissions and is currently the sixth highest-grossing film released in Korea this year...More
2016/08/28 | | Permalink
The tone of "Incarnation of Jealousy" continues to be unusual as the drama takes on workplace romance and employee issues, themes of family, and humor that seamlessly flows in and out of the serious.
Lee Mi-sook as Gye Seong-sook and Park Ji-yeong as Bang Ja-yeong are part of what make the constant shift in tone so successful...More
2016/08/28 | | Permalink
"Uncontrollably Fond" is heading into its last two weeks and with that comes revelations for our main characters. Joon-young's cancer is discovered by Eul, but their relationship woes do not dissipate with that knowledge. There are others still in the dark, and even more people battling for power with blades of knowledge and money.
The most fully developed character is Eul...More
We are almost at the end of "The Good Wife", which looks like it will be a typical fight against an antagonist we have been expecting to take on the part for a long time. Tae-joon is determined to destroy Joong-won and while Hye-kyeong is happy with her decision, she faces problems at work in addition to Tae-joon's wrath. As we approach the final hour, the show's good and bad points become more pronounced...More
"Terminal illness" and "comedy" do not exactly seem to match outside of the black comedy genre, yet Dramaland keeps trying to make it happen. Unfortunately, it usually fails. Even so, "Fantastic" is another drama which promises laughs and fluffy romance, along with great female friendship and other interesting concepts. The series does have promise and if it succeeds where many others have failed, it will be a pleasant surprise...More
To understand what the South Korean film industry is first you need to understand what film industries are in general. They are, in short, profitable enterprises designed to make money. That's a decidedly unglamorous description of a field that prides itself on making "art", but it's the cold hard truth. Hollywood, as a concept, only exists because a century ago the United States had a large, growing market for films. This made it possible for scale escalation and big budget movies. Most other countries with strong domestic film industries (India, Japan, and increasingly China) have the same advantage. Their domestic markets are so large it's easy to recoup production expenses...More
Director Back Seung-kee of "Super Virgin", while making that movie, read a lot of magazine articles about the origin of human life and decided he could make a low budget movie about that. I'm not being facetious. This is literally what happens for the first several scenes of "Super Origin". It's like Back Seung-kee knew full well it was a really stupid idea but having managed to receive funding, well, would you pass up the chance to do location shooting in Thailand and Nepal?...More
In the future humans have dedicated robotic companions to assist them with every possible task. In the case of the hero and villain of "Bling", that task is to make an excessively gaudy marriage proposal. And that right there, is where "Bling" starts to go wrong. So wrong, in fact, that the robotic companions themselves constantly comment on how their assigned task is really stupid, and the villain's robot eventually goes into a full on mental breakdown because he's that sick of the actual plot...More
Imagine a beautifully animated fairy tale world that takes its visual inspiration from the steppes of Mongolia. From there, take the basic tropes in fairy tales and rearrange them somewhat. Villagers are nomadic by necessity to escape the harshness of winter, which takes on the physical form of a witch. Incapable of creation, the witch takes advantage of a disaster to claim possession of a lost child. She maintains power over this child less through her ice magic and more through emotional manipulation...More
North Korea slams "Operation Chromite" as anti-Pyongyang propaganda, KOBIZ talks to director Lee Kyoung-mi talks about her second feature ("The Truth Beneath"), 'Ragin Ronan' reviews Korea's biggest film of the year on YouTube, and is North Korea the perfect place to shoot a science fiction film?...More
A North Korean becomes the first defector "Master Chef", learn how to make spicy pork bulgogi with My Korea Kitchen, Robin Ha's cookbook combines recipes with her love of comics, and cook your favourite South Korean dishes at home with "Our Korean Kitchen"...More
The Korea Herald gives us a heads up on some of the latest art and entertainment events, Travel Dave shares experiences of traveling around Seoul, Ellie investigates how easy it is for vegans in South Korea to fill up, and Hannah Hickok goes on a "beauty hunt" around Seoul...More
Take a look forward to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, see how spicy cabbage helped power the Korean Wave, My Korean Husband shares some intercultural confessions, and is enough Korean literature being translated?...More
Artsy speaks to a B.G. Kuhn about curating an exhibition on contemporary North Korean art, see one artist's stunning paintings of traditional Korea, a veteran South Korean sports photography is honoured, and enjoy some symmetrical and powerful photographs of Korea's many bridges...More
2016/08/26 | | Permalink
Taking pictures with random objects is a bit of a tourist tradition in South Korea. For all I know it's like that everywhere, but this is the only place I've seen it so much firsthand. While I'm pretty sure this thing is just some random abstract art piece at the front of Gyeongpo Beach (경포대), as far as most people are concerned, it's a photo opportunity...More
2016/08/25 | | Permalink
After the massive disputes over where "Incarnation of Jealousy" would live, it has finally found its home in SBS and has begun its twenty-four episode run in quite a lively fashion. Jo Jeong-seok and Lee Hwa-sin and Kong Hyo-jin as Pyo Na-ri already have amazing chemistry together and I appreciate having two veterans in main roles. The drama wastes no time in laying down the groundwork for the drama's tone, characters, and competitive broadcasting environment...More
2016/08/25 | | Permalink
The "Real" world in "W" is starting to resemble a horror story. Granted, all there really is to worry about is Seong-moo's freaky make-up and the whole hands popping through computer screens issue, but even that is more than enough to get across that the situation is legitimately scary. Even if, as Yeon-joo quickly discovers, these are actually relatively easy problems to overcome as long as she keeps her wits about her...More
2016/08/24 | | Permalink
The production team in "W" is able to get quite a bit of mileage out of just looking at scenes from a new angle. It helps that the most dynamic scenes in "W" are so crazy and out there they're no less shocking the second time around. Even so, those of you wondering just how it is that the villain got so powerful there's a surprisingly convincing logistical explanation for that. It's little wonder that we didn't think of it, since Seong-moo forgot too and he's the one who writes this stuff...More
2016/08/24 | | Permalink
The major focus of the drama has been on the push and pull between Joon-young and Eul and that focus detracts greatly from the other supposedly large conflicts floating about. Those conflicts could potentially give rise to interesting explorations of the darker side of humanity so often highlighted in melodrama. Unfortunately, "Uncontrollably Fond" falls short of fulfilling those conflicts....More
2016/08/23 | | Permalink
I rather like "Bring It On, Ghost" when it's just about Bong-pal and Hyeon-ji hanging out trying to get the hang of the hold ghost fighting process. This episode helpfully reminds us that Hyeon-ji is by no means a helpless damsel- we've seen plenty of pictures of her in a Tae Kwon Do uniform, it's just never occurred to her that there might be a practical application to these abilities. It's also nice how Hyeon-ji inspires Bong-pal to do fun stuff like may use of Taecyeon's other job talents, and she's impressed by his sincerity...More
2016/08/23 | | Permalink
Myeong-hoon (played by Eom Hyo-seob) has been the main antagonist of "Doctors". His character has been so thinly drawn I've never seen much point in discussing him, although in this, the final episode, I don't really have much choice. Practically the entire runtime is dedicated to Myeong-hoon getting sick and having to beg for forgiveness from Hye-jeong, not for any tangible reason, but because being at death's door Myeong-hoon's mood has taken a turn for the repentant...More
And at last we appear to have come to the real point of "Doctors"- that Hye-jeong is beautiful and perfect and everything should go her way just because. By the end of this episode we're about as close to an absolute happy ending for everyone possible without the matter being completely improbable. All the bad people get sick, and all the sick good people are well on their way to a clean recovery. Even Seo-woo gets moved to the sympathetic column, mostly for reluctantly deciding to hate her dad...More
It remains unclear the extent to which Hye-jeong's obsession with revenge is supposed to be seen as sympathetic for not. It doesn't help that Hye-jeong manages to stupidly implicate herself almost immediately in a clear unambiguous threat. Later explained context doesn't really help the situation. Co-workers aren't supposed to use that kind of language with each other no matter how much enmity there may be...More
As "Bring It On, Ghost" inches ever closer to the climax the various supporting characters have to awkwardly move in order to discover what viewers learned a long time ago- that Hye-seong is a very bad man who is not to be trusted. It bears repeating. Watching Myeong-cheol, Cheon-sang, Im-ran, and the detectives uncover clues would be a lot more engaging if this wasn't just stuff we already knew. Actual new information would be nice...More
Local literary adaptations take the top spots...
Kim Seong-hoon's action thriller "Tunnel" retained the top spot over the weekend and moved its total admissions count now to over 5 million. "Tunnel", based on So Jae-won's novel of the same name, was released on 10 August and shot to number one during its first weekend out with almost 2 million admissions. The foot traffic has tapered off since last weekend, but Kim's claustrophobic thriller was still able to maintain a clear lead by attracting more than double the stubs of its nearest competitor, another local literary adaptation...More
Episode fourteen of "The Good Wife" has Hye-kyeong make the most important decision about her current situation. Before that, we have a reappearance by lawyer Son Dong-wook and his brazen ways. Hye-kyeong and her family get a scare when Seo-yeon disappears, which also shows Dan and Joong-won where their place in Hye-kyeong's life is right now. Tae-joon is determined to destroy Joong-won, so things are about to get bad...More
The mission continues as Ha-won tries to get the three cousins to sit down for a meal. It proves a challenge as each cousin's wounds prevents him from giving the Kang family a chance. Ha-won eventually figures out that she has to get to know them in order to try and bring them closer together. In the process, they get to know her as well. It's not the smoothest "getting-to-know-you" that ever was, but that's what gives this show it's conflict.
The three cousins are showing interest in her...More
Hye-kyeong's brother, Kim Sae-byeok makes a surprise visit in episode thirteen of "The Good Wife" and brings things to light with his presence, including Hye-kyeong's feelings about her situation. Tae-joon lets Ji-hoon know why he is living separately and the boy struggles with the information. Meanwhile, Joon-ho is back and working with Tae-joon in a case which pits them against Hye-kyeong and where the person she is defending looks guilty...More
This is the episode where Ha-won and the three princes of Sky House are thrown together and forced to get used to each other by sheer proximity, and because of a mission passed down by CEO Kang. The princes flesh out their stereotypes, but still are not much more than their textbook definition. Where progress is made is in how Ha-won slowly learns about each prince. "Cinderella and the Four Knights" still very much seems like a live action shoujo/girl-aged manga, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's light-hearted, cute, and is a great way to pass the time.
A character I haven't given much attention to is Yoon-sung, CEO Kang's right-hand man who executes his will and attempts to help Ha-won manage the rogue cousins...More
Tax evasion might not sound exciting, but any concept can be turned into a wild and entertaining ride with the right people involved. "38 Revenue Collection Unit" chooses to tell such a story in a more dramatic form and its talented cast and crew manage it mostly well. Nevertheless, the drama sadly crumbles under the weight of some major problems at times, which makes it hard to love.
Baek Seong-il (Ma Dong-seok) is a good-natured and honorable tax collector who does his best to keep his team going and collect taxes fairly. Yang Jeong-do (Seo In-guk) is a con artist with a painful past and big plans for the future...More
The year is 2002. Don't tell director Kim Jong-hyeon that, though- minimal effort is made at having "Run-off" actually look like 2002. Anachronisms in the set design include Angry Birds and cell phones capable of producing usable video. Anyway, the plot. Dae-woong (played by Oh Dal-soo) is putting together an ice hockey team for the 2003 Asian Games. Chief among the recruits is North Korean defector Ji-won (played by Soo-ae). The team undergoes rigorous bonding and training in the hopes of pulling off an inspiring victory...More
In a world not too different than our own, people do not own pets, but rather semi-sentient miniature cars. As "Power Battle Watchcar: Blazing Race" is based on a franchise aimed squarely at children, these miniature cars are inevitably used to engage in high stakes tournament style combat showdowns between middle school students, who do also do normal middle school student stuff like obsess over romantic crushes...More
While on the subway young college student In-ha (played by Park Hae-il) witnesses a curious sight- Hee-jae (played by the late Jang Jin-yeong) takes the lead in getting a passed out drunkard to sit up, so a pregnant woman can sit down. It's an act of kindness that's striking precisely because Hee-jae isn't expecting any kind of reward for her good deed. Her sole motivation is a desire to be a decent human being who takes a stand for moral principle no matter how uncomfortable or even dangerous the situation may be. Hee-jae's chrysanthemum scent is, to In-ha, "The Scent of Love"...More
On the northeastern coast of South Korea lies Gangneung. Though not heavily populated, Gangneung is easily reachable from most bus terminals in South Korea by virtue of its proximity to the ocean. I went to Gangneung in anticipation of the Jeongdongjin outdoor film festival and my time in the city was marked by constant ceaseless wandering, Sure there's a pretty big beach, but by and large the center Gangneung is your standard urban area. And at this time of year it's murderously hot even at night...More
The Hollywood Reporter picks actor Lee Byung-hun's brain in New York, KOBIZ's new infographic puts "Train to Busan"'s success into perspective, discover five modern Korean films that play at your heartstrings, and did you know works of romance were once banned in North Korea?...More
Judy Joo talks about her book on Korean cooking ("Korean Food Made Simple"), discover why North Korea has better beer and why that's changing, My Korean Kitchen has an easy recipe for making delicious honey citron tea, and are insects and worms coming soon to a Korean menu near you?...More
Discover two "outrageous" attractions in Korea tourists can't get enough of, take a look inside Korea's massive "Taekwondo Town", The Discovery Seoul Pass will ensure you get the most bang for your buck in Seoul, and Adventure Korea makes it easy for visitors to have the time of their lives...More
My Korean Husband shows us the funny side of cultural differences and relationships in a cute webcomic, Next Shark digs deeper into the history behind one of Korea's most popular surnames, find out more about the wonderful and influential world of K-pop, and The Korea Times highlights the difference in perspective when it comes to the country's socio-economic future...More
Hear how artist Haegue Yang is passionately unconventional in her approach to her work-life, The Korea Herald has a packed arts and entertainment calendar to diarise, learn more about the history of pottery in Korea, and photographer Lee Myoung-ho captures space-time his own way...More
Hye-in, Seung-in and his team as well as the "Wanted" production crew prepare for one last show and one last effort to get Ham Tae-seob and SG Group for their wrongdoings. Joon-goo goes into a search for the nurse who might have Dr. Kim Bong-joon's research on the harmful nature of SG's germicide. This has been a long struggle and none have suffered more than SG's victims, who offer their support in this final show...More
This episode really touches on the plays of power. Money buys power. Health allows one to wield power. Friendship helps to guide power. Connections manipulate power. These concepts are neither new to the show or to the workings of society, but they are highlighted in ways that force the characters to act. Most of the same ol' shenanigans continue throughout this episode and leave me with little to talk about.
Joon-young waffles between living by his standards of guilt, or by the pull of his love for Eul...More
I first saw festival director Park Jae-dong on the Busan red carpet. At the time I was baffled as to why such an important person was wearing a Batman costume. That question was cleared up at the opening ceremony for the Bucheon International Comics Festival (부천국제만화축제). The Batman costume is actually a kind of prop intended to imply that Park Jae-dong has supernatural powers which, among other things, allow him to give commands to a gigantic animatronic robot. Ceremony mingled with the weird as the program jumped between robot skits and award ceremonies...More
2016/08/18 | | Permalink
My main takeaway from "W" at this point is that good writing is hard. Much like the last time Cheol tried to "solve" the problems created by Seong-woo's inability to finish the story in a convincing, compelling fashion, this time too we're left with a resolution that's just kind of...blech. In a lot of ways this is a problem with the serial detective format in general. If the main character devotes all of his energy to solving episodic crimes with no progression in the main plot, it's pretty inevitable that the final personal backstory case is going to be a letdown...More
2016/08/18 | | Permalink
"Uncontrollably Fond" has one goal: keep the tension high. Two major secrets are fueling that tension, the truth about Joon-young's health and the truth surrounding his birth. All other tensions stem from that and other similar secrets. Scenes and action wades through problems caused by these secrets while Eul remains a plucky heroine despite Joon-young's treatment of her.
Eul is convinced that Joon-young still loves her, and she would be right...More
2016/08/17 | | Permalink
The shrouded static villain is weirdly sympathetic in a way, because its entire existence is the arbitrary creation of a Godlike figure who never bothered to impart any meaningful personality traits onto his creation. I can't help but see this character as being the personification of fan rage. Sure, we've only been watching "W" for seven episodes, but the in-universe fanbase has been waiting years only to be suddenly told that plot arc isn't going to end because now the story's a romance...More
2016/08/17 | | Permalink
The penultimate episode of "Wanted" takes a look at the past and Ham Tae-yeong's involvement in the SG Group conspiracy. A lot of questions are answered and Hye-in discovers the reason why she carries some responsibility. This revelation feels rather unconvincing and certain important things remain unknown, but will hopefully be resolved in the finale. Joon-goo's tape might be the last piece of the puzzle and Dong-wook is the man who can assemble it...More
A major pivot takes "Bring It On, Ghost" away from ghost fighting as the dramatic emphasis shifts to when and how Hyeon-ji will recover her memories. For Bong-pal the course of action is a simple one- of course he loves her, and is infinitely relieved to discover that Hyeon-ji was in a coma all along. It does take an irritatingly long time for Bong-pal to actually find out what's going on with Hyeon-ji, but the scenes we get when that finally happens are fairly sweet...More
"Cinderella and the Four Knights"'s second episode is more introduction because we need to get Cinderella into the palace. In order to do that, the story beats to the ground with birth secrets, money woes, and contentious interactions with the three Kang cousins of Sky House. The cousins have no easy go at things either as their CEO Chaebol Granddaddy uses his money to buy their obedience. This is most likely going to be a theme and I have a feeling Cinderella will not only change the hearts of the cousins, but of their grandfather as well...More
Pre-produced, manhwa-based "Cinderella and the Four Knights" is everything one would expect out of a fairytale inspired drama. It's a mix of the classic Cinderella, a bit of hardworking Candy, and a whole lot of typical drama tropes with chaebol grandfather's, monster inheritances, some fine acting, and some mediocre acting.
I come at this drama not having read the source material, the manhwa by Baek Myo begun in 2011. HanCinema readers, if you have, please chime in and let me know what you think!...More
As expected, Hyeon-ji is not able to escape from Bong-pal for all that long. Actually Hyeon-ji isn't very good at avoiding Hye-seong either, which is especially silly since at least Bong-pal can guess where Hyeon-ji might be hiding. Hye-seong has quickly turned into the big sour point of "Bring It On, Ghost" for me. He's a villain that succeeds, not through being powerful or competent, but by being the beneficiary of dumb luck and some very disturbingly disinterested bystanders...More
Right away we get a reasonably full and clear explanation of just what happened to Hye-jeong's grandmother in surgery so long ago. The outcome of this scene left me a little confused. The surgical team screwed up. That much has never been in doubt. But they reacted poorly in the face of an unanticipated situation. While such failures are bad, they're also fairly inevitable. Doctors are only human after all. This is something Hye-jeong herself knows all too well, what with being put under disciplinary review for having committed a different kind of error...More
Kim Seong-hoon's action thriller "Tunnel" arrived last week and managed to capture 40% of box office pie and dislodge "The Last Princess" at the top of the pile. Last weekend Heo Jin-ho's historical melodrama (aka "Princess Deokhye") attracted 1.1 million filmgoers across 964 screens to take pole position; despite following that good opening with another 966,862 admissions here (21%), which moved its total tally now to 3.5 million ($25.6 million), Heo's latest was forced into second place after the "Tunnel" arrived on the scene and attracted 1.8 million admissions ($13.8 million) from 1,091 screens...More
2016/08/14 | | Permalink
Hye-kyeong's problems never seem to end and now she has the additional one of her monster-in-law meddling and trying to turn her children against their mother. Hye-kyeong seeks legal advice about the situation and decides to address it personally as well. Dan finally reveals her feelings and thoughts before taking drastic steps to address her current situation. Tae-joon starts investigating Joong-won and Hye-kyeong makes a decision about her relationship with both men...More
2016/08/14 | | Permalink
The new information Hye-kyeong has been given proves to be just the thing to shake her back into placing her family and herself first. She has no time to deal with Dan yet, as she needs to explain the current situation to her children. Hye-kyeong's resolve and composure are further tested when she meets a formidable opponent in court and push her to a choice which might lead her astray...More
Some secrets find their way to the surface, but rather than bringing relief, they create more tension and send other secrets further into hiding. All four of our romantic leads are experiencing loads of pain in the form of betrayal, heartache, and the physical as they become aware of each other and are forced into very awkward confontations.
The intrigue of "Uncontrollably Fond" lies in intricate web of lies and relationships...More
The year is 1962. Jang-han (played by Park Hae-il) is working as a reporter in South Korea, having managed to survive the last fifty-odd years of brutal repression. With the normalization of relations with Japan, Jang-han is at long last able to investigate what happened to his childhood friend Princess Deokhye (played by Son Ye-jin). The last survivor of the Joseon dynasty, Princess Deokhye suffered the worst fate possible for royal blood- she had to watch helplessly as her country was destroyed...More
Jeong-soo (played by Ha Jeong-woo) is a normal husband and father who briefly gets waylaid by bad service at a gas station. Little does Jeong-soo realize that he is in a movie called "Tunnel", and that irony of ironies, bad service at the gas station probably ended up saving Jeong-soo's life in the form of an extra free bottle of water. Once trapped in the "Tunnel", all of a sudden every random object that happened to be in Jeong-soo's car takes on disproportionate importance...More
So apparently there was this doctor named William Cowper for whom several important parts of the human anatomy are named- principally the Cowper glands, and also Cowper's fluid, which is pre-ejaculate fluid. Why someone would want to name pre-ejaculate fluid after themselves is quite beyond me. Anyway, In-ae (played by Lee You-young) is convinced that she's pregnant. Her boyfriend Min-goo (played by Jang Won-hyeong) is not taking the situation seriously, in part due to his childish personality, but also because Cowper's fluid tends to have a very low sperm count...More
The Bucheon B-boy International Championships (부천 세계 비보이 대회) were held from July 22nd to July 24th this year, overlapping with the early part of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. They were also conveniently located right next to one of the screening venues, at Bucheon Station (부천역). Alas, I was not able to figure this out until the last day. That much is a real shame, because how often does a person get the chance to watched masked violinists breakdance the night away?...More
Kim Ki-duk takes on God and war in his first Chinese-language film, Jason Bechervaise reviews Lee Jae-han's "Operation Chromite" for Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter gives us some context for Lee's latest wartime blockbuster, and find out what films have grossed the most this year with KOBIZ...More
A travel blogger hits the markets in Seoul in search of the capital's best street food, My Korean Kitchen has steps for making a simple sausage snack, see what Korea's athletes are eating in Sao Paulo, and learn to make Korean food with a cute comic book...More
Explore some of Korea's stunning parks, find out why Suwon is attracting more and more tourists, Trazy has the inside track on traveling by train in Korea, and Alexa Villano takes us inside one of Korea's quirkier cafes...More
See how the (soft-) power of Korea's popular cultural helps drive the Korean Wave, organizations campaign to stem the country's smoking culture, hear what it's like to be a Muslim in Korea, and learn how Korea's drinking culture is also an important part of building personal and professional relationships...More
In Korea you can get a photorealistic figurine made of yourself, The Creators Projects features illustrator/Instagrammer Lee Kyutae, hit the streets of Busan to discover some the city's brilliant street art, and The Korea Times covers Kim Soo-ja's tactile exhibition at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul...More
2016/08/12 | | Permalink
In South Korea, at least, mid-large size film festivals are usually accompanied by a lot of concerts. Initially I was puzzled by this emphasis, but as I've been to more and more of these film festivals I've come to appreciate the sheer exhilaration of the crowd whenever a band passionately takes to the stage for the sole purpose of rocking out. This particular band, by the way, is Romantic Punch, who so far as I can tell are pretty obsessive about their road trips...More
2016/08/11 | | Permalink
This episode focused on the mother's: Joon-young's mother and Ji-tae's mother. While the majority of the hour was spent on dredging up the past and repeating mistakes that should've been learned from, we clearly see the motivations behind some characters that remained opaque until now.
Highlighting the weaknesses that have plagued Joon-young's mother's character, this episode finally delved into the reasoning behind her poor treatment of her son...More
2016/08/10 | | Permalink
A disproportionate amount of energy in "W" is spent on writer Song Jae-jeong justifying her own story. Well, technically Yeon-joo is the one rationalizing why Cheol's story needs to continue, but the script in "W" constantly feels like Song Jae-jeong laying out her own scriptwriting process bare for us all to see. And yes, Kang Cho-yun is in fact a real person who really did compete at the Olympics once upon a time. Wherever Kang Cho-yun is today, I imagine she's rather bewildered that her name has come up in pop culture now all of a sudden...More
Upon further reflection the various spotlighted patients do in fact have some relation to the personal stories of the main doctors in "Doctors". It's just hard to tell because the timing is always so disjointed, and the doctors don't show any indication that the patients' stories have relevance to their own lives until pretty much the last possible minute. I was with Hye-jeong when Ji-hong was making the big announcement. Sure, I can appreciate the thought, but from Hye-jeong's perspective it really did come out of nowhere...More
There is something magical about a K-pop concert. Perhaps it's the well-known talent, finesse, and beauty of K-pop stars. Perhaps it's the zest, intricacy, and cleverness of their music. Perhaps it's the fact that live K-pop performances are not easily come by in North America. KCON USA has been the major organization through which K-pop has become more accessible. Smaller organizers have begun to make places like New York and LA hotspots for K-pop. But the opportunity to see favorites is still far and few between.
Regardless of the "why", the concerts at KCON LA 2016 presented by Toyota were a surreal experience. Let's jump into the first night of concerts when acts from rookie to pro graced the stage and had the crowd roaring the entire time...More
The balance and pacing are unusually spot-on this episode, as effective scene transitions let "Bring It On, Ghost" get through a lot of plot fairly efficiently. There's romantce, a ghost hunt, romance mixed with comedy, a resolution of last episode's ghost plot, then some sad self-reflection as Hyeon-ji takes in all that she's learned. What's even better, important backstory information is sprinkled throughout. The question "who exactly is Myeong-cheol anyway" is finally convincingly answered...More
I was caught off guard this episode by the almost complete lack of discussion of Hye-jeong's parental issues. Considering the big cliffhanger last time that seemed like the main obvious direction for "Doctors" to go. But alas, even Namgoong Min doesn't get much of a sendoff. His whole conflict is solved offhandedly with Ji-hong's political powers, there's thanks and farewells, and then it's back to the usual lack of plot that so often characterizes "Doctors"...More
I find that "Bring It On, Ghost" is much easier to tolerate if I stop thinking of it as being a drama about ghostfighting and just look at it as a romantic comedy which happens to involve a normal living human dating a ghost. That much does resolve the horrible imbalance when it comes to screentime. The ghost shows up so late this episode I frequently wondered whether we were actually going to get to see the ghost at all...More
Heo Jin-ho's historical melodrama, "The Last Princess", arrived in theaters on Wednesday and narrowly outplayed Lee Jae-han's controversial war drama, "Operation Chromite". Last weekend, "Operation Chromite" captured 36.5% of the sales (1.8 million admissions) to claim pole position; week two, however, saw Lee's latest slip to second with 1 million admissions (22%) after "The Last Princess" attracted 1.1 million admissions (24%) from 963 screens around the country...More
2016/08/07 | | Permalink
Hye-kyeong is met with a discouraging truth about her employment and that pushes her to a decision about her marriage. Dan encourages her to choose another path, but the truth of her involvement with the still selfish and controlling Tae-joon is revealed. Meanwhile, his case is picked up by her office and Myeong-hee gives Hye-kyeong the choice to represent her husband. Hye-kyeong struggles with her new situation and information...More
"The Good Wife" shifts its focus back to standalone legal cases and it is time for Hye-kyeong to defend someone who appears guilty. This leads to her bending the rules to help him and prove herself. With this case concluding, the competition between her and Joon-ho is resolved. Meanwhile, Tae-joon is being investigated for murder and Dan's involvement becomes more complicated. Joong-won makes a bold move for his love, but an outsider causes a misunderstanding...More
"Uncontrollably Fond" is an interesting mix of very beautiful staging and cinematography and a glacial plot pace. The story moves along so slowly that it's difficult to make it through an episode because there is no impetus for curiosity of the events in the show. Part of the lack of forward motion is caused by undeveloped characters, which by episode 10 in a drama, should not happen...More
The first zombie to show up in "Train to Busan" comes from a rather unexpected place, and is creepy in a way zombies seldom are, although in retrospect the idea is so obvious it's a wonder no one thought of it sooner. That's the general prevading sentiment behind "Train to Busan". By cutting out the usual pointless worldbuilding and focusing on a small group of relatable characters in a disaster situation, writer/director Yeon Sang-ho creates an astonishingly powerful piece of film. "Train to Busan" is both thrilling in the traditional action blockbuster sense as well as thought-provoking in the "what would you do?" vein...More
Hak-soo (played by Lee Jeong-jae) is a noble South Korean soldier who leads a deep spy unit into Incheon island to uncover vital intelligence regarding whatever defenses, natural or manmade, may make an amphibious attack on the island practical or impractical. Gye-jin (played by Lee Beom-soo) is the at-times comically evil North Korean commander who opposes Hak-soo's efforts. That's the basic outline for "Operation Chromite". The movie is a tale of good versus evil- no context necessary...More
Most of the screentime in "Karaoke Crazies" takes place in a claustrophobic karaoke bar. The location is dark, dingy, and in general fairly difficult to like. It's easy to see why this particular karaoke bar has trouble staying afloat financially. The atmosphere stinks. What's more, located as it is in the middle of nowhere, the bar can't even afford feminine helpers to act as an enticement for customers. It is the place where we, the viewer, have to spend almost the entire movie...More
Ah, another year at the Bucheon International Film Festival (BiFan). This festival will always have soft spot in my heart, because they were the first to recognize my press credential way back when I started writing for HanCinema full time. This was the first year I tried to use that credential to take pictures instead of just watching movies. In commemoration of that, I present the more obscure side of Bucheon red carpet. Most of the people who walk the red carpet don't show up in articles, even if they all have their own interesting story to tell...More
Catch Cannes' interview with Yeon Sang-ho about his latest zombie horror, KOBIZ has a new infographic that highlights a few Korean beaches that have featured in films, Soo Hyeon joins the "The Dark Tower", and NK News has a critical review of Lee Jae-han's "Operation Chromite"...More
See how American students react to eating Korean food for the first time, My Korean Kitchen puts together a delicious shredded chicken salad, find out what restaurants in Seoul serve Halal food, and how similar is Korean food to Mexican?...More
Jeonju to host two special events to celebrate the cities traditions and culture in August and September, the Japan Times takes a look at the Andong Hahoe folk village and its importance now and in the past, Pokemon Go glitch causes spike in tourists, and the Korea Tourism Organisations should be your first stop to discovering Korea your way...More
Discover Korea's quest to get kimchi and 'Arirang' recognized by UNESCO, learn more about Korea's weird and lucrative K-pop scene, CJ Group hopes to ride the Korean wave into the future, and Elise Hu reveals the dark side of Korean pop music...More
The Washington Post highlights some socialist art pieces from North and South Korea, see what life is like in North Korea in a massive gallery of stunning photographs, professional photographer Seong Joon Cho captures Korea by drone, and The Atlantic looks back on the Korean War after on the anniversary of the armistice agreement...More
The "Wanted" team struggles between Joon-goo's noble cause and twisted means of achieving it while Dong-wook turns out to be a fine choice for Joon-goo's plans. With pressure from SG Group and an unrelenting Tae-seob rising, Joon-goo takes desperate measures and manipulates some familiar faces to get his revenge. Hye-in still struggles to understand what her sin might be, but the show must go on and she must face two people who have wronged her at the same time...More
Many people think of Incheon as being that place where the airport is. Actually, the area generally described as Incheon locally consists of the coastal area to the immediate southwest of Seoul. This area does incidentally contain the Incheon International Airport, but only because Incheon is considered the official administrating province of most of the South Korea's northwesterly islands. Aside from this general factoid, there's no particular reason for you to have heard of Incheon. I only went there at all because of the Women's Film Festival in Incheon (WFFI). Even the above picture is just ground art for the local cultural product development center...More
On July 27th as the sun went down along with the temperature, the audience gathered in Sallent de Gállego in front of the Mercados del Mundo stage at the Pirineos Sur Fest for what was the last concert of the day. Pirineos Sur is a renowned music and multicultural fest that has been taking place in the province of Huesca, Northern Spain for the past 25 years, and photographer Luis Lorente and I had the chance to be there...More
Recent events have led "W" to a bit of an impasse. Cheol figures out a way to "solve" all the problems mentioned by Seong-moo, but as expected this solution is completely unsatisfying from a narrative standpoint. It also brings up all sorts of weird issues with quantum mechanics and zen philosophy. Can Cheol really "die" if he's not alive in the first place? To what extent does Cheol even exist if his actions are defined by the "Real" people who observe him?...More
Plot threads start to twist and knot as underlying relationships between characters are exposed to the audience. Those aware of the dark, painful secrets become typical melodramatic characters who make bad decisions and pine and brood at their misfortune. There is some happiness present as well, which in a Lee Kyeong-hee drama is normally fleeting...More
KCON LA 2016 presented by Toyota flew by last weekend from Friday July 29 to Sunday July 31. Saturday and Sunday were special because crowd favorites walked the red carpet dressed to impress just before the big M Countdown concerts. Game faces were on and many groups' serious expressions belied their exuberance on stage. Nerves probably plagued the younger groups or groups who had not yet stepped on a KCON stage. Fans who gathered to cheer them on shouted their support and love, and even received love in return.
Let's take a look at some amazing red carpet highlights from Saturday and Sunday...More
2016/08/03 | | Permalink
There's a perspective shift from Yeon-joo to Cheol here, which ends up explaining a lot of details about the premise of "W" that until now have been unclear. First of all, we know what the title "W" refers to internally now, and have a better grasp of the sequence of events that led Cheol from tragic backstory to genius investigator. But the more important shift is Cheol's emotional state. By reading the "W" comic book, Cheol can see his entire life pass in front of him...More
2016/08/03 | | Permalink
Things look bleak in episode thirteen of "Wanted" and everyone suffers. A lot of things about the past are explained as we get to know our kidnapper and the path that brought him here. The people who bonded with Joon-goo are feeling betrayed and everyone on the good side is being hunted by SG Group, which has a tight grip on the police force. As the truth about SG's wrongdoings surfaces, Hye-in is brought closer to a difficult choice...More
2016/08/02 | | Permalink
Min-ho (played by Jeong Hae-gyoon) is Hye-jeong's estranged father. I've never had much cause to discuss Min-ho because it's never been clear to me how important he was to Hye-jeong's story. It kind of seemed like Min-ho was just another obstacle Hye-jeong had to overcome, even though he has sympathetic character traits. Seo-woo, you may recall, has the same problem. Well, both the opening and the closing of this episode directly address the relevance of Min-ho's presence/absence in Hye-jeong's life- to powerful cathartic effect...More
2016/08/02 | | Permalink
While the pacing in "Bring It On, Ghost" is slow as usual we do finally get some important information cleared up fairly quickly. It turns out that Hye-seong can in fact see ghosts, the man's just very good at pretending like he can't. What any of this has to do with Bong-pal or Hyeon-ji is still mostly shrouded in mystery, but I'm just glad that the main story is moving forward in perceptible fashion at all. Now there's actual dramatic tension when Hye-seong is on-screen...More
Namgoong Min, apparently unsatisfied by acting against type as the male romantic lead in "Beautiful Gong Shim", makes a special appearance in this episode of "Doctors" as the loving father to two adorable moppets. This ends up being both good and bad. The good is that Namgoong Min is generally great in the role, and the kids have wonderful chemistry. The bad is that this story has little to nothing to do with the emotional arcs of any of the actual relevant main characters in "Doctors"...More
So apparently ghosts can get...sick? Well, "Bring It On, Ghost" doesn't really belabour this point, so I won't either. All of the weird things that ghosts can apparently do aren't really intended as pararealism anyway. They're just storytelling advices through which Bong-pal can express affection to Hyeon-ji. This much is important, since last episode established that Bong-pal doesn't really have a chance with Seo-yeon, even though she insists on expressing (platonic) interest in him...More
Lee Jae-han's war story "Operation Chromite" entered the fray last week and managed to displace Yeon Sang-ho's action thriller ("Train to Busan") to claim pole position. Last weekend Yeon's atypical zombie flick dominated proceedings by capturing 75% of the sales (3.2 million admissions), but week two for Yeon's first live action flick saw it slip one place to second as "Operation Chromite" enjoyed a successful opening weekend by capturing 1.7 million admissions (36.5) from 1,048 screens...More
2016/07/31 | | Permalink
While Hye-kyeong is busy with this difficult case, we get a better look at Tae-joon and Joong-won, their thoughts and feelings for the lady as well as their morality. Some dark facts surface in episode eight and everything leads to a murder and a new crisis. In addition to her work, Hye-kyeong continues to deal with two men who have their own ideas about what she needs while she tries to keep her family afloat...More
2016/07/31 | | Permalink
There is plenty of awkwardness to go around between Hye-kyeong and Tae-joon, but also between her and Joong-won. Both relationships get rattled and become re-defined. Her co-workers all sense something is going on and each has their own reactions to the firm's hot topic. Hye-kyeong and Joon-ho take on the task to defend a fellow lawyer in a murder case, but Hye-kyeong finds out that the culprit is none other than Jo Gook-hyeon...More
Finding a romantic comedy drama has felt like an impossible task for some time, but perhaps creators are remembering that "comedy" is included in the genre description. At least the creators of "Beautiful Gong Shim" are, because the series is good ol' romantic fluff. While it carries a lot of the cliches and problems found in said fluff, it also carries many of its appealing qualities...More
KCON is the biggest Hallyu convesntion in North America for five years and running and day 1 kicked off the biggest convention yet. KCON LA 2016 presented by Toyota started off with a bang yesterday, July 28 at the LA Convention Center. Fans poured in, ready for three days of K-pop, Korean food, Korean beauty, K-drama, and more...More
Gi-gwang (played by Park Geun-hyeong) is an old bus driver. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Gi-gwang's experiences in that theater took a heavy toll on his mental faculties. Gi-gwang plunged into alcoholism, alienating most of his family in the process. It's from this vantage point that Gi-gwang lives a bitter pathetic life, until an unexpected bit of bad news leads him into contact with his granddaughter Bo-ram (played by Go Bo-gyeol), a girl who's had to make her own dirty deals to survive in a sub-optimal environment...More
From the same creative team that brought us "Hello Jeon Wo-chi! The Battle of the Magic Robots" comes the much more simply titled and mundane gag cartoon "Ulsik the Clumsy Boy". Personally I would have gone with "Ulsik the Luckless Lad" but then I'm a fan of alliteration. Anyway, the story, to the extent there is a story, is pretty simple. Ulsik (voiced by Ahn Se-hyeon) and Heung-sik (voiced by Kim Dae-chang), Bam-tol (voiced by Kim Chang-hoo) and Fatty (played by Jeong Yeong-soo) are generally immature elementary school students who obsess over petty revenge, and also girls...More
Director Lee Young quickly outlines the gay experience in South Korea by framing "Troublers" around interviews with Lee Mook, an elderly man who happens to have a vagina. Some people are suspicious. Most don't care, although Lee Mook is understandably hesitant about being too open about himself. Hesitance notwithstanding, Lee Mook finds dates easily and has several marriages under his belt. None of them successful, although he attributes that to his personality more than the whole LGBT thing...More
Owing to a lack of major work commitments as well as the fact that I did not need to go the Immigration Office, this particular visit to Seoul managed to be fairly enjoyable. There really is a lot to do and see in Seoul provided you don't have to hurry between other errands. Just try stopping in the middle of the street sometime and peering south between buildings. There you might find Namsan Tower. For now. If the skyscrapers could obliterate Mt. Fuji from the Tokyo skyline, it's only a matter of time before you'll have to visit the site in person if you want to see what Namsam Tower looks like...More
Korea's largest studio will open for action in 2020, actress Moon So-ri to be an honorary jury member at the upcoming Venice International Film Festival, Warner Bros. shows their commitment to local film production, and catch a review of Yeon Sang-ho's hot new thriller, "Train to Busan"...More
Make your own Bulgogi Kimbap at home with My Korean Kitchen, see what Korean street snacks Singaporeans enjoy the most, learn more about how Korean food has been exported to the U.S., and is Korean cuisine better with wine instead of beer and/or soju?...More
Travel cheap across Korea with Dave Hazzan, get a taste of what camping in Korea is like, explore Tongyeong as a coastal gateway, and what to do if you've only got 24 hours in Seoul?...More
See how a North Korean defector uses webtoons to breakdown barriers, Asia-Pacific examines whether or not Korea is returning to its authoritarian past, DMZ guards take up ballet to relax and stay frosty, and see how 'soft' masculinity is depicted in Asian pop culture...More
Get a glimpse into life across the DMZ, see the couple who built a 30-foot-tall cafe in the shape of a camera, take a look at what Incheon's "Paradise City" will look like, and T.O.P. to curate an upcoming sale for Sotherby's Hong Kong...More
2016/07/29 | | Permalink
The kidnapper is finally revealed in episode twelve of "Wanted", but this only complicates the situation. There is also the possibility of an accomplice within the police and the investigation still does not have all the past culprits. The current mission is met with great resistance as SG Group starts to interfere with the show and put great pressure on its team. With the show's future and Hyeon-woo's safety now uncertain, time is running out for the "Wanted" team...More
2016/07/29 | | Permalink
The Robot Studio is an annex to the Chuncheon Animation Museum, which I personally thought to be rather more informative. Though neither have histories written out in English, the history detailed at the Chuncheon Animation Museum mostly just deals with American animators whose stories I'd already heard before. Whereas the Robot Studio discusses lesser well known Japanese pop culture icons, like Tetsujin 28, aka Gigantor, asisstant to boy detective Shotaro, aka Jimmy. The American name changes were to help preserve the illusion that American invented all pop culture, everywhere...More
2016/07/28 | | Permalink
One of the factors that makes Cheol such a fascinating protagonist is that he is legitimately really smart. Even though the guy's a character in a genre thriller comic, Cheol thinks like an actual real person. When crazy bizarre contrivances jump out of nowhere for the sole apparent purpose of killing him, Cheol merely notes that there is no such thing as coincidence. And he's right, even if the real answer is much stranger than Cheol could have ever possibly imagined...More
2016/07/28 | | Permalink
"Uncontrollably Fond" is overwhelmingly about Joon-yeong and his arduous journey. The other characters are present and they receive screen time, but it is Kim Woo-bin who carries the show with his hot-tempered and life-loving Joon-yeong.
Not that Joon-yeong is a perfect character...More
Episode 7 of "Uncontrollably Fond" explored the romantic relationships in the drama: No Eul and Joon-yeong, Assemblyman Choi and his love for Joon-yeong's mother, Ji-tae and Jeong-eun. The malicious story elements like cancer, paparazzi, and meddling families were all present, but they took a back seat to relationship development...More
Yeon-joo does not have the slightest idea how to explain the existence of Cheol's parallel universe, so she starts investigating the only place with potential answers- her dad's annotations. But Seong-woo's authorial notes aren't special features intended for reader enjoyment. They're surprisingly painful recollections of a difficult time in Seong-woo's life, and how the main plot movements in "W" were all reactions to Seong-woo's emotional state. That is, until Cheol took on a life os his own and started building Seong-woo's life much as Seong-woo built Cheol's...More
Episode eleven of "Wanted" is packed with action and suspense, as Lee Ji-eun is put in danger when the criminals behind the seven-year-old case become desperate. The kidnapper and Na Soo-hyeon have a disagreement and the next mission is delivered to Hye-in. A life is lost and the kidnapper's plans for the reality show and their new target are about to meet great resistance. Meanwhile, the police still suspect the producers of "Wanted", adding another obstacle to the show...More
(Photo courtesy of CJ E&M)
It is D-2 days before KCON LA 2016 presented by Toyota and we're getting pumped here at HanCinema. The three day convention held at the staples center from July 29 to July 31 is going to be jam packed full of activities for Hallyu lovers. Here's a list of the top 7 things to check out and do while you're there...More
Hello HanCinema readers! This is Patricia Alcay (aka zgzgirl) with her first ever HanCinema assignment. This is the first of a series, and if you like it, there will most definitely be more. On July 27th I will be representing HanCinema at one of their concerts at the Pirineos Sur Festival in Spain and we have a few surprises for you!...More
2016/07/26 | | Permalink
After a sad, sweet scene where Ji-hong connects with his own childhood grief, it's three weeks later and as usual, nothing of substance appears to have changed. Hye-jeong and Ji-hong are still on somewhat icy terms, although they predictably come to a reconciliation by eventually talking out their problems. Considering how mild their interpersonal problems were in the first place, it's hard to get all that excited when a basic conversation is enough to smooth out the worries...More
2016/07/26 | | Permalink
Early on another important mystery is resolved when it comes to ghosts. Apparently they can feel their hearts. Later on we learn that they can also drown. We can add all these to the previous factbook on ghosts which "Bring It On, Ghost" has offered to us, which has previously answered such pertinent questions as can ghosts eat? Can they change clothes? Are they affected by the laws of gravity? That's "Bring It On, Ghost" for you- answering all the questions that no one ever asked...More
In-joo (played by Yoo Da-in) is Ji-hong's old friend, who can typically be relied on to show up when he's in trouble to offer herself as a marriage partner, since that solves problems for some reason. In-joo has not generally been a very relevant character, which is why I haven't discussed her up until now, but she does serve a very important role this episode. In-joo consistently acts like a doctor first and a cool person second, which in contrast to the rest of the cast, is the important priority order...More
The latest dynamic plot development is that apparently ghosts can sleep. Beyond that, Bong-pal and Hyeon-ji spend most of the episode hanging out as if they were the lead characters in a romantic comedy. Eventually Cheon-sang and Im-rang are able to locate a ghost for the requisite ghost fight. Myeong-cheol provides vague hints of an interesting backstory without actually saying anything useful. Hye-seong is probably the villain but apparently he can't even see ghosts so who knows why he's even in the story at all...More
All aboard the "Train to Busan"...
Yeon Sang-ho's action thriller "Train to Busan" was officially released last Wednesday and over the weekend it enjoyed one of biggest opening weekend hauls of the year. Yeon's first live action film captured 75% of the box office pie from over 1,785 screens around the country. That's an incredible 3.2 million admissions (or $24 million) in just one weekend...More
"Seoul Searching" is a John Hughes-esque teenage romcom that evolves through its one hour and forty-five minute runtime. Director and writer Benson Lee, who based the story on his own experiences in a 1986 Korean summer camp, serves up characters in the forms of teenage stereotypes that gradually take on individual personalities. The cast is made up of fresh-faced ethnic Korean actors from all over the world such as Korean-German Teo Yoo as Klaus and Korean-Spanish Esteban Ahn as Sergio. Joining them are Korean-American Justin Chon (Twilight, "Dramaworld"), Korean veteran actor Cha In-pyo, budding actress Kang Byeol ("God's Gift - 14 Days", "The Rooftop Prince"), and Korean-American Jessika Van (MTV's Awkward). The disparate cast, although all of Korean heritage, reflects the core theme of the film, which is self-discovery. It is their mutual Korean heritage that brings them together, but their experiences that keep them that way. Welcome a film that sends a universal message of teenage loneliness via culture clash that results in human growth and understanding...More
A new case opens in "The Good Wife" and it tackles euthanasia and abortion at the same time, which give the series a bigger load than it can ultimately handle. Dan enters the game between Sang-il and Tae-joon while Hye-kyeong and Joong-won are busy with the case. Jae-moon makes a return and his condition is worsening, causing conflict with Joong-won over the past. His fragile emotional state leads to a mistake involving Hye-kyeong...More
KCON LA 2016 presented by Toyota is only a few days away from July 29 to July 31 at the Staples Center. To get you ready for it, HanCinema has one last beauty booth feature to share from KCON NY 2016. We'll take a look at Zazen Bear, Glow Recipe, MustaeV, Duft & Doft with beauty vlogger Sarang. Don't forget that at the bottom of this article are three chances to win beauty products! And now to explore some amazing Korean beauty and skincare companies...More
"The Good Wife" smacks us with a big twist in episode five, which changes a great deal about what we have known so far. It personally worries me in regards to the future, but perhaps it will be a good thing. The legal case this time involves Hye-kyeong's past social circle and with Tae-joon home, it just brings more sad memories to the surface. Meanwhile, Joong-won steps up his game and faces Tae-joon...More
Situated a bit to the north of Jeonju with its very own rail station, Samrye appears to be, from my cursory analysis of Naver maps, a random college town. Admittedly, I've never been there. In "Night Song", though, Samrye appears to be something else entirely- an all-encompassing void lacking in both loud sparkle and quiet contemplation. It is here that aspiring film director Seung-woo (played by Lee Seon-ho) meets waitress Hee-in (played by Kim Bo-ra) and they set off in search of...something...More
Jeong-woo (played by Kim Tae-hoon) is a struggling alcoholic. He ends up taking temporary residence at a convent in the hopes that maybe an alcohol free environment will force him into sobriety. Maria (played by Park So-dam) is a young nun who suffers from her own mysterious problems. Together, they faintly interact with one another, unsure of what awful secrets lurk behind each other's mental afflictions...More
Soo-ha (played by Kang Ye-won) is a grumpy woman who inherits an obscure rural road stop that has trouble attracting customers. The location is bad, the food is bad, and Soo-ha doesn't even particularly want to be there but who would want to buy this kind of property? Lacking any other ideas, Soo-ha eventually decides to grant temporary residence to the Ecuadoran band Kawsay, who apparently wander the South Korean peninsula looking for food and lodging while offering only their traditional Ecuadoran wisdom in return...More
Taking the bus north from Wonju it's only a short distance to Chuncheon, a city which holds the distinction of being the most northeastern limit of the Seoul Subway System. This is no mean feat, because Chuncheon is located in Gangwon- the province which borders the East Sea. The relative ease of coming to Chuncheon is such that its reputation as a tourist location has also increased significantly. Above you can see the newly christened Chuncheon Skywalk (춘천 스카이워크), which would more accurately be called a lakewalk. It lets you get a good look at the Northern Han River, which in Chuncheon at least, is pretty huge...More
"Spirits' Homecoming" is now playing in 13 cities across Japan, KOBIZ chats to Kim Min-ah about her work on human rights films, film journalist and critic Jason Bechervaise shares what films he's looking forward to this summer, and director Cho Sung-hyung on her new film "My Brothers and Sisters in the North"...More
Discover thirty dishes to look out for next time you're in Korea, Beyond Kimchee puts together a delicious cabbage ramen salad, make and enjoy a Korean snack fit for a king, and Korea clamps down on bad menu translations...More
Pokemon Go sends South Korean players into no man's land, Jeolla Province wows visitors with its stunning scenery and historical sights, see what's happening around town with The Korea Times, and all aboard to the DMZ!...More
Asia One explores Korea's "militaristic' work culture, discover a colorful culture village in the southern city of Busan, Korea's beauty culture continues to gather steam, and read all about Korea's new slogan: "Creative Korea"...More
The Telegraph shows us just how dirty some of Korea's summer festivals get, Kang Ik-joong to create a massive installation art piece in London this September, a rusty ship get's transform into something special, and Jussi Lyons has five fabulous images from Korea for you to enjoy...More
2016/07/22 | | Permalink
The body count surrounding "Wanted" is rapidly increasing as the show and authorities close in on the ones responsible for the deaths seven years ago. Lee Ji-eun seems to be a key person and the team tries to get as much out of her as possible before the show. Meanwhile, Dong-wook reveals his twisted motive for joining the production. The search for the kidnapper continues, but a crisis occurs when what seems to be a secret mission is initiated...More
2016/07/22 | | Permalink
Going up through slow trains it's actually quite cheap to get to Incheon (final destination, chasing another film festival), passing a lot of smaller cities on the way. Wonju is one such city. Though important for administrative reasons, Wonju is a rather scattershot area for sightseeing. There is Gangwon Administrative Office (강원감영), which is located downtown, but aside from the traditional architecture the main noteworthy aspect are these monuments to exceptional civil servants. Which is appropriate- if you've ever had much contact with unhelpful government officials, it's easy to see why someone would want to memorialize the good ones...More
Episode 6 was No Eul's episode. It was her turn to discover and reflect instead of recklessly living. Her character up until this point has charged forward, doing anything and everything to earn the money to keep her and her brother afloat. Although she professes love for Ji-tae, it is Joon-yeong who gives her pause and challenges her current lifestyle.
As Joon-yeong and No Eul adventure to the ocean to escape the paparazzi, the not-quite-a-couple couple start to learn about each other in the most interesting episode thus far...More
It would appear that on top of her other characteristics Yeon-joo is also a drama critic. Go figure. Well, in all fairness practically every real-life character in "W" has some sort of strong opinion about how fictional stories should proceed. And Seong-moo, in typical famous author fashion, arrogantly dismisses any notion that there is a "correct" way to write a story. He wants to kill Cheol and by golly, he's going to succeed no matter how obviously contrived the process is...More
Crisis hits the "Wanted" production when Ha Dong-min's lawyer and a member of their own staff are kidnapped by copycat criminals from the program's fan club. Episode nine takes a step back from Hyeon-woo's case to look at the consequences of such a reality show, but the kidnapper's behavior during this situation acts as an additional clue in the investigation for their identity. The time to find out Ha Dong-min and Kim Woo-jin's connection to all of this approaches...More
2016/07/20 | | Permalink
The somber note that sounded throughout last week's episodes of "Uncontrollably Fond" was little seen in episode 5. Only with Ji-tae, secret chaebol and Daddy Longlegs extraordinaire, did the angst verge momentarily above the surface. What rose to the surface we the re-kindled interest between Joon-yeong and No Eul and the heavy baggage of dating in the limelight.
What struck me most about the episode was how normal Joon-yeong appeared and how hard he worked to maintain that guise...More
2016/07/20 | | Permalink
Cheol (played by Lee Jong-suk) is an Olympic level marksman who is framed for a horrible crime, wallowing away in despair before finally becoming determined to locate the true perpetrator. Cheol is also a fictional character in a webtoon by Seong-moo (played by Kim Ee-seong), who is also the father of Yeon-joo (played by Han Hyo-joo), a clumsy doctor who juggles medical responsibilities with an active social position as the daughter of a famous webtoon artist. Matters take a turn for the weird when Yeon-joo is left alone with a manuscript that appears to clumsily kill Cheol off...More
2016/07/19 | | Permalink
Flashbacks sprinkled throughout this episode remind us of the difficult trials and tribulations Hye-jeong and Ji-hong wernt through back in the day that inspired them to get on to the medical career path. I find the inclusion of these flashbacks puzzling, since all they do is remind me that at one time "Doctors" was about people exceeding their own expectations to do good in the world rather than act all surly. And now the story is just a love triangle...More
2016/07/19 | | Permalink
So apparently...ghosts can wear dresses? I don't have any big logical problems with this, it's just that of all the questions "Bring It On, Ghost" could be answering right now "can ghosts wear dresses" really strikes me as the most irrelevant one. Much like the previous episode, this episode is simply another restatement of the same plot points that dominated the first two. Bong-pal and Hyeon-ji have anatagonistic fun, Myeong-cheol is not a very good monk, Cheon-sang and In-rang are a couple of dopes, and we still have no idea what's going on with Hye-seong...More
Hye-jeong and Ji-hong are still cute. That's about all the depth I can get out of their relationship, unfortunately. The closest we get to dynamic story action is that Hye-jeong pulls away for the sake of investigating her grandmother's death while Ji-hong offers unconditional support. And of course they still have time to go on dates anyway. The lack of much real conflict in that regard tends to be a bit stifling. It would be nice if Hye-jeong faced some serious resistance every once in awhile...More
The format for this episode is mostly the exact same as the first two. Strictly speaking this is not a bad thing, since the first two episodes were quite engaging. But after a certain point rehashing the same jokes gets to be tiring however energetic and fun the relevant performances may be. Myeong-cheol is not a terribly competent priest, and also he tends to make gross sounds. Is the main purpose of his character really just going to be some variation on these jokes every single time?...More
The last episode of "Beautiful Gong Shim" was everything I had expected it to be and a little less. Each story was addressed, however awkwardly and the guy got his girl. The beauty of Dan-tae's weird character carried through to the end even if other elements did not.
Gong Mi's past is revealed, but not in the way one would expect...More
"Now You See Me 2" and "Train to Busan" arrive and shine...
"Finding Dory" got off to a great start last weekend by shooting to the top of the chart with over 800,000 admissions, but two new features have since entered the fray and pulled ahead of Pixar's latest adventure...More
2016/07/17 | | Permalink
Episode 19 of "Beautiful Gong Shim" is where all the action is. Joon-soo's uncle is caught by his own avarice and stupidity, Joon-soo chooses the righteous path, and Dan-tae solves a decades old mystery while getting his girl. That girl, Gong Shim, didn't have much to do with the episode, which left most of it without Minah's bright Gong Shim...More
2016/07/17 | | Permalink
Episode four of "The Good Wife" is definitely an improvement on the last one, as it balances its pacing and goes through the things we need to know before moving on. This time we have two cases which give us much needed exposition and a hefty dose of characterization. There is a lot more to Tae-joon, Joong-won and Sang-il than we see and they all sadly have a self-serving interest in Hye-kyeong's matters...More
A new case is opened and a new guest character comes with it in episode three of "The Good Wife", but they do more for the main plot and characters than act as a client. Tae-joon is briefly released from jail and his little excursion provides some dark revelations about his personality. There is a lot going on here and the pacing is starting to generate a lot of confusion by propelling everything forward...More
With Hong-joo mostly out of the way, "Mirror of the Witch" is able to proceed without a villain. Which is to say, instead of having to fight an intractable conspiracy, Jun and Yeon-hee simply solve problems and make wishes come true. This is immensely more satisfying than the skulduggery that has categorized so much of the drama's plot until this point. In context it's not clear whether any of the potions are actually magical at all- it's more about the behavior they provoke...More
Korean revenge dramas are a popular genre and some diversity would be a good idea. This is what the creators of "Master - God of Noodles" must have thought when they chose which work to adapt, because revenge by noodles is certainly new. The series is stylish and dark, its characters are many and interesting and its villain is terrifying. At the same time, it is constrained by its medium...More
Funded by the South Korean Ministry of Unification, "I Miss You" is an omnibus feature that explores the emotional rift created by the arbitrary partition of the Korean peninsula into two halves. The presentation is emotionally striking and frequently sad, moving from past to present to future. There is always hope, and even if reconciliation seems impossible one day, bit by bit, working together, maybe dreams will come true...More
International travel is the hip new trend among young people these days. I should know- I'm writing this review in the lounge of a Seoul guest house. The lobby computer homepage includes links to housing and employment listings geared toward long-term visitors. South Koreans too can have similar motives when they travel. In "Holy Working Day", writer/director Lee Hee-won-I goes to Australia and, finding a lack of options in Sydney, tries to find work in The Outback. And perhaps something more...More
International border lines are imaginary concepts. They exist on maps, not in reality. Now, for people like me (and probably you), they are very real boundaries that mark a sense of personal identity. We travel in the hopes of finding something radically different than home. But to world citizens of lower economic caste, boundaries are a fungible concept that exist as a continuum rather than a set of discrete differences. "Fluid Boundaries" is a documentary that tells the story of these people...More
As the center of intangible cultural heritage in South Korea, on paper Andong seems like a great place to visit. In practice, though, the problem with intangible cultural heritage is that, by definition, you can't really look at it. Unless there's a festival going on there's very little to do. Or maybe it just seemed that way because of the freakishly hot weather...in any case, most of the old stuff is far off from the main town. In the city center, all there is to settle for is Yeonggahyeon (영가헌), an old government office largely identical to most of the reconstructed government offices in this country, just smaller than average...More
Netflix plans to expand its offerings in South Korea, The Hollywood reporter reviews "One Way Trip", Lee Byung-hun honoured in America, and find out how Asian animations did at Annecy this year...More
Learn how to make kimchi udon noodle stir fry with My Korean Kitchen, Robin Ha uses comic books as a medium to share Korean recipes, discover some of the differences between Korean and American food culture, and is ramen really bad for our health?...More
Catch The Korea Times' roundup of upcoming events, AsianDate promotes love in The Land of the Morning Calm, find out what festivals are happening in Jeju in July and August, and robots to be introduced at Incheon International Airport...More
A new K-drama podcast launches, see how some Korean's are raising the country's consciousness on screen addiction, the country's pet cultural to be regulated, and find out what aspect of Korean culture foreigners find most challenging to adapt to...More
Artnet interviews abstract painter Kwang-sho Shin, The Korea Times looks back at the life of Chun Kyung-ja (1924-2015), see how South Korea's version of Snapchat is taking off, and discover five Korean photographers worth getting to know...More
After Yeon-hee is predictably rescued due to a few convenient contrivances, "Mirror of the Witch" finally gets into serious material it should have been exploring a long time ago- serious self-reproachment. Progressing events finally proven to Hong-joo that her theory regarding the curse is at best rather flawed, indicating that at minimum, Hong-joo is not as smart as she thought. She still has to act, but there's a terrified sense of weakness to the villainess now that limits her powers of persuasion...More
The intersections of relationships and individual goals begin to clear up in episode 4 of "Uncontrollably Fond". And, rather than settling down, the personalities of the main leads remain as capricious as ever and are defined situationally. This episode was Kim Woo-bin's, however. Each scene he was in was laced with such intensity. Suzy has also been realistic as No Eul.
I mentioned in the last review that Joon-yeong's illness had not been mentioned in a while and this episode addresses that in spades...More
Another pawn in the kidnapper's game is revealed, but I am starting to wonder what is and is not controlled by the mastermind and why they seem so forgiving of errors. Hye-in's "Wanted" is in danger of cancellation and our heroine finds unlikely allies. The show is increasingly being criticized for glamorizing violence and we find out Jeong-ho's true nature. Some things feel a bit odd and others clumsily presented, but "Wanted" has not dropped the ball yet...More
While Angang is technically considered a part of Gyeongju, the township is actually closer to Pohang than it is to Gyeongju proper. Even so, it's only a bus Ride Away, and is filled with its own collection of artifacts, most notably Yangdong Village (양동마을). As tourist locations go Yangdong Village is a little weird. In practical terms it's just a normal Korean neighborhood with unusually old houses. People actually live there, surrounded by artwork that plays up the location's history...More
2016/07/14 | | Permalink
Initially the plot for the final episode centers around a scheme to try and get Bonnie and Soo-ho back together. Eventually it turns out that this scheme was a complete waste of time with no payoff as Bonnie and Soo-ho meet in their own special way. The reunion is actually quite sweet and heartfelt. It does a good job integrating all the best parts of "Lucky Romance" to deliver an effective closing message about love. But none of this changes the fact that the entire first half of the episode was a complete waste of time...More
2016/07/14 | | Permalink
"Wanted" has been raising more questions than it has been answering and everyone feels like a suspect. The creators choose to provide some answers in episode seven, giving viewers some pay-off for the guessing game we have been going through so far. Some connections between culprits and victims are explained, the nature of certain characters becomes clearer and the elephant in the room is addressed when the show comes under serious scrutiny for its deadly influence...More
There are two major critical problems in "Lucky Romance". The first is that most of the drama's ideas are undeveloped. The second, more complicated problem is that most of the drama's ideas are really clichéd and bad, so developing them would make "Lucky Romance" worse rather than better. This issue kept coming back to me watching this episode, which is painfully predictable as Soo-ho is hospitalized, while Bonnie gets scared and affects a last minute separation...More
"Uncontrollably Fond"'s penchant for bookending episodes with dilemma's in the character's present is already a repetitive plot tool. It is attempting to draw parallels between past and present, and work the story in a non linear fashion, but these efforts come off as heavy-handed. The glimpse into the past is welcome, but Joon-yeong's motivations are hard to follow and make the past a messy place to be.
The first two episodes indicated that Joon-yeong wanted some sort of revenge on No Eul...More
At KCON New York 2016 presented by Toyota HanCinema had the privilege and the pleasure of being on two panels with some amazing colleagues: "The Return of the Secret Life of K-pop Fans Over 30" and "From K-pop Fan to K-pop Professional". These panels represented HanCinema's first panel experience at KCON and we felt so welcomed by our fellow panelists.
Hallyu professionals from all over the spectrum gathered to talk about their expertise, and their passion...More
Having apparently realized that too much energy has been extended on social relationships lately, the production team dedicates much of this episode to actual doctoring. First there's the accidental crisis Hye-jeong and Soo-cheol created by failing to observe proper traffic safety precautions, then there's the more built-up storyline regarding the prospective Olympic archer. Both operations go relatively smoothly with no real hitches...More
Hyeon-ji discovered last episode that by kissing Bong-pal, she was able to recover some memories. Given how Hyeon-ji is helplessly wandering the world of the living as a ghost with nothing better to do, it is unsurprising that Hyeon-ji wishes to explore this unexpected development further.. However, Hyeon-ji is a teenage girl before she is a ghost, and rather than simply tell Bong-pal her motivation and ask for help, she decides to act weird and clingy for no good reason...More
After far too long, Dan-tae and Joon-soo have finally joined hands as they have always been meant to do. Their short stint at enemies was contrived and ineffective. Their brotherhood is much more powerful when it is in full bloom and in the light of cooperation and friendship. Writer Lee Hee-myeong's strength is found in the sweet, kind, and/or funny interactions between characters. Where that strength wanes is in conflict.
Part of the issue centers around the fact that Joon-soo's uncle is, as I've said before, an impotent villain...More
The opening scene for this episode depicts Hye-jeong as a child listening to a fight between her father and a woman who is either Hye-jeong's mother or her stepmother. It's unclear. While the scene is effective in establishing context for Hye-jeong's actions immediately after her kiss with Ji-hong, the lack of full context illustrates the main greater problem in "Doctors". The drama never quite gives us all the information necessary for the story to be fully satisfying...More
Bong-pal (played by Taecyeon) is a college student who pays for his tuition by accepting jobs to fight ghosts. He does not do so through magical means, but rather by punching them, or some variation thereof. Some ghosts are more punchable than others. Hyeon-ji (played by Kim So-hyeon-I) falls into the "harder to punch" category. Initially just toying with Bong-pal, Hyeon-ji eventually realizes that Bong-pal is the only real lead she has in unraveling the mystery behind her own death...More
We have another case involving women in episode two of "The Good Wife" and this time the crime is rape. Hye-kyeong's emotional bonding to her first client served her well, but she falters when she must defend someone who makes her uncomfortable. Our empathetic heroine's principles are challenged, the pressure starts affecting her and we learn that she may have a dark secret to answer for. To make matters worse, her husband keeps interfering with her work...More
Dory finds a way to beat "The Man Who Sells the River"...
Disney and Pixar's sequel to "Finding Nemo" (2003), "Finding Dory", arrived in theatres last week and-as expected-dominated box offices around the world. In Korea, the film was allocated over a thousand screens around the country and from them captured 32% of the box office pie (825,131 admissions) to come out on top during a very competitive season. "Finding Dory" has already sold over a million admissions ($7.3 million) since Wednesday, and, worldwide, it's grossed over $642.8 million (the film was produced for an estimated $200 million). "Finding Dory" is on track to becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year...More
2016/07/10 | | Permalink
"Beautiful Gong Shim" has all the right trappings to be a great drama, but it manages to lose steam in every aspect but the romance between Gong Shim and Dan-tae, which is sweet and winning. Dan-tae has uncovered a huge truth, but his methods have been driven by rage and pain. Joon-soo has uncovered the same truth, but reacted by escaping. The two cousins, once close because of their mutual kindness and enjoyable differences, are now drawn apart by their family drama. This show seems to be trying to pull them back together, but not without wrenching them apart in rather ridiculous ways first...More
2016/07/10 | | Permalink
"The Good Wife" starts with a focus on the present and gives us only the bare essentials of the past. Episode one establishes the scandal and we flash forward to a point where our heroine has a husband in jail, nothing but her phone contract to her name and a family to support. We are introduced to some key characters and our lead gets her first court case. It is a packed, straightforward and stylish premiere for the drama...More
KCON New York 2016 presented by Toyota featured over ninety booths in the outdoor convention, and many of them were beauty booths. HanCinema stopped by the booths to chat with the businesses that bring Korean beauty products and skin care to New York and the rest of the world outside beauty-forward South Korea. Let's take a look a four amazing companies that set up booths at the Prudential Center June 24 and June 25 for KCON New York 2016! Don't forget to check out the instructions at the bottom of the article to enter our giveaway. Three mystery beauty gift bags are up for grabs this go 'round...More
Jun and Yeon-hee briefly have an enjoyable time on the run. Well, all right, being on the run by definition can't really be enjoyable, but they do have some nice flashbacks and even manage to hold hands. Daw. Alas, it doesn't take long for the plot to catch up to them again. Once separated, Yeon-hee completely loses her marbles and goes on a much welcomed rampage. And because there are still two episodes left, Jun has to talk her out of it for some incomprehensible reason...More
Seondal (played by Yoo Seung-ho) and his buddy Gyeon-i (played by Xiumin) are Koreans who have been conscripted to fight some random war in the desert to improve the international political standing of aristocrat Dae-ryeon (played by Jo Jae-hyeon). Although the opening scene is fairly bleak it does not take long for Seondal and Gyeon-i to run into Bo-won (played by Ko Chang-seok), a man who specializes in survival through scamming. Soon enough, the whole gang is free to run increasingly elaborate con jobs on pretty much everyone...More
Last week in my review of "The World of Us" I implied that empty soju bottles are normally shorthand for an abusive low-class patriarch. This was misleading. They are also another equally common shorthand for depression, at least when it concerns struggling members of the reflective bourgeoisie. Such is the case in "Our Dating History" for aspiring film professionals Yeon-i (played by Jeon Hye-bin) and Seon-jae (played by Shin Min-chul). They married impulsively, they divorced impulsively, and must for the moment live in the same apartment while drowning their vocational sorrows with fruit pouch soju...More
From spring of 2015 to spring of 2016 Big Bang went on an international tour to promote their album, Made. "BIGBANG: 'MADE' TOUR" chronicles the events of this tour in a nonlinear fashion, jumping around as necessary between production, performance, and break time. There's nothing that can really be called a narrative, just more of an overriding question- how is it that Big Bang can draw together such huge crowds from all over the world?...More
...By the way, Gyeongju actually has three train stations rather than just one. So I'm spotlighting Singyeongju Station (신경주역) partially as a public service announcement. This is where the fast train from Seoul to Busan stops. It's pretty far off from the proper part of the city, although any bus that starts at Singyeongju Station will most assuredly take you somewhere more interesting on the cheap. Just bear in mind that if you want to have fun in Gyeongju in between adventures in Seoul and Busan, be prepared to either use buses or buy expensive taxi rides...More
KOBIZ highlights some key historical figures and their appearance in Korean cinema, Lee Joon-ik shares his thoughts on Korean history and philosophy through his films at the New York Asian Film Festival, John Soltes reviews "Violent Prosecutor" for Hollywood Soapbox, and find out what two Korean films made What Culture's top ten Asian action films...More
My Korean Kitchens helps us beat the heat with a refreshing watermelon punch, marinated crab rated the "most challenging" Korean food by foreigners, see Korea's 'dinner porn' stars in action, and America gets seaweed in some of its snacks...More
Clara Chow shares her experiences of her amazing trip around Jeju island, Asia One has some terrific suggestions on what to do and see around Korea this summer, a new K-bus launches for tourists, and are South Koreans too critical when they travel overseas?...More
Get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most influential K-pop groups of all time, see how Korea's popular music has helped soju sales, six individuals win Korea's prestigious Ho-Am Prize, and what will it take to keep the K-wave rolling?...More
A diving instructor captures the wonder of underwater caves, see the difference between North and South Korea in a photo essay by Jose Velasco, Korean webtoons tap into technology to tell new tales, and see how one Korean man treats his sex doll in public...More
Hong-joo is in jail again, although we know from past experience that this doesn't really mean anything. "Mirror of the Witch" consistently makes a strong argument for a quick trial-less death penalty, not because Hong-joo is evil enough to warrant one, but because the drama takes place in this comic book universe where prisons are made out of cardboard and only serve to temporarily keep the villain out of the way until she's needed again in a few more issues...More
A couple of episodes back I said that "Wanted" is making me paranoid. The series is quick to reward and encourage this viewer mindset by proving my assumptions right. Hye-in's life faces danger in episode six and so does the show during her absence. New suspects and criminals surface while Hye-in's "allies" are preoccupied with their own agenda. We have a new murder in the present, one in the past and the first direct call from Hyeon-woo...More
Ah, Gyeongju Station (경주역). Not to be confused with Gyeongju Bus Terminal (경주버스터미날). Yeah...I don't especially like how "station" is always used interchangably with "역" because in English at least, station can also mean buses. Word to the wise- train stations and bus stations are not generally that close to each other in South Korea, so make sure you know in advance which one you're going to, especially if you're taking the train, since train schedules tend to be a lot more erratic than bus schedules...More
Soo-ho takes his rather alarming reversal of career fortune in casual stride this episode, being fully determined to play the role of cheerful boyfriend through all possible negative circumstance. Ryu Jun-yeol really is quite good in this role. Soo-ho is simultaneously enough of an adult to be the leader of his own company, yet socially immature enough to think tossing everything aside for the sake of love is romantic rather than foolhardy. Soo-ho has always been a real person, rather than the caricature of adult virgins that is more common when they show up on television at all...More
The dark past is unveiled, at least partially, in episode number 2 of "Uncontrollably Fond" that sat prettily atop the drama ranks at 12.5%, matching the first episode's rating. No Eul and Joon-yeong in their high school years are those who have not: they lack power, money, and influence, three assets that their opponents have in abundance.
A complex web of family relations, payoffs, deals, loans sharks, and emotional agony was woven during No Eul's and Joon-yeong's high school years...More
Deeper down the rabbit hole we go with "Wanted" and things are starting to get personal for more of the people involved. The kidnapper's goals and knowledge seem to reach far beyond Hye-in and Hyeon-woo while Seung-in's involvement might have been planned all along. Our heroine is reaching the limit of how long she can keep Hyeon-woo's identity a secret from the world and our suspect list grows bigger with every episode of the culprit's twisted reality show...More
2016/07/06 | | Permalink
Nearly a year has passed since the first whispers of new pre-produced KBS2 drama "Uncontrollably Fond" began floating about. Writer Lee Kyeong-hee who penned popular dramas such as "Nice Guy", "Will It Snow for Christmas?", and "A Love to Kill" returns for another sixteen episode dramawith Director Park Hyeon-seok of sageuk sensation "The Princess' Man" and the recent "Spy - Drama". It came in on top of the pack at 12.5%.
The first episode of "Uncontrollably Fond" was beautifully shot as is typical of Director Park, but tonally ambiguous, which is typical of Writer Lee...More
2016/07/06 | | Permalink
For a spell "Lucky Romance" continues to be sickeningly, adorably cute with its main romance. It's hard to hate a drama that's obsessed with its own sheer goofiness- I guess maybe because of the way it works in memory? That's the fun part of being together with a new person, after all. All the minor gestures which keep saying in as explicit possible terms "I like you and wish we could spend more time together". Soo-ho even brings that energy to exposing the not-so-secret relationship everyone has not been able to acknowledge at work...More
2016/07/05 | | Permalink
We get a brief glimpse of Ji-hong's deeper darker motivations in the opening set this episode. The short of it is that Ji-hong had reasons to get involved with medicine that did not involve the birthright of his adopted family. I like these moments where we see the way Ji-hong interacts with other people without it all having to tie back to Hye-jeong somehow, because they give a better sense of who Ji-hong is a person aside from just the usual charm...More
2016/07/04 | | Permalink
With this episode "Doctors" takes an unfortunate step towards unwanted perfection- Hye-jeong is super talented, right about everything, and only ever faces resistance by mean-spirited people who are either outright evil or secretly harbor a romantic crush. We're at the point where Hye-jeong's only conceivable flaw appears to be that she's too awesome. What happened to the bitter jerk from the first episode who engaged in petty shoplifting just for the fun of it?...More
2016/07/04 | | Permalink
Three new entries take over at the top...
There was a major reshuffle at the top of Korea's box office over the weekend as three new films entered the fray and capture over 60% of the box office pie. Last week's number one, "Independence Day: Resurgence" by Roland Emmerich, was bumped to fourth after "Familyhood", "The Legend of Tarzan", and "The Hunt" came in and conquered the podium...More
2016/07/03 | | Permalink
The truth is stuck and it won't come out. Misunderstandings fuel all plot movement and its more than mildly infuriating. It's an attempt to pit Joon-soo and Dan-tae against each other when both men are really much too intelligent to let the mechanizations of the not-so-bright uncle tear them apart. Although emotionally driven, Dan-tae is a lawyer and should be able to figure out the truth. He probably will, but the show chooses to let misunderstandings linger and fester.
Joon-soo's uncle sees Joon-soo with Dan-tae and purposefully tries to wrench the cousins apart...More
2016/07/03 | | Permalink
"Beautiful Gong Shim" is a blend of zesty chemistry between the leads and and deadweight mystery. Gong Shim and Dan-tae are refreshing together in their honesty and unconditional love. The mystery is so clunky and the villains are so ineffective that the plot lacks genuine intrigue.
Joon-soo's uncle is at the core of the kidnapping case, but the man is such an ineffective villain that drawing out the kidnapping case any longer would be stretching the plot beyond thin...More
...So apparently "Mirror of the Witch" is a twenty episode drama? I'd been assuming it was only sixteen. Not sure whether they added four while I wasn't paying attention or if it was just wishful thinking. Considering what little there is for any of the characters to actually do anymore, I'm at a loss for what's going to happen in even the next two episodes, let alone four. Exactly how many contrivances can the drama possibly come up with to keep letting Hong-joo get away at the last minute?...More
Remakes and adaptations are a bit of a painful subject for Korean drama. Be it based on an original webtoon, a novel or a film, there is many a failure out there. TvN is not deterred by this, as they bring us two dramas based on popular North American series, one of which is "The Good Wife". Let us take a first look at this quite daring effort for the industry...More
After quite a bad run with "Vampire Detective", OCN is back with something bigger and better. "38 Revenue Collection Unit" is shaping up to be one entertaining and nicely made summer movie in drama form. Taxes might sound boring, but with a duo of unlikely partners going after a Big Bad and corruption being the name of the game, there is plenty to enjoy here...More
The second year of KCON New York held June 24 and June 25 at the Prudential Center shaped up to be an incredible event that attracted 42,000 Hallyu fans, nearly two and a half times as many fans as its inaugural year of 17,000. Half of the fans in attendance came from outside the New York metro area. Not only did fan numbers swell, but the convention enjoyed double the sponsorship, over ninety booths, and triple the workshops and panels. HanCinema was on two of those panels and will also participate in panels at KCON LA July 29 through July 30. We also visited many of the booths at the convention and have fantastic, high-quality beauty items for giveaway. Check out the giveaway instructions at the bottom of this list of highlights to learn how to enter! And don't worry, you will have more chances to win Korean beauty products! Keep following our KCON New York coverage to find out more!
And now, without further ado, here are the top 8 highlights of the KCON New York 2016 Convention of all things Hallyu...More
Because there were so many funs things to do an see at KCON New York 2016, we at HanCinema wanted to make sure to share as much as possible with HanCinema readers. So, every Saturday until KCON LA we're going to post a photogallergy from KCON NY to tide you over to the next exciting con! Without further ado, here is a glorious KCON New York 2016 picture explosion...More
Joo-yeon (played by Kim Hye-soo) is a high-level actress in the Korean entertainment industry, but her star power has faded with age. Or maybe just her abrasive personality, it's kind of hard to tell. In any case, feeling very suddenly professionally unfulfilled in life, Joo-yeon has an epiphany during a visit to the home of her stylist Pyeong-goo (played by Ma Dong-seok). She likes families, and so Joo-yeon becomes determined to create a family through whatever means necessary...More
In the rural mountainside an ominous crack of lightning strikes atop a grave marked by a twisted gnarly tree, as eerie whistling sounds portend that the thunder has not revealed a gift from beyond, but a curse. That's the opening scene of "The Hunt" which should, by all rights, have set the stage for a far more satisfying and frightening film, with men driven bad by a lust for wealth engaged in an endless duel. Unfortunately the execution leaves a lot to be desired...More
Seon (played by Choi Soo-in) is an elementary school student with no friends. Why? Well...you know, that's the kind of question asked by those who have always had friends. Most of the time people, and especially kids, can't make friends not due to some personally crippling defect but because they don't know how, and the process generally requires coincidences that are all but impossible to to recreate. Don't believe me? Ask yourself how you met your best friend and then try to figure out how you could do it again. That's the apparently impossible task Seon is faced with...More
Ah, the knick-knacks...while I'm not a fan of big cities in general Daegu consistently did a decent job of impressing me with odd curiousities that could easily be found around every corner. This isn't Seoul with its constant divide of "crowded urban area" versus "boring residential neighborhood". No, Daegu is the kind of place where a serious street art memorial to the international Dokdo dispute of all things can pop up out of nowhere. While I'm pretty indifferent to the Dokdo issue in general that's some pretty rad patriotism, you know?...More
Park Chan-wook talks about violence and his latest film ("The Handmaiden"), Fangoria shows us what to expect from the upcoming Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, KOBIZ's latest infographic reveals what 2016 Korean films have grossed the most, and The Chicago Tribune reviews Na Hong-jin's "The Wailing"...More
My Korean Kitchen shows us how to make Korean-style tuna cakes, the Korean ambassador in Trinidad gives his guests a taste of Korean cuisine, learn how to make Kimchi at home, and get a hungry traveler's guide to street food...More
Find out where Korea's best beaches are, the Inquirer gives their top five reasons to visit Korea, The Korea Herald highlights some exciting upcoming events around the country, and discover where to hike like the locals with The Korea Times...More
Understand the history of Korea's 'divorce culture', a new proposal could help Korean employees secure a better work-life balance, find out how Simon and Martina are doing after EYK, and is Korea letting its Muslim visitors down at the dinner table?...More
Go beyond K-pop with the upcoming Yeowoorak Festival, enjoy pictures from photographer Kim Kyung Sang, see more of Korea's "illusion artist", and get to know all about Park Chan-kyong's multimedia installation art...More
It suddenly occurred to me this episode that King Seonjo's decision to keep his sickness secret has never made a whole lot of sense. Like, if you're seriously morbidly ill and the regular doctor isn't cutting it, wouldn't it make more sense to start inquiring for other doctors than to just pretend the problem is going to go away on its own? King Seonjo should have been suspicious of Hong-joo from the get-go. How did she even know he was sick in the first place, let alone have any idea how to cure it?...More
"Wanted" is getting darker by the episode as everyone's wits and morality are being toyed with by someone who has clearly put a lot of thought into the reality show they have created. Hye-in has to manipulate, betray and increasingly expose herself to the world while everyone around her does their best to get their job done. A possible motive for the show's creation is revealed and the suspect list keeps getting bigger as more secrets are revealed...More
All humans long for freedom and control, but what makes each of us different is how far we are willing to go and how much we are willing to sacrifice for them. Unlike everyone around him, Gil-do knows no limits. At the same time, part of him seems to understand that they need to exist. It is this last crumb of humanity which brings things to an end for "Master - God of Noodles", but it is kindness which shapes the future...More
On a daily basis my main frame of reference for what "looks" like Daegu was bizarrely enough this old Anglican Church, built in 1917 and dedicated to Saint Francis (the guy Pope Francis named himself after). The irony of this being, of course, the fact that an old style Anglican Church is fairly obviously not representative of Daegu in any way but I passed by it all the time in my favored back streets...More
2016/06/30 | | Permalink
Bonnie's constant rejection of Soo-ho has gotten to be rather tiring, so it's with relief that I write that this episode they actually finally start dating. Yes that's a bit of a spoiler but I don't care at this point- it's taken so long for "Lucky Romance" to get to any actual fun standard romantic comedy material that see Bonnie and Soo-ho is event worthy of some celebration. If only it could have happened without the using of so much clumsy game company gossip...More
2016/06/30 | | Permalink
It is a time of revenge, realization and loss in the penultimate episode of "Master - God of Noodles". Gil-do is faced with the mistakes he has made and the lives he has ruined when a bigger evil than him exercises control he himself never had. Myeong's successes make him dangerously greedy and blind him to the dangers around him as they did Gil-do. There are always victims in games of power and those are rarely the ones who play these games...More
2016/06/29 | | Permalink
"Wanted" could have easily relied on suspense over a stock kidnapping story, but it is refreshing to see how bold its creators are in touching delicate social subjects through it. This time around domestic violence and its treatment by the law and press become a topic. We also find out more about our characters, including Seung-in and his presumably painful past. With the second mission being handed and Hyeon-woo's status being unconfirmed, Hye-in has a lot to deal with...More
2016/06/29 | | Permalink
So after that huge climactic kiss last episode Bonnie...is still looking for excuses to avoid the plot. Agh! Already I miss "Oh Hae-Young Again", with its characters always making a mutual effort to keep their romance alive. Bonnie is practically the living personification of all the reasons Soo-ho has to not like dating, because she insists on making everything so hard for reasons she won't explain. Bonnie is long overdue for a discussion with Goo-sin, since the shaman is pretty much the only character who can make Bonnie explain herself...More
Upon closer examination, it turns out that Hye-jeong has gotten a tad bitter over the timeskip. Her temperament is as bad as it ever was, but now she has the excuse of being a medical professional. It's one thing for Hye-jeong to mouth off against belligerent gangsters. Fellow doctors are a different matter. Yoon-do (played by Yoon Gyoon-sang) is clearly doing the best he can, and it's not fair for Hye-jeong to have such a huge superiority complex...More
I got the distinct impression for most of the last episode of "Oh Hae-Young Again" that writer Park Hae-yeong (yes, that is her real name) never really had a plan for finishing any of the drama's storylines. She just had these really great characters, and the interesting hook of the mysterious visions, and figured the rest would come naturally. Well, two extra episodes and an extended finale weren't enough. The ending of "Oh Hae-Young Again" is sloppy, coming up with new conflicts while only clumsily resolving the old ones...More
The conflict in "Beautiful Gong Shim" is quite contrived. Circumstances are such that the show should have a constant thread of tension weaving in and out of scenes and character development, but the tension flags and wanes on such a regular basis that it is no longer compelling.
The main source of this tension, or the lack of it, is Dan-tae's childhood kidnapping and the family members involved...More
Upon further consideration Ji-hong is...really not a very good teacher. Sure, he's cool and hip. But the man's advice is frequently filled with mutually incompatible platitudes rather than anything useful. Most importantly, though, Ji-hong is really bad when it comes to the idea of taking responsibility. Most of his screentime here is spent trying to obfuscate or avoid acknowledging any kind of personal error. That's not setting a good example, although fortunately the female characters in "Doctors" are able to manage all right on their own...More
While "Oh Hae-Young Again" continues to mostly be filler, at this point it's surprisingly comforting filler. I like watching Do-kyeong and Hae-young be happy. Eric Moon and Seo Hyeon-jin have really good cute chemistry. I like how Hae-young is most of the things that Do-kyeong is not, that she is loud and proud while he is quiet and loyal. Do-kyeong engages in an act of explicit heroism this episode and doesn't even bother to stick around and take credit...More
This episode answered many of the questions I have been posing, but in strange bursts of emotional exposition and flashbacks. Rather than work linearly, the show has chosen to reveal answers as strangely placed afterthoughts. This plot structure isn't the problem; it's the fact that the use of it made a lot of character behavior for the past two episodes completely baffling.
Dan-tae has revealed himself to his grandmother, which explains his distinct lack of emotional response to finding his long lost family after he discovered his identity...More
"Independence Day: Resurgence" arrives and thrives under Korean conditions...
It's been two decades since Roland Emmerich's aliens met Will Smith in "Independence Day", but now the invading extraterrestrials and back for another attack on our Pale Blue Dot. "Independence Day: Resurgence", also directed by Emmerich, but still short a Smith, arrived in Korea on Wednesday and landed firmly in first place with 695,000 admissions (35.7%) across 926 screens...More
2016/06/26 | | Permalink
The second day of KCON NY 2016 presented by Toyota was even more exciting than the first. Anticipation for the concert kept energy levels as high as the heat index and the love for all things Hallyu was palpable.
HanCinema had finished its panels the day before and had the chance to attend other panels by amazing Hallyu professionals...More
Now that the jar has been destroyed Hong-joo is forced to switch gears to her previous plan to maintain power- King Seonjo's physical illness. Which kind of begs the question of why Hong-joo ever even needed two plans in the first place. King Seonjo mostly liked Hong-joo back when he first invited her to the palace. Now he doesn't, thanks to all the politicking involved with Hong-joo's second plan. We can go back even further than that and wonder why Hong-joo needed to kill the crown prince at all since making him sick would have been a lot more efficient...More
After delivering some fun and original dramas like "Bad Guys", "Missing Noir M" and "My Beautiful Bride" in the last few years, OCN was well on its way to placing a love of gimmicks and repetitive concepts aside. Sadly for the channel and for viewers, "Vampire Detective" is a return of those issues simultaneously plagued by lack of vision and bad writing. Perhaps its few good elements can be used better in the future...More
The time is the Japanese Occupation. Sook-hee (played by Kim Tae-ri) is a street-level thief and con artist who like anyone else is just trying to get by. Opportunity arises in the form of the Count (played by Ha Jeong-woo) who needs assistance as part of an elaborate scheme to gain access to the family fortune of Hideko (played by Kim Min-hee). All is not as it seems. Although in the movies, when is it ever?...More
Jong-chan (played by Kim Joo-hyeok) and his wife Yeon-hong (played by Son Ye-jin) are a husband-and-wife political couple in the midst of a tough campaign. For all this, their home life is mostly pleasant. Then a crisis erupts. Initially the fault lines are drawn on whether the big event qualifies as a crisis at all. Where Jong-chan wants to focus on the campaign and leave the detective work to more trusted hands, Yeon-hong becomes obsessed with discovering..."The Truth Beneath"...More
Soon-tae (played by Kim Sang-ho) is a taxi driver with a checkered past. But in the present day, he loves his daughter Dong-hyeon (played by Kim Hwang-ki) and strives to do right by her. That becomes difficult when Soon-tae becomes the perfect patsy for a gruesome crime. From there, it's up to crime-related professional Pil-jae (played by Kim Myeong-min) to uncover the conspiracy and bring Soon-tae home. The problem being that Pil-jae is kind of a selfish jerk...More
Located to the north of Muju in an area that's about as remote, Yeongdong is...well, about as uninteresting to be entirely honest. In terms of local flavor this railway station was the last place I visited and it was by far the most distinctive. To be fair this is a pretty fantastically well laid out railway station. The landscaping is beautiful, and the entire property is surrounded by poetry pottery...More
See what Korean films have inspired Indian remakes, KOBIZ looks at Park Chan-wook's filmography to see where "The Handmaiden" stands, a schism could threaten the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), and does the success of "The Priests" and "The Wailing" reveal a shift in Korea's cinematic landscape?...More
Discover how America spammed Korea during wartime, My Korean Kitchen has a frozen treat to beat the heat, vegetarians take note of these traditional Korean snacks, and hear what the experts are saying about how to globalise Korean food...More
See how South Korea's festival organisers are working hard to attract visitors, discover a host of awesome options for what to do in Korea over the summer, be sure to stop by the spacey Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul next time you're in town, and get an inside look at North Korea through some telling travel writing...More
The Korea Times shines the light on the "hidden promoters" of Korean literature, Julie Ricevuto explores body shaming and beauty culture in Korea, Help Go Abroad has some useful tips for expats to avoid any serious culture shock, and "American Ninja Warrior" to challenge locals later this year...More
Enjoy a series of images from the 60s and 70s by photojournalist Min-jo Jeon, find out the details of the Lee Ufan forgery case, Pinterest has a great gallery on South Korea to browse, and The Korea Times reflects on the works of one of country's greatest modern painters...More
A tussel over the jar containing the spirit of Yeon-hee's departed brother defines the main conflict this this around, making it fairly easy to keep track of the story. But strictly speaking the only character with any particular reason to care about what happens to the jar is Queen Dowager Sim. Hong-joo only cares because she can use the jar as emotional leverage against Queen Dowager Sim, and everyone else only cares because they can use the jar to break Hong-joo's grip on power...More
"Master - God of Noodles" has often proved my doubts misplaced and it is the mark of a solid work when the viewer loves being wrong. Gil-do witnesses his lifelines being severed one by one and those who abandon him are about to discover how lacking they are in taming this beast. The time has come for Myeong to confront it, but this confrontation is anticlimactic. Thankfully the series has enough strong characters and a large web of revenge making an impact when Myeong's personal story fails to...More
Action-packed Day 1 of KCON New York at the Prudential Center is over and it was amazing! Even though temperatures spiked to 83°F, that didn't stop devoted Hallyu fans from flocking to KCON to get their full doses of Hallyu goodness. Kathryn and I got there around 9 A.M. to check in and scope the place out. The lines to enter the convention were already massively long.
Never doubt a Hallyu fan, though. The lines weren't a deterrent to happiness...More
I came to Muju to cover the Muju International Film Festival (MIFF), and there's a lot about this festival worth knowing. First off, MIFF is extremely spectator oriented. All the movies are free, even though anything that took place in a theater on the weekend was likely to be sold out. Free shuttle buses come in from Seoul, Daejeon, and Jeonju. And like all film festivals, there are scenes like this where people from behind a table address a crowd about some topic or other. In this case, festival matters are publically discussed by Oh Ji-ho and Son Eun-seo - the celebrity faces of the festival this year...More
It's finally T-1. KCON New York 2016 will dawn bright and early tomorrow morning and HanCinema is going to be there to give you all the goods. Yours truly will be there, Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine, accompanied by Kathryn Kiefhaber, and with our favorite Community Manager/Behind-the-Scenes Evil Genius, Orion, working her social media magic...More
One advantage of slow pacing is that when characters finally act dynamically to move the plot forward, it comes off as a genuine surprise. I was about as bewildered as Bonnie when apropos of nothing a love confession pops up, and had as little idea about what the proper response should be. Granted, her weirdly uncommunicative stance immediately afterwards was a little annoying, although Bonnie is so bad about communication in general that this isn't exactly a new character trait...More
Hye-in is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders as "Wanted", the show within this show kicks off. Everyone has a motive to keep the camera rolling and Hye-in knows full well that she has no true allies in this media circus. The first task has been given and there are casualties, increasing the involvement of the police. The drama takes advantage of its premise for some apt social commentary, making its imaginary world too close to ours for comfort...More
If you have already watched the first episode of "Wanted", please have a glass of water. If you have not, put the snacks down. There will not be any time for them. The series waits for no one and we are thrown in at the deep end right away. The kidnapping takes place and the show within the show is about to begin. There are a few issues with the writing and character introductions, but the atmosphere and suspense are spot on...More
2016/06/22 | | Permalink
Bonnie wears her heart on her sleeve, whereas Soo-ho is frequently cryptic with his feelings. The obvious difference between these two personality types is the main interesting aspect of "Lucky Romance", so I was relieved that this episode finally had these two engage in some extended casual conversations. This being an admittedly relative term. Bonnie getting emotional over her sister is casual for her, even if most people would rather do that in private rather than in front of their boss...More
2016/06/22 | | Permalink
People tend to reveal different sides of them when placed at extremes. A person with nothing to lose or one who feels like they own the world will let their guard down and charge blindly forward. This behavior puts our heroes at risk and it brings out the worst in those who will crush others for their goals. At this point in "Master - God of Noodles", anything goes. Lives might be lost and all truths will be revealed as we enter the final stretch...More
2016/06/21 | | Permalink
As the first episode showed us who Hye-jeong was as a person, the second episode gives a powerful hint of who she could be, and what Hye-jeong is capable of given a genuine crisis situation. The entire medical emergency is tense and Hye-jeong, unrattled as she is thanks to her tough girl demeanor, quickly proves a worthy nurse to Ji-hong's medical administration. Ah, but the title of this drama is not "Nurses". but "Doctors", so Hye-jeong needs to get to work studying...More
2016/06/21 | | Permalink
To my great surprise, "Oh Hae-Young Again" actually does a really good job putting on the brakes and going "whoa now, looks like we need more episodes". Rumination is the order of the day, as characters ponder over whether or not they can really get a happy ending just by thinking happy thoughts. As it turns out Hae-young and Do-kyeong still have a lot of wreckage from past experiences floating around, and it's going to take more than a gentle push to solve these problems...More
Right away "Oh Hae-Young Again" gets on my good side by reminding me just what makes all its characters so charming. There's Hae-young with her optimism, Hoon and Anna with their exuberance, Soo-kyeong with her garbled French, Jin-sang with his paralyzed indecision, and Do-kyeong with his power to surprise the surpriser. I really do love the cast in "Oh Hae-Young Again". They all bring genuine charm to their characters, and this works to elevate roles that in the hands of a lesser performer would have been forgettable...More
Hye-jeong (played by Park Sin-hye) is a doctor who plays by the rules, which she enforces violently when necessary. Right away "Doctors" makes a point of messing around with expectations. Watching the first scene I could visualize director Oh Choong-hwan and writer Ha Myeong-hee in a room together, coming up with new unusual ways to make Park Sin-hye surprising. Let's make her look old. Also let's make her a juveile delinquent, with action scenes. And most importantly of all, let's make her love interest Ji-hong (played by Kim Rae-won) an antagonistic presence...More
As tensions at the company escalate in tandem with Dan-tae's executive pin investigation, his eyes of suspicion include his bromantic buddy, Joon-soo. No one is safe as Dan-tae delves to the bottom of his kidnapping and into his father's attack, including Dan-tae himself. He is so reckless in regards to the emotional well-being of those around him that it's a good thing Gong Shim has decided to stick to him like glue.
The course of events in the show is predictable and only balanced by the significant character strides made by Gong Shim...More
Disney's "The Jungle Book" remains king...
Jon Favreau's "The Jungle Book" retained pole position over the weekend by capturing 27.3% of the box office pie. From the 898 screens allocated, "The Jungle Book" attracted 619 thousand admissions bringing its total to 4.6 million admissions ($12.6 million) since its release two weeks ago. Walt Disney's digitally refreshed version of this classic tale was produced for an estimated $175 million; worldwide, it's already grossed $922.4 million and is fast on its way to reaching the billion-dollar mark...More
Predictably, Yeon-hee does not actually kill Gong-ju, although doing so would as always solve a great many more problems than keeping her alive for ill-defined ethical reasons. I always find it rather annoying when heroic characters act merciful only when it comes to the big boss. Poong-yeon surely must have killed at least a few members of Gongju's personal guard last episode. I heard slashing sounds...More
If you've been following HanCinema's social media, you already know that we're going to KCON New York 2016 held at the Prudential Center June 24 and June 25! Whoohoo! The HanCinema team is going to bring you the latest on all the wonderful happenings of KCON NY as well as participate in two Hallyu panels...More
As Dan-tae takes off down the road of the weary, weighed down by his birth secret and the complications associated with it, Gong Shim becomes the breath of fresh air that he once was. Her blossoming love for Dan-tae, the man who never judged her and saw her as she was is allowing her to do the same for him. Unfortunately, he feels he's not in the place to accept her feelings and thus begins the angst.
The episode focuses on Dan-tae's mission to discover who was at the scene of his father's attack and while his dogged pursuit is admirable, the circumstances in which he finds himself are utterly comical rather than full of the gravity they should be...More
The last SBS thriller about a mother looking for her child left audiences divided on the ending, but "Wanted" is here as a possible re-do for those who loved the general premise of the aforementioned "God's Gift - 14 Days". The latest drama certain has a lot going for it, but there are some production issues which might cause problems. Let us take a first look on what we have of it so far...More
Am ominous opening titles informs us that in the distant future, the world is in ruins. Cut to a space elevator, which quickly escapes the planetary surface, arriving in celestial orbit with a terrifying and beautiful view of what lies beneath. This the cinematic power of the mere framing device of "Horror Stories"- The Girl from Mars. Director Min Gyoo-dong takes the throwaway portion of an anthology and turns it into something genuinely otherworldly and creepy. And the individual stories are just as good...More
Funded by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, the "If You Were Me" omnibus series of films always does a good job of making me ask questions- like what exactly these movies have to do with human rights. This time around the stories concern a high school girl separated from her beloved tteokbokki, a man who gets who gets increasingly embroiled in bizarre paranoid conspiracies, and a woman who...a woman who...what exactly was the third film even about anyway?...More
In East Africa and elsewhere, female genital mutilation (FGM) is a widespread practice. "Where am I?: Beyond Girl and Woman" is a documentary in the classic informative mode which asks simple questions and obtains simple answers from various local people about what exactly FGM is, why it exists, and whether or not it should continue existing. It should come as little surprise that for the most part the answer to that last question is "no", even if writer/director Kim Hyojung never explicitly says as much...More
My hometown. My hometown Gyejinri. This is where I was born and raised. It's where my parents and siblings live and breathe. This is the hometown of my heart.
Little poetry markers like this are all over the place in South Korea, but I was rather struck by the sheer personal elegance of this one, carved into a rock in a hamlet on the outskirts of Geumsan...More
Darcy Paquet shares his experience of translating Korean films into English, "I Saw the Devil" gets reviewed on Movie Pilot, KOBIZ has an infographic detailing the top superhero films released in Korea, and find out if Na Jong-jin's latest thriller ("The Wailing") hits the mark...More
Korea's dessert industry is getting sweeter, check out a new Korea cookbook that has both home and street dishes to try, My Korean Kitchens shows us how to make Jjimdak, and what's it like to eat at a North Korean restaurant outside of North Korea?...More
Discover classy cigar lounges Seoul, a Korean Air flight attendant shares her beauty secrets, a new app helps pregnant women secure a subway seat, and have you visited Nami island on the Han river?...More
CNBC explores how South Korea came to be a global cultural superpower, read a Master's paper on LGBT attitudes in Korea, the mascots for the 2018 Olympic Games is revealed, and why are tattoos still illegal in Korea?...More
The Korea Herald features the multitalented Park Chan-kyong, get an insider's take on the Paris Art Fair 2016, discover what's happening with North Korea's art scene, and take a photo tour of Korea with Greg Goodman's stunning photographic storytelling...More
2016/06/17 | | Permalink
For all the greater logical problems I have with "Mirror of the Witch", Yeom Jeong-ah's performance is a high point. She consistently and convincingly manages to portray Hong-joo as a woman who can talk her way out of death by swordpoint. It's a bit of a surprise no one has realized yet that it would probably be easier to deal with whatever immediate crisis would be created by Hong-joo's death than it would be to try and solve whatever crisis Hong-joo creates next...More
2016/06/17 | | Permalink
And so, down to Nonsan, a location reknowned for...well, not much actually. Farm fields about, even in the city, because that's the main purpose of rural districts like this. They make food. Here's a more close-up look...More
Everyone is being pushed to their limits or fully over the edge in episode sixteen of "Master - God of Noodles". The battle between Congressman So and Gil-do runs much deeper than we knew, our heroes' morality is breaking and the dark side is calling. Gil-do's world has collapsed and the monster he has been keeping in check is out. People are about to suffer or even die and no one is in a condition to protect the innocent ones...More
The boys of Entertainer Band scraped and clawed their way from the bottom to the top, past obstacles of evil female idols, ambitious CEOs, slimy managers, and reformed souls. If you're looking for an underdog story with a touch of romance, a solid OST, some cute guys in a band, and a friendship-related family, then "Entertainers" is for you.
The drama may not be the most cohesive in its follow through of the big issues, but it knows how to deliver emotional punches...More
A rather disproportionate amount of the romance in "Lucky Romance" quite literally seems to consist of Soo-ho talking to himself. Which is funny since Bonnie is the character more easily described as objectively crazy. Bonnie's ecstatic descriptions of her sister's improving condition go a tad too far considering what little actual progress Bo-ra has made. At the same time, no one is much in the mood to argue with her since for now Bonnie's behavior is approximately normal...More
Bonnie continues to sulk about how Soo-ho sabotaged an intimate encounter which at best was going to result in an unauthorized video floating around the Internet and at worst was going to be a gang rape. Bonnie does tend to be frustrating like that- for all her powerful faith in the whims of fortune, Bonnie is rather unappreciative of actual people making a real direct effort to help her and tends to stick to the whole "have sex with a tiger" command very literally...More
Subterfuge can only go so far and it only serves as a delay of the inevitable when everyone knows what is hidden behind it. Episode fifteen of "Master - God of Noodles" is one of revelations and direct confrontations. Congressman So and Gil-do are officially in battle, Kang-sook takes desperate measures and so does Yeo-gyeong. Da-hae feels betrayed by everyone and Myeong's life is in danger, but the episode finally addresses the fact that his morality might be lost first...More
The penultimate episode of "Entertainers" rounded out a persistent conflict of Seok-ho's, focused on the neglected romances, and revealed a few juicy morsels about the boys of Entertainer Band. Like the rest of the drama, this episode trudged along at a leisurely pace that highlighted the lack of material left to fill the two episode extension.
Guilt is a heavy and pervasive emotion that weighed down Seok-ho and, in its incongruous way, spurred him to do right by his band...More
2016/06/14 | | Permalink
And with a final episode that was a concoction of everything but the kitchen sink, "Jackpot" comes to and end. The show had a few highlights, but mostly it was messy. The finale emphasized the loneliness of the throne, the fight with politics to do what is best for a nation at large, and a friendship between brothers of different social standing. The buildup to the Musin rebellion was long and arduous, minor characters were left half-developed and our main characters suffered personality changes and strange character trajectories.
The most beautiful moment of this final episode, and indeed in quite a few episodes, was the last scene of the brothers meeting in secret, enjoying one another's company and allowing a lonely king to have, if but for a moment, a true friend with whom he can feel a bit less lonely...More
2016/06/14 | | Permalink
Now that Hae-young and Do-kyeong are back together again, "Oh Hae-Young Again" moves to cute filler material. On one end it's nice to get a reprieve considering how gloomy the drama has been lately. On the the other this is some of the weaker cute material we've gotten from the drama and much of it accidentally paints its characters in a bad light. Considering how Hae-young just had a hospital scare, it was really pretty insensitive to not phone her parents and tell them she'd be late. Then again why didn't they just try to call her?...More
The Musin rebellion is underway and In-jwa is desperate to make it happen - desperate enough to sacrifice people in order to achieve his endgoal of saving those very same people. King Yeongjo faces the same dilemma. Does he listen to Dae-gil's pleas and trust in the faithfulness of his people and in Dae-gil's master plan or does he use his troops to cut down the rebels and restore peace?
In-jwa has, finally, gone off the deep end...More
The last we saw of Do-kyeong, he was fervently racing to solve the great mistake of letting Hae-young go. Most of the tension this episode revolves around the horrifying possibility that their relationship has been overrated. Do-kyeong and Hae-young were just never meant to be. It's more of the usual from "Oh Hae-Young Again" in terms of frightening relatability, since in every break-up anywhere, it's only really over when both parties finally decide to give up...More
Dawn has arrived for "Vampire Detective" and with it come emotional scenes we were not granted during an entire series. Characters without emotions suddenly find them, characters with emotions overflow with them. Unfortunately, the drama's total lack of character development makes these scenes cheesy. The show also presents a twist related to "Vampire Prosecutor"; the series these creators clearly wish they were working on and the entire fandom of which wishes we were watching...More
"The Handmaiden" submits to "The Jungle Book" and "Warcraft"...
Park Chan-wook's latest thriller, "The Handmaiden", was released two weeks ago where it entered at the top with 1.2 million admissions. Week two for Park's critically acclaimed film, however, saw it swiftly overtaken by two foreign flicks: Disney's "The Jungle Book" and fantasy flick "Warcraft"...More
2016/06/12 | | Permalink
This was Dan-tae's episode as he explored the murky waters of his past. Although a little on the slow side, the episode allowed for Dan-tae to naturally flow through a hefty emotional cycle. It also gave Gong Shim ample opportunity to realize her affections for Dan-tae and to shower him with them.
At this point I expect for the chaebol trappings to be fitted to Dan-tae and hamper his signature slovenly style...More
2016/06/12 | | Permalink
As Dan-tae tackles the deception that shrouds his kidnapping twenty-six years ago, we are treated to a B-rated detective mystery. The story is crafted around isolated events and the intrigue is instigated by the less-than-thrilling mechanizations of Joon-soo's uncle and his mother. Luckily, the chemistry between Dan-tae and Gong Shim is fiery and their scenes are adorable.
Dan-tae may be an awkward, slovenly fellow, but part of that act is a facade...More
Now that team Yeon-hee and team Poong-yeon have finally met and teamed up they can...not really do anything more complicated than what they were already doing, because their goals are still as poorly defined as ever. Ugh. I really don't like harping on these motivation issues again and again, but it really messes up the emotional impact of scenes like this when there's no immediate compelling reason for Yeon-hee and Poong-yeon to meet up again...More
Due to the chosen focus of OCN and the occasional production in other stations, the crime genre has received quite a boost in the last few years. At the same time, it needs fresh core ideas to evolve, rather than quickly abandoned gimmicks. The production team behind "38 Revenue Collection Unit" chooses to focus on something not usually the main topic of crime shows, however. This summer, they bring us to the world of tax evasion...More
Yong-bi (played by Ji Soo), Sang-woo (played by Suho), Ji-gong (played by Ryu Jun-yeol), and Doo-man (played by Kim Hee-chan-I) are four friends on the cusp of adulthood. After some basic explanation establishing the situation of the four young men in life as well as their basic personalities, they set off on an adventure mostly for the sake of relieving stress. Leaving the confines of high school may be grounds for excitement, yet it is also an exercise in suddenly realizing the world is a dangerous place with tragic long term consequences...More
Lena (played by Park Gi-rim) is a Russian woman of Korean descent. For reasons her own, Lena agrees to a marriage contract with Soon-goo (played by Kim Jae-man), a rural farmer in South Korea. Soon-goo has his own ambiguous motivation. Past pain has made Soon-goo ambivalent to the idea of a wife, and when Lena arrives, he only reluctantly lets her into his home out of a sense of obligation. This obligation is not externally forced, but rather relates to Soon-goo's own personal sense of honor...More
In South Korea, education is a pretty big deal. Getting into a good college can be seen as the make it or break it moment that defines an entire lifetime. "Reach For The SKY" is a documentary that explores the lives of three families with college age kids who try and hope for a positive outcome in the days leading up to the College Scholastic Ability Test. Though all hope for entry into one of the SKY schools (Seoul National University, Korea University, Yonsei University), in the end the fatigue of the process makes them willing to settle for just about anything...More
...Well, not exactly. En route to Nonsan I stopped by some temples right to the west of Gyeryong, on the opposite side of a mountain that was at the time closed because of some secret military action. The first temple I visited was Sinwonsa (신원사), which is located at roughly the midpoint between Gongju and Nonsan. This makes it very inconvenient to get to, although there's good reason for this. Sinwonsa isn't really a single structure so much as it is a giant hermitage nestled around the caves of a national park...More
KOBIZ shares the best destinations to catch Korean films on the international festival circuit, the Los Angeles Times reviews Na Hong-jin's "The Wailing", enjoy a neat infographic of Korea's summer blockbusters, and Hangul Celluloid reflects on Han Cheol-soo's 2015 drama "Amor"...More
My Korean Kitchen has a cold noodle dish to beat the heat, KoreaBoo lists eight awesome snacks to find and devour, Holly from Beyond Kimchee has a stunning side dish to try, and see what's on the menu for Korean school children...More
Check out Korea Tourism Organisations awesome app for travelers, discover something new about South Korean, get to know Jeju Island for your next trip, and The Korea Herald has their roundup on upcoming events to diarise...More
Time takes us into the lives of two North Korean defectors, check out what went on in K-Culture Week in France, find out more about Korea's billion-dollar beauty industry, and see how Korea's love of golf is producing some of the most spectacular clubhouses in the world...More
Discover five South Korean photographers worth keeping an eye on, catch the stars strut their stuff from the Baeksang Arts Awards, The Korea Herald remembers one of Korea's legendary artists, and see what Soomin Ham has to say about her recent exhibitions in America...More
A trip into backstory only serves to further convince me that writer Yang Hyeok-moon is obsessed with backstory to the point of almost completely forgetting that "Mirror of the Witch" even has a present ongoing story in the first place. If I try to look at the drama's plot in terms of a complicated interconnected tapestry, it kind of makes sense. If I try to answer basic questions like "what does character X want to do right now to further his or her goals" I'm at a complete loss as to what's going on...More
If my brain had a mouth it would scream, because episode fourteen of "Master - God of Noodles" is so heavy on new, resurfacing and conflicting information that it becomes borderline messy. The fight over Goongrakwon is ongoing, but new challenges arise. Gil-do's wickedness escalates and Da-hae is his new victim. Myeong, Tae-ha and Yeo-gyeong need to communicate better and perhaps take lessons for it from Congressman So, who stops beating around the bush and faces Gil-do head on...More
While Gongju's main obvious claim to fame is as a cultural heritage sight, it also looks great naturalistically. This is what the Woongjin World Park (웅진지구공원) looks like from the south side of the river. I can legitimately see all those capital moving shenanigans as being in part motivated by the desire of rulers to live near the Geum river (금강). It has this wondrous power to make obviously large objects look rather small. In person those bridges are monstrous. In profile they look like toys...More
"Entertainers" has fallen into a predictable pattern: the fallen will redeem themselves except for CEO Joon-seok, and not even that is set in stone. Characters aren't developing as much as reacting to events. Tears are the main staple of emotional provocation. While the situations the characters find themselves in are moving, and Ji Seong is great, it's starting to get dull. And I'm worried the last two episodes will be one big cheeseball romantic fest, or have a quick dash of excitement to keep audiences guessing.
Like Seok-ho, Joo-han, and Jinu before him, Joon-ha, the singer who stole Ha-neul's older brother's song, is forced to reckon with his past and make the right decision...More
The major first part of this episode is, as usual, dedicated to Bonnie trying to avoid the plot. I don't mean her literal objective of trying to have sex with a virgin tiger, but rather Bonnie's general unwillingness to engage with Soo-ho. To be fair, Bonnie has been pretty tight-lipped with everyone about her rather puzzling motivation. Luckily for us Soo-ho is able to piece together Bonnie's plans without her knowing, and this really sets the story in motion once he finally meets up with Bonnie and attempts to set her straight...More
The elements of "Entertainers" that make it poignant are also its weak points. Ji Seong is powerful in his delivery of melodrama and tears, the crying is appropriately moving, and the conflict is well set-up, if a bit slow. And that's the crux of the matter: everything is a bit slow and tends to perseverate.
In real life, tragedy is consuming and the person suffering from tragedy may take years to a lifetime to deal with that tragedy...More
2016/06/08 | | Permalink
The main issue in "Lucky Romance" is a lack of chemistry. This isn't the fault of the performers. Hwang Jeong-eum and Ryu Jun-yeol get along with each other well enough, it's just that they don't have as much screen time together as would be expected from the lead characters of a romantic comedy. To the contrary- they spend more time mentally scrutinizing each other than they do actually talking to each other...More
2016/06/08 | | Permalink
The past in "Master - God of Noodles" is kind of like Gil-do; you never know when it will come back and bite you. The killer of Da-hae's mother is revealed and obviously becomes the episode's highlight, while Yeo-gyeong makes the mother of all discoveries. In less dramatic developments, the formed love lines get a little boost and the cooking competition is resolved. Also, Congressman So Tae-seop adds to the pile of sass directed at Gil-do's fragile facade...More
2016/06/07 | | Permalink
At first it seems like life has merely moved on. Hae-young is grumpy at home, and Do-kyeong is obsessively perfectionist about the latest dangerous to reproduce sound effect. But the situation quickly takes a turn for the worse when Hae-young impulsively picks about the worst possible target on which to vent her frustrations. The result? Hae-young makes the big tragedy of her life seem like an epic joke...More
2016/06/07 | | Permalink
The story did jump ahead to focus on the Musin Rebellion and it chooses to skip a lot of what made King Yeongjo such an effective leader, instead painting him as ruthless while Dae-gil is the voice of reason and of the people. The personality change in Yeongjo (formerly Prince Yeoning) is troubling as was Dae-gil's shift from buffoon to cool-headed military leader. He lost most of what made him fun.
There is a major time skip in this episode that is not clearly defined by the writer...More
Episode 21 of "Jackpot" was riddled with action, blood, death, and promises for more of the same. Yeoning learns what a path to the throne is built on: sacrifice and tears. Dae-gil watches his brother suffer as he work to foil In-jwa at every carefully planned junction. While history lives on in this rendition of Yeongjo's life, it really isn't very interesting. The pace of the episode saves it from being overly dull.
For the sake of the show it seems as if the timeline of historical events has been crunched into a shorter span of time...More
Poor Tae-jin. He's pathetic and sympathetic yet...that doesn't matter to Hae-young. It doesn't matter to anyone's ex-girlfriend, or ex-boyfriend for that matter. Nobody wants to get back together with an ex out of pity. As "Oh Hae-Young Again" moves into the open information stage, and everyone finds out every essential detail of the major plot, that basic element of human nature is simply not enough to give Tae-jin any kind of serious leeway. This is true even as the dual Hae Young element vastly complicates the situation beyond Tae-jin's original assumptions...More
Park Chan-wook's latest film, "The Handmaiden", starring Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, and Ha Jeong-woo, was officially released last Wednesday and dislodged Marvel's "X-Men: Apocalypse" at the top of the pile. Last weekend the latest "X-Men" film entered the chart and occupied first place with 1.1 million admissions going its way (51%). Park's much-anticipated thriller, however, shot to the top in its first weekend out by capturing 47% of the box office pie. From 1,167 screens, and fresh after its successful run at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received favourable reviews from critics and filmgoers alike, "The Handmaiden" attracted 1.2 million admissions to top the chart during its first weekend out on home soil...More
2016/06/05 | | Permalink
"Beautiful Gong Shim" is about finding the truth in this episode. The truth about the past; the revelation of truth; discovering the truth about oneself. The show doesn't do anything revolutionary, but there are some great moments that keep it moving forward and from being totally predictable.
Gong Mi has predictably begun to be trapped by her own web of lies...More
2016/06/05 | | Permalink
If you felt Yo-na has been given too little love as a villain, say hello to a new one, as "Vampire Detective" believes such a twist is a good idea with two episodes left to go. On the bright side, some pieces of the past fall into place and relationships are explained. Much does not make sense, with character and plot inconsistencies being abundant, but at least we are on our way to some closure...More
Despite the fact that "Beautiful Gong Shim" has a lot of the extra baggage found in most K-dramas, it's still one of the cutest shows I've seen in a long time. The main couple is so endearing in their interactions that it's easy to forget the extra malarky that surrounds them. This has everything to do with the writing, the chemistry between Namgoong Min and Minah, and both actors' knacks for delivering emotionally intense scenes.
The typical K-drama setup where the evil mom interferes almost had me fuming out of my ears...More
Jun leaves the custody of Yeon-hee's hideaway to find that the situation has deteriorated quite a bit in his absence. Heo-ok's ridiculous charge of Jun being the local serial killer unfortunately still has traction, since whoever is actually responsible for the murders has evidently scoped the situation and realized that Jun is a very convenient scapegoat. Considering the bigger power struggles we know are at play, Heo-ok's petty act of revenge is likely to have long-standing consequences that may well end in his own death...More
The reunion between Jun and Seo-ri is pretty prickly, as usual because "Mirror of the Witch" insists on restarting the plot from scratch for no reason. Fortunately in this case the dynamic is fairly interesting. We see clearly that Seo-ri and especially Yo-gwang (played by Lee I-kyeong) are just about completely out of patience, and only bothered to save Jun's life in the first place because they are that desperate for useful information...More
Korean dramas place great importance on providing escapism. They portray words where love always conquers all and bad guys always pay. At the same time, many cross the line of being relatable to the real people watching and very few go beyond satisfying superficial needs before sending us on our merry way. "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is an idealistic drama which bends the law and reality to its will, but unlike most series, it does so for a worthy payout...More
Na Hong-jin ("The Chaser", "The Yellow Sea") has brought the world another blockbuster that screened at Cannes, was picked up by Well Go USA Entertainment, and released in North American June 3. Welcome horror mystery "The Wailing" to the ranks of the modern day film successes. It boasts of the eighth largest Korean opening, a two and a half hour run time, a myriad of horror and thriller elements, and a little bit of the absurd...More
...So last week it was three movies about Jeju Island, and this week it's three movies about actors. Weird. Not relevant to the movie itself, of course, but I felt I should at least acknowledge that. Anyway, in "Worst Woman" Eun-hee (played by Han Ye-ri) is an actress who's really not all that bad. In fact, it would probably be pretty accurate to say that Eun-hee causes most of her own problems by just being consistently disingenuous. Japanese novelist Ryohei (played by Ryo Iwase) confounds matters because the books he writes are about women like Eun-hee. Also they aren't all that successful...More
Seong-pil (played by Oh Dal-soo) is an actor that once worked with men who ended up becoming major players in the film industry. Unfortunately Seong-pil, lacking as he is in either charisma or talent, is stuck doing stage plays. And I'm not referring to the high-brow stage stuff. Seong-pil plays a dog in shows that are obviously aimed at children, and frequently fail to maintain a decent interest level even in that audience...More
Wan-joo (played by Park Jong-hwan) is a failed actor. For political reasons, as is usually the case. It's no coincidence that writer/director Kim Jin-hwang opens "The Boys Who Cried Wolf" up with an audition for The Crucible, itself a thinly veiled allegory for the Hollywood blacklist. Once Wan-joo's failure to play by the rules of the game are established, we flash forward some time later, when Wan-joo's job is to use his handsome good looks and power to lie act in the service of making some easy money, which he needs to help pay his mom's hospital bills. From there, it's perhaps inevitable that Wan-joo is offered a dubious yet all too tempting proposal...More
Long ago Gongju was the capital of the Baekje Kingdom. Well...kind of. They moved the capital around a lot. Gongju's specific claim to power was its very defendable position- a big mountain and an untraversable river. Gongsan Fortress (공산성) is the main physical landmark left over from that period. It's so huge it spills over into mountain parks. You could go hiking and enter the fortress mostly by accident, assuming you're too much of a cheapskate to pay the entrance fee of a measly dollar...More
Realization is the name of the game in episode 14 of "Entertainers". Secrets are discovered in a flurry of activity that hurries the plot line along, but not always for the better. Some of the discoveries are made in ways that leave one puzzled as to how they came about. Others are emotively depicted. The juxtaposition between the good and the bad and this show has always been stark and obvious.
The plot elements of the show that were welcome, but seemed forced, were some of what I had been asking for earlier: follow through...More
...Well, the plan was for me to go to Asan anyway. Asan is located at the very southern tip of the Seoul subway system. I was working on a route that would take me to Muju in time for the film festival (which starts today). Unfortunately all that time in the city made me ill, and an inability to find proper lodgings in Asan only aggravated my physical condition. So for a little change of place, instead of tourism, I'm going to discuss a topic for which I am unfortunately an expert. Being sick in South Korea...More
The Korea Times reviews Park Chan-wook's "The Handmaiden" ahead of its local release, there's an infographic from KOBIZ about the country's hottest cinematic season, Maggie Lee reviews Na Hong-jin's "The Wailing" for Variety, and catch films from the upcoming Seoul International Women's Film Festival online...More
Find out why many Koreans are taking their meals alone, witness the power of poultry, My Korea Kitchen breaks down a popular Korean side dish, and Korea Boo has 11 dishes that are not for the faint-hearted...More
The Korea Tourism Organisation releases a new guide for tourists in various languages, discover why South Korea is perfect for family travel, check out six top travel blogs/websites, and The Korea Times has a host of exciting events happening around town...More
The New Yorker examines a Korean television show about the power of pop culture, see how one artist is using her webtoon to empower victims of sexism, behold "K-Culture Valley", and see how one model is defying the country's strict beauty standards one step at a time...More
Dive head first into the wonderful world of Korean webcomics with a great list from Korea Boo, visit a naughty park in Jeju, explore National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art's website for all their latest news and events, and browse Shutterstock's impressive gallery on South Korea...More
Seol-hee (played by Lee Cheong-ah) is Geon-wook's manager and Soo-ho's ex...love interest. Yes, normally "girlfriend" is the word that would be used here, and it comes as little surprise that other characters assume that's what's going on when Seol-hee and Soo-ho meet on very stiff, awkward terms. I must admit, Seol-hee's character is a lot more interesting now that we know she had her own subversive motive for temporarily coming back to Korea, and it backfired because now it looks like Geon-wook doesn't want to leave...More
Dramas rarely answer my prayers so quickly, but that makes the times when they do all the more satisfying. Gil-do is back in action and he is as nasty as ever. Between his resurfaced murderous intent for his father-in-law and everyone else's claws reaching for Goongrakwon, this episode is a merciless shot of suspense. Kang-sook's and Mi-ja's battle intensifies, future conflict between Myeong and Tae-ha is brewing and Gil-do's past pushes him one step closer to ruin...More
It is a time for reunions in today's episode of "Master - God of Noodles", most of which are less than happy for either party. Yeo-gyeong's perseverance brings Gil-do to her workplace and Congressman So is using her and Myeong to meet his old enemy as well. Kang-sook's and Mi-ja's battle over Goongrakwon is about to hit a very decisive moment. The more our characters' motivations and methods clash, the more dangerous things become for our heroes...More
"Entertainers" is such a mix of fabulous and puzzling that it bears watching. Ji Seong is killing it. This particular episode had so many feels that they almost blinded me to the shows inadequacies.
The most jarring part of the episode was the swift conclusion of Ha-neul's false sexual assault accusations...More
Goo-sin (played by Kim Jong-goo) is the shaman upon whom Bonnie is relying on for superstitious advice, which she really does need. Having spent almost all of her screen time finding increasingly complicated ways to avoid the plot, Bonnie complains to Goo-sin about the impossibility of the tiger hunt. Goo-sin is incredulous that Bonnie still hasn't figured out what to do yet since she runs into Soo-ho like, every other scene, so he ends up giving her another arbitrary instruction that will hopefully point her in the right direction...More
This episode of "Jackpot" attempts to delve into the faction wars between Noron and Soron and works with historical rumors to do so. It's actually a very exciting time. Unfortunately, the plotting seems more like classroom gossip than the immense political tug-of-war than it really is.
King Sukjong has finally passed and the four years of sickly Gyeongjong's reign begins...More
Do-kyeong has lots of good reasons to be trying to get mental help right now. So it's a rather appropriate irony that, rather than discuss deeper root mental problems, visions of Hae-young always dominate the conversation. But worry not- we get an increasingly clear portrait of the psychological issues that make Do-kyeong the person he is. His inferiority complex, the superior attitude toward siblings, parental issues and of course, Do-kyeong's powerful reluctance to admit he likes Hae-young at all are forced front and center...More
The end has arrived for "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho", but the food for thought it leaves us with makes this goodbye a satisfying one. The time for our criminals to receive their just rewards has come and they all face the situation in a different way. We have some surprises when it comes to the future of our heroes and life goes on for everyone involved. Despite Deul-ho's constant success in the courtroom, the show's moral is realistic and therefore incredibly profound...More
The seeds of doubt planted by In-jwa into the minds of the brothers have taken root. Although both young men want to believe in each other, the situations at hand render them unable to fully trust. It is this method by which In-jwa has succeeded time and time again in "Jackpot".
I feel like a broken record when it comes to this show...More
One of the strong suits of "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is its handling of emotions and episode nineteen gives Deul-ho and us a rough time, as his life is endangered by evidence. It also reveals crucial information about the past and the true extent of Yeong-il's involvement in important events. Some revelations raise more questions, others neatly tie threads opened in the drama's beginning. Deul-ho repeats certain mistakes and we have miraculous interventions, but they do not majorly harm what is a thrilling episode...More
While the other Hae-young has received a great deal of sympathetic characterization as of late, it's easy to lose sight of one important fact. The main Hae-young isn't aware of any of this. She hasn't been present for the scenes which explain the other Hae-young's personal issues. In many ways Hae-young is still a character in a completely different drama, the one several episodes back where the other Hae-young seemed like an obvious villain in spite of how unfailingly nice she acts in every possible circumstance...More
"Beautiful Gong Shim"'s excellence rides on the quirkiness of Dan-tae's character, the depth of Namgoong Min's acting, and the refreshing Minah as Gong Shim. The surrounding elements are clunky, but pale in comparison to the main couple.
The show's strength is also its weakness...More
I would not blame anyone for forgetting that "Vampire Detective" has a main plot, given we only see a few seconds of it in each episode, but it is finally here and so are some explanations about the past. Unfortunately, those explanations feel rushed, as do some important character decisions. Even though it is about eight episodes late, the backstory and character development we did not get for an entire series have been provided...More
"X-Men: Apocalypse" muffles "The Wailing" for the win...
The ninth film in Marvel Comic's "X-Men" series ("X-Men: Apocalypse") arrived in Korea last Wednesday, dovetailing nicely with the success of "Captain America: Civil War". "X-Men: Apocalypse" sold 1.1 million admissions (51.2%) across 1,258 screens to oust Na Hong-jin's "The Wailing" and so denying it a third straight week at the top of tpile. Marvel's latest did this by securing nearly $9 million over the weekend with second place, "The Wailing", pulling in roughly half that...More
2016/05/29 | | Permalink
Episode 5 of "Beautiful Gong Shim" was all about Dan-tae and his massive crush on Gong Shim. A crush is nothing new, but his awkward, childlike crush and the uniqueness of Dan-tae as a person is what makes his endearingly sweet and great drama material. It counterbalances the usual dose of chaebol backstories, family strife, and evil unnis.
Speaking of evil unnis, Gong Mi gets a little taste of karma as she is framed and forced to resign...More
Soon-deuk-i (played by Dohee) is, for this episode anyway, the main character of "Mirror of the Witch". She's a schemer who, in between schemes, is friend to gisaeng Man-weol (played by Lee Cho-hee), who is being stymied in her romantic efforts by a disfigured face. You might be wondering what any of this has to do with Jun's revenge plan, Yeon-hee's seclusion, Hong-joo's dark magic, or King Seonjo's physical malady. There are relating plot threads. Unfortunately they aren't very convincing ones...More
If you are feeling empty on the romantic comedy front, look no further, as "Beautiful Gong Shim" is here to provide all the things we love about them. Of course this means it includes a lot of the things that are problematic for less tolerant of certain frustrating cliches viewers, but this is not breaking news when it comes to dramas or romantic comedy.
Eun-kyeong (played by Lee Seon) is a forty-something dubbing actress who spends her daily life not doing much of anything. Euk-kyeong wakes up, she goes to work, engages in some simple token dialogue with co-workers, and goes home again having apparently very quickly managed to exhaust all of her energy throughout the day. The process repeats, with Eun-kyeong's ex-husband Sang-moon (played by Lim Hak-soon) showing up in his own depressing scenes every so often, where he also struggles to summon the energy to actually do anything...More
In this modern era where everyone records everything, no matter how obviously irrelevant or ill-defined in purpose, it was perhaps inevitable that a documentary like "For Your Youth" would appear that explicitly acknowledges it has no reason to exist. We start out with the pitch- just document the lives of these four musicians, who appear to have been chosen at random. And from there they just proceed to do...nothing. A trip to Jeju Island is cobbled together largely in the belief that something interesting might happen somewhere else. Support from the Jeju Film Commission may have also been an enticement...More
Ah, Buddha's birthday. It's a hard holiday to miss, considering whatever random location I go to there's been some sort of elaborate display of Buddha or a pagoda or something or other. While I'm not terribly familiar with the rituals behind Buddha's Birthday, it's easy enough to appreciate scenes like this one at Cheonggyecheon (청계천), which might be better known as "that huge river in the middle of Seoul where everyone takes walks"...More
Find out why "Spirits' Homecoming" was a "small miracle", check out the top Korean films on IMDb, Film Doo analysis Korea's film industry in relation to VOD, and visit KOBIZ's website to discover the highest-grossing films released in Korea this year...More
My Korean Kitchen has steps for making Korean-style chicken popcorn, Holly makes Mexican, new 'anti-hangover' ice cream goes on sale in Korea, and eat your way around Korea with this food map from CNN...More
The Korea Times has a great list of events taking place throughout the year, find out what market in Korea is the most search destination on Google, Dave Hazan lists five top joints to catch live music in Seoul, and have you considered studying in Korea?...More
Han Kang wins the Man Booker International prize for "The Vegetarian", former Wonder Girls artist supports Korea's unification with upcoming album, The Australian has some history for us about Seoul and a guide around town, and how are Martina and Simon doing with Eat Your Sushi in Japan?...More
Enjoy beautiful photographs from Irvine's 7th annual Korean Cultural Festival, witness the power of "inaction" in the works of U Sun-ok, Artnet interviews K Auction's Jackline Jiae Byun, and see some stunning animal sculptures made with tires...More
The prologue portion of "Mirror of the Witch" ends in expectedly gruesome fashion. Yes, that's right- apparently the first four and a half episodes were just prologue. I don't think I've ever seen a drama try so hard to undercut its own story before. At the moment it's not terribly clear why we had to spend so much time dealing with character backstory when five years later the leads are all standard archetypes...More
We have now hit the midpoint in "Master - God of Noodles" and all of our players are in place, fully ready and motivated to close in on Gil-do and destroy him. Episode ten surprises me in some very pleasant ways, pleasant surprises being a rarity for me in drama. Myeong, Yeo-gyeong and Tae-ha face their problems head on, Congressman So's connection runs much deeper and important new information surfaces for us and the characters...More
Back to Seoul again, for a very important errand...to check out this wicked cool Lee Soon-shin figurine at the Art Toy Culture fair at the Coex Center in Gangnam. OK, OK, I actually came back to report on the Seoul International Green Film Festival (SIGFF) and the Seoul International Agape Film Festival (SIAFF), but by dumb luck this convention was going on when I got back in and offbeat conventions are always fun. That's why paying attention to random advertisements can be worth the effort...More
2016/05/26 | | Permalink
Now that the premise has been firmly established, it's easier to get a grip on Bonnie's character. She's very observant when it comes to spiritual matters- note the pantheon of holy images from radically different faiths. Yet when it comes to anything else in life Bonnie is aggressively unobservant to the point of being totally oblivious. Take pro tennis player Geon-wook (played by Lee Soo-hyeok). Most women would at least be a little curious as to why Lee Soo-hyeok is making faces at them but Bonnie is always in such a hurry to do nothing...More
2016/05/26 | | Permalink
The romance of "Entertainers" has finally kicked up a notch and sparked a few real flames. Seok-ho and Green have a few wonderful moments together. Yeon-soo's life is cracked open for us to peer at and understand that he really is as sweet as he seems to be. The characters are what make "Entertainers" worth the watch. The plot leaves something left to be desired.
Rather than layering story elements and plot threads, the drama has laid out a few central conflicts and peeled away layers of it...More
Bonnie (played by Hwang Jeong-eum) tries to survive in a generally brutal world by relying on sheer grit to force people into giving her what she's owed, and begging for work that utilizes her somewhat eclectic skill set. These experiences keep causing Bonnie to run into Soo-ho (played by Ryu Jun-yeol), an obsessively scientific man with his own past traumas. Ironically enough, mechanical processes themselves often fail Soo-ho at the worst possible moments, aggravating his mental issues...More
This episode of "Entertainers" was particularly heartwarming. As is the trend with the drama, things resolve a bit too easily and the media doesn't have enough power. Despite those faults, there is just something about Seok-ho and his boys that turns hearts into puddles of goo and defy all logic.
There is something special about the brotherhood and family forged by the characters in "Entertainers"...More
If your head is not already spinning from all the character connections and intricate plot, prepare to hold it in place, because episode nine of "Master - God of Noodles" is mercilessly packed. Gil-do's true nature and weaknesses are slowly being discovered by his enemies and Congressman So's connection to the story gets a big boost. Our makeshift family is threatened by misunderstandings as Tae-ha gets closer to the man we least want him to...More
Strictly speaking the way "Oh Hae-Young Again" replays footage from past episodes as flashbacks is a tad excessive. Do-kyeong's precognition is, itself, another form of this. But I'm always impressed at how these flashbacks accompany new information that puts these past events in radically different perspective. Way back in the first episode I thought Deok-hee came off as a bad mother. While subsequent events have better contextualized the relationship between Deok-hee and Hae-young, it's only here that Deok-hee realizes an alternate context makes her look much, much worse...More
My frustration with show hasn't ceased, but at least it's just about to jump into some action. In-jwa has been incensed and finally takes a decisive course of action. This is welcome as the bonds between characters (save perhaps the brothers), is quite weak. Without any strong bonds between In-jwa and Dam-seo, or Dam-seo and the two brothers who love her, this episode truly fell flat as did her prolonged death scene. Attempts to stir tension remain unsuccessful attempts. At least this show boasts of a stellar cast.
The show seems to be aiming to build up towards In-jwa's rebellion, which means we have two major deaths to get through and a King Yeongjo to crown...More
Deul-ho and Ji-wook are pulled towards their respective loved ones and away from justice. Eun-jo voices her worries over this and reminds Deul-ho and us what this series has been about. With only two episodes left, it is time for the fight against Yeong-il to get dirty and the dirt sadly touches our heroes as well. This is the first time "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" has missed some marks on its hero, but I hope the end brings justice back...More
Yi In-jwa and his nine lives are quite tiresome. The character sticks around beyond all reason. Rather than focus on his ridiculous mechanizations, why can't the show take some real historical happenings and buff them out for this rendition of King Sukjong's and Yeoning's lives? In any case, In-jwa is still here and fluctuating between the maniacal and the serene. Scenes of his omnipotence are punctuated by a few good moments of brotherly love, a death, and some massive political plans that don't feel very massive.
Yeoning is in a pivotal position right now, learning the inner workings of palace politics, the molasses-like speed of the political machine, and the extent of his own power...More
Jin-sang (played by Kim Ji-seok-I) is Do-kyeong's best friend, and symbolic of the greatest flaw in the love story between Do-kyeong and Hae-young. The foundation of their romance is a misunderstanding by Jin-sang that provoked an unnecessary and vindictive move on Do-kyeong's part, which neither Jin-sang nor Do-kyeong have been able to satisfactorily resolve. It's been easy to minimize that incident up until now. But with what we now know about Do-kyeong's mother Ji-ya (played by Nam Gi-ae), long-term psychological issues are becoming harder to ignore...More
The time has come in "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" for our heroes and villains to give into or resist some great temptations. The actions taken by different characters are surprising and so is the way the writing handles some of them. I am not sure if this is a good thing, but it is definitely unexpected, keeping the series suspenseful. Sin-woo is the man of the hour and he has set big things in motion...More
This time around, our detective trio tackles another mystery and warns about some of the dangers of being famous on the internet. Episode eight was not perfect, but it was a solid attempt at creating emotional investment and it lacked major plot holes. Episode nine is not only a haphazard attempt at criticizing online broadcasters while being a "light" story, its conclusion sadly makes about as much sense as an octopus wearing a thong...More
"The Wailing" screams to 4.5 million admissions...
Na Hong-jin's mystery thriller "The Wailing" managed to retained pole position over the penultimate weekend of May. The film entered the fray last week where it dislodged Marvel's "Captain America: Civil War" at the top of the pile by capturing 64% of the box office pie. This week, "The Wailing" claimed 1.3 million admissions (58.3%) across 1,391 screens to move its total tally to 4.5 million. Since its release mid-May, Na Hong-jin's third flick (the other films include the critically acclaimed "The Yellow Sea" and iconic "The Chaser") has grossed $31.3 million...More
2016/05/22 | | Permalink
There is a clear break between what is good and what is not so good in "Beautiful Gong Shim". What is good is so delightfully strong in content and execution while what is bad is draggy and dull. Any scene with Namgoong Min is fantastic. Family affairs are bogging the drama down and there may be more of it to come as families begin to interfere with more aspects of the plot.
Dan-tae's grandmother is a wreck of a woman...More
"Beautiful Gong Shim" just keeps getting better. Yes, there are the usual doses of selfish rich folk, conniving siblings, and sad backstories, but the balance between them and the hearty stories behind our leads is pitch perfect. And we finally get to dig into Gong Shim as more than just a woman to be pitied. She is so rich after this episode, and her interactions with quirky, tender-hearted Dan-tae are absolutely winning.
We learn that Gong Shim has been neglected her whole life, as we suspected, in favor of her beautiful, smart, well-employed older sister...More
While the production team for "Mirror of the Witch" is steadily taking their time building up all the necessary story elements, the marketing team seems determined to make the pacing seem really slow. The build-up in "Mirror of the Witch" is generally good. The main issue is that when the preview or even basic press descriptions of the drama keep forcefully reminding me of intense action around the corner, it's easy to get impatient...More
The joys and woes of raising a family are a very prominent topic in Korean drama. Family as a theme is present in almost every show, after all. Despite the prominence of characters who are parents in drama, the mundane routine of daily life when raising a young child has not been explored a lot. "My Little Baby" is not always very realistic and it does adhere to stereotypes, but it is a campy and endearingly sweet slice-of-life series...More
Director Jo Sung-hee's "Phantom Detective" is a play on the crime noir complete with anti-hero Hong Gil-dong (Lee Je-hoon), a decrepit town, deranged villains, and stylized filming that brings the world of the comic book to life. There are also two unlikely sidekicks, two little girls who rework Gil-dong's damaged psyche over the course of the film.
"Phantom Detective" was released in Korea May 4, 2016 and 508,000 filmgoers (19.9%) sat down to watch a modern take of the classic Korean tale of "Hong Gil Dong...More
Tae-ik (played by Moon Tae-geon) is a schlubby adolescent boy taken on a trip to see relatives. It's there that he meets Ah-ri (played by Oh Yu-jin-I), a girl cousin who is younger than him, yet already taller and looking considerably more adult. The opening section of "Kissing Cousin" explores their relationship. Surrounded as they are by other family members, Tae-ik and Ah-ri feel a special bond with each other and part on glowing, comforting terms...More
Teenage swimmer Gwang-soo (played by Jung Ga-ram) lives in a black-and-white world where talent is all that matters when it comes to getting a spot at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok. He is not knocked out of these illusions by any singular tragedy. Rather, people just get sick of dealing with Gwang-soo's nonsense. Flash-forward to the present day, where the adult Gwang-soo (played by Park Hae-joon) is living a pointless dead-end life. The factor which ultimately persuades Gwang-soo to take on young charge Joon-ho (played by Yoo Jae-sang) as a protégé? Metaphorical self-flaggelation...More
The KT&G Imagination Garden (KT&G 상상마당) in Hongdae runs a lot of cultural events- among these is a movie theater that shows independent films and, every so often, special short film collections. Tuesday nights in May, that theme is "One Day At School", which deals with stories of unintentional ostracism, realizable dreams, and frivolous attachments to bad ideas. All of these are centered, as might be expected, at school...More
Next on my itinerary to return to Seoul via the most unnecessarily complicated route was Gamgok, which is located to the north of Jincheon in Eumseong County. Gamgok District (감곡면) is farmland. Peaches are the main crop grown there. Unfortunately the peaches are not in bloom in May so Gamgok looks rather nondescript right this minute. It's the kind of township where solar panels look really cool, simply because they're different from most of what else is available to look at...More
Read Variety's review of Park Chan-wook's "The Handmaiden", KOBIZ interviews a leading special effects wizard from MAGE-fx, discover what films have been shot on Jeju Island with a cool infographic from KOBIZ, and what can Hollywood learn from modern Korean cinema?...More
The "war on sugar" in Korea heats up, "Seoul Food 2016" gets underway, make your own Sundubu Jjigae with My Korean Kitchen, and see how South Korea is cutting its food waste...More
Asia One lists their five favorite Korean shopping malls, Matador has a challenging checklist of must-eats to tick off on your travels, enjoy some history and culture by visiting one of the country's marvelous museums, and North Korea bans travel ahead of its first congress in decades....More
Wongok Village is a multicultural hub, Korea to import Canadian hemp, France creates "K-culture week" ahead of their 130th diplomatic anniversary, and Korea-Iran relationships gets presidential approval...More
Witness the magic of "Project Monsoon" on Korea's streets, enjoy a gallery of stunning photographs taken in Gwanghwamun, visit Korea.net to learn more about Korea's traditional arts, and is China infringing on what dance shows Korea should host?...More
Poong-yeon (played by Kwak Si-yang) loves Yeon-hee like a brother. Consequently, Poong-yeon is far more frustrated than Yeon-hee about her seclusion, particularly because Hyeon-seo (played by Lee Seong-jae) refuses to explain in clear detail why exactly Yeon-hee requires such elaborate protection. I have a sneaking suspicion that we don't have the full story either- whatever dark magic force keeps hounding Yeon-hee is evidently beyond the power of both Hyeon-seo and Hong-joo...More
Flying into Cheongju from Jeju Island en route to Seoul, I had two choices. The sensible choice was to go to Cheongju and find some other nice subway-connected interpoint to get to Seoul. The second choice was to stumble around like an idiot through the rural countryside. I chose the latter. Don't let the tourist maps at the airport fool you- Jincheon County (진천군) is not easily reachable from the Cheongju Airport. In general it's not really traversable at all except by car. And for what? To see Kim Yu-sin's placental chamber?...More
The convenient workings of fate thankfully take a break in episode eight of "Master - God of Noodles" and we are back to character focus after another three-year time jump. Our protagonists and antagonists have moved on to bigger, but not necessarily better things, there are grand revelations and birth secrets confirmed and avoided, too. The noodle dishes are back with a tasty vengeance and tensions run high as our hero gets dangerously close to his target...More
2016/05/19 | | Permalink
"Entertainers" episode 10 was, simply put, the strongest it has ever been. The emotional beats were well-played, flowed into plot action, and then twisted into gripping turmoil. My complaints remain, but episode 10 effectively minimized them to nearly negligible.
All of the inherent goodness of the relationships between our boys, Green, Min-joo, Seok-hoo, and Man-seok in "Entertainer Band" has built a solid emotional ground for the team to stand on...More
2016/05/19 | | Permalink
Fate is a very prominent concept in Korean drama and we all know how good it is in making things happen without the need for a logical path leading to them. "Master - God of Noodles" has used fate in plausible ways, but episode seven crosses some limits I wish it hadn't. Fate-coated writing hiccups aside, the episode gives us some juicy revelations, new players for our backstabbing chessboard, plenty of suspense and material for the future...More
2016/05/18 | | Permalink
The glitter of "Entertainers" has dulled a bit as the drama soldiers on, doing battle with backstories, overbearing mothers, tragic pasts, and personal foibles. The setup and premise of "Entertainers" is as solid as ever, but the resolutions of issues is a point of contention between me and this show.
Jae-hoon's story was the central focus of episode 9...More
Get ready to feel happy, relieved, disappointed and worried. Get ready to feel a lot of things in today's episode, frankly, because a new villain has revealed themselves and they will not make the same mistakes Chairman Jeong has been making. It is time for some of our characters to decide on some really tough choices and a highly awaited conversation takes place between Hae-kyeong and Deul-ho. Also, adorable Soo-bin is back...More
"Jackpot" should've been slated for sixteen episodes. At this point we're at episode 16 and had the action been condensed into a shorter broadcasting period, perhaps the action would feel, well, more exciting. We have eight episodes to go and it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is a bad guy; there are two brothers who have the potential to become deadly enemies; there are sick parents; and there are parents who aren't all dead.
Rather than the multiple stabbings that littered the first third of the drama, this second third of the drama is full of family angst and of the characters discovering their identities...More
Where did Seo Hyeon-jin get those ridiculous glasses? They're so dorky and cute. That's just another one of the little touches that make "Oh Hae-Young Again" a lot of fun to watch. Every seemingly irrelevant detail appears perfectly calculated to bring out the most attractive character traits. Even the other Hae-young gets the rock climbing scene, which makes her look incredibly cool even as I continue to struggle with how we're supposed to interpret her character...More
"Jackpot" has reached a stasis in ratings at 8.4%. Despite big reveals and a lot of action, these events lack the impact that is necessary to drawn in viewers. Predictability is a double-edged sword. It can heighten anticipation, but it can also deflate said anticipation if it is used too often. In the case of "Jackpot", the story holds no true angst or surprise.
Both Yeoning and Dae-gil discovered their relationship with each other while In-jwa continues to have everything go his way...More
The case against Chairman Jeong Geun-mo is reaching a climax as his accomplices are cornered and his secrets are revealed. Some of our characters choose their sides clearly, others continue to be a mystery. Deul-ho is not above gloating, but he knows better than to trust an easy win. The more you back someone into a corner, the more they and those who can go down with them will lash out...More
I really love how every single interaction between Hae-young and Do-kyeong, whether it be comedic, serious or awkward, works as a metaphor for their relationship as a whole. The opening scene manages to transition between all three in short order with each one being equally natural. Hae-young really is a positive influence on Do-kyeong, in that her ability to suffer through embarassing indignities prevents him from getting too hung up on his own personal issues...More
Muism (Korean shamanism) is a popular theme in Korean film and television. The clash of tradition and modernism, religion and science and the prominence of scammers conning the desperate make for interesting drama. "Vampire Detective" has its own take on the topic this week and it almost coveys it well. Unfortunately, some of its choices end up sabotaging its own point. Being almost-good is a recurring theme in the drama, but I wish it could cross that line...More
Na Hong-jin's new thriller trumps Marvel's "Civil War"...
Na Hong-jin's much-anticipated new mystery thriller, "The Wailing" (starring Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jeong-min, and Cheon Woo-hee), arrived in theaters last Thursday and over the weekend rose to the top of the chart by dislodging "Captain America: Civil War" and so denied Marvel's latest a third straight week in pole position. Na Hong-jin's two previous films ("The Yellow Sea" and "The Chaser") received critical acclaim when they came out in 2010 and 2008 respectively, and his third film enjoyed a promising start by amassing 1.8 million admissions (64%) across 1,481 screens...More
Namgoong Min carries "Beautiful Gong Shim" from moment to poignant moment. Minah and On Joo-wan are delightful as well, but it is Namgoong who is the lifeblood of the drama. There is a freedom with which he plays the mysterious, slovenly, goofy, irreverent yet thoughtful Ahn Dan-tae that allows the character to be such a strange, yet lovable, amalgamation of traits.
Before I delve more into why Ahn Dan-tae (and Namgoong Min) is so strong, let's take a look at what we've learned this first week of "Beautiful Gong Shim"...More
Discover how Korea's youth have been represented in modern Korean cinema, Paul Quin reviews "Missing You - 2016" for Hangul Celluloid, one writer argues that Park Chan-wook's "Old Boy" is a modern Greek tragedy, and is the 4DX cinema technology developed in Korea really worth it?...More
My Korean Kitchen will help you make authentic dak galbi at home, discover what it's like to dine at a North Korean restaurant in Jakarta, find halal options with a new app, and can Paris Baguette take off in America?...More
Learn more about why Jeju Island should definitely be on your travel itinerary, The Korea Times shares one writer's views on what it's like to be black in South Korea, a blogger has some advice from their trip to the DMZ, and CNN highlights three neighborhoods in Seoul that are on the rise...More
Stray cats in Korea get their moment in the spotlight, Grace Neutral explores South Korea's attitude towards tattoos and body art, see how K-pop is helping to inspire Nigeria's youth, and Hallyu keeps flowing through duty free goods...More
Catch a slick subway snap from Korea from NatGeo's photography contest, Lisa Park is using brainwaves to manipulate water in her "Beautiful Thinking" exhibition, a Korean sculpture plans to donate two giant works to Ecuador as a gesture of solidarity, and the diversity of Korean art features in New York...More
SBS's new Saturday/Sunday twenty-episode drama "Beautiful Gong Shim" was much more than its lackluster promotion. It was zippy, fun, and put two unique characters at the helm, Gong Shim (Minah) and Ahn Dae-tae (Namgoong Min). I have to say that I hope neither of them change much, save maybe to fall in love with each other. It's rare to find such refreshingly frank and straightforward characters on Korean television.
Gong Shim is the "ugly" younger sister...More
Sunday May 8, 2016 was a momentous day for SHINee fans. It was the day that SubKulture Entertainment brought them to the Rosemont Theater for their very first North American fanmeet! Although the boys had been to Toronto on Friday and Los Angeles on Saturday, they were still brimming with energy and excitement to meet their fans.
They weren't the only ones. Fans from all over the U.S., North America, and indeed the world, came to see the popular SM Entertainment K-pop group...More
Jun (played by Yoon Si-yoon) is the devil-may-care lead in "Mirror of the Witch". He always seems to be either the victim or perpetrator of some elaborate scheme, and ultimately gets dragged into the story by getting called out on and accepting a childish dare. It's through this happenstance that Jun meets Yeon-hee (played by Kim Sae-ron), the cursed princess who has managed to attract attention to herself magical barrier notwithstanding...More
Several critical factors work against "STOP". There's the title, which is very generic, hard to remember, and search for. There's the fact that the production is almost an entirely Japanese one. And then there's the whole nuclear power allegory centered around the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which is oddly straightforward considering this is the latest film by writer/director Kim Ki-duk. None of this has anything to do with the actual quality of "STOP". I just think it's kind of funny how awkward context is apparently a larger barrier to the popularity of a Kim Ki-duk film than explicit genital mutilation...More
Hyeong-joon (played by Park Yong-woo) is a radio DJ who soon gets trapped in the world of memories in "Pure Love - Movie", a film which spends most of its time in an island village circa 1991. Beom-sil (played by Do Kyeong-soo), Soo-ok (played by Kim So-hyeon-I), San-dol (played by Yeon Joon-seok), Gae-deok (played by Lee David), and Gil-ja (played by Joo Da-yeong) are all graduating high school students looking to explore the world. Soo-ok shows the most promise, thanks to a strong singing voice, yet is also limtied by her bum leg...More
Pastor Lee Jong-rak is the officiant at the Jesus Loving-Union Church in Seoul. Lee Jong-rak might not be considered that different from the many pastors in Seoul except that he happens to be the proprietor of the infamous Seoul baby box- where parents can drop off unwanted children. "The Drop Box" is an exploration of why Pastor Lee Jong-rak created the baby box, and mostly a justification. While fully acknowledging the inflammatory nature of the entire idea of a baby box, "The Drop Box" argues that faith and good works in the short term supplant notions of policy in the long term...More
Sanbangsan (산방산) is the major tourist landmark in Andeok, a huge mountain visible from just about anywhere in the district. As such, there's an ongoing carnival on the south side. Just the usual stuff- a walk by the beach, amusement park rides, food, subarmines tours, and a full reproduction of De Sperwer, a Dutch ship that crashed on Jeju back in the seventeenth century. The story behind that is, well, pretty much what it sounds like really. The crew of De Sperwer was stuck in Korea for awhile and then they left...More
2016/05/13 | | Permalink
After the dust has settled from a generally disastrous political situation, Queen Sim (played by Jang Hee-jin) ends up having to petition for help from the sorceress Hong-joo (played by Yeom Jeong-ah). The price of all magical aid ends up falling squarely on the shoulders of Hae-ran (played by Jeong In-seon), a willing servant of the Queen. Ultimately, brutal vengeance is promised against those who would use dark powers for the sake of betrayal- with those same dark powers that have left a lasting legacy to Hae-ran...More
2016/05/13 | | Permalink
Having left Gangjeong I decided to travel to Andeok, in the mid southwestern portion of Jeju Island. In addition to being fairly close to Gangjeong, Andeok is the home of the Museum of Sex and Health. Not the kind of location I normally frequent, but someone I know expressed an interest, so away I went. Rather than go by bus, like a sensible person, I attempted to climb through a mountain until finding something that resembled a trail, as usual ending up at a random Buddhist temple. This one is called Daeheungsa (대흥사), and it looked prettier than usual because of Buddha's upcoming birthday. That's today, Korean time anyway...More
"Entertainers" is getting messier in organization but that didn't stop it from tying with "Goodbye Mr. Black" at 8.6% for first place tonight. Indubitably, the spike upwards in ratings are due to the increased romantic presence in the storyline and with Ha-neul's direct confrontation with Jinu.
The sexual assault scandal and how desperately the characters endeavor to hide or expose it provides a lot of raw plot fodder...More
Get ready to stop breathing every few minutes and keep any comforting items or pets nearby, because episode six of "Master - God of Noodles" is one intense ride. Our characters drop their facades and others reveal the effort it takes to maintain them, reluctant alliances are formed and we have a birth secret on our hands if ever I have seen one. Between the tight storytelling and torturous food shots, this episode is a health hazard...More
This week "Master - God of Noodles" opens with a nicely timed detailed introduction to the character of Da-hae. Three years have passed and the present finds some of our characters as we left them and a few having made drastic changes. We are also introduced to new people on both sides of Gil-do's plans. Speaking of the Devil, life in Gangnam is sweet and he will let nothing and no one jeopardize it...More
2016/05/11 | | Permalink
The dark truth that connects the unfortunate young people in "Entertainer" is twisted by lies as those involved try to prevent it from surfacing, and wrecking havoc on their lives and careers. This truth may not be as riveting to viewers as it is to the characters as ratings came in lower this week at 7.8%. Whatever the reasons may be, the undercurrent of tension caused by the buried sexual assault scandal is palpable. This doesn't stop the Entertainer band family from growing closer and from opening up to each other.
Now that we know the backstories of our main characters, the rest of the band is getting a little spotlight...More
2016/05/11 | | Permalink
After a case fully dedicated to Chairman Jeong Geun-mo's financial transactions it is the turn of one related to the cost of human life lost to his dirty business practices. As Jeong becomes more reckless and obsessed with destroying our Superman, his accomplices start to worry over their involvement with him. Hae-kyeong goes head to head with Deul-ho and Eun-jo in court and her motives are being questioned by those around her...More
Ratings go down for "Jackpot" as my opinion of it goes up. Isn't it funny how such things work? The brothers triumphed together last episode and this episode brought the expected troubles and downfall. Dae-gil, despite his luck, continues to be trampled upon by the driven In-jwa. Yeoning, despite his good intentions, is dragged down by those who love him. Also, he discovers that Dae-gil is his brother, which adds a dimension to his character and a stronger dynamic to his relationship with Dae-gil.
Yeoning sticks to his beliefs, much as he did in real life...More
The sheer goofy awkwardness of Hae-young's new living arrangement is played for maximum laughs. I like how for all the obvious problems the secret doorway causes, Hae-young never considers just, you know, moving to another apartment. It's not even that she likes Do-kyeong all that much just yet. Hae-young is a woman who would rather try to avoid problems piecemeal instead of trying to deal with them in a single fell swoop. It's a character flaw that's well disguised by the general comedic design of "Oh Hae-Young Again"...More
"Jackpot" came in at 8.7% for episode 13, maintaining it's percentage rating. The show, however, has improved from the hyperactive activity that defined its first few weeks. Now the plot steadily moves forward. It does this by adding characters and their personal intrigues and motivations, and letting the main cast react to them. This is all fine and well, but it does make the drama lose tension.
Perhaps the biggest plot points at play now are the fact that the two brothers are now teammates, and that there are three women on Dae-gil's love radar...More
Our plot and character development make great strides in episode thirteen of "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho". It is amazing how people show their true colors when push comes to shove and now we get to see who Deul-ho's and justice's true allies and enemies are. Are those revelations surprising? Not really, but some are so very satisfying, especially when Deul-ho's fate is at stake. We still need more information on the past, but the present is definitely delivering...More
Hae-young is easy going to the point of excessive strain. She seems capable of taking any bizarre revelation in random stride, yet the minute any of her ideas are challenged, Hae-young lets loose a vicious hook. I like how Do-kyeong reels from her verbal hits for exactly the wrong reasons. While Hae-young is overreacting, she's overreacting to Do-kyeong's overreacting, and Do-kyeong's own hidden motives that he can't admit out of sheer guilt and shame...More
"Vampire Detective" finally delivers on the vampire part, but the results are sadly less exciting than they sound. Episode seven attempts to humanize our villainess and reveals her origins to us. San meets an old friend who is very different from what he remembers and our other leads take a break while he works this new case. We also meet an unexpected guest star who reveals an interesting fact about the drama. Any "Vampire Prosecutor" fans here...More
SHINee has come to Chicago, folks. It wasn't just as part of a lineup of K-pop artists, but as a headliner of their own event: their very first U.S. fanmeet. They met their enthusiastic fans at the Rosemont Theater in Chicago at 7pm thanks to the hard work of the people at SubKulture Entertainment. Fans from all over the U.S., and indeed a few dedicated international fans, trekked to Chicago to meet the K-pop superstars who are about to celebrate their eighth anniversary on May 25, 2016...More
"Civil War" continues to dominate despite a host of new challengers...
Marvel's latest outing continued to reign supreme atop the Korea box office, but a string of new releases shuffled the rest of the pack considerably. This latest superhero flick was released in Korea late last month and topped the charts its frist weekend out by capturing over 90% of the box office pie. Over the weekend, Marvel's mighty movie added another 1.5 million admissions (64.8%) to bring it total tally now to 7.3 million ($52.7 million). Worldwide, "Captain America: Civil War" has, to date, banked an incredible $678.4 million...More
Finding a romantic comedy drama that does not go majorly dark and depressing or then lose its coherence completely is hard. "Beautiful Gong Shim" promises a return to the good ol' days, where people trying to hook up with people happily was possible without major physical and emotional scarring. There is still a mean grandmother in the mix, but that is a rom-com staple in Korean drama...More
Go-hwan (played by Ryoo Deok-hwan) is a teenager who's dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. Fortunately, Go-hwan's head is mostly still functional. As is his...penis. Yes, "The Last Ride" goes there. First and foremost it acknowledges that whatever we may think a person who is about to die wants, when that person is a teenage boy, terminal disease or not, he's going to be spending a disproportionate amount of time thinking about sex...More
In January of 2007 the General Motors branch in South Korea restructured its labor policies. The exact minutae of what they did is kind of complicated but the short of it is that, like in most capitalist systems today, there's an arbitrary distinction between full-time workers and part-time workers that has less to do with the kind of work that's being done and more with how the schedules are designed. Full-time workers have union contracts, so they're guaranteed jobs and usually have first pick of less intensive work. While part-time workers also have contracts, they have to take whatever they can get. In 2010 General Motors attempted another restructuring, and this time the part-time workers decided to fight back with a strike...More
Several victims of the Sewol tragedy were, at one time, members of a garage band called A.D.H.D. One such departed student, Su-hyeon, had fond enough memories of A.D.H.D that on a random bucket list he scrawled for fun one day, "do twenty A.D.H.D. stage performances" was listed. Although five of A.D.H.D's eight members died on Sewol, the survivors try to bring the band back together anyway in Su-hyeon's memory...More
...I forgot to mention, while most of the screenings took place in Gangjeong itself, the opening screening took place at the Catholic Church in Seogwipo. Originally it was supposed to take place at the Seogwipo Arts Center, but they backed out at the last minute citing "political sensitivity". Now that's just plain shameful. The opening screening of "Upside Down" was standing room only and may well have been a fire hazard. I visited the Seogwipo Arts Center shortly before going to Gangjeong and the closest thing they had to a major event was some British romantic comedy from three years ago. Which just goes to show- if your choices for an ally in justice are artists or the church, the church is the better pick every time...More
Read all about "Old Days" from the Hollywood Reporter, KOBIZ has an timely infographic, Variety reviews Woo Min-ho's "Inside Men", and see how Korean 'gisaengs' have been depicted in South Korean cinema over the years...More
Discover traditional Korean food at a Buddhist temple, see how Korea's number one pizza chain is creating interesting fusion food, find out where to get the best of the Deep South in Korea, and dine and shop in style...More
The Korea Herald has its roundup of travel news from around the world with great specials for travelers, see the celebrities that are enjoying the Land of the Morning Calm, discover great deals and events at some of Korea's top hotels, and how 'smart' is the city of Songdo, exactly?...More
Learn how the South Korean Wave still trickles over the border into North Korea, find out what the "C-Festival 2016" is all about, save the date for Buddha's birthday that takes place later this month, and see how following the rules when it comes to recycling can take some getting use to...More
Catch some stunning pics of Jamie Oliver's trip to Korea, Korea-Iran relations get strengthen through poetry, Gwangmyeong Cave features ancient French artwork and strengthens culture ties, and can Asian fashion really challenge established western brands?...More
2016/05/06 | | Permalink
At long last, HanCinema's first film festival visited on the road! Up until recently I was living in Seoul and limited in options for what film festivals I could and could not cover. That life decision is over and done with, so I was free to impulsively grab a plane ticket to Jeju Island. I was prompted after learning that Gangjeong, the small Jeju village embroiled in a constant war with the South Korean government over an unwanted military base, would be holding its first ever International Peace Film Festival this year. I first heard about this struggle in the documentary "Mira Story" and have been keenly interested ever since...More
2016/05/05 | | Permalink
"Entertainers" is moving full-stead ahead as the drummer joins the band, Seok-ho finds the will to move forward, and the bad guys plan their nefarious deeds to cover up past nefarious deads. A little awkwardness in plot organization gums up the works, but the damage isn't too bad. The show is doing better in ratings as well - 8.3%.
What was awkward in this episode was the attempt to speed up the pace by explaining a way a lot of time and the formation of the band and the album...More
2016/05/05 | | Permalink
A depressing fate befalls our makeshift family and the group is separated. Gil-do has big plans for his business and becomes more dangerous to our leads the closer he gets to the truth. Da-hae's spying endeavors reveal she has more than noodles in mind and Myeong is officially on the run. Episode four of "Master - God of Noodles" offers rich characterization and emotion. Grab a hot noodle soup and prepare for feelings...More
2016/05/04 | | Permalink
"Entertainers" comes in at 7.4% and delivers heavy feels, buckets of tears, and a whole lot of family fuzzies. The band of misfits that makes up Seok-ho's indie rock band has come together for the love of music, and because they found something special in each other. Sure, there are a few things that I questioned along the way, but Directors Hong and Lee paired with Writer Yoo deliver a powerful hour of entertainment.
This drama doesn't waste time with keeping secrets...More
2016/05/04 | | Permalink
Gil-do has clearly never been worried about the idiom of burning bridges, because he is walking around waving fire at everything and everyone. His sadistic nature reaches new lows every time he acts or speaks. Episode three introduces new character connections and things get very dire for our hero, as his friends get caught up in his mess. The road to a complicated future stretches before us. Time for tangling some noodles...More
If things were serious in the last episode, they are deadly dangerous in episode twelve of "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho". Our villain is finally showing his biggest tricks, although they are interestingly very similar to his past ones and hopefully full of errors. Deul-ho is in deep water and what remains to be seen is who will aid and who will hinder him. Eun-jo will have a lot on her hands and so will Ji-wook...More
"Jackpot" continues to hold steady in second place as its rating rises to 9.2%. Seol Im returns to add another wheel to the love quadrangle, but her character is rich and and example of a strong woman. Our brothers grow closer in a way that makes me think we're in for heartache in the future - it's too good to be true.
Both brothers are rough and tough on the outside, but inwardly respect each other and their mutual goals...More
Things get serious in "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" as our main villain becomes more aggressive than ever. Eun-jo's step-father sparks a new case, new challenges and social commentary. Eun-jo herself reaches a boiling point, but now her time has hopefully come to get down to business. New adversaries surface and older ones falter as the chessboard rattles. Deul-ho's determination to risk everything is about to be challenged, but we know him pretty well by now...More
From Do-kyeong's perspective Hae-young frequently comes off as unexpectedly frightening. It's mostly in the weird stone-faced way that Seo Hyeon-jin delivers her lines. It's hard to tell whether Hae-young is being flirtatious or viciously sarcastic. Often it's not clear that Hae-young herself has any idea how other people interpret her actions. Hae-young is at her most attractive when she outwardly expresses the least concern about what other people think...More
It is in this episode, which came in second at 8.9%, that we really see the seeds of history taking root in our characters. Prince Yeoning, who later becomes one of the most favorably looked upon kings in history, begins his epic, lifelong battle against unfair taxation and the mistreatment of the lower class. Dae-gil, the son of Sukbin's who died according to historical documentation, walks towards a common goal with Prince Yeoning although they're coming from opposite sides of life. They are juxtaposed in this episode and begin a partnership that is fun, although changes are that it will be severed later.
Yeoning battled the unfair distribution of wealth his entire life, so this episode is only the tip of the iceburg...More
Hae-young (played by Seo Hyeon-jin) is an administrative restauranteur with chronically rotten luck who shows neither determination nor despair at her many setbacks in life. Do-kyeong (played by Eric Moon), a sound effect designer for movies. Not a composer, a sound effect designer. His sister Soo-kyeong (played by Ye Ji-won) is Hae-young's boss, and both siblings share the same penchant for cruel behavior to subordinates in the name of getting the job done right...More
If you enjoy murder mysteries, then welcome to some Cluedo-like fun in episode six of "Vampire Detective", as our team tries to solve a death of the past. The incident is personal to Goo-hyeong and this means we finally get to see him act like a human being instead of a womanizing cardboard cutout. Yo-na is still around, but neither San or we know what she wants. She is sadly falling victim to plot stretching, which will hopefully end soon...More
Marvel's "Civil War" takes no prisoners...
Marvel Studios' much-anticipated "Captain America: Civil War" arrived in Korea last Wednesday and over the weekend this blockbuster was the only game in town. The film was allocated an incredible 1,990 screens and attracted 2.7 million filmgoers for a whopping 90.5% of the box office pie. Already "Civil War" has amassed 3.9 million admissions in Korea alone ($28.7 million), and globally Marvel's latest superhero flick has banked over $200 million. Western superhero films are very popular the world over, and Korea is no exception, and its dominance over the weekend left very little for the rest of fray to fight over...More
Mysteries are rarely done well in drama. It seems to be a combination of complicated ideas and little time given due to the filming system, but they are also usually simple in concept and easy to guess as well. The creators of "The Village: Achiara's Secret" were very confident before the drama began airing. Stay until the end, they said. We will show you something good. Dramaland has lied to me a lot, but it just makes the rare truths all the more satisfying...More
During the Japanese Occupation of Korea, Jeong-min (played by Kang Ha-na) and Yeong-hee (played by Seo Mi-ji) are mostly unremarkable teenage girls who live in the countryside with their parents. The prospects of the young women take a radical turn in 1943, when Japanese soldiers arrive looking for sources of comfort to comrades stressed out and rendered borderline insane by the neverending war in the Pacific. Insanity proves to be a recurring theme in "Spirits' Homecoming", as Jeong-min and Yeong-hee struggle to avoid it...More
"The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol" was the immediate incredulous reaction to the South Korean government's poor handling of the Sewol tragedy. "Cruel State" was the protracted, despairing reaction as time went on and surviving family members were belittled for wanting an explanation. And now, we have "Upside Down", a documentary which, two years later, tries to find out how the families are holding up, and what the best explanation is, now that there has been ample time to test out all sorts of theories...More
In 2007, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean picture book authors collaborated for a large project dedicated to exploring the concepts of war and peace. Kwon Yoon-duk's contribution to this project was a story called Flower Grandmother, which deals with an old woman who was forced to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers in the days of the Japanese Empire. While most of the products of the peace project had an easy time getting published in all three member countries, Flower Grandmother stalls in the Japanese market, for reasons that are probably fairly obvious...More
Aside from the usual manmade structures Seogwipo also has much more conventional scenery. Pictured above is the Cheonjiyeon Waterfall (천지연폭포). It's surrounded by a huge park (Chilsimni) to the southwest corner of the Seogwipo's main urban center and, as you can see, even in April it's a popular tourist site. The scope of the Cheonjihyeon Waterfall is impressive enough up close, but I prefer looking at it in wide angle for the sake of seeing how well it fits into the broader landscape...More
Bong Joon-ho and Tilda Swinton are working together on "Okja" for Netflix, KOBIZ has an infographic on popular Korean series films, CJ CGV's ScreenX takes filmgoing to the next level at Cinema Con, and learn about Korea's "Grand Master" of eroticism...More
Get a taste for Korean-American cuisine with the "Koreatown" cookbook, Korea's J-shaped ice-cream cones head to L.A., discover what new dish is trending in Korea, and get some advice from travel bloggers on how to shop and eat local...More
Celebrate if your next layover is at Incheon International, some courageous Russians climb Korea's tallest building, discover 8 great places to travel in Asia as a single lady, and get some tips on budgeting for a trip to the Land of the Morning Calm...More
See how Korea's pet culture is evolving, consider joining a summer program at a Korean university, research shows Korea's demanding work culture is relaxing, and read what one traveller learned about her own culture from living and working in Korea...More
See how some Korean couples enjoying matching wardrobes, a South Korean abstract painting sets a new record at auction, look out for Korea's "Tiger Bullion" series that's coming in June, and the Smithsonian looks at megacities through artists' eyes...More
2016/04/29 | | Permalink
Located on the southern tip of Jeju, Seogwipo (서귀포) is the only other location on the island which can really be called a city. Technically the entire southern half of Jeju is Seogwipo, just as the entire northern half of Jeju is Jeju City, but for the sake of argument the current run of articles is going to focus only on the city of Seogwipo- to the extent it can really be called a city at all. Tourist-directed though the local industry may be, the area is very quiet and peaceful. Even random schoolyards radiate a sort of quiet majesty...More
2016/04/28 | | Permalink
Despite wavering ratings, "Entertainers" continues strongly. Ji Seong is just hitting this role out of the park. Kang Min-hyuk had the chance to really open up as Ha-neul truly lets himself feel the after effects of the horrors in his life. We get some backstory on Green. And that pesky mystery, it just keeps throwing curve balls at us. Honestly, I could just sit here all day and watch this fledgling band bicker and rehearse all day. The romance really isn't necessary...at all. You think I'm joking.
When Seok-ho leans in close in order to make a point, Green is shaken by his nearness and overpowering masculinity...More
2016/04/28 | | Permalink
Gil-do is well on his way to winning a one-man moral limbo dance by going lower every day, our hero has revenge and food in mind and we have some new character introductions. Episode two pushes Myeong towards a very dangerous path and it will not be long before he has to start evading the truth to reach his target. The reunion hits him hard and the memories harder. Manly tears and noodle slurping ensue...More
2016/04/27 | | Permalink
If you think your life is tough, welcome to the world of revenge dramas. "Master - God of Noodles" offers hot noodle dishes and heaps of the famous dish best served cold. The creators waste no time and give us the full backstory between our hero and villain, all the way to the awkward reunion in the present. This is one impressive, stylish and exciting premiere episode. You could cut the tension with a knife. Enter the noodle jokes...More
2016/04/27 | | Permalink
As with all of the strongest dramas, "Entertainers" has begun to put together the one thing that always grabs at hearts and convinces the viewer to invest into it. It has created a family, a band family. A group of hurting misfits band together (pun intended) for the love of music, and will most certainly learn to love each other. Even ruthless Seok-ho is starting to show his gooey center. Perhaps that is helping the climbing rating - a 7.2%.
While Seok-ho endeavors to pick his life and career up off of the ground, so do Ha-neul, Kyle (Gong Myeong), and Green...More
2016/04/26 | | Permalink
Everyone give the flashback fairy a round of applause, because she is here and she brings a lot of backstory with her. Episode ten gives us a little look into Deul-ho's and Hae-kyeong's less than blissful life together, as well as his musical interrogation room meetings with Dae-soo. I find myself with more questions than answers, but the past is returning and maybe bringing those answers with it. Chairman Jeong's time has come yet again...More
2016/04/26 | | Permalink
This episode of "Jackpot" brought it up to 8.9% and into second place. There was some romance, a smidge of character growth, and plenty of revenge. Despite all fo that, I was extremely disinterested in the episode. It was very explanation oriented and lacked the action that defined earlier episodes. I never thought I'd say that.
What was solid about this episode was the direction...More
"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" can go heavy on the sugar-coating and feel-good approach at times, but I cannot blame a show for trying to give some hope and joy. The time has come for our food criminal to get her just des(s)erts in this case and Deul-ho is definitely eager to provide. Eun-jo is hanging onto her dream and desired mentor, but life is not so peachy when you are broke. Hire her already...More
"Jackpot" came in at the bottom of the pack at 8.0%, but the quality of the show is better than it has been. There is plot movement, character development, action, and political happenings that aren't deadly dull. Not to say that the show doesn't have flaws, but the tone has settled alongside the no-longer-erratic pacing.
The biggest flaw in the show is that both King Seokjong and In-jwa are nearly omniscient...More
While the vampire side of things remains benched, we have some welcome forward movement in character development in episode five, sparked by what is probably the most interesting guest character yet. The case itself is very entertaining and nicely presented, giving us plenty of suspects and inviting us to a guessing game. Worry not, Yo-na is still around and she is very eager to have a piece of San, figuratively and very literally so...More
"Time Renegades" stays put at the top...
kwak Jae-Yong's thriller "Time Renegades", starring Im Soo-jeong, Jo Jeong-seok and Lee Jin-wook, retained pole position over the last weekend despite a slight drop in its dominance from 29% to 25%. Last weekend Kwak's film entered the fray and attracted 336 thousand to its screens (733); its second weekend out, however, saw that figure slip to 239 thousand, moving its total tally now to just under a million admissions ($6.7 million)...More
2016/04/24 | | Permalink
The balance between inevitable tragedy and familial contentment is rather off as the ending to "Marriage Contract" is frustratingly open-ended. It's not even ambiguous or anything- most of the conflicts are straight up left unresolved, and there's no epilogue. Just a recap of what's happened. For a sense of perspective, the last we see of Seong-gook, he's randomly throwing things. We don't get to see what happened to Jeong-hoon at all...More
Revenge has been taken in all manner of ways in a genre very favored by Korean drama. The basics of these premises remain very similar, something which sadly extends to their entire plots sometimes. Worry not, however, because a new type of revenge has arrived. An apron is his cape and a rolling pin his weapon. It sounds funny, but do not underestimate "Master - God of Noodles"...More
Korean dramas making abrupt changes is something audiences have grown used to, but one of the latest variations of this bad habit has been radically changing a drama's presentation and tone from the cheerful to the melodramatic very early on. "Please Come Back, Mister" felt like such a refreshing change to that. The drama does a lot of things well. Unfortunately, it also makes so many big mistakes that it ultimately ruins a lot of the good it had previously managed to build...More
There's this real magnetic quality we get from Lee Seo-jin and UEE. No matter how bad the situation gets, no matter how obvious it is that this story will have a tragic ending, as long as Ji-hoon and Hye-soo are together, they will not give up. "Marriage Contract" is their story of sheer determination. It hits all the harder because we've seen Ji-hoon and Hye-soo alone and know that absent positive reenforcement they struggle to achieve the simplest tasks...More
"Time Renegades" the time-travel film from Director kwak Jae-Yong ("Daisy", "My Sassy Girl") came in number one its opening weekend and for good reason. It was a slick piece that balanced the two worlds it depicted and the relationship between dream-tied strangers realistically and with plenty of suspense. It premiered in South Korea on April 13, 2016, and had its North American release by CJ E&M on April 22, 2016...More
Nam-soo (played by Lee Sang-yoon) is a producer working for a late night horror show that involves ghosts. Not real ghosts, just actors in ghost make-up. Nam-soo is irritated by the low prestige nature of this work, and quickly takes up the track of investigative journalism when a freak discovery at a shooting location begs a lot of important questions. This trail ends up leading to a mental patient (played by Kang Ye-won) who is identified in hospital records as Soo-ah. The extent to which any of these records are accurate, well, that's part of the mystery...More
During the Japanese Occupation of Korea, So-yool (played by Han Hyo-joo) and Yeon-hee (played by Cheon Woo-hee) are friends raised together as proper gisaengs, inheritors to Korea's traditional musical culture. The prospects of the young women take a radical turn in 1943, when they meet Yoon-woo (played by Yoo Yeon-seok), an aspiring songwriter who wishes to break the yoke of Japanese oppression by using music, as a weapon...More
The official website for Frankie and Friends describes the franchise as an "eco-friendly growing up story". In short, the television show's main operating gimmick is that the characters live in a world where food has to come from a specific place- their garden. The usual kids' show moral lessons all come from that vein, and the film version, "Frankie and Friends the Movie: The Tree of Life" is no different. It's a story about how if you wastefully throw away food, a witch will use the energy of the food's unfulfilled souls to power super beetles devoted to absorbing immortality sap from the tree of life. Magic mushrooms are involved...More
In addition to simple landscapes and modern doodads, Jeju City also has plenty of traditional cultural locations. Which are to a certain extent also modern inventions. Take the statue pictured above. This is a Dolhareubang (돌하르방)...oh my goodness a lot of these Korean words really do look hideous transliterated to English don't they? Well, this one is a little clunky in Korean, too, what with the Jeju Dialect (which is really more its own distinct language) being involved. There are other names which look equally as strange in written English, so I'm just going to call them Guardian Statues, which is usually what they come out as literally anyway...More
Park Chan-wook is back in the spotlight as "The Handmaiden" heads to Cannes, Inverse has a compelling take on the relationship between South Korean cinema and the country's socio-political reality, KOBIZ shares an infographic showing the locations of Hong Sang-soo's films, and Pierce Conran asks if there is still space in multiplexes for romantic dramas...More
South Korea sets a good example by cutting food wastage, My Korean Kitchen will help you make fish cake soup, the 'war on sugar' hits Korea, and one North Korean defector believes "the reunification of our country starts at the table"...More
Visit a Korean karaoke room and just let it go, two young women seize the day in Seoul, Lonely Planet lists some of the best historical sights to visit, and would you travel to Korea to get your fortune told?...More
See what marketers can learn from the success of the Korean Wave, Conan O' Brien visits a PC Bang in Seoul, Asian Heritage Month inspires a flashmob, and South Korea to get its own version of IDOLM@ASTER...More
The Seoul Museum of Art has an avant-garde photography exhibition coming up, a South Korean photographer captures a waterfall in Iceland that will be shown in London, browse some stills from David Brandon Geeting's photography book on Korea, and explore some Korean art online through the Google Cultural Institute...More
2016/04/22 | | Permalink
"Descendants of the Sun" aired its last special today and it was full of the goodies I wished that the first two had contained. We got interviews, behind the scenes, stories, cute moments, history, and more. It was a fun hour of insight into the insanely popular show whose ratings climaxed at 38.8%, whose Chinese views reached 3 billion, and who has had countless parodies made of its memorable scenes.
The last special was full of interviews with Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-kyo, Jin Goo, Kim Ji-won-I, and Directors Baek Sang-hoon and Lee Eung-bok...More
2016/04/22 | | Permalink
In anticipation of the 1st International Peace Film Festival in Gangjeong (which starts today), I impulsively grabbed a plane ticket to Jeju. From inside Korea traveling to Jeju is actually quite cheap. Although maybe it just seems like that because April is an off season. I can see why. For most of these early days spent in Jeju City, the weather was pretty balmy, with nary a fluffy white cloud to be seen in the blue sky. Still, I have to admit that from atop the many mountain parks that dot the landscape, the coastline looks pretty cool in any climate...More
2016/04/21 | | Permalink
"Entertainers" came in at 6.6%, but the rating does not reflect the quality of this show, its premise, or the performances of the cast. If episode 1 was dead on in its pacing and emotional delivery, then episode 2 can only be described as blowing the first episode out of the water. The desperation of hitting rock bottom gives birth to hope, and that's what Seok-ho and Ha-neul feel about their potential partnership. They have a long way to go, but I'm so excited to see them get there...More
2016/04/21 | | Permalink
For those of you hoping for more recaps of the second OTP pairing between Myeong-joo and Dae-yeong, this second special did throw in a few of their juiciest bits. However, it mostly focused on Si-jin and Mo-yeon and on the trials that Si-jin suffered for his country and his woman...More
Wow. I really like "Entertainers". It delivered the necessary introductory episode with panache and Ji Seong hit his character Sin Seok-ho right out of the park. Hyeri as Green, who doesn't look like she's just recovered from a very serious disease, it just as powerful as she was in career-maker Answer Me 1988. Kang Min-hyuk as the quiet, brilliant Ha-neul seethes with intensity. The world crumbles around these three characters, Seok-ho, Green, and Ha-neul, starting them on a journey that I'm intensely looking forward to.
The SBS drama came in at a decent 6.2% for its first episode, but what really made it work was the deft combination of humor, gravity, meta jokes, and swift setup...More
For those of you dearly missing the grand romance of "Descendants of the Sun", this special is for you. It recounts the key moments of Si-jin's and Mo-yeon's relationship from the moment they met until the moment they parted after the earthquake...More
Ah-yeon (played by Choi Soo-young) is a blind English teacher. "Perfect Sense" is mostly dedicated to demonstrating how this condition, being blind, is not as big a deal as it may seem. Consider the opening scene at the ice skating rink. Ah-yeon skates better than I can, no doubt about that, because there is more to proper navigation than just what you can see. So it is with life- the most important parts of the world have to be understood through more than just the eyes alone. Even if Ah-yeon needs an adorable service dog to help out...More
2016/04/19 | | Permalink
Another case is almost done and "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" keeps doing what it does well. A lot of Deul-ho's successes rely on good people doing the right thing and bad people not taking things further, but there are lessons to be found in this idealistic view. Aside from morals and case solving, I believe one of our antagonists may be worse than I thought. Let me know if I am being oversuspicious...More
2016/04/19 | | Permalink
Although Jackpot's rating lowered to 8.7%, it's plot has stabilized and become much more cohesive. Save for a few moments, it has ditched the exaggerated antics that defined it in its earliest episodes. There are a lackluster backstories for our characters, especially on the part of Dae-gil's teacher, Kim Che-geon (Ahn Kil-kang). These took a backseat to the huge learning curves that brothers Dae-gil and Yeoning are suffering through.
Despite the fact that they walk similar paths, both brothers have distinct strengths and weaknesses based upon personality differences and in the way they were raised...More
"Jackpot" has calmed in its erratic plot flailings and settled into a steadier pace, which was very welcome. It came it a 9.1%, higher than the last episode, but still behind its Monday competitors. The calmer pacing allowed for the actors to step out of the texture and show their abilities, especially Jang Geun-seok.
What strengthened the episode was the parallels that it made between the two brothers, both keen and driven, but lacking in the skills to overcome their mutual enemy, Lee In-jwa...More
Deul-ho finally discovers his true calling beyond the case of Michael Jeong and Eun-jo incorporates herself in our team, which is always welcoming her presence. Episode 7 marks the opening of a case not related to our main villain, at least not so far. Most importantly, Deul-ho's triumphant return faces some problems, as he struggles between his role as a father and a newfound hero for the people...More
Tae-pyeong (played by N) is a high school student who is poor in possessions yet rich in spirit. The first couple of episodes chronically repeat this point, showing Tae-pyeong engaged in a variety of odd jobs while still taking time out of his day to do typically heroic stuff whenever the opportunity arises. It is through such noble virtue that Tae-pyeong meets Ah-ra (played by Kang Min-ah), a bored, lonely girl who ineffectually tries to get Tae-pyeong to pay attention to her...More
You know, for being investigators and therefore quick-witted and curious by trade, our team are very slow to address San's condition. I understand initial denial, but his vampirism is starting to feel like a gimmick, when we are one third into this show without it having played a significant role. The episode's plot and some other parts of the main story thankfully progress much faster, however, as our villainess has come out to play...More
Local films stage a comeback led by "Time Renegades"...
The second weekend of April (8-10) had just the one local film in the top ten, Lee Cheol-ha's "Insane", but Korean films have made a comeback as three new homegrown flicks entered the fray. Last weekend it was Lee's mystery thriller that took pole position with just under 30% of the box office pie, but it was kwak Jae-Yong's thriller "Time Renegades" with Im Soo-jeong, Jo Jeong-seok, and Lee Jin-wook that took the honours over the past weekend...More
2016/04/17 | | Permalink
Ji-hoon has been beset by small annoyances for most of "Marriage Contract"'s run. In the early stages Hye-soo and Eun-seong were a major part of these annoyances, but they at least meant well. Now, with a better understanding of the warmth of Hye-soo's spirit, Ji-hoon has finally asked himself whether it's worth dealing with a family that puts such disproportionate effort into trying to cut each other down. From there, the story is a question of how, no matter the diagnosis, for the moment Ji-hoon would rather spend every possible moment with Hye-soo and Eun-seong...More