2016/07/24 | | Permalink
"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 as Klaus and Korean-Spanish Esteban Ahn as Sergio. Joining them are Korean-American Juston 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
2016/07/24 | | Permalink
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
"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
Hello HanCinema fans! I am so pleased to bring you our interview with Jasper Cho, the talented young actor who just finished an amazing run as Dr. Daniel Spencer in the hottest drama of the year, "Descendants of the Sun". Thank you to all of you who asked questions. Please read on to find out which two lucky fans had their questions answered by Jasper and to see what he had to say about working on "Descendants of the Sun", how he broke into the industry, and much, much more...More
Now that he knows the details of Hye-soo's medical condition, Ji-hoon has also discovered a compromise to constantly pining over an apparently uninterested Hye-soo. He will let her go just as soon as there's some assurance Hye-soo will survive her nearly terminal illness. It's exactly the psychological focus that Ji-hoon needs. Deep down Ji-hoon feels emotional gratitude to Hye-soo, and as a man with lots of money, does not consider a basic financial reward to be proper recompense...More
The Korean drama industry is constantly looking for hits, like any business does. As pre-produced shows have not done well in the past, creating something like "Descendants of the Sun" was a risk. In this case, the risk paid off in a major way. The series is a big global hit. As a reviewer, however, my job is not to gush over success. The drama has its virtues, but it is definitely not on the meatier side of entertainment. So here is my own take on it...More
Yoon-seok (played by Maeng Se-chang), Sang-woo (played by Gong Myeong), Won-seon (played by Lee Tae-hwan), and Ho-yeong (played by Lee Jin-seong-I) are four friends living in the squalid neighborhood of Susaek. You know, I lived in Susaek for awhile. It wasn't the most photocentric high-living neighborhood, but it wasn't a mess of official corruption and violent teenagers either. Granted, "Su Saek" takes place some fifteen years ago, so who knows, maybe the situation has improved since then...More
When watching a performance, we're not supposed to be privy to the real thoughts of the actor. "Good" acting means that the performer convincingly inhabits the persona of a character which in theory has no relation to his personality, although in practice this is almost never true. One argument Orson Welles made when people accused him of egotistically taking larger-than-life roles was simple. If the commanding actor had ever tried to take a role that wasn't huge, it would simply look strange...More
Father Joo Gi-cheol was a martyr for the Presbyterian faith during the Japanese Occupation of Korea. The specific crime that warranted his torture and eventual death was activism against the practice of Shinto shrine worship. That might not sound like much on its own, but straight up worship was going farther than was warranted by a Biblical creed of render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Father Joo Gi-cheol saw on a daily basis how the so-called godly figure of the Japanese Emperor could not provide for Korea. Though willing to work within the system to an extent, for Father Joo Gi-cheol, idolatry was the last straw...More
I had lots of reasons for going back to Seoul even though I didn't especially want to- the one I most want to discuss is the Chunsa Film Art Awards. Because I have pictures, you see, of Yoo Ah-in getting all misty-eyed as he accepts his top acting prize for "The Throne". Really, the man seemed absolutely touched that he actually won. Which seems reasonable. He was up against Choi Min-sik, Jeong Jae-yeong, Lee Byung-hun, and Ahn Seong-gi. And don't say Yoo Ah-in won by being young and handsome, since that same night Ra Mi-ran of all people won the audience popularity award...More
South Korea's ScreenX returns to CinemaCon in Las Vegas to wow audiences, the Dongyang Arts Center opens in Seoul to screen Chinese films new and old, Inverse has a list of their top 7 horrors from the last decade, and Yeon Sang-ho's third animation ("Seoul Station") has its international premiere in Brussels...More
Discover what single Koreans eat on "Black Day", The Washington Post explores the foods found at restaurants owned by North Korean defectors, new "yogurt mobiles" are causing a stir, and My Korean Kitchen has steps for making pork belly BBQ...More
Song Joong-ki becomes an honorary ambassador for tourism following "Descendants of the Sun", Businessmen and women gather to 'decipher the puzzle that is Korean online travel', visit a jjimjibang with insights from Lonely Planet, and have you ever stayed at a Korean "love hotel" before?...More
See how some Korean businesses are challenging the prevailing top-down culture, discover how Korea's military culture is infused with daily life, Korea's beauty brands are gaining ground in Chinese markets, and note four insights about Korea to avoid any culture shocks...More
Make your own "polygon art" for a unique decoration, explore the ceramic artwork of veteran artist Lee Hun Chung, catch contemporary Korea through the lens of eight Korean photographers, and see one Australian photographer's shots of daily life in Korea...More
2016/04/15 | | Permalink
Away from the palace, Suwon is filled with little oddities. Like this King. Straddling the side of a busy street (really is quite impossible to take a picture without cars in the shot somewhere), this statue provides...a photo opportuntiy. No really, that's it. The little seal to the right is a Photo Zone. You or a friend sit there and pretend like you're just chilling out with the King while traffic passes by. In context it's all a little silly but hey, it is a pretty cool-looking statue...More
"Descendants of the Sun" has come to an end and that fact feels a bit surreal as well as its rating of 38.8%. Not just as a viewer, but as a reviewer. Not just as a reviewer, but as an international drama fan watching the waves that this drama has made in the world of drama, and in the world itself. This drama is more than its story. It is enveloped in a hype that is currently unparalleled. In some ways, the show is well-worth its worldwide prestige. In others, it is not.
Let's break down this final review into parts...More
This is it, the final confrontation, where among other things, the full background behind Gi-tak's death is confirmed. After the rather goofy way Yeong-soo died I have to admit I never really considered the idea that Gi-tak's death was anything more complicated than what it looked like- a high speed chase gone wrong. That notion seemed bolstered by how Gi-tak himself lost interest in searching for his real killer fairly quickly. Yet in the end, Gi-tak is forced to decide whether he's willing to break the revenge rule or not...More
I find that watching "Please Come Back, Mister" without a sense of context tends to be instructive for getting a feel of the drama. As per the last cliffhanger, there was a big car accident and Yeong-soo, rather than do the sensible thing and go to the hospital, stumbles around through sheer force of will to his intended destination. One might think from that much that there was a serious romance going on between him and Da-hye, rather than the deliberately ambiguous mess we actually ended up with. And then Gi-tak shows up using the cute "dearest spouse" form of personal address...More
2016/04/13 | | Permalink
In its penultimate episode, "Descendants of the Sun" tops itself with 34.8% ratings in spite of the fact that it was competing with South Korean elections. This drama suffers from too many tonal shifts, but the tone of this episode was so solid that it was a tight, emotive watching experience even though it didn't quite match the rest of the drama.
Let's just get the not-so-great stuff out of the way so we can then focus on all the awesome things this episode got right...More
2016/04/13 | | Permalink
So many important and intense things happen in episode 6 that I actually needed a break and a glass of water before starting my work on this piece. Eun-jo has finally made her big decision about life as a lawyer and we are moving past the introduction. Ji-wook and Hae-kyeong just entered the delightful grey zone, there are wins, losses, regrets and redemption. The future of "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho"? Unknown, but I will be anticipating it with glee...More
2016/04/12 | | Permalink
Ratings are dropping steadily for "Jackpot". Today's episode clocked in at 8.4% and I can't blame viewers. Besides the beautiful music and solid cast, this drama doesn't have a lot going for it right now. It's what I feared when I saw Writer Kwon at the helm. If you don't know what I mean, I'll explain it to you.
"Jackpot" is full of potential...More
Although there was a strong sense of the ridiculous in "Jackpot"'s fifth episode, there was a touch of realism as well. It could be because of Yeo Jin-goo's spot on acting or a bit of logical writing from Kwon Soon-gyoo. Jang Geun-seok does well with what he is given, but I think we'll see better from him once his character loses the hysterics.
Most of this episode centered around In-jwa physically and emotionally breaking Dae-gil in order to motivate him to change his path in life...More
"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is relentlessly pursuing the right to be quirky and sometimes downright weird, as our hero creates larger-than-life schemes to protect his client. Eun-jo's new position as his rival in a case close to her heart gives us her backstory and leads her on the path we know she will take. Last, but not least, Park Shin-yang's granny pampering quota keeps being filled and yes, it is still adorable...More
Our vampirically fortified team continues to coincidentally land cases related to the vampire underworld and San draws closer to his past. Episode 3 finally gives us a better look at our villain and solves a big question. Why hide the obvious from us? It turns out, our villain is hidden for excitement. Get ready for that feeling, as she might be making her grand entrance in the next episode...More
Local thriller "Insane" comes out on top as DC's heroes free fall...
The aftermath of "Batman v Superman" has not been kind to DC's crossover collision as admissions counts continue to drop despite the film's initial hype and massive fanbase. Last weekend the bombastic action of DC's latest enjoyed its second weekend out atop the Korean box office, but week three for Zack Snyder's superhero film was incredibly underwhelming...More
2016/04/10 | | Permalink
While I've liked the melodramatic love story in "Marriage Contract", the drama has about reached the point where it's gotten a tad repetitive. This episode marks the second straight one where Hye-soo spends nearly the entirity of the runtime simply turning Ji-hoon down without explanation. Even granting that Hye-soo has her reasons, it takes such an extended slog for the dynamic to change with new information that by the end I mostly felt exhausted...More
Much as he's smarting from Hye-soo's rejection, Ji-hoon is still dealing with too many problems with regard to his mother to take in the insult all at once. He's suspicious of Hye-soo's motives, but absent concrete evidence, Ji-hoon is hesitant to respond too strongly. Well, evidence or affection anyway. It's pretty hard to escape how brightly Ji-hoon lights upon being reminded of Eun-seong and her kitties in nearby proximity...More
Politics is not exactly wholesome family fun, but it is a part of our everyday lives. At the same time, it is a challenging concept in fiction. Either entirely demonized or overly sugarcoated, it is usually a tool for stories not political at heart. "Assembly" might be honest in portraying a lot of what is wrong with our current systems of power, but it is at its core a simple "what if" story. What if a good man did not get tainted or rejected by these systems...More
Byeong-cheon (played by Bae Seong-woo) is a film director who uses interviews as his preferred format for exploring the human condition. Byeong-cheon's questions tend to skew toward the weird and uncomfortable. This is good, sort of, in that such an interrogatory style can provoke honesty. But then it's also sadistic and destructive for the sake of being sadistic and destructive. Although really, what would we expect from a guy who owns a baseball bat yet no baseballs?...More
Sang-ho (played by Jo Jae-hyeon) is a South Korean man trawling around Paris meekly asking random prostitutes if they've seen the woman in a photo he carries around. When Sang-ho's motivations are explained in flashback, we get to see a more well-shaven yet still socially maladjusted man not really enjoy Paris's more touristy attractions so much as reluctantly acquiesce to his wife's desire to give him blow jobs. Which I consider to be an accurate description of "A Korean in Paris" overall- it makes blow jobs look awkward and unpleasant...More
Once upon a time DongJu (played by Kang Ha-neul) was a young poet living under Japanese Occupation, one place or another. The thirties, sadly enough, were the apex of empire-building the world over, and there are certain ethical questions DongJu runs up against constantly. Is it morally acceptable to help the Japanese Empire in any capacity? Is it ethically sound to be a poet rather than a doctor in an age where doctors seem way more important? Is it wise to express political opinions at all? How far can one go in the name of resistance before fighting back becomes foolhardy?...More
The big tourist attraction in Suwon is the Hawseong Fortress (화성). Which is redundant, by the way, since "seong" means fortress in Korean. But I digress, especially considering that the above image is not, in fact, an image of the fortress. Rather, it is a fairly nice-looking wall painting I found nearby. And below this paragraph, you may find a random rock cairn I found somewhere around the outer rim of the fortress, off the beaten trail...More
South Korea's ScreenX excites advertisers, find out what film festivals are taking place this spring, keep an eye on Variety's coverage of the Jeonju International Film Festival, and CJ CGV absorbs Turkey's biggest cinema chain...More
My Korean Kitchen has steps for making a spicy seafood noodle soup for all seasons, two bloggers have a video that highlights some of the differences between South and North Korean food, find out what South Korean cuisine has to offer aside from kimchi, and is the country's coffee boom finally coming to an end?...More
Find out about one American couple's experience travelling and working in Korea as teachers, Korea's street food is the number one thing tourists are interested in when they visit, a Lifestyle blogger reports on five cities around Korea that are worth exploring, and catch ten signs North Korea is probably not going to be featuring in your next vacation plans...More
"Let's Dance" tackles a tough cultural issue on screen, the BBC looks at South Korea as a cultural superpower, webcomics are an exciting new aspect of the K-wave, and watch Park Heung-sik's new film "Loves, Lies" for insight into the origins of K-pop...More
Get a glimpse into Korea's Shamanic rituals with a photographer Kim Soo-nam, see a series of black-and-white portraits of Seoul's 'cool kids', one painter took on North Korea's leader through the power of art, and the Centre Pompidou to open an exhibition in Korea next year...More
2016/04/08 | | Permalink
The fifth contractee ends up getting so entwined with Ye-rim and Sang-woo that when the time comes for her to go through to the mirror universe, Ye-rim and Sang-woo mostly remember what happened. This sets up the final contract, in which the question of who Bong-goo is and why he keeps getting students to sign contracts is...not really satisfactorily resolved. Bong-goo remains enigmatic as ever...More
2016/04/08 | | Permalink
Well! Once more I'm back in Seoul...Good ol' Seoul...yes, sir! Good ol' Seoul...how I hate it! All right, honestly, Seoul isn't all that bad, but I'm not a fan of big cities. They're crowded, and every so often this leads into some pretty ridiculous imagery. Like the lead-in picture. Namdaemun (남대문) is an artifact of a long dead age back when border walls were considered a serious foreign policy strategy. Thank goodness those awful times are behind us!...More
2016/04/07 | | Permalink
For the second time in its fourteen-episode run "Descendants of the Sun" has experienced a ratings drop. It came in at 33.0%, 0.5% decrease. Perhaps it is the fact that the glamour and excitement of the foreign country was no longer present. Perhaps it was the broaching of the sensitive North/South Korea conflict that is more tense than ever. Perhaps it was just the simple fact that the cliffhanger wasn't really a cliffhanger despite the fact that the show only has a week left (save for the bonus goodies to be offered after its run.)
The strongest part of the episode was the relationships, namely the friendships...More
2016/04/07 | | Permalink
Gi-tak is dangled in front of the fire like a damsel in distress here, and while he's not quite exactly a damsel, the fact that Gi-tak looks like a damsel does make matters somewhat awkward. The sexual tension between him and former gangster buddy Ji-hoon has always been noticeable, and there's some pretty unsettling transgender questions at play here. When you like the woman you like because she reminds you of a guy, and is in fact simply that same guy in a woman's body, does that make you gay?...More
2016/04/06 | | Permalink
Our crew of loveable characters has landed back in Korea and served us up another ratings hike. Episode 13 earned at 33.5% on the Nielsen Korea chart and the sheer number of adorable couple moments and character beats support it. Yoo Ah-in's sardonic cameo also probably helped. Then there was the witty, zippy, and fun dialogue along with the more relaxed feeling that comes with a much needed homecoming.
I just have to get this out of the way, however...More
2016/04/06 | | Permalink
It turns out that Han-na was just trying to see her real dad, Yeong-soo, all along, in typical chidlike uncertainty. The payoff for all that extended running around ends up being more tender scenes as Yeong-soo tries to do right by his family and with a little supernatural help, is able to comfort them somewhat about the fact that he's dead. It's all kind of sweet, actually, albeit somewhat annoying since there's not much left in the way of plot progression...More
2016/04/05 | | Permalink
Deul-ho continues to be one crazy son of a gun and he keeps making that work to his advantage. Episode 4 concludes Byeon Ji-sik's (Kim Gi-cheon) story, but the fight against Chairman Jeong (Jeong Won-joong) is far from over. Instead a new case presents itself and while clumsily connected to all of our key characters in terms of writing, it keeps the show moving forward...More
2016/04/05 | | Permalink
Episode 4 of "Jackpot" saw some marked improvement in structure and intrigue, but the ratings don't reflect that. It dropped below "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho"'s 11.3% to a single-digit 9.5%. Perhaps it's the unexpected slapstick humor that threw viewers off. However what grabbed me was the sense of family scattered throughout the hour.
Dae-gil and his father and adopted grandfather are a rather silly trio...More
The power of Byeon Ji-sik's words may have hit Deul-ho and Eun-jo hard, but it is surprisingly the latter, supposedly the more naive and oblivious of the two who understands what she feels and what this means to her first. Episode 3 continues with the trial, but we also get more backstory on some of our characters, including our guest father and son...More
"Jackpot" is still on top of the Monday/Tuesday pack coming in at 11.6%. The appearance of the long awaited Jang Geun-seok can't have hurt the rating, but it was Lee Moon-sik who really stole the show. After the hustle and bustle of the first few episodes, his character settles down and really allows the actor to shine...More
DC's superhero showdown loses steam...
Zack Snyder's "Batman v Superman" has grossed over $682 million worldwide and become the country's film of choice when it arrived in Korea late March by capturing nearly 70% of the box office pie. Week two for Snyder's showdown was significantly less impressive; although the film still managed to retain the top spot, it did so with just 344 thousand admissions (35%) and was almost denied a second week in pole position by the Disney's "Zootopia" on 293 thousand (29%)...More
2016/04/03 | | Permalink
Tensions rise and dangers multiply as our hero is faced with some frightening changes to his body and perception. "Vampire Detective" is progressing quite steadily, focusing on different cases and going deeper into the main story in the process. Gyeo-wool plants her roots into the team and the ever intriguing relationship between San and Goo-hyeong is looking more and more complex...More
2016/04/03 | | Permalink
Whether Hye-soo had a financial motive in latching on to Ji-hoon as she did last episode is a debatable point. What is clear, though, is that Hye-soo's no fool. Whatever her personal feelings are, the idea that she's after Ji-hoon for his money is a legitimate one. And honestly, Hye-soo does need money. The debt collectors may be gone, but right now, Hye-soo still needs to provide for Eun-seong's future. That means getting the expensive medical treatment Hye-soo needs by whatever means necessary...More
Hello HanCinema readers! We are very pleased to inform you that HanCinema will be interviewing Jasper Cho (aka Cho Tae-gwan or 조태관 in Hangul) who plays Dr. Daniel Spencer alongside Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-kyo, Jin Goo, and Kim Ji-won-I in "Descendants of the Sun"...More
Mi-ran's escape is short-lived- as it turns out, Ji-hoon has a very good idea of where she's planning to go. Really, there's only one place Mi-ran can go, feeling so humiliated and ashamed about the sacrifices her son is willing to make. Mi-ran goes to see her parents- to whom her own filial loyalty was less than inspiring. In practice and form, Ji-hoon ends up taking a much needed break from the dysfunction of his family to try and enjoy some time with his mother. Hye-soo and Eun-seong tag along to help...More
In the first segment of "Elephant in the Room" (Chicken Game), we're introduced via a charming animation of chickens helplessly trying to escape a meteoric apocalypse. From there we move on to a somewhat similar situation involving three mostly unrelated wayfarers who get stuck in a bad situation involving a car. They alternate between trying to get help and fighting each other. Typically they fail in their efforts, on account of the characters all being dumb crazy psychos one way or another...More
The Lightning Man (played by Jeong Hyeon-jin) derives his powers from lightning. That's about all there is to him really. Even when starring in a film called "The Lightning Man's Secret", we get almost no backstory explaining who the Lighting Man is, or where he came from. Instead, the focus is on Han-na (played by Luna), a scientist who dreams of flight via jetpack and sings songs. Then there's the Distinguished Devil (played by Song Wook-kyeong) who wants to steal the Lightning Man's powers for some reason. Also he sings songs...More
Retro video games are so chic these days it was perhaps inevitable that Pororo, the lovable penguin mascot of Korean kids' television, would devote a whole movie to the topic of entering the video game world. In that regard "Pororo, Cyberspace Adventure" is probably exactly what you're expecting. Pororo and friends go to the computer kingdom, and save the virtual princess in the virtual world. There's just one problem. The characters in the virtual world aren't really virtual. They're full on characters, even though they are but the arbitrary creation of Eddie designed to amuse his friends...More
Learn more about the K-drama that's making serious waves at home and away, North Korea releases a terrible propaganda video, KOBIZ has a great feature on South Korean short films, and get to know one of South Korea's most influential directors with Sense of Cinema...More
Grab a beer with your next McDonald's burger in Korea, a self-proclaimed "fat girl" has some suggestions on where to go in Seoul, My Korean Kitchen has a sweet snack packed with Nutella to try, and find out where in America you can go to find the best Korean cuisine...More
Find out what it's like to spend your holiday in a traditional Korean village, Seoul's N Tower is simply a must-see, discover the best places to catch the cherry blossoms blooming, and while you're doing all that spare a thought for tourists somewhere over the DMZ...More
See how young South Koreans are embracing the hanbok, K-pop is helping to grow China's plastic surgery industry, take a trip back to Korea Joa 2015 with Raine with a visit to a Korean temple, and learn how a Korean "imagineer" is hoping to add more substance to how Koreans experience and relate to their culture...More
Enjoy a selection of cheeky images from photographer Hansol Choi, W Magazine has a great gallery of stars from Seoul Fashion Week, see the rise of minimalist art in Korea, and enjoy some traditional artworks in a short video by Cath News Korea...More
2016/04/01 | | Permalink
Ju-ho (played by Baek Ju-ho) is Min-ah's ex-boyfriend (geez she has an ex-boyfriend already?) who constantly gets into fights, but means well. Chan-hee (played by Kang Chan-hee) is an unnaturally smily and upbeat young man who dances around Min-ah offering random reassurance. The B Path of "Click Your Heart" pairs Min-ah with one of these two, and mild spoilers, it turns out that one such ending has some rather...otherworldly implications...More
2016/04/01 | | Permalink
Eom Gi-joon really does a good "enigmatic villain" here. Note how Bong-goo always manages to subtly pressure the students into signing the contracts, by giving them just enough taste of the magical artifacts that backing down ceases to be an option. In the long-term sure, the situation will blow up spectacularly. But in the short-term, the students will be humiliated by the sudden disappearance of their surprising recent boons...More
2016/03/31 | | Permalink
"Descendants of the Sun" is a master at sparking emotion. No matter how illogical the plot may become, the emotional barometer is insanely high. This must be why Nielsen Korean is clocking this drama at 33% for episode 12, a whole 1.1% higher than last night's episode. Wow. It is the human element that "Descendants of the Sun" is really learning to master that makes is so addictive - for me and the rest of the world.
Before I go any further I have to say, "Oh my gosh, the feels!"...More
2016/03/31 | | Permalink
So, it turns out that Hong-nan is not just some random identity that Gi-tak made up to explain how his new female body could know so much about Gi-tak's life. Hong-nan is, in fact, Gi-tak's actual estranged sister from childhood, and by sheer dumb coincidence, it turns out that Da-hye is the real Hong-nan. If you're wondering why this revelation is important, well, keep wondering. All "Please Come Back, Mister" does with this new information is set up a few tender scenes...More
"Descendants of the Sun" tries to pack in a lot of action by having our heroes face weapons trafficking, plagues, gun standoffs, earthquakes, kidnapping, and politics. No matter what happens, this show seems destined to best itself - and it did. It came 0.3% higher than the last episode at 31.9%. More than anything, however, it was the acting in this episode by our leads that made it worthy of that rating.
Jin Goo proved his mettle as his expressed Dae-yeong's worry for Myeong-joo with previously unparalleled intensity...More
Week after week I watch "Please Come Back, Mister" mostly just feeling a little puzzled about the way the story progresses. Yeong-soo romancing his wife shortly after his death in a new man's body. That's pretty unaccountably weird, and most of the early part of this episode is just dedicated to that rather unusual and somewhat unsettling prompt. As a romantic comedy, "Please Come Back, Mister" is consistently more funny strange than it is funny ha-ha...More
"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" has had one pretty impressive first week with episode two continuing to build our characters and their strengths and weaknesses, giving us a better look into our villains and delivering on the comedy as well. Most importantly, it is potentially a major turning point for Deul-ho and Eun-jo, showing us a glimpse into their future together...More
"Jackpot" is once again the highest rated of the new shows at 12.2% for episode 2. From the outside, the drama is all glitz and glitter: beautiful choreography, stunning naturescapes, keen camera storytelling. But its insides are messier: jumpy character sketches, repetitive themes, and illogical schemes. These may work themselves out with time as many introductory episodes can lack clarity in the rush to introduce the drama.
This drama is going the way of most sageuk, or historical dramas, in that it is focusing on the backstory of the main characters before it delivers the handsome leads in their fullest glory...More
Ye-rim (played by Kim So-hyeon-I) and Sang-woo (played by Lee Min-hyeok-I) are a couple of high school students who get on each other's nerves in a way that obviously shows they like each other, even if they won't admit it. But that's not the kind of drama "Nightmare Teacher" is. Ye-rim and Sang-woo are just observers in an anthology story, one where Bang-goo (played by Eom Gi-joon) engimatically offers students the means to achieve their dreams. Or does he?...More
The prologue of "Click Your Heart" sets up Min-ah (played by Kwom Min-ah) as a high school girl whose acquaintances have this bad habit of falling into very unfortunate...accidents. Not that this is given much focus. "Click Your Heart" makes a point of prioritizing concept. Two clicks later from you the viewer, and Min-ah will have a boyfriend. On the A Path, the choices are baseball player Ro-woon (played by Kim Ro-woon) and childhood friend Da-won (played by Lee Da-won). Similarities to idols entirely coincidental, of course...More
In the new slew of dramas "Jackpot" came in on top at 11.8% again "Monster - 2016" (7.3%) and "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" (10.1%). Director Nam Geon's directing style is grand and direct, while Kwon Soon-gyoo's writing takes on its trademark meandering style. The two don't quite fit together, but the epic quality of the first episode cannot be denied, especially not with the exquisite background score and crisply filmed scenes...More
"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is here and he aims to seek justice with every fiber of his homeless attire. He will troll you into submission and make you pay for your wrongdoings - in servings of spare ribs. Park Shin-yang is in town, folks, and he is back with quite the entrance. There is no better indication of a promising show than laughing, crying, cheering and fangirling all in one episode...More
"Vampire Detective" starts out with a bang and a bite, as our heroes and villains are introduced, mysteries are opened and relationships established. The series offers a lot of action and crime solving, but there is more than meets the eye to the story and characters involved in it. I have questions, a lot of them and if a series can create enough investment for one to have them, I call that a solid start...More
"Batman v Superman" overruns "Zootopia"...
DC's much-anticipated superhero brawl, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", has made millions over the past few days as filmgoers and comic book fans around the world flocked to their closest theatres to catch these two iconic titans clash. In Korea, the film was released on Thursday and was given an incredible 1,696 screens, from which it attracted 1.1 million admissions to capture 68% of the box office pie. Worldwide, "Batman v Superman" has already grossed over $424 million...More
2016/03/27 | | Permalink
Now that Seong-gook has a good idea of what Ii-hoon is doing, the older man feels that it's necessary to create order and force Ji-hoon to make proper personal sacrifices for the greater good. This, of course, is complete nonsense, but Ji-hoon lacks the force of will necessary to really fight about this point. After all, provided it's possible that Ji-hoon can have everything he wants, isn't that close enough to happiness?...More
There is so much meta goodness in a shunned star actor playing a shunned star prosecutor who is out to rediscover the fun in his work after taking a tumble. The goodness is even greater when the promotion for this new piece uses these events for some fun humor. "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is Park Shin-yang's return to Dramaland. Hopefully he can bring the fun back with him...More
Throughout all his trials and tribulations, Yeong-sil has remained a surprisingly good sport. There's good reason for this. As bad as jail might be, Yeong-sil at least has his sketchbook, which gives him a chance to think over matters of science. That's always good for a nice matter of calm, even if this time, Yeong-sil's friends can't help him. There's just disgrace and corporal punishment, while Yeong-sil sulks and starts to hate the world...More
Right away another secret is exposed- Hye-soo is sick. While Hye-soo is not sick in such a way as to be an impediment to Mi-ran's surgery, the hospital scene and the trip home gives Ji-hoon an excellent chance to be sensitive and caring in a way we haven't really seen yet- to Hye-soo. Bit by bit he's seeing her less as a financial instrument and more as a person who deserves to be treated with decency and respect, if only because Hye-soo is all alone. She needs somebody...More
Min-gu (played by Kim Seung-woo) is a small time movie director who, like so many small time people in the industry, somehow manages to land on a film festival jury. This incidentally provides him with an excuse to spend a week in Italy. I don't know how much money the Italian Tourism Board gave writer/director Park Heung-shik to make "Twenty Again - Movie", but it was well-earned. At the slightest excuse the film veers off to another random location in Italy as its characters find excuses to talk about how great Italy is...More
Director Kim Soo-vin's parents exposed her to a wide variety of mostly English speaking cultures, and encouraged Kim Soo-vin to live life on her own generally free-spirited terms, just so long as she maintains the maturity of a well-grounded adult. In the first frame of "Welcome to Playhouse", we see that Kim Soo-vin has become pregnant, from a serious long-term monogamous relationship. Kim Soo-vin has a career, yet is not quite done with her education. So how exactly should a well-grounded adult act in that situation?...More
Jae-pil (played by Han Seong-cheon) is an ordinary salaryman with problems in life. Let's put it this way. He has the kind of terrible bosses who do not accept "wanted for police questioning" as a valid reason for Jae-pil's being unable to deliver on after work commitments of dubious legality. And what does Jae-pil have to show for all this hard work? A lousy home life and no friends. Jae-il's family members alternate between absent, hostile, and unable to get in touch for a very serious conversation...More
Outside of Korea, it's not easy to find places to sit down and dine in an authentic Korean restaurant, find Korean groceries, and feel like one is walking along a street of Seoul. Many of us have to turn to the burgeoning internet market to find Korean goods and atmospheres. In a large country like the United States of America, there are a few enclaves of ethnic Korean populations and Korean-run businesses that can be defined as a "Koreatown" or a "K-town". These places can transport those of us outside Korea, ethnic Koreans or Korea appreciators, to a place where we can be immersed in Korean culture in a way that the internet cannot imitate...More
Shim Hyung-rae's "D-War" will get a Chinese-made sequel, The Hollywood Reporter reviews "Ktown Cowboys", KOBIZ looks at the evolution of major Korean actors, and a Korean vlogger has six films to get you into Korean cinema...More
Seoul Eats shares their five favourite kimbap joints, Korean cuisine to get the Michelin treatment, Girl Eat World has ten traditional dishes to try, and are Korean soldiers getting good grub?...More
See Seoul's hottest attractions with new K-bus tours, Korean dramas help boost tourism at home and away, read Soo Kim's travel retrospective about Seoul, and hit Korea's highways and byways with a road trip around the country...More
BBC World weighs in on South Korean culture, Texas to enjoy K-culture at the Annual Culture Symposium, get to know more about Irene Kim and Seoul Fashion Week, and celebrate spring in Seoul with the country's best dance companies...More
See what Korean webtoons are making waves in China, a teacher/mother shows us how to make paper disks to play a traditional Korean game, enjoy some stunning black-and-whites images of Somaemuldo Island by Chris Cusick, and browse a gallery of noteworthy images from around Asia from the past week...More
2016/03/24 | | Permalink
With the romance firmly cemented by episode 9's romantic antics and kisses, episode 10 introduces some major plot points to yank the drama back into action. Not that its ratings need more action - they're consistently on the rise. This episode clocked in at 31.6%, 1.2% higher than last night's episode. "Descendants of the Sun" is battling itself episode to episode for best ratings. Fancy choreography, intricate camerawork and a viral disease are in another tussle; one for the most exciting moment of the episode. It doesn't lose the romantic flavors of last episode, but the hot points are definitely the action...More
2016/03/24 | | Permalink
Da-hye finally directly addresses the creepiness inherent in Yeong-soo's position of trying to constantly hit on a widow. While this doesn't smooth over all the ethical problems involved in Yeong-soo's behavior, I'm grateful that "Please Come Back, Mister" is at least acknowledging the very uncomfortable position in which Da-hye has been put. Some self-awareness can go a long way to making a problematic story seem more harmless and less deserving of over-analysis...More
2016/03/23 | | Permalink
If there is one thing that can almost always bolster ratings it is a good kiss...or two! Hello 30% ratings - 30.4% to be exact. The Song-Song couple not only shared two very romantic kissing scenes (and a good roll in the hay,) but the episode was bolstered by the high-intensity romantic moments between Song-Song and Myeong-joo and Dae-yeong. There were a few small moments, those beautiful moments that showcased themselves during the thick of the earthquake, that colored this romantic episode for the better...More
2016/03/23 | | Permalink
Yeong-soo really does not appear to have thought through the ramifications of his trying to romance Da-hye in Hae-joon's body. Da-hye is a grieving widow. It would be a little disconcerting if she was actually into Hae-joon's attempts at sexual harassment. Compared to Hae-joon, Ji-hoon's come-ons are fairly tactful. After all we've seen him do, I never expected Ji-hoon would come out looking like the better man this episode. Naturally, it helps that even if Yeong-soo succeeds, Da-hye would just be heartbroken again since Hae-joon will have to disappear without explanation, lest Yeong-soo break the rules...More
2016/03/22 | | Permalink
Having whetted our appetite for an epic final fight, "Six Flying Dragons" does not disappoint, providing us with a suitably vicious and climactic battle. Then it drags us down by pointing out the obvious- what's the point of being a supremely powerful swordwielder when a single hero can't win a war, or even their own battles? While Sa-gwang is the more obvious failure, Bang-ji's harsh self-assessment is just as accurate. Little wonder so many of the characters here simply retire here. Until "Deep-rooted Tree" anyway...More
2016/03/21 | | Permalink
In between real history and "Deep-rooted Tree", there isn't really anywhere "Six Flying Dragons" can go plotwise. We know that for the most part all the main players will live to fight another day. The dramatic tension is instead on how specifically these choices will be made. Bang-won quickly commits to child torture as part of his new regime. Oddly enough this is less jarring than the fact that, with the exception of Boon-yi, he's completely sold out an organization that used to be on his side...More
2016/03/21 | | Permalink
"Zootopia" gets more screens and scores...
"Zootopia" was released in Korea mid-February and for the first three weeks it sat in third place; after its America release, however, the film shot to number one. This past weekend "Zootopia" (also known as "Zootropolis") banked another 358 thousand admissions ($2.5 million) to bring its total tally in Korea now to 2.8 million ($18.7 million; 30%). Worldwide, Byron Howard and Rich Moore's "Zootopia" has grossed over $591 million...More
2016/03/20 | | Permalink
Hye-soo isn't really anywhere near actually doing the transplant surgery yet and she's already constantly getting exposed. This is an aspect of the pacing in "Marriage Contract" I rather appreciate. I was expecting the surgery would be rushed and the drama would be about everything after that. Instead it looks like we're in the opposite situation- the tension is based on whether or not the liver transplant surgery will happen at all. Which makes sense, because doctors try not to rush this kind of thing if it can be avoided...More
2016/03/20 | | Permalink
Yeong-sil struggles with another of the usual engineering problems for his current clock design as he works on a deadline. In an ideal world, this is all Yeong-sil would have to worry about. But in "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama", the scientist ends up being forced to think in terms of geopolitical questions. This time around, after deciding that they find Yeong-sil's super diorama clock to be more cool than morally offensive, the Chinese attempt to poach him as their own scientist...More
Vampire themed works have had their ups and downs in Korean drama. We do not have all that many of them, but there is a world of difference between "Vampire Prosecutor" and "Blood". As a gimmick, vampirism is starting to get kind of old. Until Lee Joon and Oh Jeong-se came along to be complete bromantic goofballs for our pleasure...More
The thaw between Ji-hoon and Eun-seong continues. Whether Ji-hoon is actually a good person at heart remains a metter of debate, but in short order Hye-soo lays out several compelling arguments for why the guy at least deserves a chance. However incidental his motivation may have been, Ji-hoon did a huge favor for Hye-soo and her daughter. What's more, he clearly appreciates the sacrifice Hye-soo is willing to make for the sake of Mi-ran. So, too, does Mi-ran appreciate the degree to which Ji-hoon and Hye-soo want the older woman to remain alive...More
Once again, Yeong-sil lounges around just in the peripheral issue of major political questions, this time out on the frontier. Nothing immediately important happens. There ends up being a timeskip following a somewhat anticlimactic death scare for King Sejong, leading me to believe that "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" focuses on certain historical incidents more out of obligation than because of actual relevancy...More
Having a love for suspense, mystery or any other genres outside of romance, family, period and melodrama can be hard when a Korean drama fan. Crime shows are aplenty now, but few really achieve great quality in an enthralling presentation. "Signal" is nothing new. The timeline communication element is reminiscent of works such as Hollywood film "Frequency" and the rest is a suspense and crime series. Yet what makes "Signal" work is something Korean drama creators tend to forget. Quality matters...More
Ha-dam (played by Jeong Ha-dam) is a young homeless woman living on the streets of Busan. "Steel Flower" never explains who Ha-dam is or where She Came From. Neither does Ha-dam herself, although there are a couple of good reasons for this. First, she might be on the autistic spectrum, or have suffered from severe avuse. Ha-dam rarely ever speaks, and when she does, her answers are often made in brute force. The second more relevant reason is that no one ever asks Ha-dam what her deal is. At best, they give her money for doing odd jobs...More
The opening scene of "The Chosen: Forbidden Cave" takes place at a psychiatric hospital. From there we cut to Jin-myeong (played by Kim Seong-gyoon), who helpfully explains that supernatural forces can help people do tasks which are obviously impossible, like when old shamans are able to make improbably high standing jumps. Jin-myeong neglects to explain more directly relevant quandaries, such as why his assistant Ji-gwang (played by Kim Hye-seong) stands behind a plant every time Jin-myeong talks to a victim of demonic possession...More
Do-kyeong (played by Kim Min-gi) is a doctor preparing to get married to the daughter of a colleague. Somewhat inconveniently, this happens simultaneously with his rekindling an old relationship with Ga-in (played by Ko Won). At the start of "Death in Desert", Do-kyeong passively aggressively calls the affair off after the extended opening sex scene while Ga-in increasingly pathetically begs for him to treat her like a partner rather than a sex toy. Rather tellingly, Do-kyeong manages to come off as the more sympathetic person in this situation even though he's the cheater...More
Jason Bechervaise explores the rise of colonial-era films for The Korea Times; Hangul Celluloid reviews Choi Dong-hoon's "The Assassination"; KOBIZ highlights the success of films and dramas coming out of Jeollabuk-do Province; and KOFIC announces incredible rebates for foreign filmmakers...More
My Korean Kitchen has some Korean-style chicken wings to baked; Holly from Beyond Kimchee stirs together a delicious brown butter sauce for your asparagus; explore Toyko's K-Town for a bite to eat; and see why one blogger loves Korean food and thinks you should too...More
South Korean travel agencies encourage locals to explore their homeland; discover five stunning festivals to celebrate Spring; travel Korea with your tummy in mind; and Korea cracks down on substandard tours...More
K-pop cultural academies to run in twenty countries from March to September; Soul Beats puts Korea's pet culture in the spotlight, Google takes down a Korean grandmaster in Go; and see how Korean cinema is being used to help promote K-culture in developing countries...More
The New York Times explores Korean art on home soil, science is helping to piece together pottery fragments and reveal new artworks from the past, find out about the state of Korea's art scene, and see how Korean-American adoptees deal with identity in a black-and-white series of photographs from The Huffington Post...More
2016/03/17 | | Permalink
If the last episode of "Descendants of the Sun" was about the small moments, this one was about the small windows of time that allows our characters and those around them to see the world more clearly. The world is also seeing this drama quite clearly as it shot up 0.5% to 28.8%, mere percentage points away from the big three-oh.
Si-jin and Mo-yeon are developing nicely although Mo-yeon's fear of losing him to his job still tends to dominate her emotions and behavior...More
2016/03/17 | | Permalink
Yeong-soo and Gi-tak had a pretty successful run last episode in terms of accomplishing their goals. The problem that brings up is, if they've already mostly accomplished what they needed to do, then why are they bothering to stick around in the world of the living? Yeong-soo and Gi-tak will have to go back sooner or later. And until then they're at risk of breaking one of Maya's rules- a penalty which is finally elucidated and which Yeong-soo and Gi-tak will have to struggle to avoid enacting...More
2016/03/16 | | Permalink
"Descendants of the Sun" rode atop romance and angsty separations for its first six episodes, but this episode saw a sudden turn. It began to look inward, to inspect the minutiae of humanity and the beauty found in the smallest of human connections. Perhaps the lack of intense romantic interaction is what kept the show from pushing into the 30s, but it came in at a hugely respectable 28.3%, just 0.2% less than last episode.
The little moments built this episode from the ground up...More
2016/03/16 | | Permalink
It turns out that Ji-hoon really is somewhat villainous. At first I was wondering whether "Please Come Back, Mister" was doing the whole thing where the turncoat you know is worse than the explicitly evil bad guys, but no, as it turns out, the explicitly evil bad guys are still pretty explicitly evil. This is somewhat impressive considering how a lot of their villainy is by accident. When it comes to I-yeon's crooked relative by marriage Hyeok (played by Park Min-woo), I doubt we'd even care about his gangster problems except that Gi-tak mnaged to get sucked into that situation somehow...More
2016/03/15 | | Permalink
The big grotesque irony about the fight between Bang-ji and Muhyul is that it's completely pointless. For that matter so were Yeon-hee's actions which precipitated the struggle. By the time either Bang-ji or Yeon-hee had any inkling that something was going to happen to Do-jeon, they were already too far away to offer any support. This, oddly enough, is Bang-won's central political argument. Now that it's impossible to stop him, won't striking back simply be wasted effort against the greater good?...More
2016/03/14 | | Permalink
The time has finally arrived- one bloody night, where Bang-won dispatches his most powerful political enemies one by one. And he's only just getting started. Going by the preview the day after is probably going to be even worse. As much as "Six Flying Dragons" has jumped around from making Bang-won seem sympathetic to evil and back to sympathetic again, somehow I just did not feel adequately prepared for the sheer brutal carnage here. The almost manic humor of the situation doesn't help matters...More
2016/03/14 | | Permalink
Disney's "Zootopia" claws its way to the top...
Walt Disney's "Zootopia" arrived in Korea mid-February and for the first three weeks it has steadily occupied third place. Films like "A Violent Prosector", "Deadpool", and "Spirits' Homecoming" have managed to outperform Disney's latest, the company's 55th animated feature, but the film found new impetus in the wake of its American release (March 4) and has now climbed to the top of Korea's box office during its fourth week out...More
2016/03/13 | | Permalink
I don't really feel that bad for Hee-ji considering how often he manages to get embroiled in life-or-death situations, and then proceeds to enravel all the nearby characters in those same crises. Aside from how generally dangerous Hee-ji is as a friend, he has this bad habit of sucking the oxygen out of the room with his own mostly irrelevant storylines. There's a great montage here that's pretty much a greatest hits collection of Hee-ji either being a jerk or being interrupted by a conspiracy whenever he tries to act a little more senxible for a change...More
2016/03/13 | | Permalink
While Ji-hoon has done a diligent job of preparing every possible angle of his fake marriage story, ultimately, it's unsurprising to see that the most basic questions are the ones that easily trip him up. Ji-hoon struggles with the question of how to make a proper effort. What ultimately moves Ji-hoon to the right direction is unexpectedly realizing he has something in common with Eun-Seong. Both are fiercely protective of their mothers...More
Hello everyone! I'm very pleased to present HanCinema viewers an exclusive interview with rising Ghanaian star, Sam Okyere. Sam is a humble, intelligent man who is a go-getter and knows how to make things happen. He's worked hard to become the successful Korean entertainer and t.v. personality that he is and HanCinema got to hear all about it first hand. Now you will, too...More
At long last "Madame Antoine" reaches the true form of Soo-hyeon's bad psychological attitude. It ends up being about his...dad. Wait, his dad? Have we even seen Soo-hyeon's dad up until now? I can barely even recall the man being discussed, yet now all of a sudden he's the villain upon whom we can safely blame every single problem. Even when a flashback eventually justifies this sentiment, I was caught a little off guard when right in the middle of a meal Soo-hyeon starts unloading following some very slight provocation...More
The relationship between Ji-hoon and Hye-soo remains icy. They don't like each other very much, and it's easy to see why. Ji-hoon legitimately has trouble so much as processing Hye-soo's motivation, which is suitably ironic given that he himself is motivated entirely by motherly love. It's just that in Ji-hoon's eyes, saving Mi-ran is more a goal he should be striving for than one of emotional merit. Ji-hoon's pointed verbal attack against Mi-ran at the end really stings in part because he's right. The situation is in fact her fault. Mi-ran is a hard character to pity...More
Hee-ji struggles with whether to honor his love for science or his love of not being threatened with murder by his political allies. It's taken awhile, but I think I'm finally appreciating Hee-ji as a sort of tragic character who debates which side is the right side for the sake of progress. I wonder whether the historical Hee-ji actually had to deal with problems anything like this, but whatever. I'm partially relieved if only to learn that for the most part the various characters in "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" are in fact based on real people, what with the brief credits scene...More
Like all adaptations of successful original works, "Cheese in the Trap" had been under quite a bit of scrutiny in the time leading to its airing date. Things eventually turned out well and everyone was happy. Unfortunately, everything went awry again when the controversy sprung up. The drama's troubles started way before that, however. "Cheese in the Trap" deserves to be looked at like any other work, isolated from outside production debacles and scandals. When looking at it that way, its problems begin way before the infamous ending. What do I think about said ending? Well, read on...More
The time is the early nineties in rural South Korea. Eun-ha (played by Jeon Do-yeon) is satisfied with just working as a pseudo prostitute for the foreseeable future. Seok-joong (played by Hwang Jeong-min) is satisfied just hanging out with his prize cow, but his mother (played by Nah Moon-hee) pushes him to get married so he can talk to actual human girls for a change. Yet rather than accept marriage for the sake of marriage, Seok-joong is determined to push for love- and Eun-ha is his object of affection...More
In 1979 Soo-yeong (played by Jeong Kyeong-ho) is a student going to university in South Korea. Not very much appears to be happening save for the occasional demonstration (violent or otherwise) to which Soo-yeong is paying very little attention. After a few conversations wherein Soo-yeong's general indifference to anything is discussed, Soo-yeong slowly meets other people and becomes aware of the fact that something isn't quite right at the university. But what?...More
The village of Kanwon is slowly dying. Once energized by the mining industry, those jobs are drying up, and its employees are getting old. Yet for all this, life isn't necessarily all that bad. An early scene depicts a family playing with snow. Does the backdrop look generally bleak and desolate? Sure, but it's kids playing in the snow. What kind of a heartless person can't see the joy in that? Although that's easy for me to say. I don't have to live in Kanwon after all...More
Lotte and Busan City create a multi-million dollar fund to help support commercial and independent films, learn more about Shin Sang-ok from the "What's Korean Cinema?" podcast, film critic and journalist Pierce Conran reviews a horror from the late 90s, and see how KOFIC is ensuring that art films get the airtime they deserve...More
My Korean Kitchen has simple steps for making fried rice, a South Korean snack makes for good business in the Philippines, Holly at Beyond Kimchee has a chicken dish worth digging into, and what's the deal with Spam in Korea?...More
A traditional-style hotel to be built in Seoul by 2020, explore Korea's traditional villages from Seoul to Jeju, spoil yourself at one of Korea's many luxury hotels, and find out more about what to do and where to go in the coastal city of Busan...More
The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) recognises a special tea-brewing technique as a cultural heritage, the BBC looks at North Korea to separate fact from fiction, get a glimpse of Korea's thriving startup scene, and don't forget how big gaming is in modern Korean culture...More
Explore and enjoy Korean art at an exhibition in Sloseburg, South Korea's Dinosaur Expo is nigh upon us, go postmodern with Seoul's "Trick-Eye" museum, and Impakter interviews Kim Jung Gi about his incredible work and artistic vision...More
2016/03/11 | | Permalink
Soo-hyeon gets his just desserts as Hye-rim finally (apparently) gives up on him. It's legitimately really hard to feel bad for the leading man here given that he's been begging for this treatment for pretty much the drama's entire run. Ironically enough, his main sympathetic moment here comes courtesy not of Hye-rim, but rather his mother. While it's easy to feel sympathetic to her in the present day, as Soo-hyeon points out, her actions caused some pretty huge psychological issues that can't simply be ignored...More
2016/03/10 | | Permalink
Yeong-soo continues the mission here to harass his wife and co-worker regarding a perceived romantic entanglement between the two. When it comes to Ji-hoon (played by Yoon Park), I can almost be all right with it, because Ji-hoon is definitely up to something suspicious. But Da-hye is a grieving widow working in a department store that may have murdered her husband. Doesn't the woman have enough to deal with? Is this really the time for abusive pep talks? Even bearing in mind that Yeong-soo has friendly moments too they don't cancel out his often terrifying disposition...More
2016/03/10 | | Permalink
This is seriously baffling. "Descendants of the Sun" episode 6 blasted ratings precedents with 28.5%. The drama is most definitely not about action and is all about the romance, the Song Joong-ki stare, and the manufactured drama. I admit to welcoming the earthquake and the chaos it fosters because it pulls the drama out of its extremely romance heavy focus.
What detracts from the high-budget beauty of the episode is the circular happenings between both couples...More
2016/03/09 | | Permalink
Despite its lack of action, the romantic play of "Descendants of the Sun" has earned it another record-breaking rating: 27.4%. I find this rating rather incredible, but Song Joong-ki is a strong lead with the skills and the looks to carry the show along with Song Hye-kyo. The show also knows just how to pull the romantic strings to keep the interest going...More
2016/03/09 | | Permalink
For their superficially wildly different personalities, Yeong-soo and Gi-tak have one thing in common- they're both prone to jumping to wild outrageous conclusions based on limited evidence. Come to think of it they even acted this way back in the first episode, when they were still alive. It just didn't come off as quite so ridiculous back then because Kim In-kwon looks like a pathetic guy who can be intimidated, and Kim Soo-ro looks like an ultra-masculine man who is not to be trifled with. Rain and Oh Yeon-seo, by contrast, look like they should have some shred of classy dignity...More
2016/03/08 | | Permalink
The characters in "Six Flying Dragons" are counting down the days. Bang-won's opportunities to even so much as talk to fellow sympathizers in the government are severely limited, so dates for possible conspiracy have to be fixed and adhered to on a strict schedule. These dates are historical ones, the likes of which can be found in textbooks. That much explains why "Six Flying Dragons" is being specific with the timescale now when normally the exact timing of certain dramatic events has until now been left intentionally vague...More
2016/03/08 | | Permalink
"Moorim School" ended its run with a flurry of bow-tied ends, a good amount of confusion, and plenty of good feels. A happy ending was bestowed upon all characters, deserving or not. The Chintamani found a predictable end. Friendship and faith in oneself was the message that had to be dictated because it most certainly hadn't been shown.
While all the characters received a happy ending, the way that the happy ending was achieved was, to be quite frank, completely nonsensical...More
The irony in "Six Flying Dragons" has reached a boiling point. By pushing for military solutions, Do-jeon and Seong-gye have betrayed those most basic principles that got them to fight against Goryeo in the first place. While their intentions and long-term goals are certainly much more defendable that those of the early antagonists in "Six Flying Dragons", what good is intent when the potential pitfalls are so catastrophic? Check the climax for an example of how intent is meaningless when everyone is busy brandishing swords in a panicked manner...More
It's episode 15 for "Moorim School" with one more episode to go. The search for the Chintamani is an all out race to the finish. Most of the secrets hidden within the school and the hearts of its inhabitants have been made public. Chi-ang's father manipulated him into the enemy of the school and Si-woo discovers his true role in all of this. Chae Yoon, Si-woo and Seon-ah's father gets to jump in and play a bigger role as well...More
"Spirits' Homecoming" still rules ahead of International Women's Day...
Cho Jung-rae's timely drama about the treatment of Korean women during Japanese occupation, "Spirits' Homecoming", retained the top spot over the weekend ahead of International Women's Day on Tuesday. "Spirits' Homecoming" dislodged "Deadpool" at the top when it was released late February, and week two for Cho's touching tale saw it retain pole position with 600 thousand admissions (26.6%) which moveds its bottom line to $16.5 million (2.6 million admissions)...More
2016/03/06 | | Permalink
My mistake- Ji-hoon isn't really a chef, he just runs the restaurant. Kind of. Ji-hoon's best friend Ho-joon (played by Kim Kwang-gyoo) manages the restaurant on a day by day basis, so Ji-hoon is more the money guy. The lack of official responsibility on Ji-hoon's part probably has a lot to do with his brooding attitude. The man evidently loves music- consider the excellent ambience. Yet with nothing else in life to focus on, Ji-hoon can only stare helplessly at the face of his mother's imminent death. And how Ji-hoon, like his mother, has given up on having people to care about...More
2016/03/06 | | Permalink
Eight months later, Yeong-sil is making decent progress on his scientific endeavors. Hee-ji, though, he just skulks at home having flashbacks of past fire-related incidents, grumbling about the obvious superiority of Yeong-sil and, I kid you not, projecting his weird fixation issues on a makeshift Joseon-era mannequin. It bears repeating. In terms of personality and inner conflict, Hee-ji is the real main character of "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama". Hee-ji is the one always making difficult decisions while Yeong-sil just tries to think of a better way to build a clock...More
Ji-hoon (played by Lee Seo-jin) is a handsome high-tier chef in his late thirties, and heir to a decent family fortune. While Ji-hoon is an eminently eligible bachelor he's not that interested in relationships because, well, Ji-hoon doesn't really want much in life except what he already has. What's more, Ji-hoon can be paranoid when it comes to that stuff. That is what ends igniting his to date antagonistic interactions with Hye-soo (played by UEE), a widowed young mother with financial troubles...More
Another episode, another lecture on the importance of the experiment, another thinly-veiled revenge scheme that just comes off as psychologically unhealthy. Ironic, given how once upon a time the main high concept of "Madame Antoine" was a pretense toward somewhat serious psychological discussion. The main comfort at this point is that with two episodes left, there isn't really that much more erratic behavior to endure between Hye-rim and Soo-hyeon. Even if the preview hints at things going a tad too far...More
Hee-ji suffers from his usual character conflict here. Yeong-sil is such a genius, Hee-ji feels eternally incompetent, so Hee-ji must struggle between his love of science and his desire to burn things. Again with the fire! Forget about clocks, King Sejong really needs to do something about public services. One of these days someone is going to try to burn something important, and at that point, he's going to wish there was a fire brigade to deal with the problem...More
Babies could easily be characterized as the most wonderful and terrifying stage of a person. Little tiny humans with barely any control of their little tiny humanity and in need of close care and protection. Now imagine how scary they must be to someone whose concept of care and protection involves weapons and armlocks. Welcome to MBC's "My Little Baby"...More
While ratings behemoth "Descendants of the Sun" is plowing through the drama season, this means little to fans outside of the Korean and Chinese markets. After all, a good drama fan should know that numbers do not measure individual enjoyment or cover all viewer tastes. "Please Come Back, Mister" might not be getting the spotlight, but this is not stopping it from being fun...More
The long awaited, fully pre-produced "Descendants of the Sun" is here and boy, has it made an entrance. With domestic and foreign ratings, sales and buzz soaring high, the drama is undoubtedly a huge success. At the same time, it is really not a story with something for everyone and has its share of issues which range from tolerable to frustrating. For those who like the type, however, this is one fun ride...More
In the present day Ji-sook (played by Park Jin-hee) is happily married and has a daughter. But recent events have Ji-sook looking backtoward her hometown. Ji-sook's mother (played by Kim Hae-sook) is the eternally suffering type, although she does her best to put a bright face on bad situations. Ji-sook's father (played by Jo Yeong-jin) is physically abusive, and while Ji-sook finds the situation appalling...well, that's just a very rural old-fashioned attitude is all. The things mother will put up for our sake...More
Jeong-wan (played by Lee Mi-yeon) is a freelance photographer currently having a love affair with married doctor Yeong-hoo (played by Kim Joon-seong). Jeong-wan's best friend Hee-soo (played by Lee Tae-ran) is herself married to Hyeong-sik (played by Yoon Je-moon). One might think that as a married woman Hee-soo would disapprove of Jeong-wan's behavior. To the contrary- Jeong-wan and Hee-soo are women of the modern age, who are so relaxed about frank sexual discussion they even watch pornography together...More
Hong-joo (played by Kim Min-joon) is a cop obsessed with trying to collar as many perpetrators as possible. It doesn't matter if he's on vacation, or at a dance club, or even walked outside for a smoke. He needs those handcuffs at all times. Hae-rang (played by Nam Sang-mi) has the opposite problem. She's passionate about working in the field, but for ill-defined sexist reasons is frequently stuck behind a desk. Together, they fight crime...More
"Spirits' Homecoming" tops the charts in time for International Women's Day, KOBIZ has a retrospective on one of Korea's most influential directors, see how Korea's VFX studios have grown over the last twenty years, and catch six soul-scratching Korean films on Netflix if you dare...More
Korea seeks to reduce its food waste, Beyond Kimchee shares steps for making a simple lemon syrup, read one blogger's journey into South Korean food, and would you watch someone eat their dinner online?...More
See how South Korea's passport ranks compared to others, Incheon is planning a multi-billion dollar initiative to boost tourism, the Peterson family visit a market in Seoul, and the Melting Pot enjoys a day out in the capital...More
Discover how South Korea's culture attracts the working world, The New Yorker asks if South Korea can win a Nobel Prize in Literature any time soon, a recent report from the WEF places Korea high on educational equality, and is the country's work culture starting to relax a little?...More
See the stunning Songwon Artwork Centre in Seoul, Lee Ufan forgeries are circulating Korea's art market, Kotaku features work by Won Chun Choi in an awesome gallery, and South Korea has the mostly privately funded museums in the world...More
2016/03/04 | | Permalink
For all Soo-hyeon's ominous voiceovers, it turns out that he doesn't really know what to do at this point with his hopelessly flawed study. I'm not sure, by the way, why the lynchpin for all this is a very specifically designed video. I always assumed that the clip we saw from the first episode was that woman's own personal spontaneous declaration of love, not the outcome of a very awkward sounding request. Even if Hye-rim wasn't familiar with the previous experiment Soo-hyeon discusses the request in a way that always sounds really suspicious...More
2016/03/03 | | Permalink
"Descendants of the Sun" shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. It is only in the second week and it is pulling in ratings of 24.1%. A mixture of the hype, the star power, the whopping budget, and the intensity of the plot and romance is the reason for its success. Writer Kim Eun-sook always likes to keep her viewers on their toes, and this drama proves to be no exception...More
2016/03/03 | | Permalink
First, the good news. It would appear that the epilogue segments which involve Yeong-soo's Rain doppleganger getting railroaded so as to avoid interference with the main plot will in fact be a recurring feature in "Please Come Back, Mister". There's just something so delightfully sadistic about watching this poor man deal with constant artifically induced crises. Especially since it gives him almost as many excuses to take his shirt off as it does for Yeong-soo...More
2016/03/02 | | Permalink
After a long week of waiting, "Descendants of the Sun" has graced us with another episode that came in at an unheard of 23.4%. Again, I can't iterate enough how slick and gorgeous it is or how fantastic the actors are in their roles. Song Joong-ki, despite his pretty face, is 100% masculine and in charge of his character while Song Hye-gyo owns the drastic change in hers. Not to mention that we finally get to see the beauty of Greece that plays the role of the country Uruk where the drama takes place. Please be sure to stick around for some home grown insight about Greece from Orion, HanCinema's own Greek goddess. ...More
2016/03/02 | | Permalink
As it turns out, the background for "Please Come Back, Mister" still isn't completely fleshed out, although by the end of the episode Yeong-soo and Gi-tak have managed to progress to the level of zany schemes against conspiratorial villains. It helps that they become aware of each other's existence here, finally realizing that they're in this game together in a scene that proves to be a bit of an out-of-body experience. Yes, that was a dumb joke. So are most of the ones in "Please Come Back, Mister"...More
Given all the fuss about how "Cheese in the Trap" was preproduced, I'm a little surprised that the finale manages to fall into traps generally associated with the live shooting system. Characters make major decisions in the blink of an eye, critical plot information falls out of nowhere, huge life-threatening accidents terrify half the cast, and the epilogue just sort of tapers off into mundane life with no real kick. "Cheese in the Trap" is the rare drama that manages to feel too short- I feel like we're missing at least four episodes of context here...More
I'm still trying to sort through what just happened in "Moorim School"'s episode 14. The plot was relatively straightforward, but I have no idea what the show is trying to tell me about the characters.
I thought a while of how to analyze this and this is what I've come up with: Chi-ang is supposed to be divided by his loyalty as a son to his morally-impaired father and by his love for his friends who have seen him (according to exposition) through thick and thin. We're shown a montage of him with Si-woo compiled mostly of their first days together...More
The rivalry between Bang-won and Do-jeon is stymied by one unfortunate problem- Bang-won and Do-jeon continue to act like this is just an interpersonal rivalry, where the goal is to dishonor and humiliate the other. That's not what's at stake here. Seong-gye has to constantly remind everyone that the entire future fate of Korea hangs on actions in the present day. Bang-won and Do-jeon are trying to win battles rather than the war, which is why one or the other keeps managing to slip away...More
With Seol's encouragement at his back, Jeong is finally able to make a sincere effort to not take a scorched earth policy to his enemies. This ends up not being all that helpful. Jeong's icy personality has always been the real problem rather than the way he lashes out, because Jeong has always been pretty good about only lashing out against people who deserve it. So unfortunately this potentially interesting character conflict doesn't have much hope of being resolved, given how this is the penultimate episode and all...More
All of the clunky mechanizations of "Moorim School" have cobbled themselves together to reveal several truths and leave our characters reeling. The school is in utter chaos as per the bad guys' nefarious plans. The kids are struggling to come to terms with the revelations and they are not yet ready to reach out for help and comfort.
While the individual brooding and thinking and crying is actually well-deserved, the sequence of events that lead up to these depressing activities is awkwardly formed...More
One timeskip later Bang-won and Muhyul have finished their China adventure. Aside from that cool-looking facial hair what's changed? Not that much really- the perception gap is mainly on our end. Without Bang-won hanging around ordering the murder of anyone who gets in the way, Do-jeon is having more and more trouble looking sympathetic. He's attacking political enemies less because they're doing anything bad and more out of long term concerns that may end up being self-fulfilling prophecies...More
"Deadpool" makes way for "Spirits' Homecoming"...
Marvel's manic man "Deadpool" had to take a step back this past weekend in the wake of Cho Jung-rae's timely drama on Korea's 'comfort girls'. "Spirits' Homecoming" tells the tragic tale of a group of girls who were abused during Japan's occupation of Korea and the relationships that helped carry them through. The film was released last Wednesday and from the 793 screens allocated it accumulated 766 thousand admissions (30.4%). This touching and important drama stars Kang Ha-na, Choi Ri, Son Sook and Seo Mi-ji and is the third feature by Cho after "Foulball" (2015) and "Du-re Sori Story" (2011)...More
2016/02/28 | | Permalink
While this episode certainly has its share of ominous brooding when it comes to authority figures of dubious reputation, fortunately, for the most part no one actually tries to cash in on the threats. Yeong-sil presents a simple, easily understood alternate scientific theory, and from there it's just a matter of put up or shut up. Good clock design can only get a man so far when the amount of possible elaboration is such that a near infinite variety of models is possible...More
There are moments when "Madame Antoine" actually manages to be pleasant enough to be passable romantic comedy material. Ji-ho's obsessing over Yoo-rim is absolutely adorable, and the sheer absurdity of the visuals over their meeting in the cafe was a delight in and of itself. But time and again we're dragged back into reality and I'm forced to remember that the actual lead characters go through these horribly dramatic mood swings over the most trivial topics...More
Hee-ji belatedly feels some guilt here about jealously trying to use violence to drive Yeong-sil out of the field of science. It's lucky Hee-ji didn't go all the way, even if he was technically operating at the behest of a conspiracy. I continue to find the scientific conspiracies the most baffling part of "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama". They don't even have hired goons or anything, the bad guys are perfectly fine with beating people up in broad daylight while still wearing their fancy clothes. Eggheads have never been so scary...More
Korea Joa 2015 organized by KOFICE happened in October 2015. It is now February 2016 and I've only now finished my articles on that wonderful adventure. It feels like it is only now ending. In case you're new to my Korea Joa coverage, HanCinema was invited as one of fifteen world sites on Korean culture, Kpop, K-drama, and K-film to represent the international journalist community...More
If you're looking for a cute, feel-good film then look no further than "Like for Likes", a film directed by Park Hyeon-jin ("Lovers of 6 Years") and starring an incredibly gifted cast. It focuses on dating in the internet age where activity on social media can make and break relationships. The film released in South Korea February 17 and will open in New York February 25. In Korea, its first week resulted in fourth place at 12.2% on box office charts with 320,000 moviegoers. Afterwards, the film will screen in 17 major locations in North America...More
Seong-hwan (played by Song Seung-heon), Woo-sup (played by kwon Sang-woo), and Jin-won (played by Kim Young-joon) are three high school students with a dream in life- they're gonna be huge! All-powerful! Rich! Sexy! And bros forever! How they actually intend to accomplish these goals when the boys are dumb and immature is not really explained. Then, as luck would have it, fortune rains upon them from above, so the boys quickly try to figure out how to cash their winnings...More
In preparation for the Athens Olympics, Hye-kyeong (played by Kim Jeong-eun) does her best to put together a crack handball squad. In practice this just ends up being a bunch of middle-aged women from previous handball teams and some kids who haven't a chance to specialize in a different sport yet. As if this weren't frustrating enough, Hye-kyeong also ends up being forced to participate with Seung-pil (played by Eom Tae-woong), a former lover who's also a jerk...More
Killa (played by Sin Ha-gyoon) is a man of few words who guns for the big bucks by working as an assassin. Killa likes to think of himself as cool, and even has a bunch of assassin friends who have little presence in "No Mercy for the Rude" except to establish one essential point- that assassins are goofy dorks who overestimate the extent to which their unusual job choice actually makes them interesting. As a film critic, I can appreciate the sentiment...More
Recently discovered films from Russia and Germany show Japan's colonial activities, "Spirit's Homecoming" depicts the tragic fate of Korean comfort women, the Japanese version of "Miss Granny" to be released in April, and is South Korea's push for blockbusters threatening smaller productions?...More
Make your own 'army stew' with My Korean Kitchen, discover why Korean soups are a healthy option to consider, Holly has a simple pasta and avocado dish that's divine, and see what America's Koreatown food culture is like through a new book by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard...More
Cool Hunting reviews one of Seoul most luxurious hotels, find out what you can get up to if you're on a layover in Incheon, consider staying in a traditional Korean hanok for your next trip, and have you ever visited an "Alive Museum"?...More
Korean nerd culture gets the respect it deserves, see how cultural diplomacy helps foster new economic relationships, the Jakarta Globe gets behind the Korean Wave, and the Seoul Global Culture Centre has lots of activities and classes planned for the month of March...More
See the rise of K-Art on the world stage, Jung-hwan's realist paintings are a pleasure to behold, The Korea Herald features news on photography exhibits you can catch in Seoul, and Anne Lee captures life on Korean streets in a minimalist style...More
2016/02/26 | | Permalink
There's a great scene this episode where Ji-ho, apparently having changed his borderline autistic mind about which women he can like, attempts to start again with Yoo-rim. But Yoo-rim just gets angry at him. Why? Beause Ji-ho is borderline autistic and has been disregarding her feelings for pretty much the entire drama up until now. Yoo-rim behaves like any normal, sensible person would when faced with an obviously manipulative suitor. And that makes me wonder- why can't Hye-rim act like that? Are she and Soo-hyeon really going to go back and forth on who's really lying for the entire drama?...More
2016/02/25 | | Permalink
If episode one of "Descendants of the Sun" was about introductions, episode two, coming in on top at 15.5%, fleshed them out and added the rest of the teams that support Si-jin and Mo-yeon. Romance was the priority, but it didn't feel like the show was beating us over the head with it. Instead, the romance that blossomed hit very real walls that were acknowledged by two adults who hold themselves to different belief systems and lifestyles. We all know that will change. The adventure is watching them learn what we already know...More
2016/02/25 | | Permalink
Maya (played by Ra Mi-ran) is the individual in charge of sending dead people back to the world of living temporarily. She's frustrated by how Yeong-soo and Gi-tak have interrupted her planned vacation, and warns these two that the reliving process is a fairly unsatisfying one with many arbitrary rules. Following that Maya nonetheless plops Yeong-soo in the body of Hae-joon (played by Rain), and Gi-tak in the body of Hong-nan (played by Oh Yeon-seo)...More
2016/02/24 | | Permalink
It's finally here, folks! KBS's first pre-produced, star-studded drama "Descendants of the Sun". The drama dominated the charts at whopping 14.3%. It's Song Joong-ki's first drama after his mandatory military service, which is all too fitting. He as Soldier Yoo Si-jin is joined by Song Hye-kyo as war doctor Kang Mo-yeon, Jin Goo as Soldier Seo Dae-yeong, and as war doctor Yoon Myeong-joo, Kim Ji-won-I. From the trailers we knew that romance is the thread that will weave through the story, but war and it's trials and horrors will drive the plot as it brings people together and tears them apart. We've been teased for months, and now, without further ado, I bring to you my review of episode 1...More
2016/02/24 | | Permalink
Yeong-soo (played by Kim In-kwon) is a nebbish department store manager who belatedly realizes his bad night was in fact much worse than just a drunk blackout. He soon meets up with Gi-tak (played by Kim Soo-ro), an ex-convict turned chef who is now in the same mortal predicament. Together they...flash back to the days right before the opener, because as this is the first episode, "Please Come Back, Mister" has to explain its premise and more importantly, why we as viewers should care...More
Second leads never have it easy in dramas, but In-ho knows more than most that he really is in a completely impossible position. At best all he can do now is try not to act creepy. In-ho forces Seol to acknowledge the awkwardness and makes a request that's probably more unreasonable than it sounds. His position is a pretty good argument for why it's better to just keep your mouth shut when it comes to confessing to someone you like and see on a regular basis...More
The truth is what drives episode 12 of "Moorim School". The students are driven by their individual motivations to prepare and compete in the school's competition, but the for the main four, the truth behind the actions of adults and behind their pasts are the real driving force.
Chi-ang is the most exposed in this quest for truth, which is a relief after too many episodes of silent brooding and staring that was difficult to read and interpret...More
Joo-che (played by Moon Jong-won) is the provincial ruler of Yan. His birthright is powerful enough that he could conceivably seize control of Ming China, making him the third emperor of the world's largest nation state. In fact, we know from the subtitles that this is exactly what Joo-che does, eventually taking the title of Yongle Emperor, leaving a mixed legacy of effective government coupled with despotic brutality against all enemies be they real or imagined. Remind you of anyone we already know?...More
"Moorim School" episode 11 is all about looking within to find the answers. There is a big competition going on and everyone is vying to win, but winning isn't the answer. To attain the keys to the Chintamani is the outward goal, but the true teachers at the Moorim School want their students to find strength within to protect those dear to them.
Si-woo is struggling to control a rare power that he possesses...More
In my first review for "Cheese in the Trap" I incorrectly described Seol's friend Eun-taek as being the boyfriend of her best friend Bo-ra. My assumption was presaged on how they act ridiculously flirty around each other, such that I was surprised to finally realize they weren't actually dating. Why? Well, because Bo-ra's mostly arbitrary requirements regarding possible boyfriends rule Eun-taek out. In this episode, that issue is finally realized...More
Bang-won's moral compass has been difficult to defend lately, although I was struck by how in this episode "Six Flying Dragons" rather subtly makes an important point- lately the ancient conspiracy hasn't really done anything all that bad. While these people are obviously not to be trusted overall, so far all Bang-won has done is talk to them in lieu of the fact that he can't talk to Do-jeon. In Bang-won's worldview, honor and respect are what matters and lately he hasn't gotten much of either from his actual or metaphorical father figures...More
"Deadpool" dislodges "A Violent Prosector" at the top...
For the past two weeks Lee Il-hyeong's crime drama "A Violent Prosecutor" has been flying high atop Korea's box office, but week three for Lee's blockbuster saw that string of pole positions broken by the latest superhero film to come our of Marvel Studios...More
2016/02/21 | | Permalink
Now that Yeong-sil is apparently dead, all anyone can seem to talk about is what a great smart guy he was. Which is awkward, considering that the principal men involved in the assassination attempt on the poor scientist still have their government positions, and just can't seem to escape the fact that even in death Yeong-sil is way smarter than they are. "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" has the kind of villains who seem pathetic even when they win, because their competence begins and ends with cloak and dagger conspiracies...More
Having finally obtained concrete information on Soo-hyeon's experiment, Hye-rim has to decide whether to attack quickly or slowly. Once she's made that decision, we're then treated to more of the usual doubting about whether Soo-hyeon is really that bad a guy or if there are some emotional truths mixed in with all the logical lies. This leads up to a cliffhanger where Hye-rim is surprised to learn information I thought she already knew, the next follow-up stage being more wackiness...More
This episode opens up with Yeong-sil and his science buddies admiring the stars and pondering over the mysteries of the universe as Jang Yeong-sil's scientific bagpipe music plays in the background. It's a capstone to a whirlwind of successful research, and I really hate these scenes because they mostly just remind me of the story that "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" could be telling, except that now it's time for the requisite unnecessary violence on the part of science-hating extremists...More
Hold on to your hats and other detachable wearables, because "Descendants of the Sun" is coming, almost a year after it first got viewers excited over its existence. The drama is a fully pre-produced work partially filmed in Greece and features a powerhouse hallyu-fueled cast and crew. Expectations are high and emotions even higher. Are you all ready for the big reveal...More
Body swapping is nothing new in Korean drama, but you have to admit that the idea of turning Kim In-kwon and Kim Soo-ro into Rain and Oh Yeon-soo sounds very fun. The series is shaping up to be a hilarious and hopefully heartwarming one too, as "Please Come Back, Mister" deals with life and death situations quite literally...More
Jin Yi (played by Song Hye-kyo) eventually becomes one of Korea's greatest poets, though she is technically a fallen woman, having become a courtesan with the somewhat unusual background of an upper class education. But once upon a time, Jin Yi was just a little girl with curiousity about the world. This curiousity ends up mingled with horror, as Jin Yi discovers the darkness hidden behind the opulence of wealth, and even the secret of her own birth. From there, Jin Yi feels like she has only one choice- to find her own way...More
Depression can come in many forms. For veteran cop Hyeong-joon (played by Jo Jae-hyeon), it's the feeling that he failed as a husband and a father, and that no amount of heroic behavior can ever redeem him. For the well-bred Yoon-hee (played by Kim Ji-soo), it's having the promise of a rich high society life with a devoted significant other and yet being incapable of flashing a sincere smile. These two are ready to give up on life- and then they find each other...More
Myeong-soo (played by Jeong Joon-ho) is a street rough who gets into fights. The energy is not a complete waste, though, because Myeong-soo's identical twin Hyeon-soo (also played by Jeong Joon-ho) has managed to take advantage of Myeong-soo's low maintenance costs to get a good education and eventually a prestigious legal career. The main consequence of this being that, every so often, Myeong-soo has to pretend to be Hyeon-soo for the greater good. Really, just to help Hyeon-soo's career...More
KOBIZ talks to the president of Technical Art Studio Cell about their work in "SORI: Voice from the Heart" and other films, see how female leads are faring in Korea's film industry, learn what films have come out on top over Lunar New Years, and five promising Korean films to look out for in 2016...More
My Korean Kitchen has a recipe for making rice cake skewers, South Korea's government dissuades citizens from supporting North Korean restaurants overseas, Holly has an amazing looking curry to try, and McDonald's in Korea will soon be offering...beer?...More
Conan O'Brien spends five days in Seoul soaking up the culture, Korea's railway adds nostalgic snacks to their carts, catch Christine's video for some travel trips for Seoul, and find out where you want to be when the blossoms bloom...More
K-pop fans in Seoul enjoy holograms of their favourite stars, BBC Arts tries to understand South Korea's culture boom, K-culture groups in Russia support hallyu, and see how some North Korean defectors are finding themselves in front of the camera...More
Artnet has a great list of exhibitions and galleries to catch if you can, Robert Koehler gets caught in the snowy streets of Seoul, find out how one joke about MERS went viral, and the Korea Times interviews Jang Tai-san about the challenges he's faced in the digital age...More
2016/02/19 | | Permalink
It's hard to take Hye-rim and Soo-hyeon's lovey dovey scenes all that seriously considering that Soo-hyeon is still conducting his mostly unscientific experiment. Why he's even bothering with that pretense at that point isn't clear- I'm pretty sure that for all the problems uncovered so far, taking an MRI test at the subject's demand seems pretty useless. This much is especially true considering that Hye-rim obviously has the ability to manipulate the results for whatever arbitrary outcome she wants...More
2016/02/18 | | Permalink
There's two essential parts to the final episode of "Remember"- gratifying revenge and sadness. The sadness actually ends up coming from an unexpected angle, though. While Jin-woo's loss of memory is not glossed over or dismissed in any way, this material ends up being covered relatively shortly in the ending. Instead, we're left with grief at how everything managed to turn out so poorly, thus necessitating the elaborate revenge scheme...More
2016/02/17 | | Permalink
Gyoo-man is hard at work trying to alienate every possible character he can. I'm surprised that even the security guards are willing to put up with it anymore. Every scene we see them, those poor extras look massively uncomfortable. They don't even try to manhandle Gyoo-man's victims anymore, because he's gotten so public with the violent outbursts that odds are good they're going to show up on someone's cell phone camera too...More
2016/02/17 | | Permalink
Dare I say it? I do believe this show has gotten better. There is still a fair amount of brooding and staring, but even so, the characters are actually beginning to express their thoughts and emotions rather than make us guess.
Everyone is at the Moorim School for a reason...More
I struggle with trying to decide whether the Yeong-gon storyline is overdone or not. The thing is, there are people in real life who will do that- just keep doing the same action and somehow expecting different results, not realizing that certain effects are cumulative. In this case, even after getting an opportunity to smooth social relations over with fellow students who have turned very cold to Yeong-gon over his stalking behavior, Yeong-gon is still at risk of being sabotaged by an unseen enemy...More
Given how so many of the characters in "Six Flying Dragons" are trying to pull off secret deals on an international scale, it was really only a matter of time before they accidentally ran into each other and alerted their opposites to what was happening. This is bad news for Bang-won's team, because his secret scheme has no official sanction. Do-jeon is, for all his greater ethical values, still working as an agent of the current King of Joseon. Bang-won hasn't even clued in all his brothers to what's going on yet...More
"Moorim School" is back after a pause for the celebration of Lunar New Year. After the midway point it's starting to jump into why the kids are at the school and what roles they have to play. It's not just about a love triangle, but about the road they will pave for themselves despite the pressures of adults.
Chi-ang's father has been sketched to be a leading bad guy and this episode outlines the potential for Chi-ang to follow in his footsteps ...More
Early on Seol ends up choosing which antagonistic character to support when a fight unexpectedly breaks out. What's significant about Seol's thought process is that she could just choose not to get involved. But in the end Seol makes a moral decision to the effect that that deliberately manipulative behavior is more deserving of public censure than performing worse on the arbitrary metric of social rules...More
We already know that Bang-won is willing to do anything to hold on to power, but this episode the other younger dragons struggle to reconcile the increasingly cold and heartless Bang-won of the present day with the young man whose first priority was always justice. Muhyul gets the first crack at that problem, and he barely has time to reminisce about how they just made a deal with former enemies when an ethical conflict comes up. One where Bang-won doesn't even feel the need to pretend like he cares about wanton bloodspill...More
"A Violent Prosecutor" cruises to 8 million over Valentine's Day weekend...
Lee Il-hyeong's "A Violent Prosecutor" retained pole position after putting in another dominate performance at the box office. Last weekend the film capture 73.7% of the box office pie, and week two for Lee's hit saw it claim and additional 1.3 million admissions (61%) to move its bottom line now to 8 million admissions, or $53 million. That's an incredible effort as the film races towards the 10 million admissions mark in record time...More
2016/02/14 | | Permalink
A major scene in the early part of this episode does a good job explaining the contradictions of "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" as a whole. We start out with Yeong-sil working, idly wondering about the political situation but mostly just puzzled as to why his current astronomical calculations aren't working. Then a bunch of aristocratic bullies show up and force a physical confrontation. Wrestling moves are involved. At long last Yeong-sil inadvertently comes up with a breakthrough and rushes back to inform his team...More
Soo-hyeon's insistence on rationalizing all of his actions in context of the experiment is seeming less like anything resembling a pretense of science and more a weird psychological fixation. He gives Hye-rim a major passionate kiss, and when she finallys recovers enough of her senses to fight him off, right away Soo-hyeon is back in defensive mode. That means more lying, mixed in with barely enough truth to be persuasive in the face of of Hye-rim's immediate inquisition...More
Yeong-sil has learned a valuable lesson from the constant apparently unnecessary attempts on his life. While it's great that Yeong-sil has managed to gain an official scientific position within the Joseon, nobody likes him. The other scientists don't really have a good reason for doing so, but that's besides the point. Pecking orders aren't based on logic. Up until now science has been a means of social advancement in Korea, and King Sejong can't change that overnight...More
"Healing dramas" is a term tossed around a lot lately. The idea is that dramas are no longer just about fleeting pleasures and fairytale stories, but about showing real human pain and soothing the viewers' soul through the characters working out their issues. Unfortunately, the term is just a way of sugar-coating the bad habit of every drama, even those in light genres turning into a tear-fest. "Bubble Gum" has a lot of quality to it, but it ends a different drama to what it starts out as...More
Myeong-seok (played by Kam Woo-seong) and Myeong-gyoo (played by Kim Soo-ro) are a couple of brothers with the usual problems associated with middle age. Mostly it's a matter of money. As it happens, their father Joong-yeop (played by Sin Goo) has a decent amount of land, and is close to dying. But as a man whose hometown lies on the wrong side of the Korean border, Joong-yeop dreams of reunification, and meeting a daughter Joong-yeop has not seen since her infancy. So Myeong-seok and Myeong-gyoo do the natural thing in the situation, and concoct an elaborate scam to trick their father into thinking reunification is just around the corner...More
The opening scene of "A Boy Who Went to Heaven" takes place in a house located high in the sky. A couple of kids decide to go out to play while the adults in the room are making out, and sprout wings for this purpose. This inexplicable scene makes slightly more sense once "A Boy Who Went to Heaven" concludes having provided more context. Until then, though, the opener is a bit of misdirection as the action quickly settles upon Nae-mo (played by Kim Kwan-woo), a boy living in early eighties Busan with his mother...More
Han-i (played by Park Ji-bin) is the annoHan-ing younger brother to Han-byeol (played by Seo Dae-han). They live in typical sibling conflict, such that when Han-byeol expresses discomfort and apparent sickness, Han-i is dismissive and just decides to play video games rather than do anything useful. Unfortunately for the brothers and their parents, Han-byeol really is very sick. From there "Little Brother" quickly turns into a waiting game to see whether or not Han-byeol will die...More
KOBIZ chats to Jeon Soo-il about his 2015 film "A Korean in Paris", see how well South Korea's film industry did in 2015, short films are a great way for up-and-coming talents to shine, and Variety sits in on a co-production event in Paris that highlights the success of Bong Joon-ho's "Snowpiercer"...More
Discover what Koreans enjoyed eating on the road over Lunar New Year, Holly has some simple steps for making your own roasted seaweed, find out what JinJoo's favourite New Year dishes are, and get a glimpse into North Korea and their food preferences...More
Find out what Jeju Island has to offer during the colder months, flag Seoul's top malls for your next spree, Korea's film industry seeks to cash in on the chilly season with its locations, and are Chinese tourists changing the way Japan and South Korea do tourism?...More
Learn 8 ways to make a great first impression in Korea, The Grand Narrative looks at Korean culture around contraceptives, the Seoul Hanok Expo is almost upon us, and find out more about Yoon Mee-hyang book on Korea's 'comfort women' and the rally that inspired it...More
Learn more about the rise of South Korean webtoons, browse a gallery of propaganda posters from the Korean War, North Koreans in the South find ways of connecting to their families past and present, and Robert Koehler captures the setting sun at Ongnyeobong Peak...More
2016/02/12 | | Permalink
Extended focus on the somewhat shaky premise of "Madame Antoine" has forced me to admit that Soo-hyeon's obsession with the experiment is a tad nonsensical, and the more he explains his reasons the less coherent the story's overall thrust sounds. Soo-hyeon's reasons for continuing the experiment simply aren't all that persuasive, and I find myself wondering why "Madame Antoine" even bothers with that angle when the production is obviously a classically styled romantic comedy...More
2016/02/11 | | Permalink
Jin-woo's embarrassing moment of memory loss notwithstanding, it turns out there is in fact a crucial, subtle inconsistency in the black box video. I hadn't noticed it before, but then again I don't recall if we were ever actually shown the video in full context before either. Well, no matter. The point is that once Jin-woo gets reasonable doubt, he's able to get the gangsters to cooperate and from there it's one leg of the conspiracy down, with several left to go...More
2016/02/10 | | Permalink
In short order "Remember" tacks on a second trial to the first one. Which is a bit of a shame- I actually mostly like the rape storyline. The fact that it's taking a relatively long time to conclude doesn't even bother me so much because it makes sense for Gyoo-man's legal team to use delaying tactics. It takes time to manufacture evidence and bully witnesses into giving false testimony. What's more, this tactic has become increasingly ineffective since In-ah knows how they operate...More
2016/02/09 | | Permalink
It's very tempting to just dismiss Bang-won's actions as being those of a crazy person. Unfortunately, what we're really seeing here is the culmination of a very slow burn. From the very beginning of "Six Flying Dragons" Bang-won has thought his way out of tough spots by acting generally impulsive and borderline psychotic. Back when the antagonists were more indisputably evil, this wasn't that big a problem. But here, Bang-won is using military force to subdue non-violent, principled scholars. The effects of this will be mixed at best...More
2016/02/08 | | Permalink
Bang-won spent much of the last episode agonizing over his decision to murder Mong-ju. By contrast, here he easily comes to term with the decision- for entirely the wrong reasons. Do-jeon's statement about how Bang-won has made his own unsavory place in the New Joseon plan was not intended as a compliment. Yet the farther away Bang-won gets from the original context, the easier it is for him to convince himself that he's just a guy making touch decisions...More
2016/02/08 | | Permalink
Lee Il-hyeong's "A Violent Prosecutor" dominated its first weekend out by capturing 73.7% of the box office pie and banking nearly $16 million. This comedy crime drama stars Hwang Jeong-min as a wrongful accused investigator who gets help in prison from a fraudster (Kang Dong-won) in an attempt to clear his name. The film was allocated a massive 1,701 screens (close to double that of its closest rival) and from them attracted 2.3 million filmgoers to top the chart and dislodge last weekend's number one, "Kung Ju Panda 3"...More
A K-pop concert is a very unique concert-going experience. Unlike the many rock, R&B, and classical concerts that I have attended, K-pop concerts have a certain sense of unity amongst fans that is unparalleled. At the Infinite concert at New York City's Playstation Theatre on January 19, 2016 the sense of unity was awesome. It was the last leg of the North American tour and fans had waited for hours and hours in the 17°F weather to make sure that they got up close and personal with their idols.
Infinite is one of the top K-pop acts in Korea and in the world...More
"Moorim School" is getting heavy into the mystery of who Si-woo and Seon-ah and why they are important to the bad guys. Moreover, it is purposefully vague on who those bad guys may be. Is it the kindly Dean Hwang who watches over his students? Is it the blatantly obvious father of Chi-ang? Maybe it's a combination thereof. In any case, the drama is much more stimulating than it was for the first six episodes. Perhaps it is because the drama was cut down by four episodes and the action needs to be pushed along. This is the pace the drama should've been moving at.
The main intrigue is the building question of what the Chintamani is, why people want it, and what the main characters have to do with it and its retrieval...More
KOBIZ highlights some of their animal stars (real and imagined) that have featured in South Korean films over the years, find out more about the author of the bizarre and surreal "Vegetarian", learn about the couple that were kidnapped and taken to North Korea to make films, and have you explored the Korean Cinema Today, yet?...More
Get to know your Korean side dishes with Beyond Kimchi, one woman is doing her best to keep dogs off the menu, Sue over at My Korean Kitchen shares a Luna New Year dish, and The Korea Times features the story of a North Korean defector who recently opened his first food truck...More
Find out about Lunar New Year customs in Korea, the Korea Tourism Organisation reveals upcoming attractions for 2016-2018, enjoy Korea from the comfort of your saddle, and what's the best time to visit the peninsula?...More
Find out more about the history and future of K-pop, Korean 'concept' fashion finds footing in New York, hear from a North Korean defector about her journey South, and is South Korea heading for a crisis with their low birthrate?...More
See the results of an awesome mashup between Japanese warriors and "Star Wars", get a glimpse of Korea's recent past, South Korean minimalism taps into a growing global market, and one talented postmodern Korean artist recently hade his first solo exhibition in the UK...More
Yoo-rim (played by Hwang Seung-eon) is Hye-rim's younger sister and I'm spotlighting her this time because she's the main character who tries to do something different this episode by being sneaky like a normal person instead of a psychic / psychological genius. It's lucky for her that Ji-ho is so fantastically ignorant he'll entertain any ridiculous proposal she comes up with just for the sake of science. Personally I suspect someone put pressure on the production team to work more kisses into the story somehow...More
After a large scale and mostly unnecessary swordfight the Chinese portion of "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" concludes, as usual leaving me asking the wrong kind of questions. Is anybody else noticing the irony here? Song Il-gook is in an action-heavy drama, as a guy who logically does not know how to fight and spends most his time in the action sequences chronically dodging hits? When even the token woman picks up a sword and starts hacking away I have to wonder whether "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" would make more sense if it just ignored logic entirely and made Yeong-sil a kung fu scientist. For all we know, he might have been one...More
Crime shows are no longer something new in Korean drama, but they still largely follow a formulaic approach, such as any other genre. Placing style over substance is a common issue and especially some of the episodic dramas of the type seem repetitive. It is therefore fortunate that tvN's "Signal" not only seems to have a strong main plot, but that it is off to a great start with its two main features...More
One of South Korea's biggest cultural exports is K-pop. But that's not all, it's also a phenomenon within the country itself. All over the country there are festivals, concerts, collaborations, and music shows. For international fans like myself, such ready access to Korean musical acts is rare indeed. A trip to Korea allows for the kind of musical exposure international fans would have to spend years gathering...More
Love for animals is an important element of human nature. When considering the fan base of Korean drama, it is also safe to say many love cute young guys. A drama combining the two is a very people pleasing one and would have to really work hard in order to fail at it. "Imaginary Cat" has some fun ideas and a good premise, but the rest is up to a viewer's tolerance of bad decisions...More
Films set in wartime often focus on the horrors of war, the violence and ruin, and the small fonts of hope that spring up in the most unlikely of places. "A Melody to Remember", released internationally on January 29, 2016, is no different in that respect. What makes it a film worth watching is its magnetic pull that is created by the well-cut scenes, the heartfelt acting, and the music that inspired the real-life choir to come together and perform during one of the most devastating times in Korean history...More
Sang-eun (played by Kang Hye-jeong) is twenty years old, but under that normal pretty visage lies a mind that is a tad mentally challenged. It can be kind of hard to tell sometimes, because even though Sang-eun has elaborate fantasies about princes, these fantasies are so elaborate they end up becoming hip and post-modern. We all just want to meet our prince, after all. And in this case, the prince is rookie cop Jong-bom (played by Jeong Kyeong-ho) who has a bit of an attitude problem but that's OK, because so did Beast in Beauty and the Beast....More
Dong-goo (played by Choi Woo-hyuk) is a dimwitted child who goes to school with a smile on his face and a beat in his step every day because he has the very important job of being the designated water carrier for his classroom. It is not a high prestige job. The other kids don't like carrying water because it's heavy but Dong-goo doesn't care because it's one of the few tasks at school he knows how to do. Joon-tae (played by Yun Chan) sits at the other half of Dong-gu's desk, and resents Dong-gu's oblivious joy for life...More
2016/02/05 | | Permalink
Seong Joon is really good in the lead role here. Note how it's always (mostly) easy to tell whether or not Soo-hyeon is actually being sincere, and the main times there's ambiguity is when Soo-hyeon himself isn't totally sure what's going on. The only times Soo-hyeon is able to get Hye-rim's guard down is when he's making mistakes. His increasingly complicated lies just come off as increasingly suspicious. Besides, the premise of Soo-hyeon's experiment doesn't even make sense...More
2016/02/04 | | Permalink
Dong-ho, having finally quit his position as Gyoo-man's scumbag lawyer, finds some difficulty here in making amends and getting back on the right side. Personally I'm surprised anyone in Jin-woo's firm is willing to entertain the prospect of Dong-ho's helping at all. Yeah, we know that Dong-ho has meant well this whole time. But it's not like Jin-woo had any way of being aware of this save for the occasional oblique hint...More
2016/02/03 | | Permalink
Why does anyone ever cooperate with Gyoo-man on any task whatsoever? He doesn't even pretend to be friendly, the guy just barks orders out practically at random, and when he does reward loyalty there's always this thick veneer of condescension. Gyoo-man's family money is good, but it seems like there's only so much Gyoo-man a character can tolerate before deciding, you know, forget the money, I'd really much rather punch him in the face...More
2016/02/02 | | Permalink
Even though "Cheese in the Trap" was filmed completely in advance of airing, I get the impression that the editing part of the production team still messes around with the presentation. A scene from the episode nine preview only shows up now in episode ten, and the timing is much better given how the drama will be on break next week. Min-soo finally breaks down. And even after having apparently "won", Seol is not in any kind of victorious mood. There's just no cause for it, when Jeong isn't around...More
2016/02/02 | | Permalink
Bang-won is no longer at the point where he can reasonably acquiesce to the orders of Do-jeon and Seong-gye. He's not even at the point where he can pretend to acquiesce to the orders of Do-jeon and Seong-gye. As is laid out right in the beginning, everything about the plan to take down Mong-ju came straight from Bang-won. He can't care if anyone hate him or even tries to kill him if what happens at the bridge is going too far, because Bang-won is out of options...More
One problem with having the story of the founding of Joseon fictionalized with epic swordfights is that every so often we're left wondering why it is that the political leaders can't just rely on their hired muscle to solve every minor inconvenience. This episode tackles that problem by devoting much of the philosophical discussion to the question of why our lead characters fight. They're all in a fairly unnatural situation, really. Normally humans fight to live. In this case, living for the sake of living is not seen as enough...More
Episode 7 of "Moorim School" is the strongest episode by far. There was major character development and in the mystery that has only been hinted at before. A breath of fresh air has touched this drama and blown it away from the painful setup that characterized the first six episodes.
While the teachers and Yeop-jeong could use much more development, Chi-ang, Ha-o, and the mysterious coma man, Chae Yoon, saw some honest-to-goodness screentime...More
We open up with a replay of the class presentations. Seol has learned her lesson, and decides that it's better for her to be a cruel jerk than risk everyone's academic prospects on Professor Kang's whims. The gambit works, as far as the classroom is concerned. Unfortunately, such smart strategizing is of less help in Seol's personal life. The same can be said of just about every other character in "Cheese in the Trap", as they take stupid actions based on logical yet flawed premises...More
"The Revenant" falls hard as "Kung Fu Panda 3" hits...
DreamWorks Animation's third installment of the "Kung Fu Panda" series of films came to Korean screens last Thursday and dominated proceedings over the weekend. "Kung Fu Panda 3" had a massive 1,364 screens from which to pool and from them captured 63% of the box office pie (1.3 million admissions). The film was made for around $145 million, and worldwide the film has already grossed $116.7 million...More
2016/01/31 | | Permalink
Hee-ji (played by Lee Ji-hoon) is the actual main character of "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" at the moment, on account of the fact that he's the only Korean character who actually has any idea what's going on in the Chinese portion of the story. I feel like I'm constantly repeating myself on this point but...why exactly is Yeong-sil the main character when he doesn't know what's going on, no one wants to tell him what's going on, and it doesn't even seem to matter whether or not he knows what's going on?...More
Most romantic comedies sublimate sexual tension into some kind of other non-gendered competition. "Madame Antoine" does the exact opposite. Soo-hyeon intentionally courts Hye-rim in the most weirdly unnecessary confrontational way possible. While Soo-hyeon is in theory running a scientific experiment, he interprets any intermediate results of the experiment very personally. As much as Soo-hyeon thinks in terms of petty revenge, he's really looking at a much more terrifying prospect- the notion that he is not the smartest man in the room...More
Having finally managed to escape the cutthroat environment of Korean politics, so that he can study astronomy in China, Yeong-sil at long last manages to arrive in China to discover that...there are also violent bureaocratic elements at play in Chinese astronomy. And much as was the case in Korea, Yeong-sil has only the faintest awareness of what's going on. He just expresses surprise and curiousity regarding a few novel scientific devices, and proceeds to stumble clumsily into more random death plots and sword fights...More
The disaster genre is an ambitious one. For one, a pure disaster work can be very expensive to make, depending on the event which brings about said disaster. It is also one which depends a lot on sustaining suspense. Attempting such a work in the form of a Korean drama is quite the brave move on behalf of its creators. Whether this hybrid of a series counts as a success depends on how far one expects its bravery takes it...More
In the unremarkable year of 2014, lawyer Dong-ho (played by Son Hyeon-joo) lives a somewhat alcoholic and harassed life with his wife Yeon-soo (played by Eom Ji-won) and daughter Kyeong-rim (played by No Jeong-ee). One tragic turn of events and a year-long timeskip later it's 2015. Dong-ho has sobered up a little and is a tad more depressed, but otherwise life is tolerable. Then he gets the opportunity to change what has become the defining moment of his life back in 2014...More
Jae-gyoo (played by Park Shin-yang) is a gangster sub-boss whose unit gets sucker-punched in the opening minutes of "Hi, Dharma" by a rival gang. Having only barely managed to escape that situation with their lives, and lacking reliable telephone access, Jae-gyoo's hang is forced to hide out at a Buddhist temple. And from there, the story of "Hi, Dharma" is simple character clash comedy. They're gangsters, the other guys are monks. How will they ever get along?...More
Jin-woo (played by Lee Joon-ki) is a high school student in Gwangju, circa 1980. Sin-ae (played by Lee Yo-won) is a local nurse who goes to his church. Min-woo (played by Kim Sang-kyeong) is his older working brother. Heung-soo (played by Ahn Seong-gi) is her father, a former military officer. They all live fairly normal lives. But a meeting with history ruptures this destiny, as a military crackdown provokes a full-scale resistance movement lasting for a full week...More
See what Korean films are currently screening at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Lee Joon-ik talks about making Korean period pieces, find out which two Korean films will screen in Berlin in February, and Modern Korean Cinema presents its list of the most anticipated Korean films of the year...More
See where Korea's oysters come from and how they're harvested, Beyond Kimchee has steps for making chilled cinnamon ginger punch, see Korea's awesome delivery service in action, and My Korean Kitchen has a scrumptious snack for the Lunar New Year...More
Get some suggestions on where to eat, shop and stay, Korean Air implements a new law in the wake of the "Nut Rage" incident, the Eat Your Kimchi Crew says goodbye to Korea and heads to Japan, and hear from one travel agent why Europeans should consider Korea as their next holiday destination...More
Check out what one of Korea's cutest stores has to offer, Vogue looks at Bae Doona's success on and offscreen, there are rehabilitation camps in Korea for those battling internet addiction, and get an insiders take on Korea's work culture...More
The Jeonju International Photography Festival announced its new exhibition director, get a glimpse at some banned photographs of North Korea, see the lengths some will go to improve their looks, and National Geographic explores the wildlife around the DMZ...More
2016/01/29 | | Permalink
Hye-rim, being a generally observant woman, has little trouble cutting to the center of Soo-hyeon's scheme. Unfortunately, while Hye-rim is able to identify Soo-hyeon as the source of all the weird stuff that happened last episode, she's genuinely at a loss as to why Soo-hyeon would engage in such bizarre activities. What's more, because Seung-chan (played by Jinwoon) and Ji-ho (played by Lee Ju-hyeoung) are somewhat more naturalistic in their approach, Hye-rim is completely incapable of grasping the big picture...More
2016/01/28 | | Permalink
Having moved very quickly through similar but mostly unrelated plot points the last several episodes, here "Remember" is forced into that most dreadful of contrivances- when a drama is forced to repeat its own moral conflicts to evade the fact that there's not much more plot to get through. Try taking a count of how many characters enter into discussions regarding the wisdom of current day decisions on the basis of backstory. It comes up a lot...More
2016/01/27 | | Permalink
At one point here the possibility is broached for an obviously adorable romantic scene between Jin-woo and In-ah. And the moment this possibility came up, I asked myself what was more likely- that we would actually get to see this adorably romantic scene, or that writer Yoon Hyeon-ho would once again find a way to end the episode the episode with borderline absurd melodrama? If you can't already guess the answer to that question, well, you probably have not been watching "Remember" up until now...More
2016/01/27 | | Permalink
"The Revenant" keeps going despite "A Melody to Remember"...
The grizzly and gruelling "The Revenant" survived a narrowed encounter with Lee Han's "A Melody to Remember" (starring Si Wan and Ko Ah-seong) to defend the top spot over the weekend. "The Revenant", director by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, has been nominated across an impressive number of categories for the upcoming Oscars, receiving twelve nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and (here's DiCaprio hoping) Best Actor...More
Min-soo (played by Yon Ji-won) used to be an apparently irrelevant background character in Seol's class, but she became more noteworthy last episode by taking the somewhat creepy step of trying to perfectly mimic Seol's personal appearance. This episode expands greatly on Min-soo's motivation. She's lonely, she wants friends, doesn't know how to get them, but Seol seems to be nice and she also has positive personality traits. Who does this remind you of?...More
Mong-ju has made himself some rather powerful enemies by attempting to use a legal runaround to (eventually) kill off Do-jeon and eliminate the threat our intrepid dragon poses to the Goryeo regime. For those of you who have trouble keeping track of all the characters- Mong-ju is the respected minister with no particular allegiance to secret societies who is Do-jeon's spiritual and intellectual equal. It's for this reason that his betrayal especially hurts, and why Bang-won is unlikely to ever take an understanding big-picture appraisal...More
The manga-like storyline continues as each step of the plotline is detailed by teacher-fueled narrative. Romance buds and builds, pasts bubble up from pained psyches, and the students and teachers face a very, very strange exam season.
Let's begin by dissecting the midterm exams...More
"Moorim School" should be cut down to forty-five minute episodes so that the filler material isn't so oppressive. The way the show struggles, the recent disputes between the producers, JS Pictures, and the broadcasting station, KBS, come as no surprise. There is so much recap material scattered throughout the episode that it drags and the ratings reflect that. But between the elongated brooding moments and the flashbacks there are a few tasty morsels to gnaw on.
The martial arts aspect of the school hasn't been played up, however this episode finally made use of it and it was extremely cool...More
This episode was all about the building of friendship. Chi-ang and Si-woo look past their massive prides and see the good in each other. The kids at school learn via guilt that their treatment of the boys was cruel and uncalled for. And under all of that "Moorim School" continues to plod along pedantically.
The show spoon feeds emotions to its audience rather than create situations that can wrench them from viewers...More
2016/01/25 | | Permalink
Yeong-gon (played by Ji Yoon-ho) is Seol's stalker. Initially he just comes off here as a somewhat vicious villainous character and after some flashbacks...well, Yeong-gon still doesn't come as particularly sympathetic. What makes these scenes awkward is that as obviously appropriate as it is for us to hate Yeong-gon, acting antagonistic doesn't really help. Yeong-gon has somewhat perversely managed to convince himself that his behavior isn't actually aggressive. So both sides of this dispute see it as based on one-sided attacks...More
2016/01/25 | | Permalink
The overall tone of this episode is of waiting. No physical action, but lots of plotting and scheming. What's more, this plotting and scheming is not at the behest of the heroes. People are upset abut Do-jeon taking extra-legal action to deal with the land reform issue. It's ironic yet all too appropriate that they end up working rather narrowly within the confines of the law- and completely manage to blindside Do-jeon as a result...More
2016/01/24 | | Permalink
I've been able to appreciate "Riders: Get Tomorrow" somewhat better by watching the drama more as an unfocused romance rather than a story about rickshaws. Unfortunately the final episode of "Riders: Get Tomorrow" complicates both interpretations of the plot. Let's start with the romance. All the lovelines are resolved fairly decisively. Unfortunately they are not resolved especially satisfactorily...More
2016/01/24 | | Permalink
The extended opening of this episode is simply a direct continuation of the cliffhanger from last time. Yeong-sil is stuck in a noose, reliant entirely on the whims of the weather to confirm whether or not his heretical scientific theory is true and thus, can release Yeong-sil from the risk of death. For all of King Taejong's established authoritatiran attitude I'm still at a bit of a loss as to why he takes these issues to such a ridiculous extreme. It's almost like King Taejong takes issues of bad science personally...More
It would seem that Soo-hyeon has made it his mission to teach Hye-rim a lesson. Not in the literally helpful way of better explaining psychology, but in the metaphorical sense of humiliating her. Soo-hyeon isn't just evil- he's petty evil, and his weirdly obsessive attitude is creepy, simplistic, and most gallingly of all, anti-scientific. Experiments, even obviously unethical ones, work best with subjects who don't know what's happening to them. For a laywoman, Hye-rim is actually pretty knowledgable...More
I'm increasingly getting the sense that "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" is less about the actual titular scientist and more about the political struggles that were necessary for King Sejong to manage the important reforms that marked his reign. It's clear that several of the events we see in major focus were actual real historical watermarks in King Sejong's early career (he's still not actually King yet). Although this is mostly a hypothesis on my part since once again Jeong-sil has very little screentime in his own story compared to other characters who aren't very good at staying alive in difficult historical times...More
Korean drama has come a long way and at a very swift pace. Some things have not changed, of course. The adherence to certain production habits, thematic approaches as well as the reluctance to leave a desired comfort zone are still there, but works always appear from time to time that are willing to do something different. "Awl" is a series which, true to its name, goes beyond expectations in a most impressive, bold and inspiring way...More
Soo-jeong (played by Moon Chae-won) is a working woman in a ten-year relationship. After some rather ineffective communication Seo-jeong heads off by train for a work trip where she meets Jae-hyeon (played by Yoo Yeon-seok), a man who acts friendly and flirty with every woman he meets. Unluckily for Soo-jeong the train is so crowded that changing seats isn't really practical, so she has to just stolidly endure Jae-hyeon's chatty requests for a...one-night-stand...More
"The Himalayas" is, in fact, not really a story about mountaineering and its perils. To be sure, there is quite a bit of mountaineering and very deathly perils, but that is not the focus of Director Lee Seok-hoon's ("Pirates") alpine piece that is based on a true tale. Rather than an exploration of the cold wonders of the Himalayas, it is an exploration of friendship that survives extreme physical and emotional duress and transcends death.
The promotional poster of Hwang Jeong-min's smiling face embodies the heart of the film: friendship ...More
The year is 1925, the place Jiri Mountain, in the deep Southern part of Korea. The Japanese are pushing through on their plan to eradicate tigers and all other wild carnivores from the Korean countryside. Why? Well, officially because tigers are dangerous. Unofficially, the Japanese seek to defeat the tigers to prove once and for all that their new modern ways are superior to the old traditional ones. In this way "The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale" proves itself as backstory to the age-old question- why doesn't South Korea have any wild animals?...More
The United States spends more on its military than every other country in the world put together, much of it being used to maintain overseas armies. These armies tend not to be very helpful when it comes to doing...whatever it is they're supposed to do. But one major economic benefit comes with nearly every single overseas American military base. The local prostitution market is able to make good business. Oh those whiny Koreans- who ever said we don't do them any favors?...More
It finally hit me in episode 3. "Moorim School" reminds me of a Taiwanese drama mashed together with a manga adaptation. It's not meant to be taken too seriously and with that thought in mind the show becomes more fun to watch. It becomes an episodic adventure of enemies turned allies and how those around them learn to accept them despite their blatant personality failings.
Those two enemies, Chi-ang and Si-woo, are both egotistical young men whose intense personal circumstances have shaped their prickly exteriors and isolated them from socialization typical of their age...More
Hongdae may easily be one of the hippest places in Seoul. It's where musicians and artists roam, create, and socialize. The young can find solace in the fast-paced atmosphere, delicious food, and hoards of people their own age. It's especially known for its indie artists: musicians, dancers, and other street performers. There is always a show in a club or on the streets. And don't forget the flea market, fun specialty shops, and pet cafes scattered everywhere. K-pop star and actor Jeong Yong-hwa recommends it as a must-see place for anyone visiting Seoul...More
KOBIZ looks back at 2015 to see how local films competed with their international counterparts, find out what an Australian filmmaker's experienced of North Korea's propaganda machine, "The Throne" was voted Best Film of 2015 by reporters, and the Seoul International Women's Film Festival calls for entries...More
Kevin Virgil explores North Korea's food markets, find out why metal chopsticks are so popular in Korea, see how Korea is experimenting with new ways to help minimise food waste, and Beyond Kimchee has a simple recipe for a healthy 'snake bean' dish...More
One blogger reflects on her two-week trip from west to east coast, get some great tips for travelling around South Korea, watch a documentary about Korea's food and travel sector, and find out how to make the most of The Land of the Morning Calm while you're studying abroad...More
Watch a short animated documentary about what transpired with the Sewol disaster, get schooled on Korean cosmetics and its relation to K-pop, catch a glimpse of Hongdae's vibrant youth culture with some street-side jamming, and see what the new Asian Culture Centre in Gwangju has planned to develop innovation in the country's capital...More
Korea has the most private museums in the world, Jaewoon U has some incredible landscape photographs for us to marvel at, Ann Lee hits the streets to capture humans and objects, and what do you know about Korean pansori?...More
2016/01/22 | | Permalink
Soo-hyeon (played by Seong Joon) is a psychologist with an appallingly bad attitude. His scientific experiments are highly unethical, and to what end? So he can prove that love isn't real. Enter Hye-rim (played by Han Ye-seul), a fortuneteller who rather transparently uses cold reads to scam anyone who walks into her parlor. Yet Hye-rim is consistently able to make her patrons feel good about themselves- a fact which Soo-hyeon finds offensive, since the whole point of psychology is to make people appreciate their own depressed miserable existence...More
2016/01/21 | | Permalink
Don't be fooled by the generally light overall tone of the episode. Sure, in the immediate sense it's all fun and games as Jin-woo's team celebrates their opening legal victory. There's even cute romance- an element that's been all too lacking since the early episodes, mainly because the revenge and melodrama have been hitting such a high point that there just hasn't been any space for it. But just round the corner there's always some new morbid plot twist...More
2016/01/20 | | Permalink
After taking a moment to remind us that Jin-woo is still grieving, "Remember" proceeds to demonstrate why Jae-hyeok's culpability as a convicted murderer actually creates as many problems as it solves for the villains. See, now that Jin-woo has no hope of saving his father, that means there's nothing stopping him from eliminating as many people on his list in the short term as possible. They were only ever useful to the extent they could exonerate Jae-hyeok. Now they're just enemies...More
2016/01/19 | | Permalink
The opening dream sequence demonstrates a lot of the contradictions at play in "Cheese in the Trap". Seol is paranoid that there's something not quite right about Jeong, yet the fears in her imagination frequently have little if anything to do with Jeong's actual character conflicts. Jeong is sweet and thoughtful even when Seol isn't around- but only when thinking about Seol. That's because Jeong genuinely doesn't seem to like any other character in "Cheese in the Trap"...More
2016/01/19 | | Permalink
In addition to being heroic, Bang-won also manages to be quite noble. While it's easy enough for us to sit here in the future and question the efficacy of Bang-won's technique, in the immediate term Bang-won is always thinking in terms of self-sacrifice and personal appeal. The irony here is that Bang-won doesn't want to sacrifice himself in such a way that will make future sacrifice impossible. Bang-won can give up on Boon-yi and still live to fight another day. But it really is quite impossible to see how the fight for Joseon can succeed without Bang-won's continued assistance...More
Some very dark story elements come into play in this episode of "Cheese in the Trap". Surprising though it may seem, they don't actually have that much to do with Jeong, our oftentimes spooky first male lead, but rather In-ho, the second male lead who seems to be much more on the level. Director Lee Yoon-jeong appears to be making the point here that superficial appearances can be deceiving, and the point is well taken...More
Bang-won has a bit of a hero complex. Normally when stories portray this as a bad thing, it's in the immediate sense. Like, our would-be hero is so completely dedicated to rescuing people that he completely disregards his own safety in the process, that kind of thing. In Bang-won's case, the problem is shaping up to be long term- our protagonist is so dedicated to saving Korea he can't stand the idea that someone else will do it instead...More
"Star Wars" disappears, "The Himalayas" begins its descent, and "The Revenant" rises...
The Oscar-nominated "The Revenant" (starring Leonardo DiCaprio) entered at the top of the Korean box office this past weekend. This gritty and intense thriller arrived last Thursday and topped the weekend chart with 694 thousand admissions (35.2%) from across 966 screens. Critics and fans alike have praised director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's efforts, and the Academy recently confirmed its excellence by nominating it in twelve categories, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor...More
2016/01/17 | | Permalink
We start out with kidnapping and a swordfight, as I slowly resign myself to the fact that "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" really does seem committed to telling a standard political Korean drama story only the main character is a scientist for some reason. It's really bad timing for that, because "Six Flying Dragons" is already telling a fairly similar story, with several of the same historical characters, and "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" can't really measure up in comparison. Yeong-sil being a peripheral character to the action just makes it too hard to get invested...More
2016/01/17 | | Permalink
While the characterization in "Riders: Get Tomorrow" can be interesting, from a certain perspective, at the end of the day this is still a drama that requires the pretense of a plot. And that's where the conflict is ending up in preparation for the last episode. The rickshaw company has to struggle with financial backing, and once this problem is identified, the rest of the runtime is spent not quite solving it. Incidentally, don't watch the preview. It (probably) spoils the ultimate resolution...More
We find out who Deok-seon's husband is, and you'll probably be surprised at the groom's identity in the grand wedding setpiece. Not that this is all that important. The main thrust of "Answer Me 1988" has always been on the powerful sense of community. This, oddly enough, is the most important part of wedding preparation presented here- the characters have to come to grips with the fact that they're leaving their parents' home, to start out on something new...More
After a weird opening setpiece where Yeong-sil's personal problems and the greater political situation randomly come into violent agreement, we get a few interesting scenes of Yeong-sil trying to make a go of life with palace scientists. Yeong-sil ends up making enemies by stupidly expressing his opinion and then backing it up with factual evidence. That's a really big problem in a scientific infrastructure where qualifications are considered more relevant than facts...More
Regular viewers of tvN may have noticed that the station likes to keep its usual actors and creators close. Here to take this one step further is "Signal", the approach of which brings back memories of the station's "Gabdong - The Serial Killer". The drama will be the second tvN show based on the Hwaseong serial murders, but unlike its predecessor it comes with a supernatural twist...More
"Cheese in the Trap" has been a very eagerly expected show. Being based on a popular webtoon followed by devoted fans who clearly care deeply about the drama adaptation means that the series has a lot to prove. While mostly promoted as a standard romantic comedy with perhaps a slightly sinister twist, "Cheese in the Trap" has some interesting and quite surprising aspects to it at this point...More
"Moorim School" episode 2 plays out like a typical school drama with bullies, puppy love, competition, and burgeoning hopes and dreams and comes in with a shaky Nielsen rating of 4%. It is heavily laden with character stereotypes and a predictable plotline. But what it does have going for it is the inclusion of the international cast and the promise of intrigue.
The elements of mystery surround Si-woo's past and mystical abilities, Chi-ang's family issues, and the story behind Moorim itself...More
KBS's "Moorim School" hit the ground running on Monday, January 11, 2016. The twenty episode drama directed by Lee So-yeon-I ("Prime Minister and I", "Ad Genius Lee Tae-baek") and written by Yang Jin-ah ("Vampire Prosecutor") began its run with a busy introductory episode. There were plenty of abs, pretty faces, action sequences, and enough dramatic back stories to fill any drama quotient...More
In recent years the domestic political situation in South Korea has taken a turn for the worse. The two major political parties have never gotten along that well, but public expressions of bald contempt are now all too common. I bring this up mainly to explain why "Inside Men" exists in the form it does. "Inside Men" is a classic Korean-style gangster drama disguised as a political thriller. Even so, several factors give away the film's true form- the violence, the sex, and the general motivation...More
On the northeastern rim of Seoul a sorry looking group of miserable young people cope with the fact that they have terrible lives. They don't live in the glitzy parts of Korea that get featured in marketing by the Ministry of Tourism. No, they live in a slum neighborhood with unreliable parents. There's no sanitation, lots of booze, hideous architecture, and what few employment opportunities there are manage to be pretty degrading. This is the South Korea your typical North Korean defector runs into- the place where no one has any money...More
On an island in the South Sea lives a monk (played by Moon Seok-beom) who walks around in ratty clothes, takes phone calls, and interacts with animals. Occassionally other people come to this island. They hang out with the monk briefly, and then through some ominous photographic fakery they're gone. Not dead, I don't think, just gone. And then it's back to regular mountain life, where nothing of much apparent relevance happens. Yes, that's right. "Eyelids" is one of those films- the kind that make no sense whatsoever unless put under the lens of excessive interpretation...More
Despite my annoyance with "Twenty Again", this finale did a lot of explaining and brought the drama to a satisfying close. No-ra figured out how she wanted to live her life, Hyeon-seok let her do it, and Woo-cheol figured out how to chase his dreams without stepping on others to do it.
The other characters also came full circle ...More
I admit to being baffled by episode 15 of "Twenty Again". I just don't understand what No-ra is thinking. After all the romantic back and forth, and after how hard she's worked, it's difficult to fathom why she chose the path she did.
Since the beginning, No-ra has worked towards figuring out who she is ...More
Find our what films made Cindy Zimmer and Pierce Conran's list of the top Korean films of 2015, the Association of Korean Independent Film & Video announced their winners, The Hollywood Reporter takes us through some of the highs and lows of Korea's film industry in 2015, and why was "Sherlock" so popular over Christmas?...More
My Korean Kitchen shows you how to make sweet pancakes Korean style, Bon Appétit has some restaurant recommendations worth checking out, make sure you know what's what when eating out at a Korean restaurant, and the Korean Food Gallery has 10 essential ingredients for those of you who enjoy making munchies with your own hands...More
Explore Seoul's underground with a subway tour, Korean Class 101 has some phrases for you to learn before arrive, see how one adventurer made the most of two days in Seoul, and have you ever been to one of Korea's cat cafes?...More
What to expect at a Korean wedding, Taekwondo for peace, K-Culture continues to spread the love, and see how two South Korean films beat the record-breaking "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"...More
See how K-art is moving in on global markets, it's going to be an exciting year for art lovers in Seoul, take a walk around Jeju with photographer Kristine Sergejeva, and Lisa Speakman snaps up The Korean Bell of Friendship...More
2016/01/15 | | Permalink
The wrap-up for "Answer Me 1988" begins, as we close here with a sort of pre-epilogue. Nothing is fully resolved quite yet, and indeed, as the cliffhanger reminds us, most of the adult characters really aren't even aware of what's going on romance-wise. That's because the major setpiece is a love letter to the parents of "Answer Me 1988"- the ones who did their best for their kids, and each other, and who will always have a loving community in thanks for that...More
2016/01/14 | | Permalink
While the story in "Remember" moves in a fairly predictable pattern, it's a pattern that changes and reorients itself so often that I'm constantly forgetting when the drama just did the exact same plot point practically a few minutes ago. Writer Yoon Hyeon-ho is without a doubt the master of distracting out-of-nowhere segues. Fainting? Never mind that there's legal adventures to be had! Witness intimidation? Wait, there's a gangster showdown at the junkyard! Look, more improbable courtroom theatrics! Melodrama! Witness intimidation again!...More
2016/01/13 | | Permalink
The cliffhanger from the last episode ends up being solved with surprisingly little urgency. Which is to be expected, given the obvious misstep on the part of the gangster. It's one thing to kill ordinary people while on the payroll of the vast corporate conspiracy. Going after an actual prosecutor though, that's, that's just a really bad idea. Even bribed officials have to go after those crimes seriously, lest every two bit hood with a piece of string starts to try and avoid legal troubles by murdering cops...More
2016/01/12 | | Permalink
Sa-gwang (played by Han Ye-ri) is yet another important antagonistic character in "Six Flying Dragons". You know, it bears repeating- this drama has way too many characters to keep track of. It's relatively easy to remember who Sa-gwang is mainly because to date we haven't had any other women swordfighters. But back when Sa-gwang was just Yoon-rang I couldn't even figure out why she was in the story at all. Shoot, I didn't even notice she was being played by Han Ye-ri, who normally works in film...More
2016/01/12 | | Permalink
I've seen the whole "awkward first date" trope play out so many times in fiction that I'm used to it being, well, theatrical, with everything going horribly wrong. Seol and Jeong's first date is more...real-life awkward. Like, the movie they end up going to watch is a little weird, there's odd little nitpicks about pricing which they don't discuss. There's never a conversation about actual date stuff. In short, Seol and Jeong don't seem to have any idea what they're doing. Why is that?...More
In-ho (played by Seo Kang-joon) is the last central character in "Cheese in the Trap", and like the other characters in this drama In-ho struggles to serve any particularly obvious purpose in the story. This is mostly because "Cheese in the Trap" is quite light in the story department, something I appreciate much better now having read the first few chapters of the webtoon. One interesting change I've noticed- in the webtoon, Jeong is noticably less creepy and suspicious. At the beginning anyway...More
The focus is on adventure here, as lots of problems have been identified with no easy solutions. First off, Boon-yi needs to survive an icy standoff with a man who's main distinguishing characteristics are that he is excellent at fighting, and also he doesn't much care to identify himself. Once that matter is settled, it's on to more traditional action material as the dragons make an effort to hit the new strong point of their antagonists...More
"The Good Dinosaur" comes out on top, "The Himalayas" still strong, and "The Force" has run its course...
Disney and Pixar's latest, "The Good Dinosaur", doesn't quite live up to the high standard these studios have set in the past, but that didn't stop this prehistoric adventure from rising to the top of the pile in South Korea over the weekend. For the past few weeks, "The Himalayas" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" have been battling it out at the top (with the former firmly holding the high ground), but the second weekend of the year saw a slight slowdown in terms of the number of admissions sold as "The Good Dinosaur" and a re-release of "Inside Men" took the honours on offer...More
As meditation on how different personality types tend to gravitate toward completely different styles of romantic relationships, "Riders: Get Tomorrow" actually has a fair amount of interesting material. Up until now I always thought that Gi-joon was just kind of a creep when it comes to romance, but as we see with his mother this episode, Gi-joon does have a decent excuse for being clueless. The poor guy's used to seeing women in an adversarial light. Even when they seem nice they're probably being sneaky somehow...More
Yeong-sil continues to struggle with authority this episode, as the climax involves him getting into a violent altercation with an official and eventually using the power of science to spring an elaborate trap. As good as Song Il-gook is at action scenes, I can't help but find it a tad absurd how "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" is apparently taking the position that Yeong-sil could have or should have used his scientific abilities to win fights. That much sounds like a running sketch idea for a late night comedy program...More
"Twenty Again" hasn't been the fastest paced drama in the lineup. A lot of what has come to pass could've been trimmed down to move more quickly. But, we've finally arrived at the meaty romantic bits and where Woo-cheol and his mistress get their just desserts.
Woo-cheol and his mistress have been playing a dangerous game, cheating behind No-ra's back and expecting everything to work out in their favor...More
Episode 13 of "Twenty Again" focuses on realization, mostly on Woo-cheol's part. For nearly the entirety of his relationship with No-ra he has tried to mold her and their life to cater to his lofty career aspirations. Although his conscience pricked at him, he catered to his needs and hurt No-ra and his son on his path to achieving his goals.
When Woo-cheol and No-ra met, he went out of his way to care for her and impress her...More
It's the little touches that makes all the difference in "Answer Me 1988". Pay close attention to the set design here. It looks like the characters are just hanging around in the same neighborhood and the same houses they were this entire time and yet somehow, everything looks a tad shinier. A tad cooler. Especially the characters themselves. Note how Taek very nearly appears cool and attractive now, even though he mostly acts the same. What's causing these changes? The haircuts? The beer? Or just...the nineties?...More
Like most historical persons from the early Joseon period, we don't actually know very much about the life of the real Jang Yeong-sil- so a lot of the story ends up having to be completely made up. I didn't mind this so much in the first two episodes of "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama", since by and large these were just kid Yeong-sil having adventures with science. And there's elements of that here too, as the production team gets into fifteen century clocks. Suffice to say, accurate timekeeping was much more difficult back before everything was digitized...More
Music shows are one of K-pop's most important forms of artist exposure and fanservice. They showcase the new acts, the returning acts, and give fans one more way to connect to their idols. There is a music show every day of the week and artists often hit many of them in order to promote new singles, mini-albums, and albums. Internationally, they allow fans to see their idols live on a weekly basis. In Korea, attending music shows is an involved process that gives fans many opportunities to see their bias groups live.
I was lucky enough to attend a live broadcast of Mnet's M! Countdown episode # 446 on October 8, 2015...More
Hwanhee (played by Yoo Seung-ho) does stage magic. Not just any old stage magic- the slick kind. There really is something delightful about watching Hwanhee pulls balls out of nowhere, pull off convincing disappearance acts, manipulating pulley systems, and faking his death. Yoo Seung-ho really charms in this role, so it's little surprise that Hwanhee is able to catch the attention of Cheong-myeong (played by Ko Ah-ra). She's an incognito princess who resents her mandated destiny...More
Do-hyeon (played by Kim Jung-hyun) is a high school gymnast who has trouble getting along with people- he's got this bad habit of getting into fights. His problems are more teen angst than anything else. Do-hyeon's family life, while not miserable, has its problems. Do-hyeon's mother (played by Seo Young-hwa) is suffering from dementia, and his father has moved on to a background role. It's from this backdrop that Do-hyeon sneakily identifies a girl (played by Kim Ko-woon) as Se-yeong- a girl who checks out lots of books at the library where he's been forced to volunteer. These two then slowly progress from mild antipathy to friendship...More
In the rural outskirts of Andong a seventy-year old man pushes his ninety-five year old mother home in her wheelchair. And that's about all there is to "Where Is My Son??"- a documentary focused almost entirely on ambience. There's the love between a son and his mother, the sense of peace that comes as the elderly mother slowly but steadily moves toward the end of her life, and then there are the visuals of rural Andong, where traditional architecture and greenery overwhelms every shot...More
See how K-culture was depicted on the American satirical TV show Family Guy, Netflix (finally) arrives in South Korea, Variety tells us how South Korea's box office went in 2015, and Pierce Conran takes a closer look at "The Himalayas"...More
Luxury buses heading to Korea later this year, Time Out puts Garosugil in the spotlight, 10 reasons to love Busan, and find out what's happening in Jeju for amazing winter activities...More
Get to know all about Korea's edible alcohol treat "Ewhaju", a world-class chef in New York is bringing K-food into fine dining, see the hottest recipes and post from My Korean Kitchen in 2015, and Maangchi has a recipe for making "Abalone porridge"...More
Take a look back at the top K-pop tracks of 2015, Time Out has some vintage stores for hipsters to visit, Korean beauty myths debunked, and is everyone happy with the recent Korea-Japan agreement over 'comfort women'?...More
See one Korean artist's cute depiction of love, a map of Korea highlights the country's major cities, Kim Jong-un in (strange) pictures, and what will 2016 hold for Korean webtoons?...More