When it comes to Korean dramas, I enjoy fun (and tropey) romantic comedies and exciting action thrillers, but there’s something so moving about these relatable slice of life dramas that capture everyday life, including friendship, family, and career struggles. Recently I watched Because This is My First Life, Hello My Twenties, and Prison Playbook on Netflix (U.S.), and highly recommend all three! Because This is My First Life is also on Viki.
I marathoned Vagabond on Netflix over the period of three days! It’s extremely fast-paced and action-packed, with countless twists and turns. Lee Seung Gi and Bae Suzy are great in the leading roles, but several of the supporting characters were my favorite. Annoyingly though, Vagabond doesn’t conclude at the end of the 16 episodes and it seems that a second season may be produced.
The premise of Vagabond is devastating, pulling you instantly onto the side of the male lead, Cha Dal Geon (Lee Seung Gi). Every flashback hit me hard, so perhaps keep some tissues by your side while you watch this. However, while I commend Dal Geon’s fearlessness and feel for his grief, I also shook my head at his hotheaded temper and impulsiveness. Sometimes I wish he would be more cautious or thorough. I’m not a huge fan of Suzy but Go Hae Ri was a likeable, realistic character. She’s just someone trying to make a living and also do the right thing, and her instincts are good.
My favorite characters were supporting characters: Ki Tae Woong the serious, rule-abiding agent played by Shin Sung Rok. (I need to look up his other dramas now!) If you watched What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim? you’ll definitely remember Hwang Bo Ra. In Vagabond, her humor is on point as Gong Hwa Sook. Her character is less over-the-top here, and I appreciate that she is also a valuable member of the team rather than solely being comedic relief. Lastly, Lily, played by Park Ah In, is a charming, confident assassin. I loved her bickering with Kim Do Soo. They’re a fun pair to watch.
Vagabond doesn’t provide a lot of backstory for any character except Lee Seung Gi’s, but there are a lot of likable, interesting characters as well as compelling villains.
I usually don’t watch dramas starring the same actor or actress back-to-back. I like to take a break before seeing them play an entirely different character. However, my friend told me she had binge watched My ID is Gangnam Beauty and developed a crush on Cha Eun Woo, the lead actor, so I was curious even though I had just seen the lead actress, Im Soo Hyang, star in Graceful Family.
Overall Verdict: My ID is Gangnam Beauty is a thought-provoking drama that explores how society views beauty and how that affects people, from the way they see themselves to the way that others treat them. Although the main couple is sweet and easy to root for, I found the supporting characters to be this drama’s greatest strength.
Main Cast & Characters
I’m already a fan of Cha Eun Woo because I like K-pop boy group he’s in (ASTRO) and I was curious to see if he could also act. I thought he was alright and fit the character Do Kyung Suk well: the attractive but lonely son of a politician who is observant and astute but also standoffish and uncaring of social standing.
Interestingly enough, Im Soo Hyang is 29 to Cha Eun Woo’s 22. My ID is Gangnam Beauty is set at university so that was an interesting choice, but Im Soo Hyang pulled it off. Her character, Kang Mi Rae, is bullied throughout childhood for being ugly so prior to beginning college she gets plastic surgery done on her face.
Jo Woo Ri played the duality of the second female lead very well – innocent and likable but also observant and calculated. And last (but not least), Kwak Dong Yeon who I looooved in Love in the Moonlight plays the second male lead Yeon Woo Young. Woo Young is a senior classmate who is kind, calm, and sensible. He’s very likable but not to the point where you feel second lead syndrome (at least, not for me!).
Supporting Cast & Characters
Where do I begin? There are so many fun characters that make this drama feel real and relatable. There’s Mi Rae’s adorable parents, one of whom initially is unhappy with her undergoing plastic surgery. Mi Rae’s best friend and roommate Hyun Jung is an absolute delight but in the latter half of the drama, it feels like they cut back her storyline. I loved that she attends the same college as Mi Rae but studies a different field; they hang out together but aren’t always together, and they have each other’s backs.
There are a variety of different personalities at the university, both upperclassmen and first-year students like Mi Rae. There are a number of sexist male upperclassmen, some of whom try to be better and some who never change. I especially loved the variety in the girls – there’s one who is chubby, one who doesn’t dress in ways considered “feminine,” and a flirtatious girl who is initially after Kyung Suk but knows when to give up. Mi Rae makes friends with two female classmates, showing that there are good people out there and healthy friendships.
Despite Kyung Suk’s standoffish demeanor, he’s not entirely alone. His best friend is the laidback and exuberant Yoo Jin, played by Lee Tae Sun (who I’ve now got my eye on). I loved their friendship so much. Kyung Suk’s younger sister Kyung Hee was also a fun character, and I felt like her storyline was cut down towards the end as well.
My ID is Gangnam Beauty got off to a rocky start for me because it emphasized looks SO MUCH in the first episode. But that’s the point, it should make you uncomfortable to see how much appearances are valued by society. The pacing of the drama was great; a balance of heartfelt, emotional moments, and the fun and humor of young people entering adulthood.
The romance between Kyung Suk and Mi Rae is a big part of the drama, and it is QUITE a slow burn. I appreciate that there is never any question that the person Kyung Suk cares about is Mi Rae, so it’s not stressful in that aspect. Instead, the biggest obstacles they each have are themselves. For Kyung Suk, it’s his lack of social graces due to growing up so lonely. For Mi Rae, it’s the deeply-rooted issues of self-esteem and fear of what others think. It might be easy as a viewer to think that she should ‘just get over it’ but the many years of bullying led to serious mental health issues for Mi Rae.
Kyung Suk has had an opposite experience; his visuals stand out and attract attention no matter where he goes, even when he ignores it and does the opposite of encouraging it. It’s a lot of pressure for Mi Rae to stand beside Kyung Suk knowing that people will compare their looks and potentially decide she isn’t worthy of him.
Despite all of Kyung Suk’s good qualities, there were definitely moments where he was rude and controlling and I wish there had been some reflection on his part about his behavior. I wished that someone would call him out on it. This sort of behavior often feels romanticized in Asian dramas.
Kyung Suk’s mom’s storyline was excellent and offered the perspective of an older character, with more life experience, on ideals of beauty, motherhood, and abuse.
My last annoyance at this drama’s writing is that it ended with a storyline that didn’t focus on the two main characters. It felt like an overly dramatic change of genre and hijacked the final episode. All I ask for is the sweet and fluffy final episode that we’ve earned!!!
Most of the time I find dramas too long, and 16-episode k-dramas are a nice change of pace. In this case, I actually wished the drama was longer so that the storylines of the side characters could be fleshed out more. There were so many great threads that were started but abruptly concluded. Overall, I still recommend giving this drama a try!
I haven’t watched a Korean drama in a while, and Graceful Family seemed like the dark and intense mystery-thriller drama I was looking for. I watched it on Viki with English subtitles, and actually watched it as it aired. I rarely do this because I don’t like waiting every week for new episodes.
While Graceful Family started out strong, I lost interest at around episode 11. Since there are only 16 episodes in total, I powered through to the end. Unfortunately, it never won back my interest. The best part of this drama was Im Soo Hyang, who skillfully plays the main character, Mo Seok Hee, showcasing both fierceness and vulnerability. Mo Seok Hee returns to Korea after being exiled to the U.S. 15 years ago when her mother was murdered. Her grandfather wants her to be his successor, but her father has other plans. Meanwhile, Mo Seok Hee teams up with lawyer Heo Yoon Do to find out who really murdered her mother.
Last year I skimmed through the Korean drama Bride of the Water God (also known as The Bride of Habaek) out of curiosity. This drama is available on Viki. I didn’t care for the main plot, but I loved the side characters Moo Ra and Bi Ryeom. Moo Ra was in love with the male lead, and Bi Ryeom was in love with Moo Ra and eventually wins her over.
Krystal and Gong Myung had such fantastic chemistry and their banter was funny and electric.
Fight for My Way is from 2017 but I want to post about it because I LOVED IT. If you liked Park Seo Joon in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?, I think you’ll love him more in Fight for My Way. And if you loved Kim Ji Won in Descendants of the Sun, then seriously what are you waiting for? Fight for My Way is on Viki with English subtitles.
Fight for My Way is a friends-to-lovers rom-com with a great cast, a lot of laughs, and so many heartfelt moments. One of its strengths is how relatable it is. Our main characters, Dong Man (Park Seo Joon), Ae Ra (Kim Ji Won), Joo Man (Ahn Jae Hong), and Baek Seol Hee (Song Ha Yoon) are close friends and neighbors. Dong Man and Ae Ra have been friends since childhood, and both have big dreams buried in their hearts but are making it through each day with jobs they don’t love. Meanwhile, Joo Man and Seol Hee have dated for six years and work at the same company, where they’ve kept their relationship a secret.
I’m calling this a “live review” because I’m on episode 6 and I’m going to continue to update this post as I watch. After many years of resisting this drama, I finally caved and decided to try it out. I’m intrigued by it so far but at the same time there are SO MANY plot holes that I have to rant about it somewhere.
On a side note, I was pleasantly surprised to see some familiar faces in the supporting cast! I loved Ahn Jae-hyun in 2016’s Cinderella and Four Knights, and was excited to see him here as the female lead’s younger brother. Also, Yoo In-na from Goblin (2016) and Park Hae-jin from Cheese in the Trap (also 2016, lol).
Oops, I disappeared. I was on a drama spree for a while but all of a sudden it felt like there was nothing left for me to watch! Which sounds ridiculous, because how is that possible?!
I am currently watching Goblin: The Lonely and Great God on DramaFever. I’ve been meaning to watch this drama for a long time since I’ve heard ah-mazing things about it, and guess what: EVERYONE IS RIGHT. First of all, visually, Goblin is absolutely stunning. I’ve taken so many screenshots of it (select few at the bottom of this post). The colors, the composition, the deliberate pauses that showcase the beauty of the scene – I love it. The soundtrack is also on point.
Gong Yoo and Lee Dong Wook are both so fantastic, especially together. Why haven’t I seen them since Coffee Prince and My Girl, respectively?! The scenes with the goblin & the reaper are so wonderful and funny and sometimes heartbreaking. At first I was surprised to see Kim Go Eun as the female lead because I had recently watched Cheese in the Trap, but she is very charming and it works. Yoo In Na also plays an awesome, quirky character who I love. I looked up her credits but it’s been too long for me to remember her in Secret Garden.
It’s been weeks and I’ve only watched six episodes because I just want to savor every episode.
Korean Name: 치즈인더트랩
Brief Summary: Cheese in the Trap is centered around university students Hong Seol (Kim Go Eun) and Yoo Jeong (Park Hae Jin), as his personality and past get in the way of their relationship. In particular, his past association with Baek In Ho (Seo Kang Joon) and Baek In Ha (Lee Sung Kyung) prove to be hard to break.
Stream It: DramaFever
Recommendation: Watch It
I can’t remember the last time a drama disappointed me this much. If it had been terrible from the beginning, that would be a different story, but Cheese in the Trap was so promising in the beginning. It felt like a breath of fresh air. I’m still rating this a watch because the premise was fantastic, but prepare yourself to be extremely displeased when you’re finished!