Top K-Dramas in 2017

Happy 2018!

It’s 2018 now and I think is a befitting time to reminisce on the top dramas that I enjoyed binge-watching over the past 2017.

 

1.) Defendant

Watched Defendant without really high expectations and was actually mildly bored in the first half of the first episode when it was setting up the background of the story.

Yet once all the main triggers were set, the drama was seriously on a roll. Mystery and injustice were elements at the core of the drama, when we followed the main lead Park Jung-Woo (acted by Ji-sung) roller-coaster journey of discovering what truly happened on that fateful night where he was found to have ‘killed’ his wife but with no memory of how it took place.

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Defendant is an award-winning legal drama starring Ji-Sung.

Locked in prison and battling against time and an all-powerful nemesis, it was a truly adrenaline-filled ride as we joined him in his defence against injustice and his search for truth to come to light.

2.) Voice

I’ve been a bit addicted to thrillers ever since I started on Signal, and was led to watch Voice after seeing netizens’ favourable comments about Voice and it is indeed a great watch!

A policewoman Kang Kwon-joo (Lee Ha-na)  working in a call help centre with an uncanny ability to hear the smallest of sounds, she made the best use of her hearing ability to chase down criminals with the angsty mad-dog detective Moo Jin-hyuk (Jang-Hyuk) . And in the search for criminals, they finally discovered the elusive criminal who murdered their loved ones.

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Voice sounded quite like a typical criminal drama with the exception of the superpower hearing element of the female lead, yet the pacing was fast, plotline intelligent and antagonist scary enough.

All in all, a great drama that made you glued to the screen throughout even while your heart hammers against your chest in half-dread and half-anticipation of what comes next.

3.) Rebel: Thief who stole the People

A story about the famous Hong Gil-dong, the thief who stole from the rich to distribute to the poor, a period drama about him is nothing new to Korean audiences as there had been various adaptions over the past years.

But this adaptation has Amogae, the father of Hong Gil-dong who is a slave and tried to break out of being a slave so as to give his children a better life. And this Amogae who is acted by the amazing and charismatic Kim Sang-Joon made the first half of the drama addictive. I was just so reeled in by his portrayal of this character.

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The super amazing Kim Sang-Joon as Amogae in Rebel.

I rooted for him when he was beaten for simply being a slave and therefore reduced to being nothing in existence. I rooted for him when he killed his master over the injustice meted to him for his poor social standing of a slave. I rooted for him throughout the show and in fact I half-wished the male lead doesn’t come out haha, so that I can continue watching Amogae throughout the whole show.

rebel

Basically Kim Sang-Joon carried the whole show in the first half of the show. He was plain mesmerising in his performance. And I think he fully deserved all the acting awards he received for this role.

It helped that this drama has a very coherent plotline, pacing is reasonably fast, and amazingly all actors in this drama portrayed their roles decently. Some exceptional, some good, some average, But all in all decent. There was no one dragging the show down. And there was good characterisation for all characters. There was the robin-hood inspirational aspect as well as the brotherhood element when Hong Gil-dong and his gang of brothers worked together to correct the social injustices by stealing from the rich. It was at times thought-provoking as we take a glimpse at the mentality of the rich in which they truly believe that a noble will always be a noble, and that a slave can forget about having their own opinions of being daring to provoke or rebel against the master. Of course, there is also the love line, but it wasn’t drawn out, but kept rather realistic and sweet.

4.) Go Back Couple

Go Back Couple wasn’t a commercial success with rather lacklustre ratings in Korea and not much hype about it. I have yet to finish this drama, but its poignant, at times funny, and bittersweet story definitely left an impression on me and makes it one of the top K-dramas I have watched in 2017.

Acted by the super cute and youthful looking Jang Nara and Son Ho-Jun, this is a drama about a married couple jaded from the brutal realities of life after valiantly making ends meet in a much-hated job to support the family, encountering daily friction as what many married couples do, and being caught up in the wistful regret of what could have been if they did not marry.

goback couple

Go Back Couple starring Jang Nara and Son Ho Jun.

Go-Back Couple details what happens when one day after divorce, the couple woke up and found themselves back in their youthful selves in school before they started dating.

What was surprising to me about this drama was its unexpected mix of realism, comedic elements,  bittersweetness and poignancy. I could be laughing one minute and suddenly crying the next minute. I like this poignant drama that really pulls at your heartstrings and I believe viewers watching this drama will also inevitably ask themselves this:

If you have a chance to go back in time and redo your life, will you still want to be together with your current spouse? Will there be anything else that you will like to have done to your life differently?”

And here it is, my fave 4 K-dramas of 2017! What are your favourite K-dramas in year 2017?

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Korean Drama Review: Return (SBS)

I have been a bit late in catching SBS’s Return, which enjoyed high ratings, and hype due to the sensational reports of Go Hyun Jung assaulting the director which resulted in her leaving the set and being replaced by another actress Park Jin-Hee halfway through the drama. Talk about drama within a drama.

Return Korean Drama Go Hyun Jung

About Murder, Money, Power, Truths, Ugliness of Human Nature

Anyway, the story follows Choi Ja-Hye (acted by Go Hyun Jung and later Park Jin-Hee), a lawyer and Dokgo Young (acted by Lee Jin-Wook), a hot-tempered detective, and how they work together on a murder case where the suspects are children from the elite class.

The storyline sounds simple and focused enough; what makes it stand out is that the story revolves around the upper class society, namely a bunch of 4 friends with money and power who can manipulate information and hide truths with their money.

Yeom Mi Jung Return

Yeom Mi Jung, acted by Han Eun Jung, is a mistress of one of the 4 friends, and one day ends up killed.

Yeom Mi Jung, acted by Han Eun Jung, is a mistress of one of the 4 friends, and one day ends up killed with her corpse in one of these friends’ car boot. So who did it?

The viewers were kept in the dark as to who exactly is the murderer. But we do know that all these friends’ words cannot be fully trusted, and all have their own skeletons in the closet. All we saw were these rich man’s son embarking on more and more ridiculous actions to cover up the truth.

Initially intriguing but loses steam as story plods on

The first few episodes were interesting and we were introduced to the different chaebols, each with their own weaknesses and ugliness in personality. You can’t help but want to know more about their sordid relationships ( they are ok with kissing each other’s partners?!) , and their strange closeness in friendships. Their lives are really intertwined with one another’s and they share a long and shared history, yet I don’t feel that they genuinely like each other.  Instead of saying they are close friends, I will say they are just friends due to circumstances and more like “partners in crime” with shared history.

Return Korean Drama

It was intriguing how they got themselves in a situation where they are stuck with a corpse (who exactly killed Yeom Mi-Jung?) and the lengths they go to try and shirk any form of connection to the corpse in case they are labelled as murderers.

Yet, in their bid to prevent being linked to a murder, they end up murdering.

Basically it is a case of the bad doing bad, and the good trying all they can to catch the bad people, yet the bad people are often one step faster.

Such a premise is ok, however after watching 10 episodes and still seeing the cops being sidelined by the bad people, it starts to get kind of annoying.

A Bit Too Over-The-Top and Repetitive

Also, it does not help that I start to find the story a bit too over-the-top.

If you say that they murder people accidentally to prevent being seen as murder suspects, it makes sense the first time, after all they are rich people with image to maintain. But if it keeps happening, like how whenever any problem crops up, and the first thing that Oh Tae Seok and Kim Haek Beom thinks of is killing them so as to cover their tracks, it gets quite ridiculous. And this happens quite frequently. At least for the first ten eps that I have watched. Killing without any thought of consequences and at such a frequent rate just doesn’t make much sense, especially for two chaebols with so much to lose.

So, the story sort of keeps going in a circle. After they made another bad action, they have to cover it up with more ridiculous actions.

Good Acting from the Villains

Even though it was Go Hyun Jung’s comeback drama, it actually wasn’t very obvious that she was the lead. And in fact I don’ think it required much acting skills for her character.

Rather it was the villains that stole the show.

Shin Sung Rok was great in his portrayal of Oh Tae Seok, the seemingly gentlemanly and cultured rich man with a cruel streak, and apparently no conscience to speak of.

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Shin Sung Rok as Oh Tae Seok (right) and Bong Tae Gyu as Kim Hak Beom(left).

Bong Tae Gyu was also fantastic in his portrayal of the sadistic Kim Hak Beom with serious anger management issues and who basically acts without thinking most of the time.

More Obvious Story Direction After Change of Return’s Lead Actress from Go Hyun Jung to Park Jin Hee

Even though it is quite jarring to have the lead actress who once appeared like a righteous lawyer suddenly become the villain in the drama, it at least finally gave the story a direction to move towards instead of veering around in circles.

park-jin-hee Return

Park Jin Hee replaced as the lead actress in the middle of the drama Return.

I don’t think the plot changed because of the change in lead actress, I believe the writer already had this in mind when she first wrote the story, which is why there were a few sudden scenes in the beginning of Go Hyun Jung looking sad in front of the sea and dreaming of drowning in water.

It is just that it was quite a sudden change in direction in the middle, without enough hints in the beginning to suggest this direction the plot is moving towards that makes it a bit hard to accept initially.

Having said this, I personally actually prefer Park Jin Hee’s portrayal of the character. I think there was more definition to her character , it made me understand who Choi Ja Hye is. Whereas when Go Hyun Jung acted as the lawyer, all I saw was a lawyer who appeared righteous. In fact I couldn’t tell what personality the lawyer is supposed to have.

In spite of the high ratings, I’m actually having trouble following this drama and getting into it, as I feel bored and annoyed at times at the repetitive twists.

Anyone feeling the same way?

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Korean Drama Review: Thoughts about Misty’s Episode 16 Ending

After eagerly waiting for its 2 episodes every week, I am finally done with Misty……and I’m left feeling kind of underwhelmed.

*Spoilers ahead.

The ending is definitely not bad, in fact it feels quite realistic that there isn’t a happy ending. But……

Why is he the murderer?!

I still can’t quite accept that Kang Tae Wook is the murderer or that the murder happened just like that.

Kang Tae Wook Misty

There have been hints pointing to Kang Tae Wook as the murderer the past few episodes, like his shock when he heard Go Hye Ran telling him that nothing happened between him and Kevin Lee, and that Myung Woo ended up in jail many years ago simply because he got his anger got the better of him and he chose not to believe Go Hye Ran’s words in the past.

According to the plot development so far, I could believe it if Kang Tae Wook killed Kevin Lee in error. It also added to the complexity of the relationship between Tae Wook and Hye Ran if Tae Wook was the murderer but did not confess to Hye Ran, rather letting her shoulder the murder charge while defending her vehemently. It added a dark side to Tae Wook who had been projecting an honourable image so far.

Expectations too high, ending left me disappointed

I guess it is just that I kept expecting a twist in the end , so I refused to believe that Tae Wook was the murderer as what the hints had pointed out, and kept waiting to be surprised by what the writer had in store for us.

I was expecting myself to be shocked, to be overwhelmed, to be brimming with emotions at the twist I was bracing myself for and in the end Ep 15 and 16 just fell short of my overly high expectations.

kevin lee misty korean drama

The tall and strapping Kevin Lee got killed so easily?

When the murder scene was finally reenacted in ep 16, my first thought was “Kevin Lee was killed just like that?” I find quite hard to believe that an athlete like Kevin Lee died just like that after Tae Wook bang him against the wall.

Questions Unanswered

  • And if Kevin Lee died of head injuries, why didn’t the police notice it? Why was he believed to have died from a car accident?

The plot development of Myung Woo stepping up to bear the brunt of the murder charge wasn’t too surprising, and was in line with his character as shown so far in the drama, but it was quite a pity that Tae Wook chose to commit suicide in the end which made Myung Woo’s sacrifice in vain.

  • Why was the black chip in Hye Ran’s car with Kevin Lee?
  • And the police just let Myung Woo get a life sentence like that even though there was no strong evidence proving that he murdered Kevin Lee? When he obviously was still in jail when the murder took place.

In spite of feeling mildly unsatisfied by the ending ,(after all it had been an intense ep one after another every week! )if I remove my feeling of being let-down at Tae Wook being the murderer, I do feel that this ending has a tragic tone which suits the mood of the drama so far. Seems like Kang Tae Wook and Go Hye Ran are just not meant to be together, who kept missing each other and simply can’t be happily together.

Go Hye Ran Misty

The competitive go-getter Go Hye Ran acted by Kim Nam Joo. Not a perfect character but you can’t help admiring her.

Go Hye Ran’s life seem so much sadder since she didn’t officially do anything wrong but everything is falling apart except for her career. The two men she loved killed for her and died. She had been chasing for success and happiness, yet happiness eludes her.

Impressive Acting from veteran actors

If Go Hye Ran had been honest and open with Kang Tae Wook right from the start! Then this whole tragedy wouldn’t even have happened!

Gotta say I am extremely impressed by Kim Nam Joo and Ji Jin Hee’s acting though!

Kang Tae Wook Misty Ji Jin Hee

Kang Tae Wook, I feel your pain man!

I wasn’t that wowed by Ji Jin Hee initially but as the show progress on, and especially in the final 2 episodes where he displayed his pain in committing the error, his suppressed nervousness when interrogated by the detective etc, I feel that he fleshed out this character really well.

Most Annoying Character: The Detective

Biggest Pet Peeve?

Misty Ending

The dumb detective! I mean everything started because he insisted it was a murder based on his gut feeling. Oh well, so his gut feeling was correct in the end, but seriously can he please do his work and find evidence? Instead of randomly zeroing in on suspects and insinuating that they are the killer? And basically making himself a nuisance?

Kang Tae Wook committed suicide after the detective went to find him to tell him that Myung Woo will be granted life sentence for the ‘murder’ and what he feels about that. So of course I do blame the stupid detective for Kang Tae Wook’s death. And it also meant that Myung Woo died for nothing. Seriously the detective has lots to improve in his skills.

All in all, Misty was a good ride and I enjoyed the process of eagerly waiting for each episode to come out. Kim Nam Joo has a new fan in me!

What do you think of Misty’s ending? Was it expected?

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K-Drama Review: JTBC’s Misty (Ep 1 -8)

Wow, what a drama. What a mindblowing, suspense-filled, intense drama that had me hooked from Episode 1.

Misty: About Mystery, Power, Secrets

misty korean drama

Misty reminds me of another JTBC’s drama Woman of Dignity, especially since both dramas started hooking viewers in with the mystery surrounding a murder and complex characters who may or may not be bad. It also kind of reminds me of book author Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies (a nice book btw!)  as Misty is about the pretences that one upkeeps beneath the seemingly perfect facade of marriage, but laced with guilty secrets and a dark past that one strives to keep hidden.

In short, the story follows a successful news anchor who got charged with murder of her ex lover, and requires the help of her estranged husband as a lawyer to help her win the case.

There is a mix of newsroom politics, crime, illicit affairs, dark past, schemes, secrets, revenge and passion. All ingredients that I like in my drama!

Kim Nam Joo as Go Hye Ran: Compelling & Enigmatic

Gotta say that JTBC did a good job in casting the veterans for the male and female lead, Ji Jin Hee and Kim Nam Joo. Kim Nam Joo was absolutely captivating in her portrayal of this shrewd, aloof, ambitious, beautiful news anchor who is unapologetically hungry for success, even if it means offending or stepping on others. But this seemingly perfect life got shattered apart when she fell from grace and became a suspect for her former lover’s murder.

Kim Nam Joo Go Hye Ran Misty

After 8 episodes in, I’m still not quite sure how to describe her character. There are still so many shades of grey about her personality. Is she manipulative? Does she love her husband? Or is she simply manipulating his feelings to get what she wants? Does she truly believe in delivering news impartially, is it just part of her facade as a news anchor or does she have some other end goal in mind that is not revealed yet? Why is she so so hungry for success? There’s definitely some juicy dark past that is not revealed yet, and I am just eager to know more about it.

Kim Nam Joo is bewitching is her portrayal of this character. I don’t think Go Hye Ran is a likeable character, yet I can’t dislike her. Cos she is just so ballsy, so upfront about being power-hungry and indeed very capable.

ji jin hee misty

Ji Jin Hee is acting as the quietly-suffering lawyer/ex-prosecutor husband who loves his imperfect wife and is willing to stand by her through thick and thin, even if he thinks his wife does not love him. Morally upright, he is in a sort of one-sided love with his wife, yet willing to make use of his connections to help his wife in her rise to power even if such political games go against his principles.

I think he is doing a good job in his acting as well, just that unfortunately it sort of pales in comparison to Kim Nam Joo, but this is because Go Hye Ran is simply such a complex yet in-your-face character that simply mesmerises the screen when she appears.

So Who Killed Kevin Lee?

The drama first started with steamy kissing scenes between Go Hye Ran and former lover Kevin Lee, followed by their accidental meet-up, when Go Hye Ran realised that this celebrated award-winning golf player Kevin Lee who is now married to her high school best friend was her former lover whom she dumped harshly because she deemed him too much of a loser without much prospects back then.

kevin lee misty korean drama

Go Joon acting as the sly and scorned ex lover Kevin Lee.

Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned and Kevin Lee, in his present day popularity, is determined to create chaos in Go Hye-Ran’s current seemingly perfect life.

One day Kevin Lee is found dead. So who is the prime suspect? We as viewers know that actually Go Hye Ran is innocent. But who else can it be? Could it be her high school best friend, and current Kevin Lee’s wife Seo Eun Joo who discovered their illicit relationship from the kiss she witnessed in the car’s camera and is determined to exact revenge on her friend for betraying her?

Seo Eun Joo Misty

Jeon Hye Jin in a role of Seo Eun Joo who appears naive and meek but secretly nurses a grudge against Go Hye Ran for cheating with her husband.

Could it be her supposedly morally upright husband who also discovered Go Hye Ran secretly meeting Kevin Lee, and having heard Kevin Lee allude in his face that he and his wife has something illicit going on?

Could it be the bitchy new news anchor who has been coveting Go Hye Ran’s anchor position and has much to gain from Go Hye Ran’s final fall from grace?

Misty korean drama Han Ji Won

Jin Ki Joo acting as the anchor wannabe Han Ji Won who is aiming for Go Hye Ran’s anchor position.

Or could it be the young male reporter Kwak Ki Sook who has always looked up to Go Hye Ran and once saw Kevin Lee “threatening” Go Hye Ran?

misty korean drama goo ja sung

Goo Ja Sung as the young reporter Kwak Ki Sook who remains loyal to Go Hye Ran.

I’m very sure that there will definitely be some twist in store, and judging from the twist in Woman of Dignity, I am inclined to believe that the real murderer might be the young male reporter, as he seems like the least likely candidate as of now. If it is Kevin’s wife who was the actual murderer, it seems a bit too obvious.

What do you think? Who do you think is Kevin Lee’s murderer?

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Korean Drama Review: Go-Back Couple/Confession Couple

Seriously, Go-Back Couple is dae-bak!

It makes my heart flutter and feel all giddy with the sweetness, the awkwardness and optimism of first love. Yet is also makes me tear at the missed opportunities and  misunderstandings that occur in relationships, as well as the bittersweet acceptance when some relationships are just not meant to be however much effort you put into it with the hope that the other party will fall for you.

*Spoilers ahead

Funny, Heartfelt yet Realistic

Go-Back Couple is basically about a divorced couple Choi Ban-do (Son Ho-Jun)and Ma Jin-Joo(Jang Nara) who got a chance to go back in time to their university days where they can correct their “mistake” of meeting and falling in love with each other.

goback couple

Choi Ban-do was a husband who tried very hard to work and earn money as a pharmaceutical salesman so as to support his young wife and son, even at the price of losing his dignity and bowing down to rich doctors and kissing their asses.

Yet, such hard work outside was not known or understood by his wife, Ma Jin-Joo who used to be pretty and popular in school, but reduced to a scruffy housewife ever since marrying Choi Ban-do. With no money and lots of unsaid unhappiness that led to misunderstandings, it is no wonder that they ultimately ended up divorcing.

Go Back Couple 2

Son Ho -Jun as Choi Ban-do, a salaried salesman trying to make ends meet and Jang Nara acting as Ma Jin-Joo, the scruffy housewife.

But somehow they woke up one day to discover that they are miraculously back to their younger selves where they got a chance to relive their youth and change the future.

I love all the ingredients that make up this show – time travel, youthful passions and first loves, the poignancy of reflecting on the past, not to mention the realistic portrayal of marriages and long-time relationships that lost its spark.

I believe this drama will resonate very well with the married working adults who are caught up in the rat race,stressed up with work, probably not even liking their job and have started to take their spouses for granted. This drama offers a great form of escapism for viewers as we follow this divorced couple’s journey back in time to college where everything was fine and dandy, where problems in the adult world all disappeared and all that was left was friendship and first loves.

Believable Four-Sided Entangled Relationships

Go-Back Couple did a great job in the 4-sided relationships for the 2 main leads and the 2 second leads when they travelled back in time during university days. Choi Ban-Do had a chance at love with the beautiful ballerina whom he used to nurse a crush on while Ma Jin-Joo had a suitor in the form of the tall and handsome Jung Nam-Gil.

The introduction of new potential romantic partners and the witnessing of their original partners in the prime of their youth also allowed Choi Ban-do and Ma Jin-Joo to reassess what they truly want and to recapture their appreciation for each other.

While the drama ended up predictably with the 2 main leads realising their love for each other, the drama focused quite a bit on the new love lines between the main leads and the 2 side leads, therefore viewers were left wondering who the main lead might end up and whether the couple might succeed in changing their future.

go back couple 2

The divorced couple Ma Jin-Joo and Choi Ban-do glaring at each other and their respective new partners when they walked past each other in school.

Notable mention has definitely got to be given to Chang Ki-Young who acted as Jung Nam-Gil, the handsome but aloof heartthrob who only has eyes for Ma Jin-Joo acted by Jang Nara, and posed as a realistic threat to Choi Ban-Do who later tried to win back the heart of Ma Jin-Joo.

Dreamboat Second-Lead Chang Ki-Young

I have no idea who Chang Ki-Young was previously, but I was really won over by his handsome looks and near-perfect dreamboat role. I mean, Jung Nam-Gil is handsome,rich, and lonely, aloof to everyone but with only eyes for Ma Jin-Joo, totally the type of roles in K-dramas that all female viewers swoon over. It was swoon-worthy when viewers see him smiling secretly to himself after witnessing Ma Jin-Joo’s cute antics or acting as the knight in shining armour to save her when in need.

jung nam-gil go back couple

Chang Ki Young as Jung Nam Gil in Go Back Couple.

I really liked the scene where he ultimately realised that he has no chance with Ma JIn-Joo, who at the end of the day only had eyes for Choi Ban-do, and accepted a hug from Ma Jin-Joo as she spoke to him of his good traits. It was very bittersweet and touching, for a lonely and lost man to hear such words of reaffirmation from a woman he love.

Tender Mother-and-Daughter Moments

What was unexpected but incredibly tear-jerking were the scenes of Ma Jin-Joo and her mother acted by Go Eun-Sook.

Ma Jin-Joo’s mother had already died in present time, so when Ma Jin-Joo saw her mother again when she travelled in time, she did all she can to fully appreciate her moments with her mum at every single opportunity, like hugging her and telling her how much she loves her.

The scenes were really well-executed – incredibly tender and bittersweet.

ma jin-joo and mother go back couple

Ma Jin-Joo sharing a tender moment with her mum.

All in all, this drama really tug at my heartstrings in all the right places. I found it a lot more realistic and poignant than most Korean dramas. And frankly speaking I couldn’t quite find any flaw in it.

Even though there were only 12 episodes, all characters were developed very well.Plus, Jang Nara and Son Ho-Jun really portrayed their roles impressively.I felt that I could really picture these characters as real-life characters as they were just quite believable and all the mistakes and regrets they made in life, could very well be mistakes that all of us have made or could make.

At the end of the day, I think this drama is about the choices we make in life, a reminder to not take what we have for granted, about rediscovering what made you fall in love with your partner in the first place and to never forget it.

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K-Drama Review: Woman of Dignity is Awesome!

Recently there is a new JTBC Korean drama that caught my eye, which is none other than Woman of Dignity starring Kim Hee-Seon and Kim Sun-A.

I only started watching after reading about its phenomenal ratings in the news reports, and I got hooked just within the first ten minutes of the show.

This story revolves around the lives of two women, namely Woo-A-Jin acted by Kim Hee-Seon and  Park Bok Ja acted by Kim Sun-A. It showed how one’s life goes from the bottom to the top, while the other falls from grace.

woman of dignity

Synopsis

This is a story that is centred on a rich but rather dysfunctional family. Basically Woo-A Jin is a dutiful daughter-in-law of the rich family who leads a luxurious life, however her life slowly came to shatters following the arrival of the new caretaker whom she employed to take care of the ailing father-in-law. The new caretaker Park Bok-Ja deliberately seduced the father-in-law and soon lay claim to her new status as his wife much to the disbelief of the rest of the disapproving family members.

Great start to drama with a hook

I really like intense fast-paced dramas with scheming women and this drama totally fitted the bill. I’ve got to say that this drama has a rather special vibe as it is sorta quirky, at times funny, yet with a sinister undertone.

There is always this sense of mystery and creepiness, probably because it started by revealing the morbid ending, which showed a luxuriously dressed Park Bok-Ja lying in a pool of blood.  The drama than went into flashback mode that slowly depicted how Park Bok-Ja went from being a caretaker that purposely entered a family to seduce the father for money ended up being murdered. Because all the family members have issues and were really against the manipulative caretaker, all of them could very well be the murderer so the show really keeps the viewer guessing as to who is the one who really did it.

WomanOfDignityKimSunA

Kim Sun-A was impressive in her rendition of the manipulative caretaker Park Bok-Ja that slowly climbed her way up in Woman of Dignity.

Kim Sun-A was fantastic as Park Bok-Ja

Kim Sun-A was extremely good in her portrayal of this cold-blooded and two-faced caretaker who bluffed her way into a rich family and succeeded in securing the heart of the father-in-law by pretending to be innocent and sweet. Seeing her manipulate the  feelings of all the family members was exasperating yet strangely addictive to viewers. In a way you feel sorry for the father-in-law who whole-heartedly believes in her, yet you can’t help but want to see just how bad she can become and how much of a disaster she can bring to the rich pampered family.

Woman of dignity kim hee seon

Kim Hee Seon looks beautiful in all scenes of Woman of Dignity.

Woo A Jin was the embodiment of female empowerment

Meanwhile, Woo A Jin was just as good as Park Bok-Ja was bad. She might be the rich daughter-in-law in the top level of society, but she certainly has a kind heart. Because of her goodness, it was hard for her to see how manipulative Park Bok-Ja was until it was too late to rectify the problem.

In face of a new enemy married into the household, and a husband who cheated on her with a woman whom she was nice to, her seemingly perfect life was ruined. It is refreshing to see how a rich and pampered woman stayed strong and went about righting the wrongs in her life such as putting the cheating husband and the adulteress back in their place and steering Park Bok-Ja into the right path.

Questions left unanswered

With only 4 episodes left to go, there are still many questions left unanswered. Why is it that Park Bok-Ja is so adamant about marrying into this family? What secrets are she keeping? Did Park Bok-Ja know Woo A-Jin previously? Who exactly killed Park Bok-Ja?Are there any twists awaiting us?

I am eager to find out all the answers, and I truly hope that the scriptwriter and director won’t disappoint us, not when the drama has been going so well so far!

*Update:

Have finished the entire series and I have to say this drama does not disappoint. And kudos to Kim Sun-A, who made me really sympathise with her when she displayed her emptiness after attaining her wealth. During the end of the drama, she was trying to make amends and trying to be a better person, but alas first impressions last, and the numerous mistakes she made in the past has cemented her reputation as the “evil woman”, hence she is destined not to be forgiven.

As for the person who killed her, there was a bit of a twist, but frankly speaking I found the reveal of the identity of the killer underwhelming. I guess such a twist makes it more interesting? But I thought it is a bit illogical and does not tie in that well to the earlier parts of the show. Spoiler ahead.

I think it will make more sense if Park Joo-Mi’s son had appeared to be more deranged or emotional previously, so that I can better tie in his persona with someone who can kill.

Oh well, but all in all, I really enjoyed the show. It has this rather quirky dark mysterious vibe that pulls you into the show.

If you enjoy Woman of Dignity, there is a high chance that you will enjoy Misty too. Read the review here.

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How to Take Part As An Audience for Taiwan’s Variety Show 綜藝大熱門

Recently, I went on my yearly trip to Taiwan and decided to try my luck in applying to be part of the audience for the live recording of 綜藝大熱門 hosted by Jacky Wu at San Lih TV Station.

Monitor 綜藝大熱門 Hot Door Night’s Facebook to sign up for recording sessions

I regularly watch 綜藝大熱門 so I am aware that their staff often posts updates about the show and requests for audience on their Facebook page. And so I checked their FB page diligently about 2 weeks prior my trip to see if I could possibly make it for any of their recording sessions when I was in town.

When there is a call for audience, the staff will post a google doc link on the page for people to sign up, which was what I did. And about one week after my registration, just 5 days before the recording,  I received this email from someone named “Bird Bird” lol who told me that I was selected and that I could head to the TV station on that night for the recording session!

Plan your trip and register for your recording session before reaching Taiwan

As expected, you cannot possibly just go to Taiwan for a holiday trip and expect to be able to join a recording session as and when you are free since the these sessions have schedules.

Therefore in order to possibly make it for a recording session during your short stay in Taiwan as a tourist, it is important to plan ahead.

Eg. if you are going to be in Taiwan during the first week of May, then you should start monitoring Hot Door Night’s Facebook for recording updates about 3 weeks in advance to play safe because it is likely that registration for the May recording session could have closed 1-2 weeks before. It is necessary to count backwards.

Setting foot in San Lih TV Station

San Lih isn’t at a very accessible location and I took the train to the nearest station before cabbing over. Costs about 120 NT. (Can’t even remember which train station it is)

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San Lih TV station in Taipei.

We were asked to wait opposite the Starbucks at an open space which I think was a carpark at 7pm. I was prepared to wait for maybe an hour before any staff will appear to bring us to the studio but I was pleasantly surprised to see a staff appear on the dot to bring us upstairs.

Yay!

When we reached, we waited behind the set but we were all peeking to look at the performers rehearsing. And so I spotted Wang Renfu from 5566 practising his singing and dancing.

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Wang Renfu from 5566 rehearsing his dance before the official recording.

After about 10 minutes of waiting, we were brought to the seats and given placards with hearts on it. Basically for the episode that I participated in, it featured celebrities singing and we needed to grade them for their performance. If the performance was good, we were expected to hold our placards up. For a celeb with the worst grade, there will be a penalty.

Soon after, the hosts came in!!

Lulu was very thin in person, and in fact her head looked very big on her skinny frame.

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Host Lulu came in and said hi to the audience.

Jacky Wu looked slightly older in person.

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Chen Han Dian and Jacky Wu chatting before the recording started.

I am quite impressed with the fact that the entire recording went very smoothly and quickly without any retakes. However watching the recording made me realise the importance of sound and graphic effects later superimposed on the footage cos it felt less funny when I watched it in person without those graphics moving about to highlight the witty parts as compared to watching it on TV.

The entire recording was over in about 45 minutes and we were then brought out to make room for the next batch of audience for the next recording.

By the way, San Lih TV station is quite near to Rao He Night Market, so it is a great way to end the night by indulging in yummy street food after a recording session.

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Tasty and Authentic Asian Eats in Chicago

I’ve always enjoyed Asian food a lot more than western food, be it Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese. Therefore I really cannot quite get used to food in the U.S even though Chicago is already considered quite a foodie paradise.

I’ve tried the famous deep dish pizza twice and both times I couldn’t finish simply cos it was way too cheesy and filling for me. In fact, both times my husband and I only ate half of the pizza even though we already ordered the smallest one. Another time, I went to eat in a relatively popular Japanese restaurant here, and in the end the sushi that was served had cheese in it too.!!??

Thankfully, there are still hidden Asian food gems in Chicago that serve authentic Asian food at affordable pricing and these are my go-to comfort food whenever I’ve had enough of my Chipotle rice bowl or my own not-that-delicious homecooked food.

1.Cheap Korean Eats  and fresh sashimi – Joong Boo Market

I first went to Joong Boo market because of the $25 sashimi promo every Wednesday. At $25, you get about $70 dollars worth of sashimi if you were to buy it in Japanese restaurants. In fact there were so many pieces of sashimi that I even had enough to cook it for fish porridge the next day. At $25, the sashimi slices are decent and fresh.

Not just so, you can also get $2 korean dumplings at Joong Boo market which are quite filling and tasty. If I were to go to Joong Boo for grocery shopping, I will usually eat in at the every-busy Korean eatery whereby each dish is about $6 to $8. And you don’t even have to tip!

I love the soo doong boo served in Joong Boo market! Spicy, savory, and hot and piping!

2.Authentic Malaysian/Singaporean cuisine – Serai

 

How can I explain my joy when I discovered Serai in Chicago? Only opened in 2015, and helmed by Malaysian bosses and chefs, Serai is just way too authentic. I was so happy when I had my first plate of belachan kangkong (water spinach) in Serai. In fact, every single dish that I have tried in Serai tasted even better than what I ate in Singapore haha. I am still salivating over the Char Kway Teow. Located in Logan Square, the only con is that it is a bit too far from my house!

3. Aroi Thai food – JJ Thai Street Food

 

I love love Thai dishes. I love the assortment of flavors in each mouthful: the sweetness, the sourness, the saltiness and the spiciness in Thai cuisine. Unfortunately a lot of the Thai food I’ve tried in Chicago are either just plain spicy or plain sour. It is really one-dimensional in taste; not tasty, yet pretty expensive. Therefore I’m also really glad to find JJ Thai in Chicago. The dishes are not really what you will expect from Thai food, cos you don’t see the typical dishes like Pad Thai and pineapple rice but all the dishes sold are incredibly tasty with that authentic Thai flavor.

For me, I really like their papaya salad, which tasted exactly like what I bought off the streets in Bangkok, except that it is about 10 times more expensive of course. I also like their meatball rice noodle soup. The meatballs are slightly peppery and seems to be handmade. The plentiful beansprouts in the soup are a bonus and adds a slight crunch to each bite. The braised pork rice is good too! Sometimes the pork isn’t as flavorful as I like, but I think it is good enough. I must be contented.

4. Oishii sushi – Ryo Sushi and Nami Sushi

I haven’t really tried a lot of sushi places in Chicago, cos I really don’t have that much money to spare but at least these two that I’ve tried tastes pretty good and they are not THAT expensive.

Actually both Ryo Sushi and Nami Sushi’s standards are about the same in my eyes. The rice is not dry or hard, and the raw fish in the sushi are juicy, thick and fresh. I like that Ryo Sushi has a lunch special whereby you can even get a sushi set at about 10 dollars, which makes it pretty affordable.

5.Affordable ramen with yummy braised pork – Noodles by Takashi

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I’ve tried quite a lot of ramen places in Chicago, including those that are very popular, highly reviewed or those that have made into the top 10 list in Chicago. Even so, I wasn’t extremely impressed. Yet, surprise surprise, I find myself going back to Macy’s (State Street) food court many times just for their miso ramen.

Actually for food court standard, the ramen isn’t considered cheap at about 10 to 12 dollars each. However after factoring tips and all, it is still a few dollars cheaper than most ramen restaurants. To me, it tastes no different from the ramen I buy from Japanese restaurants here.  It is flavorful ( though it can be a bit salty at times) and the braised pork is really tender. Oh ya, the fried rice sold at this stall is surprisingly good too. If you get a “member card” from the stall, you can also redeem a free bowl after 8 meals.

6.Flavorful hotpot – Little Lamb Hotpot

Even though Singapore is incredibly hot and humid, I still have a penchant for hotpots cos I simply love drinking hot soup too much. I love the process of slowly dipping my food into the tasty soup and chatting with friends as the food begins to boil.

And given that fact that Chicago is cold most of the time, it makes it all the more suitable to have hotpot. Thankfully, Little Lamb Hotpot never fails to disappoint me. With food ordered ala carte, it is slightly pricier than the other Chinese hotpot restaurants that offers buffet hotpot at about 16 dollars per person. However I believe that when it comes to hotpot, quality really matters over quantity at times.

Having tried out really cheap hotpot lunch specials at Chinatown, I decided that I rather spend 30 dollars more just so that I can have a very satisfying hotpot meal at Little Lamb.

Firstly broth is the most important part of a good hotpot experience and the Mongolian spicy herbal soup is really good. Not too spicy, but with enough kick to it, and there is a slightly exotic herbal taste. The mushroom soup is pretty good too. I could taste the mushrooms in the soup.

Unlike many hotpot restaurants that serves frozen food or meat that still have ice on it, Little Lamb Hotpot has more handmade and fresh items. I really enjoy their handmade fishballs, grilled potato and pork dumplings (or should I call it potstickers?) Their handmade noodles also taste very good after you cook it in the spicy mongolian herbal soup.

A hotpot meal for 2 costs about 50 dollars after tip. And usually I still cannot quite finish the food and will pack a few items back to cook for dinner. So if I think of it as 50 dollars for 2 meals, then it isn’t really that expensive afterall. Little Lamb Hotpot is where I go everytime I feel like pampering myself.

Another good hotpot – Little Sheep Hotpot

Recently, another contender for good hotpot popped up in Chinatown, it is very close to Little Lamb Hotpot, and even the name sounds similar! One is a sheep, the other a lamb. HAHA.

Actually, I still prefer Little Lamb’s broth and ingredients, HOWEVER Little Sheep Hotpot is considerably cheaper, and the thing is, Little Sheep’s broth and ingredients are pretty good too. It is not like it really paled in comparison to Little Lamb. (OMG all the sheep and lamb is making me very confused.)

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The $10.95 set meal in Little Sheep Hotpot. Includes noodles and rice too!

One good thing about Little Sheep Hotpot is that they have a set meal which costs just $10.95. It includes the soup, lots of veggies, one type of meat, dipping sauces, and a few meatballs. I say it is a very good deal! Because half the time I can’t even finish it!

It also has an all-you-can-eat option, at $20 plus, however I don’t eat that much. The set meal is already good enough. The ACYE option would be really great for those with big appetites though.

P.S: realised that I typed this out long ago and forgot to publish. So I’m publishing it now!

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What I Will Miss Most About Leaving Chicago

Now that I am one month away from returning to Singapore, I am actively looking for good pastel classes in Singapore so that I can continue pursuing my hobby. BUT there are absolutely no results.

Seriously?!

And this is what I will miss most about leaving Chicago. The ample choices for adult art classes, priced at affordable rates. Everything in Chicago is about double the price of Singapore’s, after factoring in the currency conversion. Only art classes are half the price that of Singapore!!!!

I now feel very thankful that I spent quite a lot of my time taking art classes in Chicago, each class is 3 hours long, costing less than 50 SGD. After researching on Singapore’s art classes, I realised that it can easily cost 100 SGD for a 1.5 hour class. RIDICULOUS! And thing is, the teachers charging such prices don’t seem that good either judging from their portfolio on the website. SIGH. I have a feeling that I will go back to the rat race, and lose touch with my artistic pursuits once I’m back in Singapore.

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Review of Korean Drama “Defendant”

Just finished watching hit Korean drama “Defendant” and I am truly blown away by this gripping and intense thriller which made me suffer from anxiety attacks at times cos it was just so exciting!

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The concept of this drama is quite interesting, basically it is about a prosecutor who wakes up one day and discovers that he is suddenly in jail with a death sentence for murdering his wife and child. Unfortunately he has no memory of it as he suffered from amnesia, and it is a drama of him trying to make sense of his situation and escaping from this nightmare bit by bit.

I thought the first 20 minutes was quite blah, as it just featured the main lead being a prosecutor catching criminals, but thankfully I persevered on because after that it was a total rollercoaster ride.

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The show showed things from the defendant’s point of view so viewers were kept in the dark together with him when he was suffering from memory loss, and as a result it makes things very interesting for viewers, piquing our curiosity as to what exactly happened. Did the defendant really murder his wife and child even though he loves them so much? But all evidence points towards him, and he even admitted to the murder before he got his amnesia. So what truly happened? Can the defendant really be trusted? And how is he going to get out of this situation? All these questions were answered bit by bit throughout the episodes and all episodes were fast-paced and action-packed.

It helped that there was a formidable opponent/antagonist in the drama who happened to be a total pyscho, but a rich and powerful one, which means he can get away with anything, thereby always preventing the protagonist from truly escaping from the nightmarish reality.

Focused Plotline

This is a drama with zero romance, and is very much focused on the defendant trying to prove his innocence, and the antagonist trying his best to prevent him from proving his innocence. I like that the storyline is very focused, and every single one in the show acted quite well. I also like the moments of camaraderie among the prisoners, and the occasional comic relief they provided which alleviated the very intense mood of the whole drama.

10/10 drama

I watched “Defendant” after watching “Voice”. I thought “Voice” was good enough, but “Defendant” blew me away. I feel that “Defendant” is still a tad more intense and gripping. And I think it is a drama worthy of getting 10/10. It is just how good it is.

 

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