Compilation of Asia’s Top Stars: Chinese, Korean, and Japanese – can you tell who is who?
Four years ago, I was at my friend’s house and another house guest of hers asked me what my ethnicity was. Before I could answer, he asked, “Are you Korean?” And I said no and told him I was Chinese. And he responded saying “You know that’s a compliment, right? Generally westerners agree that Koreans are the most attractive East Asians.”
At first I was flattered but then I became perplexed and even offended by his comment. Westerners really think Koreans are most attractive? Since when? Why do they think that? I knew Japanese culture was pretty big at that point, what with anime, its advanced technology and unique culture, but what did Westerners see in Korea that I didn’t?
Now putting aside the fact that some people may just be taking the comment as a pick-up line (the guy was clearly in his sixties), that was the first time in my life that I was exposed to a westerner’s perspective of Korean people. The exchange may have been brief and insignificant to some, but several years later, I would come to understand the meaning behind those words.
At that time I had no exposure to kpop and had no idea of the massive influence it would grow to have in terms of spreading the Hallyu Wave around the world.
It all changed when I traveled to China three years ago. At the time, I went into a CD store, looking for popular Chinese pop music to put on my iPod. However, as soon as I went in, a store worker came up to me and asked me if I had heard of a Korean boy group named Super Junior. I said no and she proceeded to show me posters of them and said that their latest album “Sorry Sorry” had sold more copies than any other album in the past couple of months. I was instantly attracted to the handsome faces, sleek and fashionable outfits and decided to give the album a go. When I listened to the music, I was greeted by fast-paced beats, catchy melodies, modern synths, and professional production quality I had not before heard from Chinese pop. And although I couldn’t understand a word that was sung (or rapped), I was instantly hooked.
This was the beginning of my complicated love affair with k-pop. Little did I know at the time that it would explode to become the biggest cultural phenomenon to come from Asia in decades.
At first, I was stunned to discover that there were many other k-pop fanatics just like me, living in countries around the world, some of whom had never met Asians before! So what was the big deal about k-pop? What metaphorical crack did k-pop hide in their songs and music videos that continued to draw in the crowds, gaining more and more devoted fans each and every year?
To be continued…
I’m not really big on drama recaps, because they take a lot of time to write and make, and I’m more about discussing the actual story line and plot developments versus the little minutiae of what happened.
Let me start off by saying I absolutely adore this drama. As much as I loved the first season, this second season has gotten me hook, line, and sinker. I don’t think I’ll ever love a drama (in whatever language) as much as I love this one. I’ve also been watching “Big,” but that drama just doesn’t get me in the heart or the gut. “I Need Romance” gets me everywhere. It’s a drama that absolutely, completely understands me and the complexities of the human heart.
I like discussing this drama based on relationships, rather than by episode, so I’ll start off with the season’s OTP:
Yeolmae + Seokhyun
What Yeolmae says about Seokhyun:
“This man, who exists to be the most distant and strangest person, sometimes approaches me , in an uncomparable way, as the closest person to me. I like that about this man. The reason why I got back with him five times after breaking up with him five times was because I loved that about this man.”
These two…they have so much backstory that I don’t know where to start with them. I’ve never had a 12 year-long relationship with any guy before, but I’d imagine it would be amazing. In the case of these two, it’s having grown up together, having broken up many times but having gotten back together an equal number of times, still loving each other despite full knowing each other’s flaws and ticks (and not necessarily positive ones).
Yeolmae states many times (to herself) that she loves Seokhyun and that she has never stopped loving him in their long 12 year relationship. She’s just like any other girl – she gets angry when he ignores her due to his own emotions and inability to express himself and she gets jealous when he flirts with other girls. What more can we expect from her?
In the last episode (6), we see that she goes to great lengths to find out if Seokhyun actually, truly loves her. He’s often affectionate towards her, but his eyes wander, so it’s no surprise she wants a definite answer from him. Hell, if a guy was playing around with my emotions like that, I’d want an answer too! But no matter what she does, Seokyun will not budge and tell her his true feelings. As the audience, we know that he loves her. We know that he looks after her when she’s not looking, and I like that in a guy. He’s does things for a girl but doesn’t tell her – he’s not the type to boost his ego by taking credit of every nice thing he does for the girl.
The one gripe I have to the Yeolmae character is that she feels the need to marry by the age of 30. As the audience, we can see that that was one of the biggest obstacles in Yeolmae and Seokhyun’s relationship. He loves her but he doesn’t want to get married. She is scared of being alone forever (I mean, she had invested 12 years of her life with this one man!), so she wants some stability. Personally, I don’t think making it legally bound (aka getting married) makes a relationship any better. If someone’s going to have wandering eyes when you’re just dating, they’re going to have wandering eyes if you’re married. It’s as simple as that. I think in the end Yeolmae realizes this – that marriage doesn’t define a relationship. It’s each other’s commitment that does, and she has never had a definite answer from Seokhyun. I can understand where she’s coming from. She’s not desperate; she just loves the man and she needs an answer from him. What’s desperate about that?
The one thing I really liked that Yeolmae did is that she jumped into the water, holding her breath under there, and said she wouldn’t come up until Seokhyun gave her an answer. I honestly thought that would persuade him to actually say SOMETHING but no, he just walks away! What if she had drowned, you jerk? I think he knows her well enough to know she’s not going to let herself drown, but still, cold-hearted much?
I think the series is hinting that we’ll continue to see more inside Seokhyun’s brain, which I’m really looking forward to. Right now, his character is a real enigma. His actions and his words are contradictory; his actions speak more to the fact that he does love her and his words are cowardly, showing no commitment or definite answers. I’m really curious to see how he really feels in the episodes to come.
Yeolmae and Jihoon
This is the second main pairing of the drama. As much as I didn’t want to like Jihoon (since I liked Seokhyun right off the bat), I’m really growing to like his character. Versus Seokhyun, who seems suffer from immature artist syndrome (he is a screenwriter after all), Jihoon is calm, collected, and oozes confidence and sexiness like no other cafe owner I’ve seen. I don’t know what it is, but I can see him having chemistry with any girl…hell any guy!…or even a cat. He’s just that sexy. He lights up the screen whenever he’s on it, and we haven’t seen too much of him yet, but boy am I excited for him to get more screen time now that he’s confessed to Yeolmae that he likes her.
What I like about this show is that Yeolmae, our female protagonist, isn’t drop-dead-gorgeous. She’s petite and pretty, like many other Korean drama protagonists, and the guys know this. Jihoon basically states outright (to the audience) that she’s not very pretty and that she doesn’t have a very good figure. He also said that she was on the short side. So the guys aren’t after her due to her stunning good looks, which makes me like these guys so much more. The guys have respect for her and aren’t just after sex. Good to know.
We haven’t seen too much of this couple yet, but it’s interesting to see the backstory between the two. Jihoon met Yeolmae when he took a guitar class and she was the teacher. She didn’t really recognize him, but years later, she ended up taking a coffee class where Jihoon was the teacher. Cool reversal, huh? Jihoon says that Yeolmae is his “fate girl” – not sure what that means, but sounds interesting.
Jihee and Her Jerk Boyfriend & Taewoo
Sorry, I legit forgot the jerk boyfriend’s name. But he really doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned by name, because from now henceforward he will forever be dubbed “The Jerk Boyfriend.” I don’t even know what to say about him, because he really is like the lowest of scum without cheating (hope he hasn’t been doing that!). I mean, what kind of boyfriend forces his girlfriend to have sex and then complain that she’s not making it fun for him? And then he goes ahead an installs a mirror above her dresser so he can see the two from an aerial view while they make out. What the hell???? He’s simply out of his mind. Dude, I know that you’re sick of “not getting any,” but indulging in your sick fetishes is just downright gross. Do the girl a favor and dump her, because she’s so scared of you she doesn’t have to courage to do it herself.
In comes in the Knight in Shining Armor, Taewoo. Granted, he’s not that perfect, which is probably a good thing. I don’t really find him very attractive (there’s just something about this face), but he’s like a million steps up form the Jerk Boyfriend, so I really don’t mind. Jihee’s character is definitely my least favorite out of the female trio, mostly because her character is the most naive and is such a pushover. She just lets her Jerk Boyfriend stomp all over her, and then when it comes to a guy that’s actually decent to her, she’s nothing but ungrateful towards him. What gives, girl? You need to come to your senses and realize who’s actually worth keeping in your life and who needs to go, go, go? I’ll give her some more time to figure out her life before I totally lose faith in her character.
Jaekyung and Cheating Husband & Jeongmin
Out of all the characters, I identify most with Jaekyung. She’s basically your ballsy, go-getter girl and she doesn’t take any bullshit. However, as strong as she is, she caved and married a rich announcer instead of the man she loves, Jeongmin. Actually, I might actually do the same thing in the future. I identify with Jaekyung because she’s very ambitious and stops at nothing (not even love) to get what she wants in life. If that involves marrying a man of means, it might as well be a done deal.
However, her husband has been cheating with her from day one, and as a woman in Korea, she has a lot fewer options than a man in the same situation would. Her husband is a well-known announcer, similar to level of a chaebol or a famous politician, so a scandal would most definitely be caught by the press and their breakup would be very damaging to the person the public deems to be in the wrong. In this case, Jaekyung’s scheming (and I hate to say it, but smart) husband beats her to the chase and frames her and her lover Jeongmin for cheating, while he tells the public that “suffered a lot because he truly loved her.” That’s what you get for having a lot of money and power, huh?
In the end, I’m glad Jaekyung was brave and faced the press like a champ and said that although her husband provided her with everything, she loves another man. Such bravery. And the advice came from none other than Seokhyun, who seems immature given his interactions with Yeolmae, but is actually incredibly intelligent and insightful. He basically said that although she’s the one who will be met with criticism and although it will be difficult, she has to overcome it by proving her competence and good character to everyone she meets. (Think of it as catching Hilary Clinton cheating on Bill. She would be met with dirty looks everywhere she goes in America. Korean society just doesn’t give women the same leeway it gives men, but that’s a story for another day). Jaekyung’s the one who was the good better person by not giving in to her husband’s scheming ways. She doesn’t have to feel any guilt for what happened. Her dignity is left in tact. And her husband? Forever burning in hell for his unforgivable actions. The drama basically implies that we humans don’t have to try to play the Grand Judge: karma will eventually come to bite those who are evil.
So that ends my rather long analysis of the relationships in I Need Romance, season 2 (up to episode 6). I’ll probably do another one of these at the end of the season, just to keep from making y’all bored by reading too much of my nonsense. And if you haven’t seen the drama, watch it here :)