The very first Korean drama penned by the now famous Hong Sisters (Master's Sun, My Girl, My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho) Delightful Girl Chun-hyang (2005) proved phenomenally successful during its run, starting around 11% ratings nationwide and quickly rising to a peak viewership rating of 32.2%. It remains the highest rated drama they have penned. It was slated to be a 16 episode K-drama originally, but with its popularity soaring they added a 17th episode to please the fans (and to keep the gravy train rolling in terms of advertising dollars!). The same thing happened with Master's Sun, which I consider the Hong Sisters' best written drama: it was originally supposed to be 16 episodes but an additional episode was added due to the show's popularity. (It's not a rare occurrence in the world of K-dramas: the same thing happened with My Love From Another Star, which was originally slated for 20 episodes but ran to 21 because of its enormous popularity). So in regard to the odd numbered episode shows you can pretty much guarantee they were ratings' hits.
I decided to watch this romantic comedy because I had tried several newer melodramas in a row which I quit watching because they just didn't capture my attention. They were depressing. I decided to try this show because of the Hong Sisters' track record in writing enjoyable shows, and I was amazed that in the first ten minutes I was howling with laughter. I had found my show! I was also thrilled that it starred an actor whom I think is drop-dead gorgeous, Jae Hee, from the famous Ki Duk Kim film 3-Iron (2004), which I consider a masterpiece. The actress, Han Chae Young, had become famous playing the grown up biological daughter who was switched at birth as a baby with Song Hye Kyo's character in the classic Autumn In My Heart (2000). Second male lead was handsome Uhm Tae-woong (Queen Seondeok and the hit film Architecture 101) who becomes obsessed with the lead female character. Second female lead was Park Si-eun (The Iron Empress, Finding Dorothy) who played the first love of the lead male character.
The show was loosely based on an old Korean legend Tale of Chunhyang about a girl who only loved one man, her husband, even though it could mean her early death due to another man obsessing over her and trying to keep her from him. (There is a 2000 film called Chunhyang starring the actor from The Classic Seung Woo Cho, but I didn't care for that film too much). Even the names of the characters in this drama are the same as the names from the legend. Because of the link to the old legend, this show begins in the Joseon era and spoofed the popularity of CGI-based special effects martial arts seen in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) from China, where soldiers fly over buildings and trees to engage in battle. (Thank goodness drama and film producers have gotten away from that kind of silliness). Then this show cuts to a modern tale, but at the end of each episode the same actors are seen in period costumes, acting out various common scenes typical in Korean historical dramas. I found all this spoofing at the end of each episode hilarious, especially when a character dressed in a period costume would whip out a cell phone to call someone! Those Hong Sisters really know how to write comedy. That's their strong point and they shouldn't try anything else.
Actress Han Chae Young and Actor Jae Hee in Delightful Girl Chun-hyang -- they had nice chemistry together
They also both had small cameo type roles in My Girl, the next romantic comedy the Hong Sisters wrote
The Story: Lee Mong-ryong (Jae Hee), son of a decorated chief of police (played beautifully by veteran actor Ahn Suk Wan from Personal Taste - in fact this is the best performance I've ever seen him give!), is transferred from Seoul to a high school in Namwon due to his constant fighting and poor grades; he never seems to apply himself in life in a serious way and his father worries he'll end up a hoodlum. He accidentally bumps into Sung Chun-hyang (Han Chae Young) in an historical park, the top student in her school, and inadvertently shoots embarrassing photos of her panties, and ends up switching her cell phone with his. As a result they are constantly in touch with each other in a caustic way due to them both wanting their own cell phones back, and then they find out that they attend the same high school. Mong-ryong the bad student constantly teases Chun-hyang the excellent student and eventually makes her fall sick due to his pranks. Feeling guilty when he hears she is ill, he visits her at home while her mother is working, only to mistakenly drink a whole bottle of fruit wine that her mother had made, assuming it is non-alcoholic. He later falls asleep on the only bed in the house, which is the one Chun-hyang is also sleeping in. They spend the night together, though nothing sexual occurs: she's sick and he's passed out. However, when parents find out what happened there is hell to pay.
The embarrassing information is accidentally announced over the school speaker systems. The school is in an uproar of gossip about it, assuming they had been intimate. In order to save their reputations after the school administration threatens to kick them out of school so close to graduation, they are forced to marry each other to save face, and to pretend they are in love. Secretly Lee Mong-ryong's father is pleased; he likes Chun-hyang and arranges a deal where he will pay her college tuition if she will cause his son to finally apply himself to his studies. She agrees and tutors him religiously, so much so that he is accepted by one of the top colleges, the same school Chun-hyang also plans on attending.
However, Mong-ryong's long time noona crush, Hong Chae-rin (Park Si-eun) comes back into his life. After being dumped by her boyfriend (a bit part for actor Park Shi Hoo, one of my favorites), Chae-rin discovers Mong-ryong's "marriage" and tries to win him back out of jealousy; she almost succeeds, but through her efforts to come on to him he starts to realize he actually loves his wife and not her. There is also the problem of Byun Hak-do (Uhm Tae-woong), an extremely successful talent agency director who falls in love with Chun-hyang after meeting her by chance and being impressed by her honesty, beauty, and talent, and he tries to win her away from her husband. For awhile she is flattered by his attentions but she too realizes she really only loves Mong-ryong.
The ever present male star eye candy in Chun-hyang's life makes her one enviable lady: actors Jae Hee and Uhm Tae-woong play rivals for her heart
Chun-hyang's mother, a nightclub singer, gets cheated out of a large sum of money and disappears from her daughter's life. Chun-hyang is now without family support and out of pride she does not take Mong-ryong's father's offer of the tuition money, even though she was responsible for getting his son accepted at university. (I thought that was her biggest mistake in the show! She earned it!). She decides to put college off for a year to work hard and earn the money herself. She leaves Mong-ryong's house and tells him they should separate now and he is devastated. Mong-ryong tries many ways to admit to her he loves her now but she doesn't believe him due to Chae-rin's constant efforts to get him back. When he finally confesses outright, she rejects him, claiming she never loved him because of Chae-rin's harsh statement that Mong-ryong merely pities her and wishes only to pay her back. Then at a dramatic moment they both admit they love each other, and they finally plan a real marriage ceremony between themselves, however their happiness is too brief.
Byun Hak-do, being rich, arrogant, handsome and successful, assumes he could have any woman he wants, but when Chun-hyang rejects him it drives him crazy, and he attempts to win her away from her husband through blackmail, setting up a situation where it looks like Mong-ryong assaulted a woman in a parking garage and editing a security camera tape to make it look like he was the woman's assailant. If this information becomes public Mong-ryong could go to jail and there goes his chance to go to college and make something of himself in life. His past history of getting into fights would not help him either if the case went public.
The woman involved in the assault case was hired by Director Byun for a large sum of money. There would be no way Mong-ryong could convince a jury that he was actually trying to help the woman, not hurt her. To save Mong-ryong, so that he can go on to college and live a successful life, Chun-hyang agrees to divorce him and become Director Byun's fiance instead. Myong-ryong is grief-stricken and never really believes her protestations that she never really loved him. She agrees to leave for Japan with Director Byun but at the last minute she leaves the plane, making an excuse that she needs the bathroom, and then disappears for years from both Byun's and Mong-ryong's life.
Chun-hyang fulfills the legend of only loving one man her entire life
Mong-ryong tries to move on with his life, and eventually graduates from law school and becomes a famous prosecutor and district attorney in Seoul. Chun-hyang has been hiding in Busan for years and now owns a successful accessories company. Director Byun returns from Japan and people assume that his "fiance" is still there as well. At the wedding of Mong-ryong's and Chun-hyang's two best friends, Bang Ji-hyuk (Moon Ji-yoon) and Han Dan-hee (Kang Ji-Young), Chun-hyang sneaks in to drop off a present, and as she leaves, Byun sees her.
In a rush to leave so that she isn't caught by either man, she accidentally scrapes the car next to her, which is incidentally Mong-ryong's car. The two start a heated argument over the phone about the fender bender, not recognizing each others' voices after so many years. Chun-hyang's assistant ends up meeting Mong-ryong to pay for the damages to his car. Several crooks who had been trailing Mong-ryong the D.A. assume the assistant is an informant and kidnap him. After Mong-ryong and the police rescue him, he leaves with Chun-hyang. Mong-ryong is informed that the wedding picture from high school that Mong-ryong and Chun-hyang took was among the documents the assistant had in his possession. Mong-ryong finally realizes that Chun-hyang was not with Director Byun all these years. He eventually finds Chun-hyang again, who spurns him as she is still worried about Byun's threats regarding the old doctored videotape which would implicate Mong-ryong in a crime. Mong-ryong starts investigating Byun's company for illegal activities.
Will Mong-ryong ever succeed in uncovering Byun's illegal activities, and putting the crooks behind bars who are after him due to all his successes in exposing the top brass in their organization? Will he ever succeed in winning Chun-hyang back to him, or will her own life be put in jeopardy from the thugs he seeks to arrest? Delightful Girl Choon Hyang is very entertaining and boasts a capable and attractive cast, plus a nice music score (it is available for download on I-Tunes). It does have an unusual twist of being part comedy and part melodrama. Some people gravitate to that but others prefer a more consistent genre of K-drama. Personally I quite enjoy a show that mixes comedy with melodrama, but what I have troubles with is when there is an abrupt change in a show's direction: for this one it's basically a romantic comedy up to about episode 13 out of 17, but then when several years pass in the characters' lives the show becomes mostly a melodrama with crime elements thrown in and only touches of comedy here and there. The last episodes rated over 30% for this show so obviously the change didn't lose ratings for the Hong Sisters!
You can buy a DVD Set at AMAZON. Enjoy!
Park Shi Hoo, what are you doing with the leading lady???