KDRAMALOVE KOREAN DRAMA REVIEWS

Green Rose
그린로즈 (2005) SBS 22 Episodes
Romance, Melodrama, Grade: B-



Korean Drama Review by Alison, USA

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After seeing the Korean drama Miss Ripley I became a big fan of the lovely and delicate actress Da-hae Lee, who was so good at playing a con woman (I thought the actress had a bit of Holly Golightly about her in those short, tight skirts and the way she played on the sympathies of men). So I was interested in seeing her in an earlier role as the heroine of the drama Green Rose (2005) where she is just as pretty, and also pretty convincing as the sweet and loyal heroine (the opposite of Miss Ripley!).


As I watched the plot of Green Rose unfold, I thought that it might have been somewhat inspired by the classic story of The Count of Monte Cristo (where the hero who was thought dead returns in a successful and wealthy new identity to confront those who wronged him). Then I thought it was basically going to be a revenge drama against the sneaky villain. However, Green Rose turned out to be more of a “justice seeking” drama with a stoic and rather Zen hero – refreshing in that he is not wreaking all sorts of havoc on his enemies but simply trying to prove his innocence and get his life (and his true love) back. Since this is an older drama, Green Rose seemed rather quaint and tame in comparison to recent melodramas that have a lot more bite. Still, I enjoyed it and rooted for the two lovers and I think most viewers will.  

The story begins with a high speed chase and what seems to be the suicide of the hero, Lee Jung-hyun (who in voice-over laments that he could have been happy, if only...). Then we flash back a couple of years, showing how Jung-hyun (Soo Go, who starts off bland but grows on you as the drama progresses) was originally leading a life of great promise. He and his best friend, Dong-wook (the appealing and cute Hoon Jung Sang)  have been hired by the major corporation SR Electronics. They meet a lovely co-worker, Oh Soo-ah (Da-hae Lee), who is a bit snippy with them, but Jung-hyun is attracted anyway. Jung-hyun is a good guy, serious, with a kind heart, and a loving relationship with his mother, a humble woman equally devoted to her son. Soo-ah is quite standoffish with Jung-hyun at first, but then they go on some sort of corporate challenge where she falls and sprains her ankle. He is the one who comes to her aid, and she is charmed by his caring ministrations (and his dark good looks). They have to spent the night together waiting to be rescued and from that point, they are mutually attracted.


So fast forward and these two have been dating for about a year. However, in all that time, Soo-ah has neglected to tell her boyfriend one little thing – they are from dramatically different social circles, as she is not just an employee at the company they both work for, she is the daughter of its chairman. (You would think Jung-hyun might have gotten a little suspicious when she avoids having him meet any member of her family for a whole year). 

Finally she realizes that if they are ever going to marry she has to let him know about her true background and obtain her father’s approval to the match. Rather than breaking it to her boyfriend gently, however, she decides to take the "smack him in the face with it" approach by inviting him to her father’s birthday party. Jung-hyun arrives at the mansion armed with a simple birthday gift (prepared by his mother) and naturally is overwhelmed when he realizes the difference in social status between him and Soo-ah. He feels betrayed and foolish, and is ready to call the whole thing off.  But he relents when she pleads with him to give her another chance. They declare their undying love, telling each other that their names are carved on the other’s heart forever (so romantic!) and plan for their future together no matter what.  

After the party, Jung-hyun gets a call from the chairman’s secretary, Yoo-ran (Seo-hyung Kim, nailing a difficult role as a woman who is equally smart and stupid) who instructs him to come to the family’s vacation house to meet with the chairman. A quick note here: Yoo-ran will become an important player in the story and in some ways, she is the one you feel the most sorry for because she is so hopelessly misguided. She's head over heels in love with the devious Hyun-tae (Jong-hyuk Lee, from A Gentleman's Dignity, also playing a complicated role as a man without conscience) who is a director at SR Electronics, and who has his own agenda to rise within the company. From the beginning, it is clear Yoo-ran will do anything for him, but he just sees her as his mistress who is just a means to an end (and someone to have sex with).


Meanwhile, Jung-hyun arrives at the chairman's house, but to his dismay he finds the older man unconscious on the floor. Then someone clocks him on the back of the head and he blacks out. When he gains consciousness, he finds that the house is on fire. He is able to carry Soo-ah's father to safety and collapses on the ground, as firefighters and police arrive. He and the father are taken to the hospital for treatment, where Jung-hyun's injuries are minor but the other man goes into intensive care and falls into a coma. 

However, instead of being regaled as a hero, Jung-hyun is arrested instantly as the prime suspect in the attempted murder of the chairman as well as arson. There is a quick trial, with the secretary Yoo-ran testifying against Jung-hyun by claiming that he was angry at the chairman and threatened his life.  The poor guy is sentenced to jail on the flimsiest of evidence and is hauled away.


Soo-ah and his mother remain determined to help him win his  freedom, but  Jung-hyun falls into despair and rejects his girlfriend, insisting that he is actually guilty so she will give up on him. You have to give this girl credit, because she sees through that ruse and remains loyal. It seems pretty hopeless for him, until .... In a pretty absurd development, his mother commits suicide!!! This is very logical -- she does it so that her son can get compassionate leave from  prison to attend her funeral. This, she has reasoned, will give him the opportunity to escape -- which he does pretty easily for someone in the custody of the police. 

Upon gaining his freedom, the first thing Jung-hyun wants to do is confront Yoo-ran, to find out who put her up to testifying against him. In all honesty, this part of the drama is pretty silly as he goes after her publicly, calling out her name to tip her off to his presence so she can run in the other direction. Meanwhile, the police are hot on his trail, already suspecting that he will show up at Yoo-ran's apartment to attack her... which he does. He breaks in and tries to force her to tell him the truth about the frame up that cost him everything. But the police are quick to arrive to the rescue. and Jung-hyun goes on the run again, stealing a car and giving them the chase we saw in the first moments of the show.

Our hero ends up cornered, and decides to end it all by jumping off a bridge, supposedly to his death. Instead, we see that he survived, and washed up on shore in some remote place.  Homeless, penniless, and friendless, he manages to try and contact Yoo-ran yet again, and learns she has been transferred to another office in Shanghai. So after a short time living on the streets. he stows away on a boat to that city and wonder of wonders, finds her again.




Yoo-ran's fortunes have also taken another turn once she arrived in Shanghai. Her lover Hyun-tae has betrayed her, setting her up for the false accusation that she is a corporate spy. She loses her job and her passport and winds up as a nightclub singer, desperately trying to contact Hyun-tae and not hearing a word back from him. Back in Korea, we see that Hyun-tae is busy running SR Electronics alongside Soo-ah, while the chairman remains in a coma. He is courting the pretty heiress by gaining her trust, and Yoo-ran is definitely in the way. Still, the besotted woman refuses to believe that her lover is behind all her troubles... until he tries to have her killed to get her to stop contacting him once and for all. Guess who rescues her from that attack? Jung-hyun, of course.

Finally Yoo-ran wises up (though not completely giving up on Hyun-tae, as we will see later) and joins forces with Jung-hyun.  He has been working at odd jobs, and has gained a new ally, a con artist named Choon-bok (Sang-myun Park, very appealing as the Korean drama stereotype of the older friend who knows the ropes and teaches the younger guy how to survive in a cruel world). The three of them form a pact to seek revenge on both Jung-hyun's enemies and the wicked Hyun-tae, though how they will go about all this is a bit murky, until...

Choon-bok accidentally tape records a conversation at the restaurant where he works (he has been bugging one of the rooms to overhear the conversations of a woman he is interested in who frequents the restaurant). That conversation reveals that a group of thugs are plotting to murder a Chinese business tycoon. Chen Daren, who owns the huge conglomerate Super Digital Enterprise (the thugs have been hired by a competitor company -- it is all sort of a Chinese Godfather situation).  The three Musketeers (along with a young boy whom Choon-bok has taken under his wing like Fagin with little Oliver Twist) decide that they will intercede and save this man's life, and then he will be forever grateful to them (and give them a financial reward)

They do succeed in saving his life, but instead of being grateful, he has them imprisoned in his cellar. Jung-hyun escapes and goes to the wealthy man's bedroom with a weapon, offering it up to him to prove that he has no bad intentions. Turns out the mogul was only testing his rescuers to see whether they were part of the original murder plot. Now he is in their debt and offers them whatever they most want as a reward. The three adults wind up with prestigious jobs with his huge corporation (the little boy disappears from the canvas at this point), complete with new identities that will eventually enable them to return to Korea without fear of being immediately arrested.


A few years pass, and finally Jung-hyun makes his move to try and reclaim his life. He has learned fluent Chinese and has a new identity. By that point, Soo-ah is still in love with his memory, but she is also on the verge of succumbing to the proposal of Hyun-tae because she feels obligated to him for all the "kindness" he has shown her. Her father, the chairman, remains in a coma but has been showing some signs of regaining consciousness (which delights Soo-ah but is clearly making some others nervous). SR Electronics is making its pitch to secure a merger with Super Digital Enterprise, the Chinese corporation where Jung-hyun, under his new Chinese identity, is now a president. Imagine Soo-ah's reaction when she first meets the new emissary who calls himself Zhang Zhongyuan but looks exactly like her lost love ... but who coolly pretends he has never met her before. Still, whoever he is, she is undeniably attracted to him and that wicked Hyun-tae is instantly suspicious, jealous, and determined to have this interloper either exposed for his true identity or dead.

By this time, Yoo-ran has also fallen for Jung-hyun and makes overtures to him, which he kindly rebuffs. But she remains obsessed with Hyun-tae as well, slipping into his apartment when he is not there to do a little discreet vandalism and resentful to find that he is now himself obsessed with Soo-ah. You never quite know what her motivations are or how loyal to Jung-hyun she really is. At times I found myself shouting at the screen because her behavior was so foolish. But I also felt sympathy for her because there was no happy ending seemingly waiting in the wings for Yoo-ran.

 
By now we are only about halfway through the drama, and the majority of the action thereafter focuses on Jung-hyun pretending to be someone else, trying to avoid being exposed, and hoping that he can find some evidence to clear himself (or that the chairman will recover and exonerate him). He hires an attorney, who in turn hires a policeman friend (one of the men who originally arrested Jung-hyun) to investigate how and why the young man was railroaded into prison. When will the truth come out? 

Overall, Green Rose is an engaging drama, though the pacing lags a bit. But the game of cat and mouse between good guys and bad guys is intriguing, and Jung-hyun is such a good guy, and the love between him and Soo-ah so enduring, that you really do root for him to get justice. As I mentioned, this is NOT a revenge drama per se, even though the characters talk about getting their revenge. Jung-hyun remains on the right side of the law (going about it the way an intelligent person would), even as slowly -- very slowly -- the pieces of the frame-up and the elements of conspiracy are exposed.


I wouldn't rate this drama as among my top favorites, but it is still an enjoyable series that I warmed up to more and more as it went along (and settled into less silliness). The actor Soo Go has a brooding, solemn quality that makes him a fine hero, and he has great chemistry with Dae-hae Lee, who comes across as a decent young woman who loves both her boyfriend and her father unconditionally. They are very convincing together as lovers. Jong-hyuk Lee makes a good villain as Hyun-tae; he is lean and petulantly handsome, with just the right touch of intelligence and mystery to keep you guessing about what his motives are. Se-hyung Kim as the rather tragic Yoo-ran exhibits the most versatility, changing her personality and her hair style and making you like her one minute, hate her the next, but mostly feel sorry for her being so deluded. The supporting actors, as always in Korean drama, are uniformly excellent and make an impact. And keep your eye on the handsome actor who plays Jung-hyun's Chinese bodyguard -- I don't know who the actor is, but he made quite an impression!

Oh and the Green Rose?  According to the drama, you only find it in heaven. Green Rose doesn't really reach the heavens, but as an earthly pleasure it fits the bill -- with one of the nicest heroes ever featured in a Korean drama, and one of the sweetest and purest of love stories.