This is a Korean drama about a famous novelist named Han Se Joo struggling with writer's block, who begins to rely on a real GHOSTwriter named Yoo Jin Oh to help him out with a new project, and a female anti-fan named Jeon Seol who becomes a lifelong fan, as well as, ultimately, his love interest.
During this entire series I kept saying to my kids, "If I was ever to write a Korean drama THIS is the one I would want to write!". In the first twenty minutes I was hooked and couldn't bear to tear myself away from the action. Waiting for the next episodes was grueling. Chicago Typewriter (2017) has EVERYTHING a long time lover of Korean dramas waits patiently for: peerless writing that actually teaches the viewer something instead of just entertaining them (thank you Jin Soo Wan!), perfect production values representing two different time periods, an experienced, lively, funny and sexy cast, expert cinematography, deft direction, superb costume design, unique music that doesn't sound like the same old, same old (I immediately bought the official music CD on Amazon after seeing the first episode, before it would go out of print!), and fantasy elements to transport you from the commonplace into the rare.
No matter what this series was going to be about, when I heard the lead actress was going to be Su Jeong Im, who was the thespian who began my All Things Korean Kraze in 2006 when I was blown away by her performance in the psychological thriller classic 2003 film A Tale Of Two Sisters, I knew I would be committed to watching it. The very first K-drama I ever watched was in 2006 after seeing her in that film; I went online to search for what else she had done and found the classic romantic melodrama I'm Sorry, I Love You, was bowled over by that, and essentially I never looked back. I barely watch anything anymore produced by Hollywood; it cannot compare one iota to the brilliance of the artistic shows coming out of South Korea. They have excellent drama making down to a science. After that 2004 drama Su went to doing films until 2017, so I knew that whatever would entice her to come back to the small screen it would have to be something extra special, and it was. She would not be attracted to come back for anything redundant or routine. She's just not that type of person. She's brilliant at what she does.
Su Jeong Im's Characters in Chicago Typewriter
2017 and the 1930's
Also, I'm sure it didn't hurt her decision-making for this drama that her male co-stars were two of the most attractive in the business right now, Yoo Ah In (Jang Ok Jung, Living in Love, Sungkyunkwan Scandal) and Ko Gyung Po (Jealousy Incarnate, Operation Proposal, Tomorrow's Cantabile). Although she was their sunbae (senior) by several years their chemistry together was utterly fantastic and the primary highlight of the show. Love Noona Romances (older woman, younger men).
The Story: We are introduced to wildly popular Han Se Joo (Yoo Ah In), a novelist writer along the lines of Stephen King, and he's almost a cult figure to his fans. When he goes on publicity tours to promote his novels he is mobbed by autograph hounds and crazy people who would love to say they exchanged a few words with him. He's charismatic and rich beyond measure, owning a mansion when he's still only in his twenties, but he isolates himself a lot from the world, for reasons that are slowly revealed as the story progresses.
On a tour of America to promote his latest book he discovers a unique antique typewriter in a Chicago cafe that intrigues him because the keys have Hangul letters on them instead of English letters. The business proprietor tells him it's a Korean typewriter from the 1930's. Se Joo asks if he can buy it from him but the proprietor firmly says no, it's priceless ... when he leaves Se Joo alone with it the darn thing spooks him by speaking to him! Is it haunted? He sees a vision in his mind of a girl dressed in boy's clothes (Su Jeong Im) and she tells a man who looks just like him to write something beautiful, instead of something cheap and junky that will sell well.
After Se Joo leaves, the proprietor is spooked by the haunted typewriter too, and eventually he decides to mail it as a gift to Se Joo when he's back in Korea, just to get rid of it. Turns out that inside the typewriter is a ghost named Yoo Jin Oh (Ko Gyung Po) who is determined to come out and make Se Joo's acquaintance (or is that really his re-acquaintance?).
Next we meet a lapsed veterinarian - now a scooter delivery girl named Jeon Seol (Su Jeong Im) who is called to deliver the mysterious typewriter in its mailing box to the mansion of Se Joo, and she is thrilled to learn who lives inside the place for he's a writer she has been obsessed with for several years. She had actually met him years earlier, before he was famous, and had been kind to him, a struggling writer.
Se Joo doesn't trust strangers and when Jeon Seol comes to his place to deliver the package neither does he remember her, or want to trust her, telling her to leave it by the gated front door to his mansion. She insists she has to deliver it in person because that's what the instructions say, but he refuses to open the gated door.
Then, magically, a friendly shaggy dog accomplishes the impossible for her, getting the gate to open, and leading her up to Se Joo's front door. When Se Joo opens it the dog runs inside and Jeon Seol is finally able to meet Se Joo, only he is very rude to her, making her his anti-fan instead of his fan. Later we discover that the ghost who was in the typewriter had moved from the typewriter to possessing that shaggy dog! He wants to get into that mansion to meet Se Joo, too!
When the two men (or one man, and one ghost) meet and get to know each other it's often hilarious, but sometimes dark and troubling as well. The ghost seems to have few memories of his past life, he doesn't remember how he died, and he hopes Se Joo can help him remember. In turn, Se Joo, struggling with writer's block, begins to depend more and more on the writing skills of this real ghostwriter, who starts typing up a story based on Korean political torment in the 1930's. The characters in the story are very much like Se Joo and Jin Oh. Could he actually be starting to remember past events in their previous lives, and were the two men personally connected, but with different names? Se Joo keeps seeing visions in his dreams of 1930's Korea - and then begins to doubt they are only dreams.
The ghost also develops a huge crush on Jeon Seol, although she can't see him (at first), which surprisingly makes Se Joo more and more jealous of him, and makes him aware that he might just be falling in love with this perky delivery girl who keeps popping back into his life. Jin Oh relishes popping back into that shaggy dog so he can get more hugs from Jeon Seol! Clever dog ghost!
How to make Jill go "Awwwwwww!" :)
As time goes on it becomes obvious that this drama has elements of reincarnation to it, where the three main characters Se Joo the writer, Jeon Seol the delivery girl now anti-fan, and the ghost Jin Oh, had all been friends together during the 1930's when Japan controlled Korea. Se Joo had been named Seo Hwi Young, Jeon Seol was named Ryu Soo Hyun, and Jin Oh was Shin Yool.
It was a time of national rebellion and struggle, and the three friends were involved in a secret organization to rout the Japanese from their land. Each friend in some capacity worked at a popular nightclub called Carpe Diem, but had secret meetings with others where they planned to overthrow the Japanese. (The puppet Korean president of the time, at the beck and call of Japan, was actually the father of Korea's recent female president who was impeached and removed from office).
Jeon Seol passes herself off as a boy in public but the two men know the truth; she is taught how to shoot and becomes an expert marksman (or is that excellent marks-woman?). It's a skill that she seems to have talent for even in her modern day reincarnation. (In fact in the very last episode she cutely says 'thank you' to the guys for allowing her to become an expert sniper and for some reason that line made me burst out laughing).
They all wait for the day when their overthrow of the oppressed government will take place, in a surprise move against the occupying Japanese forces. Jeon Seol at night takes off her tomboy clothes and dresses femininely and sings on stage at Carpe Diem to help everyone relieve tension. (I loved watching Su singing in these scenes!).
In the modern time line, we continue to follow our writer Se Joo who is working closely now with the ghost Jin Oh on his new novel based on 1930's Korean freedom fighters. Words come fast and furious when they realize that Se Joo's dreams are actual memories that are slowly resurfacing. Se Joo still has problems trusting people, stemming from his broken family where his mentally disturbed step-brother Baek Tae Min (Kwak Si Yang) had stolen his first novel and passed it off as his own and it had become a wild success. Se Joo had never said anything in an attempt to keep the peace in his fractured family. This creepy brother also tries to befriend Jeon Seol out of jealousy, when he sees Se Joo falling in love with her. When Tae Min's feelings for her are not reciprocated he plans revenge on them both. (This character also ends up a betrayer in the 1930's as well).
Chicago Typewriter Features Some Of The Best KDrama Kisses Ever
(You might need to turn your A/C lower while watching, haha!)
In the past timeline we follow Se Joo's previous reincarnation as Seo Hwi Young, where he also happened to be a writer, but an unsuccessful one, bound by the rigid rules of the time he lived in, rather than the success he has experienced in the freedom of the present day. In the 1930’s he had two people in his small circle who had brought him laughter and inspiration on a daily basis; will this situation be replicated in the modern day? When will Jeon Seol see Jin Oh? And which man was Jeon Seol really in love with in the past as Ryu Soo Hyun, and which man (or ghost) will she truly fall in love with in the present day? What will ultimately happen to our gentlemanly ghost? How come he wasn't reincarnated but his two friends were? Could one of them have been responsible for the death of the others? Will their rebellion against the Japanese in the 1930's be successful, or will the Japanese win the day and end up tearing our three friends apart permanently?
When He Rips Her Purse That Could Be A Moment
Straight Out Of Bringing Up Baby from the 1930's,
With Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant
Chicago Typewriter has lots of fun side characters as well as the main characters but I'll let you discover their delights by yourself. This is definitely one of the top five Korean dramas for 2017 and it's not to be missed. It's just about perfect. You can watch it at Viki at this link. Enjoy!
HOME TO KOREAN DRAMA REVIEWS
CHICAGO TYPEWRITER PHOTO GALLERY
Yet another Korean actor who deserves to be first male lead!