Friend, Our Legend
친구, 우리들의 전설
MBC (2009) 20 Episodes
Melodrama, Organized Crime
Mature Audiences
Grades: A+ (Acting), B+ (Script)
Average Rating: A-
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
(Some Spoilers)

I had originally watched Friend, Our Legend (2009) way back in 2010, after I had watched Secret Garden (2010) and wanted to see Hyun Bin in a more serious role than his characters in the popular romantic comedies Secret Garden and My Lovely Sam Soon had provided him. (Although he had some incredibly serious scenes in Secret Garden as well, for example, that unforgettable elevator scene where his character had a claustrophobic meltdown because of reliving a trauma in his youth!).

Hyun Bin in Secret Garden (Top) and Friend, Our Legend (Bottom)

Hundreds of Korean dramas later I still had not written up a review for Friend, Our Legend, so I decided to track a copy down and re-watch it to refresh my memory of an often difficult drama to find and to watch (organized crime stories are really not my bag -- too much killing!). In this drama Hyun Bin was still technically second male lead; first male lead went to unfairly gorgeous actor Kim Min Joon, who had quite stolen my heart in Damo over the official male lead in that drama, Lee Seo Jin, who's never really floated my boat since I heard how he broke up with his actress girlfriend, delightful Kim Jung Eun, star of Lovers In Paris -- by text message! (Ugh! Not nice, jerk!).


Kim Min Joon in Friend, Our Legend (Top) and Damo (Bottom)
Now, Who Says Men With Long Hair Are Effeminate-Looking? ;)
Then to add even more attraction for me in Friend, Our Legend we also see featured another one of my long-term heart-throbs Seo Do Young from Spring Waltz. Now here is an accomplished actor I haven't been able to watch in too many dramas because the vast bulk of his work is on day dramas that can last 120 to 140 episodes each! I just can't watch any drama that long! So here, at only twenty episodes, I could relish another one of his fine performances. In this drama he plays the quiet, thoughtful, artistically and musically inclined member of the foursome male friends. Every time he had a scene I sighed like a silly schoolgirl, instead of an old broad who is rounding out watching close to 900 Korean dramas, of which Spring Waltz is still in my Top Five! LOL I liked his more quiet and self-effacing character over the ones swayed by the mob.

Seo Do Young Plays Dreamers Very Well!
Friend, Our Legend (Top) and Spring Waltz (Bottom)

Then rounding out our foursome male leads we have the wonderful, versatile Lee Si Un (Strangers Again, Shark, Falling For Innocence, Remember, Jin Jin) as comic relief. I always smile when I see him pop up in a drama because I know I will be in for a lovely treat and enjoy some laughs.

Fun Actor Lee Si Eun in Friend, Our Legend (Top)
and Strangers Again (Bottom)

The Story:

In 1976, in the city of Busan, four young male students are inseparable friends and share all their good and bad moments together. Each of them has their own distinct personality. Joon Seok (Kim Min Joon) is the son of an organized crime leader, and the most boldly fearless of the four friends. Dong Su (Hyun Bin) suffers from an inferiority complex due to his father being a common gravedigger; to hide his embarrassment he will often choose to tell people his father is unemployed, since he figures that has less of a stigma to it! In order to overcome his insecurity, Dong Su externalizes a very strong personality, one that can sometimes intimidate people. Over time, he essentially becomes the right-hand man of Joon Seok in this group of friends. However, under the surface there is always a great deal of tension between Joon Seok and Dong Su. Even something as simple as a disagreement over the quality of a film or book can result in a war of words between them. In his quiet time Dong Su likes to draw, but no one encourages him in that talent so it falls by the wayside.

There is also the outright comedian of the group, who helps to lower tensions when needed, named Joong Ho (Lee Si Un). He is into sports and fun and the newest technology. ("That's a VCR." - Joong Ho. "A WHAT? Hey! Let's tape Japanese porn with it!" - Joon Seok. Haha!). Finally we have dreamy Sang Taek (Seo Do Young) who is the model student, a quiet young man who avoids certain types of nefarious activities the others are intrigued by, like going to bars; he continually displays good character, achieving good grades in school. He also loves music and teaches himself guitar. It's obvious from the beginning that he will be the only one of the four who will consistently tread the straight and narrow path through life. His clerical worker parents desire for him to become a lawyer and a public prosecutor eventually, but whenever the subject comes up Sang Taek drops his head and does not reply. Even the quiet ones feel trouble in their souls sometimes, too. 

The experiences of these four friends as they grow older follow the evolution of the times (late 1970's through the 1980's), before the days of cell phones and online chat technology. If they wanted to talk to each other they had to do it face to face, or on old landline phones. When they want to meet girls they have to do it respectfully, in person. On a cute dinner date scene three of the four friends, Joon Seok, Dong Su, and Joong Ho, meet prim and proper student female acquaintances Choi Jin Suk (Wang Ji Hye, the adulterous woman in The Suspicious Housekeeper, Lee Min Ho's nemesis in Personal Taste), who wants to be a singer, Park Seong Ae (Bae Geu Rin, who played characters' Lee Kyung and Ji Hyun's best friend Seo Woo in 49 Days), and Min Eun Ji (Jung Yoo Mi, who was so great as the villainess in Rooftop Prince); the latter two don't seem to have much ambition in life other than getting married to hot guys and having children. So, who will pair off with whom?

From Left to Right:
Actresses Jung Yoo Mi, Wang Ji Hye, Bae Geu Rin
I Was Thrilled When I Saw My "Mimi" Moon Ga Young
Playing Wang Ji Hye's Character When Young!
I Didn't Know Who She Was First Time I Watched In 2010

Over the years, sadly, this male friendship group begins to separate, going along different paths. Not even the devotion of the women who care for them will change their fates. Sang Taek and Joong Ho continue their studies at the University and end up graduating, while Joon Seok and Dong Su drop out of school altogether, and move on to different criminal mob organizations, doing their dirty work for them. Time in the military hardens all of them as well. A major conflict becomes inevitable between Joon Seok and Dong Su, that not even the memories of past friendship can alter. A war of personalities triggers Sang Taek and Joong Ho to attack one another repeatedly through their gangs, and the flow of blood seems inevitable, perhaps even unto death for one or both of them. Not even their old friends can intervene to stop their war.

Friend, Our Legend was based on a wildly successful 2001 film called Friend. The role Hyun Bin plays in the drama was played in the movie by actor Dong Gun Jang (All About Eve, A Gentleman's Dignity). I watched the film too and I must honestly say I think Hyun Bin's performance was much more humanistic and touching in the drama. Maybe he got some coaching tips from the older actor ... and then did his own thing anyway. ;) I also think the drama benefited by not being as violent and "in your face" bloody as the film. When someone was stabbed in the film it was up close and gory, blood spurting everywhere, whereas in the drama it was more poetic (does that make sense, that a character could die from a stabbing but it looks like poetry on screen???). If anyone could succeed at that phenomena it would be the Koreans! :)

Nice Of Dong Gun Jang To Come To The Premiere
And Cheer Hyun Bin On

This is no doubt the kind of Korean drama that men would gravitate to more than women. I still liked it because the cast was superlative but right afterwards I put on a silly romantic comedy film to take away the heebeejeebees I got from this story. ;) Keep that in mind if you decide to track it down and watch this classic.