Oh My Ghostess
  오 내 여신

tvN | 2015 | 16 Episodes
Ghost Story, Melodrama, Romantic Comedy
Grade: B
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

An amusing ghost story, with many touches of sentimentality and sadness around the edges, Oh My Ghostess (2015) sure seemed to charm a lot of folks who watched it. I was a bit reluctant to start this drama since I didn't think the two leads could possibly surpass prior performances I had seen them give and been amazed by: for lead actress Park Bo Young that would be her unforgettable and powerful performance in the masterpiece film A Werewolf Boy (2012) which I had bought on DVD several years earlier, sight unseen, just because the story sounded compelling, and for leading man Jo Jung Suk that would be his INCREDIBLE performance as a chivalrous bodyguard to a princess he loved who became handicapped due to an act of terror, in the sweeping historical fantasy King 2 Hearts (2012). Men like him who would stay with a disabled girlfriend or wife are few and far between in life: one study I read stated the over 68% of husbands will leave their wives if they become seriously ill or disabled, and I've seen this happen in real life time and time again. Not Jo Jung Suk's character in King 2 Hearts! He was a pleasure to watch, his constancy was totally endearing.

These prior performances were enshrined in my heart as unsurpassed works of Art, and while I enjoyed Ghostess overall, just as I suspected their performances here could not touch those previous performances with a ten foot pole. Make that a one hundred foot pole. Some of that wasn't their fault, they're still great actors: but the writing was rather uninspired here -- all the time I watched Ghostess I felt like I was watching a soup boiling on the stove, with the writers pouring into the pot many story ingredients seen in earlier Korean dramas: I saw plot devices from Coffee Prince, Master's Sun,
Pasta, Who Are You?, High School Love On, 49 Days, King 2 Hearts, Mimi, Arang and the Magistrate, and others! Not to mention the American film Ghost. We needed more originality from these writers and less copying of prior show elements. Plagiarism was strong here.

The Story: Pretty but dirt poor Bong Sun Na (Park Bo Young) is a restaurant kitchen cleaner - low level employee and she has an extremely shy and depressed personality, plus very low self-esteem. She lives in a tight dorm room with no window, and has no close friends; her only relative is a grandmother who lives far away whom she keeps in contact with via telephone.

Bong Sun is constantly being reprimanded at her job at posh Sun Restaurant by the male chefs and cooks (in a "Yes, Chef!" lineup reminiscent of Pasta, but without any cute guys like that drama had!), plus by the owner Sun Woo Kang (Jo Jung Suk) who can't understand why she keeps falling asleep at her job. (She sees ghosts, so gets little sleep, which was a plot detail obviously stolen from 2013's hit Master's Sun).

Bong Sun has a secret crush on Chef Sun Woo, and when she's not working she runs a computer blog on cooking that Sun Woo is in the habit of reading during his off time, not knowing that Bong Sun is the authoress. Sun Woo is a quiet, reserved type who hasn't dated since he got his heart broken by his old college friend So Hyung Lee (Jung Ah Park) years earlier. So Hyung is currently a television producer and seems to be interested in getting back with Sun Woo, but the most that happens is that she gets him on a cooking contest show at her station. Their romantic days are obviously past, although Bong Sun is still jealous of her and this jealousy will spur her on to do something later that she ordinarily would not do: allow her body to be used by a ghost to get Chef interested in her.

One day Bong Sun, walking along the street half-asleep, gets possessed by a virgin ghost named Soon Ae Shin (Seul Gi Kim from Discovery Of Romance). The reason why she died is not made completely clear till the last few episodes. Because she had died before being intimate with a man she feels compelled to achieve this goal before she goes on into the afterlife and she needs another woman's body to achieve this perverted goal of fornication (sarcasm/ obviously these writers never cracked open a Bible in their lives to find out that fornication is as much a sin as adultery, and no soul would go to heaven if this sin was committed and was not repented of -- but why concern themselves with such an important Biblical truth as that? This is Fiction. /sarcasm).

However, little does Soon Ae know that playing with peoples' lives and hearts and bodies can backfire on her, and quite possibly, her victims as well; she needs some lessons in humbling, but don't worry, she will get them eventually. Inside the body of Bong Sun, Soon Ae takes over her shy personality and Bong Sun seems to change overnight to Chef Sun Woo by becoming a strongly confident, vibrant woman, one who is not averse to flirtation, jokes, and even strong sexual innuendo and touching. It takes this behavioral change to make Chef finally notice her  ... which doesn't exactly make him an exceptional man, just a typical one, more's the pity. (I am the type to always look for exceptional men, not average, in art, entertainment, and in life as well, and they're often impossible to find!).  

The mystery surrounding ghost Soon Ae's death three years earlier seems somehow to involve Chef Sun Woo's brother-in-law, police officer Sung Jae Choi (fine actor Ju Hwan Lim from lovely Tamra The Island and the haunting The Snow Queen - I was happy to see him again looking so healthy after open heart surgery). On the outside, officer Sung Jae looks like a nice man, married to a disabled woman in a wheelchair, Chef's sister, Eun Hee Kang (Hye Sun Shin). Eun Hee had been the victim of a hit and run monster and the criminal was unknown. Could it also have something to do with what happened to the ghost, Soon Ae, who had died on the same day? Will Soon Ae ever become more interested in solving the mystery behind her death, more than being obsessed with sexual conquests?

Perhaps if Oh My Ghostess had been one of my first K-dramas I would have been bowled over by it, but since it was my 172nd K-drama I was looking for more originality in this story. By episode seven out of sixteen of Ghostess I could predict everything that was going to happen ... and I was right on all counts! Plus, I was a bit troubled by the female ghost's over-emphasis on sex and "getting laid" - I hope that phrase in the English subtitles was due to American translators' crassness rather than the actual meaning of the Korean words, because that was distasteful to me. Every time I see stuff like this in K-dramas, as a mother of five wonderful kids, I worry they are becoming more and more like junky American television shows, with an over emphasis on sex and violence and foul language.

Like the American musical Grease, with the character of Sandy feeling like she has to dress and act like a tramp to win a guy's affection, the ghost's emphasis here on achieving a sexual experience with a man because she had died too young, before she could be intimate with anyone, was not ennobling or even funny to me. I wish the writers had created another purpose for her to linger between earth and the afterlife, like finding out who her murderer was. Young people today are inundated with sexual imagery on a daily basis from the media. Korean dramas became popular in the first place in America because so many people were looking for an alternative to the usual smut of Hellyweird's entertainment. They wanted to see love stories like Winter Sonata where true affection flourished between two human beings who cared about each other as people, and not just two bodies in a bed, turning the lights out indicating sex before marriage, as happens here in Oh My Ghostess. The writers could have easily shown a wedding first and it would have been beautiful: a REAL MAN with morals, in love with a woman as sincerely as Chef seemed to care for Bong Sun, would have insisted on marriage first, sex afterward. There is no point in even watching Korean dramas if they're not any different from American television shows.

Okay, I've said my peace about my reservations, here is what I enjoyed: the slow building up of the relationship between Bong Sun and Chef and his eventual grappling with the issue of who he really loves, the ghost or Bong Sun; the funny chase scenes between ghost Soon Ae and her mother substitute shaman, played well by veteran actress Jung Eun Lee; ghost Soon Ae confronting her father Myeong Ho (veteran actor Dae Yeon Lee) who might be going to heaven due to a medical emergency and telling him to go back to take care of her brother Gyeong Mo (Hak Joo Lee) -- even though this scene was strongly reminiscent of a scene stolen from 49 Days; seeing actor Ju Hwan healthy again and performing a difficult role as a good guy possessed by a demon, and the music score, which was often pretty (especially one piano piece I really liked. I would love to get the sheet music for that). The humor, when it wasn't too ribald, I quite enjoyed. Gentle ironic humor is always better to me rather than sexual humor.

I would recommend Oh My Ghostess but with reservations that it really isn't appropriate for anyone sixteen years old or younger. I think I would have given it closer to an A grade if the sexual humor was scaled back and more time was devoted to the real Bong Sun and Chef's romance, as opposed to the ghost's with Chef, and if we had seen a wedding before them becoming intimate. No one will want to buy the cow if they get the milk for free.