Miss Ripley
 ?¯?ì?¤ ?|?í”??|? MBC (2011) 16 Episodes
Melodrama, Romance, Grade: B

Korean Drama Review by Alison, USA


How far would you go to get the things you want in life?  Would you lie if it were the only way to achieve your goals? The heroine of the Korean drama Miss Ripley (2011) is so determined to reinvent herself, she will do whatever it takes.

The mystery novelist Patricia Highsmith created the character a€?The Talented Mr. Ripleya€? a€“ an individual who was adept at assuming the more desirable identity of another person (Ripley was played in the movie versions by Alain Delon and Matt Damon, so you can see he is meant to be a charmer). Miss Ripley similarly focuses on this type of chameleon in the form of its heroine, Mi-ri Jang (embodied by actress Da Hae Lee, herself quite a charmer and veteran of such dramas Green Rose, My Girl and East of Eden). The drama was also partially inspired by the true story of a woman who finagled her way into a post at a prestigious university by forging her credentials.

When the story begins, we meet Mi-ri, who is working in a seedy Japanese nightclub, clearly against her will. She is young and pretty and it is not difficult to sympathize with her plight. One day she manages to escape her employer Hirayama (Jung Tae Kim, from Bad Guy and Swallow the Sun) and we cheer her on as she heads to Seoul to make a fresh start.

Soon M-ri has a series of life changing encounters. For one, she re-connects with a young woman, Hee -joo (Hye Jung Kan, from Flowers for My Life and On Air), whom she knew as a child. The back story between these two is that they spent time in an orphanage together. Mi-ri wound up there after her mother abandoned her and her father died. Hee-joo is waiting to be reunited with her family. She is the timid one, while Mi-ri is more feisty. When a Japanese couple wants to adopt Hee-joo, Mi-ri helps her to hide away. This backfires, however, when Mi-ri is forced to take the other little girla€?s place and whisked off to Japan by her adoptive parents, who treat her like slave labor. Mi-ri feels that Hee-joo should have been the one to suffer her fate, and Hee-joo, who wound up a successful and educated young woman, in turn feels great guilt toward Mi-ri and this guilt causes her to overlook Mi-ria€?s behavior for longer than she should.

Mi-ri takes a room at a college dormitory where she meets the handsome young Song Yoo Hyun (Micky Yoochun, best known as a rapper/singer). He recently returned from Japan to take over his familya€?s business, but Mi-ri just thinks he is a poor student. He is immediately taken with her, but she is completely uninterested. Instead, she focuses on finding herself a well-paying job a€“ a virtually impossible task given her lack of experience and credentials.

Then Mi-ri has yet another fortuitous encounter when she runs into hotel manager Jang Myung Hoon (played with gentle dignity by Seung Woo Kim from Hotelier).  He needs someone who can speak Japanese with one of his VIP guests, and hires Mi-ri as a guest relations officer (without checking her credentials!) when he learns she can speak that language fluently (she claims to be a graduate of a Tokyo university).

Of course, it also does not hurt that he is a lonely bachelor and she is a very pretty and vivacious young woman. He is a little skeptical but wants to help her, so he relaxes the rules about hiring and allows her to provide her paperwork later.

Now in order to keep her job, Mi-ri needs to substantiate her lie. As luck would have it, she notices her a€?frenemya€? Hee-jooa€?s graduation certificate lying around in the young womana€?s apartment, and swipes it in order to have a counterfeit one made. This has negative repercussions for the unsuspecting Hee-joo, who goes off on her own hotel job interview without realizing that her certificate is missing.
She does not get the job. Since Hee-joo is portrayed as being endearingly clumsy, it is difficult to make much sense of her character a€“ supposedly so accomplished, but also seemingly so clueless. She may have the book smarts, but Mi-ri clearly has the street smarts to succeed.

So Mi-ri begins to move up in the world, living her brand new life. She seduces Myun Hoon, charming him by being kind to his aging mother, and he is soon ready to propose. She likes him well enough, and appreciates his kindness, but the primary attraction is that she believes he will one day be the CEO of the hotel and further guide her career.

Soon Mi-ri realizes that she might be setting her sights too low with Myun-hoon when she learns that her admirer Yoo-hyun,Swiss Replica Watches to whom she has not been giving the time of day, is actually the wealthy heir to a Korean-Japanese hotel conglomerate. Without letting go of the first suitor, she accepts the attentions of the second, and is soon dreaming of being the wife of a very rich man. At one point, she is engaged to both of them simultaneously, but this situation is bound to come to a head when the two men get to know and like each other, cluelessly comparing notes about the woman they are both so enamored with. There is a wonderful scene where Myun-hoon and Yoo-hyun arrange to have dinner together so the other can meet his fiancee a€| and I wona€?t spoil the fun for you as to what happens with that!

Ultimately, Mi-ri cannot keep deceiving both men, so she makes her choice, betraying and outraging Myun-hoon. He is now determined to expose her past, while Yoo-hyuna€?s family is none too pleased with his choice either. His stepmother in particular is bound and determined to get rid of this gold-digger. Eventually, Mi-ri becomes desperate to protect her position as her former boss (and it is implied, lover) Hirayama arrives in Seoul looking for her and ready to reveal all her secrets.

Miss Ripley is incredibly fast-paced, with a cliffhanger to replica watches end every episode. You find yourself wondering not just what will happen next, but how will Mi-ri wiggle her way out of this one? I have to admit that I was always kind of rooting for her to stay one step ahead of her enemies.

Why did I love Miss Ripley? It is certainly not your typical K-drama, and it features one of the most audacious liars you can imagine. There is really no satisfying love story and no one to clearly root for. However, I had great fun watching the main character evade detection for as long as she does, building lie upon lie and twisting two men around her pretty little finger.

The credit for my enjoyment rests
primarily with the performance of the effervescent Da Hae Lee, who for some reason reminded me of Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly) in this role. Like so many Korean actresses, she is porcelain pretty, and petite, with a glowing smile and the ability to project vulnerability as well as strength. She wears the shortest skirts you can imagine, completing the girlish image. Although I did not exactly support Mi-ria€?s actions, her behavior was understandable given all that she has been through in the past. She wanted to escape from a terrible life that befell her through no fault of her own, and making a fresh start was fraught with challenges given her limitations. Even though she was attracted by wealth and power, she was willing to work hard, and was ambitious to prove herself. Had fortune smiled upon her earlier in life, she would likely not have become so jaded and grasping. I gave her credit for some things, and condemned her for others, but in some ways, I always felt a little sorry for her and respected the way she was determined to survive at all costs.

The other performances in Miss Ripley were a bit more problematic for me. As Yoo-hyun, Micky Yoochun is rather a bland cypher, without much personality and I did not see much chemistry between him and Mi-ri. His character is polite, dignified, and intelligent, but there was no real fire or presence.

On the other hand, I am a fan of Seung Woo Kim, who is not exactly a dashing leading man either, but who is very appealing with his gentlemanly manner, kind eyes and overall intelligence. I felt great sympathy for his character. His relationship with Mi-ri is somehow very convincing, and also tragic. Personally, I thought she made a big mistake alienating someone like him, who truly cared for her.

Finally, there is Hye Yung-kee as Hee-joo. There is not much purpose to her character, except to be a foil for Mi-ri, someone to be taken advantage of, but her role is underdeveloped and she sits on the sidelines most of the time. The actress is pretty and appealing, but she is unable to do much to make this role memorable.

I really liked Jung Tae Kim as the Japanese villain, Hirayama. He was great at being menacing, but he was also somehow not entirely detestable. In some sense, he pursues Mi-ri to Seoul because he has genuine feelings for her and wants to hold onto her. He manages to create a multifaceted character with understandable motivation.

Kudos also go to the two young actresses who play Mi-ri as a child and a teen, respectively a€“ Ha Yong Park (from Temptation of an Angel) and Da Bin Jung (The Manny). They are both quite touching and look remarkably as if they could grow up to look like Da Hae Lee.

Overall, Miss Ripley was a wickedly entertaining drama without a dull moment a€“ especially if you are looking for a change of pace and dona€?t mind a lack of a€?sweetnessa€? to your drama. Will you hate Mi-ri, or will you forgive her behavior? Is she a bad girl, or not so bad? Watch Miss Ripley and judge for yourself!