Playful Kiss aka Mischievous Kiss
장난 키스 (2010) SBS 16 Episodes
Romantic Comedy, Grade: B

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


Actor Hyun Joong Kim is referred to as "The Walking Sculpture" by his fans, because his handsome, classic physical features and attractive presence in life and on the screen (not to mention his singing talent!) has earned him a multitude of fans around the world, of all ages and nationalities.
The 2010 Korean drama - romantic comedy Playful Kiss aka Mischievous Kiss was designed to capitalize on Hyun Joong Kim's tremendous explosion of popularity after the 2009 K-drama international success of Boys Over Flowers.
Based on the Japanese manga Itazura Na Kiss and written by Tada Kaoru, the Korean series is the third television adaptation of this story, and after its production was over it was immediately sold for close to 4 million dollars to other Asian nations to air on their television stations, such was the power of Mr. Kim's name related to his performance as the second male lead in the Boys Over Flowers drama.

This romantic show was aimed at the teenage and early twenties' audiences, but it's really so adorable and sweet and wholesome that anybody who is young at heart would enjoy it. All the characters are fun to watch, no one is a real villain, and there probably won't be a single character you dislike. Unlike so many Korean dramas with dysfunctional families, the two families of the boy and girl in this show are completely loving and nurturing, and let me tell you, that is like a HUGE breath of fresh air compared to what I've seen in the past. I relished it!

The Story: Petite and pretty high-school student Ha Ni Oh (So Min Jung from Bad Guy) lives with her widowed father Ki Dong Oh (Nam Gil Kang) who runs a modest noodle restaurant. She is sweet and innocent, but isn't too swift in the grades' department. She has a massive crush on a young man in her school named Seung Jo Baek (Hyun Joong Kim), an aloof senior who has an IQ of 200 and is so smart he rarely ever has to study for tests, always coming in first in everything. He can basically pick whatever college he wants, whereas it's doubtful Ha Ni will even be able to qualify for any college. Ha Ni has multiple fantasies about Seung Jo, including one that opens the drama, where she is in a magic forest while a white horse prances about and Seung Jo, all dressed in white, pursues her for a kiss. She has two best friends who are her almost constant companions, and privy to all her fantasies about Seung Jo; one is a bookworm named Min-ah (Seung Ah Yoon from I Need Romance 3) and the other is a chubby girl who loves to cut people's hair, named Joo Ri (Yoon Hwa Hung). They are always encouraging to Ha Ni, since they've all been friends since childhood.

One day a student asks Ha Ni to do her usual "talent" routine of using her foot to bring down a soda can that is stuck in a vending machine, and the soda can is for Seung Jo, who does seem impressed by her crazy, flawless technique. However, Seung Jo also quickly figures out that Ha Ni is obsessed with him, especially when she sticks a love letter into his locker. In his initial amusement at its discovery, thinking this weak student is unworthy of his keen mind and interest, he only grades it for her spelling and grammar mistakes and hands it back to her -- in full view of a large group of students at the high school! The poor thing - how embarrassing!

Seung Jo is amused to receive a love letter from poor student Ha Ni

Mortified, Ha Ni tries to escape the ordeal but then a supportive teacher suggests that Seung Jo tutor Ha Ni so that her grades can improve. If Ha Ni can make the 50th position in academic standing then Seung Jo will have to piggyback her around the school property, in entire view of the student body. Thinking this is a done deal, that Ha Ni will never be able to improve academically, Seung Jo agrees. Never count your eggs before they're hatched, Seung Jo! 

It's bad when your only real talent seems to be
getting stuck soda cans out of dispenser machines! 

In a very funny dinner scene at the home of Ha Ni and her father, her long time, not-so-secret, rather goofy male admirer Joon Goo Bong (cute actor Tae Sung Lee from Rooftop Prince) is visiting and bangs his head on a wall. Suddenly the entire house starts shaking and everyone has to run outside as it crumbles into nothingness! There had been an earthquake at the same time Joon Goo had banged his head, and only Ha Ni's house on the street is destroyed.

Ha Ni's father tells her they've been invited to stay temporarily at the home of his childhood best friend, Soo-chang Baek (Kyung-Soo Oh) and his spirited, happy homemaker wife, Geum-hee Hwang (Hye-young Jung - I just loved this actress to bits, she was a total pip!). But THIS Baek household turns out to be the very same home where Seung Jo Baek lives - this couple are his parents! Ha Ni is aghast to see him come out of the house, and Seung Jo seems none too pleased to see her, but there is nothing he can do; his mother has always wanted a daughter and immediately adopts Ha Ni as her own. So suddenly Ha Ni is living with the young man
who disdains her, whom she's had a crush on for four years, sharing a bathroom with him, having family meals together, and his bedroom is nearby to hers, so they are constantly running into each other. He has to double up with his younger brother, an attention-seeking whippersnapper named Eun-jo (Won-hong Choi).

This pretty face of complete and total devotion would fluster any young man,
even one who thinks he's immune

Ha Ni and Seung Jo begin to grow closer as he tutors her over the next few weeks, and they experience some difficult times related to living together. Though he still finds her annoying, there are chinks that are beginning to appear in his armor, due to Ha Ni's almost miraculous sweetness and patience in the face of any problems. Then Ha Ni really proves her worth as a person to Seung Jo when the new student academic rankings are finally announced on a wall at the school, and Ha Ni actually ranks at the cut off mark, number 50! But Ha Ni had raced to the board first to see what Seung Jo's score was, and didn't even think to look at her own. She congratulates him and applauds him, and he says coyly, "Didn't you see your own score? Look again." So she goes back and notices with shock where she had placed - all her hard work had paid off. As is usual with Ha Ni, the FIRST thing on her mind had been Seung Jo's well-being and his scoring, not her own, and it's become very clear to him now. Seung Jo has to keep his promise and piggyback Ha Ni around the high school campus.

On high school graduation night it becomes obvious that Seung Jo has become a bit possessive of Ha Ni's attention - he doesn't want to take pictures with anyone but her, when she says she will start to move away from him now and give him more freedom he backs her into a corner and kisses her, knowing this will confuse her and keep her hopes up that he will actually declare himself to her shortly. Seung Jo even gives up going to a more prestigious college, just to be able to attend the same lower level college as Ha Ni! All this from a young man who just a few weeks earlier had scorned her completely.

I howled with laughter at these two scenes: twice in one night Ha Ni has to hide her face from Seung Jo,
because she doesn't want him to know she is earning money for his graduation gift - each time he JUMPS
in shock when he sees the same strange alien head, in a convenience store, and later delivering chicken - LOL!

Seung Jo is also privately touched that she had taken a part-time job just so that she could buy him a graduation gift, but of course he doesn't say anything to her about his feelings; only once in awhile does Ha Ni receive a real glimmer of hope that he actually cares for her. His mother tells him that the human heart is not like a math problem, with only one answer. The brilliant student has to stop and think about that one for awhile.


Amazed that Ha Ni has been accepted into college, her best friends and her father
and his friends, Seung Jo's parents, all celebrate the momentous occasion

Once in college together, Ha Ni will still do anything to stay close to Seung Jo. She even offers to clean up the tennis balls on the courts every day, just because Seung Jo has joined the tennis team. Then the daughter of a rich businessman,
Hae-ra Yoon (Si-young Lee), arrives on campus and tries to insinuate herself into Seung Jo's life. This unsettles Ha Ni, especially when Seung Jo announces he will not fall in line with his mother's fondest ambition to see him married to Ha Ni. He wants some freedom and independence of his own, to find his own way in life. He leaves home, gets his first part-time job as a waiter, his first little flat, and weeks go by where he doesn't see Ha Ni and she doesn't see him. Then she discovers where he is working, visits the restaurant, becomes ill, and he ends up taking her to his little apartment for the night to watch over her. Ha Ni is much encouraged by these developments.

When Seung Jo (Hyun Joong Kim) smiles,
the world seems to stop in its tracks

On a visit out in the country Seung Jo's little brother happens to spy Seung Jo sneaking a kiss as Ha Ni falls asleep outside on a park bench (this is the mysterious / playful kiss of the title). Seung Jo swears his brother to secrecy, but will a little boy be able to keep such a big secret, that his brother is actually in love with Ha Ni? New challenges arise. Their father becomes ill and is hospitalized, and Seung Jo has to take over his father's game design business, with no experience. The rich girl Seung Jo has been dating has a father who wants to be a business partner and proposes that his daughter marry Seung Jo and then he will invest money into the company. Seung Jo actually considers it, thinking that would be a wise thing to do - besides, he does seem more compatible with the rich girl - but what about his ever growing, secret feelings for Ha Ni? 

Meanwhile, Ha Ni, despondent over Seung Jo dating another woman, says "okay" to a date request from her male friend who has loved her forever, Joon Goo. He had been working as a chef and becoming really good at it and on this date night, after both of them had had such a great time together, he boldly proposes marriage to Ha Ni. She just can't accept him though, and puts him off. Then Seung Jo hears from Ha Ni's friends that she has received a marriage proposal from Joon Goo. That does it! The competitive, jealous nature of this high achiever can't allow another man to steal away what he himself desires. He confronts Ha Ni and kisses her passionately; finally Ha Ni knows he really does care about her. They enter the family home and Seung Jo surprises everyone with the announcement that he will marry Ha Ni (I just LOVED the mother's reaction, she was one of the biggest highlights of this show to me. I have to seek her out in other works

The only really sad part I thought was poor Joon Goo's reaction - he still loves Ha Ni so deeply, that I actually cried for this character. He had such a good heart. Thankfully they do seem to bring in a last minute new romance interest for him so that made me feel a little better.


There is still some bumpiness ahead in the last few episodes - for instance, Seung Jo doesn't want marriage to be the only thing Ha Ni concentrates on -- he wants her to declare a major, to have an interest in life besides just him. She decides on nursing, because she wants him to try and become a doctor. If they both succeed they can work together in medicine.

There never were any real doubts how this show was going to end -- not when the opening theme is the wedding march, performed in an amusing way! Of course they honeymoon on Jeju Island, but there are a few strange twists there in that story plot as well. Overall I enjoyed the drama very much and I never got bored with the couple's developing relationship, or their enjoyable friends and family.

If you liked Boys Over Flowers you will like this show too. Enjoy!