In-Soon Is Pretty
인순이는 예쁘다 (2007) KBS 16 Episodes
Melodrama, Romance,
Grade: A

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

The Korean drama In-Soon Is Pretty (2007) is an often dark and powerfully emotional experience, especially for people who have struggled to return to normalcy after bitter early mistakes they've made in their lives. The show is virtually carried solo, in my opinion, by its lead actress, Hyun-joo Kim (All That Glitters, Into The Sunlight, Partner, Watcher, Boys Over Flowers), due to her magnificent, bravura performance in the title role. I'm not saying the supporting cast aren't all good, in fact, they are excellent, it's just that the other characters all pale in comparison to the astoundingly beautiful Miss Kim as In-Soon. The expressions which move across her face constantly are hypnotizing! Her doe eyes glisten, her skin glows, her lips tremble, all the emotions the character is feeling are always clearly obvious on her face -- there's not one inscrutable moment where you aren't sure what she is thinking. This actress would have made a perfect silent film star, she doesn't really need words to communicate emotions.

In this Story her character, In-Soon Park, went to jail when she was in high school, for an accidental killing that occurred after she got into a fight with a fellow student who was bullying her. She spends 15 years in prison and then comes out to face the cold, cruel world, with no college degree and only armed with a pastry chef certificate and a handful of friends who are willing to help her out so that she can try and lead as normal a life as possible. She flounders many times, but she tries to think positively, falling back on an old mantra she often recites to herself, "In-Soon is pretty! In-Soon is nice!
In-Soon is smart!"

Her eyes are the windows to her soul,
and In-Soon (Hyun-joo Kim) is definitely pretty!

When she leaves jail the first person to help her is one of the teachers who had been present when the fight had occurred all those years before, Kyung Joo Seo (Hyo Sup Uhm). He is divorced and has a cute little son whom
In-Soon loves to mother. He has many wise words of advice for her and even tries to get her a job in his school's cafeteria. In-Soon also meets up with an old friend she had known in middle school, news reporter Sang Woo Yoo (Min Joon Kim from Damo), and he is encouraging as well, even after he hears the truth of what happened to her. In all the early set-up scenes I thought the writers did a great job taking on the subject of school bullying, and the social stigma ex-convicts face when they try to enter the work force.

In-Soon had been raised by her grandmother, who died right before she was released from jail. She goes to live with an aunt for a brief while, and then with a girlfriend, though the friend really would love for her to leave as soon as possible so that she and her boyfriend can fool around. She looks for work, without much success; even her baking certificate doesn't help her once people hear she is an ex-con.

Her aunt finally admits to her that her mother didn't die, as she had been told, but is very much alive and is a wealthy and famous stage actress, Sun Young Lee (Young Hee Nah, from My Love From Another Star). She lives in a gorgeous mansion with a daughter she had had with her second husband from whom she is divorced, In-Soon's step-sister Jung Ah Kim (Hyo Rim Seo, from Scent Of A Woman, That Winter The Wind Blows, and Master's Sun). In-Soon goes to see Sun Young perform in a play and then gets cold feet about revealing her true identity, simply asking for an autograph instead. Then In-Soon's aunt contacts Sun Young and reveals that her daughter needs her; though this will disrupt the actress' life she does seem to want to reach out to In-Soon. Later, Sun Young collapses from stomach pains, and it's In-Soon who comes upon her on the ground by her car and picks her up and rushes her to the emergency room. When In-Soon sees her step-sister arrive, she leaves the hospital, but then Sun Young opens her eyes, realizes that the one who carried her to the hospital was her long-lost daughter and she gets up and goes outside to find her. Mother and daughter have a tearful reunion and then In-Soon formerly meets her step-sister as well.


In-Soon meets her mother Sun Young for the first time,
but the relationship soon becomes rocky

The world seems to change overnight for In-Soon. She moves in to her mother's mansion, takes a spare room, and suddenly she has gained a mother and a sister. From poverty to luxury overnight! To cover up the fact from the public that she had had another daughter she hires In-Soon to be her assistant. In-Soon and her sister Jung Ah bond, and even go out drinking at a karaoke place together, much to the annoyance of their status-conscious mother. They laugh that they will never be like the estranged step-sisters in the Cinderella story. However, once again, In-Soon's happiness and sense of security are short-lived. Her mother overhears In-Soon and her friend
Sang Woo discussing her prison term, and when In-Soon realizes that her mother knows she is a convicted murderer she becomes hysterical and chases her mother into a parking garage as she tries to drive away, accusing her of abandoning her as a baby, which is the real reason her life had spiraled into darkness.


Distraught, In-Soon packs her bags and goes to a subway terminal. She plans to commit suicide by throwing herself in front of a train. "People commit suicide because they are angry!" she states to herself, and just as she gets ready to jump in front of an oncoming train, a man standing near her falls onto the tracks instead, he was sloshed drunk! "Ahjussi! (Mister!)", she screams and jumps onto the tracks to save him. At that moment In-Soon has a revelation: she will never be a quitter again, she wants to live, and live life to the fullest, and she wants to love and be loved. She goes back home, faces her mother, and demands that she be given her just due as her daughter. Her mother apologizes to her, at last. All her life In-Soon had struggled with issues of self-worth. As her former teacher tells her, "You have to love yourself first, before others will find you loveable."

Her heroic act to save the man makes her famous in the media as "The Subway Girl" and suddenly new doors are open to her to find success on her own terms. Her relationship to her mother is revealed to the press, no longer covered up, and she gives multiple interviews about her heroic act in saving the man. Even the school that turned her away as a cook wants her to come do a motivational speech to the schoolchildren about the importance of doing good deeds in one's life. One senses, however, that In-Soon's mother, the famous actress, feels more than a little put out by the limelight focusing on In-Soon and not her.

Her step-sister Jung Ah also starts getting a nice story of her own, with a possibility of romance thrown in when a young man enters all their lives who was In-Soon's adopted brother, Geun Soo Jang (my beloved Lee Wan). He was always pretty much a troublemaker and likes to stir the pot! Watch out, bad news arriving! However, I enjoyed watching this actress in a more timid, sweet role for a change. She usually plays the B in dramas.

The main story remains In-Soon's. Now that new employment opportunities open up to her, it seems it's a bit easier for In-Soon to decide among work choices, but perhaps it's not as easy to decide what path she will take toward accepting true love into her life. She feels conflicted between the two men who seem to care about her the most, the news reporter and old school chum Sang Woo, or the teacher who had been there for her for years, Kyung Joo, and his little boy she so dearly loves. One may be more handsome (though a bit sanctimonious at times!), but the other probably needs her much more and just doesn't realize it. Which man should she choose?

This story ends in a largely positive and uplifting manner. It's really worth your while to enjoy this very special show, even if just to feast your eyes on one of the best K-drama performances ever given, by its star,
actress Hyun-joo Kim. She is a luminous actress.