Que Sera, Sera
케세라, 세라
MBC (2007) 17 Episodes
Melodrama, Romance, Grade: A+

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

Que Sera, Sera (2007) is one of the most addictive K-dramas I've ever watched! I marathoned all 17 episodes in one day and night, and have watched it two more times since it premiered! How come the older classics are often so much more engrossing and entertaining than the newer dramas? With this K-drama you are getting top sirloin steak to eat; with most modern ones today you are getting SPAM! It seems to be a secret to newbies to the K-drama world, who tend to watch the newer stuff first, until they finally decide to try an older drama and then - wham! they see the differences clear as day, and finally discover what they've been missing. Classics are classics for a reason: they stand the test of time. This one in particular is strikingly different than any new drama that comes out today, much more provocative and gritty and passionate and realistic. It has a driving rhythm like a race car at the Speedway. The newer shows seem tame in comparison to a golden oldie like Que Sera, Sera. Realism in life, romance and sex is far better expressed in the older dramas. The dialogue is often starker, darker, keeping you guessing about what the volatile characters will do next. Currently, you can watch this gem on Viki.

I decided to check the drama out after seeing the same two lead actors (Eric Moon, Yumi Jung) in Discovery of Romance (2014) and delighting at their chemistry together. If anything their chemistry is even more explosive in this older drama (probably why the industry wanted to reunite them someday). Some of the same ingredients in a classic drama like I'm Sorry, I Love You (2004) can be found in Que Sera, Sera as well: the dirt poor but lovely innocent gamin who falls for the outwardly brusque player but inner softie societal outcast, with the pixie gamin's sweet simplicity and affection for him warming his heart, causing him to fall in love for the first time. Heck, she even calls him "Ahjussi" just like Eunchae called Mooh-hyuk in I'm Sorry, I Love You. She draws him close to her, in the beginning against his will, and ultimately helps to make him a decent human being, although it's a long long road till the final destination. Isn't it always rewarding and bittersweet to see a total player become devoted to one woman?


The Story
: Handsome Tae-joo Kang (Eric Moon) has been working a day job at an event planning company for several years, and is a hustler of rich women in his spare time -- mostly at night. He is a player who hangs out at bars and who wants nothing to do with poor women, and is shallow enough to admit he dates even married or soon to be married rich women because of the fancy gifts they give him, and also that they allow him to drive fast in their luxury cars. He's a good prospect to break their hearts and then walk away, himself unscathed.

One day after work Tae-joo finds a strange pixie-like girl named Eun-soo Han (Yumi Jung) sleeping in front of the door of his apartment. (This actress is so thin and delicate she reminds me of a young Audrey Hepburn). When he prods her awake she insists that her younger sister lives inside, that she's been waiting for hours for her to come home, and that he should open the door to let her see if her sister is inside. "Are you a pervert? a sex trader? Are you living with her?" she grills him, as he blocks her way. He insists he has no idea who her sister is and eventually pushes her away, but then he keeps running into her because the sister Ji-soo Han (Eun-sung Lee, cute performance) soon shows up in the same building, and Eun-soo learns Ji-soo is living in an apartment down the hallway from Tae-joo's.

The famous elevator kiss in Que Sera, Sera

Although Tae-joo initially discourages and disparages Eun-soo because she's so poor and naive, he eventually finds himself intrigued by her elfin sweetness and her kindness, and he seems to want to make her more impressed with him. "I'm a gentleman, not a jerk"...: the audience knows he's full of himself, but trusting little Eun-soo does not.

Despite his determination to stay away from poor women he seems to be failing his own standard in that regard when it comes to Eun-soo. He even deliberately gives her her first kiss in a malfunctioning elevator, a truly delightful scene because after the kiss she shyly looks up at the far more experienced Tae-joo and says softly, "That was fun! Can we do it again?" LOL!. (One of my top favorite scenes in all K-Dramaland!). He perhaps feels some pity for her, as well as interest, and agrees she can consider them to be a newly dating couple. However the innocent time doesn't last long ....

On the opposite end of the social spectrum, rich and spoiled Hye-rin Cha (lovely actress Ji-hye Yoon) is the daughter of the CEO of a large department store chain. She and her adopted brother Joon-hyuk Shin (handsome Kyu-han Lee from My Lovely Sam-Soon) are not so secretly in love, but due to pressure from their parents Joon-hyuk dumps his "sister" and moves out of their mansion and to a storeroom in the department store until he can find his own apartment. Hye-rin and Joon-hyuk eventually kiss, but then he pushes her away, saying "You no longer make my heart flutter". (A lie).

Variations of "sister-brother" love relationships show up in many K-dramas,
but none
running deeper than this one

Little Eun-soo is hired as a salesgirl at the family run department store where Joon-hyuk works as administrator, and she eventually meets Joon-hyuk in person when he tries to buy a cell phone. Eun-soo and Joon-hyuk are thrown together even more when she saves his life from a falling object and she gets hit in his stead. After she proves to be okay, he starts seeing her more often, partly to make his "sister" Hye-rin jealous. Joon-hyuk does see potential in Eun-soo that no one else seems to see: a talent and drive and a will to succeed. He encourages her to become a designer with the company.

Meanwhile, on Hye-rin's part, desperate to make Joon-hyuk jealous and to distract him away from Eun-soo, she enters into a private contract with Tae-joo, that he will pretend to be her fiance for a year's time. She had met him on several prior occasions - and fought with him each time. Tae-joo can't seem to bring himself to keep away from Hye-rin's money and influence. His old habit of using women for financial gain just won't be abandoned by him, even when there is obvious trouble on the horizon.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Tae-joo takes Eun-soo to dinner and tells her he wants to break it off, that he's just not attracted to her. "You knew it wouldn't last long with me, didn't you? I told you it would turn out this way." The poor little thing takes it hard, but she is slowly helped to feel more confident in herself through Joon-hyuk's attentions to her. At an executive party he gets her all spiffed up, new hairstyle and gown, and she looks like Cinderella at a ball. Tae-joo, who is present at the party with Hye-rin, looks on while Eun-soo kisses Joon-hyuk and experiences the first feelings of jealousy toward a woman he's ever felt in his life. Some of you will probably be thinking, as I did, "Good! Serves him right! He may be handsome, but he's no Prince Charming!" 

Cinderella at the ball soon turns
Tae-joo's smile into a jealous frown

During their contract relationship, Hye-rin begins to fall for Tae-joo in earnest, or at least in lust with him. Eun-soo, now working full-time at the department store, more and more catches Joon-hyuk's attention with her new confidence in herself, her new ideas to boost sales, and he seems impressed by her intelligence on the job, as well as her natural sweetness, which the aggressive Hye-rin totally lacks. Both relationships are more pragmatic financially for Tae-joo and Eun-soo, but they can't seem to let go of each other completely.

The Singapore trip: an uneasy quartet results,
each person secretly desiring the forbidden one,
until everything hits the fan

Tae-joo realizes that he can't forget Eun-soo as easily as he has dropped all the other women in his past. He senses that in Eun-soo, he'll find his redemption from bastard to human being. On an emotionally charged business trip to Singapore, the two couples have to socialize for work but underneath passions are seething: in a outrageously dramatic scene in episode nine Tae-joo gets drunk and charges into Eun-soo's hotel room, throws her on the bed and tries to have his way with her. Hye-rin walks in and sees them and loses it, attacking poor Eun-soo, whereupon Tae-joo strikes Hye-rin across the face so hard she lands on the adjacent bed. (Obviously Tae-joo had never learned that he should never slap a woman). He pulls Eun-soo's wrist, dragging her outside the hotel into the rain. She is distraught and crying and she walks ahead of him with determination until he finally confesses love. That's all she needs to hear and they are in each others' arms. That kiss in the rain is NOTHING like the kisses you see in more recent dramas. Hold on to your hat (if you own one)!

A few days of bliss are all that Eun-soo and Tae-joo
are destined to have for a long time

They spend a few days together just thinking of themselves and their love, letting Hye-rin and Joon-hyuk lick their wounds -- and then Eun-soo's little sister Ji-soo has a heart attack while playing basketball with Tae-joo and she is rushed to the hospital. She needs a heart transplant operation to live, and there's no money to pay for it. Once again Tae-joo dumps Eun-soo for the rich Hye-rin, who still isn't over him and wants to marry him (obviously that brutal slap knocked any sense out of her). Tae-joo's intent is to get a hold of her fortune so he can pay for the heart operation for Ji-soo (perhaps out of guilt for making a young girl with a heart condition play a sport she shouldn't have), but he doesn't tell Eun-soo that (for whatever reason I could not quite understand; honesty would have been the best policy). Eun-soo grieves alone at their second breakup, and then starts dating Joon-hyuk again and agrees to marry him. Can you say "twisted"? How can these two couples ever find happiness when their significant others don't honestly love them?

Eun-soo tries hard after the marriage to forget Tae-joo, even getting pregnant with Joon-hyuk's baby, and starts to pour all her love and excitement into the coming baby, but tragically, she miscarries. Eun-soo says she is burnt out and needs time away from both her husband and the depressed Tae-joo. Meanwhile, no big surprise, Tae-joo's engagement to Hye-rin hits a brick wall; at first he enjoyed his rising star in the family department store company, and all the money and perks, but they eventually grow tiresome to him; he feels suffocated, and he still secretly loves Eun-soo. Joon-hyuk proposes he and Eun-soo make a fresh start in Oregon, USA, but will Eun-soo be able to leave her family, Korea, and ... Tae-joo? 

It will take a miracle for the two of them to ever get back together again. Will God give a bastard a miracle?


Great, dynamic and passionate performances all around will keep you captivated and hooked on this classic K-drama, as well as an intriguing, dark and brooding OST as backdrop to all the melodrama. They don't write 'em like this anymore, folks, and in many ways it's a shame; this drama depicts the ups and downs of realistic relationships, instead of fantasy.

Star Eric Moon, in particular, who was born in Korea but raised till his teen years in California, has a Marlon Brando-like animal magnetism that other male Korean stars not raised in the US often seem to lack. And don't forget, if you are impressed with the two leads in this show (and you will be!) they re-team together in the delightful 2014's Discovery of Romance. More, more! I don't care that it's two decades later: I want to see them together a third time, Korea! 

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