옥탑방 왕세자
(2012) SBS 20 Episodes
Historical Fantasy, Romance, Grade: A

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

Rooftop Prince (2012) was on my Instant Netflix queue for an incredible two years before I dived into it -- and then I wondered why in the world I had waited so long! I watched it over a two day period and found it almost impossible to turn off, even for sleep. It deserves all the accolades it receives. It's colorful, charming, funny, and even bittersweet at times. Even though it is labeled a romantic comedy that label is just the tip of the iceberg of what this show offers the viewer. It has a little bit of everything, including historical scenes, aesthetically beautiful modern scenes, location scenes in NYC, time travel, doppelgangers, suspense, thrills, humor, tragedy, crime mysteries, romance, the works. I must also mention that in episodes two through four you will see the funniest ever scenes in all K-drama history! They had me laughing so hard I became short of breath.

Funny Early Scenes
The Boys' Arrival To The Present

This was the first time I really was touched by a performance by actress Han Ji Min, whom I had seen earlier in Cain and Abel, Padam Padam, and then enjoyed later in Hyde, Jekyll and I, and in the Hyun Bin film The Fatal Encounter. Her character in Rooftop Prince, Park Ha, was feisty yet tender, a romantic and a hard worker, and a kind and devoted companion to her time traveling Prince. Lead actor Park Yoochun I had seen before in Miss Ripley but he didn't make much of an impression on me in that drama. However, together this couple created magic in this drama; they had great chemistry and I'd love to see them in another drama together once Yoochun gets out of the military.  Both Han Ji Min and Park Yoochun won multiple awards for their performances in this drama. Korean drama writers excel at writing these blended historical - modern stories, like My Love From Another Star

It also took me awhile to adjust to second male lead Lee Tae-sung who played a lying villain character in Rooftop Prince; I had adored his performance as the gently wacky second male lead in Playful Kiss and when I watched that drama I had had major Second Male Leaditis Disease, a frequent occupational hazard of watching K-dramas, where you really prefer the female lead to end up with the second male lead instead of the first male lead. In Rooftop Prince I wanted to claw his eyes out! Obviously this young actor is very versatile, to play completely different characters, good and kind, and then evil and murderous. I did not suffer from Second Male Leaditis in Rooftop Prince!

What do you do when evil
is encased in a pretty boy face?

The Story: We begin in the 18th century Joseon era when Crown Prince Lee-gak (Park Yoochun) wakes up from a slumber and calls for servants who do not come. Soon he discovers why: the Crown Princess Hwa-yong (pretty Kim So Hyun when young - she was in The Suspicious Housekeeper, and Yumi Jeong as a woman) has apparently been murdered, and is found face down in a lake by the palace grounds. Grief stricken, the Prince vows to uncover the murderer no matter how long it takes.

Then we are given flashbacks to show how the Crown Princess was chosen for Lee-gak as a child -- she had actually been second in line behind her younger sister Bu-yeong (Jeon Min-seo from Bad Guy), but she had been desperately jealous of her sister who was chosen first, so she arranged an "accident" in which the younger sister was burned on the face by a hot iron and scarred permanently. Hwa-yong is chosen instead and the younger sister is condemned to live behind a face scarf. Briefly we see another flashback when the Prince and Princess are older and already married, with poor Bu-yeong (Han Ji Min) behind the veil. The Prince is kind toward his sister-in-law, and they often share puzzles together -- one of which will figure in at the conclusion of the drama.

In his pursuit of the murderer of his wife, Lee-gak and his small entourage - including scholar Song Man-bo (the OTHER Lee Min Ho, not the one from BoF), personal bodyguard Woo Yong-sool (Jung Suk-won), and palace eunuch Do Chi-san (Choi Woo-shik) - are trapped by vigilantes and race off on their horses in the dead of night, made darker by a sudden lunar eclipse -- which magically transports them all into 2012, sans horses, where they unceremoniously land in Seoul on the rooftop apartment of a young lady entrepreneur named Park Ha (Han Ji-min again) who is so scared at their sudden arrival in their historical clothes, sitting on her kitchen floor in a daze, that she picks up a frying pan to hit them if they come near her! Yong-sool raises his sword which makes Park Ha head for her porch door.


The four frightened men all walk outside on her rooftop porch with her and are amazed by the city lights and noises and cars down below. Are they dreaming? They forget all about hurting Park Ha, and the Prince demands she take them to the palace. She laughs but puts them in her pickup truck and heads for the palace they mentioned, which is now an historical tourist spot, all locked up for the evening. Once she dumps them off she hastily makes a dash for it in her truck, and the poor guys end up in the police station, with their tummies grumbling. The police captain asks for a guardian ID for these lunatics and one of them remembers the license plate number on the pick up truck, so poor Park Ha is called and has them dumped back on her hands. It's late at night, they're all exhausted, what else can she do but put blankets on the floor for them and they all spend the night with one single girl.

Thrust into the future during a lunar eclipse,
the Prince and his companions are in shock
and don't know how to react to a modern city,
and a modern-day woman dressed in pants,
holding a frying pan!

We are shown flashback modern era events that linked Park Ha and a young man who is a dead ringer for the Prince, named Tae-young. They were both in NYC, Park Ha as a cook and street vendor, and Tae-young as a tourist awaiting the arrival of his cousin Tae-mu (Lee Tae-sung) near Time Square. Tae-young was sketching Park Ha on the street because he thought her so pretty when suddenly he is hit in the face by an apple that Park Ha had thrown his way, trying to aim at two shoplifters. She comes running to help him but then his cousin intervenes and shoos her away. Tae-young is sad when the pretty Park Ha is gone before his sketch is completed. Park Ha ends up returning to Korea when she hears her long absent father has been found, but when she arrives she discovers that he had died.

In New York City Tae-young was victimized in the worst way. His jealous cousin Tae-mu fights with him on a pleasure yacht they had rented to cruise the harbor near the Statue of Liberty, and Tae-young is thrown overboard into the water, along with his cell phone, and apparently drowned. Tae-mu goes back to Korea to tell his family the sad news that Tae-young is no more, that a boat accident had claimed his life.

Sharing Soju And Cream :)

Tae-mu has been having a secret affair with Se-na (Jeong Yumi again, playing the doppelganger of the dead Crown Princess), his secretary, who, in turn, runs into her long-lost step-sister Park-ha (Han Ji-min). The despicable Se-na had abandoned her younger sister in a truck which was driving away when she was only nine years old (which reflects the similar situation where the soon to be Crown Princess in the Joseon era had hit her younger sister with a hot iron. Both girls in flashback are played by the same actresses).

Our time traveling Joseons think an elevator is a dressing room and
in the process of pulling down their gym pants the elevator door opens,
and we see squealing women taking their photographs with cell phones.

Lee-gak claims to Park Ha that he is the Crown Prince of Joseon, and she at first laughs at him and thinks he's a nutcase, he and his three wacky friends. Park Ha gets them all gym clothes to wear, each one has a different color, blue, green, red, and yellow, and then allows them to help her start her own fruit market. There is soon to be a problem, when jealous Se-na manages to steal Park Ha's bank check for 40 grand that she needed to start her new business in Seoul. She rips it up and Park Ha is distraught. Se-na says she will lend her the money on one condition: that she go back to America. Around the same time, Lee Gak sees Se-na who is the spitting image of his murdered beloved wife in the Joseon era. He is convinced she is his wife's reincarnation and he freaks out, following her everywhere and causing disturbances everywhere she goes.

Meanwhile, company president Yeo (veteran actress Ban Hyo-jung from Shining Inheritance) mistakes Lee-gak as her missing grandson Tae-young, because of their exact appearance, and she believes that Tae-young has finally returned to her. Lee-gak realizes for certain that he has time traveled 300 years to 2012 Seoul, to search for the truth behind the mysterious death of the late Crown Princess. Could it have been the real Tae-young who had called them all to 2012 in order to solve his murder?

In order to approach Se-na more calmly in future Lee-gak pretends that he is Tae-young and says he had amnesia for the longest time and couldn't contact them. Tae-mu, believing that he already killed his cousin in New York, lives in constant fear of his devious act on the yacht being discovered by the family and "Tae-young" (Lee-gak). Tae-mu has always been jealous of Tae-young's favored status in the family. And then, mysteriously, the real Tae-young's cell phone reappears one night, falling out of Lee-gak's pocket, and by some miracle it still works! Can the real Tae-young be far behind, or is he really dead?

The moment Crown Prince Lee-gak sees his doppelganger
picture hanging on Tae-young's bedroom wall

Park Ha is shocked by the news that her new friend who calls himself the Crown Prince is, in fact, the grandson of the CEO. Her feelings for Lee-gak had already started to blossom into affection and then love, and she is hurt when she finds out that Lee-gak as alias Tae-young still holds very tender memories of his dead wife, and is now courting Se-na away from Tae-mu, mistakenly thinking she is so wonderful; Park Ha keeps quiet about how Se-na had abandoned her as a child. Lee-gak also believes that marrying Se-na in Seoul in the year 2012 would bring him closer to solving the mystery of the Crown Princess' murder back in the Joseon era. But would it really?

Will Prince Lee-gak, now pretending to be Tae-young, ever start to realize that his "cousin" is evil, and that his "beloved" is also evil? Tae-mu tries to find a new way to murder Lee-gak as Tae-young; he hears that he is allergic to crab and then sets him up to eat some.

Lee-gak is really getting the idea now that Tae-mu is out to get him. How will he go about getting justice for his modern day counterpart Tae-young, who was supposedly murdered in New York? And what if he was not, in fact, killed? If he returns what will happen to Lee-gak, who is working at the grandmother's company now as an executive and working on getting evidence against his cousin? Will it become of none effect, or will there be other crimes that should be uncovered?

What if Lee-gak and his three closest companions have to leave 2012 and go back to Joseon? Will they be happy, will they miss the perks of living in a convenient modern era? Will they ever solve who killed the Crown Princess in the Joseon era? What would Lee-gak do, seeing the veiled sister-in-law again who looks just like Park Ha, whom he has finally grown to love in the modern era? Will he fall in love with his sister-in-law in the Joseon era instead? In the interim has the sister-in-law ever figured out the puzzle he gave her at the beginning of the drama?

I'm such a "pabo",
crying again as I grabbed these screen captures

What exactly will happen to Lee-gak's love with Park Ha in the modern era? The later part of the drama becomes very bittersweet and you will shed tears as it winds down to its incredible, surprising conclusion.

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