(2008) MBC 16 Episodes
Broadcast Journalism, Melodrama, Grade: B

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


This interesting and realistic Korean drama about news reporters and broadcast journalists, called Spotlight (2008), unjustly falls under the radar because it is not romantic. Although the female lead, the beautiful Ye Jin Son, and the male lead, incredibly handsome Ji Jin Hee, grow very fond of one another during the course of the show, and there is enough sentiment there by the end for them to feel strongly bonded to one another, there is nary a kiss between them in the entire show. Their relationship remains professional from beginning to end. That's not to say the wistfulness you will feel at the conclusion, for all their missed opportunities to get together, will not be deeply felt. The furtive longing glances are there, but romance does not materialize. This is how the writers obviously wanted to keep it, which may have been a mistake for grabbing high ratings, but in the long run is actually more refreshing and true to life. Why can't a solid professional relationship be just as mesmerizing as a romantic one?

This is NOT a "flower boy" show. Not too many teenagers will be attracted to a story aimed at adults, in which a romance is not the key ingredient. This show teaches you a lot about the broadcast business, the incredible stresses journalists live under, how it can take all day to gather information for just a 1 minute news segment, how they can sometimes put their own lives on the line for a story. If you are looking for a K-drama where young people are deciding who is "hot" and who to date, then this is not your show. If you are 30 or older, and like realistic, intelligent shows, check it out. It's not for everybody, but it may just be for you.

In Spotlight we delve deeply into the intricate world of a broadcast news station called GBS, and follow a rookie news reporter named Woo Jin Seo (Ye Jin Son), who begins in the boring society news division section of the station, but who is ultimately taken under the wing of the far more experienced news journalist and broadcaster Tae Suk Oh (Ji Jin Hee), who hands her more important and complex news stories to explore. He was promoted to news manager at the television station because of political upheavals and disagreements among executives in the company. Tae Suk is a voracious seeker of Truth and will not countenance lies in his broadcasts, even if that truth may eventually imperil the career of his own politician father. He is firm and often seems heartless to employees at the station, but that's just his technique to winnow out the incompetents. He sees potential in Woo Jin and encourages her to push the envelope in her research and to think more clearly about current news events and how they will affect society.

Ji Jin Hee and Ye Jin Son: it's difficult to think of a more physically gorgeous lead couple
in K-dramas than this one!

Although a few times in the beginning his brusqueness and rudeness unsettles her and makes her angry, overall his teachings prod her to stretch herself to an amazing degree and to improve in her craft; near the beginning of the show, after being challenged by him to improve, she even goes all out to chillingly catch a mass murderer who has continuously alluded police capture. I remember talking back to my TV screen when she was in danger of being killed by the psycho nut: "Call the police! Why are you putting yourself in that dangerous position?" (Obviously I should never work in broadcast journalism!).

Woo Jin ends up catching this illusive criminal, embarrassing the police, including bungling detective Byung Hwon Ko (wonderful character actor Dae Yun Lee). However, her boss Tae Suk becomes proud of her growth as a journalist under his mentoring influence. Now she confirms what he already suspected about her: she has what it takes to make it to the top of her chosen profession, even if it means putting her own safety on the line. However he doesn't reckon on his own personal feelings deepening toward Woo Jin, or hers toward him.

I get Descendants of the Sun vibes now
by looking
at this photo of Jin Goo :)

Woo Jin grows so quickly as a journalist that soon a rookie news reporter is put under her guidance, named Sun Chul Lee (Jin Goo from Swallow The Sun), who adds some nice energy and levity to the serious storylines going on in the show.
After the serial killer storyline is concluded, the drama focuses on the intrigue over who will be the newly appointed news anchor host at the station, and after that story is concluded the drama merges into an investigation of a corrupt, polluting industrial company and its illegal political kickbacks going all the way up to the Blue House, then after that we head into more internal turmoil at the station over the development of a brand new 1 hour news show and who will be put in charge of it. Corruption is not tolerated under Tae Suk, an unswerving principle of his which eventually risks his own job security as head of the news division. 

I like this drama because it gives us a bird's eye view into the frantic world of news broadcasting, which I really didn't know much about, and it makes a pertinent point over whether or not the press is truly free and uncorrupted in a modern day republic or democracy. Can we really trust the news? Who is really behind a news story? Do you trust your news anchor to tell you the truth?

You can purchase it in a DVD box set off Amazon. Enjoy!