The Village: Achiara's Secret
마을 – 아치아라의 비밀
"A Tale Of Two (Different) Sisters"
SBS (2015) 16 Episodes, Grade: B
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


It really pains me to give actress Geun Young Moon's newest K-drama, The Village: Achiara's Secret, only a B grade. I had high hopes for this drama, since I've loved the actress ever since I first saw her in the classic horror film A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003) where she played the tragic youngest sister so poignantly. Since we rarely see a horror-genre K-drama (they make mostly romantic comedies, regular melodramas, and saqeuk), I thought this might turn out to be an example for others in the industry to follow; it did start out promising, with moody, sometimes scary foreboding moments, like the stalking of the main female character with the clickety-clack of walnuts heard menacingly in the background, or the surprise discovery of a pointing skeleton in the woods, but as the story progressed what happened was anything but what the producers were touting we would see: an exciting new type of suspenseful horror adventure in the K-drama genre. In my opinion it just ended up being pretty much a mess.

After half the drama was over it took a turn for the worse, with convoluted writing, unsympathetic selfish characters, all with mental problems of some kind, motivations unexplored that would account for the weird behaviors of practically everyone, including a bizarre cross-dressing dude, a rapist who never seems to receive his just desserts, and not enough real hints embedded in the script for the audience to get excited over who the serial killer in the story might be.

By the last few episodes I started to not care at all who the real killer of Geun Young Moon's character's sister was, and only remained watching because I liked Geun as an actress, and the young actor playing the rookie cop Park Woo Jae (cutie pie Yook Sung Jae who looked like a young Seo In Guk from Master's Sun and The King's Face, minus the beauty mark by the eye) was so refreshing and earnest and fun to watch. There had been rumors that actor Jae Wook Kim (Bad Guy, Who Are You?) had been cast in the drama, but when the drama opened he was nowhere to be seen and no one officially announced why his name had been removed from the original cast list. Definitely a disappointment to his fans anxiously waiting for him to be cast in a lead role again after completion of military service. We NEED him to stop concentrating on his music career so much and come back to acting!

Leading lady Geun Young Moon
with leading man Yook Sung Jae,
almost a dead ringer for Seo In Guk!

The Story: Achiara is a quiet, peaceful village many miles away from Seoul whose residents carry a lot of secrets, though outwardly the village seems calm and nonthreatening and idyllic. English teacher Han So Yoon (Geun Young Moon) arrives from America to take a job as a teacher in one of their schools, but she has a hidden motive for returning to Korea: she wants to track down details about her long lost sister Kim Hye Jin (Jang Hee Jin) whom she was separated from after the death of their parents in a car crash which the entire family suffered through. Is the sister dead or alive?

On her first day in the town, she feels threatened by a stalker dude clicking walnuts in his hand and quickly races to her new apartment, which she is later to learn was also rented by none other than her lost sister! Afterwards, on a walk through some woods she slips and falls and discovers a buried corpse. Could this be her sister? As the townspeople speculate on the identity of the dead person and the reason she was killed, rookie policeman Park Woo Jae (
Yook Sung Jae) – who has finally accomplished his dream of becoming a policeman after failing the exam three times – teams up with So Yoon to uncover the secrets hidden behind her lost sister's whereabouts and possible death, and who could be involved. At the same time, other people are killed in mysterious ways, somehow poisoned by rare chemicals via IV, and the killer forces their mouths into smiling positions after they are dead.

Soon suspicion falls on a weird cross dresser dude named Kang Pil Seung (Choi Jae Woong who DID do a creepy job in his performance!) who lives an isolated existence in a humble building in the woods, however when first questioned he seems to have alibis for any times that murders were committed. Later he falls under suspicion again after So Yoon bravely seeks to get closer to him to learn things about her sister, whom he had taken secret pictures of because he thought her so pretty. There's something definitely not right about this man whom everyone nicknamed "The Young Lady."

The Young Lady
Weird cross-dresser dude alert!

Whenever he would walk the streets dressed as a woman everyone avoided him and kids would spread rumors about him, especially one disturbed teenager who is a bit of a bully, named Ga Young (Lee Yeol Eum). She in turn has a huge crush on an art teacher in her school named Nam Gun Woo (Park Eun Seok) and comes on to him sexually, which doesn't thrill his secret girlfriend, pharmacist Kang Joo Hee (Jang So Yeon), who is a relative of the mysterious ceramic designer Yoon Ji Sook (Shin Eun Kyung). Ji Sook in turn is married to cold businessman - politician Seo Chang Gwon (Jeong Seong Mo) who is so coldly aloof from his wife it causes her much unhappiness and even mental issues. She keeps thinking if she can only have another child that will help their marriage - oi vey! When will women ever learn it never does!


This unhappy couple have a disturbed psychic young daughter named Seo Yoona (Ahn Seo Hyun) who becomes close to new teacher So Yoon and who desires to help her solve the mystery of her sister's disappearance. The body of the dead woman in the woods is identified as her sister Hye Jin and now the case turns into a murder mystery. With so many strange folks in this sleepy village just who could have done the dirty deed? It also appears that Hye Jin's ghost has been visiting people in the town, and leaving little clues for her sister, that sometimes even come out in her dreams.


Eun Ji Sook has perhaps the
most skeletons in her closet

Suspicion falls on pretty much everyone who had anything to do with Hye Jin and the audience is left guessing for far too long without ample little clues about the real killer. Soon secrets are revealed about the parentage and secret relationships of people who had anything to do with Hye Jin at any time, and then an even bigger question arises: who in fact was the dead Hye Jin's biological mother due to rape?

Teacher So Yoon is determined to uncover the truth of everything to do with her sister's murder, down to the last detail, even if it puts her in harm's way. She starts to grow closer to the rookie cop and even more strangely to the older brother of little Yoona, named Seo Gi Hyun (On Joo Wan), who grows more and more upset watching his family breaking apart due to all the tension and conflict.

What a loving "father" Seo Chang Gwon
is, always threatening his family - ugh!

If a writer is going to build a murder mystery effectively they have to give tiny clues as to the real identity of a killer much earlier than the last two to three episodes of a 16 episode drama, so the audience can become invested in the outcome. By bringing in new suspects at the very end the "wow" finish of a murder mystery is diluted because we barely know these characters. One has only to watch Hitchcock films to understand that there can still be tension in a murder mystery even if there are strong suspicions about a certain person early in the game (think of his film Psycho, is there ever really any doubt that Anthony Perkins is the killer? Yet people were still invested in the ultimate outcome of the story and today it's considered a classic). Also the fact that a rapist character was never really completely confirmed for certain, and the creep put in jail left me feeling unsettled in the end. This show had good bones to it but the writer didn't succeed as well as anticipated in fleshing out the story with captivating power.

So I am still waiting to see an ideal Korean drama in the horror or psychological thriller categories that can touch the power of their 2 hour horror films like A Tale Of Two Sisters, Phone, The Ghost (aka Dead Friend), Cello, etc. Maybe Korea should grab hold of one of these films' writers and have them write up a superb who-done-it murder mystery, instead of some newbie screenwriter cutting their baby teeth on dramas.

A Tale Of Two (Different) Sisters


One a ghost, like before ....