Sunday Drama Review – Coffee Prince

(커피프린스 1호점) The First Shop of Coffee Prince

One sip is all it will take to become addicted to this drama

Coffee Prince (1) Summary: The First Shop of Coffee Prince (or better known shortly as “Coffee Prince”) tells the story of Go Eun-chan, a 24-year-old tomboy who is the “head” of her household and has many odd jobs to support her mother and younger sister. When a string of bad luck causes her family to go into more debt, she seeks employment at “Coffee Prince”; a brand new coffee shop opened up by Choi Han-gyul, the only grandson of the CEO of a Coffee Company. Coffee Prince however, only hires beautiful “prince” like guys, so Go Eun-chan disguises herself as a boy and lands herself the job. Among the many adventures with the other coffee “princes” – playboy Ha Rim, mysterious Sun Ki and loveable Min-yeop – Go Eun-chan finds herself starting to fall in love with boss, Choi Han-gyul…except he thinks she is a guy.

Characters:

Coffee Prince (4)Go Eun-chan (played by Yoon Eun-hye) is the lovely protagonist of this drama. She has always been mistaken as boy since she keeps her hair very short, so she has no problem pretending to be a guy at “Coffee Prince”. Since she was young she had to take care of her family, so she is very mature and logical and tries to keep an optimistic personality even when times get rough. She is a very lovable character, making her almost impossible for people to hate.

Choi Han-gyul (played by Gong-yoo) is the thirty year old, only child from a wealthy family. Coffee Prince (5)He was sent to study abroad and learn about responsibility but he comes back, still as unprepared for the world as when he left, and very determined to stay as a carefree bachelor. His tough grandmother decides to fix this problem by setting him up with his first ever job – managing the First Shop of Coffee Prince. If he is able to triple the sales then he will have proved to his family that he is mature enough.

Coffee Prince (8)Choi Han-seong (played by Lee Sun-kyun) is the older cousin of Han-gyul and an established music producer. He already knew Go Eun-chan before she started her job as a Coffee Prince waiter, so he helps her keep her secret from his cousin so that she can continue working there. Coffee Prince (7)Han Yoo-joo (played by Chae Jung-an) had been dating Han-seong for nine years when they broke up and she moved to New York to pursue her work as an artist. Now she is back in Korea and wishes to rekindle her romance with her first love. This of course brings discomfort to Han-gyul as he has always been in love with Yoo-joo but gave her up so that she could be with her cousin – now he is torn on whether or not to steal this second chance from his cousin.

Jin Ha Rim (played by Kim Dong-wook) is Han-gyul’s younger best friend, who enjoys all the attention he gets for being a cute waiter at Coffee Prince. He is a playboy by nature but very funny, with his occasional sweet moments. Noh Sun-ki (played by Kim Jae-wook) is the Japanese waffle chef at Coffee Prince. His handsome looks gather a lot of female fans, but he chooses to ignore them and keep his mysterious personality – not even the other employees know why he is in Korea, or why he is always so serious. Hwang Min-yeop (played by Lee Eon) is the youngest of the group; and even though he is big in size he has the heart of a teddy bear. He might not be the brightest, but he is extremely loyal to his friends. He is also the faithful boyfriend of Go Eun-sae (played by Han Yeh-in), the younger bratty sister of Go Eun-chan.

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Themes:

Homosexuality:

“Grab onto him. He liked you even when he thought you were a guy. Who knows, maybe he won’t go.” – Sun-ki.

The most obvious problem in the drama is that Go Eun-chan is pretending to be a boy, which of course leads to a complicated mess of tangled feelings for Han-gyul. He feels himself drawn to Eun-chan but the fact that she is a “boy” confuses him since he is 100% that he is straight and loves women. Yet, this is first time he feels any sort of emotion towards a male and this leads to his own inner conflict (which was beautiful portrayed if I may say so) of deciding whether to act upon his feelings and get rejected by society. With homosexuality being such a taboo topic in Korea, it was wonderful to see an attempt at confronting the issue, even though the situation wasn’t actually a case of being homosexual.

Sexuality:

“I want to live with you. For the rest of my life, I want to eat together, talk together, sleep together, be together. Do I need any other reason?” – Han-gyul.

With most Korean Dramas, it seems the norm for romantic couples is to stop at kissing and forget about the “other” stuff. But this drama forges ahead and ignores the trend of hiding the human instinct of sexual desire, and makes an accurate, realistic representation of how couples actually are. It doesn’t go raunchy, nor does it try and cover up what it is; it simply shows sex as the loving act it is.

Feminism:

“The moment a man makes a woman his, the man wants that woman to live according to his wishes. But just because he’s won her over, can he force her to do as he wants?” – Han-seong.

This was a more subtle theme, which appeared at the very beginning and then disappeared until the end when the strong female protagonist brought it back. Because Go Eun-chan’s father died, and she was the oldest child, she took on the responsibilities of the household, therefore turning the family into a Matriarchy. When topics of sex, marriage, and work comes up in the drama, Go Eun-chan demonstrates a very feministic mindset: she doesn’t want to get married until she has an education and career in place, because she doesn’t want to depend on her husband or anybody else. Koreans tend to lean towards a Patriarchy society, so it was wonderful to see such a strong female role.

Symbols:

No (obvious) symbols were present in this drama. And you know what? This drama ended up working perfectly fine without any. So bonus points to this drama!

*Spoilers* (Do not read if you don’t want this drama spoiled for you, you have been warned!)

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Things I liked:

  • ·         Yoon Eun-hye as a Boy: Coffee Prince was one of the first, and so far has done the best job with the “girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy” theme. After this drama’s popularity, many others tried copying this loved plot, but in my opinion no one has been able to pull it off better than Yoon Eun-hye. She became her role by not only cutting her hair and dressing like a young boy with loose t-shirts and tomboy shorts, but also adapting the mannerisms of a male. She walked, talked and ate like a teenage boy and she did such good job that sometimes I forgot that she was actually female.
  • ·        Coffee Prince (10) Realistic Romance: I have never seen another drama that was able to portray a love between a man and a woman so realistically. Never mind the fact that it was also ridiculously adorable and cute to watch, but they actually behaved like a real couple – they kissed a lot, they snuggled and cuddled and even *le gasp*…had sex! (Which according to usual Korean dramas…never happens between a couple. If so then how do they have kids then? Do they just magically appear?)
  • ·         Coffee Prince “Bromance” or Friendships: The four coffee “Princes” held such a strong friendship that was evident every time they came on screen. They started off as strangers that didn’t really get along, as all of them have such dynamic personalities that get under each other’s skin every now and then. But after working together from literally the very beginning of Coffee Prince (when it was nothing more than a run-down shop), they have formed loyal connections. One clear example of this was when it was finally revealed that Eun-chan was a girl: Sun-ki didn’t see anything wrong with it, because for him it didn’t matter if she was a boy or a girl, she was still the same person. Min-yeop was stunned at first, but then after he found she was a girl he became protective of her like an older brother would (even though he was younger). 04 Coffee Prince 129And Ha Rim of course threw a fit a first; he first priority was his best friend Han-gyul and he knew how much his friend was hurting because of this secret so his immediate reaction was to be mad at Eun-chan. The idea of her actually being a girl however did not bother him (except for the embarrassment of having revealed “guy” secrets to her, along with other personal body parts).
  • ·         Strong Secondary Characters: Han-seong and Yoo-joo were two of the strongest secondary characters I had ever seen. Their story was not just back a back-drop for the lead romance, but held its ground all on its own. Even influences several decisions for the main couple; for instance when they decided to get married, that sparked the controversial discussion between Eun-chan and Han-gyul on when they should get married that spanned over several of the ending episodes. Even this couple alone, both individuals made things difficult for the lead couple (with their own intentional/unintentional interference) yet they never made it so that the viewers disliked them because they were such like characters even with faults.

Things I didn’t like:

  • ·         Coffee Prince (6)Go Eun-sae’s lack of development: Go Eun-sae played the irritating character of the drama, and in my opinion did a better job of being disliked that the secondary girl (which is usually the one viewer tend to dislike because they get in the way of the main romance). Her bratty persona did a lot of diversity to the drama, however I would have preferred if there was more character development. That she started off bratty but then learned that that is not the way to keep friends or her devoted boyfriend. When Min-yeop stood up to her, I was very proud of him. But then even though they made up and got back together at the end, I wished her character could have shown that there was a possibility of her changing to become more amiable to others.

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Author’s Final Remarks: 9.6/10

~Coffee Prince is a classic among Korean Dramas; a timeless romantic comedy and one of the best (if not the best) renditions of the “girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy” theme. It’s a great summer time drama, full of cuteness and fluff, without being overly nauseating, that shows the most realistic romance that sweeps one of their feet. You can’t help but fall in love with all the coffee princes; from Han-gyul charisma to his adorable affections towards his family (and let’s not forget the dress shirts that make him too hot for summer!). Go Eun-chan’s lovely personality that makes her a great role-model for all young girls. Even the princes, all had their own charms that made them loved. This is a drama that I never get tired of watching, and I’m amazed that I still get the same fluttering feelings like the first time I watched it. I dare you to find someone who doesn’t like this drama, because that’s how confident I am that anyone who watches this drama will love it.

~Millie

The KCON Fly-Away Sweepstakes

KCON SweepsThe KCON Fly-Away Sweepstakes presented by Verizon is back and one luck fan is going to win a VIP trip to KCON 2013. More information is in the release below.

To enter, either fill-out the entry form on the Verizon Insider website (www.verizoninsider.com/kcon), or text “KCON” to 96035. The sweepstakes starts today, July 25, 2013 at 6 p.m. PST and ends on August 13, 2013 at 6 p.m. PST. You must be a U.S. resident and 18 years of age or older to enter.

 

“Secretly and Greatly” Returns to AMC Fashion Valley

Didn’t get the chance to see “Secretly and Greatly” at last weekend’s premiere, or did you enjoy it so much you wish you could see it again? No worries! This film will once again be showing from Friday, July 26th through Tuesday, July 30th. The following are the daily show times:

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What To Read: “A year since Gangnam Style, K-Pop keeps getting bigger…”

Psy Gangnam StyleTo keep you updated on the latest stats, here’s a link to a great article posted on YouTube regarding the upward trend in K-Pop views since Psy’s Gangnam Style first hit the online scene. Complete with graphs and charts, the article, written by Kevin Alocca,  includes a Top 10 playlist for your viewing pleasure.

 

http://youtube-trends.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-year-since-gangnam-style-k-pop-keeps.html

Director Chung Ji-Young to visit Irvine for Korean film “National Security”

Silent River Film and Literary Society on its inaugural event, is proud to present “National Security” (Namyeong-dong 1985), directed by veteran South Korean film director Chung Ji-young. Chung Ji-young will be in attendance from South Korea to engage in a Q&A with audiences and receive the River Spirit Award for his lifetime achievements. He will also receive the River Rock Award on behalf of actor Ahn Sung-kee for his role in feature film “Unbowed” screened at the Silent River Film Festival.

Reserve your spot to watch an unforgettable South Korean film (with English subtitles)
at the Irvine Civic Center on Sunday, August 11th, followed by a reception at Arirang BBQ House in Irvine!

To purchase tickets:
CLICK HERE

www.silentriverfilmandliterarysociety.org

Synopsis: On September 4, 1984, democracy movement leader Kim Jong-tae (Park Won-sang) is arrested and taken to an infamous interrogation facility in Namyeong-dong. For the next 22 days, he would be cruelly and continuously tortured in all manners by interrogators intent on forcing him to confess to communist collaboration.

Movie trailer:

Sunday Drama Review – Dating Agency: Cyrano

(연애조작단; 시라노) Dating Agency: Cyrano

Flower Boy Edition #4

Secret Flower Boy Cupids? Where can I find this dating agency?

Summary:

Based on 2010 romantic comedy “Cyrano Agency”, Dating Agency: Cyrano is the fourth installment in the Flower Boy series. Cyrano Theater faces being closed down for good, so director Seo Byung-hoon takes over his friend’s theater and starts a dating agency to pay back that friend’s debt. Assisted by the younger flower boys, Moo-jin and Ah-rang, and the spirited Mi-young, these four put together romantic situations for their clients and help them woo the people they love.

Characters:

Dating Agency (3)Seo Byung-hoon (played by Lee Jong-hyuk) is the older director who comes back to Korea when he hears of his friend’s death. He vows to restore the rundown theater to its once renounced glory, but he can’t do so until he pays off the enormous debt. Despite love being the core element of his work, he doesn’t believe in love and has a very disagreeable attitude towards others. He is the natural leader of the four – not only because of his age, but because he is a mastermind when it comes to thinking of heartfelt and touching lines for his clients to say to the targets and planning intricate operations to show off their client’s positive aspects and sincerity.

Dating Agency (2)Gong Min-young (played by Choi Soo-young) is the bubbly new member of Cyrano and the only female of the group. She gets recruited after expressing strong determination in her previous matchmaking job, and demonstrates that she is willing to do whatever it takes to get two people who love each other to be together. She is diehard romantic. Despite being shown the cruel sides of relationship, she still remains positive on true love and believes everything in life happens for a reason. A bad experience means one is just a step closer to finding their soulmate.

Dating Agency (4)Moo-jin (played by Hong Jong-hyun) is the genius engineer of the group and is in charge of all the technical devices used in their missions. As one of the flower boys, he is strikingly handsome and paired with his black motorcycle and dark and mysterious personality, he is an obvious attraction to the girls around him. However, he is completely clueless on the matters of love, never having been exposed to any in his life, thus keeping to himself and saying as little as possible.Dating Agency (5) Do Ah-rang (played by Jo Yoon-woo) is the youngest member of the group, a 19-year-old high school student who wants to be an actor. He is a kind-hearted individual who tries to keep the mood up between the somber Moo-jin and the irritable Byung-hoon. He has yet to fall in love, making him naïve on the topic of love as well as Moo-jin.

Cha Seung-pyo (played by Lee Chun Hee) is the chief and owner of the restaurant next door to the Cyrano Theater.  With a sketchy past he tries so desperately to keep hidden, he finds himself drawn to Gong Min-young’s peppy personality, while at the same time displays a remarkably cold persona to Byung-hoon, indicating a troublesome past between the two. He often helps the Cyrano gang with their missions, even lending his restaurant on occasion for one of their “set-ups”. He even comforts Min-young whenever she gets frustrated with the boys’ lack of compassion towards their clients.

Dating Agency (6)

Other characters in the drama were the different clients/targets (as each mini storyline lasted from 2-3 episodes before it switched to another “job”). Many of these roles were filled by familiar faces. Jin Ji-hee, Lee Chung-ah, Choi Won-young, Lee Yoon-ji, Lee Tae-min (SHINee),  Lee Kwang-soo, Gong Yoo and Jung Yoo-mi all played a variety of characters – from ballerina to chef, magician to even idol singer. (And I think we can all guess who that one was!)

Themes:

Sincerity:

“True love can only be achieved through true feelings.” – Gong Min-young

“Sincerity doesn’t always come in straight balls. Sometimes you need to throw curve balls or throw outside the strike zone.” – Gong Min-young

The reason why the Dating Agency: Cyrano worked is because it didn’t try to fabricate love out of thin air. They simply dug up sentimental emotions, turning points for the clients/targets, and launched them into full view. They waved the hidden feelings around like obvious flags, but played them off as circumstance or coincidence. For all of their “missions” to work, the sincere emotions of the client had to be there. And that became the basis of all their work – sincerity and true love.

Dating Agency (7)Manipulation:

There were many accusations that Dating Agency: Cyrano was not a morally abiding business, simply using tricks and manipulating the emotions of others to fit into their perfect situations. The group consistently tried to prove to all of those who criticize their work that they are not “creating” any emotions that were not already there. None of their plans are 100% guaranteed. Human error, no matter how effectively they are trying to convince the target to look upon the client, might not be swayed enough.

Inner Love:

“The most important part about loving and being loved is loving yourself first. A person that doesn’t love himself/herself cannot shine. They cannot be loved by others.” – Gong Min-young

The clients that Cyrano received were people who cannot express their love. They don’t know how or are simply too shy to make a move or confess. Cyrano helped these individuals who were not confident by being their cupids or guardian angels; they hide in the background and control the scenarios so that they are able to let their client shine in their moment. In a particular case, a client had difficulty approaching the guy she loved because she did not have enough self-confidence to even speak to him. Before the group could begin to alter the heart of the target, they had to first change the heart of the client to love themselves before they could even begin to love someone else or allow themselves to be loved.

Moving on from Past Love:

“Nothing happens by mistake, it was all meant to be…You never know who you are going to end up with” – Gong Min-young.

 “What are you afraid of? You can focus on the present with that attitude. Focus in the present. Be happy in the present. Love in the present. That’s the most important thing for you as the person alive in this moment” – Seo Byung-hoon.

Occasionally, people can get caught up in their first loves. Even though they are over, they are not able to forget the memories, and that stops them from being able to love another. This struggling to let go off the past not only was shown through the clients but through some of the main characters as well.

Symbols:

Love Personified: Love was without a fail the main theme of this drama, and it was able to expand on the different levels and ranges of loves with the numerous examples. Love was occasionally personified, and Byung-hoon gave it this negative strength to show how powerful love can be to an individual; it could either make or break someone.

“The most powerful venom in love is false hope” – Seo Byung-hoon.

“There is no vaccine for love; you can never have immunity for it” – Seo Byung-hoon.  

*Spoilers* (Do not read if you don’t want this drama spoiled for you, you have been warned!)

Dating Agency (1)

What I Liked:

  • Archs: I enjoyed how the mini love stories end up being a reflection of the main characters. It either becomes a lesson to re-think a previous notion of love, or it also allows them to grow and learn from this new exposure to love. Each time, the main leads were able to undergo character development in a natural way that spanned over time and was logically backed-up by the “missions” that they went under which changed their minds.

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  • The Guest Cast: I loved that the “clients” and the “targets” were famous actors or actresses, idols or comedians who made cameo appearances. This might have been the drama’s saving grace (in terms of ratings) for it brought along a wider audience to view a specific episode(s). I personally loved the format of little mini-episodes, where the story-line only last 2-3 episodes before it changed to another one. It allowed for more variety and kept things interesting without running the rhythm or pace of the drama.
  • Choi Soo-young: I have become a bit skeptical of idols acting in dramas these days, but I was glad that this Girl Generation member was able to convince me otherwise. Her acting was great and she really brought the character to life, stealing many of the scenes where the Flower Boys should have done easily just by smiling (or in Moo-jin’s case glaring) at the camera.
  • Loan Shark Goons: Otherwise known as Lee Min-shik (played by Bae Seong-woo) and Go Young-dal (played by Kim Min-kyo). These were the two “henchmen” or muscle guys for the loan shark Cha Seung-pyo and also the comic relief characters of the drama. They tried to be tough in front of others but they were simply dorky guys who really adored their boss (even when he yelled at them). And how hard they tried to set-up their boss and their idea of romance was really fun to watch.

What I didn’t’ like:

  • The Age Gap: There was an age gap between the two leads that distracted me to no ends. Choi Soo-young is 23-years-old, but her two love interests were 12 and 15 years older (respectively). The fact that there was an age gap was not a problem for me, but seeing it on the screen was very distracting because she looked and acted so much younger than the two male leads. Especially when she had the school uniform on for four episodes straight, that made the two leads really looks like father figures instead of potential boyfriends.
  • The Loose Ends: There were so many loose ends in this drama despite how sweetly this drama ended. For instance, it was never really made clear what happened between Byung-hoon, Yi-seol, and Do-il that their friendship became so estranged before Do-il’s passing, or what exactly happened that night that would make Byung-hoon guilty. What happened to the chefs Min-ji and Dal-in’s relationship? Last time we saw that they had broken up because Min-ji had found out they got together because of the matchmaking of Cyrano, but the drama never hinted if they got back together or if the issue was resolved. What about Hye Ri? Even though she did change sides at the very end, she was still an accessory to a kidnapping/murder attempt. And there were many more things that left me pondering the realistic nature of this drama.

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  • Do Ah-rang’s disappearance: I was personally very excited that Jo Yoon-woo was going to be back in another drama and another Flower Boy edition as well! He showed so much potential in “Flower Boy Ramyun Shop”, however they seemed to have given him the exact same role: a very happy, sweet flower boy who is only kind and selfless to others. And as well as he pulls this character off, I was unhappy by the fact that they only gave him attention during the first five episodes and then cut his time in the drama by a lot. Moo-jin’s character development was executed a lot better by lasting throughout the drama, going at a slow pace and building with each new “mission”.
  • The Kidnapping/Action attempt: Honestly, if it wasn’t for episode 15, I would have given this drama a higher score. That “action” twist only ruined the drama for me. The drama was a nice romantic comedy, a slow but sweet summer drama. But the random change to an action/thriller was not only jarring but seemed to have been thrown in last minute. The episode itself was not bad; it just didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the drama. All it did was make me feel guiltier for our poor gangster-turned-into humble-chef, Cha Seung-pyo, who not only gave away his life to serve under a different mobster, but also got stabbed trying to protect the girl he loved who was in love with someone else.

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Author’s Final Remarks: 7.5/10

Dating Agency: Cyrano was a cute drama. In some moments it blew away my expectations with great acting or an amazing line/scene. But then on other occasions it left me with a sense of disappointment. It’s the kind of drama that one can watch casually, but doesn’t leave you at the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. And in some ways that’s kind of its charm; that this drama is so laid-back and quirky in its own way. It’s portrayal of love was so diverse and refreshing, and with the initial plot of having a dating agency that makes their love come true, it lived up to the creative freedom it was given.

~Millie