(커피프린스 1호점) The First Shop of Coffee Prince
One sip is all it will take to become addicted to this drama
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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!)
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.
- · 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). And 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:
- · 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.
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.