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Delightful Girl Chun-Hyang (2005) Drama Review
It’s a modern retelling of the old Korean folktale of Mong Ryong and Chun Hyang (think Romeo and Juliet). Mong Ryong is a police chief’s troublemaking son; Chun Hyang the hard-working daughter of a nightclub singer. When they’re accidentally caught in a compromising situation, their parents decide to marry them off to head off the scandal. Gradually, the two fall in love, with lots of obstacles along the way.
Title: Delightful Girl Chun-Hyang, Sassy Girl Chun-Hyang, 쾌걸 춘향
Genre: Romance, comedy, drama
Broadcast: KBS, 2005
It’s the first Hong sisters drama, and so it has their trademark zippiness and fun, as well as their clunkiest clichés. The best part of the drama by far is the main pair. They’re cheeky and bickery and absolutely fun when they’re together onscreen. What the writers have done beyond that is to give them a gradual relationship – the drama in fact encompasses several years during which the two become friends, support and encourage each other in the pursuit of their dreams, and fall in love. In fact (with the exception of The Best Love) this is the most mature Hong sisters couple. Mong Ryong turns from an immature layabout to a responsible, upright adult. Chun Hyang learns to rely on someone and trust them. Plus they have great chemistry and it’s so much fun to see them battle the attraction they feel for the other.
This may also be one of the best handlings of the marriage-contract plot trope. The marriage itself doesn’t last long and it only serves to bring them together as friends and partners; after that, it’s left up to the couple to pursue the relationship. A secondary couple of the lead pair’s best friends is light, sweet and cute. The pacing is fast and events progress quickly one after the other, never lingering too long on one plot point.
That being said, there were several of the Hong sisters’ flaws in the drama too. The second leads, of Mong Ryong’s first crush and Chun Hyang’s admirer, were meddling at best and absolutely infuriating at worst. After the first few episodes, they existed just to pull the main couple apart. And it succeeded remarkably well, as the couple is also a champion in miscommunication and misunderstandings, prolonging the second half of the drama into a long angst-fest. Still, bear in mind that the story is based on the ancient legend and loosely follows that story structure.
I would say, watch Delightful Girl Chun Hyang for the fun and the OTP, and if you’re a fan of fairytale retellings. It’s fun and fast and cheeky, but only the first time around.
Jae Hee as Lee Mong Ryong: He’s the lounger, the layabout, the lazy kid who’s the despair of his rigidly disciplined father. Still, he has a heart of gold and a latent maturity that grows throughout the series, just like his determination to win over the girl he loves. Not to forget his absolute cheekiness and sense of fun. Jae Hee owns this show with his sheer expressiveness and ability to switch from comedy to seriousness.
Han Chae Young as Chun Hyang: She’s a serious student and the mature one, earning her brownie points with Father-in-law. She has a streak of stubbornness and pride that make her independent, but also stall the drama in places where you just want to shout, “Just tell him you love him already!” Han Chae Young turned her glamour-girl image upside down with this role, and she sure had chemistry with her costar. She’s not as emotive as Jae Hee, but does well enough here.
Park Shi Eun as Chae Rin: She’s Mong Ryong’s first love, the one who rejected him first, and then after his marriage decides that she wants him after all. She’s rather infuriating as the clingy second female lead, but she disappears later on, to my relief. Park doesn’t have much to do beside look pretty and petulant, but that’s the way her character is written.
Uhm Tae Woong as Byun Hak Do: He’s the mature, thoughtful caring love interest for Chun-Hyang, a contrast to Mong Ryong’s immaturity. Unfortunately, he turns unreasonably possessive later on, but that could be based on the possessive magistrate in the original legend. Uhm Tae Woong fits better in the first half than the second, again mostly because of the character’s whip-lash change.
Lee In Hye plays Han Dan Hee, the maid/friend role to Chun Hyang; Mun Ji Yun as Bang Ji Hyuk plays the same for Mong Ryong. Ahn Suk Hwan and Choi Ran (Hong sisters favorites) play Mong-Ryong's parents, and Kim Chung plays Chun-Hyang's flighty mother. In general, they're an entertaining supporting cast.
Of all these three elements, I found the directing to be the worst. The first few episodes were crazily edited, with scenes cutting away in odd places and little narrative input coming from the framing of the shots. It got better progressively, however, and there were some nicely-shot scenes toward the end.
The music wasn’t a standout, but it was fast-paced and fit the zippiness of the show.
Barring all this, though, I want to murder the wardrobe man. This show has the craziest outfits I’ve ever seen on a male actor. Imagine Jae Hee in all the brightly clashing colors you can cram on a shirt, with dubious bits of fur hanging off him, complete with chains draped here and there. Ugh. And their version of a hardworking rural girl is to put Han Chae Young in unflattering, boxy layers and looped pigtails. NOT pretty, wardrobe crew.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Jae Hee and his million facial expressions. Seriously, Jae Hee is by far the best thing about the drama, with awesome comedic talent. His reactions to every new situation were definitely something to see.
2) What would a Hong sisters show be without a parody? And this one provides a tongue-in-cheek saguek parody at the end of each episode, poking fun at the original folktale.
3) The main couple’s sheer bickeryness. I think these two take the cake in back-and-forth arguments, but it’s all highly entertaining and even endearing to hear them squabble.
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