Monday, June 30, 2008

In Soon is Pretty - The Characters

After watching one k-drama, I'm never sure what else to watch. There's a lot out there. Fortunately, my friend dramaok has a page with recommendations. I have so far made my way through "White Tower", "Legend", "Thank You", and "Coffee Prince". I started "Que Sera Sera" but I didn't find myself investing enough in the characters and stopped watching. Possibly unfortunate, since dramaok has been pretty right on in her assessments of the shows that I've watched.

So it was time to watch another one and I picked "In Soon is Pretty". Not quite finished with 2.5 episodes to go. It's the story of Park In Soon (IS), an orphan whose parents allegedly died when she was 100 days old, cared for in her youth by her Grandmother. While still in high school IS was jailed for (what appears to be 10 years) accidentally killing a girl.

We meet In Soon as she trolls Seoul looking for work upon her release from prison. In Soon; homeless, friendless, and jobless decides to end her life by stepping out in front of an oncoming train. It is at this moment her old junior high friend Yoo Sang Woo (YSW) recognizes her on the train platform and calls her name.

Brought back from the brink of death, we continue watching In Soon try to push on. There were few people who believed in her while she was in prison; one was her Gramma and the other was one of her junior high teachers. Gramma dies while In Soon is in prison and In Soon falls in love with her teacher. Transferrence at its best. Her teacher however, recognizes this for what it is and consistently pushes In Soon away. His kid is cute though.

Her Aunt and Uncle. Wooooof. The Uncle is a nasty brute who drinks wine like koolaid and knocks his wife down for sport. The Aunt has supported In Soon throughout but isn't above taking pot shots and playing the "You have ruined our lives" card, nicely adding to In Soon's burden of guilt. In what I considered to be a purely selfish act (she just didn't want to have any responsibility for IS any longer) she drops a bombshell on IS - her mother is still alive. Niiiiiiiice. I'm not liking any of these people.

Mom is an actress ~ Lee Sun Young (LSY). LSY is supremely, no, MONUMENTALLY self absorbed, not getting the roles she wants any longer and so she pushes her other daughter, Jung Ha, to go on auditions. Mom starts to see her own star fading and to keep herself in the spotlight, longs to get her daughter involved in the business as well. Jung Ha has no interest and could probably benefit from a run on the Prozac train quite frankly.

Yoo Sang Woo has loved Park In Soon his whole life. He was a geeky kid, not smart, not athletic, kinda goofy looking when they were children (yeeeesss, we get the obligatory childhood love flashbacks all through the show) and he finds himself attracted to her as an adult. Born to irresponsible parents, we see a flashback of them fleeing to Canada in the middle of the night to escape their creditors. This may have been a viable option in the 1980s, certainly a penniless Korean family carrying plastic garbage bags full of their life's possessions out of Korea and into Canada wouldn't have caused any raised eyebrows. Nooooo sir.

YSW has done well for himself. Shed his geeky image and grew into a fiiiine lookin' young man. Finished school, went to college, and is now a successful reporter with KBC television. Personally, I think his success can be argued, or at the very least it can be determined that he has a lousy research department, since he has no idea what happened to In Soon since he last saw her. He further condemns himself when he claims to have searched the internet to no avail to try to find information on her. I decided later on in the series that he was hired solely for his cool good looks - Hey! Sang Woo! Google dude. Google.

YSW's dad seems to be going through a mid-life crisis, as he becomes obsessed with In Soon's Mom, Lee Sun Young - he has several mugs on his office desk sporting her in a variety of roles, photos are pasted on his office walls. If this was CSI and LSY were dead, we'd be looking for a lock of hair and her liver in a jar at this point. However, LSY revels in the attention and actually meets with her stalker. He's falling in love, she's looking for someone to remodel her house on the cheap.

YSW's mom ~ next to In Soon, I feel saddest for her. Here this woman keeps a lovely home, takes care of her family, stuck by that pig of a partner of hers when they spirited off to Canada after he failed in business and now that she's older she's no longer attractive to him anymore.
She's ignored by her husband - indeed, the only time he deigns to speak to her it's to abusively criticize. Sang Woo does little to ease the tension - after a long hard day of chasing In Soon around Seoul, he comes home ignoring his mother's attempts at communication with little more than grunts and goes to his nicely appointed room.

Mom eventually finds out that Dad is having an affair (which in k-drama fashion = going to a play's as good as a hug) and she packs his bags and throws him out. When she calls Sang Woo to tell him what's going on, he ignores the pain in her voice and is dismissive to her so ~ good on her ~ she says she's on strike. Tells him she's not cooking or cleaning or doing his laundry any more. "Hey Oma, is something wrong?" Ohhhhh, NOW he senses she's upset. My boys ever treat me like that, they're gonna get an earful.

Couple of minor characters - Jung Ha and Geun Soo. Jung Ha - as I mentioned before is In Soon's half sister and Geun Soo is her adoptive brother - it's amazing how complicated these shows get. JH falls in love with GS - GS is a ne'er do well, a grifter, who owes the mob money. He has women shoving all sorts of money at him - you know, I don't even know if he pays the thugs off, but he has no problem taking the money. A tortured lonely soul, I think GS's measure of love is non-abandonment, stemming from when his own mother left him at a bus terminal telling him she'd be right back. Mom abandoned him, IS in an act of tough love tells him she's done with him. The only one who sticks is JH who follows him through the streets of Seouls and further. He can't shake her. And he's starting to need her.

Jung Ha, for all her money and privilege just can't stand her mom and like all good girls looking to rebel, falls for the baddest boy that comes in her line of sight. I think she really understands him though, inasmuch as her life experience has been sheltered.

Lonely. All these characters are lonely. Even after becoming a media darling, In Soon is still empty, her mom with her one fan is lonely, YSW with his successful career is lonely, all lonely trying to make it work. Loneliness and sadness permeates this series, but the sweet thread running throughtout is YSW's love for IS. We get to see it when they are young when it's pure and sweet, and now we watch as it matures while they are hefting all their baggage from the intervening years and trying to sort through the baggage of those around them.

I think this will end sweetly and I hope happily for all the characters. Except for In Soon's Mom. We still haven't had a good solid trip "to the beach" yet...but I'm hopeful.


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