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MBC Comedy-Drama “Soulmate”

Although I’m busy with “work” and life and all those other things, and still have to catch up on recaps of Dal Ja’s Spring, I think the next series I’ll try recapping is the MBC show SOULMATE, broadcast in mid-2006. Partially because (1) it’s an awesome show, and (2) there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available about it.

 
BASIC INFO:
Director(s): No Do-chul, Sun Hye-yoon
Screenwriters: Jo Jin-kook, Park Eun-jung, Nam Ji-yeon
Broadcast period: 2006 March 13 – 2006 June 26
Episode total: 12* (see note at bottom)

Official MBC Website: http://www.imbc.com/broad/tv/ent/soulmate/soul/index.html

(Torrents and subs available at d-addicts.com.)

 
SONG(s) OF THE DAY

A universally praised aspect of the show is its amazing, eclectic, perfectly selected soundtrack. There are too many songs featured to even list properly in one post, but these are a few key tracks:

Nouvelle Vague – “This Is Not A Love Song.” This serves as kind of the anthem of the first episode. [ Download ]

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Mon Murmure – “Jazz Cocktail.” This gives you an idea of the playful nature the show sometimes adopts. [ Download ]

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Lasse Lindh – “The Stuff” [ Download ]

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THE (VERY ATTRACTIVE) CAST:


L to R: Otani Ryohei, Sa Kang (as Hong Yu-jin), Lee Soo-kyung, Shin Dong-wook, Jang Mi-in-ae (as Jang Min-ae), Jung-hwan, Kim Mi-jin, Philip Choi

 

I stumbled across the series, fell in love with it, and worked on translating the latter half. For fans of kdramas who wish there was something a little “different” and fresher from the norm, who may enjoy sitcoms like the Nonstop series but find them a little stale and predictable, Soulmate is a must-see. It might be best described as a Sex & The City-style comedy-drama, often risque and mostly dealing with modern relationships and how men and women differ in how they communicate.

The director, No Do Chul, is quite talented and best known perhaps for his Hello, Francesca series, which was an Addams Family-like sitcom about multigenerational vampires. He’s got a knack for visual flair and a kickass ear for music.

 
THE PREMISE:

Each episode deals with an aspect of modern relationships and dating, but at the center of the series are its two destined “soulmates,” Shin Dong-wook and Lee Soo-kyung. Lest you immediately groan at the cheesy and over-romanticized concept of soulmates, let me assure you that it’s handled very well, and not at all in a trite or obvious way. The series deals with the question of whether soulmates even exist, with each character on a different part of the spectrum. Interestingly, the two supposed soulmates are among the most skeptical, while the supporting characters tend to consider the concept in a more idealized, romantic way.

 
SHIN DONG-WOOK, a freelance music coordinator (with excellent musical taste, by the way), is the consummate playboy, a guy’s guy who finds women constantly throwing themselves at him. He’s perfected the “game” of dating to an art form. He hangs out with best friends Jung-hwan and Ryohei, who are both players in their own right but not to the level of success as Dong-wook. At 30 and from a good background and family, he’s being pressured to finally settle down and goes on a “mat-seon,” or a formal blind date between two prospective marriage candidates, and meets Hong Yu-jin. He doesn’t necessarily believe in true love or soulmates, but he’s content enough to date Yu-jin for the moment, playing this game he’s conquered so many times.

LEE SOO-KYUNG is your everywoman character, lovable and pretty, but not exceptional. She works as a proofreader at a newspaper, and has dated her boyfriend, Philip, for five years. She loves Philip and has a content life, but her love has never been challenged, until Philip proposes to her (on a subway!) and she finds herself conflicted rather than happily excited. She doesn’t believe in soulmates either, but believes that sticking to this relationship that’s been nurtured with time and commitment will lead to happiness.

 
SUPPORTING CHARACTERS:

HONG YU-JIN (above, left) is a well-bred, conservative 27-year-old who just wants to get married and be a good wife and mother. Although she was raised as a little princess, instead of being bratty and spoiled, she’s rather na�ve. She also speaks a quirky, old-style form of Korean which is oddly formal but also endearing. At first she falls for Dong-wook’s qualifications and calculated moves, but soon finds herself falling in love for real.

PHILIP is a doting boyfriend to Soo-kyung, overly attentive and the kind of guy who showers his girl with cutesy phrases and gifts. Although he’s a bit timid and unassuming, he catches the notice of a seductress, Min-ae, and finds his feelings for Soo-kyung faltering…

JANG MIN-AE, an English instructor, is your classic man-eater, confident and sexy and aggressively so. Any guy she wants, she gets. She starts dating Ryohei, but at the same time starts noticing her co-worker, Philip, as cute and interesting. She knows he’s been dating a girl in a serious relationship, but she comes on to Philip anyway. After all, it’s not her fault if he’s attracted to her. She’s never thought of how her actions may hurt others, enjoying life and romance for what it is in the present…

RYOHEI is a Japanese model, who became popular in Korea for his commercials and modeling (both true for the character and real-life actor). He catches the eye of Min-ae, and despite knowing of her cool attitude toward love, understands her and lets her have her space. He’s considered a hot catch but isn’t terribly interested in the dating tug-of-war; he doesn’t quite understand what all the love-games are about. He’d rather just be honest and straightforward, rather than going through the whole romance run-around.

JUNG-HWAN, 32 and a personal trainer at the gym, likes to think he’s a better player than he is, but his pick-up lines are mostly cheesy and he assumes women like him when they’re often annoyed at his persistence. He’s rendered helpless at the hands of a beautiful woman. Still, he’s rather harmless and has had his share of playing Casanova.

KIM MI-JIN is Soo-kyung and Yu-jin’s supervisor at the newspaper. She’s an eccentric spinster who believes herself to be independent and liberated, but is desperately in want of a man. She subscribes to an unpredictable and strange set of beliefs, but has occasional flashes of true insight. She falls for Jung-hwan and pursues him with unbelievable persistence, believing him to be her soulmate. Jung-hwan is both attracted and repulsed by her (often depending on his level of intoxication!).

 
* This series is billed as a sitcom but is really more like a very funny drama. The first two episodes are one hour long. Thereafter, each “hour” episode actually contains 2 “installments.” So although there are technically 22 “episodes” in total, in terms of hour-long episodes to watch/download, there are 12. It sounds confusing at first, but just keep in mind there are 12 hours and you’ll be fine.

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I agree with seigi no mikata - that yu-jin character was so annoying I wanted to give up on the show many times! Oh how I wished I could've reached into my laptop screen and grab her by the shoulders to shake some sense into her!

Anyways... Soulmate certainly is very different from the rest of the K-dramas and I liked how they explored the idea of fate and soulmates. At times it dragged on and the characters were almost caricatures/ cliches and chemistry almost non-existent between the couples. Still, there were moments of brilliance (whether romantic or comedic) with a lovely soundtrack and the ending was perfect. Yes, I'm a little disappointed that the main characters weren't always written well and then there were too many additional characters that just diluted the story more than it helped... but Soulmate's definitely heaps better than some trendy dramas with high ratings.

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i wanted more for the ending T_T

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this drama is a great catch! sad I never noticed it until now!!

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I straight-up marathoned Soulmate yesterday, it was totally captivating. I love the portrayal of the relationship between Dong Wook and Su Gyeong, and the still, quiet moments they give the two of them. I even sort of love the ending, although I sure would have taken a second season had they decided to feed my addiction....

And javabeans, thanks for your work! I'm a recent non-korean convert (addict?), and your recaps and glossaries have aided the transition, in covering everything from explaining cultural details originally lost on me, to filling in the holes left by some bad subs.

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Oh man, just rewatched this show, and now I'm suffering from post-drama depression =[

Javabeans, if you ever decide to recap this series, or do a 'first episode' or whatever, it will be awesome. Sigh...

I almost didn't realize how awesome it was until it was over, I wish I could unwatch it and then rewatch it again.

Sigh...

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I love the ending.
My favourite kdrama ending.
I think the main couple have killer chemistry.
Honestly , i don't want a season2.
I don't want them to kill the perfect ending.
But i want Lee Soo Kyeong and shin Dong Wook as the main couple in another drama.

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I was worried that I too would be disappointed by the ending, but I think it was great. Of course they will meet again, it is their destiny. What more could a second season have given us? And Elliott Smith in a K-drama! I just loved it!

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Hello JB!! I am SO late but wanted to thank you for introducing me to this wonderful drama! I am halfway through the last episode and I've really enjoyed most of the drama. The funny thing is I've seen many comments from ppl who aren't as interested through the first half and love the last few episodes. Opposite for me. The soulmate storyline is kind of draggy... but I loved all the hilarous antics from the first half. I actually like Yu-Jin... but it is extremely annoying to see her beg again and again. I want Yu-Jin to become a Min-Ae haha. AHH and the eye candy... wow!! Thanks for discussing this on your latest podcast!

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Great drama, I enjoyed it very much, especially the SOT. It just went perfectly with it. It was just great.

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I just finished watching it - I wanted more!! The ending was great, except I wanted Dong Wook's video to Ryohei and Jung Hwan to end with Soo Kyung jumping into the video or something so you saw them together one last time. :(

I found it strange how the actors have the same names in the drama as they do in real life!

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Thank you so much for this post. Without it, I probably would not have checked it out. This drama is so good it hurts. It excels on so many levels: script, soundtrack, acting, photography. It may not be as addicting as other dramas, but that is a good thing I guess: there are things your head has to process before watching the next episode.

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With 4 pages of comments, I doubt anyone will ever read this one, but that's okay. I finished watching this drama at 4:30 this morning and I really want to share my thoughts about it - my Kdrama compatriots haven't watched it yet so I'm forbidden to discuss it with them :)

**Spoilers ahead, so skip this comment if you haven't seen the show and don't want to be spoiled**

First, I freakin' LOVE the music! Downloaded the OST this morning and been listening to my four favorites on repeat ever since.

I can definitely understand all the rave reviews for the drama. It was different, the characters were vivid and I felt very invested in them, even the ones I didn't care so much about. Had there been a season 2, I would absolutely watch it. And this is also one I'll be burning to disk and keeping.

However, there were some aspects that I didn't care for. After a while, Yu-jin really started getting on my nerves. I know next to nothing of the Korean language, but even without javabeans telling us I could tell her manner of speaking was waaaaay different than everyone else's. It became grating after a while. You would think that living and working around people who speak modern Korean, she would pick up slang and such, but no such luck.

I can appreciate the way the show portrayed Dong-wook going from using his player moves to manipulate her, to genuinely caring for her. I'll admit it was a struggle to understand what he saw in her, to become truly attracted and attached. But then I've never understood a guy's attraction to airheads. Yu-jin wasn't stupid by any means, but she was definitely dumb about a lot of things. And I've seen far too many girls play that part just to get a guy's attention, so I guess it just turns me off. Especially when Yu-jin starts manipulating Dong-wook with the gps tracking and so forth. Call me double-standard-minded, but Dong-wook went from manipulative to truly trying to make it work, while she did the opposite.

One thing I didn't understand about Dong-wook, though. You would think he had experienced enough in relationships to realize that when the thought of meeting up with a girl makes you cringe, there's something not right. I don't mean having times when you don't want to go out, I mean you literally dread the thought of seeing them. Red flag, anyone? How could he not have realized early on that Yu-jin was not the right person for him? I don't mean a "soulmate" right person, or a "fated" right person, but even those who don't believe in soulmates and fate look for people they connect with. If he had paid attention to the signals right away, he never would've let the relationship progress like he did. At least that's my opinion, and maybe I'm biased :)

Okay, that rant's out of my system. The only other thing that disappointed me about the drama was how late in the game the two destined soulmates finally got together. Come on! The freakin' END of Episode ELEVEN?!?!?! (Maybe I should say HOUR 11 to avoid confusion.) We get 3/4 of an episode of Dong-wook and Soo-kyung together, most of that mired in angst because of Yu-jin (and the one scene with Wus Phillip). And then there's not even an ending scene where they meet up again in Japan. I understand the need for the separation period. I understand why Soo-kyung didn't go to the US with Dong-wook. I DON'T understand why the hell the writers couldn't have let the couple get together like 2-3 episodes ago so that we could have more mushy moments!!! More kisses!!! We saw more kisses between Dong-wook and Yu-jin, and every time I wanted to throw a brick at his head!

I guess there's something to be said about a drama that can push my buttons like this one did :) I thought I was out of my fan-fiction writing phase, but the ending left me feeling so unfulfilled that it's made me want to rewrite the ending! :)

And so, regardless of my ranting, I still think the drama was really good overall. I just had all this bottled up inside and I needed to vent :)

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Thank you so much for posting info about this amazing series. I came across this series a while back and fell in love with it. I also love their soundtrack which is so refreshing and addictive. I was disappointed that not many people gave it enough recognition. Finally you step up and brought some light upon this drama. I hope more people will come to love it as I did.

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I love all the casting.
It is beatiful how the story goes till they meet each other..

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Hey, where can I view the special with english subs?

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I just read a post talking of a possible comeback for Shin Don Wook... I really wish they'd make a sequel to Soulmate, because somehow the end had me wanting more even though it was on a positive note... and since it's 8 years since it was aired, a 10th year anniversary or something would actually be interesting... the concept needs to be revisited

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Shin Dong Wook! I hope so. That dude could have been such a big star if his illness hadn't gotten in the way. I REALLY hope to see him back.

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Hello, the screencaps on this page don't work! It's really difficult to appreciate the recaps without them, so I hope this can be fixed!

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Well its been 9 years and there's has not been a second season of Soulmate. I finally watched it over the weekend and i agree with all the previous commentators - Soulmate is definitely an underrated drama and those who give it a shot will not be disappointed.

Its so sad that the main actor (he one who wore the headband) has been out of dramaland due to health reasons. He did an awesome job portraying Shin Dong-wook.

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Way late to add comments since this is an old show, but I have to throw into the "Naysayer's" side after seeing the word 'underrated' used about it so much. Sorry, this series was a long way to go for a contrived discussion about destiny. Characters weren't believable at all--more like inhabitants of a comic book, especially the wide-eyed (and so narcissistic) cupie doll who spoke in retro Korean. Only the male lead seemed real. The heroine seemed normal also, except at the end, when out of nowhere, she gets an attack of a Korean drama cliché : ''I've got to go away to find myself...without you'. Her explanation was so weak and inconsistent with what had happened between them. Even if their actual connection was short, the build-up was powerful. Perhaps the 'strong independent woman' in 2006 wasn't quite confident enough to work together with a partner towards BOTH of their goals, worried that loving someone would hamper her own special happy ending? Predictable also, the ending is yet another 'huh?' A resolution that either Korean writers or their audiences seem to enjoy. If you liked the US 'Sex in the City'...this one is a wannabe that leaves you wanting. Why copy something like that when Korean Dramas do so much better at the emotional depths; which explains why many didn't enjoy 'Soulmate's' superficial beginngs of vomit and vulgarities that American comedy gets away with too often. Thanks, needed to unload all that after the frustrating ending.

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If Shakespeare wrote kdrama, this would be the one.

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