Drama Recaps
Flowers For My Life / I Came In Search of Flowers
by | May 17, 2007 | 39 Comments

This week kicked off several new shows, and I’m still catching up. I’ve barely started watching two of the new Wednesday-Thursday dramas, MBC’s Merry vs. Dae Gu Battle (메리리 대구 공방전) (replacing “Thank You”) and SBS’s War of Money (쩐의 전쟁) (replacing “Witch Amusement”). I may or may not have more to say on them later, but a different show caught my eye — the show that seemed to premiere rather quietly on Monday, KBS’s Flowers For My Life (꽃찾으러 왔단다), which I loved.

Eccentrically funny and offbeat, this series is literally translated “I Came In Search of Flowers” but its official English-language title designated by KBS is “Flowers For My Life.” (I can only think it’s a positive sign that kdramas are becoming popular enough that more and more are coming with an English-translated title ready in advance. It saves us overseas fans the trouble of awkward and inconsistently applied names, that’s for sure.)

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SONG OF THE DAY

Crosby Stills & Nash – “Prison Song”: Used in one of the last scenes, it sets a nice mood for the quirkiness of the series. [ Download ]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

PRODUCTION

Director Ji Young Soo :: Drama City, Oh Pil Seung Bong Soon Young, Hello God
Writer Yoon Sung Hee :: Magic, Shooting for the Stars, We’re Dating Now, Beautiful Days
Production :: HB Entertainment

Official website: http://www.kbs.co.kr/drama/flower/main.html

CAST

Cha Tae Hyun / 차태현 :: Sad Movie, Prince’s First Love, Blue Alert, My Sassy Girl
Kang Hye Jung / 강혜정 :: Welcome to Dongmakgol, Herb, Love Phobia
Gong Hyun Joo / 공현주 :: Wedding, All In
Kim Ji Hoon / 김지훈 :: Great Inheritance

Start Date: May 14, 2007 (Wednesday)

I tuned into this series mainly out of curiosity — I don’t know much about the cast aside from Cha Tae Hyun (from My Sassy Girl) and wasn’t a particular follower of his projects — but I knew in the first ten minutes that I’d like this series. Centering around a girl who’s grown up with her parents’ business of a funeral home, there’s a morbid humor to this drama, but it’s not disturbing or depressing. It’s quirky. Understated. The drama has taken a leaf from the pages of other stunningly well-done creations such as Six Feet Under and Dead Like Me, both of which share the same offbeat sense of humor. I wasn’t expecting a Korean drama to be able to pull off that kind of comic touch, but it does. At least so far.

Furthermore, the directing and cinematography are excellent. It’s not flashy for the sake of flashy, but uses interesting shots, angles, and clever ways to frame scenes. It adds to the tone of the show, without letting its style get in the way. I remarked about a recent favorite kdrama series Que Sera Sera that it felt like an indie film more than a television production, because it was more realistic and gritty. QSS didn’t, however, necessarily look pretty much of the time. Well, Flowers For My Life feels like an indie film but one that strives more for heightened reality, or perhaps surreality — and it IS pretty. The lighting is gorgeous and complements the story very well. I’m really impressed with the overall look of this show. I hope it continues in this vein.

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EPISODE 1 SUMMARY

Na Hana (Kang Hye Jung) is kind of an odd duck. Since she was very young, she’s loved the smell of money, and worked hard to scrape up cash here and there, safely kept in her jar of treasures. Or perhaps we should call it an urn of treasures, since she’s the daughter of the proprietors of a funeral home. Growing up surrounded by death, Hana neither fears death nor finds it disturbing.

As a young girl, she used to charge neighborhood kids money to look upon the dead in curiosity. Although they’d most often freak out, Hana has never thought the dead were frightening.

She tells us, matter-of-factly, “I like dead people. Thanks to them, my parents make money, and I make money.” It also gives her a very peculiar, deadpan attitude about everything. Nothing seems to get Hana upset, and she’s definitely a little weird — other kids always find her scary. When her high school teacher makes her tearful farewell to take care of her sick husband in his few remaining days, the rest of the class weeps at the loss of their teacher. However, Hana, completely unperturbed, merely asks her teacher to please make sure to use her family’s funeral service when her husband dies. HA! It’s great.

With Hana’s extreme love of money, nothing comes as a bigger blow — not a death, that’s for sure — than hearing that her savings fund is lost and irretrievable. With that, Hana buries her remaining urn of treasures and decides there’s nothing left for her in her hometown. She’ll go in search of bigger fortunes in the big city.

To give you an idea of the offbeat feel of this show, as Hana leaves her home in the middle of the night, she runs into her mother, who’s sleeping in a coffin in the front yard, and doesn’t even bat an eyelash. Hana’s mother appears to be irresponsible and somewhat flighty (in contrast to her sensible, if a bit hot-tempered father), and is using her time in the coffin to “reflect upon” whatever mistakes she’s committed that day. Hana takes off as her father chases and yells empty threats her way.

And she arrives in the city, ready to begin her new life. She breathes in and says, “Seoul, I have arrived!”

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She finds a job working at a hospital morgue, although at her initial interview, the employee attempts to turn her away. He says many people have taken on the job because of the good pay, but cannot stomach the actual job. He asks her if she’s ever seen a dead body — not just a grandma at a funeral, but a serious, hardcore dead body. They’re not pretty.

Hana answers: “I know that. If a body falls from a high place, the head cracks open. In that case, the brain splatters out. I’ve seen how to put that brain matter back inside the head cavity, and I’ve also seen a body put back together after being completely mangled in an auto accident. And once, there was this guy who was sick for a very long time, and he had abdominal dropsy, so there was a lot of—”

And that’s quite enough to ensure that she gets the job.

Many of the corpses belong to (formerly) rich people. One day, she speaks to a particularly rich, particularly young, particularly good-looking corpse, saying it’s a shame she didn’t meet him before he died. She could’ve made his life pleasant before he went, and he could’ve left her all his money in gratitude. She imagines the lovely scenario…

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The dead guy stirs — as though he’s alive — and speaks to Hana. But she talks right back at him, because (1) she’s weird and not at all disturbed at the idea of talking to dead people, and (2) it’s her imagination. Cute Dead Guy tells her to find another guy like him, then. She says those people aren’t easy to find — young, rich, and destined to live a short life (the better to leave her all that money for!). Cute Dead Guy tells her they’re around, if she thinks about it.

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So Hana thinks about it, and figures out one such option — nursing the terminally ill! (It’s so wrong, but I love it.) If she can become a nurse in a hospice, she can befriend her dying patient and live out her dream scenario! It’s brilliant!

With that goal in mind, Hana goes to school and studies — although her first patient can see right through her ploy and accuses her (rightfully so) of being a money-grubber.

Hana’s nonplussed at being found out, and ruminates over her situation over lunch — eating cup ramen in the morgue. Furthermore, she keeps her kimchee in an empty morgue slab like it’s a refrigerator! I love her. (Hana doesn’t try to be lovable — the character is quite deadpan and stoic, but it’s that very quality that endears her to me. She doesn’t try to make me like her — she really couldn’t give a damn — so I do.)

Into this situation, Yoon Ho Sang (Cha Tae Hyun) rushes in, and we jump over to his story….

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Ho Sang is a perennial fuck-up, always living for today at the expense of tomorrow. He’s once again screwed things up for his family, losing tons of money in a drunken incident, and now finds himself chased by debt collectors. His aggrieved mother kicks him out.

One day, his job as a messenger for an errand service sends him to the home of a strange rich man. The paranoid stranger tells Ho Sang to change clothes with him, quick! Ho Sang has no idea why, but the strange man shoves a wad of bills in his hand (looks like around a thousand bucks) and asks if that’s enough for him to change clothes without asking any more questions.

Ho Sang thinks for a split second before he figures it’s easy money, and complies. He ends up at a fancy room in a hospital, and the guy (named Wang Dae Bak, or literally “jackpot”) tells hiim to stay there until he comes back to get him. If he does that successfully, he’ll get double the payday. But he’s got to make sure not to show his face around.

At first, it’s the easy life as Ho Sang undergoes a battery of physical exams and watches lots of cable television. But he happens to run into his debt collector in the bathroom as he’s attempting to “fill his cup.” Ho Sang runs away, seeking refuge in an empty room — the morgue — where he runs into Hana. And here, our two stories converge…

Unfortunately, Hana doesn’t care about Ho Sang’s special “situation” and kicks him out, right into the path of Mr. Debt Collector. Thinking quickly, Ho Sang tells the guy (whom he calls “hyungnim,” which might just be a term of respect but could also point to the guy’s possible gangster ties) that he’s going to come into money soon — he’s got a large life insurance policy. And he’s dying. He’d wanted to leave the fund to his family, but he supposes Hyungnim can be the beneficiary. The guy wants proof, so Ho Sang assures him the nurse can confirm his claim.

Unfortunately, the nurses all have a sense of ethics, and refuse. Hana also flatly refuses Ho Sang’s begging… until he offers her money for her cooperation.

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Meanwhile, Mr. Wang is still running away from his mystery chaser. Unfortunately, he chooses a bad hiding spot, and is crushed and buried in the rubble of a collapsed building. Uh oh.

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Hana spins a wonderfully complex explanation of Ho Sang’s cancer — he’s beyond hope, and recovery and surgery are both impossible. If he’s lucky, he’ll have a year to live. She’s very convincing…

But they’re found out by Uptight Nurse, who’s incensed and offended. She scolds Hana, and Ho Sang’s back in trouble…

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Ho Sang sweet-talks the Hyungnim, saying he’s misunderstood the situation. He really is dying. This time, he’ll get a doctor to confirm the details. Ho Sang sneaks a phone call to the doctor and leaves a message, begging the doctor to save him and go along with his story.

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When the doctor arrives, Ho Sang accepts his grave fate (it’s cancer, and it’s bad, though not incurable) with surprising equanimity — not knowing that the doctor DIDN’T GET HIS MESSAGE. Ho Sang really does have cancer, only he doesn’t know it.

So he’s relieved and elated, and happily offers Hana her money in gratitude for going along with his plan. Even though they were caught, it’s only fair that he pay her for agreeing in the first place. Hana accepts happily, but is caught by her superiors. And fired.

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Ho Sang wants to celebrate his great day and runs into Hana on her way out, not knowing she was fired because of him. When she invites him to talk, he happily goes along, and wonders if maybe she’s even trying to seduce him.

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Thinking that she’s surprisingly (but oh so delightfully) kinky, Ho Sang happily climbs on top of the slab, only to find himself locked angrily in. Hana demands he “reflect upon” his wrongs for a long while, before she finally lets him out.

The two part in a huff, glad to get away from the other, although Ho Sang’s voiceover hints at the future in a nice, melancholy way: “We didn’t know then, how happily we would come to remember that night…”

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Ho Sang goes back home and is shocked to see a funeral notice. Alarmed that it might be his mother, he rushes to the funeral…

Only to find that IT’S HIS.

Apparently Mr. Wang died while wearing the uniform he’d exchanged with Ho Sang… so everyone thought Ho Sang died. And just to break the solemn mood with some hilarity, while Ho Sang’s relative (uncle? brother?) gives a heartbroken eulogy (a horribly inaccurate one, praising cowardly and troublemaking Ho Sang as brave and honorable), the little boy on stage next to him yawns boredly all throughout.

In a daze, Ho Sang processes this news. He thinks with a mix of relief and sadness that “Ho Sang” really is dead. He goes to pay his respects to Mr. Wang, surprised to find the door open, and steps inside the spacious mansion to find that Mr. Wang has no friends or family searching for him, and that he’s got a huge stash of cash in a briefcase, with a video camera and note saying, “Watch this.”

The video is Mr. Wang’s confession to his dear friend whom he’d wronged. While his friend was locked away (it seems to be for a small crime), his friend begged him to buy him lottery tickets. Mr. Wang thought it was a silly idea, but did so anyway — and when one of the tickets won, his greed got the better of him. Instead of handing over the winnings to his friend, Mr. Wang ran away, cut off contact with everyone, and became a paranoid recluse. A few days ago, he saw his friend in the neighborhood, which is why he begged Ho Sang to switch clothes with him to throw off the scent. Mr. Wang apologizes and asks for forgiveness.

But rather than take the riches and run (which is what I’D do!), Ho Sang settles back into moody introspection, thinking:

“Why did I have the thought that I was like you? You were a bad guy who abused his friend’s fortune, and I’m a foolish guy who’s never had any. You must’ve been very lonely. Like I am now.”

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At the hospital, Hana hears that Ho Sang is suffering from cancer, shocked because she knows that Ho Sang was faking — or thought he was faking. But because she’s a cold, greedy person who only thinks of money, she doesn’t feel sorry for Ho Sang — rather, she feels bummed that she missed her chance! A young, rich, terminally ill guy was right in her grasp and she let him go! She sneaks into his file to get his contact information, and is nearly caught by Uptight Nurse…

…but she instead takes off, thinking, “Today is the first day of my new life. I’ll find that guy and make my dream come true. Wait and see, I’m taking off!”

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39 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. lime9

    ooohh~ i was so hoping that you’ll be writing summaries for this! thanks~ i love it that she’s so money crazy

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  2. Bwitched

    me too. I was praying soo hard that u’ll come up with ur own reviews on this drama. Merci beaucoup !!!!

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  3. ginnie

    “The dead guy stirs…”

    That totally creeped me out!

    I think this show has an interesting write-up for HANA. I am so afraid of deaths and morgues, funerals. She is so different! I don’t think I know anybody quite like that. Although the plot is about her money-craziness and all that..but I love the fact that she treats death so matter-of-factly. I hope this series will show more aspects of “death” and explore this theme!

    Is this melodrama or comedy?

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  4. javabeans

    ginnie, i can see how it’s creepy, but that scene with the dead guy isn’t scary at all. like Hana herself, it’s very matter-of-fact. that’s why it kind of reminds me of Six Feet Under, or Dead Like Me which is even funnier (all the deaths are comic in DLM).

    i don’t know how much heavier things may become in the future, but for now it’s definitely comedic. not comedic like My Girl or Bad Family, but still very funny. and although Cha Tae Hyun is diagnosed with cancer (don’t know if it’s terminal yet), because of the way death is presented so far, i don’t think they’ll go into melodrama territory. if anything, they’ll treat it with humor. i hope. i’m enjoying it a lot, and you know i don’t like melos!

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  5. Ter

    Haha, hmm…another drama to check out on my list (in addition to Thank You). This Hana character seems interesting… I tend to like the type of characters who don’t ask you to like them, which makes you like them. Anyways, do you know if this is a remake of some American show?

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  6. mily2

    sarahbeans.. thank you SO much.. will go back to re-watch the first episode now that I understand the story.. *hugs*

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  7. Ter

    ^Oh, and thanks for the wonderful summary. I enjoy reading them very much :)

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  8. ginnie

    oh gooodddd…I think I’ll pass on a melodrama for awhile now…

    I don’t like physical kind of humor (jim carrey lol) ..but this seems like it is the character and plot that is funny. =)

    off to find clips to watch…

    Thanks Sarah~ ! muaks!

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  9. joyce

    im really scared of dead people…
    but i watched six feet under and now im watching flowers for my life
    hahahaha
    i dont know why but something about funeral parlors fascinates me
    not funerals but funeral parlors

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  10. 10 wandergirl

    hello! i was wondering if you would do summaries again, and after typing your blog URL i was pleasantly surprised to see a new one. i just downloaded the episode, haven’t gotten around to watching it yet.

    Thank you and I hope you continue writing summaries for this drama :)

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  11. 11 wandergirl

    I just realized the flashback of Hana’s childhood reminds me of Vada in the US movie MY GIRL — Vada’s family owned a funeral parlor and as a kid she’d take the neighborhood kids down to the morgue. :)

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  12. 12 Jess

    Thanks for the recaps! This looks really interesting, I might just start watching it.

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  13. 13 Sanni

    This seems like something I’d love checking out. Humoristic perspective on death? Gimme! Beats the usual melodrama, I guess. Plus Chae Tae-hyun rocked at comedy in MSG, which was also something rather unique.

    I hope a fansubber picks it up at some point.

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  14. 14 alwaysforever

    This has nothing to do with this entry, but, I LOVE your banner. So pretty! And Jae Hee is

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  15. 15 ay_link

    First of, wow, cool banner! hehe.. Kristy did a fantastic job on it… Love it!

    Second of all, your summary really makes me wanna give this drama another chance…hehehe.. but we’ll see.. the ‘vibe’ that I got from the 1st eppie is still quite… hmm how should I say it,… creeps me out! lol. But I guess compare to WoM and Meri-daegu, this one (even though it has the lowest ratings) quite ‘attracts’ me more =D Thanks for the summary! muah~~!!

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  16. 16 Eve

    Wow this sounds like something I would like to watch haha…hope i get to watch it soon ~ and seriously with these blogs I don’t even have to watch them hehe. Thanks!

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  17. 17 obivia

    Great. First you got me hooked on QSS and now this. Man oh man. Why must your summaries be so good!?

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  18. 18 ripgal

    Sarah, you saved the day!
    I watched the ep the other day but I missed the last 5 mins. And reading your summary just made up for it!

    I love how the drama’s going right now. And I agree it has some subtle humor within which can make you giggle and laugh for the sake of just laughing and not because the actions or gestures are funny.

    Hana is really one unique female lead..I have never seen such a character before. I mean I’ve encountered a lot of female leads who crave for money and would do anything to earn money. BUT HANA is different…she doesn’t want to earn money! It really got me laughing when she actually became a nurse just because she wanted to hitch on a rich man. LOL..

    Well altho the drama started off kinda funny and cute, I have a feeling it’s going towards the melo path. Anything that involves death is not without misery and sadness. I’m pretty sure the drama will start going melo when Ho Sang discovers he has cancer…

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  19. 19 Sal

    A bit off-topic but I would love if there would be a kdrama (or any asian drama) that was similar to Dead Like Me, i.e. with the whole supernatural-ish/sci-fi/fantasy elements.

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  20. 20 gail

    javabeans, you do like the weird ones… :) (i remember reading your comments over at popseoul regarding “witch ga in” heehee.) anyhow, i have been laughing out loud while reading your summary. in all your screencaps, hana doesn’t even crack a real smile. does she come off as serious in the drama?

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  21. 21 Jenny

    This seems like a really interesting and different series.
    After watching QSS I need a new series to obsess over ^^
    Hana is just hilarious, you have to like her character.

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  22. 22 ovette

    thank you so much for your summary! i understood ep1 better. i love this drama lol! i hope it does get better

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  23. 23 Lovewls

    Thanks for your summary. I’m glad you’re covering this drama, cuz I love it.

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  24. 24 Vivagirl

    thanks javabeans, i had already decided after your beautiful summary for qss that i will watch whichever drama that you are going to do the summary next. And boy i was glad cos ‘i came in search of a flower’ sounds gd from you. i am busy to watch it thus i will be depending on your updates to fill me in. Great work & keep it up! kamsahamnida =)

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  25. 25 Cathe

    Thank you so much for this, JavaBeans! I saw the interview for this in Arirang before.

    :D It’s one funny drama. But poor Ho Sang. I really pity him!

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  26. 26 beverly

    hana – i love the actress who plays her. i watched the movie, “herb”. she was very convincing in her role as a mentally challenged person. im surprised to see her starring in a drama. i cant wait for someone to upload it on crunchyroll, or somewhere.

    thanks for the summary of ep. 1! :)

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  27. 27 samantha

    this is interest i’m gonna go watch it

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  28. 28 michi

    hahaha…thanks for the summary…i will watch out for this drama…hopefully they’ll do the subs really fast! :-)

    you rock, javabeans!

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  29. 29 crushice

    thank goodness i found this site. over here in Singapore, I get to watch KBS2 on cable and this show debuts today and I actually missed the first part!

    thank you so much for that detailed summary. feels like i’d watch the whole episode. this is so going in my favourites list….

    nothing beats offbeat, dark humor in a bright and cheery setting. talk about oxymoron. ..

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  30. 30 catinmyfridge

    Kang Hye Jung ,

    LOL, she looks like your avatar. She’s actually well known actress in Korea, but mainly in movies, making a name for herself as a gifted young actress in films like Old Boy. I’m loving your summaries by the way.

    http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Kang_Hye_Jung

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  31. 31 all4movies

    This series sounds intriguiing. Upon reading the summary again, I think I’ll give it a try. Thanks a bunch.

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  32. 32 vieny

    i love kang hye jung in HERB movie she’s so sweet… after i read your comment about this series…i’d love to watch the series..thank you..
    kamsahamnida from indonesia

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  33. 33 msweete6

    I remember this drama was on when I was still in Korea but to be honest I thought it looked pretty unimaginative and boring. I feel horrible now for misjudging it without having given it a fair chance.

    Now I must say that after reading your summary and comments, my interest has def. been piqued and after Soulmate this one is really high on my must-see list.

    Thanks, Javabean!

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  34. 34 dae

    now that’s a great synopsis… i really think am going to watch this or just follow all your write ups… i like CTH because he can really make me laugh… when hi facial muscle moves he tickles me all the way… i had a friend back some 10yrs ago that looked like him. including his antics and he was hilarious. maybe it’s inborn. i did watch first love of a prince (?) but i didnt like the idea that the girl ended up being his. anyway… i’ll check this one out.

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  35. 35 nikki

    this is a great review of the first episode. the series was terrific, especially the first half, because the comedy was very much my style: somewhat dry and very odd.
    hana is my favorite character out of basically anything that i’ve ever watched. i’m so drawn to her callous and “cool” personality. it’s very difficult to put my finger on it. you describe it well:
    “the character is quite deadpan and stoic, but it’s that very quality that endears her to me.”
    i give definite props to kang hye jung for playing her so well.

    i also give props to the music coordinator. the soundtrack really suited the moods, and instead of watching the entire series over again when i’m feeling sentimental, i can just listen to “’74-’75″ by the Connells.

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  36. 36 nguyen huy cuong

    I like watching Why did you come to my house movie. I like KIM JI HOON actor.I hope him to sucess in his life.IF he receive massage,he remember write for me

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