Drama Recaps
Romance Hunter: Episodes 1-5
by | August 26, 2007 | 34 Comments

When I first started watching cable drama Romance Hunter, it was mainly out of curiosity, since I hadn’t heard anything about it. (I was surfing clubboxes for something else, and the title caught my eye, so I downloaded it. I stumble across lots of things serendipitously like that, and it’s always a nice feeling when one sticks.) The first episode was mildly amusing — as I noted in a previous post, it was a little too similar to Sex and the City for me to find it completely engaging, but shallowly, I was intrigued by the actor who I guessed would become the main love interest. His character is all the stuff young women’s daydreams are made of (handsome, competent, gentle but not unmasculine, sensitive but not overly, with a hint of mystery), so it was enough to keep me going. (Caveat: Romance Hunter is probably a show that appeals directly to women, even more so than the typical romance dramas on broadcast TV. I won’t say men won’t like it, but it seems very heavily female-skewed, and intentionally so.)

But it was in Episode 5 that everything clicked into place, and hooked me. (Unfortunately, as Murphy’s Law dictates, I’d only had the first five episodes downloaded, so I was forced to stop and wait just when I was most interested in continuing.) The reason was, although the first four episodes were entertaining, the fifth was when the show seemed to shake off the SATC mantle and come into its own.

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Beautiful Romance – “아직도 난” (I still…) [ zShare download ]

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The story thus far:

Episode 1: “Rose-tinted glasses”
Episode 2: “Failures in romance!”
Episode 3: “The saddest and scariest truth”
Episode 4: “Shaking hands with a different me”
Episode 5: “Their first loves”

Heroine YOUNG JU (right; played by actress Choi Jung Yoon, also from Taereung National Village and Bad Couple) is a romance consultant on the radio show “Romance Hunter,” which she co-hosts with HANNA (left; played by Chae Min Seo, who went on to play Choi Jung Yoon’s love rival in Bad Couple as The Other Woman). They work with head writer HYANG JIN, associate writer SU YEON, and PD HO JAE (or simply Jung PD). Young Ju lives with roommate NAM HEE.

In the first four episodes, Young Ju goes through a series of short-lived romances, each with a different reason for failing. The first is a kind-hearted lawyer, and Young Ju finds herself giddy with the thrill of a new relationship, charging headlong into the romance. Things screech to a halt when she sees his phone log, and even more hurtful than the fact that he has someone programmed as “My Love” is the fact that he hadn’t even bothered to assign her a name or store her number in his phone. It merely shows up as a string of digits.

 

(Young Ju shares her theory that she’d been too eager to close the distance with the man, not allowing him the chance to come to her, thus resulting in a lopsided relationship.)

 

After that experience, she decides to take her time and not rush into the next relationship, which only lasts a couple dates — first he orders the most expensive wine on the menu and forgets his wallet, and then he spends all night ogling her co-worker Hanna. Bye-bye.

The next one lasts longer, a (supposedly) hot younger guy with whom things seem to be going well, except for the fact that she’s always paying. She wants to be open-minded (after all, nobody would say anything if an older man paid for all dates with a younger woman — which is the advice she shares with a co-worker, who’s in a similar situation). Still, he seems to take her generosity for granted. The last straw is when, on Valentine’s day, he calls her excitedly because he’s just gotten his paycheck from a part-time job — and shows her the brand-new digital camera he’s been scrimping to buy. She tells him she didn’t want anything fancy — just a single rose would have done — but clearly, he likes her just a little less than he likes his new camera.

To prove her point, her co-worker thanks Young Ju for her wise advice, because her boyfriend gave her a surprise gift of an expensive purse. He’d felt bad having her pay for their dates, but he was saving away to buy her the present.

 

Throughout all this, watching Young Ju’s foibles with a mix of amusement and mild interest is my current TV-crush, Jung PD (or Ho Jae). Young Ju has a polite, friendly but professional relationship with him, and the reason I find this setup working is first because they already know each other via a job that specifically centers around frank talk about love and sex. So there’s no cloud of coyness surrounding their acquaintance.

There are hints early on of their attraction, but Ho Jae doesn’t push, and we get the sense that he’s waiting for her to come to the realization herself. As far as she’s concerned, he’s a kindly co-worker with whom she can easily converse, and her quick series of bad dates are enough to keep her distracted.

 

 
Let’s move onto the other ladies:

Hanna, dating a new man every other month, finally meets one she likes more than the others. However, she’s vain, bold, honest, and materialistic — and before the relationship has a chance to ripen into something more meaningful, she hears gossip that a social rival has just become engaged to a rich chaebol. Her greed and shallow side get the better of her, and she drops the guy quickly and demands a matchmaker set her up with a chaebol too. Nothing short of a business tycoon will do.

Unfortunately, because irony’s a bitch, she soon learns that the guy she dumped is actually a rising star in the business world. To make matters worse, she finds out belatedly that she’s actually fallen for him — she starts seeing him everywhere, imagining him all the time.

The youngest, Su Yeon, reunites with an old flame and is soon worn out from his excessive libido. He exhausts her, but when she tries to ask for advice, her co-workers have no sympathy for someone whose problems stem from too much sex.

(Note: Before you bemoan the decline of Eastern civilization, these women aren’t promiscuous. For all their free and easy talk about sex — it IS their job, after all — they all engage in physical intimacy within the context of a loving relationship. Or, at the very least, a love-adjacent relationship.)

But the two ladies with by far the most frustrating (and realistic) relationship problems are Nam Hee and Hyang Jin.

 

Hyang Jin’s problem is pretty perfectly captured in that screencap; she works her ass off supporting her family, while her husband barely does any housework or parenting. She’s equally tired of being the nagging wife and patiently enduring the unbalanced marriage. She’s considered divorce numerous times, but hasn’t actually gone through with it.

At one point, Hyang Jin tries to take a step in rekindling the romance in their marriage, but her husband would rather play computer games than have sex with her, and she comes to the sad realization that she’s no longer a woman in his eyes. Salt is rubbed into the wound when she checks on him to find him gratifying himself to online porn — he’d rather go at it alone than with her. But it’s a double-edged sword, because he later tells her that he’s tired of her not seeing him as a man, either (because she’s the breadwinner), which makes him resentful even though he knows it’s unfair.

Young Ju asks Hyang Jin one day if her espresso is too bitter, and Hyang Jin sums up her predicament: “This espresso is sweeter than my life.”

 

Nam Hee is the one previously mentioned as having the asshole boyfriend, Dong Min, and she’s the one I have the most difficulty understanding. Her boyfriend of seven years constantly responds to her prodding about marriage with an annoyed, “Let’s talk about it later.” He’s pushed “later” aside for five years now, and she tells Young Ju that the reason she sticks with him — aside from being scared to leave and still loving him — is that the past years will feel so unfairly wasted. Young Ju bites back the thought that Nam Hee has many more years to live ahead of her than the past seven she’s lost, knowing Nam Hee won’t hear it.

Even after finding out Dong Min is cheating on her, Nam Hee can’t cut him loose, and instead pushes harder for marriage. Meh.

 

And now, Episode 5: “Their First Loves.”

The reason I particularly like this episode is because it’s the first to give us a few character surprises. It also does a great thematic job of tying in all of the women’s issues and using their different stories to illustrate the point (about “first loves”).

Young Ju and Ho Jae have been spending more time together, particularly when she learns he’s looking for a new apartment — his parents are leaving Seoul to retire to their hometown, and Ho Jae will be on his own for the first time at 32. He’s not very picky or demanding, and Young Ju worries he’ll make a bad decision, and goes along to help select the perfect place.

I like the small point made that the first physical contact between them that causes a romantic spark is an innocuous touching of the hands — Young Ju starts seeing him in a different light, and the touch causes both to startle. Even with adults well-versed in sex and romance, there’s an innocence at the beginning of their relationship that I found cute. But just as they start to become more comfortable with each other, Young Ju gets a surprise phone call — from her first love, last seen seven years ago. That calls a halt to Young Ju and Ho Jae’s progress, and the next day, he watches as she primps to meet her ex after work (she’s later stood up).

The radio show topic of the day centers around a woman whose boyfriend is impatient for sex — but she feels like she’s the last modern woman who wants to remain a virgin till marriage. Meanwhile, another PD at work obsesses over his first love — a woman who never reciprocated his affection who he’s recently learned has divorced her husband.

The issue sparks conversation between the ladies — about first times, first loves, first experiences. What is it about a “first” that makes it so special? Do people give TOO much meaning to a “first” anything?

Young Ju and Ho Jae finally make some progress in their relationship when she stays behind after his housewarming party, and they talk about the differences between the opinions of men and women (i.e., the way men and women regard first loves).


Young Ju thinks: “I wasn’t that drunk, and if I wanted to avoid him, I could have. It wasn’t something that arose suddenly, something I couldn’t have guessed would happen. It was just that the inevitable had occurred.”

But as Ho Jae leaves on a week-long trip the next day, Young Ju has to wait to see what happens with their relationship.

 

Later, when her first love calls back to apologize for canceling their meeting, she cuts things short. She’d been briefly swayed because he was her first love, but deep down she knew he was calling for a selfish reason — because he’s feeling lonely, with his wife abroad with their son for his education’s sake.

Young Ju comes to this conclusion on her radio show:

“First love, first kiss, first intimacy, first job, first meeting. There are so many firsts in this world. These designations of ‘firsts’ can change in meaning afterward as well. But are there these phrases as well? First mother, first father, first family? For things like mothers, fathers, and families that exist forever, we don’t assign the ‘first’ label. A first is not the last. A first isn’t forever. It’s merely the start of a process. What we should take from that is the courage to stand after we’ve failed the first time, and to carefully guard the precious people we have by our sides now.”

 
Another girls’ night out reveals a few startling truths — first off, that Su Yeon, the youngest who’d originally seemed the most naïve and Charlotte-like (of SATC) of the group, is the one who sees sex most freely. And dating pro Hanna, always with a new man, shocks them all by revealing she’s a virgin at 29. She’s always had men all over her, but had never found one worth falling in love with. Until now — because she realizes that at the age of 29, she’s finally met her first love: the man she’d rejected foolishly. (He makes a reappearance to try things over again, having fallen for her as well, and this time, she’s happy to accept him.)

 
Finally, Ho Jae comes back to work, and Young Ju eagerly anticipates his return, concluding:

“Men may place a lot of significance on the woman they first kissed, but a woman places significance on the first kissed shared with the man she’s with now.”

 
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34 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Questions987

    Now the question of the day is – where would I find this series? I looked on Soompi and it showed no signs of it. Any ideas?

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  2. yoyo

    yes i agreee, anyone know where to find this show, i’ve tried everywhere! with english subs will be best!

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  3. minchineoneo

    i’ve found a torrent site with chinese subs, don’t know if that helps anyone.. but let me you if you want ^_^”

     (0)


  4. jindarae

    looks like a nice drama for the singles…

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  5. merriwether

    I understand sex is not such a fragile thing like how most dramas portray it as but it’s not something Koreans go wild with either. Would you have any idea how Korean society treats sex in general? And is Romance Hunter reflective of what Koreans think as a whole?

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  6. blue.berrii

    @minchineoneo: where did you find the ones with chinese subs?
    please tell me the link.
    thanks!!

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  7. thunderbolt

    Oh boy, your current TV-crush, Ho Jae… isn’t he Yang Jin-woo? I saw him recently in the 2004 SBS drama, Magic. He was very good in it (acting-wise), not to mention he’s good-looking too. From certain angles he actually reminds me of The Voice.

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  8. JulieSean

    I have just finished watching this. I like the character development especially between Ho Jae and Young Ju. Like any couple, they went through issues and learn to understand each other more. The great thing is that they started off as colleagues/friends, rather than instant pursuit of the other party. Sex came first, so can any relationship last when it started that way?
    Nam Hee is another character one can empathise with. It is easy for us to judge her since we are looking at the relationship from another perspective. We can rationalise but when one is in the relationship, it is difficult to extradite so easily, esp. when she has given up 7 years of her youth with him. Maybe the issue is, being woman, we have a limited shelf life. Sorry to say, it is a fact of life. No matter how society has progressed, this aspect remains the same. Man have the option to go for younger woman, they are in their prime when they are in their 30s 40s. But for woman, after the age of 30, there are only miserly old man, widows, divorcee or g…s.

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  9. Gramps

    #8 JulieSean — Hmmm. I see the general point, but as someone who, according to this reckoning, is some two decades past his “prime” I do rather wonder sometimes whether the images of female attractiveness peddled in these dramas don’t sometimes do some harm to the way real women perceive themselves and their relationship chances (not to mention life chances in general). I mean, I don’t consider myself a failure as a parent simply because my wife and I somehow never managed to produce a kid even as tenth as cute or smart as the ones in Kdramas. Real kids do indeed have occasional flashes of cuteness and smartness, but they are a lot harder work and a lot less fun than their imaginary counterparts, without being any the less lovable or loved for that. And the French appreciation of “une femme de trente ans” (which is generally stretched to cover women well advanced into their forties) is a sign that the view that the knell of female doom strikes at the end of year 29 is not universally shared.

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  10. 10 PixieJewel

    Another great summaries from Javabeans. Great job dear. One disturbing point that I like to make is our society has place far too much inportance on being in their “prime”. So what if a woman is closing to 40 and still single. Isn’t it better to wait for the right one rather than settling for 2nd best in life? I realised women put themselves in a lot of stress (as if we are not stress enough with the pressure from work, family, society etc) in trying to fulfil the ultimate dream – find a man, settle down and have a family. Dal Ja in Dal Ja’s Spring struggle in this issue only to realise at the end of the day, it does not matter whether you age is closing to 40, what matter is the people around you and what is going on in your life at that point of time. Love will come when you least expect it.
    JulieSean: Can i know where you get the series cos I have been looking the whole day hwere I could purchase or download this series.

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  11. 11 Ange

    Aw, Romance Hunter! I really liked this show, although ending left me with a little bit of wtf-ery (second viewing gave me a better perspective, but still).

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  12. 12 juliesean

    Dear PiexelJewel,
    Go to http://www.tudou.com/playlist/id/923993/. It is chinese subbed. This generous lady who uploads daily the latest dramas from Korea, Taiwan and Japan. And she does it really quickly too. Too bad I cannot type in Chinese to thank her. She is a generous soul like Javabeans who share her time and still juggling realities of life.

    Gramps,
    I think the women is her prime applies more to chinese society, asian?? Sure times has moved on as older woman younger man relationship is very much more acceptable than in the past. But the woman “on the shelf” is true and real situation for many woman in asia.

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  13. 13 allmykoreanz

    if anyone find this series in English subs … please let me know … camvantx@yahoo.com ..
    thanks

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  14. 14 secret admirer

    #12 juliesean, i totally get your points (trust me, i really do – being an Asian woman and all). Yours is a valid argument and one that i believe reflects the prevalent misconceptions regarding female roles in Asian society. Mine is a little bit different. I agree that many Asian cultures continue to gauge a woman’s worth based on her “shelf life” (often accompanied by a stamped expiration date!). Since it is mostly a male-influenced society, I think the emphasis is still on the female ability to reproduce. Hence, the importance of female attractiveness and the media’s contradictory portrayals of it. But that no longer applies, isn’t it? There are plenty of options available presently for women regarding family planning in addtion to natural conception. I agree that as women continue to delay marriage due to career et. al , they are faced with limited options when trying to find suitable mates. However, personally, it is not a justifiable reason for women to remain in an unhappy relationship. Present reality may seems to be what you’ve pointed out but i sure hope that the future is much different than this. And it can only be if we make the change today. My point (sorry, trying to make this short) is: the argument that a woman who has passed her prime (whether she is in 30′s or 40′s) is no longer sexually desirable is definitely opened to interpretation and agreement. I think that the Asian media is attempting to (and they have been met with positive responses from the audience) give more voice to the alternatives available to women besides the traditional roles/expectations. Personally, I think that we owe at least that much to the many little girls growing up out there.
    BTW, thank you very much for providing the link to Romance Hunter. Much appreciated. Looking forward to watching the show!
    Thank you for the recommendation, javabeans!

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  15. 15 jk

    when i saw this post i was stunned…does this mean you made your choice and will be blogging RH from now on? i feel compelled to warn you since i already saw some episodes periodically …and then the final episode…RH will be an uncomfortable bumpy ride. without comparing it to CP (cuz let’s face it – no other drama will even come close)- this one was one i didnt cry over when it ended. as a matter of fact – still not clear about the ending…i got the sense that the actors wanted to end it cuz it was dragging on forever and they wanted to start their next dramas – so they did..very abruptly i might add….leaving the viewers standing there wondering what just happened….that said, every female lead will make poor choices that make you question why the heck you are still watching this. then you’ll snap out of it and realize YOU have a choice NOT to watch and then stop. it was just by accident that i happened to catch the ending, but by then i was so glad i never committed to this drama.
    seriously, almost every stupid decision the lead characters make reminds you of the annoying female character in every action scene that gets clumsy for no reason and trips in the most crucial moments – and you just pray some monster will put her (and us) out of her misery.
    we must have the same taste in guys cuz initially i watched this drama just for Jung PD (Ho Jae). sorry to burst your bubble but towards the middle, his character becomes so despicable and spineless my crush just evaporated along with my interest for this show. enjoy your new found crush while it lasts ….
    just to leave with you some glimmer of hope for enjoyment, some of the narration was well put…it rang with sincerity. there was a reality to it that was refreshing in the beginning. but then those fumbling, awkward love scenes made me cringe and wish this drama was made in another country. trust me, you will want to look away. not a pretty sight. (shudder)

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  16. 16 javabeans

    jk, I’ll start by saying I skimmed your post because, as I’ve noted before, I always stay clear of spoilers and I’d hate to ruin something for myself unnecessarily. I get the gist of what you’re saying, though, and I have to admit I’m a little surprised that you have such a strong reaction to my choice of post.

    I don’t blog on demand, and I don’t base my topics on what I think will get the most traffic or interest or whatnot. I just blog what I respond to, and hope that other people enjoy what I write. I don’t necessarily feel the need to defend my choices, but I’m just responding to your comment in case others shared your thoughts. With all this said, Romance Hunter isn’t the only series I’m watching now or am intending to watch in the near future. It happened to be the one I felt like writing about yesterday.

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  17. 17 ginnie

    Thank you Javabeans for the summary and Juliesean for sharing the tudou link!

    wooo…the “Bad Couple” ladies!!!
    I watched Bad Couple with some ideas of the storyline and was hoping it will be extraordinary and show us some Girl Power! But, the storyline did not match what I expected and thus I was slightly disappointed! Reading this summary of Romance Hunter, I am quite intrigued and now afraid if this will be yet another “Bad Couple” storyline. Boy Meets Girl and Girl changes for Boy, in the name of love and family. I was crushed because I love the girl’s characterization before she changed. Hopefully this story is more about the women’s journey to find themselves and not the journey to find THE man, eventhough the title calls it “Romance Hunter”.

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  18. 18 PixieJewel

    Dear JulieSean,
    Thanks for the link though I don’t read Chinese, I’ll get help somehow ^-^

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  19. 19 jenny

    where can i find romance hunter? it sounds really interesting and different compared to other korean shows im tempted to read the summaries first :( and where can i find hello franceska? PLEASE AND THANK YOU :)

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  20. 20 Bamidele

    Sounds interesting, a little Soulmate feeling to it!!!

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  21. 21 minchineoneo

    @blue.berrii
    http://bt2.btchina.net
    and then search “浪漫猎手” all 16 episodes are there.

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  22. 22 Marzy

    ive heard some good and some bad things about this. although they are not as detailed as this one. ive enjoyed ur recap of this sounds fairly interesting. i also read jk’s response to ur post. actually, ive heard similar things as well. but i wouldnt necessarily judge based on that i usually like seeing stuff for myself. so after reading ur reviews i went and watched for a marathon few days im not done yet, here in the middle now im not as happy as the start. i get the inkling feeling stuff are going on a downward spiral? im not sure if my interest is still piqued. hmmm after ep 5 i feel as if things arent as good as they couldnt have been. yes, knowing ur style ill leave ur own opinion for that. :D

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  23. 23 Faye

    this drama sounds REALLY good.

    i should check if it has english subs.. X__X”~~

    thanks for all the summaries!!

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  24. 24 Faye

    javabeans, I just love the end quote that you posted; “Men may place a lot of significance on the woman they first kissed, but a woman places significance on the first kissed shared with the man she’s with now,”. Reading from your review, I think that this drama is soooo fascinating. If only I could find their DL links….

    @minchineoneo
    I went to the site but since my Chinese reading is nil, I couldn’t differentiate one Chinese character from the other. Any other way that you could help?

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  25. 25 jen

    where can i watch romance hunter and hello franceska? i have a clubbox account email me at xxjengrl90xx@yahoo.com :)

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  26. 26 minchineoneo

    @faye
    so far, all the episodes i’ve found are chinese subs..if i find anything with english subs, i’ll let you know.

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  27. 27 sirop

    Ah! It’s a shame that this is only available in chinese subs. I wanted to watch it… :(

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  28. 28 uta

    Hi javabean, I love your blog as always. Thank you for introducing this Romance Hunter to me. Maybe coz I am sex and the city fan, I really love RH and I finally finished watching today. But you know. I guess topics like sex and politics at TV, you either love it or hate it which is like an abstract art piece. And it is very hard to tell the cruel reality from our romantic fantasy. What I love the most is the monologue of Young Ju. It’s very inspiring. Another thing that I love KDrama is that you just can see the perfect personality, you can see the weakness and strength of each every characters which is so real.

    But I should said that the open ending is anticipated somehow because storyline like this focus more on the journey itself rather than the ending, how we grow from life journey, just like the actors from this drama. And in fact, I think RH depicts more profound meaning than the SATC, I think it is always about culture. Just like people compare “Shall we dance” and “Il Mare” US verison and Jap/Korean version. We have common story but things will be in different angles from eyes of east and west.

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  29. 29 allmykoreanz

    still can not find this series with english subs .. if you know, pls email me camvantx@yahoo.com

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  30. 30 Nea Vanille

    W1S3 Clubbox has this show hardsubbed in EngRish. It is understandable Engrish though.

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  31. 31 msweete6

    Hi!
    I came across your website while looking for info on this Romance Hunter, which btw is very, very scarce…I remember catching this show in Korea sporadically and it left enough of an impression on me to want to look for it now. I was really hoping to find a non clubbox link but oh well clubbox it is.

    Anyways, in the end I am happy to have found your informative and insightful site and will def. make it a point to stop by often!

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  32. 32 Sylvia

    Does anyone know where I could find this series with English or Engrish subs…? Anyone…?

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  33. 33 more

    looking for this drama as we speak!! i hope someone subbed it !

     (0)


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