Drama Reactions & Reviews
Dahee Fanel’s 2008 Review [Year in Review, Part 3]
by | December 30, 2008 | 60 Comments

The K-drama world rolled into 2008 still riding the high that was 2007, a year in which a startling number of quality dramas were made, and enjoyed. Maybe it rolled in too fast. It ended up getting smothered by the waves of its previous success. In fact, you could say that it even got hit on the head by a stray surfboard, and sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

Depressing enough intro for ya?

But seriously, 2008 was a dark year for the K-entertainment industry, with not only dramas, but also movies suffering and generally showing poor quality. And not only that, but the economy went kablooie, and we suffered a sobering amount of tragic K-celebrity news.

Personally, this was a supremely frustrating year for a longtime and devoted K-drama fan like me. Before this year, I always gave dramas the benefit of the doubt, and would usually watch at least a certain number of episodes before I passed judgment on them, and decided to continue or discontinue watching. But this year, with every stomach-churning dud, I became more and more impatient, and started going through drama episodes like a vulture searching for roadkill. And boy, did I find a lot of roadkill.

I’m pretty sure 2008 was a record year for me in terms of abandoning dramas. And to think that I used to be the girl who would finish every drama she started, no matter how bad or how boring they were! But the older I get, the less patience I have, and the more critical I become. Besides, I’ve now realized just how precious my time really is. I don’t want to waste it on useless pap, thankyouverymuch.

Still, despite all that, there were a small handful of quality dramas this year. None of them quite matched the heights of some of the dramas of 2007, but still, any kind of quality was more than welcome in this gloomy year.

SONG OF THE DAY

La Dolce Vita – “사랑 꽃” (Love Flower) [ Download ]

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THE ABANDONED ONES

In my view, there are two kinds of dramas that I abandon, or don’t bother to give my full attention to. The first are the kind that are so bad that you can tell from the first ten minutes that it’s going to be agonizingly, mind-numbingly awful. These are the dramas that give themselves away early, because they don’t have the subtlety in them to fool viewers (or, y’know, just me) into watching them for a little longer. Then there are the dramas that have sly flashes of hinted quality, that give you just enough hope to make you think, “I should be more generous. It might get better.” But 99% of the time, my hope winds up for naught. You’d think I’d have learned by now, but no. I must be an optimist after all.

I prefer the former kind of bad dramas. With good reason. Think about it this way. It’s like…The first kind of bad dramas are the guy you meet at a party, and at first you’re willing to give him a chance, even if he’s not your type. But then he pulls one of those pathetic pick-up lines out of his ass – something like “You must be a traffic ticket, because you’ve got ‘fine’ written all over you” – and you get yourself away from him so fast he might mistake you for the Road Runner. But the second kind of bad dramas? They’re like that guy you’re kinda acquainted with whom you just know you shouldn’t date, because you’re clearly going to regret it Big Time, but you can’t help feeling attracted to him, and you find yourself thinking, “Maybe I should just give him a chance.” But, inevitably, it all goes to hell anyway, and you wind up throwing your cell phone at a wall out of sheer rage. (This is all purely hypothetical, by the way.)

Thankfully, there weren’t too many of the latter this year for me. But there were plenty of the former. Take, say…

East of Eden. This made me laugh like a hyena over its ridiculously hysterical dramatics. I couldn’t bring myself to take it seriously. At all. Also, Song Seung Hun can’t act.

Tazza. So. Awkward. So awkward, in fact, it was painful. Listening to Han Ye Seul’s saturi was like listening to a cat trying to speak Portuguese.

General Hospital 2. Kim Jung Eun, I have nothing against you personally. You seem like a nice person. But must you act so OTT? Don’t you know that it is partly because of you that I never finished watching Lovers in Paris? I know you can be more subtle than that. So WHY DON’T YOU TRY? Also, Choi Wan Gyu needs to unstick his head from his anus.

Rivals. Lee Jong Hyuk’s hot. Unfortunately, everything else about this show leaves me cold – especially that stupider than dirt ending.

When Night Comes. Poor, poor Kim Sun Ah. Then again, she chose to be in this show, so I’m not sure how much sympathy she really deserves…

On Air. If you could stake a drama in the heart, I would do it for this one. Actually, it’s a lot like vampires, in a way – it sucks out your time and your brains, and leaves you pale and corpsely. Only it’s not a real threat – it doesn’t have the intelligence for that. It’s just a facade of a nightmare, and likes to sparkle needlessly every once in a while like the attention whore it is, much like the vampires in Twilight (god, I hate those books).

Beethoven Virus. Sigh. I was so looking forward to this one. The combination of Kim Myung Min + the Hong Sisters (NOT the ones who wrote Hong Gil Dong) + PD Lee Jae Kyu looked like it could lead to nothing but a recipe for heaven. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a recipe for disaster instead. One of the problems with many of the dramas this year was that they lacked in subtlety, and Beethoven Virus was a prime example of that. It displayed a penchant for over-dramatics and sheer stupidity to sickening amounts. Was that script really penned by the ones behind the brilliant 2005 gem Taereung National Village? Was this really directed by the PD behind the beautiful 2003 mania drama Damo? And was that really what they did to Kim Myung Min’s eyebrows? Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Three Dads, One Mom. Dear KBS, if I go bald because of the hair-pulling torture I suffered while watching the supremely artificial first episode of this show, I will sue you.

A Star’s Lover. There’s a reason why I hate Oh Su Yeon’s writing, and she showed, once again, that she’s pretty much learned nothing since penning the blight on humanity that was Winter Sonata. Don’t get me wrong – this show is not Winter Sonata. Instead, it is written in a similar vein, with carefully altered details to try to appeal to an audience that will (mostly) no longer tolerate overused plot tropes like cancer and killer trucks. Some people might like the fairy tale elements of a show like this, but I don’t count myself among them. There’s no life in it. Also, Choi Ji Woo seriously gets on my nerves. Stop acting so cutesy, dammit!

Love and Marriage. I was kinda looking forward to this because of Kim Min Hee, but watching the first episode, I actually found myself feeling really, really…bored. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be cute and light and fluffy, but I felt no substance beneath the fluffiness at all, and thus was yawning throughout the entire first episode. Let’s just say I’m not a big fan of candy.

Golden Age Of My Life. Meh. Great cast overall (I mean, Moon Sori in a family drama? My god!), but it was supremely average and unexciting. There was nothing creative or endearing about it at all. And I don’t have time to waste on something that doesn’t excite me.

Etcetera, etcetera.

As for the ones that I abandoned after several episodes, there were a good handful of those, as well. Many of them I abandoned because I no longer had the time or the patience, and many of them I abandoned because I simply didn’t care anymore.

Take Happiness. I saw over twenty episodes of that show before I finally threw up my hands and cried, “I have better things to do with my time!”. It wasn’t a bad show, really, and it was entertaining in its own way. But it just sort of…plodded along, with no real moments of quality or creativity. It was just…there. Kim Jung Soo has definitely penned better scripts.

Or Mom’s Dead Upset. I know everyone in Korea worships the ground Kim Soo Hyun walks on, but…meh. This, too, failed to excite me. Good acting from some of the cast, and it looked like it had its moments, but overall, I saw nothing to keep me committed.

Who Are You? I saw an episode, and fully planned on continuing to watch, especially since so many people seemed to rave about it, but…it just plain slipped my mind. Maybe I’ll continue watching it someday, but considering how annoyed I was by Go Ara and Yoon Kye Sang’s acting in the first episode, I kind of doubt it.

Gourmet. I saw the entirety of the first episode, and bits and pieces of other episodes, and really, this too looked like nothing worth wasting my energy on. It seemed like the kind of drama that never really dips into the “Awful” category, but never rises into the “Wonderful” category, either. It’s just sort of…there. And why should I spend my time on something like that?

The Strongest Chil Woo. I think I saw about three episodes, and then got distracted by other things. It was actually kinda entertaining in its own insane way, and I enjoyed the serious tone of episode three far more than I did the uneven wackiness of the previous two episodes. And really, I may continue watching in future, just to catch a glimpse of the lovely and talented Kim Byul. But honestly, this is no quality drama. And Eric’s acting was simply embarrassing to watch.

Kingdom of the Winds. Again, I saw a few episodes, and forgot about it. Jung Jin Young is absolutely wonderful (not to mention sexy), I Love Kim Myung Soo, and Song Il Gook is his usual solid self, but…really. If I can’t remember what happened in the last episode I saw, isn’t that a sign that I just don’t care?

Spotlight. I saw one episode, and was deeply, supremely disappointed. I mean, good cast, great writer…and awful PD. That is not a good mix. The first episode was so uneven, it actually hurt. Still…I’ve heard that it gets better, at least up until the sudden switch in writers, and I plan on finishing this…someday. For Lee Ki Won and Son Ye Jin’s sakes, if no one else’s.

And then there’s a bad drama that I watched in its entirety. I’ve already talked about it extensively on this site, so I’ll keep it short. Besides, I don’t want to think about it too much.

Iljimae. Oh, Iljimae. You have left a dirty stain on my soul that will be hard to wash out. Maybe I should just bleach it. Maybe I should cut that part of my soul out, and feed it to the neighbour’s cat. It might be a painful process. But it’s sure to be less painful than having to remember you.

 
THE ONES THAT STAYED

There were precious few of these this year, so the ones that stuck around were even more special by contrast. Sure, there was a show like The King and I, which started airing in 2007 but ended in 2008, and it still managed to hold my interest, despite some problems it ran into script-wise and SBS-wise (damn SBS, ruining its own shows). Those problems stopped it from becoming a classic, but it was still quality stuff, especially compared to many of the other dramas being offered at the time, and it had some supremely powerful and heartbreaking moments. I had to be bedridden for about a week after watching episode 51, and I still feel sad whenever I think about the ending.

Of the ones that began and ended in 2008…

 
I Love You

Starring Ahn Jae Wook and Seo Ji Hye, this was a breath of fresh air in a very drab year, and certainly one of the surprises of 2008. Okay, so it wasn’t a masterpiece, not by a long shot, and it had a disappointingly blah ending. But it was funny, touching, warm-hearted, and absolutely adorable. It was one of those dramas filled to the brim with atmosphere and charm, the kind that puts a smile on your face and improves your mood after a gloomy day. And there was a wonderful attention to detail and quality that no doubt came along thanks largely to the fact that it was produced entirely before airing.

Seo Ji Hye is full of talent from the top of her pretty head down to the tips of her adorable toes, and Ahn Jae Wook is his usual charming self here, with good acting walking hand in hand with the cuteness. Gong Hyung Jin is as much of an ad-lib genius as ever, and Jo Mi Ryeong was perfectly tough and frazzled. Even Hwanhee of the R&B duo Fly to the Sky proved that he’s not just another mediocre singer-turned-actor trying to gain another paycheck to fame, but instead, seems to be taking this whole acting business a lot more seriously and with a lot more passion than a lot of singers – or even actors – out there. And Park Hye Young was cute yet spunky at the same time, and was able to touch on certain emotional chords that certainly rang with this viewer.

Sure, this show isn’t for everyone, and I’m sure many found it to be boring or lacking in excitement. But it was good in a quiet, low-key sort of way, and was certainly one of the most underrated dramas of the year. It is also proof that, although it might not work for everyone (not everyone has the talent to pull off quality, after all), finishing filming entirely before broadcast might just be a very good idea. That way, there are no rushed scripts with half-baked plotlines, no last-minute editing, and there is time for the actors to get fully invested in their characters. You did good, SBS.

 
My Sweet Seoul

I’m pretty sure I’ve already talked enough about this drama in various places on the internetz to fill a book, but…This is easily one of the best dramas of 2008, and was a very sweet treat after months of disappointment in K-drama Land.

This show was great from the very beginning, filled to the brim with a charming sweetness that certainly swept this girl off her feet. By the time the first episode was over, I was already in love, and eager to see more. That’s more than can be said for 99% of the dramas that aired this year.

Even before it aired, I was confident in the cast’s ability to deliver, and they certainly didn’t disappoint – miraculously, there was no bad egg to be seen anywhere, although Jin Jae Young might arguably be called the weakest link. But even then it wasn’t enough to hurt the drama in any way, and the only reason her acting could be called into question at all is because she was working with so many talented people, and thus had a lot to live up to. Lee Seon Gyun pulled out all his charms and portrayed his character in very endearingly subtle and quiet ways, while Ji Hyun Woo showed just how talented he is, and how good an actor he may become. As for Choi Kang Hee, I know there were some who disliked her performance here (:P), but for me, she was absolutely excellent, and was the perfect choice to portray Eun-soo’s many quirks and charms and flaws. I can’t imagine any other actress suiting the character so well, or having such an intimate understanding of Eun-soo’s psyche.

Yet this was another show that had a somewhat meh ending, and that didn’t quite maintain the brisk momentum it carried in the earlier episodes. Still, it was well-written, well-acted, and well-directed, and was certainly one of the highlights of 2008.

 
Worlds Within

I confess I’m very behind with this show, and that the beginning episodes showed a level of unevenness, especially in the directing (someone ought to have fired the music director), that was very distressing to see. Also, Song Hye Kyo simply lacks that zing needed to enliven her character and make her live, and that is also very frustrating. Still, I have complete and utter faith in writer Noh Hee Kyung, and some of the supporting cast, particularly people like Uhm Ki Joon and Na Moon Hee, are simply a delight to watch. This is definitely not a mainstream drama, even if it’s certainly more “mainstream” than anything Noh Hee Kyung‘s ever written, but I like non-mainstream. It tends to suit my tastes better. So I’ll probably be sticking this one out to the end, come what may.

 
Fight

Another drama I’m very behind on. A short tvN “real action” drama starring Yoo Gun, this is definitely one of the biggest surprises of 2008, and certainly one of its most underrated dramas. Yes, the storyline is a little too predictable, and watching Lee Young Jin “act” is like watching a wet rag struggling to emote. But this show pulses with the intensity of the human spirit, and those fight scenes? Simply breathtaking to watch. Now that’s what I call action. Also, Uhm Tae Woong and Baek Do Bin are very hot – and talented, to boot!

 
Painter of the Wind

Oh, Painter. How I’ve neglected you. (For those waiting for recaps, I promise that they’re coming. They’re just taking a while, due to life kicking me in the arse.)

I’m actually a couple of episodes behind on this show (so no, I haven’t seen the ending yet – life kicking me in the arse and all that). But this is yet more proof that SBS has been starting to step up, quality-wise, in the past couple of years. Painter was simply a gorgeous show, in both visuals and subtle emotional power. I loved the way it approached those tender, subtle moments, and the feelings of artistic inspiration. I also very much appreciated the way it wasn’t simply a love story, but delved more into plots of intrigue and mystery. And any hints of homosexuality, big or small, is always a good thing.

Also, Moon Geun Young? She is the love of my life. The LOVE of my LIFE. She was always a delight to watch in this, always. She was always in character, always relateable. I knew she was talented, and I knew she was adorable, but I didn’t know quite how talented and adorable she was until I saw this show. She deserves to be one of the biggest stars in Korea, seriously. (And I wouldn’t mind getting some of that sweet Bae Soo Bin goodness, either.)

All that being said, I’ve lost quite a bit of interest in this show, watching the later episodes, and I feel frustrated by how little Park Shin Yang‘s acting has drawn me into his character, and I feel disappointed by the way certain events have unfolded. But I’ll get into more of those details in my recaps later on.

Like many of the other dramas this year, this one had definitely had some flaws. But it still showed some badly-needed quality, even if it ended up not completely lasting until the very end, and for that, I salute it.

 
La Dolce Vita

Ahhh. And here we are at last, at what I consider to be the very best drama of 2008. A drama penned by the great drama-writing master, Jung Ha Yeon, and produced by that most talented of PDs, Kim Jin Min. A drama starring some great veterans like Jung Bo Seok, Oh Yeon Soo, Jang Young Nam and Baek Il Seob, and two younger stars whose talent exploded through working on this show: Lee Dong Wook and Park Shi Yeon. A drama that had so many dark twists and turns that it left me breathless. A drama whose tragic finale left me a sobbing wreck, and yet managed to leave me with a warm sense of hope. A complex, intimate drama that poses countless questions, and gives you only hints at the answers, forcing you to think and reflect and – gasp! – actually use your brain. A drama with so much raw emotive power that it left every other drama this year in its dust.

Ah, yes. I love La Dolce Vita, and I love it for a countless number of reasons, all of which I can’t possibly touch on here. But let’s try to break them down into more manageable parts.

The writing. Jung Ha Yeon is definitely one of the biggest writing talents in Korea, and has had a very long, very prolific career. And yet he’s also rather underrated in the mainstream, mostly because his dramas don’t tend to appeal to the mass public. He has an intense eye for detail, an amazing understanding of the human psyche, and plots that aren’t always easy to unravel. This may help to explain why La Dolce Vita wasn’t exactly a stellar success, ratings-wise. You need to really spend a lot of time on this drama, and carefully watch every single second of every episode, and I guess not everyone was willing to do that. But I remember listening to the characters utter certain lines that felt and sounded like poetry, or speaking like they were on a stage, reciting the lines of a fine play, and thinking, “You can’t get this kind of quality writing everyday.”

And then there’s the work of PD Kim Jin Min. The stellar visuals (especially in the scenes in Hokkaido), the carefully thought out editing, the breathtaking music from the ever-reliable music director Hwang Sang Joon (who also worked on the music for 2007’s Time Between Dog and Wolf and 2005’s sageuk masterpiece Shin Don)…It was all pretty much pitch-perfect, and reminded me once again of how important it is for a PD to complement and bring out the strengths of a production. So many of the dramas this year were ruined due to faulty partnerships, between good PDs and bad writers, or good writers and bad PDs, or simply writers and PDs whose styles clashed with one another’s. Jung Ha Yeon and Kim Jin Min, however, showed what can happen with a great partnership and a good understanding of one another’s styles and tastes.

Now how about the acting? Jung Bo Seok was his reliably magnificent self, and the ever-lovely Oh Yeon Soo pulled out one of the most subtle and best performances of her career. But before this drama started, I was very worried about both Lee Dong Wook and Park Shi Yeon. Because let’s face it, they hadn’t exactly proven themselves to be the world’s best actors just yet – especially Park Shi Yeon. And when I saw the first episode, there was just enough awkwardness from both of them to set me ill at ease. But as the drama progressed, and as they both fell deeper and deeper into their respective characters, they transformed into powerful, capable actors in front of my very eyes. It was absolutely wonderful to see, and it was yet more proof that, if an actor works on a great drama, with characters that matter to them, and with a strong determination to try harder to improve than they ever had before, then no matter how bad they were before it began, they can always improve. Just look at Kim Min Hee in Goodbye Solo, or most of the younger cast in The King and I. I never thought the day would come when watching Park Shi Yeon cry could move me to tears too, or when Lee Dong Wook could flash a soft, sad smile that would break my heart into a million pieces. But it happened, and I’m eternally grateful for having had the pleasure of witnessing the change. Now let’s just hope they both choose only good projects from now on!

Y’know, people like to call La Dolce Vita a “dark drama”. And there were certainly some darker, noir-like elements in the show. Human desires can get very dark, after all, and Jung Ha Yeon clearly felt no scruples about revealing the very depths of that darkness. But at the end of the day, I didn’t walk away from this show feeling depressed or dirty. It didn’t make me think the worst of the world, or despair over the actions of humankind. Instead, it always brought me up to a high – on a critical level, it made me feel hope for the K-drama industry, and rejoice over the fact that one drama this year, at least, was consistently excellent. But it brought me up on a purely emotional level too, with its belief in the lasting, eternal power of love, its lessons on judgment and understanding, its advocacy of hope and freedom, its powerful wisdom, and its belief that both life and death are indeed “sweet”.

Uh, yeah. Did I mention that I love this drama?

2008 brought out the ultimate grump in me, and made me watch in despair as the K-entertainment world slowly spiralled farther and farther down its black hole of a recession. But never fear, all those who despaired along with me! I have a solution for you, a cure for these dark, depressing days.

You can…watch older dramas from pre-2008. The good ones, too, and not Hallyu crap like Stairway to Hell – er, I mean Heaven. I recently rewatched Taereung National Village, which reminded me that the Hong Sisters do, in fact, have talent. And I am planning on continuing my watch of Shin Don very soon – which, incidentally, was written by Jung Ha Yeon and directed by Kim Jin Min – and also 2007’s Conspiracy in the Court. I am pretty sure that they will help dispel much of my grumpiness. (Or maybe it’ll just make me more critical of dramas in general, and thus grumpier…? Whatever, these dramas are simply too good to pass up. I’ll take my chances!)

But if you aren’t up for watching older dramas, then I guess you’ll just have to cross your fingers and hope that 2009 will bring about a renaissance of quality, and save us all. I’m not feeling very optimistic, however. But maybe I just need to be hit over the head with a big ol’ bag of optimism.

Please don’t disappoint us, 2009. Pretty please?

 
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60 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. thunderbolt

    DAHEE!! Super awesome review!! Grumpy enough, as expected, LOL. So glad we agree on ze BEST drama of 2008, and many other things. *hugs*

  2. cc

    Wow, I gotta watch Fight and La Dolce Vita soon, since thunderbolt and Dahee both found it to be 1 of the best dramas of 2008~ :)

    Great review Dahee, thank you so much! I enjoyed reading it.

  3. cosmopolite

    lol I love how you guys have very different views from javabeans. I’ll be honest: my tastes and opinions have mostly matched javabeans in the past but I still enjoyed your recap! Good work :)

  4. cor

    thanks for the amazing recap dahee!

  5. jackie

    the person who those this review…has bad taste!! seriously!! the dramas that you like.. are sooo ewwwwwww

  6. majata

    I definitely agree with your opinion on Love and Marriage – I got bored stiff with this drama. Like wise, I’m not impressed with Who Are You. Fight and La Dolce I haven’t watched yet but now they’re both on my to watch list.
    Thank you for your insights. It’s a must read for those who haven’t decided which dramas to watch.

  7. lily

    I really didn’t like I Love You … i didn’t see any substance in the plot nor depth in the characters.. it just bored me to death watching it despite the fact that i adore Hwanhee (which was probably the only reason i gave this drama a shot).. but really, i didn’t find it cute at all. I agree that La Dolce Vita had a great writer behind it and the characters’ acting was quite impressive, but somehow i couldn’t pass the, oh 14th, or 15th episode. I probably would have enjoyed it if i watched the rest but by now i have completely lost interest. Who Are You and Worlds Within won me over this year. Sure, Who Are You had a predictable plot, but Yoon Kye Sang’s character was absolutely adorable and yes, i love body-switching-and-magical happenings. Worlds Within in the beginning had a very slow start and the just of it was about two lovers quarreling but i really enjoyed it cause it showed the simplicity and realisticness of an everyday couple (and oh how much i’m glad that Hyun Bin’s character, Ji Oh, who had a eye problem did not become blind, leave the girl, 3rd lover man comes in, love triangle begins.. etc etc, yes i would have dropped the drama right on and there). Thanks for your reviews!

  8. rick

    I’m sorry but this will be like very offensive to you but you have to finish all the dramas you’ve mention before reviewing them so it will be a fair fight between the dramas. The dramas that you liked are not on my list of favorite with exception of Worlds Within .I’m sorry with that. I find La Dolce Vita very boring. But still it’s with our opinions again.

  9. cullenhale

    I tried to get into La Dolce Vita….aside from the beautiful scenary, it was just to me..I don’t know, I was somewhat captivated by the first episode however after that I was kind of lost…way too much came at the viewer too soon!

    Who Are was a delightful drama! I am kind of sad you didn’t stick with it. I felt like it was a beautiful drama…even though Go Ara was somewhat annoying at times…she worked well with Yoon Kye Sang…who was amazing in this drama!

    I agree with most of the bloggers about this year’s dramas…so much potential! However, was such a let down!

    Unlike a lot of the bloggers on this site, I am enjoying East of Eden despite SSH, yes, I agree-terrible actor but amazingly-good looking in the later part of the series..! Han Ji Hye and Park Jae Hin are awesome in this drama, something I did not expect. This has been one of the few dramas that I acutally stuck with thro the entire year.

  10. 10 deannadsc

    i totally agree with your choices for the best KDramas, most especially La Dolce Vita, which i watched 5 times already!!! it truly was a masterpiece! But, i also enjoyed watching light romantic comedies such as Love Marriage, Hong Gil Dong, Who are You & even the silly 3 Dads & 1 Mom,for that matter…
    it’s a pity that 2008’s batch of dramas were not as impressive as last year…especially since most of my fave leading men have gone off to enlist… like Gong Yoo, Chun Jung Myung, Jae Jee, Jo Hyun Jae & Cho Seong Woo!!! Or are about to enlist like Lee Dong Gun, Kim Rae Won, & Jo In Sung…this whole batch of talented & versatile & of course, handsome gentlemen would surely leave a dent into an already pathetic industry…but that’s just my opinion, okay?
    hope this “slump” improves next year, because i & so many others have grown to love KDramas & Movies…it’s now part of our daily lives!!!
    thanks for your in depth reviews…AZA!!! fighting!!!

  11. 11 Liv

    My Sweet Seoul disappointed me so much. It was exactly my kind of drama – lighthearted, quirky, a little offbeat – but I just couldn’t stand Eun Soo. At first I thought it was just me being nitpicky (I tend to be) – but after reading javabean’s reviews, I realized that I wasn’t alone. Love and Marriage…. well Kim Min-hee as the female lead was a bit obnoxious at times and despite being bowled over by Kim Ji-hoon’s good looks, I found his emotionally repressed lawyer somewhat wooden but it was just such a fun drama that I worked my way through 15 episodes…and now Im stuck. I cant seem to get past 5 minutes of the 16th – I just lack the…fortitude…to take any more. Finally, I am saddened you didnt like Who Are You? – granted first episodes are tough and I agree that Who Are You? didnt do a great job of setting up the story. But once the plot is established the story is charming – Yoon Kye Sang really did a great job and if for nothing else, Id recommend watching it for him.

  12. 12 amy

    I can see from the reviews and comments that people certainly have different tastes… I forgot to mention Spotlight in my comment to Thunderbolt’s review cuz I had forgotten about it, but I think it was pretty good.. The drama kind of made me sad because it kind of reflected a lot of the current events that were going on at the time it was airing. I know this drama wasn’t very popular but I think it should at least be given credit for not having any (obvious) romance in its storyline and still being interesting (well, at least to a small group of people).

  13. 13 :X

    Finally someone who thinks that World Within is NOT that bad afterall.. LOL

  14. 14 phiphi

    I agree with #8 Rick. No offense, but I’m a bit confused how a drama get on to your favorite list without finish watching it.

    Other than that I really enjoy your review.

    “Three Dads, One Mom. Dear KBS, if I go bald because of the hair-pulling torture I suffered while watching the supremely artificial first episode of this show, I will sue you.”
    ————————————————————————————————————
    ROFL………….. I’m laughing so hard @ this. You’re sure hilarious & witty.

  15. 15 charitee

    yes, i agree with you, 2008 was definitely not a great year for korean dramas. i felt like there were A LOT of hyped comeback dramas for actors and actresses that hadn’t been on the small screen scene for years. NO DOUBT, i watched [World that They Live In] and am still watching some of them faithfully [East of Eden]. In the beginning, I found myself trying to convince myself that the dramas were getting better, but i think it was more of i was such a big fan of the actors/actresses that i couldn’t let myself come to believe that these dramas were far from living up to my expectations. so is the case with east of eden…it had me really involved for a good half of the episodes, but lost me at the last time jump. i’m still watching it faithfully just to see how it ends or if it will get better, because honestly, i want it to prove to me that i haven’t been wasting my time watching it for the past 4 months.

    and, omg, i definitely need to watch la dolce vita and fight like asap. i have yet to find a drama this year that has TRULY swept me off my feet and it seems like la dolce vita might just do the trick although i’m a little weary of park shi yeon and lee dong wook [but since you guys said that their acting is kind of legit here, i'll take your word for it].

    ohhh, but i disagree with you on star’s lover. i find choi ji woo’s character very endearing for some reason. i feel like her acting these days is a lot better from her winter sonata days where i wanted to strangle myself because of her sometimes. her cutesyness in star’s lover makes me laugh. oh, that too, i actually really like star’s lover. it doesn’t have me completely committed, but it’s such a feel good drama for me that i can’t help but watch it.

  16. 16 Row

    Please do not watch Spotlight. Please.

  17. 17 JiHwan

    I love how you only spent a couple sentences describing the dramas you didn’t enjoy. But you spent paragraph after paragraph writing about you dramas that you did enjoy. hahha Once again, Thanks for the review! Lets all look forward to 2009.

  18. 18 GreenFreak

    Thanks for the wonderful review. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.. it was hilarious, even though I disagree on just a few of the dramas.

    I really liked Who are you?, but couldn’t watch La Dolce Vita, for the life of me. I tried it a couple of time to finish the first episode but just couldn’t get into it. The same goes for Sweet Seoul, barely got to ep. 5 and then kept falling asleep. Sorry. However, I am enjoying Fight and will definitely have to watch Painter of the Wind.

    I totally agree this was a weak year for Kdramas, none really stood out even some of the better ones. Thanks for taking the time to write on some of the worst dramas ever, like Rivals, the ending really was “stupider than dirt”, at least it was fun to read.

  19. 19 fizzle

    I nodded so hard while reading parts of your review, I think I might’ve torn something in my neck. Not that I watched nearly as many dramas as you did, but there were some things you said that I could fully relate to.

    I agree with both you and thunderbolt – 2008 was bad for K-dramas. Like you, I dropped the most dramas this year than any other. Though that could be due to the fact that I have only just started keeping up with current dramas; I prefer watching older ones (Taereung National Village, FTW!), so that I’ve already done a good bit of research and know exactly what I’m getting myself into before I start one.

    My Sweet Seoul was very memorable, but the last 2-3 eps sucked IMO and kind of ruined it for me. Who Are You was fun while it lasted, and when it was over I completely forgot about it. Those two are the only 2008 dramas I stuck around for. (I decided LDV wasn’t for me after 3 eps.) I’m currently enjoying Women of the Sun (Lee Hana = Love) and The Last Scandal of My Life (fun!) and looking forward to starting I Love You and Painter of the Wind some time in the future. Also I think I will watch one episode of Rivals a month, just so I can savor the experience of watching LJK until his next drama.

  20. 20 May

    Dahee, I was also “the girl who would finish every drama she started, no matter how bad or how boring they were”. I don’t even remember when I had my initial epiphany. But this year, drama after drama, I kept coming the the conclusion that there were not enough hours in the day to waste continuing to watch episodes that I wanted to fast forward through.

    I really enjoyed reading your review. Hopefully 2009 will be a better year for dramas.

  21. 21 Secret Sunshine

    These year-end reviews are definitely more exciting (educating) than the awards night! I’m in for the Fight and LDV, sounds exciting. would it be as good as Rebirth? Looking forward to the finale review by Dramabeans tomorrow! Hope she will include Love & Marriage!
    Oh, MGY is love, period! Totally agree with what you said about her ” always a delight to watch in this, always. She was always in character, always relateable. I knew she was talented, and I knew she was adorable, but I didn’t know quite how talented and adorable she was until I saw this show. She deserves to be one of the biggest stars in Korea, seriously.” Amen to that! Hope she will receive many awards for her outstanding performance & NO co-share with other outstanding actresses please!

  22. 22 Shaenna

    Lovely Review. The brutality and humor go hand in hand.

  23. 23 javabeans

    Dahee, mucho thanks! Also, thank you and thundie for being so brutal, so i don’t have to be. ;) (Not that my review will be lacking some serious set-downs, of course.) Love how the dismissive one-liners so eloquently express your disdain. And yes, I still disagree most strenuously with your opinion on My Sweet Seoul (hehe), but I’m glad you liked it.

  24. 24 Ishida

    The “thing” with La Dolce Vita it’s this is not a drama to watch with a slice on pizza on the couch like you watch a soap or a pop-corn movie, yeah this drama ask you a minimum of concentration and you need to use your brain, not a lot thanks god but just a little.

    I’m totally agree with one of the part of Dahee Fanel about Lee Dong-wook et Park Si-yeon, both in a week-end drama and a serious one? I was like: “what the hell is that?” at first, but yeah they bloomed for the best! It’s was a great opportunity for them to work with great “senior” actors, a pd and a writer who are just… let’s say… awesome! Both have just nailed their character to the perfection.
    And Together? Oh my God, they have so much chemistry *candy-eyes*.

    By the way, Hometown Legends, anyone? Some of the 8 episodes are so-so but few ones like episode 7 with the grim reaper are just excellent!

  25. 25 Jessi

    oh lord, i seriously don’t understand the La Dolce Vita circle jerk going on in these year-end reviews. that drama is like a pretentious bore at a party that tries to be brilliant and smart but only bores people to tears with its repetitive ‘philosophical’ rants about the meaning of life and betrayal, blah blah blah. god, i’m getting bored just thinking about it.

  26. 26 mookie

    Wow I agree with you all the way Dahee! (At least the ones I’ve seen/abandoned)Thanks for the nice recap!!

    And I thought I was having ‘time of the month’ almost every time I started a new supposingly good drama in 08….

  27. 27 yay

    @Jessi,
    Aha, ha-you penned it right: there is definitely a circle-jerk quality to the fans of La Dolce Vita. I watched the whole drama, and it is nothing more than a pretentious piece of crap. Look, we are here to watch K-dramas, not wanna-be-masterpiece-theater crap. There is absolutely nothing original or interesting about Dolce Vita, except that it is trying to appeal (trying to, being the operative phrase) to a supposedly more adult audience, but in reality it is nothing more than a immature representation of supposedly adult relationships.

    Also, really, reviewing works that you have not seen fully is really in bad taste. Golden rule of reviewing: at least know what you are reviewing. If reviewers commented on a movie based on a trailer, he/she would be laughed out of town. It is amusing to me how many times Dahee mentioned not having gotten past a couple of episodes of a 16-20 episode show. How on earth do you even have the gall to comment on a show you haven’t watched?

  28. 28 Amber

    Mm, glad to see some unity between you and thunderbolt – it makes my drama-watching list even easier to create:)

    but I realized that I don’t actually know what “PD” stands for – what’s a drama PD?

  29. 29 koalabear

    thanks for the review…I also agree with the best drama of 2008, I also thought of abandoning La Dolce Vita because at first it was hard for me to digest but I eventually fell in love on the acting and how the story was written, I think Who Are You was good but I haven’t had the time to finish it yet, Spotlight was promising but it led me to disappointment…

    Some K-dramas this year were not that good, and I just watch a few also this year compared to the previous years but I hope 2009 will be a better year for the K- Entertainment industry, this year was not good I must say

  30. 30 anne

    Someone gimme a bucket…Your taste in dramas are pretty bad imo besides painter of the wind.. You didn’t watch HONG GIL DONG? omgud

  31. 31 james

    East of Eden is such a beautiful and touching drama. I know its really boring at first but it gets really interesting. Ratings of the show skyrocketed. You learn a good lesson too. To work hard and you can achieve anything…That’s the message MBC is perveying for their anniversary drama.

  32. 32 Bee

    Year end reviews on Dramabeans, oh the joy. :)
    I think it’s safe to say that my taste is completely different from the one of every year-end reviewer I’ve read here so far.

    @72: I fully agree with you.

    Good thing that I’m able to form my own opinion and don’t rely on other people to form it for me to create my “watchlists”. :)

  33. 33 Pully

    C’mon ppl, everyone has their own taste. I must say, this is really fun seeing different opinions other than dramabeans herself (of course!). Keep it up !! bring more guests to the house.

    Talking about bad taste … I agree with you on most of the dramas you abandoned, even though I finished some of them, I forgot them all a second after. So, let me disagree with your favs.

    I couldn’t stand “La Dolce Vita” after 4th episode, basically I don’t get the point of the drama. I dropped “My Sweet Seoul” after 6th eps, I found myself fast-forwarding 2/3 of one episode, I was just really bored. I don’t watch “Fight”, it’s not my kind of drama, I might check it out since you mention it. The others are not worth mentioning because I already forgot.

    Other than “Painter of the Winds” which I enjoyed a lot (YAY! Moon. BOO! Park Shin Yang). NONE of 2008 K-dramas last in my minds. Yes, NONE !!!!

    I’m more into J-drama this year.

  34. 34 charitee

    @ Bee: honestly, it’s practically impossible to watch every single drama that is released. from the sea of a gagillion dramas [an exaggeration, i know], how am i supposed to pick just a few dramas i should try out? getting other people’s opinions on dramas before watching them is ONE way that helps me pick and choose among those 3456893644 dramas out there. if a couple of people say that a certain drama is good and are willing to actually spend a few paragraphs to say what a good drama it is and why, then i’m willing to give that drama a shot. i’m not solely basing my “watchlist” on what these reviewers say nor am i unable to form my own opinions. that also doesn’t mean that i’m going to force myself to like it just because the reviewer did nor am i going to form the same opinion as the reviewer.

    plus, how can you call someone using REVIEWS of dramas to help them form a “watchlist” unable to form opinions? before buying a book/camera/mp3 player/a crapload of other things or watch a movie or listening to a new singer/group, don’t you look at reviews [whether it be online, from people you know, the newspaper, etc.] to see if those things are worth trying out? also, people’s ULTIMATE opinions of that book/camera/mp3 player/etc. may not match the reviews that they used to help them make their decision on at all.

  35. 35 selva

    Dahee lol I enjoyed reading your review of the year ALOT.
    I also liked that you wrote couple of sentences describing your worst and so-so dramas (to avoid traumatizing the fans lol) but you were subtle and direct in your analysis.
    I’m GLAD you loved Fight too… this drama is super underrated… maybe if it was produced by a major station (MBC, KBS, SBS) instead of the cable TV, people would have paid attention to it…

    I kinda understand what you mean by the 1st 10 minutes hint… you need something that convinces you to continue watching and loving the drama… some people may not agree w/ the fact that you judged some dramas w/out even continue watching… but we all have to agree that you don’t have the TIME to continue watching in your hectic life (right?)

    I LOL-ed like crazy at your comment regarding IlJimae hehehe but hey it wasn’t that bad… just the Hannibal Lecter mask made me go ewwwww and wtf most of the time. But Lee Jun Ki was certainly an eye candy in here LOL and he’s a good actor too.

    I still need to watch POTW and LDV… lot of great reviews.

    thanks for your preview mwah.

  36. 36 Bee

    charitee, even with so many dramas out there, and my limited time available, I made it a habit to at least watch an episode or two of every drama. That doesn’t mean I will follow every drama, but at least I give it a try.

    But I know quite a few people who don’t even give the first episode a try, just based on what reviewers here say. My comment was aimed at those people, who have others form their opinion for them, make decisions for them. “This is good you have to watch it” or “You can’t watch it because it’s not good”.
    You know, a show like 3 Dads 1 Mom, who gets lots of bad reviews… it’s still one of my favorite shows this year. Does that mean that my taste sucks? Perhaps. But if i had gone by the reviewers here, or elsewhere, I wouldn’t even have bothered thinking about watching it. Because my pre-set, pre-formed opinion would be “It’s not worth watching because everyone says so”.

    And no, I do not base what I listen to, what concerts I go to or what I buy based on what others think about it. Because it’s these “reviews” are opinions, not solid facts. It’s not test results, where things are measured and tested under specific circumstances and the tests will show the same/similar result whenever they are repeated.

    I do give credit to javabeans and the other reviewers, who at least give the dramas a try before ditching them. Saying that you couldn’t stand watching them beyond the first ten minutes is fine with me. I know I felt the same for “My sweet seoul”, and “Gourmet” I even tried several times but couldn’t wrap myself around it, and the same goes for “La Dolce Vita”.
    But a proper *review* would mean (at least in my book) you base your opinion on the whole thing, not just episode 1.
    So, for me these “reviews” here are more like a “list of shows I liked and disliked for this and that reason” rather than a proper review, except perhaps for those where the “reviewers” actually watched the whole thing. :) *peace*

  37. 37 tuswit

    good job but i also disagree along with the others here about la dolce vita — i like lee dong wook so much from my girl so i was so looking f/ward to watching it when it first came but it’s a total disappointment for me, boring is the word to describe it & i don’t know it must be just me but i didn’t think too much of the actress (the older one) to be paired with LDW. Nothing wrong if she was much older than him but i didn’t think she’s got that chem. with LDW. Also I Love You, i liked Ahn Jae Wook so much since O Phil Seung, A Star from my Heart but ILY didn’t really hit me; Who Are You? i thought it was corny i’m sorry!; then Spotlight i bought the dvd & i haven’t finished as the first few episodes were a disappointment already! Anyhow, i’ve been a Kaddict since 2007 & having watched a lot of good old dramas (cause i’ve been a late-comer to Kdramas) then compared to the dramas lately, I did think it’s changed from good to worse at least this past year. The storylines are mostly gearing to I believe younger audience if I’m not mistaken. I guess i’m too old fashioned & got accustomed to Kdramas such as the likes of Winter Sonata, Spring Waltz, Glass Slippers, Love Letter,Stairway to Heaven, My Girl even Full House & many other good old ones. I did like 3 Dads also, My Woman, Beethoven Virus isn’t so bad cause I believe the actors made me watched through it. Let’s hope 2009 for Kdramas would be a lot better cause I am a die hard for Kdramas & their cute/handsome actors!

  38. 38 salt

    i think i can sort of understand why some korean actors got so depressed over netizens comments (please note that i do not condone suicide). people are allowed their own opinion but if the comments are half as nasty as this one and the person being condemned are not secure enough, (face it, i think almost all actors/ actressess are insecure), it’s a wonder there are not more deaths in the korean entertainment scene.

  39. 39 NANCY

    did not check out HONG GIL DONG it is my favorite drama of the year

  40. 40 momoisluv

    dude. i totally agree with your take on la dolce vita. i cried profusely over the period that i was watching it. it was heavy and dark(i mean first ep with a dead body lying on the street) but it didn’t leave any bad feelings when it ended. their acting was stellar which sometimes left me in awe. it was shot beautifully and the script was soooooooo good. surely the best drama this year :D

  41. 41 ..

    I hope 09 will be a better year~ As for the King and I… I LOVED it. I (heart) sageuks~ well… the good ones anyways..
    It was so sad! But, I should have not read the story on wiki.. because since its based on a true story… so, the ending with the son was predictable.
    On the other hand, knowing that that cute little kid would turn evil was not so much surprising. Especially when he’s the same evil king from The King’s Clown (yes.. the little boy at the end was the same King that loved Junki >.<)
    Now that i’ve sad that~
    Personally, I never really pay close attention to an actor/actress’s acting… so when people usually say I couldnt watch this and that because of the acting, I usually go “huh?” XD I tend to overlook these things @____@
    But the only reason I never usually finish the drama is the story.
    Especially comedic ones… where they are light and funny in the beginning, but than suddenly become dramatic and sad…
    Or where the series just start dragging…
    Perhaps thats why series like Coffee Prince, Goong, Full House were more dramas that stick with me as the plots were new and fresh. The tone was the same to the end.. not from comedic to suddenly trying to be sad and dramatic. But balanced. (About goong, I mean.. aside from Sageuks, when was the last time we had a modern-day drama about royalties in Korea? Sure… there may be no royalties today, but hey, in Goong with a little bit of fantasy anything was possible and look at the outcome ^^)

    I think dramas this year had a lot of potential… but [some] writers seemed to lack imagination and add more to the story in a refreshing, new way… than to go back to over-used plots and etc. and make the dramas drag.

    I really enjoyed this review, as it gave me an idea about these dramas. But it all comes down to personal taste (I actually liked On Air and Gourmet XD)

    My hopes for 09: A refreshing year. Perhaps Dramas can be a bit more creative…
    (as far as Hana Yori Dango remake… I’ve noticed many times that dramas based after mangas/novels always turn out a hit… Gourmet based after manhwa… Goong after manhwa… Coffee Prince based after novel… (Wasnt My Lovely Kim Samsoon based after a korean novel?) even movies based after manhwa’s/novels are always a hit in some way O.O so I’m guessing that Boys Over Flowers will be a hit XD… meheheh)

  42. 42 Dahee Fanel

    @salt

    Dude, are you seriously suggesting that me writing things like this are contributing to celebrities’ suicides? Seriously? You think me being honest and saying someone’s acting is bad when it is is somehow contributing to Korea’s major suicide problem?

    Maybe I insulted one of your favourite actors or dramas or something, but I don’t appreciate ostensibly being called a murderer. Especially since I personally have been affected by a loved one’s suicide in the past. Especially since I heard just yesterday about a close acquaintance’s death.

    If you knew anything about suicide and depression, then you would know that the factors involved in a person’s suicide aren’t nearly as clean-cut and easy to understand as you seem to think.

    I don’t care if you (a general you) don’t like the same dramas as me, or think I have bad taste, or think that my not watching all 16 episodes of some drama means I can’t write about it. But don’t talk about suicide to me. That’s when it gets personal.

  43. 43 salt

    @ Dahee Fanel

    suicide is personal to me too…. (i’m not going to elaborate)

    i did not mean to offend you or imply that you are directly or indirectly responsible for whatever deaths or depression of any one person and i apologize if my comments come across that way.

    it has nothing to do with what you like or dislike on whatever dramas or actors or etc etc. in fact i agree with some of your comments. as i pointed out everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    all i meant was, if that person was already depressed and insecure about aspects of their lives (and i do think celebrities are at least a little insecure), public comments, perceptions and opinion really matters to them (after all, they are doing what they are doing to cater to the public/ fans). and when those they try to impress hits them really really hard where it matters most, with venom and meanness dripping everywhere, it might push them a little bit more to the edge.
    but i guess if they can’t take the heat, better stay out of the kitchen, right?

    once again, sorry if i offended you…

  44. 44 Sevenses

    Reading your review was very refreshing. I mean, it’s annoying that all these dramas turned out to be bad, but your honesty and turn of phrase made me grin like a mad loon.

    I think what will always bother me about 2008 was the fact that I expected so much more and was disappointed the entire time. Hong Gil Dong stepped on my tender heart, Iljimae was hyped, Gourmet was touted as the ‘best food drama’, WW turned out to be incomprehensible, EoE gave me a migraine, etc.

    In conclusion – am catching up with stuff in 2007. :D

    Thanks for the review, and sorry for not commenting sooner! (The winter has gotten to my internet, I’m afraid to say.)

  45. 45 -april19-

    EOE sucks!!!!!!!

  46. 46 SL

    I have to admit first-up that I fast forwarded through La Dolce Vita…but I finished it nonetheless. The acting…The storytelling techniques, including the first ep where they reveal the death of the male lead and the jarring flashbacks was brilliant. That’s reason alone for it to be one of the top dramas of 2008.

    The finale especially…where I thought initially that the female lead didn’t get to see the male lead in his last moments but then the show goes on to reveal what happened from the different perspectives. And yes, I bawled like crazy at the ending, especially when the female lead realized that her love for him couldn’t stop the guilt in him from wanting to kill himself.

    Don’t know if any of you see the similarity between this and a Taiwanese drama called MARS. I know the story is different, but the feel is the same. Highly recommended too.

  47. 47 Secret Sunshine

    The title itself sounds very appealing. Isn’t “La Dolce Vita” meaning the good life, full of pleasure and indulgence so the drama should be pretty sweet, right? But from what I read from the comments so far it’s has pretty dark plot?

  48. 48 MMRWong

    I really like reading the reviews here, and I quite agree on some of ‘em. I’ve just finished La Dolce Vita almost a week ago (watched it at 1.5x speed), but I also think it’s a good drama. Um…how should I say this, I feel depressed when I watch it. Especially after the finale, I was like, why would he want t end like that? Why would he killed himself? >__> Just couldn’t get it out of me head. Even though making me depressed sounds bad, in some cases I think it’s a good sign. Only a good drama can make me feel this way xD

    Still, 24 episodes are quite long, so those who can stand long drama can watch this one. Peace.

  49. 49 Mindy

    After reading thunderbolt’s rating of 2008 dramas, i went ahead and watched her #1 choice—‘la Dolce vita’ and watched it in just a matter of days. ic why it’s everyone’s favorite but at the same time at the end of the drama, i felt…DISGUSTED.
    Not because of the death but i ended up hating every character… A mother who chooses her lover over children, yet she continued to state that her children are her everything.
    And there was the mental patient who hated himself to death for living off his friend yet he continued to live that way even after his friend died and he made no effort to find a job!!
    And Park Shi yeon who made the most sense to me but just ended up settling down with a rich guy instead of learning the true meaning of love after all that she went through!
    And the ahjushi who just continued to run after money, just swimming in wealth without much loss other than maybe his wife who wasn’t really in love with him from the start. It just hinted that he’ll get his wife back and continue on~

    Overall, it’s only focus was on love got tiring, it got repetitive and the drama was just over-dramatic and over-rated.

  50. 50 km

    omg just had to comment because i just finished watching Fight, so can completely relate to your favourable review!! yoo gun and baek do bin were unbelievably awesome in it, and it’s probably one of the best dramas for me in 2008 too! (though technically i only finished watching it in 2009)

    the fight sequences were more realistic than those you get from WWF etc. and the actors’ seriously buff bodies just made it more real. i mean, you GET that they have been training, that it’s real stuff we’re talking about, not just empty stunts. the choreography is excellent! and i’m really squealing so much because of yoo gun. where has that young actor been all my life!? (all my kdrama-watching life at least HAHA)

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