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[Revisiting Dramas] A decade may pass but Soulmate(s) are forever

By @whoopeeyoo

It’s been a little over a decade since I’ve seen Soulmate, and at the time, it was fun and fresh, and unlike any other K-drama I’ve seen before in the three or four years I’ve been gorging on them. Granted, I was young (thirteen or fourteen!) and impressionable when I saw it, on a constant diet of makjangs full of birth secrets, amnesia, blindness, and all kinds of life-and-death situations. If makjang wasn’t on the plate, there was a smorgasbord of romance tropes on offer, such as all forms of forced proximity, from arranged marriages to contract marriages to cohabitation. I thought I knew everything I could expect from K-dramas at a very early age, but then came Soulmate.

It was certainly different, and I had massive hair envy of Shin Dong-wook. But I can only remember a few things from Soulmate: Shin Dong-wook sharing an earbud to a crying Lee Soo-kyung, a short run time, an open ending, and my crush on Shin Dong-wook. So when this month’s prompt came around, even though I wanted to rewatch a Jae Hee or a So Ji-sub drama, I knew I’d end up watching and writing about Soulmate. Did a decade treat Soulmate well? Here are my findings.

The first thing I noticed was of course how dated it looked, from the wardrobe, to the hairstyles, and the phones. Albeit a decade old, surprisingly, the outfits weren’t entirely cringey, except for one character. I guess when your character is a celebrity, even if only remotely, you’re gonna be saddled with an atrocious wardrobe. (I’m looking at you, Rain.) Such is Otani Ryohei’s fate: an exhibit. Thank you for being a constant source of laughter.

Superficial things aside, Soulmate was the first K-drama I’ve seen with an ensemble cast, by which I mean a cast comprised of more than four main players, all romantically involved with one or the other. It was also the first slice-of-life drama I’ve seen, and it actually feels more like a sitcom than your usual K-drama fare. There is no central plot point and instead, the show focuses on our characters and their diverse notions and opinions on love, dating, and destiny. We’re also presented with a variety of relationships in different stages: some beginning, some fledgling, and some dying. Unlike my mother’s dramas, it was light and amusing, with a dash of realism (everyone’s working!) I’d never seen before. That’s not to say dramaland didn’t have any comedic dramas before, but they were more of the hijinks type. Needless to say, teen me thought this drama was definitely fresh.

And that’s what my 23-year-old self is thinking now too. It’s 2017, but most K-dramas still have the tendency to be chaste, as if two grown adults would never ever think of sex or even skinship. It was refreshing to watch something that tackles sex and dating mind games directly and unapologetically. I enjoyed every time the boys huddle in the gym to talk about their respective love lives (or lack thereof), and when the girls do the same in their office and apartments. I’ve seen a lot of dramas in the intervening years that employed nonlinear storytelling, but nothing as how deftly used it was in Soulmate. While some of the dating and seduction strategies in here were borderline creepy or over-the-top (both from the men and the women), I especially loved how the forward females weren’t judged by how aggressive they were in pursuing the guys.

One thing I had a newfound appreciation of this go-round was the music. As a teen, I didn’t really take note of soundtracks in dramas unless they were massively overused and thus annoying. Shin Dong-wook’s character works as a musical coordinator, which basically feels like an excuse for the drama to incorporate great music. But I’d gladly take a myriad of songs (fantastic and apt ones at that!) than a single theme song played ad infinitum.

Lest I forget, another thing I now realized was how fitting the open ending was. The first time I saw Soulmate, I didn’t know that it was a short drama, clocking in only at a total of twelve hours. So I didn’t really care much that we’ve spent a lot of time with our main couple apart and in a relationship with other people because I thought they’d get their chance to be all lovey-dovey. But now that I know that time is a limiting factor, I found myself wanting the couple to get together as soon as possible, even though I know it’s futile. As a teen, I felt cheated out of a happily-ever-after because how could you, Show? But now, I love it (even though I still feel shortchanged of romance).

I love how the drama, while posing the question of whether soulmates are real, didn’t actually answer the question explicitly. It didn’t tie everything with a neat little bow and a ride into the sunset; instead, it felt like it went out with the most pragmatic and realistic path for our couple. Romantics would think that they’d meet someday and have their happy ending, while cynics could believe that it was all a short-lived connection and soulmates are found only in fiction.

And in the end, it’s up to the viewer what they think would happen. Isn’t that nifty? To have your audience think about your characters even after the show is over? To be something that is worthy of discussion, showcasing the audience’s own views about destiny, which what the show was all about? You’re smart, Soulmate, and I’m glad to see you and be wrapped in this debate about destiny with myself once again.

 

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By @chingu

I thought long and hard about what drama I should revisit for this Dramabeans challenge, because while it’s easy for me to rewatch a drama, I was more worried about the writing aspect of this challenge. I just don’t have the ability to easily whip up essays about my thoughts and feelings about a drama, so I had to choose wisely.

That’s when I thought of Soulmate, the 2006 sitcom-y drama centered on a group of eight adults and their love lives. It’s old enough that my terrible memory would most likely not be able to recall the details of the drama, and while it’s kind of underrated, I have fond memories of it being a real and raw nontraditional K-drama, with an extraordinary romance, topped off with a series of earworms played throughout. Moreover, it’s actually one of the first dramas that I found out about right here on Dramabeans—through the one and only javabeans. I remember javabeans mentioning it many times and even considered it as one of her all-time favorites. Dramabeans has been my personal K-drama bible for many years now, so I just had to check out the drama for myself and see just why javabeans loved it so much. Oh, and another reason to watch an older drama? No obnoxious Subway PPLs!

I don’t remember when I decided to finally watch Soulmate the first time around, but I do remember the oh-so-magical encounters between the two main characters, Shin Dong-wook and Lee Soo-kyung, played by… Shin Dong-wook and Lee Soo-kyung. (Ha. I didn’t appreciate it then, but it’s amusing to me now to know that the majority of the cast used their real names in the drama.)

The romance arc between the two is an unexplainable yet extraordinary one. I only say that because there’s a heavy concept of fate and destiny attached to their characters. But of course, both Dong-wook and Soo-kyung don’t believe in the idea of fate—that is, until they meet each other. Let’s just say she’s literally the girl of his dreams.

Now, I’m kind of a hopeless romantic, so I’m all about that setup. But what irks me is the fact that we don’t actually get to see it until, I kid you not, the very end of the drama. They don’t even meet officially until the last few episodes (despite some fateful encounters before that), let alone know of each other’s existence. I know. I said I didn’t want to give away too much, but I think it’s a helpful little caveat because we’re so used to the main characters meeting early on and bickering their way to romance, so the fact that these two didn’t even meet until the very end was quite frustrating for me.

But was the romance between the OTP worth the extremely long wait? Kind of. Luckily, everything and everyone else in the drama was very wacky and entertaining, so I was easily distracted. But when they finally got together, it made me wish they could’ve met each other sooner because their chemistry together was so natural and sweet.

It was lovely how comfortable they were with each other and there were finally no more games and rules—it was just two people enjoying each other’s company and finally being honest and genuine about their feelings.

The show basically teases us of their impending fate from the get-go through a series of almost-encounters between Dong-wook and Soo-kyung shown in complete slo-mo, over and over (and over) again, topped off with Lasse Lindh’s “C’mon Through” as the background music, because that’s their song.

Speaking of songs, this drama really treats music with much love and care, as each and every song used in the drama complements the scenes and the characters beautifully. In fact, most of the episode titles are actually song titles, so be on the lookout as it can give you clues as to what the episodes may be about. Not only does the music enhance the overall tone of the drama, but it also completes a scene. For example, Lasse Lindh’s “C’mon Through” does a beautiful job at making all the encounters between Dong-wook and Soo-kyung all that much more epic. And Nouvelle Vague’s “This Is Not a Love Song” is pretty much the drama’s theme song that you’ll probably have stuck in your head, too.

Each episode of Soulmate is like a new lesson in love. Each character has their own way of dealing with love and the many challenges that come with it. It’s quite amusing to see the two main players of the love game, Dong-wook and Min-ae, give dating advice to others because it’s just like they’re reciting a new chapter in a “Player’s Guide to Dating” book. It’s a hoot to watch all of them dissect and overanalyze their relationships, as well as their friends’ relationships, because they make a big deal out of everything.

The characters in Soulmate are definitely flawed. Heck, they can be downright dislikable. But most, if not all, of them are honest—to themselves and to others. They may be manipulative in the game of love, but they go with their instincts, and they deal with the aftermath like grown, mature, and responsible adults. They own up to their stuff, and I appreciate that.

All in all, this may not be a love song, but it’s certainly a refreshing drama about love.

 
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Thank you for revisiting Soulmate!
This was one very memorable drama that not everyone has seen.
I think I'm the only one in the Philippines who has watched it.
I also cannot remember the whole story but what stood out was the earphone sharing scene between the leads.
What stayed with me though is the kick ass OST! I still have it now and I still listen to it from time to time.
Loving Kdramas will not only show you a good story good acting but also good music!

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@aitris I'm also from the Philippines and I saw it too on TV!

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I guess that earbud-sharing scene is pretty much an iconic moment in the drama because it was one of the scenes that stuck in my head, too. I anticipated it because I remembered how magical it was and in my memory, Soo-kyung was wearing a green jacket, so I was waiting to see it, to realize that it's definitely not green, more orange. Maybe it was the greenery and big green buses in the background that I mixed it up with.

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You know what? I also thought it was green! The greenery background was the color that stood out for me in that snapshot of a memory.

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This is such a precious drama! Although some elements are a bit dated the feels...oh the feels... those remain the same. The idea that someone might be out there, someone who can comfort you... More than the earbuds scene, I still remember the phone booth, when he played her a song without knowing who she was. Just magical.
I still listen to the soundtrack :)

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I love the idea that everyone has an "other half," or a soulmate, that they're bound to come across and find each other. I don't live by it, but it's definitely a nice thought to keep in mind that there is probably someone out there that "completes you."

The phone booth scene! That scene was crazy. I'm pretty sure I've thought about randomly dialing phone numbers the way she did at least once in my life. But man, how affected he was at the sound of her distress cries, how he sent good thoughts her way, and just let her listen to what was later known as "their song," was sweet.

Do you remember how the show made parodies of itself? Like, later on in the drama, another character, Mi-jin, ran to the phone booth (probably the same one Soo-kyung was at, too, haha) and started punching in a bunch of random numbers, and cried about her heartache, but the other person on the phone wasn't having it, and just yelled at her and hung up. Lololol!

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The phone booth scene! I almost included that in my write-up but the sharing-earbuds scene won by a margin. Haha!

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I adore Soulmate.
Too bad it has one of THE most annoying second lead females in the history of dramas. That character almost made me quit the drama.
But the two leads... oh how I adored them!

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Not sure if you are referring to Yu Jin, but I found her very endearing and was rooting for her and Dong Wook.

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Yeah, a part of me feels bad for gushing about Dong-wook and Soo-kyung so much, because I feel for Yu-jin, man. She and Dong-wook were together from the beginning to almost end, and to have someone that you believed was your soulmate and to want them to become your life partner, and then have them tell you they're in love with your friend, and run right outta your life like that SUCKS. But it's for the best--for both of them because I wouldn't want Yu-jin to marry someone who isn't even in love with her and I also wouldn't want Dong-wook to miss out on real love, either.

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Are you talking about the girl Shin Dong-wook is initially with? I could not stand the way she talked and her awkward looking bob. she was just an all round annoying figure.

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Yes, that's her!

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I really didn't like her. If you're having to push the person your dating into commitment, you should let him go. I know they were set up on the kind of blind date that's supposed to lead to marriage, so it's not that she was jumping the gun to ask him about it. But every time she tried to push him to set a date/get serious, he was clearly, obviously reluctant. She needed to cut him loose. And then for her to basically call dibs on him even though he didn't want her. . . I didn't liker her. Not that I thought he treated her great, either. But she's the type of person that, in dramas or in real life, I don't understand and don't like.

Maybe i should watch it again, though, to see if I understand her more the second time around. Maybe I'd be more sympathetic now.

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But in a way, he led her on to believe that he loved and wanted to be with her too, whenever she expressed doubts about where their relationship was heading, he would reassure her that all was good/his heart was with her. So it's not wonder that she was confused and desperately wanted to save their relationship when he suddenly decided that she wasn't the one and hooked up with her work friend instead. She was taken by surprise and I felt it was normal for her to go through the stages of breakup grief. That parting scene when she told him that she would let him go because she truly loved him that much really got to me, Dong Wook also appeared to be affected by her words at that moment (he did tell her at one point that he genuinely loved her too before Soo Kyung popped up and consumed his thoughts, a love so strong he just couldn't deny)

I knew from the get go that it was set up to fail because the show was obviously trying to drive home the point that the soulmate couple was in fact Dong Wook and Soo-Kyung, but I was still invested in YJ & DW's relationship because we saw them go through the ups and downs and them professing their feeling for each other, so I really felt for Yu-Jin when it seemed like Soo-Kyung just swept in out of the blue to claim her man's heart.

I was able to see Yu-Jin and Dong Wook's relationship grow over the course of the drama, but with Dong Wook and Soo-Kyung, it was as though they were able to skip pass the initial courting/getting to know you stage, simply because they were already destined to be soulmates (with him literally being able to read her mind and her being the bride of his dreams), so I thought it was just too easy. I wasn't sold on the concept.

There were a lot of viewers hating on Yu-Jin and posting negative things about her back then, her character was flawed but I don't think she deserved to be hated on just because she wasn't the female lead and viewers thought she was just an annoying obstacle between the main couple. They said she was selfish but neglected to see that the main couple was also selfish in their pursuit of love.

I was more annoyed that Soo-Kyung didn't seem that bothered by the affect Dong Wook's and her actions had on Yu-Iin initially. When Yu-Jin begged Soo-Kyung to give Dong Wook back to her, Soo-Kyung was thinking in her head, what about my happiness.

I agree it did work out for the best for all parties, but the way they handled the break up between YJ & DW could have been much better.

I don't think you would be more sympathetic to YJ on the 2nd viewing because your opinion has already been formed on her character and it's hard to change that.

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Apologies for all the typos I made in my post above, I didn't proofread before hitting Send and there is no Edit button.

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Tbh, her EXTREMELY polite and formal way of talking got to me every now and then, too, but it was also funny whenever she came across crazy things and people, and still managed to keep her calm composure and poised demeanor.

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Her voice and way of talking - omg, thought I was the only one that disliked her. She really embodied 'naesoong' which I dislike in dramas (and in real life because good grief, you can't be that fake all the time, right?)

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waw,,,it's amazing through this month theme i discover some dramas which i haven't watched before,,,

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One of my all time favorite dramas. As @whoopeeyoo said, its up to you to decide whether you believe in the concept of soulmates or not. Me being a hopeless romantic when it comes to dramas definitely believed they would end up together somewhere down the line. And I guess that was what made their decision to hold out on the audience, and have the couple get together so late in the game make sense to me. As @chingu said, initially it was frustrating to wait for these two to get together.

But after re-watching I have come to understand that what the show might have been trying to tell me, is that sometimes you think you have your life all figured out until someone comes along to shake up your worldview. And this someone doesn't come when we want them to, or when we expect them to; they arrive at the very last possible minute and turn everything that we know upside down. And because they so irrevocably change our lives that we call them our Soulmates.

I believe a soulmate is someone you are destined to meet. They can b either a friend or a lover, but their main purpose in your life is to bring change in you for the better. And this is why I think the show held out for the longest possible minute for Shin Dong-wook to meet and fall in love with Lee Soo-kyung. He was so complacent in that life he had build for himself that he stopped trying to change; his life nad dreams were stagnating and he didn't even realize it. But she shook him out of that reverie and for the first time, in a long time, he actually started working towards his dreams. He started looking for inspiration for his music.

And that I think is the whole point of Soulmate. That we are always meant to meet people who will bring change into our lives. Which is why I'm optimistic about the ending. Because if fate can bring these two together once, it ca do it again. Things have a way of working out in the end.

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I love what you said here. It explains the show so well. I too had hoped that them being in Japan signified that they would meet. But after hearing JB&GF's podcast over Soulmate that the makers had a second season in mind (wonder why that didnt happen) makes me think if it was just a carelessly written ending in hopes of continuing it later.

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@wapzy Thank you! I didn't know they had planned a second season for the show. To me this was how I interpreted the story and the writers intentions. I guess I would rather stick to this idea than think of the show letting me down somehow in the end. Does that make sense?

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@silvermists You said that so eloquently! I love everything you said and I might have picked up a thing or two as additions to my outlook in life.

@wapzy I didn't know that they planned a second season too! Makes sense now though to have that ending. It's a fitting end if there isn't a second season and yet fitting if there was too. I do think it wasn't a carelessly written one?

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Anyone having the same problem??Ads kept getting pushed to me that I had to logout and go back in again multiple times.

Sorry for the digression. One of my fave rom com. Love everything about it except the ending. And Dong Wook and his hair band!!!

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I remember putting this drama in my watchlist years ago, but I don't know why I haven't watched this drama until now. Maybe because no one really talked about this drama a lot. I also completely forgot about this drama. Thanks for the reminder, I'll check it out soon when I've time.

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Hope you do get around to it!

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I kind love the otp. but the wacky aspect about this drama at times is abit too much for me so I'm already on the edge to quit the drama. than they always tease us about a possibility our otp will eventually meet and it kept me wanting more and I'm not dissapoint

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For me the saddest part of watching and old show is figuring out that half/a few of the actors are hardly found acting now. I watched Soulmate last year and was disheartened to see only a few actors with recent projects along with SDW's illness. Glad that he came back though.

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Exactly. It is sad how newer and newer It Girls and Boys keep pushing these very good and experienced actors and actresses lower and lower in the casting list.

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Yeah, that's definitely one of the saddest parts about watching an old show--the actors are either MIA, or have passed away.

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I remember checking every year if Shin Dong-wook was in anything new after watching Soulmate and was so sad when he was apparently sick. Glad he's back though and I do hope he can still topbill a drama!

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I'm so glad someone (two someones, in fact) wrote about this drama. I probably consider Soulmate my all time favorite drama. It's not perfect by any means, but in terms of evoking feelings and feeling real it really was amazing. Everything the two of you two mentioned are reasons I adore this drama -- the relationships between the characters, the open endings hint at a better future, the soundtrack (oh the soundtrack, how I adore the soundtrack), the small moments where the leads passed one another by before ever meeting etc. are so beautifully done and scored that I always find comfort in this show no matter what episode I pull up. All the characters and the complicated web of relationships feel real and lived in from episode one. Even that open ending evokes a feeling of hope. In my mind I always imagined that the two of them met again moments after that camera turned off, on that busy Tokyo street in the unlikeliest of encounters.

Thank you @whoopeeyoo and @chingu for these beautiful write-ups.

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Oh, yes! I love those moments when they're about to meet up. Brings me excitement even with a rewatch. Even though I know how it all shakes out. It's just so tantalizing, I don't know why.

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SDW such an eye candy <3

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This drama intrigues me, I've managed to track down a hardsubbed mp4 version. Thank you for the post!

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Oh my gosh. I think I held by breath the entire time I was reading my part. I'm still kinda numb and in awe right now. Woo. Gimme a moment.

Wow, I made it! Tbh, after I hit sent and my email submission went swoosh, I became so self-conscious of my own writing and the final product that I was kinda dreading this moment, but now that it's finally here, it's not as bad as I thought it was (thanks DB team for making minor tweaks and cleaning it up a lil'. Heh). One of the things I kept mulling over after submitting it was the fact that I didn't elaborate more on the characters, special moments, and emphasized the theme a lil' more and compare and contrast the first time I watched it versus rewatching it now.

I did say I didn't wanna spoil anything, because I figured not everyone has watched this drama and I didn't wanna give away too much, because it'll take away from the big moment(s), but maybe that's just me thinking everyone else was a spoiler-free freak like me.

I'm delighted to be able to share the spotlight in spreading the Soulmate love with @whoopeeyoo (oh hey! Didn't we talk about submitting something in for the very first theme of the month? I think you made it, but heh, it took me awhile, but here I am!) because they worded everything perfectly and put everything together beautifully.

Random thoughts after reading your part:

- I love and appreciate this show's refreshingly real take on love and relationships between grown adults.
- That earbud scene! It's the one scene I remembered quite vividly! Classic.
- While I adored Shin Dong-wook and Lee Soo-kyung together, I appreciated the open ending, too. My goodness, even until the end, the music and the lyrics were so damn apt with the scenario:

Don't turn, turn away
you're miles, miles away
cause I, I can't see you
don't turn away to the night

Chills.

- LOL @ Otani Ryohei’s wardrobe! I need to show Beanies a couple of Dong-wook's outfits. Pwahaha!

This was fun! Thank you, DB fam! <333

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We made it, @chingu! YAY! Great write-up too! Made me think I should have written more about what you said but good thing you wrote them and we complemented each other's features. Hee.

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another favorite one from my very first year of Kdrama obsession! i was smitten by Shin Dong Wook also and was very sad to realize later that i could not find more of his works... glad to hear he is well and back in the industry!

the woman who spoke "old korean" (if that's what you call it) was quite funny to me, since i was a newbie i wasn't sure if her words were "formal" or "colloquial"... i later learned it was "old fashioned".

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I never watched the drama, but I do remember seeing the earbud scene, lol!

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I didn't think it was really open-ended. The friends discuss the possibility of the meeting, and they almost meet at a crossroad. Although I would have loved to see their eyes meet, to be 100% sure, and I hated the director for not allowing us this little wish, I think that everything pointed to a happy ending.
Actually the forced separation/time gap was very unrealistic and trope-y, the only unrealistic and cliché thing in this drama. And the excuse she gives is completely lame. But I suppose it was her bad conscience towards the friend, and the time was to allow for her friend's healing.

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My favorite love stories (except for Goblin) are the ones where the OTP don't find each other until the end. And the first essay elucidated it very well why--the open ending. I would much rather imagine their happily ever after, rather than a writer telling me. I've not seen this drama, but appreciated the writers' takes. Wonderful job @chingu and @whoopeeyoo!

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I do admit that open endings have their own charm, especially if executed well, both by the writing and the directing. Thank you for your kind words, @ally-le!

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I still call shows "like Soulmate" to describe something that's new and fresh (like Age of Youth). Loved it every time I watched it!
And oh that OST defined greatness.

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And even after a decade, it's still fresh! Kdramaland needs to learn a few more things. Hahaha

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I came across Soulmate fairly early in my k-drama days three years ago and it was love at first sight, mainly because of Dong-wook's hair.

I was ecstatic to have found its soundtrack on iTunes, which became my introduction to the indie band Casker.

Thank you to our guest beanies for their wonderful ode to Soulmate .

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I can't remember much about Soulmate except that I loved it (I watched it way after its initial airing in 2006 since my first drama experience was in 2010). What I can remember though is my fondness for the characters and my addiction (to this day) to the OST. Thanks to DB, I think I'm going to rewatch this one very soon!

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Lee Soo-kyung , I lubs that girl.

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Everyone talks so well about this drama... and I was totally loving it, even shipped the wrong couple ( Yu Jin and Dong Wook) but what made me confused was the part they finally met and that ''I hear your thoughts'' this part was very random to me, and made no sense, it kinda ruined the show for me. I was ????

Dong Wook annoyed me too, he did give hopes to poor girl - who grabbed it - and people were hating on her, not him...

but the ost is really epic!!!!!! really liked it :)

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Haha, I do admit that that was weird and I could have done without that. Hee. But I think I just adored the show to bits that I was willing to let that go. Heh.

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Watch it in 2018! 😃 oh the fashion! oh the open ending...
You never know if there's fated soulmate, be cynical, be pragmatic, until..... you experience how unfated you are with someone whom you wish are fated with 😅

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I've been on a drama slump for the past year so I started rewatching my favorites. Soulmate is the 2nd Kdrama (next to My Girl) that I've come to love and had been only been rewatching scenes where both Shin Dong Wook and Lee So Kyung. This week I decided to rewatch the full drama and it reminded me of the emotions that I felt when I first watched it. I was really hoping then that they could be together in the end (against all odds) and I'm still hoping that they met in Japan. Amazing drama. Since I first watched it in 2007, I've always hoped for a different ending or another season of the drama. Both didn't come true. Looking back and as I matured over the years, I've settled that the open ending is perfect.

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