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[Revisiting Dramas] Prime Minister and I, where a handshake is considered skinship

By @Inkshoals

I remembering enjoying the beginning of Prime Minister and I the first time around, but having some major gripes about how the plot played out. A young tabloid reporter gets mixed up in several coincidental encounters that become ridiculously misconstrued (and yet they were relatively believably written incidents) with a man due to become prime minister who is old enough to be her father. In order to avoid a scandal that will kill his election before it can even begin, the two of them play out a ruse of a romantic relationship, which escalates into a contract marriage.

I remember really not liking Nam Da-Jung’s character setup. She was a tabloid reporter, chasing down celebrities to get a photographic scoop on their private lives. I also thought the age difference between the OTP to be pretty squicky—it was too realistic when thinking back on Clinton-era days.

And then, once the leads finally started to show some chemistry, the writer threw in a not-really-dead wife. The shades of adultery required the OTP to exit the relationship immediately, almost at the end of the series, which seemed to undermine all the work that had gone into building their relationship in the first place. And after all that, when we were all hoping for a powerful ending to make up for it, we were shortchanged with a one-year time skip and the OTP reuniting with a handshake. No kiss. No promise of anything to come. A handshake. Really?

However, during a long drama slump in which nothing seemed to grab my heart, I decided to watch it again, and I found that some of the things I didn’t like at first affected me differently the second time around, and I began to admire the deft plot-crafting the writers put into this little gem. (Writers Kim Eun-hee and Yoon Eun-kyung also cowrote the famous Winter Sonata.) Even though the drama wasn’t the typical love story of two similarly-aged individuals, I found myself appreciating the victories of these immature characters maturing together as a direct result of their entirely unexpected relationship.

I was impressed by the continued rise in stakes and the cause-and-effect chain that the writers crafted from episode to episode. In the first two episodes, we have the tabloid reporter Nam Da-Jung, who makes a living essentially ruining the lives of others, trying to save Kwon Yul’s young son from a predatory reporter; but the effect is that she gets blamed and they get caught in what looks like a scandalous relationship.

He prepares to back out of the race rather than reveal her name and ruin her reputation; she responds by telling the media that they are dating, in an effort to protect his position.

They agree to a short-term contract relationship, but of course events continue to prevent an easy exit, and they continue to sacrifice to protect each other, each time increasing the level of their public relationship to the point that they end up in a contract marriage. And we all know how contract marriages end up in dramaland!

One of the strong points of this drama is the comedy that leans slapstick, which is such great fun! I was left wondering how they managed to keep their hands so tightly stuck together when the daughter supposedly filled the soap dispenser with superglue, and other hilarious situations which led to all sorts of skinship hijinks!

While on the surface the drama appears to be heavy on the comedy, a real romance blossoms between the unlikely couple. We were made to see how alone they each felt, and how even though it was a contract relationship, they were better together and able to be at their best when they knew that someone they trusted had their back. I liked how their relationship deepened their already nascent characteristics of loyalty and respect, and how their identities flourished as they observed each other in an intimate rather than public setting. It’s kind of amazing how humor and dignity were intermingled in this drama.

I still think there could have been a better bridge to the sudden appearance of Kwon Yul’s wife. We had all the Blackbeard sort of symbolism with the locked room, but we needed to have hope that there could be a happy ending, and that clarity was missing. The wife could have been declared dead for being missing for seven years or something of that nature, which would have decreased the icky adultery connotations that marred our loyalty to the OTP.

But I actually didn’t resent the wife’s appearance as much the second time, I think because the human poignancy stood out more to me on the second viewing than it did the first time around, when I was more focused on the comedy and the central romance.

And while I do think we all wanted more skinship at the end of the series (Come on, they were married, for crying out loud! How come we only get a handshake?), I felt like the ending was a redemption of dignity. Here they had come through all sorts of false accusations and assumptions and awkward situations to cover up the lie of their relationship. But at the end of the show, I believed that they were going to start again, this time on their own terms, with dignity and on purpose. I just would have liked to see a little more of that beginning than a handshake.

 
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I like the post title XD
I have fond memories of the drama, but skinship was indeed greatly missing.

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I remember watching this drama when it was still airing and remember feeling frustrated with the ending, and the not so dead wife. Rewatched it again after many years and still loved it but I am STILL bitter about the not so dead wife. I dont really feel the age gap is icky, mainly because of the comedy inserted in their relationship. This drama is good if youre looking for something light.
Off to rewatch this drama again~~~

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The only Yoon Ah drama that I could watch, and Ryu Jin is really really too handsome to be ahjussi.

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I only watched this drama once, but I thought I remember about ramen scene with poppo that the little kid mentioned? I might be wrong, it might be that they didn't.

Anyway, Yoon Shi Yoon!!! I thought he'd play greater role in this drama, but he didn't. In the beginning, I had a bit of SLS because of him, but it faded away as this story went.

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This drama introduce me to the 1st time Subway Ad.

I enjoy the drama for all the unbelievable things that happened but I still remembered how that birthday subway make me paused and ask "is that a sandwhich?"

years later, I totally see how important that scene for other drama.

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More than the appearance of the wife, what really pissed me off was that she was happy,every one was happy, for her to waltz back into the kids lives and play happy families. Bearing in mind she had abandoned them at first, then spent years watching them suffer, they completely undermined the relationships that Yoona's character has built with the kids. Argh this drama was so good at first. The stupid noble idiocy, the mom, the handshake. I'm frustrated all over again. This was the first drama with a disastrous ending I watched so I'm still a bit salty

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When I saw the drama to be featured I excitedly read the feature hoping it would redeem a drama that had really pissed me off. See it through someone else's eyes - but nope, didn't help.

You comment reminds me of why I really disliked this drama - all the things you mentioned. Oh well, it's now permanently consigned to my 'never touch' list of dramas. (I actually do have one?)

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2013 was kinda the year of horrible endings. Marry Him if You Dare came out as well.

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Aw, I have really fond memories of this drama. I think we can all agree that it tanked at the ending, but also that this on-paper bizarre pairing turned out to be so much more charming than we could've imagined. It was so refreshing to see a relationship build and develop based on friendship, respect and mutual comfort. They genuinely liked each other! And they were so emotionally mature, when most traditional dramaland romcoms, despite sexier skinship, feature childish and petty otps. Also idc what anyone says, Yoona is lovely.

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I also was surprised how the pairing grew on me. And I liked Yoona in this as well, I thought she was well-cast.

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I looked into this when I found out Yoon Shi Yoon was in it but decided I would find it to disappointing if he wasn't lead. Wives popping up out of nowhere causing an immediate break up/eventual reunion just makes me want to read Jane Eyre

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When I read about the not-so-dead wife that's exactly what I thought of!

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I remember that when I first watched this drama it gave me vibes similar to Sound of Music and My Fair Lady in the early episodes, so I felt I shouldn't expect blatant skinship later on. But this was the first drama I ever felt burned by. Because, yes, there was a definite age gap that felt icky, and the show never gave me enough to get over it. Additionally, even though I was prepared for less skinship (and even wanted it, considering the age gap), I expected the show to give me more reason to believe the OTP had feelings for each other. To me, an escalating series of trying to take the bullet for each other wasn't really proof of feelings, but more proof of a sense of owing each other. And lastly, I had wanted Da-jung's character to show more growth of moral character by the end of the show, and maybe have a job of her own where she didn't photograph scandals. So the show ended, and I was left feeling like the potential I had seen in the beginning was never met. To this day, the burn from this show still leaves me skittish to other shows, where I fear that I set my expectations too high for what the show will give me later on.

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Sadly, I dropped Prime Minister and I after four episodes. This is very first K-drama I watched, and I got quite irritated with YoonA's character who had nothing but good intentions towards everyone all the time (despite her career).

I wouldn't have picked up another K-drama ever again if not for the fact that I had too much free time on my hands. Well, my second attempt at K-drama was Coffee Prince, followed by City Hunter, Faith, Healer and the rest is history. ^^

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I really like this drama despite my aversion to super big age gap in romantic relationship. I think the drama's focus on the family and the earnest way Da-jung won the affection of the 3 siblings helped me overcome that. Not to mention the off-chart chemistry of our leads.

I actually like the idea behind the finale scene: for those two to restart their relationship on their own term. I just wish they didn't use the not-so-dead wife trope to make it happen. And if they insisted on being so chaste at their reunion, it would be much better if the kids were around to give them a somewhat valid reason for that handshake gesture. Just saying.

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The first episode of The Prime Minister and I was about as good of a first episode as I've ever seen. I was seriously caught up in the drama and thought, "this is going to be great!" However, that didn't happen. There were some good scenes and enjoyable times. But this show was a big disappointment. (Maybe if the first episode hadn't set me up so high the fall back to earth wouldn't have been so huge.) This show is on my list of "coulda been really excellent, but meh." Kind of like, "Mirae's Choice," and I'm sure I'll think of about 10 more examples after I hit "send."

(I always do that. My comments are so much better in my head before I write them--or after I've pretend edited them after posting them.)

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Other great first episodes of "so-so" dramas? Diary of a Night Watchman, Joseon Gunman, and Scholar Who Walks the Night. You can disagree with me, but I thought all these dramas spent most of their money on the first episode.

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Lot of dramas are rather a let down after some episodes. Like the writing becomes less engaged, more stereotypes are used and it is definitely less funny.

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Or they start to slant the story in favour of some actor/actress and mess up the whole drama.

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LOL! The same happened to me. I wanted to write my own post on "wish upon a start" that i rewatched for the challenge, but everything was in my head and i didnt manage to write anything on time. ?.... ????

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I love this drama, very good! the cast, the plot and cinematography were very good! even that actress was really very beautiful with good acting, this kdrama is one fo the Best for me because of acting and also the plot, This drama was different from Most cliche kdramas

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It was one of my first Kdramas, and i hated the not dead wife and i hated that they ruined the last days of grandpa and i hated the end and stupid handshake. But at the beginning the humor was good, i found realistic how they fell for each other and i loved she made big efforts to be with him, bringing him food to work or helping him to get some sleep.
I was younger then, but even so, i kind of fell in love with Yul. And now, wow.... he would be perfect for me, even with three kids and everything..... rawrrr!!!!

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This drama was

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The drama was good but then it detailed in the last few episodes. And I still don't like that ending since it ruined what had been built in the OTP's relationship. And I wish the wife could have gotten some punishment but everyone is fine with her return.?

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I will always remember this drama fondly if only for the fact that it kickstarted my Lee Bum Soo obsession. I had enjoyed him in History of a Salaryman, but this was the drama that made me truly notice him. He was just so handsome! And his chemistry with Yoona was so incredible that they quickly became and remain to this day one of my all-time favorite OTPs. But that ending. That stupid, stupid ending. I felt so betrayed by the last third of this drama that I had refused to rewatch it for many years, even though this was a drama where I had to watch every episode 3 times after it aired (and caught the live feed whenever I could). This show had such a masterful beginning and was so poised to be a shining example of a great, feel-good rom-com, but then the show lost its way around ep 12. Or possibly even earlier than that. The show became so focused on the undead wife twist that it forgot to fill in the details of the rest of the story. And the noble idiocy part was just dumb, and I was so mad at Yul for not doing anything. I mean, it's all well and good that he respects her decisions, but if ever there was a time to fight for her and hold onto her hand like he said he would, it was that moment. Da Jung's characterization was just a lost cause at that point, so I couldn't even be mad at her.

I recently rewatched this drama not too long ago and I found that I was able to fully enjoy it for what it was. Without the heightened expectations I started remembering all of the reasons why I had originally loved this drama so thoroughly. The interactions between the OTP are forever flawless, and I was even able to see the reasoning behind ending the show with a handshake (holding onto each other's hands was a big theme throughout the show). It was a cute little drama and I'm happy that I've finally come to terms with the ending (just, you know, I have to fast forward through every scene that involves the undead wife or else I get riled up).

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I thought the handshake ending fitting for a politician lead.

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And seriously the reason I fell in love with Kdramas at all was that they can convey so many feelings with the slightest look or touch.

Some of the dramas I started my addiction with didn't have a kiss scene, and although I missed it, for me it left a beautiful feeling of yearning and anticipation at the end of the series which I never had felt with other dramas I had watched before.

So although I like me some good couple scenes but the lack of it doesn't ruin a good drama with good chemistry for me.

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HA! I remembered one! The drama that made me angry for a lackluster ending was W! Because that cold distant kiss was a crime after what we had seen them capable of!

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I don't need kissing scenes to be happy, but like many others, the "dead" wife's reappearance and relatively seamless reentry into her children's lives bothered me a lot. It's one thing to leave a marriage, but faking your own death? Really? No backlash whatsoever for that? (Okay the oldest kid was mad for, like, a DAY). Lame. But like many others have said, the beginning was good, the chemistry between the leads was good, the setup was reasonably believable, no chaebols, and that cameo by Oh Man Seok...frankly, I rewatched episode 12 just to see that again because he's SO creepy and it's SO funny! LOL!

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I have never finished this drama because the return of the not-dead wife was such an idiotic blow to what had been a delightful show that I just refused. Not-dead wife was never allowed to invade my experience of the show and as a consequence this is still a favorite of mine, because I always end it with everyone happy.

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GODDAMNIT, they thought a handshake at the end was acceptable. Happy to see this series got some love!

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Dramabeans should have a year end special award called "The Prime Minister and I award" for that drama that made you go "What the hell happened to my drama?!" Cheese in the Trap would have won it last year. lol

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Cheese In The Trap wins the "What the Hell Happened to my Drama!" Lifetime Award.

In my book, that is.

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I love Lee Bum Soo - especially - Hong Gil Dong movie and Salaryman. Did not have a problem with him and Yoona (My Fair Lady -ish) Actually liked the story and how it played out. Wished that they made some things clearer - like Yul's struggle about his feelings for Da Jung. She on the other hand made it quite clear that she'd come to like Yul a lot. Also wished they'd focused more on the building and merging of Yul and Da Jung's family and less on machinations of Ryu Jin and wife. Hated the alive again wife plot at first watch - and just as much at 2nd though more accepting - but it was shoe-horned so late in the game. Earlier would have been better to allow for bigger fallout with the kids and public and Da Jung and Yul themselves. And to show how all these matters were resolved on screen - not off. I mean come on - you resolve the reappearance of a dead wife/mother with just a couple of expositions and mostly off screen - really?

But still - did like the drama - and could even stomach the ending by imagining and thinking and stubbornly supposing that they picked up - as Da Jung said - if they were to meet again - on real terms.

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I will always remember this series as the series that made me hate watching Yoon Shi Yoon. He had one expression throughout this entire drama. Watching him act in this distracted me so much that I could not even focus on the story or anything else. He always have that wanna cry constipated expression - I couldn't tell if he was sad, forlorn, happy or just constipated!

I usually have SLS and ache for the second lead, but this was just a total fail. Had it been another actor, I'm sure I'd be shipping Yoona with him really hard, but alas, I just keep wishing he would take his one expression and disappear from view.

I've only ever seen YSY in 2D1N before this and he never bothered me before. This was the first time I watched him in a drama and I had to stop watching because of his acting. And now I couldn't even watch 2D1N without feeling so annoyed that he ruined my enjoyment of this show. And I couldn't even watch the Best Hit even though I love Seyoung. It made me all the more irritated that Cha Tae Yun seemed to go all out in promoting YSH's charms (in and out of 2D1N).

I also did not like Lee Bum Soo & Yoona pairing. He was a bit too cold and distant (not to mention old) and the chemistry just didn't seem natural. I just couldn't finish this and wondered why Yoona signed on in the first place.

If we're going to rewatch, how about Blade Man/Iron Man? I've just started watching this and was searching DB for the recaps but apparently it was so greatly panned here that there was only 2 episodes being recapped. I think DB wasn't ready for it and this drama was way ahead of its time. The points criticized in DB seems to be the standards for dramas nowadays. No one bats an eye at the premise of Strong Woman Do Bong Soon and this was in a similar vein in many ways.

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What a fabulous title your piece has!

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