45

[Friday Flashback] Secret Garden

Released: 2010

Genre: Romance, Comedy, Supernatural

Synopsis: Kim Joo-won is your typical rich and arrogant CEO. Gil Ra-im is a poor stuntwoman, who kicks butt on and off screen. They live in opposite worlds, but their paths cross after Joo-won mistakes Ra-im for the actress who was secretly dating his celebrity cousin. Drawn to Ra-im for reasons he can’t understand — or admit — he finds ways to insert himself into her life as his curiosity grows, but Ra-im would prefer it if he left her alone. After a magical twist forces them to work together, will their unwilling partnership grow into something more?

Why You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Watch Secret Garden:

I’ve got stoic CEOs on my mind, thanks to a certain currently airing drama, so for this Friday Flashback, I thought I’d (re)introduce you to Kim Joo-won (Hyun Bin), who pioneered the sparkling tracksuit as a casual wear alternative for the classic suit and tie. Joo-won hits all the stereotypes for the perfect K-drama man: handsome, rich, competitive, and completely uninterested in romance until one specific woman enters his life and obliterates his ability to function as a proper human being.

Ra-im (Ha Ji-won), however, wasn’t — at the time — the typical K-drama heroine, and part of what drew me to this drama back in 2010 was her stuntwoman profession. Most leading ladies of the era weren’t known for kicking ass and taking names, so having a female lead whose strength was derived from hard-earned muscles and years of training — not magical abilities — was refreshing and empowering. But underneath all that brawn, she also has an inner fangirl who squees over pop star Oska (Yoon Sang-hyun), Joo-won’s cousin.

So naturally, when these two opposites meet, it’s not instantaneous mutual attraction, but Joo-won is undeniably intrigued. The first part of this drama is largely focused on him worming his way into Ra-im’s life as he tries to figure out why he can’t stop thinking about her, but I can’t say that I fully support his pursuit of Ra-im.

It’s one of those situations where 90% of his actions are brutish and stalkerish, and they’re only palatable because, well, he’s Hyun Bin. What woman wouldn’t want him pursuing her, right? Well, apparently, Ra-im doesn’t, and Joo-won acts like the classic rich boy who’s used to hearing yes and getting his way.

Ra-im can’t avoid him forever, though. Around Episode 5-ish, the drama decides to add a supernatural element to the mix, and our leading couple drinks some magic homebrew that they received from a sketchy woman in a forest — because forest witches always have the good stuff. The next day they wake up with a lot more than a hangover. Somehow — Ghost magic! — they have swapped bodies, and hijinks and misunderstandings abound… for a few episodes. They quickly swap back, and while they do swap a time or two again, they spend the majority of the story in their own bodies.

Between the body swapping shenanigans, there are a couple of baddies who try to stir up conflict and drama. Not only is Joo-won’s grandfather’s fourth wife’s brother — yeah, take your time reading that — trying to undermine Joo-won’s position in the company, but Joo-won’s mom is an absolute pill. She’s dead set on having him marry a woman with a pedigree as fancy as his, so she pulls the ol’ envelope full of money trope when Joo-won starts hanging out with poor orphan Ra-im. Both the step-great-uncle and mom are the tropey kind of villains that you love to hate: meddlesome and comically unlikeable, but overall they don’t cause enough conflict to wish them a death by white Truck of Doom.

Unfortunately, the antagonists don’t do well to keep the plot from dragging and from becoming bogged down by Joo-won’s one-sided pursuit of Ra-im. She continuously rejects him until… finally she doesn’t. While this fated OTP does — to some extent — have that love-hate chemistry going on, their love story doesn’t progress all that romantically. Instead of falling for him, it kind of feels like he wore her down, and she just grew tired of rejecting him. So in terms of romance, I have to say that this Friday Flashback does not hold up well to the test of time, at least not for our main couple.

But there are some pretty interesting romances and love triangles between the secondary characters. I particularly like the match between Ra-im’s roommate and Joo-won’s chief secretary, who is absolutely hilarious. Oska also has a nice little love triangle going on with his ex-girlfriend and a young man (played by a baby-faced Lee Jong-seok). This is one of the earliest representations of homosexuality that I can recall seeing in a Korean drama, so I must commend Secret Garden for its inclusion and for not using it as comedic relief.

I also think this drama does a somewhat decent job of breaking gender stereotypes, having Ra-im be the strong one and Joo-won be that guy who never gets sweat on his athleisure wear. However, some of this is undercut whenever they swap bodies and the story leans into Ra-im’s few “girly” habits to help distinguish when she’s in Joo-won’s body. But overall, I say it does more good than bad in this case.

So do I recommend Secret Garden? If you’re fairly new to K-dramas and/or haven’t watched it, I’d say it’s worth giving it a chance. Ra-im is a leading lady who stands the test of time, even if her man doesn’t. The secondary characters are also pretty solid, and I find the stunt-double element of the plot fascinating. However, if you’re a veteran considering a rewatch, I can’t promise that a second viewing won’t burst your nostalgia bubble.

 
RELATED POSTS

Tags: , , , , , ,

45

Required fields are marked *

Thank you for flashing back to Secret Garden. Though not a perfect drama (by any means) it still has one of the best moments in kdramas- Joo won walking and conversing with an imaginary Ra im ......pure magic that haunts me to this day. Also, best OST!

11
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

That was one of my favourite scenes. Beautifully shot and complemented perfectly by the OST!

4
reply

Required fields are marked *

This drama only worked because Hyun-Bin and Ha Ji-Won had a great chemistry (their BTS scenes were very funny). The other actors (Kim Sa-Rang and Phillip Lee for example) were pretty bad.

Ha Ji-Won's character was indeed unique for this period with her job and her short hair. The swapped bodies parts were pretty funny too.

I remember that I liked it for the couple when it aired but I never wanted to rewatch it since.

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This was my first Hyun Bin drama and I could not get into it. I couldn't see what the fuss was about, but I fell in love with him in Crash Landing on You. 😍

4
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Same same!

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Well, I do remember watching it. It can be considered essential in journey of k-drama land. It introduced me to cold, arrogant CEO trope , absolutely horrible money throwing mother in law and star power of HB and HJW. The thing I mostly remember it for is Hyun bin in his sparkly Italian hand made track suit...never seen once after in dramaland. Do I want to re-watch it , it's firm no.

4
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

The track suit has been parodied a few times in different dramas.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I quite liked this drama when I first watched it. Their chemistry was palpable, the dialogues were memorable, the OST was great, and the humour and angst was nicely balanced. The location (reused in What's Wrong With Secretary Kim!) and cinematography was lovely too. But if someone were to watch it now, I'd recommend being generous with skipping and fast-forwarding and lingering only the scenes with the OTP...

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This show made me laugh so hard multiple times. I loved Ra-im's fangirl love on Oska that turned into a true friendship.
Hyun Bin is gorgeous, but also really good in the comedic moments.
I watched it at the start of my Kdrama journey and remember inhaling it and JB & GF's recaps. Because of it being one of those dirt drastically it will always have a little nostalgia attached to it.
I'd honestly probably watch it again.
But to new viewers be aware of all the warnings before you go in and be sure it is something you would enjoy.

6
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm not sure how "first dramas" turned into "dirt drastically". 🙄

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

I was obsessed with this drama when it aired and when it was done, it was like the spell was broken. It was like I was ready to move on after weeks of playing each episode several times. Of course, when I caught a bit of it playing again about 6 years after airing, it captured my attention. When I had to stop and leave for work, it was like the spell was broken again. When I looked back, the individual interactions were interesting, but the whole story and romance was "so what's going on? why? huh?"

Like DaebakGrits put it so nicely regarding the romance - it's like he wore her down. It was cute when I was younger, but now that I'm older, it's uncomfortable

But still, it had a killer OST. And this was my introduction to the charming Yoo Inna and Kim Sung-oh. Also Lee Jong-seok though his role didn't add much to the story, but it was nice to see an LGBT character.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I enjoyed the body swap parts of this drama and that’s about it. From memory I finished it but it was a STRUGGLE.

3
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

Funny, it was the body swap parts that bewildered me. Watched it very early in my Kdrama mania and I liked the strong FL but got kinda cringed out with the multiple body swaps. Like huh, was this an attempt to have him think outside the patriarchy?
It does occupy a certain place in Kdrama pantheon and is so often referenced (like The Wire) that it is worth watching (with fingers poised to FF).
If a certain currently airing romcom features a blue sparkly track suit, I will roll on the floor.

3
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yeah I feel like it’s one to watch just so you get references in other things. The tracksuit is iconic.

I think it probably depends what you think the drama is going to be going in? It was marketed to me as a hilarious body swap comedy and that is not what most of the drama is.

4
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

@beffels lol to the tracksuit, he was a pioneer in pandemic chic 😂

4
reply

Required fields are marked *

Even back when I first watched it (c. 2013-ish, I think), Secret Garden was one of those dramas where I needed to pause quite a bit and remind myself that it came out a few years back and therefore, was a product of its time. That, and a liberal usage of the fast-forward button. I didn’t absolutely hate it or anything, it just wasn’t for me. As iconic as Hyun Bin’s sparkly tracksuits are (I want one! To this day!), his attitude certainly isn’t. The main reason I even pushed through the drama, in hindsight, was because of my massive crush for Ha Ji-won. God, I was so repressed and closeted back then. So yeah, that’s the most important role of Secret Garden for me. Ended up as one of the first onscreen representations of homosexuality in Korean dramas and ultimately helped this young girl in finding herself.

Over the years, I’ve also developed a general aversion towards Kim Eun-sook’s writing, so there’s no way in hell I’m revisiting this anytime soon. Even non-KES dramas from that era can barely stand the scrutiny of time, so I won’t subject Gil Ra-im to that.

So, uhh Secret Garden. Superficially progressive for 2010, hopelessly problematic in 2022. Nonetheless, it’s pivotal to my personal and kdrama journey. Just not in the way the writer likely intended lol.

9
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

@nightshade
Oh - its not just the passage of time.
I think people are forgetting that may beanies called out issues at the time. Eg. Javabeans' ep13 recap and the comments section.

Sure, SK Drama has evolved since then, but the interesting thing about this drama is how overtly you can see the SKDrama undercurrents that never went away.
- Romance so often portrayed as a weird mix of fate and brutality.
- No matter how kick-ass and independent the heroine is, they will also ways throw it all aside at the end to comply with a filial piety. Its like an invasion of the body snatchers happens for the wrap-up eps.
- It's her role to make him whole, regardless of the cost to her or what he has done.
- In a world of fiefdoms, only insiders matter. Hence the prevalence of childhood fate as the only mechanism to make a poor person (outsider) potentially an insider.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Hyun Bin's character is one of the first male leads I dislike. I wasn't even watching the show, my sister, so I didn't watch the whole drama but every scene I saw was him being awful.

Good thing you got something good from SG tho.

Ps. I also have a general aversion towards Kim Eun Sook’s writing.

2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I remember enjoying the romance but not enough for me to do a rewatch in the coming years after it aired.

Iirc, it wasn’t just the sparkly tracksuit that got parodied (?) in the years after. The sit-up kiss, the latte kiss and the OST continues to be played in variety shows as well.

8
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

The whole drama has been parodied to death 😄

3
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes, SK loves Secret Garden 😅

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I will always remember the BIGBANG parody of Secret Garden.

4
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Ohmy BB did quite a few parodies before

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I actually liked this in the past but reminiscing some of the scenes now, I think the main reasons I've liked this is because of the chemistry between Hyun Bin and Ha Jiwon and of course, the wonderful OSTs (I'm still listening to them a lot, my favorites are: Here I Am by 4men and Mi, You are my Spring by Sung Sikyung, and Reason by 4men). The hype was real back then, and some of the iconic scenes are still memorable for me: (1) sit ups scene; (2) foam kiss; (3) Joowon's Kim Soo Han Moo chant; (4) Raim's ringing tone - munja wa shong

But still, this is one of the two Kim Eunsook dramas I've managed to finish until the end (alongside Descendants of the Sun). Not really a fan of her dramas and the way she wrote the characters. But just like every popular drama, I really understand the hype tho I'm not part of the target audience for real.

4
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'd very much like that ringtone, it was so cute. ^^

1
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes! I've personally used it as my ringtone because it was really cute and adorable ❤️

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

OMG those expressions on Hyun Bin's face. He gets cooler as he gets older. He should play more wacky character to stretch his acting muscles ha ha
Glad, I watched this when I was younger, my threshold of ass**** / tsundere /prickly/ you named it character, much much lower these days. 😅

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

As someone who has rewatched Secret Garden in the past year or two, I must say I did enjoy the rewatch. Although there was less time spent on the body swap than I had remembered.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This fell into my period of getting to know what Kdramas were all about, and I tend to not overthink too much, but just enjoy a drama for what it is. (Now I am in the phase where I look for great dramas that are just so much fun to overthink.) So I enjoyed Secret Garden, tho I do remember getting the stalker vibe a bit. But many dramas, and particularly of that era, have male leads who start off rude and/or stalker-like.

Perhaps most importantly, this is the drama where I first encountered and fell in love with Yoo In-na. She pulled off a character who was so perfectly herself.

2
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

@kd6606
..."start off rude and/or stalker-like"... Did he ever stop? Because someone tell me what it looks like when a stalker finally wears down their target.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yeah, I can't argue with that, though it has been so long since I watched it that I can't remember if he did the old switcharoo to being charming and considerate. I sort of recall that the body switch gave her insights into why he was such a great catch and they were fated to be.
Actually, I got the same vibe from My Name is Kim San-Soon. Again I liked the drama overall, but thought the male lead was pretty mean. That was the trope then, and still is in many dramas now.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Secret Garden's existence is necessary to remind me of how 'the day of becoming you' is a much superior drama to this in every-respect (if body-switch hijinks are what one is looking for!) :P I mean, it even had the sparkly-tracksuit moment! xD

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This was actually my introduction to Kdramas! So as such it definitely holds a special place in my heart. Looking back on it, I still enjoy it, despite it’s obvious downsides. As mentioned if it wasn’t Hyun Bin doing the things he’s doing…it’d be hard to justify. He definitely bulldozes his way into our FL’s heart.

The chemistry between the leads is still off the charts and despite the tropey elements I’ve definitely rewatched this one a few times over the years. It’s got the overbearing villain who’s evil for the sake of being evil, but the other side characters are great. Fun dynamics abound.

Do I recommend it to newer kdrama watchers? Definitely. You’ll have to put up with some older quirks, but it’s still a charming watch.

5
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Among my first K-dramas were Ruler of Your Own World, Kim Sam-soon and Lovers in Prague, with strong, independent female protagonists played by Lee Na-young, Gong Hyo-jin, Kim Sun-ah and Jeon Do-yeon. If Joo-won had pulled any of his crap on them, they would have eaten him alive, or (in the case of the Lee Na-young character) politely given him the cold shoulder. Compared to them, Ha Ji-won's Ra-im seemed only superficially kick-ass, with the stuntwoman stuff as mere window-dressing.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

It's already 12 years since this drama aired?!! I feel SO OLD atm...

I adored this drama. The chemistry between HB and HJW, the "Is this the best you can do dialogue" and the tsundere Male lead and ofcourse the only main object of affection Mr. Hyun Bin...

Again... I still cant believe this drama is 12 years old bcoz I feel like it was just like yesterday waiting for subs and watching it online... good ole days!! ♥️

5
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

"Joo-won’s grandfather’s fourth wife’s brother — yeah, take your time reading that" I almost laughed at this line, then suddenly recalled a time I nearly got set up with my dad's former client's son's girlfriend's older brother... :')

(And no, I did not request for any blind dates. I can't promise I won't pull a Ha-ri x Young-seo-style date-wrecking if I were forced to go to one.)

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Muito bom ... maravilhoso

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Secret Garden defined the word “fizzy” for me, which I use to describe kdramas that you just can’t get enough of. Gimme, gimme, gimme more was how most viewers felt at the time, like candy on Halloween. Again, it was the very definition of having the “it” factor, between the stars, the ost, the nutty setup, the track suits and scenes that were parodied far and wide in SK. (Why do we see The Foam Kiss in kdramas? This is where it started.) Why we ate up that crazy, stalkerish behavior from a male lead was, for me, another Cinderella story and definitely that it was Hyun Bin. At the time there was a huge outcry at the scene where he forces her to lie in bed with him - that he was despicable, but also whether she, the powerful stunt woman, couldn’t have gotten away if she wanted to?
I have rewatched it and so much remains funny and delightful for me. It will always be near the top of my list because it gave me that feeling that I get from my favorite kdramas, and that I search for in every new show. Fizzy! 🍾

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm pretty new to kdramas and watched Secret Garden just a couple of months ago, mostly because I kept reading about how there are so many references to or parodies of it in later dramas and I wanted to be able to spot those. It was all for research! (And Hyun Bin.) I knew going in that it would be dated and have some crappy elements, especially the bullying, arrogant ML, so I was able to just endure those and write them off as part of my kdrama education. I loathe body-swapping and was thankful that there was less of it than expected.

Was it worth watching (for research! 😉)? Yes. There were definitely lots of funny and iconic moments and both leads were terrific. Worth watching again? Nah, once was enough - although I would watch the imaginary-conversation scene again if I could remember which episode that was.

4
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

He begins to imagine her walking with him in Episode 2

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I know a lot of people loved this drama but I could never get into it. I loved the actors but not their characters if that makes sense.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is the drama that got me into kdramas so because of that I'll always view it kindly. It does have flaws but there is chemistry between the leads and I remember the first part of the drama being hilarious, there's a reason why it has been parodied so many times. Also features one of the best OST.

5
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I also found the beginning hilarious. And then... then it get draggy and I cannot take my 2021 thoughs about his behaviour and the magic is lost.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Oskaaaaaaa

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I absolutely loved Secret Garden. It was my gateway drama and I dare not come ten feet close to it for fear of destroying its magic, that's how dated I know it is.

At the time, all the wrist grabs and him acting all entitled didn't bother me. I've read a lot of historic novels where the male leads were as brutish and entitled as Joo-won is and the added element of comedy in form of him acting like a spoiled kid endeared him enough to me.

Then of course, there was the tension between them. I haven't seen many dramas since Secret Garden where there was such sexual tension between the OTP ever since the beginning and this shaped a lot of the scenes as well as the feel of the drama. I didn't quite get when Ra-im fell in love, I interpreted it more like she surrendered to him and the power of their attraction and then love simply happened upon her. All very harlequin-esque, pre millennial.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *