[Friday Flashback] My Name is Kim Sam-soon
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Synopsis: Kim Sam-soon (Kim Sun-ah) is a talented pastry chef whose professional and dating lives have taken a turn for the worse. When she meets restaurant owner Hyun Jin-heon (a very baby-faced Hyun Bin), she’s at her lowest, but he just so happens to be looking for a new pâtissier. This noona contract romance is one for the ages, but will these two actually stop bickering long enough to fall in love?
Why You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Watch My Name is Kim Sam-soon:
For this Friday Flashback I’m taking us all the way back to 2005, which doesn’t seem like that long ago, but after five minutes of My Name is Kim Sam-soon you won’t question the fact that this K-drama first aired seven-freaking-teen years ago. I can’t be the only one whose mind is blown by this revelation, right? (Or is it just me who has lost all sense of time after the year 2000 and somehow still thinks the 1980s were merely twenty years ago?)
But back to the matter at hand: My Name is Kim Sam-soon, one of South Korea’s most beloved dramas. When it aired, this drama smashed the ratings, and the audience fell in love with the story’s titular character Kim Sam-soon, an adorable mess who broke the Candy and Cinderella molds with her
sometimes often crass and disrespectful behavior. She had zero fu — uh ducks — to give in a society that wanted her to speak, live, and look a certain way, and the drama pulls no punches and emphasizes the fact that Sam-soon is (supposedly) overweight and fast becoming an unmarried spinster at the ripe ol’ age of thirty. *Eyeroll*
To add further insult to injury, this drama opens with Sam-soon following her boyfriend Min Hyun-woo (Lee Kyu-han) to a hotel, where she catches him having an affair with another woman — on Christmas Eve, no less. And just like any drama with an ex-boyfriend that we’re supposed to hate for the duration of the story, Hyun-woo proceeds to paint himself an even bigger villain by gaslighting Sam-soon into thinking his off-the-books canoodling was somehow her fault. (Back in 2005, when a drama wanted you to hate a character, they made ‘em comically scummy.)
It is during this very public breakup that Sam-soon first meets our hero Hyun Jin-heon, whose porcupine hairstyle is a metaphor for his personality: prickly on top but a softie underneath all the hair gel. He’s a 27-year-old chaebol restaurateur, and when he meets our lovely Sam-soon for the second time, he just so happens to be on the hunt for a pâtissier — and a fake girlfriend to get his matchmaking mother off his back. Luckily, Sam-soon is a talented pastry chef in need of a job and a fast loan, so it’s contract relationship time!
But, of course, just when these two bickering business partners start to find a harmonious balance: enter their exes. See, one of the few things that Sam-soon and Jin-heon have in common is a couple of exes who did them dirty and won’t leave them alone — like your local cable television provider who won’t stop calling even though you’ve told them repeatedly that you stream all your Korean dramas online.
Sam-soon is made of sterner stuff and does well to rebuff her two-timing ex, who’s now engaged to someone else, but her wounds are still fresh and she’s struggling to rebuild her self esteem. Jin-heon, on the other hand, is quick to forgive Yoo Hee-jin (Jung Ryeo-won).
Sure, Hee-jin’s reasons for ditching Jin-heon are slightly more understandable and forgivable than Hyun-woo’s, but there’s something super annoying about a character that ends a relationship by disappearing off the face of the earth and then shows up years later thinking she can just pick up right where she left off. Like, excuse me, but who gave you such a sense of entitlement?! Even more irritating is the fact that Hee-jin also has the eternally patient Dr. Henry Kim (Daniel Henney) following after her, looking even more delectable than one of Sam-soon’s confections.
And so, a good bit of this rom-com is about our hero learning to let go of the past and becoming a better man under Sam-soon’s influence, which kind of suggests that the moral of the story is that it just takes the right woman to polish a turd into a diamond. I’m definitely a sucker for a rough-around-the-edges hero becoming a massive softie when he falls in love, but given how much Sam-soon suffers while Jin-heon teeter-totters between her and Hee-jin, I’m kinda of the opinion that Jin-heon is a turd that should have been flushed.
So does My Name is Kim Sam-soon stand the test of time? Ehhhhh… I’m going to say maybe — and depending on what aspect of the drama you choose to focus on. My Name is Sam-soon is kind of like a mother dough from which all modern K-drama rom-coms have been baked, so it’s hard not to love this story for its tropes, unpolished and relatable heroine, and outlandish situations that went on to inspire future drama writers.
But there are also many parts of this drama that have not aged as well as Hyun Bin — and I’m not just talking about the cinematography and oversaturated yellow lighting. No, there’s a lot of (intended) comedy and romance derived from characters’ abusive and controlling behaviors, and the frequent comments about our leading lady’s weight are ridiculous.
This drama is a reflection of its time, and if you’re someone who can ride the nostalgia wave, I say give My Name is Kim Sam-soon a (re)watch. Otherwise, you may want to get your Hyun Bin fix by binging the more recent Crash Landing on You.