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I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 13 to end

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched these episodes, you may wish to delay reading this.

In this set of episodes of I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) for better or worse, everything is out in the open. Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) is officially alive, Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) has his memory and his mind-reading abilities back, Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) has decided to stay with Park and just be friends with Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang-Hyun). Cha has given up the idea of private practice and, after a hiccup, gets his job back as a private defender. So this leaves us with three core areas to work out. Min Joon-Kook was acting out of revenge when he killed Park’s father. It seems the father somehow was responsible for the death of Min Joon-Kook’s wife. Then we have the exact status of Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee) whom, it now appears, was the daughter in the original Left Hand Case. And we wait for Min Joon-Kook himself to break cover and attack Park and one/both of the original witnesses.

Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)  and Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee)

Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) and Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee)

The theme for our age-mismatched couple is one of honesty. In the early days of their relationship. Park relentlessly criticised Jang for her lack of honesty yet, out of fear, he’s being less than honest with her. First, he conceals the fact he’s recovered his memory and abilities. Then he refuses to tell her about Min Joon-Kook’s motive for the original murder. This is somewhat ironic because Jang is busy debating whether to tell Seo Do-Yoon, she was adopted by the judge and his wife. Essentially, it comes down to a simple choice. Some think there are some truths it’s better to keep hidden. Others think it’s always better to tell the truth. In one sense, of course, this is academic to Park who can hear the thoughts of those around him and always knows the truth as the thoughts form in others’ minds. But that doesn’t mean he’s without fear. Obviously, until he provokes thought, he can’t know how the others will react. As a young and somewhat inexperienced man, this leaves him unexpectedly becalmed as his fears get the better of him. Jang feel socially awkward and slightly afraid of Park. Being seen holding his hand or being kissed by him in public is not something she’s wholly comfortable with, but despite the age problem and her lack of privacy, she does “like” him.

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk)

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk)

At this point, it’s appropriate to say how well the series began. Min Joon-Kook as played by Jung Woong-In is a wonderful character and the blend of smiling innocence and pure malevolence lights up the screen. Unfortunately, having been through all the initial excitement, he perforce disappears because he’s supposed to be dead. Even when the authorities realise their error and begin searching for him, he’s rarely on the screen. The plot must therefore find a new focus to maintain interest. It does its best with some of the backstory of both Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang) and Cha, but it fails dismally with the entire subplot surrounding the Left Hand Case. Those who read these reviews will know I hate coincidences. Well, this series goes above and beyond the call of duty in offending my sensibilities. The original father accused of killing his wife was represented by Shin in a trial before Judge Seo Dae-Seok (Jeong Dong-Hwan). After his conviction, his “dead” wife goes to Judge Seo and negotiates for him to adopt their baby. In due course, this daughter grows up to become the woman who will prosecute her natural father for the attempted murder of his dead wife. In the meantime, the wrongly convicted father finds himself sharing a prison cell with Min and tells him the story of the left hand. In due course, Min copies this case to frame Park.

Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) and Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang)

Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) and Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang)

Now I don’t know why the screen writers decided to conflate these two individually interesting stories in one series. Considering whether Judge Seo was wrong in failing to call in the police to arrest the dead wife would have been interesting as his “daughter” becomes involved in the case to prosecute her natural father for attempted murder. Although it’s thematically not unlike Prosecutor Princess, there’s a lot of mileage in mixed family situations like this. It’s also an opportunity to comment on the general reluctance in Korea ever to admit any kind of mistake. But to go through a shotgun marriage with a red hot story about Min Joon-Kook’s drive for revenge unbalances the sad emotions of adoptive vs. natural parents. The softer emotions also kill the tension as the deranged killer goes into hiding for whole episodes. So only when the Red Hand Case is more or less over do we come back for the big climax as Min Joon-Kook bursts back on to the screen with quite an elegant plot that’s entirely consistent with this character. We then have the final epilogue episode which spends the entire hour tying up all the loose ends.

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In)

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In)

This last set of episodes drags because the series was originally scheduled for a run of sixteen episodes but, when it proved such a success up to episode 10, the television channel insisted on two more. This slows everything down with far too many flashbacks. The trial sequences are padded out and there’s extra character dialogue that fails to add anything substantive to the plot. This shows up particularly in the last episode which works quite well on the stabbing, but is otherwise fairly redundant. So summing up, Jung Woong-In as Min Joon-Kook has been a revelation. This is a terrific performance from start to finish. Even the abandonment of the claimed justification for the murder spree and acceptance of responsibility is handled without sentimentality. He’s taken the first steps to reform.

In part this is due to Cha’s dogged determination to do the right thing. I’m not at all convinced this character is consistently plausible. As an ex-police officer he’s far too idealistic and gullible when he starts off as a defender. Yoon Sang-Hyun’s performance becomes more believable later in the series. As Seo Do-Yeon, Lee Da-Hee has the most difficult character arc which requires her to go from defensive arrogance to a more open approach to the notion of justice and an honest emotional engagement with her natural father. She does what’s written well, but it’s a major personality change. Yun Ju-Sang as Shin is the most interesting of the more minor characters. As a life-long public defender, he’s seen it all, but retained enough humanity to help the young defenders to find their own way. Similarly, Kim Hae-Sook as Eo Choon-Sim, Jang’s mother, is wonderfully salt-of-the-earth, consistent in her love for Jang and completely righteous in her view of the world. As to Jang Hye-Sung played by Lee Bo-Young, she was plagued by injustice in her early years, but blessed with enough self-belief to become a good lawyer when it matters. Her slow transformation into an adult prepared to relate more openly with those around her is done well. Her war with herself about whether she should “love” the young man is wholly convincing. This leaves us with Lee Jong-Suk as Park Soo-Ha. As a telepath, he’s wonderfully self-effacing, never overplaying his ability and smoothing his path through life. In some ways, he’s an arch manipulator who could have been villainous but, with his easy smile and insecurities, he comes over as more vulnerable. His slow loss of innocence makes the series work. So despite the loss of pace in later episodes and the uncomfortable matching of plot elements, I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 is a success.

For the reviews of the other episodes, see:
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 1 to 4
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 5 to 8
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 9 to 12.

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 9 to 12

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched these episodes, you may wish to delay reading this.

In this set of episodes in I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013), we see Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) released and welcomed back into the world by the church and charity workers he’s converted to his cause. Naturally, Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) now sets up for the kill. Ko Sung-Bin (Kim Ga-Eun) realises something bad is about to happen and calls Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young). Jang and Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) then use the tracking device in her smartphone to find Park and, in a tense series of confrontations, Min Joon-Kook is quite badly beaten, Park is stabbed in the shoulder, and Jang is stabbed in the stomach. More importantly, while Jang is recovering in hospital, Cha finally receives the transcripts of the original trial and realises he’s been played for a sucker. He quits the job as Public Defender and goes to help his father run his food stall. Park disappears. Jang comes back to work but a crisis arises almost immediately. A fisherman finds a left hand floating in the dock where he’s somewhat improbably trying to catch something to eat. Fingerprints identify it as Min Joon-Kook’s hand. The police naturally think Park has killed the man and issue a national capture and detain warrant. As time passes, Jang reverts to her original tactics and drives everyone nuts by reciting the same basic script every time she appears in court to represent a defendant, often not even caring enough to change the sex or the details of her plea in mitigation. One year passes and Park is found working on a remote farm. He seems to have lost his memory. Naturally, Cha asks to come back to work to help defend Park. He hopes he can repay both of them for the catastrophe caused by the acquittal and release of Min Joon-Kook.

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) showing his malevolent side

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) showing his malevolent side

Since episode 10 is played from Park’s point of view, we must accept he has genuinely lost his memory and no longer has the mind reading ability. As soon as Jang is notified of his arrest, she runs to his side and is now back in full defender mode to secure his acquittal. Park promised her he would not kill Min Joon-Kook. She has faith in him. Unfortunately, the prosecution led by Prosecutor Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee) has a mass of circumstantial evidence to “prove” Park guilty. So this trial turns into a replay of Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang), the chief public defender’s early failure — appropriately called the Left Hand Case, it was tried before the young Judge Seo Dae-Seok (Jeong Dong-Hwan), i.e. everything in this plot clicks together like clockwork. The trial itself is completely entrancing as different tactics are used by both prosecution and defence to sway the jury. The one element which has been worrying the defence is how the police came to find Park. When they realise the woman who made the call had accepted money from a man to make the call and so collect the reward, they decide to run the ultimate explanation for this case. It all hinges on the identity of the man with whom Min Joon-Kook shared his cell during his ten-year detention. Yes, it was the original losing defendant of the Left Hand Case.

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk)  and Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) and Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)

So the defence goes all out to sell the idea Min Joon-Kook is still alive and continuing to take revenge on Park. As you would expect, this proves a close-run argument which gets very personal when Seo Do-Yeon tells the jury that the two defence lawyers have personal interests in this case. Cha secured the acquittal of the man accused of murdering Jang’s mother. So Jang makes a controlled but emotional rebuttal in which she accepts the ideas of the presumption of innocence and a defence lawyer going all out to secure an acquittal. That’s what defence lawyers are supposed to do and that’s why they are going all out to get this defendant acquitted. Needless to say, Park is acquitted on a majority verdict and we then play the two sides of the triangle against the third. Cha asks Jang if she forgives him — she does — and whether they can date — she refuses. But Jang also tells Park they are not a couple and he should find a girl his own age — as if that’s ever going to work in a romantic drama like this.

Meanwhile, Cha has been to see Seo Do-Yeon and asked how how the person who claimed the reward for finding Park knew where he was. Frustrated by her loss, she goes to see this woman and is refused any sensible answers. But as she is leaving, we’re allowed the sight of a man wearing a black glove sitting behind the wheel of a truck. Yes, episode 12 shows the whole plot exposed as Park slowly gets his memory back, Cha continues to be a detective as well as a lawyer, and Seo Do-Yeon finally uses her brain and accepts Min Joon-Kook is still alive. However, instead of acting decisively and arresting everyone in sight at the fruit store, Seo Do-Yeon simply sends a summons to the lady who has claimed the reward. Not surprisingly, she’s dead within the day. However, the doughty prosecutor has seen this scenario before, i.e. surveillance camera dysfunctional an hour before the accident, so there’s now a national arrest warrant out for the rest of the missing dead body. Park’s acquittal stands because he didn’t kill no-one, and Cha’s hopes of ever persuading Jang to give up her toy boy have gone up in smoke. There’s also what may be an interesting subplot element building based on the original Left Hand Case, and the drunk Seo Do-Yeon finally tells everyone she was the second witness against Min Joon-Kook who failed to follow Jang into court to give evidence. That clears the air as far as everyone else is concerned but the two women are still in a state of denial. Overall, the series has begun to lose a little steam. We miss Jung Woong-In as Min Joon-Kook and Park’s trial scenes go on a touch too long. Nevertheless, I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 continues to impress.

For the reviews of the other episodes, see:
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 1 to 4
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 5 to 8
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 13 to end.

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 5 to 8

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched these episodes, you may wish to delay reading this.

In I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) the second case for us to enjoy is the classic involving identical twins. One stabs the owner of a shop during the robbery despite the efforts of the other to stop him. In the West, it doesn’t matter which twin actually held the knife, the law charges both as joint principals. In Korea, the judges have a discretion to invite the prosecutor to choose which one to charge as the principal, the other then being charged as the accessory. Since they both say they were holding the knife and there’s no way to tell them apart despite the video evidence from the store camera, this is a challenge for Prosecutor Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee). Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) sits in court and hears both the accused thinking through the plan. The killing was, of course, premeditated, and they are running this defence because they think they can both get acquitted. Once she realizes the plan, Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) decides to co-operate with her enemy prosecutor to get justice for the victim’s wife. This is, of course, highly unethical and could get her struck off but there’s no obvious evidence of collusion in court so it’s difficult for Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang), the senior public defender, to do anything.

Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang) exchanges opinions with  Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) as Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) listens in

Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang) exchanges opinions with Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) as Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) listens in

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) identifies Eo Choon-Sim (Kim Hae-Sook) as his victim’s mother and gets a job in her food shop. He’s completely cold-hearted and despite Eo Choon-Sim’s kindness, determines to kill her. Meanwhile Park Soo-Ha finds a private inquiry agent prepared to use smartphone technology to track down Min Joon-Kook. He does so but it’s too late to prevent the death of Eo Choon-Sim. There’s further development on the crime scene with Jang Hye-Sung allocated a case involving an elderly, slightly deaf man who’s accused of stealing free newspapers. Because the defendant insults Jang, the case is transferred to Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) who works to so impress the old guy he will see the benefit of Public Defenders and apologise to Jang. In the end, Park yet again acts as Jang’s conscience and persuades her to save the old man. The mechanism ultimately depends on Park’s ability to read minds and produces the right result for the old man but embarrasses Jang because Cha gives her a hug of thanks in open court and later asks her for a date.

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) tells Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) how he failed to rescue his victim

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) tells Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) how he failed to rescue his victim

At this point, the series moves into the darker territory we’ve been expecting as Min Joon-Kook first gently inserts himself into the shop and the life of Eo Choon-Sim, extracting every last piece of gossip and information he can about Jang. One feature of this is Eo’s continuing attempts to foster a relationship between Jang and Cha. This leads to the ultimately cruel way of manipulating the murder. He disables the camera outside the food shop and, when night falls, begins the slow process of killing Eo. During this, Jang telephones. It may sound corny to write it here, but this conversation between mother and daughter, and the subsequent exchange of view with Min Joon-Kook is very powerful. Anyway, everything is staged as an accident in a fire. He staggers out of the shop with the dead body over his shoulder, sustaining non-fatal burns on the way. Naturally, he asks for Cha to represent him. The way in which he manipulates Cha is delightfully devious and, of course, Cha secures an acquittal. Interestingly, Seo Do-Yeon breaks cover and, with the connivance of Judge Seo Dae-Seok (Jeong Dong-Hwan), they try to fix the trial. Unfortunately, Cha is equal to the task. This leaves Seo Do-Yeon exposed as having been the other witness to the original murder. More importantly, Cha finally receives the transcripts of the original trial and realises he’s been played for a sucker. He quits the job as Public Defender and goes to help his father run his food stall. This leaves Jang and Park in the direct firing line. So as the date of Min Joon-Kook’s release approaches, Park sets in motion a plan to kill Min Joon-Kook. This leaves everything set up with Jang apparently left on her own and the killer on the loose coming to get her.

Taking one step back, this is a wonderful series. Given the primary character interaction is between Jang and Park, we have the irony he’s the young and experienced man who can hear both what she says and thinks, while nominally she’s the worldly experienced woman who can only hear his voice. Yet despite her growing up with high ideals about justice, she’s actually lost the spark and it’s only when Park talks with her that she’s reminded what made her want to become a lawyer in the first place. She’s a better person than she thinks she is, and it takes the naive youngster’s criticism and help to force her to see something of the truth about herself. Lee Bo-Young’s performance as Jang Hye-Sung is particularly pleasing as we veer arbitrarily between the self-absorbed kid going through the motions as a lawyer and the intelligent woman who can produce a fine legal argument if she puts her mind to it and gains a little more self-confidence.

For the reviews of the other episodes, see:
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 1 to 4
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 9 to 12
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 13 to end.

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 1 to 4

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched these episodes, you may wish to delay reading this.

In I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) is an underperforming young lawyer who can’t find work with a major firm so she applies for a job as a public defender. To get the job, she hypnotises the interview panel led by Kim Kong-Sook (Kim Kwang-Kyu) with an allegedly true story from her youth. Ten years earlier, she claims she was expelled from her school after being wrongly accused by Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee), the daughter of Judge Seo Dae-Seok (Jeong Dong-Hwan). This also led to Eo Choon-Sim (Kim Hae-Sook) being fired from her job as the judge’s housekeeper. When there’s a confrontation between the two girls, they witness what first seems to be an accident but then turns into murder. Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) kills the driver and is about to kill the young nin-year-old boy Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) when Jang Hye-Sung takes a picture of him. The girls run away but, later, Jang Hye-Sung appears in court and gives evidence sufficient to send the driver to jail for ten years. Seo Do-Yeon was also supposed to give evidence, but she lost her nerve and did not go into the courtroom.

Eo Choon-Sim (Kim Hae-Sook)  and Jang Hye-Sung

Eo Choon-Sim (Kim Hae-Sook) and Jang Hye-Sung

On the day of the interview, Jang Hye-Sung meets Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun). He started off as a policeman but has now qualified as a lawyer. Needless to say, they both get jobs. When a picture of Jang Hye-Sung appears in the newspaper, this reinforces Min Joon-Kook’s desire for revenge, and also shows Park Soo-Ha what his savior looks like. This may sound standard fare, but it’s made very entertaining because the now grown-up Park Soo-Ha is telepathic (probably brought on by the head injury in the crash when his father was killed). There’s a delightful sequence of him interrupting a school prank on a new girl joining their class. Anyway, to complete the set-up, Jang Hye-Sung’s first case is against Ko Sung-Bin (Kim Ga-Eun) one of the girls in Park Soo-Ha’s school.

There are strong parallels between this accusation and the one faced by our heroine at about the same age. Unfortunately, there’s no strong evidence the girl is innocent and our heroine takes the standard line which is strongly to advise her to plead guilty. However when Park Soo-Ha convinces our heroine not only that he can read thoughts, but also that his friend is innocent, she’s tempted to fight the case. What tips the balance is the appearance of Seo Do-Yeon as the prosecutor. The hostility between them crackles off the screen so battle is joined on what appears to be a perfectly circumstantial case. In this and the majority of other cases in this series, the panel of three judges is led by Kim Kong-Sook who heard the intial story about the two girls and the failure of one to give evidence against the killer. Unfortunately, when the “victim” is called to give evidence, she says she was pushed by the defendant. This demonstrates the rule a good lawyer never agrees to an unlisted witness unless she’s absolutely sure what the witness will say. It does no good that Park Soo-Ha knows the girl is lying. He can’t take the stand to prove he can hear the thoughts of those around him. Without evidence, there can be no rebuttal of the victim’s testimony.

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) and Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) and Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)

This leads to a rather pleasing meeting between the two girls where the accused admits she was jealous of the younger girl’s success and apologises for bullying her. However, rather than allow the victim to change her testimony, Seo Do-Yeon threatens to prosecute for perjury. The first evidence was given under oath. If the victim recants, she’s admitting to lying under oath. Fortunately the senior defence lawyer is watching from the public seats and texts the authority for rebutting the threat. After the case is dismissed, Park Soo-Ha accuses Seo Do-Yeon of putting the desire to win above the desire to see justice done. The subtext is the competition between the two women also influenced the threat to invoke perjury even though the prosecutor should have known (probably did know) she had no grounds for doing so.

Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun)

Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun)

Meanwhile Min Joon-Kook has established himself as the model released prisoner. He’s volunteering at local church and charitable outlets to show he’s sincerely repented his past wrongdoings. And then he begins psychological warfare against Jang Hye-Sung, sending her enigmatic text messages. When she realises the messages are not from either Park Soo-Ha or Cha Kwan-Woo, she calls the number and is frightened when the phone rings in her apartment. The police are, of course, deeply sceptical that there’s anything to worry about. Even when they realise the relationship between the three, they are satisfied by the front presented by Min Joon-Kook, and take no action. This leads Park Soo-Ha to track down and attack him. Finally realising who Park Soo-Ha is (it was all ten years ago, after all), Jang Hye-Sung agrees to take legal responsibility for Park and they begin a more honest basis for their friendship. The problem now is how to get evidence of Min Joon-Kook’s real intentions.

So this gives us the basic relationship mess. For all her current faults, Park Soo-Ha and Cha Kwan-Woo both like Jang Hye-Sung. Obviously there’s a significant age gap between Jang and Park but that’s not stopping Park from jealousy and some level of despondency when he sees what might be a more natural fit between Jang and Cha. There’s also a love interest for Park from Ko Sung-Bin. the girl in his class at school. This romance is embedded in a case involving a vicious murderer who killed ten years ago and promised revenge when he was released. Except the whole series also has terrific moments of humour. The script and the quality of the acting sells laughter at unexpected moments. In short, this is a terrific opening set of episodes.

For reviews of the other episodes, see:
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 5 to 8
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 9 to 12
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 13 to end.

The Moon Embracing The Sun or Haereul Poomeun Dal or 해를 품은 달 (2012): to the end

The Moon Embraces the Sun

I’m going to start off this consideration of the rest of The Moon Embracing The Sun or Haereul Poomeun Dal or 해를 품은 달 (2012) with a question. Given the heavy-handed use of the sun/moon metaphor in the set-up, and the effect of the magic has been to completely empty the mind and personality of our heroine and leave only an intelligent girl behind,
what would it take to get the old personality and memories back into the body of our woman once she’s grown up? Those of you with experience in fantasy should have the answer instantly.

Kim Soo-Hyun

Lee Hwon (Kim Soo-Hyun)

So here we go with a rough and ready summary of the highlights. We have the spirit of the young girl as the weeping ghost in the palace (only the guilty can hear her) while Nok-Young (Jeon Mi-Seon) brings Heo Yeon-Woo/Wol (Han Ga-In) back to town after eight years thinking she’s nothing more than a shaman’s spiritual daughter. On her first day, she has to meet both Prince Yangmyung (Jung Il-Woo) and Lee Hwon (Kim Soo-Hyun) who renames our moon Wol. They both look at her and speculate, but she’s adamant she’s never met either of them before so their interest is muted.

Han Ga-In

Heo Yeon-Woo/Wol (Han Ga-In)

Because of the need to inspire the King to take an interest in Yoon Bo-Kyung (Kim Min-Seo), Heo Yeon-Woo is kidnapped and sent into the King’s bedroom at night as a human talisman to soak up all the evil vibes holding back his sexual interest (note the law of unintended consequences). In fact, the sun is positively bursting out of him the next morning, but he’s not now looking at the Queen. Meanwhile Heo Yeom (Song Jae-Hee) has married Princess Minhwa (Nam Bo-Ra) and this has protected the family. This sets everything up for the predictable political manoeuverings. Without an heir, the only way the situation can be resolved is by a coup. For a revolution to drum up enough support, it needs Prince Yangmyung to agree to take over power. The revolutionaries try to manipulate both the King and the Prince by variously kidnapping and torturing Wol until she gets her memory back.

And now the answer to the original question. Because all the guilty ones can hear the ghost crying, they lock Wol inside the palace at a key moment. Yes! It’s an eclipse when the sun and the moon come together and blot out the light. The gravitational shifts on Earth trigger a reunification of ghost spirit and body. Now she’s back to being Heo Yeon-Woo, it’s the slippery slope to the end. There’s a shaman battle as the ghost monster is sent out again to kill Heo Yeon-Woo, but Nok-Young triumphs, killing the second-string shaman recruited by the Queen. The plotters among the nobility come out into the open, and the Prince is in line for leadership.

Jung Il-Woo

Prince Yangmyung (Jung Il-Woo)

Which leads to the last, distinctly odd episode, most of it being an epilogue which confirms the passivity of the women. The Queen has spent eight years deeply frustrated because the King will not consummate the marriage. She may capture the sunlight in the eyes of the court, but this does not save her from depression and suicidal tendencies. The Queen Mother thinks she has power but, when push comes to shove, the Prime Minister has no hesitation in poisoning her as an irrelevance to his power grab. With the climactic battle minutes away, Heo Yeon-Woo is put into one of these pallaquin boxes so beloved of the aristocracy and is carried off to safety by two men. There’s a moment of unintended hilarity as these men later explain why it took so long to get to their destination. They thought they were being followed so had to take evasive action. Picture them carrying this heavy box, running away, jumping behind walls and lurking in the shadows under bridges until they were satisfied the coast was clear.

Kim Min-Seo

Yoon Bo-Kyung (Kim Min-Seo)

Anyway, once all the women have been sent away, the men can get on with the serious business of fighting. Except, of course, the king runs off to the side and lets everyone else have at it with swords. Only at the end does he pick up a bow and shoot a couple of arrows into the prime minister. With him slowed down, the Prince can deliver the coup de grace. So the death of all the plotters is righteous but, when a last attacker staggers to his feet with a spear, takes a few steps forward and pulls back his arm, everyone watches in fascination. No-one moves to stop him. Remember the king has a bow and arrow in his hand. There’s a small army with archers and warriors with swords in their hands. In slow motion the “assassin” throws the spear and the Prince does not dodge out of the way. He’s had enough of this two suns business and wants a rest. This leads to an interminable death scene as the heir apparent leaves this mortal coil, watched in deep embarrassment by all the grunts who fought alongside him, his brother and Woon (Song Jae-Rim) who may have had a thing for him (or were they just good friends).Then there’s the punishment of the Princess (after giving birth she’s demoted to slave but, when she’s served her time, everyone forgives her and she’s restored to the role of wife and mother) and Nok-Yung dies while performing appropriate rites to see all the deserving spirits get to Heaven. After that, the survivors all live happily ever after as you would expect in a romance.

Put all this together and you have a formulaic fantasy with predicable political skullduggery. It could have been better, but the female principals were given nothing to do except be relatively passive victims, and the relationship between the stepbrothers is left curiously unresolved. If the Prince had any sense he would know only too well what was happening, but he’s left twisting in the wind as if he was innately stupid. Even Princess Minhwa, who was manipulated as a child, is never allowed anything other than a cowardly refusal to deal with the mess she was involved in creating. This takes the edge off her rehabilitation at the end. Yet another serial which fails to live up to its initial promise.

For a summary of the opening episodes, see The Moon Embracing The Sun or Haereul Poomeun Dal or 해를 품은 달 (2012): the teen years.

The Moon Embracing The Sun or Haereul Poomeun Dal or 해를 품은 달 (2012): the teen years

The Moon Embraces the Sun

The Moon Embracing The Sun or Haereul Poomeun Dal or 해를 품은 달 (2012) may be touted as sageuk historical drama, but it’s actually almost pure fantasy romance, based on the novel “Haereul Poomeun Dal” by Jung Eun-Gwol. At first sight, it looks like another of these court dramas in which the king of the day has to deal with the factional infighting between the different family kin groups. Except little of what we see on the screen relates to any of Korea’s history. King Lee Hwon did not sit on the throne and none of the families who conspire to destabilize the country map onto known kin groups. More excitingly, this is a Korea in which shamanic magic actually works. This is not the simple foretelling of the future magic. It’s a much darker system which allows illness and death to be visited on enemies either by burying appropriate talismans in or under their houses, or by performing rites to invoke spirits which them go off like roiling black smoke snakes (someone obviously watched Lost) and invade bodies. Thematically, we’re into heavy-duty metaphor land.

Heo Yeon-Woo (Kim You-Jung)

Heo Yeon-Woo (Kim You-Jung)

The now quite common prefatory section to the first episode shows the key supernatural event which drives the rest of the serial. In this world, the sun divides. This is meant both literally and figuratively. For these purposes, assume that the sun represents the light and power attaching to individuals who may become king. During the serial, we actually see different people slightly backlit to create the effect of light generation. People nearby as these individuals walk past see highly attractive men and, more often than not, have to shade their faces and turn their eyes away. As in the real world, this radiated light can reflect off nearby bodies. So we see the moon because it stands out in the sky when the sun shines. This demonstrates the inherent sexism in the metaphor. Only men can be king (ignoring the right of the mother to act as regent during the son’s minority or incompetence). So the only women who can become visible in the sky are those who catch the light from the men. Were it not for the men, they would be invisible. So the plot device at play here is that, for our immediate purposes, the king of the day has two sons. The older was born to a royal concubine, the younger to the Queen. So according to the rules of succession, the younger son is the Crown Prince and the older is the heir apparent, i.e. he will take over should anything adverse happen to the Crown Prince. Not unnaturally, this gives conspirators hope because, if they get the heir apparent on their side and the Crown Prince then conveniently dies, they have their puppet on the throne. For this reason, the Crown Prince is not allowed in the palace, but is sent off to rusticate in the countryside where, hopefully, the conspirators will not find him. Unfortunately, both royal sons fall in love with the same woman. Hence the title of the serial leaves us to worry over the choice the moon will make and what effect that will have on the sun who loses out in this race for love.

Lee Hwon (Yeo Jin-Goo)

Lee Hwon (Yeo Jin-Goo)

All this future history is foreseen by Ari (Jang Yeong-Nam), a powerful young shaman who meets the heavily pregnant woman (Yang Mi-Kyeong) who will give birth to the moon. To create the maximum drama, Ari is later tortured but, before her execution, she passes on a message to her young friend, Nok-Young (Jeon Mi-Seon). She is to protect the girl who will become the moon by keeping her away from the sun. Not unnaturally, there are no names given which makes this task somewhat difficult to perform.

Prince Yangmyung (Lee Min-Ho)

Prince Yangmyung (Lee Min-Ho)

We now move forward thirteen years and find Heo Yeon-Woo (Kim You-Jung) attending a celebration in which her brother, Heo Yeom (Siwan) is to be acknowledged as scholar of the year (at the same ceremony, Woon (Lee Won-Geun) is to be confirmed the top martial arts exponent). A supernatural butterfly, one of many different mechanisms to make fate work out, leads Yeon Woo into a supposedly closed section of the palace where she meets the young Crown Prince Lee Hwon (Yeo Jin-Goo). Later at home, she’s visited by Prince Yangmyung (Lee Min-Ho). Yes, the older prince has known her for some time and is in love with her. The other key player is Yoon Bo-Kyung (Kim So-Hyun). She’s the daughter of Yoon Dae-Hyung (Kim Eung-Soo), one of the senior ministers who’s plotting with the Queen Mother (Kim Young-Ae) to ensure his daughter marries the Crown Prince. Needless to say, these two moons are polar opposites. Heo Yeon-Woo is a socialist and not ashamed to treat the poor with respect, helping those in need and generally being a do-gooder, wise beyond her years. Yoon Bo-Kyung is born into old money and privilege. She is petty, vindictive and absolutely determined to do everything in her power to advance her family’s interests.

Yoon Bo-Kyung (Kim So-Hyun)

Yoon Bo-Kyung (Kim So-Hyun)

Once we’ve established the love triangle as teens, we now move into the power plays. The king initially intends to allow the Queen Mother to decide who shall marry the Crown Prince. For once showing some life, the Crown Prince winds up the scholars to petition for full and fair elections. Democracy is a wonderful thing. All girls from the right families are to be eligible and the best shall be chosen. Not surprisingly, when the king accedes to the multiple petitions, Heo Yeon-Woo is the winner. This seriously dents the ambitions of the Yoon family so the Queen Mother leans on Nok-Young. By this time, she’s become shaman-in-chief and performs a rite to send the smoke monster to eat Heo Yeon-Woo. Now you’re thinking this is a bit hypocritical. Nok-Young knows this girl is the moon she’s supposed to protect, yet here she has the maiden at death’s door. But fear not. This is all part of a cunning ploy. She engineers a situation in which the girl is seen to die and is buried. She returns at night and digs her up. Unfortunately, she’s a little late and Heo Yeon-Woo goes through the trauma of waking up inside a coffin several feet down. This trauma (or perhaps the residual effects of the smoke monster) causes her to lose her memory. The shaman then takes her off into the countryside where the girl is raised as a shaman. So the teen years come to an end with everyone except the Yoon family devastated. The Crown Prince marries Yoon Bo-Kyung but, as revenge, he refuses to touch her. Without an heir, he thinks he’ll be safe.

To see how this is resolved: The Moon Embracing The Sun or Haereul Poomeun Dal or 해를 품은 달 (2012): to the end.

Monstar or Monseuta or 몬스타 (2013)

MonatR 1

Monstar or Monseuta or 몬스타 (2013) is a Korean take on the Glee phenomenon. At this point, I’ll choose my words carefully. The American series has completed five seasons and has broadcast 105 episodes. It has contrived to win awards while proving itself a vehicle for selling a significant amount of music product. Almost exclusively, the show deals with cover versions of established hits. This makes it relatively cheap to license the rights to the music, and provides a profitable way of recycling old material. In this, the series is proving more successful than Ally McBeal which had Calista Flockhart sing a wide range of cover versions, often with guest artists in tow. Back to Monstar. No matter what you might think about the national effort put into producing the K-pop wave, one fact is indisputable. Some of the groups and the original music they perform is outstanding and the international success of individual tracks and some performing artists is well deserved.

They have to learn to play together

They have to learn to play together

This series balances the music against the context. Both end up outstanding! It’s set in a Korean secondary school with the cohort aged in the seventeen/eighteen range. As is to be expected of a Korean series, the atmosphere inside the school reflects the high priority society places on educational achievement. But there’s one less common feature — Korean schools do not place quite this emphasis on more lighthearted music as a regular feature of scholastic life. Initially, as might be expected, the school encourages those of its students with a talent to perform, the best of whom are in an orchestra which largely plays classical music (some of it light). This group calls itself All For One. However, the focus of interest shifts with the arrival of two very different students.

Yoon Seol-chan (Yong Jun-hyung who is a member of a very successful Korean boy band) is a member of a boy band with a fanatical following. He’s the stereotypical angry young man, burdened by an unhappy childhood and an excess of talent, he lives on the knife edge of exploding in public. Unfortunately, he’s caught on camera pushing one of his psycho fans. When this goes viral, his record company decides to rehabilitate his image by sending him back to school for a while. The second arrival is Min Se-yi (Ha Yeon-soo). She was born in South Korea but has been in New Zealand for the last six years. Leaving her mother behind, she comes bearing her guitar and a sack o’ woe. This brings both of them into a class where the senior monitor is Jung Sun-woo (Kang Ha-neul). He’s currently a member of All For One but knew Min Se-yi before she left the country and has a crush on her. This leads him to abandon All For One and to sing with her. This upsets Kim Na-Na (Da Hee) who’s had a long-running crush on Jung. She’s the daughter of a local gangster and socially inhibited because Jung comes from a wealthy family. The other young musicians are Sim Eun-Ha (Kim Min-Young) who’s abused by her father and has very low self-esteem, Park Kyu-Dong (Kang Ui-Sik) who’s relentlessly bullied by his class, and Cha Do-Nam (Park Kyu-Sun) who used to be friends with Park but had a falling out with him.

Ahn Nae-sang passively helps out

Ahn Nae-sang passively helps out

The catalyst for the story to click into motion is a visit to one of the historical sites around Seoul. By mistake, this disparate group are accused of defiling one of the palaces. As a “punishment”, they are told they must perform a traditional Korean song for the school. Although the school realises the error some days later, the Head of Department does not want to lose face and tells the staff they are to proceed with the performance. This forces the individual students to relate to each other and begin to work out their problems. In due course, the nature of the performance is modified. The Minister of Culture asks the school to send a group to sing at a charitable event. When Yoon Seol-chan hears All For One is to be sent, he issues a challenge. The two groups should have a competition to decide which is the better group to represent the school.

The other major character is Han Ji-woong (Ahn Nae-sang). He’s a recluse who allows the young musicians to use his old rehearsal room. When the sing-off occurs, All For One is deemed to have won but, of course, our disparate group must be given a rematch which comes when a television company picks them for a Battle of the Bands show. In a way, it doesn’t matter which group wins. Music wins. We see almost all the major styles from a classical piano concerto, to Latin American, to heavy metal. When it comes to the original music, the standard is universally high with some impressive musicianship in the playing and the singing. As to the plot, some of the backstory is quite dark and the characters are given the time and space to work through their emotions. The other issue (this being a romantic drama) is to see which of the group pair off. With the usual alarums and excursions, this is also resolved not unsatisfactorily. The adults are also allowed their own opportunities to find some measure of redemption for past mistakes. This is not to say everything is neatly tied up with suitable rejoicing. This is a Korean drama and not everything emotional can be healed so quickly. But there’s enough to know these people have made progress. They will survive.

So if you get the chance to see this, Monstar is genuinely impressive as both television drama and as a vehicle for music.

Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) final thoughts

rooftop-prince

This discusses the plot so if you have not seen this episode, it may be better to delay reading this.

This review now captures the rest of Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) rather than focusing on individual episodes and captures my frustration with how the story develops. To clear the decks, let’s confirm this has nothing to do with time travel as understood in the West. Rather it’s a morality tale building on the notion of a supernatural power bent on establishing a balance in the karma (or the lotus root, your choice). Imagine a world in which a group of people are tied together through time. They are continuously reincarnated in relationships which are substantially the same from one generation to the next. At a critical point in each cycle, one key character has a decision to make about the fate of another. If that decision is for “evil”, the same group are doomed to rerun the scenario when they are reborn, and so ad infinitum. But in our modern age, the supernatural being grows tired of this key character always making the wrong choice. Our interventionist God therefore decides to change one of the variables.

Micky Yoochun and the crew from Joseon

Micky Yoochun and the crew from Joseon

When one of the modern characters is “killed”, Crown Prince Lee Kak (Micky Yoochun), the Joseon version, is brought forward to take his place. Ah ha! So this new player knows how the scenario was unfolding three-hundred years ago. His first problem is to understand the new culture and try to work out who everyone is. Once he’s less gauche, he can more safely begin interacting with people. But when he tries to apply his understanding of past events, it causes a chaotic response from the modern players. It takes him a while to understand he had misunderstood what was happening around him in Joseon. Obviously the court politics of the past don’t fit the culture of private wealth and the phenomenon of the chaebol — a large corporation controlled by one or more family members. This element in the series actually proves interesting as one faction in the family led by Yong Tae-Moo (Lee Tae-Sung) tries to manipulate the holders of a key block of shares to gain control. Had this been run as a straight contemporary drama, there was more than enough meat to make a highly effective thriller as one person dies and attempts are made on the lives of others. But this is not allowed for two reasons:

Han Ji-Min in modern style

Han Ji-Min in modern style

  • The initial set-up forces us into a “time travel” mode and prevents the police investigation from building up any tension. Instead, we have the Crown Price constantly trying to work out what has to happen to enable him to go back to his own time. Investigative punches are therefore pulled as our hero slowly pieces together who everyone is and how his return might be triggered. The script also leaves giant holes with no effort made to explain exactly what happens to the bad and not so bad characters in modern times. It’s a whole lot easier when the Crown Price does go back to Joseon because he can torture them, banish some, and execute the rest. Those were the days when a hero really could get things done properly.

  • Jung Yoo-Mi

    Jung Yoo-Mi

  • The series is a romance and the Crown Prince has to meet and fall in love with Park Ha (Han Ji-Min), the modern version of the woman he was supposed to marry in Joseon. This further dilutes any tension because our hero can’t do the hand-holding and gazing into her eyes bit if he’s behind bars or on the run from the police. So subject to the one major plot device, everything has to enable our couple to fall in love.

  • Ah yes, the plot device. Way back in Joseon times, the first episode shows us a view of what happened. Except it’s fundamentally dishonest! I’m not against scriptwriters allowing their characters to make mistakes. We’re all human and not immune from misunderstanding the events as they occur around us. Yet this “error” is so fundamental that it lacks all credibility! There’s no way this could have happened! Someone would have noticed and said something — unless we’re supposed to believe not only that the Crown Price had his eyes closed at the critical times, but that the bad guys had paid everyone around him not to draw his attention to this rather stunning fact. So why do the scriptwriters have to engage in this deception? Well, if they showed us the choice being made in Joseon times, it would rather give the game away as to what the choice would have to be in modern times. If the series were not being run as a romantic drama, this could have led to our watching Se-na (Jung Yoo-Mi), the key character, continue to make the decision for evil. That would have been a high-powered tragedy, leaving the Crown Prince adrift in time and our supernatural being resigned to trying to get it right the next time round. As it is, there’s no tension because although we know this couple of star-crossed lovers are doomed to part, we know they must be together so tears can be shed when the Crown Price is whisked back to Joseon.

    Lee Tae-Sung

    Lee Tae-Sung

    The modern ending is frustratingly mushy. The mawkishness comes from the instant love-at-first-sight between Park Ha and Yong Tae-Yong. Yet more frustration comes from not seeing how that plays out with the families on both sides. The control of the chaebol could be consolidated in them if the appropriate share transfers were confirmed. Worse the time travel is proved real because the Crown Prince sends a love letter to Park Ha by burying it under the pavilion by the lake. Watch out the gift of the gold medallion — that’s a real tear-jerker. Historically speaking, it seems Park Ha and Boo-Yong are going above and beyond the call of duty to protect the man they love. So, as a time travel plot, this is a disaster (why does Park Ha end up in the juice shop and Boo-Yong write an expanatory note to the Crown Price?), but it works quite well as satire and a romantic fairy story.

    For those who want to know what they missed, here’s Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) the set-up and Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) Episode 2.

    Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) Episode 2

    rooftop-prince

    This discusses the plot so if you have not seen this episode, it may be better to delay reading this.

    Well here we go with Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) episode 2, which has our time-travelling Crown Prince Lee Kak (Micky Yoochun) and his pack of three fugitives from Joseon, materialise in front of Park Ha (Han Ji-Min), our modern heroine, and when they go out on to the roof, they realise they are no longer in Kansas. Naturally they assume she’s a witch who has brought them into the netherworld. Eventually realising they want to “return to the palace”, she loads them into the back of her open truck, and drives them through the city. This is a disconcerting experience to people only used to horses. Dropping them off outside the palace (now only open to the public during daylight hours), they are completely lost when the police chase them away. Unable to relate to people and without money, they find themselves starving. Fortunately they get themselves properly arrested and this creates the possibility of food if only they can say who they are. Eventually, the clever one with a photographic memory is able to remember the licence plate of our heroine’s truck which lands them back at her house.

    All colour-coded and ready to earn a living

    All colour-coded and ready to earn a living

    Out of charity, she feeds them vegetable omelette but, when she leaves them alone, they reward her by being totally freaked out by all her gadgets which speak to them (including a teddy bear). They also accidentally set the place on fire. This is not an auspicious beginning to their relationship. So because they now owe her the cost of all the kitchen equipment, teddy bear and other items destroyed (boy is that swordsman good with his weapon), she has them working in her fruit and vegetable business to pay it off. Except, of course, the Crown Prince refuses to lift a finger and the eunuch has no strength. The most interesting cultural aspect to this is the inversion of expectation about how females are supposed to act. Even in modern Korea, there’s an expectation of deference when women relate to men. But she not only dresses them in colour-coded track suits, but then treats with with the same tender loving care as a drill sergeant major. Even the Crown Price finds himself momentarily cowed before his massive ego gets him back on Crown Price track. He does, however, fantasise about killing her and all the generations of her family he can find. Which is, when you think about it, the proper response in this situation.

    Meanwhile, it turns out that Se-na (Jung Yoo-Mi), the elder sister-in-law, is seeing Yong Tae-Moo (Lee Tae-Sung), the evil cousin. Now isn’t that a surprise, bringing all the players together into the plot. Yes, the evil sister works for the rich granny who’s lost her beloved heir — almost like a fairy story instead of a time travel adventure. It gets worse when our heroine takes the four to the hospital. The Crown Price gets to see the evil stepsister who’s the “dead” Crown Princess, and Granny sees the Crown Prince but doubts her eyesight.

    The Men in Black from Joseon when allowed to lose their track suits

    The Men in Black from Joseon when allowed to lose their track suits

    So now the combined brain power of the four has worked out they have travelled three-hundred years into their future. Since they entered this time through the rooftop apartment, they feel they have to stay there and wait for the portal to open again. Soon our temporally mismatched couple are drinking on the roof and spraying each other with cream (it’s an erotic experience when you come from the morally hidebound Joseon period). The morning ritual of teeth brushing and gargling is endearing. Once she accepts they have slipped through time, the teaching of getting on a bus, etc. is fun. Their reaction to discovering the King, his father, is on a banknote, is a delight. Their confusion about escalators is understandable and their failure to realise the lift (that’s elevator for my American readers) is actually travelling between floors gives rise to an embarrassing consequence. The effort at the car wash is an unfortunate misunderstanding, and so on. We run a good race at very gently making fun of them. I had assumed they would be shown as far more intimidated for longer.

    Of course the Crown Prince must finally meet rich Granny and confront the evil cousin who thinks he’s a successful murderer. This precipitates the standard plot with the evil cousin taking action just in case this newcomer is actually the lost heir and the evil sister sticking the financial knife into her stepsister. What makes this all the more unbearable is that this is turning into the worst kind of fantasy where everything possible is done to drag out the running time. For example, Park Ha’s friend visits from America on her honeymoon and hands over a box. No matter how distressed she is, any sensible person opens the box. But this script has our heroine flirting with opening it. She has it here, she has it there. But there’s no opening. This is just annoying and tiresome as are the extended sequence of the Crown Prince dancing in a panda costume (and our heroine not recognising this is a male not a female, even when sitting next to him and holding his hand — we can pass over her not noticing the smell of the sweat), the evil cousin going through gyrations over the cellphone found in America, and so on.

    In other words, this series has one again insulted all the conventions of time travel, and devolved into an increasingly banal rerun of all the other romantic comedies that Korean television inflicts on the unsuspecting world. My patience is already at breaking point.

    For those who want to know what they missed, here’s Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) the set-up and Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) final thoughts

    Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) — the set-up

    rooftop-prince

    This discusses the plot so if you have not seen this series, it may be better to delay reading this.

    Well here we go with Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012). With some trepidation, I’ve decided to start watching another Korean time-travel drama (not Queen In-hyun’s Man or Hyeon-wanghu-ui Namja (2012) which is more seriously romantic). After Dr Jin, we’re reversing the process and instead of some metaphorical Connecticut Yankee turning up at King Arthur’s court, we’ve got some Josean bright sparks brought forward to modern Korea with predictable opportunities for mocking their complete inability to understand what’s going on. The set-up requires us to establish two parallel situations, peopled by the same cast of characters three-hundred years apart. So first of all, we’re back in the past with Crown Prince Lee Kak (Micky Yoochun) stirring in his sleep. He knows in his bones something really bad in going to happen and, moments later, a flunky comes waddling down the corridor (he may be walking funny because he’s a eunuch) to announce the body of his wife has been found floating in a nearby pool. Yes, the Crown Princess Hwa-Yong (Jung Yoo-Mi) is a goner and now he’s all in a lather to find out whodunnit. This is all dramatic stuff. Now the flashback to show the process of marrying off the young Crown Prince which involves introducing the rivalry between two sisters. Their father prefers to submit the name of the younger Boo-Yong (Han Ji-Min) because she’s more age appropriate. Naturally, the older one finds a way to scar the face of the younger, so she gets to marry the prince. This leaves the disappointed sister masked and in the background, but the Crown Price does notice she’s more intelligent than the shallow sister he married.

    Boo Yong (Han Ji Mon)

    Boo Yong (Han Ji Mon)

    In modern Korea, we have two step sisters whose ages match the earlier versions. Se-Na (also played by Jung Yoo-Mi) the older deeply resents the arrival of the younger and goes out of her way to dispose of her “rival” for her mother’s affection. Now the clock winds forward and we have Yong Tae-Yong, a modern version of the Crown Prince (also played by Micky Yoochun) eyeing a version of his sister-in-law now called Park Ha (and also played by Han Ji-Min). This is “engineered” by the device of an embroidered butterfly leaving the work “she” did in Joean time, travelling forward and landing on her shoulder while she’s selling fruit at an open market in New York. We can skip over the embarrassing attempt to fit our heroine into the American setting. Anyway the plot is that Yong Tae-Yong is heir to a Korean fortune and inline to take over the running of the family business. Yong Tae-Moo (Lee Tae-Sung) his cousin, was sent to America to persuade him to return, but they end up fighting while in the harbour. One swift and unexpected punch sends our hero into the water where he starts to sink, lost without a hope of rescue. The evil cousin wipes all his prints off the boat and swims to shore. When he returns to Korea, he reports a complete failure to find his cousin. That puts him inline to succeed to the fortune.

    Se-naa (Jung Yoo-Mi)

    Se-na (Jung Yoo-Mi)

    When our heroine returns to Korea, expecting to find her long-lost father, she discovers he’s just died. Obviously a lot is happening between these flashbacks. For Park Ha it seems there was a traffic accident, long hospital stay, loss of memory, that type of thing. Which is a good thing when the stepsisters meet at the funeral — at least I assume she’s telling the truth and doesn’t know how she came to be lost. Meanwhile back in Josean times, the court officials cover up the murder as an accidental death. To get round the problem, the Crown Prince puts together a top undercover team to find out the truth. This is Song Man-Bo (Lee Min-Ho), Do Chi-San (Choi Woo-Sik), and Woo Yong-Sool (Jung Suk-Won) a bodyguard, a “savant” and a eunuch with hidden talents. They are making real progress, eliciting evidence of poisoning by arsenic, when they are called to a night meeting. It’s a trap. As they try to escape, there’s an eclipse powerful enough to send them into the future. They had strong eclipses back them! What makes this an appallingly lazy piece of writing is that the four have been separated in the fighting, but all four travel together and end up in the same place in the future. Three of those are on horseback, but no horses appear in the future. The probable explanation is that all four were killed, but have been reincarnated as their future selves.

    The four travellers

    The four travellers

    Before they arrive, two years more have passed in the future (I hope you’re following this). The good, younger daughter from America has fitted back in with the step mother and they are selling fruit and vegetables in the market, while the older one is into spending the family’s money on fashion to give herself the right appearance while swanning around with the evil cousin. When our modern heroine goes to her apartment, it’s on the top floor (not surprisingly, there’s a rooftop patio area with potted plants).

    Well I’m relieved we have this first episode out of the way. I can almost tell the series is not going to be worth watching because we have temporal slippage thanks to an eclipse with older characters having parallel lives in modern times, i.e. it’s a fantasy fairy story with none of the rigour that’s supposed to accompany time travel. All I can hope for is that the humour of our four characters acting like fish out of water will strike a rich seam of comedy to carry us through a few episodes.

    For a brief consideration of what happens next, see:
    Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) Episode 2 and Rooftop Prince or Oktab Bang Wangseja or 옥탑방 왕세자 (2012) final thoughts.