KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

a landing site for quick, completely biased, and totally snarky korean drama reviews


Friday, August 6, 2010

Personal Taste (2010)

Personal Taste
개인의 취향 / GaeIn’s Taste
(Mar – May 2010)

who’s in it

Son YehJin (Alone in Love, Summer Scent)
Lee MinHo (Boys Over Flowers, I Am Sam)
Kim JiSuk (Chuno)
Wang JiHye (Friend, Our Legend)
Im SeulOng (2AM – member)

what’s it about
Son YehJin plays a woman who is having the worst week of her life—the kind of week that would make a normal person like you and me wither away in defeat. Her new business venture in furniture-designing is a failure. Her boyfriend has been sneaking around on her with her friend of 10 years, who by the way, is a mega biatch. Her assistant tries to have sex with her while she’s drunk and this same twerp has stolen $10,000 from her and put her home up as collateral with a loan shark, a beautiful manor that is an architecturally significant accomplishment by her father. She’s bankrupt and heartbroken. Her one non-backstabbing friend assures her, in a bit of foreshadowing, when one steps out of a crappy car, a Mercedes will drive up. Well, she just says a new car, but...turns out, Lee MinHo, a gifted architect from a small, struggling firm does in fact drive a nice car, a Benz. He himself is a Mercedes Benz, actually, as we learn he’s a pretty decent guy with good work ethic and a sense of responsibility. I suppose this makes Son YehJin’s ex, played by devilishly hot Kim JiSuk, a BMW—Bad Man Walking.

Son YehJin and Lee MinHo’s co-habitation begins when her lack of finances force her to accept him as a tenant, which she allows despite the fact that he’s a man because prior run-ins with him have incorrectly lead her to conclude he’s gay. But why does he want to sublet a room in her home? Well, it’s all business. He needs to study the design of her home in order to win a large contract for a project that could be the savior, or death, of his entire firm.

16 episodes


wildcard factor
Four beautiful leading actors/actresses, lead by the incomparable magnetic duo of Son YehJin and Lee MinHo. Need I say more?

first impressions
I didn’t really have a problem with the premise, the situation outlined was extravagant, but a *fairly* plausible one. What didn’t work [initially] was the chemistry between all the characters. It was a lot like flat soda, slightly fizzy, but a bit lacking in bite. To be honest, I thought Son YehJin was subpar and didn’t stand out amongst her lively costars. Fortunately, Lee MinHo reminded us quickly why he was the breakthrough star of Boys Over Flowers (acting-wise) by effortlessly shaking off all the pressure he must have felt in this first attempt to shed Goo JunPyo. He did a credible job playing the more modestly contained architect and proved to be the best part of the Personal Taste introduction. Kim JiSuk (BMW) continued to impress here with his acting presence, as he did during his ab-tastic turn in Chuno as the playboy slave hunter.

I looked forward to continuing this drama more than any other that was airing at the time (including Oh! My Lady) but despite my positive reaction, I felt this one had the higher chance of failure because of the great foundation provided…and therefore the greater expectation. On the other hand, a solid base meant it had a higher chance for greatness as well. After the first few episodes, I thought the characters needed to rise beyond the cleverly arranged plot and find more heart. Son YehJin and Lee MinHo needed to find a way to defy the beginning awkwardness between them and find their mutual fizz, so to speak. If these two couldn’t convince us of their couple-mojo, despite all the interesting character setups, this show was likely to fall short of expectations.

gave up

snoozer moments
Surprisingly, not very much. Most of the story centered and stayed focused on Lee MinHo and Son YehJin. I love dramas that know how to concentrate on what’s important! =) Although I will say, sometimes the show gave us too many “heart to heart” talks between long-winded characters, because after a while, they all started to sound the same. I loved Director Choi in the drama, he was an awesome father figure/mentor to Lee MinHo’s wounded boy character, and for Son YehJin as well, but really, sometimes his goodness stretched the limits of believability.

On the other hand, some of the bad characters also stretched the limits of believability, so probably everything evened out in the end (Kim JiSuk’s greedy, manipulating skunky weasel of a father, for one, was too cartoonishly sniveling).

Ah, there was a bit of the drunken disorderly behavior and equal measures of the expected misunderstandings, but mostly it lead to Son YehJin acting adorably cute and on Lee MinHo’s back getting a piggyback ride so I didn’t mind the show’s employment of drunken buffoonery as a way to bring these two shy people closer together and into more skinship.

what didn’t work
Some may consider the plot overly thinny and stretched beyond reasonable, and not that I necessarily disagree with those folks, but I didn’t really have a problem with it. I thought the charm and quality of all the actors, including our two antagonists Kim JiSuk and Wang JiHye, kept it contrarily interesting.

what did
The actors were all great, from 2AM’s idol balladeer Im Seulong’s minor part as the architect caught up in unrequited love…to the remarkably well done portrayal by Wang JiHye of a jealous and overly insecure villainess…to Jung SungHwa’s portrayal of SangJoon, colleague and best friend to Lee MinHo’s character, who also found himself roped into faking his sexual orientation. This hilarious guy was, in a word: fabulous.

The enjoyment of the show was in the details, in the hesitant first contacts between the main couple, the slow dawning of attraction, the gingerly approached relationship. Despite all the smoke and mirrors of the plot, this story was basic, it was just about two people opening up and falling in love. In fact, the gay misunderstanding blew the gates wide open and allowed for the collecting of lots of kdrama gold. It enabled a cohabitation situation between the two leads that was inanely more amusing than I could have ever hoped. It could have been tricky, this sensitive topic of mistaken sexual orientation, but it was done very well and in the grand scheme of things, any kind of positive exposure for the gay community that doesn’t hurt the cause is a good thing. It often becomes the role of the media (intentionally or not) to lead the flock in creating greater awareness about tolerance and acceptance. It’s one of the unspoken things tv and film have always done, be a progressive mirror for a society to reflect upon itself. In general, I find MBC has been pretty daring in their kdramas. Ok, I’m totally moving off point.

Back to Lee MinHo and Son YehJin: the little moments had different meanings for each person, which was so delightful to see. For example, Son YehJin’s innocent inclination to latch onto her gay friend Lee MinHo’s arm became a source of irritation, awareness, discomfort for the latter as his own feelings for her shifted and evolved. Their innocence yet awareness of one another was so teasingly delicious and gave me a good warm and fuzzy feeling. It was those small glimpses into their feelings, the subtlety between the two and their interactions that I found so wonderfully engaging to watch. It really felt like falling in love. After all, love is never a destination, but a journey in motion.

That reminds me, however, that a vacation was the one thing Lee MinHo’s overly studious character had always wanted to do, but this was a metaphor mentioned early in the drama...and never closed. I was a tad disappointed that the writers didn’t send us off with the two leads on a train into the sunset on that vacation called life—I know, cheesy, what can I say, I’m a total cheese ball.

what made me want to gouge my eyes out
Nothing was awful, although Son YehJin’s early hairstyle was something to reckon with.

what kept me going

I admit, the show did have a rather timid start and the chemistry between all the characters seemed shaky at first, but they all really blossomed and the show seemed to get better and better as it moved along. When the angst genuinely kicked in, I was ready for it.

Other factors:
predictability Fairly so, but also unexpected. The plot twist of Lee MinHo’s mistaken sexual orientation was funny and well-executed...and not exactly a common kdrama premise. I also liked how they developed Son YehJin’s issues with her absent father
engrish There was a brief scene where Kim JiSuk spoke English, but he’s practically fluent. I really enjoyed hearing him speak it, he was so cute. I already miss him (he’d gone off to serve his mandatory military service at the time of this review)
originality Fairly
eye-candy Oh, yes. Being a large fan of Kim JiSuk and Lee MinHo both, I was in heavenly bliss. And I doubt there are very many actors that could have decently portrayed a man that was believably gay without going into caricature. Kudos to Lee MinHo for being such a studly yet pretty man.
hair and fashion Lee MinHo had a casual chic style going here as a young architect and set some fashion trends in South Korea. Personally, I think it was less the clothes and the fact that Lee MinHo has the look of a runway model. I think anything on him would look high fashion. He’s got a stick skinny willow tree of a physical frame.

is it worth trying to find?

total enjoyment factor 
9/10 (probably very generous, I was fangirling in this one)

total disdain factor

why this review is completely biased
This was more of a character-building type of kdrama that explored the angles that made up the main personalities, experimenting with the geometry of how they fit in with one another and in society. So instead of focusing on a complicated plot, it wanted to focus on what made people damaged (according to this drama, turns out father issues are big!) and explored the lengths individuals go through to find closure. There was plenty of slapstick comedy and silliness, but its heart was always on its sleeve and I liked that very much.

Another impressive feat? Lee MinHo was able to convey great depth without much muscle movement. It’s rather novel to watch. Compliments to Son YehJin as well in the emoting department, although in general, her character was prone to fits of emotional eruptions that were not very subtle.

could a non-kdrama fan like this
I think maybe...probably not

Cute and enjoyable, a flirtation worth trying.

At the conclusion, the main characters all learned there are no rules to love—reason, cynicism, and weak resolve can have no place in affairs of the heart. Almost everyone matured throughout the course of the drama, which I think is always a good sign that a show has done something right, and while it was certainly not a perfect drama, the message in it was welcomed. It wanted to impart the very same lesson that Lee MinHo’s character learned, that life is never about reaching an end, but about stopping to enjoy the moments, for only then would anyone really succeed in life, which in a perfect world, would be to simply find happiness.

Besides, I just love dramas where friendship comes first.


  1. oh, finally smth of PT...i kept waiting after the recap for ep 8, or was it 7? anyways, i agree with ur comments on most part but i probably didnt enjoy it as much as you.
    putting lee min ho pure hottest and charisma aside, i loved, LOVED director choi the most! but i agree, most the actors performed well.

    and totally unrelated topic... r u going to watch it started with a kiss (aka playful kiss or smth) and sungkyunkwan scandal (methink it's the name...)? frankly speaking, i dunno about the acting of either lead... i love micky to death but he's not the most brilliant from what ive seen and um... same from kim hyun joong. the good thing is that the stills looks really gorgeous. eye candy aplenty. but the problem with kim hyun joong was never how he looked...

  2. I will probably check them both out, but like you, I'm nervous about them. I hope they're good. I agree with you on Kim HyunJoong's newbie acting skills...but like you say, he's so fine, I don't think I'd be able to resist watching. Personally, the drama I'm most thrilled about is the Jang Hyuk and Ha JiWon vehicle...that's just going to be awesome (I hope!)

  3. lol. dont worry, i also think he's really fine.. but i love him more as an entertainer than as an actor (like jang geun suk, or song joon ki, or other pretty boys actor). anyways, im exctied for secret garden as well.. i assume u r because of jang hyuk but i really want to see ha ji won back on screen.. she's one of those actresses that rarely fail to disappoint me! 2010 looks like a nice drama yr, dont u think?


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