KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

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


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Impressions: Life is Beautiful (2010)

Life is Beautiful
63 Episodes
Mar - Nov 2010

This is a multi-generational, sitcom-ishly cute family affair—you know, the kind of lackadaisical story about a large ensemble cast that doesn’t deal with some exploding plot conflict but the sort that just wants to dawdle and leisurely talk about the funny experiment of this thing called life. This sunny show follows the daily tribulations of a tightly knit blended K-family on Jeju island. How they win, lose and draw in a game of poker, their challenger being the established cultural norms of Korea.

This is a fresh and surprisingly non-hysterical look at the dynamics within a Korean nuclear family. And shock of all shocks, one that is founded on love and even more shockingly, a group of people that do not harbor any deep seeded need to destroy one another over money, lust, or parental dissatisfaction. Individuals in this relatively happy clan go about their daily lives separately, but they all recollect at the end of the day under one roof to eat, sleep and poop. They all call home this picturesque estate overlooking the sapphire waters around Jeju-do. Oh, and also, a part of the lodging also doubles as a family business: a bed and breakfast specializing in scuba diving excursions.

A long drama, it follows a plethora of family dilemmas, as each member of the household gets to explore their own storylines, but the most noteworthy and sincere exploration involves the entire family’s struggle within their own hearts and the ensuing conflict between love and society’s prejudices against homosexuality ingrained in them since childhood. When a member of their very own family comes out of the “closet”…they are all forced to take a long moment to remember the true meaning of family, and really, the true meaning of what it means to be human. A really progressive and surprisingly not-insane look at a very contemporary conflict in a society (and world) that is still, in many ways, too conservative too be humane.

First impressions
Fresh sashimi. That’s how cool this was on the Refreshing Meter and how smoothly it went down.

Not only was the Jeju island setting energizing and bright, the drama itself was like warm honey water for a sore throat. Feeling a little down and out from all those other grim stories you’re following in the other kdramas? This one is the perfect remedy. Don’t expect obsessive addiction to any of the characters, but there is definitely enough quality storytelling going on in here that’ll stay your interest. This one is definitely a “if you have the time to watch it, totally worth it” kind of kdrama.

The two more engaging story threads going on:

1) Lee SangYoon is the happy-go-lucky younger son. He’s a guy who lives life freely, the kind of natural happiness that comes from someone who knows he is living life exactly right—and by his own terms. He spends his day scuba diving with tourists, both a passion and a full-time job. He’s that outdoorsy type of dude that has an easy charm and genuine likability. When he smiles, you know he means it. When Lee SangJoon meets his opposite in Nam SangMi, however, a beautiful noona who has been severely burned by life and now only treads water, living life tentatively and defensively, he can’t help but poke at this new pretty coral in his sea. Unfortunately, he may be traveling light, but this gal’s got some major luggage-sized baggage.

2) Being different isn’t easy as we humans tend to want to categorize and classify everything into compact little containers, especially other people. When “the earth is not flat” type of ideas and thoughts start to get louder against an already accepted belief structure...and the pesky people who have those differing ideas and thoughts start to spill outside of society’s preconceived notions, warning bells go off throughout the streets of Mainstream Thought. But why do we fear the different so much? Why does the world recoil away from things that are not reflected in its own mirror? Aren’t we all unique, isn’t that the very definition of being human? It isn’t only our opposable thumbs that separate us from the animals, but our ability to learn and process the unknown, right? 

Like a Skittle lost in a bag of M&Ms, or a gay man trying to find his direction in South Korea, it’s no easy task being one thing when everyone else expects you to be something else. Not everyone wants to experience the rainbow. All his life, Song ChangUi has been hiding from himself. He puts on a performance for the eyes of the world. He’s a successful young doctor focused on his career. In reality, he’s that lost piece of candy. Soon enough, Song ChangUi realizes that he needs to face those fears instead of running from them. When he realizes he’s more afraid of losing his newly found love Lee Sang Woo than losing society’s esteem, he makes a brave choice. Did I mention this couple is not only sweet, but gorgeous together?

If only to follow these two stories, I decided I needed to continue!


  1. Thanks for ur review! I haven't seen this sitcom yet altho ive heard good things about it. the main deterrent would be the number of episodes but i will check it out seeing how uve approved of it. it's been a while since i followed a full sitcom since high kick (altho i did watch quite a part of good wind, and a bit of tae hee). usually, i just check out episodes with cameos. haha.
    glad to hear u agree about KHJ and BYJ.

  2. Wow, this blog is amazing! It's precisely what i needed: a place to find trustworthy reviews of KDramas...
    I've watched almost ( I've 2 episodes left but i don't want to finish it because I'll miss too much the characters...) the whole show and I loved it. Actually is my favorite KDrama, and the show i managed to follow the most, even more than the american lookalike (brothers and sisters). I agree with you about the warmth feeling it gives and i have also to say that it even managed to make my cry, for the first time, in front of the TV.


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