KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

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


Friday, April 27, 2012

Padam Padam (2012)

Padam Padam
빠담빠담... 그와 그녀의 심장박동소리 /

Padam Padam…The Sound of His and Her Heartbeats
(Dec 2011 – Feb 2012)

who’s in it
Jung Woo Sung (The Good, The Bad, The Weird-film, Athena)
Han Ji Min (Rooftop Prince)
Kim Bum (The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry)
Kim Ji Yoo (Mom Has Grown Horns)
Na Moon Hee (I Believe in Love)
Jang Hang Sun (Crime Squad)
Choi Tae Joon
Kim Joon Sung (The Lobbyist)

what’s it about
If the opportunity to hit a “do over” button was offered to you, would you—no, could you—change a singularly life changing moment for the better? Where precisely does destiny end and free will begin?

Jung WooSung plays a guy who has been in prison for 16 years and according to him, unfairly so. He was not a thug when he went in, but by the time he is freed into the real world, he has become a variation of one. He has grown into a socially stunted and frustrated man-child. He is filled with both wonder and anger at the changed world, being estranged from it and wanting to belong. However, he does have a more pressing goal on his mind: clearing his name. Unfortunately, his enemies also have a purpose: keeping him silenced forever.

Kim Bum is a fellow inmate released at the same time, and it is quite possible the young man is a certifiable nutjob, although a harmless one. He believes with all his heart that he is Jung WooSung’s guardian angel—and that’s literally, as in he wants to literally earn his wings so he can finally fly to Heaven where he rightfully belongs. He believes his purpose for existence is to make sure his best friend Jung WooSung is safe and happy.

When our hero returns to his hometown with his nutty angel sidekick tagging along (who is hell bent on kicking up some emotional dust), this ex-con’s past, present, and future collide in dangerous and wonderful new ways, including falling in love with a beautiful local vet played by Han JiMin. Even with his own personal angel fighting by his side, Jung WooSung is faced with an unlikely proposition: is it possible for a mere man to do the impossible and defy the course of his life?

20 episodes

(Lately, just like the trend here in the States, it seems like all the really good shows aren’t on the major networks, but on cable!)

first impressions

Visceral, chaotic, gritty, violent—and elegant. Very, very elegant. Padam was both ugly and beautiful at the same time...or rather, more accurately, it found beauty in the ugly? After the first few episodes, I genuinely felt that I had stumbled onto something truly unconventional, a show deftly guided by someone with a very specific vision for the show. This didn’t feel like a kdrama at all, it felt like a film. The basics of the premise had all been done before, you know the drill, a tough guy released from jail stumbles along in violence until he finds true love, which reforms his whole life. To be honest, going into Padam, I felt like I had already seen this one many times over. I did not believe that this one could surprise me or engage me in any new way.

Even after only the second episode, I knew in my gut that I had been so very wrong, this drama was different. The uniqueness wasn’t in the setup, but in the craftmanship, like the difference between products generically produced for mass consumption, and ones designer, stitched together with detail and skill. Padam seemed to understand the rules of this kdrama genre, and it knew the right threads to use, but it also clearly established from the onset that it was going to try its damnest best to be different and daring in its delivery.

My initial thought was that this kdrama was weird, confusing, and far too heartbreaking in its portrayal of life…the protagonist felt like a violent maniac, the second guy was a delusional loony who thought he was a supernatural entity…on top of that, it was littered with an ensemble cast of broken personalities that were thorny country bumpkin folk, and let’s not forget, all of them were involved in some wacky festering crime mystery, too. But, oh what the hell, even though I was afraid the story direction would only end up breaking my heart, and even though the ‘fantasy’ aspect of Padam scared the hell out of me, I could not dismiss this one.

wildcard factor
The conductor for this ride was Kim KyuTae, who directed World Within and A Love to Kill, and I name these two specifically as they reminded me of Padam, stylized and introspective. The screenwriter Noh HeeKyung was of World Within as well, and their combined brand of storytelling was evident here. Very atmospheric with an obsessively rich exploration into the poetry between people, space, scenery, and silence. It moved both fast and slow.

Padam felt as if written and directed in a very methodical and deliberate manner, every step concentrated on character detailing. For me, many of the effects that were utilized but didn’t work so well in World Within and A Love to Kill felt better done in Padam. Here, the insanity of Kill was toned down, the drudgery of World sped up, and what remained was a rich landscape of characters more interesting but far less deranged. The population of Padam was drawn elaborately, but at the same time, with more humanity. Oddly enough, I think it was the introduction of the supernatural element that really saved this one from going overboard on the melodrama. Not only did it add the element of humor, but kept it from taking itself too seriously.

gave up

soju guzzling (angst factor)
The whole show was about fighting—against oneself, against one another, against love, against nature, against the law. The tangled webwork of pain and need between all the characters were definitely the meat chunks of this meal.

what didn’t work
If I had to make one criticism, I’d have to say there were a few instances where the special effects were slightly crude, but overall, hardly worth mentioning.

what did
So, this was the acting equivalent of Jung WooSung quickly getting back up and shaking off the after effects of his 2011 drama knockdown Athena. In Padam we were treated to a more raw version of the actor, the kind of manic emotional acting chops that renders Jung such a riveting movie star. Jung can be wild and scary, but we’re not talking mad-dog wild, but passionately enthusiastic. At times, he can feel too direct in his acting style, so forceful he is with his delivery method, but in Padam, it was within the quiet verses of his character that he allowed between the wilder chapters that told of his true talent for sophisticated character building. It was not immediately, but in small pieces, that we learned to love Jung WooSung’s woeful ex-convict.

Jung was (thankfully) well matched by his female lead, Han JiMin, who played her own wounded character with a stiff vulnerability that was in direct opposition to Jung’s brash bravado. Their chemistry was at first [on purpose] awkward and discordant, but definitely promising, like drums and cymbals being hit at random intervals and out of sync, you knew there was a good beat in there somewhere, you just couldn’t quite hear it yet. Han brought great sensitivity to her role, as she was a little prickly, but never lost the feminine softness that defined her character, who was by nature a nurturer. I liked the slight contradiction. I immediately felt a strong liking and disliking to her, which I think was the point. The woman had a lot of growth to do, and I felt assured that Han was up to the task of conveying it properly.

Of course, I have to mention Kim Bum, who delivered quite a precocious performance. This pretty actor skyrocketed to fame after boyishly charming audiences in romcom Boys Over Flowers, but Kim has experience in and is actually quite splendid at melodrama, which is why (I think) he also delivers so much depth even in lighter roles that call for so little of it. He can be plenty emotionally loud and shed buckets of tears on cue, but he can also hit those poignantly quiet notes pretty effectively. This role was a fantastic choice for him, a really great vehicle for him to use his trademark charm, but also challenge himself on his craft. He has matured a lot, and I like the direction he is going with his career (obviously, Dream aside).

Aside from the main three actors, Padam has gathered together a collection of great talents who really do tremendous justice to their characters. Every single person did a phenomenal job.

This fantasy drama really felt like a defiant stand against kdrama convention for it tossed aside the notion that an angsty love triangle needed to be the main source of conflict, but instead spent most of its time examining the mystery behind miracles, the idea of love as being more than a hereditary byproduct, and the fragility of the bonds that hold people together. It asked, were life’s little details one’s own, or managed by forces beyond human control, like the capriciousness of rain or the endless onslaught of snowfall?

notable scene(s)
Ah, there were so many powerful scenes, a few were violently jarring, some were head-scratchers, a lot were mega-weepers, and quite a few even hilarious, but despite the wide range of feelings Padam was able to draw from me, it always stayed a good watch. Of course, I enjoyed the bromantic scenes between Jung and Kim, but the show really gave us gold when the main characters mingled and scratched up against the rest of the supporting cast. For example, scenes between Kim Bum and Jung WooSung’s petulant son, Choi TaeJoon, had an uncle-nephew dynamic that felt younger and more saucier than when either man interacted with other characters. Kim Bum’s angel definitely had a bit of a snark to his personality, and he most often shared that sass with the maknae of the show.

Every character tended to show a different facet of their personality depending on who they were sharing screen time with, and to see that range of emotion from each character was fascinating, especially because that kind of multiplicity is such an essential truth about real people. We all show different sides of ourselves to different people.

I’ve decided to just throw out a helping of pictures instead of using words to describe favorite scenes from this drama (I tried to keep them from being to spoilerish):

what kept me going
The tangled weave of interpersonal relationships. This was a show that really cared about every single character in it, giving them all really strong personalities and motivations. The main characters were the focal point, but all the supporting characters were never too far from the action, and were always welcomed detours whenever they came onscreen.
Other factors:
predictability No
cheese Sometimes the special effects were a bit roughly done
originality Yes
eye-candy Kim Bum really went skeletal for the role, and while I found it disturbing at first, I will acknowledge that the emaciated look did really fit his character.
hair and fashion n/a

a list: the outstanding supporting cast
5: Jang HangSun

A police detective with an uncontrollably violent temper still wheeling from his brother’s death; wants to make amends with his estranged daughter, but unable to forget or move past the lingering demons that still haunt him.

4: Lee JaeWoo

Our heroine’s ex-boyfriend and partner at her veterinary clinic. He’s kind of a good-natured jerk, can’t decide if he still harbors feelings for her or not, much less know what to do about it.

3: Kim JiYoo

Jung WooSung’s childhood friend, loyal and devoted to both our hero and his mother. A bright person despite her difficult life, she helps Kim Bum find his wings in the most unique way, and teaches him a little about what it means to be human.

2: Choi TaeJoon

Jung WooSung’s smartypants teenage son…who gets dragged into his father’s life, no thanks to a meddling semi-angel, and gets a tough lesson on the meaning of family, and what a dangerous concept it can become.

1: Na MoonHee

The shattering heartbeat of the entire drama—the mother. It almost felt like the whole drama was named after her. Padam padam.

total enjoyment factor 
As if my effusive review wasn’t a dead giveaway...

why this review is completely biased
Gosh, it was a long time ago I had my first introduction to Jung WooSung. I saw an unedited version of Musa on the big screen at a film festival. I thought he was fantastic in it, blew me away. So, you could say, I believe in the skill of his acting. Whether you are a fan of his, find him an appealing leading man or not, there is simply no denying that there is something innately stoic and manly about Jung, and that comes across on screen despite the fact that (in Padam) Jung makes little effort to portray Yang KangChil with any handsomeness or gallantry. The viewer is asked to accept his character for all his flaws, to find the goodness hiding inside. Prior to watching Padam, I would have said Jung is better suited for the big screen, an actor best taken in two hour doses, but now I realize he can be slowly savored, too. Some actors have about them a knife’s jagged edge, I don’t know where they channel it from, but Jung is one of those people. I’d like to think that my review isn’t biased at all, but just sincerely appreciative of what turned out to be an all-around good show. I feel happy with the kdrama world for having the creativity and imagination to give us this kind of art.

I find myself in a weird mindset where instead of reviewing the drama, I want to advertise it. The rundown is this: there are no idols in this one, it isn’t flirty or fun, not in the usual way, and without a doubt, it is a bittersweet story, but let me be clear, it is not a makjang one. It wasn’t ever intended to be a crazy story about revenge or love or religion (less the angel thing makes you worried), but a reminder about the simplicity of life. It was well-produced, heartwarming, hilarious, stirring, and at times, thrilling. There was a strong fantasy element to it, but it was done well, a rare feat that. In the end, I realize nothing I could write will convince some viewers to give this kind of a downer a try, and I don’t blame anyone for that, but for those who might be curious enough to give it a go, I think you may be pleasantly surprised by this little gem.

Note: I kept my review plot-vague on purpose in order to avoid accidently dropping any spoiler bombs.


  1. Yay you're writing again! I've loved reading your reviews & taking you up on recommendations, lurking all the while :p I loved Padam Padam too, and was suitably blown away by Jung Woo Sung.
    Also, it was your review on Chuno that sealed my decision to check out the show. I'm now 18 episodes in and I completely agree with you that Jang Hyuk is a hot potato of a man ;)
    He & Jung Woo Sung both have that intense, totally committed to the role, no vanity style of acting.. I find them both so compelling!

  2. Glad that you are back, I've really enjoyed your reviews here.

    I'm quite behind with Padam Padam, but I still hope to finish it sometime. And seeing that you enjoyed it I'm even more determined to continue watching it.

  3. Kfangirl: I agree with you, no vanity in their acting--that's a great way to put it! Indigo: I hope you do finish Padam, I'd love to hear your thoughts if you ever do.

    Thanks both of you guys for saying such nice things! I appreciate your taking the time to drop a comment!

  4. Cheers!

    I loved Padam Padam too. I started watching this Kdrama to catch a glimpse of the not-so-boyish-looking Kim Bum, but I had to marathon watch it because of Jung Woo Sung. Is JWS famous or very famous in SK? Well, he was a new actor to me while I was watching Padam Padam, and I was blown away. Whenever he was on-screen, he commanded ALL my attention on him. I find him exceedingly watchable, and his presence and (non)acting was so captivating.

    Thank you for writing again! I appreciate the time and effort you put into your reviews. I really enjoy reading them.

  5. Thanks!! It's great to be blogging again. =)

  6. Love your reviews. My wife and i are really enjoying this drama.

  7. Love your reviews. My wife and i are really enjoying this drama.

  8. Very nice review. I enjoy reading it. I just started watching Koran Drama, and stumbled into Padam Padam because of Kim Boem. I'm really happy that he chose to go to this path of acting,not just the pretty look. I also fall in love with Jung Woo Sung and Han Ji Min as well. The story is also interesting.

    Thanks again.

  9. I mirror your comments on Jung Woo Sung's merits as an actor. Quite a talented guy.
    Also this drama was surprisingly light hearted (I was expecting a dark melodrama) and I enjoyed watching EVERY character. I don't blame you for being biased. Honestly, if I were a good writer like you, I would write pages praising "Padam... Padam" too :-)

  10. Anonymous, aw, thank you for your kind words. And I agree completely, considering the story, it was pretty lighthearted wasn't it? =)

  11. I'm about to start episode 8 and am so blown away by how wonderful this is. Had to stop and search for a review of it - as a way of feeling as though I had someone to share the experience with right away, rather than boring my non-Kdrama-addict friends at a later date. So glad I came across your sensitive and well written review! (I look forward to reading more of them in the future!)

    1. Thank you so much! Come back and let me know your thoughts when you finish Padam!

  12. Amazing. I am not a fan of Korean and especially romantic drama like this. But this drama is exceptional. Try to hold my years especially at the ending but just can't. 5 star. Worth every second I spent on it.

  13. Does anyone know what the filming location was for the scenes of the veterinary surgery, overlooking that harbour? Sure looked beautiful!


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