KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

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


Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Special Recap Pt 1 of 2:
The Guksoo Loveline: Episodes 1-5
I Live in Cheongdam-dong

I Live in Cheongdam-dong, JTBC
Although life tends to get busier during summers, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I failed to finish my last recapping effort, I’ve recruited a guest blogger—Sechubie, also a huge fan of I Live in Cheongdam-dong—to help me with a recapping pet project. Since this is an experimental collaboration, and neither of us are sure how our schedules will look in the weeks to come, we wanted to keep the project within our means. So instead of recapping the entire 100+ drama, since neither of us felt confident enough to take on such a commitment, we decided to focus on our favorite thread within the show: the loveline between goofy heroine JiEun and her two adorable suitors, SangYeob and HyunWoo. However, despite the selective recapping, we will do our best to keep the show’s context so that their arc makes sense. Sitcoms are generally episodic, this one especially, slowly building up characters through situational humor, so JiEun’s storylines don’t intersect too much with the other cast members anyway. Hopefully between the two of us, we will be able to see this to the end...

Update: TT So very very very sorry, will not be able to continue the recap (which I guess is already pretty obvious), but please enjoy the introduction to this adorable drama.

A word about the drama by me:
I Live in Cheongdam-dong is a daily sitcom that airs Monday through Friday on JTBC. It is about a family of misfits who move to a trendy and affluent neighborhood with hopes that by just being near money they will improve their lives. What attracts me most about this drama isn’t just that it is well-written (although it is both clever and perceptive in the ways it develops both characters and their feelings), or that it is humorous (it is), or even that it has an easygoing and enjoyable story (check)…all of the above are factors, but I am most charmed by the pure tenacity of the characters, their self-respect, and the straightforward nature of their goodness. They are embarrassing and imperfect personalities, sometimes uncomfortable and selfish, but they feel real, just with a sitcom spin. These folks feel like next door neighbors, not television cutouts. Through new friends, new loves, and the odd situations they get themselves into, the characters of this show begin to change their prejudices, pursue new dreams, and most of all, they realize that life, whether in wealth or poverty, is a special thing because we endure it with the people we love. I encourage everyone to visit the whole show. 

The main characters: 
Kim HyeJa
Manhwa Reading Room 
and Boarding House Proprietor
The head of the family, she cooks, cleans, and tries to keep everyone in line, especially her younger siblings, the flaky former actress BoHee, and the jobless manhwa artist WooHyun. She’s willing to do anything to earn money, including be a tour guide. For her, it is all about thrifty survival. One day, however, she accidentally walks into a meeting of VIP club members at Gloria, the Holy Grail of department stores, and ends up being mistaken for a rich matron, a little white lie that develops a life of its own. As she sinks deeper and deeper into her deceptions, she really gets a taste of the Cheongdam-dong life.

Kim BoHee
Once-Famous Actress & Model
A divorcee who is bit narcissistic and flaky, she still lives in the past and wants to reclaim her glory days. She works in the manhwa reading room, gets occasional small time acting jobs for money, but she really wants be a big deal actress again. She eventually teams up with Manager Jo to pursue a second chance in film.

Kim WooHyun
Unemployed Manhwa Artist
The maknae of the Kim children, he is a pretty talented cartoonist, but mostly unemployed due to the difficult economy. He’s short, and the ongoing joke is that, to his dismay, he looks more like a grandfather, not a mister. He is a bachelor and wants to find love, but has a hard time of it for women just dismiss him. He develops a close friendship with one of the boarders, Oh SangHoon.

Oh SangHoon
Boarding House Room Renter
A meek resident of the house, he’s often misunderstood by people because he has the disposition and look of a gangster criminal type, although he’s actually a softie. Becomes best friends with Kim WooHyun.

Choi MooSung
Cash-poor Plastic Surgeon
This plastic surgeon doesn’t really give off a doctorly feel. He has trouble finding a landlady who will rent to him, thinking he looks more like a pervert than a doctor. He finally ends up moving into HyeJa’s place. He can’t afford better as he is desperately strapped for cash for he spends it all supporting his wife who has taken his kids to study in the US.

Jo KwanWoo
Unprofessional Talent Manager
A really pitiful character that is more of a taker than a giver. He is the “manager” of an aspiring idol group, but appears more to be just another unemployed loafer who spends all his time at the manhwa reading room. He has an unnaturally voracious appetite.

Hwang JungMin
The chef at high class Cheongdam-dong Italian restaurant Piace. She’s very rich, but she has a kind heart and a super cool personality. Despite all her efforts, she is very unlucky in love. Due to the many preconceptions in society about how women should look, and the discrimination against ‘plain’ women, JungMin struggles to stay confident when the world tries to knock her down for being a full-figured, older bachelorette. Not only does she befriend JiEun and HyunWoo, but she is SangYeob’s longtime friend and noona.

As for Oh JiEun, Hyun Woo, and Lee SangYeob, we’ll get to know them well in the recaps so a blurb isn’t necessary.

The setup:
The whole family is gloomily half-watching breaking news about a typhoon (the red stickers all over their furniture indicate they are in desperate financial straits). On the list of missing persons is a 68 year old Cheongdam-dong resident named Lee NakGoo, which catches Kim HyeJa’s attention. She scoots closer to the tv to confirm she’s reading the name on the screen correctly, then orders everyone, “Start packing.”

Even though HyeJa attempts to ditch her younger sister behind by getting her so drunk she passes out, Kim BoHee wakes up just in time to chase down their taxi, exclaiming she’s the most “Cheongdam-dong-appropriate” person in their clan. WooHyun, her brother, tells her he wanted to take her with them, to which BoHee snaps, “Shut up!”

We learn that Kim BoHee is 54, and was briefly famous as an actress, but then quickly married, which lasted less than a year before ending in divorce. Kim HyunWoo, in his forties, is their younger brother, but he has a face that looks so old that even HyeJa sometimes calls him oppa (older brother). He’s calls himself a manhwa artist, but HyeJa clarifies he’s simply unemployed.

HyeJa’s spunky 26 year old daughter is Oh JiEun, who currently works as an assistant chef at a big hotel. Her goal is to score a rich man with a bright future.

Kim HyeJa, the head of the family, is 62, and after 10 years of trying to make ends meet after the death of her husband, things are looking up as she is becoming a Seoul person for the first time, and not just anywhere in Seoul, but the fashionable Cheongdam-dong of affluent Kangnam.

Three months later, the group is settled into their new less-than-awesome Cheongdam-dong home, and they’ve acquired a boarder to help pay for expenses.

Park SangHoon is a 38 year old with a face like a gangster’s, although he’s actually a tidy fellow.

The other resident in their humble abode is Poopie (actually the pup’s name is Dog Shit, but I like the sound of Poopie better), she’s 3 years old, and has been living there even before they moved in. Ah, there is also an aspiring idol group living in the basement. Not only is their new home a boarding house, but the main floor is also a manhwa (comic book) reading room. With the real owner absent indefinitely, this family not only takes up residence, but also assumes the maintaining of the business.

HyeJa also firmly establishes with every member of her family, including her daughter, that if they want to eat meat and live happily under this roof, they will all pay rent. After all, they are only Cheongdam-dong in name, and in actuality have no real wealth. If they do well, one day, with enough saved up, they can confidently go to the Gloria department store next door, which for them is like a distant twinkling star and represents the ultimate Cheongdam-dong arrival.

Alright, here we go!  
The Guksoo Loveline:

Episode 1

Now a Cheongdam-dong resident, JiEun feels totally empowered, her status lifted simply by living in the right neighborhood, and so of course, she goes shopping! You see, she has a blind date coming up. She explains for us that it takes exactly three seconds for a man to fall for a woman, so making a great first impression is critical. So what exactly does wearing designer goods have to do with first impressions? “You see, I just want to be my most confident self while that man takes his three seconds to fall for me.” At the store trying on a Chanel bag (it says Khanel, but we all know what it’s supposed to be). JiEun puts on airs for the sales girl, but ends up running home to buy the expensive bag online at a discount.

Unfortunately, her blind date fails in thirty minutes, and she wonders if her own lack of confidence shows and turns off potential suitors. Dejected and lost in her own thoughts, she’s startled by a little boy who darts in front of her. The kid then cusses, which causes a handsome young man, who had been walking behind JiEun and texting on his cellphone, to pause as well, also taken aback by the little kid’s snotty potty mouth. JiEun says cheerfully to the boy, “Sorry, I didn’t see you there, but still, you shouldn’t use those kinds of words.” She rubs the kid’s head affectionately. The kid snarls, “Don’t touch me! How dirty!”

Both JiEun and the stranger behind her, who she hasn’t noticed yet, stare at the kid in disbelief. The brat kid’s witchy mother runs over to yell at JiEun for daring to scold her precious baby boy. JiEun isn’t able to say a word in her own defense, her confidence belittled by the rich older woman. The stranger smoothly steps in, commenting that it was actually her son who behaved badly. He uses on the mother the very same language as the little boy, and when the woman gets offended, he challenges Madam Bad Parent if she still finds her kid lovable knowing that’s exactly what he did a moment ago? This time it is the other woman who is speechless and she hustles away.

Without looking at him, JiEun thanks the bystander. “You must be a kind person, seeing as you’re not very good at fighting,” he tells her. JiEun bitterly wishes there was a separation between people like her, and people not like her. The stranger chuckles, “People like you…I’m included on your side, right?” It finally dawns on her that there’s someone still standing there, and she glances over and gets an eyeful of twinkly handsome. She immediately glances away bashfully. It only takes three seconds, she reminds herself. With a bright flirtatious smile, she starts to agree that of course he’s included with her—but he’s already gone. She’s disappointed as she watches the handsome stranger slip into his fancy foreign car and drive away—all he had to do was wait three seconds!

“Ah,” she clucks wistfully, “you cool fellow, you.”

That done, her shoulders slump once again and she continues her walk home.

Later in the afternoon, JiEun is at the manhwa reading room working the main desk. She’s on the phone with a friend moaning that nothing ever works out for her, but she still agrees to another blind date. When a relatively normal looking guy strolls in, JiEun thinks he doesn’t look like he belongs there in the loser den. But then again, anyone who comes to a manhwa room in the middle of day is exactly as he seems, she deduces, and that’s unemployed. She reminds herself that these types no longer suit her.

Later when she locks eyes with that same guy in the security mirror while she takes cutesy selcas of herself (locks eyes for more than 3 seconds, I might add!), she mimes threateningly that she’s got her suspicious eye on him. The guy, who for now we’ll call Mr. Manhwa Room, snorts in exasperation and turns away.

That night on her way to her next blind date, JiEun is walking by neighborhood java hole Caffé Bene when she spots the cool guy from earlier. “This is what you call fate,” she delights. After a quick call to her friend asking some typically shallow kdrama questions about her blind date like “what kind of car does he drive” and “what does his parents do for a living,” she cancels the date and eyes her new prize, who is clearly a Cheongdam-dong rich boy. She’s feeling good, like fate’s on her side this time. She’s confident she only needs those three seconds and slides breezily into the shop, unties her hair, and with a coy smile, struts her groove toward him. The jazzy music of her confidence fizzles abruptly as his real date returns from the restroom and takes her seat beside him. JiEun swivels back out of the café, tying her hair back up, those three seconds crumbling her self-confidence instead of turning Mr. Cheongdam-dong’s head.

JiEun sighs that the other girl is taller and bustier and all around better put together than herself.

She walks away depressed, and misses Mr. Cheongdam-dong glancing toward the swinging door, “Oh, isn’t that the separation-girl?”

(This was a fateful day for JiEun, even if she doesn’t realize it yet...)

Also: HyeJa collects manhwa store late fees, works as a Hallyu tour guide for Japanese tourists showing them where WonBin lives, and also accidentally joins a ladies VIP club at Gloria.

Episode 2
JiEun gets fired from her assistant chef job to make room for another girl of the same age who is more accomplished, a rival who fake-nicely asks where they should have the farewell party. JiEun explodes on her, raging that she couldn’t possibly choke down her food knowing such a nasty girl was the cause of her being kicked out so unfairly. Nope, actually, that’s only what JiEun wants to say, because Mr. Cheongdam-dong is right, she’s only confident in her own imagination, in reality, she’s too much the good girl. JiEun simply agrees to come out to the dinner. Hating herself for her weakness, JiEun sighs, “I really am just a slave.”

At dinner with her female peers, JiEun is completely miserable, as most of the time is spent flattering her replacement. JiEun spends all night worrying over her expensive bag, this designer product that she bought upon first moving to Cheongdam-dong having become a sort of symbol of her own self-worth.

When she gets back from the bathroom, she realizes her precious bag is in a precarious spill zone, so she tries to covertly move it out of harm’s way with her foot. She slips and falls under the table…only to hear the gathered women gossip and snicker behind her back.

At the bus stop on her way home, she calls friends and spins the story with a large helping of bravado, that it was her choice to leave the hotel, that they wanted to hold onto her, but she wanted to pursue other opportunities. When she’s done sharing the news, she mutters that even she knows that it sounded like she got canned. She continues to fuss over her bag, almost missing the bus. Once on, she gets yelled at by a jerk bus driver for tapping on the doors. “This bus is expensive, lady!” he verbally lashes out at her. She sits down feeling unfairly treated, the theme of the day, and so stands back up to defend herself for at least this much, but the bus jostles and she’s knocked back down. She pounds her head against the window. This is her life. Always bullied, can’t ever stand up for herself. She wants to love herself, but has a hard time battling her own insecurities.

JiEun slinks past all the expensive stores of her new neighborhood and can’t help but feel a little lost.

Staring at a window display, she wonders how a mannequin looks like it belongs here more than she does when she’s an actual human being.

She tries to snap out of her funk. No, she tells herself, in this new place, she’s going to throw away the old her and start fresh—and then spins around and almost knocks down a passerby. She’s back to being embarrassed. She screeches in frustration with herself, she wants to change, but her body won’t cooperate!

At home, JiEun works on her resume. Why didn’t she just goof off in school? She finds it more embarrassing that she had worked so hard to get a 4.0 and still finds herself in this situation. She wonders perhaps if she should settle for less, go for a lesser job, a lesser guy, a lesser dream…but she’s JiEun, feisty, wants to dream big, and doesn’t see why she has to lower her standards. She challenges herself, Why should she? She’s as good as anybody else! Why should she settle for less? Why? Why? Why? A loud commotion downstairs takes her to the manhwa room. A customer wants to pay and leave but Aunt BoHee is catatonic from depression. JiEun slides her away from the counter to a nearby table, where Mr. Manhwa Room is sitting. He gets unnerved by the unblinking lady next to him. He puts a pair of sunglasses on her before going back to his reading.

JiEun still can’t seem to shake her funk, even after a few beers. She decides she will close her eyes, and when she opens them again, her savior will appear. Three weirdos appear instead. Wood bat in hand, she’s about to lay law on what she believes are a bunch of perverts, but it turns out they are actually the three sole members of Aunt BoHee’s fan club.

When Mr. Manhwa Room comes up to check out a few comics, she gives him the wrong change, cheating herself. Mr. Manhwa Room thinks in exasperation, “Eh, she’s drunk…” He gives her back the corrected difference. JiEun looks at it skeptically, her thoughts confused, “What’s this? Now even the unemployed guy is giving me a tip…?” JiEun perks right up, “Ah, this is two more cans of beer!”

Outside the convenience store, she thinks about Mr. Cheongdam-dong and the boobalicious babe he was with at the coffee shop. Giggling to herself, she sticks the cans under her shirt, creating beer breasts.

Just then, Mr. Cheongdam-dong suddenly appears. “We meet again,” he says warmly, then notices her oddly protruding chest. Since JiEun is cosmically unlucky, one beer boob clunks to the cement and rolls away foaming.

Being as they all live in the same neighborhood, Mr. Manhwa Room happens to be walking by at that exact moment and the rolling beer stops at his feet. He picks it up curiously, lifting it with the intention of returning it to its owner. Quickly, as suavely as she can manage, JiEun pops open her own beer and taps cans with Mr. Manhwa Room, thinking to herself, “Thanks to you, I’m a little less embarrassed.”

Mr. Manhwa Room glances after her retreating back, unsure what just happened, thinks to himself, “But I can’t drink alcohol…” After seeing the impromptu beer ad, Mr. Cheongdam-dong cheerfully suggests to his lady friend that instead of wine, they should go for some refreshing beer.

Also: We learn that HyeJa knows the original owner really well, Lee NakGoo, who she called oppa. He had been feeling stifled after spending all his life at the manhwa room. He asked her to watch over his shop while he goes somewhere far away, to just relax and fish. Also, Kim BoHee struggles with memories of life when she had been famous and married.

Episode 3
JiEun is snuggled up in her bedroom making calls trying to find a job—unsuccessfully. She’s worries over her credit card payments that are coming up, and her mother also hassles her about paying that month’s rent, after all, she may have been fired, but she still has to pull her weight. Sadly, JiEun realizes she needs to return her precious designer bag. As she stands in line at Chanel/Khanel to get into the boutique, someone cuts right to the front. She calls out, “Oh, the line starts back here!” It’s Mr. Cheongdam-dong, and he recognizes her, a curious expression on his face. He’s probably wondering like JiEun why they keep bumping into one another.

Noticing the bag in her hand, the Chanel employee asks if she’s here for a return. She steps out of line, only to be told to go back. Embarrassed, she exclaims to both men that she’s returning a limited edition item! She’s even more embarrassed at the silence after her outburst…and she ends up back in line.

But Mr. Cheongdam-dong follows her. He tells her it is the very bag he’s been trying to find to give to a girl he knows. JiEun is even more annoyed to realize he’s planning to buy such an expensive gift to just some random girl, not even a girlfriend. Protective of her bag, she storms off. Mr. Cheongdam-dong looks after her, a little amused by her temper.

Back at the manhwa room, JiEun is stewing at the memory of Mr. Cheongdam-dong’s intention to gift a bag so precious to her to a casual acquaintance when she notices that Mr. Manhwa Room is loudly chuckling in the corner. She squints in his direction, as something looks familiar. A racy manhwa has been drawn on the backside of her resume! She glares in fury. Mr. Manhwa Room realizes she’s standing over him, glaring. He extends the comic, thinking, “Do you want to read it first?” JiEun grabs it and storms into her uncle’s room who is drawing adult manhwa on a stack of her resumes. Downstairs, Mr. Manhwa Room smiles knowingly.

JiEun ends up posting the bag for sale online. At first she’s honest that she bought it indulgently but needs to sell it because she needs the money, then lies saying it was a gift, but received two of the same bag. She gets an interested buyer…but of course, it turns out to be Mr. Cheongdam-dong who pulls up to the curb. When she sees him, she instinctively ducks for cover trying to hide behind his car. “What are you doing?” he asks at her strange behavior. She pretends to have dropped some coins. He tells her to get in or he’ll get a ticket for stopping there.

At a café, he smoothly ascertains her name while wiring funds to her bank, “JiEun is your name? Pretty.” JiEun learns Mr. Cheongdam-dong’s name is Lee SangYeob via her bank’s confirmation text. As he’s examining the bag, she asks if it’s a birthday gift, and he finally catches on that the seller is a little sad to be selling it.

She bumbles and knocks into things in her haste to exit, and again, SangYeob is left smiling, not quite sure what to make of her.

At home JiEun realizes that the authenticity card for the bag is still sitting on her desk. She gets excited at the prospect of contacting Mr. Handsome, Cool, & Rich again. By text, she asks when they can meet so she can give him the card. She gets an immediate response back and it’s a short, “That’s alright.” She beats up her oversized stuffed hamster in frustration at her failed plot to see him again.

Also: the Kim family looks for another boarder in this episode, but WooHyun and SangHoon’s scary faces scare off all potential renters. Plastic surgeon Dr. Choi MooSung has a hard time finding a room to rent because he looks like such a sketchy guy. He ends up moving into the Kim household.

Episode 4
A friend who’s going abroad hooks JiEun up as the manager at her Italian restaurant Piace (pronounced pee-ah-cheh) since JiEun conveniently lives in Cheongdam-dong, where it’s located. JiEun notes this is exactly the kind of good fortune that comes from living in the right neighborhood (since JiEun has been working as an assistant chef at a fancy hotel up until now, I don’t think it’s too unusual that she has some foodie connections). The friend explains that it’s a really coveted position as the restaurant is famous in VIP circles and only services a select clientele that’s in the know, which also makes it a relatively peaceful place to work. She hints that perhaps JiEun will get lucky and meet a nice rich customer there. The friend warns, however, that while she may be the president, JiEun still needs to impress the chef, who’s not only a cousin on her mother’s side, but ridiculously stylish and totally impressive.
When a slick sports car pulls up, JiEun mentally calculates the designer shoes, bag, scarf that is coming out, pretty damn impressed, until she gets a good look at the plain woman, which cracks the image of fashion model perfection. JiEun wonders if all that designer wear is fake.

Chef Hwang JungMin adopts a more casual attitude during their first meet since JiEun is actually a dongsaeng of her cousin’s. When Chef JungMin takes a call in fluent French, JiEun realizes that Hwang JungMin is seriously the real deal. Apparently, JungMin has studied in France, and has hosted at Piace dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth to Barrack Obama, and celebrities like WonBin, David Beckham, and Oprah (there are proof shots all over the walls). It’s not really JiEun’s fault that she’s a product of her own society, and like everyone else, she can’t believe this amazingly credentialed person looks as JungMin does, which translates, JungMin looks like a real person, she’s not stick skinny and plastic. JiEun recalls her friend’s advice, “If unnie likes you, restaurant life will be a breeze.”

Just then Gloria’s VIP club comes in—including JiEun’s lying mother! “What kind of situation is this?” JiEun panics as she crouches behind the restaurant counter. Chef JungMin ambles on over and schmoozes with the assembled rich matrons. This place is like a private country club pretending to be an Italian restaurant! JiEun bumps into her mom in the bathroom and they both plead with the other to not to screw up. Before JiEun leaves, her new boss asks her why she’s signing on as a manager when all her experience is actually in cooking. JiEun is honest: “Because I need a job.” Chef JungMin shrugs, “Alright, let’s try our best.” JiEun asks happily, “Then you like me?” Her boss chirps, “Nope.”

As JiEun attempts to exit the restaurant, she bumps into Mr. Cheongdam-dong Lee SangYeob again, and JiEun notices that his date is carrying her bag. She tries to play it off as if she just finished eating, unfortunately Chef JungMin calls out to come early tomorrow for her first day of work…so JiEun adjusts her story to say she’ll be working here since she likes this restaurant’s food so much. To save as much face as possible, she whispers to him that she’ll be totally discreet about the bag and won’t let on that it was purchased from her, trying to deflect his attention onto anything else but on her. It’s obvious she’s nervously chattering. The look on SangYeob’s face tells us he thinks this strange girl is quite fun(ny).

Chef JungMin comes out and asks SangYeob, “You two know each other?” SangYeob chuckles, looking toward the direction JiEun has left, “Yeah, it seems so.”

After escaping the bad impression she gave Chef JungMin, JiEun quickly calls her friend. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to get along. I’m getting my paychecks from you, do I really have to get along well with her?” JiEun is having another case of confidence dumps. She doesn’t know how she’ll measure up against someone like Chef JungMin, when the difference is like heaven and earth. Chef JungMin catches the last of JiEun talking to herself and offers to give her a ride…and climbs into a car completely different than the one she arrived in! JiEun is flabbergasted. “You have a lot of nice cars,” JiEun offers as they drive, just to make conversation. JungMin shrugs, “Really? The truth is I don’t know cars very well, so I just buy them all.” JiEun is totally intimidated and blurts out that she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to get someone like Chef to approve of her, as JungMin is dripping in money and JiEun is just a bumpkin. JungMin is startled, “You’re the first person to believe that it’s all really designer! Wow, you’ve got a good eye.” They kind of bond over that, but they really bond when someone cuts them off on the road and they go off on a cursing fit together.

Once home, JiEun thinks about her college days, remembering that even when she was out with friends having a good time, a part of her always felt uncomfortable. This was how she felt today. Back then, as she is doing now, she made herself a bowl of mori noodles to cheer herself up. She sighs as she realizes that people wouldn’t even know, much less appreciate mori noodles in a neighborhood like Cheongdam-dong. Before she can enjoy her food, however, she sees her mom slumped on the stairwell. HyeJa asks her daughter, “What is a oh-eee-staah?” JiEun explains the Korean translation for oyster.

When she gets back to her food, Mr. Manhwa Room has already taken it for himself. He murmurs aloud, “These mori noodles are good.” JiEun overhears and points at him in surprise, thinks to herself, “He knows about mori noodles…” Mr. Manhwa Room looks up to see her pointing at him, and thinks to himself, “If you read a lot of comics, they must give noodles as a special service?” Then he wonders, “Do I have to pay for it?” while she wonders, “How does he know what it is?”

(Not only does Mr. Manhwa Room know mori noodles, but interestingly enough, he is the first to try her guksoo...)

Episode 5
HyeJa wants to discourage her daughter from continuing her job at Piace, mostly because it’s awkward for her, to which JiEun replies she gets paid more there than she did at the hotel. She’s not in the mood for her mother’s nagging as it seems she’s had a pretty rough day.
Dressed down, she goes downstairs to relieve her uncle at the manhwa room. JiEun looks at the population of jobless men loafing around and thinks about the day that has passed. She notes ironically that by night she works at a lowly manhwa reading room, while by day she’s spends her time with 1% of the richest people in Korea at a restaurant so exclusive that it doesn’t even show up on internet searches, a place the rich and famous created so they could eat only amongst themselves, a place owned by one of their own that has food prepared by one of their own.

While working at Piace, she feels special just by association. She belongs…she belongs… she will belong!

We’re about to find out why JiEun is so glum this evening. It seems Mr. Cheongdam-dong came to Piace that day. “Ah, haven’t we seen each other often somewhere?” he jokes good-naturedly as he walks in. Chef JungMin pops her head out, “Oh, you’re here?” He nods, “Yep, noona. I’ve set up meetings here all day.” JiEun’s eyes pop. Noona? That means they are quite close!

JiEun keeps sneaking peeks at SangYeob, how does JungMin know him? JungMin reminds JiEun that only people she knows come here, their whole clientele is pretty much people of the same rich social circle. But, she offers, SangYeob’s not completely like the other rich kids who go around spending his parents money, he actually earns his own way, too. He’s an architect (with his own firm) who has designed some pretty famous buildings even at such a young age. “He looks like a total playboy,” JiEun comments, “always with new girl.” JungMin is thoughtful, “More than a playboy, you could say he just really enjoys people in general. He has a lot of male friends, too.” JiEun totally finds that attractive, you can almost see her mentally swoon. She’s also probably a little happy to hear he’s not a player (as if!). Sensing her appraisal, SangYeob glances at her, and grins. Probably he’s used to people being pleased by him.

As SangYeob meets up with a friend at the restaurant, who greets JungMin and all the other customers there familiarly, JiEun notes that they really do all know each other. JiEun realizes Piace doesn’t need to advertise because the rich follow their own kind. She can’t help but notice how polite the customers are at Piace, too. JungMin explains that no one acts like a snot at Piace because it is a meeting place of equals who all come to enjoy good food. JiEun envies the casual confidence of the really wealthy, how they have the luxury of being able to have such good personalities because of their money. As she serves Japanese Kobe steak and pricey French wine to SangYeob and his friend, she’s giddy with nervousness as she imagines licking the bottle and tasting the expensive wine.

As she calculates the cost of the meal, giddiness turns to dismay. To pay so much for a lunch…they are all so out of her league.

On her break, she cooks herself some noodles, her old friend and comfort food. Even when JungMin offers to make JiEun some steak, JiEun declines. Why does she like guksoo so much? She wonders if a part of the reason could be because it’s so affordable. One does not have to force it down because it’s so expensive, one can just have the amount needed, like medicine. Actually, no, she is her mother’s daughter and can’t bear to even waste guksoo as she finishes it. The very next minute, she is disgusted with herself for being unable to change her frugal poor person mentality.

That night, SangYeob is back at Piace with friends and they order a rare caviar that’s out of stock at the restaurant. But SangYeob calls home and arranges for someone to bring some of his family’s supply over. JiEun can’t believe these are the type of people who have food lying around at home that costs $1000 a bite. And then, even with almost $3000 sitting on a plate, they are unfazed by its price or taste.

As she cleans up after the dinner group, JiEun notices one single pearl of caviar on the lip of the bowl (oh, no, I can’t look!). She is mesmerized by it, and after staring at it wondering at its flavor, she finally sticks out her tongue to get a taste…just as SangYeob walks back in to grab his forgotten car keys. He gapes as JiEun shrivels in humiliation.

Evening: on the rooftop, JiEun wallows in beer and asks Poopie if she’s happy with her dog life? JiEun admits she’s not doing too well, but it’ll be alright. Because, she explains to Poopie, even if someone suddenly appeared offering her the chance to jump into the body of a really pretty, and really rich person, and all she had to do was throw her old self away, she would say no.

Why? Because she wants to be a better version of herself, she doesn’t want to be someone else completely. She likes herself…she just wishes she could do better for herself.

She feels sorry for this pitiful girl, this girl who is so lacking in all things, and she wants to comfort her: “Oh JiEun, don’t worry, you’re pretty great! It’s ok, it’s ok, JiEun, you’re attractive! If there’s no you, there’s no world either! This whole world was created just for you! You’re the king!”

Downstairs, outside the their small boarding house, Mr. Manhwa Room is listening to her shouts of “I’m the king! I’m the king! I’m the king!” with a small smile on his face.

Also: HyeJa drives her family crazy in this episode when she hauls around a cow’s head for a soup she plans to prepare. Dr. Choi MooSung struggles to scrape together enough money to send to his family in the U.S.


Read The GukSoo Loveline Pt 2 of 2


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Wow, this is just what I needed to give me enough of a confidence boost to actually start downloading the episodes. With your recaps, at least I'll know what's going on even when I don't understand certain portions.

    Thanks for doing this! Really appreciate it! :D

  3. Wow I'm intrigued just by the first couple episodes you recap here. Too bad I can't watch it because of my very very limited Korean language skill and I can't find any subbed version of this drama :(

    I was wondering if you have any daily drama recommendations? I recently watched High Kick 3 and I enjoyed it. I wanted to try High Kick 2 but I already knew about the ending so I'm kinda scared to be let down by it. I'm kind of intimidated by the number of episodes in a daily drama, so I'd like to make sure it's good before investing hundreds of hours on it.

  4. damasdamas: Hmmm…*scratch head* let me think…off the top of my head, some older ones I have really enjoyed are Nonstop 4 (very very silly campus sitcom which has some big names before they were big names such as Han YeSeul, HyunBin, and Jang GeunSuk) and Be Strong GeumSoon! (a more family style Cinderella tale with Han HyeJin, Kang JiHwan). Then there’s newer ones like More Charming By the Day and All My Love, as both featured likable young casts, although the latter lost its way a bit at the end. You could also revisit the first High Kick that started the whole craze, Unstoppable High Kick, which brags rights to fresh faced Jung IlWoo and Park MinYoung. As you can tell, a lot of stars get their start in the sitcoms. =) You know, I should give High Kick 2 a try…the ending is definitely a big black hole for the show, but everything before it was done so well. It’s worth checking out!

  5. damasdamas: heh, typo correction, you should check out Hich Kick 2. Also, I might mention, in case u r a fan, a VERY young Kim Bum is also in the first High Kick.

  6. Thanks for the recommendation! I'll give High Kick 2 a try, and Nonstop 4 sounds great!

  7. Dnoella,

    I stumbled on Chinese subs for I Live In Cheongdamdong! I know not everyone reads Chinese, but I thought it might be useful information for some of your readers who can read Chinese :)

    My friend recommended that I try PPS, an iPad app which streams dramas. I was so surprised to find almost all the episodes of I Live in Cheongdamdong available, and all with Chinese subs!

    Hope this info helps someone else who's keen to check out the show but has been hampered by the lack of subs!

  8. Thanks kfangirl for sharing the tip!! I bet it will help a lot of viewers. That's great that there are some subs out there. And I'm glad you were able to check it out, too!

  9. Sadly some of the best dramas are not subbed (by fansubs teams). Like "A Wife's Credentials"...

    Thanks for the love story line! I don't know if I'm going to watch the drama with just that but I think it will help.

  10. Hi.. I'm really glad to find your recap about "I Live in CheongDamDong". so far, no sub for this drama. so i might watch till episode 5 and i'll see if i can understand episode 6 or to drop the drama. my Korean is basic level but this seems really interesting story to missed out.

  11. Hi there :)
    I love your blog so i'm gonna put it in my 'fav kdrama blogs' :)
    if you have time- please visit mine

  12. Hey, Hope all is well with you. I do miss reading new posts on your blog this year. Just curious, What are your favorite picks from 2012? Big was the biggest disappointment for me. My favorite was Padam Padam. What a year for Song Joong Ki! He's mad pretty and successful. Looking forward to 2013. Happy Holidays!

  13. Looks interesting to watch. i will definitely give this series a watch.

  14. Dnoella, I MISS YOU!! I hope everything's going swimmingly for you, and I wanted to just drop by here to let you know that your blog played a big role in inspiring me to finally start my own blog.

    I'm nowhere as systematic or as thorough or as insightful as you've always been, but I wanted to let you know! Also, I wrote a post on the origin story of my blog and talked about you (without your permission, oops!)

    If you've time and are curious, you can check out that post here: http://thefangirlverdict.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/kfangirls-2012-drama-awards-origin-story-of-this-blog/

    I hope you start blogging again soon! I miss reading your writing!


  15. To Anonymous on Dec 16: My favorites this year were like yours, for sure Padam Padam and Nice Guy. I also liked Faith and Arang and the Magistrate. I agree, Song JoongKi was delicious this year. I do hope to actually post up my 2012 Year End review this month... *cross fingers* Thanks for dropping a note!


A Jerk-Free Zone: this is a site for friendly debate, please be respectful and courteous to others. Comments that violate that spirit will be removed. This will be strictly enforced. Thank you.

Recent Posts

A Year End Review
Biased & Worst of 2013

Badasses & Bromances

First Impressions
Let’s Eat (2014)
식샤를 합시다
(Nov 2013 – Mar 2014)

JTBC, Monday -Tuesday
Aired May- July 2013

Marry Me Yoo AhIn!
Dramas and drama-ish show I talk about after the jump: WINMaster’s Sun and Good Doctor.

The Girl Who Cried Wolf
Dramas I talk about after the jump: Master’s Sun (eps 11-12). If you haven’t watched Master’s Sun yet, don’t read on. Major ass spoilers ahead...because major ass things went down!

Funny Mathematics
Master’s Sun (eps 9 & 10) is the only drama I chat about after the jump. But I am pretty sure I am going to start Good Doctor this week.

Heartless City (2013)
무정도시 / Cruel City
(May – July 2013)

Crossing Imaginary Lines
Dramas I will spoil after the jump: Master’s Sun (Eps 7-8). I am still watching Who Are You, but I have little to say on it, other than Kim JaeWook continues to be a handsome spectral figure. Oh, and I had to officially drop Goddess of Fire.

More fangirling over JiSub and HyoJin after the jump, and Master’s Sun (Episode 5 and 6) will be the only drama I yap about and spoil. It was the only one I managed to watch this week.

I Can Hear Your Voice (2013)
너의 목소리가 들려
(Jun – Jul 2013)

Bright Bright Taeyang
Dramas I will talk about and spoil after the  jump: Master’s Sun (until Ep 4). And some more thoughts on The Blade and the Petal (up to Ep6), and Who Are You (up to Ep6). And also, the craziest thing I saw this weekend: Kim WooBin fighting killer female robots.