KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

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


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Operation Proposal (2012)

Operation Proposal
프로포즈 대작전
(Feb – Mar 2012)

who’s in it
Yoo SeungHo (Warrior Baek Dong Soo)
Park EunBin (Queen Seon Deok)
Lee HyunJin (You’ve Fallen For Me)
Go KyungPyo (Standby)
Kim YeWon (Flower Boy Ramyun Shop)

what’s it about
In general, people don’t usually adult themselves into the career they fantasized about when they were kids—astronauts, movie stars, pro-ballers—it’s not necessarily failure, simply the process of growing up. Some probably do get bitter about the loss of their youthful dreams, but for most of us, life goes on, we adapt, we get wiser, and we find contentment in new dreams. After all, in the real world, the story is not often a storybook fairytale—one does not marry their first love, one does not become mega filthy rich, nor does one become Angelina Jolie, and for a certainty, one does not get to do complete re-edit of their life. Is the happiness we have in our ordinary lives less meaningful than the one we had once dreamed up? Are there different measures of happiness? When we don’t get the big dream, are we settling for a lesser living? What does it mean to ‘correct’ a life’s path…isn’t the one we take ultimately the one we should be on?

In present time, Park EunBin is about to marry Lee HyunJin, and they are a young couple happily in love. But here’s the rub, almost everyone, including her own parents, thought she would actually end up marrying her childhood best friend Yoo SeungHo. Actually, even Park EunBin and Yoo SeungHo thought they would be marrying each other. So what happened? If the love is still there between them, which it appears to be, why is he the best man, and not the groom?

What went wrong, and in this case, where in the timeline does Yoo SeungHo need to go back to change it? “I’m glad you never liked her, otherwise I would never have stood a chance,” Lee HyunJin tells Yoo SeungHo on wedding day, and it is a misimpression Yoo SeungHo is determined to correct.

When Yoo SeungHo gets a mysterious visitor who offers him the chance to go back in time to try it different, to find and fix the wrong that separated his path from Park EunBin’s, he goes for it. This is a young man who regrets so many of the decisions he’s made in his younger days so he accepts the supernatural ticket into the past. Except, can he really change it? Yoo SeungHo takes the long way through time to learn that perhaps the key to happiness may not be about changing an event in the past, but changing the person he is in the present. In sometimes dizzying excursions between past and present, we learn the story behind two friends who never had the confidence to pursue their dreams, much less the guts to pursue the one they loved.

16 episodes

TV Chosun

first impressions
I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again, love stories between friends are a weakness of mine. I love them. Like everyone else, of course I’m drawn into the power of the wild attraction, that love at first sight tale is a formidable draw, but there has always been something really magical to me about a deep connection that grows out of a friendship. Also, I think the crossing of that irrevocable line between friend and lover is a really scary thing, a really complicated thing, and the messy mix of everything in between is something I find strangely fascinating.

Why do feelings change? How do we deal with that evolution when someone suddenly looks different to us? Should friends ever be lovers? Is it worth the risk? It’s like meeting love as an infant, seeing it develop into a child, one that grows into a teenager that endures the emotional struggles of transition, then blossoms into an adult. I fall hard for stories that tell of this journey because there is so much anxiety and tenderness to pick apart—when people struggle against change great stories are discovered. It isn’t an easy decision to risk a best friend with hopes that the more dangerous romantic love will work. In that way, Proposal’s story was immediately a draw for me, the mystery of why Park EunBin and Yoo SeungHo, who obviously cared for one another so deeply even in the present, weren’t able to make it work in their past.

Besides, the idea of going back to pick apart a failed relationship is something everyone would like to do…isn’t there always a little “what if” in every relationship that ends, that part that plagues us all even after we’ve long moved on: could I have done something differently? Was it my fault? Did I miss my chance to keep the love of my life?

For the concept alone, I was in.

wildcard factor
Supposedly, Yoo SeungHo and Park EunBin have known one another a long time and are actually really close friends in real life. Also supposedly, their awkwardness in some of the more romantic scenes was not all acting, but real embarrassment between the two friends thrown into intimate situations. There was definitely a feeling of authenticity between them, the friendship felt real, the tentative romantic chemistry as well. The youthful actors did well communicating the confusion between friendship and young love.

gave up

snoozer moments
Repetitive to the max—not enough variety in the story. It certainly occurred to me that Proposal would have benefited from a more viable second female character to generate some friction. A character introduced at the very beginning to give us more suspense on whether or not Yoo SeungHo and Park EunBin were fated to be together, or if all of SeungHo’s efforts were a lost battle never meant to be. Either way, something was missing.

Also, really, hotshot teenage baseball player Yoo SeungHo wouldn’t have had other girlfriends during his formative years? Puh-lease, that stretches the imagination.

soju guzzling (angst factor)
Honestly, the show’s female character was annoying. For some reason or another, the girl kept playing hard to get with the best friend she did love…tell me why it was such a difficult decision for this person to accept the heart offered by Yoo SeungHo? I had expected some real interesting disaccord between the two during their growing pain years that may have led to the split, but in the end, it was the silliest, nonsensical things. I mean, after we saw what went down, it didn’t seem so difficult a decision to take that step from friendship to romance. Her behavior made little sense. There didn’t seem to be any real reason why they would be apart…perhaps in the original timeline Yoo SeungHo had been a little aloof…but in his time traveling ambition, the boy worked hard but he kept getting rebuffed.

what didn’t work
This was a show that started at the end (sort of), then tried to explain the beginning, while desperately trying not to get lost in the middle…in order to surprise us with a melodramatic shocker that only lead to The Most Anticlimactic Obvious-to-Everyone Conclusion ever. The very thing in the story that made it interesting, which was the time traveling bit, was the thing that also eventually made it boring—because the jumps were so frequent, they were like regular bowel movements. Yoo SeungHo would take daily trips to the past, change a few things, unintentionally knock something loose in the time continuum, kinda make things worse, and so must jump right back to the past. Like clockwork. Poop and time travel. Chronic. Ordinary. And script-wise, executed with little imagination. Yoo SeungHo’s time jumps encompassed his entire life, and while it told a full story of him, it was tiring and more than just a little annoying when it became obvious he was going to fight the same battle with Park EunBin every time he went back, which meant, like every episode.

what did
The big ideas that drove the story.
(major spoilers ahead!)
Some examples:

1) The idea that we can go back and alter bits and pieces of a past, but it cannot change who we are in the present, it can only change the things that never really mattered in the first place. We can never really dissect our lives like a math problem, isolating exact points of error. One cannot correct a few digits here and there and expect a whole new sum. Yoo SeungHo may have initially started his time travelling in order to change one or two events for the sake of love alone, but he ended up changing the whole of himself instead, in ways he never imagined, and for a purpose not understood to him when he first started the whole time muck journey.

2) The reality that we can change ourselves a million times over but cannot forcibly change other people. There is a brutal truth in that lesson. We can better ourselves all we want, but it may not matter if it is for the sake of someone else. One of the better conclusions by the drama was that Park EunBin finally realized, as drama watchers figured it out somewhere early on in the drama (like, I dunno, episode 2?), that it wasn’t enough for only Yoo SeungHo to make amends with his past. Until Park EunBin changed as well, the outcome in the present would never adjust the way Yoo desired.

3) The choices we make may not have the intended effect...that messing in the past is a lot like dipping a toe into stilled water, there will be ripples, and those ripples will inevitably touch other nearby toes as well. We may not be able to forcibly change the world in big ways, or convince the love of our lives to return our affections, but whether in the past or present, the things we do (or don’t do) may affect other people in ways we could never have anticipated. That’s what happened to Yoo. His trips tended to be failures for himself, but interestingly enough, he was always able to affect the lives of his friends in sometimes positive ways.

4) And of course, the idea that it is never too late to fight for the person you love, even if they are already halfway down the aisle. Don’t live life to regret it, because most people don’t have nifty little time conductors that will pop up to send you back in time in order to fix mistakes, save the universe, or stop a cataclysmic disaster. Some things are worth the blood in the moment, so that they won’t turn into tears in the future.

In the end, regardless of sometimes sloppy execution, the most effective part of this drama were the feelings it evoked, the questions it asked, and the youthful passion it conveyed.

notable scene(s)
I think one of the more touching scenes in the drama was the video message Yoo SeungHo records for his friends to watch afterwards at the wedding reception. After what, you ask? I won’t go into detail, but it was a tear jerker. Sure, I wasn’t crazy about the situation that required him to record it, but still...a moving scene nevertheless.

what made me want to pull out my hair
The time jumping was sometimes great…but also overdone.


Other factors:

predictability Yes
cheese/engrish n/a
originality Redo of Japanese show Proposal Daisakusen
eye-candy Yoo SeungHo, Lee HyunJin—not too shabby
hair and fashion Lots of baseball uniforms, if you’re into that kind of thing.


a list:
the worst pitches

5: lack of nuanced characters
Potential for great characters but an unbalanced development of those people. Basically an overall lack of consistency. Instead of making them rounded individuals, they were merely colorful, and stayed flat.

4: too much Yoo SeungHo
Sounds weird, I know, but because most all of it was his perspective, we got to know him really well, but others less so.

3: overly convenient conclusion
I mean, really, what else were they gonna do? But still…felt…well, meaningless. It had a big climactic explosive ‘game-changer’ for the couple at the end, which aside from giving Yoo-the-Actor a chance to go all emotional and angsty, actually felt a little “oh brother, of course,” and resolved the same way—totally predictably. We were built up with such great concepts only to be let down with the simplest conclusion possible.

2: frustrating female character
It seemed kind of pointless to go through so much effort for her. If she didn’t get it after all the somersaults Yoo went through hour after hour after hour, there was no reason for us to believe she would get it by the end...even though, I guess, she did.

1: repetitive
The time jumps suffered the same problem as everything else in this show: a great concept...in concept. Double-digit time jumps? It was too much. Won’t lie, got to be quite the snoozer.

total enjoyment factor

why this review is completely biased
I like the friendship dramas, I think Yoo SeungHo is one of the more charismatic younger actors around, and he’ll be better with some man-fuzz and man-muscles when he gets out of the military in two years. I don’t think he’s picked the best dramas for himself up until now, but he’s a very engaging talent...and obviously has a bright future.

Aw, it was alright, despite my low-ish grade.

There is something very real about the exploration of everyday loss, not necessarily the obvious life changing moments of a person’s life such as a loved one’s death, but the little things that add up, such as the birthday present never given, or the first date that never happened. The vision for the drama was ambitious because it wanted to build big by focusing small, a great concept in theory, only it needed way more capable hands to pull it off. It resorted to some majorly lame storylines and easy outs in the plot, but I suppose I can’t be too angry as it exited on an ok happy ending.
I like details, the nuts and bolts, the creases between the plots. We started the drama knowing that Park EunBin was going to marry Lee HyunJin, we knew Yoo SeungHo loved her, and it seemed she loved him, too, so the question of “what happened?” was pretty mysterious. What kind of creases and tears were in this story to have ripped this young love apart? I didn’t even care about the time jumping gimmick, or the changing of SeungHo’s history, or even if he was going to win the girl. For me, the investigation was more interesting. So this drama promised that kind of depth, which had me intrigued.

Stories that pit human folly against fate are kind of enigmatic becuz by pure definition of fate, one cannot fight and win over it...because, well, it’s fate. If the couple was meant to be, it would only be if fate allowed it. So, even though I like shows with happy endings, I couldn’t help but wonder if the drama might have been better served if it had been more about the exploration of the past, and simply allowed the present to stay the same. I know it’s an adaptation of a story already told…but still, what if they had ended up with other people? That’s the story I really wanted to see. I don’t think that the big final plot twist should have been the entire point of this show. To me, the more interesting part was the look back at the idealism we all have as young dreamers, but also realizing the beauty in the reality that who we have grown up to become into isn’t such a bad thing either.

I’m gonna throw out this vid to conclude my review, because it seems to fit...maybe Yoo should have just had some soju while listening to Taeyang’s “Wedding Dress” the night his best gal pal married another man and simply called it the beginning of the next chapter of his life. Heh.


  1. Gus am, I love reading your reviews. I suggest that you watch Nine Times Time Travel. It's a great show because of its story which is unpredictable and full of twist and hoping that you may also make a review of NINE. Thanks

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, I haven't tried that one yet, but I will definitely give it a go. Thanks again for dropping a note!

    2. Thank you too. YES NINE times time travel is a must watch k drama. Its the best this 2013. Its different and unpredictable. Just try to finish episode 4 then your amazing journey with NINE will be an amazing experience. Hope you will love it and hope you will also make a review about it. Thanks


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