Birth of a Beauty – E01

Your pocket drama concierge here to recap a Korean Drama series that I feel has been flying under the radar of foreign viewers.  Currently it is MY FAVORITE KDRAMA/ KDRAMA OBSESSION.  Yes, the all-caps was absolutely necessary.  Why? Because, after watching the current 8 episodes that are out, I feel like this drama speaks to the romantic fairy-tale-lover in my heart but doesn’t piss off the 21st century self.

The short?: Welcome to the recap of Korea’s comical rendition/meta parody/apt social commentary of My-Fair-Lady + A Wife’s Temptation.   Me? I love it.

 

THE RECAP – EPISODE 1

We open up to a billboard broadcasting Korea’s variety show Change, which takes women who can win over the sympathies of the masses, and gives them a free plastic surgery makeover. [Yes, the show went there.  Is anyone really surprised?  It seems that Korea may judge one for taking plastic surgery, but the culture from a lay person’s point of view has shifted.  It no longer is the scarlet letter.  Rather, it is fully acceptable for people to have makeovers, the question is – can you afford one?]

The variety show narrows down on the current view of beauty…and we see it’s Sara’s (Han Yeseul’s) face before we shift to the taxi transporting her.  Sara mumbles about Korea changing a lot and the taxi driver asks whether she came from America?  Sara replies that she spent some time at ABC before coming back to work for HBS.  She tells her sleeping manager in the front seat (Joo Sang-wook).

Sara gets out of the cab to go for a walk and we see a group of girls complaining about their current appearance and whether or not more surgery would help.  The girls talk about how the current picture, which is labeled the standard of beauty must be fake.  And then one girl looks up to see Sara happily walking by.  We get a throw-back to 200 Pound Beauty as Sara walks by and every single person who sees her, drools and begins following her.  Like any true beautiful heroine, Sara does not hear any of the people exclaim in wonder about her beauty or notice this growing crowd of swains.

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A quick tribute to the movie – Face Reader.  A face-reader/fortune teller sees Sara at the cafe and reads her face.  He tells her that she has the face of someone that appears once in a million like Cleopatra or Hwang Jin Hee.  However, what’s even more rare is that she has the fate of a commander/admiral like Lee Soo Shin.  The waiting swains provide a great audience.  He tells her to be careful about two things: (1) being meddlesome and (2) bad guys.  Note, we see one guy among her swains that doesn’t look so thrilled.  Next, stop – the mall!

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Sara proceeds to try on this hot pink underwear set, while singing about why she loves pink.  At this point, the unhappy man from above pops his head in.  She remembers that he also tried to reach out toward her during her walk to the mall and jumping from the face-reader’s warning, she determines that he’s a stalker/pervert!  She confronts him and he backs her up against the wall asking some suggestive replies such as, “You know why I’m here,” and reaching for her hair.  She runs out, where the mall employees try to block him.  He pulls free and Sara pulls a Judo move and lands him on his back.

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The mall’s security comes after the guy is already on his back.  He’s cursing her as “Ajumma,” when he gets pulled out.  Sara gets escorted to the mall’s VIP lounge, where they ask her to wait a couple of minutes until someone higher up in management can talk to her.

While waiting, she sees the current episode of Change about Sah  Geum-rang.  Talk about a depressing life.  A cheerful Geum-rang shops at the local market.  While checking out the gender of  a fish, she trips and falls into the water.

Geum-rang’s voiceover: I want to lose weight.  Because if you are fat, your body is heavy and life is difficult.

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Geum-rang misses a bus and gets on the next one where three guys overtly google at a young skinny girl and scowl at Geum-rang.  When she’s holding the top handle, the bus pulls into a hard stop and no one tries to help Geum-rang from falling or help her up after she fell.  She tries to joke off the fact that she’s on the ground trying to get up but the bus driver didn’t even stop the bus for her.

Geum-rang’s voiceover:  I know that no one will help me.  It would be better if you guys would laugh at me rather than pity me.  It is difficult if your fat…but, getting my heart hurt is worse.

Geum-rang goes home to find her two sisters in law gorging on chicken and pizza.  Jin-young (the older sister) sees Geum-rang and tells Min-young (younger sister) that they should stop.  Otherwise, they will get fat like Geum-rang.  Min-young looks at Geum-rang and decides to stop.  They tell Geum-rang to eat the rest and clean up so that Mr. Lee (father-in-law) doesn’t find out that they had been eating junk food.  Her grandmother in law (who seems to have Alzheimers) comes down and tells Geum-rang that she’s hungry and they want to eat.

Geum-rang’s voiceover: My only blessing is being able to eat.  However, I want to forgo the blessing now…

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Two security guards come to escort Sara out safely.  When Sara gets home, she decides to change the apartment keypad password since she was attacked by the stalker.  She turns on T.V. to watch the rest of Geum-rang’s story and eats kimbap.

Geum-rang is filming a video for her husband. She films one per day to send to her husband.  Her sisters-in-law peep and laugh at her to her face.  [DF- I hope they get laughed at, too.]  At the final voting round for the free plastic surgery, Geum-rang loses and Sara is infuriated.

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Sara calls the producer in charge of the drama to complain that Geum-rang was dropped and is told that Geum-rang voluntarily forfeited.  The producer tells her to check out the show’s community board for Geum-rang’s story.

On the community board, Geum-rang’s friend Kyoung-joo wrote a post regarding Geum-rang’s horrible story.  Geum-rang called her husband to have his friend pick up the phone.  Turns out he’s not in the U.S.  She goes to her husband’s hotel room but no one is there.  She hears people and in surprise, she hides in the closet.

Geum-rang’s husband (Kang-joon) enters with a girl (Chae-young).  They affectionately hug and actually kiss against the closet door so that Geum-rang can see everything.  Geum-rang has to watch her husband undress and kiss another woman…

Geum-rang does the normal thing and calls Chae-young out separately.  She notices that Chae-young is wearing a ring.  Chae-young apologizes that Geum-rang found out that way.  Chae-young states affably that she’s sincerely sorry about the situation.  Geum-rang asks that Chae-young leaves since Chae-young leaves her husband.  Geum-rang tells Chae-young that Kang-joon is her first and last love, her everything.

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Chae-young asks if Geum-rang actually thinks that she can live as a married couple if Chae-young leaves.  Geum-rang responds that they are still married.

Chae-young has the audacity to tell Geum-rang that she had felt bad for Geum-rang until now.  However, after meeting Geum-rang, she feels bad for Kang-joon.  Doesn’t Geum-rang realize that she doesn’t fit Kang-joon? Chae-young notes that Geum-rang did help Kang-joon study abroad but now Kang-joon has risen in society.  Therefore, he’s above Geum-rang.  Doesn’t she even look in the mirror?

Geum-rang takes this in with tears.  Chae-young gets up to leave.  Geum-rang gets up to stop her and grabs her arm, requesting out loud to leave her husband.  Embarrassed,  Chae-young tries to break free and trips.  Realizing that sympathies are on her side, Chae-young pretends she’s hurt and gets taken to the emergency room.  At the emergency room, the manager is there with a cop to investigate this celebrity attack situation.  Both sides ignore her pleas that all she wanted to do was talk to Chae-young.

Kang-joon shows up and gives his business card.  He tells them to leave and come back with a warrant and he will send in their lawyer.

Geum-rang thanks Kang-joon, who’s awfully stiff.  He tells her this is as far as he will go as her husband.  Geum-rang cries that she will do better if he will just come back home.  Kang-joon [arsehat?] takes off his ring and gives it back to her.  He tells her that he just wants to love.

He gets a call from his mom and tells her that Chae-young is okay. [THE WHOLE FREAKING FAMILY WAS IN IT!]

Geum-rang goes home to confront her mother in law.  Mrs. Lee and the sister in laws are not even sorry!  Mrs. Lee actually berates Geum-rang for not being elegant.  The sisters in law tell Geum-rang that they couldn’t tell her and could even understand Kang-joon’s feelings.

Geum-rang cries at the unfairness when Mr. Lee comes home. Mrs. Lee signs to Geum-rang to keep her mouth shut.  Mr. Lee asks if Geum-rang was lectured by Mrs. Lee.  He tells her that he’s come home from working and that she needs to fight her own battles and goes up to his room.

Geum-rang goes up to her room to look at the mirror, while thinking about Chae-young.  She puts on lipstick and cries.  Grandma comes in and tries to help but makes Geum-rang look worse.  Geum-rang can only cry as she clutches her heart.

We return to Sara, who spent all night reading the online post.  The housekeeper brings in a note from her mailbox.  The note states: “I will let you meet Geum-rang Sa.  Come to this location.”

Sara goes to a buddhist temple, where she sees Geum-rang’s friend.  Kyoung-joo tells Sara that Geum-rang suicided.  Geum-rang went home to her family and when she came back, she saw that her in-laws had already invited the house-breaking witch into their home.  In a flashback, we see Geum-rang standing under a lightpost near her old house all day and into the night.  The next day, Geum-rang’s car was found in the see off a highway.  Kyoung-joo excuses herself to go take care of Geum-rang’s mom.

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Sara walks away to be hit from the back from yesterday’s stalker.  She’s laid across the backseat as the stalker drives, listening to the radio.  The radio channel is the news station letting the public know that a psychopath stalker (30’s plastic surgeon) killed the girl he had stalked for 8 years.  Sara wakes up in this car.  She sees the rope as the radio talks about how the girl was strangled to death.  When the car stops, Sara makes a run for it.  The stalker angrily states that the ajumma is at it again and runs after her along the beach.  The stalker yells, “Ajumma, stop!”

Sara throws off her coat and her back and continues to run without looking back.  Finally, the guy knocks Sara to the ground.  She gets up and pulls some judo moves and traps the guy in a scissors lock.  The man yells at Sara that she is Geum-rang Sa.

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Sara pauses.  All of a sudden memories of Geum-rang driving in tears…a car coming at her with floodlights…swerving into the rail and into the sea… come back to her.  She also remembers climbing up the rock from the sea.  She walked out from the sea.

The man/stalker narrates that Geum-rang passed out and when she awoke, Geum-rang had already been declared dead.  The in-laws didn’t even cry at her wedding.  She then came to the man/stalker’s apartment to beg him (Change’s plastic surgeon) to operate on her.  She refused to let the door close until he let her in and begged him.  The doctor (Tae Hee) takes pity and starts the makeover.  They remake every single part of her.  She even drank collagen to change her voice.  Geum-rang/Sara is currently delusional as an afteraffect of all of the anesthesia.  Tae Hee tosses her the medicines for the delirium.

Sara asks how is she supposed to trust him.  Tae Hee tries to reason with her.  Sara felt like Geum-rang’s story was compelling because it was her own story.  The fact that Sara knows all of the judo moves is because Geum-rang was a judo athlete until high school.  Sara realizes that she does remember all of the judo moves.  They go back to Tae Hee’s apartment, where Sara cooks basically a king’s table in apology.  She also calls Tae Hee, “Teacher” and apologize formally.

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Tae Hee gives Sara a contract to sign.  Basically, Sara needs to do anything and everything Tae Hee asks of her.  He tells her that after this experience, he feels like he needs a contract to continue to help her.  Sara actually bites her thumb so that she can sign the contract in blood…kind of freaking Tae Hee out.

Now that Tae Hee is calm and Sara is not delusional, he starts eating and asks Sara what is her plan of revenge.

Sara: I’m pretty… Why do I need a plan?

Tae Hee (and the rest of us) are speechless.  Tae Hee pulls out a secret lair with information-secret agent clippings regarding Kang-joon. This includes a scandal picture with Kang-joon and Chae-young at the airport.  They were caught coming back from traveling abroad before the end of Geum-rang’s 49 days.  (In the Korean-buddhist culture, you are supposed to live fastidiously and fast from alcohol for 49 days after a loved one dies in respect…)

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Sara cannot believe it and Tae Hee dissects Kang-joon’s brain for her.

50% of succeeding, 10% HBS, Chae-young 30%, filial duty (1%) and dead Geum-rang 0.1%. [Yep-some of us need some math lessons…]  Conclusion, it’s not enough to just be pretty.

Tae Hee says that he will help her get her revenge.  To get revenge, Sara needs to become a completely different person.

Kang-joon comes to the broadcasting station to bring flowers for Chae-young.  The rumor mills start.  The two love birds step out together as Sara watches in all black.  She starts walking over to the car and Tae Hee stops her.

They have a ceremonial fire where Sara says goodbye to her old clothes and her identity as Geum-rang.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Is it realistic? Not really.  Is it fun? Yes.  Additionally, the writer doesn’t make you wait in agony for the plot to plod along.  Rather, it seems like the pace will be quite fast in Korean drama – time.

Weaknesses: I don’t like the fact that Geum-rang/Sara has to go through a full makeover to get a confidence boost to commence revenge on her cheating husband.  However, I do find that the fact that Sara [shorter name >.<] gets external help and a confidence boost through a drastic change, kind of realistic.  Unfortunately, confidence does not appear out of thin air for most people.  The drama has set up Geum-rang as this sweet but not assertive, and slightly lacking in confidence, woman.  She’s not going to become a confident-independent woman overnight.  I think the drastic change is her adult pacifier.  Sara truly believes that the only thing wrong with her relationship [other than a lying-cheating arsehat for a husband] is the fact that Chae-young was young and pretty.  By getting this makeover, Sara gets what she feels is the ultimate armor-beauty.

Strengths:  I like the fast pace and the fact that the drama is not afraid to make fun of itself.  It completely exaggerates certain scenes such as the hommage to 200 pound beauty, face reader, etc.  Additionally, I suspect that the writer is female.  I like how Tae Hee basically sits Sara down to teach her that her new “beauty” is not the be-all-end-all solution to getting Kang-joon back.  It’s kind of a tongue-and-cheek critique of our obsession with looks.

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