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Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Saharial reviews Stranger than Paradise

Story: No Yoon Jae (Lee Sung-Jae) was adopted as a child and taken to Canada and now, at age 33 has been looking for his parents for some time. A successful lawyer with a love for coffee and his girlfriend he travels to Korea to meet once more with disappointment. Kang Son Ho (Uhm Tae Woong) is a small time gangster with an eye for managing famous singer Yoo Hee Ran (Kim Min-Jung) – a headstrong and spoiled woman who always wants everything her own way. After a coincidental meeting, Son Ho who is looking for his brother adopted to Canada, tracks down Yoon Jae, a successful lawyer, and shows him faked DNA tests as he needs the money to help look after his mother who has Alzheimer’s.
Cast: Uhm Tae Woong, Lee Sung Jae, Kim Min Jung
Year: 2006
Genre: romantic drama
Reason I watched: was going through an Uhm Tae Woong Phase * coughs *

Stranger than Paradise
As romantic dramas go, the idea of two men in love with the same woman is always a little on the tired side, but this drama dresses it up quite nicely and makes it palatable with a refreshing mix of themes. The most interesting theme for me was the family relationship arcs between the two ‘brothers’ and the elderly mother. Family is, as every aficionado of the culture knows, one of the core values of Korean society. Son Ho’s relationship with his mother is a battle within himself between the Confucian value of respecting the elderly and caring for your family, and the need to be free to pursue his ambitions and dreams. It’s this relationship that has an effect on all about him, from the long suffering girl who is his on/off girlfriend, his duplicity in luring Yoon Jae into the family and his infatuation with Hee Ran whom he wants to work for as Manager.

Yoon Jae has the angle of blood ties and a longing to know his family, something many adopted Korean who went abroad to a new life must experience. Blood-line is a very important factor in Korea thanks to the history of occupation it has had. His upbringing in the orphanage as an abandoned child makes him so desperate to the idea he has family that he ignores flaws and inconsistencies in Son Ho’s story.

Hee Ran also has her family issues, as well as those of her career and the manipulations of the company owner. The two men approach her in very different ways and circumstances and as the drama progresses her attitude is explained, understood and then peeled away little by little to reveal a softer nature.

Uhm Tae Woong
Uhm Tae Woong

On the whole it’s an enjoyable drama to watch, despite the typical drama method of dealing with a medical condition at the end. Whether it’s because the writers were told to add more drama and then found themselves backed into a corner I’m not sure, but it doesn’t sit well compared to the rest of the concept. It’s not a waste of time to watch it, particularly if you like the cast, but it’s not the first I would choose to recommend either.

Cast in detail:

Uhm Tae Woong
Brother to the singer/actess Uhm Jung Wa, known for her sexy style of performance and chosen film roles, he is no less talented being able to play a wide variety of roles. A well-established actor who seems to choose his roles carefully, his portrayal of the divided Son Ho is very believable. He can emote far better than some other stars who are popular and is always very intriguing to watch.

Kim Min-Jung
Graduate of Kyung Ki University she has been acting since 1990 in both film and drama and appeared in the first of the ‘Whispering Corridors’ films. Able to appear wide-eyed innocent or sultry and alluring she was an ideal choice for the role of Hee-ran. The sides of the character’s personality veer between bitchy, manipulative and vulnerable and Kim Min Jung transitions these so well that you, like those that surround her, are never entirely sure if she is being ingenuous.

Kim Min-Jung

Kim Min-Jung and Lee Sung-Jae

Lee Sung-Jae
With more of a film background than drama you might recognise him from ‘Public Enemy’ and as the leader of the gang in ‘Attack the Gas Station’. His role here shows off his nice guy side very well and for the scenes shot in Vancouver his English pronunciation was good. His character does seem to lack a bit of spine at times, but he uses the trusting nature of the character to balance this out.

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