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I finally finished watching a 30-episode MBC drama called Can You Hear My Heart? also known as Listen to My Heart. The drama stars Kim Jae Won as Cha Dong Joo, Nam Goong Min as Bong Maru/Jang Jun Ha, and Hwang Jung Eum as Bong Woo Ri, the object of Cha Dong Joo’s and Jun Ha’s affections. In addition to these three, we have Lee Seung Chul (played by Lee Kyu Han), who has always been in love with Bong Woo Ri, and Kang Min Soo (played by Go Joon Hee), who has settled her affections on Dong Joo.
Can You Hear my Heart? is the love story of Cha Dong Joo, a man who’s been rendered deaf after an accident but pretends he can hear, and Bong Woo Ri, a woman who’s intelligent but pretends she’s dim-witted to protect the dignity of her mentally handicapped father.
While the drama is generally described as a love story, it is also a revenge drama. Dong Joo’s mother, Tae Hyun Suk, has planned on getting revenge on her husband, Choi Jung Chul, since the moment she found out that Choi Jin Chul had killed her father and caused the accident that made her son deaf. Choi Jin Chul married Tae Hyun Suk for money and then killed his father-in-law when he realized that the old man would deprive him of that wealth. He has carried on an affair with a woman named Kim Shin Ae for decades, and finds out that Shin Ae gave birth to their son despite his wishes; his son is Bong Ma Ru, later known as Jang Jun Ha.
In addition to the romantic love story and the revenge drama that we have going on here, we also have a drama that centers around family and love. Bong Young Gyu is a mentally handicapped person, who doesn’t let his handicap slow him down. He lives happily and loves his son, Bong Ma Ru, his deaf wife Mi Suk and his step-daughter unconditionally. When he loses Mi Suk due to a decision on Choi Jin Chul’s part to save his burning factory rather than the one sole woman stuck inside, and his son due to the manipulations of the same man, he promises to stay with his daughter, Bong Woo Ri, forever and to take care of her. In the time that he spends waiting for Bong Maru to come home, Bong Young Gyu takes care of his mother, who is slowly developing dementia, makes a family with his best friend Mung Goon, and takes care of the flowers that his Mi Suk loved. This drama is also about this man’s love and gratitude for all of the people that come into his life.
Bong Maru grows up in a household with an aging grandmother and a mentally handicapped father, Bong Young Gyu. He is highly embarrassed because of his father, and doesn’t even like being seen in public with him. Maru’s grandma makes a match between Young Gyu and Mi Suk, the village barber, who is deaf and has a young daughter that everyone calls little Mi Suk. Little Mi Suk idealizes Maru, and can’t wait to have a family, get her own name, and go to school. One day, she meets Cha Dong Joo, a young boy that teaches her how to play a song on the piano and invites her to his home. Dong Joo also gives her a small organ to practice her piano playing. Little Mi Suk gives Dong Joo her most prized possession, a bean bag that she usually throws at her mother to catch her mother’s attention from behind. Bong Young Gyu marries Mi Suk, and for a little while there is happiness in the family. Little Mi Suk finally has her own name, she is now called Bong Woo Ri. It is then that Kim Shin Ae comes back into their lives. Kim Shin Ae is Bong Young Gyu’s irresponsible sister, and Maru then finds out that Kim Shin Ae is his mother; a mother who doesn’t even recognize her own son.
One day, there is a fire in the factory where Mi Suk works, and Choi Jin Chul orders the factory to be sealed, choosing money over Mi Suk, who is sealed inside. Woo Ri and Young Gyu can only watch from outside, unable to get Mi Suk’s attention in time for her make her exit from the factory before the doors close. Mi Suk dies from smoke inhalation. To cover his own butt, the factory manager blames Mi Suk for the fire and has Young Gyu arrested. Maru, in order to save his father, begs Tae Hyun Suk to free him. As Young Gyu and Woo Ri cry over Mi Suk, Dong Joo witnesses Choi Jin Chul killing his grandfather, and falls from the second story, hitting his head on a rock and goes deaf. When Tae Hyun Suk finds out what has happened to her son, she vows to get revenge on Choi Jin Chul. At this point, Maru comes to her for help, and Hyun Suk decides to keep Jin Chul’s son away from him. The three leave for Saipan.
Sixteen years later, Bong Maru has become Jang Jun Ha, who is also a doctor. Cha Dong Joo has studied cosmetics and plans to open Energy Cell, a cosmetics firm, which he will set up with Kang Mi Soo’s help. Cha Dong Joo has also spent the past 16 years learning how to be normal; no one, besides Jun Ha and Hyun Suk, knows that he is deaf. During this time, Woo Ri and Young Gyu have also waited for Maru’s return, going as far as to put up posters at the location of their old home, so that when Maru returns he will know where to look for them. When the three return from Saipan, they come into contact with Bong Woo Ri and, finally, Bong Young Gyu. We know that Jun Ha regrets leaving his family behind, but also feels that it is too late and too hard to return. He hides his face from his grandmother and his father, knowing that, unlike Shin Ae, they would know who he was immediately.
Kang Mi Soo meets with Woo Ri to buy a painting that Young Gyu has done of a flower, but when the family realizes that she is a representative from Wookyung (the company responsible for Mi Suk’s death), they absolutely refuse. Despite the fact that they need money for Woo Ri’s grandmother’s medical treatment, they cannot take that money. Knowing of that need, Dong Joo arranges to buy the painting through a third party.
Woo Ri meets Dong Joo, and for a while thinks that she has met her brother. Dong Joo quickly realizes that Bong Woo Ri is the little Mi Suk he met so many years ago. When Woo Ri realizes that he is her old friend, the pianist, she tells him that he used to love her and that she taught him the piano. Their relationship begins right from the moment it stopped, but there is a new awareness between them because of that whole male/female thing. Woo Ri finds out that Dong Joo cannot hear because her father points out that Dong Joo is just like his Mi Suk Shi. When Woo Ri starts to pay attention, she realizes that Dong Joo looks at a person’s lips and will not react if someone calls him from behind. When she realizes the truth and thinks about how she lied to him, she goes and confesses to him. Not having the courage to tell him face-to-face, she tells him from behind that she loved him and loves him now. Dong Joo also begins to like her, and expresses that like pretty early on. Despite all of the issues these two have, they manage to stay together for the most part. And, even when they are separated, we know the separation is not permanent. Woo Ri becomes Dong Joo’s ears because she can hear his heart.
Woo Ri also meets Jun Ha. He is the nice doctor that helps her figure out her grandmother’s treatment, and who allows her to discharge all of the frustration that she has felt over the years, waiting for Bong Maru to return. Jun Ha indirectly apologizes, and tells her to forget Maru. His heart hurts when he realizes that these people have been faithfully waiting for him for 16 years. Jun Ha first exposes himself to his grandmother, who realizes that this is her grandson, Bong Maru. Woo Ri finds out through her, and eventually, Bong Young Gyu sees him and begs for him to return home. During all of this time, Shin Ae and Choi Jin Chul have been looking for their son, and, when Maru’s grandmother sees him, Shin Ae finds out that Maru has returned.
Tae Hyun Suk sets up Dong Joo with running Energy Cell and a gardening center, but refuses to trust him with all the points of her revenge. She manipulates Jun Ha into taking charge, which hurts and angers Dong Joo, who wants to be trusted enough to pull off the revenge. As they are working along on their revenge, Jun Ha finds out that Choi Jin Chul is his father, and Jun Ha has always been a part of Hyun Suk’s revenge against Choi Jin Chul. When Hyun Suk sends him to jail to punish Choi Jin Chul, Jun Ha still holds hope until Hyun Suk comes and laughs in his face. She expresses how hard it was to be called mother by the son of the man that was her father’s killer, and Jun Ha has to live with being thrown away by yet another parent. Jun Ha, who holds all of the financial reins to the revenge, then joins hands with Choi Jin Chul and begins to put obstacles in the way of Hyun Suk’s revenge against Choi Jin Chul. Jun Ha threatens to reveal Dong Joo’s secret, and to prevent Jun Ha from holding that over him, Dong Joo reveals to everyone that he is deaf.
In protecting his own assets, when rumors of a possible will begin to make the rounds, Jin Chul signs over all of his assets to Jun Ha and has Jun Ha write a statement that says he is not Choi Jin Chul’s son. Tired of being used by Jin Chul, Hyun Suk and Shin Ae, Jun Ha then turns around tells Choi Jin Chul to get out of his life and forget about the wealth he used to have. Choi Jin Chul, angered by this betrayal, turns on Jun Ha and plots to kill Dong Joo, so that there will never be a claim on his wealth, once he gets it back from Jun Ha.
Jin Chul has a minion set fire to Dong Joo’s factory, and has Dong Joo locked inside. He also has a recording of Jun Ha saying that he will get rid of Dong Joo, thereby ensuring that if people get suspicious, he can lay the blame at Jun Ha’s feet. Jun Ha races to save a trapped Dong Joo, along with Bong Young Gyu, and the three live, albeit with a few injuries. Hyun Suk realizes that she loves Jun Ha in his own right, and tries to ask for his forgiveness. Jun Ha eventually forgives her, and also forgives Shin Ae, once she steps up and admits that she witnessed Choi Jin Chul killing Dong Joo’s grandfather. Jun Ha is able to come back home and interact with his family, right before his grandmother slips into full out dementia and dies. Choi Jin Chul suffers from a brain hemorrhage, but lives to regret the choices he has made.
Life goes on, and this family that has formed over the course of the drama, stay together in the end. Maru comes to realize that his family will never be perfect, but learns to live happily with the love he gets from these imperfect people.
I loved this drama for its emotional aspect and the way it delves into the emotions of all the characters in every scene; it takes its time telling the story. There were a lot of beautiful and supportive relationships between the characters, and that made this drama worthwhile. I loved the interactions between the characters, and felt that every character had worth and was worth liking in this drama, down to the littlest character. Well, for the most part.
Bong Young Gyu, who we found out at the end had been thrown away by his parents for being mentally challenged, has spent his life forming relationships and loving with all of his heart. He took Bong Maru and Bong Woo Ri into his heart, has been loyal to his Mi Suk Shi for years despite the short marriage they had, has a great friend in Mung Goon and Mung Goon’s wife, he makes friends with Dong Joo and even thanks Choi Jin Chul for raising his son to this point. He only ever wants Maru to return home, so that he can feed him a bowl of yummy rice.
Bong Woo Ri is a child-woman that has spent years waiting for her oppa to return and taking care of her father. When she falls in love, she is shy and insecure, but his love makes her confident and she begins to blossom in front of his eyes. The scene where she finds out that Dong Joo is deaf made me tear up, and I found Hwang Jung Eum’s acting here to be superb. Her smile transforms her face, and she was a delight to watch in the drama.
Dong Joo also grows confident in himself, and with Woo Ri’s support, is able to reveal and live with his disability. Unlike Jun Ha, he is respectful and caring to Young Gyu, and willingly spends time with him. He won’t step back from Jun Ha, despite Jun Ha turning his back on Dong Joo. His love for Woo Ri is strong and constant; from the moment he admits his love, he doesn’t waver and isn’t shy about expressing it in quiet ways.
Finally, despite Jun Ha’s momentary turn to the dark side, I always had faith in this sad character who only ever wanted to be loved. While he’s actively trying to hurt Hyun Suk, he still won’t take that final step. While he threatens Dong Joo with exposing him, when Dong Joo goes ahead and reveals his disability, you can see in Jun Ha’s face that he never intended to actually reveal it. When he finds out that Choi Jin Chul is trying to kill Dong Joo, there is no hesitation in him racing off to save him. I had no doubt that Jun Ha would return to Dong Joo’s side, and finally accept Woo Ri as the little sister she wants to be to him.
I deducted some points for the revenge plot, just because it went on and on and on. I wasn’t pulled in by all of that business drama, and I wish that it had been shorter just for enjoyment’s sake. I wish that there had been less of Choi Jin Chul and Kim Shin Ae on the screen, and I find it unrealistic that after all of the evil Choi Jin Chul has done, we suddenly see him being remorseful. I also found it too simplistic that Shin Ae’s behavior all this time could be blamed on her resentment of her mother taking in Bong Young Gyu, and she is suddenly fixed when she realizes that her mother did it to pay for her schooling.
Overall, the drama was great and definitely worth a watch. I would highly recommend it.