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I just finished rewatching SBS’s My Girl, a 16-episode Korean drama that aired between December 14, 2005 and February 2, 2006. The drama starred Lee Dong Wook as Seol Gong Chan, a rich chaebol, who hires a con-woman to pretend to be his cousin to provide peace to his dying grandfather. The con-woman in question, Joo Yoo Rin, is played by Lee Da Hae. Seol Gong Chan’s best friend, resident womanizer and our second lead was Seo Jung Woo (played by Lee Jun Ki). Finally, we had Seol Gong Chan’s first love and viperous second lead, Kim Sae Hyun played by Park Si Yeon. The drama had a whole host of other characters (Yoo Rin’s father and friends, Gong Chan’s grandfather, the end conflict, and his aunt, uncle-in-law, and secretary, Jung Woo’s disapproving mother, and Sae Hyun’s secretary. But our central characters and the two that kept me glued to the screen for the first 14 episodes was solely Gong Chan and Yoo Rin.
The drama starts with Joo Yoo Rin playing one of her cons so that her tourists can board a departing plane. Gong Chan is the impatient flight passenger who sees through her shenanigans and helps the flight crew get her off of the plane. The two meet again when she lands in front of his car. She tries another con, but he coolly kicks her out of his office. He then hires her as a translator and Yoo Rin ends up squatting in his holiday bungalow. When Gong Chan catches her in the act, he unceremoniously kicks her out, but is back in her sphere to hire her once more as a translator/guide. As Gong Chan is leaving for an emergency visit to his dying grandfather’s hospital bed, Yoo Rin shows up to demand the money he owes her. The two part, each disgusted with the other. Gong Chan believes that all Yoo Rin cares about is money. When Gong Chan arrives at his grandfather’s bedside, he realizes the old man is suffering because he has not found his granddaughter. To give his dying grandfather peace, Gong Chan decides to hire Yoo Rin as a fake cousin and successfully convinces Yoo Rin to agree, using her need for money. Their plan works all too well, when not only does his grandfather survive, but he now wants Yoo Rin at his side at all times.
It seems that Gong Chan’s grandfather kicked out his only daughter because she dared to love someone of whom he did not approve. She chose love over duty and lived happily with her choice until she died in an earthquake in Japan. The family has spent the last 20 years looking for her child. Yoo Rin comes to live with the family as the long lost cousin/granddaughter/niece. The family immediately falls in love with her, and Yoo Rin begins to feel guilty about lying to them.
Yoo Rin comes into contact with Jung Woo, Gong Chan’s best friend and co-owner of their business empire. Jung Woo finds out pretty early on that Yoo Rin is a fake but keeps it a secret because he is interested in Yoo Rin himself. Yoo Rin only sees him as a friend, because she has already fallen in like with Gong Chan. She sees that Gong Chan may be a serious/stoic person, but he is also sweet and caring of those he cares about. And she warns him not to be too nice to her because she is NOT his cousin and she is only too aware that she could fall in love with him.
Additionally, we meet Sae Hyun, Gong Chan’s ex-girlfriend. When Gong Chan’s world came crashing down around him (when his parents died in an accident together), Sae Hyun abandoned him and flew off to become a big tennis star. Gong Chan, understandably, has not forgiven her. Yoo Rin, seeing that he still cares for her, makes it so the two can reunite before Sae Hyun leaves Korea once more. It is only when the two kiss in front of her, does Yoo Rin realize how far her emotions have gone for Gong Chan and that she actually likes him. Yoo Rin promises herself that she will stay away from Gong Chan at all costs.
Despite her efforts to avoid Gong Chan, Yoo Rin’s feelings only grow. She is hurt when circumstances cause Gong Chan to miss a promised trip so that he can go to Sae Hyun. Gong Chan is hurt by Yoo Rin’s avoidance, but he cannot help but care for Yoo Rin. He comes to like her little cons. And one day realizes that his emotions have grown into something more, when he realizes that he is jealous of Yoo Rin’s possible relationship with Jung Woo. He begins to look for her when she isn’t there and looks forward to when it will snow so that he can give her presents (Yoo Rin’s birthday falls on snowy days because no one knows when her real birthday is). He breaks up with Sae Hyun, apologizing to her for his changed feelings. He also warns Yoo Rin not to get married until she is 32. 😛
As Gong Chan is fighting his emotions, he finds out that his real cousin died in the Japan earthquake and there is no hope of ever finding her. Putting duty before love, he asks Yoo Rin to remain as his cousin forever. Yoo Rin angrily refuses, unable to believe that he could ask for this sacrifice. Jung Woo lets the cat out of the bag, and Yoo Rin realizes that if she agrees, she can never back out. Pressured into it by the family that she has come to love, Yoo Rin agrees to be Gong Chan’s cousin, letting him know that she knows this will be a lifetime gig. Gong Chan accepts her decision, but cannot bear to live in the same home as her. He decides to transfer to Jeju.
When the two have seemingly made their peace with this relationship, Yoo Rin discovers that Gong Chan has fallen in love with her. She is able to put the pieces together of his angry outbursts and reactions up until now, and realizes that he was fighting his love for her all those times he shouted at her. She is happy, but sad, knowing that they cannot be together. That same night, she asks Gong Chan to at least treat her as a woman on snowy days. With those words, she reveals that she wants to be a woman to Gong Chan, NOT his cousin. As Gong Chan leaves for Jeju, and Yoo Rin is going to an event to be introduced as the long-lost granddaughter, it begins to snow. Gong Chan decides that he can no longer lie. He races to Yoo Rin, hugs her and the two run away.
They go to the airport, pretending for a little while that they will actually run away from everything and live happily ever after. The interlude is short, and the two must return to their responsibilities. Gong Chan goes to deal with Sae Hyun and her horde of paparazzi, and Yoo Rin goes home to be the dutiful granddaughter. While the two promise to be together for ever and deal with the fallout, their happiness does not last long. They only have a chance for one snowy day walk while holding hands, one snuggling session, one kiss and one confession of love (on Gong Chan’s part).
Sae Hyun opens her big mouth to grandfather. Yoo Rin’s father returns to muck things up, but with news of the real granddaughter (which completely bypasses Gong Chan, who has been searching for the woman since forever!). Jung Woo reams out Yoo Rin for daring to think that this will work and that she should escape with him to New York. Grandfather calls Yoo Rin into his room and tells her to go away. He has no need for her since he has found his real granddaughter.
Yoo Rin cons Gong Chan into thinking that she will be going to Jeju with her father, to wait for Gong Chan to tell his grandfather the truth. When Gong Chan finds out that grandfather knows the truth, he goes running to stop Yoo Rin, but she is gone. Leaving him behind, heartbroken and stuck with his sick grandfather.
Two Years Later…
Gong Chan has grown even more sober and stoic. He still appreciates the snowy days, holding on to his memories of Yoo Rin. He has also pulled away from his family, flying from Jeju to Japan, and never staying too long in one place. His grandfather hasn’t softened one bit, insisting that he knows better and that Gong Chan will eventually settle down. He has hidden the truth about his granddaughter this entire time, knowing that Gong Chan will leave if he found out the truth.
Gong Chan comes across Yoo Rin by accident, and begins chasing her. His emotions have not changed one bit. Despite her abandoning him multiple times and coldly saying that she has no feelings for him, he refuses to give up. She finally angrily points out that she only left him before he would have had to leave her, breaking the promise he had made her. He retorts that he would have chosen her! When Yoo Rin is close to giving in, manipulative grandfather calls her and berates her for coming close to Gong Chan once more. He warns her to back off. Yoo Rin listens.
She brings everyone together and confesses the grand plan she had with her father to con everyone there into giving them all their money. She apologizes and leaves with her dad. When Gong Chan comes after her, she yells at him to leave, saying it hurts too much. Gong Chan finally concedes defeat and leaves. Going home, he tells his family that he will be leaving and then leaves, despite his grandfather playing his “poor me” card once more. Gong Chan is adamant, especially knowing that his grandfather has lied to him for two years!
Everyone then comes and tells grandfather that he is wrong. They beg him to allow Gong Chan and Yoo Rin to be together and he finally admits defeat, realizing that he cannot fight fate. He calls Yoo Rin over and gives his permission
Yoo Rin then goes racing off to Gong Chan and he accepts her with open arms. The two kiss. The End.
Epilogue: We finally see the granddaughter!
I loved this drama for the first 14 episodes. It was a romantic comedy, which is one of my favorite genres.
I loved how the writers would insert this dry humor and wackiness into even the most serious of scenes. The scene with Yoo Rin and the bomb plot and all those movie scenarios, Yoo Rin dreaming of having her way with Gong Chan, or Gong Chan thinking about how he might come across as sleazy to Yoo Rin, or Yoo Rin’s two friends thinking about all the possible scenarios between Yoo Rin and Gong Chan (real cousins to adoption to cancer (for Yoo Rin) and a car accident for Gong Chan leading to amnesia) were hilarious. Even at the end, when there was all this unhappiness, we had these two ajumma’s dreaming about a meek Gong Chan and rebellious Yoo Rin or a money-hungry Yoo Rin and a smarmy Gong Chan.
I loved the music in this drama. Despite the fact that I didn’t understand most of it, the music chosen fit each and every scene of that drama. I liked it enough to buy the soundtrack.
I loved the relationship between Gong Chan and Yoo Rin. She could be as crazy as she wanted with him, and he would just drily pull her down to earth. The scene where he saw her naked on the bathroom floor, or when he caught her buying bras, or when he was falling for her and was grossed out by her eating the apple were just some of the memorable scenes between the two. I loved Gong Chan’s character, someone who knew duty, but was a sweet and caring man. Also, while slow to love, he could be passionate and protective of that love. And Lee Dong Wook did a great job playing our stoic Gong Chan with hidden depths.
I also liked Yoo Rin up to a certain point. She had a horrible childhood. Yes, her father loved her, but he was not a good father. His problems always lead to them running away from place to place, and left Yoo Rin alone and struggling for money while he was in hiding. Yoo Rin lost her mother at birth, and no one even knew her birthday. She struggled to save up money so that she could buy a home for both herself and her father. Her biggest dream was stability. When she falls in love with Gong Chan, she never thinks about making him hers, and never even thinks it might be a possibility when he is shouting at her. But when she discovers he loves her, Lee Da Hae’s portrayal of that scene was stupendous. I just wish the writers had dwelled a little bit more on how these two were dealing with the discovery of the other’s love. Additionally, when she was leaving Gong Chan in episode 14, after having been kicked out, her crying at the airport was very touching and I felt so badly for her. Da Hae did a great job here, as well, in showing us a girl whose heart was breaking.
What I didn’t like was Yoo Rin’s noble idiocy. I hated that she felt that she had to break Gong Chan’s heart, because what was she leaving for him? A manipulative grandfather who only cared about his own anger rather than his grandchild’s feelings. I did not like how cold Yoo Rin was and I felt that it was completely unnecessary that she abandon and turn her back on Gong Chan like that, especially when he told her that he loved her enough to choose her. I always hate it when one party has to do the chasing. It’s too unfair to the one who is the chaser. And seeing Gong Chan hurt repeatedly, when I doubt the poor man has seen much joy in his life, was hard. Because I did not agree with her need to be the noble idiot (emphasis on idiot) I had no sympathy for her in the last two episodes when she hurt herself as she lied to him. I do not like martyrs in dramas and I do not like sacrifice because you are arrogant enough to think you know better. Yoo Rin was both of these things in this drama by the end. Their reunion wasn’t even satisfactory because it was only after grandfather had given permission. Which then makes me question if Yoo Rin ever loved Gong Chan enough?
What I also didn’t like was how unbelievable it was that the grandfather turned out to be so mean. The whole point had been up until now that he had learned his lesson when he lost his daughter. That he realized his mistake in having her choose. That he regretted it all. But then to turn back and do the same thing all over again made the last 20 years searching for his granddaughter and almost dying over it meaningless. The writers just undercut themselves and their story by making him the grand conflict. Especially, when he had been so indulgent up until now. Yes, betrayal can cause some changes, but he was still this bedrock of hostility to Yoo Rin two years later, right up until he changed his mind. Additionally, I did not like how aunt and uncle-in-law were telling Gong Chan/Yoo Rin to sacrifice up until the last possible moment. That was utterly ridiculous. What was this respect your elders, when the elder in question was so clearly wrong?! The two had done nothing except to care enough about a dying man to lie.
I also did not like how clingy Jung Woo and Sae Hyun were. Seriously, the two had been rejected multiple times. Two years later, they come back to try again? It makes no sense! I just really dislike this propensity of Korean dramas to have such clingy and desperate triangles. Very few dramas actually have a story where the second lead does not fall in love with the main leads. Jung Woo’s relentless chasing … stalker much? When he wished Yoo Rin well right before she got outed, I felt it was too little too late. Writers do a disservice to second leads when they do not allow these second leads to let go gracefully. I mean, really, do we have to see them as these pathetic things that turn from nice supportive beings into stalkers and bipolar individuals? Most second leads deserve their own happily ever afters, dammit. As for Sae Hyun’s descent, we saw hints of that from the beginning. I mean the woman was jealous of Gong Chan’s relationship with his newly discovered cousin! She told Yoo Rin to leave and go back to where she came from. She revealed to grandfather that Yoo Rin came from a poor background and looked down on Yoo Rin for that background. This was all before she even knew that Yoo Rin was a fake. So, okay, some people are just evil and deserve to have their heart broken once, twice . . . 10 times.
The ending felt rushed, with everyone saying the same thing (give him/her up) right up until the moment when they suddenly weren’t. Really, Yoo Rin’s admission that this was all a con made everyone realize that it wasn’t? ಠ_ಠ The turnaround gave me whiplash. And I wish the drama had given us more loving moments between Gong Chan and Yoo Rin (maybe a wedding?) rather than showing us the granddaughter. I wish the drama hadn’t turned into this melodrama in the last two episodes. But My Girl is worth watching for Gong Chan/Yoo Rin, the comedic tone of the first 14 episodes and the chemistry between Lee Dong Wook and Lee Da Hae.