The Perfection of 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You)


장혁 (Jang Hyeok) as 이건 (Lee Geon)

School of Comedy

After the finale of that most enchanting of romantic comedies, 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You), I found myself, like many fellow aficionados who had been absorbed in the story of Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong, uninterested in watching any other productions despite KDrama’s abundant offerings, including titles on my “to watch” list. I remember something like this happening once before when, after my initial introduction to, and frenzied consumption of KDrama, my appetite for it just seemed to vanish. At the time I thought that maybe I had just overdone it and that the novelty of it had worn off. But I eventually returned to KDrama, my perspective more finely tuned, my interest newly kindled, turning a mere passtime into a source of inspiration for the reflections collected in this blog.

This time, I know enough not to say I am done with KDrama — I have developed too great a taste for it and learned too much to simply abandon it. More importantly, storytelling in KDrama has an ethically conscientious and predominantly sanguine nature that responds to a visceral need in me for that poetically sincere belief in hope and the possibility of redemption for the penitent soul. In my experience, these qualities are all the more discernible in KDrama for being absent in productions from other parts of the world.


장나라 (Jang Na Ra) as 김미영 (Kim Mi Yeong)

This time, I am aware that my disinterest in other dramas has been specifically catalyzed by 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You), a television production that so brilliantly succeeds in plumbing remarkable depths in both emotionally engaging and intellectually stimulating storytelling that it makes everything else I look at now seem shallow by comparison. Where other shows now seem stiffly formulaic or inexpertly glued onto flat, monochromatic surfaces, 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) is explosively daring and hyperreal, yet also achingly nuanced.

I will admit that initially, it was action-man Jang Hyeok’s unusually fetching floppy do and unexpected dandyfied wardrobe that drew my attention to the show when I first saw promotional stills. Whatever could the wounded Dae-Gil or the feral Ddol-bok be doing in such a get up, and in a Chaebol-Candy confection to boot? Surely a quick peek at just the first episode of 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) to see what this Lee Geon was about would be enough to satisfy my curiosity. But in less than three minutes I was ensnared: Lee Geon had me at his “I’m-on-top-of-the-world” finger-snapping, baritone “잠깐만요” [“Hold it, please!”]. His oddly hilarious, cringe worthy, yet utterly insouciant partial strip tease to the desolate, liquid wail of the wild-west guitar line over the grounding thrum of a supporting bass rhythm had me howling with laughter well before the five-minute mark. A credit to his aristocratic upbringing, Lee Geon, who is meticulous about everything, even puts the vain, self-indulgent, mercenary CF actress in her place in impeccably formal language, adding a little bite to the very ‘polite’ sounding “꺼지세요!” [“I pray you, get lost!”]. I know of no other actor who can pull off such heart-fluttering swagger and still leave you in stitches!

Without even venturing into that dangerously speculative territory of “author intention,” it is safe to postulate that the question of audience engagement and reception featured prominently in the conception and realization of the show’s ambitious enterprise. The narrative resonance of the soundtrack in just the first five minutes of the first episode underscores the show’s irrefutably and consistently high production quality, and immediately alerts the viewer to the importance of music in the development and telling of this story. The show’s culturally rich, yet casually intricate world is wrought of endlessly inventive allusions to popular music, television, cinema and radio; it boldly showcases various contemporary artists – from stylists and masters of maquillage to designers, painters, musicians and thespians; its cast of players is impeccable, and the two principals — Jang Hyeok and Jang Na Ra — are simply sublime as Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong. What’s more, thanks to their body of work, these two actors also serve as anchor points for many of the show’s intertextual allusions and wealth of meta-narrative humor calibrated to delight the veteran and pique the curiosity of the initiate.

So for the next ten weeks I relished the torture of live watching 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) as each week after another delivered a pair of perfectly engaging and stimulating chapters without fail. It is impossible to adequately articulate just how sweetly agonizing the six-day wait between weekly installments was with this show. Suffice it to say that I found myself in a perpetual cycle of need and fulfillment that was difficult to comprehend. During Act I, after watching the even-numbered Thursday episode, I would be left basking in the warm glow of joyous satisfaction, perfectly contented by the generous portion of mirth with which 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) filled my gleefully overflowing heart. Depending on factors that are as yet mysterious to me, I would remain in this state anywhere from three minutes to three hours, sometimes even up to three days, before I found myself reaching into time’s unyielding emptiness for the next chapter. Fascinated by the story’s development and the players reliable peculiarities, I inevitably grew wildly impatient for more.

It soon became clear that this compulsion was actually not fueled by curiosity about the plot; it did not really matter to me what would happen next since, just by virtue of it being a comedy, the story was assured a happy ending. I was not even curious about the specific events leading through the obstacles they would inevitably face and on to the happy ending. Rather, I wanted to know how each of the characters, especially Lee Geon, felt about what they themselves had done: after making big decisions that affected the lives of the people around them, would they remain true to their choice and firm in their resolve, confident in the ethical integrity of their consequent actions, or would they waver, forced —in the harsh glare of their conscience— to reconsider their choices or maybe even regret their actions?


I did generally find myself indifferent to those unbending characters, like Lawyer Min, and to a lesser degree, Kang Se Ra, who seemed driven only by the desire to satisfy their own appetites and attend to their own wellbeing. I was always most moved by those who demonstrated the ability to revisit their attitudes about what mattered and how their decisions affected the people around them. 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) had so thoroughly ensnared me that I became immersed in the inner lives of its players, empathizing with every joy and pain they experienced. Going by the increasingly febrile adoration viewers expressed on discussion forums, I quickly gathered that I was not alone.

It began to dawn on me that besides being thoroughly entertaining, something else was afoot with 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You): that perhaps the show owed the intensity of its audience’s engagement to the fact that this enchanting comedy about the vicissitudes of fictional Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong’s lives succeeded in somehow mirroring the real experiences of real people who tuned in every week. It also occurred to me that perhaps the chords 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) struck in its viewers’ hearts resonated all the more profoundly because the rawest of those real experiences were ordinarily consecrated in silence — each individual’s story unique, yet also familiar and touching when given voice. The story I thought I heard resonating in both the audience’s absorbed glee in the face of our players’ happiness and outraged protest at the prospect and persistence of their suffering, was the story of viewers who knew what it was to endure the strangling pain of heartbreak from loss, and the miraculous joy of discovering communion with another soul.

A Deeply Rooted Tree

Those who have had to experience heartbreak may know how profound, thorough and raw —and how utterly unspeakable— the resulting physical pain can be. An exquisite and unusual romantic comedy, 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) dares to broach the subject with unvarnished candor and from various perspectives when it tells the story of Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong. But being a Comedy in the truest sense of the term, Fated to Love You also ministers to those wounds, offering the hope of redemption and inspiring a simple allegory of Love as a Deeply Rooted Tree.


For, if neglect is the drought that leaves the unsuspecting soul parched and forlorn, and if loss and humiliation are the twin harrows that plough it raw, exposing it to the indifferent elements, then convivial Laughter must be Heaven’s healing agent, sent to slake that thirst with a mirthful nectar and to soothe those wounds by gently dressing them with the dew of Amity and Empathy. Where scarring has not yet rendered impenetrable the soul’s heart so cruelly wracked, tiny seeds mingled in this dew might just sprout and find root in the ailing heart’s cracks, ridges and furrows, reaching deeper when irrigated by the spring of Kindness and tended by the steady hand of Goodwill. These are curious seeds: they carry the genes of a belovèd — a child, a parent, a companion, a friend, and yes, sometimes even an object like a book or a story. Constancy strengthens the sapling’s roots as they spread into every vessel of the healing heart and moor themselves deep within while above, the now-robust tree of Amity, warmed by the radiant beams of newly discovered Communion with a belovèd, thrives, slowly, suddenly bursting into blossoms fragrant with Affection

FTLY_Roots_01So robust is the Tree of Amity growing in the newly rejuvenated heart that every ray of light that shines upon it, every drop of dew that kisses it, makes the heart sing; so intermingled is the blood of the belovèd, so deep and complex is the tree’s root system, that its vitality and wellbeing become indistinguishable from the heart’s own and to cherish and celebrate it is to cherish and celebrate the heart in which it anchors its roots. You can just imagine that should anything happen to the tree — should its flowers wilt, its leaves fall, its branches break or its wood be afflicted in any way—the heart will suffer its every agony; any harsh wind or chilly breeze blowing through the tree’s leaves will make the heart shudder. So the heart’s soul will cultivate and protect this tree, drawing freely from the bountiful springs of Kindness that first spurred its roots, learning the nurturing ways of Goodwill and Constancy that tended to it when it was still but a sapling. Any danger to the tree’s vitality must be addressed with paramount urgency; any attempt to remove the belovèd — to uproot this tree that has become one with the soul’s heart — threatens a fate worse than the languishing in parched neglect and harrowing humiliation.


Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong have the great good fortune of being thrown together under eminently embarrassing circumstances during one of the bleakest moments of their respective lives. For Lee Geon, it is when he realizes that Kang Se Ra, the woman he wished to marry, has simply abandoned him, knowing his hopes yet nevertheless choosing to be unmindful of them. For Mi Yeong, it is when she sees her dream of finding someone she can love with all her heart dismissed with derision by the very person she hoped to love. Worsening the sting of that abandonment and rejection is the mortifying realization that, while under the influence of psychoactive drugs, they unknowingly and unintentionally coupled with each other the night before discovering that they were both forsaken. But each has the great good fortune of having the other as their partner in shame since, as they soon discover, each is the salve for what ails the other’s heart, each the spring of Kindness and the steady hand of Goodwill that slowly makes the other whole, reciprocally nurturing the saplings that have taken root in the other’s heart — saplings that carry their genes, making each a living part of the other.

Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong’s journey from accidental union into mutually respectful friendship, affection and love is halting and hesitant, but its trajectory is clear and 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) allows the young saplings in their respective hearts to grow unassumingly, quietly taking root before either of the two are aware it is happening. As the audience witnesses this growth between chapter 6 and chapter 10, a curious extra-textual development occurs as yet another sapling with the genes of Geon and Mi Yeong’s story takes root in the audience’s heart. When the two circle each other with caution, the viewer, too, becomes wary; the couple’s giddy rapprochement evokes the viewer’s relief and delight; rumblings of imminent conflict provoke distress and the progressive and eventual rupture of the couple’s union in chapter 12 incites outright rebellion!

Triumphant Tale of a Wise Woman

FTLY_KMY_090운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) is unusual because of the starkness with which it shows the pain Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong experience from just the attempt to uproot their respective trees; the extended span of time that the storytellers choose to dedicate to dramatizing this agonizing experience plumbs depths of feeling that viewers are unaccustomed to approaching in a comedy. In fact, it is not unreasonable to postulate that consumers of popular entertainment —especially on television, and of comedy in particular— are rather conditioned to expect, accept and eventually even demand conventional fare that conforms to only a very narrow set of aesthetic and narrative criteria. So with comedy, for example, passionate discussion forum protests against the apparent alienation of affections wrought by fear and misunderstanding between Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong in Act II of 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) suggests an audience that expects and wants its romantic comedies to deliver only a light, merry showcase of affectionate love-play and screwball hijinks in an unbroken string of jovial spectacles and mere jokes. And yet what the storytellers of 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) appear to have understood is that the primary function of Comedy is not merely to entertain, but also to set the stage for posing challenging questions and exploding complacent myths; for touching our rawest nerves with the Hippocratic assurance that doing so will do no harm and instead offer a tonic for the ills that afflict the soul.

FTLY_Comedy_RibbonFor, at its core, Comedy as a theatrical genre entails the dramatic clash between Idealism and Cynicism, all the while using principled humor to candidly challenge conventional complacency. In the successful dramatic Comedy that is more than vaudeville or mere farce, the central conflict will be between those who hold and try to live by some clear ethical Principle and those who accept and maybe even champion conventions that are indifferent to these ideals, or, worse yet, intentionally violate or corrupt them. In the end, no matter the itinerary the players are forced to take by their circumstances over the peaks of joy and through valleys of woe, the ultimate destination of the Comedy can be framed in terms of the triumph of Promise and Hope over Despair and Regret.

This conflict of Idealism vs. Cynicism is far less dire than the conventional drama’s clash of Good vs. Evil and in its development, the Comedy allows for the parties representing both sides of the struggle to be readily relatable, even likable. The romantic comedy offers a platform for presenting this dichotomy in several clear-cut ways: for example, through class differences among the players that also mirror gender biases (poor girl/rich prince); through disparities in conscientious self-application (cheerful, industrious Candy/disillusioned, indolent Chaebol); through antithetical moral dispositions (pious virgin/profane hedonist). Reductive though it may appear to be, the Comedy will ordinarily attribute the ethical virtues to its materially marginalized player while saddling the materially privileged player with the unflattering attributes. This results in a universe of Comedy where some variant of the destitute yet cheerfully industrious and pious Candy heroine catches the self-indulgent eye of a wealthy yet world-weary Chaebol Prince burdened with a soul in need of redemption. Whatever the context in which clashes occur between the lovers — be it wealth, class, education, and the attendant social prejudices — the driving conflict of a Comedy can be distilled to a struggle between Idealism and Cynicism.

In this way, the ultimate triumph of Ideal Principles over Cynical Convention entails persuading or converting those who would resign to despair and regret to instead embrace promise and hope . In the case of운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You), Kim Mi Yeong champions and embodies Comedy’s indomitable spirit of hopeful idealism while Lee Geon initially presents with a somewhat cynical conventionality that will eventually lead him down the path of despair.

For despite the unrelenting indifference of the world around her, Kim Mi Yeong not only believes in the possibility of loving with her whole heart, she is unwaveringly kind and generous to everyone around her because it is the best way she knows how to help make their lives less burdensome. Lee Geon, on the other hand, sees Mi Yeong’s way as being “too nice” and does not, like the rest of society —her friends and family included— believe that a person should assume that kind of responsibility for the basic wellbeing of others. Although he, himself, is animated by a great sense of social and professional responsibility, the constraints of conventional cynicism to which Lee Geon blithely conforms are clearly outlined in the first chapter of the story. For example, his definition of the Perfect Woman is revealed to be a conventional fantasy that does not correspond to empirical reality; no sooner does he describe Se Ra’s poetic grace and ethereal charm in the jewelry store where he goes to buy her an engagement ring, than the very next scene shows her slouched over a laptop screen in an airplane cabin, stridently and carelessly remarking on the crude television drama she’s absorbed in watching, ostensibly unmindful of the comfort and privacy of the people around her.

FTLY_LeeGeon_152The conflict between Mi Yeong’s principled idealism and Lee Geon’s cynical conventionalism is most significantly illustrated in their unspoken yet apparent perspectives on Love. From the Idealist’s perspective, Love is a gift freely offered and need only be accepted and treasured by the receiver; from the Cynic’s perspective, Love is a prize meant for the lucky and the strong, something to which only the deserving are entitled by right. As his story unfolds, we discover that Lee Geon, believing that the wasting and debilitating genetic illness he so dreaded has finally manifested in him, is paralyzed by the fear of cheating his wife of a full and happy life; of crippling any children they might have with what he considers a “disgusting” disease; of succumbing to his own weakness and selfish greed and holding on to Mi Yeong despite all the danger he believes he poses to her wellbeing. In order for the clashing couple’s journey to reach a happy conclusion, Kim Mi Yeong must teach Lee Geon to understand that the gift of Love is not contingent upon rights of entitlement; it needs only to be cultivated and nurtured. The lesson Lee Geon eventually learns is that a soul is not constrained to simply wait for Fate’s hand to determine his path; he has the Free Will to choose for himself and thus define his own fate.

“I used to think that fate was something special, but it doesn’t seem to be now. The person in front of me right now, I’m fine with everything as long as I’m with her. I can’t imagine loving anyone else but her. I think that’s what fate is. I’m fine even if we aren’t fated to love each other because I’d still love you… fatefully.”

A Great Ambition

Curiously, “Fated Love,” the very thing Lee Geon repudiates in this realization, counts among KDrama’s most consistently deployed narrative conventions: that nearly universally accepted maxim that True Love is Fated Love. Examples of this particular KDrama trope abound and appear in different permutations ranging from past life reunions, to lost and recovered childhood soul mates, to serendipitous passing encounters early in life that lay the foundation for eventual “true love” in adulthood. In all these variations of the trope the message is the same: finding Love is the end result of a series of events set in motion long before the lovers have any inkling of what awaits them. By the logic of Fated Love, it is those favored by Fortune and smiled upon by Chance that deserve and find true love. In light of Lee Geon’s concluding revelation, the title 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) reveals itself to be the show’s greatest irony, thus openly declaring its ambitious enterprise to reclaim Comedy as more than a mere spectacle of diversion.


As sacred a cow as “fated love” may be in KDrama narrative, 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) bluntly acknowledges it for the cliché that it is, and even more explicitly so by just as candidly and cleverly overturning a veritable Who’s Who of KDrama clichés throughout the story’s development. Establishing its figurative idiom early on, the show trots out scores of formulaic genre tropes, often with ostensibly dismaying predictability, all in the service of the greater enterprise of reclaiming Comedy by clearing the cobwebs from some of its most exploited narrative devices. Clichés of romantic comedy undergo unexpectedly refreshing makeovers in quick succession as they are seamlessly woven into the natural fabric of the story, sometimes with great fanfare but often with little more than a nod to the attentive, seasoned viewer.

So, for instance, the irony of the show’s title is not lost on the viewer who makes a note of just how well Lee Geon has learned to embrace the simple fact that he has the Free Will to love and to live as he wishes and that he need not be a slave to Fate, or circumstance, as it were. With its agonizing middle act, 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) lays the foundation for openly repudiating the notion that Love, and indeed the nature of the world we create around us, is out of our hands and determined by a Fate over which we have no control. Once his companion shows him that she chooses, of her Free Will, to remain constant in nurturing the Tree of Lee Geon rooted in her heart, he too —who at one time tried, with devastating results, to uproot the Tree of Kim Mi Yeong that had taken root in his heart, believing that he had no right to it — learns to remain constant in nurturing and protecting his love for Mi Yeong of his own Free Will.

Among the first rom-com genre conventions in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) to get quickly conscripted to the service of the story’s ambitious enterprise only to be overturned is the supposed iconicity and sentimental currency of the paired couple’s first sexual encounter. In this story, the encounter takes place unintentionally in chapter 2 before the partners even know each other’s names, and they both agree to dismiss it for the merely physiologically induced occurrence that it is. Whether it be the unfortunate series of accidents that lead Mi Yeong to Lee Geon’s bed, the comical depiction of their cosmic bliss and vigor in coitus, or the stomach churning horror with which they realize how they spent the night, 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) bluntly repudiates the TV and movie cliché that equates carnal union with Love.

Rather, through Grandma Chairman Wang’s prayers to the ancestors, coupled with the intervention of third parties, the storytellers here ascribe to carnal knowledge the distinctly Thomistic function of procreation which, though instinctive, need not be intentional. In contrast, 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) dedicates nine patiently layered and meticulously structured chapters to tracing the birth and growth of Love between Lee Geon and Mi Yeong: it sets about seeding amity and cultivating mutual respect in Lee Geon and Mi Yeong’s hearts as they begin to slowly develop the gradual, tremulous tension that will eventually imbue the couple’s first intentional kiss with the momentous intensity, tenderness and yes, heady charge to the pleasure centers of the brain that such kisses should —and do— have. By the time they are forced apart by fear and misunderstanding, it is the wellbeing of their hearts, rather than the impulses of their bodies, that matter most to us.

The romantic comedy’s generic default pairing “Chaebol Prince”/”Candy” also gets a good-natured sendup as soon as the two meet when the candy that our sweet-natured Mi Yeong has just bought on an errand for her office supervisor is all sent flying into the air just as she and Lee Geon accidentally crash into each other. The joke continues into the conclusion of chapter 2 when Mi Yeong offers Lee Geon one of those sweets, declaring her principled ideal by explaining to him that the candy symbolizes her sincere desire to believe in complete Love. For his part, Lee Geon —an atypically warm-hearted and good-natured Chaebol Prince (and quite literally so!)— happily accepts the candy. In turn, he offers Mi Yeong a casino chip, an iconic token of Chance, the vehicle of Fate, and symbol of his unknowing concession to self-defeating cynical conventionalism.

I am tempted to describe the couple’s mutual exchange and acceptance of each other as “subtext” but the symbolism of the scene and their respective gifts is too obvious to justify such coyness. Where Lee Geon’s gift is a coldly practical metaphor for the conventional cynic’s concession to Chance, that mechanism of Fate that reminds mortals that they have no control over their lives, Mi Yeong’s gift is almost laughably idealistic in symbolizing her guileless hope for Love. These tokens prove significant later in the story’s development when Mi Yeong is reminded of the debilitating consequences of conferring so much authority to Fate as she contemplates the casino chip in the wake of her crisis-born separation from Lee Geon. Later on, even when the lovers are reunited, Mi Yeong is reminded of the helplessness we must face before Fate. Her ingenuous gift, in turn, catalyzes Geon’s recovery from his traumatic memory loss, signaling the moment of his conscious awakening to the fact that Mi Yeong has indeed taken root in his unknowing heart. However, when he subsequently surrenders the token back to her, declining to accept her invitation to willfully hope for and cultivate happiness together, it is clear that the same man who once bouyed Mi Yeong’s spirits by declaring that “nothing in this world is impossible” still has a great burden to shed and much to learn.

Yet another standard cliché of the romantic comedy that gets briskly exploded and neutralized is the inevitable fashion makeover montage that usually occurs at some significant turning point in the couple’s relationship. 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) reveals this particular trope for what it is; rather than a means of empowering the female subject —who here protests her belief that she already looks perfectly fine— the “Bond-Girl” makeover’s primary purpose is to display her as an object of the covetous male gaze. From inception, to execution, to exhibition, the makeover is all about the male subject’s wish fulfillment: Lee Geon, whose heart at that point in the story still belongs to another, strips Mi Yeong of her glasses and cardigan when dolling her up to reflect apparently male-fantasy standards of beauty (i.e. the Bond Girl) in order to show the execrable Lawyer Min what a gem he threw away; the fah-bulous stylist and make up artist duo Kim Sung Il and Park Tae Yoon wash, rinse, buff, polish and package Mi Yeong with the precision and focus of antique car restoration experts; finally, it is only after she has been subsequently displayed as an object of desire beyond his reach, and as the only means by which he can ensure his material security, that Lawyer Min concedes to acknowledge Mi Yeong’s value. It is noteworthy that the writers of 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) make a point of invoking the iconically misogynistic James Bond to describe the cosmetic transformation Mi Yeong is subjected to during the makeover montage. It is therefore even more significant that by the story’s happy ending, Mi Yeong has reclaimed her glasses and cardigan and, as her natural self, enjoys Lee Geon’s complete devotion and adoration.

Please Teach Me…

Thusly dealing out genre clichés copiously and cleverly flipping them with a deft sleight of hand to reveal some unexpected depth in the story and its characters, 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) creates a context in which all its players —principal and ancillary alike— readily make use of the conventions of the genre in service to its greater poetic enterprise.

Viewers who notice these well-worn tropes do so with some satisfaction, pleasantly gratified that the storytellers are not squandering the attention the viewer pays them on tired formulaic slop, but rather seem to respect their audience enough to use these set pieces intelligently. Nevertheless, while some of the clichés are accepted with little resistance, others are regarded with the kind of suspicion that mostly interrogates the writers’ sincerity and industry; the wary viewer’s inner Kim Joo Won sits before the screen in calculating judgment: “이게 최선입니까? 확실해요?” [“Is this the best you can do? Are you sure?”]

A good example of the audience’s even-handed reserve may be found in the discussion forum reactions to the cliffhanger following Lee Geon’s loss and subsequent recovery of consciousness at the end of chapter 10. During the week before chapter 11, there was much hand wringing from viewers who variously worried that waking Lee Geon up with Amnesia —the mother of all drama clichés the world over — would ruin the show’s run of perfect storytelling halfway through. Once episode 11 aired, however, the unanimous verdict was that the storytellers had rather wisely used the thankfully short-lived bout of amnesia to make it clear to both Lee Geon and Mi Yeong that the roots of the love they share were much more deeply anchored in them than either one of them realized.

The crisis also serves to reveal the breath and depth of the chasm between Mi Yeong’s ingenuous, ethical Idealism and Lee Geon’s resignation to self-defeating, complacent Cynicism. For while Mi Yeong, despite her small, broken body and grieving heart in the wake of her crisis, struggles to hold together the world of complete Love that she believes in by asking Geon to stay by her side, Lee Geon, accepting the convention that love is only for the lucky and the strong and believing himself neither of these two because of his genetic illness, resigns himself to an unhappy fate, indifferent to Mi Yeong’s earnest ideals.

The result of this devastating choice is the trope most stridently decried by multitudes of viewers as “noble idiocy of the worst kind” when Lee Geon decides to end his marriage to Mi Yeong and sever any lingering romantic ties with Se Ra after he becomes convinced that his amnesia signals the onset of his fatal illness. (Curiously, nobody seemed to mind as much when Omma opposed the couple’s eventual reunion on the very same grounds that Geon based his agonizing choice.) I remember worrying about risking the wrath of fellow ardent netizens by arguing in defense of Lee Geon’s “pragmatic altruism.” I fully expected an eviction notice from the interwebs for daring to disagree with the general outcry and braced myself for ostracism.

But my fellow viewers were far more compassionate and thoughtful in their responses, whether in solidarity or in disagreement [making me entertain daydreams of KDrama perhaps being the elusive key to Peace in the Middle East, naturally!]. As I argue in the piece dedicated to the discussion, the trope of sacrificing one’s own desire for the sake of ensuring another’s wellbeing serves the story well for a very simple reason: the makers of 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) are mindful of the time and attention viewers accord their story and so they painstakingly develop a narratively sustainable context for the protagonist’s pragmatic altruism that challenges the viewer to empathy despite the gravity of Lee Geon’s mistake.

Thank You

The scariest and most perplexing experience Lee Geon has in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) is falling in love with Kim Mi Yeong. The grandest and most meaningful experience Lee Geon has is falling in love with Kim Mi Yeong. As I watched his agonizing intransigence in Act II where he remains convinced that he does not deserve Kim Mi Yeong, my heart wept for him. The storytellers slowly reveal that his maladroit attempts to uproot the Tree of Kim Mi Yeong from his despairing heart are not just driven by pragmatic altruism as I had initially believed, but rather by a profoundly self deprecating surrender to conventional myths of entitlement that tacitly dictate who has the right to love and to be loved. Resigned to the cards that Fate dealt him genetically and overwhelmed by their ominous portent, Lee Geon remains blind, throughout Act II, to the simple truth of the words he had spoken to Mi Yeong when their hearts first began to intertwine that if they wish it to be so, then “nothing in this world is impossible.”

heartIt takes the principled Idealism of the owner of his heart’s Tree to shake Lee Geon out of his debilitating fear — of death, of life, of love. Equally intransigent in her principled ideal of complete Love, Mi Yeong has the fortitude to turn the tables on Lee Geon: whereas he had forced her hand and labored to sever their bond in concession to the indifferent dictates of Fate, she forces him to engage his Free Will and choose whether to mend and nurture their union or not. And with the success of Mi Yeong’s Ideal of Love over Lee Geon’s Cynicism of Fate, Fated to Love You celebrates Comedy’s triumph of Promise and Hope over Despair and Regret.

Thus Fated to Love You also reclaims Comedy in all its subtly, complexity and daring from the reductive tyranny of mass entertainment — even while operating within its modern flagship medium, television. More importantly, it reclaims the poet’s responsibility and the storyteller’s privilege to raise difficult questions about the assumptions we make about our own limitations and the conventions we accept and propagate without interrogation. I remember initially wondering whether perhaps the viewers who decried the difficult stage of Fated to Love You did so believing that Hope should never be subjected to any real challenge if it is to triumph. But then it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, the genes of the Tree of Amity growing in the viewer’s hearts seeded by Fated to Love You were those of Kim Mi Yeong and Lee Geon’s happiness; any narrative delay or frustration of the pair’s burgeoning love would therefore feel like the chilly breeze and the harsh wind that made the viewer’s heart shudder, spelling a danger that had to be addressed with utmost urgency.

Conversely, the happily settled union of Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong would resonate with the native joy of the viewer’s heart as this thoroughly compelling and unexpectedly beautiful romantic comedy patiently, deliberately gazed upon an imperfect and ofttimes daunting world, but reassured us that we could choose, of our own Free Will, to cultivate hope through amity.



NB: This is part 3 of a three-part series on the Korean romantic comedy drama 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You). It was written and published after the live broadcast of the show’s finale and draws from the drama in its entirety.

The first installment in the series, Pragmatic Altruism vs. Noble Idiocy in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You), draws upon the story’s development only up to Episode 12.

The second installment in the series, Love in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You), draws upon the story’s development up to Episode 16.

I welcome your comments in the section below. You can also follow me on Twitter @CurioSerandC !

This entry was posted in (정용준) Jang Hyeok (장혁), KDrama, narrative, Poetry, rhetoric and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to The Perfection of 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You)

  1. Pingback: Pragmatic Altruism vs. Noble Idiocy in 운명처럼 널 사랑해 (Fated to Love You) | SPQ&R

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  6. bashful says:

    Thanks Curio Serand for this yet another beautiful essay on “Fated to Love You” k-drama.
    It’s such a treat I plan to read it again. So far, my favorite line in the essay above is:

    “Fated to Love You delivers Comedy’s triumph of Promise and Hope over Despair and Regret.”

    To me, this line sums up why I think “Fated to Love You” is an excellent k-drama that everyone should enjoy. Then, in the paragraph following this line, you offered a positive reason or explanation why some viewers bailed out or were negative about this drama. I commend you for doing that. It would have been nice if those same viewers have given the same respect or understanding to us who found a gem in “Fated to Love You” k-drama.

    Thanks again for this beautifully written essay.

    • Curio Serand says:

      I am thrilled that you are enjoying the essay! I’ve wanted to write is for so long but could never find the time until now.

      I know what you mean about hoping for a more friendly atmosphere among viewers despite disagreements. The way I see it, even if we feel differently about the same thing and have no control over how the people around as behave because of it, at least we can choose how we behave and how we elect to think about and treat the people around us.

      I think that one of the things that so deeply moved me about Fated to Love You, and especially Kim Mi Yeong, is the unwavering conviction that through our own Free Will, we can make a difference in what the world around us is like. Others may not understand, agree, or let us do it. When the stakes are really high, some may even actively try to prevent us from remaining true to the kind of world we want to create. However, that does not change the fact that we CAN CHOOSE to stay constant and keep trying.

      Gosh! I love that character! 🙂

  7. chinee chua says:

    Thank you very much, Curio Serand. I have been wondering if you’d have one last essay for this awesome Kdrama. At long last!, a wish come true.

    For me, too FATED TO LOVE YOU is the most enchanting of all romantic comedies I have watched. I also am still having other dramas on hold because this drama has set such a high bar that changed my viewing standards forever.

    Your essay articulated well not only the writers’ heart but also the directors’ intentions. But most of all, on the actors’ pursuit for excellence of a romantic comedy that was like a tribute to their decade-long career in the industry.

    While reading this essay, the joyful tears welling from my eyes flowed inwardly, showering the Tree of Amity in my heart seeded by FATED TO LOVE YOU.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and appreciation for this GEM of a drama.

    • Curio Serand says:

      Oh! I’m so happy that you enjoyed it. It means a lot to me to know how much revisiting FATED TO LOVE YOU through this essay moved you. I’m still kind of blown away by how well the storytellers managed to create such a deep deep well of poetic wisdom within the context of a television rom-com.

      When I’m not marveling and sometimes even weeping a little in wonder, I recall moments in the drama that send me into sometimes uncontrollable peals of laughter that I have to consciously turn inward, especially when there are other people around. Because, really, how am I going to start explaining to someone who has not seen the show the reason for my mirth! 😀

  8. tasha says:

    Hi, you have articulated so well thoughts and feelings of FTLY audiences. Like everyone else, I was first smitten,then addicted, then enraptured, finally completely enveloped in the 2 characters and its story. Other than Its Okay Its Love which I managed to complete with some ff, I basically watched and dropped a lot of kdramas after FTLY. Seriously, there is none that comes close to it. I have now switched to jdramas whilst waiting for newer dramas to premiere, including the next weekend drama which the Jangs will act in.

    In between whilst anxiously waiting for each episode, I watched it. After its completion, i watched again. Unbelievable, isn’t it.

    Such is the web of magic weaved on its audiences. Its not only the romance, the love bond that grew between LG and MY (till it became super glue) but also how the values for both these characters are similar and dissimilar. Many people criticized and laughed at the drastic action of LG when he “dumped” MY but the fact is that even Chairman Wang also said that becos now his genetic illness is common infor, she can’t hold onto MY’s hand much as she loves MY and wants her to be her granddaughter in law. When MY’s mother held LG’s hand and “begged” him to understand why she cannot consent to their 2nd marriage, she said don’t worry I will take care of you, I’m like your mother but pls understand?

    Also in other dramas, we wld have probably “hated” the guts of Lawyer Kim, Sera and her mother, Mother Yong, but somehow instead of “hate” it was just dislike and cld you pls just get out of the way?

    Fated love = true love but not necessarily = destiny. Beautiful isn’t it? Finally. I also like the way you have incl the headings of JH’s work into the article.

    • Curio Serand says:

      Oh, so true!

      JDrama! Wow! That sounds intense! I’ve only seen a few jdramas and they really pack a punch! I have the sense that JDrama is to KDrama what French cinema (with a touch of Teutonic angst) is to American cinema. 😀 I could be wrong about the intensity, but if I’m not, maybe it’s a good way of cleaning your aesthetic slate after the rich beauty of Fated to Love You!

      I’m really looking forward to the Old Goodbye. The Jangs have my complete devotion so anything they do together — I’m all in!

      P.S. I’m glad you enjoyed the intertextual homage to the Jangs’ body of work. 🙂 I could only meaningfully incorporate two by Jang Na Ra that I have seen: School 2013 and Successful Story of a Bright Girl (Wise Woman edition). And those allusions also include Jang Hyeok who was in the first School back in 1999. I’ve seen more of his work anyway but I plan to get to know more of her other dramas and film, hopefully soon!

      • tasha says:

        Hi, your metaphor hit the nail. I switched as a cleansing palate to my mind and senses, v much like sorbet.

        As for Jang Nara, to me, she is like a scent that grows on you, I saw her briefly in Baby Face bcos it was on cable, and didn’t seek her out after that. But she has me converted after FTLY and I’m counting the days when Old Goodbye will premiere. Unfortunately Jang Nara spent a lot of her time in China and there is not much of her work in Korea and I’m not a fan of Chinese movies. So i guess i just have to see her in Old Goodbye and Mr Baek.

        Have you watched The Grand Tribe starring Takuya Kimura? It’s pretty heavy but it’s mesmerizing. Also Tokyo Bandwagon which I’m currently watching, I was pleasantly moved by it and am enjoying it.

        Fated To Love You is such a beautiful piece that I go back to when I need an uplift or to settle my mind. You can say that is my happy pill. hahahaha.

        • Curio Serand says:

          Thank you for the JDrama recommendations. I will definitely check them out once I’m back in proper drama-watching mode. I have tried CDrama on several occasions and I just can’t… Whenever I try to watch one, one of those little fairies that are so prevalent in them sits on my shoulder and chides me for squandering precious time! [I’m not even going to elaborate.]

          Mr. Baek certainly looks tempting. I wonder: will I be able to accept seeing Jang Na Ra with someone other than Jang Hyeok? Silly question, I know, but the FTLY Tree in my heart has a heart-shaped etching with “Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong forever” inscribed on it… We’ll see…

  9. panda says:

    Curio!! This is a masterpiece and I am still lost for words to write as a response.

    This is because Fated still evokes this yearning in me. I want to continue to watch new episodes every weeks. Never has a show filled me with so much happiness.

    It was such a magnificent revelation watching those 2 individuals fall in love.

    “When the two circle each other with caution, the viewer, too, becomes wary; the couple’s giddy rapprochement evokes the viewer’s relief and delight; rumblings of imminent conflict provoke distress and the progressive and eventual rupture of the couple’s union in chapter 12 incites outright rebellion”

    That rebellion was deadly and it made me sad how the show was bashed. I however understood a part of what they felt. As is in the quote, the audience had fallen so in love with the characters that they didn’t want any angst of any kind. They felt the pain the characters on screen felt too keenly and therefore decided to take it out on SOMETHING.

    “The story I thought I heard resonating in both the audience’s absorbed glee in the face of our players’ happiness and outraged protest at the prospect and persistence of their suffering, was the story of viewers who knew what it was to endure the strangling pain of heartbreak from loss, and the miraculous joy of discovering communion with another soul.”

    Fated is a breath of fresh air. A show that I checked out for the fun of it and fell in love by the second episode. A show that didn’t lessen its grip on my heart throughout it’s 20 episodes but instead planted a strong strapping tree that will forever bloom.

    It’s a show I love wholeheartedly, without reservations and with so much abandon.

    So what exactly is it about this show? is it the masterclass comedy of the first 10 episodes? The soul wrenching (at parts) sadness of the 2nd act? I don’t know how to put it in words except that Fated is indeed PURE MAGIC and it gets you and captures you and doesn’t let go.

    The 2 leads were sublime and simply amazing in their roles. They embodied those characters to a tee. So perfect.

    So my dear Curio, thanks for this labour of love. I don’t have your way with words but this was so beautiful.

    In the immortal words of the President “Hamo Hamo”

    • Curio Serand says:

      😀 😀 😀 “DOPPLE Hamo Hamo!” my friend! 😀 😀 😀

      Once I finished writing this, I experienced a tsunami of feelings: one of them was just joy that I had finally unspooled some of the thoughts that were for so long tangled up in all the ‘feeling’ evoked by Fated; another was a mixture of pure glee recalling all the dizzying craziness of the trip that was live-watching this story; I also enjoyed the tickling mirth I felt remembering particular moments (like the opening scene, the Chuno soundrack during Lee Geon v. Cherry the Rottweiler, the rice-cake pounding [OMG – the casualness of their facial expressions just KILL me!]; the deep sadness for Lee Geon’s despair throughout Act II… It was a tsunami, I tell you!

      I also felt a little bit of dread, wondering whether everything I was writing here was just too much: too clinical — too probing — too personal — too…; dread that others might conclude I had lost it completely and just gone overboard in my quest to find the words to express my wonder about how this show could have such a grip on me, Heart and Mind and Soul.

      Thank you for letting me know that you experienced Fated the same way with equal intensity… Thank you for enjoying my musings. 🙂

      “Hamo hamo!”

  10. jhusili says:


    You’ve done it again. How is it that you churn out masterpiece after master-wonderful-piece every time you set your mind and heart to write on Fated. Above it being an utter enjoyment because of the beauty in your writing, I really am so envious of you for that, there’s so much to learn yet again. About Fated. About the world. And mostly about myself. How, really, do you do this?

    You know, the things you’ve highlighted about comedy as a genre, I found them to be so illuminating. While talking about it in context of Fated, you’ve explored its purpose and significance in a way that compels me to reconsider my own understanding of the genre. It was always obvious to me that comedy does exceed in delivering what is its most obvious output – laughter and humour. And Fated, in its over the top, garish humour, always seemed to call for a deeper way of receiving and experiencing what it had to offer. For one, it was doing so with a critical self-awareness that constantly developed and deconstructed the cliches and tropes it knew it would be identified with within its rom-com caging. And then there were these moments of earnest storytelling, sprinkled throughout, where the show just swooped elegantly out of its gaudy overtones, revealed empathisable vulnerabilities and did such soul stirring things. So, what I’m saying is that while I knew not to trust the comedy at face value, I applaud you for reminding me to expect more. I’m glad Fated took this road and that you chose to illuminate it in such a way here. Because what you say about the genre goes beyond my experiences with Fated alone. It adds to the way I will approach comedy in all other forms from now on.

    You know I’m halfway through my second run with Fated. And the joy of watching the show is only deepening for me. I realise that while I enjoyed immensely the Gunnie from my first watch, I clearly defended and identified with Miyoung’s plight. The second time viewing, I have come to appreciate the magic Jang Nara has woven into her characterisation of Miyoung – I’m just dumbfounded, really – and am enjoying her character more. But this time, I’ve become much more attentive to Jang Hyuk’s Lee Gun. I realise that while I loved Gunnie the first time around, it is now that I’m finally getting to understand him. And all that you have said really helps put a lot of things in perspective. I’m surprised at how much of the way you describe Gunnie & what I’m seeing of him this time around reveals my own issues with love. Who wants to be identified with the kind of cynicism you talk of? And yet, it strikes me now that it is actually the bravest of the lot who will dare to be idealistic. Because Miyoung’s brand of idealism isn’t one limited to thinking and idealising. It is one she actively lives out every moment of her life, infusing it into the relationships with people around her. It is Gunnie’s cynicism that is, perhaps, idealising love to a negative extreme of unreachable heights, and is defined by inaction and a debilitating sense of self. I find it extremely interesting that, like yesterday’s ted talk, you liken Gunnie’s idea of love to his identification, or lack thereof, with a worthiness for love. A series of abandonments, unintentional as they might have been, by intimate loved ones over the course of his life may definitely have bruised that feeling of worthiness. And his narrow understanding of the exclusivity of love – that it can only be claimed by those who are deserving of it – that really hits the spot for me. And expands the scope of Fated beyond the story of one man to being the story of everyman. Well, almost everyman anyway. In which I find myself included. I guess this is just a way of my saying I need me my own Miyoung who will put to place my unrealistic idealism of love garbed in supposed cynicism with their very pragmatic and immediate approach to loving. 😉

    Ufff… Can’t stop with my ugly essay. Hope I make some sense at least.

    One last thing, I love how you’ve taken up the theme of fate vs free will – which I didn’t pay attention to my first time watching. It is so revelatory, and obviously adds a noteworthy dimension to my experience with the show. Especially as the show tackles this theme, not in established ways, but by taking a stab at the very idea of such binaries and raising many delicious questions in our minds. It hadn’t even struck me that the only ‘Fated‘ thing to happen to Miyoung and Gunnie was their night together, and that too was carefully constructed by – not larger inexplicable forces – but by these two minor characters seeking petty revenge. Imagine that being the root of their tree of love – would be neither deep nor worth pursuing. But that they took these circumstances of scum their relationship was born into and nurtured it into a lotus of love. There was the active agency on the part of both Miyoung and Lee Gun (remember that hilarious action scene in ep 4 with all his running and bumping and hurting himself with the intention of protecting both Miyoung and the baby at the abortion clinic) to start a family, and it was a series of conscious and conscientious decisions they made that facilitated their love – and their parting & again their reunion – in so many ways. That undercuts the notion of fate at many levels.

    Ahh. So satisfying. So sweetly satisfying it is to read you. It will be a real treat finishing Fated a second time with your thoughts from this piece to accompany them.

    Thank you yet again. You’re becoming one of those writers I’ve begun to cherish deeply.

    So much love. Keep writing. It expands my soul.


    • Curio Serand says:

      Dear jhusili,

      What a wonderful response! Beautiful in so many ways! I agree that Fated to Love You itself accounts for so much of our collective hypergraphia! 😉 Even after all this, I still find myself thinking about the meta-narrative elements, mentally cataloging and outlining some thoughts on the 1001 ways Fated to Love You tickled us silly with its myriad allusions… I’m not going to commit to anything but I hope I have the chance to revisit them — maybe when the DVD comes out…!

      Back when I was but a child still indiscriminately enthralled by the written word, I had a habit of committing scads of text from poems and plays to memory because I wanted to be able to carry them with me everywhere without hauling around volumes. I remember noticing, in the midst of the sea of texts sloshing about inside me, that the ones that always seemed to rise to the surface unbidden were the ones that somehow gave voice to some vividly remembered experience or to whatever I was going through at the time. It took me a while to realize that a big part of the reason I loved poetry so much was because, among the lines I knew, I could always find some which synthesized whatever experience I was having: when I was happy, a few verses from John Donne or Paul Lawrence Dunbar verbalized the exact nature of my joy; when I was nostalgic Wordsworth always provided a reliable narrator’s voiceover to the moment; whenever I was perplexed, it was invariably Shakespeare transcribing the moment… The host of scribes and voices speaking this particular soul’s experience were multitude and varied, with new ones always making their presence known in unexpected ways.

      I remember marveling at the eloquence and prescience of these voices. “Prescience” because their texts predated my experience, and in every case, my birth. In my most youthful myopia, I wondered how they could have known what I – who would be born into their unknowable posterity – was going to go through. Growing up a little I wondered how they could know to write so well and truthfully about those vicissitudes of the heart I found myself living through unless they, too, had experienced them. By the time I was in high school it was clear to me that the reason the poet’s words rang so true to random old me, and to the random other multitudes for whom their words had resonated, was because our experiences as human beings are consonant and mutually resonant, regardless the accident of geography and time. No matter who the scribe was, the story could be anybody’s and was everbody’s.

      The poet I love most is the one who made it clear to me that Poetry’s work was to lend voice to the human experience, especially where words failed us and we were mute. The poet’s voice could be raw and naked on our behalf, especially when we felt like our survival depended on remaining cloaked and composed. The poet’s fool would juggle firebrands and leap somersaults for us when we needed to stay still and quiet in order to draw no attention. The poet’s song could intone our heart’s nearest desire and most aching longings, allowing us the ‘dignity’ of feigning indifference.

      Who wants to be identified with the kind of cynicism you talk of? And yet, it strikes me now that it is actually the bravest of the lot who will dare to be idealistic. Because Miyoung’s brand of idealism isn’t one limited to thinking and idealising. It is one she actively lives out every moment of her life, infusing it into the relationships with people around her. It is Gunnie’s cynicism that is, perhaps, idealising love to a negative extreme of unreachable heights, and is defined by inaction and a debilitating sense of self.

      So when a team like the one that brought us Fated to Love You conceives of an enterprise that claims all these poet’s privileges, and what’s more, follows through with a candid, unapologetic execution, the very effort inspires me just as the opus they deliver to us moves me to my core. And when they can do all of this with an ear for ethical sensibility through the exercise of Free Will (an issue close to my heart of hearts)—

      There was the active agency on the part of both Miyoung and Lee Gun (remember that hilarious action scene in ep 4 with all his running and bumping and hurting himself with the intention of protecting both Miyoung and the baby at the abortion clinic) to start a family, and it was a series of conscious and conscientious decisions they made that facilitated their love – and their parting & again their reunion – in so many ways. That undercuts the notion of fate at many levels.

      —well, let’s just say I rejoice at the discovery of a modern dramatic masterpiece — something which has the potential to be part of a deeper, richer discussion for a long time yet.

      I do expect that however unprepared I am to commit, my curiosity about this particular work will probably keep me writing about it for some time to come.

    • Curio Serand says:

      … I don’t know why, by this made my heart overflow and I found myself shedding a tear…

      I have come to appreciate the magic Jang Nara has woven into her characterisation of Miyoung – I’m just dumbfounded, really – and am enjoying her character more. But this time, I’ve become much more attentive to Jang Hyuk’s Lee Gun. I realise that while I loved Gunnie the first time around, it is now that I’m finally getting to understand him.

  11. Curio Serand says:

    Was just rewatching episode 11, the one where Geonnie waked up with retrograde amnesia and finds himself gradually retracing his steps to try and understand how the lost three months turned out so strangely.

    It occurs to me that the scene with him shedding tears over Gaeddong’s journal after looking at the mug Mi Yeong painted and the baby robe he sewed is a truly beautifully ironical foreshadowing of Act II. In the episode 11 scene, he has no memory of Mi Yeong and Gaeddong, but the artifacts of their lives together nevertheless make him weep without his knowing why. Later in Act II, after he loses Gaeddong and sends Mi Yeong away, all he has the artifacts of their lives together, along with all the memories of the life he has denied himself by sending his wife away.

    Narratologically: beautiful. Experientially: heartbreaking!

  12. Lina says:

    Hey, I wanted to say that you summed up FTLY perfectly!! There’s nothing I can say about it but PERFECT. But Anyway, like you said in te beginning
    ”I found myself, like many fellow aficionados who had been absorbed in the story of Lee Geon and Kim Mi Yeong, uninterested in watching any other productions despite KDrama’s abundant offerings, including titles on my “to watch” list ”
    I also have the problem now of finding any kdrama to watch, I’ve seen Birth of a Beauty and it was good but it doesn’t top FTLY. So I wanted to ask you, can you recommend any kdrama to watch that are as good as FTLY?

    Thank you in advance

    • Curio Serand says:

      Greetings, Lina!

      Your note here is such a cool reminder of just how exceptional FTLY is — a year on and it is wonderful to hear from a new [I guess] fan!

      Curiously, what I said about finding my attraction to KDrama’s waning after FTLY still holds true, so many months later. I thought (and even hoped, I think) that the disinterest I described from last year would be just a temporary hiatus my heart and mind were taking after their deeply satisfying experience with FTLY. Now I can definitively say that this drama definitely marks a significant moment in my drama watching journey: before FTLY, I could watch just about anything and find reasons to sincerely get into to even the least well wrought stories; after FTLY, everything has been coming in for far under the bar it set that the hiatus it first set me on has morphed into a generalized decrease in interest and enthusiasm.

      After FTLY, every drama I have watched has just seemed flat, or dull, or monotonous, or awkwardly stitched together, or embarrassingly formulaic… I know that this is a very subjective thing. Other KDrama friends on twitter have made recommendations along the way and I do look in on their comments about whatever they happen to be watching, but I can’t say anything has really caught my attention.

      Right now, I think the best way I can respond to your query for recommendations is to share with you this old post which lists some of the dramas I watched pre-FTLY that I really enjoyed (and actually STILL enjoy).

      Playing Favorites… the KDrama and Film ‘Must See’ List

      I started this Favorites list about a year and a half after I first started watching KDrama and I have been adding to it periodically. I must confess that I think my emotional memory of the dramas listed here contributes a lot to my continued praise of them post-FTLY and I don’t know whether I would receive them with as much enjoyment and affection after having experienced FTLY (’cause one does not just *watch* FTYL, right?). I hope you do find something appealing and enjoyable among the dramas listed on the “Playing Favorites… ” list.

      I also keep a more comprehensive catalogue of all the dramas I’ve watched in the post Curio in KDramaland… (or, Through the Sageuk Lens). Here you will find everything I have watched and rated along a spectrum ranging from 3 (gold stars) for “highly recommended” to 0 (hollow stars) for “save yourself the time and skip it.” The sageuk section does include a few titles I plan to watch but have not yet got around to seeing but the contemporary section is all empirical.

      Since I have mot been keeping up, I really am at a loss for what to recommend in KDrama that is currently airing, but there are lots of people on twitter who are avidly commenting on what they are watching, so you might find some good suggestions there.

      Thank you for your note, Lina. It really reminds me of just how much my KDrama journey has evolved over the past three years and the experience I am having now with it is very different from that first foray that constantly had me jonesing for a fix (Island in the stream…)… that is, until I discovered and experienced FTLY.


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