I’ve started re-watching Miss Korea with the husband (a slow watch — we’ve been at for a couple of weeks now) and it’s been interesting to revisit how the drama began. I loved it the first go around, but watching it with someone else I have to admit… the beginning is a bit shaky.
[Mild spoilers through episode 6. I do try and keep this to first impressions, but… reader beware.]
I recall being highly intrigued with our first glimpses of our leading man and woman. Kim Hyung-joon (Lee Sun-kyun) is cowering behind boxes as gangsters trash his factory. Oh Ji-young (Lee Yeon-hee) wakes up with heavy makeup smeared all over her face. Not a typical introduction by any means. So I watched the first two episodes with a heightened sense of curiosity. Where was this story going to go?
However, the husband isn’t as familiar with k-drama tropes and doesn’t recognize when they’re being broken. So for him, he was watching the lead male character flee from realistically violent gangsters, and then watching the lead female character put up with her grotesque manager’s routine sexual harassment. At one point he turned to me and asked, “Isn’t this is supposed to a comedy?”
Thank God for Director Ma (Lee Mi-sook), is all I can say! As soon as she showed up, in her furs and with her attitude, sending a young woman to pageant-walk the subway car in a blue bathing suit and heels, the husband spotted the comedy.
There was a stumble when Hyung-joon gets humiliated begging for investment funds from an old schoolmate. But then we got the flashbacks to Ji-young as a brash and confident teenager, leading the older, far nerdier, teenage Hyung-joon around by the nose. The hook finally landed.
But I can see why Miss Korea wobbled in the ratings. It begins extremely atypically (which isn’t a bad thing), but it also buried its lead (which is). It takes too long for the story to get going. And, personally, I think the drama focused too closely on Hyung-joon’s storyline. I think it would have been better to put the focus on Ji-young. Include short scenes of Director Ma and Hyung-joon to foreshadow the dual offers to come, but keep the story more to Ji-young’s point of view.
Because really, this drama is her story. These first six episodes have been all about her finally taking control of the trajectory of her own life. After a lifetime of playing the supporting role (with Hyung-joon in high school, with her family), Ji-young finally has something she wants to strive for, an ambition for herself. It’s been awesome seeing her come to this awareness.
(And I adore that Director Ma is the one who awakened that side of Ji-young. The world of the Miss Korea pageant is extremely limited — only women of a certain age, with specific body types and facial features need apply — but it is not for the meek of heart. You do have to work for it. And Director Ma not only makes that clear, she praises Ji-young’s work ethic. Probably a first for Ji-young.)
Hyung-joon’s story is important (male lead, so… of course) but it’s Ji-young’s story that sets the pace. And I wish the drama had come out of the gate with that in mind. I think it would have made the opening tighter and maybe pulled in more viewers. (The powers-that-be may have been worried about Lee Yeon-hee’s ability to carry the drama, and with an actor of Lee Sun-kyun’s stature right there to be used… maybe they hedged their bets?)
It doesn’t ruin the drama, by any means. The wobbly beginning does move into strong storytelling. But… it’s a thing I noticed on this second go-around.