Korean Title: Oktabbang Koyangi ("koyangi" means cat in Korean, "oktabbang" means something like rooftop house) Amusing title if you've watched this series or know the story.
Also known as: Rooftop Room Cat, Cats On the Roof
Korean Network: MBC
Chinese Title: "Kok Lau Mao Mai" (Mandarin: "Ge Liu Mao Mi", translates to something like Cats in the Corner Flat)
# of episodes: 16
Scriptwriters: Min Hyo-jung and Goo Sun-kyung
Producer: Kim Sa-hyun
Kim Rae Won as Lee Kyung-min
Jung Da-Bin as Nam Jung-eun
Choi Jung Yoon as Na Hye-ryun
Lee Hyun Woo as Yoo Dong-joon
Jang Yong as Nam Sang-sik (father to Jung-eun)
Kim Ja Ok as Kim Soon-duk (mother to Jung-eun)
Kim Mu Saeng as Lee Pil-deuk (grandfather to Kyung-min)
Bong Tae Kyu as Nam Jung-woo (brother to Jung-eun)
* Thanks to www.koreanwiz.org for the supporting cast information.
Based on a story adapted from an internet novel-comic written by Kim Yu-ri, Attic Cat gained audience acclaim virtually region-wide as one of the first unconventional romantic comedy series. Why unconventional? Because the two main leads live together but they're not married (gasp!). And also because they engaged in sex before marriage (gasp!). And traditional Korean society does not look kindly upon either of these, which made this series such a pop culture hit. Male lead Kim Rae Won's popularity has also soared after Attic Cat was broadcasted, and deservedly so (although not because of this particular series).
Seoul, modern times. Kyung-min is a smart but appallingly lazy student studying law whose only goal in life is...no, not to become a "prosecutor of the Republic of Korea" (as he claims early on in the series), but to woo pretty but stuck-up law student Hye-ryun who apparently smiles just like his dead mother. Despite being repetitively fooled by the snobby Hye-ryun, Kyung-min remains hung up on her. Hye-ryun, on the other hand, has eyes only for oppa Dong-joon (oppa is what Korean girls call their older brothers, older male friends, or boyfriends), a filthy rich but good-hearted young man who is the CEO of Plus Ad Advertising.
Our female lead comes in the form of high school graduate Jung-eun, a simple-minded, spirited and loud girl who is poor but independent. She isn't pretty or smart, but is hard working, disciplined and determined to achieve her ambition...although neither she nor the audience knows what that ambition is. After moving out, she rents a tiny apartment with financial help from nemesis Kyung-min (the grandson of a wealthy elderly man), but when Kyung-min ends up getting chased after by loan sharks he ends up moving into Jung-eun's apartment as part of a deal for Jung-eun to pay him back for her debt.
Two questions arise. 1) Why did Kyung-min lend Jung-eun money if they don't get along? A: Because he initially thought that she was Hye-run's friend, while nothing could be farther from the truth, since they share a catty relationship a la Songee-Eun Hee from My Love Patzzi. 2) Why didn't Kyung-min's rich grandfather repay his debt for him? A: Because Kyung-min borrowed money from gangsters to gamble, and his grandfather wants his lazy grandson to learn a lesson. Moving on.
As mentioned in the foreword, Korean society frowns upon young men and women living together if they're not married. But Jung-eun and Kyung-min don't only live together, they end up sleeping together early on in the series when both were semi-drunk. They throw traditional management out the window and leave their relationship platonic, while their attempt at concealing their secret provides some situational comedy as each tries to hide their non-traditional living arrangement from their relatives. Jung-eun and Kyung-min also share their own problems, as the honest and hardworking girl is constantly annoyed by the lazy and lying guy, while the carnivorous guy is constantly irritated at the scrimping girl who refuses to buy meat. But a bickering kind of friendship begins to form whil they hide feelings for each other. Jung-eun is a little more obvious about it, and although Kyung-min loves her also, he doesn't know it (or is unwilling to admit it) and is blinded by his surface infatuation with Hye-ryun.
Hye-ryun, for her part, spends her days making a fool out of Kyung-min while chasing after Dong-joon who becomes interested in (you got it) Jung-eun who begins to work at his company. Meanwhile, Jung-eun's materialistic mother sets her up on blind dates, which are hilariously semi-accompanied by the jealous Kyung-min. She also goes out frequently with Dong-joon (who thinks Kyung-min is her cousin), and when he asks her why she needs to bring home bread from a restaurant, she replies "It's to feed my cat". There is the reason behind the series title.
Time and time again, Kyung-min disappoints Jung-eun and treats her badly. But Jung-eun cannot bring herself to leave him (despite vehement insistence from parents and Dong-joon's patient waiting) and allows him to move back into the oktabbang every time. Eventually Kyung-min realizes that Jung-eun is the girl he loves, and through her support he passes the bar exam. Kyung-min proposes to her, but by this time Jung-eun is truly fed up with this excuse of a man. She rejects his proposal and leaves with Dong-joon to England for some career training.
Flash forward 3 years. Kyung-min is now a successful prosecutor living in the oktabbang. Jung-eun returns (in the form of a virtually unrecognizable Jung Da Bin), and she decides to make a visit to the rooftop. And yay, the two end up hugging. Cue happy ending.
I watched My Love Patzzi right before watching Attic Cat and see many (too many?) similarities between the characters and the plot. General similarities I noticed:
1) Jung-eun and Songee (Jang Nara in MLP): Both are spirited, loud, poor, hardworking, independent, tomboyish, skinny, petite, plain. Both also win the hearts of the two male leads in their respective series. Jung Da Bin's Jung-eun was likeable and appropriately strong-headed, whereas Jang Nara's Songee was petulant and irritating.
2) Dong-joon and Seung-joon (Kim Jae Won in MLP): Both are too-nice softspoken rich guys who bring the heroine to the airport in classic Asian-TV-finale-style and end up losing the girl in the end. Kim Jae Won did a passable job as Seung-Joon, whereas Lee Hyun-woo has the facial expressions of a brick.
3) Hye-ryun and Eun-hee (Hong Eun Hee in MLP): The respective nemesises of Jung-eun and Songee; conniving, stuck-up, fake and plastic-pretty. The actresses even share a physical resemblance.
The list seems to imply that Attic Cat isn't very original, but that would be a wrong thing to say. Why? Because the male protagonists in the two series, although both played by Kim Rae Won, are entirely different people. Attic Cat also daringly takes a rather taboo subject (an unmarried male and female living together in Korean society is traditionally unheard of or frowned upon) and presents it in comic manner. At the same time, the audience is allowed to witness tidbits of how Korea is dealing with the changes of a youth growing up modern times. While Jung-eun's parents seem to be more traditional (most likely because Jung-eun is the female), Kyung-min's grandfather is more willing to accept his grandson's unconventional living circumstances since he is happy there. Jung-eun's father, however, is furious when he discovers their secret and tries to beat Jung-eun up. Likewise, her mother slaps her across the face and tries to force Kyung-min to marry her.
Evaluation of Cast and Characters
Kim Rae Won/Kyung-min
Let's face it, Kyung-min is a jerk. Kyung-min is a pathelogical liar and a coward, not to mention a thief. He constantly lies to Jung-eun and steals her money, all this while being unwilling to admit his feelings for her. He treats her like dirt, gambles, pines after a snobbish gold-digging witch, and whines. So why did Kim Rae Won do such a good job? He made this jerk actually likeable. You can't help but feel sorry for him every time Kyung-min gets duped by Hye-ryun...yes, his character deserved it but Kim Rae Won does a competent job in trying to hide his character's disappointment. He displays a benign comedic charisma opposite Jung Da Bin, although their romantic/physical chemistry is sorely lacking. I don't really see the two as a couple, I see the two more as a pair of bickering friends. Kim Rae Won also makes great use of body language to show a lot about Kyung-min's personality and mannerisms; he walks a little sloppily and drags around. It's these little things where Kim Rae Won gives his best acting.
Jung Da Bin/Jung-eun
Possibly the least beautiful actress to grace recent Korean TV, Jung Da Bin's lack of good looks is precisely why her Jung-eun is so convincing. Round of applause to the writers for once again giving us a heroine reminiscent of Song Yun Ah's character from Hotelier. Jung-eun is unbrainy, unpretty, dresses like a guy, and drools while she sleeps but still wins the heart of not one, but two men. Why? Because she's got such character, such spine, such personality, and Jung Da Bin hit the nail with her portrayal of this fiery female lead! Very good job. She doesn't seem to be an excellent dramatic actress (she won't excel in the more melodramatic series for example), but she is a terrific character actress. Like Kim Rae Won, the way she walks and the way she talks are all definitive of our overtly tomboyish female protagonist. Like I mentioned above, she has almost no romantic chemistry with Kim Rae Won, although their platonic chemistry was amusing to watch.
Choi Jung Yoon is physically perfect for the role of Hye-ryun plus her voice is appropriately irritating too. Not much overacting but she is not leading actress material. Lee Hyun-Woo is laughably wooden in this series. In all my years of watching TV this has got to be the most emotionally detached actor I've seen. He'd be a great ventriloquist - his facial muscles barely move when he talks! Unfortunately, his lack of facial expressions would make him a perfect ventriloquist, but an awful actor. Worst performance of the series.
The reason I like Attic Cat more than most other Korean series I've watched is that I actually liked the older actors who portrayed the authority figures in the family. Wuri and Tae-Sil's mothers were irritating in Wuri's Family, as was Yoo Jin's mother in All About Eve. But the veteran actors in Attic Cat did a very nice job. Kudos especially to Kim Mu Saeng who played Kyung-min's grandfather.
But here is the big question. Is Attic Cat really that good? Personally, I thought it was a bit overrated and doesn't really merit its success. But then again, I'm not Korean, and neither have I lived in Korea, so perhaps I don't understand the significance of this series' plot premise (unmarried couple living together). And there is too much screeching from Jung Da Bin and Choi Yung Joon. Can't Korean actresses play a tomboyish girl without shouting and jerking their heads? Plus, towards the end of the series I got fed up with how Jung-eun went back time and time again. Kyung-min moves in, and then he moves out. In, out, in, out, in, out, in. I found myself wishing for the series to end right after Jung-eun left. But then probably the entire country would have revolted since in that case, Jung-eun and Kyung-min wouldn't have gotten together.
From the Grapevine
Kim Rae Won won MBC's Best Actor award for his work in this series, and has since soared to super-stardom. He was temporarily condemned for apparently making a comment about Jung Da Bin not being pretty enough and her lack of looks made his job more difficult. One of the funniest rumours I've heard.
A recommended series, definitely funny with its touching moments.