Attic Cat

Reviewed by: il_mare

January 14, 2004

Rating: five

Oktappang Koyangi a.k.a. Attic Cat

MBC Mon/Tues miniseries (2003)- 16 episodes
For MBC homepage for this drama (in Korean), go to:
Aired on MBC in Korea: June 2, 2003 - July 22, 2003 on Monday & Tuesday nights at 9:55.

Lee Kyung-min: Kim Rae Won (Snowman/Beautiful Life)
Nam Jung-eun: Jung Da Bin (Trio)
Na Hye-ryun: Choi Jung Yoon (Stockflower)
Yoo Dong-joon: Lee Hyun Woo
Nam Sang-sik (Jung-eun's dad): Jang Yong (Yellow Handkerchief/Trio/This Is Love)
Kim Soon-duk (Jung-eun's mom): Kim Ja Ok (On the Praire/More Than Words Can Say)
Nam Jung-woo (Jung-eun's first younger brother): Bong Tae Kyu
Lee Pil-deuk (Kyung-min's grandfather): Kim Mu Saeng (Beautiful Life/Yesterday)
Lee Kyung-hee (Kyung-min's grandmother): Kang Boo Ja (Yellow Handkerchief/This Is Love)

For more information (in Korean) about the cast, go to:

Synopsis : (Spoilers)

Lee Kyung-min is an undergraduate law student in the university. Kyung-min is orphaned, and is brought up by his grandparents. His grandmother dotes and spoils him terribly, while his grandfather is a strict elder whom he can’t communicate with. He is lazy, does not really care for his studies and basically wastes his days sweet-talking and courting girls, and enjoying life. But there’s one girl whom he is truly in love with, Na Hye-ryun. Na Hye-ryun is pretty but spoilt, cold and unkind. She comes from a wealthy family, and she in turn is in love with a close family friend of comparable background, Yoo Dong-joon.

Nam Jung-eun is Hye-ryun’s high school classmate. Her father is a policeman, and her mother has a house full of children to take care. Jung-eun was not very clever in school and did not make it to a university, and is currently unemployed (she delivers newspapers during her spare time), and looking for a job. She does not have very high self-esteem as her mother constantly puts her down. But Jung-eun yearns to gain her independence by moving out on her own, and fulfilling her dreams (although she does not really know what her dreams are for the moment).

Kyung-min and Jung-eun had an unpleasant first meeting in the university library. (Jung-eun borrowed Hye-ryun’s student card to make use of the facilities of the library to prepare for employment exams) When Kyung-min found out that Jung-eun is Hye-ryun’s friend, he tries to befriend her and be exceptionally nice to Jung-eun to score points with Hye-ryun.

Jung-eun’s plan to move out is foiled by her brother, who squanders all the savings that she had put aside. Kyung-min makes use of the opportunity to win Jung-eun over by agreeing to lend her money to pay for the rent and enthusiastically helps Jung-eun in her move. Jung-eun is grateful for Kyung-min’s “kind” gestures, and develops a crush on Kyung-min. Jung-eun makes a lunch box for Kyung-min, but is stood up as he is called away by Hye-ryun. Jung-eun finds out from Kyung-min’s friends that Kyung-min is buttering up to her because of Hye-ryun. A disappointed Jung-eun meets Doon-joon in a park, and offers him Kyung-min’s lunch box as she does not want to waste food. As they each sit on separate benches, Jung-eun cries as she eats her lunch box, and Doon-joon is amused by her strange behaviour.

But Kyung-min’s plan does not work out as expected, as Jung-eun and Hye-ryun are not really that close. He tries to ask Hye-ryun to be his girlfriend, but is refused. Dejected and unhappy, he goes back to his apartment only to be greeted by loan sharks hounding him for gambling debts that he has chalked up. Shamelessly, he decides to take refuge at Jung-eun’s roof-top apartment and justifies his stake on the apartment with the deposit he lent Jung-eun. Jung-eun is unhappy with Kyung-min for barging into her new life, but is helpless against his shameless tactics. Kyung-min and Jung-eun begin their life under the same roof.

Kyung-min borrows money from Jung-eun to buy a necklace for Hye-ryun. Hye-ryun in turn gives the necklace to Jung-eun. Upset with what Kyung-min has done, she kicks him out of the apartment. Kyung-min tries to get money from his grandfather to pay off his debts and is flatly refused. Left with nowhere to go he has to go back to Jung-eun’s apartment to beg her to let him stay. Initially Jung-eun refuses, but when she finds him the next morning sleeping at her doorstep, covered with newspaper, she feels sorry for him and lets him come back.

On Jung-eun’s birthday, she is asked to go for an interview with an advertising agency. To thank Jung-eun for taking him back, Kyung-min offers to make dinner for her to celebrate when she returns from her interview. Hye-ryun looks for Doon-joon at the office, and is abruptly told by him not to visit him at the office for non-official matter. Upset with Doon-joon’s treatment, Hye-ryun decides to get back at him by using Kyung-min. She calls Kyung-min to attend a grand party. Kyung-min is so excited by the invite that he forgets about the dinner he has promised Jung-eun, and even steals from Jung-eun’s money plate to buy a nice pair of shoes to go with his suit.

Unfortunately, Hye-ryun ignores Kyung-min for most part of the party, and even kisses Doon-joon in front of Kyung-min. Hurt by Hye-ryun, Kyung-min leaves the party. Jung-eun did not have a great day at the interview either. She interviewed at Doon-joon’s company, and was embarrassed by Doon-joon when he tried to communicate with her in English (because Jung-eun claimed that she knows 5 languages, to stand out from the other interviewees). The 2 rejected souls console each other, and after some beer, end up in bed.

Kyung-min decides to run away from the mess (which starts a constant pattern of moving in and out of Jung-eun’s apartment), and as he wanders around campus with his suitcase, he bumps into the loan sharks. When Jung-eun finds Kyung-min, he has already been beaten up. Jung-eun manages to fight off the offenders and takes Kyung-min back. Kyung-min lies to Jung-eun that the debts were a result of family problems. Feeling sorry for Kyung-min, Jung-eun agrees to let Kyung-min stay till after his exams, forget about the one-night-stand and remain as friends. In the meantime, Hye-ryun asks Doon-joon to be her boyfriend, but is rejected by Doon-joon.

Jung-eun receives a call from the advertising agency to report for work. Jung-eun is over the moon with the call, but later realised that it is only a temporary position in Doon-joon’s department. Although she is extremely disappointed with the position, she tries her best to deliver the work assigned to her. Doon-joon finds that Jung-eun has good potential, and tries to give her learning opportunities and pointers on the job.

As the story progresses, Kyung-min starts to have emotional attachment for Jung-eun. However, he is not sure whether it is love. His affection for her is confirmed when Doon-joon begins to woo Jung-eun. But their delicate relationship is strained when Jung-eun’s father finds out about their cohabiting relationship. When pushed by Jung-eun’s father about marriage, he panicks and replies that he has no intentions of marrying Jung-eun. Although Jung-eun forgives Kyung-min for his insensitive actions and continues to love and support him, the final straw comes when she finds out that Kyung-min lied about his examinations results so that she will pity him and take him in after his exams are over. Jung-eun feets that she has failed her father in her choice to be with such a selfish person who pulls quick stunts to meet only his personal needs, never sparing a thought for her and her family.

At the same time, Doon-joon offers Jung-eun an opportunity to take up the company scholarship to study in the UK. Jung-eun accepts and leaves with Doon-joon, leaving Kyung-min in Korea……

Review :

THIS IS A MUST SEE! I think this is one of the best Korean series I’ve seen so far. Unlike usual Korean serials where there are always life-threatening diseases and death, there's none in Attic Cat! The show was light-hearted, entertaining yet managed to have a fair dose of touching moments, which made for a well-balanced story told in a very unconventional manner.

I really like the characters in the serial, I felt that the roles were well-written and the dialogue outstanding. The story tells the trials and tribulations of 2 early-twenties adults cohabiting under the same roof. As they both try to find their paths and purpose in life, they found each other as well. The series uses the touchy topic of cohabitation in Korea, to explore aspects of growing up (e.g. gaining acceptance, understanding responsibilities, gaining independence, finding love).

The serial made me laugh and cry. My tear ducts and laugh nerves were at the writers' mercy. The beauty of the serial lies in the simplicity of the story, and the way it is told. Although the main theme was love, it revolved around mundane activities like having meals, and doing laundry. However you are never bored by these mundane activities, which happened frequently in every episode, and I felt that was a great feat. Isn’t real-life relationships made up of simple and mundane interactions as well?

All the characters in the serial were realistic and well executed by all the leads. I believe all adults can relate to this serial. I really enjoyed Kim Rae Won’s portrayal of Lee Kyung-min. I find that it is quite a difficult role to execute. He is so flawed. Lazy, petty, selfish, self-centered, spendthrift, chauvinistic, and the list goes on! He has so many bad habits, but Kim was able to make Kyung-min lovable and it was really difficult to hate him. (I guess that is why I think Kim has done a good job, we can all understand why Jung-eun can’t leave him despite all the pain he has caused her) But I think the character is lovable because he is so real, so human. Can’t we all see bits of ourselves in Lee Kyung-min?.

Jung Da Bin was outstanding as well. I felt that she was a little stiff in the initial episodes, and a little too unattractive to be the female lead. (But as I said, a successful serial does not need a beautiful leading lady) However I felt the transformation, after 2-3 episodes, and thought she did a great job breathing life into the independent, loyal, hardworking, kind and self-sacrificing Nam Jung-eun. The character is straightforward and simple, and your heart can’t help going out to her every time Kyung-min hurts her in his usual insensitive way. I think her only flaw is that she is helplessly in love with a very flawed Lee Kyung-min. She gives her all to Kyung-min unconditionally, and carries the burden and pressure of their cohabiting relationship on her own until she can’t take it anymore.

Both Kyung-min and Jung-eun share a volatile relationship. The longer they live together, the more they care for each other. Somehow bad timing and pride always get in the way, and as young and hotheaded twenty-somethings, both characters are constantly fighting. Every time they quarrel, it is so explosive and destructive that it is amazing how they make up after that. But you will be gripped by how both characters inch into each other’s hearts with every “explosion”.

When the truth about their cohabiting relationship is exposed, Jung-eun begins to feel the strain that society (family) puts on a single girl living with a man. Initially from her mother, then her father. She feels that by staying with an unaccomplished Kyung-min, with no commitment of marriage, she is letting her family down. This scenario is very typical in a relatively reserved Asian society like Korea. You don’t see Kyung-min getting that type of pressure or guilt trips. Family acceptance is also very important to Asians. Without the endorsement or agreement from your family, one will feel like a failure and may sometimes resort to extreme measures to mitigate that feeling. Which is why I think this is the first time, for a Korean serial, that I felt the parting of Jung-eun and Kyung-min was justified. But it was such a cliché. So far, almost all the Korean serials I’ve seen all require the main male and female leads to spend some time apart in different countries before getting back together again. I don’t know whether the writers were trying to show that time and space will never get in the way of true love, but is it always necessary?

Every story needs a bad guy, and in this story, it comes in the form of Na Hye-ryun. Oh my, she is a truly bitchy character. Selfish, self-centered and vicious, Choi Jung Yoon was truly convincing as Hye-ryun. She toys with Kyung-min like a puppet, using him to attack Jung-eun (Hye-ryun is jealous of Jung-eun because of her close working relationship with Dong-joon whom she is in love with). Choi is perfect as the spoilt rich girl.

The only complain I have, would be the execution and the role of Yoo Dong-joon. I wonder if I would have felt differently if the role were given to some stud like BYJ or LBH? Although he is portrayed as the most matured and sensible character of the lot, it was unbelievable the kind of sacrifices he has done for Jung-eun. He helps her on a professional and personal level. He loves her and stays vigilant by her side as she confides in him of all her problems. He also stands up for her, and is never afraid to admit his feelings and defend her anytime. This is unlike Kyung-min, who is immature, irresponsible and many a time insensible. It was unrealistic that Dong-joon never once displays any frustration or exasperation at Jung-eun’s tangled relationship with Kyung-min. Although he does call her Miss Snail, he has also never pressured or abandoned Jung-eun along the way. Wow, what a perfect find! How can one not be moved by what he had done? Lee Hyun-woo had more or less the same wooden expression throughout the entire show. He did not have the charisma or physique to carry off the role of the matured, sensitive and successful Yoo Dong-joon. And I share Jung-eun’s opinion of his shiny shirts. They really looked atrocious on him.

The OST for the show is quite catchy. I really like the female rendition of the main ballad (there are 2 versions, one by a lady with a rich husky voice, and another by a man with a sensitive and gentle voice). I noticed that they will play the one by the lady when Jung-eun is upset, and correspondingly play the man's version when Kyung-min is upset. Maybe because it is usually Jung-eun who gets hurt, you will get to hear the female version more often. But I really like her voice. Although I have no clue what she's singing, her rendition really touched me deeply. I would appreciate if someone can tell me who the singer is, the name of the song and its lyrics.

What I could not agree/comprehend
1. Early part of the show, Kyung-min and Jung-eun shared a one-night stand, but that incident did not play into much of the rest of the storyline. Well, at least it was not apparent to me (except for the time Jung-eun offered to sleep with Kyung-min when she confessed her love to him). Maybe it was created to explain why Jung-eun was so devoted to Kyung-min despite all his shortcomings. Or was it used to magnify Kyung-min's short-comings or demonstrate the shame that Jung-eun felt with her family about her behaviour. What do you think?

2. How was Jung-eun able to support herself and Kyung-min on her initially meagre income from delivering newspapers (before she found her temporary job with the advertising firm)?

3. How Kyung-min managed to ace and pass his exams with all the emotional problems he had is a real mystery.

4. I was also a little puzzled by the writer’s choice NOT to change (improve) Kyung-min despite all that Jung-eun has done for him. Ok, there were some changes, but I felt that they were minimal and fundamentally, he is still the same inconsiderate and incorrigible asshole when Jung-eun is not around. Maybe they wanted to show that Kyung-min is only a better person when Jung-eun is around. I believe Kyung-min’s character should be different and transformed in the end versus what was written.

5. Towards the end, Kyung-min was moving in and out of the apartment a little too often. I was really confused and wondered when the tug-and-war would end. The writers could have shortened it a little bit.

My favourite scenes (This is a LONG list)

1. The first meeting of Kyung-min and Jung-eun at the library. The drooling part was hilarious.

2. Every time Kyung-min and Jung-eun quarrel

3. Kyung-min’s expression when he tries to make up with Jung-eun after his blow-up

4. All scenes with Kyung-min disturbing Dong-joon (e.g. the water bottle, opening the door)

5. Cat fights between Hye-ryun and Jung-eun

6. Jung-eun tries to seduce Kyung-min in a sexy nightie

7. Jung-eun tells Hye-ryun that there’s nothing going on between Kyung-min and her, and that she’s given up on Kyung-min already

8. Jung-eun breaking up with Kyung-min after (7)

9. The 2 conversations at the coffee shop Jung-eun has with her father after he found out about Kyung-min and Jung-eun cohabiting.

10. Kyung-min kneeling outside Jung-eun’s house asking for forgiveness

11. Jung-eun cries because Kyung-min did not pass his exams

12. Final reunion at the roof-top apartment when they both show each other the same ring

I think the success of Korean serials is that their writers are so good at invoking such diverse emotions with their story. When they make you laugh, you laugh till you ache. When they want you to cry, you sob till tears roll uncontrollably down your cheeks. Korean serials are definitely not for the faint-hearted.

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