Reviewed by: TKL

June 25, 2004

Rating: three-point-five

With a good-looking cast, impressive setting and an exception that it doesn’t have a tragic or depressing ending like other Korean dramas, “Hotelier” is very popular among Asian fans. At least this series has a more interesting plot than simply about love. Frank Shin (Bae Yong Joon) is a Merger and Acquisition expert in America. He is a rich man whose goal in life was to earn money before he meets his other half. She comes in the form of Jin Young, a manager working at Seoul Hotel. The Seoul Hotel is in financial crisis after the death of its owner. Jin Young (Song Yun Ah) goes to America to seek the help of Han Tae Jun (Kim Seung Woo), the former manager of the hotel and also her boyfriend, who left Korea three years before due to an unfortunate scandal. Kim Bok Man, the chairman of Hankang distribution, wants to take over Seoul Hotel and hires Frank Shin to carry out the task. If it is not for a incidental meeting with Jin Young, Frank Shin would not take on the offer and come back to Korea. Kim Bok Man’s daughter, Kim Young Hee (Song Hae Gyo), runs away from home after a dispute with her father and ends up working in Seoul Hotel. Even though Young Jae (Park Yong Chul), young son of the hotel’s owner, really likes her, Young Hee has her heart fixed on Han Tae Jun. Frank Shin decides to stay in Seoul Hotel as he wants to look for Jin Young. She is flattered by his affection but deep in her heart, she still holds some feelings and admiration for Tae Jun. So as the two men, Frank Shin and Tae Jun, engage in a battle over the hotel, they also compete for Jin Young’s heart.

Bae Yong Joon as Frank Shin: Bae Yong Joon is now officially a heartthrob in Korea. He looks very handsome in a suit and with his trademark glasses. Frank Shin is another figure of Prince Charming with numerous qualities that not many males on this planet possess. He is determined, protective, intelligent, handsome, cool, and filthy rich. Bae Yong Joon was very confident in portraying this “cold” and “aloof” image of Frank Shin, a man who has no companion and friends as he is an orphan. Yet he was also able to express the emotions of the character effectively, like when Frank Shin met his long-lost father and sister. The character Frank Shin deserves an Award for “The guy who doesn’t know what it means to be embarrassed”. Frank Shin is one brave guy who can confess his love for Jin Young at any time and anywhere. Be it when he just steps down the plane, when he is about to board one, before he goes to sleep, in private place, in public places, when he is fully dressed, and even when he is half naked. He must be congratulated for never missing out a chance to tell Jin Young of his love. Yet, he was the only character in the series who knew what he wanted from the beginning (well, besides the lovesick Yong Jae who swore to wait for Yoon Hee forever and Yoon Hee who was after Tae Jun relentlessly). Both Tae Jun and Jin Young were very unclear in their feelings. At times you have the feeling that Tae Jun loves Jin Young but then he never really rejects Yoon Hee. As for Jin Young, she still cared for Tae Jun.

Song Yun Ah as Jin Young: Song Yun Ah is beautiful. What is more attractive is that she can act. Her Jin Young was cute, honest, loving and full of spirit. She also looked really busy as if she was really at work. As for some actors, even though they dress up and act as though they are working but they don’t look like the part. Song Yun Ah is different. She really portrayed how Jin Young loved her job and would do anything to keep the hotel going. However, I found the lack of chemistry between her and Bae Yong Joon a major disappointment. He might look at her longingly but they are so distant and polite to each other. For instance, they sat talking in front of the Diamond villa in separate chairs placed like ten meters away from each other or when they talked on the rooftop of the hotel, her head rested against his shoulder but you could see there was this big gap between their bodies. Song Yun Ah was really awkward in front of Bae Yong Joon.

Kim Seung Woo as Han Tae Jun: He reminds me of one of my favourite actors, the Taiwanese actor Zheng Cheng Guang. They have a very similar way of acting. Tae Jun appears to be calm and collected but also very passionate and hot-tempered. It was difficult to understand why Tae Jun did not tell Jin Young that he loved her since they were a loving couple before he left for America. Time after time, he rejected her wish for them to be friends. He would not agree to be her friend as he wanted them to be much more than that. He also told her that he only liked eating chocolate that she bought him. I mean, how dull witted Jin Young was not to realize Tae Jun’s love for her. I guess it was because he could not bring himself to tell her how much he loved and cherished her. Han Tae Jun is a very nice man, indeed too nice. Yet as it is often with nice man, he is also useless. He can’t keep the hotel and can’t even tell the woman he loves of his feelings.

Song Hae Gyo as Kim Yoon-hee : she looked very young and sweet which befitted her role. However, Song Hae Gyo’s acting was very raw and boring as if she was afraid to smile, to talk and to act. She was one character that provoked no real feeling from the viewer, if not boredom. I am now reluctant to watch “Endless Love” even though many people recommend it. Yoon Hee is one daughter whom you wished you are never unfortunate enough to have. All she did was chasing after Tae Jun, even if it means betraying her father and putting him to jail.

The rest of the cast deserves to be mentioned as they all turned in balanced performance with no one was exaggerating in their acting. Notably is Park Jung Chul as Young Jae, the hotel owner’s son. His character had the potential to turn evil and to do some great things with the simple plot but the scriptwriter merely penned him down as a lovesick puppy running after Yoon Hee.

The hotel as the setting for the series is quite impressive. It is so big and grand. All the employees also look very stylish. Yet I can’t stand the dramatic incidents that mean to show how they value their customers. It was plain ridiculous. Would you run around buying lingerie for your guest or kneel down and beg for forgiveness from them? Well, we know that the customer is always right but there is a limit in everything.

The plot works quite well in the first half of the series. I found the second half somewhat frustrating and tiresome. First of all, it is Yoon Hee. She is this daughter of a very famous man who everyone in the hotel knows and hates. She even went to a party held at the hotel yet no one recognizes her when she turns up working at Seoul Hotel. Then you have Jin Young, who is trying to catch two fishes at the same time. I heard that the director did not decide who she would end up with when he started out filming the series so her character was very inconsistent. She was being really unfair to Frank Shin by her indecision. I also kept expecting Tae Jun to do some miraculous thing to save the hotel since they kept saying that he was really good and that he was the only person who could hold the CEO position. Yet he didn’t really do anything. Finally, the process of taking over the hotel was ridiculous. I wonder how Frank Shin would survive after this incident. No one would ever want to hire him again as he just stabbed Kim Ban Mok in the back. Suddenly he turned out to be very rich by the end of the series, having enough money to buy almost all the shares of the hotel. The script slipped into that big alluring trap of Korean series where you have one filthy rich man who could say, “If you want the hotel, I’ll buy it for you, baby.” The death of Yong Jae’s mother was just disastrous. Poor guy, the series starts with the death of his father and ends with the death of his mother. What was the point of her death? It didn’t make any sense or any impact on the viewers. Does the viewer really care that she dies? Was her death a health propaganda? She dies of lung cancer because she smokes. I felt detached to all the characters in this series. I couldn’t relate to any of them since the focus is once again on the main couple. There is really no substantial development in characters except Frank Shin, who is more receptive to other things around him. The rest of the characters, Tae Jun, Yoon Hee, Yong Jae, and Jin Young were essentially the same throughout the series.

So I concocted this recipe for a successful romantic drama:


-One good-looking actor, if you can afford two, that's great. Caution: he must at least look good in suit.

-One actress who can play the role of innocent, sweet princess.

-A setting where your main actor can drive his expensive car to or pay for the whole restaurant just in case he is going to propose to the main actress five seconds after he meets her.

-Some tragic past story: such as father leaving family, mother dying of some terminal disease when young, being deserted as a child, etc...

-Decoration includes the recipe of the "ideal man" in every girl's dream: smart, handsome, suave, charming, intelligent, rich, powerful, loving, loyal and any extra characteristic that you think you can squeeze into your 'already perfect and unrealistic man’.


-Fate is a very important factor. The two main characters must meet by chance and the actor/actress falls in love with the other person from the very first second and must decide that will be the person they would marry.

-One main actor/actress who was dull-witted enough not to recognize the other person's feelings or was in love with someone else.

-The chase where one person showers the other person with romantic dates.

-Add some spice with the use of some triangle/quadrangle love.

-The final realization when one discovers that he/she has always been in love with this person but he/she was too silly to tell the difference between love and friendship.

-The final meeting: either by proposal or uttering some goose bump-raising sentences such as "I love you", "I will stay by your side forever", “I cannot live without you in my life”, “You have taught me the meaning of love”, etc...

-If you want to make a lasting impression, why not let someone die? They could die from saving the person they love, from some terminal disease such as cancer, from accidents, etc... the more tragic, the better.

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