Queen of the Game


Reviewed by: lotusgal

January 21, 2008

Rating: two-point-five

A story on love and revenge. 20 episodes broadcasted in South Korea from November 2006 to January 2007.

Learn Korean: Geimui Yeowang (Queen of the Game)
geim (ge-im) = game (loanword)
ui = of
yeowang (yeo-wang) = queen

Cast
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Joo Jin Mo - AS - Lee Shin Jun (male lead)
Lee Bo Young - AS - Kang Eun Seol (female lead)
Choi Joon Yong - AS - Kim Pil Seo (second male lead)
Kim Soo Hyun - AS - Park Joo Won (second female lead)

Han Jin Hee - AS - Kang Jae Ho (Eun Seol's father)
Nah Young Hee - AS - Han Mi Sook (Shin Jun's mother)
Kang Yi Suk - AS - Summer (Shin Jun and Eun Seol's 5 year old son)
Kim Ga Yeon - AS - Samantha (Pil Seo's ex wife)
Jung Han Yong - AS - President Jang (Samantha's father)
Yoon Mi Ra - AS - Jang Su Ja (Eun Seol's aunt)
Kim Hee Jung - AS - Young Soon (Su Ja's daughter)
Kim Hong Pyo - AS - Berg (Mi Sook's adoptive son)

Story
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President Lee was once a successful businessman in charge of the Seoul Hotel. Kang Jae Ho once worked under Lee, and took over the Hotel by ruthlessly ousting Lee. Lee was devastated and drove his car into a river with his wife and young son in the car. Lee was drowned, but his wife Mi Sook and son Shin Jun survived. After the tragedy, Shin Jun gradually turns into a ruthless businessman and vows to take the Seoul Hotel back.

More than twenty years later, Lee Shin Jun is a successful business acquisition specialist and is trying to get his opportunity for revenge. The story opens at New Zealand, where Shin Jun plots a chance encounter with Jae Ho's daughter, Eun Seol, who is visiting a farm house there. The two have a great spark of chemistry and fall in love while Shin Jun is still going on with his revenge. At the airport returning to Korea, Shin Jun purposely doesn't tell Eun Seol his contact information and leaves her frustrated and bewildered. Also heading to Korea on the same plane with Eun Seol is Joo Won, Shin Jun's long-time business partner and an international lawyer. Shin Jun once pursued Joo Won when they were in school but she refused. Now Joo Won is trying to get a relationship started with Shin Jun.

Shin Jun gets himself a good position in the Seoul Hotel and meets Jae Ho at Shin Jun's appointment ceremony. Eun Seol also shows up at the ceremony but Shin Jun pretends to meet her for the first time. Eun Seol is angry at his game playing, but Shin Jun quickly reconciles with her by admitting his love for her, and gives conflict of business interest as a reason for pretending to not know her earlier. The two fall madly in love, though Shin Jun's goal of revenge on Jae Ho hasn't changed a bit.

Pil Seo was adopted by Jae Ho and loves his adoptive sister Eun Seol. For this reason, his arranged marriage to Samantha failed, but Samantha still has a heart on him.

After more than twenty years, Mi Sook hasn't recovered from her husband's tragedy and has turned into an alcoholic. She struggles out of a mental institution in New York and comes to Korea without telling her son Shin Jun. Mi Sook has a secret that is about to come out - She had a love affair with Jae Ho, who dumped her. She hates him more than anyone else for the past twenty years. Joo Won is the only one who knows of Mi Sook's return to Korea and takes care of her like a daughter.

Shin Jun gets closer to taking over of Seoul Hotel and sending Jae Ho to jail due to his wrongdoings in business. At the same time, Jae Ho finds out about Eun Seol's love relationship with Shin Jun. Jae Ho forces Eun Seol to break up with Shin Jun, but only pushes his daughter closer to Shin Jun.

Shin Jun finally succeeds in his revenge, and confronts Jae Ho and Eun Seol to tell them the real reason for getting to know Eun Seol. Eun Seol is devastated. But she also believes Shin Jun truly loves her. She begs Shin Jun to forgive her father.

After much complication, both Shin Jun and Jae Ho are under police investigation. Joo Won made a deal with Samantha's father to save Shin Jun, and as a result loses her lawyer license. Joo Won's effort can't move Shin Jun's love toward Eun Seol. Soon Eun Seol finds herself pregnant with Shin Jun's child.

After all the trouble, Jae Ho's health breaks down and gets into a hospital. Eun Seol is heartbroken seeing her father's tragedy, and starts to hate Shin Jun, while at the same time Shin Jun finally decides to be with her forever. Eun Seol takes a step in revenging Shin Jun by lying to him that she aborted their child. Shin Jun is upset and gets into a car accident. As a result, he loses parts of his memory and disappears from everybody's sight.

Five years later, Eun Seol and Shin Jun's son has grown into a cute young boy. Eun Seol works as a manager at a construction project, where she accidentally bumps into Shin Jun again. Shin Jun has lost his memory and can't recognize Eun Seol, but he vaguely remembers he loved this woman and still does. Mi Sook and Joo Won are also looking for Shin Jun, who has lost contact for the past five years. Through Eun Seol's help they found him. Mi Sook and Joo Won lie to Shin Jun that he was engaged to Joo Won before he lost his memory. Eventually, Shin Jun recovers his memory, dumps Joo Woo, and tries to win Eun Seol back.

The angry Joo Woo takes revenge on Shin Jun by partnering with his enemies - Samantha and her father President Jang, who have taken control of the hotel but has lost lots of money due to poor management. They got the money back by selling stocks of the hotel, causing troubles for Shin Jun. In the meantime, Mi Sook unexpectedly pushes the fragile Jae Ho to death with Eun Seol witnessing the whole scene, intensifying their hatred.

The last few episodes basically revolve around how Eun Seol, Mi Sook, and Shin Jun learn to live as one family. And Shin Jun gradually recovers the failing hotel.


Comments

This is not the first TV series on revenge and love. Usually, stories involving revenge have lots of conflicts, twists and turns that make them good stories. The beginning of this show has a lot of potential. Shin Jun's motives are straight forward and understandable. The revenge process is also intriguing enough to get past the first five episodes or so, as he tries to capture the heart of Eun Seol while falling in love with her at the same time.

After Eun Seol knows his purpose and after much heartaches, she starts her revenge. And this is where the story starts to screw up. She gets pregnant with his baby, but lies to him that she aborted the child; then she refuses him over, and over, and over again, even after five long years. The reason is because their parents are enemies. Are we in a Romeo-and-Juliet era? Also it's because she hates his revenge but at the same time loves him madly. This just doesn't make any sense at all.

This is not the only problem with the script. As expected in Korean dramas, the overused, clich├ęd elements of amnesia and car accidents show up again, not once, but twice. Apparently the script writer has run out of ideas after the first several episodes. This is a common problem in Korean TV dramas: Usually there are some exotic foreign or off-the-main-site settings in the first few episodes; upon returning to Seoul, they face their problems at home. Then the stories start to drag on the on-and-off love affairs.

If there are other peaks in the show, or if the ending is interesting enough, they might still save the drama. The second peak of this series occurs after five years, when Shin Jun suddenly shows up without memories of his past. Everyone tries to grab him back except Eun Seol. But the last five episodes aren't really needed. It takes way too long for us to see how Mi Sook lets go of her hatred toward Eun Seol. I found myself fast forwarding every 5 to 10 minutes in the last few episodes.

As expected, this is quite a heavy feeling drama. It focuses more on the emotions of the characters rather than the details of their actions. For example, why was Eun Seol in Koodu's Farm in the first episode? We know Shin Jun shows up to purposely bump into her, but how did he know she will be there? It's way too big a coincidence. The whole business Shin Jun gets involved in at the hotel is also vague. This actually reminds me of the popular Korean drama "Hotelier" with a similar business setting, but with a much clearer picture on what the business deals and transactions are. In this drama, they just breeze through them, then spend double the time on the characters's love entangles.

So what are some good points of this series?

The entire cast has done excellent jobs at their roles, especially Joo Jin Mo and Lee Bo Young as the two main leads. Not only do they have good looks, but they share great chemistry and fit their characters very well. Jin Mo's Shin Jun is portrayed as a man stuck between a strong will to revenge and the unmovable love toward his target. Bo Young plays the change in Eun Seol seamlessly, from an innocent and slightly spoiled rich man's daughter to a post-tragedy working mother. She evolved in that role very well.

Newcomer Kim Soo Hyun has a classy look and feel - she was Miss Korea and a professional model. Her background in the USA also helped that role as she speaks fluent English without any accent. Her beauty and smart look make her a competitive second female lead. Upon seeing her in the first episode, I was wondering why she wasn't casted as the first lead. But as the series progressed, I do think Bo Young's softer feel fits the role of Eun Seol better.

The boy who plays Summer is so cute and very good in acting. He is a much needed relief to the show.

The soundtrack is excellent. This seems to be a consistent strong quality in Korean TV series. My favorites are the instrumental track, the heavily upbeat "Queen of the Games", and its song version "The Game of Love".

The conclusion of the series, as said by Eun Seol at the end, is "forgiveness is the best revenge" - Not only is the sentence well done, the story supports it from start to finish.

Should you watch this series? If you like lots of conflicts in a pure love story, get this. This would be a good one for briefly getting away from the mundane world. If you are looking for something more than on-and-off love, it might not be for you.

I give this series a two and half stars rating - one for the excellent cast, one for the soundtrack, and half for having a good conclusion.


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