Ruler Of Your Own World


Reviewed by: il_mare

January 24, 2005

Rating: four-point-five

Ne Meosdaero Haera aka Ruler of Your Own World

MBC Wed/Thur Miniseries (2002)- 20 episodes
For MBC homepage for this drama in Korean, go to: www.imbc.com/tv/drama/willfully/index.html
Aired on MBC in Korea: July 3, 2002 - Sept. 5, 2002 on Wednesday &
Thursday nights at 9:55.pm

Cast:
Ko Boksu (26): Yang Dong Geun
Jun Kyung (25): Lee Na Young (Have we really loved?)
Han Dong-jin (30): Lee Dong Gun (Sweet 18/Sang-doo, let's go to school)
Song Mi-rae (27): Gong Hyo Jin (Snowman/Sang-doo, let's go to school)
Ko Joong-sup (60): Shin Goo (Sang-doo, let's go to school)
Jung Yoo-soon (50): Yoon Yeo Jung (This Is Love/Hotelier)
Jun Nak-kwan (61): Jo Kyung Hwan (All-in)
Kang In-ok (55): Lee Hye Sook
Jun Kang (35): Lee Se Chang (Lovers in Paris)
Director Yang Chan-suk : Jung Doo Hong
Detective Park Jung-dal (43): Kim Myung Kook
Ko Boong-yi (20): Huh In Bum
Song Hyun-ji (15): Jun Hye Jin
Ki Hong: Kim Jae Wook
Jung Kook: Kim Jae Man

For more information (in Korean) about the cast, go to: www.imbc.com/tv/drama/willfully/html/peo_01.html.

Staff:
Writer: In Jung Wook
Producer: Park Sung Soo

For MBC Videos on Demand (VODs) in Korean for this drama, go to: www.imbc.com/tv/drama/willfully/htmlvod.html

For MBC photos from this drama, go to:
www.imbc.com/tv/drama/willfully/html/photo01.html

To listen to the drama music, go to: www.imbc.com/tv/drama/willfully/html/ost_1.html.

This review is possible because of totuta! Please visit his excellent ROYOW homepage at www.royow.wo.to

Synopsis:

Kyung is the keyboardist of an indie rock band trying to break into the music industry. Boksu is a petty pickpocket who has just been released from prison.

Kyung's family is well-to-do as her father operates a hotel chain, and her married brother runs a successful used-car company. But she is the outcast of her family as her father is unhappy with her choice of profession.

Boksu's parents are separated and he lives with his father. He shares a close relationship with his father, who is a bus driver. Boksu manages to find his mother and buys a small take-away shop (with the money he stole from pick-pocketing) for her to support herself and his half-brother.

The lead singer of Kyung's band becomes ill and needs money urgently for a life saving operation. The band decids to use the funds they saved for first album to save their band member. Kyung withdraws the money from the bank but her bag is pick-pocketed by Boksu at the bus stop. This event indirectly results in the death of the band's lead singer as she was not operated in time.

Boksu has a girlfriend Mirae, who works as a cheerleader for the baseball team of a large corporation. She loves him unconditionally and is a loud and dominating character. But since Boksu meets Kyung, he becomes uncontrollably drawn to her and tries to get close to her.

At the same time, Kyung meets Mr Han and starts to date the charming and well-to-do journalist. However, the more she gets to know Boksu, the more Kyung finds herself drawn to Boksu instead. Although she finds out that Boksu was the pickpocket who stole from her and caused her friend's death, she can't suppress her feelings for Boksu.

Boksu finds out that he has a life-threatening tumor in his head, and decides to change his ways and lead a different life. He becomes inspired by a stunt director and decides to become a stuntman. He also decides to break-up with Mirae to be with the woman he loves deeply, Kyung.

As Boksu and Kyung find love in each other, they also learn about life and love from and of their friends and their family.


Review: (Spoilers!)

I finished this kdrama about 2 months ago, but did not gather enough courage to write a review for fear of the wrath I may incur with what I have to say about this kdrama that's achieved an almost cult-like status with its fans. But it has been bothering me that I have not written any kdrama reviews for a while, and the only piece that inspired me out of all the recent kdramas I've seen is ROYOW.

This kdrama made use of very conventional kdrama ingredients, but the writer turned all the cooking steps upside down and you end up with a fusion dish that is uniquely Korean and yet not Korean! There was a rich handsome yuppie, there was an ugly underdog, there was a pretty and kind female lead, there was a bitchy foul-mouthed ex-girlfriend, and there was also terminal disease. But do not expect ANY of the usual kdrama fare. In this kdrama, the ugly chap got the pretty girl, and not the handsome yuppie. The pretty girl is the third party who snatches the ugly underdog from the bitchy girl (who then became an ex-girlfriend). The pretty girl smokes, drinks and plays in a rock band. Well, how's that for a kdrama with a difference!

ROYOW is a perfectly-written kdrama, from the dialogue, to the characters, to the story, to the sub-plots. A true gem. A perfectly cut diamond by an outstanding craftsman. No matter where you stand there will always be a shadow of its glitter shining on you. Like a well-made sweater with every knot perfectly weaved, every seam perfectly joined. Yet I can't help but feel that because of the perfect writing, ROYOW may be better savored as a book versus a drama.

Ko Boksu, a petty pickpocket with a totally uncool name, is the hero of this kdrama! YDG was so good as Boksu. He gave the character this cuteness (with his curly hair and ugliness) and a lovable demeanor that it is easy to understand why every fan of this kdrama loves Boksu. He made Boksu real.

Boksu was truly blessed because he was surrounded by love. His father, Kyung, Mirae, Director Yang and his friends. Everyone who comes across Boksu, all ended up loving this cute littlie ugly man (except detective Park). And they all loved him to death! (Why is EVERYONE so in love with Boksu? I know he is cute, but NOT that cute!) But I could not reconcile with how a man with the qualities of Boksu ended up as a pickpocket.

Many people celebrated how Boksu touched the lives of others. I for one did not feel that he made a huge difference to those around him. Being well-liked and touching other people's lives are two different things. Personally it is his endearing qualities, of turning over a new leaf, of dealing with the burden of having too much love and of trying to gain the love of his mother (the one love that eluded him) that stood out for me.

I find Kyung a real funny character. On one hand she had the qualities of a typical kdrama heroine because she was kind, soft-hearted, self-suffering, forgiving, pretty and simple. Yet on the other hand the writer gave all these un-heroine habits/character/profile e.g. she smoked, she held her liquor very well, she was in a head-banging rock band, and she admitted to premarital sex! This in a way makes her very real, and yet uncommon in kdramas.

Kyung had a simple mind, and sometimes it was her simplicity that gave her clarity about the things around her. Her reaction to her mother's loveless marriage and her brother's marriage showed Kyung to have a mind of her own about love and relationships, and was reflected in her blind pursuit of her relationship with Boksu. And her perseverance in pursuing her interest in music displayed a strength beneath her meek and insecure exterior. LNY was a newcomer then, but she was truly outstanding in her role, and with her portrayal of Kyung, she has successfully crafted a niche playing such quirky characters (she won the Best Actress at the Blue Dragon awards this year for an equally quirky role in the movie "Someone Special").

I was pleased with the chemistry of YDG and LNY, but personally the writer did not not convince me of the union between Kyung and Boksu. The quirkiness and eccentricity of these two were so unreal! How they hooked up baffled me. Both of them had such child-like simplicity that it seemed almost impossible that people like that exist. I hesitate to describe them as perfect human beings, as their perfect union was a result of Boksu's betrayal to Mirae. Therein lies the brilliance of ROYOW, because in every perfection you will find a flaw that you can relate to! Something so human, so real, and yet so surreal.

Mirae was Boksu's long-time domineering girlfriend. She mothered Boksu, and I think in some ways loved Boksu because he submitted to her domineering ways. Her love for Boksu was quite unbelievable. Even after he broke up with her, she continued to visit him and cook for him and even suggested that Boksu two-time for a while before deciding between Kyung and her! She just couldn't shake him out of her life! I cannot believe that a cool chick like Mirae would stoop to that!

Perhaps Mirae's hardened exterior was just a cover for her insecurities, and she needed a submissive guy to make herself feel good. Still I find it hard to believe that Mirae was insecure. She always came across as confident and strong. I love Mirae for her strength and loyalty, and perhaps that attributed to her attachment to Boksu, which in my opinion was completely out of character. GHJ with her unconventional looks and swaggering style gave the crude Mirae the right dose of spunk to carry the character off.

As for Mr Han, I felt it is the writer's way of making fun at the young, superficial, affluent, yuppie crowd. On one hand he was charming, rich and attentive yet on the other hand he was insensitive, he conformed (terribly like the way he kept asking Kyung why she didn't act/behave the way she looked) and he was a show off. Well he did not do it on purpose, but yet it showed his insensitive manners. He kept tabs of what he does for her, and he constantly reminded her about it. If it had been another kdrama writer, Mr Han would have been a perfect Prince Charming, but in this writer's eyes, she despised such a person. LDG was sweet and charming as Mr Han and childish and silly as he was, you can never hate him.

The writer also takes a punt at snubbing society's conventional definition of success, with the way she twisted the norm and celebrated the common man. For example, Kyung's father was a rich man, but he had no kindness in his heart. He was a brute and ?conquered? Kyung's mother into marrying him. And the shallow ways the self-absorbed and self-centered, yet well-educated, Mr Han trying unsuccessfully to win Kyung by showering her with gifts.

Personally I loved the sub-characters of this kdrama much more than the core leads. Everyone had a soul written into their character. Each role was so human and I am sure you will find a character that you may relate to. There was no Prince Charming nor was there a fairy tale in this story. Just everyday folks living an ordinary life yet offering the audience an extraordinary experience.

I cried for almost every single character in this kdrama, except Boksu and Kyung. I don't know why I could not connect with this quirky couple. I could not understand their attraction, neither did I rejoice in their union. But the touching sub-relationships folded into this core couple more than made up for the inadequacy I felt in Kyung and Boksu, e.g. Boksu and his father, Boksu and his mother, Boksu and Junior, Boksu and Director Yang, Kyung and her family, Mirae and Kang, Kang and his father etc.

My favourite was Boksu's relationship with his parents. He loved both of them with all his heart. Yet they could not overcome the baggage of their past to come together again. The resentment and the pain Boksu's mother felt was truly one of the most gut-wrenching to watch. Initially I hated her treatment of Boksu, how she tried to suck him dry, how she was always looking bitter although he tried tirelessly to humor her and how she clung onto the wrong men for comfort. But I could not stop sobbing at the scene when she begged Boksu for forgiveness (more so than the scene when Boksu found his father's body). She was so badly scarred from her violent marriage to Boksu's father that the sheer existence of Boksu was a constant reminder of her painful past. It is such a helpless situation because she couldn't change the fact that Boksu was her flesh and blood, but she could not love him the way he wanted her to.

The love Boksu's father had for him was so thorough, so deep and yet so selfish. He would turn against the world for his son, yet he could not guide his son out of being a pickpocket. He lived his life for Boksu and was willing to give up his life to protect his son, yet he bashed and abused the woman who gave birth to Boksu. Such strong emotions from such a weak man. My favourite scene of Boksu and his father was the one when he visited Boksu at the police station where he cried and told Boksu to turn Junior in. It felt as though it was my father calling out to me. And it was such a wonderful reply that Boksu gave to his weakling father. I was so impressed the way this scene was written.

The writer cleverly worked in a lot of ironies into the script as well. For example, Kyung was the rich poor girl and Mirae was the poor rich girl. Kyung was the sweet girl who was a member of a rock band, and Mirae was the crude girl who aspired to be a nurse. Boksu was the poor yet emotionally-fulfilled pickpocket and Mr Han was the rich yet emotionally immature journalist. Kyung's father detestd Kyung, while as Boksu's father loved Boksu to death (literally). Kyung hated her mother for her selfishness, while as Boksu was always trying to win his mother over despite her selfishness (see what I mean by multi-facet gem with a balanced script! For more interesting tidbits, please visit totuta's site about the names of the characters and their meanings).

It is interesting to see how each family appeared normal on the surface yet were so dysfunctional within. Take Kyung's family for example. She lived with her parents, her brother and her sister-in-law under the same roof, yet each led a lonely life, each lived in isolation. Kang seemed to be the one who should be the happiest as the favourite son, but he was actually the one suffering the most in the family. Kyung's mother should be the most fortunate woman to have a husband who loved her, yet she was the most bitter soul in the family. Beneath Boksu's father's protective loving exterior lay a violent alcoholic wife beater, who was weak and could not come to grips when faced with realities of life. Boksu's mother ill-treated Boksu to get back at his father. It got me thinking about my family, whether it is in some ways dysfunctional as well. I think it just depends on which side you stand when you assess the situation. And from ROYOW, you can always understand the choices each individual made because it was so well presented. Just when you thought you had every corner checked, you find another dimension with this kdrama that fascinates you that you didn't realise before.

Another key strength which contributed to the success of this kdrama was the excellent acting. Such flawless execution by the cast! From the lead actors right down to the stand-in stunt man. Each gave their heart and their best into the roles they were assigned, and brought life to the characters they played. I have not seen another kdrama with such a perfect balance of performance from every single member of the cast, and I give credit to the PD for putting together an excellent kdrama and exhibiting teamwork at its best.

This kdrama deserves a perfect 5-rating any day, yet I have decided to give it 4.5. I guess it is just a question of personal taste. Something about the 2 leads' strangeness alienated me, and knowing the male lead's impending death upfront dampened my involvement with this kdrama. What is there to care about the story when you know the guy's going to die anyway? And mid-way through the kdrama, judging from the style of this writer, I sort of knew it was going to be an open-ended ending, so it took away any form of anticipation which one gets with catching a kdrama. I know many have argued that it is the experience (and I would describe ROYOW as smooth-sailing on a quiet lake versus a nerve-wrecking roller coaster ride) and not the end that matters in this story, but I guess in that way I have to admit, I am shallow.

Favourites

- Almost all scenes between Boksu and his father e.g. when Boksu bought 2 fishes and his father asked him whether he was two-timing, his father felt sick and he carried his father to the hospital, his father crying over Boksu's arrest, Boksu's father's suicide.
- Boksu crying with his mouth full of food after his dad told him that he must stay healthy
- Kyung asked Boksu whether she could like him
- Every scene between Boksu and Director Yang
- Every scene between Boksu and his half-brother
- Boksu and Kyung meeting to share the happiness of Boksu's first paycheck and Boksu gave Kyung a stick to help her quit smoking
- Boksu made Detective Park promise to die with him
- Boksu's mother begging Boksu for his forgiveness
- Boksu losing both parents on the same day
- Kang speaking to his adopted father about meeting his biological father
- Kang going after Mirae
- Kang's wife slapping Kang in church
- Mr Han showing off new girlfriends to Kyung
- The song "Butterfly"

Dislikes
- The scene when Kyung and Boksu were at the police station and Kyung was taken away by Mr Han, but she ran back and knelt at Boksu's feet. (I really hated that scene!!! What the hell is going through her mind? Why is everyone so in love with Boksu?!)
- Kyung sat outside the police station and asked Mr Han for a cigarette, trembling about losing Boksu
- The trip. Too long, too abstract, too arty, trying too hard.


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