Good Morning President

Reviewed by: sukting

December 13, 2011

Rating: three-point-five

How long
2 hours

The movie is divided into three fictional Presidents. Do you wish to know how they fit into their roles?

Story/Introduction on characters
The first is of President Kim Jong-ho(Lee Soon-jae), who unexpectedly wins a nation wide lottery in the final year of his five year term. The lottery is linked to world cup soccer and he has given his attention to it. Cha Ji-uk,(Jang Dong-gun) gets teased by him for failing to woo his daughter, Lee-yeon (Han Chae-young). Ji-uk's father and Jong-ho are friends so they grow up together.

She is his first love. Ji-uk becomes shy when Jong-ho keeps mentioning how he takes care of him when he is younger. He also gets too perturbed that he drinks beer like him and ends up getting half drunk although he manages to look tired on screen from long talks.

Jong-ho gets so excited that he has a heart attack when he reads the results in his room. All have thought that it is due to an exciting part of a drama that his wife (Jeon Yang-Ja) is watching then. Upon waking up, he requests to see his wallet – not at the photograph that he has taken with his family but to check the numbers on the lottery ticket. He wants to keep the money for his own. Ji-uk sees Lee-yeon visiting her father but doesn't get a chance to talk to her.

As Jong-ho plans on how he will divide his prize money between travel, bullet-proof car and his daughter, he recalls a promise which he has made hastily during a press conference, to give all the money to the taxpayers if he wins the lottery. As he passes the bank to know that the money is unclaimed, he suffers from a second heart attack. Many have thought that he overworks but he knows the real reason. This results his lack of concentration of national affairs and his staff are baffled.

How is he going to get the money? He imagines himself going under disguise to blow his cover. Thus, this will surely not work. Getting frustrated, he comes to the kitchen to ask the chief chef (Lee Moon-su) what he will do if he suddenly gets a sum of money dropped from the sky. The chef replies that he will be dead by directly getting hit. Thus Jong-ho makes the public announcement of giving all the money away to charity.

The whole Korea gets into shock. His wife gets mad with him – why can't he leave a quarter for himself and to think that he even remembers their wedding day wrongly! Her anger is never appeased. Lee-yeon stays with them near a lake after getting her masters overseas.

The second president is now Ji-uk (Jang Dong-gun). He is a young president whose looks and charisma earns him the title of "Korea's JFK". He is a good to be true president that any nation may wish to have. He is intelligent, handsome, powerful, charismatic and also single! The part where he tucks his son to sleep melts many. He faces problems including increasing tensions with Japan, the US and North Korea. Japan overreacts to North Korea's defense of its territorial waters. Suddenly, the U.S. also gets involved but Ji-uk proves a strong defender of his country's independence.

If things go wrong, there may be war. He finds the US president overly demanding. Meetings with the Japanese Emissary leaves him frustrated as he vents his anger as well. He rattles off so fast that the poor translator can't catch his words.

Moreover, he has to take care of his 5 year old son alone. It isn't stated who the mother is but he dotes on the boy. North Korean Emissary also comes to exert more pressure. Ji-uk has 3 fears – to read stories to his son, have injections and to do night duty like a soldier. As tensions go higher, his popularity dips before his term ends and his subordinates get worried.

Ji-uk watches the news and notices that Lee-yeon has become Han Gyeong-ja's (Ko Doo-sim) assistant. Gyeong-ja is the present finance minister for two terms and is planning to run for presidency. Ji-uk is pleased that the chief secretary, Moon Young-Chul (Lee Hae-Yeong) sends flowers to them on his behalf.

A young man (Park Hae-el) cuts many articles on Ji-uk. (Is he going to assassinate Ji-uk?) Young-Chul suggests Ji-uk to appear in public to eat at the roadside and hug babies to win his popularity back. Ji-uk obliges reluctantly as he finds this too fake. Suddenly, a man runs out to him and Ji-uk quickly lies down on the ground, thinking that he wants to shoot him.

The chief of bodyguards (Ju Jin-Mo) is nearly condemned for being slow. Lee-yeon describers Ji-uk as the most agile president in history. The man begs Ji-uk for a kidney to save his father who has a 'rare tissue type' as his own kidnay has failed to work on his father. He has read Ji-uk's late father biography to know about it. Ji-uk is annoyed that his father even writes that there are two rounds on his head as a child. He is amused as the man farts for getting too nervous and replies that he has to think over.

Young-chul suggests that Ji-uk can fake to have the operation but Ji-uk is touched by his filial piety. Ji-uk has talked to the chef about this and makes this decision. He also recalls how close he is to his father. Although he is scared of injections, he goes ahead with the operation and returns to work after recovery. He announces that he will never give in to other countries on television and will maintain good ties with them.

Young-chul is pleased that his popularity raises again. Ji-uk now walks with a walking stick as aid but gets frozen by another piece of news. A man dying of kidney disease threatens to jump over the bridge. Why can't the president give him the kidney but to others. Young-chul asks Ji-uk for another but he runs away, throwing the walking stick behind. (This scene is very hilarious!)

Now comes the intense election results and Gyeong-ja is Korea's first female president. She forces her clumsy and lovable fool husband, Choi Chang-myeon (Im Ha-ryong) to learn dancing with her. This doesn't suit him as a geography professor and he gets very bored. He has to attend ladies events on her behalf when she is too busy. She doesn't allow him to come into contact with his childhood friends so he sneaks out to drink with them.

All of them get drunk – some shouting that they will be punished if she serves them. Gyeong-ja sees how they mess up the blue house and gets so mad that she throws his handphone away. He feels lonelier than ever. He plans for their retirement and buys a piece of land. He doesn't realise that big discounts are provided and she is planning to move the capital from Seoul to the countryside.

This causes a corruption scandal and news splash all over in the papers. Gyeong-ja's mood is so bad that she disregards the seaweed soup he makes for her. Chang-myeon blurts that he wants a divorce on her birthday party. Her daughter and son-in-law fail to dissuade them as Chang-myeon returns to the countryside to cool off. The opposition are at first pleased with spreading the news but later are in dismay when the public gets mad with them as they consider Gyeong-ja a model mother, wife and president.

Gyeong-ja's subordinates discusses on the bad effects of divorce. Those who are happily married never know the torture. More freedom is available but one of them who is divorced twice knows the pain. Gyeong-ja tries to record her divorce announcement in a sad and gentle tone but fails as this doesn't suit her. Her subordinates do not know what advice to give her.

Ji-uk and Jong-ho now watch television as the two families are together. The exchange is funny. Jong-ho exclaims that her dressing is terrible but her face is best under facials. Ji-uk replies that it is true as he also has them during term office. Jong-ho complains – why he never has them but his wife replies that she enjoys the services. Lee-yeon asks them to stop talking to make a fool of themselves.

Ji-suk tells his son never to play with his food or talk when having breakfast but breaks the rules when Lee-yeon calls him. Lee-yeon invites Ji-uk to have a talk at her university. Ji-uk recalls how lonely he is during the president term. He has to handle lots of different crisis. He urges all to master their courage to go after those they love.

After the talk, he has a walk with Lee-yeon. She suddenly hooks his arm and he farts. He gets too nervous – just like the young man. But both later share a kiss under the tree. (But this is definitely underdevelopment as Chae-young acts stony.)

Gyeong-ja gets bored and comes to the kitchen. The 2 previous presidents have asked her to come here when she is down to seek advice from the chef. The chef and his cooks have played cards then in the kitchen on the previous two occasions. Upon seeing her here, they make the same mistake wanting to keep everything but they remember that they are gutting dried anchovies this time.

The chef tells Gyeong-ja how Chang-myeon values her. She realises what she has been missing in life and sneaks out of the blue house on her own. The chief of bodyguards jumps again – will he be fired this time? He gets his team to drive out to look for her. Luckily, the president's car has GPS and they track her down. She is firm that she has to settle this herself but he reminds her that her driving license has expired.

He drives her to see Chang-myeon and both dance on the road. Jong-ho buys lottery with his wife and wants to peep at her numbers. He knows how hard it is to win as he has won before. The chef has written a book on serving the presidents and it will be out soon.

Most favourite character President Cha – very charismatic as he knows what he wants and likes well. He will never give in to pressure easily. Second will be President Kim – he is greedy initially but is still kind to make his promise come true in the end.

Most hated character President Han – she totally belittles her husband. No wonder he feels trapped and useless.

The movie is a comedy with romance and drama. The first story is the strongest – it's not complex and it is ridiculously funny. The comic talents of Lee Soon-jae give life and promise to his role. All will laugh at how President Kim has to suffer on his own in secret upon knowing his win of the lottery and yet he must claim it within 6 months – the due date is 2 days before his term ends.

The two other stories are more serious. We are shown characters that have multiple facets to their presidency. However, their stories have an unsatisfying ending. The last one is like totally redundant as it hardly talks on how capable President Han is. She is more like a lioness roaring at everyone.

This movie is to boost Korean confidence and empathy towards the President and the country itself. Maybe because the Koreans themselves are disappointed in the recent presidents they get. The presidents make correct decisions in the film. They are often found doing something very common. President Cha eats instant noodles and President Han is gutting dried anchovies.
The diplomatic ties hinted in the film is a mirror, perhaps not where Korea is, but of where Korea would like to see itself in international politics : to say no to US for once, on friendly terms to North Korea and hold their head up high to the Japanese. The fantasy of being stronger.

Also the office has no bribery. There's little backstabbing or political unrest in these presidencies. We don't see strikes or protests at all. Kim, Cha, and Han are so outstanding that they make all feel like migrating to Korea. But President Han is least likeable among the three presidents. Her story is also the weakest.

Her lack of emotion and personality upholds the boring "Iron Lady" image of female politicians. I think her husband upstages her in every aspect for being the underdog. What puzzles me most is her story to be at the end to be President Cha's successor – shouldn't President Cha be the last one as the youngest? Or the director wants to stress that there is a hope of having a female president regardless of age?

One may have expected a lot in the showing of romance but sad to say, it is minimal. Chae-young and Dong-gun match in looks but there is little chemistry between them. What a waste! But still, all must admit that Dong-gun might be the most handsome president in movies. I like the way that Chief Chef is the connection among the three presidents. He knows them well and helps them in his best ability.

Many parts are left unexplained. Who is the mother of Ji-uk's son? Why Lee-yeon – the ex-president Kim's daughter can be President Han's aide? Why President Han doesn't like Seoul and wants to move the capital to the countryside? Most plot developments are like soap-operas but the Blue-house sets look impressive with the technical effects. So it is definitely worth your time watching it.

Sukting's ratings :
On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

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