I Love “Love Rain” (Naneun Sarangbileul Sarang)

*I hope my Korean version of this post’s title is correct. Please feel free to correct me.*

Love_Rain_(Korean_Drama)-Poster_3

In Brief

It took all of three seconds for Seo In-Ha (Jang Keun-Suk) to fall in love with Kim Yoon-Hee (Im Yoona), without an inkling who she is, when they first walked past each other on campus. They then meet and fall deeply in love as shy university students in the seventies. Having to overcome obstacles and their own insecurities, it takes time for the hesitant pair to finally confess their true feelings. Unfortunately, their union is short-lived as circumstances beyond their control send them down different paths.

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In-Ha and Yoon-Hee’s “heart-throbbing” walk in the rain.

Love_Rain_(Korean_Drama)-1970-SeoInHa_and_KimYoonNee

In-Ha & Yoon-Hee in the 1970s. Unfortunately brief yet intense love in the making.

Fast forward to 2012, In-Ha (Jung Jin-Young) has been divorced from Baek Hye-Jung, one of Yoon-Hee’s former best friends, for ten years. Never gotten over the untimely separation from his first love, he has been leading a miserable and detached existence all these years. Miraculously, he runs into Yoon-Hee (Lee Mi-Sook) one fine rainy day (yup, it’s got to be rain with these two). Finding out that she’s been widowed for many years, In-Ha pursues Yoon-Hee relentlessly to rekindle their romance. His efforts pay off as Yoon-Hee finally agrees to reconcile and the pair look forward to making up for lost time.

In-Ha’s son Seo Joon (Jang Keun-Suk), a photographer, first bumps into Yoon-Hee’s daughter Jung Ha-Na (Im Yoona) while on a photo shoot in Hokkaido, Japan. Their personalities are vastly different from their parents’. Joon is headstrong, confident, and somewhat a narcissist. Ha-Na is cheerful, vivacious, and earnest. Both are outspoken. In true K-drama fashion, they initially find each other troublesome, perplexing, and even intolerable. Despite their constant bickering, they can’t help but be drawn to each other. As fate would have it, Joon and Ha-Na eventually fall in love. (Oh, oh…eotteohke?)

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Joon & Ha-Na sharing a silly phone conversation.

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In-Ha & Yoon-Hee finally resume their relationship after 30 agonizing years of longing.
Somewhere across town, Joon & Ha-Na affirm their relationship.

Unaware their children are dating, In-Ha and Yoon-Hee announce they are getting married, which will make Joon and Ha-Na step-siblings. Which couple should sacrifice for the happiness of the other? Or are they destined for a heartbreaking end?

(Adapted from: Wikipedia)

The Discovery

There’s usually not much to watch on tv (ie. local free-to-air channels, we don’t subscribe to pay tv) during weekends. Something I’ve always found odd. Shouldn’t we be spoilt for choice on our rest days after a weeklong of toiling at work? I doubt they (the tv people) are trying to discourage us from being couch potatoes but to engage in some alternative, perhaps healthier, pursuits instead. Dunno…

It was on one such Saturday a few months ago I first stumbled upon Love Rain as hubby flipped between 2 channels offering programs in Chinese. For want of something better, we settled on this to while our time away relaxing after dinner.

Years have passed since I watched my last Korean drama. I had to quit because work schedules wouldn’t permit such pleasures plus I felt wearied by the usual depressive theme so characteristic of K-dramas at the time. So I was blasé towards Love Rain initially. Unlike Rooftop Prince which was intensely advertised, Love Rain hardly got publicized so unsurprisingly, I hadn’t heard of it. This turned out to be a good thing as I had zero expectations but ended up immensely impressed.

Aired every Saturday over an hour-and-a-half slot, perhaps the first episode I glimpsed might have been Episode 5, right when period 2012 begins. Barely paying attention at first, the drama somehow lured my interest little by little. Then the main plot was revealed and I was captivated hook, line, and sinker.

The Hooks

So what enraptured me?

The Plot
Seemed typical K-drama to me at first…boy meets girl; boy likes girl but is egoistically mean to her; girl likes another but is inadvertently drawn to boy; ultimately magnetism wins and they inevitably get together. And they lived happily ever after from then on? Of course not! It is after all a Korean drama and we’re only on Episode 10 (of 20). By then, somehow its pull on me was already intense as there was something refreshing about the characters.

What did me in was the shocking revelation in Episode 11 (yup, right after the star couple became an item) that boy’s dad and girl’s mom are lovers! Oh no, what are they going to do?

The Songs
I love music (though I don’t play any instruments and can barely carry a tune) so the expressive scores in Love Rain served to gravitate me all the more. Suitably interspersed enthralling lyrical compositions throughout the drama – something I feel is uniquely Love Rain. The theme song, Love Rain (Sarangbi) is simply dreamy and the singer is none other than the drama’s main actor, Jang Keun-Suk! I was truly fascinated.

As I found out later, two soundtracks were compiled and I love them both. Almost all the songs got me humming and lip-syncing (as best I can).

Mission “Love Rain”

Okay, now that I’m hooked, the mission was to satiate my longing. I couldn’t possibly continue watching it on tv because:

> it’s shown only once a week every Saturday. Argh, that’ll take too long. Plus I was sure I couldn’t devote an hour and a half of my Saturday evenings for this purpose.

> by then, I’d missed (including when I wasn’t paying attention) quite a few episodes which left me with numerous unanswered questions.

> it’s dubbed in Mandarin with Malay subtitles. I truly despise dubbed versions as I feel they lack the appropriate emotions and expressions. In addition, I suppose due to limited dubbing artists, several characters may be voiced by the same person so obviously, they end up sounding the same. My Mandarin isn’t yet fluent so I rely heavily on the Malay subtitles. Since I have to read subtitles anyway, my quest was to watch it in original Korean with English subtitles.

The answer – Maaduu! Such a wonderful first time adventure watching a whole Korean drama streamed online absolutely free.

My “Love Rain” Likes

> The 2 main actors, Jang Keun-Suk and Im Yoona (of SNSD fame) portrayed their respective dual roles with commendable ardor. From shy, reserved, and serious in the 1970s to outspoken, energetic, and refreshingly exuberant in 2012. I felt their chemistry was superb. An ideal couple made in K-drama heaven.

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> No ding-dong struggle. Once they’ve made up their minds, they stuck to it. There were a few times I thought Ha-Na would chicken out but she didn’t. Instead she unyieldingly stood by her decision to stand by Joon’s side. Fighting!

My “Love Rain” Dislikes

> It does get draggy here and there but to me, they are forgivable. After all, what’s a Korean drama without it’s slow-moving moments right?

Question raised in my mind:

How accepting are different cultures towards such a relationship?

Joon and Ha-Na tried giving up on their relationship when they found out Joon’s dad and Ha-Na’s mom are recently reunited long-lost lovers. The first love they’ve been pining for and who’ve defined their lives all these 30 years. The situation turned more distressing with talk of marriage between the seniors, which in turn would make Joon and Ha-Na step-siblings. What little sliver of hope the hapless young couple held onto was dashed to smithereens because apparently, their union is seen as an absolute no-no. As Joon stressed to Ha-Na in one scene, “It’ll soon be wrong for us to even think about each other in that way!”

I can imagine a tangled situation like this occurring in real life. So what’s acceptable in different cultures? As a rather liberal Malaysian-Chinese, I am of the opinion both couples ought to pursue their happiness without feeling guilt-ridden. Hey, why not? It’s not like the young lovers are blood-related, which is the main concern with marriages amongst close relatives. If their parents get married, they become brother and sister in name only, period. Of course the dynamics of their relationship with each other and those around them will become more complicated but complicated doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. If we would just look past the taboos, life can become uncomplicated and happier.

This reminded me of how puzzled I felt when the star-crossed lovers in Autumn In My Heart were doomed too for a similar reason. Boy and girl grow up as siblings until their teenage years. An accident shockingly reveals the girl isn’t the family’s biological daughter due to a mix-up at the hospital during her birth. Girl is returned to her rightful family. Boy and girl get separated but meet again years later only to fall madly in love with each other. Unfortunately, boy’s parents (whom were also girl’s parents until her early teenage years, mind you) oppose this. Why? Because they’re siblings. Hello, no they’re not and there’s a blood test to prove it too. Depressing really but anyways…

Notable supporting characters:

These characters truly added color and amusement and made the viewing even more enjoyable:

Lee Sun-Ho (excellently portrayed by Kim Shi-Hoo)
The unassuming catalyst to Joon and Ha-Na’s burgeoning relationship, even though he too is in love with Ha-Na. Best friend to both through thick and thin.

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Lee Sun-Ho – the good doctor.

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Lee Sun-Ho – “Talking” to cans of beer while worrying about Joon & Ha-Na.

Kim Chang-Mo (1970s) / Kim Jeon-seol (2012) (comically portrayed by Seo In-Guk)
Being the comic, he really brings on the laughter. Very entertaining indeed. Oh, he sings well too. Fate (Like A Fool), expressively sung by Seo In-Guk, is featured in the drama and included on the second original soundtrack compilation.

Love_Rain_(Korean_Drama)-SeoInGuk_1

Kim Chang-Mo (1970s) – the comic with nice singing voice.

Love_Rain_(Korean_Drama)-SeoInGuk_Kim Jeon-Seol_2012

Kim Jeon-Seol, Kim Chang-Mo’s bungling nephew, caused quite a ruckus with his sudden, uninvited arrival at the White Garden.

Jo Soo (delightfully portrayed by Oh Seung-Yun)
Joon’s assistant, Jo Soo injects lighthearted, amusing moments. He’s also indirectly responsible for Joon and Ha-Na’s union.

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Jo Soo, Joon’s assistant, whose name literally means “assistant”. One of the many times he wanted to get his hands on Joon for his arrogance and sarcasm.

Lee Mi-Ho (aptly portrayed by Park Se-Young)
Though she’s the pesky other girl, I can’t help but like her somehow.

Love_Rain_(Korean_Drama)-LeeMiHo

Lee Mi-Ho – she’s not as bad as she seems. Just a spoilt brat who’s been fancying her Joon “oppa” for a long time.

In Conclusion

Let’s make this plain and simple – I love Love Rain! I’ve watched it 4 or 5 times and not planning to stop at that. It’s a light, enjoyable, romantic drama. Its plot, though not new, is interesting and believable. The characterizations, especially by the younger actors and actresses, were gratifying.

I was surprised to learn it wasn’t well-received in Korea. I truly wonder why.

The good news is it garnered huge success overseas. However, I’m not too sure of its popularity in Malaysia. As I mentioned earlier, it didn’t even get a minute fraction of the fanfare Rooftop Prince was getting while being aired on tv during the same timeframe.

In addition, both its soundtracks thrill me with beautifully-composed, melodious, well-rendered songs and music. Even hubby likes them and that counts for a lot!

Strongly recommended for soppy love story enthusiasts.

References:
http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/CU/CU_EN_8_5_1_73.jsp
http://asianwiki.com/Love_Rain_(Korean_Drama)

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