Finally, another drama review! Romance Town (2011) is a 20-episode Korean drama. Fun fact of the day: I actually first watched an episode of this drama in Bali in 2011, and when I returned to Bali two years later, watched another episode of it. Although I didn’t realise it was the same drama until I got back to Australia and watched the whole thing. Fascinating!
What’s it about?
No Soon Geum (Sung Yu Ri) isn’t very lucky. She’s poor. She’s forced to pay a rich man’s bill when he is passed out drunk. When she later goes to his house, he has left for America without paying her back. His step-mother offers her a job as a maid and babysitter, which she accepts, even though it means breaking a promise she made to her own mother. She has to endure the physical strain of a maid’s life and the never-ending sneers of the rich neighbours of First Street.
But then, her luck changes. Soon Geum wins the lottery, and she wins a lot. She makes the decision to keep working as a maid, mainly to keep the money a secret from her irresponsible father. However, when Kang Gun Woo (Jung Gyu Woon) returns from America and the two fall in love, her secret is slowly revealed. Can Soon Geum endure the greed and betrayal of her maid friends and employers?
And yes, if you’re wondering, the drama’s title is pretty misleading.
I’ve heard a few complaints about the slow start of this show, but I actually thought that this was a great aspect. The drama very much focuses on the life of ‘ordinary’ people, and I thought that a slow start gave you an opportunity to connect with Soon Geum and understand the background she’s coming from. Plus, I thought it was interesting enough to keep you watching.
I probably like the opening so much because I really like Soon Geum’s character (Sung Yu Ri does a great job of bringing her to life). Soon Geum is plucky, straightforward and intelligent, and she’s determined to make her way in the world. More than anything else, she is a survivor, and I think a super realistic character. Whilst I found Gun Woo’s character wasn’t as strong as Soon Geum, he does a pretty good job of keeping up with her. The other major characters, the maids that work in the other rich households of the neighbourhood, were pretty varied and the group had great dynamics; the beautiful and kind Oh Hyun Joo (Park Ji Young), the cranky, typical older woman Uhm Soo Jung (Lee Kyung Sil), the bratty Jung Da Kyeon (Min Hyo Rin), and the somewhat ditzy Thu (Vietnamese migrant) (Kim Ye Won). Other noticeable characters that I thought were pretty well thought-out included Gun Woo’s rival in love Kim Young Hee (Kim Min Jun), one of the other rich men Hwang Yong (Cho Seong Ha), and Gun Woo’s step-mother Seo Yoon Jun (Yang Jung Ah).
Finally, what I really liked about this drama was the way the characters changed (or didn’t change) when they found out about the lottery money. The drama is pretty realistic in showing the betrayal and greed that follows money. Some characters turn their back on their closest friends, others just want revenge, and others just want a chance to live with a little luxury. At times it makes the viewer irritated, sad, or frustrated, but that is what it intends to do, and I think it’s a really nice take on it.
Also a side-note: if you watch this drama, keep an ear out for the soundtrack. It’s bizarre to say the least. The most unexpected song I heard was “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”. A song from musical about Argentina. In a Korean drama about maids with winning lottery tickets. Weird.
This drama has several drawbacks that become painfully apparent about halfway through. I honestly feel that the writers knew what they wanted from the start, but weren’t 100% sure on how to get it. As a result, the plot, the characters, and really the whole drama, gets lost along the way. I’m strongly tempted to say that the series doesn’t quite recover from the messiness of the middle as I felt that the ending was a let down. I think that this happens because of two reasons. Firstly, there are a lot of characters in this show, several of them don’t add much to the show and could be written out completely. It’s not surprising that the plot gets a little lost with so many characters and so much going on. Secondly, the writers have a habit of developing a plot line and then abandoning it part way through. Not cool, guys.
The only other thing that bugged me about this drama was that I didn’t always understand the characters’ motives for doing certain things. Occasionally these were explained in an ad-hoc way, but sometimes I was just left guessing. I think it meant I missed a couple of ‘OMG’ moments. Very irritating.
Story: 6/10: It starts off pretty well but gets lost in the middle. The themes and meaning in the plot is the focus here, not the actual plot itself.
Characters: 7/10: Whilst not all of the characters are well developed (or necessary), the lead female is great and the transformation of the characters in the face of money is well done.
Romance Town is a little bit of a different drama, with a strong focus on the themes of the plot rather than the plot itself. Despite its flaws, I did enjoy it, but still feel let-down by the ending. Others may find its slow pace too much though, and it would have definitely benefited from less episodes. Overall, I give it a 6/10.