I absolutely fell in love with this drama. I am still in love with this drama. I have dreamed about this drama. I have re-occurring flash-backs to this drama. This drama is my life now. I’ll even take a moment from my extreme fan-girling to give you all the reasons why you should watch Personal Preference (aka Personal Taste/Gae In’s Preference/Gae In’s Taste), a 16-episode romantic comedy that will get you squealing like me (yes, I actually squealed while watching this. Several times).
What’s it about?
We are introduced to two characters. The first is the messy, clumsy, impulsive Park Gae In (Son Ye Jin); a free-lance furniture designer who is hoping to break into the big time. The other is the neat, organised, and stylish Jeon Jin Ho (Lee Min Ho); a talented, small-business architect who misses out on many projects because of the political manoeuvring of his larger rivals. This results in his business falling terribly close to the debt line. The two have little in common save for a couple of brief, unpleasant encounters, in which Gae In gets the wrong impression that Jin Ho is gay. As Jin Ho moves in for the next big project, he discovers that the project’s director is a fan of the famous architect Park Chul Han and “Songgojae“, the home he designed. Determined to learn more about the architect’s style, Jin Ho tries to find a way into the house, and learns that Chul Han’s daughter, the very same Gae In, lives there, and is looking for a room-mate. Only her misunderstanding of his sexuality allows him to move in (an unmarried man and woman living together- gasp!), and he soon learns just how fragile and vulnerable Gae In truly is. Despite the initially frigid relationship, Jin Ho soon finds himself trying to help Gae In discover her self-worth and become a stronger person, but amidst the lies, interference, and feelings towards each other, what kind of relationship is truly plausible?
This drama has a lot going for it. It’s hilarious, it’s exciting, it’s cute, and, given it’s a Korean drama, it’s pretty believable. I’ll go back to the romance a little bit later on, because first I want to turn to the humour. I laughed so much during this drama. Each episode has some kind of comedic scene in it, and they are fall-off-your-chair funny. As in, my friend I was watching this with actually fell off her chair because she was laughing so much. I laughed a lot during Sungkyunkwan Scandal, but nothing compared to this. Korean humour is very funny and very infectious. In this series, the humour has a lot to do with the cast and characters, but I’m jumping ahead of myself. For a series this short, the pacing is spot on (for the majority); I was always excited to see what would happen next as each episode left me wanting more. The awesome mix of humour, a good level of drama, and plenty of emotion really makes this one of the most entertaining series I have watched… ever. There is also some clever foreshadowing used by the writers to hint at future plot points that can only be appreciated with a re-watching of the series (any excuse to watch it again!). Finally, the more unformulated approach to the drama really makes it stand out of the crowd (yes, the crowd of five Korean dramas I’ve watched, shut up), resulting in some truly unexpected plot decisions and romantic moments.
A lot the characters in this drama are really loveable. I’ll go back to the mains in a moment, because I want to focus on the supporting actors; No Sang Jun (Jung Sung Hwa) Jin Ho’s best friend and work partner, and Lee Young Sun (Jo Eun Ji) Gae In’s best friend. These two really lifted the show and added a lot of humour to the already-funny mains. They complimented the main characters’ relationship and just added extra depth to the show. In particular, Young Sun is one of my favourite female characters… she is my soul animal. My soul Korean drama character? I don’t know, but I want her as a friend because she is awesome. I also really liked the project director Choi Do Bin (Ryoo Seung Ryong). [SPOILERS/] By the end, when his character is explored more, there are a number of aspects of Han Chang Ryeol (Kim Ji Suk)’s character that I liked, and I really liked how he recognised the way to change himself and move forwards in the world [\SPOILERS]. Other characters, such as Han Yun Seop (Ahn Seok Hwan)’s obvious-bad-guy-from-the-first-appearance and Kim In Hee (Wang Ji Hye) weren’t as well thought out (although Ji Hye’s portrayal of her was perfect). There were a few wooden acting moments, but for the major characters, the acting was good.
Moving on to one of the major reasons that you should watch this drama… the main characters Gae In and Jin Ho and their FREAKING ADORABLE relationship. I’ll start with our main character, Gae In. This quirky, kind, and sometimes weird main lead occasionally veers too close to “standard female lead” territory, but Ye Jin’s amazing portrayal of her prevents that from ever happening. Sometimes goofy, sometimes gangster, but always loveable, Gae In is all around a solid main, and you can’t help but adore her from the very first episode. She’s easily become my favourite female character because of how human she is. The mislabelled gay Jin Ho covers a wide spectrum from level-headed and serious, proud and arrogant, and understanding and kind. He eventually reveals himself to be equal to Gae In in terms of goofiness; one adorable scene has him calling her and telling terrible jokes in an attempt to demonstrate what jokes should be told on a first date. SO ADORABLE. Plus Min Ho is gorgeous, and his appearance and Jin Ho’s character reminds me of a cross between Song Joong Ki and CNBLUE‘s Jung Yong Hwa… which can not be a bad thing in any universe. The relationship between Gae In and Jin Ho develops naturally throughout the drama and continues to be sweet, cute, and funny in all stages, whether as room mates, friends, or a couple. Their relationship is also sincere in all aspects, and it just brings everything that’s awesome in this drama together. Plus that kiss. OMG THAT KISS. I don’t want to give too many details away, because it is better if you don’t know when it’s coming but OH MY GOD THAT KISS. BEST KISS I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A DRAMA. I literally squealed at that moment, my friend jumped off the couch and started flailing around the place. Everything up to that moment, and that moment itself was just so satisfying and rewarding and OMG THAT KISS (and if you’ve seen the series, you’ll know I’m not talking about the first kiss. YES THIS WAS A SECOND KISS AND IT WAS SUCH A MELTING MOMENT).
First up, like other drama, Jin Ho could easily clear up the whole gay misunderstanding in one of the first few episodes, in fact, you can’t help but get frustrated at him when he gets irritated at Gae In for the confusion. But you know that this isn’t going to get cleared up until the end, since it’s clearly one of the big drama points. It also makes sense for Jin Ho to avoid clearing up the confusion, given that the only reason Gae In lets him live in Sunggojae is because she thinks he’s gay.
Of course, if Jin Ho cleared up the confusion, we wouldn’t get hilarious scenes like this!
I already mentioned that this drama uses foreshadowing quite cleverly in some of the early episodes. However, I feel like the writers could have used this more in relation to Gae In’s revelation about her mother. Sure, they reveal a scar a few episodes before the actual secret is out, but given that we’ve been close to the scar location a few times before then (think hospital visit, bathroom scene, massage, etc.), I feel like it should have been hinted at much sooner. The big revelation sort of felt like it had come from nowhere, but at least you know from quite early on that there’s something odd about the Park family. It just seems like a waste of potential.
Finally, the last episode was way too rushed rushed as the writers worked quickly to tie up the loose ends. In particular, I feel that Jeon Jang Mi, Jin Ho’s mother, should have had more time to clear up her misunderstanding with Gae In before accepting the relationship between the two. Basically her misgivings suddenly disappear after Gae In casually mentions that she doesn’t have a mother. Not really a fair resolution of the issue, especially given how important Jang Mi’s opinions are to Jin Ho, and not very fair to Jang Mi’s character. Some of the loose ends that were tied up in the last episode were really not right, and we were rushed through the whirlwind of Jin Ho and Gae In’s life together. Having said that, however, there was not enough material to stretch this drama into a 17-episode series, but perhaps a special 1.5 hour conclusion would have resolved this issue.
Anything else I should consider?
I wanted to take a quick moment to commend the way homosexuality is portrayed in this drama. Also, for anyone out there who has issues with the way homosexuality is portrayed in media (whether you are gay yourself or consider it an important issue), you might want to read this.
Now, if you know anything about Korean culture (or other similarly-conservative Asian and non-Asian cultures), you’d know there is a dominant conservative view of homosexuality; it’s considered a taboo compared to our relatively less-conservative western culture. Despite that, however, I think that this drama really treats it with sincerity. Yes, it’s used as a gimmick; there’s no denying or getting around that fact. And yes, there’s the whole putting on the overly-feminine-gay-male act on a couple of occasions (similar to what you see in the west). However, characters such as Gae In react in an open-minded, non-judgemental way. The series doesn’t shy away from portraying at least one character as actually being gay (albeit for drama purposes, but this is a drama after all), and he is not degraded by the other characters, or indeed, from the writers of the show itself. While I can understand some people might find the mix of pity and sympathy expressed by some characters as demeaning (e.g. you poor thing for being born gay), I still think this drama is/was a pretty big step-forward in this particular culture.
Story: 8.5/10: Okay, the last episode has some pacing issues, and I know a lot of reviewers had issues with the “waste of potential” in this series, but none of that matters when you have a set up and love-story this sweet and sincere. The use of foreshadowing, the showcase of emotion, and the pacing is pretty much spot-on.
Characters: 9/10: Almost all of the characters are refreshingly real, including their pitfalls. Gae In is amazing, Jin Ho isn’t far behind, and may of the other side characters are fun to watch.
This series is funny, sweet, and SO entertaining. I can already label this as one of my favourite series, and label some of the characters as the best I have seen so far. The chemistry between the characters is fantastic, and the acting is great. So much of the series is treated with sincerity and I thoroughly enjoyed almost every aspect of it. Overall, I give it a 8.5/10.