Tuesday, December 20, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 1-2

Read episode reviews for:

Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 3-4
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 7-8
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 9-10
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 11-12
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 13-14
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for episodes 1-2

This is my first time to watch a subtitled Korean drama, and I thought I'd write out my thoughts about the episodes as I view them! When some element of the show helps me understand a piece of Korean culture, I'll make note of it, but for the most part these shows aren't cultural guides, but heavily exaggerated forms of media--like a non-trashy soap opera combined with a sitcom, minus the laugh track.

In Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Eun-Bi is a young woman determined to pass her civil service exam and become a schoolteacher. Her longtime boyfriend is returning from military service, and she's ready to start the next phase of her life as a successful grown-up with a steady job and a solid love life. But a fortune-teller says that Eun-Bi will only succeed if she holds her explosive temper (which won't be easy), and also says that she will hear bells ringing when she kisses the person she is destined to be with for life. Eun-Bi finds out that her boyfriend is dating someone else, so she's ready to find a new person who will make those bells ring. Sadly, the person she initially crushes on is Chi-Soo.

Chi-Soo is adored by everyone he meets. He charms all the young ladies with compliments, and he even manages to wink at them without looking like an idiot. But Chi-Soo's father is the president of a huge corporation and he insists that Chi-Soo go back and finish his senior year of high school since he has blown all attempts at studying overseas. Unluckily for Chi-Soo, Eun-Bi is his student-teacher and they've crossed paths disastrously a few times already, most notably when Eun-Bi mistook him for a 30-year-old and asked him out. In reality he's 19 and she's 25, he's rich and she's dirt poor, he's fastidious and prideful while she's messy and assertive. There's no way these two can keep from killing each other before the semester is over, right?

Chi-Soo makes Eun-Bi's life more difficult in several ways. His father's corporation wants to buy her father's ramyun shop (noodle restaurant), for one thing. Eun-Bi has serious father issues, and just being around her dad and his shop is enough to stress her out. Also, Chi-Soo starts dating a girl beloved by Eun-Bi's young guy friend Ba-Wool, which causes a lot of fights that Eun-Bi has to referee. Tension! Anger! Noodles!

Things I Loved:

1. Eun-Bi. She's so hardcore about her studying and about her life. She works hard and doesn't accept trash talk from anyone. And she usually looks like this:

I give this show props for allowing their main actress to wear sweatpants and unflattering shirts, and to have genuinely messy hair instead of Styled for Two Hours in Order to Look Messy hair. The actress is gorgeous, but you never get the sense that she's trying to pose or preen for the camera. She's like Eliza Doolittle, all rough manners and emotional intensity, only she doesn't actually need to be transformed into a lady--she just needs to find out who she really wants to be. I really respect the actress and I love the character of Eun-Bi.

2. Chi-Soo and Ba-Wool's classroom fight. Lots of sliding desks and shouting, mostly on Ba-Wool's part. It's a very fake fight, but very fun.

Complaints: In episodes 1 and 2, the title does not match the show at all. We see Flower Boys (handsome, well-dressed guys), and we see a Ramyun Shop, but the two things do not in any way coincide.


Economic status: So much of the characters' behavior is actually determined by their economic status. Eun-Bi really wants to become a teacher because it means financial security for the rest of her life, not because she likes teaching, and she's very embarrassed by her father's run-down ghetto restaurant. Chi-Soo's own wealth enables him to move about freely in society, but only so long as his father funds him. In contrast, Chi-Soo's friend Woohyun is working a part time job (rare for a highschool student) because his absent father has amassed a serious gambling debt.

False Romance/ Romantic trappings: Oh, boy. Chi-Soo embodies everything about stereotypical romantic heroes, at least young Asian romantic heroes, but it's all 100% fake. When we first see him, the camera goes into this misty soft-focus to make sure that the audience knows he's a dreamboat. The air around him is filled with CGI sparkles that make a twinkly noise, much like Edward's skin in Twilight. Yet for all his sparkliness and charm, Chi-Soo is a spoiled brat who cares more about his expensive car and his pricey clothes than about other people's feelings. He's the farthest thing from his gentlemanly image, so the reality does not match the romantic hype. As an example of fantasy and reality colliding, I love the scene where a heartbroken Eun-Bi is weeping in Chi-Soo's car and instead of offering some comforting words and a shoulder to cry on, he goes, "Get out of my car. I mean it. GO NOW."

Eun-Bi also sees a lot of false romance in her best female friend Dongjoo's life, because Dongjoo has a half-dozen boyfriends, but really seems to be enjoying playing the field and garnering so much attention. Eun-Bi tries to turn on her own fake charm like Dongjoo (and like Chi-Soo, for that matter), but she's not very good at it, and her flirting attempts end disastrously.

The theme of whether you can love more than one person at a time is also brought up. Chi-Soo says that love is a game meant to be played by many people, but Eun-Bi thinks his philosophy is disgusting. Ba-Wool certainly doesn't think that dating more than one person is a good idea, and he's floored when So-Yi decides to split her time between him and Chi-Soo. This in-show discussion is interesting because most romantic TV shows (this one included) are actively enticing their audience with multiple love interests, but while viewers like seeing this on TV, most people aren't at all pleased with the idea of having to share sweethearts in everyday life.

Mirrored scenes: Chi-Soo jumps into a girl's car and asks her to drive away with no questions so he can get away from his dad, while Eun-Bi later jumps into Chi-Soo's car and asks him to drive away so that she can dramatically leave her ex-boyfriend.

Cultural observances:

1. Districts. Chi-Soo says he doesn't want to stay in Itaewon because it's full of foreigners and he just came from America. I found this funny because I already knew that Itaewon was the "foreigner" district in Seoul.

2. Mandatory Military Service. In Korea, all healthy men must serve two years in the military. We see this fact as a part of everyday life when Eun-Bi's boyfriend returns from the service, and when Eun-Bi is suddenly more interested in Chi-Soo because he says he was born in America and therefore does not have to join the military at any point.

3. Flower Boys. They are Korea's equivalent of "metro", guys who are super fashionable and pay loads of attention to their hair and clothes.

4. New vocabulary words. "Yeppeo" is "pretty", and Chi-Soo throws this word around like it's going out of style. He tells every girl he sees that she is "yeppeo", but it's clear that he doesn't mean this, it's just his standard line. "Oppa" is an even more interesting word--it means "big brother", but a girl can use the term to refer to her literal brother, her older male friend, a guy who is being nice to her, or her boyfriend. Before she knows his real age, Eun-Bi asks Chi-Soo is she can call him oppa. He finds this hilarious, since she's the wrong age to call him that, no matter what context she's using. And the word oppa is like kryptonite for poor Ba-Wool, who will do anything in the world for So-Yi if she calls him by this endearment. "Noona" is the counterpart to "oppa", and it can mean girlfriend or literal older sister, but Ba-Wool calls Eun-Bi his noona to show that she's a trusted older friend.

English bonus:

1. Several English songs play in the background. A cover of "Step Into My World" plays when we first meet Chi-Soo, when he meets with his friends, "Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani plays. In Ep. 2, "Grenade" by Bruno Mars plays as Chi-Soo and So-Yi have coffee, then "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars is playing in the very next scene where So-Yi is sitting with Ba-Wool. Someone working at that coffee shop must be a Mars fan.

2. We immediately know that Chi-Soo is not fluent in English even when he pretends to be, because he pronounces Manhattan as "Manhat". His way of saying "Hey buddy!" is also pretty hilarious.

Episode evaluations: Funny and intriguing. Keeps the audience hooked with humor and surprises.


  1. I see you have now joined the ranks of K-drama watchers, I have come across two other book blogs where the owner's watch k-dramas. Is there a correlation here? Also is there a place besides hulu where I can check out a k-drama because hulu is not available in me country.

  2. I am revising my list of Kdramas on Friday & I will email you a shit ton of the ones I loved & in order. And ones, I recommend, you just stay the hell away from. (one being Boys over Flowers--GAG!!)

  3. Sandy, my favorite place is DramaFever.com, MySoju.com or Viki.com
    Sometimes even youtube!

  4. Oh goodness! "a non-trashy soap opera combined with a sitcom, minus the laugh track." "Tension! Anger! Noodles!" ""Yeppeo" is "pretty", and Chi-Soo throws this word around like it's going out of style." Your entire review was awesome, but I am really going to remember these phrases as they made me laugh lots. I am on episode 9 currently! So awesome so far.

  5. @Sandy I've watched on DramaFever, and English subtitled episodes of Flower Boy Ramyun Shop are on Youtube, too--that's the easiest route.

    @Shanise You owe me an email!

    @Isa Thanks so much! You will /love/ episode 10 when you see it. It's a real game-changer. :-)

  6. Shanise, you should try the Japanese version of Boys over flowers. its better.