I was excited about this drama when the cast was announced but less so when I read about the plot. A married man “gives” himself to another woman for money? It screamed “Indecent Proposal” to me with the lead roles reversed. Then I was curious: could Choi Ji-Woo pull off Robert Redford’s character? I do remember how much I loathed that guy.
That movie just tried a new approach to the age-old question: love or money? The pompous, uber wealthy jerk who tries to buy what he sees in front of him: namely a young, naive couple in love. And if he can’t buy it, he will destroy it. Ugh. Would anyone feel differently that it’s a pompous, uber wealthy woman? Curiosity got the better of me but after watching, I’m not sure what to think.
It’s thrown in my face almost immediately. Yoo Se Young (Choi Ji-Woo) is the CEO of DongSung Group which operates hotels. She’s cold, but with a surprising snappy, biting sense of humor as she quips that she’s glad she’s going through early menopause – she was annoyed by her monthly periods. Her doctor/friend tries to break the news, she has a cyst on her ovaries and might need a hysterectomy.
Wow…only 2 minutes in and we’re already supposed to feel sympathy because she might not be able to have children. I’m immediately thinking there is nothing wrong with not having children but nope, that’s not it. Se Young announces she’s trying to close a deal in Hong Kong, can they put off surgery until its completed? In case we’re not getting it, her doctor/friend sadly asks if she’s okay with never being able to conceive a child.
Her Father yells at her once he hears, how can she be so calm since this means she’ll never be happy! (Yes, because motherhood automatically equals happy). She must have hidden maternal instinct, right? (of course, she’s a woman and all women have this). They’re not even bothering to hide it but instead, shoving that stereotype down our throats as they show Se Young rubbing her hands over her flat stomach.
With all 4 of our leads on the same flight to Hong Kong, we’re shown the back story of Cha Seok Hoon (Kwon Sang Woo) and his wife, Na Hong Joo (Park Ha Sung). Seok Hoon was the CEO of Ace Corporation but his partner embezzled millions, leaving him holding the bag. Hong Joo informs him their apartment is in foreclosure, with red stickers everywhere. As if that’s not enough, her Father’s home was signed as collateral which means he might be tossed out into the street too. Seok Hoon is kind-hearted and naive, refusing to believe it so they’re on the hunt to find his partner and hear the real reason he stole the money. *facepalm*
The last piece of this puzzle is Kang Min Woo (Lee Jung Jin). He’s the CEO of Ajin Corporation and a married man whose wife, Ji-Sun (Yoon Ah-Jung) just gave birth to their 3rd daughter. This apparently makes her worthless since we all know sons are more important and it’s the wife’s fault if no son is born. Indeed, his mother phones him to express her disgust that “she” can’t do anything right.
Our very-much-in-love couple travel to his thieving partners hideout but learn he committed suicide. They wander the streets of Hong Kong, collapsing in despair on a beach. Min Woo heads to a club looking for a woman. In flashback, we see the woman’s name is Jenny (Wang Fei) and they were in love. Min Woo is told Jenny died of breast cancer and oh by the way – she left behind your son, Roy. He returns to the hotel and meets Se Young. There must be some history but for now, it appears they’re just competitors in the hotel business.
Over drinks, he tells her about his son and how happy his Mother will be. When he whips out the picture, Se young complains how boring it is to look at someone’s kids. She tells him to just deposit a shocking amount of money into the guardians account for child support and leave it at that. Min Woo laughs, saying this is why he didn’t chase her – he didn’t want his life to be cut and dry. Ahhh…they almost dated in the past?
Our very-much-in-love couple find $3,000 in his dead partners sock and decide to blow it all in Hong Kong, staying at a fancy hotel and going shopping. They check into the hotel Se Young is trying to buy. The next morning, they head out to explore Hong Kong, doing a bunch of touristy things. At an expensive shop, Hong Joo admires a pair of sparkly high-heels but those are reserved for a VIP customer. Seok Hoon lies to the sales person that his wife is dying, she relents and sells the shoes.
Min Woo meets his son, Roy and learns Jenny taught him Korean. A bunch of horrible English follows as Se Young accuses a competitor of soliciting false investments. The guy suffers a heart attack but (it just so happens) Seok Hoon and Hong Joon are eating there too. And because Hong Joon is a nurse, they save the man’s life. Some interesting looks are exchanged between Seok Hoon and Se Young – they know each other?
Min Woo leaves his son alone to speak with Ji-Sun, which results in our very-much-in-love couple meeting the young boy and steering him towards the bathroom. Se Young is informed by Attorney Choi that the heart-attack guy is willing to pay her and drop trying to buy the hotel if she keeps quiet. She’s delighted to learn she just made a million dollars in “dirty money”. Attorney Choi clears her schedule so she can relax and shop.
Roy wakes up crying for Mommy at the same time Hong Joo sneaks out of the hotel to commit suicide. Min Woo is told his son is outside and we have our first meeting between Min Woo and Hong Joo. He thanks her but she’s in a hurry to kill herself. Seok Hoon wakes up to find his wife gone and reads the note she left.
Just as Hong Joo is walking into the water, Se Young strolls the beach and sees the sparkly high-heels. She then sees Hong Joo and drags her out, staring as Hong Joo begs to be allowed to die. Back in Se Young’s room, Hong Joo thanks her but is curious why Se Young hasn’t asked any questions. Se Young says there can only be 2 reasons a young, beautiful woman would attempt suicide: her husband had an affair or his business failed…she doesn’t think Seok Hoon is the type to have an affair.
Hong Joo asks how she knows her husband? Se Young is all mysterious and coy, telling her to ask him but it’s probably not a pleasant memory. Seok Hoon arrives and another strange look passes between him and Se Young. She watches as he rushes to comfort his wife and seems surprised or envious of the loving, caring spark between them.
The next day, Se Young researches Seok Hoon and learns of the embezzlement. Attorney Choi tells her Seok Hoon is now responsible for the debt, which is about 1 million bucks. She condescendingly seems surprised Hong Joo would try to kill herself over THAT (such a mere pittance) and asks for more information. She tries on the sparkly, high-heels and then phones Seok Hoon, telling him to come and get his wife’s shoes.
We’re next shown his reaction to her offering him 1 million bucks for 4 days of his life. Flashback to Seok Hoon applying for a job at DongSung Group but he wasn’t hired. He confronted Se Young and she informed him he’s too idealistic to help her company make a profit. Oh, and it’s her decision since she’s the employer. So, yea.
Seok Hoon asks if she’s joking but Se Young doesn’t joke, especially with people who are about to go to jail. She knows 1 million bucks could save him and his wife who just tried to kill herself. Seok Hoon throws the sparkly shoes and snaps that she shouldn’t mess around with people like this, it’s not polite. She snarks that being polite and having pride won’t help him and within 2 seconds, deposits $100,000 into his bank account.
She tells him she’ll deposit the rest on a per day basis and he has exactly one hour to decide. He refuses and leaves but Se Young calmly sits down to wait, as if she’s positive he’ll give in. Hong Joo is infuriated when she hears about this offer but even more upset that Seok Hoon is thinking of accepting! Doesn’t he realize this woman is trying to BUY him with her petty money? He reminds her she tried to kill herself over that petty money.
She announces she’ll meet him out front, if he doesn’t show up, she’s leaving without him. Seok Hoon struggles over what to do while Hong Joo struggles outside before getting into a taxi. The only one who appears calm is Se Young but we do see her downing a beer. Finally she answers her door to see Seok Hoon standing there. She informs him that she owns him for the next three days and lays down the rules.
First, he can’t refuse anything, he has to do whatever she says. Second, no personal questions about each others lives. Third, he’s not allowed to make any phone calls, or contact anyone. Nor is he allowed to go out by himself. If he breaks any of these conditions, the contract is over. She glares at him when he asks if that means he can’t call his wife. Right then his phone rings, it’s Hong Joo. He silently pulls the battery out of his phone. Se Young tells him to unpack and rest, they’ll get started in half an hour.
Hong Joo, shaking and tearful tries phoning her husband over and over as she waits at the airport. She meets up with Min Woo and Roy again, Min Woo begs her to sit with them since he’s unsure how to deal with Roy. On board the plane, she entertains Roy until he falls asleep then chats with Min Woo, telling him she’s a nurse. She gets uncomfortable when he asks about her husband and turns away to sleep.
Seok Hoon unpacks and enters the living room to find Se Young having a desk set up, complete with phone and laptop so he can do research for her. Ohhhhh! We all have dirty minds because it’s not what we thought! I guess Seok Hoon thought the same thing, he asks if this is what she wanted? She smirks, did he think she was asking for bed services? He looks relieved while I’m sure all of us are feeling like we got played. *heh*
She needs him to find the top 5 consulting firms by 10pm, they both begin working. When the plane lands, Roy is reluctant to let Hong Joo go so she writes down her phone number, he can call if he needs her. She arrives at her Father’s house in time to eat with him and brother, Hong-Gyu (Lee Jung Shin). When Hong-Gyu announces where he’s working and how much he’s making, Hong Joo snaps – why is it all about money? Would he do anything to make money? Both men stare at her like she’s lost her mind.
Min Woo takes Roy to a cottage, I guess he’s not taking the illegitimate son home. Poor Roy is dumped with a housekeeper. When Seok Hoon turns in his report, Se Young questions why a certain company was left off? He informs her that president has low morals. She reminds him this is about money. Money doesn’t care about personal values or philosophy. She pays him for the day.
He tries to phone Hong Joo in secret but she’s in the middle of nightmares of him kissing Se Young. Seok Hoon talks to Hong-Gyu, unaware that Se Young hears him. She’s disappointed he broke the rules on day 1, it means the contract is void. He’s fine with that and begins packing. When she taunts him for giving up so easily, he snaps – does she want him on his knees? She likes the look on his face and decides they can do away with rule #3.
The next morning, she notices the list Hong Joo made of all the tourist places to visit and laughs. Seok Hoon snatches it out of her hands but she snarks that his wife must be romantic? He snaps that she just broke rule #2. He breaks rule #1 by refusing to go bike-riding with her but she admits she was joking, she hates cheesy stuff and he needs to work on his poker face. They head out to meet the consulting firms.
At home, Hong Joo has no luck finding a hospital job but spots Min Woo with his wife. She then gets her hair chopped into a short bob. Seok Hoon meets Se Young for dinner, she compliments him on his work. As he smiles shyly and looks down, her eyes widen. Is this the beginning of her attraction? She quickly pulls herself together and announces tomorrow is the last day, she wants to order wine.
Hong-Gye learns his new job is following people and taking pictures. His boss, Han Soo, warns him not to get married, it appears the majority of his clients are people who suspect their spouse of cheating. And the first person they’re spying on is Min Woo. He’s headed to see Roy but gets an urgent call from his wife saying their baby is sick.
During dinner, Se Young asks if Seok Hoon talked to his wife? She probably got the wrong impression (this idea seems to make her giddy). He reminds her of rule #2 so she decides to cancel that one too. He firmly says Hong Joo will understand, she trusts him (this seems to piss her off). She starts talking about watching kids build sand castles as a child and thinking it foolish, since one big wave could destroy everything.
She announces she wants to be a wave in his relationship with his wife, she wants to test how weak their sand castle of love, trust and understanding is. Dude…this is when you need to get up and walk away. She further informs him that no woman would understand this situation. This seems to have the exact effect she hoped for as he immediately tries to contact Hong Joo once back in his room.
When Hong Joo finally answers, he happily informs her nothing like “that” happened. He’s been working, writing reports and running around having meetings for the last 3 days. Instead of being relieved or happy (because it’s a drama) Hong Joo is snippy. Why should she care what he’s been doing? She very angry that she waited for him, phoning repeatedly but he never answered or came to her.
She knows why he’s there – to earn 1 million bucks which will keep him out of jail and save her Dad from being homeless. Umm…yes? Why does it sound like she’d be happier if he went to jail and her Dad was thrown out into the streets? She tells him to thank “that woman” and throw out those sparkly high-heels before hanging up on him.
Her phone rings again but it’s Roy. He had a nightmare and Min Woo isn’t there. Hong Joo phones Min Woo but as he’s at the hospital with a sick child, he begs her to check on Roy and she does. Seok Hoon gets drunk and talks to Se Young through her bedroom door. His wife is very angry, he shouldn’t have left her like that.
The next morning, she finds Seok Hoon passed out on the sofa and tells him their contract is completed, he’s free to do whatever he wants. She also sent the final payment. As she’s packing, he takes a broody shower. Her Father calls and demands to know what she’s been doing for 4 days, does she have a man? He overhears Seok Hoon in the background but Se Young lies that it’s room service.
Seok Hoon wants to buy her this time and pulls out American cash. He’ll pay her $3.00 for 3 hours at $1.00 each and the same rules apply. She smiles. They go bike-riding but he tells her once he goes home, he’ll never see her again. Uh, huh.
So Se Young did not hire Seok Hoon for sex, she hired him to work. The premise remains the same though, at least to me. This woman has made clear what her intentions are – she wants to “test” the relationship between our very-much-in-love couple for her own personal reasons. I’m just not sure what those reasons are yet.
In “Indecent Proposal”, the character of John Gage was arrogant without a trace of insecurity. Many believed he was jealous of the love he saw between the young couple. For me, I always believed he just wanted to prove he was right: there is no such thing as love or trust between a man and a woman. This was his belief and he was determined to prove it, even if it meant destroying this young couple. I seriously hated this guy!
I’m feeling the same vibe here with Se Young, she’s not likable at all. But I’m unhappy with Hong Joo’s reaction, shouldn’t she be overjoyed it was all work? Um, yes. Where’s the love and trust? Her angry tantrum, mentioning jail and her father being homeless was so beyond ridiculous, I laughed. I suppose I should be glad she’s not a noble idiot who sacrifices everything for her family. Here come the misunderstandings!
While Se Young might want more from Seok Hoon, like being determined to be a “wave” in this couples marriage – he has a strong desire to prove that being “idealistic” is a good thing. That could change, who knows? If he continues to feel uncomfortable with his wife sleeping over at another man’s house, I could see him giving in to the obvious attraction between himself and Se Young. We’ll see who blinks first.