Do you want to know what the best fantasy love story ever acted out is? Secret Garden. Not the one you may be thinking of. This Secret Garden is a Kdrama, one of the very best, in fact. If someone said to me, “I’m only going to watch one Korean drama and then I’ll never see another one as long as I live. What should I watch?” I would, for most people, recommend Secret Garden.
The storyline is crazy but deliciously entertaining, mainly because of Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-Won’s chemistry and acting skills. Okay, now remember this is a FANTASY story. Short and succinctly – a man and a woman magically exchange bodies. How and why? We find out the answers to those questions but not until many episodes in to it. And it takes a few episodes for the exchange to even happen. The writers allow us to know the characters well enough so when they do exchange bodies we can see how well they play each other’s part. I was amazed! They actually make the same facial expressions and move exactly like the other person did before the swap! Secret Garden is a superb fantasy romantic comedy. I laughed like crazy but, in all fairness, I also cried. From one extreme emotion to another in the same Kdrama… now that’s good stuff. I don’t want to tell you any more about the show because I want you to be able to experience it blindly, like I did. If you know a lot about it in advance it will lose the element of surprise.
Secret Garden has wonderful characters…
Hyun Bin makes the character Kim Joo-Won come alive. He’s an élite aristocrat born with a silver spoon in his mouth and is president of a fancy family-owned department store. The Kim family is so stinkin’ rich, the way they make it sound, they must own 75% of every business in South Korea. Ha ha! At first you want to just smack the arrogance right off his face but then, as you get to know him better, you realize it’s not arrogance, he’s just stating facts – at least to him they’re facts. He’s the most open and honest character I’ve ever seen. He’s says what’s on his mind without batting an eye. What’s good is the fact that he doesn’t change throughout the show. Who he is, is who he is, and you love who he is. Selfish yet selfless, rude yet kind, ignorant yet intelligent – Kim Joo-Won is awesome and the best character Hyun Bin has ever played.
Ha Ji-Won’s character is Gil Ra-Im, a tough, fearless stuntwoman who is as poor as Joo-Won is rich. She’s a self-respecting, humble yet proud woman who takes care of herself. She’s a realist who can stand toe to toe with anyone. Ra-Im is great at what she does and is beloved by her fellow stuntmen.
Yoon Sang-Hyun is Oska, Joo-Won’s famous singer cousin. He has a huge fan following, one of which is Gil Ra-Im. She even wears socks with his face on them! There’s a tiny bit of arrogance in his character but that’s just because he’s let fame go to his head. He’s still nursing a broken heart from when the woman he proposed to cruelly turned him down and left him alone.
Kim Sa-Rang plays Yeun-Sul, a big-wig director. She’s smart, sexy, and happens to be the gal that rejected Oska and walked out on him. You dislike her cold personality until you find out why she did what she did and then her chilly attitude makes sense.
Phillip Lee is Gil Ra-Im’s boss, Im Jong-Soo, the action director of the stunt company. He’s handsome, suave, talented, and truly cares for his stunt people. He also likes Gil Ra-Im.
Kim Sung-Oh plays a character by the same name. I thought that was interesting. He’s Kim Joo-Won’s loyal secretary and best friend, although Joo-Won wouldn’t consider anyone his friend because no one is cool enough for that position. Sung-Oh has a crush on Ra-Im’s roommate, Min Ah-Young played by Yoo In-Na. They’re so cute together.
Moon Boon-Hong is Kim Joo-Won’s horrible mother, played by Park Jun-Keum. She’s mean, ruthless, and sees other people as pawns in her game of life. Nothing is more important to her than status and wealth – not even her own son.
South Korea was enamored with Secret Garden. Just shy of 40% of the country’s TV viewers were tuned to Secret Garden’s last episode, which happened to end perfectly! It also began a clothing fad. People started buying sparkly track suit jackets just like the one Kim Joo-Won wore. And there are two romantic scenes in the show that are hugely famous and have been copied in other shows – “seductive sit-ups”, and “kiss the cream off”. You can see them both on YouTube. Out of the 33 awards it was nominated for (33, folks!) it won 22! Among them were Popularity Award Actor and Actress, Top Excellence Award Actor and Actress, Best Couple, Best Screenplay, Outstanding Korean Director, Best Drama, Grand Prize, and Prime Minister’s Award In The Field Of Broadcasting to name a few. How can you pass up this amazing drama?
I love the soundtrack. It’s got up-tempo songs you just can’t help but hum when you’re all alone (I hum because I don’t know Korean), along with some ballads that will melt your heart. Appear, Reason, You’re My Spring, You Are My Everything, Here I Am, Scar… There are so many great songs. I suggest, after you finish reading this review you go straight to YouTube and listen to all of them. There is a song entitled This Woman and one called This Man. They are the exact same song except one is sung by a woman and one is sung by a man, with the words changed slightly to make them gender appropriate. This Woman won an award for Best Original Soundtrack. However, I prefer the male version. This Man is dreamy beyond belief and Hyun Bin is the singer!
There are some really pretty shots when they go to Jeju Island. That’s where the secret garden is, hidden in the middle of a forest. The best backdrop in the show is Joo-Won’s amazing house. It’s spacious, spotless, white, has lots of large windows, and has a long staircase that leads to a round, loft bedroom. Pretty cool. There’s also a huge boulder sitting in one of the rooms. Yes, a gigantic rock inside the house. Isn’t that awesome?
I’ve seen this show twice and loved it just as much the second time around. It’s one I often mention with a smile when I’m able to steer the conversation over to the subject of Kdramas. Secret Garden will always be one of my favorites because I know quality when I see it.
Not one single thing