This drama definitely did not put rich Koreans in a good light. There are four people we get to meet, up close and personal – two come from tremendously wealthy families and the other two were raised in families where it was a struggle financially just to get by. I think the writer was trying to tell us that even though it’s no fun being poor it’s also not all smiles and roses in High Society.
Jang Yoon-Ha is the youngest daughter in the Jang family who own a large corporation and feature prominently in elite circles. However, Yoon-Ha isn’t interested in the kind of life her family leads. Her older brother is divorced, her older sister is going through a divorce, her parents barely tolerate each other and sleep in separate bedrooms, and her father has openly had a mistress for many years. All Yoon-Ha wants is to love and truly be loved so she’s not about to have her marriage be a business arrangement, like her parents have planned. In order to find someone who will love HER, and not what she has, she lies about who she is and gets a part-time job at a supermarket.
The Yoo family also owns a corporation and the youngest son, Yoo Chang-Soo, is pretty happy with his privileged lifestyle. He accepts the fact that he’ll have to marry someone whose family will be an asset to his and agrees to go on a blind date with Yoon-Ha. He asks his friend, Choi Joon-Gi, who is also one of his employees, to find out whatever he can about Yoon-Ha and get some pictures of her so he can see what she’s like before meeting her. Joon-Gi does exactly that and while he’s at the same hotel where Chang-Soo and Yoon-Ha are having their blind date, he sees a girl that looks like the one in the pictures he acquired. Hummmm. Then, once he finds out Yoon-Ha rejected Chang-Soo, he decides to improve his status and lifestyle by acting like he has no idea who she is and marry her himself. Will Yoon-Ha see through his facade or is he sly enough to capture her heart?
We also have a struggling romance between the rich and powerful Chang-Soo and a part-time employee at his family’s supermarket named Lee Ji-Yi. She is a realist, knowing that she and the man she loves come from two completely different worlds. Yet, even though her head tells her to “stop”, her heart says “go”. Chang-Soo doesn’t relate dating to marriage, at all, so he sees no problem in having a relationship with Ji-Yi now and calling it quits when he has to get married later. Will the selfish, elitist Chang-Soo break sweet Ji-Yi’s heart or is she smart enough to see the heartache that awaits her if she gets involved with Change-Soo, and strong enough to back away from the man she’s grown to love?
Jang Yoon-Ha starts out as a humble girl who just wants to live life like most middle class folk do. She wants to be loved for who she is and not because of her background. She is kind of like Cinderella in that, other than her big brother, she was ignored and disliked by her parents and siblings. She was sent abroad for her schooling and has a good education but was left out of the family business so she knows nothing, first hand, of the corporate world.
Choi Joon-Gi is a tall, handsome, intelligent, charming man who wants nothing more than to raise his social status and be wealthy. He chose Chang-Soo as his best friend because of what he could gain, personally, from their relationship, and has dated girls only after checking out their family background. However, he’s not evil – selfish, yes… evil, no. He comes from a loving, yet financially humble home. I absolutely loved how smart he was and how he spoke to people. He was never mean or rude, just tactfully stated the facts. I found him to be a very interesting character.
Amazingly good-looking Chang-Soo is, undoubtedly, the character that went through the most emotional growth. He enjoys the status and money he has and thinks of himself as being just a bit better than others. He reminded me a little of Kim Joo-Won, from the Kdrama Secret Garden, just not as arrogant. He’s the favored, and baby, of three sons and although he holds a high position in his family’s business he relies on Joon-Gi to do most of his work to make him look good. He likes to play but does what he’s expected to do out of feelings of obligation.
Lee Ji-Yi is, hands-down, my favorite character in the whole show! She is darling and has a couple things most female Kdrama characters don’t have – self-respect and common sense. She carefully ponders situations, and makes the choice she thinks would be best for her. I loved the way she dealt with Chang-Soo’s elitist mother. As so often happens in Kdramas, the girl cowers and cries in front of the woman who is telling her she’s not good enough for her son and then obeys her and calls things off with the guy. I’ve often wanted the girl to throw a drink in the lady’s face, flip her off, and walk away saying, “You have no business poking your nose into our lives. I’ll do what I damn well want to do!” But Ji-Yi didn’t do either of those things. I’m not going to tell you how she handles that conceited mother because it’s too good and I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but you’ll love it! Hey writers, take a lesson from Ji-Yi and start giving the girls in your dramas a little more brains, please.
High Society stars one of my favorite actors, Sung Joon who plays Choi Joon-Gi. It doesn’t matter what he’s in, his performances are aways A+. He began his career as a model and then switched to acting. He’s been in three feature films, 11 dramas (of which I’ve seen eight – I Need Romance 3 being my favorite), and has sung for the soundtrack of two of them. He’s quite a multitalented man.
Jang Yoon-Ha is played by Uee who began her entertainment career debuting as a member of the girl group After School. A few months later she made her acting debut in the historical drama Queen Seondeok. In high school she competed in swimming but you ought to check her out in the reality show Barefoot Friends because she learns how to dive and even enters a diving competition with some other stars. I was pretty impressed.
Yoo Chang-Soo is played by Park Hyung-Sik. The guy is drop-dead gorgeous and a great actor. That’s one heart-thumping combination. He’s a member of the boyband ZE:A, was the voice of one of the characters in the animated film Justin and the Knights of Valour, has been in four different musical theater productions, and has received three awards – one for Best Male Newcomer in a variety show and two for his acting in the Kdrama What’s With This Family? I loved him as the teenage Park Sun-Woo in Nine: Nine Times Time Travel.
Lee Ji-Yi is brought to life by Lim Ji-Yeon who began her entertainment career in theater and short films. Then in 2014 she broke into feature films staring in Obsessed with Song Seung-Heon in which she was nominated for Best Actress, winning three of her six nominations. High Society is her first Kdrama.
The soundtrack is enjoyable. My favorite song of the bunch is called A Dazzling Day. It’s a carefree, happy song that makes you want to snap your fingers and tap your toes. How would I describe it? Maybe… soft rock. How Do I Live Without You…? is a lovely ballad that begins with the piano and then adds a guitar while softly blending strings and percussion into the background about halfway through the piece. The song Summer Days In Bloom is performed, in English, by Maximilian Hecker, a German musician. The song sounds like what you feel like as you’re waking from a deep sleep. Does that make any sense? Give all the songs a try. You can find this Kdrama soundtrack, and most others, on YouTube.
The director really used his imagination and came up with some great ways to get nice scenery in the show. A colorfully lit fountain at night, the magnificent Han River, a lovely beach, a pretty yard at a summer home… I was very impressed at how backgrounds like that were fit into the storyline. Since the drama is about wealthy people I would have thought they would have used an overwhelming amount of indoors shots – fancy houses, tall buildings… – but the director and writer peppered the story with enough outdoors shots that it didn’t make the show as claustrophobic as it could have been.
I was happily surprised with how much I enjoyed this Kdrama. Even though this show teaches us that it’s not 100% pleasant at the top of the social and economic ladder, this particular kind of High Society is pretty satisfying.
Likable, personable main characters
Teaches us happiness isn’t contingent on wealth
Enjoyable love stories
The character Lee Ji-Yi
The way Joon-Gi spoke to people
Rotten, selfish, greedy supporting characters
Yoon-Ha’s character changed too much