Do you think you’d be able to recognize your first love if you hadn’t seen them in 15 years? First loves tend to remain vivid in our minds – they never change. But in all reality, they do change. Life goes on and people don’t always look the way they did as teenagers. And so it is with the Kdrama She Was Pretty.
Ji Sung-Joon is the new boy in town. He has curly hair, wears glasses, and has some extra pounds about him – an easy target for insensitive kids. Kim Hye-Jin is not only pretty and smart, she has a kind heart and befriends the outcast Sung-Joon. They become buddies and a wonderful friendship begins. But, sadly, they end up having to say goodbye when Sung-Joon moves to the States with his father. After a surprise farewell kiss and several letters, the two loose track of each other but “out of sight, out of mind” is not something that rings true for them. After 15 years of being separated, Sung-Joon’s job takes him back to Korea and he contacts his first love. Hye-Jin is thrilled at the thought of reuniting with her old friend until reality slaps her in the face. She goes to the meeting place, anxious and excited for the reunion and is surprised to see her buddy has changed quite a bit since she last saw him – the plain boy she knew and loved is now the type of guy girls would line up to date. Gone are the curls, glasses and extra pounds and before her stands a man worthy of being called handsome. When she watches him excitedly approach a knock-out gorgeous girl, under the impression she’s his old friend, panic sets in and she hides. You see, she no longer feels like the pretty girl he knew many years ago and she doesn’t want to disappoint his memory of her. She talks her beautiful and popular-with-the-men roommate into meeting Sung-Joon while pretending to be his pretty friend from the past, and that’s where things begin to get complicated.
Kim Hye-Jin is a selfless young woman with a kind heart. She is a wonderful friend, a good daughter, and a tireless employee. Her dream was to become a fairy tales author but she works as a proof reader and translator for The Most magazine instead. Hye-Jin was considered very pretty as a young teenager but as she got older she began to take on the red cheeks feature of her father.
Sung-Joon started his adolescence as, what kids around him considered, an “ugly duckling” and transferred himself into a “handsome swan” in adulthood. He is a successful businessman who was sent from headquarters in America to Korea in order to revive a faltering magazine. The pressure is on and this no-nonsense boss expects nothing but the best from his staff.
Kim Shin-Hyuk is the playful reporter the other folks who work on The Most magazine refer to as “the lunatic”. He is carefree but very serious when it comes to his job. He calls Hye-Jin “Jackson” because the day he met her she was wearing white socks and black shoes like Michael Jackson. They have a big brother/little sister relationship until Shin-Hyuk realizes his feelings for her go beyond that.
Min Ha-Ri has been friends with Hye-Jin since childhood. They are roommates and jokingly refer to each other, on their phones’ contact list, as “husband” and “wife”. Her parents divorced and she’s not really close to her mother. Her father has money and connections and although she was handed her job as a hotelier without any qualifications, she’s excellent at what she does.
Singer turned actress Hwang Jung-Eum plays darling Kim Hye-Jin. She began her career as a vocalist in the Kpop girl group Sugar. From there she went on to do variety shows and that’s how she ended up being one of Korea’s top actresses. I’ve seen her in five dramas and loved her in each one. She has won 18 out of the 23 awards she’s been nominated for and just earned a place on my favorite actresses list with her performance as Kim Hye-Jin.
Ji Sung-Joon is played by Park Seo-Joon. He began his acting career in 2011 with the feature length film Perfect Game and the music video I Remember. Apparently, the guy is a pretty classy dresser because out of the five awards he’s won, two are connected to his appearance – 2014 Best Style of the Year and 2015 First Prize Best Male Fashionista.
Multi-talented Choi Si-Won is a lot more than just a handsome face. He’s a scene stealer in this show. His character, Shin-Hyuk, is silly and a tiny bit juvenile but lovable beyond words – a ray of sunshine that Si-Won portrayed perfectly. He’s a wonderful actor and has appeared in both feature length films, including Dragon Blade with Jackie Chan, and dramas, several being non-Korean ones. He’s just as good playing comedy as he is romance and drama. Sadly, we won’t be seeing him for awhile. After wrapping up She Was Pretty he began his two year mandatory military service. I’m sure the Kdrama world will be counting the days until his return.
Kim Hye-Jin’s pal and roommate, Min Ha-Ri, is played by Go Joon-Hee. Her acting career began in 2003 with the television drama Breathless. Then in 2008 she changed her real name, Kim Eun-Joo, to Go Joon-Hee after her character’s name in the 2006 Kdrama What’s Up Fox?
A quick shout out for actress Hwang Suk-Jung who plays chief editor of The Most magazine, Kim Ra-Ra. It’s a very minor role but Suk-Jung brings her eccentric character to life and adds fun and color to the romantic comedy. Hip hip hurray for Kim Ra-Ra!
This is the second drama Hwang Jung-Eum and Park Seo-Joon have worked on together in the past six months. They were “twin” brother and sister in Kill Me, Heal Me (which is on my top 20 favorite Kdramas list) and now play a romantic couple in She Was Pretty. There’s a good chemistry between these two, being just as good together as “siblings” as they are lovers.
There was one thing about the show that bugged me… The whole thing is centered around the fact that Kim Hye-Jin was pretty but no longer is as an adult. Yet, (I’m giving something away now so if you want to be totally surprised, skip this paragraph) later in the show she puts on make-up to cover her red cheeks and straightens her frizzy hair. Why didn’t she do that earlier? I can’t believe her knock-out gorgeous roommate never suggested that to her. Hye-Jin straightened her hair as a teenager, why not keep doing it as an adult? And why, when she saw how handsome Ji Sung-Joon was and felt embarrassed about how she looked, didn’t she tell him something came up which was preventing her from being there and she’d call him back and reset a time to meet up later? That would have given her a chance to put on make-up and straighten her hair. That bugged me, but then, we wouldn’t have a fun romantic comedy if the writers had taken that obvious reality into consideration, right?
I totally spaced the soundtrack. Thinking back now I can’t recall a single song other than The Carpenters singing Close to You. How could I have watched 16 hours of a show and not be able to remember any of the music? That says a lot for the movie but not a lot for the music. Either the music was used very subtly or the storyline was too engrossing for me to notice the songs. There may not have been any songs that stuck out as being great but, I guess, that means there weren’t any that were awful or irritating either. I’m surprised I couldn’t find Choi Si-Won, who plays Shin-Hyuk, or Hwang Jung-Eum who plays Kim Hye-Jin, singing anything for the show. After all, they both began their career as singers. I did, however, find out that Park Seo-Joon, who plays Ji Sung-Joon, sings a song called Long Way so I checked it out on YouTube. It’s a really pretty ballad and his voice, though not amazing, is very good.
This drama has some nice everyday kind of scenery. The Most magazine office is where a major portion of the show is filmed and it’s a cool looking, spacious place. There’s a humongous screen on one wall that’s kind of like a TV, showing new fashion and things that would be significant to the articles the reporters of The Most would write. There’s also a fair amount of pretty outdoor shots.
I appreciated the fact that the writers of She Was Pretty, in a very tiny way, let the audience know we don’t have to be good looking to be happy and have others find us attractive. Both Park Seo-Joon and Shin-Hyuk said they thought Hye-Jin was pretty just the way she was – red cheeks and frizzy hair included. The message wasn’t as clear in this Kdrama as it was in Birth of a Beauty but at least we can add one more show to the “you are wonderful just the way you are” entertainment list.
I’m choosing to end my review of She Was Pretty with a quote from Kim Hye-Jin…
“I want to be pretty, most of all to myself. A person looks the prettiest when they’re doing what they love. I want to do what I love, and I want to be pretty. Not for anyone else’s sake.”
Wonderful words to live by.
Enjoyable, romantic storyline
Super chemistry with all the characters/actors
Fun, lunatic reporter Kim Shin-Hyuk
Eccentric chief editor Kim Ra-Ra
No bad guys
Good moral to the story
Non-realistic hair and make-up issue