If you’ve just spent several hours on a dark, heavy Kdrama you might be in the mood for something light – a feel good drama, something like… Shopping King Louie.
Kang Ji-Sung, who goes by the name Louis, is the 25 year old heir to Gold Group, a huge company his grandmother owns. To her, nothing is more precious than Louis. A shaman once told her she was born with strong, evil luck and would end up killing her family around her. Sure enough, her husband passed away while still a fairly young man and then her son and daughter-in-law followed ten years later. The shaman advised she keep Louis far away from her if she didn’t want to cut his life short so he lives alone (of course he has servants and a loyal butler, who happens to be his best friend) in a small castle in France. One day Louis gets word his grandmother is in the hospital suffering from influenza and pneumonia and might not recover. So he hops the first plane to Korea to be with her.
After the death of her grandmother, Ko Bok-Sil leaves her backwoods town in search of her younger brother, Bok-Nam, who just disappeared one day. Imagine her surprise when she recognizes Bok-Nam’s track suit but not the person wearing it. The man has no idea who he is or why he’s in her brother’s clothes. The two strangers decided to team up in order to find Bok-Sil’s brother and maybe help the young man, with the name “Louis” embroidered on his underwear, find his memories along the way.
The characters in this drama are all very likable…
There’s a child-like innocence to Louie which I found very endearing. Since his grandmother wanted him kept safe he was pretty much babied his whole life and has never had to worry about money. He loves to shop and has a talent for choosing only the best, claiming items “talk to him”. He is fluent in 10 different languages, can play the piano and sing, and absolutely adores Bok-Sil.
Compassionate, humble, patient, kind, selfless, forgiving, determined, and just plain sweet – those are just some of Bok-Sil’s endearing qualities. She was raised in the “backwoods of Korea” but quickly learns to adjust to the big city of Seoul. She and her brother were raised by their dear grandmother, who just passed away, because their parents died in a landslide when they were very young. She’s a hard worker who does her best at whatever task she undertakes.
The director of Gold Group’s merchandizing department is Cha Joong-Won. He is an intelligent businessman who has eyes for darling Bok-Sil. He’s not at all a cuddly type of person, in fact his personality is a bit gruff, but there is a kind and helpful side to him which comes out mainly for Bok-Sil.
Beautiful Baek Ma-Ri and Louis have been friends since they were kids. Now that they’re grown she looks at Louis with dollar signs in her eyes. Although her father is the president of Gold Group, she’d have more money if she married its heir, Louis. She works at Gold Group in the merchandising department under Cha Joon-Won, who she thinks she just may have feelings for.
Did you know Seo In-Guk (Louis) won the talent reality show Superstar K in 2009? At just 10 years old he decided to become a singer so he studied Applied Music at Daebul University and began auditioning at entertainment agencies. Unfortunately, In-Guk was rejected and told to loose weight, which was the cause of him becoming bulimic for a while. After winning Superstar K his albums and singles topped the charts and he was on his way to becoming a superstar. His acting debut came in the form of a supporting role in the drama Love Rain and things snowballed from there. The guy does comedy just as well as drama. Catch him in High School King of Savvy and I Remember You, among others.
The first time I remember seeing Nam Ji-Hyun act was in the drama Angel Eyes and I thought she was excellent. I was very impressed with how well she played a blind teenage girl. She was so good I’m surprised it took two years before she finally got her first starring role as Bak-Sil in Shopping King Louie. Once again she’s perfect! It’s no wonder she has four Best New Young Actress awards, one Best New Actress award, one Best Couple award (with Park Hyung-Sik), and a Best Actress Entertainer award for her role as Ko Bok-Sil.
Yoon Sang-Hyun’s entertainment debut came at the relatively older age of 32 in the 2005 Kdrama Marrying a Millionaire. I did see him in that, and several other shows, but the first time I saw him act was in the deliciously superb Kdrama Secret Garden. He plays a Hallyu star named Oska whose personality is very much the same as his character in this drama, Cha Joong-Won. Sang-Hyun is also a singer who has recorded many songs, some in Japanese.
I tried to find some personal information about beautiful Im Si-Mi but there wasn’t anything. What I do know is she made her acting debut in 2005 with the drama Sharp 2 and went on to do more dramas, movies, and even theater. I’ve seen her in Heartstrings, That Winter the Wind Blows, Kara: Secret Love, and fairly recently as the missing sister in Goodbye Mr. Black. However, I think she is at her best in this as sneaky, but funny, Baek Ma-Ri.
One nice thing about this drama is that there aren’t really any horrible characters. There’s one guy whose greed gets the better of him but he comes to his senses after a while and tries to fix what he messed up so I don’t think he should be counted as “evil”.
Although Shopping King Louie is very cute I can’t, in all good conscience, categorize it as a full out comedy. (Unless I laugh out loud more than twice, I don’t consider something a comedy.) Louie is absolutely darling (his squeaks and silly reaction to seeing a spider is priceless) but I wasn’t laughing all the way through the show (like I did with Secret Garden, Fated to Love You, The Greatest Love, and Protect the Boss). It did make me smile an awful lot, though.
There’s a scene in the show where Bok-Sil is talking to Chairwoman Choi (not knowing she is Louis’ grandmother), telling her about how Louis (she doesn’t say Louis’ name, though, so his grandma doesn’t know exactly who Bok-Sil is referring to) buys things without first stopping to think about whether or not it’s a logical purchase. Chairwoman Choi then says something pretty profound. She tells Bok-Sil that studying a person’s shopping habits can tell you a lot about their personality. In other words, we shouldn’t judge others spending habits because we don’t know exactly what’s going on in their heart and mind. Good advice.
I’m kind of half-n-half on the music in Shopping King Louie. The original songs weren’t that appealing to me. The song entitled Hello had English words thrown in at random which gave it an “off” feeling and I just didn’t like the singer’s voice. She sounded like she was in pain, really. The Tiger Moth, performed by Monsta X, had a lot of random English words as well. Why record a song that doesn’t have balanced ideas? It’s kind of like “Bla bla bla bla bla rattlesnake bla bla bla play game bla bla bla bla love bla bla.” For Pete’s sake, give us at least an entire thought and not just a word here and there. Lots of Korean songs use English words now and then (like, “I love you” or “Please don’t leave” or “You are my happiness”…) but the songs in this particular drama use too many random English words mixed with Korean ones, making things sound very disjointed. On the upside, the episodes are filled with wonderful, old, familiar songs – Barry Manilow’s Can’t Smile Without You, Frank Sinatra’s My Way, Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy, and Elvis Costello’s She to name a few.
There are several nice backdrops for this show – a beautiful beach in Busan, a lovely little castle (supposedly in France), Bok-Sil’s old fashioned house in the “backwoods of Korea”, Louis and Bok-Sil’s tiny apartment in an old crowded neighborhood, and the large, lavish Gold Group office building in Seoul. The scenery is definitely not boring.
Shopping King Louie is a fun spin on the old, tired, amnesia-themed Kdramas. The characters are cute, the plot is semi-original, the romance is heartwarming, and the ending is complete and endearing. In my opinion, watching this show is 16 hours well spent.
Darling Louie (Seo In-Guk’s acting)
Great first starring role for Nam Ji-Hyun
Enjoyable, warm ending
No truly horrible, evil bad guys
Nice, balanced scenery
Added animation to try and make the show more comedic