You know the old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, you can’t judge a Kdrama by its title, either. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo. It just didn’t sound all that riveting but, because Goblin and The Ledgend of the Blue Sea aren’t out in their entirety yet, I decided to try it out. By the end of the first episode I realized I had made the same mistake with this show that I had with Wild Romance – I was wrong. Oh, boy was I wrong!
Ever since she was a little girl Kim Bok-Joo has loved lifting weights. She enjoys the smell of the metal weights, the powder in the air, and the joy of conquering a challenge. She is a sophomore at a sports university and the star of the women’s weightlifting team. Everything seems to be going along smoothly until fate brings an old childhood classmate back into her life and a handsome new stranger crosses her path. As luck would have it, she accidentally finds out that the thoughtful stranger is a doctor with his own weight loss clinic. Bingo! All Bok-Joo has to do is register as his patient and she can be by his side. However, life is never that easy. While she is trying to impress this man she has fallen for by following his dieting instructions, a wonderful career opportunity is set before her but it involves sabotaging the progress she’s making with her weight loss. That’s not the only stressful situation Bok-Joo is battling, however. She has to deal with the constant teasing of her old elementary school classmate, Jung Joon-Hyung. He’s the only person aware of her secrets and, in spite of the sparing between the two old friends, he’s the one she leans on for support. Surprisingly, Joon-Hyung is more than happy to help the darling girl that has wiggled her way into his heart, even if it means setting her up with another man.
Kim Bok-Joo is a 20 year old weightlifter in college. She has adored lifting weights ever since she was a young girl and winning a medal at the Olympics is her goal. She is a loyal friend and a respectful student. The only thing she loves more than weightlifting is her father who owns a small restaurant called Bok Chicken.
Jung Joon-Hyung is a swimmer with a very promising career, if he can overcome his false starts. He is playful and loves to tease his elementary school classmate, Bok-Joo. His ex-girlfriend broke his heart but after being gone for awhile she’s back and hoping for a fresh start with him.
Doctor Jung Jae-Yi runs a weight loss clinic. He is handsome, kind, and has a successful career. Although Joon-Hyung refers to him as his brother, they are really cousins.
Song Shi-Ho is the star of the rhythmic gymnastics team. She and Joon-Hyung were a couple until she coldly informed him she planned to concentrate solely on her sport and broke up with him.
Lee Sung-Kyung, who plays the weightlifting fairy, began her entertainment career as a model winning the Best Female Fashion Model of the Year award in 2014. She has been in five Kdramas, starting with the fantastically superb It’s Okay, That’s Love, and then on to Queen’s Flower, Cheese in the Trap, and Doctors. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo is her first starring role. Sung-Kyung’s first feature film is set to come out this year – Broker.
Just like his costar Lee Sung-Kyung, Nam Joo-Hyuk used modeling to break into the acting scene and was also in the drama Cheese in the Trap. Jung Joon-Hyung isn’t the first character he’s played that is a swimmer, though. His character in Who Are You: School 2015 is the star of the high school swim team. And recently I saw him in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (yeah!) playing the part of a tender-hearted, artistic prince. I’m anxious to see what’s up next for Joo-Hyuk. Maybe a third swimming role?
I loved the people in this show. Bok-Joo and Joon-Hyung are darling individuals who are even cuter together. Their chemistry is perfect for a young love story – flirty and sparing at the same time. They’re best friends who don’t even realize they’ve fallen in love. But it’s not just the characters that are responsible for our pitter-pattering hearts. Lee Sung-Kyung and Nam Joo-Hyuk click beautifully. They play off each others’ strengths and weaknesses well which helps us believe Bok-Joo and Joon-Hyung sincerely love each other. Chemistry is everything in a romantic Kdrama and these guys have it big time!
This is a love story with sports as its setting. We get to watch swimming, weightlifting and rhythmic gymnastics over and over throughout the course of the show and aside from it being simply entertaining, we learn about the discipline involved and the sacrifices an athlete makes to be the best in their field.
I enjoyed the fact that Bok-Joo’s rival is a rhythmic gymnast. She’s everything Bok-Joo is not – short, skinny, feminine, flexible. In fact, Bok-Joo and her friends refer to all the gymnasts as “chopsticks”. The contrast is amazing. One girl is busy gaining weight while the other is constantly trying to loose it.
Sadly, it looks as if Korea’s viewing audience had the same misconception I had about Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo. The ratings were extremely low, receiving 4.8% as its national average. I’m guessing most people just didn’t think watching a 16 hour Kdrama inspired by the South Korean female Olympic weightlifter Jang Mi-Ran would be that entertaining and probably didn’t even give one episode a try. However, the writer, Jang Hee-Seung, is the same person who wrote the wonderfully fun Kdrama High School King of Savvy and Oh My Ghostess which received a perfect score of 10 from me. Also, Lee Sung-Kyung was given an Excellence Award for her portrayal of darling Kim Bok-Joo and Nam Joo-Hyuk, who plays charming Jung Joon-Hyung, won a Best New Actor Award. It really is a good show.
Sadly, I have to mention one very noticeable mess up. In one scene, while Bok-Joo and Joon-Hyung are outside talking she has her hood up one second, then they do a close up of her face and the hood is down and then the next second, as the camera has a fuller shot, her hood is back on. It all happens very quickly but it’s noticeable none the less.
I’ll Pick You Up performed by indie Korean acoustic pop band Standing Egg is my favorite song on the soundtrack. What a great title choice, especially considering the fact that the song is part of a show about the love life of a weightlifter.
As far as scenery goes, the Autumn colors on the college campus are stunningly exquisite. I was so amazed at how vivid they were that I couldn’t help but wonder if it was some sort of enhanced photography. Fun outdoor scenes include a beach and an amusement park, complete with night time fireworks. As for indoor shots, most of the scenes are at the chicken restaurant, the dorms, the weight loss clinic, the gymnastics floor, the swimming pool, and the weight room.
Hopefully, I’ve given you enough reasons to put this particular sports related love story on your watch list. Don’t let the ratings stop you from giving it a try. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo is a unique story with excellent acting, charming characters, and a playful romance which makes for one very entertaining Kdrama.
Award winning acting
No bad guys
Great chemistry between Lee Sung-Kyung and Nam Joo-Hyuk
Book-Joo and Joon-Hyung are darling together
Swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, and weightlifting scenes
Beautiful Autumn colors
Inconsistent “hood” scene