It took about four hours for me to become completely immersed in Chicago Typewriter but by the time the fifth episode was over I was not only hooked but emotionally involved as well. Yes, I even had to fight off a rather large lump in my throat by the end of the show.
A top selling author, his adoring fan, and his ghostwriter are linked to rebel fighters during the time Korea was occupied by the Japanese.
One day, while at a book signing in Chicago (America), beloved author Han Se-Joo notices an old Korean typewriter on display. When he offers to buy it, the owner tells him the typewriter is a priceless one-of-a-kind antique, handcrafted in the 1930s during the time Japan occupied Korea, and he has no intention of selling it. However, after he’s back in South Korea, Se-Joo is happily surprised when the typewriter shows up at his doorstep, brought by Jeon Seol, a total stranger who happens to be one of his fans who operates her own delivery business. He coincidentally runs into Jeon Seol on several different occasions and each time it’s a disaster. While in a writing slump, Jeon Seol is in a car accident and finds himself out of commission for a few days. When he gets back to civilization and discovers the public is going crazy because of the first chapter of an online novel he has written, he’s more than a little confused. Knowing full well he is not the person who wrote the first installment of Chicago Typewriter, he realizes the culprit has to be a ghostwriter and soon finds out how very right he is.
Han Se-Joo is a young author who’s popularity isn’t just limited to South Korea. He is considered to be an idol of the literary world. His novel, Unfair Game, reached the best seller list only five days after its release date. No wonder his publicist gave him the nickname Golden Egg. As a young man he was betrayed by the very people he trusted the most so he has closed himself off to people in general.
Ever since she was a young girl Jeon Seol has seen bits and pieces of what she thinks must have been her past life. When she told her mother she remembered killing someone, a long time ago, her mother took her to see a mystic. Eventually, her mother left and Jeon Seol moved in with the mystic and her daughter. Jeon Seol used to be a veterinarian but left that profession because of a tragic event. Now she has her own delivery service with one employee – herself.
Yoo Jin-Oh is the man responsible for writing the beginning of Chicago Typewriter, hiding behind author Han’s name. He is a kind, positive person who just wants Se-Joo to help him finish the novel he started. He is enamored with Jeon Seol but her friend, Ma Bang-Jin, is the one who likes him.
During the 1930s there were groups of young resistant fighters who fought for Korea to regain its freedom from Japanese rule. Seo Hwi-Young, Ryu Soo-Hyun, and Shin Yool were members of one of those underground groups.
The owner of the popular dance hall/club Carpe Diem (seize the day) is Shin Yool. He is a handsome, rich man from a well to do family. Although his father is friendly with the Japanese, he is anxious for the day Korea will be free once again. His club is a cover for the hideout of one of the biggest groups of resistance fighters in the country and he is one of just a few people who knows who the leader of their group is.
Ryu Soo-Hyun was saved by a masked man the night her family was brutally murdered. Her savior instructed her to hide away at Carpe Diem and it was there she met kind Shin Yool. To keep her safe, he dressed her in boy’s clothes and taught her how to use a gun. As a result, she became the group’s most skilled sniper.
Seo Hwi-Young is an author who writes romance stories in the newspaper. He is Shin Yool’s best friend and one of a small handful of people who knows Soo-Hyun is really a girl. She often encourages him to write meaningful things and not just superficial stories that will win him the hearts of female fans and earn him lots of money. He’s a soft spoken man who, for the most part, keeps to himself.
The actor who plays the parts of Han Se-Joo and Seo Hwi-Young is Yoo Ah-In. The man has been in three movies that are on the list of highest-grossing films in South Korea. Wow! His rise to fame came thanks to his role in the 2010 Kdrama Sungkyunkwan Scandal. In 2016 he ranked second in Korea Power Celebrity by Forbes and is considered one of the most outspoken and politically minded actors of his generation. He’s won multiple Best Actor awards for his roles in both film and TV. It was recently revealed that Ah-In has a bone tumor. Thankfully, it is benign so doctors say it won’t spread or interfere very much with his everyday life.
The characters Jeon Seol and Ryu Soo-Hyun are played by Im Soo-Jung. She began her entertainment career as a cover model for teen magazines and then went on to acting in both TV and film. She starred in the movie A Tale of Two Sisters which is South Korea’s highest-grossing horror film and the first South Korean horror movie to be screened in American theaters. It was also the vehicle that first got her noticed. However, it was the drama I’m Sorry, I Love You that catapulted her to stardom. It’s also the last thing she did for TV until her roles in Chicago Typewriter, 13 years later! The thing that impresses me most about Soo-Jung is the fact that she doesn’t have a million dollar smile. With Korea being so pro-plastic surgery I’m surprised and thrilled that a top star has crooked teeth. It may not be a perfect smile but it’s all hers, and I like that.
Go Kyung-Pyo is fantastic as Yoo Jin-Oh and Shin Yool. His acting debut came in 2010 when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live Korea for its first three seasons. I’ve seen him in several Kdramas – Operation Proposal, Flower Boys Next Door, Tomorrow’s Cantabile, Jeju Island Gatsby, and Jealousy Incarnate. He’s always played supporting characters but, I’m happy to announce, his first starring role will be in the Kdrama Strongest Deliveryman, set to air in just a few weeks (July 2017). Busy guy. Just as one drama ends he starts another.
Chicago Typewriter is a perfect name for this show. First of all, it’s the title of the online novel Jin-Oh begins to write. Second, since there are two authors in the story, the drama focuses on the old typewriter Se-Joo discovers while in Chicago. And the best part is that the guns the young Korean freedom fighters used in the 1930s had a sound that was similar to the sound a typewriter makes so they were nicknamed Chicago Typewriters. Don’t you just love clever Kdrama titles?
During the ending credits, we’re provided with some information about what things were like during the time the Japanese occupied Korea. It’s sort of like a mini history lesson. I had no knowledge, whatsoever, of that time period so I was fascinated and heartbroken with what I learned. I wish we would have been given that information at the very beginning of the drama, though. It helped me better understand the passionate hearts and minds of Seo Hwi-Young, Ryu Soo-Hyun, and Shin Yool and that would have been intensified if I had felt that right from the beginning instead of when the show was all over.
Go Kyung-Pyo is really good when it comes to “bromances” (close male friendships). I enjoyed the chemistry his character had with Jo Jung-Suk’s character in Jealousy Incarnate but I liked Yoo Jin-Oh and Han Se-Joo’s relationship ever better. Their characters grow together, side by side, and watching them go from total strangers to best buddies is endearing. Chicago Typewriter can be categorized as a romance that sports a great love triangle, but there’s also a brotherly love Jin-Oh and Se-Joo come to share that is sweetly heartwarming.
Chicago Typewriter is 16 episodes long with two bonus episodes. Episode 0: Special is pretty much just a giant, hour long synopsis which shows clips from parts of the drama. I’m not 100% positive but I swear the narrator’s voice belongs to Namgung Min. Episode 0: Special 2 is an hour long behind the scenes/making of kind of episode. I was afraid those special episodes would give away something important so I didn’t watch them until I had finished the whole show. I suggest you also wait and watch the extra episodes after you’ve seen the drama in its entirety. To be honest, I just skimmed through the synopsis special but the behind the scenes one I watched all the way through.
Sadly, Chicago Typewriter‘s music leaves a lot to be desired. The main problem is there are several songs sung in English with lyrics that are grammatically incorrect or, even worse, don’t make any sense at all. This isn’t the only drama I’ve seen that has music like that, though. Unfortunately, it happens way too often. My suggestion is, if you’re going to write a song in English and it’s not your first language, get a native English speaker to edit it for you. Thankfully, the song entitled Writing Our Stories is absolutely wonderful and beautifully performed by SG Wannabe. It is the hauntingly lovely song that was playing when I was fighting back tears and dealing with the lump in my throat.
The 1930s scenery is spectacular. Everything is in darker, earthy colors which very slightly dampens any sort of cheerful tone the scene may have. Although Carpe Diem is a club where people go to drink, dance, and be entertained, it still lacks a totally happy atmosphere. The place is dimly lit, and has a hazy kind of feel to it. Yes, the people smile and have fun but the lack of vibrant colors in that storyline made me feel like there was always an emotional dark cloud hanging over the heads of the Korean citizens back then. As for the 2017 scenes, the thing that comes to mind, first and foremost, is books – lots and lots and lots of books! Se-Joo’s house has bookcases on every wall from the vaulted ceilings to the hardwood floors, Jeon Seol’s bedroom is filled with books, Baek Tae-Min (Se-Joo used to live with his family) has tons of books all around his office… There are books everywhere!
Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, this drama will touch your heart. It’s the story of friendship, love, promises, and following one’s convictions. Chicago Typewriter, don’t miss it!
Superb, interesting plot
Emotional 1930s storyline
Sweet love triangle
Good special effects
Takes about four episodes to get hooked
One inconsistency having to do with the old pocket watch
Music (except for Writing Our Stories)