If you were in the mood for a warm, romantic Kdrama and came across one entitled Come and Hug Me you may just snap your fingers while thinking, “That’s the one!” The title alone suggests a sweet, endearing love story and the promotional poster looks so romantic – a man and a woman looking longingly at one another as they stand under a bunch of cherry blossoms. Yes, it is a love story but the lovers’ feelings for each other are put through an incredible test, one that takes them through the fiery pit of hades itself, battling evil all the way. This drama is a tense, nail-biting experience.
“It’s the story of a small love winning against something huge. Come and Hug Me is about love that conquers all.” – actor Heo Joon-Ho
One snowy Christmas Eve, a beloved actress and her husband are brutally murdered in their own home. Sadly, their 16 year old daughter, Gil Nak-Won, is there as the horrific crime is committed but before the masked assailant is able to kill her as well, his own son, Yoon Na-Moo, bursts through the door to rescue his girlfriend. Bravely confronting his father, who is carrying a hammer dripping with blood, he informs him that he had already called the police and they were only a few minutes away. For what seems to be an eternity, Na-Moo struggles to keep his father from killing Nak-Won and then the reassuring sound of police sirens save both of their lives as the murderer flees the home, leaving the two teenagers clinging to each other in terror.
A few years ago an overzealous reporter, hungry for fame, collaborated with the psychopathic serial killer from that Christmas Eve, death row inmate Yoon Hee-Jae, co-writing and publishing his autobiography. In order to increase book sales and up the ratings of her television news show she keeps things stirred up, exciting the public and spurring on curiosity about the victims loved ones and hatred for the family of the criminal.
Although the memory of that awful night has not diminished at all, Nak-Won and Na-Moo have gone on with their lives. Nak-Won changed her name to Han Jae-Yi and became an actress, following in her deceased mother’s footsteps. Feeling anguish for the unspeakable acts his psychopathic father committed, Na-Moo became a Detective on the Gangnam police force and now goes by the name Chae Do-Jin. As teenagers in middle school Nak-Won and Na-Moo were very close but they haven’t come in contact with each other since the night his father killed her parents 12 years ago. Now, fate seems to have brought the two sweethearts back together but even from prison Yoon Hee-Jae’s evil reign of terror continues to haunt them when someone decides to “finish” his autobiography. As the lives of the people around him are threatened through the influence of his evil father, Na-Moo is determined to protect the people he loves, but at what cost?
Yoon Na-Moo was instrumental in sending his serial killer father to prison 12 years ago, testifying about the events of that Christmas Eve. He is very intelligent and always performed well in school, he even earned a special presidential medal when he graduated from the police academy. He chose a profession of law enforcement as an atonement for the sins committed by his father. Na-Moo, now known as Chae Do-Jin, is a quiet, humble man with a great deal of empathy. He usually keeps to himself but is always the first to step in whenever someone is in need of help. He has loved Gil Nak-Won from the minute he met her but now, at the age of 28, he wonders if he has the right to be with her after his father destroyed her life.
After Gil Nak-Won’s life was shattered 12 years ago, she quit school, changed her name, and went into the acting profession. It’s taken many years for her to become a top star but she finally achieved her dream. She chose acting because it would put her in the public eye which would make it easier for Na-Moo to locate her if they ever had to separate. She is a beautiful young woman who is never without a smile. She is kind, has an understanding heart, and works hard in her chosen profession. She fell in love with Na-Moo her first day of school when he rescued her from a teacher that was harassing her. Although the events of that tragic night have never left her thoughts, she has not once held Na-Moo responsible for what happened to her parents but loves him even more for risking his life to save her that Christmas Eve.
Yoon Hee-Jae is evil incarnate. He sees this world as a cage and people as mere animals so his psychotic mind has no problem when he takes a life. He kills indiscriminately and has murdered over a dozen people. His weapon of choice – an old Ball Pein hammer. He also has a dog farm where he cages the poor animals, probably to await a fate not much better than his human victims.
In order to gain his father’s attention and approval Yoon Hyun-Moo, Na-Moo’s older brother, has become hard and mean. He deliberately picked fights with kids weaker than he was and spent time in prison for assault. His father constantly compares him to Na-Moo which has only served to foster a cancerous hatred inside his soul for his own brother.
Because he was out late the night his parents were brutally murdered, Gil Moo-Won escaped the terrifying incident his younger sister Nak-Won went through and that has caused him to feel tremendous guilt for the past 12 years. Like his sister, Moo-Won changed his name and is now known as Lim Tae-Kyung. He is a top prosecutor who truly desires to punish criminals and remove them from society so others don’t have to experience pain similar to what his family went through. He was adopted into Nak-Won’s family when his biological parents tragically passed away.
Chae Ok-Hee is Na-Moo’s stepmother. Once she discovered Hee-Jae was a dangerous man she feared for her life and ran away with her daughter (from her first marriage). After Yoon Hee-Jae was convicted and sent to prison she divorced him and moved to a small island with her daughter, taking Na-Moo with them since he was too young to live on his own. He loves her dearly and thinks of her as his real mother. As a single mom, Ok-Hee is very diligent, working long, hard hours at a restaurant to take care of her children.
Jang Ki-Yong’s first acting job was in the excellent 2014 Kdrama It’s Okay, That’s Love. Since then he’s appeared in a dozen other Kdramas and webdramas such as We Broke Up, The Liar and His Lover, Beautiful Mind, and My Mister just to name a few. Come and Hug Me is Jang Ki-Yong’s first chance at a leading role and he does a fantastic job! He told an interviewer, “When I decided to play this role [Na-Moo], I wondered how I would change, and that’s why I wanted to do it.” His first big screen appearance will be next year in the film Bad Guys: The Movie.
Just like her co-star, Come and Hug Me is Ji Ki-Jo’s (Gil Nak-Won) first time in a leading role as well. Before she began her acting career she was first employed for Samsung SDS and then worked as a reporter at G1, an affiliate of SBS. Her first time appearing on screen was in the 2015 Kdrama Twenty Again. I’ve also seen her in Splash Splash Love (the first webdrama I’ve ever given a perfect score to), One More Happy Ending, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Wednesday 3:30 PM, and Misty. Her first movie, Little Forest, was released last February, coming in second place at the Korean box office on its opening day.
Fifty-four year old veteran actor Heo Joon-Ho is the son of Heo Jang-Kang, one of the best known actors of the 1960s and 1970s. His own acting career began on stage and later branched out to film and television. He has won eight of the ten awards he’s been nominated for – three Best Supporting Actor, one Best Actor, two Popularity Awards, one Special Jury Prize, and a Special Award, Actor in a Historical Drama. I’ll be completely shocked if he doesn’t bring in another Best Supporting Actor award for his performance as the psychotic killer Yoon Hee-Jae. The man’s expressions are downright spine tingling, just creepy beyond expression!
Come and Hug Me is a very intense drama from the first few minutes to the end of the 31st episode. In fact, in an interview with Heo Joon-Ho, the actor who plays Yoon Hee-Jae, said, “I’ve always wanted to play a serious villain.” But while he was playing the role of a psychopathic serial killer he said, “Lately I haven’t been able to sleep well because of this. I’m having nightmares everyday.” The show isn’t just written for shock value, there are lessons attached, very important lessons. Two thumbs up and a gold star goes to Come and Hug Me’s screenwriter, Lee A-Ram. What we learn and the moral of the story are exactly what humanity needs to hear right now. In fact, actor Jang Ki-Yong (Na-Moo) claims it to be, “… the best healing drama of 2018.”
Na-Moo in Korean means “tree” and Nak-Won tells Na-Moo he rightly deserves his name because he is sturdy and unmovable like a tree, something she can lean on for support and protection from life’s storms. She even tells him that when she was having a difficult time she would go to a place where there was a lot of trees and it would make her feel better. And I’m sure it was no coincidence that she even had a tree inside her home.
Much of the writing in Come and Hug Me made me think of I Remember You, a Kdrama that asks the question, “Are psychopaths made or are they born that way?” Some recent research I just came across says the brain function of a true psychopath is different from that of a normal person in that they “have slightly different autonomic nervous systems,” but I still think that question would be a great topic for debate among friends. In the show, we hear the words, “Wickedness isn’t developed. Wickedness is… it’s a choice.” Hummmm…. so looking at things that way, even psychopaths have a choice in choosing between good and evil. They might not feel bad once they’ve chosen evil, but they still have the choice!
Thankfully the director is able to get the point of murder across without a lot of graphic details. It’s much more tame in its violence than, oh let’s say, Reset, Voice, or Return. However, the acting is spectacular so that heavy kind of feeling is still present.
I was surprised to discover Come and Hug Me didn’t do well in the ratings. However, to be fair, its flow was interrupted several times to make way for some special programming. The regular scheduled broadcasting of episodes 15 through 20, 23 and 24 were all changed due to coverage of the 2018 World Cup as well as local elections. It’s difficult to have superb ratings when the time people set aside for watching the show is occupied with something else.
For those of you who enjoy a behind the scenes look at the making of a drama (like I do) Come and Hug Me has an extra long episode at the end of the show. Interested in watching them film some kissing scenes? It’s quite fun and very interesting.
There are some “oops” that really bothered me and they came at the most intense moment of the show. Can’t tell you what they are without revealing a huge spoiler but watch closely during the end of the show (episodes 30 and 31) and you’ll see a few.
Every single song on the soundtrack is slow, beautiful, and full of emotion. My favorites are – Times Without You sung by Na Yoon-Kwon. Cries Without Sound, performed by Yang Yo-Seo of Highlight (formerly know as Beast) is in second place, and third is Desperately sung by Ahn Hyun-Jeong.
The director does a good job balancing the unpleasant moments in the show with the brighter ones of Ma-Moo and Nak-Won nurturing their love. A beautiful, snowy winter’s night is blurred by the fact that two teenagers are clinging to one another, their clothes bloodstained. The darkness of an old building with rusty cages fades into a young couple holding hands, sharing a walk in the rain while under an umbrella. The festive Christmas tree in a family room is just a few feet from the battered bodies of a husband and wife and a blood-splattered family portrait. There’s a colorful evening at an amusement park and sweethearts sitting under trees that are showering down cherry blossom petals but we also see a police office that houses suspicious people accused of horrendous crimes. There’s the chilly emptiness of a dark prison cell that contrasts a crowd of people with paparazzi camera lights flashing as a star walks a red carpet… a good visual balance of opposition throughout the entire show.
I highly recommend you see Come and Hug Me – “In the end, evil only destroys itself.”
Smart directing (minus one major “oops”)
Scenery fits the story well
Difficult subject matter for some viewers