Ready for a little romance and a puzzling mystery set in a tiny village amidst a lush Forest? Well, keep reading…
When Director Kang San-Hyeong is rushed to Myeongseong University Hospital due to a phantom pain in his hand, he meets Doctor Jung Young-Jae under less than favorable circumstances. In the hospital cafeteria, much to the frustration of Doctor Jung, San-Hyeong takes the coffee she had ordered and paid for, explaining he didn’t have any money but wanted some coffee. That doesn’t fly with her and they end up in a fairly heated verbal tussle. The two have a few more not-so-positive encounters before discovering they have both moved to a small mountain village and are now sharing a house in the woods. As the kind-of roommates go back and forth between being friends and enemies, they both become wrapped up in some mysterious stuff concerning Miryeong Forest and its residents.
Kang San-Hyeong was raised by his beloved grandmother and has no memories of his life before he was ten. He grew up to be the director of investments at RLI, an investment firm, where his salary and bonuses are above and beyond the highest in the industry. Rumors say he is heartless when it comes to money. The man’s entire life is devoted to his job, in fact, he tells Young-Jae he has never taken a nap before, which may be why his team contributes to 70% of the company‘s revenue. He has been seeing a doctor because of the excruciating pain he feels in his hand, refusing to consider the fact that it may be a phantom pain, and insisting, “There are two kinds of human beings in the world. For one kind, the mind rules the body. For the other, the body rules the mind.” He claims the latter are weak and he is definitely not one of them. In order to secure for his company the land needed to build a resort on the mountain, San-Hyeong joins the Gangwon Fire Department Special Rescue Team. Living on the mountain begins to cause him some confusion when he discovers he is familiar with places in the forest, knows the nicknames of some mountain animals, and can cook entire meals with just vegetation found in the woods. Does he have some kind of connection to the forest that he’s unaware of? At first San-Hyeong can do nothing more than tolerate Jung Young-Jae but the more he gets to know her the easier it is for him to see her sympathetic, caring side and soon realizes he likes what he sees.
As a young child Jung Young-Jae was rescued from a car that had swerved off the road and into a lake. Both her parents died, she alone making it out okay. But the ordeal (and the fact that the incident was reported as an attempt at a family suicide) has left her with permanent emotional scars and, understandably, a terrible fear of the water. She was adopted by the mountain rescuer (and his wife) that saved her life and has always thought of them as her only parents. Young-Jae intended to go into psychiatry but her panic attacks, due to her childhood trauma, made that too difficult so she became a surgeon instead. When she admits to making a tremendous mistake at work, she is transferred to Miryeong Hospital. Just after she arrives she phones a colleague and tells him, “I was dragged to some remote location and it looks like zombies will come out of the hospital. The general physician and nurse here are looney too. Forget patients, there isn’t even an ant.” At first she feels like she was exiled to the mountains but quickly discovers all the little charms the place holds, such as riding her bike to work and the wonderful smell of the early morning dew evaporating in the sun. Doctor Jung decides to make that little “haunted” hospital into a proper place the village elders would happily visit, all the while bouncing back and forth between hating her new “roommate” and liking him.
Choi Sang was raised solely by his father (whom he refers to as his “honorable older brother”) because his mother passed away while giving birth to him. While he was growing up the two barely had enough to eat at times, but now his father owns the logging company there and a good chunk of the mountain surrounding the village, making Choi Sang like the area’s little prince. But all his father’s money and prestige hasn’t gone to his head. Choi Sang is humble, kind and, as a member of the Gangwon Fire Department Special Rescue Team, willing to risk his life for his village, its people, and the mountain. There’s a new officer in town and she seems to have charmed Choi Sang.
County Office Action Officer Oh Bo-Mi has just been assigned as the special officer in charge of things that happen on the mountain. She watches for trespassers, and people who are breaking the laws that pertain to the forest. When she begins to notice some things are out of place, the first person she suspects of wrongdoing is the man with the most influence in the area – Choi Sang’s father. She and Young-Jae grew up going to the same schools and because of some silly teenage incidences don’t like each other very much.
For information about Park Hae-Jin, the man who plays Kang San-Hyeong, you can go to my Man to Man review. (Ive got to hand it to Park Hae-Jin for filming some scenes in a rescue uniform that weighed 88 pounds!)
If you’re interested in Jo Bo-Ah, the actress who plays Jung Young-Jae, you can read about her in my review of My Strange Hero.
The man who plays the part of Choi Sang is No Gwang-Sik. Unfortunately, other than telling you he’s handsome (well, cute is a more accurate adjective) I don’t have a ton of compliments to hand his way. I kept thinking, “This guy’s acting is so stiff.” He spoke his lines fairly well but his body movements were the huge problem. He wasn’t relaxed at all. I thought he was like a person who had never acted before and was cast in that role at the last minute. About halfway through the show I finally decided to stop watching for a second and put his name in a search bar to see what other things he had been in. Low and behold, Sara was spot on in her evaluation – playing Choi Sang is his first and only acting experience. No Gwang-Sik began his entertainment career in the music industry in 2017 and just now decided to branch out into acting. Well, as the saying goes, you gotta start somewhere. I’m sure he’ll become less stiff the more things he does, but for now, ummmmm… don’t expect too much.
Actress and model Jung Yeon-Joo plays well the part of Officer Oh Bo-Mi. Yeon-Joo graduated from Korea National University of Arts and debuted in the 2011 short movie Guest. A few of the dramas she’s been in that I’ve seen are School 2013, Chicago Typewriter, Queen of Mystery, Judge vs. Judge, Room No. 9, and the recent My Holo Love.
Kudos to Forest’s writer for tackling the fairly delicate subject of mental health issues, specifically that of trauma. Because of a trauma that happened when he was just a boy Kang San-Hyeong suffers from memory loss and a phantom pain in his arm. Jung Young Jae’s childhood trauma forces her to deal with a tremendous fear of water and the pain of abandonment. The captain of the special rescue team fears he’s an alcoholic because he is constantly forgetting things as he tries to block out the vivid memory of his partner’s death. And one of the special rescue team members is consistently harming his body (ripping muscles) through excessive exercise in order to deal with the psychological stress of his job. Sadly, mental disorders seem to have a taboo connected to them and this drama points out how more people than we may realize, even highly successful people, are having to deal with psychological issues. If you’re one of them, like I am, know you’re not alone and there is help available – just like this story portrays.
In talking over his psychological issue with Doctor Jung Young-Jae, Captain Bong Dae-Yong of the Special Rescues Team informs her that in the past 10 years there were 51 firemen who died on duty whereas 78 fireman committed suicide. And then he rhetorically asks, “Why is it that there are more suicides in this line of work than accidental deaths?” I don’t know if those are accurate numbers in reality but art often mimics real life so I’ll bet they’re pretty close to what a real rescuer would say. If that is the case I hope there are things in place for people who work in that profession to get help in dealing with all their stress. Bless their hearts!
Throughout most of the drama gorgeous Jung Young Jae’s hair was wavy and then all of a sudden it’s straight. I’m okay with that. In real life a person can leave the house for work with long, blonde hair, stop off at a salon on their way home, and walk into their house with short, brunette hair. No problem. What I’m not thrilled with is when a person in the story changes their look and the drama keeps on going like everything is the same. I was so happy Kang San-Hyeong commented on the change and told Young-Jae her new hair style looked nice. That’s exactly what a normal person would do.
Unfortunately, the storyline’s timing is off in a few places. There’s times when a character will say “yesterday “ and it’s obvious what they’re referring to happened, at least, two days prior. I have no idea whether the writing had that obviously wrong timeline or if it was the fault of the translator, but it bothered me nonetheless.
There’s a giant “oops” at the beginning of episode 30 when Jung Young Jae is crouched down behind a counter, going through some hospital files. She takes papers out of a green folder and then puts the folder down but magically it’s nowhere to be seen as she sneaks away.
Forest’s music is very middle of the road. Thankfully, there isn’t a song that is irritating or one that’s overplayed but there is one that I felt stood out as extra good – Dazed. It’s a slick, sexy ballad with a soft beat. Take Me Now is an upbeat ballad sung by Luna. The sleepy ballad Always is softly sung by soprano U-Ji, but the ballad I liked better than hers is Where Are You performed by tenor Na Yoon-Kwon. He can really put power behind his crooning.
This drama’s visuals are absolutely stunning! We see sweeping panoramic shots of the mountain as well as up close and personal shots of the foliage and animals in the forest. It’s simply a beautiful show. I loved the duplex-style house Kang San-Hyeong and Jung Young Jae share. It has a wonderful rustic charm. Parts of Forest were filmed in Namyangju, Yangyang County, Sejong, and Hoengseong County.
Forest has a decent mystery and a fair (although hurried) romance. The writing is fine and so is the acting. In my opinion, it’s the location/scenery and the interesting job choice of a special rescuer that makes this drama stand out. It doesn’t need to go at the top of your watch list, but it should definitely be on it somewhere.
Tackles the subject of mental illness
Interesting/unusual job (special rescuer)
No Gwang-Sik’s stiff acting
Timing is off in some places