Based on Go A-Ra’s 2009 webtoon Eoseowa, Welcome (aka Meow: The Secret Boy) is a romantic fantasy Kdrama about a darling cat with the magical ability to turn into a human. Kdramaland has had young women fall in love with a robot (Are You Human Too?) and a hologram (My Holo Love), so why not a cat?
Kim Sol-Ah isn’t really fond of felines but she’s liked Lee Jae-Seon for years, so when she discovers he’s looking for someone to take care of a cat she decides to help, offering the creature shelter until a permanent new owner can be found. However, no one is aware of the fact that her new roommate isn’t your run-of-the-mill cat. The blue-eyed, white feline has the remarkable ability to take the form of a human and, through a case of mistaken identity, he begins living with Sol-Ah as her landlord’s son Bang Gook-Bong as well as the cat Hong-Jo. Although she’s definitely not a cat person, it doesn’t take long for Sol-Ah to open her heart to the furry fellow, and to Gook-Bong as well.
Hong-Jo is a blue-eyed, white cat that, while still a kitten, Lee Jae-Seon found curled up in a scarf, abandoned in a heap of trash one chilly, autumn evening. Jae-Seon’s heart went out to the helpless creature and, unable to turn his back on the pitiful thing, he took it home and named it Sergey Rachmaninoff. However, because of his allergic reaction, Jae-Seon was unable to keep the kitten himself and gave it to a girl. Now, after almost a year, the woman is getting married and needs to get rid of the cat so she nonchalantly gives it back to Jae-Seon. Since his allergies are still a problem, Jae-Seon has to quickly find a new home for poor Sergey. Thankfully, Sol-Ah agrees to take the cat just until a new owner can be found and, in the mean time, she decides to change his name to Hong-Jo.
Kim Sol-Ah has enjoyed drawing since she was a kid and holds a secret dream to write her own webtoon. Right now she is a graphic artist working at a company called Nalsaem Design with her best friend from high school, Ko Doo-Sik. They had been in the art club together which is where she fell for Lee Jae-Seon. She was under the impression he liked her as well but he didn’t show up for their first date and never bothered to explain why. Sol-Ah’s father has just informed her that he is selling their apartment and moving to a place in the country with a woman he likes. The lady, in turn, has offered to let Sol-Ah use her home which she will have all to herself, except for when the woman’s travel-loving son, Bang Gook-Bong, comes home once in a great while.
Lee Jae-Seon is the social opposite of Sol-Ah. Where she is talkative and outgoing, he is quiet and reserved. They’ve known each other since high school but for some reason, Jae-Seon has never allowed things to go beyond casual friendship. The one date they had set up never came to fruition and, as a result, their friendship is now strained. Although his father sent him to law school abroad, he came back and opened a coffee shop (that also sells leather work he makes himself) which happens to be exactly across the street from the home Sol-Ah is now renting. He is wary of the handsome young man named Bang Gook-Bong and isn’t happy that the stranger is sharing a house with Sol-Ah.
Ko Doo-Sik is a male version of Sol-Ah, very friendly and enthusiastic about most things. His desk at work is right next to Sol-Ah’s and they are on the same design team together. Doo-Sik is totally oblivious to the fact that there is tension between Sol-Ah and Jae-Seon and believes nothing has changed since high school. He has no idea that his senior at work, Eun Ji-Eun, has a crush on him, and he’s also unaware of the fact that she lives in the little apartment above his parents’ Devoted Go Ribs Restaurant.
Eun Ji-Eun is painfully shy. She finds it difficult to talk to her juniors at work so she chooses to just leave sticky notes on their computer monitors, instead. Those at work are under the impression she got her job through connections because of the fact that she often gets what they think are special favors from the boss. Ji-Eun went to high school with Sol-Ah, Jae-Seon, and Doo-Sik but none of them remember her. When they were all in the same art club together it was Ki-Eun that won the grand prize in the art contest. She has loved Doo-Sik from afar for ten years now but is too afraid to tell him how she feels.
For information about Kim Myung-Soo (who fairly recently made it on to my favorite actors list), the talented guy that plays Hong-Jo when he’s in the form of a man, you can hop on over to my Miss Hammurabi review.
In 2017, Shin Ye-Eun, the gal who plays Kim Sol-Ah, was the cover model for South Korea’s college magazine College Tomorrow 840. She made her acting debut in 2018 by way of the webdrama A-TEEN and reprised her role the following year in A-TEEN 2. Her first leading role and her Star of the Year Award came when she starred opposite Park Jin-Young in the fantasy drama He Is Psychometric. You can also see her in two music videos – Day6’s Shoot Me and Brown Eyed Soul’s Right. She is currently the co-host of Music Bank alongside Choi Bo-Min. Shin Ye-Eun is attending Sungkyunkwan University and majoring in Performing Arts. She is set to be in the Kdrama Number of Times Friends Become Lovers later this year.
Because I’m all for giving credit where credit is due, a very high tail-up goes to Baegi, the white feline that plays the part of Hong-Jo in his cat form. He has such a darling face and his clear blue eyes are so full of expression. I felt bad because at first Sol-Ah isn’t all that kind to him. Hopefully that fluffy actor is a professional who took the less-than-warm attention in stride.
I think this drama’s main strength comes from its character development. Each and every person shows significant growth throughout the 24, half-hour episodes, and I liked that. These people are much more mature and grounded at the end of the show than they were when we’re first introduced to them and that’s a testament to decent writing.
Hopefully, folks who watch this show will come away with a little more understanding and sympathy, not just for their own pets but for animals in general. Fur, scales, feathers… it doesn’t really matter what the packaging is, this show wants us to remember that all animals have brains and feelings and deserve to be treated with respect. Animals are humble, selfless, and the best friends a human could ask for.
Although we discover how Hong-Joo is able to go from being a cat to a human, we’re never told why. The writer leaves that to each audience member’s imagination. Another thing we get to speculate about is at the very end of the story. Why didn’t Hong-Jo… Is it a good ending? I think so, but you may feel differently.
I was surprised there were no special effects when Hong-Jo goes from his cat-self to his human form, or vice versa – there’s just simple misdirection with the camera. Is that bad? No, but they missed the chance to do something flashy.
Adding a clever piece of artistry, the drama begins each episode with a different quote about cats. My two favorite are…
“The cat is nature’s masterpiece.” – Leonardo da Vinci
“No amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat, and no amount of masking tape can ever totally remove his fur from your couch.” – Leo Dworken
I think you’ll enjoy all 12 of them, especially cat owners.
During its run, Welcome broke a record when it became the lowest rated drama in history airing in a primetime slot on a free-to-air network – beating out the previous lows set by Lovely Horribly and Manhole. Curious, I went back to see what scores I had given those shows and each had received a not-so-great six from me. Unfortunately, that’s also as high as I’m willing to go for Welcome. It’s not that the story isn’t engaging, it’s just that there’s nothing that really stands out as being extra good. Since the show is mediocre it stands to reason that its score is mediocre as well.
Like the show itself, the soundtrack is a solid “C.” There aren’t any excellent songs but there aren’t any bad ones, either. My favorite is the slick ballad Again Spring sung by Kihyun from MONSTA X. His vocal range on this song is amazing. Block B’s Park Kyung sings Ddingdong. I love the rap part about 3/4 of the way through. Fall In Love, performed by Juniel, has some whistling in that gives the already upbeat song an even happier feel.
I really liked the house Sol-Ah and Hong-Jo stay in. The floor plan is interesting and it just has a homey feel to it. Jae-Seon’s coffee shop doesn’t have lots of natural lighting but that’s not a problem because there are tables and chairs out front if you want to sit in the sun. Sol-Ah, Hong-Jo, and Jae-Seon go to the country to celebrate Sol-Ah’s dad’s birthday and while they are there they visit the beach so we get a nice view of the ocean at sunset.
Is this drama amazing? No. Is it clever and worth 12 hours of your viewing time? Sure. At the very least it will help you realize that when you come home and your pet greets you at the door, it’s been patiently waiting a long time simply to say, “Welcome.”
Note: A quick thanks to my roommate and best human friend for literally begging me to let the cat living under our car into our home and hearts.
Excellent character growth
No bad guys
Interesting and fun quotes about cats