Yeoshingangrim, written by Yaongyi, is a webcomic that was recently made into a Kdrama by the same name – True Beauty.
Harassed and made into the “dumpling shuttle” for simply being “ugly,” Im Ju-Kyung has been going through hell at Yong-Ha High School. After her father is swindled out of a hefty sum of money, the family is forced to leave their nice apartment and move back to the house in their old neighborhood and that’s good news for Ju-Kyung because it means a school transfer. After mastering some makeup techniques from a famous YouTuber, Ju-Kyung enters her new school with the face of a goddess and now gets to see what life is like as one of the envied, pretty girls, all the while living in constant fear of her new friends discovering the truth – that her lovely face is simply a mask.
With a beautiful older sister and a handsome younger brother, Im Ju-Kyung has always stood out as the ugly duckling of the family. Thick, black glasses and bushy, dark eyebrows only serve to accentuate the red patches of acne that cover her face. As a child, she was merely shunned but as a teenager, the bullying has been sheer torture. Due to the constant ridicule, she has received her whole life, she is shy and keeps to herself. Her grades are barely so-so and her mother is constantly threatening her to do better. Ju-Kyung loves the horror genre and finds solace while reading at Prince Comics, the small book store in her neighborhood.
At first glance, Lee Su-Ho looks like he has a perfect life – he’s the top-ranking student at Saebom High School, his wealthy father is a famous movie star as well as the CEO of Move Entertainment, and he’s nothing short of absolutely gorgeous – but things aren’t as perfect as they appear. After the death of his mother, because his father spent most of his time in the United States, Su-Ho was raised by his maternal grandmother. Then, when he started middle school, he began living on his own and he’s been alone ever since. His relationship with his father is almost nonexistent and, because of a tragic incident, he no longer associates with the young man that was once his best friend. Su-Ho is an excellent basketball player and is quite skilled in Jiu-Jitsu. He spends his free time reading comics and especially enjoys the ones in the horror section of the comic book store.
At one time, Han Seo-Jun was an idol trainee but when a devastating event claimed the life of his fellow trainee and close friend, he left the agency. His father passed away when he was young and because his single mother has been seriously ill he has been absent from school for quite some time. Although Seo-Jun has a bad-boy image – he rides a motorcycle, wears earrings, doesn’t concern himself with grades, has an I-don’t-care attitude, and is the leader of a small group of guys – he possesses a warm and tender heart, watching out for his younger sister and taking care of his mother. He holds great resentment for Su-Ho who was once his best buddy. As a way to make ends meet, Seo-Jun is a print model and works now and then at a coffee shop.
Kang Su-Jin has known Su-Ho for the past ten years and although they are just friends, she would like more out of the relationship. Her father expects nothing less than perfection from his daughter and often resorts to physical abuse when she falls short. Her way of managing the pressure and stress she has to deal with on a daily basis is through the obsessive-compulsive behavior of constant hand washing. Even though she has a miserable home life she is friendly and welcoming to the new transfer student, Im Ju-Kyung.
Im Ju-Kyung’s family:
As the sole breadwinner of the family, Ju-Kyung’s mother, whom they affectionately call Madame Hong, owns and runs a cosmetic shop while ruling the home with a loud voice and iron fist.
Ju-Kyung’s father is a naïve and gullible man who lost a lot of money in a foolish investment. Since he is unemployed, he does all the housework at home. People often comment on how handsome he is.
Ju-Kyung’s older sister, Im Hee-Kyung, is the manager of the Planning and Development Team at Move Entertainment. She has a strong personality, is very outgoing, and is in a secret romantic relationship with Ju-Kyung’s homeroom teacher.
Im Ju-Young is a year younger than Ju-Kyung. Although he loves his sister, annoying her is his favorite pastime.
Twenty-four-year-old Mun Ka-Young (also spelled Moon Ga-Young) is the actress who plays the part of Im Ju-Kyung. She was born in Germany and her family later moved to South Korea. She began appearing in film and on TV when she was just ten years old and her first leading role was in a short cable drama called Mimi, and then in 2015 she had the leading female role in EXO Next Door. She has since appeared in numerous films and TV dramas. She won an Excellence Award for her role in Tempted and a Best Couple Award (with Kim Dong-Wook) in last year’s Find Me in Your Memory.
This is the second Kdrama Cha Eun-Woo has been in where he has played a gorgeous and aloof high school guy that falls for a girl whom people think is lovely but who has/had a less-than-beautiful “real” face. For some information about this actor, you can go to my review of My ID is Gangnam Beauty. Although the character he plays in both of these dramas is a solemn young man, the role he plays in Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung is that of a cheerful prince with a dazzling smile so I suggest you see him in that before you come to the conclusion that all this actor knows how to do is pout.
Thirty-year-old Hwang In-Yeop is the man responsible for making tough-guy Han Seo-Jun so lovable. In-Yeop was born in South Korea but spent his high school years in the Philippines and graduated from Philippine Women’s College of Davao with a degree in fashion design. In 2017 he became a runway model and then debuted as an actor in 2018 through the webdrama Why. 2019 saw him in another webdrama, Freshman, as well as the TV drama The Tale of Nokdu, and last year he was in the Kdrama 18 Again. In-Yeop made his singing debut with a song from True Beauty’s soundtrack, It Starts Today. His voice is rich and low, a great contrast to so many high falsetto voices we hear nowadays.
The moment I saw Cha Eun-Woo’s face on the promotional poster I quickly put True Beauty on my tremendously huge and ever-growing watch list. The show’s fans on Viki.com had rewarded it with a whopping 9.6/10 and I was anxious for the show to be out in its entirety so I could begin watching it. But before that could happen, my best friend from work called to tell me her daughters were watching it and she wondered if I had seen it yet. I assured her I had every intention of seeing it and told her to hold on and I’d start it the minute I finished what I was currently engrossed in. However, after completing the first episode I called her back to find out what her daughters had thought of the show because I wasn’t thrilled enough to continue watching if they didn’t think it was worth my time. When I didn’t hear back from her I decided to persevere, all the while remembering my experience with Playful Kiss. Now, after I’ve finished the whole thing I can give her my honest take on the drama – it’s not all that great. I still wonder what her daughters thought of it, though.
This is why I wasn’t crazy about the show…
*Screenwriter Lee Si-Eun decided to make Ju-Kyung more pitiful by having her be accident-prone. Over and over again we see her falling and bumping into things. Once or twice can be cute but it happens multiple times each episode and very quickly became monotonous.
*Ju-Kyung’s makeup is unrealistic. I’ll admit a fantastic concealer and super foundation can cover red patches but the bumps of full-blown pimples can’t be smoothed down to nothing simply with makeup.
*Kim Min-Gi (the guy who plays the part of Ju-Kyung’s younger brother) is always overacting. We hardly ever see him act normally. Everything is way over-the-top, annoyingly exaggerated.
*Ju-Kyung’s mother was more than just strict, she was a total tyrant. The woman never said a kind word to her kids and she was constantly cruel and belittling towards her husband. We finally get to see a glimpse of her kinder side closer to the end of the show, but that was far too late for me to like her.
*It didn’t make sense that Ju-Kyung’s beautiful big sister and mother who worked in the beauty industry didn’t introduce Ju-Kyung to makeup much sooner. Since her mother professionally tattooed eyebrows for a living it didn’t make sense that she didn’t bother to sculpt her own daughter’s brows.
*I found it difficult to believe Su-Ho was allowed to live on his own from the time he was in middle school. He didn’t have a job so his rich father had to have been providing him with the lavish, extravagant lifestyle he was living. I thought it was out of character for him to accept so much financially from the man he detested. It just didn’t make sense.
*The mean kids in True Beauty were too awful for me to see as authentic. It’s difficult for me to believe teenagers nowadays are as evil and cruel to their classmates as the kids were in this drama. Maybe they are and I was just lucky to not notice that type of horrible behavior at my school.
*SPOILER – I’m tired of the sweethearts’ having a history together that goes back to their childhood. Come on writers, think of something a little more original, please.
True Beauty joins an ever-growing list of Kdramas that are doing their best to shout good ol’ Mr. Rogers’ timeless message of encouragement, that “People can like you just the way you are.” If you are a fan of these kinds of stories I recommend you see:
My ID is Gangnam Beauty
Oh, My Venus
Birth of a Beauty
She Was Pretty
Beautiful Gong Shim
Another Oh Hae-Young
Lovely Horribly and
As I watched this drama unfold I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the character Hwang Tae-Kyeong in the Kdrama You’re Beautiful and Han Seo-Jun in this. Both are quiet tough-guys, leaders of their “group,” excentric-looking singers, and head-over-heels in love with a sweet girl but always denying it. If you’ve seen both shows, let me know if you agree with my character analysis on these darling guys.
Since the storyline consists of characters who were idol trainees/singers it makes sense that True Beauty’s soundtrack is good. Love So Fine is a sweet slow-rock song sung by handsome (Lee Su-Ho) Cha Eun-Woo of Astro. He hits all those high notes in the song effortlessly. And as I mentioned before, (Han Seo-Jun) Hwang In-Yeol’s singing debut is via this drama and he does an excellent job with It Starts Today. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover his soothing voice is a part of more soundtracks in the future. I love it when the actor/actresses in the drama sing on the soundtrack.
Saebom High School is the main backdrop of the show. It’s a very nice building that looks like it takes in lots of wealthy families. It’s also interesting to see Ju-Kyung’s average house in comparison to Su-Ho’s expensive apartment. The students go on an overnight trip to a place in the forest that provides a lovely lake for a romantic canoe ride in the moonlight for one lucky couple. But the highlight scenery of the show is Prince Comics – a dimly-lit place filled from floor to ceiling with manga of all genres. The furniture is old and mismatched and the decor is very eccentric, bordering on the macabre.
“You have to cut, shave, and sew in order for a person to be pretty?” – Hong Hyun-Sook
Every now and then the plastic surgery capital of the world makes a drama that does its best to convince us that True Beauty is not just skin deep, and this happens to be one of those shows.
Hwang In-Yeop’s character and acting
Some insignificant “oops”
Ju-Kyung’s unrealistic, pimple-banishing makeup
Ju-Kyung’s monotonous tripping
Kim Min-Gi’s overacting
Ju-Kyung’s mother is mean
Su-Ho living alone since middle school is unbelievable