Director(s): No Do-chul, Sun Hye-yoon
Screenwriters: Jo Jin-kook, Park Eun-jung, Nam Ji-yeon
Broadcast period: 2006 March 13 – 2006 June 26
Episode total: 12*
(The first two episodes are one hour long. Thereafter, each “hour” episode actually contains 2 “installments.” So although there are technically 22 “episodes”)
Soulmate can be described as a Sex and The City-styled comedy-drama that is unusually risqué for an Asian series. Each episode deals with an aspect of modern relationships and dating, but at the center of the series are its two destined “soulmates,” Shin Dong-wook and Lee Soo-kyung. Soulmate deals with the question of whether soulmates even exist, with each character on a different part of the spectrum.
Will probably be my longest review to date. My anger will forever be linked with this drama. I’ll only be covering the main relationships. The other character’s relationships were not as intriguing for me to review.
And after reading TONS of reviews on Soulmate along with forum comments etc. etc. I KNOW I’m alone in hating the “Soulmate” couple. But, I do and I will continue to.
Shin Dong Wook – A freelance music coordinator who is the epitome of a playboy. He’s perfected the art of dating and his best friends are Jung-hwan and Ryohei who are both playboys but not to the degree of the pro Dong Wook. He’s from a good background and family and at age 30, his family is pressuring him to settle down and go on a formal blind date. That is where he meets Yu Jin.
I really fell for this character. His good looks, his charms, and the player tricks that he pulled. I would’ve liked this character all the way through had his character not gotten so pathetic toward the end. When this character [who doesn’t even believe in soulmates by the way] meets his soulmate [Lee Soo Kyung] he practically loses all his senses and charms. I truly detested him at the end. He constantly strings Yu Jin back and forth, proposing to her, reassuring her that everything will be alright and in the end? He dumps her like a sack of hot potatoes. I feel for Yu Jin. I really do. It’s not even enough that your boyfriend/fiancee dumps you, they dump you for your good close friend who you have been seeking advice from.
Lee Soo Kyung – She’s a proofreader and has dated her boyfriend, Phillip, for five years. When Phillip proposes to her, she finds herself confused at her lack of excitement. However, he ends up leaving her for another women.
I like this character as well.. separately… Her character was a great strong woman until the whole Shin Dong Wook thing kicked in. They didn’t spend too much time together for me to feel the chemistry and she was doing the same thing to her good friend Yu Jin that her fiancee/boyfriend and his mistress were doing to her. What a witch.
Hong Yu Jin – A conservative and naive girl who wants to be married and be a good wife/mother. She speaks in old-style form of Korean and falls in love with Dong Wook.
This character… has got to be the one that was given the shortest end of the stick. Dong Wook was the one who kept trying to prevent her from leaving… only to leave her at the end when up sprang his soulmate. I hated how many called her bad names just because she wasn’t the lead. She was the naive, caring girl who got called “annoying” by others for being too naive. Why is it a bad thing to love with all your heart? Had she been the lead, people would’ve cheered for these qualities, not ridiculed. Also, I hated how she was called selfish by idiots. How is she selfish when she was depressed over Dong Wook, her fiancee, leaving her for her “good” friend Soo Kyung? Especially when Dong Wook and Soo Kyung barely met and Dong Wook and Yu Jin had been dating for so long. It pisses me off that nobody ever scolded Dong Wook for cheating yet tried to badmouth Yu Jin for cherishing the relationship. She was the character that I sympathized with most.
My Complaints about the main relationships.
Dong Wook and Soo Kyung + Dong Wook and Yu Jin.
Coming into the series, viewers already knew who the two destined soulmates were and the writers and director did not spare constantly reminding us. The series began with Lee Soo Kyung being proposed to by her boyfriend. She accepts but for unsolvable reasons, does not feel extremely comfortable with the fact. Shin Dong Wook is out on a blind date with Hong Yu Jin and the two seem to have hit it off quite well. The series continues with various storylines involving the supporting characters but most important the two leads living separately lives. Lee Soo Kyung dealing with her finace, Philip whose feelings are wavering when a seductress takes notice of him and his passive ways. Shin Dong Wook and Hong Yu Jin were truly the couple that caught my eye. They both began to date in an unserious manner while Hong Yu Jin falling deeper and deeper in love with every episode even with the classic player tricks that Dong Wook uses on her. As the couple dated, Shin Dong Wook and Hong Yu Jin still did not meet but unknowingly cross each others’ path many times. The director took the time, unfortunately, to remind us by constantly doing the soulmate’s path-crossing in slow motion with bright white lights and melody in the background. An important event is that in episode 1, Shin Dook Wook has a dream where a crying bride is running down a chapel hallway and runs into his arms as he opened the chapel doors. The viewers all know that the bride is Lee Soo Kyung but Shin Dong Wook does not know this himself. Hong Yu Jin is a 100% pure girl whose pureness catches Dong Wook by surprise due to the many antics that the couple faces due to their difference. In one case, Yu Jin who forcibly held in her restroom urges so she didn’t have to miss the movie with Dong Wook at the theatres ran off as soon as the movie ended, leaving the confused Dong Wook wondering what he had done wrong. She refuses to call him due to embarrassment which confuses him more and when she does and explains the situation, Dong Wook laughs and refuses to stop laughing until Yu Jin hangs up. Yu Jin doesn’t call Dong Wook for a week and Dong Wook stands below her apartment window, wanting forgiveness. This is where the classic comedy of Soulmate kicks in. Dong Wook, unlike normal romantic boys, waits outside her apartment window until she is asleep, then he returns home to sleep and wakes up extra early to stand back outside to give off the illusion that he had stood outside all night. When Yu Jin finally goes down to approach him and asks for a break-up, it is Dong Wook who wants them to stay together and kisses her. When the couple got into another argument, Yu Jin tried to cook dinner as an apology but when everything goes horribly wrong, she begins to cry. Yu Jin explains to her friend over the phone that she is trying very hard but she is unsure of the relationship, it is Dong Wook who comes and reassures her of the relationship with a hug. The couple has yet another obstacle to overcome, Dong Wook, afterall, is a player and Yu Jin has difficulty trusting him. When Dong Wook realizes it, he asks for a break-up, knowing that a relationship cannot go on without trust. Yu Jin apologizes and states that she loves him in which he replied with a hug of reassurance. This event marked the beginning of their true love relationship and the end of the episode. By the next episode, you can see the drastic change in the couple when Dong Wook calls Yu Jin and admits that he called her simply because he missed her. Yu Jin tells Dong Wook that she is currently at the chapel and if he likes, he can come meet her. Dong Wook happily agrees and as soon as he entered the chapel door, a crying Lee Soo Kyung is running down the chapel hallway. Lee Soo Kyung runs into his arms, presumably because he is the first person she saw when she was in distressed. This began the meeting of the soulmates as Dong Wook feels the déjà vu experience of reality meeting his prior dream. Every waking moment after that scene was of the director and writers filling every possible chance of having the soulmates meet by chance. Fate is obviously strongly on their side and every coincidence causes Dong Wook to realize more and more that Soo Kyung is his soulmate. The two even kiss while Dong Wook was still committed to Yu Jin and Dong Wook finds himself constantly thinking about Soo Kyung all the time. The director and writers even go as far as making Dong Wook able to read Soo Kyung’s mind. Logically, Dong Wook should end things with Yu Jin as fast as possible but he doesn’t and even proposes to her at the beginning of episode 11. Yes, episode 11, the next to last episode of the series. Dong Wook even dares to later on in the episode, confront Soo Kyung when she finds out about their engagement. He insists strongly (and I use that loosely because he actually yells at her) that they are indeed soulmates and he knows that Soo Kyung is wavering toward him so she should just admit it. He seems to have omitted his fiancé who has been by his side for some time. By episode 12, everything is a like a train wreck; Dong Wook finally does break up with Yu Jin and goes to Japan to look for Soo Kyung who left to avoid the drama and the fact that she did to her friend what someone else had done to her and her fiance. Soo Kyung’s engagement was broken by another woman and she too, broke Yu Jin’s engagement by being the third woman. The viewers are left assuming that the two soulmates will once again meet sometime in Japan because they are soulmates and meant to be.
There were hardly any criticism on this drama but I beg to differ. The thoughts of a soulmate are rather interesting but I did not like how the writers of this drama executed it. The soulmates did not truly meet until more than half of the episodes and Dong Wook was the one who kept approaching Soo Kyung. What made it worse was the fact that Dong Wook only approached Soo Kyung because he knew deep inside that she was his soulmate. He knew nothing about her and did not truly love her for her because again, he did not love her. He only loved her because she was his soulmate. He gave up a relationship that was steady that was gradually growing for a relationship that flourished out of momentary infatuation. He followed a “dream” and chased it with all his heart. A relationship is not that simple. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, a relationship should consist of compromise that would move a relationship along, which is what Dong Wook and Yu Jin had. Dong Wook and Yu Jin had a true relationship that was cultivated over time and they both had a mutual understanding of each other. The writers used destiny and fate as excuses and ideas that allowed the respective couples to break up and form. That is not reality. You do not meeting your soulmate off the streets and know they are the one. There may be someone out there pre-destined for you but could they not also be someone who is right beside you who bring out the best in you? Must they be a stranger who you constantly just meet and because fate keeps linking you two together, you must be together? The idea is childish and seems to be a cowardly way to wiggle out of a responsible relationship that consists of ups and downs
In my last defense, there were a few comments that regarded Yu Jin as selfish… in what ways, I don’t see how. Perhaps it’s the audience’s reflexive response to instantly hate the supporting female in a series. Yu Jin was the one who always got the short end of the stick. Dong Wook had constantly reassured her of the relationship, only to retract his feelings at the last moment. Yu Jin had to deal with not only losing her love, Dong Wook, but also Soo Kyung who is a close friend and respected co-worker. Why do people call Yu Jin selfish for being depressed at the fact that her fiancé had left her for her close friend who she always went to for advice? While Soo Kyung who went through the same thing with Phillip and Min-ae (but not even as dire because Min-ae was not a close friend like Soo Kyung was to Yu Jin) was given sympathy by the audience? Was it simply because Soo Kyung was the leading female and Yu Jin was not? Yu Jin was a supporting character but she was consistent throughout the series. She bared no ill will toward anyone and was truly the purest character in the entire series. Perhaps it was her purity that was her downfall as she loved with all her heart and received the most pain due to how much love she gave away.
Dong Wook and Soo Kyung’s love was more than superficial. It was based on an idea, an idea that they are soulmates. Soo Kyung only began wavering toward Dong Wook due to how much he began appearing in her life and cheered her up when she was depressed about her broken engagement with Phillip. And we all know that Dong Wook only began appearing in her life more when he realized that she was his soulmate. They knew very little about each other and Soo Kyung was forced by Dong Wook to accept him. Dong Wook forcing her was based on his idea that they were soulmates. Despite formerly being portrayed as someone who did not believe in soulmates, when Dong Wook “realized/thought” Soo Kyung was his, he heavily insisted on it and made sure that his thoughts were heard.
Another large distaste of mine was the fact that the two leads’ personality changed so drastically toward the last few episodes, and not for the better might I add. Dong Wook who was the happy hip guy began a melodramatic emotional screamer who insisted that he be together with Soo Kyung. Soo Kyung cried more often than she should when she heard of the engagement with Dong Wook and Yu Jin. Was it true love that she was crying about? She barely knows Dong Wook, how could it be true love and how can she be so devastated. Even more than that, how can she compare her devastation with Yu Jin’s?
Soulmate was an interesting series that I can’t quite forget for many reasons. The biggest would be the anger that it caused me and how Soulmate lead me to tears out of anger. Dong Wook and Yu Jin were the main reason I had even bothered being so estatic about the series. I only skimmed the other character’s storyline and more-or-less got their storyline but did not focus too much on the details. With Dong Wook and Yu Jin, I was glued to my screen. I followed the relationship’s every move, every up, and every down. I was there when they first got together. I was there through their various arguments that strengthen their relationship. And the writers forced me to be there for their bitter breakup that was considerably stupid due to the reason that they were broken up. The writers should not have allowed me or the viewers to be wrapped so deeply in Dong Wook and Yu Jin’s relationship. How can they consider Dong Wook and Soo Kyung’s short 4 episode relationship more deserving than Dong Wook and Yu Jin’s true 8 episodes filled with laughter, tears, and love? Dong Wook and Yu Jin portrayed a realistic view of a modern and ideal relationship while Dong Wook and Soo Kyung portrayed an idolized dreamy-like relationship that was perfect and meant to be. Viewers who realize that Dong Wook and Soo Kyung’s relationship was not love but infatuation would agree with me that the series’ largest downfall was choosing the dreamy relationship over the realistic relationship that will survive through countless obstacles, and be ageless. By the end of it all, how can a relationship based on dreams, ideas, fate, destiny ever survive realistic obstacles of personality and attribution clashes? When the relationships are stripped down, Dong Wook and Soo Kyung’s relationship is left with nothing while Dong Wook and Yu Jin’s relationship will have the stability necessary that can stand against the course of time.
Overall: Soulmate started off as a romantic series that successfully made fun of romance while having its share of romantic scenarios. I was soon sucked into this hip, trendy series that started off full of laughs and thought-provoking. However, as the series continued on, I was surprised how with only 4 hours left in its lifetime, how quickly the writers can butcher the formerly great series. The writers finally followed their original plan of “Soulmate” after 8 episodes and had the two soulmates meet; however, their presentation of soulmate was bewildering. They presented the relationship as an ideal dream that conflicted with the realistic views they illustrated in the beginning. The sole reason that the series was so amazing was now destroyed. The genius that was portrayed within the drama demolished within 4 short episodes. The beginning of the series forced me to crave for more while the conclusion left me cringing in anger and devastation.
I used to believe in Soulmates. This series… actually made me hate the idea and go against it.
Rating: 5 out of 10. 5 for the first half. 0 for the 2nd half.