Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kdrama Review: Taereung National Village (2005)

Taereung National Village 

Every now and then, I get nostalgic for my favorite actors when I haven't seen them in a while. Hence my reason for watching this drama short. And the reason I picked this special production about athletes living in an Olympics training facility, falling in love and out of love... Lee Sun Gyun, aka The Voice. What I ended up watching was Lee Min Ki in a not underwhelming starring role. Taking in each 30 minute episode, the whole drama clocks in at around 4 hours. I speak from authority in that I do not like sports stories, I don't know a think about judo or archery, and I only know that I kind of like watching the swimmers and gymnasts when they come around every four years. But I liked this drama, and it wasn't because of the athletics. It was because of the athletes and the actors who played them.

Like many stories, this is a coming-of-age tale for the majority of the characters. Except the kids in Taereung have already had larger-than-life expectations thrust upon them. Hong Min Ki (Lee Min Ki, not to confuse anyone) is good at judo, except for that little problem that he becomes physically ill before every single match. Bang Su Ah (Choi Jung Yoon) won an archery medal at the last Olympics, but she's showing signs of a slump this time around. Her boyfriend Dong Kyung (Lee Sun Gyun) is a swimmer (yeah that means he walks around in swimmers trunks a couple times ) who's reaching past his prime before he could ever achieve something glorious, and little Ma Ru (Song Ha Yoon) is the best gymnast in the village with the whole world in front of her. Don't expect miracles out of everybody. This is a highly realistic snapshot of 4 completely different athletes who are thrust together due to their relationships, and the world makes what it will of them.

Is her face just tiny, or does he have a big head?

The Males

Lee Min Ki practically glitters throughout the whole drama. He's hyper, alternately cute and annoying, and makes no secret of his crush for the former gold medal winner archer. He's at his coolest though (meaning dorkiest) when he confronts that girl's hulk of a boyfriend. I'm biased of course, but Lee Sun Gyun is fabulous. He also acts the same as every other time I've seen the man act: confident in the spotlight, with a twinge of vulnerability when he's not. It's not groundbreaking, but always appealing. I give this show bonus points for the bromance. When the two aren't nose to nose, about to come to blows, they're sheltering each other from life and all its dirty little tricks. 

The Females

Taereung National Village doesn't just do justice to the males of the drama. Su Ah snuck up on me as one of my favorite characters, mostly for how she maintains her confidence in the midst of career slumps and love troubles. She goes from being a clueless bystander in her own relationships, to seriously considering the whys and hows of all her issues. All this without becoming jealous or vindictive of her rivals in both areas. Her roommate Ma Ru is initially typecast as the clingy would-be girlfriend to Min Ki but for a timely plot device that kind of made me love her. Life works us through many kinds of trials, and Ma Ru went through the pits of character hell into looking and acting like a real human being.

Next time, don't date an archer ;)

The Extra Bits

Why watch? I don't know. If you love the actors, if you're in for 4 hours of slice of life. If you're up for watching people learn and grow, and act natural, and still be funny. There's something peaceful about this drama. After the glitz and glam of Kdramas, it was a refreshing, homey watch, and evidently pinned by a production team that knew what it was doing, despite receiving probably no extra promotional material to work with. But hey, when they snuck in a scene from When Harry Met Sally, with accompanying irony, I was sold.


  1. Eeek! I've been wanting to watch this drama forever. I'm so glad it's actually good. The next time I need a Lee Sun Gyun fix, I know where I'm headed.

  2. If you love Lee Sun Gyun, have you seen Miss Korea? I wonder if you'd like it as much as you did Pasta.

    1. Miss Korea is definitely on my list of dramas to watch!