Side dish: It looks like there will be a lot of sexual activity in “Soulmate” so they’re going to need something to keep the libido up, like oysters. My Korean Kitchen provides a recipe for Oyster Pancakes (Gul Jeon) here.
This tale of modern love begins with a playful couple boarding a subway train. Shortly after sitting down, Phillip (played by Phillip Choi), stands up and nervously gets down on one knee. Soo Kyung (Lee Soo Kyung) knows what is coming and can barely contain her horror at being proposed to. Other passengers openly mock the couple while capturing the moment on their cell phones. The peer pressure is too much, and after an awkward pause, Soo Kyung picks up the ugly engagement ring from its case, and reluctantly thanks Phillip. It is not quite an acceptance of marriage, but Phillip and everyone else on the train take it as such, and cheer.
In a gilded and stuffy restaurant, Yu Jin (Sa Kang) sits ramrod straight on the edge of her seat. When her blind date, Dong Wook (Shin Dong Wook) suggests that she make herself more comfortable, it is really more for his sake than hers. She refuses to sit back, because she does not want to wrinkle her expensive clothes. Dong Wook is unimpressed.
After Dong Wook excuses himself from the table, Yu Jin’s mother and her entourage scurry over for an update on how the blind date is going. Apparently, Dong Wook is loaded, so Yu Jin’s mother is eager for the match. Yu Jin shoos the women away, but Dong Wook has witnessed everything from around the corner. When he returns to the table, Dong Wook grabs Yu Jin, and rushes off before her mother can follow.
At a gym, a handsome foreigner enters and all the women instantly stop working out to ogle. Before they can approach him, a confident woman with huge hoop earring struts right over. Min Ae (Jang Mi In Ae) starts training Ryohei (Otani Ryohei) using the sexual harassment method. After the gym, they head to a bar and have a shots competition.
Soo Kyung is about to take leave of her new fiancé when Phillip pulls her back for a kiss. As Phillip tries a new technique on her, Soo Kyung can’t stop worrying about having to marry him. Phillip wants to have sex, which he calls Chaka Chaka Boom, but Soo Kyung makes up multiple excuses to put it off. Before leaving, Phillip thanks Soo Kyung for not humiliating him in the subway, and she reluctantly says she loves him.
Dong Wook has taken Yu Jin to a more laid back restaurant and is introducing her to the pleasures of the common people. Soon, Yu Jin is stuffing meat in her mouth and gurgling soju. In between mouthfuls, Yu Jin reveals that she is a proofreader for a newspaper.
After dinner, Dong Wook and Yu Jin enjoy more poor man’s fun by running after a public bus, then riding it. It proves to be too much for Yu Jin who vomits on another passenger. Dong Wook apologizes profusely on her behalf while swabbing up the mess with the shirt off his back. Yu Jin looks on, clearly falling for Dong Wook.
Alone at home, Soo Kyung attempts to figure out why she is depressed after receiving the proposal that she has waited five years for. She mentally replaces the subway train with a castle and a choir of children, and the ring with a more elegant one to cheer herself up. In the end, she is forced to consider Phillip as the source of her despair.
Soo Kyung enters a dream sequence in which she is walking down the aisle of a church towards Phillip, but is beat to the altar by another bride. A man shows up in silhouette at the entrance to the church behind her, and Soo Kyung runs towards him for comfort. When Soo Kyung throws herself into his arms, it turns out to be Dong Wook. At that moment, Dong Wook wakes up with a start.
Min Ae wakes up in bed to find Ryohei gone. That is, he has gone to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for her and her roommate, who turns out to be Yu Jin. Yu Jin is lamenting her marriage prospects, wishing that communication between the sexes was more transparent. She and Min Ae debate dating etiquette with Min Ae in favour of a more proactive and bold approach.
Dong Wook walks out of his bathroom topless, and makes himself a lousy cup of espresso, because he doesn’t know how to use the espresso machine. He receives a text from Yu Jin, and this starts a flirty yet vague correspondence. On Yu Jin’s end, it takes the collective brain power of Yu Jin, Min Ae and Ryohei to come up with the right responses.
Thanks to all the texting, Yu Jin arrives late to her first day of work as a newspaper proofreader. Her co-worker turns out to be Soo Kyung who impresses Yu Jin with her take no prisoners approach to proofreading, calling up the reporter who made the error to ream him out.
Back at the gym, Dong Wook is working out with his buddies who include Ryohei. They try to prompt Ryohei to reveal details about his hookup the night before, but all Ryohei will say is that she is a mystery. This reminds Dong Wook of the anonymous woman who appeared in his dreams.
Yu Jin is describing Dong Wook’s gallantry in the aftermath of her vomiting, and Soo Kyung becomes lost in her memory of the excitement she used to feel dating Phillip. She receives a call from Phillip who fusses over her after learning that she will be out with co-workers that night.
Phillip is busy advising Soo Kyung on what to eat and drink when he enters an elevator with Min Ae inside. His conversation amuses her greatly. After Phillip gets off his cell phone, Min Ae comes onto him using the same sexual harassment tactics that snagged Ryohei.
At dinner with her work colleagues, everyone notices Soo Kyung’s ugly engagement ring. This prompts her boss to bitterly pose a riddle, which I won’t bother to repeat. The answer is men will always choose the woman with the biggest boobs.
It turns out that Min Ae is an English teacher, and Phillip is one of her students. She is having drinks with him and two of her male students. The two single men try to entice Min Ae to date them, but she pointedly ignores them to ask Phillip about his fiancé. She is practically smacking her lips at his awkwardness.
The show’s theme song, “This Is Not A Love Song” by Nouvelle Vague is playing while Dong Wook extolls its virtues to a client. Dong Wook is trying to come up with a set list of music for a fashion show. The client rejects the show’s theme song, and Dong Wook is exasperated. He is interrupted by a call from his mother who wants an update on how his blind date with Yu Jin went. Apparently, Dong Wook made a promise to his mother that he would get married by year’s end since he is now at the ripe old age of 30. Rushing into marriage could lead to a quickie divorce, but Dong Wook’s mother does not appear to consider that possibility.
Soo Kyung is ruining the welcome party for Yu Jin with her karaoke marathon of sad ballads. However, Yu Jin is the only one who seems unaffected by Soo Kyung’s depression. She receives a call from Dong Wook and excitedly rushes out to join him for dinner.
To Yu Jin’s chagrin, Dong Wook decides to stuff her with grilled pig intestines, which she had already eaten earlier with her co-workers. Yu Jin ends up vomiting on the same man she retched on in the bus. As the outraged man screams, Yu Jin paws at Dong Wook’s shirt until he reluctantly takes off his jacket to mop up her mess again.
Soo Kyung interrupts her boss’s karaoke performance to go into a tirade about loneliness. Meanwhile, Ryohei is drinking shots alone at a bar. Their respective partners are sitting uncomfortably close to each other. Phillip is still blathering to Min Ae when she interrupts him to ask if he would like to sleep with her. There is an awkward pause as the episode ends.
“Soulmate” is eight years old, and yet, there have been few K-dramas in the interim that have approached sexuality in such a frank manner. I appreciate that there is no expectation of chastity from any of the female characters. It is worth noting that “Soulmate” shares the same writer as the cracktastic “Fated to Love You”, which we are currently recapping.
The complaints I have about “Soulmate” would be the same ones I have about “Sex and the City”, which the show seems modeled after: the story is populated with archetypes as opposed to original characters. There are a lot of broad generalizations and stereotypes of the sexes that I find annoying. And, there is nothing sexy about the show, in spite of the preoccupation with sex. I did not laugh much either, though I am sure this show is meant to be comedy, at least for now.
Having stated all my problems with the drama, I’ll try to stick to comments about the content henceforth. There will be plenty of opportunity to bitch about everything else in the series review.