Kdrama Review: How to Meet a Perfect Neighbor

I had finished watching this drama awhile ago and have since collected my thoughts on it. Overall, it was a good drama that had its ups and downs like any drama. We get to see several archetypal characters maybe with a new spin on one or two, but they pretty much stay true to type. But more on that in a little bit.

완벽한 이웃을 만나는 법

Romanized title: Wanbaekhan Iuseul Mannaneun Beop
English title: How to Meet a Perfect Neighbor
Broadcast station: SBS
Episodes: 20
Cast:
Kim Seung Woo, Bae Doo Na, Park Shi Hoo, Wang Ji Hye, Son Hyun Joo, Shin Dong Woo, Kim Sung Ryung

The Basics:

Baek Soo Chan is a man who has spent his life living off of women. He is a charmer and basically a gigolo. Men hate him since he is so good with women, and women love him as he is exactly what they want, when they want. When on a trip to Cambodia with a married professor (he’s using her to secure a full-time position, thus ensuring him a good life), he runs into Jung Yoon Hee and her elder sister who is in love with him. Yoon Hee discovers his true colors and has fun tormenting him while also pleading with him to be good to her sister since her sister has enough money to take care of him.

While in Cambodia, Jung Hee and Soo Chan run into his old friend (and sworn brother) whom he had conned and run away from. Duk Gil had left his son behind in Korea to find a wife in Cambodia. In order to repay his debt, Soo Chan helps him get a wife. On the way to the wedding with a ring, Soo Chan witnesses a car accident and dives in to help save Go Hye Mi. He asks if she was alone and she lies saying that she was. He takes her to the hospital and barely makes it in time for the wedding.

When the group returns to Seoul, Yoon Hee runs into the chairman’s sun Yoo Joon Suk. She makes her greetings and tells him how she is praying for his father’s health (his dad is in a coma). Now that all the player’s are present, the plot gets interesting. Soo Chan goes after Yoon Hee in order to take revenge and make her fall for him and then dump her. Yoon Hee, however, discovers this plot and punches him out. The two then become the best of friends, especially when Soo Chan’s carefully constructed life falls apart. He loses his job and none of his lovers are willing to take care of him anymore. Stuck with Duk Gil and his son Go Ni (Duk Gil’s wife ran off with his money, but had decided to return it only to be killed before she could), Soo Chan has no other course of action but to move in with Yoon Hee and her family.

Throughout this series, we have friendship, romance, and murder. Soo Chan’s first love and the mother of Go Ni was murdered and throughout this series we slowly find out why the woman was killed and who killed her. Soo Chan falls for Yoon Hee as does Joon Suk who is supposed to marry Hye Mi due to some dirt her father holds on the Yoo family. Joon Suk asks Yoon Hee to be his mistress and she agrees, but turns him down when she realizes that she just isn’t strong enough to take on that evil role. This wakes Joon Suk up and he dumps Hye Mi and proposes to Yoon Hee. Of course, things don’t go smoothly with our blackmailing, discoveries of murder, mistresses, and hidden children.

The Cast:

Kim Seung Woo as Baek Soo Chan
Initially Baek Soo Chan seems very shallow and like a typical gigolo, but deep down he is more than that. We learn that after a stint in jail after losing his first love, he became the ultimate Casanova. His goal in life was only to live comfortably and be the man that the woman of the moment needed. When he loses everything and discovers that he might have a son (Go Ni), he begins to grow up and mature. He gets a job in Yoon Hee’s company and works hard at being a good man and father. In the process, he also fall for Yoon Hee. However, he keeps these feelings buried (although people can tell if they just looked at his actions close enough). I must say that I like how Soo Chan isn’t the typical “best friend” you see in dramas. Sure, he is always helping out our female lead and he does end up giving her up without ever confessing, but unlike how half the best friends turn out, he never makes a play and threatens to take Yoon Hee away from the unworthy Joon Suk. Why? He knows Yoon Hee’s personality, meaning that he knows she will only be able to love Joon Suk. Truthfully, I actually would have preferred Yoon Hee to end up with him versus Joon Suk, despite how much I like Park Shi Hoo.

Bae Doo Na as Jung Yoon Hee
Yoon Hee is a very carefree character. She isn’t a typical girl who cares about clothes, beauty, or boys. She lacks social graces, is a total klutz, and can’t really read situations well. She recognizes what Soo Chan is, but does not condemn him for his way of life, even though she constantly tortures and teases him about it. She is caring and forgiving and is quick to offer a helping hand. She is the only one who regularly visits Chairman Yoo and she does it because she cared about him, not for any social gain. Her innocence and her ability to joke and laugh help bring the stoic Joon Suk out of his shell. She quickly accepts his proposal to be his mistress as she doesn’t want to lose him, but she also turns him down when she realizes that she can’t go through with it as it would hurt and destroy her family. I must say that despite the fact Yoon Hee can be strong, she is in fact a very weak character. I absolutely hated how easily she gave up on the man she loves. Yes, it was in order to protect him, but if Soo Chan hadn’t stepped up to the plate and put everything in motion to end all the intrigue, she would have spent a miserable life in the US with Soo Chan (exiled there after Joon Suk married Hye Mi). For someone as feisty as she is, you definitely didn’t expect her to turn out quite so docile and unable to do anything helpful to herself or Joon Suk.

Park Shi Hoo as Yoo Joon Suk
I love Park Shi Hoo – ever since I saw him in the disaster that ended up being Prosecutor Princess. This was his first role as a leading man and his acting skills weren’t quite up to par. Though he is excellent at being expressionless or looking tortured, however, there is only so much you can do with two expressions and not so stellar acting. His character is inherently weak. Due to a scandalous first love, he became an alcoholic and went overseas for several years. He doesn’t have the ability to stand up to either of his parents and only seems to know how to brood. When Yoon Hee enters his life as his secretary, she manages to worm her way into his heart and open him up. Unfortunately, he is not strong enough to fully pursue Yoon Hee and only makes up his mind to assert himself against his mother in order to keep her, however, he still can’t hold out until the end and cruelly rejects Yoon Hee. Since Soo Chan was the stronger, more capable man, he managed to clean up the mess that Joon Suk couldn’t which allowed Joon Suk and Yoon Hee to finally be together. Really, I supposed Yoon Hee and Joon Suk are perfect for each other as they both only know how to quietly stand by and get stomped on. They choose suffering over love. True, Joon Suk did it to save his mother and Yoon Hee did it to help Joon Suk, but they are a truly pathetic couple.

Wang Ji Hye as Go Hye Mi
This girl has ice in her veins and no pride. She throws away the man she loves in Cambodia (where she also has a miscarriage due to the car accident). Since then, she sets herself on marrying Joon Suk as her father wishes. She throws away all pride and puts on a front to show a warm woman to Joon Suk, when she is really vicious and cold. She ignores her mother who she is ashamed of, but who only wants the best for her daughter. I liked her when she tried to stand up to her father and say that since Joon Suk is making her suffer and playing her for a fool (when he was going to make Yoon Hee is mistress, and again when he decided to dump Hye Mi completely). However, she always did what her father wanted. Nothing like deciding to keep marrying Joon Suk in order to have revenge on him by making his life with her a living hell. When the sister of her dead lover comes sniffing around, Hye Mi still doesn’t show any emotion beyond worry that she will be discovered. It’s not until the last episode where she shows more humanity than you’ve seen throughout the previous 19 episodes. I do like how Soo Chan who initially tried to help and comfort her, turns his back on her and is instrumental in having her arrested for “murdering” her boyfriend. The woman did deserve it since she was such a coldhearted witch. I sometimes have sympathy for “badder” characters, but not this one.

My Thoughts:

I think the best parts of this series were the ones where Soo Chan and Yoon Hee were together. Even though Soo Chan did fall for her, the two had a very good friendship. They knew each other’s flaws and weaknesses and in spite of that became the best of friends always willing to help each other and to support each other. I am sad that Soo Chan didn’t win out in the end, but that is typical. The best guy does not always get the girl.

I also especially liked Duk Gil’s romance with Yoon Hee’s sister Mi Hee (who has been married and divorced 3 times and has a daughter). Mi Hee always seemed silly and materialistic, but really fell for country bumpkin Duk Gil who is really her perfect man. Why? Every man she married cheated on her, but Duk Gil is honest, shy, and completely in love with her and could never even dream of looking elsewhere.

I could have done without the murder mystery thrown in, but it did add extra drama and did help in the destruction of Soo Chan’s former life. But how tangled a web can there be? Soo Chan’s first love broke up with him in order to become the mistress of Joon Suk’s father! Go Ni wasn’t Soo Chan’s son after all, nor Joon Suk’s nephew, but Joon Suk’s baby brother! How all these lies and lives intersect is amazing. Like how Soo Chan knew the truth of Hye Mi being in Cambodia (and Yoon Hee did to, but not to the same extent), and managed to put two and two together. Can such coincidences really exist to that extent in this world? Poor Soo Chan loses his first love to Chairman Yoo and then his next love to Yoo’s son. Talk about a horribly twisted fate.

I also enjoyed watching the portrayal of living in company housing. The gossiping and hierarchy and how two-faced people could be. Here we have some families struggling to become more prominent while we have other families just struggling to be noticed in order to get a promotion. We get to see the butt kissing and in the next moment, the trash talking. I think it’s very revealing and probably very true when living in an environment like that.

Overall, this was a good series with an outstanding male lead. Too bad the others couldn’t live up to him. And that has nothing to do with acting. Bae Doo Na is a great actress (though this role reminds me quite a bit of her roles in Country Princess and Gloria – just not as strong) as were several of the other cast members. Wang Ji Hye is just great at making you hate her (just like in Personal Preference with a somewhat similar role). It really just has to do with the script and characterization. Ah, why couldn’t Yoon Hee be a stronger person? Why couldn’t Joon Suk? And why, oh why, couldn’t Soo Chan get the girl in the end?

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