First Impressions on I Need Romance

I Need Romance is good. Actually, let me add an adjective to that – after watching four episodes, I think it’s very good. While I’m not (yet) in love with it, but I definitely appreciate quality when I see it. The second prime time drama from cable channel tvN, following in the footsteps and taking over the time slot originated by Manny, INR is like a breath of fresh air in the usual exercise in K-drama rom-com fare. Oh, I love me some K-rom-coms that are bathed in the usual suspect tropes with the same plot devices recycled over and over again. Nevertheless, it’s always a welcome relief to watch a rom-com that isn’t, well, teetering close to being stupid and requires me finding other reasons to enjoy it.

INR is smart, realistic, and above all else, very well-made. There is actually only one reason I’m not loving this drama as much as I ought to – it’s because INR is really the little sibling to my favorite rom-com of 2010, Still Marry Me (The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry). Because SMM did it all and did it better, IMO, therefore INR has shades of been-there-done-that for me, except with main characters I don’t (yet) care about or relate to. But it’s definitely a winner, so check it out if you want a mature and thoughtful look at the modern mores of dating in K-society.

The anchor of INR is actually not the romance, it’s about the friendship between three thirty-something friends who are all successful, accomplished, pretty, and normal. Just three different but wholly believable ladies who are looking towards the next stage of their lives – what comes after years of dating other than quite possibly marriage and/or breaking up?

The main character is Sunwoo In Young (played by Jo Yeo Jung), a hotel manager who has been dating a hottie film director for the past ten years. Her boyfriend is Kim Sung Soo (fresh out of the military Kim Jeong Hoon), a boyish-looking but solid and mature guy who pursued In Young after crushing on her since their grade school days. Sung Soo and In Young meet up in the early twenties, start dating after a particularly romantic kiss under the streetlamp blanketed by falling snow, and have entered their thirties stagnating in their ten-year relationship.

Neither is unhappy, but all the cracks are there. He honestly confesses to being attracted to the young aegyo starlet playing the lead in his movie, and she acknowledges that she doesn’t feel the same electricity even when Sung Soo touches her breast tenderly in his sleep. It’s like all the passion is gone, so what is left but lingering love and maybe a sense of commitment. At the end of episode 1, In Young asks Sung Soo to break up, because she isn’t willing to have him stay by her side purely out of decency and responsibility. She deserves to be loved, wholly and without reservation. I applaud and agree with her choice, however hard it is to make.

The breakup isn’t easy on either of them, but luckily In Young has her two best friends to cheer her up and remind her of how to navigate the treacherous paths of a breakup. There is statuesque beauty Park Seo Yeon (Choi Yeo Jin), a boutique owner and fashion maven, and sensible and steely lawyer Kang Yang Joo (Choi Song Hyun), both of whom also have their own romantic foibles and interesting love stories in this drama. Seo Yeon is the one with all the risqué yet realistic relationship advice, finding herself uninterested in settling down or being anything less than fabulous and fun. Yang Joo, almost at the cusp of marrying her stodgy fiancée, instead finds herself stood up at the altar and needing to start all over again by the end of the second episode.

Even though In Young and Sung Woo try breaking up, neither is ready to move on, despite being fully aware that their relationship just doesn’t have the youthful enthusiasm and optimism it used to. Nevertheless, they get back together by episode 2, and then plow ahead in uncertain waters. How does In Young date Sung Soo knowing that he’s working with a girl who he has confessed makes his heart beat faster? And said girl has made it clear she’s interested in Sung Woo, cutely announcing to In Young that she wants to compete fairly for In Young’s man. Well, at least this shameless hussy is honest.

Four episodes in, In Young and Sun Woo traverse the quicksand of a relationship hastily reassembled with no issues ultimately resolved. In Young tries to stop over-thinking everything, but she is naturally a person with a worrying personality. She is especially prone to daydreams where Sung Soo reveals that is just dutifully sticking with his old girlfriend but is dying to be free to start over again with someone young and hot. The viewer doesn’t get Sung Soo’s side of the story, but can see that he’s ultimately a decent and straightforward guy, who may or may not be at fault for a relationship failing because he’s fallen out of love with his girlfriend, who he probably still loves.

If Sung Soo is tempted by the cute actress who he works with, then In Young also has a cute younger co-worker with a pretty obvious crush on her, Bae Sung Hyun (played by Choi Jin Hyuk). Are we ending with In Young and Sung Soo together, or a change in OTP? I honestly don’t know, and that is a good thing, because that’s a realistic possibility in all romantic entanglements.

I don’t think INR is attempting to parse all the intricacies of modern romance, but simply to showcase three different women and their three love stories. It doesn’t aspire to be ambitious so it grounds the plot points in simple daily interactions between friends and couples at work and at home. What makes this drama interesting is the interactions are all written very smartly, with dialogue that is snappy yet always makes sense. People are not cartoonish caricatures even if they are dramatically written. There are no protagonists or antagonists, just people making pragmatic decisions that affect themselves and others in good and bad ways.

What I love most about INR is how creatively it’s directed with Lee Chang Han at the helm. The only drama of PD Lee’s works that I have watched before is a guilty pleasure favorite of mine, Yoon Kye Sang, Kim Jae Won, and the late Jung Da Bin in She is Nineteen (My Sister-in-Law is Nineteen). I loved the directing in that drama, and the visual flow and freeze-frame touches deftly sprinkled in INR is a treat for any viewer to enjoy. In addition, the OST is absolutely a winner and well-suited for this drama. At 45-minutes an episode, this drama just flies by in a blink and you realize that quite a lot happened in a short period of time.

The acting from the entire cast is generally quite decent – nothing to write home about, but no weak link that distracts from the flow of the story with some atrociously bad acting. We don’t have any big-name stars, so the actors easily become their characters. Everyone has a very sincere rapport with each other, whether playing friends, lovers, or rivals. Military service did Kim Jeong Hoon good, because this is the first I’ve seen him not be stiff or self-conscious while acting, plus he’s definitely still easy on the eyes with his chipmunk smile. Leading lady Jo Yeo Jung has a tendency to over play the mannerisms at times, but she does convey In Young’s sense of confusion and introspection well.


I said in the beginning of this post that while I appreciate and like INR, I don’t love it. It’s not just due to its similarity in subject matter and execution to SMM, but also because I do find INR lacking in certain ways. I don’t connect emotionally with any of the characters in this drama so far because while they are written realistically, they haven’t been fully developed for the viewer. I see bits and pieces of In Young and Sung Soo, but I don’t really know them as a complete character. They talk and act like I would in real life, but who are they really? I don’t yet know, so I’m watching INR for the story and less because I have any emotional connection with the characters.

I can easily recommend INR as a breezy and admittedly sophisticated little rom-com to anyone looking for something that depicts love more practically than the usual swoony fare K-dramas typically parade around as shining examples of grand loves for all time. For those of you already watching INR and enjoying it, then I am going to have to pimp out SMM as the crowning glory of this type of drama. Everything I’ve seen so far in four episodes of INR, I saw it first in SMM, where it was done better, funnier, and more poignant.

But ultimately INR is telling a completely different set of three stories than in SMM, and both dramas are equally as commendable for daring to be different than the average Korean populist fare. I want to thank everyone who asked me to check out INR, because otherwise I’d let this one slip past me. I’m planning to continue watching it because I find it entertaining and well worth my time. As for recaps, I’ll wait to see if the next few episodes really ups the stakes for me. If I become emotionally invested in the story and the characters, perhaps it’ll trigger my recapping itch.

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Comments

First Impressions on I Need Romance — 43 Comments

  1. Yet another drama that I checked out in the aftermath of LTM, and I do really like this one. I watched it up to ep 8 – but haven’t seen 9 or 10 (just aired). I am intrigued. I was really not a Sex in the City kinda of gal even though I did watch some of it and I actually got the entire series as a gift once. I wasn’t all that into SSM (which I saw all of it still). But there is something kinda refreshing about this one. It’s breezy, it’s way out of what I’d consider rom com fair and any asian drama — definitely more out there and edgier in that sense. I agree that I’m not really vested in the characters though. I am curious what will happen though.

    Thanks for posting this.

  2. I’ve been following this drama. I didn’t like the first episode but thankfully, it got better. Just as “Heartstrings / You’ve Fallen for Me” did. Things started getting interesting in episode 3. Just wondering if you’ve changed your mind about it.

    • Just try it 🙂 The first episode will give you a really good idea of the drama, if you like the first episode then you’ll like the whole drama. At least that’s how it was for me. If first epi is not doing it for you then just drop it lol

  3. Hmm, I was going to check it out since SMW isn’t doing it for me. But I was hesitating, now I def will! Im not a Kim Jeong Hoon fan, but I will definitely check it out. I doubt I’ll go gaga over it (although I wish I would) because Manny did me dirty. I dont trust TvN with my heart no more!

    P.S Is that a body I see on KJH? O.O! Sign Me up uncle sam!! Er…well whoever is Korea’s version of uncle sam–assuming there is one…anyways, you get what I’m saying.

    • I so agree with you, was disappointed with Manny & Harvest Villa frim tvn so am hesitating about this one, not sure if I will yet~~
      Might just wait to see any more positive feedback here to make a decision:)

  4. What a nice surprise! What I like most about this drama is the main couple story-line. You don’t know if they will patch things up and get back together or break up for good. In some episodes I am rooting for them, and other episodes screaming at the girl for being so foolish and forgiving. She forgives easily, the boyfriend is just confused not knowing what he wants. The younger guy that likes her I feel like he’s just there as a distraction. It’s not healthy or normal to move on so quickly from a 10year long relationship to something new. She’d need time to heal before jumping in to another relationship, unless it’s just a fling. That’s the main reason I think she will remain with the former boyfriend even though he cheated on her. The idea of her flying solo in the end of the drama intrigues me. More than anything I’d love this ending if it were to happen. The old boyfriend, the younger guy, or alone?! Forgiving the cheater who did it more than once, it’s just hard to put your trust on that person again. The younger guy is just a fling in my opinion. Alone until she gets herself together….now that I can stand for.

    I watched SMM, while in that drama I cared for the girls and just wanted them to be happy. On this drama I care for the story line, the options are compelling and I’m not sure yet where it’s headed.

  5. Ms. K

    Thank youuuu…finally you watch this drama… and yes, as always *sound cliche* i love your recaps.. this drama is good. different story line than other K-drama, I may not really in to the lead actors but pretty much enjoy the story.

  6. Yay! I’m glad you wrote a first impressions entry on I Need Romance.

    I find myself enjoying it (the drama) much more than I thought I would. Each week, I find myself looking forward to the new episodes more and more. It’s definitely a needed breath of fresh air on the korean drama landscape.

  7. It’s interesting – no matter how well made a drama, if it’s a romcom or similar genre drama centered around 30-something single women, I have never been able to get into it – Korean, Western, Japanese whatever (Sapuri being the sole exception). Even the ones which I can appreciate are well-made such as Still Wants to Marry or 9 End 2 Out. They just really never click with me. I think it’s because it’s so alien to me – having met my husband when I was 21 so even though I am these women’s age, I’ve been married for a while, have a kid etc. The only one I really loved was Last Scandal and there she was someone with a kid and a husband (who divorced her, true).

    Of course, that doesn’t explain why dramas about Kings or assassins or whatnot work for me – I am clearly neither 🙂 I guess it’s because those are extreme, removed situations to begin with.

  8. Unni, I’m so glad you checked this out! I was initially a little leery going in, but by about episode 6 I was pretty hooked. Now I’m really enjoying it, maybe not so much for the characters as for their interactions, but it’s true that you do get to know them better as time goes on and the conflicts really start ramping up. The last two episodes, 9 and 10, had me wishing I was marathoning this so I could save myself the suspense!

    • Your unni likes it! Will keep on marathoning. I can sense the angst and developing issues exploding at the very last scene in episode 4, so I definitely can tell this drama is ramping up. Can’t wait~

  9. I’m so happy to find a post on INR here! Thanks Koala! After LTM, I chanced upon this drama and I’m liking it! lol For once, I’m abit uncertain about the ending for this drama as it’s really different from the usual..

  10. Hi Koala, thanx for the 1st impression on INR article!

    Yup, I agree with you, this drama is good but can’t make me hooked as well. As much as I love to see these leading actors interaction and although I keep on watching episode per episode every weeks, I am easily distancing myself ~ mind and emotion ~ from it once it ends.

    As 1 of post L2M restless drifter, I tried INR and Heartstring out.. Still, nothing can’t cure my malady and longing.. My last remedy is Myungwol the Spy, hope it will help me overcome this longing.. – At least if it fails in romance dept, hope this would make me laugh..

    I do wish the upcoming Summer drama could thrill us ~ I want to see a drama that would make me awww-ing and ohhh-ing non-stop for 2 months.. Just like L2M did to me in Spring… 🙂

    p/s: Kim Jeong Hoon is such as kissing bandit like KJH in L2M, don’t u think?

    • The kissing is fierce in INR, but it’s clearly what the Chinese call “jie wei” i.e. borrowing a position. What that means is a lot of mouth pressing and movement, but it’s clinical and intended to convey the passion but if you look closely there is no real intimacy between the two actors. Purely professional. After LTM, I am now absolutely positive I will forever be able to tell the difference between passionate kissing that is acting, and just plain passionate kissing that happens to be captured by a camera.

      • Yeahh… true.. /sad

        How could we don’t notice the kissing style difference after we saw those kisses in L2M.. Oh, how I miss our OTP ~ the Cherry Blossom and Polaris ~~

        When I finish sending the previous post, I noticed that the header is changed… back to our fave OTP this year.. ~ I guess, I’m not the only 1 missing them.. /winks

      • hehe i agree.. nobody so far can fight the intensity of Hwanhye. I do notice that Choi Jin Hyuk in INR is kinda a good kisser which I found out in the later episode LOL

  11. Thanks. You have the same thought w/ me. I think I am addicted to this drama. Its different and fresh. Their friendship, their character and their words is touching and give me a fresh understanding of how the world of 30s. Now I’m waiting for watching ep 10 with eng sub. Anybody knows where to find ?

  12. please please please continue watching this drama….i keep up with every episode, and the more you watch it, the less SMM it becomes. im sure you will like it very very much.

  13. Thanks for the post Koala. I’m a fan of INR and SMM. Glad you like it…I’m hoping it doesn’t disappoint. I read that Kim Jeong Hoon did not like his character.

  14. Hmm…I watched SMM and I am not REALLY feeling the comparison beyond 3 women in their 30’s because obviously their stories were in an entirely different direction. I kind of got…bored with SMM. *ducks*

    I am watching INR for the story though I hate how things are with Sung Soo I do find it to be all very realistic. I’m waiting on episode 9’s subs at DramaFever but did catch a recap on it elsewhere.

    Of course I’m a fan of Choi Ye-Jin from More Charming By the Day/Cutie Pie and am laughing constantly over how different her character is here.

  15. I’d like to watch it and I may at some point, but yeah, it reminds of SMM which I loved so I think I can postpone I need romance.

    After all, there are a billion dramas to watch plus new and old series have started again after their hiatus so I’m kinda overwhelmed. Kekeke.

  16. I really like this one. It’s real, cute, and fun. It’s like a breath of fresh air to me. I liked Manny (though the middle got boring), but this is another solid drama from TvN.

  17. Oh boy, I’m definitely in the minority. I couldn’t get past minute 5 of first episode. Just did not click with me whatsoever. I cannot get past the fact that it’s Sex & the City (which I loathe). It’s a pity because I really wanted to like it since everyone’s saying nice things.

    Oh well, I have plenty other dramas to keep me busy. Looking forward to your other recaps ^_^

  18. I love INR… I have watched 8 episodes and waiting for ep 9 and 10 in eng sub. I don’t however see too much similarity with SMM.. the concept might be similar with 3 single women about love and relationship but quite different in storyline and execution. I like SMM a lot and I think the actings in general might be better.. however, I found myself more into INR.. feel more realistic… it’s very lively and entertaining.. the story is getting better.. oh I also love the music in INR.. The songs are from Pink Martini if anyone is curious.

    If you are thinking something different, I would definitely recommend INR.

  19. aww Kim Jeong hoon’s chipmunk smile 🙂 He has such a mischievous baby face. I enjoy INR. Its breezy and fun. I love that the episodes are 45mins long as opposed to 1hour +. I’m not in love with the characters, but I find that I want to be their friends and in the case of the Bae Sung hyun character I’d soooo be his girlfriend! Plus randomly, I love that name.

    The other thing I like about this drama is that I can understand why In Young is still with Sung woo despite their problems and despite not necessarily agreeing with her on it. So many dramas have really great women fall for shitty guys and we end up rooting for them just because we’ve grown use to the couple and the girl is so persistent that you don’t want to see her lose out, but really, the guy sucks. I really can see how In Young loves Sung woo and wants to stay with him even though he may not deserve her. That’s a hard thing to pull off in kdrama cliche land. I also like that Sung woo seems like a real guy. He can be really romantic which I love, but he also screws up. big. time….he use to drive a motorcycle, but now he drives a car and in another 10yrs he’ll be firmly in ahjussi land despite his baby face…hahahaha. Really, I just have fun watching this show.

    I hope to watch ep 9 and 10 soon. If this ends well, INR might end up one my rainy day dramas that I watch random episodes of when I’m sick or rained/snowed in.

    • haha I’m glad you like it ms k. me too I like it but not love it like ltm. I really hope thatthe lead girl n the second male lead end up together. I believe they have more chemistry than kim jeong hoon. when I look on his acting he still do the same thing like in goong, very down looking always the sorry type!! plus I like the smile of the secnd lead…

  20. I have been watching this drama since it premiered and I have to say that it’s different from SMM (which I watched avidly) because it’s not afraid to be honest that women aren’t perfect. The women in this show are also not as weak I feel. In episode 2, rather than crying that her wedding was ruined Yang Joo hires a man to play the groom. Later in the series when Seo Yeon is sued for adultery she refuses to lie about it and declares to the man’s pregnant wife that it’s true. These women are much less afraid to be there own person than pretty much any other heroine of a K-drama, and a lot of American shows too.

    • This is totally true, I can see what they mean with the similarities but I dont feel it. I feel a different drama and to be honest, I just love I need romance, its got something I cant put my finger on it. But I have to agree with you, this women are not afraid to just be and its part of why I enjoy it, sometime so diferent from the kdramaland Im used to watching hahaa.

  21. Thank you for this. I´ve been watching it since it started and Im loving it just as city hunter. I almost fell off my chair when I listened to the OST (music in spanish hahaa specifically banda hahaa as a mexican I was really surprised). Its fresh, enjoyable, I laugh and care for the characters, and I cant wait to see more of this every mon-tue. Im at ep 9/10 and it keeps getting better.

  22. Yay Auntie K,
    See we playmates told ya to give INR a chance and see what happens You like it. I think the show will only get better. As Iv never seen SMM, I can’t compare the two shows (I’m a KDrama amateur).
    But yay I’m glad that we were able to convince you to at least watch INR .
    Til next time playmates, have fun at the playground 🙂

  23. I’ve noticed this drama when mentioned by DB (haven’t seen it yet). Now I’m more positive that I’ll look out for it once it’s out on dvd coz Koala Unni, we have similar taste in k-dramas. Love PK, M3, SMM, and LTM no matter what the rating said.

  24. Hi koala, I’ve been following ur posts since 49days.
    Will u writing recap for INR? Really hope u would….
    Love to read ur thoughts. They usually better my understanding of the episodes. 😉

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