I’m seriously pinching myself to see if I’m dreaming. It can’t be possible that Cheongdamdong Alice is this good. So far it’s succeeding beyond my wildest imaginations as a straight up rom-com that attempts to have honest dialogue about the interconnected web between material wealth and ambition where love is the sacrificial lamb. The writing is so air tight and layered I find myself glued to the screen not wanting to miss a single line of dialogue and squinting so I can catch each tiny gesture or facial expression from the actors. There are so many hilarious moments interspersed with the heartfelt ones that my emotions literally go on a roller coaster ride during each hour. So far I’ve re-watched episodes 3-4 too many times to count, and yes, the ending to episode 4 might be one of the best I’ve seen in years. It wasn’t just the fist-pumping joy of seeing Seung Jo give Tommy his deserving comeuppance, it was also seeing Se Kyung and Yoon Joo have that candid conversation that just got me in the gut.
From early on it was clear there was more to Yoon Joo than scheming golddigger, just like we know there is more to Se Kyung than soon-to-be-scheming golddigger. The drama is doing such a marvelous job of creating flesh-and-blood characters with idiosyncrasies but think and talk like thoughtful intelligent people. I don’t even hate In Chan for taking Se Kyung’s money to pay off his debt and leave her, because even Se Kyung realizes that in the face of someone who has nothing left to lose, there is nothing that person isn’t capable of doing. I’m sure In Chan loves Se Kyung, but they were never going to find happiness together being poor to the point of accumulating more debt simply by existing. I need Se Kyung to try out Yoon Joo’s way to see if it is a hope or merely an illusion, and along the way she’ll meet her White Rabbit and Mad Hatter into the wonderland world of Cheongdamdong. I know I’m well on my way to being completely and rabidly addicted to the drama to the degree that hasn’t happened since likely the heyday of Lie of Me madness around me.
Cha Seung Jo (Park Shi Hoo)
33 years old. CEO of Artemis Korea.
The youngest CEO of the Korean branch of Artemis, an international purveyor of brand name goods.
His French name is Jean Thierry Cha.
Using his keen understanding of the thoughts and desires of Korean women, armed with this unique marketing observation Cha Seung Jo became the first Korean CEO of Artemis Korea and thereby the hottest male commodity in the Gangnam area…………
Actually, he spends his days posting in female oriented forums and has a huge disdain for women. He hates the way women want men to support them. To anyone who has hurt him, he vows to seek revenge. In truth he is a petty man, that is the real Cha Seung Jo.
There is one other fact others don’t know. He is the son of Royal Group and it’s been 6 years since he cut ties with his family. In fact, he pronounces his “Cha” last name the “Sha” French way because he doesn’t want to use his Korean last name.
Being such a man, the first thing he does back in Korea is to take revenge.The targets of his revenge are his father, President Cha Il Nam, and the wife of GN Fashion’s President, Seo Yoon Joo.
The meticulously prepared sword of revenge he has been honing for the last 6 years, he wields it mercilessly……What happened to Seung Jo during the last 6 years?
He returns to Korea 6 years later after being appointed the youngest CEO of Artemis Korea. Towards the father and Yoon Joo, both of whom tossed him aside, he beautifully executes his revenge. But Seung Jo isn’t happy. Rather than a sense of accomplishment, he feels lonely and empty inside. When he was poor, there was no woman to love him because of his poverty and now that he is rich, he thinks that there is no woman to love him for himself rather than for his money.
No, the truth is he doesn’t trust women who see love and marriage as just business. Nevertheless, he is still dreams for “unconditional love” more than anybody else, an adorable romantic man.
Appearing before this man is an impossible to find hard-working Candy type girl, Han Se Kyung!
A woman like her actually exists? She’s direct, modest and optimistic, giving up everything for love, the kind of woman he thought only appeared in romantic movies!
Seung Jo’s closed up heart unconsciously starts to reflect the shadow of Se Kyung. But Seung Jo doesn’t know that Se Kyung is no longer the Candy she was once, but has already changed to become a Cinderella, taking the first steps towards finding a Prince to rescue her.
Another thing Seung Jo doesn’t know either is that Se Kyung has set her eyes on Seung Jo as the prince and she is merely “acting” the old Han Se Kyung that he previously knew, the innocent, hard-working Candy!
Han Se Kyung (Moon Geun Young)
27 years old. Rookie designer at GN Fashion.
A positive hard-working girl with a longstanding belief that “Hard work makes a person!”
In that battle ground that is job hunting, after much hard work she finally lands a job…..
But its not as a designer, but rather a temporary employee to run errands for the President’s wife. Despite the shock and humiliation, she can’t quit. If she keeps working hard, she will earn recognition as a designer, be able to pay off her loan and even buy a house! She clings on to that hope not because she really believes it but because has to keep believing it so she can soldier ahead.
But…! By running the the President’s wife’s errands and seeing first hand the life of a typical Cheongdamdong daughter-in-law. She has a bone-chilling realization that her reality is downtrodden with no hope of escape. She realizes that she needs to break up with her poor boyfriend if she doesn’t want to be beaten down by poverty.
She experiences that the President’s wife can buy a bag on a whim that costs more than she can earn in 10 years. She also starts to envy the life the President’s wife leads. But what’s even more stunning is that the person who makes Se Kyung realize all of this is her high school classmate who was much less capable than her. To win over Se Kyung, Seo Yoon Joo would use other people’s talent. Se Kyung once looked down upon her and mocked her…….the her that is now living a life that reflects on how poor Se Kyung’s life is.
Plus all that Yoon Joo has, she used her own hard work to achieve it. That causes Se Kyung to stiffen her spine.
No matter how hard she works, her parents cannot smile while drowning in debt.
No matter how hard she works, she cannot have a happy ending with her poor boyfriend.
No matter how hard she works, with her background, forget about being an international designer, she can’t even become a domestic designer.
No matter the hard work, this cruel society cannot change a thing. Is there something that can change things? Fine, if there is, there is nothing I can’t do! Tell me, how did you climb to where you are now? What is it!
Seo Yoon Joo (So Yi Hyun)
27 years old. Wife of GN Fashion’s president
Possesses an elegant polite smile, polished speech and manners, and a smart and tasteful style as befitting the typical Cheongdamdong daughter-in-law. Behind Yoon Joo’s current beautiful mask lies the endurance to get through years of suffering.
During high school, her family fortune suddenly declined and she needed the award money from competitions. Wanting to beat Se Kyung who was always in the first place, she stole her boyfriend and made him draw for her in the school competition.
Se Kyung derided her, saying that using her boyfriend’s talent won’t turn it into her own. But that is Yoon Joo’s talent. Submitting the boyfriend’s drawing with her name on it! She is perfectly straightforward about it.
What I lack, I will fill it up even if I have to appropriate anther’s talent. Because of this Yoon Joo desperately began to dream of becoming a Cinderella.
Pushed to the corner because of her dire family straits, she ran away to Paris where met Seung Jo and fell in love. But opposition from Seung Jo’s family was beyond what she had imagined.
She was determined to not give him up no matter what opposition or scorn she endured, but Seung Jo gave up his family first. So Yoon Joo coldly left the now destitute Seung Jo who had relinquished his family, social position, money, everything. Even though she loved him, that love included his family, social position and money.
After leaving him, Yoon Joo went through so much hard work and finally made it. She has climbed to the seat of the wife of GN Fashion’s president, Korea’s top fashion company. But living the life that others envy, doing everything perfectly as the President’s wife, this position makes her feel exhausted and she feels like she’s trapped in a controlled environment. At the very moment where even lavish shopping sprees can’t relieve her stress and depression, Se Kyung appears before her. For the first time in a long while, she has found a great stress-reliever!
I will scorn as much as I can the Se Kyung who scorned me in the past. She starts a fun game. Following her reunion with Se Kyung after many years, as well as her old flame Seung Jo reappearing, the castle she once thought was rock solid beings to wobble….
Tommy Hong (Seo Ji Suk)
35 years old, fashion designer
A “notable” designer in Cheongdamdong
He has a boutique in Cheongdamdong where he runs an upper class members only club in the basement. Even though he is a successful gentleman designer with a glib tongue and stylish looks, he has a “side job”.
It is none other than the most sought after matchmaker in Cheongdamdong. Not only does he boast a 100% success rate, but the line of clients waiting for his service number in the dozens. How did he, an aspiring male designer, become a matchmaker of suitable Cheongdamdong daughter-in-laws?
He was educated in Korea and after entering the field of fashion, the only tasks given to him were miscellaneous chores or sales and marketing even though his job title was designer. And then he realized to launch his brand, become a top designer, a designer who has fashion shows, one must be one of the three: be rich himself or be a rich heir or catch a rich sponsor. And those three are so inextricably interwoven that the rich and the heir and the one with a rich sponsor share information, network and secrets between them.
The only way Tommy Hong, without any backing or connections, could enter their world was to catch the interest of madams who came to shop by recommending design suggestions tailored to their style, listen to their woes, and make note of their gossiping to develop “rich connections.” The glib tongue that he seems to have been born with, all the stories of the madams that he knows inside out, and the professional, sensible matches he makes between upper class couples are in truth the result of his tireless self development.
In front of this Tommy Hong, a marriage brokering for GN Fashion owner’s daughter In Hwa is commissioned, but an unexpected hitch appears in the form of none other than Han Se Kyung.
At the beginning he thought that he could easily dismiss this girl from a nothing family background. But things gradually become more complicated as he realizes Se Kyung’s true nature. He fiercely sympathizes with Se Kyung’s circumstances that force her to marry rich and before he knows it, he starts to cheer Se Kyung on and tirelessly gives her pointers and help her. During this time, unconsciously the seeds from his heart starts to sprout for Se Kyung…….
Shin In Hwa (Kim Yuri)
29 years old, Design Team Leader of GN Fashion
The sister-in-law of Yoon Joo, the youngest daughter of GN Fashion and the youngest team leader at the company as well as Se Kyung’s boss. She admits to being born with a silver spoon and openly accept all the advantages that comes with it. She has ambitions towards the family business and lots of ideas for the future. The first is a collaboration with the Artemis brand that is coveted by all the young women and she approaches Jean Thierry Sha with this idea. She finds out from Tommy Hong that there is a marriage being discussed with Jean Thierry Sha, who is actually Cha Seung Jo! A marriage alliance between Royal Group and GN Fashion, and being married to Seung Jo, she might be able to squeeze out her brother who married a wife from a not-so-good background. She might inherit the family business, and armed with this hope, she starts to try and win his heart……
But when she approaches Seung Jo, she realizes the existence of Se Kyung (in his life). Initially she thinks its an easy victory over Se Kyung, who has no background to speak of. But with the passage of time, she starts to realize that she might lose a battle for the first time in her life. At that time she learns of a shocking discovery! Her sister-in-law was in a cohabiting relationship with Seung Jo, and that Se Kyung is approaching Seung Jo after getting tips from Yoon Joo. She learns facts that can completely change the tide of the battle around, and she also holds the cards to completely disrupt the lives of all these people…………
Cha Il Nam
60 years old, Seung Jo’s dad.
President of Royal Group, adept businessman who finds ways to make money. The thing he hates most in this world is losing to someone. He constantly finds ways to compete with his son. He sees marriage as a way to enrich families business needs and a tactic to amass more wealth. When Seung Jo was 15 years old, he already picked a girl for him. He tells Seung Jo to study finance so he can hand him the family business….. But when Seung Jo finishes his MBA in the US, he runs off to Paris to take art classes. There he meets a super poor girl, and despite the family objection, holds his own private wedding ceremony. Believing that if he made Seung Jo penniless he would come crawling back with his tail between his legs, he cuts off all financial support and tells him to sign a statement giving up his inheritance. Who knew he would actually sign it and cut off ties with his family!
But then, Seung Jo actually succeeded on his own and coolly returned. He is actually very comforted knowing that Seung Jo is doing well, but his son refuses to concede to him. At the same time they start a battle of their pride, he wanted his son to marry In Hwa but hears that Seung Jo has another woman again. He starts to worry that Seung Jo is making the same mistake again. With the same worry in his heart, he starts investigating Se Kyung.
Heo Dong Wook
33 years old, Seung Jo’s closest friend, a psychiatrist.
The son of the director of a large hospital and Seung Jo’s dear friend. He takes good care of the Seung Jo who was abandoned by the woman he loved and his family in Paris. He comforts him constantly in hopes that he won’t try to kill himself. More than anyone else, he understands the pain and scars in Seung Jo’s heart. He carefully watches over him. He sees the revenge driven Seung Jo finish his revenge and finds himself empty inside. One day he sees Seung Jo fall in love again, showing tears, laughter, and anger. He is happier than anyone else at seeing this change come over Seung Jo. He becomes Seung Jo’s supporter and helper.
40 years old, the personal secretary of the President of Artemis Korea.
Seung Jo’s personal secretary and a classic hardworking man. Faced with Seung Jo’s mercurial moods, he is constantly fearful and hopeless about his lot in life. He tries hard to keep up with Seung Jo and he unwittingly becomes a critical person who brings Se Kyung and Seung Jo together. He helps and supports Seung Jo in his love.
Han Deuk Gi
50 years old, Se Kyung’s father.
For 30 years he owned a bakery that is now been pushed out of business. He finds a new job because of the President of Royal Group, despite knowing it’s a devious plan. He becomes a head patissier for a Royal bakery. The “white balloon” plan is for Royal to help skilled workers who have been pushed out of business by giving them a place to ply their trade. Despite it being just a one year contract, he has no choice but to accept it. He needs to provide for the family. That is the reality of someone who has nothing. At this time, he becomes a drinking buddy with Cha Il Nam and the two men share their woes. He couldn’t have imagined that Il Nam is the father of the man that Se Kyung has set her eyes on conquering!
Jung Yoon Hee
50 years old, Se Kyung’s mother.
She always believed they were middle class because of owning a bakery. But due to heavy debt they tumbled into poverty. She is worried about Se Kyung’s plan to become a Cheongdamdong wife, but she doesn’t want her daughter to live like her so she hopes that Se Kyung can succeed.
Han Se Jin
23 years old, Se Kyung’s younger sister.
A senior in college but currently on leave due to not being able to pay her tuition. Not worried about anything, not interested in anything, just likes to have fun, just like most 20-somethings in life. Is vain and likes name brands. Hearing of Se Kyung’s plan to marry into Cheongdamdong, she dreams of also joining her there! At that time, because of her dad’s new job she meets Ho Min again. Back in high school he was like a stalker pursuing her, that pompous Seo Ho Min. After that, she once again is the object of Ho Min’s relentless pursuit……
Shin Min Hyuk
40 years old, Yoon Joo’s husband and the President of GN Fashion.
Runs the country’s largest spa brand Club A. To win the succession rights, he starts a psychological battle with In Hwa. To expand the business, he works hard to get Seung Jo aligned with his family through marriage. But even in his dreams he couldn’t have imagined that his own wife was once Seung Jo’s lover.
Seo Ho Min
26 years old, Yoon Joo’s younger brother, Store Manager of the Royal bakery in Cheongdamdong.
Manages the Royal bakery in Cheongdamdong but he’s uninterested in it and is just a punk. He lives off the money his married into a rich family older sister gives him. He knows all of Yoon Joo’s secrets and all the bad treatment she receives from her in-laws. Because of the bakery’s poor performance, it’s chosen as the first project for Royal to revamp. He meets the new patissier Deuk Gi and through him starts to pursue his first love Se Jin again. He acts like a Cheongdamdong man who has everything…….
60 years old, Yoon Joo’s mother-in-law
The mother of Min Hyuk and In Hwa, from inside to out she’s the prototypical Cheongdamdong madam. She is disdainful of Yoon Joo who came from a poor family and is always pressuring Yoon Joo to get pregnant. She asks Tommy Hong for help in brokering a marriage between Jean Thierry Sha and In Hwa.