This recapping project is probably a very bad idea on my part and the potential for regret seems rather high, but right now I’m inexplicably obsessed with Bride of the Century after thinking no current K-drama would lure me back in the foreseeable future. Airing on cable network Chosun TV, which is one of the least well know Korean cable networks out there in terms of its drama output (Operational Proposal, Hanbando), Bride of the Century has an awful name and a one-famous-name cast member in F.T. Island‘s Lee Hong Ki. By all accounts this should be a major dud, and then this drama started getting buzz beyond Lee Hong Ki fangirls excited over their oppa’s first drama headlining gig and I got curious. I’ll confess to being completely baffled by his popularity in You’re Beautiful, Jeremy was at most forgettable comic relief plus he’s so not my dish in the way he looked in that role.
In my mind, Lee Hong Ki was always this cheery goofy big kid like his Jeremy persona, which is why I had to scrape my jaw off the floor when he showed up in BotC and made me sit up and go “hubba hubba.” This drama is like someone took King Flower (Substitute Princess) and made a K-version of it with a few tweaks and throwing in a ghost on top. Really, this drama has a ghost haunting it. Lee Hong Ki gets to act opposite two versions of leading lady Yang Jin Sung who plays both the bitchy rich girl fiancee to Lee Hong Ki’s character as well as the plucky poor girl substitute fiancee who ends up winning his heart. We have all been there and seen this set up before, and frankly this drama doesn’t even have good acting or great directing to elevate its absurd and overused basic premise. So why am I recapping it? Because it’s thoroughly addicting despite its mediocrity buoyed by the two leads bickering and falling in love that always gets to me if the intangible elements are there.
Episode 1 recap:
A man and a woman are having a wedding night after a traditional Korean wedding ceremony in a rich countryside estate. Lots of older family retainer ahjummas are sneaking peaks at the pretty bride and gossiping that she won’t make it to sunrise alive since the groom’s family the Choi clan have been cursed for generations. The first wife of the first born son will always die right after the wedding. They discuss the family haunting by a beautiful woman ghost who sucks the life force out of the new bride to maintain her eternal beauty. The lady of the house comes and shushes everyone and sends them on their way.
Inside the wedding suite, the bride looks scared while the groom takes a drink before proceeding with the wedding consummation. Before he can get her clothes off, he passes out and a creepy gust of wind blows. A ghostly spectre seems to enter the room and scares the bride.
The bride runs away through the dark forest with something seemingly chasing her. The now awake groom leads family retainers to search for his missing bride. The bride is cornered at the edge of the cliff and screams in fear as a ghostly female form in black with long hair gets close to her. The only thing left is her shoe at the edge of the cliff as it appears she fell over the edge.
Cut to the middle of the ocean and a girl is swimming in the blue green depths. Na Doo Rim is scuba diving for seafood and happily gets out of the ocean with her haul. She suddenly sees a woman in white walking along the cliff and jumping into the water. She dives in to save the woman and grabs her hand when suddenly her eyes appear to open and she becomes the ghost who chased the bride and she’s wearing black all of a sudden. Doo Rim blinks and she turns back to the girl in white. Ooh, creepy.
Doo Rim takes her out of the water and the girl spits up water and sits up. She yells at Doo Rim for not saving her faster if she was coming. She proceeds to cry over her broken heart, berating a bastard who agreed to love her forever but cheated on her with another woman. She glances at Doo Rim and says a girl with a body like an elementary school student wouldn’t understand this heartbreak.
The girl asks why Doo Rim saved her and Doo Rim tells her that it’s not worth dying for love. The woman guesses that Doo Rim has never loved before and gives Doo Rim a bracelet which she says is a good luck charm that can summon love. Plus it has other good luck qualities as well and can ward off bad things. The girl then gets all excited when she sees her red shoes still safe and sound, heading off with a wish that Doo Rim find love so she doesn’t end up a virgin ghost one day. This ghost is surprisingly hilarious and sassy.
Doo Rim goes back home with her halmoni and we see she’s a hardworking girl who runs a seafood restaurant with her halmoni. She heads out to make a food delivery to a construction site.
Jang Yi Hyun is at the construction site and discussing how their company is currently in financial straits. He gets on the phone with his sister Yi Kyung (also played by Yang Jin Sung) who assures him that she is headed to the airport and will handle things properly. Yi Hyun is just concerned since it’s been a long time since they saw each other.
Doo Rim goes to deliver food and notices bricks falling from the construction site on top of Yi Hyun. She pushes him out of the way and saves his life. He’s stunned to see a girl who looks just like his sister Yi Kyung.
She helps him up while he asks if she’s alright since the bricks fell on her head. She assures him that she’s fine since the bricks hit her helmet. Yi Hyun gives her his card so that she can call him if she needs to go to the hospital.
Yi Kyung calls back her oppa and finds out that he just saw a girl who looked just like her. She jokes whether there is there is a twin sister of hers running around and she’s got a birth secret of sorts. Yi Hyun heads back to the construction site and goes to the lunch room to have lunch with the workers and assures them that they will get paid at the end of the month.
Yi Kyung goes to the airport to pick up her fiancee Choi Kang Joo who is returning from studying abroad. She hands him flowers while the media snaps away and he smiles warmly and accepts the flowers before walking away and complaining that this excessive welcoming home ceremony is too much.
Once in the car, they are distant and cool towards each other. Kang Joo gives Yi Hyun a necklace that he had Roo Mi pick up. Kang Joo’s assistant is Lee Roo Mi, who looks bitchy enough chances are she likes Kang Joo and is not happy with his engagement to Yi Kyung. She puts on the necklace and thanks Kang Joo before asking where they are going and getting no response as Kang Joo ignores her and leans back with his eyes closed.
Kang Joo takes Yi Kyung to lunch and learns that she doesn’t eat any seafood. They run into a Japanese business woman who greets Kang Joo cordially but then reveals that her brand is not going to be entering the Taeyang Group department store. She then notices the necklace on Yi Kyung and gets all verklempt, turns out that necklace was designed by her late husband. She changes her mind about doing business with Kang Joo.
Roo Mi comes to pick up Kang Joo and Yi Kyung and reveals that she bid on the necklace at an auction for him just like he asked her to. Yi Kyung chews Kang Joo out afterwards for planning this entire thing, treating her like a puppet to close a business deal. Kang Joo makes no bones about it, he sees his fiancee as exactly a puppet in his life. He asks if she can’t be clueless enough to want a romance since their engagement is a purely business transaction? Kang Joo leaves Yi Kyung fuming there.
On her way out, Yi Kyung runs into Kang Joo’s younger brother Kang In who is there with an idol girl. They greet each other cordially though he’s the black sheep of the family since he’s an idol and a member of the group Monster.
Kang Joo walks through the department store to survey the place and abruptly fires a female concierge for smoking and trying to conceal it with cheap perfume.
Yi Kyung goes home and rages to her mom President Ma that she won’t marry that cocky cold bastard Kang Joo. Mom slaps her and gives her the lowdown that the Ma Construction business are not doing well so she has to marry Kang Joo now.
Kang Joo goes home to the Choi family compound and is greeted warmly by the family retainers who are delighted he’s back from studying abroad.
Kang Joo takes tea with his parents and they discuss how he handled the Japanese brand business discussions and did a good job. Dad says water needs time to boil so even if Kang Joo hasn’t officially started at the department store he still needs to start working behind the scenes. Talk turn to younger brother Kang In, with Dad calling him a useless idol but Mom much more warm to the little son and worries about him working too much.
The Jang family sit down together and Yi Hyun reveals the construction site has been placated for now. He asks how Yi Kyung’s meeting with Kang Joo went and she glances at her mom before saying it went well. Yi Kyung asks her oppa how much that girl looked like her today and Yi Hyun glances at their mom and stammers.
Doo Rim puts her bracelet on the table and goes to sleep. Kang Joo goes to the ancestral altar and prays and there is a flashback of him as a kid banging on a closed door wanting to get out while crying for his dad. The housekeeper runs into him coming out of the altar residence and wonders why he’s there.
Doo Rim is one savvy restauranteur and manages to sell expensive dishes to a couple of Monster fangirls who want to eat exactly what their oppas ate before at the same restaurant when they were here three years ago filming an MV.
Doo Rim goes to a cosmetic’s store run by an ahjumma and hands over money for the neighborhood collection. The ahjumma gives her free skin care products but after Doo Rim leaves, she takes the packet of money and stares at it. Yi Kyung sits in her room and wonders why Choi Kang Joo is such a bastard. She goes to sleep and her mom opens her door to look in at her.
A fortune teller is paid a visit by the Choi family ghost who is so powerful she pins him to the ground as she descends from above. He doesn’t seen surprised to see her and asks why she came without letting him first. She tells him that the next person to arrive to see him, whatever she wants he needs to make happen. The fortune teller says it’s a secret of the Heavens and can’t be revealed but the ghost huffs at him and he immediately agrees and the ghost leaves.
The next person to arrive to see the fortune teller is none other than Yi Kyung’s mom President Ma. She reveals her daughter is getting married soon and the fortune teller thinks she wants to know if the couple are suited for each other. She hands over an envelope that contains wads of cash and asks if it’s true the fortune teller handles the family affairs of the Taeyang Group owned by the Choi family?
Doo Rim is selling coffee by the waterfront and run into the two fangirls from earlier who came to her restaurant. They girls watch a video of Kang Joo’s airport arrival on their cellphone and marvel at how handsome he is. Doo Rim has no idea who Choi Kang Joo and is told that he’s Kang In’s older brother and very rich and handsome, one of the most eligible bachelors in South Korea. The two fangirls take a better look at Doo Rim and notice that she looks a lot like Kang Joo’s fiancee.
Three louts come by and order coffee but then try and stiff Doo Rim. She’s no joke and promptly beats them bloody and they pay up.
The next day, Doo Rim learns that the cosmetic’s store ahjumma stole all their savings placed in the neighborhood fund and took off. Not just Doo Rim and her halmoni, lots of neighborhood ahjummas are also affected. Doo Rim runs around looking for the ahjumma but she’s long gone.
Doo Rim goes back to the restaurant and finds her halmomi passed out. She learns in the hospital that her halmoni will need surgery soon. Halmoni wakes up crying about all their savings being stolen and how hard Doo Rim worked to earn it. Halmoni is one feisty one and vows to track down that bitch when she gets out of the hospital and hack her into pieces. Doo Rim tells halmoni that she’ll just earn more money so she needs to not worry.
Kang Joo’s dad is listening to an old record and we see an old picture of a girl wearing white on his desk. He heads out and runs into his wife who is leaving the altar residence. She knows he is angry but they have to take good care of this place at his mother’s insistence. She tells him that if he wants to demolish this place, then he needs to first get rid of the picture of his first love that he’s been keeping in his study still.
Roo Mi is hanging with with a bunch of rich girls including Yi Kyung. The girls are all admiring Yi Kyung’s famous necklace and wondering how much it costs. Roo Mi says it costs the price of a Gangnam condo since its meant for the daughter-in-law of the Taeyang Group. But if it was Roo Mi, she would have tossed it into the trash but Yi Kyung surely can endure and endure some more.
Yi Kyung goes to confront Roo Mi in the bathroom and asks why the she was picked and not Roo Mi. Turns out Roo Mi is the daughter of a prosecutor who investigated the Taeyang Group a few years ago for accounting fraud so the two families have had a falling out, plus Yi Kyung’s family construction is now tightly aligned with Taeyang Group. Roo Mi grew up with Kang Joo and will still continue to be by his side, warning that if Yi Kyung falters then she will take her place. Yi Kyung assures her the wedding will happen no matter what since their company needs money right now so they won’t let this chance slip by. Roo Mi derides her for being just a puppet and then walks away after reminding Yi Kyung to show up at tomorrow’s party for Kang Joo officially joining the company.
Yi Kyung gets her make up done and puts on the necklace, but then she remembers Kang Joo insulting her as a puppet and her mom warning her to get married no matter what.
President Ma and Yi Hyun attend the party and a little boy hands a note to Yi Hyun from Yi Kyung telling her mom not to come look for her and she needs some time to think things over. Kang Joo walks over with his parents to greet the future in-laws and wonder where Yi Kyung is? Mom has to make an explanation and then they run home to find her room empty. Mom falls apart worried about her Yi Kyung while Yi Hyun comforts his mom saying that they will find her.
Kang Joo’s mom calls President Ma out to meet and shows her paparazzi pictures of Yi Kyung taken on the day of the party where she didn’t show up. Kang Joo’s mom says Yi Kyung needs show up at the two families official meeting brunch otherwise the wedding is off.
President Ma goes home to reveal this bad news to Yi Hyun but he suggests they can find a way to get through the parents meeting and give Yi Kyung time to come home. Yi Hyun drives to see Doo Rim at the restaurant but hears that it’s closed for the day.
Doo Rim is at the hospital and sitting outside going through lottery picks when her bracelet suddenly falls off. She picks it up and remembers the girl who gave it to her calling it a lucky bracelet that can bring romance. She decides to buy another lottery ticket but when she takes out her money she finds the business card left by Yi Hyun asking her to call if she needs to go to the hospital. She considers throwing it away but decides she should go for it since she desperately needs money right now.
Doo Rim calls Yi Hyun just as he arrives at the hospital and spots her sitting on the park bench. He answers the phone while watching her talk to him from a few feet away but Doo Rim doesn’t notice him. She brings up how her head hurts now and might have lasting side effects and then turns the talk to the medical bills. Yi Hyun hangs up and says he’ll be right there. Doo Rim freaks out and a moment later he’s standing right in front of her. He asks to talk with her.
Yi Hyun asks Doo Rim to push her hair off her forehead and when she balks her walks up to her and moves her hair back. He’s shocked at how much they look alike. Yi Hyun tells Doo Rim that he needs her, he needs her as the fiancee of Taeyang Group heir Choi Kang Joo.
Kang Joo walks through the department store where the female employees are lined up to greet him. Suddenly we see the ghost is there as one of the employees. Kang Joo stops and senses something odd. He looks back but the ghost is gone and it’s another employee standing there.
Thoughts of Mine:
Can we have a whole story with the ghost lady as the lead? She’s so freaking awesome! I love her snarky wit with Doo Rim and her sassy bossing around of the fortune teller. From the glimpse of the picture on Daddy Choi’s desk, the ghost is probably his first love, though one wonders how she could be the one cursing the Choi family first wives of first born sons to death for generations. This story is as silly as can be but the ghost addition makes it interesting and adds a layer of mystery that makes the narrative a flexible for unexpected twists and turns down the road. This really is a remake of King Flower, except one of the two lookalike leading ladies isn’t dead, and this time the male lead isn’t in on the substitute princess switcheroo. I’m really loving Lee Hong Ki as the icy cold asshole chaebol. It’s done to death but he hasn’t done it before and I like his take on it. It’s a departure from his real life persona and from his most famous acting role to-date in You’re Beautiful.
Yang Jin Sung was rather forgettable in a small role in Secret Love with Ji Sung, but here she is really making the most of her leading lady opportunity which is doubled in screen time since she plays both rich Yi Kyung and poor Doo Rim. She’s better playing Doo Rim but decent enough as Yi Kyung as well. Whether the two girls end up being twins doesn’t bother me since Kang Joo could care less about Yi Kyung and that couple isn’t married yet, so I’m content to see how the drama explains why the two girls are identical. Clearly the ghost lady is out to help Doo Rim, or is it to help Kang Joo fall for Doo Rim? Older brother Yi Hyun is a bit too staid and reserved for my tastes and I hope the drama doesn’t make him fall for Doo Rim because that is so ewwww that he would fall for a doppleganger of his own little sister. The parents are all interesting enough and they way they converse leaves a lot left unsaid so I’m looking forward to digging more into their back stories which clearly will have an impact on what is happening now to the kids.
This drama really is a hodge podge of random elements and every K-drama stereotype strung together with the one creative add of the haunting ghost who looks malevolent in black but cheeky in white. I’ll confess to having a soft spot for the arrogant hurting inside chaebol heir like Kang Joo, and if he’s played by an actor I find suitable for the role and gorgeous to look at, then I’m easily sold to keep on watching. Lee Hong Ki is eye candy to the nth degree as Kang Joo, and one of the best idol-turned-cold-chaebol characters right off the bat. Kang Joo is an ass, but Lee Hong Ki makes me want to keep watching and digging underneath the surface (or his shirt). BotC is marketed as a fantasy romance and at 16-episodes is a very brisk commitment so I’m onboard with my fingers-crossed. This does feel as lightweight as a TW-drama but therein lies the potential for it to not focus too much on the story and just make the two leads and their falling in love process utterly squeeworthy and memorable. That is what I’m all-in to experience and I hope BotC delivers on that and I can overlook the rest.
Click here to watch Bride of the Century.