High Society is a new Korean drama. It stars UEE as an heiress – the youngest daughter of a family that owns a huge corporation – and Sung Joon as as a businessman from a poor background (his mother is a cook for a rich household). I was initially interested in it partly for the cast – I love UEE and like Sung Joon – but I’m astonished to find this drama completely charming and slightly magical.
UEE stars as blunt, kind, iron-willed Jang Yoon Ha, who has grown up in a miserable household and is making at attempt to break free from her life. Her fabulously wealthy family verbally, emotionally, and physically abuses her and each other at every turn. Yoon Ha, instead of buckling under the pressure while growing up with this, has developed a steely internal strength, which she hides from her close friend Lee Ji Yi, who knows her only as a cheery fellow employee at a large supermarket. Choi Joon Ki (Sung Joon), meanwhile, feels equally trapped in his life: having worked his way up to second-in-command to the Director of his company, he is consigned to running errands and paling around with the Director, an old friend who treats him with casual disrespect. Having watched his mother and his disabled father scrape by in life, Sung Joon’s mission is to become wealthy and stay that way at all costs. As such, he’s looking for an heiress whom he can marry for her money.
There’s so much to like about this drama, but mainly that it’s funny – unexpectedly funny with scenes that start out amusing and then turns on a hair – a gag or a turn of phrase – to irresistible hilarity. Im Ji Yeon as Yoon Ha’s friend Lee Ji Yi is an absolute wonder, turning traditional drunken-humor scenes into a crackup with her pitch-perfect delivery and kooky facial expressions. The romance between she and Sung Joon’s wealthy, spoiled young boss is delightful and fast-kindling, and if the drama is a hit, I wouldn’t be surprised if it launches Im Ji Yeon’s career into near leading-lady status.
Yoon Ha, meanwhile, is fascinating, a complex character who is that rarest of figures in a drama – a woman who is bold and forthright but not bumbling or socially inept. She’s highly intelligent and simply entirely unwilling to let rudeness pass by. The friendship between she and Ji Yi is magical, full of laughter, small kindnesses, inside jokes, and teasing each other while lying on Ji Yi’s patio staring at the stars. It feels like a real friendship. Joon Ki hasn’t been developed much yet, but he is also delightfully plain-spoken, while being cold, reserved, and driven. There’s a deep shadow lurking in him, a sense of depression, and I”m eager to see how that matches up with the sadness lurking in Yoon Ha after her awful childhood. UEE and Sung Joon, as expected, have an immediate, easy chemistry. I really can’t recommend this enough -especially after a string of recent dramas that have been disappointments such as Producer and Falling for Innocence.
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