Okay, I admit it. The reason I initially stayed away from A Witch’s Romance was for a completely superficial reason; that reason being Uhm Jung Hwa’s looks. I know, I’m a terrible person. However, I am sooooo glad that I decided to give the show a chance and Uhm is wonderful; I can’t think of any other actress that can play her character better than she did. A Witch’s Romance is actually a remake of the popular Taiwanese show, My Queen, starring Cheryl Yang and the always charming and charismatic Ethan Ruan. As with most dramas from tvN, the show is fantastic. Although a remake, it gives it a refreshing twist and most importantly, it was beyond romantic. Like really, really romantic! I enjoyed it so thoroughly that I marathoned the entire thing in three days. Who of us hasn’t forgone sleep in order to watch just one more episode, which ends up being five episodes, and then it’s six in the morning? I know it’s not just me…
WARNING: SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT. Like for realz. Also, be prepared for A LOOOOT of screencaps!
At its core, the drama is about two broken-hearted people who come together and slowly heal each other’s wounds, both learning to love and trust again.
Our male lead is 25 year old Yoon Dong Ha (played by the wonderful Park Seo Joon—WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!?!?!?), who runs a company called Master of Part-Time with his friend, Yong Soo Cheol (played by the equally winning Yoon Heon Min). If I could, I would cast the two of them in their own bromantic comedy, but I can’t, so whatevs. Anywaaaaaay, the two boys take on any and all odd jobs that they are hired for, from teaching self-defense to pretending to be someone’s boyfriend. You can see how this would lead to our main couple meeting and how their fates begin to intertwine. Dong Ha is, of course, a lot better off than the beginning of the show implies. He’s actually the son of the director of a big hospital and he himself was a medical student. However, after his girlfriend died due to a heart attack, Dong Ha couldn’t stand the guilt. He blamed himself for inviting her out to watch a movie on that fateful day and he blamed his dad who couldn’t save her. Hating his dad and no longer believing that doctors can save people, he leaves home and takes a break from school and that’s how, three years after his girlfriend’s death, we get to the living pay-check by pay-check Yoon Dong Ha.
And now for our heroine, Ban Ji Yeon (played by the brilliant Uhm Jung Hwa). Ji Yeon is a 39-year-old journalist for the celebrity gossip magazine “Trouble Maker”. She is a strong, independent woman who takes crap from nobody *finger snap* but also cares for others more than she lets on since she hides behind a cold exterior. Duh. She demands nothing but perfection in her job, which earns her praise from her boss but contempt from most of her co-workers. Her co-workers despise her so much that they also give her the harsh nickname; and you probably guessed it, “a witch”. What is it with dramas always depicting career-minded women as cold-hearted and undesirable? But I digress…Of course Ji Yeon has a reason for being such a workaholic. Six years ago, her college sweetheart of 10 years stood her up at their wedding without so much as an explanation. Being wounded and having given the prime of her youth to a man that abandoned her, Ji Yeon had nothing to fall back on but herself and her job.
With the backstory of our leads out of the way, let’s get to the actual show.
We open the first episode with a woman, who’s obviously no longer in high school, wearing a high school uniform pedaling away on a bicycle throughout the streets of Seoul, and a Santa Claus, who’s chasing her on foot. Our Santa has quite a high level of endurance! 😉 This is how our main couple meets. In a rush to get the exclusive on a famous celebrity’s affair scandal back to the office in time to be published, Ji Yeon “borrows” the bike from a kid just as Santa Claus, Dong Ha on another one of his part time jobs, was about to give it to him. This sets Dong Ha on his chase to catch the thief who’d steal from a bunch of orphans. Yep orphans. The two get into a heated and passionate argument after he finds her office building and she tells all of the orphan kids present that Santa doesn’t exist. Way to ruin those kids’ childhood. Dong Ha is shocked at how a grown woman can do such a thing but she brushes off the criticism. Her heart is actually not made of ice, as some might think after such an incident, and Ji Yeon goes home to her empty apartment, and with a tear streaming down her face, does this epic dance to super loud music. Turns out she does it every night and I love it.
Not getting paid for his time as Santa Claus, after you know, Ji Yeon destroyed the orphans’ imaginative spirit, he gets kicked out of his apartment and moves in with Soo Cheol who just happens to be neighbors with Ji Yeon. Let the antics begin! Any dedicated drama watcher knows that our beloved dramas can’t exist without the typical contrived situations and coincidental meet-ups. Turns out Ji Yeon’s mean (but endearing in their own way) co-workers know about Master of Part-Time so they decide to hire Soo Cheol to play a prank on Ji Yeon. Soo Cheol is to seduce Ji Yeon at their company dinner and then humiliate her in front of the crowd. I didn’t say the prank was going to be friendly but our hopeless Soo Cheol thinks it’s all in good fun and thankfully Dong Ha knows better and tells him:
“For a lot of people, playing a joke on a single person isn’t a joke, it’s violence. Don’t do that kind of work.”
Soo Cheol brings Ji Yeon up in front of the crowd to confess to her, and as the crowd chants “kiss, kiss, kiss”, Ji Yeon’s façade start to melt and she even closes her eyes (SO HARD TO WATCH) until Soo Cheol backs up, starts laughing and says that he can’t do it and that close up she really looks like an old woman and even calls her ajumma. Hot damn, I think we have the winner of the biggest ass award! Thankfully, the ever good-hearted and sweet natured Dong Ha is there, and being that he can never watch someone suffer without stepping up, he walks to the front, gives her a kiss worthy of cable, and walks off the stage, with her in his arms in order to ease her embarrassment. He even makes sure that she has a friend to comfort her that night before leaving. This, my friends, is the start of a beautiful friendship and romance.
The two go through a lot together and they become adorably close. The following are just some cute scenes I want to highlight since there’s two many to mention all of them:
(1) Where else would we have a potential one-night stand between our OTP except for cable? After getting their phones mixed up, Dong Ha finds a very drunk Ji Yeon and like the gentleman that he is, takes her home. She’s a bit cray-cray when she’s drunk. Just look at his facial reactions. Too bad he doesn’t know her drunken habit of seducing the other person with beers she’d shaken up and her catlike licks. LOL The two passionately make-out on the couch, against the bookshelf and on the bed. Boy is it gettin’ hot in here! That is until Dong Ha’s takes out his wallet and Ji Yeon sees that he’s only 25 years old, making him 14 years younger. She hilariously thinks of how when she was in middle school, he was crawling on all fours in the living room, and when she landed her first job and got her first paycheck he was only 10 years old. HAHA we’d all do the exact same thing!
(2) Dong Ha running over to Ji Yoen’s apartment in mismatched shoes since he was in such a hurry out of fear for her safety. He then stays over at Ji Yeon’s apartment to keep her company after realizing that she is scared to be alone after the threats made against her earlier that day as a result of the celebrity affair scandal she uncovered. The two bond by watching a game show and competing to see who’s smarter (so cute) and then by listing off music and artists that they like (Ji Yeon’s frustration is hilarious). It works to show the age gap between the two while simultaneously showing us how they can overcome it through a willingness to appreciate the other person’s differing tastes. They are so cute when they just chill and sing together. I can LITERALLY watch the two of them be this adorable all day long! ♫B to the I to the Bang Bang…♫
(3) Throughout the entirety of the show, Dong Ha is ALWAYS waiting up for Ji Yeon to come home. Swoooon. On one particular occasion, he waits for her to come home from a blind date set up by her mom and after some nagging and bickering stemming from jealousy, he takes out his phone and starts playing one of the songs that she mentioned earlier. Not a remake by a current boy group but by the original singer, and then sticks his phone in his wine glass while the two just smile and enjoy each others company. And like the prince charming that he is, he even takes off his shoes so she can wear them to their apartment after noticing that she was limping after wearing heels all day. I tell you, perfect boyfriend material!
(4) The Trouble Maker gang goes on a company retreat and Dong Ha chooses to sit next to Ji Yeon on the bus, even when all the girls are clearly suggesting he sit with them. It’s the little things that matter! They even get into a little argument that night and then after getting stuck in the mountains with a twisted ankle, Ji Yeon tries to hilariously crawl home after hearing rustling in the trees. Dong Ha, the most dependable man ever, comes to find her and gives her the obligatory drama piggyback back the hotel! Girl, don’t tempt him!!
(5) Dong Ha teaching Ji Yeon how to succeed on her blind dates, all while using them as excuses for skinship.
(6) Dong Ha confessing to Ji Yeon, for realz, in front of her friends! Swoon. I’m not one for public confessions but what motivated him to finally confess is sooo sooo sweet! ❤
Cute scenes aside, the best thing about this couple is that their romance stemmed from a friendship built on honesty, respect and trust for each other, and it doesn’t hurt that there are many laughs, moony eyes, and rapidly beating hearts to accompany it. They never keep their emotions and secrets from each other for very long, always choosing to talk it out. Oh how different dramaland would be if all dramas followed that novel idea, talking things out with your significant other. Maybe there’d be fewer noble idiots. Just maybe. Idiots will always find a way to frustrate the rational.
In particular, during this time of growing fondness, one line that Dong Ha says when he realizes he’s falling for Ji Yeon just breaks my heart every time:
“Young Chae-ah (his deceased girlfriend), when your heart stopped, I thought my heart also stopped, but lately, my heart keeps beating on its own. Not for Jung Young Chae but for someone else. How could it do that?”
But of course, nothing can stay blissfully perfect in dramaland for long. First off, I just want to ask, who made this law and WHY!?!? Ji Yeon’s ex-boyfriend, Noh Shi Hoon aka polar bear (played by the underwhelming Han Jae Suk), the one who never showed up to their wedding and the one that she hasn’t heard from for six years, decides to reappear in her life. And his timing couldn’t be any better, he shows up immediately after Dong Ha confesses to Ji Yeon and as Dong Ha’s feeding her some cake, he be all “she doesn’t like cinnamon powder”. His entrance is particularly annoying in that he appeared unannounced and then went ahead and acted as if he owned the place and that he did nothing wrong. He confesses that he wants to get back with her, not privately, but through a whole media circus. It’s as if he thought he was entitled to her love just because they shared a history together. His excuse (or more like the writer’s excuse) is flimsy as hell. He got shot IN THE LEG while in Somalia (?) and was in a coma for 3 months. So where were you, for say, 5 years and 9 months bud? Why choose now to come back? Oh did I mention that he is a world-renowned photographer? Yep, one of the most pretentious occupations in dramaland.
Anywaaaaaay, his reappearance in Ji Yeon’s life obviously throws a wrench into the budding romance between Ji Yeon and Dong Ha. Dong Ha stays firm and makes it clear to Ji Yeon that his feelings for her are true and that HE will never betray her, unlike somebody. He even gets down on his knee when he says all this! Swooooooooon! When she moves out of his apartment to go back to hers, he gives her a book on magic with the handwritten message: “Will you stay with me?” He’s begging her to not go back to polar bear but to stay with him. Aw. Obviously, it would work better if he didn’t write that in a book and placed it on her book shelf instead of telling her upfront (which he eventually does with a back hug) but at least he makes an effort of calling attention to ALLLL her books and asks if she read ALLL of them while gesturing “randomly” at the one book he just added to her collection. It fails but cute try.
Here’s a passage he reads from the book:
“True love sincerely wishes the other person to be happy. Life is short. So if there are any words that you have been holding in your heart, consider this your last chance and say them today. The moment of magic you’ve been waiting for is without delay, today.”
Saaaadly, for everybody involved, where would the conflict be in the drama if Ji Yeon didn’t forgive Shi Hoon and get back together with him? I’ve never seen a drama screech to a halt so fast as a direct result of two people getting together. For seriously, when these two were together, it was like watching paint dry. Actually, watching paint dry is probably better since it’s less awkward and painful to sit through. Ji Yeon is sooooo uncomfortable around Shi Hoon and she’s sooooo meek around him that I just feel so bad for her. She can’t be her real self when she’s around Shi Hoon. After being abandoned by the man she loved, it’s definitely not going to be easy to forget yet she’s living in that memory, afraid that he’ll leave her again, even though her heart knows it doesn’t beat wildly for him anymore. Just compare and contrast how Ji Yeon looks with Dong Ha and how she looks with Shi Hoon, while, I might add, she was dating and then being engaged to Shi Hoon.
Although I disliked that she didn’t choose Dong Ha immediately, at least I can say that I understand her decision. She was never able to sever her ties with Shi Hoon cleanly and completely after what happened 6 years ago. She’s been living in the past and believing that the happiness from her memories with Shi Hoon can still be recreated. To add on to that, the age difference between Dong Ha and Ji Yeon is no easy thing to overcome. Regardless of whether or not the people around her approve of Dong Ha (which they do), she still has to live in a larger society that frowns upon such relationships. She’s also highly aware of the fact that she is getting older and is afraid that what Dong Ha thinks of as love now might change. After all, her heart changed for him. He’s still young, and he will meet more and more girls his age, who is to say that his heart will not change? At her age, she probably wants stability and a man who loves her, not necessarily one that she loves back, and I can’t blame her for that.
During this middle section, it becomes rather difficult to watch since both Ji Yeon and Dong Ha are suffering. When she looks into her heart, she is highly aware that it is Dong Ha that occupies it but she’s not ready to make that leap of faith with him yet. This is evidently clear when she writes a response to his magic book inscription:
“I’m sorry..for being late…” (Clearly a bit smudged from her tears as she wrote it.)
Thank god that Shi Hoon FINALLY accepts the fact that Ji Yeon no longer loves him and that she feels more sorry towards him than anything. He lets her go and tells her that although he might have been late, it’s not too late for her. Thank you Shi Hoon, and thank you for leaving the country while you were at it!
After the break-up (hallelujah!!!!), Dong Ha gives Ji Yeon time to work through any lingering feelings and doubts so that she can finally close that chapter of her life. Although giving her time, the two go back to their previous relationship and continue with their adorable activities like Dong Ha driving her to work in the morning along with making her breakfast. For realz guys, he’s the BEST “BOYFRIEND” EVER. After Ji Yeon settled her feelings, Dong Ha finds the courage and asks her if they can officially date, but let’s face it, they were practically dating for the majority of the show already anyways. She answers perfectly that “Yes; even if you push me away, I won’t go anywhere.” Awwwwwwwww.
After years of watching dramas and being disappointed by the last few episodes, I am glad to say that the conclusion for this drama was awesome. It was satisfyingly sweet and it wrapped up everything I wanted it to. Also, it never hurts that we get an entire dramas worth of kisses in the last few episodes. And no, not those sad fish resuscitation kisses, REAL kisses. You know, the kind that actually says, I LOVE THIS PERSON.
The show was very well made and a true joy to watch, except for maybe some frustrating bits and pieces of the middle portion of the drama (mainly just any scenes with Shi Hoon) and a few odd editing choices, such as the highly confusing transition from episode 4 to episode 5. Seriously, just watch it. You’ll get what I’m talking about. I was legit confused for a few minutes, thinking I skipped an episode or something and checked constantly to make sure I was actually watching episode 5. Also certain scenes were pretty confusing as to how they fit in the drama’s timeline. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if a scene was a flashback or a figment of someone’s imagination.
Of course, the drama owes much of its success to the likable cast and characters. The actors were all very wonderful and enhanced their characters beyond measure. I guess this is one of the reasons why I look forward to Korean adaptations of Taiwanese dramas (although I think this was the only one that I enjoyed watching). Korean dramas are able to rein in the usually over-the-top, zany characters that are typical of Taiwanese idol dramas into quirky yet highly likable characters. The drama doesn’t have the frustratingly annoying parents that get in the way of our OTP but parents that support their children and want them to be happy. It was also wonderful that there was no real villain or despicable person in the show, except for maybe the annoying Shi Hoon.
Lastly, I just wanted to say that hands down, the best part of this drama and the reason why I kept pulling all those all-nighters to watch one more episode was because of the explosive chemistry between Park Seo Joon and Uhm Jung Hwa. They have one of the best on-screen chemistry I’ve ever seen in a drama. From watching them together, there’s not even the slightest bit of awkwardness between the two and one wouldn’t possibly believe that there’s actually a 19-year age difference in real life. But that’s what acting is all about, right? Making it seem like they weren’t acting and that they were actually two real people, making steps towards falling head-over-heels in love with each other.
So if you are looking for a romantic comedy to watch, you might want to give this 16 episode drama a try!