The twisted romance of Alice in Cheongdamdong


What would you do if you truly love the person but you started not with the right intention?


Alice in Cheongdamdong joined the romance ride in Kdramaland this year obliterating the fantasy trend from 2012.  This Cinderella-like tale brimmed with interesting characters and have splashes of mirth, reality slaps, gold-digging lessons, PTSD nonsense and thought-provoking love arguments.  With a rich-girl-poor-guy love affair premise, this was not a case of true love, but a love that was proven to be true.


Cha Seung-Jo came to Korea with the intention of getting back at the girl who loved him because of his rich man’s son’ status and then left him after getting paid by his father.  He led a Fashion company based in France and has affiliates in Korea and his “operation-ex-gf-payback” involved business dealing with the son of the family where his first love was married to. 


Han Se-Kyung  who dreamed of entering the Fashion world surprisingly got hired by GN Company.  Her lack of Fashion education abroad has always overlooked her potentials and innate abilities.  Little did she know that her old High School nemesis was the wife of the son of the company who hired her, and that she was not hired because of her qualifications but because of her old classmate’s emotional caprice.


Se-kyung and Seung-jo met when they got into a traffic accident, Seung-jo who was the President of Artemis, a Fashion company, pretended to be the Secretary of the President when they bargained on the aftermath of the minor accident. 


Then Seung-jo proceeded to his plan and as his ex-girlfriend who turned out to be also Se-kyung’s frenemy arranged a welcoming and special treatment for their guest for the family’s business venture, color ran out of her face as she faced the man he left for money and ambition.  Yoon-joo who has used her pretty face to get what she wanted broke up with Seung-jo when they were living together in Paris.  She accepted the money offered by Seung-jo’s father and used his father’s recommendation to enter the elite society world.  Her hardword paid off as she eventually married a chaebol family son.


Se-kyung eventually learned how she got accepted in the prominent Fashion company, but because of financial concerns she swallowed her pride and wallowed in the unfairness of life.  She was also facing problems with her 6-year relationship with her boyfriend.   When her boyfriend took off and stole products  from the company to sell illegally, she wrote a sincere letter to the President of the company to forgive her man’s mistake.  Moved by the feeling enclosed in the letter, Seung-jo let it go and admired the unfeigned love of that girl.  The break-up scene of Se-kyung and her 6-year love broke my heart and I was all tears because relationship like that really existed, relationship where you still love the person but you can’t do anything for him anymore.


But Se-kyung got tired of trying to achieve her goals through her effort so she settled to going through a shortcut with Yoon-joo’s gold-digging lessons.  She asked Se-kyung to look for a white rabbit (an insider in the elite world) to chance upon a potential prince.  She was able to get Tommy Hong’s attention, a famous matchmaker in the A-list society, but because of the remaining non-defiant attitude Se-kyung has, they ended on the wrong foot.  It was a blessing for Se-kyung though because she got rescued by Seung-jo whom she doesn’t know the real identity yet and humiliated Tommy Hong in public.  She then decided to have Seung-jo as her new white rabbit.


Se-kyung grew fonder and closer with Seung-jo-Secretary-Kim-identity and realized quickly that she doesn’t want her for a gold-compass anymore but Seung-jo revealed his true self first and declared his earnest love for her.  Clouded with her ambition regardless of the honest love she was really feeling for him, she hid the truth that she already knew he was rich.  Now Seung-jo suffered Post-traumatic-disorder from the emotional stress he got from his mother who left him at an early age and Yoon-joo, at that time that Se-kyung’s guilt to come clean was surging, she got a video message of Seung-jo’s past full of hurt and she also learned that the woman who left him was her friend and gold-digging teacher.  Yoon-joo confronted her and that scene was secretly recorded and submitted to Tommy Hong. 


Now Tommy Hong was commissioned by Seung-jo’s father to fix the marriage between him and GN fashion’s daughter (Yoon-jo’s sister-in-law) Shin In Hwa and when he learned that Se-kyung will impede the nuptial talk he’s working on, he threatened Se-kyung with revealing her social-climbing style, but Se-kyung didn’t submit to his taunting and was firm in going on with her come-what-may attitude because she was worried on how Seung-jo won’t be able to take another stab on his heart because of his money.


I had hair-tugging moments when Se-kyung was confused with the lie she started but she convinced me with her tenacity and justifying that even if her love was ugly, it was still love.  I love that line she mentioned about how poor girls were looked down because they married a rich man when rich girls who arranged marriages also marry for money.  There are a lot of reality check scenes in the drama inferring love disparities and that has made the texture of the story different from your typical you-and-me-against-my-rich-family premise.  Se-kyung was blatant with her intentions even if she knew that it will destroy her.  She was not your typical “I don’t care if you’re rich I just love you” girl because she’s been through a relationship saddled with financial constraint, and in the real world when you build a future with someone, love will be a foundation but money will sustain it.


Cheongdamdong Alice have many Korean drama clichés and if I may add product placements but it didn’t annoy me the way it typically annoys me because they bribed me with Park Shi Hoo’s smile.  *chuckles  The stuffed toy, the-airport-don’t leave-me-scene, and the pathetic-rich-girl-who can’t buy love were inserted strategically to when it was needed. 


When all the rest knew except Seung-jo what her girlfriend’s charade was, Se-kyung doesn’t know how long her protective bubble can take it and when the truth was finally revealed and Seung-jo kept blocking her to affirm it, I can only imagine how someone’s heart will be shattered to pieces when they are willing to accept the lie because they love the person so much.


That scene when Seung-jo was walking away from Se-kyung brought tears to my eyes because he was already prepared to accept that he was fooled again and was blocking it to sink deeper in him but then he got the confirmation from the person he doesn’t want to hear it from. 


Se-kyung who thought she was ready to take the bullet out of her indecisiveness relied to the very thing she didn’t believe would work on the onset – LOVE—She thought love without fear does exist, but she was not prepared that the moment you love someone, you will also fear of losing him.


This drama was like a sandwich, the middle part was the best of it but you won’t taste the best part without the beginning and the ending covering it.  Although the finale episode was sort of lecturing and safe, explaining the casualty of falling in love for the wrong reason was very well said.  The thesis-analyzation paper of Seung-jo sent me in laughing spree because if all love conflicts can be resolved with drawing probable causes and what-if’s there will be no Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club.  *giggles


Seung-jo passed through 5 stages of grief in overcoming and renewing the love he had and he raised the most important message of the story.  There are always reasons why you love someone and you can never ask for a proof of it.  When love fails, you can never go back but you can always start again.


Jane Austen said something about a single man of fortune universally acknowledged needing a woman to marry, yet she forgot to mention that a woman of pure love would also want to marry a man, not just because of love but his money.

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Romance stories were evolving in kdramaland, and I’m happy they always take notice of opportunities to improve the quality and creativity of the drama productions.  Park Shi Hoo occupied a big space in my heart dedicated to my imaginary boys.  His voice, his face, his eyes never fail to make me drool.  Mom has already approved of my marriage to him, we just have to meet.  *giggles  His blithe lead man portrayal here was far different from his sageuk vengeance-driven-Princess-man, but I liked him more here because of his awkward humor and dorky packaging.  Next to bad boys, girls swoon over dorks… *wink


Alice in Cheongdamdong depicted a typical love story but twisting not just the conflicts and the characters, and in doing so it raised an imbalance that has made the story true.  Women dig any Cinderella-story because they wanted the feeling of being rescued.  In this love tale, the girl started the conflict, she made the the person who will rescue him part of the conflict, but she found the way to overcome it.  Way to go girl!  You rock! 


It’s sort of refreshing to see the reversal of roles, to have the man as the vulnerable character in the story and the one needed to be saved.  This has been the strength of this love story. 


The daddy-and-first-love-issues, the brave but twisted love of the heroine, the circumstances of why the main love was in a tug-of-war setting, the opposing beliefs in romance were detrimental factors in imaginary and real-life ever-after.  Cheongdamdong Alice was able to hit all those considerations of people who are looking for the kind of love they deserve.  Sometimes love started because it was meant to be but it has to end because we have to get the love we deserve.  If you are looking for a romance, this drama will show you the love at its purest, vilest and fulfilling appearance.


Swift, straightforward and sweet.  Cheongdamdong Alice will be in my romantic drama favorite list.  -jediprincess