First Impressions and Unfiltered Thoughts: Joseon Survival

Time travel? Two-faced villain? Siblings with tempers? Female lead who is a confident doctor? A relatively new actor who absolutely rocks the Mane of Glory? Joseon Survival seems to have everything going for it, including Kang Ji Hwan! Come see what the Maknae and MiataMama thought of the first two episodes.

Yes, you read that right. We fangirls have our four episode rule, and usually abide by it pretty strictly. But we both made an exception for Joseon Survival. More on that in a minute.

First, the plot description from MyDramaList.com: “Joseon Survival is about Han Jung Rok, a former national archer and current deliveryman from 2019. He ends up traveling to the past and meets Im Kkeok Jeong, a famous thief from the Joseon dynasty. Together, they struggle to survive, put their lives at stake for the people they love, and share a strong friendship.”

Karie the Maknae: From what I’ve seen of the first two episodes, this description doesn’t even BEGIN to scratch the surface. There was a lot of time spent establishing how smart and how evil our main bad guy is. I mean, there is no touching this guy for pure evil. He can speak a million languages fluently (fun fact: the actor is Korean-Canadian, so his English is top-notch), is obviously wealthy, and just happens to like killing people in cold blood. He is clearly a serial killer. It’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around this role, because he’s being played by the same guy who played the gentle big brother in Weightlifting Fairy. He hasn’t even changed his look a whole lot, which makes it even HARDER. (Fake glasses do NOT count as a costume change!)

MiataMama: I actually feel Lee Jae Yoon is one of those actors that is better suited to the ‘bad guy’ roles. I most recently watched him as the power-hungry older brother in Revolutionary Love. This role just takes that up a notch, while adding in a dash of ruthless and portion of blood-thirsty as well. I have the feeling he’s going to be that character I wholly despise through the entirety of the drama.

Karie the Maknae: Our lead guy, played by Kang Ji Hwan, is a national archer who missed the Olympic gold by thiiiiiis much. So, of course, now he lives in oblivion and lets his temper get the best of him too often for his own good. Here’s the funny thing: I think Kang Ji Hwan handled the repressed emotions of his character in Feel Good to Die superbly. Being the lead in Joseon Survival requires him to be more open and fiery, and right now it doesn’t seem to fit him. I’d rather see him be coldly competent, but right now he’s doing angry and petty and he’s not serving the role well.

MiataMama: I’m not so sure about archer Han Jung Rok just yet. Right out of the gate, I was put off by his post-Olympic actions. Yes, he stepped up to the plate to be responsible for his family in a time of crisis. But he also played the noble idiocy trope card with his girl. That just made me a grumpy. Fast forward, years later, and I agree he doesn’t seem to have matured much. I’m worried that his quick temper is going to get him into heaps of trouble as he tries to survive in Joseon.

Karie the Maknae: Park Se Wan, playing Kang Ji Hwan’s little sister, has been a gem. She’s definitely showing off her versatility in this role — previously she was a nervous student ghost in Goblin and a reserved and competent scientist in I Am Not a Robot. She pulls off the family temper well, and her disbelief at landing in the Joseon era is pretty well handled.

MiataMama: Out of all the characters, I love little sis the best! With book smarts, street smarts, and strong sense of justice, she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with! Park Se Wan is a younger actress, but she tackles her role very adeptly. I have high expectations.

Karie the Maknae: Song Won Seok is amazing with long hair, and I think I would enjoy him in the long run. His character is very different from his Manager Kim role in Switch: Change the World. I’d love to see the bromance between him and Kang Ji Hwan develop.

MiataMama: Song Won Seok plays a character by the name of Im Kkeok Jeong who, as we quickly discover, was an actual figure from Korean history! (Being that I’m a bit of a nerd-girl, I hustled over to Wikipedia to learn more about this real-life Korean Robin Hood.) His screen time has been minimal thus far, but I’m looking forward to digging into this character more.

Karie the Maknae: So what’s holding me back? It’s the directing, funnily enough. Normally I don’t notice directing enough to really comment on it, but this time it was wooden enough to catch my attention. The blocking was stiff and the actors don’t have the spark that I’m used to. Now, I will freely admit that I’ve been in a story snob mood for a good long while, so I turn it to you, our amazing readers. Should I slog through another two episodes of Joseon Survival to make sure that dropping it is the right choice? Is there something amazing that happens in the next few episodes that will keep me riveted? I need to know!! Sound off in the comments.

MiataMama: There are too many dramas to watch, and not nearly enough time in the day! However, I am a sucker for anything time-travel related and had to at least try it out. Joseon Survival is currently airing on TV Chosun, one of the smaller Korean cable channels. This means I have to overlook the fact it obviously has less ‘polish’ than all the other dramas I’m currently consuming. I’ve also not had any prior experience with the writer or directors. So this could end up being a sleeper hit or a total miss – I’m interested enough to give it a couple more episodes to find out!

For now, we remain —

Karie the Maknae & MiataMama

Dramas with a Side of Kimchi

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13 thoughts on “First Impressions and Unfiltered Thoughts: Joseon Survival

  1. I really want to see this one. I love time travel, I love Kang Ji Hwan, and will watch almost anything he’s in. (I actually have to go back and catch up on some of his old dramas.) and I’m also in love with Lee Jae Yoon. I’ve seen him play a cold but loveable character in the makjang romance “I have a lover.” I only have Kocowa and basic Viki right now so i need to see if they’re showing it.

    • Its only playing on On Demand Korea. Happy news is it is free if you don’t mind a few commercials. Yes, commercials suck but it allows you to watch it legally in the US which is better than nothing.

    • OnDemandKorea has it as an exclusive, so neither Kocowa or Viki has it. But you can watch it for free with ads at ODK. (Apparently ODK has been really stepping up their game lately. Which I appreciate. Except it means one more place to check for my shows.)

      I’m quite enjoying it. It’s not brilliant, and eps 3-4 weren’t any better than 1-2, but I’m having low-rent campy fun.

  2. I have to have a station that goes through Roku…and OnDemandKorea comes in like a 1950’s tv without rabbit ears! Hoping Viki or Netflix will pick it up soon.

  3. I’m a sucker for time travel dramas, so that alone has piqued my interest. Trying to get an idea of what to expect before I decide whether or not to watch it though. Thanks for the review!

  4. Kang Ji Hwan always starts out like the biggest foolish jerk ever and then he makes a complete 360 as his character gets put through the wringer and learns life lessons. I expect that of this character too.

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