Anyone ready for Korea’s version of telenovela-style writing? The American show Jane the Virgin is loosely based on a Venezuelan telenovela and now we have the Korean remake, Woori the Virgin. I’m happy to report they’ve kept some of the best elements of the American version, and tailored it to the Korean audience just enough that any Kdrama watcher can get onboard with the makjang and have a good time.
Woo Ri was raised devout Catholic and decided to promise chastity until marriage. Her decision has a lot to do with her mother having her at age sixteen. At twenty-nine, she has a boyfriend of two years and she’s still a virgin. During her very first OB/GYN appointment, she is accidentally inseminated by a quack of a doctor and ends up both pregnant AND a virgin. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Kdrama OR a telenovela if the sperm donor wasn’t super hot, and someone within Woo Ri’s vicinity.
The charm of the original had a lot to do with both Jane and her handsome baby daddy. I’m happy to report that Sung Hoon’s Raphael is just as swoony, and though flashy and a bit arrogant, is never a jerk during the entire fiasco. He happens to have shared a sweet kiss with Woo Ri sometime in their past, and we already see sparks from the flashback.
There were so many meta scenes in the writers room where Woo Ri is an assistant writer. I was cracking up, especially when the lead writer thought Woo Ri’s real predicament was a storyline, and she said they just needed to add a birth secret. Cue the older male lead of their daily drama entering the room to complain about the last few episodes. He doesn’t know yet, but he’s about the get a visit from Woo Ri’s mom and find out a thirty-year secret. The father’s instant love for his daughter in the original was one of the best parts. That and how extra his character was.
It’s no secret around here that I love me some Shin Dong Wook and the fact that he’s playing Woo Ri’s current boyfriend actually makes everything really hard for me. I was not a fan of the original boyfriend character, so it was easy to cheer on the new little family. So far Lee Kang Jae has not given me any reason to dislike him or want her to break up with him. I have to remind myself that being a good person doesn’t equal a good partner for our female lead. Plus… Sung Hoon just has so much charisma when playing these types of male leads.
Raphael is currently married when the insemination happens, but he did not give his wife permission to use his sperm. He stored it before getting treatment for cancer and now it’s the only way for him to have biological children. He was set to divorce his wife, but it all gets tangled up when the botched medical procedure happens. His wife, Lee Ma Ri, is delightfully conniving as her mother helps her claw her way to keeping herself an integral part of this rich family. Her henchman is creepy as heck, and ends up being linked to an investigation that Woo Ri’s boyfriend is overseeing. Dun, dun, dun. Let the twists begin!
To take a 100-episode show and condense it down into sixteen episodes, there are going to be sacrifices. If you watched the original and totally loved Petra (ME!), then her story is probably going to disappoint you. If you loved a lot of the longer character development arcs, then it will feel lacking in this drama. Mainly, I think the grandmother/mother/daughter relationships will suffer from not having time to really show their depth, but we’ll see. On the other hand, some of the things that seemed to take forever to happen may get a much faster payoff in Woori.
As a standalone drama, I think watchers should try it out and see if this type of over-the-top storytelling is up their alley. For fans of the American version, you will probably have to tamp down your love for crazy plot twists and endearing narrators a bit. I made the mistake of revisiting some of the episodes, and I do think that the special something the American version had is not completely translated into this one. Which means that I’m going to view it as a totally separate entity (something I tried to do from the beginning) and see what Woo Ri has to offer.
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi