Kim Yoon Hee (Park Min Young) is a daughter of the Joseon era who is used to dressing up as a man. Her father is dead and her sick younger brother is unable to work, so who else will support the family? She works as a scribe who makes study guides for students, and is even paid to take tests in their place. But when she mistakes the Left State Minister’s uptight son, Lee Sun Joon (Yoochun) for the person she’s supposed to help cheat, she forms an unlikely friendship with him and enters the prestigious Sungkyunkwan University under her brother’s name. She and Lee Sun Joon share a room with the rebellious upperclassman Moon Jae Shin (Yoo Ah In), nicknamed “Crazy Horse.” She also meets the fashionable playboy Goo Yong Ha (Song Joongki). The four form an unlikely bond, but will the knowledge that she’s a girl ruin everything for them?
While Micky has been in other dramas before, this could be considered his debut as a real drama star. He plays the uptight bookworm, Lee Sun Joon. As a noble he has led a privileged life, with his servant Soon Dol as his only friend. He adores his father, and aspires to be like him while making Joseon a better place. However, meeting Kim “Yoon Shik” completely turns his life upside-down. Not only does he have a best friend for once, but he is troubled by his growing feelings for his friend. Due to Yoon Shik’s friendship, he is able to open himself up to people more. Micky’s character smiles very rarely in the beginning of the drama, which is a shame for DBSK/JYJ fans who know how adorable he can be. His acting is not only impressive for a first-timer, but he is also able to show gradual change as Yoon Shik begins to affect him more and more.
I was especially taken with Park Min Young’s performance. It was a refreshing role to her spoiled and self-righteous role of Princess Lahee in Ja Myung Go. She is both funny and charming while still being intelligent and ambitious, when women should be neither. She was easy to love and I eventually became so used to seeing her dressed as a scholar, it shocked me to see her in a hanbok again! She is not only completely lovely, but also able to effortlessly capture the hearts of her audience in this role. Though I didn’t like her as Princess Lahee, I could tell that she invested all of her energy in becoming the person she portrays on the small screen. You can’t hate a character if the actor is bad!
As a huge fan of saeguk dramas, I was hesitant when I watched the first episode. The show tried to cater to a younger audience, those who wouldn’t normally watch something historical. The fresh cast managed to catch both the old and young alike, as apparently women in their thirties and forties became a fan of Yoochun through his performance in the drama. Even young children began calling him by his character’s name! The drama managed to funny and sweet, and yet heartwarming and inspiring at the same time. It shows a woman undeterred by the male oppression reaching for her dream. It did a lovely job at blending traditional Korean themes with more modern ones. But there was one thing overall that sold me on this drama: education.
Since the story centers around university students, education is obviously a huge theme in the show. That’s good enough to hook me for life! While the Headmaster of the university is portrayed as bungling and groveling, the king’s personal appointment, Professor Park was truly inspiring. He portrayed a teacher teaching his students profound life lessons in the most bizarre ways. He was open about criticizing students for trying to use family background or money to get higher grades. Though he is first and foremost an aide to the king, you can tell that he is also a scholar himself. I was absolutely thrilled to see how he supported our OT4 throughout the drama. It’s the kind of teacher I aspire to be one day.
I also completely fell in love with Song Joong Ki while watching this drama. Though I initially hated him on first sight of the horribly clashing combination of bright colours that shouldn’t exist in traditional clothing, he eventually found a place in my heart. Yong Ha’s close friendship with Jae Shin also captured my heart. Though they are meant to be sworn brothers, their epic bromance evolved into something very real to me. I longed for them to exchange vows of love as Sun Joon and Yoon Hee had. But alas, that may be too much to ask of a Korean drama just yet!