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You can always tell how much I loved a drama by the fact that it takes me a week or two to recover from watching it; a week or so to gather my thought about it; a week or two to finally put the proverbial pen to paper. The movie “And Now for Something Completely Different” comes to mind when I think about this drama. Golden Bride definitely fits the bill of a drama that is different. A drama that is not a cookie cutter of the rest. A drama that you wish that they made more of. MDL refers to mydramalist.com

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Stars
Lee Young Ah as Nguyen Jin Joo
Song Chang Ui as Kang Jun Woo
Choi Yeo Jin as Ok Ji Young
Song Jong Ho as Kim Young Min
Kim Hee Chul as Kim Young Soo
Han Yeo Woon as Kang Sae Mi
Kim Mi Sook as Jung Han Sook (Jun Woo’s mother)
Kang Shin Il as Kang Woo Nam (Jun Woo’s father)
Hong Eun Hee as Kang Won Mi
Kim Kyung Sik as Heo Dong Gu
Kyun Mi Ri as Yang Ok Kyung (Young Min and Young Soo’s mother)
Im Chae Moo as Kim Sang Il / Richard Kim (Young Min’s father)
Park Mi Sun as Kang Koon Ja (Woo Nam’s sister)
Jung Hye Sun as Heo Bok Rye
Kwon Hae Hyo as Cha Byuk Soo
Jung Han Hun as Jin Joo’s boss
Kim Chung as Ji Young’s mother



Awards & Recognitions
2008 44th Baeksang Arts Awards
Best New Actor Award (Song Chang Ui)
2007 SBS Drama Awards
Top Ten Stars Award (Song Chang Ui)
Top Ten Stars Award (Lee Young Ah)
New Star Award (Choi Yeo Jin)
Best Actor in a Serial Drama (Im Chae Moo)
Best Actress in a Serial Drama (Kyun Mi Ri)



Synopsis
On the street of Ho Chi Minh, two people stand out in the crowd, Han-sook (Mi Sook Kim), and her sister-in-law, Gunja, who have come to Vietnam to find a kind, naïve girl to marry Jun-woo. However, they can’t find anyone they like, and as they are about to give up, they are approached by Jin-ju who asks them to take her instead.

Jin Joo is a half Korean and Vietnamese girl who marries a Korean man, Kang Jun Woo, in order to come to Korea to look for her biological father who abandoned her. Jin-ju meets Jun-woo for the first time on the day of their wedding and falls in love with him. On their wedding night, Jun-woo tells Jin-ju that he cannot love anyone. Jin-ju is heartbroken but begs him to stay with her for at least two years until she gets a green card. Jun-woo agrees to this “contract-style” marriage under one condition: that they do not fall in love with each other.

The drama is not only about her searching for her dad but also about the cultural differences between her and her husband’s family. There is bad blood between the two families, Kim and Kang. The rivalry is even more fueled because Jun Woo’s mother used to date Young Min’s father but Young Min’s mother stole him away from her.

Kang Sae Mi is Jun Woo’s sister and Kim Young Soo is Young Min’s younger brother. They want to get married but both families oppose their marriage which leads to the two young lovers running away and living together.



My Thoughts
I think this is the first time that I had to literally “divorce” myself from a drama. Why? Because as it was while I was watching this drama, all other dramas paled in comparison and I totally put almost all of my dramas on the back-burner and watched (and re-watched) nothing but this drama alone. So, immediately after watching episode 64, I removed all of the videos from my local hard drive and moved them safely (and lovingly) to an external drive for the next future watch! Amazing huh? Well, folks, even I was amazed! First of all, most of you that know me, also know I like never gush about a romance (okay, there has been a couple exceptions) but it truly is a rarity in the four years that I have been watching Asian dramas!

There was many things that I liked about this drama. The main thing and first I must talk about is the main OTP! It’s pretty funny that when I checked about Song Chang Ui was the fact that I had seen him in many, many dramas and cannot remember him at all, except for the current (and liking it) Dr. Frost. As far as Lee Yeong Ah, most of us have seen her first in the Vampire Prosecutor series and that is where I remember her most. But together, these two were simply PHENOMENAL! I mean PHENOMENAL! You know when you are watching two actors with great chemistry together when not only do you wish they were dating but almost feel like you have been intruding on their private relationship because their on-screen relationship seems so realistic!

I was reading a blog post review (which one escapes me now but I will remember it again) that stated that they counted the number of kisses between the main OTP to be a whopping 35! Yes 35!! Me? I think that is an under-estimation! Seriously!! Every time they kissed I would chuckle as I watched the “12” rating on the screen! Why? We are lucky now to get 1-2 kisses in a drama and those are now rated “15”! Go figure! Oh to have those days again! Another first in this drama was the number of hugs and cuddling between the main OTP! Yes! You will lose count on those two! I guesstimate the count to have reached in the 40s easily! Every episode after Jun Woo finally admitted that he loved Jin Joo would have 1-2 “good night” scenes as I would call them; as the two characters would talk like normal couples would before going to sleep. Unheard of! I think after this drama, I will be totally spoiled about a romance; no more like jaded. Note to my friends: my romance criteria has now reached the stratosphere! It’s going to be really hard recommending any in the future! Just saying…

There is no question that the acting of these two was sensational. Chang Ui as the tortured Jun Woo went from a sympathetic character who had suffered immensely because of his selfish ex-girlfriend; to a man you wanted to slap silly because of his treatment of a woman who loved him unconditionally to finally a model husband that all of us would want our spouses and boyfriends to emulate. Yes, there is a period you really want to knock some sense into Jun Woo. Every time he couldn’t handle being around Ji Young would annoy me to no end! I kept yelling at the screen “Let her go, man!” Then to add insult to injury, his treatment of Jin Joo for 15 episodes especially when you thought about the sacrifice she made to come to South Korea, all of the things she did and learned to help “cure” him, you really couldn’t understand why he treated her so badly. So, it was a sigh of relief when their relationship turned around that you literally “jumped with joy”! And boy I must say, the story changed for this couple DRAMATICALLY from this point on.

Jin Joo was a sweet soul. She loved her mother dearly but her upbringing, as most mixed raced children in Asian countries, suffer tremendous hardships because of their parentage. Even though she was abandoned by her father, her mother loved her also and did the best she could. So, because of her ill health, Jin Joo, being the dutiful daughter that she was, was willing to come to a foreign country and marry a man she didn’t know. However, Jin Joo instantly fell for Jun Woo and she saw the inner kindness within him that she knew was there hidden. Unfortunately, one flaw in her character that will drive you crazy is her insecurity. As Jin Joo quit school at a young age, she was constantly downing herself for not “being good enough” for Jun Woo! And it didn’t help at all with a couple of characters (to include the hated Ji Young) voicing this opinion. I was really happy when she finally worked through this with the help of Jun Woo who had to constantly tell her that he loved her unconditionally.

I could go on and on talking about these two characters alone. For me, they were and will remain the highlight of the drama. All of the other couples were secondary for me. As I watched with my drama buddy, she can contest to the fact that we skip the others from time to time (okay, she skipped more than me!). Jun Woo/Jin Joo WERE the drama! They are the reason to watch!

Another reason to watch this drama was the for the in-law relationship that Jin Joo had with Jun Woo’s family. A rarity! No evil in-laws! No nasty treatment! This family loved Jin Joo immensely! Their treatment of her was actually like their daughter. The family was so happy with the turn-around of Jun Woo that they literally worshiped the ground she walked on. It was a nice change to see in a drama. There were times that they would correct her because of Korean cultural ways of thinking but overall, I really didn’t have many complaints about them with her. Even when the big secret was revealed, very little blame was put on her shoulders by them. Again, a rare and pleasant feature of this drama.

A final (I swear) reason to watch this drama is the absolutely wonderful voice of Song Chang Ui! As a theater major as well as many stage performance prior to his acting career and still, this man has an wonderful voice! His serenades on the screen will just “WOW” you!


I guess I would be remiss in not talking about the second main couple, Ji Young and Young Min. I truly felt sorry for this man marrying this viper! Granted, you felt that she learned to love him but there was always in the back of your mind the horrible thing she did to Jun Woo. I was also thankful that the writer didn’t try to redeem her at the end. She went off into the sunset basically unchanged. Thank you, writer! Because sometimes people can’t and SHOULDN’T be redeemed. I admit that Choi Yeo Jin played her character, Ji Young well. I hated her in the beginning and still hated her in the end. Every time that woman whined or cried, I would just scream “SHUT UP!”. Yup, no sympathy here, folks! The one thing I had sympathy was for her upbringing with the worse mother from HELL played effectively by Kim Chung (some of you might remember her as Aran in Angel’s Revenge). The advice that woman gave her daughter had to be the worse given ever! And always! It was nice to see Song Jong Ho in a leading man role, of sorts. I’ve been complaining for awhile that he is just ignored but it seems I’ve just missed the dramas where he had more prominent roles. I will be a more diligent fan in the future. As Young Min, he went from a clueless man in love with viper woman to a man that really didn’t know what he wanted. Let’s just say, even at the end, you STILL weren’t sure if he knew what he was doing. He was a “Mama’s boy” for a reason. If you want to know that reason, you’ll have to watch the drama!

I admit that Sae Mi and Young Soo (played by Han Yeo Woon and Kim Hee Chul, respectively) were pretty cute, at times. I was even surprised that their relationship went as far as them running away together and living together while they waited for the respective parents to give their consent. Not sure I’ve seen that happen in a drama before. I’m still thinking… Even though Young Soo was so much more immature than Sae Mi, it was nice to finally see him grow as their situation became more apparent to him. Unfortunately, the downside was towards the end when he decides to leave Sae Mi behind. After dating and living together for what had to be a year, that didn’t make much sense to me, even though I kind of/sort of understood his reasoning, I still felt it was selfish. But they were a cute couple and I’m sure all the Hee Chul fan out there loved his screen time. They definitely got the third most time.

As far as the other couples, they were mostly there as filler and a lot of time for comic relief. I must say, I did enjoy watching the Aunt Koon Ja and her love interest, Byuk Soo. The man referred to her as “Ahjussi” right until the end! She was a rough character! No doubt! I did enjoy those two. The other sister, Won Mi and her love, Dong Gu were just there. Those two just made you wonder what in the world did either see in each other.

Lastly, I would be remiss in not mentioning the sensational job that the actresses that played the mothers in this drama did. Not only Kyun Mi Ri as Young Min/Young Soo’s mother but also (and my favorite), Kim Mi Sook as Jun Woo’s mother. I could post an entire topic on just these two mothers. Again, they weren’t your typical mothers (or mother in laws). Young Min’s mother did change over time but at least as you watched, you could understand this mother in law and her gradual hatred for her daughter in law. A contentious MIL/DIL relationship that made sense! Thank you again, writer!

I’m purposely skipping the dads of this drama. I really want you to see them in action so that you can compare/contrast the two characters. Yes, they are like night and day at times but there is nothing I can say negative about these two actors either.

Last point, this is a drama that definitely is an investment in time. I started this on a Friday and as I was marathon watching with my buddy in another time zone and country, we took about week to finish; however, I can assure you that I hardly watched anything else in between (except for my live daily dramas). This drama took over my viewing everyday and I really didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I do know that after the 35+ kisses, 40+ hugs and cuddling, 3-4 piggyback rides and just overall a married couple being a married couple, it will be tremendously hard for me to ever watch a romance again and NOT complain even more profusely of the lack of romance! Yes, I’ve been romantically tainted by Golden Bride forever! Thank you, writer!
MDL Rating: 10+, because I now know that there are real romances out there in KDramaland

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