Pandemic Diary May 2021: Divorce, Ballerinos, and Ghosts

At what point does this stop being a pandemic diary? At what point does this stop being a pandemic?

I started to commute to my office a few days a week. It’s been good for my mental health to be able to leave my house but also a little relief it does not have to be 5 days a week.

It is giving me more time to listen to some K-pop I’m getting into (shout out to Taemin’s new mini-album, Advice, Gaho’s Rush Hour, and BTS’s Butter).  And I need some upbeat bops to keep going. Things have been a little hard.

 I have also been watching all of season 4 of 2 Days 1 Night but I am going to write about that separately. 


Alone in Love

A Twitter friend recommended this show from 2006 which is not legally streaming anywhere. I tracked down a used DVD to watch it. 

It’s about a couple Yoo Eun-ho (Son Ye-jin) and Lee Dong-jin (Kam Woo-sung) who are divorced but still in each other’s lives.  They hang out, as they did when they were married, with their old friends (Gong Hyung-jin, Lee Ha-na). But they are trying to figure out how to move on from each other, while their friends are trying to get them to get back together.

Baby Son Ye-jin still radiant

While the haircuts and clothing may be outdated, the sentiments of this bittersweet romance were not.  It was a more serious and nuanced story about how hard love, marriage, loss, and healing from trauma can be. All the characters, both the leads and their circle of friends and acquaintances, are dealing with hidden wounds. Some are confronting fears head-on. Others are quietly coping. Even a sullen, precocious child is dealing with her own struggles.

Despite all this, the show balances the heavier issues against lighter comedy.  With strong performances, beautiful writing, and a grown-up energy, this show definitely was worth tracking down. Maybe I fast-forwarded a little with a secondary romance plotline.  Also, just to note, it struck me as a little “racier” than newer shows--a lot of loose talk about boobs, pornography, and some shots of people sitting on the toilet.

And I totally didn’t realize it was Lee Jin-wook from Sweet Home in the role of the goofy, stalker of Yoo Eun-ho until after I saw this.

Will later fight pedophiles and aliens. He has no idea what's coming.



Song Kang is truly carving out a niche with suffering characters.  In Navillera he plays a ballet dancer, Lee Chae-rok, whose father went to prison and mother passed away. He gave up soccer to pursue ballet as a teen. He’s on the cusp of debuting under the tutelage of a famous dancer (Kim Tae-hoon) but his past keeps getting in the way.  Meanwhile, a 70-year-old retiree, Shim Deok-chul (Park In-hwan) who has always wanted to learn ballet shows up in his ballet studio and begs to take lessons. The two become improbable friends and give each other the support they need when they encounter further hardships in their lives.

I really liked the initial energy to this show. It was very quiet with little dialogue. It gave mental space given to the characters to show us rather than tell us what they were going through. A lot was communicated through gestures. We see quiet support demonstrated.

Though the show takes a predictable turn with a topic that is frequently depicted (at least American media), by that point I was so taken with the characters that I rode out the show’s sentimental inevitability.

The show succeeds because of the unique friendship that develops between Chae-rok and Deok-chul. They help each other see that it is all right to “need” someone else and it’s never too late to try to heal pain from your past. They give meaning to each other’s lives.

Even supporting characters are given the space here to learn about themselves and grow.  The bickering ballet dancers who were once married, in particular, begin to communicate with each other more. The disapproving children of Deok-chul face their own personal dilemmas and their rigidity at rejecting his love of ballet softens. 

It was nice to see a narrative that suggests maybe there are other paths to success and happiness.  There’s not just one way to look at your life and the world. 

I was also pleased to see a ballet dancer in wheelchair in a positive depiction of disability. 


True Beauty

I am always a little wary of shows that are so “beauty” centric. As I learned from My ID is Gangnam Beauty, they can be an absolute car wreck when it comes to teasing apart the societal issues at the root of worshiping physical appearance and the pressure women feel to live up to some imaginary sense of perfection.  So True Beauty surprised me. It still has some uncomfortable moments around how beauty and “ugliness” is framed but the romance was actually untethered from this.  And there was a sweet YA-feel to the romance.

Lim Ju-kyung (Moon Ga-young) is a high school student who is bullied by her classmates (particularly a set of mean girls) for her physical appearance. She transfers schools around the time of her bullying and in starting a new school learns to put on make-up to hide her acne.  At her new school, she is immediately seen as a “goddess” (hence my discomfort) all the while panicked someone will discover her secret and her “fraudulent” beauty.

At the same time, Ju-kyung is into horror comics and is a little gothy-emo.  She runs into her very handsome and very smart classmate Lee Su-ho (Cha Eun-woo) when she isn’t wearing her make-up face at the local comic book shop, because he too is into horror comics.  He ends up slowly realizing who she is (with and without make-up) but he’s already kind of fallen for the unusual girl at the comics shop and doesn’t care about her wearing make-up or not. Meanwhile, Lee Su-ho has an angry rivalry with his ex-friend Han Seo-jun (Hwang In-yeop) and Han Seo-jun starts to have feelings for Ju-kyung.

In every love triangle, how do you not choose Cha Eun-woo? 

Not all rom-coms succeed on the comedy, but I actually lol'd quite a bit at this show. I was pleased that the rivalry between the friends was not really about Ju-kyung, but about a past incident that has scarred both of the boys.

As the show lost some momentum with the romance, it picked up the issues between Seo-jun and Su-ho, so their friendship became the focus. And the show gingerly handles these emotional issues well. 

As always, the bad bitches will out in a teen drama and here the mean girls can get really mean. I maybe don’t blame Ju-kyung for wanting to transfer schools and change her identity when these girls are so vicious. Even the ones you thought were your friends.


Bring it On Ghost

I quickly watched this wee romance between a guy who does exorcisms, Park Bong-pal (Ok Taec-yeon) and the ghost he encounters Kim Hyeon-ji (Kim So-hyun) who needs his help.

I’m not a fan of horror-comedy and creepy ghost vibes (the ghosts here were often menacing and gross to look at). And there’s a person possessed by an evil spirit so you kind of know where everything is headed--showdown between good and evil etc.  But I did like Ok Taec-yeon and Kim So-hyun. 

Park Bong-pal is a sad, loner and his life gets better once Hyeon-ji becomes a part of it.  He’s also the perfect boyfriend since he’s a great cook and kills bad ghosts. I assume he would also be responsible for killing cockroaches so he could come over to my house anytime.