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Golden Oldies of Korean Romantic Comedy: My Sassy Girl and The Classic

Amidst the ongoing Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic, cinemas are still far from normalcy. Due to the high contagiousness of COVID-19, people are still wary of activities in public spaces. Therefore, many moviegoers are deciding to watch movies in their homes instead of going to cinemas. September is a month when the leaves will begin falling off trees, and the atmosphere of the fall encourages people to watch romance movies. For this month’s review, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) is eager to recommend two golden oldies of the Korean romantic comedy genre, My Sassy Girl, released in 2001, and The Classic, released in 2003. My Sassy Girl and The Classic are renowned romance movies that are already well-known to romance enthusiasts. Let’s trace back and feel the social atmosphere of the 2000s together.

Poster of My Sassy Girl (12baranlm.com) / Poster of The Classic (dienanh.net)

About My Sassy Girl

Short Summary of My Sassy Girl *Spoiler-Alert*

The Girl (acted by Jun Ji-hyun) is drunk on the subway, and Gyun-woo (acted by Cha Tae-hyun) helps her get home safely, which leads them to become friends. The Girl is a buoyant university student majoring in piano and is never afraid to speak her mind. She is far from being shy, and as she cannot tolerate injustice, is not scared to speak up in public. On the other hand, Gyun-woo’s personality is the complete opposite. Gyun-woo has a very timid personality and is greatly insecure about speaking in public. The only thing that The Girl and Gyun-woo have in common is that they are both university students of the same age. As Gyun-woo becomes more intimate with The Girl, he begins doing things that he had never done in his entire life. He bunks off school, goes to a bar wearing a high school uniform, and sneaks into an amusement park late at night to celebrate the birthday of The Girl. When they sneak into the amusement park, they accidentally encounter a deserter from the army and overcome this adversity together. However, the two have to break up for a while because The Girl’s parents firmly oppose the relationship between her and Gyun-woo. A few months later, they coincidentally cross paths. However, they encounter another obstacle. The Girls’ ex-boyfriend has passed away, and guided by her wounded heart, she finds herself reliving her memories with her ex-boyfriend through Gyun-woo. She feels guilt towards Gyun-woo and tells him that they should spend some time apart for a while. They bury a time capsule under a pine tree, promising to meet each other again one day. A few years later, The Girl goes to meet the mother of her exboyfriend and meets Gyun-woo by chance. It turns out that the mother of her ex-boyfriend was actually Gyun-woo’s aunt, making the two cousins. Gyun-woo’s aunt wants to pair off The Girl with Gyun-woo, and the movie ends with The Girl and Gyun-woo dramatically being reunited.

The Girl and Gyun-woo on the Top of a Mountain (sedaily.com) / The Girl and Gyun-woo Entering a Bar Wearing a High School Uniform (ohmynews.com)
The Girl Drunk in a Subway Station (lecturernews.com)

Interesting Social Themes in My Sassy Girl

My Sassy Girl is based on a real story that was uploaded on the internet. In the 2000s, there was a prevailing atmosphere of patriarchy within Korean society. Therefore, it was much more common to see relationships wherein men were more dominant over their girlfriends while women were relatively passive. My Sassy Girl, however, presented a couple with a totally different power dynamic, where a woman would take the lead and the man would having a passive personality. In the movie, The Girl is an extremely confident and unapologetic woman who leads her dates with Gyun-woo and does whatever she likes. This kind of personality of The Girl represents an independent woman that could look out for herself without the help of a man. Meanwhile, viewers must remember that the type of couple shown is not the ideal type of couple that everyone should follow; however, the characters of the movie were very fresh, opposite to the social atmosphere of the time that insinuated that women like competent men and only fall for men who are masculine . The movie was a box office hit, and this supports the fact that in the early 2000s, there was a switch from the stereotypical relationship between men and women, increasing diversity among couples. This kind of fresh theme still attracts many romance enthusiasts and implies that society continues to break the prevailing stereotypes of heterosexual relationships. This movie was impressive in the fact that it showed both men and women showing each other their genuine feelings, while still having control of their self-esteem and independence.

Gyun-woo Giving a Rose to The Girl (sedaily.com)

About The Classic

Short Summary of The Classic *Spoiler-Alert*

The movie starts with Ji-hye (acted by Son Ye-jin) ghostwriting a love letter to Sang-min (acted by Cho In-sung) on behalf of her friend Su-kyeong, who likes Sang-min. Though Ji-hye also has feelings for Sang-min, she cannot gather up the courage to tell Su-kyeong. One day, Ji-hye comes across a wooden box with love letters from her mother’s youth. The movie traces back to the summer of 1968, back to when Ji-hye’s mother, Juhee (acted by Son Ye-jin) was young. The scene changes, and Jun-ha (acted by Jo Seung-woo), meets Ju-hee while visiting his uncle, and the two fall in love at first sight. Ju-hee liked Junha for his pure spirit and gifts him a necklace. Jun-ha is back in school but, the thought of Ju-hee lingers in his mind. Soon, Jun-ha coincidentally finds out that his closest friend Tae-soo is engaged to Ju-hee. After this discovery, Jun-ha ghostwrites a love letter for Juhee in lieu of Tae-soo. A few weeks later, Jun-ha and Ju-hee encounter each other by chance, and Tae-soo realizes the relationship between Jun-ha and Ju-hee. Tae-soo tells his father that he wants to break off the engagement. His father, however, is frustrated and expresses his outrage towards Tae-soo. Tae-soo, burdened by the situation, attempts suicide. Fortunately, Jun-ha finds Tae-soo in this vulnerable state and prevents him from pushing through with taking his own life. Jun-ha feels guilty and decides to forget Juhee and participate in the Vietnam War. After losing his sight from the war, Jun-ha comes back and lies to Ju-hee, telling her that he is already married. Eventually, Ju-hee is forced to marry Tae-soo. The scene switches back to the present, and Jihye makes up her mind to meet Sang-min. Ji-hye tells Sangmin the sad love story of her mother, then Sang-min, shedding tears from his eyes, hands Ji-hye the necklace that Ju-hee gave Ju-hee. Sang-min confesses to Ji-hye that Jun-ha is actually his father and the movie ends with Ji-hye and Sang-min realizing the love they feel for each other.

Ju-hee and Jun-ha in the Midst of Rain (star.ohmynews.com)

The Romantic Allure of The Classic

1. Sentimental Love Letters

sea. I think of you when the moon’s glimmer is reflected in the springs.” This is a quote from the love letter sent from Jun-ha to Ju-hee, as well as Ji-hye to Sang-min – an excerpt taken from a love poem written by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “When the leaves are trembling in the breeze, it means that the person you love is thinking of you.” This is also a quote from the love letter that Jun-ha sent to Ju-hee. These lines from the movie amplify the atmosphere of sweet love and elevate the romantic sensations to a much more sophisticated form of poetic expression. Merely hearing the quotes taken from the love letters in the movie stimulates the audience’s senses, encouraging them to reminisce on the memory of their first loves.

Ji-hye Reading the Love Letters of her Mother (lecturernews.com)

2. Renowned Soundtrack

Most of The Classic’s recognition is attributed to the excellent performances of the main characters : Son Ye-jin, Cho Insung, and Jo Seungwoo. Thanks to their spectacular acting skills, the movie received lots of critical acclaim. Along with the actors’ wonderful rendition of the characters, the heartbreaking love story of Jun-ha and Ju-hee also played a great role in appealing to its audiences. Aside from the acting abilities and the storyline, however, the soundtrack of the movie also attributed to the film’s success as it was very skillfully constructed and worked in great harmony with each scene. One of the most well-known songs from The Classic is I to You, You to Me by Scenery of Riding A Bicycle. This song was inserted in the scene when Jihye and Sang-min were running across a university campus during a downpour, sharing one jacket as an umbrella to avoid the rain. The soundtrack heightens the romantic scenery of the sequence with a beautiful melody. Also It is Not Love If It Hurts Too Much by Kim Kwangseok was also placed in the movie, heightening viewers’ perceptions of melancholy.

Ji-hye and Samg-min Running Across Campus During the Downpour (star.ohmynews.com)
Sang-min Directing the Play (lecturernews.com)

함여민  12345hym@naver.com

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