Primarily a dialogue drama that is relatively slow-paced. I wouldn't recommend it for viewers who are impatient and want a lighthearted watch. The show focuses on business, politics, and societal issues in South Korea. Having lived in Korea, Life is so real that it hurts sometimes. If you liked Stranger, chances are you will love Life.
Following her first megahit drama, Stranger, writer Lee Soo Yeon brings us a refreshing drama that touches on societal problems while bringing to question how one's life should be lived and valued. This drama is entirely business, political and psychological, with surprisingly minimal medical scenes despite taking place within a university hospital. Unlike Stranger, there is moderate romance involved but it is definitely woven into the story without ruining the dark bureaucratic atmosphere. Moreover, rather than focusing on mysterious deaths (which is the opening scene), Life depicts the struggles of just your average-day life from numerous different perspectives.
I tend to stay away from medical dramas where nothing much really happens besides some overreaction with a patient dying and the heroes coming to say the day. Medical dramas are boring to me. But Life is completely different and kept me captivated the entire ride without a single moment of boredom. You know when you have snacks to eat when you watch a show, and by the time the drama ends you ate it all without realizing? Well when I watched Life, all my snacks were left untouched because I had to give the drama my undivided attention.
What makes one Life one of the best dramas I have ever seen is how they portray a certain situation or community problem from angles. Most dramas have a clear villain, a clear hero protagonist who will save the day, and the thin line between good and evil is easily distinguishable. Life shines all characters in a favorable and negative light at the exact same time. In the beginning, from one perspective, it's easy to characterize a person as "bad" for reasons such as "greedy" or "heartless." But then when you look at it from their perspective, there is no true right decision or wrong decision. Life really makes you confused and hating a character yet understanding and loving the same character at the same time. And I'm not talking about the bullshit kdrama "oh this handsome serial killer was neglected as a child so it's totally understandable for him to torture and murder people" type of understanding.
The beginning of Life starts out slow, especially in the first episode. But the beginning episodes lay out the political and business foundation that the rest of the story will revolve around. It's important to really comprehend what the problem at hand is in the beginning or else the characters and the ending will be pretty damn confusing. The story is brilliantly written and all the mysteries are woven together with little to no plot-holes left behind. The characters are well-drawn out, and the complexity of each person's position brings to light the different pains people have in their daily lives. Even if you're not a doctor, I think the daily struggles that these doctors have generalize to everyone who feels like life can be hard and distressing at times. The ending of the drama... Oh my god the ending. It's one of the best endings I have ever seen.
If you want to get pretentiously deep, Life does debate a lot of moral themes. Some themes I observed were:
What makes one person's life more meaningful or successful than another persons?
What makes one person a "good" person, and another a "bad person." What's the criteria of judgement?
Should all people be treated equal? Or should discretion based on circumstances rule (individual bias good or bad)?
Legality or Morality? Should we follow all procedures by the law or use our own moral judgement?
What's more important, the discovery of the truth or resolution of conflict?
Acting was phenomenal 10/10. I must say, the cast was one of the most stacked casts I have ever seen.
Yes, Lee Dong Wook was a bit underwhelming, but that's okay. I think he played his character well (his character wasn't a charismatic character, not much he can do).
Cho Seung Woo is a phenomenal actor and I felt like was clearly the main character of Life over Lee Dong Wook. I personally don't think Korean actors are the best at acting, but Cho Seung Woo is just brilliant. His acting in Life may very well have exceeded his acting in Stranger which is saying something!
It's time for Yoo Jae Myung to get a main character role. He has proven his brilliant acting again and again.
Lee Kyu Hyung takes on such interesting roles in all his dramas (Haerong in Prison Playbook) and Life was no different. You'll love him in this drama. He actually plays two characters, you'll see what I mean.
The rest of the cast, Moon So Ri, Cheon Ho Jin, Moon Sung Geun... just stacked I tell you. The acting matched the loftly quality of the drama.
Honestly the worst thing about this drama was the music, and the music was pretty good too. Just nothing that stood out that much to me other than that obnoxious loud "epic" boom soundtrack when the end of the episode draws near. I suppose Han Dong Geun's OST 1 "Home" was really good but it never really played during the show. Now that I think of it, because this drama was mostly a dialogue show, there wasn't as much music that played between scenes compared to other kdramas.
This is one of the rare dramas where I give the re-watch value a 10/10 because the mysterious death isn't the important point in this drama. It's about problems in society (particularly in the bureaucratic Korean society) and how different people, given their different positions, have different perspectives on how to solve the problem. In the process, how people view themselves as right and good, while viewing others with different opinions as wrong and bad. I think a lot can be learned about psychologically or at least thought about by watching Life. I think this drama would be just as interesting the second time around. It was a complex drama for sure, so watching it again would also clarify a lot of things for me.
Masterpiece! Thank you to everyone who produced this enlightening drama!
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This review may contain spoilersA drama doesn't have to have a well-written story and deep character development in order for it to be enjoyable and good. Mydramalist should really add a "enjoyment" rating alongside the story, acting, music, and rewatch value ratings because some shows such as Secretary Kim aren't the "brilliant masterpiece" drama that some people are looking for, but are still a neat cute amusement ride that casual kdrama watchers can enjoy.
As soon as the drama finished, I saw a lot of reviews here that criticized how cringy, forced, and cliche the romance story was, and how shallow the characters were. I don't necessarily disagree with that, but that doesn't take away from how enjoyable and funny the cringy, forced, and cliche romance story was. The characters were shallow, but they were still funny and likable in many aspects. The point of the show isn't to come off as masterfully written story that leaves the audience in awe at every turn, but rather just to be an easy lighthearted drama for romance-comedy lovers to enjoy during their free time.
On the other hand, I've also seen people rate the story a 10/10, and calling Secretary Kim one of the best romance-comedy dramas of all time, which I'm going to have to disagree with. The reason being that there have been other romance-comedies such as Coffee Prince and Secret Garden that simply had a better story line, had more relatable characters as well as character development, and overall were a lot more memorable and enjoyable than Secretary Kim.
The overused story in Korean drama fantasy land of rich chaebol company owner male falling in love with the innocent female who is not-so-rich and is working hard to pay her [family's] debts and bills. Ha, the classic. Nothing much to analyze but it's yer old same old same old happily-ever-after romance-comedy story in Korean lala land. Although, if there is one thing to touch on, I personally did not like the dark childhood past of Lee Yeong Joon and Kim Mi So. It was even more forced than the romance in the show, and it didn't add anything to the show as a whole. In fact, I would go as far as to say that took away from the show because it tried to be something the show wasn't (a touching, dark show) and failed miserably at it. Somebody feel free to tell me exactly what the point of that past was besides to force down the audience's throats that our two protagonists were destined to be together because they had a bizarre past experience with one another as children. Moreover, because of this useless past childhood story, I feel like the drama killed the "supposed to be second lead" character in Yeong-Joon's brother, Lee Sung Yeon. That character was annoying for most of the story, and the show tried to make us pity him towards the end, but I just couldn't see the point of his character at all. What a complete waste of Lee Tae Hwan's character. I couldn't tell if he was supposed to be an antagonist character, but he ended up just being an annoying nobody .
I see people talking about how draggy the story was, but I actually felt the story was fast-paced in comparison to other korean romance comedies I've seen. I mean seriously sometimes kdramas take numerous episodes for the main character to realize he is in love with the girl, and then another few episodes to finally tell/show the girl he likes her, and then another few episodes until they're finally in a relationship. At the very least in Secretary Kim, that draggy "I think I like you" part is completely skipped and they jump right into the meat of the romance rather than the annoying "be a dick to the girl until she realizes somehow through a fateful incident I was always there for her." Now that I think of it, I guess Lee Yeong Joon did kind of do this... But no matter, the romance didn't feel as draggy to me as other romance-comedy dramas which I appreciated.
The acting was definitely the highlight of this show, and I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the drama without Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young, along with all the side character actors such as Kang Ki Young, Hwang Bo Ra, Pyo Ye Jin, Kang Hong Suk, and literally everyone. A big thank you to all the actors in this drama for making the show what it was. They weren't charismatic or anything crazy impressive, but they sure as heck did their job in livening the cringy and cliche as heck roles.
Also, I just want to mention how amazing Park Min Young pulled off the clothing she wore in this drama. I heard she started a fashion trend in South Korea with her secretary clothing.
Music wasn't anything really impressive, and there wasn't a real soundtrack that really caught my eye, but there were a lot of okay songs so I'll just give it a 7/10.
I usually don't re-watch dramas because I don't feel the same kind of enjoyment or excitement when I already know everything that's going to happen or be said. The only dramas I re-watch are the ones with scenes/lines that really help me move forward in life when I'm feeling sad or tired. I feel like the re-watch value for Secretary Kim would be rather low, considering it's all about the heart-fluttering scenes and the childish forced comedy that after watching the drama once, you would know exactly what would happen and it's no longer as heart-fluttering or funny as the first time through when you watched it without expecting it.
Overall, I gave the show an 8 because it was highly enjoyable and I found myself smiling and having a good time which really is the point of spending hours of our lives watching dramas right? If a show is enjoyable, it has done its job. I would recommend this drama only for those who enjoy lighthearted romance-comedies and aren't picky with how "well-written" the story and characters have to be. Anyone looking for anything serious, tragic, or thought-provoking, this is not the drama to watch. Even if you want a romance drama that has a dark-side and will have you crying and dying to know what happens next, this drama is not the one to watch. This drama was purely for cute comedy relief and complete nonsense romance.
This is just my opinion on this popular show. Everyone will have differing opinions on dramas, nobody's ratings are right or wrong; all ratings are subjective. Just enjoy yourself and try not to hate too hard on other people's favorite shows~
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