Edited by Jeon Gyeong Ju
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Gumiho, a mythical nine-tailed creature (or monster) from traditional Korean tales, is loved by the media. Though it was mostly described as a “femme fatale” that wants to become a human being, in the recent tvN drama Tale of the Nine-Tailed, gumiho was reborn as an “homme fatale,” mesmerizing viewers with subtly different charms. The concept of male gumiho was also introduced in the 2013 MBC drama Gu Family Book, starring Lee Seung Gi and Suzy, but Tale of the Nine-Tailed‘s Lee Yeon, played by Lee Dong Wook, is portrayed as a more irresistible being who you “would want to take out your own liver for.” Lee Dong Wook’s magical charm, in fact, has been completed when he played the unprecedented grim reaper role in tvN’s hit-drama Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, aka Goblin.
A “Western Appearance” Grim Reaper Perfectly Mixed with Traditional Material
Like gumiho, the grim reaper has become one of the favorite characters in historical or fantasy dramas. Most of the time, pale faces, black gat ( traditional hat) and durumagi (traditional overcoat), and an authoritarian personality of never letting go of the deceased souls are their trademarks. However, Goblin‘s grim reaper shows off his sophisticated looks with a black fedora and a double-breasted suit, and is portrayed as someone with a tender side such as avoiding people’s touch because he doesn’t want to feel the pain of looking into their past lives. Lee Dong Wook’s sculpture-like features completely turned the tide on the images of the “angel of death” to the point where we thought, “If he’s the grim reaper, I will gladly follow him.” Thanks to Goblin that successfully reinterpreted traditional tales with a modernistic touch, Lee Dong Wook has grown into an all-rounder actor who can flawlessly pull off the rather strange character like male gumiho.
A Sad and Romantic Guy Seized by the Past Life – Lee Dong Wook Titled with “Romance King”
Lee Dong Wook, who has received extraordinary attention since his debut for his beautiful appearance, filled up his filmography with colorful romance dramas such as My Girl, the first drama that made him into the next Hallyu star, Bittersweet Life, Scent of a Woman, and Bubble Gum. Though he might think otherwise, Goblin indeed became another major turning point in his career. Goblin‘s grim reaper fell in love with Sunny, the reincarnation of his wife he killed due to misunderstandings in his past life, wished her happiness by erasing all her sad memories, including himself, and fully acted as the centerpiece that dragged the play to a deep catastrophe.
The grim reaper’s, no, Wang Yeo’s desperate love, which seems to show the “next level” romance more than any other roles played by Lee Dong Wook, received explosive reactions from viewers around the world. And now, we can’t help but expect how Lee Dong Wook, who has established himself as the best “romance master” by showing various colors of love, will finish his fateful romance with Jo Bo Ah in Tale of the Nine-Tailed.
Bromance Between Goblin and Grim Reaper
Along with the bittersweet romance between the main characters, the bromance between “goblin” Gong Yoo and “grim reaper” Lee Dong Wook was undoubtedly another element that boasted the drama’s fun. The grim reaper who makes fun or teases the goblin with childish attacks like singing “Goblin’s Briefs” song or the grim reaper who suffers when the goblin forgets about their telepathy and confesses his love for Ji Eun Tak in his mind. The “bickering bromance” between the two was the number one contributor to the drama’s early bouncy atmosphere and putting a smile on viewers’ faces. Of course, it would be unfair to skip the synergy created by their stunning visuals. Lee Dong Wook’s bromance, which was deliciously unfolded in Goblin, has ripened even more as it developed into a completely different aspect, a “love and hatred” with his half-brother Lee Rang (Kim Bum), in Tale of the Nine-Tailed. We would have to keep our eyes open to see whether the Lee Yeon-Lee Rang relationship will be resolved sadly yet happily like the grim reaper-goblin relationship in Goblin or come to a sad ending for both.
Editor Jeon Gyeong Ju: A natural-born media geek who is physically Korean and mentally multinational. All dramatic stories are my favorite sweets for life. TVs and streaming platforms are not only the playgrounds but also the weapons.