Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by by Kim Hoyeun
The familiar narrative of a wealthy heir and a plucky, penniless woman finding love unfolds once again in the JTBC’s new drama, King the Land. You might think, “Again?” but when you hear who the leads are, you might change your mind – Junho from The Red Sleeve and YoonA, who’s now better known as an actress. King the Land portrays the romance between Gu Won (Junho), a humor-averse heir to the King Group, and Cheon Sa Rang (YoonA), a hotelier who never loses her smile. The intention of the drama is clear right from the names of its protagonists – Sa Rang (love) Gu Won (save) all!
Their initial encounter is far from idyllic. The newly employed Sa Rang mistakes Gu Won for a guest that molested her, resulting in a small commotion. Time flows, and they cross paths again in the workplace, Gu Won as the head of King Hotel and Sa Rang as the employee of the month. As colleagues, their journey from tussles to understanding each other adds a delightful texture to their romantic narrative.
One of the most attention-grabbing elements of the drama is the palpable chemistry between Junho and YoonA. Gu Won, played by Junho, is a wealthy heir who grew up with all the privileges one could imagine, but his experiences with his step-sister’s emotional abuse and family disputes have made him cold and detached. Junho flawlessly portrays the loneliness hidden beneath his composed, icy exterior. Guwon has a trauma about fake laughter, and Junho’s emotional range instantly shifts the drama’s light and cheerful atmosphere.
YoonA, on the other hand, brings a refreshing vigor to the character of Sa Rang, a new employee working diligently at the hotel. Although she might appear passive, she’s quite the opposite. She embodies unwavering professionalism and is not afraid to stand her ground against unjust treatment.
The sparks between the two leads create an enchanting blend of laughter and sweetness. Their bickering is the comedy itself. The highlight being the scene in episode 4, where Gu Won plans an extravagant dinner to celebrate Sa Rang’s promotion, which leads to hilarious consequences. The drama doesn’t overlook its main premise of romance, serving doses of heart-fluttering moments, such as the genuine conversations between Gu Won and Sa Rang in episode 3 that inadvertently happened over drinks.
However, the drama is not solely focused on the romance between Gu Won and Sa Rang. The episodes featuring friends who live alongside Sa Rang also catch attention. They support Sa Rang while giving their all in their careers, showcasing hard-working women’s struggles and dedication. King the Land humorously portrays the challenges faced in the workplace, such as difficult clients and hierarchical issues, while also providing encouragement and support for those who are new to their jobs.
And yet, King the Land falls short of completely eradicating an outdated and juvenile impression. Scenes like Gu Won skydiving into his father’s company on his first day of work, and the awkward encounter between Sa Rang and Gu Won in a hotel restroom, feel forced and unrealistic. The progression of the relationship between the leads and the typical topics like the secret behind birth and hazing in work based on the educational background is quite predictable. The cliché-filled lines and story are also disappointing.
As it stands after four episodes, the romance is captivating, but the cons seem to outweigh the pros. The plot feels thin, and the tone is too light to the point of feeling frivolous at times. The lack of compelling supporting characters to offset these weaknesses is a glaring issue. However, it’s still early in the drama, and there’s potential for improvement. Encouragingly, episodes 3 and 4 have toned down the melodrama and enriched the characters’ individuality. The umbrella scene at the end of episode 4 was a heart-fluttering moment that keeps the audience hooked. As the drama has a considerable storyline left to cover, here’s hoping it can make up for its initial flaws. After all, there’s ample time for “Love” to “Save” the drama. (6/10)
Editor Hwang Hong Sun: A Korean movie buff who wishes that the warm messages in good works will warm up this world at least by one degree Fahrenheit.