Friday, March 8, 2013

REVIEW: 1% of Anything (Something about 1%) Kdrama

Episodes: 26
Network: MBC
Broadcast: July 2003-December 2003
Main Cast: Kim Jung Hwa as Kim Da Hyun (26)
                   Kang Dong Won as Lee Jae In (32)
                   Han Hye-Jin as Jung Hyun Jin (26)
                   Lee Byung Wook as Min Tae Ha (32)

This drama surprised, frustrated and befuddled me at times with its many twists and turns and numerous subplots. 
The title drew me in from the start because I thought it was an interesting and unique name for a drama.  “One Percent of Anything” or “Something about 1%” basically tells the story of a kind and good natured young female teacher, (Kim Jung Hwa as Kim Da Hyun) who is drawn to help others.  She meets an old man, (Byun Hee Bong as Lee Kyu Chul), on the train one day who appears to be a bit out-of-it. Da Hyun gives him her seat and a friendship develops from that moment.  Unbeknownst to her the “poor old man” she met on the train is not poor at all but a millionaire who has retired and is bored with his everyday life.  They decide to meet often to share what is going on in their lives.  However, Da Hyun does not know the scheme the old man is hatching.
One quickly realizes the plan Lee Kyu Chul has for Da Hyun.  He wants to connect her with his rebellious but quite handsome grandson Lee Jae In.  Lee Jae In has a quick temper and does not like to be told what to do.  He left his grandfather’s house because he tried to force the young man to marry against his wishes.  In order for the old man to get Lee Jae In back under his roof and under his control he decides to force him to submit to his him by telling him he has to meet and marry the teacher and go out with her in order to get access to his millions.  The old man tells Lee Jae In that if he does not do as he says then all of his money will go to Jae In’s good-for-nothing cousin Min Tae Ha.  Tae Ha is not a very nice young man.  The two young men cannot stand each other and are competitive about everything.  Jae In is determined not to let Tae Ha get anywhere near his grandfather’s money and decides to meet up with the school teacher.
When they Da Hyun and Jae In meet each other sparks fly immediately. She assumes he is a con artist and wants nothing to do with him.  Nevertheless, as they meet each other more often Jae In begins to slowly fall for Da Hyun and is extremely jealous of her colleague ( Choi Min Soo as Teacher Kang).  Teacher Kang is in love with Da Hyun but she is oblivious to him until he forces his attention on her.  As the story evolves Jae tries his very best to keep Teacher Kang away from Da Hyun.  He does not realize, until too late, that he is falling for the teacher and is playing right into the hands of his grandfather.
While the relationship is developing between Da Hyun and Jae In other sub-plots are unfolding with regards to other family members.  Both families are over possessive and obsessive about the direction of their children’s lives.  So much so that it becomes overwhelming to the viewer.  Da Hyun’s parents want her to meet a man like Teacher Kang who is a regurlar ‘salt-of-the-earth’ guy.  They are not at all interested in her getting attached to a chaebol’s offspring like Jae In.  They try to keep Da Hyun and Jae In apart while pulling Teacher Kang closer to her.  However, Da Hyun cannot help being drawn to ill-tempered Jae In and they start dating each other. The story continues for 26 episodes to reveal further tears into the fabric of both of these families and their struggles to overcome the obstacles created for them and by them.
If this is the first drama Korean Drama you have ever watched you will come away with the feeling that South Koreans are traditional, their children are filial, very conservative, that they treasure family values and adhere to hierarchy of the elders within their society.  The love of their culture and food is ever present.  The divisions between classes and the very rich and the  very poor are stark. The deep psychological impact of this divide upon the South Korean pysche comes across with great effect in this drama. It is clearly manifested in the reaction of Da Hyun’s parents as they realize their ‘regular’ daughter has been ‘hooked’ by one of the very rich folk they deplore. Their insistence is almost militant and comes across as extreme and over the top.  While the reaction of the rich family is extreme at the other end when they realize there are some mountains money alone can’t move.
I for one was frustrated by the fact that there was a lack of romantic scenes.  There was hugging but barely any physical interaction between the main characters.  They hugged but barely kissed. Any moment where there was anything beyond kissing was inferred.  The writers appeared to want to portray South Koreans, living in Korea, as people who value marriage and deplore premarital sex: only those who are loose participate in such wanton endeavors.  This was clear  when, Jung Hyun Jin (orphan and battered woman) and Min Tae Ha become involved and she becomes pregnant.  This forces both families to reassess their views about what family, love, marriage and tradition truly means.
This drama is one that grows on you episode by episode and is worth a watch.  The twist and turns and 
numerous side plots will keep you wanting to watch more even as you get frustrated from watching it drag on.  It could have been wrapped up in less than 26 episodes as far as I am concerned but by the end I felt “1% of Anything” was worth the time I invested. 

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