I’m still casually watching City Hall, starring Kim Sunah and Cha Seungwon. I like the drama alright, it’s not the best drama in terms of anything, but it is actually pretty fun and watchable. The last time I saw a drama penned by Kim Eunsook is Lovers, with the ex-lovers Kim Jungeun and Lee Seojin, and there was a considerable amount of melodrama, what with the whole gangstah/murder/prison stuff. Sure, I did love the drama when I was in the middle of watching it but now looking back, the drama is kind of on the ridiculous side. I tried watching On Air, another drama by the same writer, and I couldn’t get past episode 1. Quoting my Accounting prof, the drama had a lot of ‘non value adding superfluousness’.
The first few episodes of City Hall displayed a bit of that tendency, but I stuck through with it because Kim Sunah can truly pull off cute and I believe in her acting skills. 14 episodes in, there’s still quite a bit of that excessiveness, but much much less melodrama, when compared to Lovers.
But anyways, what I actually wanted to write about is the male leads in these two dramas, Joguk in City Hall and Ha Kangjae in Lovers. A quick recap, Joguk is genius and ambitious in politics, with big dreams of becoming a President. He’s paved his road to the Blue House carefully when suddenly he is transfered to be a Deputy Mayor in a little city of Inju. Here, he meets Shin Mirae, a low ranking public officer whose main specialty is making coffee. And well, hilarity as well as romance ensues.
Kangjae is a gangster, he’s fairly high up in the organization, only answering to the big boss himself (coincidentally, the ‘big boss’ of Lovers and the ‘big brother’ of City Hall is played by the same actor, Choi Ilhwa. Choi Ilhwa has that stern and scary vibe about him that I totally buy that he can be a mob boss). One time he is injured after a particular incident and chances upon Yoon Miju, a plastic surgeon, who nurses him back to health. This meeting sparks yet more meeting and ultimately love.
For me, personally, there are too much similarities in the love development between the leads in Lovers and City Hall which I don’t necessarily appreciate. It feels like City Hall is a lighter version of Lovers, with better actors, and a different a slightly different theme. Organized crimes for Lovers and Politics for City Hall (but really, isn’t politics generally an organized crime, anyway??).
The generic formula is that male lead happens to meet with female lead. And they just keep meeting and meeting by accidents. After a while, they get on nicely (with lots of bickering, of course) and go on a vacation (planned in City Hall, coincidental in Lovers). This vacation becomes something of a turning point in their relationship. But WAIT! Nothing is as easy. Complications in the way, political ambitions in City Hall, and revenge and bertrayal in Lovers. But in the end, love prevails and the couples ride into the sunset together.
Neither Joguk nor Kangjae are evil people. They are not exactly flawless either, but the thing is their flaws run deeper, which give question marks to their characters and make them a lot less likable. For one, both Joguk and Kangjae respectively have official girlfriends/fiancees, but these men continue to entertain flirtations with the female lead that lead into full on romance. Imagine if your fiancee goes on a vacation alone with another woman? Imagine you find that woman barging into your fiancee’s apartment at ungodly hours of midnight? To me, that’s a pretty shady dealing.
I remember in Lovers, Kangjae’s girlfriend Yoojin gets pregnant at one point. Well, Kangjae, to his credit, does stick with her even if he still meets up with that other lady outside. When Yoojin loses the child, she gets soooo scared to tell him for fear he’ll just use this chance to bail. She is correct. He bails after finding out he’s got no more kids in her belly. I guess it’s reality that we cannot dictate how we feel and who we love or how we come to love that person, so Kangjae does act on his own free will to pursue another woman. Still, it’s not exactly an attractive merit on his part.
Joguk’s relationship with his fiancee is not as clearly portrayed as Kangjae’s. On one hand, it seems his engagement to Gohae is purely business and politics as her father is an uber rich tycoon. But sometimes, there are hints that there is also affection in their relationship.But now he’s gone around sleeping with a woman in a tent, later on fondling her and kissing her. Inappropriate behaviour given the fact that dude’s got a lady in the city. This issue gives an impression that the couples are developed from lies and cheating.
Now, I realize that this is not just in Lovers or City Hall, there are a lot of other male leads who wanders from his lady into another heart, but it just feels so obvious and rather pervasive in these dramas (especially since they’re written by the same person) that I couldn’t help but take notice.
Gohae, Joguk’s fiance, when compared to Yoojin is a lot more sophisticated woman, manipulative and slick, and equally as ambitious as Joguk. Yoojin is a simpler, melancholic woman, her world seems to revolve around business and boyfriend Kangjae. This is why I really feel sorry for her when her world crumbles as she realizes that Kangjae’s heart is not in her palm anymore. This is also why I think Joguk is a bit more forgivable because his attachement with Gohae and vice versa is not as strong as Kangjae and Yoojin.
Oh well, City Hall is still airing, I hope Joguk and Mirae will not hurt too much people in the wake of their newfound love.