This story bubbled like Korean stew in my brain after seeing the recent press on 2 handsome Lee Min Ho lookalikes. Kfangurl knows I like inventing ‘brother stories,’ so I couldn’t resist.
Second, I really like Fusions. Like the Japanese dramas “Boku to star no 99 nichi,” a cute drama starring Kim Tae Hee (she did an amazing job speaking Japanese), and the crime classic “Rondo,” starring Choi Ji Woo, who also spoke both languages. I also adored the sugary sweet “Love Actually” with Lee Da Hae (she was dubbed, but sounded fine after the first episode when they changed the voice!) and my favorite Taiwanese actor, Joe Cheng. Their chemistry was off-the-charts smoking. I’m sure there are more good ones out there. I was set on creating a Fusion for my second Dream Drama, and chose the pretty and popular Taiwanese actress/singer Rainie Yang. The more the story developed, the more I felt she and Lee Min Ho would look awesome together. Interestingly, one of Rainie’s most popular co-stars is Mike He, and he’s often compared to Lee Min Ho.
Third, I love creating rich backstories, and after writing this one, I really want to see Jang Dong Gun and Jeon Ji Hyun work together. And lastly, I love using “Meta” in my stories. And this is chock full of it!
I hope you enjoy the second Dream Drama for The Fangirl Verdict!
~ Lady G.
A dramatic, bittersweet forbidden love between a lowly fisherman and a precious rich princess gives birth to 3 beautiful sons. When tragedy befalls their little family, the boys are parted from their parents, and the youngest is separated from his brothers.
How will he find his way back to his brothers? Will the boys ever know the truth? Can love in the present heal the hurts of the past? Follow the now-grown boys on their sometimes amusing, often heart-tugging, ultimately heartwarming, life-changing journey of growth and maturity, forgiveness and love.
- Lee Min Ho as Youn Joon Min
- Jung Il Chae (Real-life Math Teacher/LMH-Lookalike) as Youn Joon Tae
- Ye Xiao Kai (Real-life Media Reporter/Other LMH-Lookalike) as Youn Joon Kang / Yun Jun Qiang
- Rainie Yang as Zhao Mu Lan
- Kim Ji Won as So Mi Ra
- Wang Ji Hye as Shin Jie Young
- Jang Dong Gun as Youn Dasan
- Jeon Ji Hyun as Choi Li Na
THE BEGINNING: 1979
~Meet Li Na~
Choi Li Na (Jeon Ji Hyun), 22, is the daughter of a rich family in the entertainment business that owns the new K-Now Television Studio. Li Na is a small-time actress and model determined to become a big star. She is kind, and lives a carefree but naive life. Li Na’s mother died giving birth to her. Li Na’s father, Choi Chun Su, kept it a secret. He gave Li Na everything she wanted and raised her preciously.
~Meet Chun Ho~
Choi Chun Ho (Jung In Ki) is the heir to K-Now and carries a grudge against his sister Li Na. He is forbidden to speak of his mother. Chun Ho is jealous that Li Na does whatever she wants while he is under all the pressure. Chun Ho is a math wizard, and wishes to join a prestigious accounting firm. His father convinces him there was more money to be made in the Entertainment industry. Chun Ho becomes the head of the studio accounting department and also develops a system of ‘cooking the books.’
~Meet The Original OTP~
One hot afternoon Li Na goes sailing around Haeundae with friends, but they veer off into the fishing lanes. They nearly collide with a boat and are told to sail elsewhere. A young, handsome fisherman (Jang Dong Gun) is hauling a net, but his gaze is squarely on Li Na. They share a quick smile.
Li Na trips when the boat is rocked by a sudden wave. She hits her head and falls in the water. In a harrowing rescue, the handsome fisherman dives in to save her. He gives her mouth-to-mouth. When she rouses, she hugs him tight with relief and he is smitten. The Fisherman sneaks away when her friends crowd around, but sends the local doctor to check on her.
Youn Dasan (Jang Dong Gun), 24, is the eldest son and cares for his mother and sick grandmother. His sister had married and moved away. His father was a fisherman but died when Dasan was a teen. He’d taught Dasan everything about fish, but Dasan’s real passion is cooking. He has dreams of becoming a master chef and wants to open his own restaurant.
For all his bravado and sexiness, Dasan is very meek and gentle. He’s not a coward, but he avoids conflict. Li Na feels very protective of him. He is intelligent and talented, but society only sees him as a poor fisherman. He often talks bitterly about the “haves and have-nots.”
Li Na finally tracks Dasan down two weeks later at a giant marketplace to give him a reward for saving her. He refuses and tells her she is worth far more than money. His “pride of the poor” attitude is evident. However, she is touched by the sentiment.
Like a spoiled princess she pulls up a crate and refuses to budge from his fish stand. She even scares away his customers by loudly complaining about the quality of his fish. They argue and she forcibly shoves the money envelope into his hand.
“Fine. Then I’m a paying customer and I want one of everything.”
A bit of skinship turns into an electrifying scene as he grips her wrists and pulls her to his chest. “I’m not taking this as a charity case. This is purely business.” He plucks the envelope from her hand and gives her a little smirk. Li Na is flustered and nearly trips. She tells him to give the fish to the poor, then leaves him her card and runs away.
Every night Dasan looks at the card, but is too shy to call. A month later he musters up courage. He dons a crisp chef outfit and creates delicious sushi platters to bring to her drama set. He serves it to the cast and crew as a gift from Li Na. She is shocked and happy but scolds him for making her wait so long.
Li Na sneaks to Haeundae once a week to see Dasan. Their romance blossoms in a loving and playful montage of long beach and surf walks, fishing, and cooking together (she can make ramyun… and that’s it). For her first kiss he teases her – the bigger the catch, the bigger the kiss. She only catches a tiny fish but his kiss is big as the ocean. They are deep in love.
Dasan knows her family would never approve of him. They argue because he wants to come clean and meet her father and brother – but she refuses. He is hurt and believes that she is ashamed of him. But she doesn’t want him to be insulted by her family. They decide to break up.
Dasan and Li Na reconcile a month later; they were miserable apart. He still wants to prove to Chun Su that he’s a worthy man for Li Na. Li Na is stubborn and drops a bombshell – before meeting her father, she wants him to marry her in secret. She’s never wanted anything more in her whole life. He calls her spoiled, but he considers it.
Meanwhile, Chun Ho is suspicious of Li Na. He finds a photo of her snuggling with Dasan on a boat and holding a tiny fish. On the back she wrote – “My first big catch with Dasan. Many more to come.” She added hearts – “First kiss.”
Chun Ho finds Dasan’s whereabouts and sends gangsters to give him a warning. He’s out fishing, so they terrorize his mother and grandmother and wreck their home so badly the frightened landlord throws them out. Dasan sends them away to live with his sister in Seoul.
The Choi family has a big dinner and Chun Ho reveals Li Na’s love affair with a “water rat.” Li Na is furious, but doesn’t deny it. Chun Su forbids her to go to Haeundae or see Dasan again. If she disobeys she’ll be disowned. Chun Ho and Li Na argue and he reveals their mother died giving birth to her; he blames her for disgracing the family. Li Na is shell-shocked.
At dawn the next morning she sneaks off to Haeundae.
Li Na is heartbroken over her mother. She thinks of the marriage offers her father had turned down because he’d lost the love of his life. In despair, Li Na steals a motorboat and rides out to open water. The engine stops far from the docks. She reflects and thinks that her father must have hated her, despite treating her like a princess. Li Na attempts to drown herself. Dasan, who’s been following at a distance, dives in after her.
Dasan is furious and yells that she has no right to take her life, not when he loves her so much that it would literally kill him if she’s gone. He comforts and kisses her. They head back to shore and the next morning, have a quick marriage ceremony.
Chun Ho shows up while they celebrate with friends and tosses 2 suitcases at her feet. She can return for the rest of her belongings, but then she’s never to set foot in the house again. Chun Su rolls the limo window down and announces that she’s ruined his good name – and is no longer his daughter.
Dasan reaches his boiling point when Chun Ho viciously insults Li Na and the villagers. Dasan rages that he loves her, and he will make it to the top of his profession. Li Na will live a happier, richer life than they could imagine. They have a big fight, and Chun Ho gets beaten and drives off.
13 YEARS LATER: 1992
Li Na uses her savings to help Dasan open a small restaurant in Haeundae. Their lives are simple, yet mostly happy.
Dasan was overjoyed when she bore two sons and now has a third on the way. Dasan dotes on his wife and sons. He teaches the boys to fish and swim, and they help him cook. The boys are very close and the light of their parents’ lives. All the while, Li Na’s been sending her father letters and photos, hoping to mend their relationship. Her phone calls go unanswered. Dasan’s often tried to make peace and apologize, but Chun Ho’s always had him forcibly escorted off the property.
Dasan needs to make an important 2-week fishing trip, but doesn’t want to leave Li Na because she has been having a painful month with the baby. She insists that he goes.
During the 2nd week, a storm rages and only 2 fishermen return. Dasan is believed to be dead. Li Na is devastated and the stress causes her to go into early labor at eight and a half months. The doctors find an incarcerated hernia inflamed behind the baby. Her pregnancy is very painful and her body goes into shock from infection when the hernia bursts. Chun Ho and Chun Su race to the hospital. Chun Su regrets his decision to cast her off. The baby is saved through a C-section…
Li Na dies. 🙁
1 YEAR LATER: 1993
Dasan was rescued at sea but fell into a coma. When he awoke he needed physical therapy and developed a permanent limp. Nobody knows who he is or where he came from. His letters and phone calls home go unanswered. His sister has been unable to track Li Na down. There are no media reports about her death. Dasan returns to Haeundae in shock to find his apartment rented and the restaurant sold.
At the Choi mansion, Dasan wails in grief when told what had happened. Chun Ho and Chun Su have taken full legal custody of his 2 older boys and claim the baby died. All the blame is heaped on Dasan and with mounds of debt, he could never fight them in court. They throw him a huge check, demanding that he sign over his parental rights.
Dasan is not in his right mind at this point. He knows his boys will grow up with every material advantage and he believes he ruined Li Na’s life. He almost signs the papers, but then refuses. However, he doesn’t feel worthy to be their father.
Dasan eventually travels to Japan, vowing to make it big as a Chef. Li Na had always told him, the only way to beat her family is to become successful. So they can never look down on him.
21 YEARS LATER. PRESENT DAY: 2014
~Meet Youn Joon Min~
A handsome actor – tall, buff, and tanned – lays on a recliner with a gel mask. His manager rattles off his schedule: two interviews, one televised, and a radio spot to promote his latest drama about to start filming, “Vigilante Hero.” And lastly, a CF with his former co-star and on-again-off-again girlfriend, So Mi Ra.
The actor sits up and his mask falls off. He has it made as a popular idol. A smile crosses his face… but there’s sadness in his eyes.
Youn Joon Min (Lee Min Ho), 26, is the image of his mother in personality. He is both arrogant and sensitive from many insecurities.
Joon Min is on the spoiled side and loves to spend. He has trouble discerning who his real friends are. Because he is big-hearted and wildly popular, they tend to use him. However, once he realizes a situation, he takes action.
Joon Min guards his mother’s secret diary and the few family photos that he has in his possession. He doesn’t remember her well, so he cherishes every word; all the crazy and loving feelings she’d had about her life, hopes and dreams.
One passage refers to him. “Every time I look at my sweet baby Joon Min I see Dasan. I can’t wait to watch him grow up to be as beautiful as his father.”
Li Na had attached a picture of Dasan and later, Joon Min had added his own next to it.
When he was 15, his grandfather Chun Su had died crying out for Li Na and the image had burned in Joo n Min’s mind. He is desperate to put all the bits and pieces about his family together, but his uncle never speaks of it. His only ally who remembers is his ex-nanny.
Joon Min visits his mother’s niche at the columbarium several times a year. There is one photo of his baby brother, but it’s hard to distinguish him from any other newborn. However, Joon Min can tell how he might have looked by his long nose, a trait his family shares.
As a child, Joon Min had suffered separation anxiety. He’d had frequent nightmares and slept alongside his brother for over a year. Joon Min knows that Chun Ho uses him as “payback.”
Joon Min’s popularity had saved K-Now and put it ahead in the Entertainment industry, but he still pushes himself to his limits.
Lurking beneath the charming smiles and flirty winks, Joon Min is starved for real affection and struggles with his identity as an actor. His career spans 10 years. He did all he could to improve his skills; theater, singing, dancing, CFs.
Chun Ho keeps him under tight control with K-Now. Joon Min wants to prove he’s a serious talent, and not just the handsome, eccentric chaebol from his first hit manhwa-inspired drama, “Flower Boys in Bloom.”
His dramas are successful, but cookie cutter and childish. Like his latest, “High School Inheritance.” Getting the lead in “Vigilante Hero” is his big chance. It has a tight, intelligent script, a stellar senior cast, and a big budget. Producers from Hollywood are backing it. If the drama succeeds, they will make their own adaptation and invite him to Hollywood for a supporting role. It’s every Korean actor’s dream.
~Meet Jun Qiang (Korean name: Youn Joon Kang)~
A fade-in to sunrise on a farm in Mainland China. A young man, of average height, very slim, but sinewy from hard work, tills the fields with speed and efficiency. He’s been at it for 2 hours already. He stops and gazes at the broad expanse of his handiwork and checks his stopwatch. His mother calls him for breakfast. He’s right on time. A pert smile crosses his face.
Joon Kang (Ye Xiao Kai), 23, had been sold at birth by Chun Ho to a childless Chinese couple he’d found, that ran a big, productive farm. The baby was renamed Jun Qiang.
Although fairly well-off, Jun Qiang grew up humble, always busy helping on the farm. He’s had one thing his brothers in Korea were denied: parental warmth and love.
Jun Qiang loves the fast pace of city life. He visits the city whenever he can for inspiration and fun. He has his own cooking/foodie blog with a decent fan following because his recipes are fun and he looks remarkably like Korean Top Star Youn Joon Min.
Jun Qiang dreams of becoming an International Chef. His family enjoys eating world cuisines on different days, like Italian Fridays. On many festive occasions, Jun Qiang has cooked for the entire village. He is generous, thrifty, daring, patient, and kind-hearted.
Jun Qiang’s Chinese parents are good-natured people. When he discovers hidden paperwork about his adoption, they tell him the dark truth. It throws him into utter confusion. Using all the money he’s saved throughout his life, he makes a life-changing trip to Korea to track down his lost family.
~Meet Youn Joon Tae~
A classroom in a Korean High School. A tall, casually-dressed man faces the board writing equations at top speed. The students try to keep up. He turns with a sweet, lopsided smile to explain the assignment. Audible sighs escape the girls as they drape themselves over their desks to get a closer look and sneak cellphone pictures.
Teach is known as the “Joon Min Oppa” of Sejong High, a title he grudgingly accepts because everyone on campus found out that he’s Youn Joon Min’s hyung.
As the oldest, Joon Tae is aware of his family’s pitiful drama. The experience of losing his parents made him a sullen child. But he grew up to be just like his father; quiet, thoughtful, and very shy.
Chun Ho had taken an instant liking to Joon Tae because he had the same genius mind for arithmetic and pushed him to academic excellence. Joon Min teases Joon Tae that he is so bland he can blend in with the wallpaper, but Joon Tae is perfectly fine with that. He claims he doesn’t have a “desperate need for attention” like his dongsaeng.
Joon Tae appears oblivious to situations, but is not a fool. He is focused on helping his students and up to his ears with lesson plans and grading papers. He enjoys the challenge and loves teaching. He’s a wise and compassionate shoulder to lean on and the voice of reason for his younger brother. He rarely loses his cool and Joon Min envies his laid-back manner.
Jun Qiang arrives on Joon Min’s drama set and is mistaken for his stand-in. He’s confused. He only knows a few words and phrases in Korean and carries a pocket dictionary and electronic translator.
The crew shove him to Joon Min’s trailer to get changed. He ducks behind the dressing divider when a young woman rushes inside. She’s a fast-talking chatterbox, and gripes about marriage. Jun Qiang can only mumble “Yes” to everything she says. She throws open the divider and jumps him with a huge kiss on the lips. Jun Qiang is startled, but he likes it and they continue to kiss somewhat passionately as they fall on the bed.
The woman opens her eyes, screams, and kicks him off her. Joon Min comes running and pulls a punch on Jun Qiang. They take the fight outside. Jun Qiang is scrappy and tough, but Joon Min is bigger and eventually pins him down.
Jun Qiang calls out “Gēge!” – 哥哥; “Brother” in Chinese – then “Hyung!” in Korean over and over. Joon Min slips off him and they stare at each other in shock.
Joon Min has trouble accepting Jun Qiang is his brother, but he can’t deny their resemblance. Jun Qiang hangs by the set and follows the van to Joon Min’s home. He waits outside his building for two hours, even while it rains.
Joon Min feels guilty and lets him in, but threatens to pummel him if he tries anything funny. He makes him sit in silence with his hands in front of him until Joon Tae comes. Jun Qiang shows them copies of the adoption paperwork. Joon Min finally believes him when he pulls out a picture of Dasan and Li Na standing on a boat holding their sons.
The brothers play a quick catch up with their lives and decide not to tell their uncle. They want to figure out why Chun Ho lied about Jun Qiang’s death. If he’d lied about that, it’s possible that he’d lied about their father as well.
Over the next few weeks, the brothers bond over fun noraebang nights and soju sessions. They introduce Jun Qiang to intense games of Go-Stop and the concept of Korean BBQ and spicy kimchi and stews.
Most provinces in China rarely eat spicy meals, but Jun Qiang puts up a macho front. He’s really a Korean, so he’s determined to eat like them. And he wants to know the taste of all world dishes.
During the meal he gasps and sweats. The waitress comes five times with water jars and he guzzles them all while they laugh.
Joon Min and Joon Tae convince Jun Qiang to visit the jimjilbang. The whole concept of it puzzles him, but he’s soon enthralled with the ice and heating rooms and his loud squeals from the extreme heat and cold can be heard by everyone.
Joon Min and Joon Tae calm him down with eggs and barley tea, and he feels a real family connection snuggling up to his hyungs in the rest area. It becomes his favorite past time.
Little Joon Tae holds Little Joon Min’s hand at the window. They both scream and cry for “Appa!” But he never turns around. Uncle Chun Ho tells them that Dasan wants to go away for a long time, and has left him to be their new father. The boys never really warm up to Chun Ho. Dasan was always mild, and playful. They grow up torn between love and feelings of betrayal.
After relating the story, the boys cry and get drunk. It’s both comical and sad and ends with many hugs. They eventually fall asleep and wake up the next morning in a tangled mess of arms and legs.
Jun Qiang makes a delicious Korean breakfast with many side dishes. They visit their mother’s memorial. Jun Qiang breaks down in sobs, feeling intense guilt. Joon Tae comforts him while Joon Min reveals that Li Na had felt the same way about her own mother’s death, and that Dasan had always assured her that babies can’t be blamed.
The brothers make a pact to stick together no matter where life takes them.
THE LEADING LADIES
~Meet Zhao Mu Lan~
Mu Lan (Rainie Yang), 22, grew up with Jun Qiang and they became close friends. Everyone expects them to marry. Jun Qiang only views her as a little sister. Her family is the poorest in the village and it had been a source of shame as she’d had to put up with constant bullying. Jun Qiang had looked out for her those times.
Mu Lan loves all things Korean, particularly the dramas. She’s spent years teaching herself the language because she can’t afford classes and now she speaks it fairly well. She is obsessed with actor Youn Joon Min and she’s saved every penny to see him in person. Her biggest goal is to work in the K-Entertainment industry. Although not in love with Jun Qiang per se, she’s content with having him by her side since he looks so much like Joon Min.
Before leaving for Korea, Jun Qiang’s optimistic mood had soured. But he’d never revealed why. Mu Lan throws caution to the wind and buys herself a plane ticket. He would have never agreed to let her tag along. Also knowing her parents would never let her travel alone, she leaves them a note, and promises to call often and send them money.
Mu Lan is lovable, with a cheery disposition that disarms people, and she’s known for having a frank personality. She likes the truth to be told without beating around the bush. She’d never attended college, but she’s intelligent and well read. Mu Lan has a keen sense of organization. She wants to pursue a career in entertainment law after seeing the conditions behind the scenes on the drama set, and hearing secret complaints from other actors and workers.
Mu Lan dreams big and aims high, no matter the odds. Her dreams may just come true once she gets to Korea.
~Meet So Mi Ra~
So Mi Ra (Kim Ji Won), 24, is a second-rate actress who fancies herself a top-star. Her background is unpleasant and she keeps it a secret. Her stepfather had been abusive in many ways. Her mother had spoiled her to keep her from severe depression and had allowed her to become an actress.
Mi Ra had been cast in “High School Inheritance” as a bratty schoolgirl. She’d become infatuated with Joon Min after a few publicity dates. As Joon Min’s popularity grew, so did media scrutiny and rumors. Mi Ra had publicly announced that they were a couple. Joon Min had gone along with the charade at the urging of his uncle.
Mi Ra keeps pushing marriage; they are still listed as #9 of the Top 10 Celebrity couples. Joon Min is frustrated and tells her since she’s so good at making announcements, she should announce their break up.
Mi Ra’s secret passion is interior decorating and she’s developed a small client base. She feels misunderstood by everyone – until she meets Jun Qiang. She could not get over the kisses they shared in the trailer when she mistook him for Joon Min. He treats her with sensitivity, and cares enough to tell her when she’s wrong or acting foolish. Mi Ra knows some Chinese, but they struggle to communicate and it creates some funny mistakes. In time, their attraction is undeniable.
When Mu Lan becomes Joon Min’s assistant, Mi Ra grows jealous and petty. She tries to sabotage her until Joon Min finds out and tells her to back off once and for all. Desperate, she teams up with Joon Min’s rival to cause a scandal that spirals out of control. Jun Qiang gives her the cold shoulder for hurting Mu Lan and his brother. And that pains her most of all…
~Meet Shin Jie Young~
Shin Jie Young (Wang Ji Hye), 29, is an intelligent Science teacher at Sejong High School and the boys tend to drool over her. She’s easy-going and makes learning fun through experiments and visuals. Jie Young is single, but hides that she is a young divorcee with a 5-year-old daughter. She struggles to support herself, her daughter, and her widowed mother. Over the course of the year she falls in love with Youn Joon Tae.
Joon Tae’s shyness keeps him from approaching her. The school has strict rules about the staff fraternizing. They control their feelings, limiting their interactions to sweet gestures & notes, and discreet, longing looks across the halls and cafeteria. Their romance seems doomed from the start. But a scandal brings them even closer.
~OTP’s First Meeting Disaster~
After an argument, Jun Qiang leaves Mu Lan at the airport. This is a very personal trip and he doesn’t want to be responsible for her. Mu Lan shows up at the Choi family mansion after snooping through Jun Qiang’s bags for the address. She meets Joon Tae and gets weak-kneed because he looks so much like Joon Min Oppa.
Joon Tae assumes she’s a stalker because she has Youn Joon Min pins and hearts all over her bags and was creeping around the property. Chun Ho comes home and calls the police.
At the police station, a detective pities Mu Lan and they release her after a few hours. She is lost and her phone dies, but she manages to make the best of it for a while.
Jun Qiang worries after not being able to reach Mu Lan, but he knows how resourceful she is. Joon Tae remembers the Chinese girl stalker and they all race to the police station, only to find her gone. Joon Tae wisely suggests they split up. Two hours pass and Joon Tae has to go home and grade tests for the morning class. Jun Qiang gets sidetracked in a seedier part of Seoul. He finds a “rare as a unicorn” authentic Chinese restaurant and realizes he hasn’t eaten since he got off the airplane.
Joon Min is exhausted and furious that he has to hunt for this little Chinese country bumpkin with helmet bangs. Joon Min thinks like a foreigner and visits the street vendors. He finds Mu Lan talking “Kornese” (an ugly drunk mix of Chinese and Korean) to an ahjumma at a ddukbokki stand. She’s drunk four bottles of soju and is nursing a fifth. Ahjumma is upset because Mu Lan hasn’t paid yet. Joon Min gives her extra money and Ahjumma scolds him for not taking better care of his girlfriend. “All she talked about was “Joon Min Oppa, Joon Min Oppa, Joon Min Oppa!”
Joon Min sees her fan-bag with his face plastered all over it. It makes him smile. He gazes at her briefly while she’s slumped on the table and thinks she’s pretty.
Drunk Mu Lan mistakes Joon Min for Jun Qiang and blasts him in Chinese, demanding to know why he left her. Joon Min understands very little. She stumbles all over the street so he finally gives her a piggyback ride.
Speaking with mixed up honorifics, she apologizes for being selfish. She’d only wanted to meet the man of her dreams. She didn’t know how much he (Jun Qiang) was hurting over his family secrets.
Joon Min feels bad for Jun Qiang. He thinks of all the times he’d cried at the memorial over what he’d thought were his baby brother’s ashes.
Joon Min takes her home. She sleeps in the car, but the minute they step into the apartment she pukes down the back of his shirt. Joon Min drops her, rips off his clothes, and jumps in the shower.
Afterwards, Joon Min rushes Mu Lan to the bathroom. She’s pale and sweaty and tries to push him away. Joon Min doesn’t leave her side. He pats her back and tells her to puke it all out, motioning her to use her two fingers down her throat. It seems like Mu Lan throws up every bit of street food from Korea, and Joon Min also starts gagging. At one point she’s so weak her head nearly falls into the mess but he continues to hold her and wipes her mouth each time. Mu Lan collapses against him crying.
Joon Min carries her to a spare bedroom. He gives her cool water to drink and wipes her face and forehead and she falls asleep.
Joon Min cleans up the mess and airs out his apartment, disgusted. The carpet is ruined and so are his clothes. Jun Qiang finally arrives and thanks him for everything. He’s sorry he left her, but he needed to be alone. Joon Min hopes it won’t be all over the media.
In the morning, Joon Min makes Mu Lan Korean hangover soup, haejangguk, only to find that Jun Qiang is already helping her eat Chinese congee. It’s a bit of an awkward love triangle moment. Annoyed, Joon Min eats his own soup, claiming it was for him anyway because she made him sick with all her puking.
Mu Lan refuses to look Joon Min in the eyes, but she can feel him glaring. She wants to die of shame and can only whisper “I’m sorry.”
Mu Lan has no means of getting home, nor does she have anywhere to stay. Joon Min doesn’t feel comfortable having her in his loft. He’s a top star and the press are watching for scandals; he has trouble enough trying to hide Jun Qiang there and keeping it a secret from his uncle.
With his spendthrift personality, Joon Min has Jun Quiang rent her a furnished studio near his. But of course he insists he’s only doing it for Jun Qiang’s sake. And it’s all “for Jun Qiang” when he gives her spending money and makes sure her refrigerator is stocked and she has basic necessities.
Jun Qiang is so busy with his brothers he doesn’t have time for Mu Lan and she wanders the city alone. She visits the location filming site to give Joon Min support. Joon Min sees her traveling home late by herself and has the van follow her back.
After sly thought, Joon Min makes her his personal assistant. His schedule is super hectic and his manager can’t juggle it all. Mu Lan is thrilled and promises to be the best, but Joon Min still wants to make her pay.
~Mu Lan’s Make Over~
Mu Lan feels like a K-drama leading lady when Joon Min sends her to the beauty salon and spa. She comes out glowing. The Korean beauty therapists giving her treatments comically tell her that she’s shed a whole person.
Seeing Joon Min spend all his money makes her cringe, but he demands that anyone who represents him must look the part. Joon Min buys her a big basket of the best skin and makeup products. She doesn’t even know what to do with them all. She sends a bunch in a care package for her mother.
For the first two weeks, Mu Lan is willing to do anything to please Joon Min and agrees with everything he says. Her attentiveness is manic and overbearing at first (think Taiwan drama leading ladies!), but she’s efficient. Joon Min knows she has many opinions and disagrees with him at times but she doesn’t say a word.
Mu Lan’s barely looked him in the eyes since the vomiting incident. That bothers Joon Min more than the puke… he likes her eyes. With her light and sensuous makeup and heart shaped face, she rivals many Korean actresses in beauty. Joon Min is very aware of this. He tries to remember he’s doing this for “revenge.”
~Joon Min’s Revenge~
Mu Lan had never imagined Joon Min to be a pampered brat. He runs her ragged for silly non-essentials. He asks for coffee Americano, then changes it to espresso, then cappuccino, then back to Americano. He complains it’s too hot, cold, sweet, dark, or light. The staff on set are grateful for all the coffee she winds up giving them.
He makes her shop in the worst market districts for clothing, then decides he hates them without even trying them. She has to return everything and haggle with the vendors. Every morning he wants a large glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice but he doesn’t own a juicer so she does it by hand. He likes to tease her by having her rehearse love scenes with him, and moving in so close her hairs stand on end. She gets hot and bothered and angrily calls him kimchi breath in Chinese (泡菜味 / pàocàiwèi). It bothers him so much he makes sure to have minty fresh breath and brushes his teeth extra times a day.
He makes her carry useless stuff in wheelie suitcases, unpack it, then pack it all back up a short while later. He rattles off to-do lists, she runs around making preparations, but he never does anything. He has her set up fake appointments and then feigns anger when the appointments fall through because she got the times and dates wrong.
She’s forced to give him foot rubs on days he knows his feet are sweaty and smelly from action filming. She mutters how his feet are like stinky tofu (臭豆腐 / chòu dòufu). This makes him self-conscious again and he starts using odor powder and washing his feet beforehand.
Joon Min wants his trailer spotless and the bathroom and toilet scrubbed before he steps foot inside, and purposefully leaves a mess. He also makes her do some maid work around his loft. He talks to her extra fast so she doesn’t understand and complains when she makes mistakes.
While watching action filming, Mu Lan imagines herself a Chinese heroine sword-fighting and beating Joon Min down with martial arts moves while he begs forgiveness. But her daydreams always turn edgy and romantic as the warriors kiss and ride off into the sunset.
In real life, Joon Min continues with his inane requests and flicks her away like a pesky mosquito. But he watches her adoringly when she least expects it…
Joon Min eventually finds himself daydreaming about Mu Lan. He blushes from her cheeky little smile, and he adores the beauty mole on her right cheek. Every time he’s close he has the urge to kiss it and constantly puckers his lips.
It’s a quirk Mu Lan loved because she thought he had the most beautiful lips in the world. But at this point she just wants to twist his lips right off. (Another funny imagination sequence!)
Joon Min feels hot and bothered by Mu Lan.
It’s as if she can see right through him and read his moods. As his assistant she knows when to act and when to step back. She gives as good as she gets no matter what absurd thing he has her do. His plan is backfiring. Revenge does not feel sweet anymore.
~Apologies and understanding~
Joon Min never forgot the day his father walked out on him and Joon Tae. Now it hurts even more knowing their baby brother is alive and well. His acting is off and he’s tired and listless. Mu Lan finds him crying in his trailer and he opens up to her.
Seven years earlier. Joon Min was on a mission to find his father; it became an obsession and he followed different leads. Chun Ho blocked him at every turn without him knowing.
Joon Tae was concerned about Joon Min’s health. He wasn’t sleeping or eating well, and made long trips to undesirable places to track Dasan down. His career as an actor suffered. He had so much anxiety and stress that the doctor prescribed him pills.
One night, Joon Tae broke down the door to find his brother had overdosed. He rushed him to the hospital. Joon Min had vowed never to think about Dasan again and moved on with his life and career. Finding his mother’s diary had renewed his zeal, but with a mature perspective. He didn’t want Joon Tae to worry about him, so he kept the diary a secret.
Mu Lan’s heart breaks for Joon Min. She suggests that maybe Dasan had been pressured to leave and couldn’t provide. She tells him about the heartbreak of many Chinese parents because of the one-child rule, and how she’d almost been sold. Some relatives and neighbors had tried to convince her parents to get rid of her by different means. But her parents loved her and they’d refused.
“Families are many times torn apart by bad circumstances, not because there is no love.”
She believes that Dasan still loves them, but shame and guilt keeps him away. Joon Min is comforted and grips her in a tight hug. He apologizes for being cruel. He’d just wanted payback for the puke incident. He didn’t like her fawning all over him like an idol god and had tried to break her illusions.
“I might be a top star, but I burp, fart, and poop like every other man.”
She thinks of cleaning his toilets. “I know that for sure.”
They laugh and lock gazes for a long time. The passion is electric. Joon Min cups her chin to move in for a kiss, but his manager rudely interrupts.
Alone, Joon Min sinks onto his bed and punches his breast. He’s falling in love.
~A love match for Joon Tae~
There’s plenty of chemistry floating through the halls of Sejong High whenever Joon Tae and Jie Young casually cross paths to their classrooms. It seems like everyone but Joon Tae feels it. However he’s thoroughly charmed by the attractive poise, confidence and intelligence that Jie Young exudes with everyone.
At times he can feel her watching him, but it often makes him cower behind his console or duck his face in a textbook.
She finds his shyness adorable and takes the lead in striking up conversations or eating lunch together. She knows the students spread rumors about her since some found out her divorced status, but she brushes it off. She can imagine starting over again with a man like Joon Tae. He’s the opposite of her cold, blunt ex-husband.
One day in science class, a student accidentally mixes harmful chemicals and a large fire engulfs the science lab. Jie Young gets all the students out, but she is overcome by smoke and fumes.
Joon Tae is helping to keep order and clear the halls. He runs with a wet towel over his mouth and sees Jie Young laying on the floor. Joon Tae flings open windows and gives her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. They share the wet towel and escape, gagging from the chemicals. The fire destroys the lab and two neighboring classrooms. The student and Jie Young suffer minor burn injuries, but everyone else is uninjured.
Joon Tae accompanies Jie Young to the hospital where he meets her little daughter and mother. Mom is very grateful and dotes on Joon Tae. She believes he would make a perfect husband for Jie Young, but she tries not to nag her daughter. The teachers finally break the ice between them and develop a friendship, but it’s obvious that both want more.
The fire made headlines, but when telling his brothers, Joon Tae downplays his heroism. The brothers celebrate anyway and even invite Mu Lan, Mi Ra, and Jie Young.
Later that week, Joon Min shows up at the school unannounced. His presence causes an uproar when he pops into class to give his beloved hyung a big hug for being a real hero. He leads Hyung to the auditorium and the whole school is crammed in to give honor to the teachers’ heroic efforts to save the students and contain the blaze.
Massive love rumors spread about Joon Tae and Jie Young. Some jealous girls pull pranks on her. Joon Tae reprimands them. One girl with a huge crush on Joon Tae sees Jie Young in a stock room looking for supplies. She runs and tells Joon Tae that Jie Young got hurt in the closet and he rushes over to help. The girl and her friends lock them in.
While stuck, they have a heart-to-heart talk under the single lightbulb, and the mood becomes very romantic. They admit their true feelings for each other. Jie Young reveals that she lives with her mother since her husband ran off with another woman. Joon Tae is sympathetic and doesn’t reject her for it.
When the janitor lets them out, the students snap photos. Jie Young has a witty personality and tells them, “If I were going to make a scandal with Youn Joon Tae sunsaengnim, it would certainly not be in a dusty closet.”
Joon Tae and Jie Young must face the school board for the rumors. Jie Young is about to be fired, but Joon Tae resigns first. Since the board would rather believe lying students, he’d rather not work in a place where his integrity is called into question. They relent and let Jie Young keep her job. Joon Tae’s good students are not happy and they ostracize the girls who did this.
Jie Young starts feeling pressure when her ex comes back into her life. He makes big claims that he’s cleaned up his act and that he realizes how much he loves and misses her and their daughter. Any love Jie Young had harbored for him is gone and all she can think about is Joon Tae. Jie Young feels terrible and it seems like their relationship has ended before it’s even started.
But Joon Tae has other plans. He shows up at her house on a weekend to take her and her daughter out for a fun day. Jie Young’s ex is not happy to see his daughter warming up to another man. So he continues to push to see them despite Jie Young’s protests. However Joon Tae is not fazed and confronts him on a few occasions. He feels the urge to settle down, and Jie Young seems like the perfect woman for him.
~A love match for Jun Qiang~
Mi Ra cannot get her impulsive kiss with Jun Qiang out of her mind. Every time she sees him she softly touches her lips and he blushes hard. She needs to know more about him. At first her hopes seem dashed because Jun Qiang always hangs around Mu Lan. She wonders what that little China girl has that she doesn’t. However, Mi Ra does not let that stop her from pursuing Jun Qiang. She finds any excuse to talk to him when he’s around the set.
Mi Ra is very dissatisfied with her life and wants a change. Her favorite pastime is visiting the jimjilbang to relax. While there, she sees Jun Qiang. He looks adorable with the towel wrapped around his head. He’s shoving eggs in his mouth and reading a Korean-style cook book. He gets nervous when she brings her mat close, but she flashes him smiles that put him at ease. She has a million questions for him and how he’s related to Joon Min. Jun Qiang reluctantly lies and says he’s a distant cousin from China.
They laugh at their language mistakes. Using his translator, she confides her real dreams about decorating and he tells her he wants to be an International Chef. She gives him a challenge (a first date in disguise): she wants him to cook her a three course meal with food from three European countries. Jun Qiang gets excited and chooses Italy, Spain and Germany. They set a dinner date for the following weekend and coyly text each other throughout the week over it.
Jun Qiang’s European dinner is delicious. They hang out on her balcony with cocktails and attempt to talk about everything. Suddenly, a large pigeon swoops down and nearly hits her head. Jun Qiang springs behind her and pushes her down. A trillion butterflies she’d never felt with Joon Min burst in her when Jun Qiang impulsively kisses her head and it turns into a real kiss.
At first they see each other in secret, particularly at the jimjilbang. Knowing she’s torn about Joon Min, Jun Qiang encourages her to follow her dreams and not live for someone else. Love can’t be forced and she would never be happy. She takes his wisdom to heart.
Jun Qiang starts feeling guilty, he knows Joon Min and Mi Ra have a certain agreement to appear as a couple. He brings the matter up to Joon Tae, and is told that Joon Min would be more than happy to step back from that forced relationship. Jun Qiang is on cloud nine. He admits all to Joon Min when asked why he’s always so happy and stepping out nights.
Joon Min asks something that shocks him.
“Then… can I have Mu Lan?”
Joon Tae smiles knowingly. Jun Qiang says that Mu Lan was never “his” to begin with. The brothers give each other their blessings to pursue the women.
Again at the jimjilbang, Mi Ra and Jun Qiang lay down and she snuggles behind him. Jun Qiang abruptly turns and they are nose to nose.
“Noona, I am not Joon Min. Please don’t substitute me for him.”
“No you’re not. And I’m fine with it.” She rests her forehead on his and closes her eyes. He smiles and puts his arm over her and they fall asleep.
They continue to have frequent dinner dates (he insists on cooking every meal) and grow closer and closer. At a time when she would normally call Joon Min, she dials Jun Qiang desperately. He runs over and protects her when her drunk stepfather tries to break into her home to take money off her. The incident makes the papers, and Mi Ra is forced to publicly break it off with Joon Min. However, Joon Min takes a little heat by saying they’d broken up privately a few months earlier.
~Meet Ryu Yoon Shi~
One of the supporting actors on “Vigilante Hero,” Ryu Yoon Shi (Lee Joon), sets his sights on Mu Lan. But he’s no “Perfect Second Lead.”
Yoon Shi has a reputation as a player and is prone to angry outbursts on drama sets. He speaks Chinese well and flirts with Mu Lan at every opportunity (something Joon Min takes notice of, and later, Mu Lan finds Chinese language learning books in his trailer).
Yoon Shi convinces her to have coffee, then another time, lunch. She’s flattered but cancels other dates when Joon Min purposely gives her more work to do.
Yoon Shi is not easily pushed aside and continues to send her flirty notes and little gifts. At first she accepts gratefully. The Youn brothers are all busy doing their own thing. Jun Qiang’s wasted no time finding a relationship and Joon Min is simply working her to death as his assistant without really talking to her. She feels very alone.
~The Nanny: Baek Hyun Ae~
Baek Hyun Ae (Do Ji Wan), 48, had been employed by the Choi family as a housekeeper since Li Na was a teen. She grew up an orphan. Her manner is gentle, loyal, but firm when necessary. Despite her low status in society, she’s very intelligent and driven. Chun Ho had been attracted to her, but they couldn’t have a proper relationship. He’d chosen status and wealth over love when his father arranged his marriage to an investor’s daughter.
Hyun Ae had been heartbroken, but quickly saw what a cold person Chun Ho could be, even to his spouse. She realized that she’d dodged a bullet. Hyun Ae then earned her nursing degree and returned to the family as a nanny and nurse for Chun Su. She never learned the truth about Jun Qiang.
Chun Su had secretly hidden the mounds of letters Dasan had sent over the years, because he’d feared Chun Ho would shred or burn them. Hyun Ae had made a pact with a dying Chun Su to keep the letters and give them to the boys after they’d established their lives and careers. Chun Su’s death had sent Joon Min on his downward spiral for a time.
During that time Hyun Ae reached out to Dasan in Japan. She gained his trust and became a go-between for him and his sons. She sent Dasan pictures and kept him up-to-date on their lives. He put her in charge of a secret Korean bank account for them. At times he would dispense fatherly wisdom to help when they had problems.
Hyun Ae left the family for good after Chun Su died. She couldn’t handle serving Chun Ho’s spoiled wife and daughters. The boys grew into fine men thanks to her good influence. Dasan was kind to her, and even gifted her money when she struggled for a while after quitting. Hyun Ae believes that Dasan is a good man. It took a lot of humility for him to admit he was scared. He knows the boys might never forgive him.
Hyun Ae is secretly in love with Dasan. As a big-time chef in Japan, he seems to have it all. But only she knows the deep pain he suffers and that all the accolades mean nothing to him without his family.
DRAMA BITS AND PIECES
~Dr. Kim the Psychiatrist~
Yoon Shi escorts Mu Lan on a tour of Seoul. Joon Min is worried and dons a ridiculous disguise with the help of a make-up artist. He’s unrecognizable as a middle-aged Ahjussi with a hat, silver mustache & eyebrows, and horn-rimmed glasses. He finds them at the amusement park. It’s all kinds of ridiculous when Ahjussi gets on rides by himself, holding on to his hat for dear life and making sure his mustache is straight.
Mu Lan does everything she loves with sweet wonder, and Joon Min’s jealousy grows as he watches, bemoaning the fact that he can’t experience it with her.
The pair go to Namsan Tower and Yoon Shi places a love lock for them. Joon Min notices Mu Lan’s discomfort. Yoon Shi always keeps her close with an arm over her shoulder or hand on her neck, when they stop to talk or gaze at sights. It’s his sign of control and dominance.
The last stop is a coffee bistro. Some high school girls ask Yoon Shi for an autograph. He obliges and tells them Mu Lan is his girlfriend. Mu Lan is shocked. He wants to officially date, but she declines. She’s too busy with Joon Min.
Yoon Shi slams the table and yells that Joon Min is not the only man in the world and runs out. She chases after him in the rain to apologize and almost falls in the street. A man drags her out of the path of cars and pops a yellow umbrella over her.
Joon Min puts his acting skills to use, complaining about the “mannerless young brats these days.” In a stroke of brilliance he tells her he’s a psychiatrist named “Dr. Kim” and if she’d do an old man the honor of sharing tea, maybe he can help sort her feelings out.
Mu Lan, none the wiser, tearfully explains some problems. She feels crazy for thinking a Top Star would even look at a poor Chinese farm girl like her. There are times she hates him and she relates her Chinese Martial Arts Fantasy beatdowns that make Joon Min cringe. But she’s really falling in love with him. Joon Min chokes on his tea at her confession, but it warms his heart.
Mu Lan sometimes sees tenderness in Joon Min’s eyes. She often catches him staring affectionately. He enjoys challenging her, and despite the cultural differences, they share thoughts and feelings in common. Joon Min shows his concern in little ways like buying her lunch and snacks and leaving it in his trailer with a note – “Eat up. You need your energy to serve me.”
Kim Sunsaengnim, now keeping his eyes averted, tells her she’s a beautiful, sincere woman inside and out. Joon Min’s fame must cause him great pressure and he may lash out from time to time. He doesn’t mean to hurt her. Joon Min will probably confess soon, he just has priorities and needs to protect her from the media and public scrutiny. She agrees and promises to be patient. “Dr. Kim” gives her money and the umbrella to get home.
Joon Min runs in the rain overjoyed. He’s even learned more about himself through this phony therapy session. Mu Lan never finds out it was him.
~Yoon Shi strikes ~
A week after the dating incident, Joon Min complains about the hundreds of flowers in his trailer affecting his allergies. They have Mu Lan’s name on them with a dinner invitation that she promptly rips up. Joon Min is concerned that Mu Lan is acting jumpy.
Mu Lan gives the flowers to the staff. This infuriates Yoon Shi and he makes snide, threatening remarks, but Joon Min always interrupts.
Yoon Shi resorts to harassment. He blocks Mu Lan as she tries to run errands and grabs her wrist. He tries to convince her that Joon Min is a hack actor and one day he will be a top star. She does all she can to avoid him. One day, after running a late errand by bus, she senses she’s being followed and ducks around. She calls Joon Min and he arrives fast, insisting that she ride in the van from now on, no matter what.
Mu Lan finally confronts Yoon Shi. She’s not interested, and has a job to do. She thinks Joon Min is the best actor in the world and that he’s jealous because he can’t even get second lead billing in over five years.
Furious, Yoon Shi pushes her against a wall. He attempts to fondle and kiss her but Joon Min appears and shoves him down, giving him a bloody nose. Yoon Shi is ready to fight, but backs off when others arrive on the set.
Mu Lan is scared and breaks down in tears. Joon Min gives her a reassuring hug. He promises that he won’t let her out of his sight from now on. He buys her a Korean Fruit cake to cheer her up. She’s always wanted one because she sees it in every drama.
He tells her that for a little woman she has a huge appetite, but he likes that. It seems almost everything about Korea delights her and he enjoys seeing her in a cheerful, playful mood.
That night he takes Mu Lan and his brothers to sing at the noraebang and they have a great time. Joon Min and Mu Lan sing a cheesy love duet and their sparks are evident to his brothers. Joon Min escorts her home and watches her go up to her apartment. He vows to himself that he will never let anyone hurt her.
~The OTP’s First Kiss~
Joon Min cancels every appointment and drags Mu Lan out at 5am for a long drive to Haeundae. He’s under tremendous pressure at work and needs a break. He’s quiet most of the way, so Mu Lan enjoys the scenery, commenting on the similarities and differences with China.
He finally tells her they are going on a special tour. He wants to visit all the places his mother wrote about in her diary.
They have a great time (cue montage of them shopping, eating fresh seafood, taking photos, and fishing). Mu Lan grips his hand tightly and gives him comforting back hugs when vague memories flood over him at certain places and he cries reading his Mom’s entries aloud. Joon Min takes her to the spot of his mother’s first kiss with Dasan.
As they watch the boats, he wraps his arms around her shoulders. She looks up at him expectantly. He lowers his face close and brushes his lips over hers softly. They kiss deeply. He slowly breaks it off by kissing her face all over, and the beauty mark he loves. They both know it would be near impossible to have a relationship so they don’t speak, but continue to savor the romantic moment, and hug and kiss until the sun is completely set.
They are content to see each other daily but continue to play pampered star and lowly assistant. They sneak in lots of skinship and kisses when nobody is looking… or so they think.
~Jun Qiang’s discovery~
Jun Qiang does not want to freeload off his brothers. He returns to the Chinese restaurant he’d found in the Seoul alleyway. The elderly couple are reluctant to hire him, but Jun Qiang convinces them by cooking a meal from his province and they are very impressed. He suggests they expand the menu and he’ll teach them how to make certain dishes. Over the next month, many customers, particularly Chinese tourists, come looking for a taste of home.
The couple tell Jun Qiang he reminds them of a Korean chef who worked there when they opened 24 years ago. Even his cooking style is similar. He was very handsome, and barely spoke. They’d let him live in the back storage room. He’d worked hard cooking and cleaning, and his tasty fish meals had been very popular.
They suspected he’d lost a child or spouse but never questioned him. He’d always bought little toys and gifts and claimed they were for relatives.
The couple show Jun Qiang a picture, and it’s Dasan. The last time they’d seen him, he’d come for his paycheck, looking severely beaten up. They’d offered him help, but after recovering overnight, he’d left right away.
Dasan had left believing he was protecting his sons’ lives. The men were powerful gangsters and had threatened the entire family. They’d shown him pictures of his sons going to school, and playing in the park, out with the nanny.
Knowing their ruthless reputation, Dasan didn’t want to take any chances. Chun Ho had only hired them to scare Dasan off, but he also knew if he didn’t keep track of investments he’d made with them he would pay the price too.
~Joon Min’s Dream Drama~
Joon Min secretly writes a drama script based off his mother’s diary. He wants to go into filmmaking and directing and has many ideas and storylines. On the set he’s known for “harassing” the writers and directors with suggestions for better scenes. Joon Min believes his parent’s story will make a hit melodrama and he wants to star in it.
Joon Tae uses the laptop and he finds the drama file and a scanned copy of the diary. He confronts Joon Min about his plans and they have an argument. Joon Tae is hurt that Joon Min hadn’t trusted him enough to show it to him.
In the spirit of brotherly love, Jun Qiang cooks a big Chinese meal and suggests they calm down and read the diary together. He knows nothing about his real parents or that they even existed. So how do they think he feels?
The diary is a revelation for the boys. Joon Tae shares the happiest memories he has of their parents and the brothers have another cryfest. The man their mother wrote about does not fit with the image of the cold-hearted man who deliberately gave up his sons.
Hyun Ae visits the brothers and gives them a key to their grandfather’s trunk. She senses how badly they want to find Dasan, and they are at an age where they can try to understand some of his motives.
The trunk is stuffed with hundreds of letters and little toys and gifts and photos of his family. Chun Su had left them a long letter of apology. It’s his deathbed confession. Some of Dasan’s letters are just a few words; all are encouraging – no bitterness nor blame – except toward himself. Many read like a diary, explaining the boating accident in the storm and how he’d been in a coma and needed all sorts of physical and even mental therapy for depression and anxiety.
The brothers rummage through it all and read each letter aloud until sunrise.
The letters are filled with Dasan’s hopes and dreams for their good futures, and what he’d imagined his third son to be like. He’d hoped one of them would become a chef. He tells the full story of his love for Li Na and their marriage. He spoke about his life and career in Japan. He’d never stopped writing, even when it’d become obvious that his boys seemed to have forgotten him.
That afternoon the brothers make a road trip to Haeundae to visit the beach their parents once frolicked on. They get in some bonding time fishing, and stay until after sunset and watch it together with their arms over each other. They’ve softened their bitterness toward Dasan. But Joon Min stubbornly insists he doesn’t care if he never appears in their lives again.
~Joon Tae’s Dilemma~
At his uncle’s urging, Joon Tae takes the job as head accountant for K-Now Studios. He spends weeks balancing the books, but eventually uncovers fraud, tax evasion, slush funds, and embezzlement through the years.
He doesn’t know how to confront his uncle. But Chun Ho tells him during a private dinner that whatever he finds, he must look the other way. He lays a guilt trip, claiming it wasn’t easy nor cheap to raise two boys along with his own wife and daughters. So Joon Tae backs down.
Jie Young is worried about Joon Tae after she listens supportively to his concerns. She goes to Joon Min for help. She knows that if the studio is investigated, all fingers will be pointed at Joon Tae and that his uncle will play innocent. But Joon Tae feels that if he tells the authorities, the studio will be shut down and put everyone out of work.
Joon Min is angry that his good and honest brother is being forced into a corner. He secretly investigates and Mu Lan helps him gather more proof by interviewing staffers that were cheated by the company.
Jie Young later tells Joon Tae that he must consider the families that suffered. How many long and sleepless hours have the men and women dedicated to making dramas, only to see their wages line the executives’ pockets and pay for their indiscretions? It makes her angry and she gives him an ultimatum. If Joon Tae lets the issue go, then she’ll have to let him go. She can’t see him with a good conscience.
Joon Tae makes two decisions.
As she’s rattling off the reasons he should expose the studio he grabs her and kisses her. “This is why I love you.”
“Vigilante Hero” airs with top numbers and hundreds of fans pack the auditorium for Joon Min’s fan-meet. The audience is wild for him. As the fan-meet progresses, Joon Min delights them by giving an interview, showing a history of clips, and singing two songs. The first love song he dedicates to his biggest fan, and he smiles and winks in Mu Lan’s direction.
Suddenly cell phones start dinging and news crews get a hot scoop that Joon Min is dating his Personal Assistant …and she’s Chinese. Pictures are posted of them together, from their sweet moments in private on the sets.
Joon Min’s manager yells at his crew to stop the presses. The audience (particularly the females) shout, “Otteoke! Otteoke!” Some cry and wail.
Mu Lan is stunned and tries to get to Joon Min. Mi Ra, in disguise, eggs on the audience and a fight breaks out between angry fan clubs from China and Korea. Mi Ra points out Mu Lan and slinks away.
The fans drag Mu Lan back into the crowd and push her around. Joon Min jumps off the stage, but can’t reach her, and everyone’s tearing and clawing at him. Yoon Shi grabs Mu Lan’s wrist and pulls her out of harm’s way.
The fighting inside is quelled by law enforcement.
Yoon Shi drags Mu Lan out of the building, but she shoves him and runs back inside and up a long escalator. He chases her and Joon Min runs up after them. Mu Lan stomps on Yoon Shi’s foot and kicks his leg.
A large meeting has ended in another part of the building for a prestigious competition known as The International Exhibition of Culinary Art.
Top Chefs from 12 countries were invited to take part and Youn Dasan was chosen to represent Korea (despite his home base in Japan). For the first time in 22 years, he’s returned.
He’s achieved the success he’d vowed to Chun Ho, but he would give anything to turn back the clock and live in a run-down shack in Haeundae with his three little boys forever.
With Hyun Ae’s support and coaxing, he’s ready to face his sons. The gangster threat has long passed, and he’s no longer afraid of them. He says his goodbyes to the other chefs and heads for the escalator. He’s determined to find his son at the fan-meet.
Yoon Shi curses and his arm flies out and whacks Mu Lan… he is shocked when she gets knocked over the side.
Like a scene from his drama, Joon Min lunges for her and grips her hands. He will not let her fall and pulls her up in the nick of time. Passersby from above hit the emergency stop button and everyone claps with relief. Some even think it’s a publicity stunt and film it.
Yoon Shi grabs him back for a fight. Joon Min gets in a few punches, but Yoon Shi shoves him hard and he loses his footing. In dramatic slow motion, Joon Min goes flying backwards.
Dasan watches everything unfold, terrified. Despite his limp, he races down a side staircase.
Mu Lan screams as Joon Min tumbles, but a handsome, middle-aged man helps break his fall. Joon Min is unconscious and bleeding. The man’s had the wind knocked out of him, but he holds Joon Min tight and cries over him.
Yoon Shi is caught and arrested before he can escape when Mi Ra points him out to authorities. She’s appalled by what she had done and in fear for Joon Min’s life.
~At the Hospital~
The doctor tells Dasan that Joon Min broke his arm and ankle. He narrowly escaped death because of Dasan’s catch, and Joon Min seemed to know the proper tumbling technique thanks to working with stunt men. But there is cause for concern – he’s suffered a back injury and they won’t know the extent of the damage until they run more tests.
Mu Lan tells Dasan that she knows he’s Joon Min’s father. Before she can say anything else, Joon Tae runs in with Jun Qiang.
Dasan turns from the window and Joon Tae’s face crumples with grief. Jun Qiang freezes and says, “Bàba” (爸爸; “Dad” in Chinese).
One look at Jun Qiang and Dasan knows that he is also his son. Rage at Chun Ho heats up, but seeing all his children in one room overwhelms him and he falls on his knees crying. He whispers over and over that he’s sorry, and he loves them. Joon Tae and Jun Qiang lift him up. Dasan grabs Jun Qiang and holds his face. “You’re alive. My baby boy is alive.”
There are a ton of raw emotions, hugs, and tears as the men cling to each other while Joon Tae and Dasan hold an unconscious Joon Min’s hands.
Hyun Ae arrives and takes Mu Lan for coffee. The entire rescue/fight scene is all over the media and internet and billboards. Hoards of reporters swarm the hospital, the Choi Mansion, and Joon Min’s apartment complex. Hyun Ae is shocked about Jun Qiang. She agrees to let Mu Lan stay in her home until the frenzy dies down.
Chun Ho shows up at the hospital, appalled to see Dasan. The last time they’d faced off, Dasan had been a scruffy sailor with long hair, ripped jeans and a fish splattered undershirt. Now he’s in a designer suit, and worth millions as a popular Chef of Korean and Japanese Cuisine. Chun Ho had been aware of Dasan’s success all along. He still calls him a filthy water rat and Dasan wants to beat on him for the years of lies, but his sons hold him back and Chun Ho’s bodyguards step forward.
“My boys are no longer under your control. I have a lot to answer for, and I will. But I’ll never leave them again. Any money you invested, I will pay back every penny. But until the day I die, I will make it up to them.”
Chun Ho leaves, disgusted. All he’d ever cared about was K-Now’s image. Joon Tae overhears him telling Joon Min’s manager to prepare to work for another actor. K-Now needed fresh blood anyway. Joon Tae then becomes determined to expose his uncle’s dirty deals with the studio and employee money.
~Mu Lan’s pain~
Mu Lan does as much as she can to help Joon Min. She doesn’t want to go home until she knows he’ll recover properly. Dasan likes her and is grateful for her help. Hyun Ae continues to let her stay with her. Joon Min’s miserable because he’s lost the Hollywood offer. He gets in cranky moods from body aches and medication.
Only Jun Qiang knows the stress that Mu Lan’s under because of deadly netizen threats. She cuts her hair and wears disguises in public, and literally hides from angry fans hunting her down. Ruthless netizens fire up the internet, blaming her for nearly murdering their beloved star, and accusing her of using him and Yoon Shi against each other.
While feeding Joon Min, Mu Lan is distracted and spills hot porridge on his lap. He yells at her to stop hovering over him. It might be better if she just went back to China.
Mu Lan leaves him, heartbroken. Joon Min hates himself for saying that. He wonders if he’ll ever recover; he can barely do anything on his own. He feels like half a man. He loves Mu Lan too much to burden her.
Jun Qiang witnesses this. He holds back his anger and spills everything to Joon Min. He shows him all the negative posts and paparazzi photos pointing her out wherever she goes. He’s sorry his brother is suffering, but now, she is too.
Joon Min feels awful, because he knows his rejection hurt her more than any threat or remark. He worries when he can’t reach her and she doesn’t show up again. She finally texts him that she’s sorry for ruining his life, and that she’ll be returning to China soon. She loves him and will be praying for his recovery.
He goes around looking for her with Jun Qiang. They find her in the Chinese Restaurant bonding with the owners, and they gave her a room to stay until she leaves. She looks happy to be speaking her own language and relating to them. Joon Min doesn’t disturb her and goes home. He has a lot to think about with regard to their relationship.
Joon Min recovers well with intense physical therapy. It’s an intense struggle with many pains and frustrations, but Dasan won’t leave his side and allows him to cry openly. He’d been through it himself with no one to lean on.
Joon Min holds a grudge and the tension is thick. But Dasan does not back down. The ice is broken when Joon Tae gives Dasan Li Na’s diaries. Dasan offers to help Joon Min fill in the blanks and they grow closer and polish Joon Min’s script for production.
Meanwhile, Dasan kindles a romantic relationship with Hyun Ae and she continues to lovingly support him and the family.
~The Penultimate Episodes ~
1. “Vigilante Hero” is a huge success and the fans root for Joon Min’s recovery. He is overwhelmed with gifts and Get Well cards. Yoon Shi is sentenced to two years in prison for assault and makes a big public apology to Joon Min and Mu Lan. But his acting career is over. He gets out in less time on good behavior. We last see him as a barista, and he’s humbled, very happy and relaxed, with many female admirers boosting coffee sales.
2. Mi Ra visits Joon Min in the hospital. She admits her involvement in the scandal and confesses that she only did it because she was jealous and felt he’d never appreciated her. She is very sorry to him and Mu Lan. She tells him she quit acting to go full-time into the design business. Joon Min sincerely apologizes if she felt he gave her false hopes. He only cared for her as a friend.
Jun Qiang catches up to her outside after watching her heartfelt apology. He grabs her in a tight back hug. He wants to continue their relationship. She’s still a little stunned he is Joon Min’s lost brother, but understands why he didn’t tell her the truth. Jun Qiang knows she suffers because of her family problems and wants to unburden her. He is returning to China for one more year, then moving to Korea to live with his father and brothers. Mi Ra is thrilled. She apologizes to him. They promise to maintain a relationship and share a long, sweet kiss.
3. Joon Tae reveals the extortion and Chun Ho is ousted as President of the company along with a few board members and corrupt employees. It was a long time coming. With Dasan’s help, it leads to his arrest, and the arrest of the surviving gangsters involved in Chun Ho’s threats and money schemes. The right man for the job takes the lead and vows to improve conditions for K-Now Studios. Joon Tae stays on as the head accountant. He dates Jie Young frequently and proposes to her on a Namsam cable-car ride across Seoul. She happily accepts.
4. Dasan wants to make the trip to China with Jun Qiang to meet the family that raised his son and somehow repay them. Mu Lan wanders around the airport, depressed. She’d wanted to leave Korea sooner but Jun Qiang had insisted that they travel together.
Joon Min sneaks up behind her in a wheelchair and hugs her waist. He apologizes for treating her so mean and doesn’t want her to blame herself. He would rescue her a billion times over again and suffer worse if he had to.
She tells him it’s time to wake up from her dream and they could never work as a couple. Joon Min pulls her on his lap. He caresses her face and gives her a passionate goodbye kiss. He assures her that his love is a reality and if she doesn’t come back to him, he will come for her. He already has secret plans to visit her once he doesn’t need to use the wheelchair.
THREE YEARS LATER
After a full recovery, Joon Min’s drama, “Seaside Love,” is a major hit in Korea and America, and he wins an award for best actor and writer. He’s already writing his next drama, “China Doll,” a fusion romantic comedy about a snobby Korean chaebol who crosses paths with a lovely farm girl from China. He spends more time behind the scenes and learns the art of directing, because his injuries have left him with occasional back pains. He’s content to see his ideas and dream dramas come to life with support from the new K-Now studios.
~A wedding finale~
A grand wedding banquet hall is filled with Hallyu’s biggest and brightest. Dasan has his arm around Hyun Ae, and they are wearing wedding bands. Joon Tae bounces his one-year-old son on his lap while Jie Young’s daughter acts as the flower girl. Jun Qiang and Mi Ra smile widely and hold hands. They are still a couple and his popularity as a food blogger is huge all over Asia. He currently attends a cooking school in Korea and is making excellent progress.
It’s a true fusion wedding. Joon Min, dressed in a traditional Korean wedding hanbok, waits nervously by the altar. The audience oohs and ahhs as Mu Lan comes down the aisle in a traditional red Chinese wedding dress (凤冠 / fèngguān) and jewelry.
She’s a beautiful sight and Joon Min is knock-kneed.
Over a lovely montage of their first meeting, arguments, silliness, and romantic moments, they share their wedding vows and a passionate kiss to loud applause.
How did you like this dream drama? Let us know how you feel about it in the comments!
Lee Min Ho Dream Drama: A Tale of Three Brothers by LadyG & Kfangurl is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://thefangirlverdict.com/2014/10/23/lee-min-ho-dream-drama-a-tale-of-three-brothers/