Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Korean tv takes a brave step forward into equality

So, yeah this is another post about a Korean tv drama, this one is "Coffee Prince".


Come back!  This one has a great story, but its how delicately they treated the main theme that is blowing me away.
 Choi Han-Gyul is the only one without a vest.  Go Eun-Chan is the sitting on the table.

When the drama begins it seems like just another typical poor girl working insanely hard to put food on the table, who struggles against overwhelming odds daily, but still manages to be cheerful and happy.  However, this drama quickly tosses all those cookie cutter plots in the trash, and heads for untrammeled pastures.

Korean society, as most Asian countries, has a vast pay inequality based on gender.  Needing to help support her mum and younger sister, Go Eun-Chan who has boyish looks and shape, lets everyone believe she is a guy to receive jobs only open to men and a higher paycheck, and plays on that by only wearing male clothing.  She meets a fella who is being pushed by his Grandmother to go on blind dates with marriage in his near future.  He's not ready to settle down and pays Eun-Chan to go to his blind dates and act as his gay lover.  Grandmother realizes to what great lengths he is willing to go to chase potential brides away and drops the blind dating to Han-Gyul's great relief.

Choi Han-Gyul later offers her a job at his new coffee shop, and slowly falls in love with her, believing the entire time that she is a guy.  Once he realizes that he is falling in love with her, he tries hugging a girl he used to have a huge crush on whose now a friend, and then Eun-Chan hoping that it will "fix" his confusing attraction he is feeling for a "guy", it doesn't.

He talks to a psychiatrist hoping the doctor could help him get rid of these same sex attraction feelings.  The good doctor asks him how long he has wanted to wear make-up and act like a woman.  The writers are making fun of the elderly doctor's out dated views on homosexuality in a way that hopefully allows views to see that one can't change their sexual orientation through psychiatry.

Things come to a head one night on the beach.  At the end of the clip, he says he just can't be with "him' as he knows Eun-Chan wants.

 It's all to much for Han-Gyul and he fires Eun-Chan, but she refuses to quit, so he stops coming into work and pretty much trashes his house.  Han-Gyul is so torn as to what he wants, being angry with himself for having those feelings, confusion and anger at liking a guy, missing Eun-Chan and hating that he misses "him".

Han-Gyul is in an emotional trap.  Here is a straight guy, who believes he is in love with another man, and wants to be with him, but can't let himself.  After days and days he comes back to work and is surly and nasty and angry with everyone, but especially Eun-Chan.  Driving home from work, he's crying and trying to decide what to do, and begins to remember the fun they have had, and "him" calling Han-Gyul brother, until finally he turns the car around and heads back to the shop where he knows Eun-Chan is alone.

Han-Gyul walks up to Eun-Chan and says, "Just once....I'll say it just once I like you, I don't care if you're a man or an alien".  Han-Gyul tells "him" that he will be with "him" and doesn't care what happens.  Sorry I couldn't find one with english subs with just this section.  But I wanted you to see the conflict he is struggling with even as he is kissing "him", but he knows he can't live without "him".

What I found amazing about this show is they never took the easy way, nor did they gloss over Han-Gyul's emotional torment and confusion.  They let the emotions flow from treating "him" as a good friend, to treating "him" as a younger brother, to despair at being in love with another man.  The writers never once made light of being gay.  Several of the other coffee shop workers voiced their acceptance of having a supposedly gay co-worker.  One of whom said, "What difference is it anyway who someone loves?"

Yes, it would have been better if Eun-Chan actually was a man, but I still think this is a huge step for a traditional society like Korea.  I can see conservatives throwing a fit about this show if it aired on national tv here in America. Yelling that they knew it was all a lifestyle choice, and how dare they air  such a show where children could see it!

Ok, I can see how one could view it as a choice for Han-Gyul, because he does choose to be with a man.  But I see it as someone willing to throw anything and possibly everything away for love.  A love he didn't seek, and a love he didn't honestly want, but a love he couldn't resist, and chose to follow his heart.  Which is what we LGBT folks keep saying, "its about love".

Now, I know you're wondering why Eun-Chan didn't tell Han-Gyul that she is indeed a girl.  At one point he tells her that he likes her better than any girl, he has so much fun with her, and she's afraid if she tells him he wont have anything to do with her, and having some of him is better than none.

She does eventually tell him, and yes he is angry with her, but hey its a Korean Drama, and there is ALWAYS a happy ending.


  1. That was very interesting to see. I like it, but you'd never see it on American television. Network TV would never air that, and it's not trashy enough for LOGO.

    But if for some reason someone has the cajones to try and adapt that for American TV, I'm on board with it. :-)

  2. Interesting story, especially for TV, not to mention Korean TV, but it has a Yentl-esque-ness to it.

  3. Pretty cool. I enjoyed it!

    We've got The Fosters, which is a huge step forward!

    Peace <3