In the Mood for Melodrama, Pt. 2 of 2: “High Society” Q1 Commentary

(This is part 2 of 2. Part one uncapped the opening episodes of Mask.)

High Society is neither as overtly sexy or demented as Mask, and it takes longer for the plot to get going. But four episodes into the series it may offer an even more intriguing central couple.

The elements of the two shows are similar: a wealthy, emotionally abusive family. A hero who will do anything for career success. A heroine hiding her true identity. They even offer two different versions of the clever poor boy striving to enter the elite. The cold-blooded villain Seok-Hoon in Mask and the inscrutable hero Joon-Ki in High Society are two sides of the same coin.
High-Society-poster-uee-sung joon-park myung sik-

High Society‘s first two episodes take their time introducing Yoon-Ha (UEE), the super-rich chaebol daughter who secretly works as a part-timer to escape her emotionally abusive family. And we meet her working-class best friend Lee Ji-Yi (Im Ji-Yeon) and the men in Yoon-Ha’s life, chaebol cutie Yoo Chang-Soo (Park Hyung-Sik) and his right-hand man, the attractive but remote Choi Joon-Ki (Sung Joon).

High Society looks at first like a simple romantic comedy. The only unconventional thing is that the secondary characters receive more attention than the primary characters. Sung Joon’s character is so stoic and unexpressive that he recedes into the background whenever second lead Park Hyung-Sik steps into the frame.

UEE’s heroine Yoon-Ha is more overtly likable than her character in recent tvN drama Hogu’s Love, but she still doesn’t fill the screen with personality. One obvious good thing about her character is that she’s friends with the sweet but pragmatic Lee Ji-Yi. But like Do-Hee in Hogu’s Love, this heroine has a lot on her mind and doesn’t reveal much of it to others.

Writer Ha Myung-Hee and director Choi Young-Hoon embrace the contrast between the two couples. While UEE and Joon-Ki barely speak to one another, Chang-Soo flirts with Lee Ji-Yi, idly at first, then increasingly putting his ego on the line. They appear to be a typical rom-com couple: rich good-for-nothing hero pursuing hard-working poor girl.

But Ji-Yi’s retorts to Chang-Soo are so fresh, and Chang-Soo is so cheeky, that they’re unusually fun to watch. Park Hyung-Sik was one of the bright points in Heirs, playing a secondary character with a talent for aigyoo comic relief. His cutesy ways remain in evidence here, but he brings along a surprising amount of leading man charisma.

highsociety episode 4 park myung shik sung joon
For once, a drama might tell us more about the rich guy’s right-hand man than about the rich guy. The quiet, loyal secretary character is a staple of K-dramas and it’s time he got more stories of his own.

If in the first two episodes, Chang-Soo and Ji-Yi appear to be the primary couple, the secondary couple could almost be Chang-Soo and his assistant Joon-Ki. Park Hyung-Sik’s flirtatious charm is the opposite of Sung Joon’s restraint, which is more in evidence here than ever. Joon-Ki’s stoicism fits with the fact that he’s Chang-Soo’s private secretary and paid best friend. It’s not his job to have opinions, unless they match Chang-Soo’s.

The personality and class differences between the two men make for an uneasy friendship. Chang-Soo is aware that Joon-Ki is the better businessman. He worries Joon-Ki will defect for better opportunities elsewhere, with Chang-Soo’s older brother, for instance. Chang-Soo’s also short on friends and doesn’t want to lose Joon-Ki as a confidant.

But Joon-Ki comes from a working-class background. His mother works as a maid and his father is a retired security guard with a disability. Joon-Ki’s wants the wealth and power his parents don’t have—though his parents dote on each other and live happily.

When the talkative Chang-Soo tells Joon-Ki he likes being friends with him, Joon-Ki merely smiles (one of the few times in this series we see Sung Joon’s distinctive wry smile). Joon-Ki may play the loyal attendant, but doesn’t flatter Chang-Soo much. We sense he has more contempt for his boss/friend than he’s letting on.

Envy is a powerful emotion, however. Joon-Ki’s contempt is mixed with his enjoyment in having access to the rich and powerful. Joon-Ki’s mingled contempt and envy for the rich rise to the surface when he dumps his wealthy girlfriend. It’s a short, frank scene that makes them both look like mercenary marriage brokers rather than lovers.

Joon-Ki chastises his girlfriend for being rude to his parents. He won’t let her disrespect his parents just because she has money. At the same time, he cuts her down to size by pointing out his research shows her father’s business isn’t really doing that well. Joon-Ki could do better elsewhere.

high society poster with evil
Please don’t be too evil, Sung Joon!

Is Joon-Ki more annoyed at her privileged attitude or her company’s uncertain future? Would hurting his parents be worth it for a stronger company? Joon-Ki lives alone and hasn’t visited his parents in months, although they live in the same city. In private we see his affection for his mother, but in public he’s stuffy and formal with her. He chides his mom for stopping by his apartment because he’ll “lose his ambition.”

It’s as if Joon-Ki’s business success depends on convincing himself he doesn’t have working-class roots. He’s convinced that his parents deep love for each other has held them back economically. He won’t make the same mistake of finding satisfaction in immaterial things.

Joon-Ki’s a strange character. Except for dumping his girlfriend in episode one, he wears a distant look until the end of episode 3. Then, we learn something that spins the story on its axis. What is Joon-Ki really up to? How much of his gentlemanly behavior towards Yoon-Ha is inspired by genuine attraction and how much by ambition?

Thanks to these new questions about Joon-Ki, when the series finally turns attention to him and Yoon-Ha, episode four is by turns creepy, tense and devastating. Episode four moves at a blistering pace compared to the first three episodes, but every development results from groundwork laid earlier.

As Yoon-Ha pursues Joon-Ki, it becomes clear how naive and inexperienced she is. Her romantic innocence isn’t surprising for a sheltered twenty-something daughter of chaebol privilege. Yoon-Ha has rejected her mother’s attempts to arrange a marriage because she doesn’t want a loveless life like her mother’s. But it’s scary to see Yoon-Ha start trusting a man who might be using her.

Because she’s working incognito when she first meets Joon-Ki, she thinks he likes her purely for herself rather than her wealth. Perhaps he can give her some of the love she lacks at home. But is this true? Or is this The Heiress, Korean-style?

Joon-Ki’s romantic moves certainly could have come straight from the Henry James novel or its classic 1949 adaptation. The subtle ways Joon-Ki gets inside Yoon-Ha’s head and the slightly sadistic way he asks her out suggest he’s not leaving anything to chance. As he says in episode one, meeting her three times could be fate, but he doesn’t believe in fate. He makes choices. Even his courtly politeness—endearing at first—looks more sinister in episode four when we realize he might be deliberately creating distance to draw Yoon-Ha deeper in.

highsociety episode 4 yoon-ha lee ji-yi
Chaebol daughter in disguise, Yoon-Ha, and friend Lee Ji-Yi, whose rooftop apartment is a fact of life, not a fun adventure.

Here’s a difference between Mask and High Society. Whereas the characters in Mask live for emotion, High Society‘s characters are trying to balance their feelings with rational decision-making. In the crony capitalism of twenty-first century Korea, the rational choice may be to marry for money. Chaebol son Chang-Soo thinks of marriage purely in these instrumentalist terms, and Joon-Ki appears to as well.

But Joon-Ki’s episode one break-up shows he may value his dignity more than wealth. Or does he? He tells Yoon-Ha that the working class can’t afford their pride, after all. How much is he himself willing to sacrifice?

Yoon-Ha also tries to act rationally, but her version of reality and rationality is warped by emotional abuse. Her parents are particularly nasty to her, but her older brother and sisters have also belittled her for years as well. (Her older brother has only grown kind to her recently, since his divorce.) Her mother is wrapped up in her own misery and blames Yoon-Ha for everything that has gone wrong in her life.

Even the smartest child will believe absurd stories if she hears them every day from the people she loves most. Even the healthiest brain grows slightly warped under that kind of abuse. Yoon-Ha initially appears in this series as a competent, self-contained—and rational—young woman. But emotionally neglected children sometimes grow up into adults who can’t help falling hard, if they let themselves fall in love.

The creepiness of episode four arises from our realization that Yoon-Ha’s emotions don’t work quite right. She may want to be reasonable—she’s got a good plan to save up money, leave her family and live independently—but when she falls for Joon-Ki her emotions are unfamiliar and overwhelming.

highsociety episode 4 uee sung joon
Warning: Sexy doesn’t necessarily mean emotionally healthy.

Chronologically, Yoon-Ha isn’t much younger than Joon-Ki. But they’re worlds apart in their experience with relationships. Yoon-Ha has never fallen in love before and never confessed to a man. Joon-Ki, on the other hand, broke up with his last girlfriend in a hotel room, one of those oblique K-drama signposts that they had a sexual relationship. Nor does he appear heart-broken. Clearly he has the upper hand in any relationship with Yoon-Ha.

High Society offers a good heroine and an entertaining, light secondary romance, but what currently makes it worth watching is the ambiguous central character Joon-Ki. Is he truly capable of evil, as one publicity poster suggests? It would be despicable to take advantage of Yoon-Ha, but what are the boundaries of “taking advantage”? If she wants his emotional support—and he wants an advantageous marriage—would it be unethical to marry her without loving her as much as she loves him? And can we even call Yoon-Ha’s feelings for Joon-Ki “love,” when she barely knows him?

Watching Sung Joon in this part is simultaneously frustrating and fascinating. Despite his recent turn as the evil hypnotist second lead in the Other Split Personality Drama, I’m not used to seeing him play dark characters. Because his roles have tended towards romantic comedy (or bromantic comedy?), I give him the benefit of the doubt time and again in High Society, even when his character is abrupt or rude. He can’t be evil, it’s Sung Joon! But because it’s Sung Joon, it’s also more disconcerting when his character says something cold or dismissive. Who are you, Choi Joon-Ki, and where did you put the flower boys?

high society episode 3 lee ji yi chang soo
The romance between Ji-Yi and Chang-Soo follows a sweet romantic comedy plotline, so far. But socio-economic status differences may turn out to be trouble in this show.

Joon-Ki’s unreadable enough that his actions have a few possible interpretations. Is Sung Joon under-acting this part? Or is he trying to show Joon-Ki’s talent for hiding his thoughts? Occasional flashes of emotion show Joon-Ki isn’t made of wood—and suggest Sung Joon is deliberately keeping his character mysterious in early episodes.

We see Joon-Ki’s emotions most clearly when he’s dealing with the women in his life, whether his girlfriends or doting mother. Despite his pragmatic approach to dating and marriage, he doesn’t treat women with quite the same cold rationality he treats male colleagues. But his interactions with Yoon-Ha suggest he tries to keep emotions out of his love life.

Joon-Ki is potentially a great role for Sung Joon, who got his start playing young outsiders. He doesn’t have the larger-than-life quality of some K-drama leading men like his co-star in 2011’s Lie to Me, Kang Ji-Hwan. But Sung Joon has had memorable parts as cool guys who don’t follow the rules (particularly as the eloquently inarticulate musician Ji-Hyuk in tvN’s Shut Up Flower Boy Band).

He brings some of this rebellious energy to playing Joon-Ki, who looks like a typical rule-following salaryman on the surface, but seethes underneath. The part builds on Sung Joon’s strengths and pushes him into new territory. If he can bring out Joon-Ki’s internal conflicts, we’ll have a memorable character.

high society episode 3 sung joon
Is Joon-Ki (Sung Joon) sinister or just really, really serious?

Writer Ha Myung-Hee and director Choi Young-Hoon last collaborated on 2013’s A Word from Warm Heart, a strong melodrama with relatively nuanced characters (according to one regular K-Drama Today reader with a good eye for these things). High Society appears to have a similar touch of compassion. The main characters are a mix of sharp edges and soft spots. And the real antagonists of the story, Yoon-Ha’s cruel parents, aren’t depicted as evil (like Seok-Hoon in Mask) but as terribly misguided.

The tug of war between love and hate in Mask and the tug of war between emotion and reason in High Society anchor the melodrama in the human heart. Good melodrama is a fantasy depicting extreme versions of real-world choices. And because these real-world dilemmas don’t have clear-cut answers, perhaps we can spend many happy hours this summer discussing Min-Woo’s feelings about Eun-Ha, and debating to what extent Joon-Ki is manipulating Yoon-Ha. (One of the smartest, most interesting comment threads on Drama Beans in a long time was the recent discussion of High Society episode 4.)

Here for me is the pleasure of good melodrama: watching and rewatching for clues to the characters’ contradictory motivations. When Min-Woo embraces his wife in the car at the end of episode 6 of Mask, how much is he feeling attracted to her and how much is he enjoying getting the upper hand with a woman who brazenly agreed to marry him while sleeping with his brother-in-law? When Joon-Ki comforts Yoon-Ha after a family tragedy in High Society, is he acting out of concern, or out of the calculation that Yoon-Ha will soon gain power in her father’s company?

Though melodramas depict humans behaving badly, we watch them while rooting for the heroes and heroines to choose love over greed, and trust over fear. And rooting for love and trust isn’t such a bad way to spend an evening, particularly with these attractive actors and actresses are on the screen. ♥

Mask and High Society are currently airing on SBS: Mask on Wednesdays and Thursdays, High Society on Mondays and Tuesdays. Viki is subtitling them in English and DramaBeans is recapping.

37 thoughts on “In the Mood for Melodrama, Pt. 2 of 2: “High Society” Q1 Commentary

  1. I just finished episode 6 and am now feeling rather unsure about this drama (and apparently a little ranty given the length of this post) I started watching it because I wanted something light and easy to watch. Despite some erratic acting and cheesy lines it fit the bill and I was happy enough to tune in the next day for episode 2. I mostly enjoyed episode 3 and 4 thinking the quality was going up but now that we are at 6 I am starting to lose some patience.

    The things that are trying my patience are Ji-Yi, heavy handed lines, and character inconsistency. I like the concept of the working girl who does not enjoy being a cinderella. But the execution of this is not working for me. Her lines are often plain stupid. And in ep. 6 she also had the heavy handed line “I told fate ‘Give the good guy to Yoon Ha and I’ll take the bad guy.'” Thus combining two of my irritation factors. But making me crankier are the character inconsistencies. Joon-Ki is brilliant and manipulative. He knows Chang-Soo well and has studied him for years. There is no way he would not have told him he was dating Joon-Ha before now. Similarly Joon-Ha knows her father well and has been keeping things from her family for years. She wants to protect Joon-Ki. I don’t find it beleivable that she would tell her dad she is dating someone.

    I was pretty happy when after ep. 2 I found out this show had the same writer-director team as A Word from Warm Heart. (and I am glad another of your readers enjoyed it as well). That show had a lot of subtlety with many important sentences so lightly delivered I had to go back and watch it again to be sure I had actually understood it the first time. But it was intended for an older and more literate audience I suspect. I hope that they manage to bring some of that to this production.

    I have only seen Sung Joon in one other thing. His character was the only one I liked in Lie to Me. It took me quite a while to make the connection though. So I really have had no preconceptions as to what his character should be like. I have enjoyed his inscrutable facial expression with the occasional hint of a smile. I can not even tell if he is letting his friend win the bike races on purposes or not, much less if he has actual feelings for Yoon-Ha or just sees her as a means to an end. But in ep. 6 the steamy mirror scene answered the question about capacity for evil and manipulation. He has it in spades. And I am guessing the milquetoast Joon-Ha who is dating him now will turn into the tough Joon-Ha when she realizes what he is up to. I have hopes this will be good. I am also liking the new angrier Chang-Soo. I hope he does not go too over the top.

    apropos of almost nothing – Ranty is not a word but squirrelly certainly is. restless or nutty/eccentric. Don’t let your spell checker tell ya different =)

  2. You pretty much summed up the inconsistencies well for me. Add to that inconsistency the fact that Joon-Ki told his reporter friend himself about Yoon-Ha. Yoon-Ha’s dad will trace that news leakage out to him in no time. That was a horrible mistake if he plans to make Yoon-Ha or her family believe that he is a genuine guy with no hidden motive. And someone needs to ask Sung Joon to emote. He rarely shows any emotion in this drama. The mystery of what he is thinking can only interest you for so long, its starting fizzle. I am loosing interest in him as a character because I rarely see him acting like a normal person and letting his shields down. I find him robotic. I like Chang Soo better. You can feel what he feels. He is a flawed character but you get to connect. I give Park Hyung Sik 100% credit for doing that. This guy will surely rise up very soon as an actor, he has been great so far. As for Yoon Ha, she is such an immature character, impulsive too. Poor girl, blocked her own way to freedom by making Joon-Ki a part of the plan. As for Ji-Yi, I think she may serve as a voice of reason for Chang Soo. At this point, the fantasy land where Chang Soo pretended to have a best buddy Joon-ki is shattered. The only person in his life with whom he is honest and who cares enough about him to bluntly point out his flaws is Ji Yi. I think the story has only just begun. Lets see where we go from here.

    • Crahman, you totally get how I feel abt Joon-Ki. He needs to throw us sum hints or something bc im losing interest in his character real fast. It cannot be that I’m depending on Ji Yi and Chang Soo for entertainment in the show. The JoonHa couple leaves me dry. And its not a good sign bc im trying so hard to want to ship those two. The show is showing some early warning signs that the drama wasn’t written as strongly as I’d hope. Its only been 5 eps but I already feel a little tired. I’m uncertain abt the pacing. But I love how Chang Soo is being played. I can actually connect with him and understand his reasoning. I knw JK is written the way he is but…its just not real.

  3. It was hard to find time, but I had to watch eps 5 and 6. I need to know: how evil is Joon Ki? And I enjoyed eps 5 and 6. Great contrast between the two pairs: Chang-Soo and Ji-Yi are so honest and cute with each other, while JK and YH are hiding so much–so awkward, so creepy. I also REALLY liked seeing the tension between Chang Soo and JK.

    Erin has a point about a major source of inconsistency. What should we make of JK’s “mistakes,” like holding out on Chang-Soo long enough for Chang-Soo to Hulk Out? Is he trying to be evil but isn’t very good at it?

    I agree (@ Erin) re Sung Joon in Lie to Me. And in his breakout role as lead in Shut Up Flower Boy Band he really nailed it (that’s a great drama despite the absurd title). His character there is stoic and quiet, but not without deep emotions, a really heart-breaking role. And he’s perfect as a sexy charmer in I Need Romance 3 (the only INR I could watch, mainly because he and Kim So-Yeon are awesome).

    So I know he can give us more emotions than he is right now. But then I remember how out-of-place SJ looked as the Evil Hypnotist in Hyde, Jekyll, Me. I couldn’t stick with that series even for Sung Joon, but talk about robotic!

    Joon-Ki in High Society is somewhere in the middle of these roles–he looks out of place as the man of business, but then JK is, in fact, acting a part and living out-of-place.

    Still, it doesn’t feel like Sung Joon has a handle on this part. I hope the next episodes prove me wrong.

    @ Crahman: so right about Park Myung Sik! I had no idea he could be this good! He’s convinced me to care about this character. And so cute.

    @ Erin: I was thinking of you when I referred to A Word from WH, but I didn’t mention you by name because I couldn’t remember exactly what you said about it!

    There’s some heavy-handedness here, but also some smarts. The smartest thing so far is Yoon-Ha’s character. It’s a spot-on depiction of someone deprived of nurturing, who doesn’t realize how needy she is and how badly she’s rushing things. I wasn’t surprised she told her dad. She’s smart about everything except love and relationships. I think she naively thinks everything is squared away with JK forever and ever.

    Joon Ki may already realize he’s getting himself into hot water. Why did he leak the news story? Could he be considering striking a deal with YH’s dad himself, w/ a little old-fashioned, your-daughter-spent-the-night-at-my-place blackmail? I wouldn’t put it past him if he’s really aiming for the top. He knows if he wants to marry into the family that Yoon-Ha’s dad is way more of a problem for him than Yoon-Ha. So is he using the media as part of some strategy to corner the family? One thing’s for sure: I believe he’s evil right now! Of the two summer melos, this is the one I feel compelled to watch as soon as it comes out, because I can’t figure out what he and Chang Soo will do next.

  4. Hey Odessa!!! Love to see that you’re watching Mask and High Society also! I decided to give HS a chance and I’m still waiting for it to live up to its potential. The plotline so far feels a little inconsistent. Ep 5 was meh while ep 6 was pretty enjoyable. Additionally, i’m finding it hard to get into the YA + JK couple. Maybe its suppose to be this way. Idk. But im here for the long ride either way. Mask on the other hand is really doing it for me. I usually can’t deal with makjangs and try to avoid them cuz they’re not usually as much fun as rom-coms. But these are doing better than I expected so maybe i’ll watch more melos.

    Thanks for sharing ur thoughts!

    P.s I was looking out for ur uncaps of Mask. Hoping to hear more of ur thoughts on it maybe?

  5. Hi Odessa! Finally something to get me out of post KMHM hiatus. High Society seems interesting enough for me to want to see the next episode. I think I will give Mask a miss (even with Mr Vampire Prosecutor in it), because all screen shots show a petrified Soo Ae. I can’t deal with a scared and simpering female lead. Secret, with all its creepiness did not have that (and it had Ji Sung!) I am following the recaps on DB though.
    Now that Heard it through the grapevine has ended, I can start to marathon it. Have you seen that show? It got great reviews but folks at DB did not recap it.

  6. @ Camille: Hi!!! Great to hear from you! Work’s got me tied down, so for Mask I’ll have to resort to an end-of-series uncap, I think. Because if this writer delivers the crazy as usual, I know I’ll have a lot to say!

    High Society is killing me! I enjoyed episodes 5 and 6 for the most part, but I have decreasing confidence in the writing and acting. If we don’t learn a bit more about JK soon, I’ll be pretty annoyed. What still worked well this week is the strong contrast between the cute, keeping-it-real couple and the emotionally disturbed lead couple. And the Chang Soo/Joon-Ki “friendship” is really interesting, esp. as ep 6 goes on. Yoon-Ha works for me as a heroine because her crazy “I want to be with you forever” thing reminds me all too much of myself at 20. First love can be a b****!

    But Sung Joon isn’t doing much with this part, which is a bummer. I like him a lot on the whole. I keep holding out hope for him to get better. It’s not easy to play a silent, distant personality, right? But other actors have done it. The role of Joon-Ki falls roughly in the same category as Kim Won, the hyung in Heirs–a part Choi Jin-Hyuk nailed–or the role Ji Sung played back in Swallow the Sun–an ambitious, manipulative hero who does the basic-goodness-hidden-behind-evil thing. I don’t get that feeling of a layered personality with Joon-Ki and I’m started to admit to myself that maybe SJ is just out of his depth.

    @ Pranx: Yay, you’re back!! I still miss KMHM, sad but true.

    The heroine of Mask fortunately doesn’t simper much, but she does look scared a fair bit in early episodes, thanks to Mr. Vampire Prosecutor. In its favor, it’s not nearly as creepy as Secret (although we all know I’d choose Ji Sung over Joo Ji-Hoon!)

    That reminds me, something I like about High Society is Yoon-Ha’s character. She manages to be assertive without being a brat, and cute without simpering. She’s misguided and naive about love, but even then, she’s a straight shooter who doesn’t wait for some guy to take care of her. She basically invites herself into JK’s life. Though her overconfidence about love will hurt her, I find her refreshingly honest, unmanipulative and sympathetic. And a good counterpoint to under-confident heroines.

    Heart it on the Grapevine is on my list, which unfortunately keeps getting longer, not shorter! But it won awards, AND I know so little about it (no DB recaps), so I definitely have to watch it when I come up from air at work (which won’t be until August 🙁 ).

  7. I second you for chaebol cutie Yoo Chang-Soo (Park Hyung-Sik). He is not new character but I liked the way he played it, well act and lovely.
    It always make me feel weird for not feeling Sung Joon acting, i am 100% in Hyung shik boat for anything since he is more convincing about what he feels than Sung Joon.
    This drama is actually quite deep about people who live in 0.01% of population, they’re not necessarily evil, not happy, strict or murderer like part of Hyung shik family, but they are tied by their background on how they have to behave to maintain their part in the High Society.
    Its intrigue me about Hyung shik mom and his conversation about married, how they need to married someone in the same status even if they knew they will not love them and why it have to be like that.

    so far I am enjoying the drama but it keep falling apart every time I can’t relate to Sung Joon love line and his motive, It’s not that I don’t get him but he didn’t even shows his true purpose (or sung joon didn’t so justice for the character), he just being greedy, take everything he can, make profit for it, like he maintain his friendship and love because he did care about them and he know their status would level him up too while using information to gain much more feels wrong but he care about them too,

    He reminds me of Sung Joon’s best friend in falling for innocence (the prosecutor I think), how is ambition is slowly eating up his relationship with sung joong despite he did loves her very much but the actor did that part really well.

    • You’re right, the lead part is like the prosecutor in Falling for Innocence, but I’m definitely feeling disappointment with that central character. The guy in FFI was cold but convincing, whereas Sung Joon just hasn’t convinced me. As an ensemble drama, it’s still interesting, though, because I sympathize with the other leads. Park Hyung-Sik and UEE are both good in this. Really, who knew PHS could be this entertaining?

  8. Just saw ep 7 & 8. It seems like the show is getting better and ttlly adding some more conflict. If the show keeps this up, I will really keep looking forward to it weekly. I wont add any spoiler for u Odessa but I think these two later eps were a lot stronger. And the feels are so real. Look forward to them. They’re worth the wait!

    ive got to take back my ‘meh’ for ep 5. Now we’re into the second half and im so here for the ride.

  9. Finally caught up on High Society. Every time I see the Joon-Ki on-screen, I feel like he should maybe take pointers from the real Joon-Ki a.k.a SJK on how to best portray cold-hearted love (couldn’t resist throwing in that line 🙂 ). The JK/YH storyline has a few of parallels with Innocent Man, so I can’t help but imagine SJK in Sung Joon’s role. Even the speed with which Yoon Ha fell for JK is similar to how quickly Moon Chae Won had renounced her family and company for SJK in Act 1 of Innocent Man. As for Sung Joon, I am not sure why he’s under-acting here. I quite liked him in Shut up!

    I like the second leads in this series, not for their cute romance, but for their interesting characterizations. He is one of those sub-conscious elitists, while she has a devil-may-care attitude. Their’s seems to be a real relationship. I hope they stay interesting and Chan Soo doesn’t turn into a one-note villain. The sisters and mother seem have been cut out from a Cinderella book. Maybe I should expect a birth secret down the line?

  10. Just finished eps 7 & 8, Camille. I agree it’s picking up nicely! I think Joon Ki really does find Yoon Ha attractive, but he also really does follow the upper-class approach to marriage, thinking about the numbers first. A guy like Chang-Soo gets away with that thinking all the time, but people find it shocking in JK–people like his ex, who’s probably unnecessarily harsh. It’s possible she thought she had the upper hand in the relationship because of her money, so she was insulted when the good-looking poor boy broke up with her.

    I can see why he wears that neutral, distant mask around his chaebol “friend” and girlfriend–Chang-Soo has always reminded him of “his place” so he’s always wary. But he’s pleasantly surprised that Yoon-Ha treats him like an equal. I think he’s actually a lot like Yoon-Ha: he wants to always show the best face possible, even if that means pushing people away (including his parents). I like when JK seems to realize that Yoon-Ha doesn’t actually like him for himself but for the people around him: she says that she started liking him because Ji-Yi did, and then because he was friends with Chang-Soo, and then because she liked his mother. Darn it! The poor guy! He’s been trying so hard to be cool that his girlfriend doesn’t even know anything about him–and maybe he’s realizing that’s a little lonely.

    @ Pranx, I love the second lead characters, especially the storyline with Chang-Soo–he’s genuinely convinced he’s not elitist, even though he is. But I also like that he’s such a contrast as a K-drama boyfriend type. JK does all the ridiculous couple activities without a complaint–and seems to get that the little things matter to women–but he’s still only half-there emotionally. Chang-Soo groans about going on silly dates, and forgets basic polite stuff completely, but he’s an open book and says just what he’s thinking. And I like how contradictory Ji-Yi is. She’s resourceful and independent and a great friend, but she also tells Yoon Ha that men come first.

    I haven’t given up hope for Sung Joon to deliver. He’s good at playing lonely guys so I just keep hoping for more opening up from JK each episode. No birth secrets, though! Yoon-Ha herself did a surreptitious DNA test in the past, in the hope that she was adopted, but no! She’s stuck with dragon mom. I wonder if Yoon-Ha was a “child born out of revenge,” a la what the mistress was talking about. In that scene JK’s mom said, “What would happen to such a child?” and I thought, maybe that’s why JK’s mom dislikes YH. Maybe she had YH out of spite for something her husband did?

    I still need to watch Innocent Man! I started but ran out of time so it remains on my list. SJK awaits.

  11. @Prankx, can’t agree more with Song Jong Ki resemblance in character wise, I think Song Joon lacking serious act, I mean when he is cold and he is serious need to be shown,
    every time I think about Joon Ki, I get where’s his coming even though he still standing in same spot, then every time I watch I don’t get him, his reaction show otherwise,
    that’s why I feel so inflicted,

    anyway, Chang Soo is such a character that meet his actor, not because Park Hyung Shik is real handsome there and rich, but he had development as character that step by step understand that there’s a circumstance where he can’t get the upper hand because of his heart,
    and I wish he didn’t go to evil route too

  12. I have now finished episodes 9 &10. 9 was okay. moved the story along but nothing made me grip my seat. I got a bit annoyed at Yoon-Ha for sharing too much information with Joon-Ki. But I suppose she trusts him and needs some advice and a sounding board in regards the stocks. As for episode 10 – I loved it.

    I have been fine with Sung Joon’s portayal of JK but have been able to see why others (Odessa) might not be as keen. but I think this episode is where it gels. JK has been holding it all together with great determination but now his feelings are starting to overflow. The conversation between him and Chang-Soo after the bike race was fabulous.

    As much as I enjoyed Jk’s storyline this episode truly belonged to Chang-Soo and Ji-Yi. I don;t even like them that much but they were smoking hot throughout the entire thing. By the time they are hiding from the rain one can feel the tension right through the screen. I will be shocked of he doesn’t throw it all away for her.

    • Saw ep 9 & 10 too. Im enjoying the show alot these days. And fir that im just happy. I FINALLY felt like I cud get JK. Maybe its bc im aware that he is falling for YH. Every now and then he seems to let his guard down and those are the moments that intrigue me. But its all going down nw. I wont spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the eps yet.
      I need to dedicate a paragraph foe ep 10 cuz it was DAEBAK! My otp makes me so proud. And the chemistry is just going up and up! But im worried for them. The deeper it gets the more concerned I become. They’ve really thrown caution to the wind. And considering JY’s smarts im really baffled some times by her choice to date CS. The couple has this Romeo + Juliet vibe which makes me ship and shake my head.
      On another point, I need to rant abt the way the shw has been using the kissing scenes and shower scenes. I nvr thought I’d say this but im getting annoyed nw. The show doesn’t need to throw us a bone to stay. If it has a strong enuff plot, it doesnt need to rest on kisses and shower scenes to keep up interest. Ive lost count of CS’s shower scenex (3-4, so maybe not heh). I want to feel like im nt being manipulated when the characters kiss, esp JK+YH. But ottoke? Its in the back of my mind. Its sooo odd for me to feel this way too. I mean usually more is less w kisses in k-dramaland but imo not for this drama. Idk any more. Maybe im being over critical but its getting to me now. Maybe cuz the plot is limping along. But u knw guys, even w all this im still enjoying the shw. The shw needs to get serious nw. Chaebal. So I guess my feelings are somewhat conflicting. On one hand im enjoying the show (kudos director!). But on the other hand, im well aware of HS’s misgivings.

      • Ooo! 9 and 10! I agree with Camille about shower scenes, and that’s why I started laughing out loud this week when CS has yet another shower scene and the camera pans down to show he’s fully clothed. I feel like the director must realize how absurd it’s gotten. And, oh my, that scene in the car was DAEBAK. I’m worried about whether it will work out for those two, but man, the chemistry!

        Joon-Ki made huge steps here–he seems like a real person. His logic doesn’t always compute, but his internal conflict is plausible. It helps enormously that he’s finally admitting he’s attracted to YH and that he and Chang-Soo are openly fighting now. Sometimes Joon-Ki and Chang-Soo still seem like the most interesting couple in this whole thing–especially when they finally have their confrontation here. I understand him and Chang-Soo both. Joon-Ki’s too much of a realist and Chang-Soo too much of an idealist. But idealism is easier to preserve if you have financial security. I’m glad Yoon-Ha’s troubles are waking JK up to the fact that family matters. But I’m also glad he’s getting real with Chang-Soo that friendship can’t be bought. They’ve both made mistakes and I’d love to see them grow up and become real friends. It’s sweet that they’re still defending each other to outsiders (well, Chang-Soo’s mom).

        It’s also fascinating that YH admits to other people that she’s more into JK than he is into her. She seems to know that what she’s doing is dangerous, but she can’t, or doesn’t want to, stop herself. Though some are giving her a really hard time, I like her guts. And her unconventional willingness to pursue a guy. Does UEE know how to pick interesting roles or what?

        • Odessa, I guess ur right abt the director realising the absurdity of all the shower scenes now. I thought he got really creative w Chang Soo’s clothed shower scene. He was probably like: if I gotta do this, might as well make it fun!

          And yesss! I have to spazz abt the car scene. That was such a step up from the previous kissing scenes. Who said Hyung Shik couldnt kiss? You cud feel the chemistry through the screen. I was like replay, replay haha. What a way to lead to the end of the episode! Meanshile, writer-nim of Mask is being so stingy w otp kisses. Soompiers and fans everywhere are begging 4 some skinship. Grant it, ep 14 somewhat compromised. But NOT enuff writer-nim!

          Anyway, back to the topic at hand. It is notable to see CS and JK still defending each other when each cud destroy the other in his own right. CS cud use his chaebol connections to somehow blacklist JK and JK could tell every dirty lil secret of CS’s family to the press and competitors. JK is also well aware of CS greatest weaknesses which wud put JK in a pretty advantageous position.

          And yes, I like UEE no matter what anyone says. She’s playing the role believably. You believe her naiveté. And when she cries my heart feels for her. She did so well in Hogu’s Love so im rooting for her. I am awaiting the day she gives JK his just desserts. And it couldn’t have cum at a better time since JK is falling. Similarly, I think what I love abt YH is her guts. The way she stands firm in front of her dad makes me proud. Im really beginning to dig the father-daughter dynamic too. The way the actor for the dad plays his part is actually likable. The expression he wears make me nt take him seriously. The way the two knw eachother so well is interesting to watch. Maybe the butler was correct (or whoever made the observation) that the two are alike. They certainly get each other.

          All the best Odessa! Always look forward to ur comments :). Hope ur doing well! Can I call u unni? It wud be an honour. Would u mind?

        • I just figured shower scenes were related to the endless talk of going to wash up. Figured it was another cultural thing I did not get. I mean I shower every day but I get the feeling they sower 2-3 times per day in k-drama land. the fully clothed one was new though and frankly I prefered it. I don’t need to see half nakie little man-boys.

          I’m glad we are all in agreement about the car scene. smoking hot.

          I also feel the two men are the most interesting couple. I think they are real friends right now but not able to fully express things because they both have prejudices about the other person’s class. The evidence for the strength of their friendship is the way they are protecting each other even whilst fighting. And when JK is about to lay some hard truths on CS he also clearly states he likes him, something he had been refusing to say.

          UEE’s character may be theoretically interesting but I don’t find her very interesting to watch. Plus her alien eyes are hard to look at for very long. Yes I am that shallow. But I also don’t think there is anything wrong with her acting. I suspect this is the way the director wants it. I do like her with her father just like Camille.

          As to the aside for Mask — As much as 14 episodes in seems like about time for a kiss I was impressed that they had not. It fits the characters that they have not done so. She is fooling him and I suspect she would feel bad kissing him while being so untruthful. I have liked the little excuses for touching they have created. It is sweet.

        • I finally caught up on this week’s new eps! It’s funny, I liked UEE in Hogu’s Love, and I’m glad to see she can play other parts too. She does have funny eyes, though, it’s true. (Is she slightly hyper-thyroid? Her eyes bulge a little.) I think the actor playing her father is smart because he conveys that the man has some decency simply by looking frustrated. He’s pretty much always mean, but the puzzled look on his face after every conversation with a female family member makes him seem human.

          I can’t believe how ridiculously hot Park Hyung-Sik has proven to be here, but I agree with Erin that CS and JK’s friendship is the most compelling relationship right now. Both these actors are really good at complicated bromance–I think of Sung Joon with L in Shut Up FBB and Park Hyung-Sik with Kim Woo-Bin in Heirs. (PHS uttered my favorite line in Heirs: PHS: “I’d invite you over for a meal, but my dad hates you.” KWB: “Someday I’ve got to clear up this misunderstanding with your father.” PHS: “No, that’s okay, he hates you for who you really are.”) It really feels like CS and JK have a long friendship, but it’s also clear how much the friendship is complicated by male ego stuff. The inequality between them is partially because of CS’s unconscious elitism, but also because of JK’s unwillingness to test the friendship. The connection with CS is worth real money to JK, so it’s rational that he hasn’t brought up his issues with CS before. But JK is also unnecessarily pessimistic in saying CS is destined to always act in his class interests. I really hope we don’t go too melo, and that they can make up.

          The endless talk of washing up, hee hee! It’s true, there’s so much bathing in K-dramas in general that I think it must be a national obsession. Or a common way to get out of an embarrassing pause in conversation? Of course in the latest eps of High Society, Chang-Soo was always either exercising, just coming from the gym or on his way to the gym, which would explain all the showers.

        • Now THAT makes sense! Here I was, just thinking it was because they couldn’t afford script continuity. 🙂

        • Well it isn’t uncommon in K-dramaland for brooding shower scenes from our lead hotties. But in the case of High Society there has been such an over-abundance of shower scenes (more than normal tbh). Thus I think its just another way to attempt to fill time and keep us interested. So Odessa unni I’m thinking it IS due to a lack of script continuity. I mean, does he shower every time he’s angry? I’m sure JK is full of more pent up anger so where are all his shower scenes?! Anyway, u see my point.

  13. re: shower scenes – well we got the female version this week, and as an added bonus some steamy mirror action + self reflection from YH instead of JK. May we be spared any more bathroom brooding in this series.

    re: ep 11/12 (spoilers ahead) I have to say I was underwhelmed and annoyed by ep. 12 but loved ep. 11. YH and JK’s conversations were intense. Isn’t the desire to not have our love laughed at universal? I feel that his statement to her that he did not lie because he loves her is accurate and respectful, and mirrors him telling CS he likes him and then being brutally honest. His tight mask seems to have come off. In fact by the end of 12 he seems almost relaxed. The bromance seemed very strong in 11 with CS defending JK’s actions to YH, showing he was listening and at least his mind understands even if he is still hurt. The rooftop convo was fabulous and I would use heart emoticons if I could to tell you how much I loved the elevator ride going down. Rounding out the goodness of this episode was YJ and her thoughtful decision to have sex and not allow him to feel guilty about it after. Sadly I started to hate her again in episode 12.

    Why I want to slap Ji Yi:
    1) I can’t like someone who breaks up via text message. Especially after they have just made love for the first time. I also wanted to hit her When CS calls her on her manners she mentions him telling his mom they were breaking up. She does not check if it is true nor does she ask when he told his mom.

    2)She is upset that CS makes a business call to YH while expecting YH to be fine with her giggling like a schoolgirl with JK.

    3) Claiming that JK telling lies to YH is the same as YH not sharing her family details. Hardly the same in my book and YH purposefully told JY that there were family details she was not sharing, then she did share and it was not her fault JY did not believe.

    4) Why is she crying out in the open on the management floor? She has plenty of time to leave and at the very least should have gone to a restroom for some privacy. Out of respect for YH she should not have made a spectacle of herself.

    5) JY is just as class conscious as CS. I would say more so.

    6) Her friend is hurt and she seems uninterested in supporting her or doing anything to mend the rift between YH and JK despite her claims he is understandable. Yet YH is trying to get CS and YJ talking.

    While YH may be wanting to use the power at her disposal to crush YK that is out of pain. She does not seem to me to have become an elitist.

    me likey black dress with white piping.

    • I just laughed when we got a Yoon Ha shower scene to round things off. I think someone dared the director to break records for most shower scenes in one series. He must have set a record by now.

      I watch the eps in small bits and pieces so I can’t comment on this week’s eps separately. But JK is really working for me. He’s turning out to be what I thought, a garden-variety opportunist who is trying to be as decent as he thinks his social class allows him to be. This is where Sung Joon excels, at playing the lonely young man on the outside. Joon-Ki does look much more relaxed now that the worst about him is known to everyone–and that’s sad, that he can only be himself by letting everyone think the worst of him.

      I agree about the great elevator ride! And that pat on the shoulder Chang Soo gives Joon Ki when he gets out of the elevator. I like that when we see them defending each other to friends and family, they do it in a way that shows lingering friendship but also shows the ego they have invested in the friendship. If they become friends again, it will be partly to show the nay-sayers that they’re cool enough to get past their differences. I was pretty darn psyched with the cliff-hanger at the end of ep 12. Joon-Ki is starting to show his real self but he and Chang Soo still have a lot of anger to clear up.

      I’ve worked at a couple super-elite private schools so this influences my reading of the class differences. Ji Yi and Joon Ki are definitely more class conscious than Chang Soo and Yoon Ha, because that’s life. If your friends are going to the Hamptons for the weekend and you’re spending the weekend working at the mall, you can’t help but be aware of class differences. The greatest privilege that comes with wealth is the privilege of not having to think about class. Yoon-Ha isn’t an elitist, but she does lack JY’s understanding of JK’s situation.

      I don’t approve of how Ji Yi does things in ep 12, but I don’t think she’s deliberately cruel. I think she’s making a bad decision, but she’s totally rational in being afraid of Chang Soo’s mom and homelessness. I loved loved loved how JY took Chang Soo’s mother to task. And I like how JY provides commentary on YH’s decisions, for instance reminding us that YH was lying to JK about her identity at the same time as he was lying to her. I have trouble remembering if either YH or JK every actually spoke a lie, however. I think they both lied by omission–for instance, JK didn’t tell YH he thought she was an idiot for fighting with her family, and she conveniently thought that meant he agreed with her. I love love love that he points out to her that no one agrees completely about everything.

      Aargh, I have to go now. Can’t stop thinking about this show, though.

  14. The biggest LOL moment for me was the three-way wrist grab… with the second lead female! The female shower scene was different. I like that they tried to give a fresh spin on kdrama tropes.

    Coming to the episodes, 12 was such a letdown. I felt like both Ji Yi and Yoon Ha got a personality transplant. Suddenly they were being unlike themselves and being inconsiderate of each other’s feelings. I mean there are times when friendships trump other things.

    Ji Yi seems blind to the fact that her friend was manipulated by Joon Ki. It is not the same as Yoon ha hiding her background. So to act around JK as if he has done no wrong is slightly weird. Which leads me to the question, when did JK fall for Yoon Ha? Or realize the error of his ways? Why is he suddenly getting angsty? I am sure I didn’t fast forward that much. The scene where he grabbed YH in her office made me want to punch the screen.

    And YH is being incomprehensible. Your friend just told you she broke up with her bf who just so happens to be your business partner. And what do you do? Invite her to dinner with you and her ex? Take out your anger on said friend who was just trying to drink down her sorrows? I mean show, come on! The sisterhood got boring is it? Not as interesting as a bromance?

    All that this show has done is made me miss SJK/MCW and Innocent man. Sung Joon has to catch up with acting chops I feel. And YH lost me when she came dressed to work in black with a collar round her neck… too obviously going for the emo look.

  15. well the end is nearly here and I hope you are all alive. I shall be delayed with Mask as I am once again off on a lengthy and convoluted trip. But I will have some airport time late Friday night so I am hoping to watch most of it then. As for High Society I am really torn. Some of it I love and other bits make me frustrated at the writer. Given that the other two things I have seen of hers have some sadness in the ending I am wondering if it is all going to be roses for our 4 couples. (JK-YH/ CS-JY/ JK-CS/ YH-JY). I predict the first and last will be fine and I hope the other two are as well.

  16. And its over. Left me with an aftertaste of disappointment and missed potential. I soo desperately wanted this to work! A common man against elite society is a concept with so much potential. YH stopped making any sense in the first half of the show itself. Ji Yi nicely redeemed her character post breakup. The mother did an about face and offered no apology for the years of abuse she doled out to YH. The brother came back to the land of living and YH’s world didn’t tilt off its axis.

    This was a melodrama and the lynchpin of one is believable angst. Unfortunately JG/YH had very little of it and whatever the author added made me feel no sympathy JG at all, for the way he treated YH. Here’s hoping to a better drama for Sung Joon next time around after two duds. And to PHS as a leading man for his next outing.

    Why is it so quiet over here?

  17. Whew! I emerged from work madness yesterday and “celebrated” by catching up on this show. All I can say about the last four episodes is WTF?!? I’m with Erin and Pranx: totally frustrated at so much wasted potential. The first half of the series at least built up a lot of credible conflict: Yoon-Ha’s really messed-up family and the “how evil is he?” BF. I could get where Yoon-Ha’s emotions were coming from, even if I didn’t want to hang out with her. And I could get Joon-Ki, too–with a little suffering and repentence he could turn out okay. But the last few eps threw the tension overboard. They really failed to deliver, at least for our OTP. It wasn’t just an unbelievable ending, it didn’t even feel like an ending.

    SPOILERS The highlight of the last few episodes was watching Ji Yi totally outwit Chang Soo’s mom. I was laughing out loud at some of her good-natured manipulation. And I continued to enjoy PHS’s performance. (And that dynamite, career-changing haircut, which remains a work of art worthy of some kind of year-end Mane of Glory nod.) But I’d hoped for some real confrontations between YH and JG, which didn’t happen. Not to mention how bizarre it is that YH appeared unsurprised when her oppa shows up and doesn’t even apologize (or go to jail for his shenanigans).

    At least the last lines are nicely open-ended. I can keep up hope for our OTP to get therapy, break up and move on with their lives. But it’s disappointing that this show sometimes did a good job illustrating the clashing expectations of rich and not-so-rich–only to say in the end, Just Kidding!

    At least we got to see PHS magically morph himself into a dynamite lead. I hope he can keep it up with his next haircut.

  18. Oh yes the hair is most excellent as was he. He really should get to be a lead now I would think. I also liked Sung Joon’s acting. I would have preferred he had gotten the chance to play the brutally honest and relaxed version sooner than he did but that is hardly his fault. I will keep an eye out for both these actors.

    I liked the elevator scene. But what on earth was with that final scene?? I had not thought it possible for JY to get more annoying.Oh well at least it is over.

  19. An entirely random thought about High Society popped into my head while watching “A Word from Warm Heart”. The writer is the same and several of the actors are the same. I wonder if the stylist is also the same.

    What made me wonder is that in AWFWH I found Ji Jin Hee stunningly good looking. Not something I say very often and not how I feel when I look at other photos of him. And we all commented on Park Hyung Sik’s look in High Society.

    like I said utterly random thought.

  20. The ending was as flat as the final scene with the two couples. What kind of man asks his girlfriend to marry him in such an off hand manner in front of bickering friends? If you are going to do low key, as least do it in private with a heart felt look / phase! Was the lack of drama supposed to show how ordinary their lives had become?
    This drama felt like a shaken soda bottle that produced only a whisper of fizz when opened. After all the trash talk between Yoon Ha’s family members there was little real change except for the brother leaving the company for his own venture. I guess dysfunctional families that hate each other still want to be families.

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