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“Secret” (a.k.a. “Secret Love”) Series Review

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Note: It’s the truth. I haven’t entirely moved on from Kill Me, Heal Me. But that’s a good excuse to write about other dramas with Ji Sung, who definitely knows how to pick the odd, interesting projects.

If you want to see Ji Sung playing a good guy, Secret (2013) isn’t your show. We first meet his character, Jo Min-Hyuk, seducing an actress in a hotel room, then stealing her clothes and leaving her behind without so much as a “See ya, baby.”

Later the family lawyer reveals that this love-em-and-leave-em routine is one of the hard-partying heir’s bad habits. His father has spent tens of thousands of dollars appeasing angry victims. Clearly, even compared to other spoiled chaebol heirs, Min-Hyuk’s in a class of his own.

Just as Min-Hyuk’s in a class of his own, Secret pushes the limits on angst. It’s not for everyone. If you find Min-Hyuk’s bad behavior entirely repellent, this melodrama isn’t for you. But if you find Min-Hyuk’s clothing theft intriguing—or perhaps even perversely sexy or darkly humorous—Secret may be a guilty pleasure.

Min-Hyuk acts like a jerk because six months ago, the girlfriend he loved suddenly disappeared and cut off all contact. He blames his CEO father, but Min-Hyuk’s secretly terrified she left to get away from him. He believes it’s his fault his mother committed suicide, after all. And before he can find out the truth, his girlfriend is killed in a hit-and-run accident. How he deals—or more accurately, doesn’t deal—with this loss makes for a creepy and unusual story of revenge that turns into an odd kind of love.

Ji Sung and Hwang Jung-Eum’s first collaboration, Secret shows off their excellent chemistry. It also depicts a relationship based on emotional sadomasochism. In fact, this “romance” walks the line between merely disturbing and outright abusive (at one of their first encounters, Min-Hyuk almost kills Yoo-Jung, below, which establishes a certain tone). What fascinates me about Secret is that it asks us to think about where we draw that line. At one point does this relationship begin to look like love rather than hate?

When Secret aired in autumn 2013, the critics at Drama Beans dismissed it in a couple sentences. JavaBeans correctly points out that this isn’t the story of a healthy relationship, and that Ji Sung’s character is a “deranged manchild.” She admits Secret is “entertaining,” but finds it deeply flawed because of its disturbing psychology. A few Drama Beans readers say the show promotes abusive relationships.

But the show also has fans—even among the smart female readers at Drama Beans. And in Korea, Secret was a surprise hit, despite competing directly against the super-hyped high school romance Heirs. Secret consistently beat Heirs in the ratings throughout the seven weeks that they overlapped in the same time slot. When a show is called “abusive” by some and “best of the year” by others, it’s clearly struck a nerve.

I admit I find Secret fascinating. Why does the story draw me in, even though I don’t admire these characters? Is this series a misogynist mess that I should be ashamed to enjoy? Is JavaBeans right that Secret is as mediocre as Heirs?

(Note: I’m not going to write any spoilers here—I’ll put those in a secret Secret post.)

Part of the story’s appeal is that the premise sounds impossible: supposedly Min-Hyuk (Ji Sung), our morally compromised heir, will fall in love with Yoo-Jung (Hwang Jung-Eum), the woman he believes was responsible for his girlfriend’s death.

The hero is unbalanced even before his girlfriend dies. Add in his anguish afterwards, and it appears the story is a non-starter. After a suicide attempt, Min-Hyuk decides to continue living for one simple reason: to seek revenge on Yoo-Jung. He goes on to make her life hell for five years. I can’t help my curiosity. How can that much hatred dissipate in only sixteen episodes? And how can she bear to be with him? Because we know the truth of the hit-and-run from the beginning, the suspense here is in the relationship itself.

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“Secret” works in large part because Hwang Jung-Eum (left) and Ji Sung (right) make the exaggerated characters charismatic and interesting. Both characters turn out to be more complicated than they initially seem.

Ji Sung is the right man for this anti-hero part, because he’s definitely playing against type. Jo Min-Hyuk’s most disturbing quality from a feminist point of view is the character’s desire to control women when he feels insecure.

But Ji Sung comes to this character after a couple popular projects playing endearingly uncontrolling heroes. In 2011 drama Protect the Boss, for instance, his character adapts himself to the heroine’s ideas about romance, which means not touching her without her permission. And as the heartbroken songwriter in 2012 film My P.S. Partner, Ji Sung again plays a hero who is relatively powerless compared to the heroine. His character doesn’t seek power over the heroine, as the second male lead does, but rather an equal relationship. Ji Sung’s real-life marriage to successful actress Lee Bo-Young reinforces his image as a man who is unafraid of equality.

We may try to forget an actor’s past when we watch a drama—we try to only see the character—but it’s hard to empty our minds of an actor’s past roles. Film history is full of directors using this fact to their advantage.

Alfred Hitchcock, for instance, cast Cary Grant as the morally dubious CIA agent in 1944’s Notorious. Grant’s character is essentially pimping out Ingrid Bergman to Claude Rains to gain intelligence information—not a savory role. But Grant was associated in audience minds with a decade of playing funny, bumbling “nice guys” in fizzy romantic comedies. Not any actor could make you root for a jerk to get together with screen goddess Ingrid Bergman. But Grant gets the benefit of the doubt.

With “nice guy” Ji Sung on board, I find it hard to think of Secret as anything other than a twisted fantasy. Min-Hyuk’s vengeance on Yoo-Jung is horrifying but fascinating. Although I don’t want to think of myself as someone who finds hatred entertaining, I guess some subterranean part of me does. The quantity of hate coming out of Min-Hyuk is almost sublime in its vastness. I feel awed by how deep this person’s suffering runs, and by how cruel he is as a result.

Ji Sung makes this monster believable, in an exaggerated, melodramatic fashion. Min-Hyuk is in emotional freefall, and you can’t help wondering when he will hit bottom. When his girlfriend dies, he first tries to commit suicide, then assaults Yoo-Jung with murderous anger. Next, he hocks his expensive watch, designer suit and even his shoes. He wanders town in cheap rubber shower shoes and a T-shirt. The show presents a series of striking images of his desolation (above).

Hwang Jung-Eum plays another extreme character, the self-sacrificing Yoo-Jung. If Min-Hyuk combines the worst qualities of every chaebol hero, Yoo-Jung combines the “best” virtues of the cliché K-drama heroine. She takes care of everyone around her—even those who despise her—and she has a nearly endless supply of pluck and good cheer.

In episode one, Yoo-Jung takes the fall for her fiancé’s hit-and-run accident and goes to prison in his place. And that’s just the beginning. The first five or six episodes make her suffer in ways that seem over-the-top even by melodrama standards. But Hwang Jung-Eum convinces me this woman isn’t an invincible Candy girl robot. And so I keep watching for the same reason I can’t turn my eyes away from someone walking on hot coals: I want to see how much more she can endure.

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The secondary characters, played by Bae Soo-Bin (left) and Lee Da-Hee (right), may be more twisted than the leads. As they grow more cruel and unstable, the main characters come to seem reasonable by comparison.

The relationship that develops between Min-Hyuk and Yoo-Jung is textbook emotional sadomasochism. He wants to control her and make her suffer, and she wants to sacrifice her happiness to make him happy. Over the course of the first ten episodes, Min-Hyuk stalks Yoo-Jung and her loved ones, attacks her physically, abuses her verbally, and manipulates her financially so that she owes him money.

And he makes her do laundry—which strangely bothers me even more than the stalking. I really hate laundry. It’s hard not to notice that Min-Hyuk watches Yoo-Jung hanging up the wash like someone with a cleaning fetish. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

These acts of dominance and aggression arguably occur before the two discover they have feelings for each other. These are the last scenes in his revenge, perhaps. But it’s equally possible to see the abuse as the first stages in an unhealthy relationship.

This show isn’t trying to depict normal human psychology, though. Melodrama is about how life feels, not how life really is or should be. Melodrama is about exaggeration, fantasy and human irrationality. I’m deeply uncomfortable with this “romance” (aargh, the laundry!). But my discomfort is like the thrill of watching a horror movie. I enjoy being scared by how emotionally damaged these people are. And I also enjoy how the story eventually contains the horror by allowing the characters to change for the better, to a certain extent.

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The settings and mood have a distinct touch of the Gothic, bringing out how this is a relationship based on shared suffering, even shared obsession with suffering.

The script acknowledges that it’s partly a horror story. Min-Hyuk’s potential fiancée Se-Yeon (Lee Da Hee), tells him to read Wuthering Heights, which she says contains lessons for him. The explicit references to Wuthering Heights give us a framework for understanding Secret. Emily Bronte’s nineteenth-century novel concerns a love affair, but it isn’t a romance. The main characters, Catherine and Heathcliff, are obsessed with each other in ways that destroy them both.

Secret echoes the idea that sexual attraction can overlap with destructive emotions. There’s powerful chemistry between Min-Hyuk and Yoo-Jung. But their attraction is mixed up with Min-Hyuk’s envy and self-hatred, and Yoo-Jung’s self-abnegation and misplaced guilt. (Though Min-Hyuk is the one with obvious moral flaws, Yoo-Jung is also flawed in her intense need to take the blame for other’s mistakes, whether they like it or not.)

Literary critic Rosemary Jackson describes the lovers in Wuthering Heights as having a “vampiric relationship.” The hero in particular is “closer to the demonic than to the human.” Both lovers are somehow outside of society, distanced from other humans. I get a similar feeling from Min-Hyuk and Yoo-Jung. Though they’re enemies, they’re also exiles from the world of normal, reasonable emotions. They’re both living inside their own nightmares—neither can move on from the hit-and-run accident, even after the passage of years—and they understand each other’s nightmares while no one else does. Their attraction, which seemed impossible, becomes believable.

Is the writer thinking about all this? I don’t think the writer would mention Wuthering Heights without knowing that it’s a tragedy about people whose emotions run away with them. The writer knows there’s something horrifying about Min-Hyuk and Yoo-Jung’s relationship—even while it’s the ultimate fantasy of people getting past their hatred. It’s unnatural and perverse for them to develop feelings for each other, not just because of the hit-and-run but also because Min-Hyuk’s revenge imposes terrible costs on Yoo-Jung.

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The K-drama “back hug” has never been a more powerful indicator of power relations: to the end, Min-Hyuk is in charge and Yoo-Jung goes along with him.

Nor does the director of Secret ignore the horror elements. The narrative moves along quickly, but maintains a mood of dark brooding. The mise-en-scene includes Gothic elements that suggest eerie and irrational forces: Se-Yeon’s vaguely church-like loft apartment, the sepulcher-like marble hallways of the Jo mansion, a dark abandoned bakery. A few pivotal scenes take place at night in pouring rain, with people and objects appearing suddenly in car headlights like something out of a horror movie. Most of the music is of the melancholy, romantic orchestral variety, including a tango melody—the ultimate rhythm of illicit desire.

A few jarring elements in Secret contradict the idea that it’s a horror story. The one that bothers me most is the egregious TGI Friday’s product placement. The TGI Friday’s chain does cause me a few feelings of horror, but not the kind of horror that belongs here. I wish I could say the director and writer found a clever way to work this setting into the plot, but it’s merely distracting. Some scenes are almost unwatchable as a result. If you live in a nation without TGI Friday’s, I envy you those scenes.

Also distracting is the innocuous pop music typical of K-dramas. It isn’t overbearing—most of the background music is somber orchestral, not pop—but it does contradict the sense that these are scary people. By inserting it into a few of the more violent moments in Min-Hyuk and Yoo-Jung’s relationship, the director introduces a lot of ambiguity. Are we supposed to think this is romantic after all? The ending is jarring too, but click here for a separate post with the spoilers.

If I add up the ways Secret scares me and the ways it tries to sell romance clichés, I find a stronger argument for horror than romance here. The show would be much stronger if they cut the pop music out of three key scenes. Nevertheless, I don’t feel like Secret is arguing that stalking or violence against women is romantic, as some K-dramas genuinely do. (Writer Kim Eun-Sook, I’m looking at you and your crazy stalker boys in Heirs.)

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“Secret” is incredibly sexy, as long as you don’t believe “sexy” has to mean “emotionally wholesome.”

Secret occupies the gray area of so much pop culture, however, because it doesn’t critique Min-Hyuk’s abusive behaviors either. Someone who believes stalking equals love could thus find the story romantic. I don’t like the thought of anyone idealizing the relationship shown here, and I know from forum comments that many do.

At the same time, I fully intend to hang onto my feminist ID card despite enjoying Secret the way it looks to me, as a dark fantasy about people in pain. And if other women enjoy it because they believe sexy equals romantic, I won’t blame them.

Secret is the essence of melodrama. In the opening credits, the title is formed by falling tears, a fantastic image for what melodrama is all about. It’s a show about grief, and worse. Each of the main characters has their own definition of love, and each definition is crazy in its own way. And the second leads are even more flawed than the leads. Yoo-Jung’s twisted ex-fiancé actually makes Min-Hyuk look reasonable and considerate by comparison.

In the end, I enjoy Secret not in spite of the craziness but because of the craziness. Ji Sung and Hwang Jung-Eum bring out the complexity in these characters, while maintaining the exaggerated, Gothic nature of the tale. If you’re dabbling in dark melodrama, you could do worse than Secret. It’s sexy as hell. Just don’t take relationship advice from these characters.♥

Ratings:

  • Overall: 7/10
  • Writing: 7/10
  • Acting: 8/10
  • Production & Directing: 6/10

Full cast information at Drama Wiki and Asian Wiki.

Availability: Only licensed site with it is Viki.

Alternate titles: The Korean title is simply 비밀, Bimil or Secret, but in some overseas markets it was sold as Secret Love. This can be confusing because in 2014 the Korean cable channel DramaCube produced a show called Secret Love, starring K-pop group KARA. Secret was produced by KBS in 2013, with Ji Sung and Hwang Jung-Eum.

Also recommended: This one’s in a crazy-pants league of its own. But Ji Sung and Hwang Jung-Eum teamed up again in 2015 for Kill Me, Heal Me, which is the emotional and tonal opposite of Secret. It highlighted their great romantic chemistry and showed they have good comic rapport as well.

23 thoughts on ““Secret” (a.k.a. “Secret Love”) Series Review

  1. I wasn’t able to finish watching Secret due to the frequency of my eyerolls making it impossible for me to see this level of nuance on screen (ha), yet once again I am impressed with your analysis. From what I did see and the recaps I read I agree with your words, To excuse myself, it wasn’t the twistedness that turned me off. I can actually enjoy that sort of thing, but apparently not over a certain time frame.

    A c-drama, Lee Jun Kai, had similar themes (the bare bones at least, of love being born from vengeance), but was only 9 20 minute episodes if memory serves. It was crazy intense, such that I kept wondering why there wasn’t a disclaimer: “Warning: This isn’t what real love looks like! If you live like this call 555-domestic-abuse-hotline”. The couple’s chemistry was DISGUSTINGLY heady. The lead would get all up in her grill intimidatingly and *I* would be…blushing. Ahem. And that was DESPITE the level of bloodlust I’d developed from his reprehensible behavior. (In case you missed the subtle hinting, waaaatch eeeet!)

    Anyway, my biggest problem with the genre is probably as you said, the sexy vs romantic. Commentators which file this under ideal take me out of the story because I’m too busy worried about humanity lol. On that note, I do wonder at the implications of Secret beating out Heirs. Though it may be as simple for others as it was for me. I don’t watch high school dramas and all the other ridiculousness was…reverse icing on the cake…flies on the dung pile?

  2. Excellent review! You voice a lot of my thoughts here. I realize it’s extreme melodrama, at times Makjang, and unrealistic, so I had to fight that “realistic” eye I have when it comes to art/drama. Abstract art often annoys me, so abstract dramas can irritate me too. I mean my hero can be a gumiho riding a flying unicorn, but darn it, the drama better have realism! If that makes any sense. Something struck me a few months ago though, I tend to love these crazy, melodramatic, twisted dramas, like Nice Guy Incarnation of money, my happy home, etc. I just call them cracky Melos.
    I was super impressed with the chemistry here, and annoyed that for the most part I actually wanted to see them succeed. I like your last line…No relationship advice from eye two! Lol, and may I add, parenting advice. I was sooo mad at the finale after all that crud she went through over this child. I tried mightily to reason why she made that choice, but in the end I hated her for it. So she gets to live her rich, dysfunctionally happy life, forever knowing what she did. Well…maybe that child is better off. I don’t know. I was bewitched, bothered and bewildered with the whole drama.

  3. @ Muse: It’s definitely not for everyone. At least I’ve figured out now why I like it. I feel like “Secret” should come with a warning that it’s for people over 30 who have already seen too much of the world and get pleasure from shaking our heads and saying Tsk, tsk, tsk. But I have to check out your c-drama rec! And I don’t know what to make of Secret v. Heirs. Heirs has a very familiar plotline, whereas Secret is like some sort of extreme script-writing competition. I can imagine people tuning in just to see if there was any way it could work. But “interesting” doesn’t always equal good ratings, so I wonder.

    @ Lady G: Yes! “Secret” messes with our minds totally because intellectually we know it’s all kinds of wrong, but it bypasses the brain and goes to the heart. Total crack. I love how lots of people comment that they fought against its addictiveness. I did understand the heroine’s choice at the end, or at least I thought it was best for the poor kid. But it’s amazing that she could do it and mega-infuriating that was in that position in the first place.

    I love how K-dramas aren’t afraid to tell Stories with a capital S, things are clearly fictional. Even though I love nonfiction, I like my fiction a little on the fantastic side, though usually not as extreme as Secret. There’s a trick to telling a story that isn’t realistic, but giving it enough lifelike touches that we can say, “Yeah, I bet a gumiho riding a unicorn would look just like that!”

    • That’s a great way to put it. Bypassing the brain and aiming at the heart. We often have to cast aside logic to relax and enjoy the majority of these dramas. Lifelike touches. Exactly. I’m the type who saw Cloverfield in the movies and said, “They couldn’t have made it through the tunnels to mid-town in that short amount of time!” Never mind that the entire fiction plot is based around a giant alien lizard destroying the city. LOL. Strange reasoning.

      And yes, I think they reallllllyyy overdid it with the TGI Fridays restaurant theme. It was so annoying. What’s the big deal about a silly chain restaurant? I could see if it were some real quality original Korean or Italian restaurant he was fighting for. Fridays is never so empty either. Not the one near me. haha.

  4. I never intended to watch secret since I actually really hype for the heirs at the moment, but then, maybe ji sung magic always works on me, I accidentally have nothing to watch and Secret just had 2 ep at the time.
    With nothing to lose on 2 ep motto plus desire to watch something with Korean language, I tried and I find that this melodrama is the best way to actually cry when I want to until this day. I totally like replaying the ep after Yoo jung back from the prison to cried with her.
    Not like many people that find it hard to believe, I, in the other hand applause to this premise cause I witnessed it happen in real life.
    It is ugly and not ideal in many logical thinking but then, life is as hard as we imagine and some people in that black part of society just don’t have anything to refuse a better future they wished to have.
    It not as surprising for me because Yoojung believe his fiancee and to start all the hardship again is not like any fairy tale, it is hard and it just hard to throwing all that glory for accident we never intend to happen (as Yoojung believe)
    It just realistic to me, and I am not even 20 at that time. The crazy Minhyuk family also speak the truth in my life, there’s no way a father would give a company as easy as that but also there’s that blood string that tied them together. All bat-shit crazy even illegal things that happen is not at all fantasy, I do witness how prosecutor is tackled down by corporate string, how overly rich people marry younger woman or buying fake things.

    The romance is really weird for me to the point of admiration. Love is not an easy things and they told it, Hwang Jeung Um said that this drama is traditional melodrama, Ji sung and Bae Soo Bin both said their character is a jerk or bad guy and I totally laugh on that, they speak the truth.
    When Drama Beans didn’t recap this series, I am really lost to expressing my comment and it is so hard to even find a site that recapping it also many people keep questioning how Secret manage to top the heirs in rating.
    It drive me crazy but sometimes in 1 week waiting period, I keep thinking that they might overcome it, they will knew it was wrong,
    The way they resolve it is just beautiful. In paper, Bae Soo Bin character is better than Ji Sung, especially if it written, I find BAe Soo Bin is somehow appealing more to became the good guy 1st, but in the scene we saw both of them shows how much we can hate Bae Soo Bin to wish he can die and pity over Ji Sung but still hope he’ll grow lonely until Hwang Jeung Um helps him. I want both of them suffer but then release from the hate feeling.

    Then I really like how Hwang Jeung Um describe her character, yes she is weak and strong or bubly at some point, but she’s not innocent, she realize that life is just like that but we need to tried our best. Yes, all bad things happen , Yes, I am guilty but I still need move on because it is life. I have so many problem with this drama to comment but then I also realize the drama have their own POV and that things exist in our society.
    The crazy Minhyuk is crazy and they said he is crazy, his stalking or even his role-play sadomasochism is crazy but that is him and that is how he needs yoo jung.
    Many drama fans still hate towards the car kiss, and I totally agree with it, but yoo jung reaction, minhyuk craziness and the plot make me realize, that it is all about perspective.

    I never recommended this drama for my friend on same age, but if they asked I just said to prepare their heart for total makjang and hate for entire ep with happy ending.
    But I can’t lie that this drama is drama that really addictive, sad, twisted but always in my heart.

    Thanks for the on-point and really well explanation about this drama. Big thanks from me. I hope I can write like you someday and thanks again for watching this.

    ★ㅡ_ㅡ:droplet:

    • Great comment–I agree that I’ve seen these kinds of emotions in real life, which makes me believe the story. Sadly, I even come across people in real life who have had almost this much bad luck. It’s extreme, but I can imagine people acting like this.
      You’re right about how important the contrast with Bae Soo Bin is. As Soo Bin gets more angry and hateful towards Yoo Jung, he looks like an even worse person than Min Hyuk. Because Soo Bin loved Yoo Jung and devoted years of his life to her. It’s awful that he can turn against her. (Awful and also believable, since when a close relationship fails, the bad feelings stick around for a long time.)

      There’s a weird point in the story where Min Hyuk starts to look like the better man, but only because Soo Bin has become so unlikable. Min Hyuk is at least moving away from hate and self-pity. And he’s also trying to figure out the truth, while Soo Bin wants to hide the truth. Min Hyuk’s reasons for wanting to know the truth aren’t noble, but still, the truth is the truth. I can think about it for hours and their personalities are so complicated. Are they actually really similar to each other? Or are they actually very different?

      The car kiss is the most shocking thing I’ve seen in a K-drama. It messes with my mind, especially because it happens at a moment when it looks like they could actually have a romantic kiss. It’s like the director throws cold water on us and says, no, these people are still not normal. Min Hyuk wants to be in control. That scene makes me think, is there any hope for these people? But whether or not there’s hope, I still want for them to be suffering less. And because Min Hyuk’s mother committed suicide, I think he’s been suffering for a long time. K-dramas are full of characters who suffer losses but stay cheerful, which is always hard to believe. Min Hyuk is to me a more realistic character. Suffering takes its toll, and Min Hyuk is badly damaged.

      Thanks so much for commenting! When I can’t find much written about a show, I have to say something, and I’m glad I have readers who feel the same.

      • Oops, and just so I don’t sound crazier than I actually am, I realize Bae Soo Bin is an actor! But I can’t remember the name of his character right now. Brain freeze.

        • I think the kiss gonna stay long since it always listed as the bad kiss on the drama-land, even not many people watch the drama, people knew it,
          Bae Soo Bin is Ahn Do Yon, and BSB did a lot of bad guy role and 2nd lead as much as I remember, but he is famous like Ji sung, like an older actor everyone knew

          anyway,
          the girl that act as Min hyuk fiancee (Lee Da Hae -the model) also act in I hear your voice as Lee Bo young rivals, her character name is Do Hyon, we should knew it is unisex name, hahaha,

          by the way, you can call me Nana ^-^, have trouble getting connect with google last week

        • Hi Nana! 🙂 I hope that kiss remains infamous, because I don’t want any more scenes like that in dramas! Even if, in this drama, I think it did its job by freaking me out.

          IHYV! I forgot that’s where I’d seen Lee Da Hee before. I totally forgot her character was Do-Hyun! That’s awesome. You are the name-memory queen! Koreans confuse me by having so many unisex names. In English we have very few, though some names switch back and forth every few decades.

          I watched the first episode of My Heart Twinkle, Twinkle, and Bae Soo-Bin’s the lead–he was seriously scary. When he wants to act like a tough guy, he’s not messing around. One reason I didn’t watch any more of the show was he convinced me his character was evil! Maybe the part was written like that, or maybe he’s not good at showing good and bad emotions mixed together. But he was really good at being scary.

  5. Wow, Odessa…great review. As usual, you see things much more deeply than I. I felt, that, from the time he started watching her with thoughts of revenge, that he secretly found himself becoming fascinated with her in a curious way. I could see the puzzled expression in his eyes as he was secretly watching her….Ji Sung does this so well! I watched this one twice and felt that pretty much from the beginning he was falling for her slowly and fighting it at the same time.

    • Mmm, mmm, yeah. JS really kills this part, and it’s arguably as hard as his role in KMHM, since he plays someone it’s almost impossible to like!

  6. I found this drama strangely fascinating as well. The main actors were well cast and were able to make me care about these sad, traumatized characters.
    Min-Hyuk actions seem vindictive because the viewer knows Yoo-Jung is innocent. From his point of view, he is seeking adequate retribution against the murderer of his lover and unborn child. While Min-Hyuk exerts pressure, Ahn Do Yon makes the fateful choices that cause her the most suffering; the conviction, the failure to make parole, and the loss of their child. I think to betray someone you love for your own gain is more evil than trying to punish a stranger for their criminal act.
    I think what appealed to Min-Hyuk about Yoo- Jung was her resilience and her ability to still see the humanity in people despite the bad things they did. Her prison bully turned friend saw this as well. That special grace; to be able to reach out in compassion to your oppressor is rare. Are you a doormat because of it? Maybe. Compassion and empathy is not the same thing as forgiveness.
    I think the car kiss was very important in showing the changing dynamic between the characters. No, it was not a loving kiss, but the emotions at that point were far from love.

    • Yes, the car kiss could not be a loving and romantic kiss like any k-drama, and it’s done lovingly, it will be weirder. Both are struggling with their emotion and obviously Yoo Jung has fallen to a person whom he deem as his enemy and he has been holding that thought to survive. And to turn from hate to love, is an emotion roller coaster not anyone can comprehend. But is it impossible? Ji Sung makes it believable.
      As for Yoo-Jung, she is starting to accept him, reluctantly but she started to see who is the real evil here. Its not this stalker, is the man that she went to prison for and had a child with. Probably Yoo-Jung is filled with more hate and anger than Min Hyuk, and throw some guilt int it too. Even if she is starting to fall for Min Hyuk, she won’t be able to accept the kiss lovingly, like a normal woman.

    • Just recommended Secret to a friend who’s starting her journey with Kdramas, so I decided to re-watch a few episodes. I’m as invested in this story now as I was two years ago. Kbas, you hit ALL the points that I felt in this story. Min Hyuk’s first doubts about “becoming a monster” came early, yet his pain was so deep he couldn’t stop himself. Ji Sung’s amazing ability and expressive face helped the writer convince us that Min Hyuk was indeed slowly changing as his disgust became curiosity, then concern & finally respect for Yoo-Jung. Her strong resilience, honesty and generous heart helped heal him. As you said Kbas: ‘the grace to reach out in compassion to an oppressor is rare.’ In the 2002 Kdrama cult hit: ‘Ruler of your Own World’, a good-for-nothing pickpocket trying very hard to kick that habit says: “Changing the world you live in, is much harder than dying,” Ji Sung’s metamorphosis won me over because he indeed had to change his way of being in the world once he met Yoo-Jung. I had the same fascination for Ahn Do Yon’s moral decay as he instead let his soul die so he could be part of a world that he never belonged in. The two men stayed polar opposites—one disintegrating into evil as the other fell into grace.

      • “One disintegrating into evil as the other fell into grace”–you’re such a great writer, Charlotte! One of the things I love about this show is that Min-Hyuk’s journey is always shown in contrast to Do-Yon’s. After finishing my latest piece yesterday (about that one scene in Secret), I’ve been thinking again about how their moral journeys relate to the socio-economic context. Is Ahn Do-Yon doomed to fail because he started out poor? And does coming from wealth give Min-Hyuk an opportunity to grow–an opportunity Do-Yon could never afford? That’s one hypothesis, but the money issue is complicated by moral and family issues. I think Do-Yon once had an opportunity to be happy, but only if he decided not to care about social-climbing. His story is compelling because he really believes the social myth of mobility. He thinks all he has to do is do well in school and avoid that manslaughter conviction, and he’s got it made in the shade. I genuinely feel sorry for him, because I badly want to believe that social mobility is possible, too. It’s not fair that he got into that accident in the rain. He makes terrible choices, but they’re all so believable–a slow accidental slide into evil.

  7. Another show that had a lot of intensity was Jam Loey Rak. There’s a scene in that drama when the male lead reminded me of JS because his body language was so expressive he didn’t need any dialog. That show, like “Secret”, will not be for everyone but anyone who watches either show will find them difficult to forget.

  8. It may be a bit late for me to comment here, I’ve watched this drama some time ago but it still remains as one of my favourite, despite the dark nature of this drama. I have no qualm watching this so call abusive and twisted drama. Is Korea drama fans watching too many sugar coated drama and everyone got ‘offended’ by Secret when they offered something closer to life and reality? I’ve watched enough American drama and I can say, Secret is a light drama compare to those (try watching Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or Law and Order SVU to get an idea of disturbing stories). Secret has love line and it ended good. I like how this k-drama is different from the rest of drama of heavy idolized drama.

    And I agree with your other review on Secret. Its twisted but somehow the story connects and strings everything beautifully. This is why I love this drama but I don’t think I can re-watch it again. Its just dark and deep, definitely not something everyone enjoy. Pure dark chocolate of K-drama, it’s just bitter sweet. 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting! I never get tired of thinking about this weird show. You have a very good point about American dramas. I think many viewers do turn to K-dramas for a different kind of entertainment and aren’t ready for the darker stuff. But I love it when Korean shows go darker–as you say, they’re still “light” compared to GOT and its ilk.

  9. I love this drama as the story line is well written and it’s not like the typical romance kdrama where you fight at first then falls in love in the end (boys over flower, etc) . In my opinion I think this love story is realistic , as min-hyuk”s hatred changed into feeling pity (when he found out she wasnt the perpetrator and she took the blame for her ex fiance)the girl and finally it develops into love . Incredible story and acting .

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