Tomato is a Korean television drama (K-drama) from the Seoul Broadcasting System that aired in 1999. This K-drama features intriguing, well-developed characters, plot twists, schemes, and all of the other elements that makeup a solid soap opera. The general story focuses on several individuals from multiple generations and romantic love triangles and competition in the fashion world. As an overall drama, I enjoyed Tomato to the point that I was eager to see what happened next, but at the same time it was not the strongest drama I have seen.
The show's main character is Lee Hani (Kim Hee-Sun, Sad Love Story). Hani is hard working girl who busted her butt to get ahead in the fashion world. She worked fulltime and went to night school to major in fashion design. That's how badly she wanted it. Since she was little, she has always liked pumps (high heel shoes) and has wanted to design women's shoes. She recently comes to Seoul to realize her dream. In an unfortunate incident, she is fired from her job. In a desperate, last attempt to stay in the industry, she plans on entering her shoe design into a competition. Hani, however, faces professional jealousy.
Yoon Sara (Kim Ji-young) is a childhood friend of Hani and also her greatest nemesis. The catch is that Hani does not know they are in competition. Since their days in grade school, Sara was always jealous of Hani's creative gifts. She is a cold, calculating bitch; wherever and whenever there is drama, she is usually at the source. When Hani loses her job at work, Sara calls in a favor to get her disqualified from the design competition and branded as a cheater; just so her so-called friend wouldn't get ahead of her in the fashion business. She works for Terra, a company that her mother, Hae-ji, owns.
When Hani comes to Seoul she reacquaints herself with her old high school friend Sara and they witness a man who had been in a severe accident. Cha Seung-joon (Kim Suk-hoon, Tube) is a lawyer, who was working on a tough case. He pissed off the wrong person and got beat up badly for it. Hani saves his life by taking him to the hospital while Sara runs away in fear. Later, Sara comes to the hospital to give Hani her purse and Seung-joon's mother, Hyun-soo, mistakes her as the heroine. Hyun-soo is the owner of Haesung, which is Terra's primary rival. (Both Hyun-soo and Hae-ji graduated from the same art school and have been rivals ever since.) Later, Hani takes advantage of the situation to the fullest.
When Seung-joon tries to find his savior, instead of Hani he meets Sara. He slowly falls in love with her because he thinks she is such a good person. However, the situation is complicated in many ways. Hani's roommate Um Yoo-Na (Kim Yoo-ri) is ripped off and loses their rent money. After recovering from the accident, Seung-joon moves into their apartment. Hani doesn't have anywhere to go and convinces him to let her stay for a short period. The sparks start to fly, and it puts Sara's relationship in jeopardy. Adding to the fire, Hani is offered a position in production at Haesung. And like that, she becomes a professional and personal threat to Sara's wellbeing.
More drama comes into the story when it is revealed that Sara has been dating Seung-joon's cousin Kang Ki-joon (Kim Sang-jung). Ki-joon is Haesung's number two. While Seung-joon has no desire to work in the family business, Ki-joon serves diligently. The only problem is that he has been dating the competition's number two, Sara. She uses and manipulates him to her favor, which is mostly to harm Hani and find ways to bring Seung-joon closer to her. And since Seung-joon and Ki-joon are cousins and good friends, the fact they are dating the same woman is bound to come up! Oh the drama!
While the primary storyline focuses on the Sara/Hani/Seung-joon/Ki-koon love quartet, there are a couple subplots. As previously mentioned, the two owners of Haesung and Terra have been rivals since their school days. Their rivalry is a significant part of the storyline and ties into the Sara-Hani rivalry as well. Another subplot is Hani's ex-roommate Yoo-na. She meets Sara's younger brother Ho-tae (Kim Jin) after being ripped off. Ho-tae isn't interested in the shoe business, despite his mother's pressuring him into it, and tries to help Yoo-na start a music career. They make for a goofy pair.
Overall, Tomato does one thing very well, drama. It packs a lot of soapy, melodramatic content into sixteen hours that will leave viewers wanting to know what happens next. In addition, the acting performances are topnotch, with young and old providing solid characters. The only real disappointment in the characters is the underdevelopment of Ki-joon and not allowing a strong venue for his character to get payback. In the end, Tomato had all of the right elements and played out well. It kept my interest and attention throughout the show's sixteen hours. Despite, it still did not grab me in such a way that I fell in love with the show or the characters. Regardless, the show is recommended for K-drama fans.
For non-spoken language options, there are subtitles in English. The English subtitles have a few grammatical errors and odd word usages, but for the most part they provided dialogue that was very easy to follow.