The First Volume
Be Strong, Geum Soon (2005) is a South Korean television drama (K-drama) that aired on the MBC network. It is a traditional K-drama and has all of the necessary elements to be a soapy, melodramatic production. The story is about a twenty-something girl who gets pregnant out of wedlock. She marries the baby's father, but the situation is complicated because her in-laws do not like her. However, the husband passes away in an untimely fashion and things get even worse for her. Despite the hardships, she continues to go through life with an upbeat approach. Be Strong, Geum Soon details her life in one-hundred and sixty-three thirty minute episodes. YA Entertainment has released the series in four volumes. This review covers volume one, which has episodes 1 to 41.
Na Geum-Soon (Han Hye-Jin, Jumong) is the main character. She is a beautiful and bright girl with a lot of potential. In the opening of the series, she is attempting to get her license to be a hair stylist. Her life changes for better and worse after meeting Noh Jung-Wan (Lee Han). Jung-Wan is a college student who is living in the spare room of Geum-Soon's aunt. They are "friends", but shared a romantic evening on one occasion. What she did not expect is to get pregnant from the special day.
The early episodes focus on this development. After Geum-Soon finds out about her pregnancy, the rest of her family finds out. The reaction is not good. And when she tells Jung-Wan the news, he does not take it very well. However, he is a good guy and proposes to her. She feels bad about the proposal, as it happened on a bus and occurred without romance. They continue to sort out how they want to proceed. Jung-Wan is reluctant to tell his parents about it. They have always considered him the good son. It is not until Geum-Soon's grandmother takes charge that the Noh family finds out. The situation is overly complicated since his parents do not like Geum-Soon. Jung-Wan's mother Jeong-Shim especially despises her. Eventually, the Noh family reluctantly agrees to the marriage between Geum-Soon and Jung-Wan.
The Noh's demand Geum-Soon move in with them while Jung-Wan is at college. Living at the Noh household is not easy for Geum-Soon. Her mother-in-law treats her with disdain. Despite accepting the marriage, she has no care or appreciation for Geum-Soon. The drama is turned up a notch after Jung-Wan dies in a car accident. After his death, Geum-Soon faces more problems. Along with her son Hwee-Sung in the Noh household, she is not treated well. The Noh's want her to give up Hwee-Sung and leave their house. She does not and stays with the Noh's while she works out her life plan. Jeong-Shim continues to treat her poorly, as Geum-Soon is a living reminder of her deceased son. At the same time, Geum-Soon grows on them and there are moments when they seem to care about her.
Besides the main plotline of Geum-Soon's pregnancy and integration to the Noh family, there are several supporting storylines. One of interest is about Geum-Soon's history. She was raised by her grandmother and believes that her birth parents are deceased. The truth is that her mother Young-Ok (Yang Mi-Kyung) is alive and somewhat well. She gave up Geum-Soon at a young age and later started a new family. Now, Young-Ok is sick. She desperately needs a new kidney. Her husband Dr. Jang is a doctor and is able to find a match, who happens to be Geum-Soon. Dr. Jang also learns that Geum-Soon is her real daughter, but decides to keep it a secret. Other developments include Geum-Soon at work, new love-hate relationship with Dr. Goo Jae-Hee (Kang Ji-Hwan) -- who Young-Ok's daughter Eun-Joo has her eyes on, Geum-Soon's family having money and gangster problems, love blossoming between Noh Shi-Wan and Ha Sung-Ran, and more.
In general, I did not care much for Be Strong, Geum-Soon. I had a hard time watching it. The majority of K-dramas I have seen are intense, gripping, and entertaining from the start. Be Strong, Geum-Soon did not share these traits. While it has the right elements for a successful K-drama, it started off with a slow tempo and never got anywhere fast. The presentation and execution leave little to be desired. As I got to know Geum-Soon, I never felt like her character was a person worth caring about. As such, it became increasingly difficult to care about her life and the drama surrounding it. Even more so, the other characters (like the love interest Jae-Hee) did not seem to bring a whole lot either.
I think it is a real shame, because I was expecting to fall in love with the drama. I was really looking forward to seeing the lead actress Han Hye-Jin in her own drama. She was great as the lead character's love interest in Jumong. Nevertheless, her character was not enough to make the rather lackluster, slow-going storyline enjoyable. In the end, Be Strong, Geum Soon: Volume 1 is a hard drama to enjoy. It is not on the same plane as other series in the genre. These forty-one episodes are too slow and tend to be uninteresting.