Exploring Korean Dramas: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop

silly poster

If My Girlfriend is a Gumhio is the cutest kdrama romcom I’ve seen, then Flower Boy Ramyun Shop is the most fun.  The show is a balm to anyone who’s sick of romantic comedy clichés.  They’re all here, but few are taken seriously.  This is a show that embraces its cheese, and it’s all the better for it.

gym teacherYang Eun Bi is a 25-year-old student on the verge of becoming a teacher.  She just has to pass her civil servant test (a requirement for employment in any branch of the government) and get through her student teaching.  She’s never had much luck with either men or school, but it’s not because she’s an adora-klutz or a diamond in the rough: she’s got a nasty temper and a short attention span for academics.  She was the star volleyball player in high school, so her goal is to return to the scene of her success as the gym teacher.

Not helping her career is the fact that she’s living in a house with two of the students at her school, and that she might have a bit of an attraction thing going on with another one, Cha Chi Soo.  Given their six-year age difference, she won’t acknowledge that it’s anything more than that.

Eun Bi leaves the school because she can’t control her emotions around Cha Chi Soo.  But it’s not what you think: at this point, the two of them can barely be in the same room without fighting.  It’s not professional, so Eun Bi leaves.  She goes to work in the ramen shop attached to her house, but Chi Soo shows up there too.

The ramen shop is also the reason why Eun Bi’s got two of her former students, Hyun Woo and Ba Wool, shacked up with her (along with a third man, six years her senior).  Eun Bi’s recently deceased father left his ramen shop to a lost young man he once helped, Kang Hyuk.  Kang Hyuk wants to continue that legacy, and opens the shop (and the house attached to it), to other neighborhood orphaned and abandoned boys.

The middle aged women of the neighborhood are horrified when they discover the flock of men circling around Eun Bi.  The ridiculousness is capped off in a scene with Eun Bi tearing through the streets, chased by a whole group of them.  The show is full of silly moments like that.

pororo blanketJung Il Woo, who plays the male lead Cha Chi Soo, shines the brightest at these times; of the whole cast he’s the best at balancing both the dramatic and the funny.  One of my favorite bits with him is toward the end, when his father has forbidden him from seeing Eun Bi.  Rather than brooding about his daily routine, Chi Soo throws a strop.

He holes up in his room, listens to the same sad song on repeat, and tells his father that Pororo (a Korean cartoon penguin, of which Chi Soo has some merchandise) is a better family member to him.  Jung Il Woo manages to play the tantrum as ridiculous as it is, while also making you feel for his character.  It helps that you’re on his side, no matter how silly he’s being.  Chi Soo and Eun Bi are both consenting adults, and Chi Soo’s father’s only objection is utter nonsense about class differences.

In order for Ramyun Shop to really parody its genre Chi Soo has to be a bit of a brat (because so many leading men are, without good reason).  Even so he’s still not as much of a snob as he could be.  He’s closest to his friend Hyun Woo, who’s from a poor background and struggling with debt.  Hyun Woo is his emotional anchor; Chi Soo goes to him for explanation and advice when doesn’t understand his own feelings, or isn’t sure how to act in delicate situations.  It’s simultaneously adorable and hysterical, which is a good descriptor of the show’s overall tone.

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