Review: "Iris" Brings Big Hollywood Style Action to the Small Screen

This review originally appeared in the Korean Quarterly 

The production team for “IRIS” (KBS 2009) spent every penny of their reputed $20 million budget wisely because this drama shines with class and sophistication. Every episode brings suspense, action, and yes, romance to the screen, providing something for every adult viewer. (Note: scenes involving violence make this drama inappropriate viewing for younger or more sensitive audiences.) And like many Hollywood blockbusters, the gloss hides some flaws.

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The ambitious plot combines spy games, betrayal, political moves for and against reunification, assassinations and conspiracies, and oh yes, a love triangle, all told in 20 episodes. The principle players in the very large and talented cast are: Byung Hun Lee (“All In,” “The Good, the Bad, and the Weird”), Tae Hee Kim (“Stairway to Heaven”), and Joon Ho Jung (“Last Scandal”) as NSS agents Kim Hyun Joon, Choi Seung Hee, and Jin Sa Woo, respectively. Hyun Joon and Sa Woo meet in the service and are recruited by the NSS, with Seung Hee, an expert profiler for the agency, part of the team vetting the two men. Both fall for her but it is Hyun Joon’s bad boy charm that wins her heart. But there is little time for romance in a spy’s world, not with the threat of North Korea possibly ready for a successful nuclear weapons program.  Rounding out the main cast members are Seung Woo Kim (“How to Meet a Perfect Neighbor,” “Hotelier”) and So Yeon Kim (“Gourmet”) as Park Chul Young and Kim Sun Hwa, members of the North Korean national guard, Young Chul Kim as Baek San, head of the NSS, and T.O.P from the pop group Big Bang in his first role as IRIS assassin, Vick. Other familiar faces in the cast include Je Moon Yoon, Joo Sang Yoon, Jung Gil Lee, Jyu Ni Hyun, and Gab Soo Kim.

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The action sequences are where the drama really shines. There’s a dash of “24,” a smidgen of James Bond, a pinch of “Time Between Dog and Wolf,” and a nod to “The Fugitive.” And the drama kicks off with some outstanding location work and a series of dramatic action sequences. Given an unusual “wet work” assignment to assassinate a key figure in the North Korean government by spymaster Baek San, Hyun Joon (Lee) sets up the operation in spite of the high risks involved. The setting at the Budapest History Museum captures that classic spy versus spy element of Cold War dramas, as he tours the massive stone building and narrow streets of a central European capital that has seen many intrigues in its long history. He narrowly avoids contact with the North Korean security service, headed up by the sharp-dressing Park Chul Young and his stern sidekick, Kim Sun Hwa on several occasions, and manages to complete his task and eliminate the target, but not without consequences. In his escape, he is wounded and narrowly avoids capture, but with his wound as severe as it is, he will need backup from his fellow NSS agents. Only that help is not coming…

 

The story takes a step back at this point to identify the major characters, provide the back story for the friendship between pals Hyun Joon and Sa Woo, their recruitment into the NSS (in a harrowing sequence involving physical, chemical, and mental torture to test their endurance), and to set up the romance between Hyun Joon and Seung Hee, leaving Sa Woo on the periphery and jealous. We learn that Hyun Joon is an orphan and his parents, scientists in South Korea’s nuclear program, died mysteriously. And, that he’s driven, intelligent, loyal to a fault, and yes, very charismatic. (Of course.)

After the successful resolution to a mission in which the president’s life is saved, Hyun Joon and Seung Hee take off for northern Japan to get away from the deadly seriousness of espionage and play in the snow. They spend an idyllic time playing in the snow, enjoying the hot springs, bonding with a local family, and getting to know each other. At one point in their explorations, they come across a statue guarding a lake and Seung Hee explains the legend behind the figure. Her story reveals a fear she harbors that the work they do may turn them into monsters, and her vulnerability. He too recognizes this, but at this point in his career, feels that they will always be able to walk away at some point in the future. But then, he’s not become involved with IRIS. They return from their vacation to head to Hungary on assignment and from there, Hyun Joon is on a trajectory with fate.

While the plot of “IRIS” is not so complicated that one needs to take notes to keep straight what is going on at any given moment, or who is on what side, but to explain further the plot points would rob the new viewer of the thrill of wondering what will happen next. With only a few episodes just past the midpoint of the drama occasionally bogging down in exposition, most hours end with a cliffhanger that forces the viewer to continue on with the next one. There are more than a few surprises along the way, and not always pleasant ones. This is a deadly serious business, with consequences for those involved.

The performances from the cast make this drama worth watching as well, with few exceptions. Critics have weighed in both positively and negatively regarding Tae Hee Kim’s capabilities as a leading lady. Although she excels as in commercial work, there are times when she is given to overacting – particularly when she is called upon to perform in a high-tension scene – and this makes her less compelling as a leading lady. However, when she is relaxed and playful in her romantic interludes with Byung Hun Lee, she is much more credible.

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She does not, however, come across as strong as So Yeon Kim, as the loyal Kim Sun Hwa who throws in her lot with vengeful fugitive Hyun Joon. So Yeon Kim’s large, luminous eyes shine convincingly with emotion. Her expressions are perfectly scaled for the small screen; whereas Tae Hee Kim’s broader facial expressions might be more at home on the stage. The role of Sun Hwa understandably became a fan favorite during the show’s airing, and many a viewer secretly hoped that Hyun Joon might see her true worth and toss over Seung Hee for Sun Hwa.

Another performance that received some buzz in pop circles was that of T.O.P (real name Seung Hyun Choi) of Big Bang. As the stone cold killer Vick, he certainly has a glamorous bad boy vibe down and this plays well in some scenes with the impressionable junior NSS officer, Yang Mi Jung. However, in some sequences with the more experienced Lee, it’s clear that – while this is a promising start – he has some work to do yet to be completely convincing for an extended period onscreen. It will be interesting to see what he does with his considerable potential in future efforts.

The other performances from the major cast members, as well as supporting players, are generally excellent. Joon Ho Jung as Sa Woo brings a wealth of film and television experience to play here and is highly credible as a very intelligent yet ultimately weak and conflicted agent. His interactions with Byung Hun Lee illustrate how good the level of professional acting is in Korea: both men bring a dynamic personality, conviction, and physical presence to the screen. It is impossible to watch their performances and not be moved. As mentioned earlier, Lee also has tremendous rapport with So Yeon Kim, and his dealings with Seung Woo Kim as the North Korean agent Park Chul Young also reveal two mature and professional actors at the peak of their game.

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One of the interesting aspects of “IRIS” for this viewer is the role of North Korea and its agents and how varied and interesting they are. From the moment you see Seung Woo Kim in his crisp, elegantly tailored attire, neatly groomed mustache, and intelligent demeanor, you realize that this is not your typical communist-bashing plot. His character is thoughtful, balanced, resourceful, and ethical. His junior, Sun Hwa, with her modern, angular haircut and neat, black, Hillary Clinton pantsuit, is equally passionate, loyal, and true. There are unethical types on both sides of the border, looking to advance their own agenda by whatever means possible – and hang the consequences. This makes the viewing more balanced and ultimately more rational.

Is “IRIS” a perfect drama? Not entirely. It does reveal some plot weaknesses in some moments of repetitive themes. Hyun Joon takes (and survives somehow, uncrippled) some horrific beatings and the story as a result treads a little too far into the unbelievable. But the action-driven plotting, the beautiful use of location shoots, and the efforts of a highly capable and talented cast push this into the “Must See” list for lovers of action-oriented drama. It’s also the perfect drama to introduce a skeptical male into the world of dramas – you’ve got “take no prisoners” action for him and the romance for the traditionalist!

Finally, what or who exactly is IRIS? Well, that would be telling… You’ve got to get to the bottom of that mystery yourself!

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Review: Time between Dog and Wolf

This review originally appeared in the Korean Quarterly.

Imagine the lowering sun at day’s end, painting the sky a mixture of red and violet, and evening approaching. Over the hill in the distance you see a shape, but in the strange, fading twilight you cannot tell if it is the friendly dog you have raised or a wolf… This is a described by the French as “l’heure entre chien et loup,” or, the “time between dog and wolf,” a time when uncertainty reigns and you cannot tell trusted confidante from foe. “Time between Dog and Wolf” is also the title of a 2007 MBC series starring Lee Jun Ki. (Original title: 개와 늑대의 시간 or Kae-wa neuk-dae-ui sikan) Few drama titles set the scene for what is to come as aptly this does.

On the surface this is a straight action-oriented drama with a little romance thrown in for good measure, but to dismiss “Time between Dog and Wolf” as a lightweight but thrilling piece of entertainment is to do it a disservice.

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The story begins with an explosive car chase and shootout at the wharves in Incheon. Lee Jun Ki’s character aggressively maneuvers through shipping containers and dock traffic to protect the frightened and confused woman beside him (Nam Sang Mi). He diverts the pursuers and orders her from the car, then sets off to lead the attackers away from her, only to be hit by gunfire and his car plunge into the harbor. A carved wooden elephant floats nearby as his apparently lifeless body sinks deeper and deeper. The shaken woman collapses into the arms of an NIS agent she recognizes, telling Kang Min Ki (Jung Kyung Ho) in a dazed murmur that she’s seen Soo Hyun.

Have we seen the setup for the dramatic finale of the story, such as was done with “Damo?” What’s going on here? Immediately you sit up and realize that this is not going to be your typical drama. The production looks and feels expensive, the cast is young and attractive, and the story begins with a Hollywood-style action sequence. Your next thought is, “This is going to be good!” And you’re right. Sit back, but forget about relaxing – that’s for other dramas. This one is going to grab you and hold you.

A Shattered Idyll

After the exhilarating pace of the opening sequence, the story shifts to lush and tropical Bangkok, Thailand and a time some ten years earlier. Here is where we meet the central characters to the story: young Lee Soo Hyun (Park Gun Tae plays the role as a boy, Lee Jun Ki as an adult) who lives with his widowed mother (Kim Jung Nan), an intelligence agent, Ari (Jung Min Ah plays the young Ari, Nam Sang Mi as an adult), and her father, Mao (Choi Jae Sung). Soo Hyun and Ari meet by chance and become friends, spending an idyllic time together playing in temples and parks.

The happiness of that friendship is soon cut short. Ari informs him that she will soon leave Bangkok and the friends vow to see each other again someday. Soo Hyun gives her a carved wooden elephant he’s made for her, with the promise to complete it when they next meet. Little do either know that their lives are more closely bound than they could ever imagine: Soo Hyun’s mother is on the trail of the Cheongbang drug cartel and Ari’s father, Mao, is a key member of the cartel. In a stunning sequence of events, Soo Hyun witnesses his mother’s assassination at the hands of a masked assailant, the only recognizable feature being the intricate tattoos on the man’s wrist. The casting of young Park Gun Tae as Soo Hyun was an inspired choice. Not only does he suggest a younger Lee Jun Ki, but also he is able to bring great emotional depth to the frightening events portrayed in this scene. The traumatized boy is taken in by Kang Joong Ho (played by Lee Ki Young), an NIS agent and brought home to Korea.

Finding a Home and a Purpose

A close colleague to both the boy’s mother and father, another agent killed in action years earlier, he adopts Soo Hyun and considers him a son and brother to his own boy, Kang Min Ki, raising them to be strong and intelligent young men (with a healthy sibling rivalry). Both enter the NIS, following in the footsteps of their fathers, and are assigned different roles in the agency that will lead them to a confrontation with the Cheongbang, looking to expand operations into Korea.

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During the first few months of their work in the agency, Min Ki meets a young woman, Soo Ji Woo, who is working as an art dealer and is smitten. He arranges to meet her but has to break their date and sends Soo Hyun in his place. The two don’t connect until he chances to see the name “Ari” in Thai script on her date book and this triggers his memory of his former playmate. The friendship blossoms again, but he holds her at an emotional distance because he’s focused on work, and more specifically, the work of avenging the death of his mother. Refreshingly, Min Ki is not the stereotypical jealous brother, full of envy and resentment that the woman he loves only has eyes for another. Instead, although he’s seen as lazy and a bit of a goof-off, he’s also intelligent and good at his job. He encourages Soo Hyun to take the relationship seriously and does his best to be a supportive brother.

Searching for Justice

So, where in all this does the “time between dog and wolf” come in? Initially, the description of this mysterious time or impression of circumstances comes about because of a painting of the same title; Min Ki does a little research and does his best to impress Ji Woo with his newly acquired art knowledge. But the layers peel off the onion as the story progresses. Lee Soo Hyun comes into contact on assignment with Mao and in a fateful moment, recognizes the telltale tattoos on the man’s arms – those of the man who killed his mother. His actions in that meeting lead him on a fateful path towards disgrace, dismissal from the NIS, and recruitment to work as an undercover, or “black” agent. His mission is to infiltrate the Cheongbang in Thailand. To do so, he must postpone his revenge and insinuate himself into Mao’s life and work operations. He must be seen as the loyal dog, but is in truth the wolf coming to destroy Mao. In Thailand (with no doubt a symbolic nod from the writers), he assumes the name “Kay” (phonetically the same as the word for “dog” in Korean), and works his way into the gang through his skills in muay thai, Thai kickboxing. All the while he is unaware of Mao’s connection to Ji Woo.

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To provide more details of the story would be to rob it of its impact. Each episode of the story builds on the prior episode at an increasing pace, most ending with an exciting cliffhanger. With the availability of this title on DVD, you won’t have to suffer the agony of waiting to find out what happens next, you can continue on as longer as your eyes hold out, but it must have been sweet torture to watch this live and to be kept in such suspense. There are also a number of excellent performances worth mentioning, such as that of the always-interesting Lee Ki Young who adopts and guides Soo Hyun. Burly and taciturn Choi Jae Sung as Mao strikes the perfect tone as the businesslike but ruthless drug lord who takes in Kay (Soo Hyun) seeing in him a possible successor and treating him like a son. Kim Gab Soo is the shifty and cunning NIS director Jung Hak Soo, a veritable puppetmaster calling the shots, and Suh Dong Won has a memorable turn as Choi Il Do, an ex-NIS agent now operating under the name of the “Roadrunner,” specializing in secrets for sale.

As Ji Woo, Nam Sang Mi does a credible job, though fans of romance will complain that she and her costar do not share enough time onscreen together. However, it’s Lee Jun Ki who really makes this drama succeed. The role of Soo Hyun also allows him to showcase his skills in the martial arts, both in traditional combat defense moves and in the muay thai matches in which Kay competes. And it must be noted that the stylist for this production deserves extra credit, as does the production scheduling team for creating a film plan that allowed for Soo Hyun/Kay to model a wide variety of hairstyles, each one completely suited to the character at that point of the story!

Dog or Wolf?

It’s not just the physical appeal of Lee Jun Ki, which is considerable, but his ability to convincingly portray someone who is living life undercover, always on edge, trying to stay focused on his task and to wait for the perfect moment to avenge his parents. One thing that was particularly satisfying was that he managed to portray all of the aspects of his character so fully. There was the emotionally traumatized young boy, the self-contained man on a mission, the tormented failed agent in deep cover, suffering from amnesia (watch the story for how this comes to pass), and then most intriguingly of all, his portrayal of Soo Hyun with memory recovered and horrified by what had happened and who he’d become in his time as Kay and yet he manages to hold on to residual bits of Kay at the same time. He had become both Kay and Soo Hyun! It is no wonder Mao cannot tell if it is the dog or wolf: it is both.

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There are a few elements of the drama that are less than completely successful. Some of the technical workings of the agents at the NIS come off flatfooted and unprofessional. (Just a tip: if you’re working undercover, spring for a couple of different vans to mix up the look. If you’re working a concession counter undercover know that it’s not typical to have an earpiece and cord snaking down your shirt and forget about speaking into your shirt cuff radio!) That said these are minor complaints when the overall action and pace of the story are considered. Add to that the thrilling cliffhangers – don’t miss the one where Kay is called to go to this art center and in the basement the phone rings! – and you’ve got a highly entertaining drama.

Ultimately, the key to whether a drama is good or not is whether you find yourself unwilling to say good-bye to the characters and want to know what happens in their world long after “The End” comes up on the screen. That is definitely the case with “Time between Dog and Wolf.” No doubt after watching it you will too find yourself sitting in an imaginary twilight, hoping to see a familiar shape coming over the hill… and picturing what happens next in the continuing story of Lee Soo Hyun, Soo Ji Woo, and Kang Min Ki.

Korean Romance with a Capra Twist

This review of “City Hall” was written for and appears in the Winter 2011 issue of The Korean Quarterly.

There are some dramas you watch and, once finished, you smile thinking fondly of the pleasure you had while immersed in it. There are some dramas you curse yourself for watching and for having wasted your time viewing. Some you may abandon after a few episodes because the plot or acting (or both) are just not your “cup of tea.” And then there are those other dramas, the ones that grab you, shake your heart, capture imagination and live in your memory forever. “City Hall” (SBS 2009) falls firmly in that last category, with its perfect pairing of actors Sueng-won Cha and Seon-ah Kim in a tale that blends the best of Capra and romance.

“City Hall” opens with a rush of information; there is quite a bit of character establishment and scene setting to get through and it is the choppiest part of the drama, but fear not because it settles down nicely by episode three and never looks back. It opens in the seaside town of Inju City and introduces the viewer to level 10 (the lowest grade) civil servant Shin Mi-rae, played by Seon-ah Kim. Mi-rae leads a manic life avoiding involvement in political wheelings and dealings, ducking insults from councilwoman Min Joo-hwa (Sang-mi Choo), taking on odd jobs to pay off credit card debt racked up by an ex-boyfriend, running errands to help the villagers in her community, and making excellent coffee for the mayor and his cronies. She finds comfort and assistance in her friendships with fellow civil servants Lee Jung-do (Hyung-chul Lee), Director of the Tourism Bureau who happens to be married to ambitious Councilwoman Min, and Jung Boo-mi (Soo-young Jung) who works in a public service department.

Into this arena of small city political shenanigans, where the mayor has his slush funds and the council is stacked with his cronies, comes the mysterious protégé of political king pin BB – Jo Guk, played by Seung-won Cha. Who is this BB, as in Big Brother (Il-hwa Choi), and what are his plans for Jo Guk and Inju City? It appears that Inju City has some future significance in BB’s plans and, even though Jo Guk has been on an upwards-political trajectory and this is a major step backwards, when BB orders something done, it happens. “Golden boy” Jo Guk finds himself back in the city of his childhood, Inju City, only this time he is returning cloaked in an aura of mystery, power, and glamour. He’s tall, handsome, impeccably groomed, glib, rumored to excel in every arena, and able to charm birds from the trees, or so it seems. He’s going to have to deal with the current inhabitants of City Hall and position himself to be ready for BB’s next move and it’s not going to be easy.

Unfortunately for Mi-rae, Jo Guk’s first impression of her is not as favorable as hers is of him. She sees the magnificent single man and like many of the women in Inju, she thinks of him as her dream match, whereas he finds her irksome, intrusive, and yes, even a little bit smelly as her many odd jobs don’t allow her time for shampooing her hair. He dismisses her initially as yet another country bumpkin and laughs about her crush on him with his personal aide, Ha Soo-in (Joon-hyuk Lee), every time Mi-rae finds an excuse to catch his attention. He does learn, however, that Mi-rae is a listener (read: eavesdropper) and has access to private meetings in her role as coffee girl and makes plans to use this to his advantage.

Kickbacks and Boondoggles are Comedy Gold

“City Hall” kicks into high gear and never looks back when councilwoman Min convinces Mayor Go to hold a beauty pageant – Miss Baendaengi – and to let Jo Guk run it. It’s their private boondoggle and if it fails or is exposed, it’s Jo Guk’s neck on the line, and if it succeeds, then it’s money in their pockets. They need all the political capital they can lay their hands on too for their bigger plan: to build a new City Hall. That plan will involve property acquisitions, backdoor deals to construct the property, and sweetheart deals with the wealthy citizens and business of Inju City. The indignity of having to run a beauty pageant raises Jo Guk’s ire and he palms off his responsibilities on Director Lee. What really throws him for a loop, though, is Mi-rae’s determination to enter the pageant as a contestant even though she’s in her mid-thirties and not your typical pageant miss. She wants the prize money to pay her creditors and she schemes her way into the roster of contestants.

The real magic of the drama begins during the pageant as Jo Guk comes to see the true spirit of Mi-rae and finds himself torn between letting her be a victim of the political machinations behind the contest and protecting her. Events unfold and take the level 10 civil servant Shin Mi-rae and deputy mayor Jo Guk on a very different path, borrowing elements of Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and marrying them with flashes of humor, loss and longing, and deeply romantic moments. Scandal breaks and Jo Guk is tasked by BB with putting a malleable mayor in place; Shin Mi-rae is that perfect candidate and he will be her political Svengali.

The chemistry between Seon-ah Kim and Seung-won Cha as their characters discover love, hope, and new goals makes “City Hall” an incredible pleasure to watch. It’s not always easy; Jo Guk is a very difficult character to trust for much of the drama. He’s manipulative and has been manipulated himself by his bond with BB, a cynical, cold, and power greedy man. He shows himself to be capable of putting his goals ahead of others’ needs and feelings and his use of Mi-rae to serve his goals leaves the viewer unsettled and afraid for the generous and openhearted Mi-rae.

Oh, and he’s not truly a single man either – there is a fiancée in the background (Se-ah Yoon as Go Go-hae) who is as ambitious for Jo Guk as is BB. The viewer is captivated one moment as a scene unfolds in which Jo Guk softens and opens his heart to Mi-rae (a particularly unforgettable sequence involves a camping trip), only to experience heartbreak in another. Kim and Cha make the viewer feel their every emotion and the director has taken advantage of their abilities to convey the intensity of their feelings through the use of very effective close-ups and overlays. It is like a master class for actors: no, it’s more than that – they are Shin Mi-rae and Jo Guk.

The other sub-plots contribute nicely to the overall story arc, especially the uneasy relationship between the less ambitious Director Lee and his overly ambitious wife. His close friendship and loyalty to Mi-rae irritates Joo-hwa and prompts her to some of her more conniving actions, pushing the couple to the brink. Lee Jung-do’s deep-down sadness is counterbalanced by the frenzied shrillness of Joo-hwa has a shared root cause that the story handles well. Over the course of the drama the viewer comes to understand their motivations and see their true feelings.

In fact, the same can be said for each of the characters in “City Hall.” As the story unfolds, each of the main supporting characters’ are given meaning and fleshed out sufficiently so that the viewer is never left wondering why they would behave in a given way.

Politics Is An Ugly Business

The balance of the drama is compelling and does an excellent job with revealing the motivations behind BB’s actions and Il-hwa Choi is brilliant as the evil BB. Se-ah Yoon’s role of fiancée Go-hae is another one that is intentionally chilling and very successful in its execution. The political campaigning and ups and downs of Shin Mi-rae’s new political life incorporate scenes from some of the more dramatic and petty moments of Korean political life, yet will be equally familiar to US viewers familiar with graft, political in-fighting, and electioneering, and other sometimes less-positive aspects of local government. It adds a dose of realism to the romance; all the while it entertains and provides a story for adults.

That said, the political side of the story does not overwhelm the drama. There are moments of playfulness – Seon-ah Kim’s former costar Hyun Bin is referenced for hilarious effect – and there are moments of tender romance, such as the very tall Jo Guk acting as a shade tree to allow Mi-rae to sleep longer. Seung-won Cha uses his deep baritone most comically when he doesaegyo. Seon-ah Kim and Cha sizzle as they perform a tango for her talent routine in the beauty pageant. It is only the desire to see what happens next that will keep the viewer from hitting Rewind on the remote control to watch many scenes repeatedly!

This is not a story of flower boys and pretty girls; this is something that grownups will sink their teeth into. It is also a story that can be watched multiple times and grows richer with each repeat viewing. “City Hall” is most definitely a piece that should find a spot in a drama-watcher’s permanent collection, to be enjoyed over and over again.

Korean culture day with thousands of my closest friends

Well, maybe not friends, per se, but the last day of the Chuseok holiday I spent at the Korean Folk Village in Yong-in in the company of many, many other people. News choppers from SBS and MBC both buzzed the crowds shooting scenes of the traffic jams in the parking lots and ticket stands. (Did you see me waving?)

 

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Performers from the Farmers’ music and dance show

 

Strolling through the homes and demonstration fields you have a chance to examine the many styles of homes to be found throughout the country. The level of authenticity is such that portions of the village are used in filming historical dramas and movies.

 

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The best part for many are the different performances staged throughout the day, ranging from traditional music and dance to horseback riding, to demonstrations of traditional crafts, done with a high level of enthusiasm and professionalism.

 

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The highlight for me was the acrobatic performance on a tightrope, such as the one seen in the movie, “The King’s Man” (aka “The King and the Clown”), starring Lee Junki, Kam Woo Sung, and Jung Jin Young.

 

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The single performer managed to keep his balance, narrate his actions, and barely break a sweat! It was highly entertaining, even without understanding most of what he was saying. His balance and showmanship spoke for him!