First Impressions:

Far away from the bustling city lights of Seoul lies the village of Seongsan. Untouched by the modern world and its hyper-competitive ecosystem, Seongsan retains its old-world charm and values.

Shin Yoon Bok (Kim Myung Soo) is a resident of the village and belongs to the distinguished Woorim family. A 21st-century scholar, he is firmly rooted in Confucian values. Even though he had spent time in Seoul and was mocked for being different, Yoon Bok has never compromised on his principles. He is now back in the city to investigate the missing heritage pieces from his village. Back in Seoul on his new mission, he runs into his one-time art teacher Kim Hong Do (Lee Yoo Young).

Seven years ago, Hong Do had stood by Yoon Bok when he was a student at the webtoon academy, where she was an assistant. As other students had mocked him for his traditional attire and for being too conservative, Hong Do had imbibed confidence in him. But Hong Do in the present is a pitiful person. An assistant at a design company, she is a people-pleaser and tends to get walked over by everyone, including her selfish boyfriend. Yoon Bok, who continues to have the deepest regard and reverence for her, cannot seem to understand why the confident teacher he knew is a pushover. Hong Do, on the other hand, starts seeing Yoon Bok in a new light, like a knight in shining armor. Could this budding romance be a comedy of errors as well as the bridge between traditional and modern-day relationships?

Here is what you can expect from “Dare to Love Me,” which is an adaptation of a webtoon and promises a laugh-out-loud romance between a mismatched couple.

The winsome Shin Yoon Bok

Shin Yoon Bok is proud of his roots and upholds his principles. Though well aware and abreast with the socio-cultural dynamics of the time, he remains rooted in Confucianism. He reveres his elders and teachers, has the highest respect for women and children, and believes that a person’s morals and ethics are what defines them. It’s no wonder he sticks out as the odd one in a self-observed and obsessed society. But little do people realize that this simpleton is not only bright and wise but has innate physical strength that is unmatchable.

He embarks on a mission to restore the pride of his village and the Woorim family name. And as he investigates the missing treasures, he realizes that there might be a mole among them. But if there is one situation he cannot comprehend, it’s his teacher Hong Do, who seems to be regarding him as more than her one-time student. There are several moments of hilarity as Yoon Bok keeps a respectful distance from her as he shares a meal, speaks to her with deep reverence as if addressing an elder, and the best one is his impassive reaction to her love confession.

But there are other aspects of Yoon Bok which are delightful too. Oblivious to the stares and mocking glances that come his way, he remains proud. Whether it is walking into school wearing a gat (traditional Korean hat) and a modern school uniform or trying to enter a club in his traditional chima jeogori (long skirt and pants), he remains unfazed. There are also cute moments when he enters a cafe and gets flustered with the kiosk machine or when he encounters gangsters and politely tells them how they are not nice people and don’t know how to treat people well. He understands that in order to succeed in his mission, he needs to adapt to modern life as well. His transformation is pretty cool as he opts for leather jackets, hoodies, and jeans, but nowhere does he let his new look change the principled man he is at heart.

Kim Myung Soo is adorable as the unique Yoon Bok. His impassive face and reactions are endearing. His simplicity is winsome, and even though one feels the urge to protect him, he is a man who can take care of himself. Kim Myung Soo carries the show with ease, and his comedic timing and expressions are a riot.

The gullible Kim Hong Do

Kim Hong Do tries too hard to please people. She is a pushover, who is easily taken for granted by those around her. Hong Do wants to go to Paris and pursue her love for designing. But even though she has the talent, she cannot stand up for herself or her work. She is an assistant at a design company and is in love with her colleague from the PR department, who treats her shabbily, but she remains oblivious. Her boyfriend two-times her with their boss and even calls her a loser, but Hong Do cannot seem to stand up for herself. When her design is plagiarized, even though she tries to stand up for herself, she quickly retreats.

Hong Do is prone to behaving recklessly and even foolishly, which goes against her all the time. She runs into Yoon Bok at the lowest time in her life. Embarrassed that he has seen her disheveled and drunk, she tries to avoid running into him, but it is impossible. Yoon Bok is her next door neighbor and her brother’s best friend. Yoon Bok is indebted to her for helping him fit in during his academy days when he was teased and bullied for not being cool. He also reminds her to take back her power, which she has given away.

At first glance, Hong Do’s character has no agency. She gets tedious, given her reckless and loud behavior, and she is a distressed damsel who needs saving and a shake-up. Though she is comical in her own way, she sometimes goes overboard with her emotions. She starts falling for Yoon Bok, and her overtly aggressive proposal as she screams her love out loud is uproarious. Hong Do takes time getting used to, but Lee Yoo Young brings out all the silliness and the eccentricities of her character with ease.

A fun take on modern day life and love

In the day and age when everything is just a click away, Yoon Bok is a man who is deeply invested and committed to whatever he does. He wants to preserve the culture and customs of his village, which is perhaps the last bastion of traditional values in a fast-changing world. He is a misfit beyond the gates of Seongsan, and the constant ridicule does impact him, and his dreams drift further away. Yoon Bok is mentally strong and manages to hold his own. Even though he finds himself at the confluence of traditionalism and modernity, he retains his individuality. As he navigates through modern technology, he understands it has not made people any smarter, but rather dependent.

On the other hand, Hong Do represents the contemporary world, where every one is trying to fit in, only to end up losing their sense of purpose and worth. Hong Do wants to achieve her dreams but is caught up in the externals and mundanity of life. Is there even a sense of purpose as everyone craves a shortcut to success?

As these two polar opposites meet, in their own way they empower each other. But it’s not just Hong Do who has lessons to learn—so does Yoon Bok, especially in matters of love. Stunned at Hong Do taking the lead and confessing her feelings, he is aghast since it’s sacrilege for him to get into a relationship with his former teacher. As he calmly respond to her confession with an “it’s okay,” you cannot help but roll with laughter. We will have to wait and see if Yoon Bok is a worthy student when it comes to love and matters of the heart. How will this couple match up, and will Yoon Bok finally say yes?

“Dare to Love Me” is a breezy, funny watch. It’s a clever narrative as it showcases two parallel worlds, and though much things have changed, they actually end up remaining the same. With laughs aplenty, it’s just the show you can wind down with.

Start watching “Dare to Love Me”:

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Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Yang Yang and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min HoGong YooCha Eun Woo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram.

Currently watching: “Lovely Runner

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