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The City Hall


I don't really understand the way of politics nor am I interested in them but I do enjoy drama series that talks or deals with politics. For example, the Japanese drama "Change" starring none other than the awesome Kimura Takuya and Abe Hiroshi. And here's another one, which I just recently finished (today infact!): The City Hall.

City Hall starred the legendary Kim Sun Ah of My Lovely Samsoon (one of the more enjoyable dramas back then) and Cha Seung Won (whose only other drama of his I've watched was Bodyguard - a highly entertaining drama as well). To be honest, I wasn't interested in City Hall when it was airing for various reasons. One, I still have a lot more other dramas to catch up with that i deemed as more interesting at that point in time. Also, I was not really a fan of Sun Ah even though My Lovely Samsoon was once a favorite. And the male lead, well, let's admit that Cha Seung Won is not your typical k-drama hero. By that I mean he's not the usual pretty/flower boy that most kdrama heroes are as of late. Even though I enjoyed his performance in Bodyguard, that was a looooooooong time ago that I really had no opinion on him anymore, except for the fact that he's no flower boy that i was used to seeing in kdrama. So why did I watch it in the end?

Many thanks to the fans of City Hall, of course. I read a lot of praising and worshipping and good reviews about it in blogs. That kinda rose my curiosity. I mean, there must be something to it if A LOT of people are talking about it. So i checked out the rest of the cast and there are familiar faces playing supporting roles like Choo Sang Mi from "My Woman" and Jung Soo Young as demented girl in "Fantasy Couple". I love these two in their respective roles so I decided to give City Hall a try. One thing that i'm glad about is that my interest in this drama started after the drama has ended, which means, if it's good, I can watch the episodes as fast as I could. I really don't want to have another "Boys Before Flowers' incident when I was tortured week after week for three months to finish it because I watched it real time.

City Hall, though deals with politics, is more of a romantic comedy for me, a genre I particularly have not much against. I'm not sure if it's a drama about politics with love story as the flavor, or it's a love story with politics as the flavor, but it being a korean drama, I would think it's the latter, though love and politics mix very well in this one ("Change" for example, is what I would consider a drama about politics with love story as the topping). I started this drama without much expectation really, and I don't even know what it's all about, which worked out very well coz it left me pleasantly surprised. I do love surprises like this~

In brief, City Hall is a story about an attempt by Jo Gook (Cha Seung Won) to create a puppet mayor in Inju City under the order from the higher level, which backfires. He toppled the current mayor through a string of events, but instead of going for the obvious candidate to be the next mayor (as per tacit agreement), he somehow decided to promote Shin Mi Rae (Kim Sun Ah) as an independent candidate for the run, thinking that Shin Mi Rae is someone he can manipulate. This is the point when the story truly takes off. The slow but steady changes in all the characters, especially Jo Gook and Shin Mi Rae are really nice to watch. And their great onscreen chemistry just make it even nicer. The general story then deals with corruption and power struggle and the power of money. I think MONEY is really the keyword. You have power because you have money. You go corrupt because of the desire to have a lot of money, you suffer because of money, you become desperate because of money. Everything involves money. No matter how good you want to be, you can either be tempted or defeated by money. It's really hard to be powerful just on your own accord. Those with money are the ones who are pulling the strings. But all hope is not gone. The truth will prevail. And your defeat today may become your strength tomorrow coz you do not succumb to the temptation.

But one thing I feel bitter about, and I always feel this way watching dramas about a leader, is how cruel people can be. One day you worship the leaders, the next you abandon them. As long as they can do something for your benefits, you support them, but if they fail even once, you throw them away like old rags. You curse them, you hate them, and you don't even know the real story. Why would anyone want to be a leader, really. You'll only be under-appreciated and misunderstood. (A/N: "Hong Gil Dong" is one particular drama I feel strongly sad about the degree of loyalty of the people. When HGD was strong, the peasants all worship him like he's a god, but when HGD was attacked from all corners, they all left him to save their own sorry asses like back-stabbers. Really, being poor is not the problem. Being dishonorable is). A leader is a very lonely position. That's why you are lucky if you have that one special person who will go through thick and thin with you. And Shin Mi Rae, our main character, is one lucky lady,coz she has Jo Gook, or Jo Gook is one lucky guy to have Mi Rae by his side. In short, they are each other's strengths and companions, which is why they are perfect for each other. One couldn't have asked for more than that in life. To find that someone whom you can call a soulmate.

In the first few episodes, I have rather mixed feelings about Shin Mi Rae, the 10th grade civil servant working at the mayor office. You wouldn't expect someone like her to be a leader. She doesn't seem all that educated. In fact, she didn't even finished middle school. But even from the beginning of the story you know that she's no pushover or stupid. She impressed me in one scene, then she went and drooled over Jo Gook in another and sometimes being all silly and narcissist-like. It's really hard to say whether you like her or not. It's a character that kinda grows in you, just like how she grows in Jo Gook's heart, I guess. LOL. Throughout the series, you see her grows from someone who fights for her own benefit to someone who sees a bigger picture and fights for the people (if only they know how to appreciate it. *sigh*)

Jo Gook is a charismatic character even from the beginning. Cha Seung Won really has great screen presence. What's awesome about Cha Seung Won is he acted both comedic and serious roles to perfection. And he cries like a man! (See Shah Rukh Khan for the opposite. haha) He's like a breath of fresh air on korean's small screen. Perhaps it's time to change from pretty looking guy to someone who exudes more masculinity without overloading machocism. His character is charasmatic, intelligent and savvy, yet can be funny and silly, tough at times, yet sweet and romantic most of the time. The downside is, he's just too good to be true. Can one find a man like that outside the script? I would like to be optimistic.

All in all, in my personal opinion, City Hall has elevated cinderalla-like story to another level. The love story is almost fantasy-like, yet realistic enough for us to believe in it. It's solemn and serious when it needs to be, but never fails to crack a joke or poke fun and make the viewers laugh when they least expect it. The characters were nicely developed. And as much as you hate some of them, their immaturity, their wishy-washiness and all, I'm glad the story didn't end in such note. And don't you just love the twist at the ending (about the phonecall)? A romantic would sigh out loud. Kudos to scriptwriter. Didn't see that one coming. My advice if you want to start watching City Hall: don't be disheartened by the first few episodes. Things only get better. Enjoy the love story while taking a peek at the Korean local politics!

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