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Baker King, Kim Tak Gu

It was a hard decision to start watching this series. Even though the ratings were high, I also read that it was of 'makjang' variety, that is to say the story and plot is kinda over the top, exactly the kind of story I want to stay away from for a while (thus I was surprised that it turns out not so bad at all i.e not what I expected). It has 30 episodes, which are considerably longer than the normal 16-episode series I've watched. But thinking that I've survived quite a number of even longer series before (with unfavorable side-effects unfortunately) like Queen Seon Deok, My Too Perfect Sons, to name a few, I thought this one should be OK (but still, I hesitated for a loooog time). Thankfully, I caught an episode or two at KBS World (which I found out later was mid-way of the series) and thought that this might actually worth my while so I took the ride. It is indeed a good drama and I suppose, deserved the 'national drama' status (viewership rating above 40%). In short, a pretty addicting drama once you start watching.

I'm not quite sure about the year it all begins, but the story must first take place some time in the 50's perhaps, since it covers a few years before the leading characters are even born and after that it shows the year 1970++ as when one of the characters is attending university.

Yoon Shi Yoon (Highkick Through the Roof) plays the titular character Kim Tak Gu, who is an illegitimate son of President Gu Il Jong, a successful businessman in the baking industries. He has lived until 12 years old with his mother (who's hiding from the evil forces that are President's wife and his right-hand man) until she decides to send Tak Gu to live with his father. Under the same roof, Tak Gu lives with the legitimate offsprings of the President; he now has two elder sisters and one brother of the same age named Gu Ma Jun (Tak gu is a few months older). The eldest sister Gu Ja Kyung is a bit distant towards him, while Gu Ja Rim is more friendly. Gu Ma Jun (played by Joo Won) however, outright hates him. All his childhood he feels badly treated and hated by the grandmother, while the father he yearns for seems indifferent. But Tak Gu, whom the family only gets to know for short period of time, quickly gains the affection of both grandmother and father. The jealousy and animosity he feels towards Tak Gu will later grows until their adulthood. The President is especially fond of Tak Gu and decides to make Tak Gu his heir despite his illegitimate status because of Tak Gu's special ability - his keen sense of smell, which is a trait of a genius to become a great baker.

Kim Tak Gu, by a cruel turn of fate, gets separated from his father and new family, and eventually from his mother and wanders the world alone in search of her until adulthood. He meets important people along the way, learns new things of which some turns into habits, but more prominently, the kind-hearted Tak Gu has become some kind of untamed animal, using his fists all the time to solve all problems. He holds a grudge in his heart against the person who took his mother away from him. But deep down, his good nature remains and once he lets go of the past, he becomes the great person he actually is.

At the age of 24, he finally finds the clue that he believes will bring him closer to finding his mother. In order to find the man who took his mother away one night 12 years ago, he decides to enter the life of a family that runs a famous bakery in Incheon, where his target is believed to be working in. Coincidentally, Gu Ma jun also enrolls to be a trainee at the bakery under a false name Seo Tae Jo. Gu Ma Jun quickly realizes that Kim Tak Gu is the same brother he had during childhood and the hatred he felt at that time instantly comes back in full force. To gain approval from his father who is still yearning for his son Kim Tak Gu, Gu Ma Jun decides to hide his true identity and challenge Kim Tak Gu into the world of bakery. The rivalry begins anew with their lives turn upside down, left and right, high and low, and through it all come hopes, dreams and betrayals.

It's interesting to watch the two brothers, so different as night and day; Tak Gu who has nothing and lost everything but always has a smile on his face versus Ma Jun who seems to have everything but parade a scowl on his forehead. Tak Gu is optimistic by nature while Ma Jun tends to think the worst in people. Perhaps, their childhood upbringing plays a high factor in making them into what they are. Tak Gu lived with a loving mother despite a humble life but Ma Jun, who has everything at his fingertips, is a child that was forced to live a life he was not interested in, being burdened with unnecessary expectations, strict rules and not much affection. The frustration, anger, and feeling wronged by the people close to him made him cold-hearted, vengeful, and ultimately grows up into someone who can only lashes out when things go wrong or put up false bravery to cover his pain and cowardly nature.

And what would korean drama be without a love-triangle or square. Kim Eugene (Save the Last Dance) and Lee Young Ah (Golden Bride) play the leading ladies. Eugene, as Shin Yu Kyung was the childhood friend of Tak Gu. She seems like a strong woman on the outside, but is actually suffering from the memories of her abusive father when she was small. In the early days, she briefly got to know Ma Jun when Ma Jun followed Tak Gu to his hometown. Even then, Yu Kyung was able to read Ma Jun like a book. She realized straight away that Ma Jun regarded Tak Gu as a rival, and was jealous of him, and she told him that, which pissed him off. And in front of her and her abusive father, he acted cowardly and pretended to see nothing even when Yu Kyung's eyes were begging him for help. It was a 180-degree from what Tak Gu would do. Tak Gu was really righteous when Yu Kyung was beaten by his father and tried to save her by any mean possible. Needless to say, Yu Kyung has very low opinion of Ma Jun, and Ma Jun, much to his chagrin, was really affected by her words.

The three meet again as adults, and Yu Kyung, given the circumstances that occurred since the reunion, has not changed his opinion of Ma Jun. He is clearly still the bitter guy who's jealous of his own brother. Ma Jun also seems to still think of her as the annoying, pisses-me-off kind of girl, but it's funny how he keeps appearing in front of Yu Kyung. He confuses her with his harsh and arrogant attitude at one turn, and yet at another still goes out of his way to do her some good, in his ungentlemanly manner, of course. But to Yu Kyung, all that he did was in order to win over Tak Gu; Ma Jun thinks winning her would be one of the many things he wants to get the upper hand over Tak Gu, just like baking and his obsession with getting approval from his father. She is a tool for his revenge. But Ma Jun himself may have something that he's not telling her, like the fact that he is crazy about her. Only in his most desperate and frustrating moments does he ever betray his own emotions, albeit being masked by the way he confesses them, which further confuses the poor girl.

As adults, Tak Gu and Yu Kyung have moved from being childhood friends to lovers, albeit nothing much going on between them since they are apart or rather get separated most of the time. All they have are their feelings that are mutual. While Ma Jun was claiming her as his woman, Yu Kyung yearns for Tak Gu. She confesses later on that Tak Gu is the person with whom she can be herself and smile. I guess, a peace of mind. With Ma Jun, however, she senses a kindred spirit, or a shadow of herself. Just another broken person. Also, I noticed this because someone mentioned it on the internet, which I thought was a pretty sharp observation; with Tak Gu, it is always Yu Kyung who initiates a hug, like her seeking comfort within his embrace. But with Ma Jun, it is always him who grab her into his arms, like him trying to give her some comfort and assurance. I don't know if any of that carries some significance, but I think it's quite telling of who she really wants in her life.

Lee Young Ah plays the character of Yang Mi Sun, the daughter of the bakery owner where Ma Jun and Tak Gu work. If Ma Jun has a keen sense of smell, she has a keen sense of taste(bud). When Tak Gu first came barging in into their lives, Mi Sun and her 'baking family' were not very welcoming. She and Tak Gu were really on bad terms. But as time progresses, they grow closer and the way I see it, they are like best buddies. She helps Tak Gu a lot in his many problems and always by his side, which eventually leads her to harbor a romantic feeling towards him. But Tak Gu, in all his 'dumbness', always thought that Mi Sun has fallen for Ma Jun and keeps reminding her like a brother to a sister what a rotten jerk Ma Jun is.

Mi Sun actually reminds Tak Gu a lot of his missing mother. Her kindness, even the words they say are similar. One way or another, I believe he grows some kind of attachment to Mi Sun. But he cannot lie the fact that he has not forgotten Yu Kyung as the woman he loves. While slowly realizing Mi Sun's feelings toward him (he's not so dumb after all), he cannot reciprocate, thus keeps pretending like he doesn't get it. 

Because of their good-natured personalities, together they create a warm and calm feeling when you look at them, which is quite unlike Ma Jun and Yu Kyung. With his vengeful inclination and her stubborn, but trampled pride, I almost worried for their endings while watching the drama. It is quite obvious that Tak Gu is going to get his happy ending. Afterall, this is a human drama to showcase that good triumphs over evil. But I was quite nervous to know what's going to happen to these two. Will they make amicable exits as separate individuals, or search for happiness together, when they themselves agree that they don't deserve to be happy after turning their backs on the people who love them.

While Ma Jun is such a vengeful kid, and his mother is someone you would love to hate,  the actual two characters that I hate the  most are probably the father and the grandmother. Maybe it was the culture at that time, but the grandmother was such an ass pressing the daughter-in-law for a son, and even allowing her own son to commit adultery in the hope of getting an heir. It was the most outrageous thing! She keeps treating the son's wife like a useless baby-making machine. And the way she treated Ma Jun (with the pretext of teaching him a lesson) without a trace of warmth and genuine care is just plan ridiculous and wrong. President Gu Il Jong, as a husband/father is not helping AT ALL. He just stands there looking dumb and detached like it's none of his business really ticks me off. The fact that he doesn't appreciate the people around him, like the wife and Ma Jun (and his sisters) and keep yearning for Tak Gu is so unfair. No wonder the mother and son are more than just a little crazy in the head and emotionally unstable. Of course, the mother also does quite a lot of bad things, but I think most of them are a chain of events that resulted from lack of warmth and understanding from the husband and mother-in-law. Given a different treatment, I think she wouldn't stray that far.

On additional note, when I first started this series, somehow it reminded me of the drama Bad Guy starring Kim Nam Gil  (Queen Seon Deok) and Kim Jae Wook (Coffee Prince), because they both feature two "brothers" who are rivals. But after I finished watching Baker King, Kim Tak Gu, by then I was thinking to myself, 'What was the connection again?' before it came back to mind because Baker King is too engrossing that I  wondered how could I even compare this great series with the mess that was Bad Guy. What's ironic is that Bad Guy was one of my most anticipated dramas of the year while I never had an inkling of initial interest towards Baker King and yet I think Baker King is everything that Bad Guy should have been but unfortunately  was not i.e well-defined characters and more believable reasons for bad decisions and actions. But perhaps I'm not being fair, or rather make a  premature conclusion given that I haven't finished Bad Guy (interest was lost along the way). And besides, Bad Guy is after all, a story about a bad guy, which understandable if he's not a character one can sympathize with. On the other hand, Baker King is a story of Kim Tak Gu, who is a noble character, someone you can totally root for. I may pick up Bad Guy again, and it would be good if I can change my opinion about it after I watch the whole series. But that might not be the case. We'll see.


  1. how could you not hate manager han? up to the last episode, he was really getting on my nerves. anyway it was a great series. I also hesitated a lot and had kept this series for a few months before actually starting, and I got hooked. Great review. :)


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