Right guy, wrong time

Jealousy Incarnate is a Korean romance about good people with bad timing

Many K-romances follow a timetable. Usually, boy meets girl in the first episode, spends several episodes misunderstanding/ understanding her, kisses her in the eighth or ninth episode and, by the last episode, marries her/ proposes/at least attends a wedding with her.

This is why it is surprising when K-drama couples kiss ahead of schedule (Captain Yoo Si Jin tasting the wine in Dr Kang Mo Yeon's mouth in Episode 4 of Descendants Of The Sun, or Oh Yeon Joo kissing a cartoon character, Kang Chul, out of context in Episode 2 of W).

And this is why Jealousy Incarnate, a South Korean romance about good people with bad timing, may be confusing in the beginning.

Pyo Na Ri (Kong Hyo Jin), a television weathergirl on her first overseas trip, is infatuated with a debonair stranger (Ko Kyoung Pyo) seated beside her on the plane.

Fashion tycoon Go Jung Won (far left, played by Ko Kyoung Pyo) and his best friend Lee Hwa Shin (right, Cho Jung Seok) are in love with weathergirl Pyo Na Ri (centre, Kong Hyo Jin) in Jealousy Incarnate.
Fashion tycoon Go Jung Won (far left, played by Ko Kyoung Pyo) and his best friend Lee Hwa Shin (right, Cho Jung Seok) are in love with weathergirl Pyo Na Ri (centre, Kong Hyo Jin) in Jealousy Incarnate. PHOTO: ONE

They land in Thailand, where he turns out to be Go Jung Won, the best friend of her colleague Lee Hwa Shin (Cho Jung Seok), a prima donna-ish reporter she had a crush on for three years.

It's complicated, especially when Hwa Shin matchmakes her with his buddy, but then regrets it.

On the one hand, Jung Won, a fashion tycoon who woos her diligently, makes a dress for her, is a stereotypically perfect boyfriend with the whole package (luxury car, loyal assistant, manipulative mother).

On the other hand, Hwa Shin is the guy she has stuck with through thick and thin - including through his embarrassing battle with breast cancer, which she helps him keep a secret from their colleagues lest it hurt his career in the image-conscious TV business.

Park Bo Gum and Kim You Jung (both above) star in Love In The Moonlight. PHOTO: VIU

Scandalously, she kisses both men, one of them in a scene that is stirring but also morally suspect.


    One (StarHub TV Channel 820 or Singtel TV Channel 513), Thursdays and Fridays, 8.10pm

    Viu the website and app, any time on demand

    3/5 stars


    KBS World (StarHub TV Channel 815 or Singtel TV Channel 523), Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8.50pm

    Viu, any time on demand

    3/5 stars

But by then, it should be obvious to long-time K-drama viewers who her Mr Right is. Because although the show doesn't always seem to play by the rules, some K-drama relationship truths are still in place.

Mr Right, going by these truths, may not be the guy given to a girl on a silver platter. More likely, he is the one she is comfortable being herself with, whom she hides nothing from and who, in turn, shows her his vulnerable side.

All things considered, Jealousy Incarnate may look quirky but is as reassuring as your regular K-romance. It doesn't tell you much you don't know. It doesn't shake the foundations of your world.

Kong is as lovely as ever, however, and Ko and Cho are sympathetic in the love triangle. Think of this as a trip, through sunshine and drizzle, to the land of vicarious heartache, mild comedy and pleasant endings.

Metaphorically, the weather is rougher in Love In The Moonlight, a Korean costume drama in which a girl (Kim You Jung) is risking life and limb to live in the royal palace in the guise of a eunuch to be near her secret boyfriend, the crown prince (Park Bo Gum).

There are dangers to the couple which are more pressing than heartbreak, but which also make their stolen, private moments that much more thrilling.

On the whole, there isn't much here that hasn't been done in gender-bending shows from Coffee Prince (2007) to Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010).

Kim and Park do make a cute couple, though. This is puppy love rendered quaint and pretty, like an Instagram picture transposed into ink and watercolour.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Right guy, wrong time'. Print Edition | Subscribe