18 July 2020

K Drama Review: Encounter / Boyfriend (2018) 3.5 || 3.5

This is my first entry in our new home - oppanoona.kr . :) Oppa knows this Noona is a frustrated blogger/writer. And since we're all stuck at home anyway due to this pandemic, Oppa graciously made this site for me. He added photos to my old entries. He tweaked the formats. He added labels, etc. Such an enabler! Anyway, I hope I'll do this "project" justice. Oppa's pressuring me to have at least one entry per month. I don't mind though because that means I have to watch more K dramas. As I mentioned before, this hobby serves as an outlet for me to recharge. It's therapeutic - something I would really need in the next few days and months as our little boy resumes school. :)

Oppa just can't have enough of Song Hye Kyo (SHK). So after watching Descendants of the Sun, he picked another SHK drama. We were debating on whether to watch Full House or Encounter. I picked Encounter because Park Bo Gum (PBG) seemed interesting. I believe Oppa picked it because it was more recent than Full House. 

The Fan Girl Verdict dropped this show. She stopped watching after the 10th episode. So I was wary of watching this drama. My sister said it was okay because "Cuba's beautiful." We went on to watch it, comforted by the fact that if it were not good, at least we'd be looking at the pretty faces of PBG and SHK. 


Boyfriend / Encounter is about Cha Soo Hyun (SHK), a 30-something politician's daughter who used to be married to but is now divorced from a chaebol heir, who got a hotel as her alimony, and Kim Jin Hyeok, a 20-something kind-hearted son of a fruit vendor from a middle class family.

Soo Hyun and Jin Hyeok met in Cuba while the former was on a business trip and the latter was on a vacation. Soo Hyun's car figured in an accident where Jin Hyeok's antique camera broke. Later on, Soo Hyun decided to explore the city by herself after taking a sleeping pill. She almost fell to the sea but fortunately, Jin Hyeok was there to save her. They were supposed to meet at a cafe the following day but Soo Hyun didn't make it. 

The two were on the same flight back to South Korea. Soo Hyun offered a business class ticket to Jin Hyeok to make up for the broken camera. He refused to accept it because according to him, riding economy was part of his adventure. 

As they arrived in Seoul, Jin Hyeok got confirmation that he was hired to work at Donghwa Hotel. He also found out that Soo Hyun was the CEO of the hotel. 

The story then developed as the two fell in love with each other. As expected, there were lots of obstacles along the way, including Soo Hyun's in-laws and her mother and Jin Hyeok's mother. Eventually, all of the problems were resolved and Jin Hyeok and Soo Hyun end up happily with each other. 

The Good

The Plot

The plot in itself was not bad. Noona romance, with visually appealing Cuba as one of the settings, and the courageous Jin Hyeok. On its face, the show did look promising. However, it faltered in its execution. And that probably was a wasted opportunity. 

PBG as Jin Hyeok

I'm a PBG newbie. I first saw him on Wonderful Days where he had a cameo as the young Kang Dong Suk. But that was not enough to judge his acting. He looks good but I find him too pretty for my taste. He's too perfect and flawless for me. And very young too, haha. But still made me curious. 

Honestly, I was not pleased with PBG on the first episode. I found the long, wavy hair quite messy. But the clean cut PBG in the succeeding episodes was definitely appealing. His teeth were too perfect for me though. 

Oppa did not like PBG's acting. Yes, he was not as good as Jung Hae In (JHI) in Something in the Rain. And he did tend to act too cutesy, the way SHK was in her past dramas. But I would still give him a passing mark. Not so much for his boyish charm but more for how selfless his character Jin Hyeok was. 

What really captivated me about Jin Hyeok was his boldness and his huge love for Soo Hyun. 

Who can forget how Jin Hyeok bravely admitted in front of a lot of Donghwa Hotel employees at the lobby that he was the mysterious guy who had ramyeon with Soo Hyun. He totally forgot about himself and instead, he was just concerned about how cornered and alone Soo Hyun must have felt at that moment. I admired how he handled the situation in a very chill manner. Any other guy could have punched Mr. Choi for what he did but Jin Hyeok diffused the tension in a very cool manner. 

I also loved how Jin Hyeok told Soo Hyun that it was his job to think of her, quoting the book that he was reading. For someone like Soo Hyun who has lot of things to think of, it was definitely heartwarming to know that there was someone else thinking of her and ready to take care of her worries and anxieties. And the great thing about Jin Hyeok was he practiced what he preached. The things he said were not empty words. When he knew that the Cuba deal faced some issues, he left for Cuba right away and fixed the problem all by himself. That was really thoughtful of him. 

It was also nice to see him take charge even if Soo Hyun was richer and more senior than him. I loved how he dragged Soo Hyun back to the car after she figured in a minor car accident. He told her to yell at him later but she had to listen to him at that moment. How manly!

And the best thing about Jin Hyeok was how he endured everything for Soo Hyun until the end. He was young. He was from a middle class family. It would have been totally understandable if he caved in to the pressure and wallow in self-pity. It was the perfect situation for him to be insecure. It was nice that the show did not paint him as the perfect guy. He almost resigned from his job. But he chose to be selfless because he knew Soo Hyun needed him at that moment. 

I like these noona romance dramas because they have consistently showed us that maturity does not come with age. We saw this in Something in the Rain. And Jin Hyeok was another testament to this. (Never mind Sam Soon where Hyun Bin was totally immature). I loved how Jin Hyeok proved to be the more mature and stable person between him and Soo Hyun. He chose to be strong for Soo Hyun even if it would have been easier for him to give up. 

Aside from being a great boyfriend, I loved how Jin Hyeok was a very dependable son and brother. Any other son could have berated a mother who meddled in his relationship. But Jin Hyeok took the high road. He understood where his mother was coming from and he did not make her feel guilty for what she did. He still treated her lovingly and respectfully. 

It was also admirable how Jin Hyeok remained firm yet respectful whenever he was confronted by the bullies - Mr. Choi and Soo Hyun's mom, mother-in-law, and ex-husband. He stood his ground without setting aside his manners. 

Ko Chang Seok as Mr. Nam

Among the people around Soo Hyun, Mr. Nam was my absolute favorite. His loyalty to Soo Hyun was superb. I loved how he supported her in everything she did. But he also did not mince words when he felt that she needed some scolding (like when she broke up with Jin Hyeok). I also liked how he extended his love and loyalty for Soo Hyun to Jin Hyeok. I felt so giddy when he picked up Jin Hyeok from Sokcho so he can attend the year-end party and be with Soo Hyun. And how he said he was not there to pick up Jin Hyeok but his boss' boyfriend.

And the best thing about Mr. Nam was how he loved Mrs. Kim (Jin Hyeok's boss at the PR department). He silently looked out for her and her daughter. You just saw how lovingly he looked at her whenever they were together. Oppa wondered why the show did not put closure on this love story. I guess the fact that they were already hiking together at the end of the drama was enough confirmation that things were getting better for them. 

Lee Dae Chan and Secretary Jang Mi Jin

Dae Chan (Kim Joo Hun) was Jin Hyeok's buddy, while Mi Jin (Kwak Sun Young) was Soo Hyun's bestfriend and secretary. They loathed each other but they ended up getting matched on a dating app. Their love story was not consistently shown but I liked how they were honest to and understanding with each other. Mi Jin was frank enough to admit that Dae Chan did not meet her standards. Dae Chan was gentleman enough to accept that. I loved how they did not force themselves to change for the other person. And it was nice to see that they still chose to be friends despite the failed romance they had. 

Hye In and Jin Hyeok's Friendship

Hye In (Jeon So Ni) was Jin Hyeok's childhood friend. She has always liked Jin Hyeok and she silently rooted for him all those years. They became colleagues when Jin Hyeok was assigned to the same department at Donghwa Hotel. 

I loved Hye In's loyalty to Jin Hyeok. She must have been heartbroken when she found out that her crush was in a relationship with the CEO. How can she ever measure up to that, right? But her loyalty prevailed. She called Soo Hyun to alert her that Jin Hyeok was being transferred to another branch. She boldly told Soo Hyun to stop seeing Jin Hyeok because he might end up getting hurt. It's rare to find selfless people like that. Any other girl could have sulked bitterly in one corner. But she cared so much for Jin Hyeok that she chose to set her feelings aside. 

Jin Hyeok and Jin Myung

Jin Myung (P.O) is Jin Hyeok's younger brother. Although they were mostly joking around, it was evident that they loved and respected each other so much. While Jin Myung often teased his brother about Soo Hyun, he did not hesitate to punch a friend who insinuated that Jin Hyeok was after Soo Hyun's money. And I loved how Jin Hyeok rescued and covered up for his brother from that incident. Their family did not have much but their bond was so strong and admirable. 

Soo Hyun's and Jin Hyeok's Fathers

As with most fathers in K dramas, we witness another set of quiet yet very loving and dependable fathers here. Jin Hyeok's dad (Shin Jung Geun) did not say much but he bravely faced Soo Hyun to let her know he had qualms about their relationship. However, he lovingly chose to support them because he knew they genuinely loved each other. And Jin Hyeok asked him to root for them. I also loved how he told his wife that she made a mistake in asking Soo Hyun to break up with Jin Hyeok. 

Soo Hyun's dad (Moon Sung Keun), on the other hand, was an accomplished politician. It would have been understandable if he disapproved of Jin Hyeok. After all, he married her off to a chaebol several years ago. But he learned his lesson. And I loved how he selflessly let go of his political ambitions to make up for his mistakes to Soo Hyun. And I'm proud of how he bravely faced the consequences of his actions. Which leads me to the other thing I liked about this show...

Justice and Retribution

I liked how this drama showed us that in the end, we all have to pay for the wrong things that we did. It was great to know that Soo Hyun's evil mother-in-law (Cha Hwa Yeon) was imprisoned. And see Mr. Choi (Park Sung Geun) terminated. 

While Soo Hyun's dad changed for the better towards the end, he still had to serve jail time because he did something illegal. It would have been easier for him to keep quiet about the illegal contributions he received but he chose to be a better person, father, and politician. I can't help but wish for all politicians to be like him. I find this quite timely after seeing news that Seoul's mayor allegedly committed suicide after being accused of sexual harassment. Keyword here is accused. He was not even found guilty yet but shame must have overtaken him. I do not condone suicides. But South Korean politicians' respect for their country and the positions they hold are characteristics every politician must emulate. 


Another thing I liked about this show was Sokcho. Jin Hyeok was banished to this city when Soo Hyun's ex-in-laws thought that they could separate the lovers. He was assigned to work in the hotel's Sokcho branch. 

The drama didn't really show a lot of spots in the city. They mostly featured the beach near the hotel. But those few scenes were enough to stir my curiosity. Maybe I miss the beach too much? 

I found out recently that the scenes were shot at Naksan Beach. This was the same beach where Jin A went during her business trip in Something in the Rain. This definitely made me even more curious. 

I loved how the place seemed modern enough but it still retained its idyllic charm. Oppa and I have always dreamt of living by the beach. We even did some research and found that there are some couple teacher jobs in Sokcho. Now we have another thing to daydream about. :) 

The Not So Good

SHK as Cha Soo Hyun

This is probably the first SHK drama I watched where she did not rely solely on her cuteness. She was absolutely cute and adorable in Worlds Within (and in the few episodes of Full House that I saw). She did a bit of drama in Descendants of the Sun but she still relied heavily on her cuteness there. Here, because she had a more serious heiress role to play, we see a stiffer side of SHK. I'm actually confused if this is a good or bad thing. I guess it's good because we see that there's more to cute SHK. However, this show also helps us understand why she has to rely on her cuteness most of the time. Stiff SHK is quite difficult and boring to watch, to be honest. It doesn't help that she's much thinner here and she looks a bit older too. I can't help but miss the happy and cute SHK from her other shows. So yes, this is quite confusing for me. 

As for Cha Soo Hyun, she was mostly stiff and boring but she did have some moments too. Despite the difficult situation she was in, Soo Hyun managed to bravely express her love for Jin Hyeok. I loved how she bravely admitted to the public that she was in a pre-relationship with him. Or how she ditched her father-in-law's death anniversary so she can have dinner with Jin Hyeok's family. These might seem irrelevant but for someone with her status, these were definitely bold. 

While I understood that Soo Hyun had to break up with Jin Hyeok because she cared so much for him and she did not want to hurt his family, I just don't agree with what she did. As her friends told her, in the end, it was only her and Jin Hyeok that mattered. Yes, the people around them might not be happy but they were the most (if not the only) important part of the equation. At the very least, she should have considered how Jin Hyeok endured so much for her. I'm just glad the she saw the light in the end. 

Oppa says he appreciated SHK's acting more after watching some of the episodes a second time. So it's possible that SHK did okay in this show. My feelings could probably be like how I felt towards Son Ye Jin (SYJ) when I first watched CLOY. I was totally indifferent then. But after watching the show a second time, I was amazed at how well she acted and how Oppa was right that she actually carried much of the show's acting burden. I don't intend to re-watch Encounter, however. So take my opinion on SHK with caution. 

The Bad

Pilot and Final Episodes

The first and final episodes are often expected to be really good. The pilot episode sets the tone for the show, while the finale provides closure and ties up loose ends. 

I usually judge a show with the first episode. I'm not always right though. I slept before finishing Angry Mom's first episode. I almost dropped it. Good thing I read good reviews about it. It turned out really good. I was just probably tired that night. 

Memorable first episodes for me include those in What Happens to My Family and Something in the Rain. I still remember the scenes and the good feeling they gave me. 

This show's first episode was supposed to be captivating. It was mostly set in Cuba. On the contrary, however, Oppa and I were bored. The picturesque Cuba didn't help that much. Personally, I found SHK too stiff here, which prevented me from loving this initial episode. 

Eventually, however, (specifically when they went back to Korea), the show improved. It was still far from spectacular but it was not as bad as the first episode. 

The last episode was another boring one for me (and Oppa too). We almost fell asleep while watching it. It was not just underwhelming. It was meh, blah. I was annoyed at how they wasted the last episode on numerous phone tag scenes where either Soo Hyun or Jin Hyeok would call the other who would not pick up. Such a waste of precious air time. 

It was nice that they did end up together. But the build up towards that was rather boring. 


Another main concern I had with the show was the unnatural chemistry between PBG and SHK. Even during their supposed light moments and until the end, they never really seemed comfortable enough with each other. PBG's cuteness was not enough to make up for SHK's stiffness. 

The Flashbacksssss

I know that flashbacks are good tools for emphasizing some scenes/points. However, it was overdone here. They were used too frequently and sometimes, even unnecessarily. They would sometimes use a flashback of a scene that happened on the same episode. I'm not sure if the show feared that their viewers were forgetful or they didn't trust that their show was impactful enough to leave a mark on their viewers. Honestly, it was quite insulting for a viewer like me who immerses herself in the show. 


Oppa read a review while we were watching this show that said all of the issues were resolved by the end of each episode. While this was not 100% true, it was correct most of the time. I found that the show handled things in quite a simplistic manner. If you prefer something not too heavy or complicated, then this show should be okay. However, for someone like me who wants a bit of conflict and who loves the hanging feeling that endings often give (CLOY did this really well), this just didn't work too well for me. 

Compared to Something in the Rain

I know I should avoid comparing shows. But Something in the Rain's quite fresh in my memory and I really loved it. So, sorry, but I can't help but compare. 

I know that the two shows are not entirely the same because SHK plays a rich girl here whereas SYJ and JHI were both middle class folks. This probably meant SHK had more acting limitations than SYJ. But I still felt that SYJ and JHI handled the noona angle much better than SHK and PBG did.

SYJ and JHI's chemistry was spot on from the first episode. You could not help but root for them because they looked so naturally cute and in love. This was something difficult to do for PBG and SHK. 

JHI also did the giddy acting much better than PBG. You felt his happiness, love, and giddiness, while PBG mostly relied on his cuteness to carry him through. 

I also can't help but compare rich SHK here with rich girl SYJ in CLOY. I felt that Se Ri was a sadder character because she had nobody in the beginning. At least Soo Hyun had her father, driver, and secretary. But, yes, they were both sad. However, I felt SYJ's emotions more. Even during the moments when she tried to look tough and indifferent, I still felt that there was sadness beneath all that. I didn't get the same feeling from Soo Hyun though. She was just stoic most of the time. Oppa says Soo Hyun's position was tougher because she was a divorcee and the daughter of a politician so she had to hide her feelings harder. He could be right. But I still believe there could have been other ways for her to show her emotions (similar to how SYJ uses her eyes). 

The Judgment

Over all, Encounter could have been better. But it's still okay to watch if you just want to fill your days with some K drama. 

Oppa says...it's a 3.25 that he promotes to a 3.5 because of SHK.

Noona says...it's a 3.5.