01 December 2022

K Drama Review: Love in Contract (2022) 4.4 || 4.5

Oppa and I are huge college basketball fans. Unfortunately, our K viewing has to take a backseat when it's college basketball season. And that explains why I have not reviewed anything for almost 2 months. :D 

Oppa and I love Park Min Young. And when she has a new drama, it's definitely a must-see for us. We were surprised to hear that although she had a drama earlier this year (Forecasting Love and Weather), she had a new one again and what made it even better was that she was with another actor I love, Go Kyung Pyo (D.P., Reply 1988, and Warm and Cozy). 


Love in Contract tells the story of Choi Sang Eun (Park Min Young of What's Wrong with Secretary Kim), a girl whose parents allegedly died when she was young that she had to be placed in an orphanage. She was subsequently adopted by a rich family (the Ina group) who trained her to be the perfect bride that they can marry off to one of the rich families to advance their business interests. After being trained to be the perfect lady overseas, Sang Eun (now called Jamie) went back to Korea to meet the family she was marrying into (Kang Jin group). However, she broke down and made a scene during the dinner meeting. She was of course disowned by her adoptive family. 

To make use of the skills she was trained at, Sang Eun decided to be a single life helper. She agreed to enter into arranged relationships and/or marriages with guys who needed to put up fronts (gay ones, those with parents/families pressuring them to get married, etc.). She's had more than 10 divorces at this point. One of her longest-running clients is Jung Ji Ho (Go Kyung Pyo), a judge who's lacking in social skills. Ji Ho is very awkward around other people. And he's brutally frank so he makes people uncomfortable. But he seems to have a comfortable relationship with Sang Eun, who he's been spending dinner with every Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the past 5 years. 

Sang Eun was ready to retire as a single-life helper. But things get complicated when people from her past - the supposed nanny who raised and trained her, Madame Yoo (Jin Kyung of Extraordinary Attorney Woo, Oh My Venus, and Wonderful Days), and the family that she was supposed to marry into (the Kang Jin group) come back into her life. The story takes us through how Sang Eun and Ji Ho overcome all of these obstacles - Sang Eun's secret past and identity and the people trying to break them apart - in their quest to have a happy ending together. 

Park Min Young as Choi Sang Eun

Park Min Young is as pretty as ever. Yes, she seems more mature here compared to her earlier dramas and thinner too (those little arms and hollow cheeks). But she's still very, very beautiful. And because of that, she's definitely perfect as the classy, elegant, posh, and rich Sang Eun. 

I loved how the show maximized her range as the queen of romcoms. She's super funny especially when she does her talent show when she's drunk. But I also liked her restrained dramatic scenes like when she bailed out Madame Yoo from that failed business transaction with the Kang Jin group. 

Despite that composed facade, it's easy to see that Sang Eun has had a difficult life. Although she insists that her job is a no-strings attached one, it's actually very difficult to detach herself from the different clients she's been involved with. And although their contracts may end, they can still haunt her later on. Like how she had to attend the wake of an ex-mother-in-law whose son turned out to be her stalker. And even if she says it's all business for her, she actually cares for her clients and she's willing to go the extra mile to fulfill her obligations. Like how she saved Ji Ho from his boss during a concert. Or how she talked to the mom of one of her clients (and Kang Jin group son), Kang Hae Jin (Kim Jae Young), to allow the latter to pursue his real dream of being an actor and not lock him up in the office doing office job that bores him. Or how she revealed her real identity to the Kang Jin group so they won't force Hae Jin to marry her. 

Yes, Sang Eun's life has been difficult and complicated. And despite helping and serving other people, it was sad to hear her say that she feels she's just been used all the time. And that's the reason why I was highly invested in making sure that Sang Eun gets her happy ending. 

Go Kyung Pyo as Jung Ji Ho

I admit that in Reply 1988, it was easy to overlook Go Kyung Pyo because the show had a stellar cast. So I'm very happy that he finally got his shining moment here. 

I liked how the show tried to confuse us in the beginning about Ji Ho's character. He seemed too creepy and was an easy suspect as a killer. Although yes, that would have been too obvious early on in the series. And thus, it was a more plausible theory that Ji Ho was merely being used as a decoy. 

I loved how Go Kyung Pyo was perfect as the stoic, serious, and awkward Ji Ho. He was so funny when he's all stiff especially when someone tries to invade his personal space. But on a deeper level, I loved how Ji Ho was a good representation of introverts. How it's stressful for people like him to interact with different people. But he's equally capable of forging meaningful relationships, like the one he has with his boss (Park Chul Min of So I Married an Anti-Fan, The Killer's Shopping List, May 18, and Miracle: Letters to the President). Let me just say that I loved this bromance so much, how boss cared for Ji Ho as his own son. Especially that scene when he visited him in the hospital where he assured Ji Ho of his trust and support amidst the scandal about Sang Eun's identity. 

And I loved the similarities in Sang Eun and Ji Ho's lives. Despite being an accomplished judge, Ji Ho also had a sad past, especially that part about his ambitious wife, Jung Ji Eun (Lee Joo Bin of Money Heist and Mr. Sunshine), who divorced him in order to advance her career. (And yes, I hated that she had to come back and act like some sort of villain who seemed to be out to ruin Sang Eun and Ji Ho's relationship. Thank God she somehow redeemed herself with that press con she did for Hae Jin. But I still don't trust her, hihi.)

And Ji Ho's sad youth when he had to stay with his aunt's family and how he was told to hold things and not say everything he feels because only his real family can tolerate that. And that obviously led him to being quiet and indifferent and afraid of expressing his feelings. When deep inside, he seems to long for validation and companionship too, like when he was smiling smugly when his colleagues began complimenting his outfits. This part of the story is a timely reminder of how grown-ups must always avoid clipping children's wings. 

Ji Ho and Sang Eun

Forgive me if I have a lot of things to say about this couple. I super loved Park Min Young and Go Kyung Pyo's chemistry. Even at the start of the show when they were technically not yet a real couple, there was already so much electricity between them. I couldn't wait for them to acknowledge their feelings for each other. The nice thing about these two is how they can still manage to make me feel giddy despite their age - mere eye contact, or when Ji Ho rescued Sang Eun in that dream, or when Ji Ho said, "Honey, I'm hungry. Let's eat," when she sensed that Sang Eun felt awkward around Hae Jin. I guess it helped that Ji Ho was quiet most of the time so every little thing he did was magnified and looked extra sweet. 

I loved how Ji Ho became drawn to Sang Eun. From the start, it was all about his desire to protect her. Initially, he wanted to save her after coming to his court six times for a divorce. Then, he wanted to break their contract when he realized that she wanted to retire to travel and his contract with her was probably the only thing that was holding her back. And how he tracked down all available CCTV footages to find her attacker. And how he offered to extend their contract because he thought she needed money after she bailed out Madame Yoo (it's just unfortunate that Sang Eun took this in a different way). I loved how he was always so considerate of her. 

Ji Ho and Sang Eun are super good together. And funny too! I loved that scene where they met Ji Ho's boss and his wife after the concert and they had to make up all of these stories why boss didn't know that Ji Ho was married. The look on Ji Ho's face was priceless - he looked like he was about to get a heart attack from the absurdity of the situation and how Sang Eun seemed so comfortable making up their story. 

My favorite funny scene would probably be the housewarming party. Everything was so hilarious - the photoshopped travel photos, the talent show, how Ji Ho protested the result of the contest, how he was so uptight. But I really found it cute that he was fighting for her. And that kiss where she told him that he's her first love. 

I loved Ji Ho's slow and steady realization that Sang Eun's special to him. How he learned to let go little by little and how he allowed her to slowly break down his walls. Like that little confession where he said he was acting indifferent after the kiss because he was scared of losing her. And how they were gradually drawn to each other - Sang Eun asking Ji Ho to wear more comfortable clothes during their tteokbokki date, how they were now speaking casually to each other, how he asked her not to go overseas, and how he  casually asked her why she had to spend the night with Hae Jin (and explaining that he needs to ask if he does not understand something). I loved how Ji Ho was coming out of his shell, thanks to Sang Eun. That 400-question list was really cute because he wanted to know her better. And how she seems relaxed with him and how she runs to him on bad days. You can't help but wish them a perfect life without an ex-wife, a Madam Yoo, and rich families coming in between them. 

And how that real confession was super worth the wait. How Ji Ho kissed Sang Eun. And how he said his life would suck if she were not in it. You can't get more certain than that. 

It was just horrible that Sang Eun's real identity was revealed around this time too. Just as when she's ready to let go of everything to be with Ji Ho and when Ji Ho's coming out of his shell, her past starts haunting her. I just loved that Ji Ho kept reassuring Sang Eun that this scandal won't bother him at all. And how he tried to come up with a plan that would minimize damage on everyone except himself. And how he never left her side, as how real men should, even after she told him to distance himself from her to avoid trouble. And how she bravely attended his staff's birthday party to explain things to remove the awkwardness in the office. I loved that they cleared things up with people that matter. And how he paved the way for Sang Eun's reconciliation with Madame Yoo/her mom. 

And I loved how Ji Ho recalled that although he had doubts about their contract and he wanted to end it the moment they started, he kept delaying everything until he realized that five years have already passed. I loved how these two are a perfect fit for each other - how she taught him to express himself and how he showed her that she's capable of being loved without any ulterior motive.  

Kim Jae Young as Kang Hae Jin

I admit that I'm not a big Hae Jin fan. I hated that he kept on whining like an immature rich kid in the beginning. But he grew on me with his friendship with Sang Eun. I loved how they could relate to each other due to their upbringing and their common desire to break free from their past. And he totally won me over with the many things he gave up for Sang Eun. I'm excited at the prospect of him being with Ji Ho's ex-wife. 

Kang Hyung Seok as Woo Kwang Nam

I loved Kang Hyung Seok (Crash Landing on You, Itaewon Class, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, and Hometown Cha Cha Cha) here. 

First, I loved the LGBTQ+ representation. How the drama didn't stick with the stereotypes, showing us that a gay person can be masculine too - he was a taekwondo instructor who even worked as a bodyguard. The thing I loved most about Kwang Nam was how he was always upfront about his sexual orientation to avoid misunderstandings (the student who liked him, his taekwondo boss, and Hae Jin) and how he was always ready to face the consequences. 

Second, I loved his friendship with Sang Eun. How they looked out for each other. Like how despite his migration plans, he decided to stay when Sang Eun said she couldn't leave. Or how he didn't leave even if Madame Yoo threatened him and asked him to leave Sang Eun. Or how he asked for Ji Ho's help when he realized that Madame Yoo was causing all of Sang Eun's troubles and how Ji Ho should help her because she really liked him. 

I'm excited for the singing career that awaits Kwang Nam. I loved how Hae Jin's manager paved the way for this opportunity. And I hope love would be coming soon too. Although I hated how his family became nice only after they realized he could be a star, I guess that's a start. 

Jin Kyung as Madame Yoo

I admit that I hated Madame Yoo's complicated relationship with Sang Eun. I'm not sure if I prefer Jin Kyung in meek roles like in Wonderful Days or in bitchy, rich characters like here and in Attorney Woo. All I know is that I started out not liking this storyline. It didn't help that she really looks scary with her piercing stare. And I loathed how she kept on getting in the way of Sang Eun's life. And that power struggle between these two women. 

But of course, show had a surprise for us towards the end, which sort of explained why Madame Yoo was acting that way. That mom reveal softened her up and I was just happy that she had a chance to mend her relationship with Sang Eun. 


While I thoroughly enjoyed this show, there were some things that didn't really work for me. I mentioned Madame Yoo earlier. I wasn't fond of Hae Jin's uncle/manager too who would beat him up when an issue comes up. I didn't like the stalker stuff too, especially since there didn't seem to be a follow through on this one. I hated Hae Jin's older brother too (Oh Ryung of Something in the Rain and who was super annoying in Big Mouth). And yes, drama is not one of this show's forte. That confession scene between Sang Eun and Madame Yoo and that scene when Ji Ho realized that Sang Eun left him were missed opportunities. They would have been great drama moments but they both came out meh. 

Despite these flaws, I loved the show's interesting concept. That single-life helper thing is really interesting. Yes, it might not be sustainable (with overlaps and meeting common people). It's way too risky. And are there no divorce guidelines such that people like Sang Eun can really abuse this rule? But it was still a unique concept nonetheless.

The concept of raising kids as future brides is also interesting although it's scary. The long-term planning and funding needed to do that is surprising. And there's always that huge risk of it not succeeding like in Sang Eun's case. How do you recoup your investments when that happens? And I liked how Sang Eun's present-day career was actually a poor man's career path to make use of her bridal training - knowledge, skills, talents, poise, manners, and etiquette all came out useful. 

As regards the ending, yes, I was not happy with how Sang Eun broke up with Ji Ho. Despite her reasons, I can't understand why she had to break the heart of someone who loves her so much that he's willing to give up everything for her. When they finally reconciled, I loved how Ji Ho reprimanded her, saying she should not have endured everything alone. This felt like a stretch on the part of the show. 

But I loved how Ji Ho patiently waited for Sang Eun. How he still went home early and cooked for her on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, in case she'd come. And that happiness he felt when she finally returned. His reaction was very realistic - yes, he was disappointed that she left but he chose to let it go right away. 

The proposals were both hilarious and sweet. Sang Eun's extravagant proposal that made Ji Ho a bit awkward but the look in his eyes was priceless when beautiful Sang Eun came out. And Ji Ho's sweet but very heartfelt proposal in the parking lot. Goes to show that in relationships, sincerity matters most. 

I loved how things were all resolved in the end. It didn't feel rushed or stretched, overall. Madame Yoo and Sang Eun were okay. Madame Yoo and the Ina group chair were okay, with the latter retiring and donating his money to somehow make up for his crimes. Kwang Nam finally agreeing to give singing a try and that special relationship he now has with Hae Jin's manager. Hae Jin finally getting his parents' blessing to resume his career and his budding romance with Ji Ho's ex-wife. 

I loved how the little get together that Ji Ho and Sang Eun organized in lieu of a wedding was the perfect ending. And that epilogue where we see Ji Ho and Sang Eun eating beside each other, as opposed to across each other, is a testament of how much their relationship has changed. 

Loved the music too. My favorite was Real Love, which was perfect for Ji Ho and Sang Eun. :)

Oppa says...4.4.

Noona says...4.5.