[The Cheongdam-dong Diaries] Entry 1- There’s No Poetry in Designer Bags.
The Cheongdam-dong Diaries is a series I am starting on this blog as a reflective writing exercise based on the Korean sitcom, “I Live in Cheongdam-dong.”
I was going to wait till I first post a comprehensive review of “I Live in Cheongdam-dong” to start this series, but I’ve been writing it for a week now and it’s nowhere near done. So I’m just going to start this series now before the videos become unavailable online and I can’t watch them anymore.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ve sen me raving, like a woman possessed over the past week or so, about “I Live in Cheongdam-dong,” (ILICDD) the 170-episode, thirty-minute daily Korean sitcom. Well frankly, I was possessed. I’m no stranger to obsession, my last being only two months ago with “Queen In-hyun’s Man.” But my obsession with ILICDD is of a different kind; ILICDD has latched onto my soul and made itself at home. I’ve been entertained and obsessed over many dramas over the years because they touched my heart. I laughed and cried, and praised the quality of the storytelling. All those feelings were deep; I connected with those stories. But ILICDD went even deeper than my heart; it touched my soul. They say when you love someone, you can’t really list why you love that person; you just do. That’s why its so hard for me to write the review for ILICDD. I feel so much and have so many things I want to say but they all come out in a jumble. I desperately want to proclaim the greatness of ILICDD to the whole word but I find there are no words to describe exactly how this drama makes me feel and how good it is. For now, I will just say that the whole world is a better place because ILICDD exists…at least my world is. And isn’t that enough, to brighten even a single person’s life?
There is so much humanity and love in ILICDD, so much wit and humor. The writing of ILICDD is intelligent and poetic, taking the task of communicating with its viewers seriously, but never too serious. ILICDD takes a critical eye to the contemporary Korean society, but it also knows how to laugh at our own foolishness. ILICDD is 170 episodes of perfection. Just utter perfection.
I would have loved to recap this series if I could download the episodes and screencap. Alas, I can only find fuzzy streaming and and torrents, and I can’t torrent. Still, I want to write about ILICDD because every episode of it gives me something to reflect on, whether it be about Korean society, love, or about the human condition in general. So I decided to start this journal of sorts, a log of those reflections. An academic by training, every post I have published here took me a lot of time because I always had to fact-check and research before I wrote anything. This obsessive-compulsiveness (and my incompetency) deters me from writing; I find it a painful and time-consuming exercise. But I like to write and want to write about ILICDD. So I decided that that this journal will be a free-writing exercise, in which I will write as the thoughts come to me and what I know, without doing extensive research or editing. I want to be able to breathe through this writing; I don’t want to feel chased by the grammar and fact-check police. I just want to create a space for simple and easy conversation between myself and my readers. My only fear is that my feeble writing won’t be able to relay the awesomeness of this drama, and how much of an impression it leaves on me.
So join me in these flights of whismy as I get fangirly, sentimental, personal, introspective, and sometimes just plain gibberish. I feel a little apprehensive about opening myself up to my readers this much, but ILICDD needs to be shared and I’m comforted by the fact that my readers are wonderful and warm people who won’t bite me. *Hugs*
These entries will generally be unstructured. I might write one entry for one episode or several at a time. I’m hoping I will be able to write something daily. *Crosses fingers* As I know that most of you haven’t and won’t be able to watch this series, each entry will contain a very brief description of the episode, a sentence or two maybe, so you will know what I am referring to when I start going off on a ramble. I haven’t finished this sitcom yet but I will be rewatching this from the beginning as I write this series. I can watch this sitcom over and over and over… There are 170 episodes of ILICDD; there definitely won’t be 170 entries. I don’t know when I will finish this l series but I hope you’ll join me for the run.
Please don’t be afraid to leave your own thoughts and responses. Like I said, I want to engage in conversation with my readers through this series. A (virtual) penny for your thoughts and your knowledge. I’m going to ask a lot of questions so I hope you will provide me with some answers.
So here it is, the first post of the Cheongdam-dong Diaries.
Entry 1- There’s No Poetry in Designer Bags
In episode one of “I Live in Cheongdam-dong” our dirt-poor family (Kim Hye-ja, the mother; Bo-hee, her younger sister; Woo-hyun, her younger brother; and Oh Ji-Eun, Hye-ja’s daughter) move into and take over a manhwa-bang (comicbook store) in Cheongdam-dong, an affluent neighborhood in Seoul. They’ve moved here in hopes of a better life. You see, all you have to say is “I live in Cheongdam-dong” and everyone knows your standing in society. You are the educated, the privileged, and the successful- the top crop of Korean society. In Cheongdam-dong, your background is your shield and money is your sword. Residents here judge people by three things- their education, pedigree, and bank account.
The manhwa-bang. So out of place in Cheongdam-dong, just like our family.
Our little family has basically moved into the manhwa-bang illegally; the real owner is a friend of Hye-ja’s and he’s gone missing on a trip. In order to supplement the income from the manhwa-bang, Hye-ja also runs a boarding house on top of the manhwa-bang. Woo-hyun’s artistic partner (Woo-hyun is a manhwa artist), Sang-hoon, is one of the first boarders. He writes the manhwa story and Woo-hyun draws. They have yet to find success career-wise and relationship-wise. Both are scary-looking people so life is pretty rough and judgmental on them. But sometimes, being scary-looking can be helpful, especially when you have to hunt down manhwa-bang customers with overdue fees. Ha!
Hye-ja also gives Hallyu tours to Japanese tourists for additional income. On one of those tours, she accidentally enters a poetry class being held at a high-end department stores for its rich V.I.P. customers. Hye-ja tries to leave this place, filled with women who are smarter and richer than her, but fate keeps blocking her path. She ends up staying, lying that she is also rich and likes to dabble in poetry-writing. In reality, Hye-ja has no time for such a leisure activity. By some strange working of fate, Hye-ja is officially given a membership card to the club. With that, she decides to keep coming to the poetry class, believing that if she keeps pretending that she is a Cheongdam-dong woman, she will truly become one one day.
Hye-ja’s daughter, Oh Ji-eun, is 26 years-old and she graduated from a no-name college. She is currently the assistant to the chef’s assistant at a hotel restaurant. She dreams of marrying a rich man, a “Cheongdam-dong Man” who has the perfect specs- good parents, a good education, and a good career. She incidentally runs into one, named Lee Sang-yeob, but she realizes that with her specs, she won’t even register in his radar. He’s surrounded by pretty and well-to-do women.
There’s this other guy, a stark contrast to Lee Sang-yeob. He’s tall and good-looking, but he doesn’t seem to have a job and he spends his time at the manhwa-bang. Which means he’s poor with no future. So Ji-eun immediately crosses him off her list of potential mates.
Oh, Ji-eun. You don’t know what’s in store for you. Heehee!
La! That “brief” description was longer than expected since I had to introduce the story and characters. On to my thoughts and questions!
Do designer bags make woman really that happy? I’ve noticed that in the media, Korean women are portrayed as being crazy over designer bags, that a man giving one to a woman is better than the man saying “I love you.” There is this strange attachment to bags that Korean women seem to have that I just don’t get. It’s hard for me to understand personally, because I am all about practicality regarding bags. You see, I treat them very roughly.
I don’t know. I can understand wanting designer clothes but bags just don’t seem to be worth the thousands of dollars. It just seems so much more frivolous to collect designer bags rather than clothes or even shoes. Sociologically, how did bags come to have such symbolic meaning for Korean women?
Ji-eun bought a designer bag, claiming that it helps in making a good first impression, even though she has to make months of separate payments in order to pay if off. She knows that it takes three-seconds for people to make an assessment about other people, so she wants to look confident when a man looks at her. Hmm…feeling confident because you’re wearing something expensive. I know that feeling. Why do expensive things make us feel more confident?
Hye-ja said that poetry was always on the side of the hungry, on her side. But seeing the poetry class only being available to the rich V.I.P.’s, she thinks, “Ah, poetry must be tired of being hungry.” LOL.
I’m not a poetry aficionado so I don’t really understand what Hye-ja said. How is poetry always on the side of the hungry? Does the content and structure of poetry connect more to the poor and hungry than novels and other literature?
It’s hard to find this series for download, let alone English subs. *Sob* So many people are missing out on this wonderful, beautiful drama! It aired on jTBC, a new cable channel so it’s hasn’t been that widely watched or available. I’ve been watching it on Tudou since I can’t torrent, but torrents are available at the Soompi forum. You can also find English-subs for the first few eps at
Dramatic The Vault. (Edit: No subs available anymore) Please leave a link if you know other places this drama is available at.