[Review] Miss Korea – 미스코리아

I’ve been in procrastination mode the last week or so.  Trying to get my head back into the game and finish up a few reviews I’ve left hanging.


Set in 1997, the drama follows a cosmetics company struggling to keep afloat during the fallout of the IMF financial crisis.  Kim Hyung Joon (Lee Sun Kyun) convinces his fellow employees that by sponsoring a Miss Korea candidate all the way towards the crown might help bring brand awareness to their small, struggling company.  Oh Ji Young (Lee Yeon Hee) is a mere department store elevator girl but back in the day she was the most popular girl in school who had all the boys chasing her.  Until Hyung Joon, her ex-boyfriend, shows up one day with the promise of making her the next Miss Korea.

Another SM C&C drama which pleasantly surprised me and had a really great premise.  The great thing about this drama was that they didn’t set in the present day but set it in the late 90’s as the time period created unique obstacles for our characters.  It also allowed the drama to indulge in some different selections of music genres for the OST beyond your typical pop and ballad tracks.

Kim Ba Da – Heartbreaker (With Every Single Day)

김바다 – Heartbreaker (With Every Single Day)

Similar to Prime Minister and I, the main leads had a big age gap.  However, I will note that their characters don’t.  To their credit, their acting made me look past the age gap of the actors and see the characters that they were playing.

Another thing that I noted about Prime Minister and I was that it was supposed to be a romantic comedy and yet in the crucial third act of the drama, the drama sorely lacked romance.  It’s not clear what the problem was but it really disrupted the natural pacing of the drama.  Along those same lines, Miss Korea does tone down the romance towards the end but I was completely satisfied with it because the reasons for the non-skinship were specific to the story this drama wanted to tell.

In fact, this drama doesn’t even belong in the romantic comedy category.  Romantic and comedic elements do have their place in the drama but it’s a company drama and a relationships (plural as in family/friends) drama.

For the romantic comedy aspect, you could easily look to Jung Sun Saeng (Lee Sung Min) and Go Hwa Jung (Song Sun Mi).  They were so easy to love because they are clearly from two different worlds with different life ambitions and yet you can’t help who you are attracted to.  I also love that Hwa Jung doesn’t easily give up her aspiration for Jung Ssaem (his nickname in the drama as his given name means teacher).  So it was nice to see the ups and downs in their relationship.  There wasn’t enough in their storyline to make them the leads but as supporting characters it was nice to cutaway to them to see how they evolved as the drama progressed.

Despite the title of the drama, I was surprised to discover that the drama doesn’t end with the crowning ceremony at the Miss Korea pageant.  Rather, the drama is about the people and their motives for being involved in the pageant so it makes sense to see the aftermath.

The pageant is everyone’s stepping stone towards something greater.  At least for everyone besides Oh Ji Young.  There’s a fascinating scene in which it dawns on her that everyone in the pageant had entered it with a higher goal in mind.

People like Queen Beauty Salon’s Ma Ae Ri (Lee Mi Sook) and Cherry Beauty Salon’s Yang Choon Ja (Hong Ji Min) help foster those dreams.  I love the relationship between this sunbae and hoobae.  They’re like competitive sisters who try and one up each other.  For the women they were helping, they were like mothers which is significant since Ji Young and Contestant Kim Jae Hee (Go Sung Hee) didn’t have mothers that they could lean on.  They both brought a lot of comedy and truth to the drama about people’s true natures.

On a random tangent, I was also quite impressed with the way the boys would have frank conversations about makeup.  That topic along with fashion is usually reserved for females.  It was refreshing to watch Hyung Joon, Kim Hong Sam (Oh Jung Se) and Kim Kang Woo (Choi Jae Hwan) reverse those gender stereotypes.

While the conversation revolved around the business, the drama does a really great job in showing how the characters had to understand women and makeup in order to help them stay ahead of the trend curve.  That was partially helped again by the fact that this drama takes place in the late 90’s.

The drama turned out to be a lot more than I was expecting it to be.  The story felt tightly structured from the beginning.  Even though the drama doesn’t tie up neatly with a bow I still like the open-ended structure of the last episode.  It feels like the stories of these characters go on, beyond the fading lights of the beauty pageant.



3 thoughts on “[Review] Miss Korea – 미스코리아

  1. My baby, Miss Korea.

    I have visited your blog SO MANY TIMES just waiting for this darling to be recapped. It has soul, it has heart and it is definetly my all time classic. fav and sweetheart.

    Have so much to say, but will come back later.

    Thanks dear.

    for me it is 9.5.


  2. I have read all the reviews on Miss Korea that I could find and while I am very happy that the majority of reviews have been very positive, I am still sad that this drama was mostly overlooked by drama watchers. It would have been fun to have had more discussion during the live watch.

    I agree with you that the age gap of the actors did not matter much at all. I think the story is a mature one and calls for more mature actors even though the ages of the lead characters are youngish. Kudos to Lee Yeon Hee for her ability to act older than her real age. The way she plays it, her character looks closer to 30 than 25 and it actually works for this pairing with Lee Sun Kyun. There is a certain oldness to the soul of her character. I know I may not make sense.

    You brought up a few things that I haven’t seen in other reviews. One of them being the men being able to talk so nonchalantly about makeup. I love that. I also like what you said about the two beauty salon owners and the way they treat each other. And yes, this story is not just about one girl’s quest to become Miss Korea, it’s just as much about surviving in business during a major financial crisis, whatever shape that business takes: cosmetic, beauty making, money lending, or department store. I can’t stop finding things to love about this drama.


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