So even though we saw Yoo-mi fantasizing about meeting Jin-wook by chance again last episode, this time, Yoo-mi is doing everything she can to avoid the reality of the situation. Which makes sense. Let's recall that, three years ago, Jin-wook was kind of a jerk, and that they were both just a tad drunk. So it's easy to empathize with Yoo-mi viewing Jin-wook's dictatorial demands here as being part and parcel of a mean personality rather than an overbearing effort on his part to be cute.
And indeed, it would be a little remiss for us to completely ignore the power imbalance here. Jin-wook is Yoo-mi's boss, and his attempt to jump start a relationship with her here is textbook sexual harassment. For all that, it's hard to hate Jin-wook that much when we can see from his perspective that Yoo-mi was his one moment of genuine empathy. Unless we count the cat, who sadly does not feature here. I was kind of hoping the cat would be a regular character.
Instead we get Hyeon-tae (played by Kim Jae-young) who is in the akwward position of being Yoo-mi's only apparent girlfriend...when he is not actually a girl. Hyeon-tae is understandably less than helpful when Yoo-mi attempts to vent frustrations about the inherent creepiness of Jin-wook's romantic overtures. It's a little odd how Hyeon-tae's placement in the story implies that he is Jin-wook's main rival for Yoo-mi's affections, yet so far, he isn't really acting like it.
Note that effort alone does not an effective rival make. That's the problem which faces Jin-wook's suitor Hye-ri (played by Jung Da-sol) whose aggressiveness is a bit of a turn off. Interestingly, Hye-ri attitude toward Jin-wook comes off as quite a bit more rapey than Jin-wook's attitude toward Yoo-mi even though there's no power deferential. A lot of this just has to do with the sensation of touch. Hye-ri will never leave Jin-wook alone, whereas Jin-wook limits his harassment to requests that could reasonably be expected of Yoo-mi's job.
Bear in mind that these are all genre standards rather than anything which can reasonably be said to be a special quality of "My Secret Romance" alone. Consider the parents of the lead characters, who have had less than successful love lives. So it is too that Jin-wook is trying to avoid stoic formula while Yoo-mi is trying to avoid fickle passion. These two will have to meet in the middle at some yet undetermined point.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 3"
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