Review of Korean Drama “SungKyunKwan Scandal”


 Genre:  Romantic Comedy, Historical

Number of Episodes:  20


Story Premise:  A young woman in the Joseon period disguises herself as a young man and attends the prestigious all-male Sungkyunkwan University at the risk of her own life.   

Kim Yoon Hee first disguised herself as her brother (Kim Yoon Shik) when she was 12 years old in order to support her mother and sick brother.  To make ends meet, she takes a job copying books and making cheat sheets for the local college students.  When she creates a cheat sheet and ends up giving it to the wrong person, she draws the attention of Lee Seon Joon, the super smart and uptight son of one of the country’s most powerful ministers.  Believing Yoon Hee is a boy, Lee Seon Joon tricks her into applying to the prestigious male-only university, then ensures that she has no choice but to attend (thanks to the King’s Command).  Yoon Hee is horrified at having to attend the university because she knows that if she is caught, she will be executed for breaking the laws that treat women differently than men.  On the flip side, attending the university means free room and board, that the school will pay for her family’s medical bills, and that she will receive a monthly stipend which she can give to her family.  With all those benefits, Yoon Hee decides to stick it out at college for as long as she can.

Lee Seon Joon is on the fast track to a getting a high-ranking government position thanks to his father and the fact that he has always been the smartest student wherever he attended school. All he really wants, however, is to learn how to make friends, to learn, and to live an upstanding life.  When Yoon Hee is assigned to be his roommate, Lee Seon Joon believes he may have made his first friend ever and he becomes determined to nurture that friendship at any cost.  But when he starts finding himself attracted to Yoon Hee, he is horrified and begins to question everything that he knows about himself.

Add to the mix the fact that the university is in political upheaval.  There are two main dorms – one for Northerners and one for Southerners (Norons vs. Sorons) – and the students from each dorm are constantly trying to prove which side is the best.  While Lee Seon Joon is a Noron and Yoon Hee is “Neutral” (since she comes from the town where the university is), there third roommate (Moon Jae Shin aka Goel Oh or “Crazy Horse”) is a hardcore Soron who is furious to find out his roommate is a Noron.  Moonlighting as the “Red Bandit,” Goel Oh’s goal in life is to get people to rise up against the Norons and force them to stop their corrupting ways.  Also add to the mix Gu Yong Ha, the playful son of a wealthy family who thrives on fashion on loose women.  When he meets Yoon Hee, he is convinced she is a girl and he makes it his goal to “out” her in any way he can…preferably “out” of her clothes.


What I like about this K-Drama:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this drama.  From the first episode, you can’t help but laugh at all the sticky situations that Yoon Hee gets herself into.  They are natural disasters and not something that seems or feels forced.  While it seems ludicrous that she would be “tricked” into going the school, the writers actually made it happen in a way where you couldn’t help but think, “Oh crap… if she doesn’t go, she could die.  If she is found out, she could die.  If she runs and hides, her family could die…what’s a girl to do?”

Add to the fact her awkwardness when she finds herself sharing a room with two men, and not just the room but the blankets.  Even better, Goel Oh refuses to sleep next to Seon Joon, so Yoon Hee ends up becoming the buffer that has to sleep between them.  The sleeping arrangements become a sticky and hysterical situation several times throughout the show, especially when Goel Oh and then Seon Joon finds out she is a girl.

What I also love about this show is  Gu Yong Ha.  He is one of the best characters I have ever seen because he is such a stinker.  He acts like he’s bored all the time and he prefers to go wherever entertaining things are happening – like the Gisaeng House (i.e. Brothel).  Watching him try to get Yoon Hee naked again and again is also really funny because he is just such a stinker about it.

In actuality, I love ALL of the characters in the show.  You can’t help but cheer for the hero and heroine as they find their footing around each other and eventually fall in love.  I love how Goel Oh and Gu Yong Ha are best friends and protect each other and eventually Seon Joon and Yoon Hee.  I also love the University feeling to the movie, which starts with a Hazing and continues on to old-fashioned sporting competitions.  This is SO a “Must-Watch” Series if you ever watch Korean Dramas.

What I did NOT like about this K-Drama:

Honestly…nothing.  I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this show.  Everything was easy to believe and highly amusing.

Favorite Scene(s):

There are too many to count, but if I had to choose, I would narrow it down to three:

1)      The scene where Yoon Hee passes the Hazing to get accepted into the college.  Each of the “freshmen” is given a difficult task to accomplish in order to be accepted into the University.  If a student fails, they must strip naked and jump into the nearby river with everyone watching.  Gu Yong Ha, who is one of the upperclassman and who has already decided Yoon Hee is a woman, is determined to see her strip naked so he assigns her the most difficult task of all – to bring back the underwear of the most coveted Gisaeng in the country.  To make her mission even more impossible, Gu Yong Ha promises a monetary reward to whichever Gisaeng can strip Yoon Hee down and give her a hickey on her chest.  Believing she would fail, everyone is astonished when Yoon Hee returns – hickey free and wildly successful – and thus she ends up earning the nickname Taemul, i.e. “Big Shot”.  (End of Episode 2 to Beginning of Episode 3)

2)      For a “You Can Conquer the World” type of scene, I would choose the Archery Competition, where Yoon Hee has to compete against the class president. The most coveted Gisaeng in the country gives her a little strategic help which is hysterical to watch, and Seon Joon gives her some advice which shows just how special their friendship really is.  (Episode 7 – 35 minutes to 46 minutes)

 3)      Finally, for romantic scenes, I love all of them but I especially love when Lee Seon Joon finds out that Yoon Hee is a girl.  He brings her back to his house to make her explain and his too-pushy servant locks them into Lee Seon Joon’s bedroom for the night.  Both try to go to sleep, but neither can so they both decide to read.  While Lee Seon Joon studies his school books, Yoon Hee searches his bookshelves and finds a “dirty” book that Gu Yong Ha had given to Seon Joon.  What ensues is a feisty little wrestling match that is both funny and “awkward.”  (Episode 16 – 12 minutes to 15 minutes)

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