My initial interest in this drama before it aired was piqued by the fact that Nam Goong Min would be headlining a rom-com. Of course I was in. Plus having Lee Young Ah who I’m familiar with from Vampire Prosecutor seemed like it would be interesting. I was also super excited with the premise because it sounded like there would be some serious kooky hijinks going on in order to tell a lighthearted love story. Unemployment Romance only had a 10 episode run, and by the time I finished it I was a bit unsure about how much I actually liked it. After thinking it through, I came to the conclusion that this was a drama unlike any other that I’ve seen throughout the entire year. Yes there were some really far-stretched occurrences especially in the beginning, but as far as it goes, I really think this story can happen to real people. Yes, I just burst your fantasy bubble…since our reality bubble likes to wander away from us as drama addicts. Well for me at least.
To get the negative stuff out of the way, my main problem with this drama was the use of time and the way it didn’t leave room to flesh out the second lead characters. With only 10 episodes long, it’s inevitable that they have to spend most of the story concentrating on the leads. I give them the benefit of the doubt in that sense, but the timeline of this drama was warped completely. We started in the present with flashbacks of the OTP’s life in the past, and so as a viewer you got a pretty good sense of how they broke up since the flashbacks were long. Then all of a sudden, we swish back to the past only to have the complete story told to us for a good 3 episodes. It felt like a complete repetition, and that’s when I was really eager for the drama to get on with it. I want to see how the OTP fall in love again! Finally for the last few episodes we are sent back to the present.
Since the focus was mainly on the OTP, then the second leads fell a little flat. We saw their actions, but we did not see their reasons for it. Yes, Wan Ha felt he should be Seung Hee’s lover because he believed he met her first (which is untrue), but that’s all? That’s your shallow reason for slapping a ring back on Seung Hee’s finger after she tries to give it back to you? He was in complete denial about knowing who she really loved, and there wasn’t enough time for him to get a chance at winning her heart. As for Seung Hee’s best friend, Sun Joo, I wasn’t sure if we were suppose to accept the fact that she’s just a jealous person and will forever be that way, or if she actually has a good reason for why she is jealous of Seung Hee. I guess it’s the first option because I did not sense the sincerity in her apology after playing such a direct role in the breakup of Jong Dae and Seung Hee. These were my main concerns with this drama, but when I think about all the awesome points it had, all of the negative aspects turn to dust.
The timing of Unemployment Romance’s ending was really funny. I kid you not, the ending was like the Reply to Me series (Who’s the husband?) crossed with the ending we were waiting for in Mirae’s Choice (she explicitly picks a guy). I won’t ruin it for anyone who wants to watch the drama, but it was a great twist. What this drama excelled at, if we ignore the crazy plot lines here and there, was how realistic the love story of the OTP was. Let’s face it, these are hard times, and although money cannot buy happiness, being poor comes with a whole slew of stresses which in turn make you unhappy. The OTP broke up when Seung Hee was about to break out into her career as a writer and Jong Dae was around trying to make a living after he failed the second part of the bar exam. Clearly there was an inferiority complex and because of his pride, he got a little over head of himself which then led to Seung falling down an escalator…it was a mess. To only meet again after so many years and find out that your ex is not doing as well as you thought they would leaves you baffled. Not to mention, you have no intention of letting the other see you in such a low point of your life. It was a perfect setup to challenge the pride that had built up in both Seung Hee and Jong Dae, and to repair whatever had not been fixed in their relationship previously.
I love plot lines that have a broken up couple who gain a chance to fall in love a second time. Although if it goes down the way Ohlala Couple did, I digress. From the flashbacks in the first few episodes the audience got the idea that Jong Dae was a complete jerk who did not know how to give Seung Hee some space, and who did not deserve a second chance with her. Little by little we see how important making something of himself to make his parents proud and the women he loves meant to him. He takes the challenge of becoming a lawyer just for that very reason. I’m happy that the writer chose to make him fail the second time, if he had passed…then this story would be a typical k-drama. In the end, after knowing full well that he loves Seung Hee, he tells her to continue dating Wan Ha. In no way was he using reverse psychology in order to try to make her feel bad and jump into his arms, he was ready to give her to someone who at the present moment was a better fit for her. I’m sure the last thing he wanted to do was disappoint Seung Hee a second time by working a 9 to 5 job at an unemployment office earning minimum wage. Hey, she wasn’t doing too well either since she met him again at an unemployment office. As prideful as Jong Dae was, he turned out to be very selfless when you get to the bottom of things. Even while dating the other girl, he knew for a fact that he still loved Seung Hee and did not force himself to fall in love with someone else.
All in all, this couple was destined to be from the start. Sorry Wan Ha, I had second lead syndrome for a few episodes, but after trying to force your love onto Seung Hee, I lost my love for you. The problem with their relationship the first time around was that they did not how to handle the obstacles of life when the other person was doing well or not doing well. After going off on their own and learning what they wanted for themselves, they could come back and settle into a healthy relationship. The voice over of the now mature Seung Hee at the end of the drama reiterates the message of this drama. Being broke and being being in love, plus not knowing where your love is headed is very frustrating. What is more important is being able to overcome those frustrations with the very person that makes you shine. Both Jong Dae and Seung Hee had to come to full terms with the idea that their future won’t be as bright if they don’t have each other. In the end, I think this love story can actually happen to real people, and Unemployment Romance is a great for those that believe that because you don’t have money, maybe it’s not the time to find love… That may be the very thing that keeps you going when you’re close to giving up.