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Aaaah, Shining Inheritance. Addiction. I could just sit here and watch it forever. My roommates are complaining because I have already watched it on the internet, in the original Korean with English subtitles (thank you, HaruHaru Subs, you guys are awesome), and then I still catch it on GMA Channel 7 everyday, dubbed in Filipino. And end up yelling at the TV: "Hey, that's not what Juan said, that's not what Ynna said, in the original. How come they say something completely different?" Ah, the vagaries of translation, when Hwan becomes Juan and Eun Sung becomes Ynna, and instead of saying "How come he's done so many things?" Hwan ends up saying "I'll never understand her." Hrmph, I should do subs in Filipino.

Though we might just end up wondering which takes greater precedence, the need to contextualize the story in a way that the readers would understand it, or the desire to present a culture to an audience not its own.

At least, the drama has taught me some things, such as that a girl calls an older brother Oppa and an older sister Unnee, but a boy calls an older brother Hyung and an older sister Noona. That "sorry" seems to be "bya-ne-yo," and "grandmother" is "hal-mo-ni," and "ahjusshi" and "ahjumma" might correspond to our own "uncle" and "auntie," or "mama" and "ale."

I haven't had this much fun watching a drama since Full House, which, I may add, was such a hit here in the Philippines that it got re-run twice and got remade into a local version as well. [Note to TV producers: Please do NOT remake Shining Inheritance unless you can find people to do justice to it. Lee Seung Gi and Han Hyo Joo are just awesome as Hwan and Eun Sung already.] Nor did I want to tear someone's hair out as badly as I wanted to scalp Baek Sung Hee and Yoo Seung Mi, or locally, Lanie and Aimee. Well, not since Gladys Reyes as Clara was pushing around Judy Ann Santos as Mara. LOL. And, well, no two Koreanovela characters have made such an impression on me since Bae Yong Joon as Damdeok and Lee Ji Ah as Sujini, anyway. I've set aside my Sujini Black Phoenix wallpaper for the moment and placed Hwan and Eun Sung on my desktop. Ahaha, obsession, obsession.

Funny thing is, I didn't notice this drama much at first, except that I don't normally get home before 9:00 p.m. and it's what comes on TV by the time we're settling down to have dinner. By the time I noticed how strongly Hwan and Eun Sung were quarreling, and how they were falling in love at the same time, the story was already well under way. I think maybe it was the bus scene that did it for me... where Hwan sets out to be so determined to ignore Eun Sung but ends up rescuing her from perverts in the crowded bus. Corny, corny. But still, judging from the collective sighs and squees in our room at that scene, very effective. LOL.

Then there's that scene at Eun Sung's mother's grave on her Memorial Day, where Hwan acts all grumpy but ends up acting like a gentleman in spite of himself. [The practice of honoring a Memorial Day also made me think that maybe it's an Asian thing... we Filipinos also hold our dead in such esteem, witness the 40 days of mourning and the crazy crowds during Undas.] Then let's not forget that part where they quarrel in the middle of the road and he ends up rescuing her from the truck and at the same time gives her --and us-- a sudden flash of insight into what makes him tick.  And that bicycle ride which makes Seung Mi realize that Hwan is falling for Eun Sung. You might certainly want me to mention that memorable scene on the hanging bridge. But for me, perhaps the moment that most illustrated how much Hwan really cared for Eun Sung was the part that came afterward, in the cave, right before Seung Mi collapsed. Here he is, with two girls beside him, one his best friend and the only person he ever really cared for or showed affection for most of his life, and the other the girl he'd met only recently and keeps quarreling with, the girl whom he first viewed as taking his inheritance --and his grandmother's affection-- away from him. Both girls have water dripping on them from the stalactites inside the cave. What does he do? He holds out his hand over Eun Sung's head so that the water wouldn't drip on her anymore, and Eun Sung never even notices. He doesn't even notice that beside him, Seung Mi is in the same predicament.

Ah, Seung Mi. Try as I might to hate her, I can't completely condemn her. To her, Hwan is "the air I breathe, the land, the land on which I stand." She is, after all, a victim of her own circumstances. So few people love her... even in school, where she excelled in academics, she got bullied and had to be rescued by Hwan. Her own father abandoned them; her stepfather had Eun Sung to spoil. Small wonder that when she found someone who seemed to care for her alone, the only person whose exclusive attention she enjoyed, she would not give him up without a hard struggle. As she said to her mother, "As you cannot live without money, I cannot live without love." Poor Seung Mi. I wanted to slap her silly, but realized that there could be a Seung Mi living in many of us, including myself.

Park Jun Se is another matter. He's almost too perfect... a guy with principles, a knight in shining armor, a good friend, a deus ex machina of sorts. He always tried to do everything right... but in the end he got nothing. Nice guys finish last, the nice guy never gets the girl, and all that. Yet he is still there till the end--- knowing that he will never have Eun Sung, but still determined to be there for her if she needed him. Small wonder Hwan is always so jealous of him. Jun Se's defining moment is perhaps the part where he tells Eun Sung that he doesn't want her to feel sorry for him, or to be there for him simply because he was always there for her. The person he loves should not feel obligated to reciprocate the things he has done for her, because he did those things out of love and expected no reward. We call people who love like that "martyrs," but such people are rarer than we think. We should be so lucky if someone like Jun Se loved us! Poor Jun Se. I keep hoping he and Lee Hye Ri would end up together. Ah, Hye Ri, one of my most favorite characters. The quintessential best friend, fiercely loyal, always ready to rise to her friend's defense. And she's pretty, too.

Then there's Eun Sung, who suddenly had to grow up too soon. One good thing about her, except for that momentary lapse at the beginning, she never let things get her down. As she told Hwan, why should she not laugh? She already had nothing left; if she cried, people would pity her and she did not want pity. No wonder the two guys fell for her. Aside from Cinderella, she reminded me of Sarah Crewe, who believed
that no matter what station you were in life, you should always act like a real princess. Not the empty-headed fairy-tale type, but the essentially good, compassionate, responsible type. Aside from that, perhaps the guys liked her because she didn't flirt with them the way other girls did. She couldn't because
she had better things to do, so instead it was the guys who chased after her. I read a comment somewhere that said Eun Sung wasn't really that great a character because what kind of girl would just stand there like a stick when a guy kissed her? That made me LOL... what if the girl didn't know what to do, or was taken by
surprise, or something? Her reaction was just right for the story, which is in reality more sedate and prim-and-proper than Western ones.

And then there's Hwan. Ah, Hwan. In the beginning we're glad that Eun Sung gave in to her viler instincts and punched him -- there was no one who needed punching better-- but in the end, as we see his veneer wear off and his true self begin to shine through, we begin to appreciate him more and more. I've read some comments that said that a person couldn't really change all that much that quickly. But Hwan wasn't really changing per se... he was just getting rid of the defense mechanisms he'd built up early in life. He'd gotten to the extent where his armor was the only thing people could see about him, and thought that was all there was to him. [Let's face it, I was a rebellious kid myself too. Painted myself into a corner a lot, although not to the extent Hwan did.] It took Eun Sung to pierce that armor and peel it off little by little until he could breathe again. One of my roommates commented that the one thing that was good about undemonstrative guys was that every little thoughtful gesture  became more meaningful because it was different from the usual. That was what happened to Hwan-- as the story progresses, we wait with bated breath for what he will do next, for the next time he lowers his guard to show that he cares for Eun Sung.

Then there's Grandmother Jang Sook Ja. Ah, grandmother, the real star of the story. She quoted "The Ballad of the Mother's Heart" too, which completely took me by surprise. I hadn't expected to come across a reference to it in a Korean drama.

The songs are awesome too, and I don't just mean the local themesong, "I will take you forever," although it is such a lovely song, the lyrics just right for Hwan and Eun Sung. "I was a man who always played around in love, so quick to take and so afraid to give enough... I was a girl who trusted no one with her heart, and the dreams that young girls dream were just vanishing in the dark..." But put that up against "Love is Punishment" and you go "ooooh." As the song says, love can be happiness, but a love that can never be said is a punishment from heaven. Ouch, ouch. If anyone would give me a copy of the lyrics of this song --phonetically, please, as I can't read Korean-- and of the translation, I will be forever grateful. and oh yes, the part where Hwan turns on the radio and plays Lee Seung Gi's own "Will you marry me?" cracked me up but good. It was like quoting yourself in something. LOL.

Anyway... I loooooooove Shining Inheritance. Nuff said.

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