One of the best shows I have watched in the history of Korean dramas… Chicago Typewriter just ended yesterday and it surely ended with a bang.
Starring Yoo Ah In (Seo Hui Young/Han Se Ju), Lim Soo Jung (Ryu Soo Yeon/Jeon Seol) and Go Kyung Pyo (Shin Yul/Yoo Jin Oh), the show is set on two timelines: 1930’s Japanese occupied Korea and 2017, and heavily involved the reincarnation theme common in Asian literature.
Here’s me breaking it down for you guys:
The 1930’s story involves three independence fighters, conducting guerrilla warfare against the Japanese occupants: Seo Hui Young, Ryu Soo Yeon, and Shin Yul. They all work out of a club, called Carpe Diem run by Shin Yul, who comes from an influential family. He has given refuge to Hui Young who writes racy stories (on a typewriter called Chicago Typewriter, gifted by Yul, which was apparently the first typewriter with Hangul characters at the time), but has another agenda on the side, organizing infiltrators into Japanese areas to gather information as well as terrorize the authorities. Soo Yeon, on the other hand is a younger girl these activists rescue from the clutches of the Japanese authorities and then take her as an apprentice, teach her how to shoot bulls eyes with a gun (which they also call a Chicago Typewriter). Soo Yeon becomes their principal shooter, always dressed in boyish attire to hide her gender. She also lets go of her boyish garb for female clothing whenever a woman is required to achieve any of their goals. What one can be sure is that there is a love triangle that moves the story forward in this time frame.
Coming to the 2017 story, we meet a very vain and haughty Korean Stephen King, Han Se Ju, who has a huge fan following for his mystery-filled gruesome writing. The first thing we realize is how Se Ju is full of himself and super cynical. I could understand his reasons to be cynical over time, but I can see how grossed out the audience would be at large. Jeon Seol, is a book fanatic who is in love with Se Ju’s work and has known him ever since she was a waitress and he was a regular customer, who wrote his intial writing at her shop. Nevertheless, Se Ju has no memory of Seol. On a trip to promote his book in Chicago, Se Ju sees a typewriter that fascinates him (it has the same Hangul keys), and whenever he gets close to it, he can hear somebody’s voice as if it is talking to him. He asks its owner to let him have it but the owner rejects the offer because the typewriter is precious to him. Except, after Se Ju has left, the typewriter comes to life and types out that it wants to be delivered to Han Se Ju. Interestingly, the owner complies, and the person who comes to pick up the delivery in Seoul, is Seol, since she part times as a delivery woman. That is how Se Ju and Seol meet again after ten years.
Se Ju being by nature suspicious, does not take well to Seol’s interest in him, fearing that she will cause him some harm or the other. Later, he has an accident and the only person who comes to rescue him is Seol. She nurses him in the dark and lonely forest, in her cabin, while his publishers are desperate to get him back to his desk. Since the typewriter has reached his house, somebody starts writing his novel for him, and when everyone sees how Se Ju has a serious writer’s block, they attribute his latest writing to a ghost writer. The writing is titled Chicago Typewriter and this ghost writer is Yoo Jin Oh, who is in fact, a ghost, back from the 1930’s with a mission even he is unaware of. He aims to complete the novel about the lives of the three fighters from the time period in order to figure out why his two fellows were reincarnated into a liberated Korea, while he was locked up in the typewriter, living as a ghost till now.
This is where the story takes off from, but it does not begin to explain the effect this show has had on me. Having heard all the tales of the subcontinent’s war of independence of the 1850’s to the independence and creation of two countries in the 1940’s. The emotions generated in Korea and the subcontinent do have a similar feeling to them. Though a lot happens through policy-making and politics, this show helped in showing the viewers the possible desensitization of politicians from the thoughts of the general population. Hui Young, Soo Yeon and Yul, represented the common man in their rawest form. One can argue that why did they need to choose this as a mission in life, but that is where understanding the sentiments of the colonized masses is important. I could imagine all of the people in my part of the world who fought for independence and the right to self rule. In the shoes of my ancestors, I felt happy, knowing that the liberation they fought for was achieved, but even though the show left it at that, in reality, our countries are still ridden with problems of one kind or the other. It makes me question the vision that those before us had, and yet, part of me is satisfied at how the dreams of a few have become a reality for many.
On a more artistic note, I enjoyed the lighting of the show very much. From the sunlight cascading through the large window in Se Ju’s study, to the lighting in all the street scenes, the show was able to display a loving warmth that kept us in a trance throughout the show. The music was absolutely amazing especially, the songs from Salt N Paper and Kevin Oh. There was a muted silence around many of the scenes in the show that added to the audience maintaining a constant interest in it. The costumes from the 1930’s were able to help me visualize the time period. The entire staff of Chicago Typewriter definitely did a brilliant job with the show, specifically the script writer who was able to resolve both the time lines with ease, which was definitely not an easy feat to achieve.