Orwell, Korea, 21st Century | Circle

These few weeks I have been following three Monday-Tuesday dramas: Fight For My Way, Lookout and Circle and all of them have had brilliant scripts, making the competition for the highest ratings that much tougher. Circle, was the shortest drama out of these three and so it just ended on the 12th episode today, marking itself as one of the very few futuristic dystopian science fiction dramas that I have ever seen being produced in South Korea.

Yeo Jin Goo Gong Seung Yeon.jpg

Due to there being such a scarcity of such Korean dramas, the script was more than welcome. Nevertheless, I wasn’t originally sold on watching this show. The male lead was played by Yeo Jin Goo (who I had seen opposite AOA’s Seol Hyun and CN Blue’s Lee Jong Hyun in Orange Marmalade which was an epic failure), and hence I wasn’t sure how Jin Goo would be over here. On the other hand, Gong Seung Yeon, who played the female lead, I had met as an actress in My Shy Boss, and the damsel in distress made me put off with her… While JongHyun filmed Orange Marmalade with Jin Goo, he was also appearing in the variety show We Got Married, where he had been paired with Seung Yeon, who had expressed a great desire to work with Jin Goo on his next project, so I was happy she got to work with her favourite actor.

Gong Seung YeonNevertheless, despite my reservations, I was definitely shocked to see how solid this show was. Set in three years: 2007, 2017 and 2037, the drama narrated the story of two twins: Kim Bum Gyun (played by Ahn Woo Yeon) and Kim Woo Jin (played by Yeo Jin Goo). Both brothers, as children recall having had a chance encounter with an alien (played by Gong Seung Yeon), who their father brought home with them. This alien they call ‘별or Star’, and teach her all that she needs to know in order to survive on Planet Earth. The last memory the brothers have of Star and their father is when their father packed Star’s belongings and drove her off elsewhere, only never to return again.

Yeo Jin Goo Ahn Woo YeonIn 2017, we see that Woo Jin is in university, while BumGyun has been in and out of detention centers on account of minor juvenile crimes. Woo Jin’s university experiences a few suicides attempted by students on account of deteriorating health. Bum Gyun is convinced that the aliens are doing it, just like how Star made their father disappear and therefore, he is on a quest to resolve the mystery behind these suicides. He directs all of his energy on stalking one student at the university: Han Jung Yeon (also played by Gong Seung Yeon), because he is convinced she is Star. This lands him into serious trouble as he pores into the issue, landing himself into the hands of people who only mean him harm. Woo Jin, on the other hand, on the quest to find his brother begins to find incriminating proof that the suicides are murders and as the story progresses, matters only get more convoluted.

Kim Kang Woo Lee Ki KwangIn 2037, we see that Seoul has been divided up into two sectors: Smart Earth and General Earth. In Smart Earth, all residents have a microchip inserted under their left earlobe, in order to control emotions and therefore limit crime in the city. The two Earths are essentially like two social classes, where all the rich people get the microchip while the poor ones just live in a pollution-ridden decimated city they call home. Despite this, a crime does take place in Smart Earth when a young woman murders two men, revealing that the microchip system has some serious flaws. A detective, Kim Joon Hyuk (played by Kim Kang Woo) is sent on the errand to figure out how a crime has taken place in a crime-free city, where he must work with an officer, Lee Ho Soo (played by Lee Ki Kwang of Beast and Highlight). The problem that actually arises when he gets there is that bad memories are blocked out of the mind of a person who has the microchip inserted in their brain. Even though the organization making the chips, Human B claims that blocking out memories is malpractice, which they don’t indulge in. Nevertheless, the murders took place when the murderess regained her memories of being abducted as a child, proving that she was living peacefully till she could remember her past.

Lee Ki Kwang.jpgOver here, I need to make a special mention for Lee Ki Kwang’s acting, because he brought the calm and complacent personality of a Smart Earth dweller to life. The strides between faithlessness and faithfulness in Human B and the microchip were almost like the organization was a religion that all Smart Earth citizens had to worship. I found his predicament truly fascinating as a study between having faith in god or not having faith in him…

Yeo Jin Goo.jpgWith three different strands of facts, the drama braided itself into a tight knot even though all three stories appeared to deal with entirely different things. Nonetheless, I cannot point out a single flaw in the drama, the character construction, or the acting. The script was fantastic as it showed us an Orwellian world set half a century into the future from his original 1984. The methods of controlling the common people may have changed in the story of Circle, but the crux remained the same: blinding the people and forcing them to submit to the world of a Big Brother. It is the development of the world that thoroughly fascinated me, since I have a deep interest in the kind of research work conducted at universities and high education. The fact that our research work, which may be precious to us, is actually something a great many people would love to get their hands on is a fear that any academic would be paranoid about.

Gong Seung Yeo.jpgLastly, though I started off my article by saying how shifty I was about Yeo Jin Goo and Gong Seung Yeon, I need to take my words back after having watched this show. Firstly, Yeo Jin Goo, who is STILL a teenager (I find that super shocking for some reason) played his character with great ease and he brought the chaos in his mind to light in his every single expression. Emotions like distress, frustration and anger were expressed with great clarity and I loved every moment of it! Gong Seung Yeon, I am sorry that you had to do such a sad role in My Shy Boss when you are so immensely talented. Her acting was phenomenal, and my favourite version of her was in 2037, because of how smart and stealthy she could be, sporting the leather jacket and the kohl in her eyes. I can’t wait to watch her paired up with her We Got Married husband, Lee Jong Hyun for My Only Love Song! Circle, thanks for showing us what Orwell’s world would look like half a century later!