Radio Romance is another accurately timed Korean drama, given the circumstances the entertainment industry seems to be going through in South Korea. With issues regarding mental health brewing, and the rampant scandals, along with news of suicides among some famous celebrities, this drama seemed to hit at the very core of all of these issues. Even though I had made it out to be somewhat of a typical romantic comedy, I was pleasantly surprised to see them dealing with some very serious issues that often go ignored by the audience of famous celebrities.
We are introduced to Ji Su Ho (played by Beast/Highlight’s Yoon Doojoon), who is a famous Hallyu actor, living the life, by getting cast in major dramas and films. He has been acting since he was a child, and he survives the real world by acting since that is all he ever learned in life. He comes from an absolutely broken family. With a mother, who is not really his biological mother, but is the CEO of the acting agency he works under, and a father, who is involved in numerous flings with random celebrities and even young girls. Su Ho happens to be the product of such an illegitimate relationship of his father, the main reason that the CEO never accepted him as her own and even made sure to let him know how unwanted he was at a very young age. However, she does tap into his talent for acting and makes sure to make him a top celebrity through her smart networking strategies and her influence in the industry.
While Su Ho was sick as a teenager, he had to stay at a hospital for many months, where another girl was tending to her blind mother undergoing various procedures to bring back her sight. This girl was Song Geu Rim (played by Kim So Hyun), who grows up to become a script writer for radio shows. As an adult, even though Geu Rim does not recognize Su Ho, he recognizes her and for some reason makes sure to make her life difficult the few times they do run into each other on events where both are invited. Geu Rim had been practicing what it would like to be blind while her mother was sick so whenever she met teenage Su Ho, her eyes would be covered and it makes sense that she does not recognize him.
First of all, I absolutely love her name, since geurim means ‘picture/painting’, and Geu Rim draws images using her vocabulary. Similarly, suho means ‘guardian’, however the guardian here is an incredibly broken one, in need of help. This is so because Su Ho bears the scars of knowing how unwanted he is to a mother who he has no blood connection with. Furthermore, while at the hospital he befriended a boy who was also fatally ill. This boy eventually did not die because of his illness, but rather had a car accident as he crosses the road to meet Su Ho. The guilt that he could not be there for his friend or do anything to save his life has turned Su Ho into a robot. It is easier for him to memorize a script than it is to actively make his own decisions in life and do whatever her feels like.
Geu Rim’s not actually got an opportunity to show her talents at the radio station, where she is instead treated as just a complete newbie with no knowledge about how radio shows are made. She is asked to drag arrogant idols who have to play radio jockeys for shows, to do all they please, even if it means getting drunk with them to get them to comply. It is when Lee Gang (played by Yoon Park), a radio show producer returns from a two year hiatus from India, and forces the station to give him Geu Rim as his script writer for a new show, that she gets her break. However, she is given the task of making sure that she can get Su Ho to sign a contract with the station to do this show as well. An incredibly difficult task, as Su Ho treats Geu Rim badly, Geu Rim still makes it a point to stalk him and force him to give in and do the show. She reaches to his heart somehow, which is still madly in love with her but faced with such issues like social anxiety and fear of the unknown.
This trio goes onto do the show and face a lot of hardships together. From issues like Su Ho’s anxiety, to Gang’s forceful attitude towards his coworkers, this made for an incredibly insightful journey. It was lovely to see such a grounded, practical and self-aware female lead in Geu Rim. There were no acts of noble idiocy that have become a staple of Korean dramas now. In fact, this was majorly a man vs himself kind of setup, where there was so much drama happening within Su Ho that I thoroughly enjoyed watching. His every single facial expression spoke volumes about what he was experiencing even though his tone while speaking rarely changed. Furthermore, it was an interesting journey to watch him heal and come to terms with himself and his life through a single person showing him trust and steadfastness. The self-assurance that Geu Rim had towards herself left a direct impact on Su Ho, and helped him step out and explore sides of himself that he had never ever experienced before. This drama was definitely insightful for me and I definitely enjoyed watching it.
A shout-out to Kwak Dong Yeon at the end. I have watched him since he was almost a baby actor in My Husband’s Got a Family. Seeing him all grown up is such a nice feeling. Furthermore, he gave some incredible acting in the role of Jason even though he had incredibly minor scenes.