K-Drama Premiere: “My ID Is Gangnam Beauty” Is A Beautiful Take On Society’s Ugly Side
My ID Is Gangnam Beauty makes a flawless start on attacking society’s ugly side while making our hearts skip a beat!
Based on the popular webtoon of the same name, the new jTBC drama My ID Is Gangnam Beauty started off beautifully and made us pretty excited for what’s next in store! It reminded us of society’s toxic standards on beauty right from the very start through the story of Kang Mi Rae, who had been victimized by society’s unfair system herself.
Here’s a recap of highlights from episodes 1 and 2:
Mi Rae’s Transformation
The story starts off with Kang Mi Rae (Lim Soo Hyang) bidding goodbye to what she thought was the reason for all her sufferings – her ugly face. She decides to get cosmetic surgery and enters a clinic in Gangnam with her mom, who cheers her up as she prepares for the big step she is about to take.
While undergoing surgery, Mi Rae looks back on all the hardships she had faced because of her “ugliness”. Mi Rae’s list of reasons why her self-esteem is at such an all-time low starts off with how, at a very young age, she had been bullied because of her weight and appearance.
Mi Rae recounts how she tried to brave through all the bullying, both by fighting back and trying to improve herself. However, she feels her efforts are useless as the bullying continued, and was even heightened when she got rejected by her crush – who told her it was embarrassing to have her like him.
The accumulation of these incidents had made Mi Rae extremely insecure and decides to get rid of the “problem” once and for all. The surgery finishes, and after staying in Gangnam for a while, Mi Rae finally reveals her new and beautiful self.
Mi Rae’s first day as a freshman marks the start of her new life. She starts over with a new face at a new place – with only her best friend Hyun Jung (Min Do Hee) knowing about her transformation.
The young girl shows awkwardness at first, as she is clearly unaccustomed to people calling her “pretty”. She meets her college coursemates who fawn over her, and another student who also dazzles with beauty – Hyun Soo Ah (Jo Woo Ri).
In contrast to Mi Rae’s constant fumbling, Hyun Soo Ah shows a bashful but confident aura. She latches on to Mi Rae and offers friendship, which the latter gladly accepts. They are branded as their course’s prettiest girls, and attract a lot of attention from both the people their age and their seniors. This gives an instant boost to Mi Rae’s confidence, and she momentarily forgets about her worries.
Mi Rae’s hopes for starting over falters when she realizes she can’t fully escape from her past – thanks to the appearance of her former classmate from middle school Do Kyung Seok (Cha Eun Woo). Kyung Seok, like Soo Ah, is Mi Rae’s coursemate, and is easily noticed by everyone thanks to his good looks. However, he gives everyone the cold shoulder – even Soo Ah, who attempts to get close to him.
Seeing Kyung Seok had turned down Soo Ah a few times and seeming like he doesn’t care about anyone, Mi Rae brushes off her worry of him recognizing her. She continues on having fun at the freshman orientation and catches the attention of one of her sunbaes, Kim Chan Woo (Oh Hee Joon).
Chan Woo tries to get closer to Mi Rae, who is visibly uncomfortable with his actions. She leaves the orientation to get fresh air for a while after she feels signs of drunkenness.
While sitting out, she gets a video call from her father, who doesn’t know about the surgery she had undergone. She lies to him about being Mi Rae’s sunbae and hastily drops the call. Unfortunately enough, Chan Woo spots her once again and offers to help her sober up. He takes her to a room and attempts to make a move on her – which sends Mi Rae panicking.
Before something bad happens to Mi Rae though, Kyung Seok – who had witnessed Chan Woo taking Mi Rae – swoops in and saves Mi Rae from her situation. Chan Woo walks out angrily after Kyung Seok stares him down, and Mi Rae shakily offers the room to her savior.
Just when Mi Rae is about to leave, Kyung Seok drops the question that had bugged him since the start – he asks her if she went to the same middle school as him. A dumbstruck Mi Rae is at a loss for words, which makes Kyung Seok tell her to forget he asked.
Mi Rae’s parents show up during her school’s freshmen welcome ceremony – with her father still unbeknownst to the fact that his daughter’s face had changed. They meet paths while walking and he stops her to ask for suggestions on good restaurants around the campus because he wants to take his daughter out for a nice meal.
Mi Rae feels guilty about lying to him beforehand and fumbles for a response, but her father excitedly recognizes her as the sunbae who picked up Mi Rae’s phone. She shakily admits who she really is to her father, and he does not take it well.
He walks out and she chases after him – only for him to push her away and says he doesn’t know her. Mi Rae cries on the street, bothered by her father’s anger even after she explained her decision.
Adding another blow to Mi Rae’s already bad day, Chan Woo shows up to her class and still expresses persistency about getting closer to Mi Rae. He even asks her to have lunch with him, which Mi Rae agreed to out of respect even if she feels uncomfortable. After he insists on talking about dating her again, Mi Rae excuses herself to the bathroom and tries to rehearse how she would turn down Chan Woo.
Meanwhile, Soo Ah, who notices the attention Chan Woo is giving to Mi Rae, decides to direct some spotlight over to her. She talks to Chan Woo while Mi Rae is gone and tells him that she thinks he and Mi Rae would look good together. However, she adds that it’s a pity she used to like him before – which makes Chan Woo drop his affection for Mi Rae faster than a cheetah could run.
Chan Woo tells Mi Rae that everything he has said before about liking her is a mistake and that he likes someone else. Although Mi Rae doesn’t feel for him in that way, she gets shocked by this and ponders on whether he had just been playing her all this time.
Kyung Seok, who witnessed the incident, trips Chan Woo who rushes out of the cafeteria to follow Soo Ah. Chan Woo is angered by him again, seeing as this is the second time Kyung Seok had messed with him.
A fight breaks out between the two, and Mi Rae instinctively tries to stop it by putting herself in the middle. Chan Woo pushes her, but Kyung Seok stops her from falling. She distances herself from Kyung Seok right away after Chan Woo is told by a fellow senior to stop making a scene and hastily leaves.
Hot and Cold
A side of the mysterious Kyung Seok is finally revealed as his father, who is a congressman, takes him to school for the freshmen welcome ceremony. His childhood friend Woo Jin (Lee Tae Sun) also mentions Kyung Seok’s mother while they talk, and the already cold and expresionless Kyung Seok turns as hard as stone right away.
While getting a drink from the vending machine, Soo Ah approaches Kyung Seok and tries to coax him into giving her his drink. However, Kyung Seok rudely turns her down again – until he spots Mi Rae. He tosses the drink to Soo Ah – whose heart almost fluttered until Kyung Seok calls Mi Rae to talk.
The two head off to talk alone, and Kyung Seok hands Mi Rae the perfume she had apparently dropped during the fight. She thanks him and he asks her once again if she’s the Kang Mi Rae he knew in middle school.
Mi Rae, who is tired of lying, admits it and asks him to keep her old, ugly face a secret. Before he could respond, Woo Jin comes to pick him up and he dashes off. Meanwhile, Mi Rae’s friends wonder if anything’s going on between the two, which Soo Ah overhears.
Soo Ah continues to convince Mi Rae of the genuineness of her friendship, which Mi Rae completely falls for. They go to a bonding session for their department at the beer place that Woo Jin, who had convinced Kyung Seok to help him out, owns, and it is more than obvious that Soo Ah is putting the spotlight on Mi Rae.
While playing a game, some notice how Kyung Seok seems to be warm only towards Mi Rae, especially after he takes a shot that was supposedly for her. Soo Ah tries to hint at him to take her shot for her too, but he completely ignores it. She then gets complimented for her beauty – which she bashfully accepts.
She claims that she hasn’t had anything done to her face – and then proceeds to say the same thing goes for Mi Rae, who she thought is even prettier than her. Silence engulfs the table and Mi Rae sits unsure of what to say. Kyung Seok steps up and asks her if she’s having fun with that attitude of hers.
He tells Soo Ah that he can see through her facade, but Soo Ah pretends like she’s done nothing wrong and starts crying. This angers some of the boys on the table and they tell Kyung Seok off. Mi Rae takes Soo Ah’s side as well, and Kyung Seok asks her if she’s really stupid before walking out.
Soo Ah apologizes to Mi Rae at the restroom, insisting that she wouldn’t have said anything if only she knew. Mi Rae tells her it’s fine and even tries to console her. However, Soo Ah’s conniving acts towards Mi Rae aren’t finished yet.
Chan Woo takes Soo Ah out to talk, and he asks her if she has thought about dating him already after she confessed her feelings to him. Soo Ah then tells him she doesn’t think it’s right to date him because Mi Rae is her friend and she cares about her feelings. This angers Chan Woo, and he follows Mi Rae out after she leaves.
Chan Woo calls her out and directs her to an alley, and he furiously tells her to stop getting in the way of his and Soo Ah’s “budding relationship”. Mi Rae denies getting involved, but he gets on her nerves and strikes a sore spot with his words.
Mi Rae finally explodes and hits him. She releases her pent-up anger and asks him why he makes it sound like her fault. Mi Rae storms off and leaves Chan Woo in the alley, and Kyung Seok spots her while walking.
Pilot Week Verdict
My ID Is Gangnam Beauty starts off with a slow burn – but don’t get fooled, because this burn is set to be slow but scorching.
Lim Soo Hyang was successful in making us sympathize with her character Mi Rae right away, thanks to her portrayal of the show’s main protagonist’s vulnerability. She is able to make Mi Rae as awkward and lost as possible – but her two heavy scenes, which involved her father and Chan Woo, made us look forward to watching out for how she will give depth to Mi Rae’s character.
Finally – the running joke about Cha Eun Woo seeming like he’s a character who jumped out of a webtoon is put to good use!
Eun Woo does a good job at making Do Kyung Seok’s character his own. The coldness he displayed for the pilot week was enough to give us chills, but despite this, he was able to give moments that made our hearts warm – both for him and his character!
While Eun Woo’s charm undoubtedly matches Kyung Seok’s “tsundere” personality, Jo Woo Ri’s innocent and bright personality plays out well for her character Hyun Soo Ah too. Her soft features and nice girl act made it hard to imagine her getting in the way of Mi Rae’s happiness in the future – but we’re looking forward to it even though we’re not sure if we can take it well when she starts on her antagonizing acts!
The pilot week doesn’t really offer much about the background of the characters other than Mi Rae – and we can even go as far as saying that the first two episodes are very Mi Rae-centric. However, the story was able to distract us from this fact, thanks to the emotions that Mi Rae had made us feel and Lim Soo Hyang’s touching portrayal of her.
Both Eun Woo and Woo Ri’s portrayals of their characters also made us look forward to exploring their characters’ stories and personalities as the story goes on as well.