directed by Bahc Song-Su
Korea 2002

 

"X" Naldi has already done my work for me so I'll refer you to his review posted at koreanfilm.org (a good resource in its own right). Here are excerpts followed by the link to the rest of his review:

"They're called "Mania" Dramas. TV Series that, for many reasons -- including their competition with top rated shows, or lack of major stars -- fail to capture the masses, but manage to slowly build a faithful audience which supports the show until the end. Ruler of Your Own World might be one of the best examples yet. This is a different show, far away from the diabolical convolutions and contrivances of the prototypical TV melodrama -- far away from the usual weepy, over the top atmosphere. Far away from stereotypical characters . . . If you're a sucker for melodrama, you can sometime forgive sappy music, manipulative plot developments, and stereotypical characters . . . Characters seem stereotypical at first glance, and actually trick the audience with the usual set-up of the genre (boy 1 likes girl 2, girl 1 is pissed at girl 2 because she loves boy 1, dysfunctional families galore, and so on), but emerge from that set-up as multidimensional and realistic . . . There is never the feeling that things are rushing to the usual mega-convoluted cliffhanger, or that a mysterious sickness or death will come out of nowhere to further the plot. Whatever happens here does so for a reason. I never got the sense of urgency felt on other melodramas. This series shows a good mix of lighthearted, even silly moments with more serious and touching ones. And, the most important thing, it's successful in hitting the right notes. Even when things get a little manipulative, it's that kind of manipulation . . . you can happily live with, because you care about the characters."

-"X" Naldi at KoreanFilm.org HERE


 

The Series : 9
Professional pickpocket, Bok-Su (the remarkable Yang Dong Geon) and his partner in crime, "Rookie", can barely remain one gallop in front of the law. Shortly after a brief prologue, the drama gets under way not long after Bok-Su has been released from jail. He now lives, begrudgingly, with his father, who has been separated from Bok-Su's mother for some years. Bok-Su has an even more highly charged relationship with his mother, who cares for a young boy that we take to be Bok-Su's half-brother and who himself relates to Bok-Su more as a father than a brother. Clearly, Bok-Su has "issues" with both parents about their separation and the grief it has caused them all.

Bok-Su has a serious girlfriend, Mi-Rae (played by the effervescent Gong Hyo Jin, who has maybe the most engaging sneer in the known universe) who lives with her younger sister. Both girls have a very strong connection to Bok-Su, which, while not what many of us would think of as mature right off, is certainly powerful and mutually engaging. As the series progresses, our judgment of the relationship between Bok-Su and Mi-Rae is tested, as they are, by unexpected circumstances.

Enter Chun Kyung, a pleasant enough young woman who seems to reside in a perpetual fog. Much to the despair of her father, Kyung is a rock musician in a small group. In the first episode, her band's lead singer – and not a very good one at that, the others admit later – takes ill. Her prognosis is both precipitous and critical. Money needs to be raised at once for the necessary medical procedure that might save her life. Kyung, unable to procure the funds from her father, a hotel owner who mixes with gangsters and wants to have nothing to do with Kyung's musical pursuits for reasons much more interesting than we assume at this point, resorts to pawning some of the group's instruments. On her way to the hospital with the money, she runs into Bok-Su and Rookie, who do what they do best.

The plot deftly places Kyung and Bok-Su in each others' paths over the next several episodes, during which Bok-Su learns of the terrible cost of his crime, for Kyung's fellow band member and friend dies as suddenly as she took ill. He attempts to seek a separate peace, both with Kyung and within himself, but there is history and circumstance gets in the way – not least is Mi-Rae's growing awareness that Bok-Su's guilt is so consuming it is replacing his feelings for and commitment to her.

Leonard Norwitz

Theatrical Release: July 3 to September 5, 2002

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: MBC - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution

MBC

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1200 mi
Video

4:3 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: avg. mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Audio Korean DD2.0
Subtitles English (Feature and Extras)
Features Release Information:
Studio:

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 4:3

Edition Details:
• Production: MBC Television, Korea
• North American DVD Distribution: YA Entertainment (USA)

DVD Release Date: March 24, 2005
1 box set, 3 volumes, 7 discs

Chapters 20

 

Comments

CONTEST HERE FOR A FREE COPY OF THE ENTIRE SERIES.

The rules changed in 2002: Unlike many a Korean television drama, which can be fairly predictable in respect to the arc of the plot and the way each episode comes to its cliffhanging close, Ruler of Your Own World seems to be quite through-composed – making itself up as it goes along – a little like life.

Even though there are the usual four main characters: 2 guys and 2 gals who need to sort themselves out between them, Ruler of Your Own World is no fairy tale, so how they do the sorting grows much more out of the demands of character development than those of a producer married to the genre. Even in translation, the writing is so evidently nuanced that we aware of a considerable degree of depth to the characters: a couple of them, notably Mi-Rae and Bok-Su, are amazingly perceptive at seeing through all the noise that young people create around them just for the purpose of remaining impenetrable to others. (I could really use these people as translators in my family therapy practice.)

Image : 7.5 (7/9)
The score of 7.5 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other standard definition DVDs on a 10-point scale for SD DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image on a 10-point scale that accommodates both standard and high-definition DVDs – where any score above 7 for an SD is outstanding, since the large majority of high definition DVDs are 8-9.5. The second number in parentheses indicates how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre or, in the case of made-for-TV fare.

Like MBC's Truth, the production values for Ruler of Your Own World go for a naturalistic look, making lighting adjustments for some situations, especially outdoors, where we see more than the usual tendency to overexpose highlights. Enhancement and artifacts are at a minimum – hardly noticeable unless you're looking for them. All in all, a pretty good image considering it's not being progressive.

Audio & Music : 8/8/2
Astonishing as it may seem, but this drama has some of the worst sound I've ever encountered on a DVD (that's the "2" score above.) Chun Kyung is the keyboard player in a small rock band, who always sound like they are in a garage and recorded on a cell phone. Come to think of it, we never get to hear them long enough to make much of a judgment of their skills. How such a sound could be taken to be representative of a group that expects to make it in this world beats me! It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that they do find gigs and opportunities to record once or twice. On what basis, I kept asking myself? (By contrast, there are numerous and lengthy scenes of Bok Su working as a stunt man in which we get a pretty good impression about that line of work and how it materializes into a movie.) Elsewhere, the sound is just fine: the dialogue is clear and the soundtrack (except as noted above) is varied or dynamic by turns, as befits the situation.

Translation & Subtitles : 8/7
The translation is better than adequate, if not especially subtle. Considering that I can still appreciate the screenplay as being the insightful script that it is, we should not be too hard on it. I gather from other Korean speakers, that the language for this series is especially poetic, so it is all the more remarkable that I found the dialogue to be so well written. I did, however, find that the term "pickpocket" was used altogether too frequently: it hasn't nearly the negative connotation as, for example, "thief," which should have been employed more often once we know the kind of thievery everyone is worried about.

Subtitles are white, bordered in black so as to always be clear against any background. A bit large for my taste.

Operations & Box Design : 7/6
Nothing much of interest here, nor to criticize, really. The menu is straightforward, not taking advantage of the medium as do later YAE productions, such as Someday or White Tower. As for the box design, as I have often stated, I am not a fan of internal plastic pages for the discs. I gather that YAE has a new box design for this title. There may be hope.

Extras : 6
YAE provides a very useful 16-page Reference Guide that offers a brief bio on the starring actors plus a good deal of background on understanding contemporary Korean culture, from names to cell phones to tofu, to Seoul slums. One criticism, however: the printing is of such low contrast compared to the paper stock that, coupled with the small font, makes for difficult reading.

Recommendation: 9
Ruler of Your Own World is less contrived than your average Korean soap opera. For some, this will be its greatest drawback: In the absence of cliffhangers, the drama is no page-turner in the usual sense. There is even the occasional action or fight scene whose punches are obviously pulled. All the same, we are drawn to these characters in realistic rather than fantastical ways. We feel more as invisible voyeurs rather than as pawns to be manipulated by writers and producers. We want to find out what happens in the lives of our characters instead of how a particular conflict or situation works itself out in the next episode, which only would have led to yet another tense moment at the end of that episode, and so on. In this way Ruler of Your Own World is more like a novel than your typical TV series, except that the crying scenes go on longer. The only thing that argues against this set is its being non-anamorphic.

Leonard Norwitz

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

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Distribution

MBC

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 





 

CONTEST:

WINNER: Abel Martinez or Atwater, California will receive a free copy of the complete series, Ruler of Your Own World.
And the runners up, who will each receive a promo DVD of several episodes of a popular Korean drama is:
Tom Lay, New York, NY
John Byers, Los Angeles, CA

Here are the correct answers:
1) Henry Fonda as Lt. Col. Thurday (with George O-Brien as Capt Sam Collingwood) in "Fort Apache"
2) Alec Guinness as Fagan in "Oliver Twist"
3) Edward G. Robinson as Rico in "Little Caesar"
4) Burt Lancaster as Capt. Vallo in "The Crimson Pirate"
5) Marlene Dietrich as "The Scarlet Empress" Catherine II
6) Robert Helpmann as Lindorf in "Tales of Hoffmann"
7) Jean-Louis Barrault as Baptiste (with Arletty as Garance) in "Les Enfants du Paradis"
8) George Macready as Ballin Mundson (with Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrell) in "Gilda"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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