K-drama Kokdu: Season of Deity – Im Soo-hyang, Kim Jung-hyun lead soapy, clunky fantasy romance

K-drama Kokdu: Season of Deity – Im Soo-hyang, Kim Jung-hyun lead soapy, clunky fantasy romance
  • After a doomed romance in the distant past ended their lives, Im Soo-hyang and Kim Jung-hyun meet again in modern Korea as a doctor and a grim-reaper-like god
  • Kokdu: Season of Deity does not get off to a good start, with off-colour jokes and actors who don’t fit their characters. Think twice before committing to it

This article contains mild spoilers.

Kokdu: Season of Deity promises a timeless romance but, if first impressions are any indication, the less time spent on this meandering and melodramatic mess the better.

The fantasy-romance comedy-drama from MBC, starring Im Soo-hyang and Kim Jung-hyun and screening on Viu, begins in the distant past with the story of lovers Seol-hui (Im) and Oh-hyun (Kim).

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Their love is pure and powerful, but should they stay together it would spell disaster for their kingdom.

Seol-hui is about to be married off and Oh-hyun is supposed to be escorting her to her new life, but they have conspired to run away together.

The wrong people have been made aware of their intentions and, during the journey, he faces off with her husband-to-be’s soldiers and is eventually felled by several swords and half a dozen arrows.

A heartbroken Seol-hui gets her revenge one night by killing her new husband with a hairpin and, before she is apprehended by his soldiers, plunges the pin into her neck, apparently signalling the end of this doomed romance.

In fact the story is being related in the present by a patient in a hospital bed to bubbly doctor Han Gye-jeol (also played by Im).

The patient explains to Gye-jeol that, because of the lives their love cost, Seol-hui was cursed to come back to life in a new body again and again, each time losing a loved one before perishing at her own hand.

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As we learn later, Oh-hyun has been dealt a similar fate. After his death, he waited for Seol-hui in a sort of purgatory, overlooking the procession of souls marching to the afterlife from his vantage point on a cliff.

However, owing to her curse, she never came and he grew embittered; the memory of love that brought him there in the first place began to fade.

The “creator” takes pity on Oh-hyun and appears before him, but when Oh-hyun is rude to him he curses him to become a Kokdu – a deity similar to a grim reaper. Every 99 years, he returns to Earth for 99 days, in a body that looks like his, to bring souls to the afterlife.

Soon after we meet her, Gye-jeol is dismissed from her job at the hospital thanks to a woman in a loud pink suit who blames her, unfairly, for her father’s death.

Marching down the steps on her way out of her now former workplace on a rainy day, she slips. Time freezes, the raindrops turn to cherry blossom petals and she finds herself in the arms of a handsome stranger, played by Kim. He leaves before she can find out who he is.

Gye-jeol busies herself with finding a new job, though in reality she is more interested in tracking down her mystery saviour. She even enlists her police officer brother’s help in her search. She has no name for him, and the mock-up sketch of him she hands to her brother looks like a comic-book character.

Fate lends a helping hand when the man shows up in front of her again, this time on a panel of interviewers at the prestigious Pilseong Medical Centre.

He is doctor Do Jin-woo and, while his co-interviewers balk at the low-ranked university Gye-jeol graduated from and are positively aghast to learn that she is caught up in the middle of a libel suit, Jin-woo comes to her rescue and gets her the job.

Gye-jeol is thrilled about her new job and the attention of the handsome Jin-woo, but little does she know that she has been pulled into a confrontation that involves Jin-woo and Kim Pil-soo, the chairman of the hospital.

Pil-soo is played by Choi Kwang-il, who also plays Seol-hui’s husband in the fable that opens the series.

Despite the position it puts her in, Gye-jeol agrees to help Jin-woo, who believes Pil-soo had a hand in his mother’s death, by taking legal action against the hospital.

But when Jin-woo does not turn up to meet her one day she goes to find him, arriving just in time to see him fall from the sky and crash onto a car in the street right beside her.

Jin-woo dies in front of her, then suddenly comes back to life. This is not Jin-woo any more, it is the Kokdu – the “season of the deity” has just begun.

Jaded by time and cynical about humans, the Kokdu who takes over Jin-woo’s body is a nasty piece of work; the first thing he does is try to strangle Gye-jeol. A bit later in the show, he tries again to strangle her, twice, in one of the show’s more off-colour running jokes.

After a very convoluted start, only some of which is outlined above, the show proceeds along a predictable path. When will this aloof man and flighty woman recognise each other and how will they overcome their respective curses?

Im played a similar character in last year’s Woori the Virgin, a show that was equally melodramatic – but this show has none of Woori‘s clarity and tongue-in-cheek charm.

Meanwhile, Kim’s deadpan comedy chops, which served him well as the klutzy king in Mr. Queen, are not put to good use with any of his characters here.

Plenty of time remains for Kokdu: Season of Deity to get back on track, but consider carefully whether you want to take up any of yours with this.

Kokdu: Season of Deity is streaming on Viu.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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