‘My ID is Gangnam Beauty’ or simply ‘Gangnam Beauty’ is a newer addition to my ‘MUST watch Drama list’. I started watching it, thinking it would be a nice lighthearted filler drama. Boy, was I in for a big surprise.
The story explores many issues I’ve seen other drama’s hint at and then just kind of sweep under the rug.
‘My ID is Gangnam Beauty’ is based on a webtoon by the same name.
Note: In South Korea, ‘Gangnam Beauty’ is a derogatory term used to describe someone who became beautiful through plastic surgery.
- Im Soo-Hyang as Kang Mi-Rae
- Cha Eun-Woo (of ASTRO) as Do Kyung-Seok
- Jo Woo-Ri as Hyun Soo-Ah
- Kwak Dong-Yeon as Yeon Woo-Young
Kang Mi-Rae (Im Soo-Hyang) was a chubby child and because of that faced a lot of bullying. To remedy her classmates teasing and driven by the desire to just be liked, Mi-Rae decided to loose weight.
With lots of hard work and determination she managed to do so by the time she entered middle school.
Excitingly looking forward to finally making friends in school without being an outcast, her hopes were dashed all too soon.
After confessing to a popular guy in her class that she liked him, the same rejected her saying she was ugly, and nicknamed her ‘orc’ . He then proceeded to tell his friends about it and soon Mi-Rae became, once again, the victim of bullying.
After this incident, Mi-Rae became reclusive and hid herself as much as possible. Not even her only close friend Oh Hyun-Jung (Min Do-Hee) could convince her to hang out with her in public.
Mi-Rae is convinced that the only solution for her is to undergo extensive plastic surgery. After much begging, she finally manages to receive her Mom’s permission.
Knowing her husband will not agree, the mom secretly pays for the procedure after Mi-Rae graduates high school. The surgical makeover is a success and totally transforms the way Mi-Rae’s face looks.
Having obtained a full scholarship to a prestigious university through her excellent grades, Mi-Rae is ready to pursue her dream of becoming a perfumer.
Since early on, she discovered that she had an especially accurate sense of smell. This makes it easy for her to detect even more subtle ingredients in perfume.
Moving to a new city together with her friend Hyun-Jung, she is once again hopeful for a bright new future.
However, underneath her new looks lie her old fears of not being liked and becoming an outcast once again.
During her orientation at the university, Kang Mi-Rae meets a familiar face from her past.
The main character
Years ago, Do Kyung-Seok (Cha Eun-Woo) went to the same middle school as Mi-Rae for a short while before transferring not long after.
Tall, handsome, and with a don’t-care-what-you-think-of-me attitude, Kyung-Seok could be the main character straight off the pages of a manga.
Kyung-Seok seems completely oblivious to people gushing over his looks wherever he goes. Growing up with a Dad involved in politics, made him used to whispers and such when out in public.
Equipped with a keen mind he is quick to figure out others true characters and chooses wisely who to become close to.
Recognizing Mi-Rae as someone from his past, he starts interacting with her and trying to get to know her better. Unbeknownst to her, she made quite the impression on him back in middle school.
The popular girl
Hyun Soo-Ah (Jo Woo-Ri) discovered at a young age that a sure way to be popular and liked was by being pretty.
Equipped with a natural beauty that is the envy of many, being popular was a given.
Growing up, she became increasingly manipulative to ensure being the centre of attention wherever she went.
However, under her beautiful exterior and nice behaviour she hides struggles with body issues, and a ugly personality who seems to delight in playing with people’s emotions.
Soo-Ah meets Mi-Rae in university and immediately zones in on her, pretending to become her friend.
While putting up her usual innocent front, Soo-Ah plays games behind Mi-Rae’s back that result in humiliating moments for the later.
Everyone’s favourite TA
Yeon Woo-Young (Kwak Dong-Yeon) works as Teachers Assistant and is in charge of several of the chemical lab classes. This is also where he meets and first gets to know Mi-Rae, Kyung-Seok and Soo-Ah.
Woo-Young’s easy-going personality make him a favourite of his current and past students alike. Looking up to him for both personal and school related matters, he can be counted on to give sound and honest advice.
However, he is also not someone to stand idly by when becoming aware of untoward behaviour among students or injustice. If challenged, Woo-Young can become downright scary if he senses the challenger hesitating to put his best foot forward.
Author’s final observations
As mentioned early on, ‘My ID is Gangnam Beauty’ is one of my new favourites. I love the different characters and how they were actually used to represent certain opinions and scenarios.
Since it is based on a webtoon, I also appreciated that certain characters or scenes had a manga feel to them.
It was also nice to see a drama that centres around the issue of a person’s character/inner beauty vs. their outer appearance. Along with the characters, we get to re-evaluate what really matters.
Sadly, there were things that the drama addressed in a way that disappointed me.
As Soo-Ah’s serious body issues became apparent, an influx of dietary supplements made their appearance as product placements.
This had me downright mad! And these products were being used by not only Soo-Ah, but also two other important female characters.
Not only were none of them in need of these supplements, but to me it also took away from the message that the story seemed to promote otherwise.
There was also a male character in the drama who continuously made remarks bordering on sexual harassment and used his seniority to bully younger students.
Although he is given a warning, he shows no signs of improvement and it was my hope that he would be expelled, but alas, it was not to be.
My next complaint is something that generally has me cringing whenever it makes an appearance in a story, whether that be in a book, drama or movie.
That something is the writer turning the mean character into a victim. In this case they even went as far as making a background character into a creep/bad guy in order to make Soo-Ah a victim.
The fact that his actions were a result of her manipulative behaviour backfiring on her, was conveniently omitted. By everyone.
Bring on the popcorn!
Despite these shortcomings, ‘Gangnam Beauty’ is definitely still worth watching.
The gradual development of friendships and love, and the growth that many of it’s characters experience, make it a masterpiece of its own.
Until we drama again,