Tag Archives: Kim Hyun Joong

Kdrama Review: Inspiring Generation

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  • English Title: Inspiring Generation (also known as “Age of Feeling”)
  • Revised romanization: Gamgyukshidae : Tooshinui Tansaeng
  • Hangul: 감격시대 : 투신의 탄생
  • Director: Kim Jung-Kyu
  • Writer: Bang Hak-Ki (comic), Chae Seung-Dae (ep.1-10), Park Kye-Ok (ep.11-24)
  • Network: KBS2
  • Episodes: 24
Inspiring Generation-Kim Hyun-Joong.jpg Inspiring Generation-Lim Soo-Hyang.jpg Inspiring Generation-Jin Se-Yeon.jpg Inspiring Generation-Kim Jae-Wook.jpg Inspiring Generation-Kim Kap-Soo.jpg
Kim Hyun-Joong Lim Soo-Hyang Jin Se-Yeon Kim Jae-Wook Kim Kap-Soo
Shin Jung-Tae Gaya Teguchi Kim Ok-Ryeon Kim Soo-Ok Doyama Denkai
Inspiring Generation-Choi Jae-Sung.jpg Inspiring Generation-Son Byung-Ho.jpg Yoon Hyun-Min Inspiring Generation-Song Jae-Rim.jpg Kim Sung-Oh
Choi Jae-Sung Son Byung-Ho Yoon Hyun-Min Song Jae-Rim Kim Sung-Oh
Shin Young-Chool Choi Soo-Ri Aoki Denkai Mo Il-Hwa Jong Jae-Hwa

First and foremost, I loved Inspiring Generation, despite it having many, many, many, many faults and flaws. I loved Kim Hyun Joong and his character, Shin Jung-Tae. I loved the period setting, the sets and the costuming. I loved the artwork and promotional posters for the series, which are just visually stunning. I loved the young actors, who played the main characters in their youth in the first four episodes of the series. I loved the brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, despite them being quite violent and bloody. I love that the drama had a cast of thousands – well not quite a cast of thousands, but I loved that the drama was populated with so many characters big and small, which gave it a more realistic feel too it.  But while there was much to love about Inspiring Generation, there was also many, many, many, many faults and flaws with the series as well. And it should be said these many faults and flaws were not inconsequential.

Based of the comic of the same name which was published in the Sports Seoul from 1985 until 1988, Inspiring Generation (also known as Age of Feeling) is set during the 1920s and 1930s against the back drop of the Japanese occupation of Korea and China. A film-noir style drama, it spans a period of more than 20 years and travels between Korea, Manchuria and Shanghai. It tells the tale of Shin Jung-Tae, a young man from a poor family, who becomes a street fighter and smuggler, in order to aid his family.

When news of Inspiring Generation first hit dramasites, I was very excited to hear that it would include two of my favourites, Kim Hyun Joong and Kim Jae Wook. It was therefore quite disappointing when Kim Jae-wook, whose character was to be the second male lead, bowed out of the series after appearing in just three episodes (with his last appearance being in episode 8).

Kim Hyun Joong has long been one of my favourite Hallyu stars. SS501 is one of my top five favourite kpop idol groups and I love his solo music. One of my favourite things about Kim Hyun Joong has always been his personality: not only does he come across as being very down-to-earth and blunt (which I love), I am a big fan of his sense of humour which can be best described as both deadpan and 4D (a Korean term for eccentric, quirky, off-the-wall personality/humour). I particularly loved watching him teamed up with Hwangbo in the Korean variety show, We Got Married, where you really got to see his hilarious and eccentric sense of humour.

Kim Hyun Joong’s first drama was Boys over Flowers, which helped skyrocket him into becoming one of the biggest names in Hallyu. Despite loving him in Boys Over Flowers and later Playful Kiss, the reality was that his acting wasn’t great. So as keen as I was to watch him in Inspiring Generation, I did approach the show with some trepidation because of this. But I think its safe to say that Kim Hyun Joong did a great job at silencing his critics and surprised us all with how much he has improved as an actor.

Unfortunately, however, despite some very fine acting from Kim Hyun Joong and many other of the cast members of Inspiring Generation, as mentioned the series had many, many problems and faults. From the beginning, the series was plagued with a seemingly never-ending series of financial and production problems. Not only were (and still apparently is) problems with actors not being paid, actors dropping out of the series (such as Kim Jae Wook who played Kim Soo-ok) there was also changes in writers. And while I love the fact that the drama was filled with “a cast of thousands”, so to speak, it also should be said that such a large cast did also contribute to creating some of the problems with the series – for example making it difficult for some characters to be fleshed out and remaining underdeveloped due to pressures to develop new characters or other characters. All of this, unfortunately impacted on the quality and direction of the drama. The initial change of writers at the end of episode 10 didn’t have as big an impact as I had original expected and for the first 14 or 16 episodes of 24 episode series, the writing was fairly consistent and reasonably good. However, towards the end of the series, the writing consistently went down hill.

Not only were there big gaps in the plot and character developments, many central characters were just left to flounder (e.g. the female lead of Kim Ok-ryeon played by Jin Se-yeon and Song Jae-rim’s character of Mo Il-wa). Other character’s storylines became confusing and nonsensical (such as Um Tae-goo’s character of Do Ggoo). Whole storylines were either put on the back burner, forgotten or abandoned, such as the backstory of the freedom fighters opposing the Japanese occupation which was one of the things that initially made me excited to watch the drama, but also the storyline around Shin Tae-jung’s missing sister (which was originally a central driving force for Jung-Tae’s actions).

But despite this and at times feeling quite frustrated with the series (especially towards the end), I still loved it. Perhaps this is because it was possible to visualise very clearly what the series could have been, if it had been able to rid itself of such faults and flaws. I think if it had been able to do that, than Inspiring Generation would definitely have shot up into being one of my top 5 favourite Korean dramas, but alas that has not been the case. I think the reason I am still able to love the series, despite all its faults and flaws, is because the writers and producers initially did such a good job with the series in the first quarter of episodes. As a result, it made it possible to retain a lot of goodwill towards the rest of the series, even as its faults and flaws began to mount up.

So despite all of this, I still would recommend checking out the drama, not only to check out Kim Hyun Joong vastly improved acting skills but because there is still a lot to enjoy about the series,  including some wonderful quirky and fun characters, some terrific acting by many of the central characters (including by the young actors depicting them in their youth), the brilliantly choreographed fight scenes and much more. And hopefully, you too will fall in love with series like I did.

 

 

 

Inspring gen 3 in one posters

inspriing gen - tripcast costumes inspiring gen

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14 brilliant kpop songs & MVs for 2013

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Just a small selection of some of my favourite kpop songs and MVs from this year.  The selection is broader than the standard Kpop “Idol” music and also includes K-hip hop, K-indie and K-rock.

*where possible/available I have included MV’s with english substitles

1. G.Dragon – Crooked


And here we are at no#1.  G.Dragon starts and end this list, not only because he is one of my favourite Korean performers but because Crooked is my favourite song of his Coup D’Etat album.  I love everything about this song and MV.   I love that it is a sad song disguised as a more cheerful song – its indicative of the whole song, telling the tale of someone trying to pretend they are okay after a breakup, trying to have fun but not succeeding.  The MV is set in London and has a great feel too it.  It’s funny, amusing and sad at the same time.  I particularly like G.Dragon’s costuming in the MV and also the location choices are great.   Definitely at the top of my list for favourite kpop tunes and MV this year.

2. MFBTY/Drunken Tiger – Sweet Dream

MFBTY’s Sweet Dream has been one of my favourite songs all year.  A collaborative project between Tiger JK, Yoon Mi-rae and Bizzy, I love both the song and the MV. Yoon Mi-rae’s voice is beautiful and I love how it weaved through the song and bring the whole song together.  The video clip is not your normal MV and has a lot of great imagery and fun too it.  Although I had heard some of Drunken Tiger’s material before, it was this song that really got me listening to them as well as other work by Yoon Mi-Rae and Bizzy.  The song is featured on Drunken Tiger’s new album, The Cure, which is fabulous and like Lee Hyori’s Monochrome is one I have been listening too non-stop.

3. LeeHi -Rose

I fell in love with LeeHi’s voice the moment I heard it.  Not only is her voice gorgeous and something completely unusual for the kpop world, the sultry jazziness of it is just spectacular. It’s hard to believe when you hear Leehi sing that she is just 16 years old (or was when she released her album earlier in the year).  I live most of the songs off her album, but Rose is beautiful and suits the sultry nature of her voice.  The MV is stunningly  luscious, while full of romantic imagery doesn’t overwhelm the young singer.

4. Kim Hyun Joong  – Unbreakable (featuring Jay Park)

Kim Hyun Joong is definitely one of my favourite male kpop singers. I loved his Japanese releases earlier in the year and was keenly awaiting his Korean comeback.  Unbreakable certainly didn’t disappoint.  There is so much to love about this song and video.  I love the beat of the song, the hip hop elements and the feature by Jay Park.  The dancing is terrific and I love that its something a bit different for KHJ.  The MV is also beautiful and does a fantastic job of fusing  Western and Asian cultural elements and imagery.  The black and white of the clip also adds to making the clip look more sumptuous and gives it a very classic feel.

5. Junsu/Xia – 11 AM


Junsu makes the list twice! I have been raving about this song since it came out. I absolutely love, love, love it. I love the way in which it is stripped back to an accapella for the first half of the song and in the second half there is just a very simply piano accompaniment. The songs is gorgeous and shows cases just how good a vocalist Junsu really is.  I also love the MV, which was shot in long live take.

6.  Junsu/Xia – Incredible

My favourite kpop “dance” song released for 2013, Incredible by Junsu (aka Xia) from JYJ. A fun dance track, upbeat and catchy. Great for summer and putting you in a good mood 🙂  The MV is bright, colourful and a lot of fun as well.

7. B.A.P – One Shot

Another fairly new kpop group, which has also only been around for just under two years.  While definitely a kpop “Idol” group, their music style is also influenced by hip hop and rap.  One Shot is effectively a song about youth and making choices.  The MV for the song show cases the group’s singing, rapping, dancing and acting ability.  It is also one of the “surprise” videos of the year, so make sure you watch it through to the very end!

8. EXO – Growl

Despite only being on the kpop scene for a year and half, EXO, has already climbed to the top of the kpop world.  Comprised of 12 Korean and Chinese members, Exo released several tracks in 2013 but Growl is by far their most successful release.  I am more fond of the beat and the musical style of the song, than I am of the lyrics. In particular, I like that it has as hip hop beat to it, which feels sparse but addictive.  I also love the choreography used in the MV, as well as the look of the MV itself, which was shot in one long take.

9. Jaurim – Twenty-five, Twenty-one

Jaurim is without a doubt my number one favourite Korean indie group. And Kim Yoon-ah without a doubt is my favourite female Korean singer. I just love her voice, range and ability.  Jaurim is known for their tight musical arrangement, melodic sound and gorgeous lyrics.  Goodbye Grief is their 9th full length studio album and Twenty-five, Twenty-one is one of their sadder songs.   Dealing with desire and longing for love lost,  the full emotional impact and depth of the song is conveyed beautifully with Yoon-ah’s soaring vocals and the song has all the melodic and musical qualities fans have come to expect from Jaurim.  Beautiful, sad and heartfelt.

10. Nell – Ocean of Light

And here is no#11 – my second favourite Korean indie band ever, Nell.  I just adore Nell and I just adore Kim Jong-wan’s stunning voice.  Nell is known for having a more arthouse sound, with psychedelic overtones.  Their songs not only explore issues of love, friendship and alienation, but also regularly explored darker topics such as depression, anger, suicide. However, “Ocean of Light” is one of their more upbeat/uplifting tracks but still brings with it both Nell’s trade mark electronica and emotional intensity.

11. Trouble Maker – Now

To paraphrase Dorothy Gale: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.  We must be over the [KPOP] rainbow!” Oh yes!! TroubleMaker – aka Hyuna (from 4 minutes) and Hyunseung (from Beast) – pulled out all stops with NOW breaking out of the usual kpop mould. This was actually the first song I had heard from TroubleMaker and I really loved it for a whole range of reasons – the first being that this is the first “sub-unit” of kpop performers I have come across which is a permanent pairing of a male and female performer and as such it gives a whole new dynamic to not only the song and music, but the performance as well.  Secondly, I love this particular song, as well as the MV for it.  The song is basically about a couple who are in a destructive relationship in a downward spiral, with this clearly reflected in the MV.  The MV incorporates a whole lot of images  (heavy drinking, smoking, sex scenes and inter racial sexual relations) which are not the usual fare for kpop videos.  This has lead to debate as to whether or not kpop is becoming to “Americanised” in order to break into the US market. I don’t think this is necessarily the case, but NOW definitely pushes the boundaries of what is the norm in kpop.

12. 2NE1 – Missing You

2NE1 is probably my favourite of the female kpop “idol” groups.  Out of the three songs released by the group this year, this is my favourite.  A pretty ballad about heartbreak and trying to overcome lost love.  What I really love about the song is the harmonies, as well as the haunting melodic feeling too it.  While its not my favourite 2NE1 song ever, it is one I can happily listen too over and over, as it showcases beautifully the voices of CL, Bom, Dara and Minzy.

13 . Lee Hyori – Miss Korea

No# 13 is the Kpop diva, Lee Hyori with “Miss Korea” –  a song tackling the issue of the self-esteem, plastic surgery, the beauty industry and the social pressure on girls and woman to attain an unattainable beauty image.  The song title no doubt draws on reports about the widespread practice of Miss Korea contestants going under the knife to achieve a particular look and also from the fact that South Korea has one of the highest rates of plastic surgery per population in the world (while the US has the highest number of plastic surgery procedures).

In the song, Hyori addresses the issue of self-esteem and challenges the idea that women need to go under the knife to be beautiful.  I love the MV, which not only includes the imaging of Hyori being surrounded by surgical instruments but also includes two well-know Korean drag performers, clearly also challenging the conservativism in Korea around LGBTI issues.  Miss Korea is Hyori’s first single in 3 years and the lead track off her Monochrome album, which I haven’t stopped listening too since I got it due to the wonderful musical diversity of the album.

14. G.Dragon – Who You



Coming in at No# 14 is kpop’s boy wonder himself – G.Dragon – with “Who You?” from his 3rd solo album, Coup D’etat. I love the “feel good” feel of the song and MV (although the song is actually a breakup song). The reason for the “feel good” feeling of the MV is because the video was conceived as a “thankyou” gift to G.Dragon’s fans and is a compilation of professionally shot footage as well as video footage shot by 1000 of G.Dragon’s fans who were invited especially for the MV production. I like the conception of the video, particularly the whole “glass box” and how it relates to “celebrity” (something he also explores in the Coup D’Etat MV). And I love how all the names of the fans are listed at the end of the MV!