K-drama midseason recap: Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha – Netflix romcom continues to charm despite unconvincing love triangle

Asia's Tech News Daily

Start-Up

This article contains spoilers.

Since setting up her dental clinic in the idyllic coastal town of Gongjin, city slicker Yoon Hye-jin (Shin Min-a) has had to deal with nosy neighbours and a lack of creature comforts. Also getting in her hair has been local jack-of-all-trades Hong Du-sik (Kim Seon-ho).

The pair lock horns, again and again, as in Gongjin everyone seems to bump into each other a few times a day. That goes double for Hye-jin and Du-sik, as the former needs plenty of help settling into the town and Du-sik seems to be the area’s sole worker in the service trade, no matter what small task needs to be done.

Despite their testy interactions, a mutual attraction naturally begins to form between the attractive pair until a night of drinking – what else? – gives Hye-jin enough of a blackout to begin to wonder what may have happened between them.

Also curious is everyone else in Gongjin, as word of a dishevelled Hye-jin leaving Du-sik’s home in the morning spread like wildfire.

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha began with Hye-jin, showing us who she is and how she found herself in Gongjin, but Du-sik has been more of a cipher, albeit one who becomes more of an ideal romantic lead with each new piece of information from his mysterious past that the show drip feeds us.

Despite his humble patchwork of present occupations, Du-sik graduated from Seoul National University, South Korea’s top school, but after getting his diploma he dropped off the map for five years.

Chattering neighbours have speculated endlessly about what happened during that time, with guesses ranging from time spent in the military to work as a secret agent.

There are also those short scenes where he appears to be meeting a therapist who asks him if he still suffers from his recurring nightmares, at the mere mention of which his usually bright face darkens.

These elements add to Du-sik’s aura and strengthen his status as Gongjin’s only handsome, eligible bachelor. That is, until the arrival of Ji Seong-hyun (Lee Sang-yi), a jovial young man who appears in town and quickly becomes friendly and jocularly competitive with Du-sik.

With a broad smile forever etched across his face, Seong-hyun enjoys his perambulations around the quaint community, but since he seems unable to follow Du-sik’s directions, the latter generally winds up joining him on them.

They also share local meals together, which Seong-hyun marvels over. Du-sik starts to tease him when he learns that Seong-hyun is a minor mukbang YouTuber – one of a breed who make their living from live online eating shows – but soon their bromance takes a big turn.

Start-Up

Hye-jin (left) and Du-sik in a scene from Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha.

Seong-hyun has been looking for someone, and he finally finds her when he bumps into Hye-jin, his old college classmate. He’s also not a minor YouTuber, but the producer of a hugely successful reality show and he wants to shoot in Gongjin.

Turning out to be far more shrewd than first impressions led us to believe, Seong-hyun has two clear goals in Gongjin. One is to shoot his show in Kim Gam-ri’s (Kim Young-ok) charming home at all costs.

The elderly local turns him down at first, but he steadily wins her over by bringing her gifts and helping her around the house. He becomes so helpful that he essentially replaces Du-sik as the local handyman.

Seong-hyun’s other goal also finds him muscling in on Du-sik’s territory, as he has his sights set on Hye-jin, who he let slip through his fingers all those years ago on their college campus. Since the status between Hye-jin and Du-sik is still vague, this sets the stage for a macho rivalry between the pair as a love triangle descends over Gongjin.

After a thoroughly compelling start, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha has quickly become one of the Korean drama events of the year and is already one of the top 20 most successful Korean cable series of all time.

The middle episodes of the series have continued to chronicle the budding seeds of a wholesome romance against a soothing and pastoral setting, but the formula has got a little less convincing as we’ve got deeper into the show.

Start-Up

Love rivals Du-sik (left) and Seong-hyun in a still from Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha.

Much like other rural-set shows of late, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha presents many of its local supporting players as country bumpkins. Much of the time, their appearances are loud and histrionic, particularly during a town singing competition dominated by bad singing and silly dances.

Hye-jin and Du-sik remain an easy pair to root for, even if the show adds a little too much sugar to the mix on occasion, such as when a cutesy-voiced Hye-jin finds a sleepy Du-sik on her porch.

Meanwhile, as secondary romantic leads go, Seong-hyun doesn’t add much spark to the show, and seems unlikely to be a significant roadblock for Hye-jin and Du-sik. Then again, Du-sik is played by Kim, who was such a good secondary lead that he outshone both the leads in his last show, Start-Up.

Start-Up

Hye-jin (left) and Du-sik share a tender moment in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha.

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is streaming on Netflix.

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