K-drama review: Woori the Virgin – bubbly romcom starring Lim Soo-hyang recovers for a romantic photo finish

k-drama review: woori the virgin – bubbly romcom starring lim soo-hyang recovers for a romantic photo finish

This article contains minor spoilers.

3/5 stars

After overcoming a midseason wobble, bubbly Korean romantic comedy series Woori the Virgin came to an end by delivering exactly what it promised on the tin.

The show’s main promotional poster featured Woori (Lim Soo-hyang) in a wedding dress running a marathon. This coruscating image eluded us all season, but it’s precisely what happened in the show’s finale as our intrepid and innocent protagonist jumped a few eleventh hour hurdles to secure her inevitable happy ending.

Love triangles are exceedingly common in Korean dramas – always with two men – but for the most part it’s pretty clear who is going to be win the heroine’s affections when all is said and done, with the actions of the vanquished male generally serving as a way to push the main male co-star to dig deep and show his true feelings.

Woori the Virgin emphatically broke that trend by presenting two very different suitors who entered the finale stretch of the show neck-and-neck with an equal claim to victory.

Romantic comedies aren’t known for generating a lot of tension, but the photo finish here was more pulse-pounding and unpredictable than most of the thrillers that have graced our screens of late.

Dependable detective Lee Gang-jae (Shin Dong-wook) was the man Woori, a TV scriptwriter, started the show with. Her boyfriend of two years, he was always there for her, protecting her from wayward forces and her innocence from his own physical impulses.

However, Gang-jae was so pure and sexless that when Raphael (Sung Hoon), her long- lost first kiss, returned, he was immediately a threat. And that was even before Woori was mistakenly artificially impregnated with his child.

k-drama review: woori the virgin – bubbly romcom starring lim soo-hyang recovers for a romantic photo finish

Shin Dong-wook as Lee Gang-jae in a still from Woori the Virgin.

Swayed by Raphael’s doting affection for her and their unborn child and disappointed by Kang-jae, Woori eventually switches partners. Raphael breaks out the big guns with an engineered romantic getaway to South Korea’s Gangwon province, a piano serenade in a private restaurant, and eventually a dazzling flash mob dance proposal, which we saw him train for when Gang-jae earlier trailed him to a secret location.

This was the second carefully orchestrated proposal that Woori received in the series, and it prompted her second refusal, maintaining the narrative’s perfect symmetry of seemingly ideal yet frustrated would-be lovers.

Meanwhile, everything else in Woori’s life is going pretty well. She’s been promoted to head writer on her show, the scenario of which helpfully aligns with her own situation, allowing her to gain some perspective.

k-drama review: woori the virgin – bubbly romcom starring lim soo-hyang recovers for a romantic photo finish

Sung Hoon (left) as Raphael and Yeon Woon-kyung as Woori’s grandmother Seo Gwi-nyeo in a still from Woori the Virgin.

She has also gained a father in campy star Choi Sung-il (Kim Su-ro), and her bond with her mother, Oh Eun-ran (Hong Eun-hee), and grandmother Seo Gwi-nyeo (Yeon Woon-kyung) is as strong as ever.

There’s a brief medical scare when Woori develops appendicitis and worries how her treatment could affect the baby, but after deciding to keep the baby early in the show, she has no qualms about her impending motherhood. In fact she doesn’t seem to feel one way or another about it.

The people with real problems are those around her, as Gang-jae’s investigation into the murders connected to the Diamond Medical Foundation run by Raphael’s father finally takes shape late in the series. The haphazard case takes over the narrative for a few episodes, occupying most of the screen time for Gang-jae, the characters at the foundation and Raphael’s ex-wife, Lee Ma-ri (Hong Ji-yoon).

In his search for the elusive “Chairman Kim”, Gang-je is only too happy to place suspicion on Raphael, but the real culprit is finally revealed, and turns out to be a character that we hardly could have been expected to notice before then.

There’s a genuinely exciting moment when Woori and Raphael’s father (Joo Jin-mo) need to be saved. The investigation thread wasn’t particularly meaningful for Woori’s character, but it was very significant for Gang-jae and Raphael, as it brought the romantic rivals together.

Their macho peacocking suddenly turns into camaraderie, and this makes it very difficult not to root for both of them to win Woori’s affections.

k-drama review: woori the virgin – bubbly romcom starring lim soo-hyang recovers for a romantic photo finish

Kim Su-ro (left) as Woori’s father, Choi Sung-il, and Yeon Woon-kyung as her grandmother in a still from Woori the Virgin.

Woori the Virgin never quite recaptured the dizzy inventiveness and visual flair of its opening episodes, but it eventually settled into a groove that was probably more sustainable in the long run.

Its playful teasing of soap opera conventions never completely disappeared, but rather than remain a show that cheekily alluded to the overwrought silliness of the format, it was ultimately more comfortable assimilating those codes and becoming one.

This inconsistency also extended to the show’s varied narrative threads, as some were summarily dropped after they’d achieved some other function.

k-drama review: woori the virgin – bubbly romcom starring lim soo-hyang recovers for a romantic photo finish

Sung Hoon (left) as Raphael and Lim Soo-hyang as Woori in a still from Woori the Virgin.

Woori’s mother Eun-ran’s reunion with her father, Sung-il, was briefly clouded by the emergence of Eun-ran’s boyfriend, Jung Hyun-sik (Ahn Shi-woo), while Gwi-nyeo started dating Jung Chun-sam (Jang Yong-bok). When the Jungs are revealed to be father and son, it provides an out for Eun-ran to go back to Sung-il, but Gwi-nyeo’s romantic dalliance ends as well.

What remains is wrapped up very neatly in a celebratory finale with enough smiles and spirit to almost make us forget about the show’s missed opportunities.

Woori the Virgin is streaming on Viu.

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