An Honest Review Of 'Her Private Life'

From the perspective of a hardcore K-pop fangirl.
PHOTO: Her Private Life/tvN

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

Her Private Life is the perfect sneak peek into the life of a *secret* fangirl. The drama's protagonist is Sung Deok Mi (Park Min Young), a full-time art curator and a part-time secret fangirl. She's obsessed with a K-pop boy band called White Ocean and is particularly smitten by member Cha Shi An (One). When she's not busy maintaining a chic Seoul gallery, she's running around taking gorgeous photos of her idol and attending his live performances in all-black gear. She's also the fansite master of a page called Cha Shi An Is My Life. Her hectic fangirl lifestyle is highly supported by her best friend Lee Sun Joo (Park Jin Joo) and her adopted brother Nam Eun Ki (Ahn Bo Hyun).

As a career-driven woman, Deok Mi is also busy trying to climb the corporate ladder. She works hard to earn the director position as promised by her overbearing socialite boss (Kim Sun Young) and hides her fangirl life from her workmates. Of course, it's next to impossible to keep both lives separate from each other. At a business trip in Shanghai where she was tasked to bid for the gallery, she stumbles across an auctioned painting from an artist that Shi An said he particularly liked. She bids for the painting, hoping she'll be able to give it to him for his birthday, and eventually loses to the guy sitting beside her who, much to her luck, is also Korean and is considered as one of New York's best art critics. She tries to buy the painting from him to no avail and their short but awkward interaction would turn out to be the first out of many.

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Back in Korea, Deok Mi discovers that her boss is involved in fraudulent activities and the gallery is left without a director. Deok Mi thinks she'll finally be promoted but she soon finds out that a new director has been hired to take her promised place. The new director in question is a guy named Ryan Gold (Kim Jae Wook) who—surprise, surprise!—is the same guy she met in Shanghai. At the airport where Deok Mi waits for Shi An to arrive from his flight, Ryan serendipitously bumps into her as he's on the same flight as Shi An but he doesn't recognize her because she's in her incognito fangirl mode. To keep her secret safe at work, she pretends to have only met Ryan in Shanghai and welcomes him to the gallery. As luck would have it, his first project as the gallery's new director is to mount a special exhibition of Shi An's wide painting collection. He may or may not have a personal motive behind it, but that's for you to find out!

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Deok Mi gets anxious about meeting Shi An out of her fangirl persona and tries her best to keep her composure at work. But things get out of hand during their first meeting and she ends up in a crazy dating scandal with her beloved idol. Enraged and lovestruck, Shi An's fans target Deok Mi and bully her at work. To make them stop, Ryan volunteers to pretend to be her boyfriend and—I know you can already see it coming—they both fall in love while maneuvering their complicated fake relationship. Eventually, they decide to cut off their arrangement when they both realize that they're both developing feelings for each other. The drama leads to a slow burn of their new (and real) relationship, Ryan's mysterious past, and Deok Mi's changing fangirl life as she gets to know Shi An in real life.

The Short, Honest Plot

 A die-hard fangirl turns from being obsessed with an immaculately packaged K-pop idol to actually finding real romance through her mysterious boss. A guy turns from being a masungit and mysterious boss to a supportive boyfriend of a crazy fangirl. That's really just about it!

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The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them

Park Min Young as Sung Deok Mi

You probably remember Park Min Young for her titular role in the manhwa-drama What's Wrong With Secretary Kim? opposite Park Seo Joon. But before becoming Secretary Kim, she actually starred in many highly rated and critically acclaimed dramas including Healer, City Hunter, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and High Kick.

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Kim Jae Wook as Ryan Gold 

There's a reason this guy looks very familiar to long-term K-drama fans and it's because he's been playing supporting roles for years. You may remember him as one of the "Handsome Flower Boys" in Coffee Prince, as well as in other dramas like Bad Guy, Marry Me, Mary!, and Temperature Of Love. Her Private Life is Kim Jae Wook's first attempt at a leading man role and, boy, did he nail it!

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Ahn Bo Hyun as Nam Eun Ki

Before his stint as a hot judo master in Her Private Life, this former model and upcoming actor used to play one of Song Joong Ki's uniformed men in Descendants Of The Sun. He also landed supporting roles in smaller dramas like Hide And Seek, Dokgo Rewind, and the Netflix Original K-drama My Only Love Song.

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One/Jung Jaewon as Cha Shi An

There are plenty of K-pop idols who could have been cast as Cha Shi An, but I'm actually really glad they chose One for this drama. One is a solo rapper under YG Entertainment but before that, he was also in a hip hop duo called 1Punch with Samuel, known from the hit show Produce 101 which created Wanna One. This isn't One's first foray into acting. He was first seen in A Korean Odyssey which got high ratings during its run. He also starred in Room No. 9 and was cast as young Jang Dong Gun in the recently released tvN drama Arthdal Chronicles, also starring Song Joong Ki and Kim Ji Won.

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Park Jin Joo as Lee Sun Joo

Park Jin Joo is practically everybody's best friend and officemate in the K-drama world. She's been playing adorable support characters since 2011 and the list of the shows she's been on is extensive. She was in well-loved dramas such as Operation Proposal, Jealousy Incarnate, The Legend Of The Blue Sea, and My Sassy Girl. She also played Lee Jong Suk's colleague in While You Were Sleeping, and Park Bo Gum's workplace admirer in Encounter.

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Did You Know?

1. Before getting cast in Her Private Life, Park Min Young had to fight off her own dating scandal. Rumors of her dating Park Seo Joon for three years surfaced during the promotions for What's Wrong With Secretary Kim? and the actress was quick to dispel them by saying that she and Park Seo Joon are just good friends.

2. In an interview in 2018, Ahn Bo Hyun confessed that working on Descendants Of The Sun for six months led him to develop a crush on his co-star Song Hye Kyo. He said Hye Kyo came to a team dinner bare-faced and that's when he swooned over her!

3. Her Private Life is actually an adaptation of a manhwa (aka comics) that was adapted from a novel. The novel, originally titled Noona Fan Dot Com, is about a restaurant owner who hires the brother of her idol crush. Though the premise was changed for TV, the drama pretty much summed up the woes of a fangirl. Fans even say the cover of the novel looks a lot like Park Min Young, Kim Jae Wook, and One.

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4. Prior to landing his acting stints, Kim Jae Wook actually wanted to be a musician. He was in a three-piece rock band called Walrus and majored in music at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.

What My Friends Think:

"Personally, the idea of hiding your fangirl life makes me sad. I realized that I have plenty of friends who are K-pop fans but refuse to be associated with it. I can relate to Deok Mi even though I'm not a fansite master. There are fangirl terms in the drama that are new to me, like 'pilgrimage.' I didn't know there was a term for when you're visiting the places your idol has been to. And can we please highlight the fact that Ryan Gold is so kind, he's basically too good to be true? I love his full support to the LGBT community, especially in the first few episodes!" Hanna C.

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"[Park Min Young's] character is super relatable! And, for me, the plot of the show is a breath of fresh air. It's super different from the cliche K-dramas we often watch." Ayen

"Ryan Gold set the bar too high! He is now officially my favorite lead character in the history of K-dramas! I've had so much feels. I cried, I laughed, I squealed, I kicked the wall! I love it so, so much and being a K-pop fangirl sobrang naka-relate ako!" —Hanna D.

What I Think:

It goes without saying that I fell in love with the premise of the show before it even aired. Fangirls often get misrepresented in the media and even in K-dramas. It's easy to write fans off as obsessive, crazy, and loud, but not a lot of dramas show the good and bad sides of fangirling in the same way Her Private Life does. I was honestly scared that they would butcher the role, but Park Min Young is an endearing fangirl and her acting is so on point that it makes me wonder whom she fangirled over as a teen.

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Much to my amusement, the drama starts off with a major aspirational angle. Deok Mi is doing so well with balancing her work and her passion that I almost envy her! She lugs her ultra professional camera around and changes from her stylish work clothes to an all-black fangirl attire in a flash. Because whether we admit it or not, being an adult K-pop fangirl is harder than it looks. We try to juggle schedules and priorities, and we can't usually show how hard we spazz because people will judge us for acting like 16-year-olds. So, yes, Deok Mi is definitely the representation we need.

It's not to say the story is devoid of bad points. There are a lot of fangirl behaviors that—though depicted accurately—somehow glorifies the dark sides of K-pop fangirling. For example, when Deok Mi gets bullied by Shi An's young fans, she forgives them easily because she says she understands how they feel. Bullying is definitely something that shouldn't be taken lightly just because it was done out of "love" for a K-pop idol. Granted she's harboring a secret, but Deok Mi lets the girls get away with the harassment and invasion of privacy, which are part of toxic fangirl culture.

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The drama also somehow went from focusing on Deok Mi's private life to highlighting Ryan's complicated past. Although it made sense to unpack his history to connect back to the premise of the story, it diluted the original fangirl that drew me in in the first place. Another unresolved angle is Deok Mi and Shi An's real-life relationship. I wanted to see how Deok Mi transitions from becoming Shi An's major fangirl to just being his acquaintance. She does, after all, get the chance to work with the idol she's been following around for years. Wouldn't that change something about her adoration towards him? Honestly, I find it hard to believe that a fangirl will remain a fangirl after getting to know her idol personally.

Overall, the drama has its highs and lows. I totally lost interest halfway through, but I have no regrets picking it up again and finishing it because the amount of kilig I got from Deok Mi and Ryan's magnetic chemistry was so worth it.

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I'd Recommend It To:

Those die-hard K-pop fans we call #LumangTaongKpop. They'll surely appreciate Deok Mi's quips about this crazy fan life we're living. Fans of What's Wrong With Secretary Kim? would also love the major shift in Park Min Young's acting, while those who loved Coffee Prince would enjoy this whole new side to Kim Jae Wook. I'd also recommend this to fans of noona and office romances like Something In The Rain, Encounter, and She Was Pretty.

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