- Lee Dong-wook as Cha Jae-wan
- Lee Da-hae as Ah Mo-ne
- Im Seul-ong as Sun Woo-hyun
- Wang Ji-hye as Song Chae-kyung
- Lee Deok-hwa as Lee Joong-goo
- Kim Hae-sook as Baek Mi-nyeo
- 32 episodes
- Original run: April 5 – July 27, 2014
Following the suicide of Ciel Hotel’s Chairman, his daughter, Ah Mo-ne, returns from abroad to inherit and take charge of the hotel. Standing in her way is the stoic hotel manager, Cha Jae-wan, and the manipulative Vice-Chairman, Lee Joong-goo. Brewing beneath the glamorous exterior of the 7-star Ciel Hotel is a struggle for power and revenge that has been decades in the making. As Mo-ne navigates the treacherous paths to power, she will come to rely on the emotionally unavailable Jae-wan, who is seeking revenge on those who ruined his life. Mo-ne must prove herself to be a capable leader of Ciel, while carrying out her own mission of avenging her father’s wrongful death.
Hotel King…oh, where should I even start. When I first learned that Lee Dong-wook and Lee Da-hae were finally reuniting 9 long years after My Girl to star in this drama, I was beyond ecstatic. My Girl is my favorite kdrama, hands down, and they are my favorite kdrama couple. Unfortunately, that anticipation and excitement didn’t last very long because Hotel King was a complete disappointment, to not only LDH/LDW/My Girl fans but just kdrama fans, in general. I disliked this drama so much that I would have given up on watching it after about 10 episodes if I hadn’t committed to recapping it. I kept holding out hope that it will get better…eventually. The two leads have too much chemistry for it to all go down in flames! Nope, this drama was terrible til the very bitter end.
The plot for Hotel King started off believeable enough with an abandoned son, played by Lee Dong-wook, seeking revenge against his estranged father. But once the whodunit murder plotline was introduced, things just took a detour to Crazy Town. For 32 episodes, the mystery behind who killed Chairman Ah not only served as the catalyst for all the events that occurred, but also as the motivation for the characters to keep trudging along, in the name of all-important “revenge.” And while the murder is constantly mentioned and discussed throughout the series, when the murderer was finally revealed, it was done in a off-hand flashback that had absolutely nothing to do with what was currently happening in the show. So, what was the difference in resolving the mystery in episode 31 versus episode 3? It wouldn’t have mattered either way.
The way that plotlines, e.g. the murder mystery, were dragged out was one of the main downfalls of this drama. I understand that there are 32 hours that need to be filled, but if all of these plotlines ultimately have no lasting impact on the story, there’s no reason to force the audience to suffer through multiple episodes of red herrings, ridiculous distractions, and just plain stupidity. And despite having such a high episode count, Hotel King still failed in providing any type of real character development for the main characters. Sure, they changed their minds and did some things later on that they wouldn’t have done in the beginning, but none of it seemed realistic or logical. Characters’ emotions and motivations swung so dramatically from one extreme to another that it just all seemed manufactured and disingenuous.
It really pains me to say this, but the biggest problem I had with Hotel King was the romantic relationship between Cha Jae-wan and Ah Mo-ne. The chemistry that Lee Dong-wook and Lee Da-hae had while starring in My Girl all those years ago was still there, but it has taken on a new form. Because this was a melodrama, they were no longer the fun, loveable characters that so many fans have come to know them as, but instead were a sappy, overly dependent couple that annoyed me when they appeared onscreen together. The nature of this drama sucked all the joy out of watching them act as a couple. Mo-ne was particularly infuriating with her blind absolute devotion to Jae-wan, even though he was mostly not deserving of it. Not going to lie, I openly laughed at hearing other characters telling it to her face on what an awful person she is. Mo-ne was a complete embarrassment to all the strong female characters from other dramas.
The acting in this drama was just plain bad, and that goes for everyone. Overacting is pretty common in dramas, but they took it to a whole other level here. Every episode was a master class in the “crazy eyes” method. Whenever there was a dramatic scene, the actors would be bugging their eyes out at each other. Lee Dong-wook was the biggest fan of this method. His character was naturally aloof, but once there’s a moment where the smallest bit of emotion was needed, he’d be yelling and his eyes looked ready to pop out of their sockets. Lee Da-hae was not that much better, but she was able to show some of her acting chops in the very emotional scenes. This drama highlighted all of their acting deficiencies, which were not seen in My Girl since that was a romcom that didn’t feature many overly dramatic scenes. Kim Hae-sook’s acting as Baek Mi-nyeo may be the saving grace in the acting department, but she was still prone to too much overacting to say that she was good.
I cannot in good conscience recommend this drama because it is just BAD. I was never excited to watch the next episode, and was actually looking forward to the grand finale, just so I could be done with it. Even the OST for this drama was painful. The main “love theme song” for Mo-ne and Jae-wan sounded like an old man wailing on a harmonica/accordion track. No thanks. If there was one thing that I can say that this drama had going for it was that it had an abundance of loose plotlines, so it certainly wasn’t “boring.”
Save yourself the frustration and just skip this one. If you are that big of a Dong-wook/Da-hae shipper, just rewatch My Girl. Other than that, there’s absolutely no reason that anyone should be wasting their time watching Hotel King.
This & That:
- This drama is the reunion of My Girl co-stars, Lee Dong-wook and Lee Da-hae. LDW was also a hotelier in My Girl.
- Im Seul-ong of Korean boyband, 2 AM, stars as the loyal Sun Woo-hyun.
- Alex of Korean band, Clazziquai, plays one of Ciel’s managers.
- Kim Ye-won of Korean girl group, Jewelry, plays Yoon Da-jung, one of the front desk employees.
- Cha Hak-yeon (aka N) of Korean boyband, VIXX, plays Noah, the bellhop.
- Lee Joo-yeon of Korean girl group, After School, cameo-d as Chae Won, the arrogant celebrity planning her wedding at Ciel, in episodes 31 & 32.
Catch up on Hotel King with the episode recaps.