Last September, a tweet about houses in Korean dramas went viral:
I realized, it was true: all houses belonging to rich Korean drama leads suffering from some form of trauma all run around the same theme: aspirational (because money is no object to them), and wildly impractical (because they’re miserable). The only thing the tweet got wrong was limiting it to male characters. The female leads are also prone to insane design choices that make you think, “what exactly was she going through when she decided to buy a couch that no one can sit on?”
Secret Garden and What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim
The most famous house in possibly all of KDrama land showed up in not one but two very famous dramas: Secret Garden (2010) and What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim (2018). Both of them belong to two male CEOs suffering from childhood trauma: Secret Garden’s Kim Joo-won (Hyun Bin) and Secretary Kim’s Lee Young-joon (Park Seo-joon).
How beautiful is it: Look at it. Not only is the house itself beautiful, so are the furniture choices, and the outdoors. Whoever the landscape architect is must have made a pretty penny.
How impractical is it: Very. The house is open-plan and surrounded by glass. But I guess if you’re a rich CEO who hates people, the fact that everyone can see you doesn’t matter because you decided to live in the middle of nowhere. No one can see you. Joo-won’s staircase egg-thing that opens into the living room and also hides his room (the best way I can describe it) also seems like an easy thing to slip on and fall over. There probably is household help in these dramas but you never see them, I assume they live under the lake. If they ever make a Korean remake of American Psycho (please do, and have it star Do Kyungsoo), this should be where Patrick Bateman-ssi lives.
Does anything noteworthy happen in there: Joo-won and Gil Ra-im (Ha Ji-won) argue and fall in love. This is a body-switcheroo drama, so sometimes Ra-im lives in Joo-won’s body here, too. As for Young-joon and Kim Mi-so (Park Min-young), this is the first Korean drama I ever watched that explicitly said: The Leads Are Having Sex. That’s noteworthy since most romantic moments in these dramas consist of people kissing each other like dead fish.
In real life: Both dramas were filmed at Maiim VisionVillage. Young-joon’s “house” is different parts of the estate (which includes different buildings, and a chapel) stitched together. This is why his house makes no sense, but adds to the nonsensical nature of his character. Other than the two dramas mentioned, the location has also appeared in other shows (Big Bang shot their Secret Garden parody here). The Maiim Group produces wellness products, and the complex is open for rent, so if you wanted, you could get married in the chapel where Young-joon proposes to Mi-so.
To visit, please read here
My Love From the Star
In My Love From The Star (2013), alien Do Min-joon (Kim Soo-hyun) lands on earth during the Joseon era. Some four hundred years later, he meets his next-door neighbor, famous movie star Cheon Song-yi (Jun Ji-hyun). None of them have childhood trauma, but Min-joon is an alien stuck on earth, and Song-yi is a bratty actress, so none of them are particularly happy people. They each live in fabulous apartments, though.
How beautiful is it: Both apartments are built sets, so it does lack the timelessness of an actual location. They shot the drama in 2013, so it looks the most dated out of all the dramas listed here (sadly, Song-yi’s house seems slightly tacky now). However, the production team spent 1,000,000,000 KRW (940,000 USD), so no expense was spared. Min-joon’s library included a clock that is said to be just one of 3 that exists in South Korea. It cost 30,000,000 (KRW (28,000 USD).
How impractical is it: Very. But listen; if you’re an alien stuck on earth, sometimes you just want to own expensive furniture. If you’re an actress who loves yourself, of course, your face is plastered all over the place. I think the design choices were very true to their characters.
Does anything noteworthy happen in there: My Love From the Star was the first Korean drama I watched in full, so it has a special place in my heart. Each argument, each moment I knew they were falling in love took place here. The final, heart-wrenching goodbye that had me sobbing took place on the balcony. I finally forgave Kim Soo-hyun for winning Suzy’s heart in Dream High, over Ok Taecyeon, although I am not sure if Kim Seon-ho stans will ever find this measure of peace when it comes to Nam Joo-hyuk.
In real life: As mentioned, both locations are sets. Because this drama was such a huge hit (everything Jun Ji-hyun wore was sold out in South Korea, including her lipstick, YSL Rouge Pur Couture No. 52. I know this, because I once engaged on a fruitless hunt at Incheon airport), SBS built set replicas in Dongdaemun Design Plaza, where you could visit the places for a fee.
Crash Landing on You
Ahh, everyone’s favorite quarantine drama. I assume no one needs a summary for Crash Landing on You. Just in case: rich and beautiful (and therefore sad and lonely) South Korean CEO Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) accidentally, quite literally, crash lands on North Korean soldier Ri Jung-hyuk (Hyun Bin) after a paragliding adventure goes wrong. They fall in love. A few hijinks later, he’s following her (by crawling through a tunnel) to South Korea, where we see her beautiful apartment.
How beautiful is it: So beautiful. The drama’s big-name stars and huge projected success had brands lining up to be part of it in any way possible: in one scene, Se-ri is vacuuming her house with a Dyson. A peek at the end credits shows you some of the brands that paid to be part of the product placement.
How impractical is it: Se-ri’s apartment, dressed up in warm tones in the mid-century style, is deceptively cozy. But it is impossible to tell where the windows are, and all lighting sources look artificial. A close look at the couch shows that is merely cushions covering a stone bench. The bathroom, while beautiful, has a perplexing amount of rattan furniture, which doesn’t seem like a good choice. Five rooms for one person are also quite impractical. She has a giant fridge, but it’s empty. Before her North Korean adventure, she was a cold, closed-off person (in case it isn’t obvious, she’s the one with trauma) and it shows in her design choices.
In the eyes of Se-ri’s North Korean ducklings, however, the place is perfect: despite being in “a capitalistic country with bizarre doorknobs” there’s continuously warm, running water, 24/7 electricity, and heated floors. Minus points in the eyes of Man-bok for being a possible place of hidden wiretaps.
Does anything important happen in there: In the greater scheme of things, most of the important plot points happen in the North Korea storyline, and when the story moves to the South, most of the action takes place outside. There are a couple of sweet moments though: Se-ri’s stepmother realizes that Se-ri just wanted to be loved. Jung-hyuk realizes how truly terrible Seri’s family is when he eavesdrops on them. He gives her a promise ring. He buys her food and leaves instructions on how to cook. Se-ri has the first real happy experience of her life when Jung-hyuk and the ducklings sing her happy birthday.
In real life: Unfortunately, Se-ri’s apartment was a built set, so it cannot be visited. But if you wanted you wanted your bedroom to smell like hers, you can buy the Soohyang candle she uses here.
It’s Ok to Not Be Ok
Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun) is a caretaker in a psychiatric ward. At the hospital, he meets Ko Mun-yung (Seo Ye-ji), a famous children’s book author, who has an antisocial personality disorder. Mun-yung has a closet full of fabulous clothes, so of course, she lives in a fabulous, if slightly creepy castle built by her father. Everyone has childhood trauma here, folks.
How beautiful is it: It’s beautiful, but very run down and lonely, kind of Miss Havisham-esque, which fits in with Mun-yung’s character. As she starts to open herself up to Gang-tae, and his brother Sang-tae, she starts to gain some light, and so too does her creepy castle.
How impractical is it: Everything is made with dark wood, so it looks very gloomy. It seems like the kind of house where dust collects, which would be terrible for anyone with allergies. There seems to be a lot of breakables, and a mounted deer on the wall (Mun-yung is not a fan of deer). It’s a miracle there’s an actual working kitchen.
What happens there: lots of sweet moments with Mun-yung and Sang-tae, and romantic moments with Mun-yung and Gang-tae, until, of course, they’re interrupted by deer. When they aren’t interrupted by deer, the kissing scenes are great.
In real life: While the exterior is built on the grounds of Sanida Café, on a mountain in Wonju City, Gangwon province, the interiors are merely set designs. You can visit Sanida Café because even if the castle isn’t there, the grounds are still real.