Today’s drama post is on the Korean drama Cheese In the Trap! It’s based on the popular Korean webtoon of the same name by Soonkki. The drama originally aired from January – March 2016. Let me first say I had been a fan of the webtoon, regularly reading it for over a year and a half. I was quite excited when they first announced the drama. What first drew me to the series was that it’s basically a good ol’ human, slice of life story. I love these kinds of stories because personally I love to discuss and break down characters. I love looking into the psychology of the characters and trying to empathize with them. These are the reasons why I had originally enjoyed the webtoon (which you can read the official English release online). The webtoon is still ongoing, and so the drama has an original ending. However, I will say that I stopped reading the webtoon despite it’s ongoing status. It was just rather long for me and well…for very similar reasons to my issues with the drama.
The series explores the life and relationships between a group of university students; Particularly focusing on the difficult relationship between Hong Seol and Yoo Jung. Hong Seol is an independent and hard-working university student just trying to do her best. Seol has no choice since her parents seem to only fawn over her younger brother. She deals with alot of pressure from her family, and with various issues at school. Yoo Jung is Seol’s sunbae(upperclassman/senior; Korean equivalent of senpai). He’s rich, handsome, popular, seemingly kind, and well mannered. He seems to live a perfect life, but is really rather manipulative and displays psychopathic tendencies. However, Seol doesn’t trust him and is the only one who doesn’t believe in his act. She sees right through his facade. The feeling seems to be mutual as Jung seems colder to Seol. They both had rather awful first impressions of each other. After taking time off of school for a while due to several issues and Jung, Seol returns to her studies. She’s suddenly running into Jung quite alot, who is unexpectedly nice to her and asks her on a date.
Hong Seol is played by actress Kim Go Eun. I previously talked about her in my Goblin post. This was Go Eun’s first role in a drama and her performance here helped her land the role in Goblin. Seol is smart and extremely hard-working. She deals with alot of pressure and disapproval from her family. She tends to overthink things and suppress things inside. Seol’s also had to deal with unfortunate circumstances such as harassment and stalking. She’s the only one who sees through Jung’s facade and doesn’t try to suck up to him. The drama version is somewhat more meek and doesn’t have as bad of a temper as the webtoon version. Still, I thought Go Eun did a fantastic job in this role. I felt bad for her and could really understand where she was coming from (most of the time).
Yoo Jung is played by actor Park Hae Jin. It should also be noted that Soonkki originally had Park Hae Jin in mind when she created Yoo Jung and Cheese in the Trap. He’s a great actor and really does pull off the whole creepy sociopath thing well. However, I just felt like Park Hae Jin was too old for his role. Yoo Jung is supposed to be in his early to mid twenties. Park Hae Jin was about 32 while filming Cheese in the Trap. Though he is a really fantastic actor, he just looks too old. As for the character himself, Jung seems perfect. He’s rich, has good looks, and seems like a perfect nice guy. However, he’s a sociopath and is very manipulative. Jung acts nice but is hella shady. He’s aware and dislikes that everyone sucks up to him to use him. He has no qualms in arranging things to screw someone over, and feels no guilt. His reasoning is that he didn’t have a direct hand in doing anything, it was the actions of others, therefore it has nothing to do with him. As creepy and fucked up as Jung is in the drama, he’s not even as messed up as the original webtoon version. However, at least the webtoon had more character development than the drama version. It was also unfortunate that the drama didn’t carry over some of that backstory that showed a bit more of why he’s a such a sociopath. Basically he has issues with trust, receiving love, and is a like a child. What’s his is his, and he doesn’t want anyone else to have it. He hated Seol at first, but after witnessing her crying he thought they might be similar. He suddenly changes completely into having an interest in her. I mean he literally went from screwing her over to being hella sweet (and obsessive). I will note that the webtoon version is much more likable than the drama version. Again, it boils down to his background story not being portrayed as much in the drama.
Personally I only found him to be creepy… There’s a scene where he basically follows and watches Seol from a hella far distance for like a good 5 minutes, which was like a whole afternoon in the drama. He just stood there and watched Seol and In Ho (whom he completely hates)…
That was just creepy… Yes, I’m biased as hell with Second Lead Syndrome here.
Baek In Ho is played by actor Seo Kang Joon (member of the actor group 5urprise). This dude is your second lead. He plays the seemingly violent bad boy/thug type of character. He and his twin sister In Ha have a past with Jung and his family. They were basically taken in because their grandfather and Jung’s dad were well acquainted. In Ho was arrogant, mean, and a piano prodigy. He considered him and In Ha were close to Jung, he felt like they were family. But eventually, he felt like he got completely screwed over by Jung. In Ho gets acquainted with Seol at first because he wanted to piss off Jung and get revenge. He’s not bright, has a temper, gets into fights, and seems kind of shady. Though he owes alot to Jung’s family, he’s working hard to be independent and free from the Yoo family. In Ho is actually a pretty good guy. He bickers and teases Seol alot, calling her “Dog Fur” because of her hair. He ends up genuinely becoming friends with Seol, and obviously has a crush on her. He protects her and helps her as much as possible. The second lead feels were hella strong. #SecondLeadSyndrome
He has a stronger sense of morals and a conscience than Jung and his twin sister. The only difference is originally in the webtoon the Baek siblings were mixed (one of their parents was a foreigner, but it didn’t specify). I will also admit that the drama painted In Ho in an even better light in comparison to his webtoon counterpart.
Baek In Ha is played by model and actress Lee Sung Kyung, who was known for her role in It’s Okay, That’s Love. She’s In Ho’s older twin sister. She’s incredibly spoilt, over confident, bad tempered, and leeches off of Jung’s family for money. In Ha is very flashy, pretty, and spends a great deal of money. She too is manipulative, and often tricks men into dating her and buying her anything she wants. In Ha spends money lavishly and has no shame. She’s also a bit of a psycho and a bitch. Baek In Ha is aware of Jung’s true personality, but doesn’t care and likes him. She doesn’t have as much of a conscience or sense of morals like her brother. The drama portrayal was a bit different. She was way more…dramatic and hella extra. Almost to the point where it was annoying and cringey most of the time. I love Lee Sung Kyung, but I wasn’t really sure if I liked the drama version of In Ha. I do admit she was funny at times.
Jang Bo Ra is played by actress Park Min Ji. She’s basically one of Seol’s besties and speaks her mind. She’s loyal as hell to Seol and ready to throw hands. She only has her father, so Seol and Eun Taek are really important to her.
Kwon Eun Taek is played by actor Nam Joo Hyuk, famous for the more recent dramas Bride of the Water God and Weight Lifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo. Random fact, he starred in Weight Lifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo with Lee Sung Kyung. They ended up dating in real life, but broke up. Eun Taek is Seol and Bo Ra’s friend, and their lackey. He’s a good guy who also helps his friends. He’s got a crush on Bo Ra.
There are plenty of other characters, but these are the main ones. Again, the thing I liked about Cheese in the Trap was that there were diverse characters. Everyone had their own story, struggles, and problems. I liked seeing why they were like that. It really gave them depth and weight. I liked seeing how In Ho was more than how he appeared. I also enjoyed the supporting characters like Bo Ra and Eun Taek. Bo Ra heard Seol might have to take off from school. So she quickly and happily offered her trip money she saved for a year. Seol refused, but it showed that Bo Ra was a loyal friend who was ready to help when things got tough. She’s also ready to fight for Seol. Eun Taek also showed he was a great friend. He really came through in helping Seol as much as possible when her stalker was harassing her. They basically showed friendship goals. More than that, their interactions with each other was cute as well. They weren’t even the main couple, but you couldn’t help but like them and want to ship them.
I ship it.
Production wise, it was really good. The settings looked great, and the production looked pretty high quality. I also appreciated the little transitions and effects that was a reference to the webtoon origins of Cheese in the Trap. I found the presentation of the intro to be interesting since it had that comic/webtoon style as well.
I liked some of the music. It was fun and refreshing. It had alot more indie kind of tracks. It fit the theme and all, but there weren’t really any songs that got stuck in my head. They were mostly tracks I maybe would play in the background while at a coffee shop. So the official soundtrack (OST) was nice, but nothing for me to get super excited about.
Now to my issues with this drama…
[Warning: Spoilers Ahead!]
One typical thing is the cut of the background story for the characters. I think it would’ve added to Jung’s character to show more of why he was so fucked up. He’s plenty fucked up in the drama, but the reasoning was a bit more vague. It’s not just the main characters though. Even supporting characters like Sung Cheol, Seol’s annoying sunbae, had background stories that were cut. Sung Cheol was a hella annoying douchebag. He always mooched off of everyone and was a show off. He did alot of shitty things that screwed people over. However, his story was that he came from a poor family in the countryside. He had alot of pressure to make his family and hometown proud. It’s what led him to choose to do some of those selfish and shitty things. They only just barely touched that in the drama. It would’ve definitely helped make people empathize a bit more with him. TA Heo’s boyfriend also had a good chunk of important stuff cut out. In the original he has a slightly deeper history with Jung than the drama. Not only that, but in a way he had an effect and is a witness to the beginnings of Jung’s twisted and manipulative personality.
I also would’ve wanted to see more of Ah Young, Seol’s close friend, and Seol’s brother. They had a bit more of a role in the webtoon, but as per usual the characters had much more minimal roles in the drama. These are only some of the examples. Again, the intriguing thing about the Cheese in the Trap webtoon, was the relationship and aspects of all the characters; The development of the stories and individual characters. However, the drama just focused more on the love triangle.
Speaking of love triangle, it really focused on Baek In Ho. There was more focus on the second lead than the main lead. I mean, it wasn’t so much a problem for me since I was team second lead anyway. However, it is problematic when the main character gets a significant amount of less screen time. You would’ve thought In Ho was the main lead. Also, it was just playing with the hearts of the viewers. They clearly made it look like it would steer one way, when it was obvious it would not. It’s not much of a spoiler…let’s face it…second lead doesn’t usually win, hence Second Lead Syndrome. This is also part of the cause that added to the downfall of Jung’s character portrayal. Focusing on Baek In Ho so much basically left out the opportunity to delve into Jung’s past and try to understand him.
[Warning: HELLA SPOILERS AHEAD!!!]
However, my biggest issue is Jung and Seol’s relationship; Mostly Jung himself. I get the whole troubled past and personality thing. However, characters are supposed to grow and change. My issue is Jung ultimately never changed. He didn’t even really try to work on himself. For Jung, everything was only in black and white. You’re either with him or an enemy, and nothing matters as long as it accomplishes his ends. He was a sociopath with psychopathic tendencies at the beginning, and still one at the end. Sure, he changed when he decided he liked Seol. However, I felt like he really just saw Seol as an object or possession. He was possessive and got jealous. He was like a child upset that his favorite new toy would get taken away. When he thought Seol was leaving him, he was literally ready to just toss her to the side. Like, he was basically seemed quick to not give a fuck. Most of her issues, most importantly the stalker issue, were originally caused by Jung himself. He manipulated people and situations to have certain outcomes happen. Jung felt no remorse and couldn’t comprehend why the things he did was wrong. He reasoned that because he didn’t have a direct hand in it, the cause and fault was with other people and not him. When it came to Seol’s stalker, Jung didn’t even deal with it directly. He again manipulated things, taking a slow route. Sure it ruined the stalker in the end, but it was disturbing to see his lack of immediate concern and pro-activeness as she was harassed. It’s like, “Dude! Your girlfriend is being stalked and harassed really bad! Where the fuck are you??” Meanwhile, Eun Taek and In Ho were literally there beside her and trying to do actual shit about it.
This is the expected reaction one would have over a lover or friend being harassed.
That alone was more than enough reason for me to prefer In Ho. When it came to Seol’s stalker, In Ho was literally there to fight him and to protect Seol. He saw the stalker and literally runs in to help, not thinking about the consequences. My favorite scene that gave me feels was when he was walking her home. He gave her a bag of self-defense items so she could protect herself if he wasn’t around. It was a really genuine and sweet gesture that showed he was only concerned about her and her well-being. The other main reason I liked In Ho was that ultimately he only wanted Seol to be happy. He never acted entitled to Seol and her affections, nor did he try to interfere with Seol and Jung’s relationship. He acknowledged he had feelings, but only wanted her to be happy and safe. Even when she chose to be with Jung, In Ho still supported and looked out for her as a good friend. When he thought Jung was no longer being sincere and would hurt Seol, he went to confront Jung. He’s aware of what Jung is capable of and was concerned for her. Again, it wasn’t a matter of him getting the girl, but concern over her well being. I was okay with if he didn’t get the girl. I was just impressed by his growth and his genuine and selfless actions. His character showed an amazing amount of growth and he really matured. It’s a stark contrast to Jung, who again was literally ready to toss Seol like garbage when he thought she might leave him.
This scene was adorable, showing his thoughtfulness and concern.
In my opinion, Jung was the epitome of a toxic relationship. I found the whole “I’m fucked up, but you’re the only one who can love and accept me” thing was complete bullshit. It was frustrating seeing Seol be like “I can fix him” and accept his unsettling actions. I’m not all for that “It’s okay, we’re two odd puzzle pieces that fit” bullshit. Yes, it’s great to stand by people through difficult things. If Jung had actually changed (or made the effort to change) by the end, then sure I’d have no problem. My problem was that he basically had no character development. He was still a manipulative sociopath until the very end. It was only at the very end did he finally do something somewhat right. However, he honestly was still the same. I found it disturbing how they romanticized the relationship and a majority of people supported it. Your ships are up to you, but being completely okay with overlooking unhealthy issues is a bit alarming. Seriously people, don’t take shit from people who treat you like garbage. That’s some fucked up shit.
Me for most of the drama.
So in conclusion, Cheese in the Trap was a good production. It had the makings of being a great drama. It was a great drama for exploring human relationships between the characters. It’s great if you like seeing the struggles and developments of different characters. As you can see, I did like it but was also perturbed by it. The downfall for Cheese in the Trap is that it should have built up the supporting characters a bit more, and it failed to deliver more background on the main characters. One of the main issues was that Jung was ultimately a portrayed as a very static character. My biggest issue was the toxic relationship between Jung and Seol. I’m a romantic myself, but I’m not for romanticizing that. Give the 16 episode drama a shot if you’d like, but be warned that the ending is incredibly frustrating. Also know that a movie version of Cheese in the Trap is in the works. Park Hae Jin will be reprising his role as Yoo Jung, but there will be new actors for all the other characters. I don’t know if I’ll watch it though. The actors are much too old to portray young university students, and I don’t know if I could put myself through this emotional roller coaster again. If you watched or read Cheese in the Trap, let me know what your opinions are!