In the radio, there are no cameras. Rather than focusing on image, the radio highlights something that comes (literally) from inside. Although conditioned by a script, the host voices not only his own emotions but also engages directly with listeners in an honest way. In this type of environment, the host can learn plenty about himself and others. Radio Romance blossoms in this ambience, telling the story of a small but spirited team working and growing together.
Korean Title: 라디오 로맨스
Genre: Romance, Drama
Number of episodes: 16
Episode length: 70 minutes
Recommended for: fans of fluffy romance and good backstories, people who are curious about the radio
NOT recommended for: people who tend to have second lead syndrome and/or hate clichés
Kim Sohyun as Song Geurim
Yoon Doojoon as Ji Suho
Yoon Park as Lee Gang
Yura as Jin Taeri
Kwak Dongyeon as Jason
Ha Joon as Kim Joonwoo
Oh Hyunkyung as Nam Jooha
Kim Byungse as Ji Yoonseok
As an assistant writer for a radio programme, Song Geurim is played around by her producer and does anything but writing. She replaces the DJs when they don’t show up, pesters them to do their job and is known in the field for her successful guest scouting tactics. Although this is her dream position, she fails to see her ambitions fulfilled yet has no choice but to endure – that is, if she wants to put her scripts to use. Upon having her programme canceled, Geurim is scouted by the experienced producer Lee Gang. However, if she wants to be a main writer she must scout Ji Suho, a top actor and son of the nation’s most enviable couple, Nam Jooha and Ji Yoonseok.
Due to her perseverance and desire to show Ji Suho the wonders of the radio, Geurim ends up convincing him to enroll as a DJ – however, he refuses to use scripts created by anyone other than his producer team. Yet, Suho ends up making use of Geurim’s scripts. Among the crew, a love triangle seems to be formed between Song Geurim, Lee Gang and Ji Suho.
Throughout the show, a lot of factors exterior to the radio programme itself accumulate: Nam Jooha announcing a fake relationship between Suho and Jin Taeri (an actress thirsty for fame), Ji Yoonseok’s inconsequential behavior and a deep buried past between the two leads that a psychiatrist, Jason, forces Suho to face. Within 16 fulfilling episodes, the series explores the relationships and feelings of these characters off air.
CHARACTERS AND THEIR RELATIONSHIPS:
- Song Geurim and Ji Suho
Initially, their relationship is that of a cat chasing a rat: Song Geurim is desperate to cast him and so, follows him to his schedules and events; but soon the tables turn as Ji Suho becomes conscious of his feelings towards her. There is this sort of push and pull game between them until Geurim realizes they have met before.
From then on all walls between them are taken down and they grow closer, ultimately coming to help each other deal with their struggles.
- Song Geurim and Lee Gang
These characters’ friendship comes back from Song Geurim’s days as a rookie assistant writer. They are not only colleagues but also neighbors and so, Lee Gang advises Song Geurim when it comes to work and gives her moral support and help when she needs it. To Geurim, he is a cherished senior who she can trust; however, to Lee Gang, Geurim is more than a talented junior writer.
- Lee Gang and Ji Suho
From the beginning of the series until the very last episode Lee Gang really, really gets on Ji Suho’s nerves. Because of this, Suho hardly takes him seriously in the beginning. As he starts to mature a bit more, he begins respecting Lee Gang’s work bit by bit and they end up understanding each other (from a distance).
- Ji Suho and Jason
One of the most interesting relationships established on the drama was that of Ji Suho and Jason, his psychiatrist and only ‘trusted’ friend. Even though Suho constantly tried to pull Jason away, the latter never gave up on trying to make Suho react to things and never backed away unless he recognized his absolute need to. In the end, it turns out this friendship wasn’t as trusted as we thought.
- Jin Taeri and Ji Suho
As costars, both must show a good chemistry on screen. Nevertheless, their relationship off screen couldn’t be worse. Taeri is constantly interfering in his life, trying to blackmail him into dating her so she can get public focus. Due to her behavior, Suho finds her repulsive and despises her.
- Ji Suho and Kim Joonwoo
Suho’s manager, Kim Joonwoo, has been around ever since he started his acting career during his middle school days – he too has a part in Suho’s trauma, but I shall not spoil it. Suho actually feels indebted to him and so, the fact that Joonwoo has to serve him as his manager makes him feel even more burdensome and guilty. They are quite distant, although Jonwoo expresses will to get closer to Suho.
- Kim Joonwoo and Jin Taeri
Besides the one mentioned above, there is one more reason why Suho acts coldly towards Jin Taeri: because Kim Joonwoo has always liked her in secret. Knowing this and not wanting to hurt him even more, Suho choses to keep as distant and unresponsive as possible towards Jin Taeri.
- Nam Jooha and Ji Yeonsook
Ji Suho’s parents are the nation’s most envied couple: Ji Yeonsook is reffered to as the ideal husband and Nam Jooha is the classy, elegant wife any man longs for. And yet, things could not be more dysfunctional between them. Their public image is but a facade; in reality, Ji Yeonsook has had several mistresses throughout the years, one of which is Ji Suho’s birth mother. Nam Jooha agreed to raise him and has cleaned up after her husband to prevent their reputation from falling apart. She truly hates him from deep down but doesn’t have a choice but to deal with it in order to protect what is hers.
- Nam Jooha and Ji Suho
Even though they are not related by blood, Suho can’t help but thinking of Jooha as his real mother. Despite her treating him as but a source of revenue, he still sympathizes with her for putting up with his father’s mistakes for such a long time.
- Ji Suho and Ji Yeonsook
Their father-son relationship is completely deteriorated, if it ever even existed. Suho blames his father’s inconsequential actions for the state things have reached with Nam Jooha. Because of this, Suho doesn’t even regard him as a parent and chooses not to associate him outside of the public eye.
This drama was very pleasant to watch at most times! I collected a few aspects that stood out to me throughout the series:
- Defying all usual clichés
If I try to sum up the leads’ roles and relationship I come to find it’s your typical traumatized rich guy and positive girl who comes into his life and treats his wounded soul. Yet, it doesn’t feel right storing Radio Romance in a category like that – although its outline sounds cliché, this drama found a way to pull it off professionally. And it’s really all about the consistency of the characters’ personalities and development, along with a very solid and coherent backstory.
- A likeable female lead
A handful characters flourished remarkably well along the plot, however, I can’t help but note that Song Geurim stood out the most. She was a mature, positive and energetic (but not hysteric!) female lead. Truly set on her goals, Geurim worked hard and did her best at all times in hopes of achieving her long time dream. Even though these seem like regular characteristics, it is not as common in drama as it seems. I was very happy to see a character that had her priorities set: even when the romance started spurring she still put her passion before anything else.
- The male lead’s inferiority complex
Ji Suho’s growing feelings eventually led to jealousy, of course, especially when it came to Geurim and Lee Gang’s proximity. Lee Gang and Geurim were not only neighbors but also colleagues, so they undeniably had a close relationship and spent a lot of time together. Even after Geurim’s confession, Suho felt insecure about her feelings and showed his possessive side quite often. This ended up being quite uncomfortable to watch due to his overly aggressive attitude. Sometimes he even blamed Geurim of nonsense things! Gladly, he seemed to put an end to this behavior once things were settled between him and Lee Gang.
- Great backstory
Yet again, Radio Romance aced something not all dramas successfully pull off: the backstory! Although it seemed confusing for a while, the pieces eventually start fitting together. It is not a complex past, but it connects the two leads in an emotional but innocent way. I found this really pleasant as it was easy to understand and didn’t turn out as a heavy story.
- Doesn’t drop its core
It does recite a specific story with its own characters and conditions but the main setting is always the radio. Usually, when a drama is set on a specific job, it tends to stray away from it as the plot goes on. Radio Romance manages to keep the radio as a central topic and really does provide understanding of the positions existent within a booth and the way things work as a whole.
- Fitting OST
Unlike most recently aired dramas, the soundtrack fitted the ambience of the series at all times! The songs were very good, and featured artists that the public looks fondly upon.
Radio Romance was quite embellished from the beginning, with a great cast that included Kim So Hyun and Highlight Doojoon, and a highly anticipated OST by artists such as NCT U. Its plot is quite cliché at times, yet, the work put into the characters, story development and overall setting boosted its quality. All in all, it turned out to be a light and enjoyable drama to watch. If you are to watch it in the future, I suggest you add it to your list as something non urgent but to keep in mind when searching for new series.