Moorim School: Saga of the Brave
It’s 2016 and I’m ready to recap a new kdrama! There are several reasons why I chose Moorim School: 1) I adore Lee Hyun Woo. He captured many hearts as Eun Gyeol in the drama, To The Beautiful You and as Ri Hae Jin in the movie, Secretly, Greatly. 2) Hongbin of VIXX isn’t too bad, himself. Put them together and there is a spark in the woodsy air that makes me excited. 3) I get the feeling this will be Harry Potter-esque, which I look forward to, Korean style. 4) I’m a sucker for the Korean high school setting.
Episode 1 [The Seal Has Been Unlocked]
Backstory: In the deep of the woods, a man who is quite adept at high martial arts escapes a mob of black-clad men who are after him. He grips a young child in his arms and after an intense chase manages to escape, though not unscathed. “We’re almost there,” he promises the child. With his powers, he places a hand on a tree and symbols appear to illuminate a secret hidden pathway. They are safe.
18 years later: Yoon Shi Woo (Lee Hyun Woo), top idol of popular Hallyu group Mobius, sleeps. Grand preparations are taking place for the huge K-pop Music Festival 2016 in Korea. Fans are everywhere, the stage is being set up, and the coordinator is yelling at Yoon Shi Woo’s manager asking why he’s missed rehearsal again. A phone call from Manager Kim wakes up Shi Woo. A debilitating piercing ringing in his ears rattles him. Manager Kim is desperate to get him to rehearsal and wonders where he is staying as he is not at the hotel he booked for him. Instead, Shi Woo has checked into a suite at the Intercontinental Hotel. The ringing in his ears intensifies and Shi Woo washes down a pill.
Arrogant chaebol Wang Chi Ang (Hongbin of VIXX) checks out the concert arrangements. Sang Hae Group, his father’s company in China, is sponsoring the K-pop Festival. Chi Ang hates the entourage of bodyguards his father has sent and tells them to leave. Instead of following protocol, he hops on a motorcycle and rides along the waterfront highway. Mother is on his case pronto, but he seems to have her in his palm and tells her not to worry. “I love you, Madame In Young,” he tells her and sends a kiss over the phone. Mother is worried and asks Father (Lee Beom Soo) if they really must send him to this strange school, Moorim Institute. Father tells her that he has it all planned out and to do as she’s told.
There’s been a mix-up and two guys who seem destined to be at each other’s throats end up in the same hotel suite. As Shi Woo comes out of the shower (fan service, thank you!), Chi Ang is ready to go in. They are not happy and get their managers to handle the messy situation for them. They find out that they are hopelessly connected: Chi Ang’s father is the sponsor of the K-pop festival and Shi Woo is the star. Chi Ang is in Korea to attend the concert and would love to kick out Shi Woo, but Shi Woo is the main draw and the big money-maker. It’s a war of pride as they mark each other as targets.
Soon Deok is a spunky, hard-working young woman who uses her noggin to sell her homemade rice cakes at the festival. “Our Shi Woo’s rice cakes!” she calls out. “Potato rice cakes, the only carbs he will eat!” In no time, she is counting a pile of money. As she packs up she notices a friend entering the festival and calls out, “Seon Ah!” but she doesn’t hear her.
Uh-oh, it’s another mix up. Chi Ang arrives at the festival’s VIP guest entrance and fishes for his ID in his pocket only to find a pill-box with Yoon Shi Woo’s name on it. Meanwhile, Shi Woo reaches for his pills in his coat pocket but instead finds a VIP badge. He isn’t able to take his meds before he goes on stage.
The fans scream for Yoon Shi Woo Oppa! madly waving banners, lights, and balloons. For a split second, Shi Woo is off balance as the shrill, piercing sound in his ears rings. But, he manages to keep step and finish without a glitch. However, not before a couple of people notice: fan Seon Ah and Chi Ang pick up on his hesitation.
Alas, the real danger looms moments later. As the concert ends amidst the screeching fans and fireworks on stage, electrical sparks flare overhead as the lighting fixture pulls away from the ceiling. Backstage the manager yells, “Get out of the way, Shi Woo!” but he stands there, frozen. Seon Ah sees it all and rushes from the audience, rams a guard to get past, and dashes on stage. It’s a slo-mo scene as Shi Woo sees her approach, looks up at the falling fixture and shields himself with his arms. “It stopped,” Seon Ah realizes, and at that second pushes Shi Woo out of harm’s way. They crash in a heap on the floor. Shi Woo is dazed. She asks him, “Are you okay? Do you have a hard time hearing? Does it hurt? Come to Moorim Institute. Dean Hwang can probably fix it.” Before he can come to his senses, Seon Ah is dragged away by security. (Thoughts: Whose power stopped the falling light fixture, hers? His? Someone else’s like Dean Hwang who she mentioned?)
Back at the hotel, CEO Choi makes sure Shi Woo is okay. Shi Woo is shaken and tells him that he needs time off. “Sure; take the whole day off tomorrow,” he answers. Looking very worn out, Shi Woo says, “I need some time off. About a year.” CEO Choi is not pleased but tells him they’ll discuss it later.
Shi Woo thinks back on a recent conversation with his doctor who informed him that his hearing loss is psychological; medications have limited effectiveness and he may lose his hearing altogether. Poos Shi Woo, what’s the matter? Sadly, Manager Kim finds out and reports the information to CEO Choi. It seems he has been looking for a way to dump Shi Woo anyway – he’s too expensive and difficult to work with, and now he has the perfect reason. Who needs a deaf singer? He decides to take the low road, however, and smear Shi Woo’s reputation by using ex-girlfriend, Da Rim.
Back to mix-up #2: Chi Ang is annoyed as all get out when Shi Woo isn’t at the mix-up #1 hotel suite. He wants his coat back from Shi Woo – it’s got his phone in it. Shi Woo is alone at the waterfront, thinking. He’s stressed. There’s a bigger picture taking shape, however. Destinies are merging as the overarching world of Moorim School begins to touch the lives of our rivals. (I am already hoping they become immortal allies.) Dean Hwang (Shin Hyunjoon) stands on the landing of the grand hall staircase of Moorim Institute. Is he the master orchestrator?
The set-up: CEO Choi talks Da Rim (aspiring celeb and ex-girlfriend of Shi Woo) into smearing her ex’s reputation in return for a rung up the ladder. After all, CEO Choi reminds her, he didn’t even care about her after she tried to kill herself. (Arrgh! are we really going there?) “Bring him down.” She agrees to it. She jumps in Shi Woo’s car and pretends to be worried about what happened to him at the concert. He won’t play her game and as he opens her car door to let her out, a gang of thugs approach. Manager Kim is in the background watching the set-up unfold. Not realizing it’s a trap, Shi Woo wants to leave with Da Rim. The thugs rough him up a bit and pretend to harass Da Rim when out of the blue a helmet comes flying through the air and hits one of the thugs in the head.
Nice aim, Soon Deok! She has inadvertently come upon the scene on her way to delivering chicken (one of her various part-time jobs) and can’t stop herself from getting involved. She’s plucky and tells the whole bunch of them, “Guys let’s not do this. I called the police, so you’d better run.” It throws a wrench into the ruin-Shi-Woo’s-reputation plan, or does it? Shi Woo notices the paparazzi who he thinks are digging up dirt on Da Rim and decides to tail them. He tells Da Rim to get away before the police arrive. The thugs leave, but as originally planned, reporters swarm around Da Rim for a smear campaign against Shi Woo. She fakes that they were on a date and accuses Shi Woo leaving her alone with the thugs as he fled without her. The report immediately hits the news and Mobius fans are devastated. The funny part is Soon Deok ends up being interviewed and answers the intentionally leading questions in a way that drops even more shade on Shi Woo.
Shi Woo runs to CEO Choi to report what really happened now that the media’s story is out. In the course of the discussion, it becomes clear that it really was a trap and CEO Choi and Manager Kim knew all about it. A stunned Shi Woo asks if it’s because he asked for time off. CEO Choi coyly tells him to take as much time as he needs and if his ear gets better, to get back in touch. Shi Woo doesn’t know what to think. As he gets in his car, Chi Ang catches up with him to get his phone back. But Shi Woo is in no mood for small talk and drives away.
Soon Deok’s father wants to know what in the world she was doing when she got involved in the thug scene and ended up on the news. Why didn’t she take his advice to not get involved in someone else’s matters? Their village household is odd: Father is blind, Soon Deok works many part-time jobs, a woman (not her mother?) defends Soon Deok and claims that she doesn’t go anywhere except to Moorim – at which point Soon Deok stuffs a rice cake in her mouth to shut her up. “What?” asks Father. The mention of Moorim is increasingly mysterious and evasive. At that, Soon Deok tells Father she will go fishing and leaves.
I’m trying hard to keep things straight, here. So, Chi Ang is kidnapped by his father’s yes-men – a favorite tactic of wealthy conglomerate chairmen to control their wayward immature sons. Even Mom can’t help him out and tells him that his father’s plan is to forcefully send him to Moorim since he won’t cooperate. After all, she reminds him, he’s been kicked out so many times that now there isn’t a university in the world that will accept him. Why would it matter, he sasses, since he is heir to Sang Hae Group anyway. Whoops, wrong thing to say. Father gets on and tells him to go study for a year. Hang up. Scary. (Well, we can’t be sure that he is his father since Chi Ang happened to mention to the yes-men that even though he is his mother’s son out of wedlock, he is still heir and they’d better treat him right.) Anyway, he tricks the yes-men into letting him out to go to the bathroom, but of course runs away. When he finds himself at the edge of a rocky cliff high above the water, he threatens to jump – reminding them that he can’t swim and won’t they be in hot water if anything happens – when he loses his footing and falls down, down, into the deep waters.
Luckily, Soon Deok is swimming nearby looking for seafood dinner. She rescues him and pulls him onto land. Just as she is about to administer mouth-to-mouth, his eyes open. “Are you a mermaid?” he asks. I like our little heroine.
Chi Ang wakes up in the odd household and is startled by the blind man massaging his body. He runs out the door but is disoriented by the surroundings and gets woozy at the sight of a woman wielding a bloody knife and chopping off fish heads. He faints. When he comes to, he comfortably eats and talks with the family. They don’t believe him when he tells him that he is the son of Chairman Wang Hao of Sang Hae Group in China, and that they will be handsomely rewarded for saving his life. He also wants to thank the mermaid and finds the young woman who pulled him from the water outside, among billowing white sheets – an ethereal creature in his starfish struck eyes. Like a genie, he promises to grant her any wish for saving him. She is unimpressed and tells him to go home if he is okay; she’s busy and has to go to school. He is surprised that she is a student and asks her age. Mother tells him to watch himself as Soon Deok is a student at Moorim School. There’s that name again! “Moorim School? Do you go there?” he asks. Soon Deok quickly covers his mouth and says that her father will kill her if he finds out.
Just then, Chi Ang’s mother calls out, “Son!” Okay, I guess we have to assume that if the police were notified because Chi Ang fell into the water and Soon Deok’s mother called the police and reported that a young man who was pulled from the water was at their house, then that’s how his parents end up at the village household. Chi Ang’s mother is upset and just wants to take him to China with them. Forget about Moorim, she says. To everyone’s surprise Chi Ang tells Mom that he will go to Moorim Institute. Apparently he is intrigued that Mermaid goes there and is willing to give it the ol’ college try.
Shi Woo has found his own way to the woods in search of Mt. Moorim, location of Moorim School. With book bags in tow, Chi Ang follows Mermaid through the woods on their way to Moorim. Chi Ang wanders off and loses his bearings. (He’s not much of a nature guy, is he.) Shi Woo happens upon Soon Deok and immediately recalls that she was at the set-up scene. He thinks she was part of the trap and got paid by CEO Choi and yells at her for following him into the woods. She is shocked at his accusations and throws back that she helped him when he was surrounded by thugs. He grabs her wrist and tells her to admit her part in the scheme when Chi Ang sees them and pushes him away. They scuffle and roll down a hill. Suddenly, the atmosphere changes and the wind blows in an eerieness that reminds them to respect nature and honor their bearings. There is more here than meets the eye. A dust devil shakes the trees. It’s not just the woods that tremble; those inside Moorim school feel the rippling in the air and the ground shake. Professor Kim comments, “The seal is being unlocked.”
Shi Woo and Chi Ang are speechless as they watch the trees part to reveal a large academy. “What is this place? Moorim Institute?” As they approach the school, the woods close behind them. A crowd gathers at the school entrance.
Dean Hwang approaches them. “The seal has been unlocked.”
- Very cool. There is, indeed, a Harry Potter-esque feel to the Moorim School campus along with a hint of powers and -even more exciting – martial arts skills extraordinaire to come! Lee Hyun Woo has that fantasy air about him already, and I can’t wait to see flying spins and back kicks Korean style in the mix!
- We have been introduced to the four students and have a decent first episode background on three of them with the exception of Seon Ah. I like what we know so far about Shi Woo, Chi Ang, and Soon Deok. The show has brought us right up to the front door of Moorim School at the end of ep 1 which I find exciting.
- Who was the young child that Dean Hwang protected in the beginning?
- I saw Daniel – the German representative on Abnormal Summit – as one of the students/professors at Moorim School. How very cool is that?
- Even though Chi Ang started off as bratty as any chaebol, I predict he will change the most, or at least a lot, at Moorim, and befriend Shi Woo.
- Will there be missions? Are Soon Deok and Seon Ah already on secret missions even though they live “regular” lives?
- What is your first impression of Moorim School? Are there any holes in the story for you? Or, like me, are you pleased with the intro to Moorim School?