Updated: Oct 29
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we're taking a short break from our coverage of new k-dramas to feature a classic rom-com that tackles this disease, which impacts millions of lives worldwide. Unlike other k-dramas that merely use breast cancer as a plot device, Jealousy Incarnate (also known as Don't Dare to Dream; 2016) places it front and center with great sensitivity and humor, while advocating for the importance of early detection and proper treatment.
As its title suggests, this hilarious 2016 rom-com is about the many incarnations that jealousy takes. Gong Hyo-jin stars as Pyo Na-ri, a hardworking weather forecaster caught in a love triangle with Lee Hwa-sin (Jo Jung-suk), a cocky and ambitious reporter, and his impossibly dreamy chaebol heir best friend (Go Kyung-Pyo, Reply 1988). As she works her way toward becoming a news announcer, she finds herself secretly helping Lee Hwa-sin through his breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Set in the chaotic work environment of the fictional Seoul Broadcasting Corporation and the equally chaotic Rak Villa where our heroine lives, Jealousy Incarnate is populated with colorful characters and multiple love triangles (not all romantic). It's also full of memorable, hilarious scenes that are worth rewatching. Aside from the three main leads, this drama features a large ensemble of co-workers, family members, and neighbors, each with their own entanglements. There's a lot going on here, but the show never feels scattered or confusing because ample time is given to each story, and the talented cast is allowed to shine.
"Rom-com Queen" Gong Hyo-jin is in her element as the charming, endearing weather forecaster who you can't help but root for as she pursues her dream of becoming an announcer. Gong Hyo-jin really has an incredible gift for having great chemistry with whomever she's paired with, and while she has chemistry with both male leads, it's her scenes with Jo Jung-suk that sizzle.
If you aren't already in love with Jo Jung-suk when you start watching this k-drama, you may just join the ranks of us who are—to borrow a friend's phrase—"actively mad at Gummy (his wife) for having him" once you get to the end! (Just kidding, we wish the lovely couple all the best). More than just the singing and dancing, which he does so well here, he really won me over with his portrayal of a man struggling with a breast cancer diagnosis, and gets bonus points for getting an actual mammogram for this drama!
Go Kyung-pyo puts up a good fight here as the (too) perfect second lead: tall, kind, sweet, and loaded—making this one of the most complicated love triangles ever.
As a breast cancer survivor, I was given trigger warnings that Jealousy Incarnate had a breast cancer storyline. I was afraid it would just be used as a device to create drama/tension toward the end, like so many other dramas and movies have done. So I was really surprised to see it introduced from the very beginning and become central to the story.
I was pleased that it was obviously well-researched and well thought out, with much of the breast cancer patient journey accurately portrayed with sensitivity and even humor. Jealousy Incarnate didn't hold back on showing the ugly parts: how uncomfortable it is to get a mammogram, the inconvenience of daily radiation sessions, the constant fear of recurrence, and the discrimination patients face—especially males.
In a way, this k-drama feels like a love letter to every survivor and every supportive partner and caregiver who has seen a loved one through cancer treatment—a process that is also painful for them, and requires great sacrifice from them as well. It also portrays that special bond between a patient and their medical team. The adorable duo of the breast specialist and nurse here was so much more than just extras whose role is to deliver bad news, as is often seen on screen.
Honestly, I have so much more to say about this drama. I haven't even started on all the funny supporting characters and their hilariously absurd side stories, but I should probably wrap this up. If you're looking for a kilig (toe-curling), comic, feel-good drama with quirky humor and dapper oppas, look no further.
24 episodes, available on Viu as "Jealousy Incarnate" and Netflix as "Don't Dare" to Dream." We recommend watching this on Viu for the full experience, as some song numbers are not in the Netflix version.
Lee Hwa-sin was lucky that Pyo Na-ri, who had a family history of breast cancer, accidentally felt his lump and advised him to see a doctor! Males account for 1% of breast cancer patients worldwide.
Early detection saves lives, and it is recommended that everyone make a habit of doing a monthly breast self-examination starting at the age of 20. Here are guidelines from the ICanServe Foundation: