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What to Watch After "The Interest of Love"

While this 16-episode JTBC drama coasted along with average ratings, it consistently generated a lot of online buzz with its realistic take on the modern workplace romance. Arguably the first divisive k-drama of 2023, viewers seem to either love it for its realism or hate it for its assortment of less-than-likable characters.

The Plot

Bank section chief Ha Sang-su (Yoo Yeon-seok) finally acts on his long-time admiration for his colleague, bank teller Ahn Su-yeong (Moon Ga-young), the "goddess" of Korea Credit Union's Youngpo branch. Although she initially seems to reciprocate his feelings, she lets her insecurities get in the way and harshly rejects him. Enter handsome security guard Jeong Jong-hyun (Jung Ga-ram), and wealthy new assistant manager Park Mi-gyeong (Keum Sae-rok), who have set their sights on our leads.

What follows is a "love square" complicated by the fact that, unlike their counterparts in conventional k-drama rom-coms, this workplace romance's second leads seem to be decent people who may potentially be well-suited to our leads.

Over 16 episodes, The Interest of Love plays out as an agonizing will-they-or-won't-they story fraught with stolen glances and repressed feelings, with a side of social commentary.

The (Short) Review

What do you get when you staff a single bank branch with too many attractive people? Complications. You get many complications.

The Interest of Love is the latest addition to the category of modern Korean romance dramas that eschews tropes in favor of realistic characters and situations. Most of the story takes place in KCU's Youngpo branch, which is populated by regular (albeit above-averaging looking) people whose behaviors and flaws may remind you of people you know... and don't really like.

Moon Ga-young in her most mature role to date

Ahn Su-yeong, in particular, is probably one of the most complicated and unlikeable k-drama leads of recent years. On one hand, she's industrious and headstrong, and has managed to build a decent-enough life for herself despite having come from a poor, broken family. It's easy to root for her to overcome discrimination (over her lack of a college degree) and advance her career. But it's not as easy to understand her self-destructive choices when it comes to her personal life. Even as her backstory is gradually revealed, it isn't enough to justify her cruel, often puzzling behavior.

While Su-yeong is the drama's most controversial character, she's surrounded by a number of people who are toxic in their own unique ways, but it's hard to go into why without giving too much away. All I know is, I often wondered if I would've tolerated this series until the end if the actors weren't so nice to look at. The Interest of Love is actually a bit of a trainwreck which I found hard to look away from, and I totally understand why a lot of viewers dropped it.

Keum Sae-rok and Yoo Yeon-seok as lovers from different social classes

That said, it does serve up some worthwhile commentary on social class as it explores the idea of dating outside of one's own. It touches on how privilege impacts self-esteem, even affecting how a person sees one’s desirability as a partner. On one end, you have the wealthy Mi-gyeong who has the confidence to aggressively pursue whatever and whoever she wants because she's used to getting her way, while on the other end lies security guard Jong-hyun whose uphill battle to lift himself out of poverty understandably wreaks havoc on his sense of self-worth.

At some point though, the class commentary kind of just fizzles out and gives way to the utter mess everyone creates out of poor decision-making driven by self-interest masked by seemingly good intentions. Actually, as I write this, I don't know how I made it to the end. I guess I'm really just that much of a sucker for Yoo Yeon-seok in crisp white shirts.

All in all, The Interest of Love is a frustrating watch that requires a high pain tolerance, made bearable by attractive leads and a fun, sexy OST.

Stream if you prefer realistic dramas to tropey ones.

Skip if you have little patience for toxic characters.

Review by lousycapitalistheart


What to Watch After

For more realistic, angst-y, slow-burn romances...

Lost (2021)

If quiet, slow-paced dramas with plenty of philosophical musings about life are your jam, then you should definitely be checking out Lost. The television debuts of acclaimed film director Hur Jun-ho (Christmas in August, The Last Princess) and writer Kim Ji-hye (Architecture 101), Lost stars Korea's Cannes Queen Jeon Do-yeon and Ryu Jun-yeol as two strangers who help see each other through the loneliness of their existence.

Jeon Do-yeon plays (----), a ghost writer

16 episodes. Available on iQIYI.

When My Love Blooms (2020)

This classic melodrama of first loves, painful goodbyes, and second chances stars the charming Lee Bo-young and Yoo Ji-tae as former college sweethearts who meet again by chance 25 years later.

The drama goes back and forth between two time periods: the mid-1990s—where he is a radical student activist from a working-class family, and she is a sheltered member of the bourgeoisie, and the present day— with him as an anti-labor chaebol executive and her as a struggling, working-class single mother. Over a languid, atmospheric 16 episodes with soaring violin crescendos and almost dream-like cinematography, we learn how they found themselves on paths so divergent, not just from each other but from who they used to be. And of course, if the star-crossed lovers can find their way back to each other despite the many obstacles in their path.

16 episodes, available on Netflix and Viu.

Something in the Rain (2018)

Coffee franchise supervisor Yoon Jin-ah (Son Ye-jin) unexpectedly falls in love with her best friend's much younger brother, Seo Joon-hee (Jung Hae-in) in this slow-burn noona romance. Beyond exploring the complications that may come with a gender-reversed age difference, Something in the Rain also portrays the everyday struggles of South Korean women against workplace politics and sexual harassment.

Fans of the series fell in love with its realism, OST, and most of all, the palpable chemistry between its leads, but the frustrating behavior of the drama’s characters may be too much for others.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix.

Just Between Lovers/Rain or Shine (2018)

In his first drama leading role, Lee Jun-ho is Lee Kang-doo, a construction site worker struggling with PTSD after having survived a devastating mall collapse as a teenager. As he trudges through life bearing his physical and emotional wounds, he meets Ha Moon-su (Won Jin-a), an architect and fellow survivor of the tragedy. As the pair work at the very same site that changed their lives, they help each other heal.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix.

My Liberation Notes

My Liberation Notes portrays chronicles the everyday struggles of the Yeoms, a working-class family from Gyeong-gi province (the "eggwhite" to Seoul's "yolk.") Through the eyes of three siblings (played by Lee El, Lee Min-ki, and Kim Ji-won) and the mysterious stranger (Son Suk-ku) who moves in next door, it portrays the desire to break free from the monotony of life and societal expectations. Thoughtfully written (by My Mister's Park Hae-young) and deliberately paced, the slightly unconventional drama is widely celebrated by introverts who feel seen by the rich, relatable script and realistic characterization.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix.

Nevertheless (2021)

Nevertheless stars Han So-hee (Soundtrack #1) as Yoo Na-bi, a graduating art major who, while still recovering from a breakup, meets Park Jae-eon (Song Kang, Navillera), a known commitment-phobic playboy whose charms she finds hard to resist. Racier than the average youth k-drama, Nevertheless was constantly discussed online for its realistic portrayal of contemporary college life. It even found a following among ahjummas who found themselves reminiscing about the mistakes they made in their twenties.

12 episodes. Available on Netflix.

For more Yoo Yeon-seok...

Hospital Playlist 1&2 (2020-2021)

Yoo Yeon-seok plays the saintly pediatric surgeon Ahn Jeong-won who longs to be a priest in this hit slice-of-life drama about five doctors who've been best friends and bandmates since college. Dr. Ahn is not only a child whisperer; he’s also a singer/drummer, a secret CEO of a charity, a dutiful child, and one of the kindest people around.

If you're in the mood for a fun and laidback watch full of friendship, food, and music (and some medical cases, of course), it doesn't get any better than this drama from the makers the beloved Reply series.

12 episodes per season. Available on Netflix.

Mr. Sunshine (2018)

Yoo Yeon-seok stars as Gu Dong-mae, the mercenary caught in turn-of-the-century Korea, whose love for a noblewoman (Kim Tae-ri) puts his principles and loyalty to the test. His disheveled and bloodied ronin look may be a far cry from the upright bank teller in crisp button up shirts in The Interest of Love, but trust us on this one: he can certainly rock the warrior look and is at home with bloody sword fights. With its stellar cast and massive budget, Mr Sunshine has everything you could want in a turn-of-the century drama. While some may need a bit of context in Korean history to fully enjoy the scale and the symbolisms of the drama, it is enjoyable in and of itself.

24 episodes. Available on Netflix.

Warm and Cozy (2015)

Warm and Cozy is a small-town MBC series starring Kang So-ra and Yoo Yeon-seok, set in both Seoul and Jeju Island. Yoo Yeon-seok stars as Baek Gun-woo, who runs a café that he opened because of a first love. There, he serves meals that are as pleasing to the eye as the man himself. After a series of very unfortunate events, Lee Jung-joo (Kang So-ra) finds her way to the island as well. She is completely down on her luck. He is a chaebol who drifts along with his whims. She thinks they might have been separated at birth. There’s definitely a connection between them but it can’t be DNA, right? The story as well as those of the people around them slowly unfolds, set against the enchanting backdrop of a seaside town that isn’t as quiet as it appears on the surface.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix.

For more Moon Ga-young...

Find Me In Your Memory (2020)

He has a hypermemory and can recall with detail every single moment of his life. She has memory issues. And in true k-drama fashion, the two of them are thrust together by fate. Moon Ga-young stars as famous actress Yeo Ha-jin, whose live-in-the-present-moment attitude is a balm for tv anchor Lee Jung-hoon (Kim Dong-wook) who is haunted by a painful past. Against the odds (and might we add, with great chemistry together), the two of them fall in love and find healing with each other.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix.

True Beauty (2020)

Based on a popular webtoon, True Beauty is another one of those k-dramas that generated a lot of online buzz despite its modest ratings. This youth-oriented show is well-loved by its fans for tackling the concerns of high school students (especially those affecting their mental health) and for featuring a non-toxic male character and healthy friendships

16 episodes. Available on Netflix and Viu.

For the complete opposite...

Love to Hate You (2023)

Nam Kang-ho (Teo Yoo) is a top actor, the "God of Romance" who secretly hates women. Yeo Mi-ran (Kim Ok-vin) is a lawyer who eats men for breakfast and has never known real love. Their lives get intertwined when she winds up working at the law firm that represents his agency, and in a short-term contract as his pretend-girlfriend. Like last year's hit rom-com Business Proposal, Netflix's Love to Hate You serves up familiar k-drama tropes in a sinfully delicious 10-episode package with sizzling chemistry, lots of cringe, and toe-curling romance.

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