Credit
Article. Yoon Haein, Im Sooyeon (CINE21 reporter), Kim Gyeoul (writer), Kim Yoonha (music critic)
Design. Jeon Yurim
Cheer Up (SBS)
Yoon Haein: Cherry blossoms float gently through the spring day and blanket a university campus. Dressed in a varsity jacket embroidered with the school’s logo, 20-year-old Do Hae-yi (Han Ji Hyun) takes selfies of herself all around the campus grounds. With her are the older Park Jeong-woo (Bae Inhyuk), who seems almost too serious in everything he does and keeps his cards close to his chest, as well as the well-off freshman Jin Seon-ho (Kim Hyun Jin) who wants for nothing. At first, the SBS drama Cheer Up seems to be an illustration of three young students living an idyllic campus life and the relationship between them. But, just as every light casts a shadow, mystery is a key ingredient in the show, adding tension to the story and causing a rift between the merriment of youth and the harshness of reality. Hae-yi forces a smile even while tutoring her rude student despite carrying the burden of supporting her younger brother through high school and taking care of her mother who’s out of touch with reality. Hae-yi has no faith in people, only money, and spends her commute half asleep and watching videos about how to meditate your way to riches. At the young age of 20, she has come to an early realization that romance is a luxury earned exclusively through time and money. Cheer Up follows Hae-yi after she signs a shady contract with the university’s nearly defunct cheerleading squad, called Theia, despite its notorious track record of accidents, because she needs the money. She never would have joined the squad if not for the cash since it eats up an enormous amount of time and energy just to put on a short performance. Keen viewers will notice that this spot-on definition of luxury foreshadows the romance that will eventually fall upon Hae-yi.
Good Deal
Im Sooyeon (CINE21 reporter): In a time when even messages exchanged through online flea markets make for solid storytelling comes a new anthology film exploring five such stories: A 13-year-old boy learns himself a life lesson when he goes to buy a limited-edition baseball jersey from a former catcher for the LG Twins behind the backs of his aunt and uncle—themselves ardent Doosan Bears fans; a fictional machine that allows people to fall asleep and wake up as they please facilities a romance between a high school senior and another student studying to retake the CSAT; dreaming of becoming a rock star, a prison officer in charge of executions becomes privy to a tragic story while buying a guitar off a member of a rock band; a prisoner on death row and an aspiring writer selling an anthology of world literature, too, find renewed hope through the secondhand goods market. Good Deal espouses trust in the power of kindness through the loose relationships formed amid the connections between characters in each segment of the film. The movie never feels pressured to pull any great twists or add any needless decoration, taking a long, thoughtful look at each character’s inner pain instead. This preference for warm consolation over misplaced optimism is even reflected in the title of the last vignette, “Christmas Gift.” The film stars Jeon Suk-ho, Tae In-ho, Cho Seong-ha, Lee Won-jong, Choi Ye Bin and others.
The King of Women (Bora Chung)
Kim Gyeoul (writer): In a tall tower lives a princess. This novel opens with the story of a knight who has managed to evade detection from a dragon’s eyes and at last enters the tower. The knight has crossed mountains, rivers, swamps—the whole gamut—just to find the princess, so now all he has to do is rescue her and … walk off, just like that? No—that’s not how Bora Chung writes a novel. The books written by Bora Chung, world-renowned after she was shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize, are hardly so meek or mild. Characters come face to face with the harshest realities, brought to life in exquisitely distinct ways and dropped into the middle of frighteningly cruel scenarios. This time, Chung burdens fairy-tale characters with the weight of reality to see what happens. She writes her stories specifically to avoid falling into the trap of becoming predictable. This is true not only of the triptych of stories following the princess, the knight and the dragon but also other works in the book as well. Some read like historical accounts while others are closer to folklore. The novel is an easier read than Cursed Bunny, her book that was selected as a finalist for the Booker Prize, making this one a great entry into the mind of the author.

“gum” feat. baehyuni (Sunwoojunga)

Kim Yoonha (music critic): Plenty of people know about Sunwoojunga, but no one knows who she really is—which is understandable, seeing how she’s been crisscrossing around the Korean pop music scene unpredictably since her debut album in 2006. At one moment she works with K-pop singers like 2NE1, HyunA and KIM SEJEONG, then turns around and puts out an album full of complex sounds that she somehow seems to make sound effortless. Songs like “Run with Me” and “Propose” are enough to make people’s hearts race, while shoulders sway, heads bounce and voices sing along to “Springirls” and “Idle Idle.” And Sunwoojunga’s charm doesn’t stop at the recording studio: She doesn’t hesitate to change up the instruments in each of her live performances, avoiding the repetition that often accompanies long tours. She even dares to play songs of varying genres during the same performance and call it Festival Sunwoojunga. Anything that can be classified as sound becomes music in her skilled hands, and that’s what makes her the talented musician that she is.

 

Her latest album, Studio X {1. Phase}, is just one chapter in the book of musical experimentation that is Sunwoojunga, the ever-elusive musical prodigy. “gum” is a perfect example, a track she sings together with rising hip hop singer-songwriter baehyuni, herself developing a personal world of music. The song kicks down the door and practically slaps the listener in the face with its opening line, “Your snooty gaze,” and playfully captures the way someone looks around, unsatisfied, smacking away with a piece of gum in their mouth. Right from the way the vocals flow out, the song is unpredictable. This confusing but playful track forces us to reconsider what we think we know about this musician. Do we really know Sunwoojunga? Maybe not. Especially if we’re foolish enough to believe this is just the start of her experimental phase.