Only a few weeks ago, the final episode of "Welcome to Samdal-ri" was released on Netflix. Hindustan Times said the show "not only claimed the top spot in terms of K-drama and actor rankings but also achieved the highest buzzworthy position." Even though the show was great overall, there were still things I wish could have received more spotlight. Here's a review of "Welcome to Samdal-ri" from your biggest K-drama fan.
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
The show stars Shin Hye-sun (playing Cho Sam-dal) and Ji Chang-wook (playing Jo Yong-pil), who grew up as best friends in a small town called Samdal-ri. As an adult, Sam-dal became a famous photographer in Seoul. At the same time, Yong-pil remained in their hometown as a talented weather forecaster.
Things have been like that for years until one day, Sam-dal got wrongfully accused of abusing her assistant at the workplace and had to come home to avoid the public. There, she found herself again – as she was surrounded by those who loved her – and fell in love with her childhood friend, Yong-pil, again.
The Cast (5/5)
Their actor/actress perfectly portrayed each character. From the very beginning, I found the role of Cho Sam-dal unable to fit with any other actresses besides Shin Hye-sun. She exerts a bright and innocent energy yet still has a very intelligent and successful vibe. Audiences like myself can't help but admire her character, who is humble yet knows who she is and how talented she is and does not let anyone take advantage of her.
Ji Chang-wook's character was also a very strong one. In the show, Jo Yong-Pil is one of the most qualified weather forecasters in South Korea but refuses to pursue his dream of working in Switzerland to stay close to and take care of Samdal's mother – whom Yong-pil also considered his second mother. He successfully delivered a happy and youthful personality that contained misery and regrets underneath.
The other cast members in the show also did a wonderful job. My favorites are Kang Young-Seok (playing Bu Sang-do), Shin Dong-Mi (playing Cho Jin-Dal), Kang Mi-na (playing Cho Hae-Dal), and Yang Kyung-Won (playing Jeon Dae Yeong).
Storyline and Plot (4.5/5)
I love how everything moved at the beginning of the show at a speedy pace. No details were rushed, but just the right amount of things happened in one episode. The show doesn't have a dramatic plot twist like many others but is rather simple and heart-warming. However, it does not mean that it is boring. "Welcome to Samdal-ri" is quite the opposite – it is exciting throughout all 16 episodes.
When Sam-dal's career was heavily damaged by widespread rumors about her abusing her workers, she chose to come back home. At first, she feared letting neighbors see her, thinking it would be awkward and embarrassing for her family. However, when she explained to people in her town what happened, they actually believed, unlike people back in Seoul.
She realized her real values as she was gradually nurtured in family support and friendships. She wanted to stand up and fight for herself again.
The show makes the crisis irreversible for Sam-dal in the first few episodes. It focuses on how everyone, even her colleagues of many years, turned their backs on her. It leads the problem to a point where it seems like no solution is possible, then lets the tangle untie itself as the real Cho Sam-dal is reclaimed along with her beloved. It is because only then could she show that she could face anything and that a widespread lie eventually would not be able to do anything to her.
I give the storyline a 4.75 because I wish the show had dedicated more time to the character Bang Eun-Ju (who spread the rumors that Sam-dal was abusing her). I wanted to know more about what happened to her even before the truth was published, like scenes of how she was fired from X magazine or kept losing assistants because she had no skills. I wish the show could have gone deeper into the story of those who did bad things to others, which means they won't end up having good.
The Happy Ending (5/5)
The ending was incredibly brilliant. How Sam-dal and her friends managed to make the exhibition happen was very impressive, and even though it was not too dramatic, the audience still couldn't guess their plans. The movie ends in a rather peaceful and fulfilling way. Still, it satisfies the viewers because it is neither predictable nor shallow.
This is personally one of my favorite K-dramas because it is not the most typical K-drama you'll see. I love to see successful woman figures like Cho Sam-dal in the movie, but also how she still needs support from the people of her little hometown, whom she used to be ashamed of. The movie touches on some very important life lessons; my favorite one was "Don't let the negativity in your life overshadow the positive things."
Even in the worst times, if you look hard enough, you will find more things to be happy about than miserable about. Until darkness – which is ephemeral – the light in your life will linger.
Watch "Welcome to Samdal-ri" on Netflix today!