The World That They Live In

  • Title: 그들이 사는 세상 / The World That They Live In
  • Also known as: Worlds Within……
  • Genre: Romance
  • Episodes: 16
  • Broadcast network: KBS2
  • Broadcast period: 2008-Oct-27 to 2008-Dec-16
  • Air time: Monday & Tuesday 21:55


This drama is about the process of a television drama producton. Jung Ji Oh(Hyun Bin) is a charismatic drama PD whereas Joo Joon Young(Song Hye Kyo) is a PD who is direct and confident.

Take two of the most gorgeous and arguably most talented actors from the land of Korea. Add an intriguingly unusual storyline, a compelling title, and a stunningly beautiful setting.

What do you get?

One of the most soulless, blank, boring pieces of media I’ve ever seen. I had as high hopes/expectations for The World That They Live In as most of Korea, and like most of Korea, the same reaction after watching it. For many people, their boredom/disatisfaction with World crept up slowly, almost without them realizing it; they had to watch several episodes or more before coming to the saddening and baffling realization that they were bored almost out of their minds. For me, it took a shorter time; approximately one episode.  I started watching, with full expectations of enjoying it immensely, or at least of a sharply-cut, fast-paced drama, and about halfway through, realized dimly that I wanted to turn it off and do something else. Dismissing this as some weird aberration, I kept watching, but when that episode was over didn’t go on to the next one. Coming back to it later, I started the next one, then skipped around a bit through the third – then stopped. I realized that, quite simply, I was bored – and not just mildly bored. Deathly bored.

I’m not quite sure how to describe exactly what’s wrong with Worlds Within; I’ve never seen anything like it before. But it seems dry and clinical; the drama itself doesn’t seem to care about its characters, or if it does, to care about them only in a distant, objective way, and when a drama doesn’t care about the characters, it’s hard for an audience to. The point of view of the drama feels panoramic and, as I said before, clinical – it’s as if the characters are test subjects which the camera is watching for a case study; with care for their well-being and an eye for detail, but no real warmth, emotional depth, or concern. These aren’t human beings; they’re far too – blank – for that. That’s how I’d describe the drama as a whole – blank, and soulless. As much as I want to care about the characters, and to be interested in what they’re saying, doing, and experiencing – and I did want to, very much – I simply can’t, and I”m not. There’s simply nothing there to hold onto. I’m not sure whether Song Hye-Gyo was simply miscast, or having a (long) series of bad acting days, or whether it’s the way her character was written(I suspect mostly the last and a bit of the first two) but she is stiff and unconvincing and seems tired – mentally or emotionally checked -out – most of the time. There’s none of her shining appeal, her fragility and luminous beauty from Autumn Tale or her verve and vim from Full House. She walks around like a ghost of herself, and much the same applies to Hyun Bin; there’s no substance behind his performance. He, like Hye Gyo, seems to have simply wandered on set and decided to perform a set of prescribed motions and words without having any real idea what or why he’s doing it, and certainly without believing in it. Again, I’m not sure whether to blame him or the writers/directors more; but one thing I’m sure of – the two leads got a raw deal with their characters. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to root for/care about Ji Oh and Joon Young whoever played them.

The drama has other problems too. In the first few episodes of the series at least, the plot and conversations are highly confusing; it switches abruptly from scene to scene and character to character, often starting in what feels like the middle of a scene, without explaining the background or who these people are. The pace is uneven; it speeds up when it should be slow, confusing the audience(or at least me) and then slows down for the boring parts, the “emotional”(what passes for emotion) conversations. Moreover, very little seems to happen – and this occurs on a constant basis.

Ultimately, however, the problem isn’t what Worlds Within is. It’s what it’s not – what it lacks. And what it lacks is heart. After only an episode and some of a combination of all these flaws/problems/lacks, I checked out, and I suspect that’s the case for most of its viewers( it currently has very low – and dropping – viewing ratings). Because after all, that’s why we watch dramas to begin with; they have such a combination of heart and emotional depth. I won’t give this drama an official rating, as I didn’t really watch it, but I can’t say that I recommend it.


7 Responses

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed watching The World That They Live In. This drama is refreshing and contrary to some, it has depth and raw emotions. Objectively, the individual characters did their best, worthy of praise and are awesome.

    The drama is very much comparable to a wider (global) audience, we can relate to the synopsis and a welcome change. We live in the western world and we see hope in Korean dramas. We can’t understand why the actors are being compared to their previous dramas, why did they not do this and why not that? Each drama is suppose to be unique of the other- one way or the other. It’s sad.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Ed. You’re right about the plot(i.e. drama PDs) being a welcome change; I was just disappointed in how they handled that. But I’m glad someone else is enjoying it and, as I said, this is just my personal opinion – everyone’s free to have their own.

  3. I loved it!!! The acting – great. The story – very interesting. The swtars – GEORGOUS.

  4. In my opinion it was a good drama, but not that excellent though. I appreciate song hye gyo’s acting here. i think it is unfair for us to compare her performance in this drama with her other characters in autumn tale and full house. she may not look that glamorous in here and may act a bit rough at times but I believe it is because she is playing her character as a director who obviously does not have the luxury of time to make herself look beautiful and is in charge of so many things in the set that’s why she needs to exude that aura of being demanding and tough. It is good to see her show a different facet of her acting skill showing that she can also be tough and doesn’t need to be looking cute and pretty all the time. as for hyun bin it actually my first time to see him act but I do like him, although he could be really cheesy at times, still like him when he’s breaking down.shows his depth as an actor…

  5. i loved this drama. Unlike dramas like boys over flower it actually had a realistic viewpoint of life and love. it was somewhat of a refreshing drama because of the characters real emotions and without the stupid fake looking love scenes. To me the characters actually looked as if they were in love and their emotions with what they were doing was somewhat real which is hard to find in korean dramas. There might be dramas that are more popular such as boys over flowers but those drama have no real depth no real emotion the characters and actors have no chemistry and dont even know how to kiss…. this drama was amazing

  6. Same with you ambergold. I totally can’t enjoy this drama, soooo boring. I’ve watched many korean dramas and this is the worst, can’t bring myself to finish watching, its’ a struggle..

  7. Best korean drama I have ever seen so far. Definetly not for average-drama viewers. Definetly not catered to demographic that easily amused.

    strong characters, meaning dialogues, and I respect its story that (finally) brought something more than just cliche.

    Hail to the director, screenwriter, actors and actresses. well done.

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