The beginning of this series made me cry my eyes out, so brace yourself for that. But honestly, it’s the time that this series takes setting up the principle characters’ history which made the show ultimately worth watching for me. Once the show progresses to present day, present time, all of the standard relationship drama tropes are there in full force, but I was already totally invested in finding out what happened to the little girl whose circumstances always tried to overpower and extinguish her optimism and best efforts. Don’t expect to see Choi Jung Won, Kim Jung Hoon, or any of the adult main cast until episode 4.
One thing I had to just accept about this drama is that everyone apparently has a family history and ambition to make designer hand-bags. Now since a lot of the families in this series are woven together at some point, that’s not quite as bizarre as it first sounds, but it was still a bit of a hurdle for me starting out. Just take as a given that everyone in this series has making handbags in their blood. It makes everything much easier.
The show starts out with Kim Soo Hyun playing child Eun Jung Soo. Jung Soo’s been living with her single parent mom, and has no idea whether they have any other famiy, or who her father is. Her mom has been sick off and on for a long time, but in typical-little-kid-fashion Eun Jung Soo doesn’t really expect anything to change. She just wishes her mom would go to the hospital or see a doctor more often, rather than just taking medicine. She tells her mom that she doesn’t need to know about her dad, if her mom doesn’t want to talk about it, because she’s perfectly happy the way they are. She can wait until her mom’s ready. When her mother dies though, she finds out her mom had cancer, and no one else knows who Eun Soo’s father is. Except maybe the father himself, but no one even knows if he’s aware Jung Soo’s mom has died.
Her maternal Uncle (Maeng Sang Hoon) comes to the funeral, and says it’s ok for her to come live with him and his wife and two kids. After they travel back to his house though, his family is already having trouble with loan sharks, and her aunt (Jun Soo Kyung) is totally resentful of having Jung Soo in the house. She says they are having enough trouble just feeding Jung Soo’s cousins. She won’t consent to having Jung Soo there permanently, and keeps insisting that there’s no reason to enroll Jung Soo in school or buy her clothes, because she won’t be there long. In her opinion, Jung Soo just needs to ‘fess up who her father really is. They’ll take her to him and let her be his problem.
Jung Soo’s cousin, Eun Kyung Hee (child Shin Soo Yun) is pretty resentful of having to share her room with a new person too. Plus her dad pays way more attention to Jung Soo than he does to Kyung Hee, or at least that’s the way Kyung Hee sees it. Never mind that her dad is actually trying to shield Jung Soo from some of Kyung Hee’s mom’s pettiness and anger. Jung Soo’s other cousin, Kyung Ho (child Jung Yoon Suk) is kind of a goofball and a screw up, and he doesn’t mind having Jung Soo in the house, but he’s also perfectly happy to let her take the blame with his mom if things go wrong, or he gets caught doing something he shouldn’t.
Jung Soo is the only kid home one day when the loan sharks show up and start wrecking the house. Jung Soo tries to defend her aunt by biting one of the thug’s legs. Mistaking her for the daughter of the house, the loan sharks say they’ll take her with them as collateral to make sure the debt gets paid. In one of her only redeeming moments of the series, the aunt does try to get Jung Soo back, but ultimately fails at even that glimmer of humanity. She’s trying to keep the loan shark’s car from leaving when sees Kyung Hee on the way back from school, and decides to just let the thugs take Jung Soo before they try to take Kyung Hee too.
Jung Soo manages to get away on her own, and runs down the road with the thugs in pursuit. She jumps out in front of Woo Do Young’s car (Kim Hye Sun), causing to Do Young to slam on the brakes. Jung Soo begs Do Young to save her, and Do Young lets her in the car. Fast forwarding a bit, when Do Young finds out how bad Jung Soo’s situation is, she offers to adopt her. The Aunt agrees, but extorts money from Do Young in return.
The adoption falls through when Jung Soo and Do Young are in a car accident together, and Do Young is seriously injured. Do Young’s husband, Kim Joong Wook (Kim Byung Se) doesn’t have the time or attention to care for an eight year old, since he expects to be at the hospital or work constantly. He tells Jung Soo that they will come back for her when (and if) Do Young gets better. Again the Aunt extorts money (from someone who’s on the verge of losing his wife no less) saying Jung Soo was as good as adopted, and she can’t afford to keep housing Jung Soo unless Joong Wook pays support. The first support payment gets delayed, and the aunt tells her husband that the couple has forgotten about Jung Soo. When the support payments start coming the month after (with an extra payment to make up for the missed one), she just neglects to tell him anything has changed.
Nine years later, Jung Soo (teen version) is still living with her aunt’s family, and writing to Do Young in America. Except that one day, years and years of her letters get returned as having the wrong address. Soon after, her aunt gets notice that Do Young has gotten better, and they would like to have Jung Soo sent to them in America. This is a problem, because the Aunt has treated Jung Soo this whole time like just a moocher off the family. The aunt’s taken all of the support money and put it in a college fund for Kyung Hee. If she sends Jung Soo to Do Young, she’ll have to say she was so frugal because she was saving the money for Jung Soo’s college expenses, and Kyung Hee won’t have any college money.
When the aunt finds out Do Young has amnesia from the accident, it seems like the perfect solution. She tells Do Young’s representative that Kyung Hee is Jung Soo, and pushes the paperwork for the adoption through by claiming that “Jung Soo” was just Kyung Hee’s childhood nickname. The aunt gets the uncle’s cooperation by telling him that if he doesn’t cooperate with her ruse, he’s condemning his own child in order to provide for his sister’s. Plus Jung Soo will still be with them, so it’s not like they’re turning her out on the street or anything. Do Young and Joong Wook adopt Kyung Hee and give her the new adoptive name Kim Seo Hyun.
The adult cast finally comes together when Joong Wook’s grandfather dies, and the whole family comes back to Korea for the funeral. Seo Hyun/Kyung Hee (adult version Son Eun Seo) is going to take an active role in the family business, working in collaboration with another company for a new line up of designer bags. Do Jin Hoo (Kim Jung Hoon) just happens to be the general manager of the other company. This is important, because it’s also the company where Jung Soo’s probable (?) long-lost father, Choi Soo Ho (Jun No Min) works.
In an attempt to get fresh ideas for the product line, the collaboration puts out a call out for new designer portfolios, and Jung Soo (adult version Choi Jung Won) applies, but has a hard time due to sabotage from her own family members who don’t want her to get the job. Seo Hyun’s ex-boyfriend Kang Min Ki (Park Yoon Jae) also works there, and to complicate matters even further, now that she’s back in Korea, Do Young’s memory is slowly starting to come back as well– which scares Seo Hyun to death. Seo Hyun/Kyung Hee has no real knowledge of the things that Jung Soo and Do Young did together at all.
This series can get a little opera-ish at times, but the background is so intricate and intertwined that it’s keeping me entertained anyway. Just to illustrate, I really tried to give a thumbnail of the basic setup in this review, and even with everything I left out, (including all of the designer handbag hijinks and the set up of Jung Soo’s possible father) the review is still really long. The beginning of this series completely hooked me, and as long as they keep it up, it should be a great watch.
Please support the Korean cast and crew by watching Her Legend at official sites. You can find it here:
Her Legend airs on JTBC in Korea on and is scheduled to have 20 episodes.