Oh My Ghost (2015) Korean Drama First Impressions

Oh My Ghost (2015) Korean Drama First Impressions

 a New tvN Korean Drama Oh My Ghost / 오 나의 귀신님 First Impressions

Hello. This is Prof. AKIA and I have a question for you.

Do you believe in the supernatural?

I am asking is because I want to talk about “Oh My Ghost” (2015), a new Korean drama. For those who are new, I talk about Korean dramas on akaitalking.com and Korean movies on kmovietalk.com.

Within the modern TV drama world, the urban fantasy genre has crafted a decent niche for itself. Examples in American TV includes shows such as “Supernatural”, “True Blood”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Grimm”, and even “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. Since I have just listed out some vampire shows also, I do think I have to mention that urban horror should be differentiated from urban fantasy even though there is some overlap.

Well considering the popularity of Vampires now, there is a lot of overlap

Among the many differences, a major one is that fact that “horror” tends to be far more acceptable to audiences than “fantasy.” Even Vampires are more acceptable than fantasy!

Don’t ask me since it will take a long time.

For the industry, the urban fantasy genre is attractive because, by setting the show in the present or near present, you could do supernatural / fantasy stories without all the world building required by a show set in the more traditional fantasy genre setting.  It also helps that the production cost of an urban fantasy show is lower since you can buy stuff off the rack.

At the same time, there is a hurdle for the audience since there is an inherent sense of goofiness to actually seeing the fantastic side by side with the modern such as technology. Audiences are more forgiving of seeing a dragon in the middle ages than in downtown Seoul. 

That is why, even in America, the urban fantasy genre is more of a niche genre.

“M” (1994) 

Korean Urban Fantasy
For a long time, Korean audiences were not really ready to accept urban fantasy in their TV shows. Prior to the 2000s, fantasy was mostly set in the past and even those leaned more towards horror. The show “M” (1994) starring Shim Eun-ha was more or less the first mainstream Korean drama that could be seen to have urban fantasy elements. However, it was still more of a horror show.


Over the years, more and more period Korean dramas attempted to include more fantasy elements. Because of this, some may say that most Korean historical dramas now are fantasy shows. There was also some progress made on the urban fantasy end of Korean dramas although somewhat slower. 

 “Thousand Years of Love /천년지애“ (2003)

In many case, Korean dramas tended to walk the line by creating hybrid urban fantasy shows. This entailed making shows that is part period fantasy such as “Thousand Years of Love /천년지애“ (2003).  Another more current trend is to make “stop-gap” urban fantasy shows which introduce supernatural elements as a gimmick into a standard Korea drama. Examples of the latter include “I Hear Your Voice” (2013), “Who Are You” (2013), and even “The Master's Sun” (2013).

You can see that, as time goes by and more and more shows introduce supernatural elements, the Korean audience is becoming more accepting of the urban fantasy genre. To be honest, “The Master's Sun” (2013) did lean pretty strong on the urban fantasy. Even 2013’s big Korean drama hit “My Love From Another Star” (2013) was more of a urban fantasy show than a sci-fi show if you think about it.

2013 was a great year for the urban fantasy genre in Korea.

Personally,  I think “49 Days” (2011) was the first hardcore urban fantasy Korean drama. In the scope of TV dramas as a whole, “49 Days” (2011) was not unique as it creatively borrowed from American and Japanese dramas a lot. However, by combining those borrowed elements with Korean melodrama successfully, I think it laid the framework of what future urban fantasy shows would look like in Korea at least those more drama focused.

I am excluding vampire shows from this as they have a life of their own.

As if to confirm this thought, the new Korean drama, “Oh My Ghost” (2015), is very reminiscing of “49 Days” (2011) in more ways than one.

The Plot
Up to the point of this article, two episodes of this show have aired and the plot goes thusly. You have a female “virgin” ghost who refused to go into the light because she died as a “virgin”.

A standard trope albeit a gender flipped one in case of this show.

Because of this unfinished business, she goes around possessing hot females to seduce men but fails constantly to seal the deal. While she has no problem possessing the females, all the men just collapse before they get down to business. Her presence just saps the life out of the men.

First “49 Days” (2011) similarity check!

This ghost is constantly pursued by a “mystic” who is tasked to manage the lost souls on earth. The mystic is interested in her because of the whole “leaving a ton of collapsed men in her wake” thing. Also, the ghost is rather unique because she has lost her memory which the show tells us is not common.

Second “49 Days” (2011) similarity check!
Third “49 Days” (2011) similarity check!

One day, the ghost bumps into a “living girl” who seems deader inside than the ghost is. The girl is haunted by the fact that she is somewhat able to see ghosts or something in that area. 

“The ghost” possesses “the girl” to get out of a hairy situation and gets stuck inside the girl.

Fourth “49 Days” (2011) similarity check!
Fifth “49 Days” (2011) similarity check!

So, the ghost ends up masquerading as the girl who works in a restaurant under a handsome and famous chef.

Of course!
Now we know that this is a Korean drama!

Do I think that Oh My Ghost’s  (2015) similarity with “49 Days” (2011) is a bad thing?

My answer would be no! Being similar to the standard-ish framework of a genre is not necessarily a bad thing. Also, it is not like “Oh My Ghost” (2015) has nothing new to offer. For one, “Oh My Ghost” (2015) is more of a comedy than 49 Days” (2011) which was more of a straight drama with a heavy Japanese drama vibe to it. Both the ghost and the mystic are comedic characters in this show.  Kim Seul-Gi /김슬기 who plays that ghost is pretty good with being wacky without it coming off as being irritating. This is her first major leading role in a Korean drama.

Kim Seul-Gi /김슬기

This casting is interesting since this type of actress is made more for a supporting role.

I am not sure about “the girl” played by Park Bo-Young /박보영since her character came off as flat. Because of the nature of her character, I cannot totally blame the actress since character of the girl is not really meant to come to life at this point in the story. However, Lee Yo-Won who played a similar role in 49 Days” (2011) was at least interesting to watch as a figurative zombie which is not the case in “Oh My Ghost” (2015). 

In addition, even when Park Bo-Young had more to do as “The girl” possessed by “The ghost”, it feels more like she is doing a bad imitation of Kim Seul-Gi. This many change in future episodes, but, at the moment, I am not confident with her abilities.

As a side note, Park Bo-Young /박보영starred in a recent Korean movie called “The Silenced “(2015). “Oh My Ghost” (2015) is also her first major leading role in a Korean drama. I did not make the connection before googling her name. Oddly this, not recognizing actors in Korean dramas whom I saw in Korean movies, is happening a lot to me.

I wonder why…

The biggest thing that impressed me about “Oh My Ghost” (2015) is that I believed the world being created by the show which does not happens much when Korean dramas do fantasy. I cannot put my finger on exactly why I react this way as the world building in the show is not objectively spectacular although the show does make an effort which is more than most Korean dramas do. I think the effort made by the show and the genre elements made already familiar by shows that came before like “49 Days” (2011) pushed the show over the top for me.

As a side note, Shin Eun-Kyung also stars in this show as the male lead character’s mother.

How the mighty have fallen...

“Oh My Ghost” (2015)  is odd in that the actors playing mother and son only has a seven year difference in real life. The drama tries to force this through by reducing the age of the male lead character by about 5 years and aging Shin Eun-Kyung’s character by 9 years in comparison to the actors playing them. However, it is still weird because Shin Eun-Kyung looks like she is in her late 30s. She could play “Her son’s” older lover in this show.

Insert incest jokes here!

I would have to say that “Oh My Ghost” (2015) is an interesting attempt at doing an urban fantasy Korean drama. The worst thing about the show is the title which is basically copying the Japanese manga title, “Oh My Goddess” which leads to weird title translations such as “Oh My Ghostness.” I do not think “Ghostness” is actually a word.

Is Ghostness a word?
Where is my dictionary…

“Oh My Ghost” (2015), while feeling like a “49 Days” (2011) clone sometimes, is still different enough to prevent this from feeling like a sin.

The whole incest vibe is a separate thing,

I am not sure that the show will unfold without falling down on its face but I am willing to give it a try. I am going to place this show at the top of shows that “are generally good with no serious issues but not great”. Thus, I give it a B+ grade.

Score: B+ or 7.5 /10

This was Prof. AKIA and thanks for reading my review.

So, thanks for visiting during office hours. My name again is Prof. AKIA. Do not forget to comment, share! Thanks. Now please get out.
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