A must read, if you don't already know ...

Written by Funn Lim

"My favourite character is actually Han Tai Jun!"


Chinese Title
Ching Ding Da Fan Dian

Cast : Character
Bae Yong Joon: Shin Dong-hyuk/Frank (Shen Dong Xian)
Kim Seung Woo: Head Mgr. Han Tae-jun (Han Tai Jun)
Song Yun Ah: Mgr. Suh Jin-young (Xu Zhen Yin)
Song Hae Gyo: Kim Yun-hee (Jin Yun Xi)
Park Jung Chul: Cui Rong Qi
Choi Yong Min: Leo Park
Choi Hwa Jung: Manager Lee Soon Jung (Manager Li)
Hu Joon Ho: Manager Oh Hyung Man (Manager Wu)
Ha Jin Hee: President Kim Bock Man (Jin Fu Wan)
Kim Nah Rae: Jenny
Joo Hyun: The "deceased' President Choi (President Cui)
Yoon Yu Jung: Madam Choi-Yoon Dong Sook (Madam Cui Dong Suk)
Kang Young Suk: Xuan Jie (the bellboy that always followed Han Tae Joon)
Myung Gye Nam: Head chef Loo
Lee Gae Yin: Manager Yoo

No. of VCDS

Year of Production

Korean - dubbed/subtitles in Mandarin

There is a 3-song VCD-MTV out there for the 3 songs sung in this series. Frankly the songs are quite ok, I couldn't say memorable since I do not what the singer was singing about. If you're interested, you may download the MTVs here. Forgive me for the lack of titles as I do not

Love, hate, penitence and survival in the competitive world of hotel management with a difference; heart. Plenty of it. Service with a smile and a heart. Remember that; HEART. PLENTY OF IT.

It's Seoul, it's modern times and there is a big hotel which has seen glorious days under attack by an unseen but very well known power. The boss of the hotel, a man who believes in service with a smile and heart died all of a sudden, leaving the management of the huge hotel now in financial difficulties to his aged wife and a son who doesn't even quite cut it as a bell boy. And so the wife, Mrs Chairman as she is known wanted to invite a Mr Han Tai Jun to return to the hotel and work some of his ordinary man magic and save the hotel in process. The problem is nobody knows where he is, except for his ex-girlfriend who is still pining for him, a Manager at the hotel and a bubbly women, Shu Zhen Ying. She traveled alone, all the way to Las Vegas tracing his steps only to find him in a downtrodden place, without a decent job and living in with a 20 year old female delinquent. After some emotional misunderstandings, she realised the girl, Jenny was actually Tai Jun's dead professor's adopted child who was all alone and he was actually taking care of her and his lack of achievements is actually his very own choice. Zhen Ying had to work her magic, to bring him back but he refused, remembering the bitter past where a politician's wife accused him of sexually attacking her in the hotel bedroom she was staying in, though in actual fact she was the one who tried very hard to seduce him (and failed miserably as Tai Jun is an honest and honourable man). Driven out of Korea by scandals and by his mentor the boss who died not long ago himself, Tai Jun went to Las Vegas a disappointed and broken man. But Zhen Ying wanted nothing of that sort; she literally scolded him when she had the opportunity. Only after Jenny tangled in some nasty business with some local bad guys and Tai Jun got beaten up as a result, Jenny wanted to start a new leaf and to return to her roots. Tai Jun could only agree and went back to Korea with Zhen Ying and Jenny in tow.

Once back, things were not as rosy as Tai Jun had anticipated. Back stabbing by jealous fellow staff, and one stiff competition by a competitor who wanted the hotel simply because the woman he loved married the owner of the hotel, he had to deal with also bad tempered guests at the hotel, a love struck young girl who so happened to be the daughter of the competitor who wanted the hotel and worst of all, he could not reveal his love for Zhen Ying though Zhen Ying has been waiting for his return for 3 long years. When he could almost do it, a highly competitive, successful and desirable mysterious man by the name of Frank Shen Dong Xian appeared in Zhen Ying's life. He was actually the one entrusted by the evil Mr Jin to acquire the shares to the hotel at all costs and together with his trusty lawyer-sidekick, he stayed at the hotel even though everybody eventually knew of 2 glaring facts;

1. He is the one commissioned to take over the hotel and so he is hotel enemy no.1; and

2. more importantly, he is Tai Jun's competitor even in love as he was pursuing Zhen Ying herself whilst Zhen Ying became highly confused about her feelings for 2 men.

When Zhen Ying rejected his advances, Frank took it badly and decided to concentrate fully on his job at hand, even when Zhen Ying branded him a liar for lying to her and for using her in getting around the hotel though that was really unnecessary. Zhen Ying who is highly protective of Tai Jun snubbed Frank though she found it increasingly hard to not acknowledge his presence whilst Frank and Tai Jun entered into a manly competition in business; each knows why each is so eager to save/destroy the hotel and things became personal with Zhen Ying involved.

Through thick and thin, troubles and glories, rumours and facts, Tai Jun with gritted teeth went through it all for the love of the hotel, a promise to his dead boss and dying Mrs Chairman and to the staff at the hotel; he'll save the hotel no matter what.

Frank Shen who took a high risk gamble when he realisd work isn't as important as he thought it was learned that life is more than mergers and acquisitions and together with Tai Jun, a confused Zhen Ying and his new found compassion, he learned to give instead of take.

So, will all these lead to an extremely magnificent happy ending for all?

Questions Asked And Answered
What does Frank do for a living?
M&A which is not like selling insurance but Mergers & Acquisitions. I guess he is the guy who acquires companies. Whilst this series had been compared with Pretty Woman since Richard Gere's character has the same job as Frank, I find that's where the similarities end. For one, there is no prostitute in here.

How did Frank knew Zhen Ying?
In Las Vegas, Frank was eating in a restaurant when he heard a very angry customer complaining about the bad service, the customer being Zhen Ying. He was I guess captivated by her honesty, beauty and personality. Along the way he met her several times in Las Vegas and began to like this fiesty woman who would not take no for an answer.

How long did Tai Jun left Korea?
3 years.

What was his position in the hotel before he left?
I would guess senior manager, and he would have taken over the management of the hotel if not for that scandal. He was after all Mr Chairman's favourite "son". A prodigal "son" whose father worked in the same hotel years before.

Why Mr Jin so eager to buy the hotel?
Anger, jilted lover. Mrs Chairman was kinda with him when she kinda left him for his good friend, the Mr Chairman. In fact Mr Jin had no interest in developing the hotel; he wanted to get rid of it. Even the prospect of going to jail for dealing in illegal trading methods in buying the shares of the hotel didn't scare him at all. He just wanted to destroy the hotel.

So how did Tai Jun managed it all?
Classic. Through heart, plenty of it. Of course a few helped along the way. Remember that lady who tried to seduce him 3 years before? Well, she holds some major number of shares and instead of selling them to Frank for a big amount of money, she gave it to Tai Jun. GAVE IT TO TAI JUN because she felt guilty for all the problems she caused him. Quite a decent woman. And of course Frank had a change of heart.

What change of heart?
Zhen Ying's condition for loving him is for him to not take over the hotel for Mr Jin. Without such condition, sooner of later he would have let go of everything for Zhen Ying anyway and of course, his long lost baby sister, Jenny. Jenny couldn't believe her brother was the hated enemy of the hotel where she was working as a junior chef in training and she couldn't bring herself to look at him with love as Frank had hoped. She felt a certain loyalty for Tai Jun, and she resents the fact that Frank almost had Zhen Ying's heart. And so she was rather cold towards him but with some intervention by the reasonable Tai Jun and Zhen Ying, she decided to accept Frank as her brother. And so Frank decided to take the biggest gamble of his life to win back the love of Zhen Ying, the trust of his sister and the friendship of Tai Jun.

Friendship of Tai Jun? But they're enemies!
Not quite. Each admires each other for various reasons but to Frank, Tai Jun would make a very good and loyal friend. In fact it was Tai Jun who avoided such a prospect because well, there's still the problem of Zhen Ying.

Is Zhen Ying the only woman in this series?
Nope. There's a younger, prettier, richer and of course sulkier Yun Xi, the unhappy daughter of mega rich Mr Jin who was a chauvinistic pig in his treatment towards his only child. But Yun Xi with gritted teeth worked in secret at enemy's hotel as a waitress and expressed an interest in mainly 2 things;

1. hotel management. She wants to take over papa's business but papa said go get married. Took quite some time for her to convince him of course that she was all business and not 100% play;

2. Han Tai Jun. After she was rescued by him when she was almost raped by some drunken young men, she became enamoured with Tai Jun despite the huge differences in their age (she's 20, he is presumably mid or late 30s). She went all the way out, confessed her love many many times but Tai Jun had only one woman in his heart, though he can't deny his attraction for this young beautiful child-woman. In the end, nothing happened. Sadly.

So does Tai Jun love Yun Xi?
I would say yes but he doesn't quite realise it. One scene he looked at her and said he realises he likes her but due to their age differences and society's taboo, he can't take the relationship any further. If you don't like a girl, you won't say that.

So the ending?
Frank had to leave Korea as a condition for his freedom after nabbing Mr Jin in a highly dangerous cat and mouse game (I mean Frank himself is guilty of illegal trading but he was acting on orders), Zhen Ying didn't leave with him because of Tai Jun and when she finally realised Frank was the one she loved, too late, plane already flown. Yun Xi went abroad to study hotel management and well, hopefully something transpired off camera but on camera, Tai Jun and her remained cordial, polite, no hot romance or anything. Mrs Chairman succumbed to her illness and left the entire business to Tai Jun. Of course her son became a better person though still a lazy bum with really spiky hair. As for Frank and Zhen Ying, they got back together at last.

HAPPY ENDING. In a way. With HEART. Plenty of it.

I have heard a lot about Korean series, with the bombarding of Winter Sonata into the deeper recesses of my mind every day and Bae Yong Jun, Bae Yong Jun and more Bae Yong Jun. I wanted to watch a good Korean series, but having read some reviews of some really over the top love stories with one being blind, crippled or dead (in a happy way), I was skeptical; will Korean dramas turn up to be like Qiong Yau series? So my friends recommended me Hotelier. No one dies, at least not young people in their prime and whilst we get a fair share of diseases and tensions, nobody dies of some unfortunate freak accident or sisters falling in love with brothers, so to speak. The series is reasonably normal in length, 20 VCDs which is like watching a normal length TVB series. The story is frankly nothing remarkable. Luckily I didn't have to torture myself watching the original version, I watched the mandarin-dubbed version. I didn't know who is who, even when Bae Yong Jun appeared I was still clueless as to who the heck is this hottest Korean actor since...since I do not know who.

There is a certain joy in watching a series with people you do not know or has yet to be familiar with. Only then of course you open yourself to a whole new universe and suddenly you realise, there's more than TVB, ATV, TCS, Chinastar and Japanese series in this world. Right now Korean series is the in thing. One major reason why people love Korean series is because they focus on one subject and one couple. Unlike TVB series which tends to overblow the entire contents with explosions, threats and ten thousand women for one man, in Korean series we have one man (or max 2) loving one woman (or max 2) till death. We see a more monogamous kinda relationship. There's no hanky panky, even the kissing scenes are devoid of any romantic notions. No stripping off clothes, it's all love based on personality and knowing each other well.

So is this a good series?

In a way, and looking at it as a whole, a definite yes. It has some great moments, many funny moments and certainly loads of tender and sentimental moments. In fact this is a series with moments, connected to the story and yet you can appreciate it without associating it with the next scene. Everything happens for a reason and in that aspect, this series is very consistent in its flow of story and definitely, in the characterisation of certain key players, but of course not quite.

Everybody has their fair share of screen time, certainly one couple tends to have more, that is Frank Shen and Zhen Ying. The thing is whilst the whole world was fascinated by their love story, I wasn't. I find their love story interesting at first, but when Han Tai Jun posed no threat at all to their blossoming love and the entire series built on mergers and takeovers, frankly their love story becomes rather stale and bland. But as I do not know who the heck Bae Yong Jun is, I was left to wonder who will get the girl. Of course I made the mistake of reading some reviews and then the suspense was gone for me and when I realised how famous Bae Yong Jun is the whole suspense kinda disappear for me. Actually I should have known the ending would be as such; after all the VCD cover has two faces, one Bae Yong Jun smiling that famous smile of his and the actress, smiling sweetly.

So what about the story you may ask?

As I said, it's consistent but not entirely logical.

I do believe in the business of servicing people such as the hotel industry, a worker must be polite and helpful, all the time, like Zhen Ying and Tai Jun. But I do not believe any hotel would buy underwear or kneel before a guest to make these guest feel happy for staying at the hotel. I certainly don't see that in Malaysian or Singaporean hotels. Maybe only in Korea. In that sense it is illogical but not unreasonable as they are to show how dedicated these people are even when faced with such insults.

Whilst everybody hoped, prayed and cheered when Frank came back to Zhen Ying, I was a tad disappointed. I do believe in real life if Tai Jun were to say "Come back to me" a person like Zhen Ying would run to him. In TVB world, this would be the case and of course very boring in the end. But I was hoping Tai Jun ends up with somebody, even if the person is Yun Xi but that's not the case. I do believe Zhen Ying loves Tai Jun, I do believe she feels something for Frank. And I also believe if Zhen Ying were to be with Frank, when Tai Jun has a problem she would run to him. This is because they have this unbreakable bond. In a way the ending was apt but still, I was hoping for the boring ending for once.

As for the idea of a villain, you won't find one here except for one stubborn old man you could hate for the way he treated his daughter and the reason why he wanted the hotel, which is pretty lame and very unwise for a man who has made a fortune by making wise business decisions. Of course in the business of the heart, you can't always guarantee logical actions.

Last but not least, I was very disappointed at some characters which were more cartoonish than real. Like for example Tai Jun's rival Manager who did quite a lot of back stabbing, even opposed the appointment of Tai Jun and yet the Mrs Chairman never considered dismissing him. Certainly in the world of management, when one dissents for no apparent reason, some vote of no confidence must be given against such opposition? But not in here. Everybody tolerates him and I do not know why. Then they went on with how he fell for another supervisor, all of a sudden. That was illogical and very out of place. No reason, just love all of a sudden. Strange.

And of course the story of Mrs Chairman's son, with the spiky hair and all. Lazy bum but for love, he was willing to buck up. The thing is I was hoping he would create some problem for Tai Jun but in the end, he is just a love sick puppy. Whilst in TVB world he would have turned real bad, in here he is nothing more than a mild puppy. I find that disappointing because at the end of the day the problems posed to Tai Jun is really nothing personal, just business. If it had been an inside job, and inside spy, that would make this series even more interesting. The main focus of this series though is love or the inability to accept or confess love. Very narrow focus and not my cup of tea.

But that doesn't mean I hated it. Quite the contrary I quite liked it. Some of my favourites are ...

Most Favourite Couple
Strangely, I like Yun Xi and Tai Jun's segments because it's just so funny. Whilst Frank had the bubbly one, guess who had the young beautiful physically perfect being? Ahhhhhh...justice, sweet justice. Of course both girls had personalities to die for, NOT. Yun Xi is such a boring girl.

Most Favourite Scene(s)
Plenty. Not all Frank Shen's. I like the scene where Frank met his father. I love the scene where he looked at his sister, Jenny, the pain in his eyes when Jenny told him she disliked him and was ashamed that he was her brother by blood. I like the scene where Frank tried to make friendly conversations with Tai Jun and basically, Tai Jun was very rude. Gave one line answers only. I like the scenes where Zhen Ying scolded Tai Jun for everything. I like the scene where Yun Xi questioned Tai Jun on everything and then dropped the bomb; that she liked him. All except scenes between Zhen Ying and Frank and that Mr Jin scenes.

Most Favourite Character
I do like Zhen Ying who has personality like no other female heroines before. I can understand why two men would vie for her even with her messy appearance and temper.

A lot of my friends who watched this series fell in love with the cold, calculative, but loving and stylish Frank Shen. Quite a contradiction. He was that kinda man that most women would try hard to vie for since he is rich, successful and best of all hard to get. Imagine when he smiles at you and says he loves you, wouldn't you melt like Zhen Ying and thousands of women did when his smile is rarer than lightning striking you?

I didn't.

My favourite character is actually Han Tai Jun. He is honest, hard working, decent, loyal and yes yes yes, very indecisive when it comes to women. Why don't he just confess his love for Zhen Ying? Surely Zhen Ying would have run to him in a second. But he must have had his reasons; maybe with so much responsibilities at hand, a relationship is the last he would expect. I find him rather good looking in a very ordinary man sort of way. He is a man you could trust. But the funny thing is and the best thing about this series is things are not what they seem to be.

Funniest Scene
Yun Xi joined with his drunken friends in a hotel room. Somebody played a joke at and his clothes were a bit dirty. So he said he wanted to change his clothes. FINE. Then whilst changing, Yun Xi was sexually assaulted by his drunken friends, she was crying help and this guy, was from changing his clothes to... get this....drum roll please...WASHING HIS HAIR AND HAVING A FULL SHOWER! I mean that was so funny! And the of course Tai Jun came in and rescued the damsel in distress with Yun Xi, feeling refreshed from the shower stupefied as to what happened.

Worst Aspect
Frank is supposed to be Korean born but educated in America. Whilst Bae Yong Jun's voice is certainly very deep and quite pleasing to the ears, his poor grasp of English had me laughing in stitches. So much attention given to the details of management and yet very little on just a few lines of English.

And did I mention that every time they had dinner in the hotel, it's in this big hall that looks more like a ball room than a restaurant?

Best Aspect : A Study Of The Characters Of Two Men
Frank Shen started out as cold, calculative, arrogant. But in his pursuit of Zhen Ying, we know he believes in romance, he believes in revealing his feelings when he had to. He is a man who has no problems flirting with Zhen Ying, with teary eyes looking at his sister, silently begging for Jenny to accept him as his brother, very vocal in his love for Zhen Ying. This is a man who may look secretive, or even sometimes behave as one in business (more so when Zhen Ying rejected him, he went emotional overload and wanted the hotel to squash Han Tai Jun, after all he is just a jealous man) but in actual fact, you can read everything from his face. He has nothing to hide emotionally and his feelings is an open book.

Now we move on to Han Tai Jun.

He started out as exceedingly friendly, hard working, everybody tells him their problems and being less competitive than Frank, you would expect him to be more open with his feelings. And yet he is one secretive man. He doesn't get emotional, he looks downwards but his eyes fixed on you with his head tilted down when he is embarrassed and when he has nothing much to say. In fact Tai Jun has nothing much to say at all as opposed to Frank Shen. And yet when it comes to Frank Shen, he does get emotional but not in a big way. He just ignores you. That can be very annoying but Tai Jun made it very clear, what can be discussed and what can't be without even saying a word. His lack of emotional output frustrated Zhen Ying (and me) though many a times he would suddenly blurt out old memories and quietly told off Zhen Ying for revealing to people he likes chocolates when he likes chocolates because Zhen Ying used to give him chocolates during Valentine's day. He takes problems onto his shoulder, he doesn't reveal them nor share them, a quiet man and so a potentially loyal friend because he may not say much, he would compensate his lack of words with plenty of action.

Which is why I liked the fact that Frank wanted him as a friend. Frank's successful and all but had no friends except for one. Tai Jun could easily make friends because no one feels threatened when they're with him. In a way, Frank envied Tai Jun's ability to communicate with people in a level without revealing too much and Tai Jun's ability to make friends, and very loyal friends along the way. Tai Jun is humble whilst Frank learned to be humble. Tai Jun is a good man whilst Frank whilst a good man had to learn to give more than take. Tai Jun had his sister's loyalty without much question or hesitation on Jenny's part whilst Frank practically had to earn his way to Jenny's heart.

What Frank at last realised is you don't have to give to get back what you lost in equal portions. When at last he walked down the corridors of the hotel, he realised people were actually greeting him even when they all knew he was hotel enemy no. 1. He realised people are innately friendly. Why people turn the other way is because of his output. Tai Jun always treated others with respect, acknowledging everybody in his presence no matter how lowly ranking they may be whilst Frank didn't even stop to look. When he did, he realised he lost a lot of things and he suddenly understood why Zhen Ying and Tai Jun wanted to save the hotel, not for profit but because of the vision of the dead chairman and because of hundreds of jobs which could be lost by one angry man's whim and fancy. He could no longer serve such an unreasonable master and for once he understood the idea of giving in a small way is much better than taking in a major way. What's the use of money when at the end he losses his humanity and everybody else? By sacrificing a little, he gained not only the heart of a woman he loves, he gained back his sister and plenty of grateful friends.

Certainly the best aspect of this series.

Best Performances
Surprisingly everybody gave good performances with the exception of Bae Yong Jun (Frank Shen), Kim Seong Yu (Han Tai Jun) and Song Yun Erh (Shu Zhen Ying) who gave excellent performances. There's no over the top acting but more of restraint acting. One though stood out as a poor actress, that is Song Hye Kyo (Jin Yun Xi) who is pretty to look at and really nothing much in other aspects. That doesn't mean she isn't good, but she could have been better. Her character is angry, cold and frustrated, but frankly she sulked too much.

As for Song Yun Erh , for once we have a heroine who doesn't comb her hair or wear make up. She is so believably messy, so unremarkably unattractive in looks and yet 2 men vies for her heart for a very simple reason; her character is bursting with personality. Instead of expensive restaurants, her unofficial first date with Frank is a fast food restaurant. She is not flawless, she is not perfect, she is not afraid to show her flaws and like those 2 guys, you'll end up liking her and think of her as kinda cute too.

My favourite actor happens to be the guy who plays my favourite character, Kim Seong Yu where he gave a very controlled performance of a man who could blend into the background but not quite. He is charismatic, he is a very good actor and in a way he brings integrity and honour into Han Tai Jun, which is why I like his Han Tai Jun; you don't see this kinda man anymore. Of course you could hate him for being so indecisive when it comes to love, but who would go and woo a woman when faced with such huge responsibilities? I feel the actor handled all the emotional scenes well and in a way I feel Zhen Ying is much more relaxed when with him and less pretentious than when she was with Bae Yong Jun's Frank Shen.

Bae Yong Jun was not my favourite at first. I thought he tried so hard to be cool he seems rather pretentious. Girls swoon over the fact that when he smiles, he lights up the whole screen. The same compliment I gave Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame; when they smile all your worries disappear and all you're left with is this amazingly sincere and happy smile. Frankly I didn't feel that way with Bae Yong Jun. Maybe too fair for my taste, maybe acts too cool, maybe it's the way he walks where he swings left to right and right to left in a very unmanly and young-ish kinda way, in fact like Keanu Reeves. But later on I appreciated his acting, when he had to do emotional scenes like with his dad or his sister. But with Song Yun Erh's Zhen Ying, I feel nothing for their love. Maybe I am immune to romanticism, but then I am absolutely in love with Hugh Jackman's Leopold in Kate and Leopold. Maybe I just don't like him. Anyway, a competent performance deserving of all the swooning female fans.

The intro scenes are not theme song based but music based and the artwork is refreshingly different. The story was well paced at first, with interesting moments but after the 10th VCD, things get a bit draggy when things finally settles. And it picks up again towards the end but still is overly too long. It's not very well paced with moments where I just didn't feel like watching it anymore. In fact I stopped watching for quite some time, due to my busy schedule and mostly because I don't feel motivated to watch what I would term as seen that-done that series. However I must compliment the voice overs who did such excellent jobs. When the lips moves, the dialogue begins and when the lips stop, so will the dialogue. I do wonder how they all sound in real life but then the Korean language is such a difficult language to listen to; all sound the same to me.

Anyway, look at the length of my review. It could have been longer if I were to deal with the nitty gritty stuff. But let me get straight to the point;

I wouldn't mind watching more Korean series thanks to my introduction to Korean series by this what I would term as a very good series, short of brilliant series. Guys are rather ok looking, girls are exceptionally beautiful (all looks the same to me, long black hair, flawless skin which is why I appreciated the actress Song Yun Erh who looks messy enough to look different but when she wore the hotel uniform, I couldn't recognise her), beautiful sceneries and of course, nice soundtrack.

I don't think this series need my recommendation or my introduction. Just look at the girls swooning at Bae Yong Jun's face filmed at 45 degrees to the left with the sun shining on his face with a slightly crooked lips forming into what would be a beautiful smile and you'll realise how famous this series is. Put that aside, do give this series a try and I hope you'll like Han Tai Jun like those few odd people in this world like yours truly. After all if everybody loves Bae Yong Jun's Frank Shen, things would be a bit crowded don't you think?

A good

Interesting observation
Bae Yong Jun, Kim Yoon Hee, Jang Dong Gun ... Malaysians have names like Lim Chee Yung, Wong Mei Ling, Tan Yong Jin...see anything similar?


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