So…some of us might have heard about SBS’s variety show Law of the City back in April when the cast traveled to New York. The program caught my attention because Baek Jin-hee is one of the cast included in the lineup and yeah, I adore her to bits. I tried searching for any information about it on the internet but it was basically nonexistent, probably because the only the first two episodes have been aired and there’s no news about any subbing team picking up the project to be subbed. I thought that it’s good for a change to follow a variety program closely and watch the bubbly Jin-hee displaying her charms onscreen, so I’ve decided to provide a summary of the show. Plus, it’s going to take place in New York, a place where I’ve never set foot on even once, so it’s probably going to be a virtual travel for me.
Episode 1 (11.06.2014)
Sung Si-kyung is the narrator of the show with his silky voice and the opening remark describes how Seoul is a city familiar to the cast, with everyday life taking place almost unnoticed. But then, what will happen if the familiar people and the familiar setting suddenly disappear, only to be replaced with new environment, what will change for them? How does people of the city live? Among the hundreds of cities around the world (Kuala Lumpur spotted in the list!), the most popular and the busiest city where it’s everyone’s dream to live in, New York is the mega city for everything. And we get the cast giving their own opinion about New York:
Baek Jin-hee: Ah, this is my first time going to America!
Jung Kyung-ho: Wah, I’ve never went to New York even once..
Lee Chun-hee: I really want to go to New York. I’ve never been there.
Kim Seung-soo (the Seoul bumpkin LOL): There’s a lot of movies that use New York city as the background.
They start listing some of the famous scenes in the series which took place in NYC: the characters were seen holding coffee in one hand while hailing for the yellow cab with the other one in Sex and the City and living in the apartment like Chandler and Monica did in Friends. Yeah, everything seems so flashy and dreamy from the movies and series’ point of view, but what will happen if they are to live in the city instead of simply the tourists?
And the preview for the things they will face soon: the fact that they will start their life in NYC from scratch = no money in their hands, even their own money, so that gives them the chance to start from zero. It’s kind of funny to see them running for their life on their way to work and Jin-hee wondering if she might get fired for being late.
First Question: Where do they live in the city?
Of course, they only think of the luxurious, high-rise building the people in the movies live in but the place they are staying at is quite different from what they have imagined before..not once they have thought that they will be staying in a warehouse that’s not quite a residence, where there’s nothing. Forget the dream of sleeping on beds, the floor are the only thing prepared for them. They have to do everything themselves, including decorating their house, leading to intense search for usable things and makeshift furniture. Chun-hee got the stinky luck when he chanced upon a pile of animal poop (hopefully) in the midst of the search. Is this the return of the Chunderella?
Second Question: How do they live in the city?
So…they have to earn their living by their own means, so they start making their very own resumes (including Jung Kyung-ho’s “Korean Super Star Looking for a job in Brooklyn”) and accepting the jobs advertised around the block, such as babysitting, dog sitting, and grocery shopping. That’s not all: woodwork, working at a restaurant and taking the job as barbers, they seem to try all kinds of jobs, no matter how menial those jobs are. From the small salary job, they will move on to the mainstream jobs (with interviews!) like working at a cafe, in a company, and working in the fashion business. Jin-hee even finds out that she resembles a main character during a visit to an animation studio (?).
Of course, all of them will have the opportunity to show their everyday image, perhaps a tad different from what we’ve seen on the television (or any type of screen, if you like). Kyung-ho, the Paksa we knew from Heartless City, is actually a man who is persistent in bargaining with the PD and has grown comfortable living by himself. I was laughing so much when he cries “I’m hungry! Please~” probably during a job hunting session and urges the boss to hug him. I totally lost it when he forgot what OK is in English. He’s the latest bluechip in variety, Jung Kyung-ho.
Next, the happy virus Jin-hee. She seems to be positive in everything she does and passionate in her job, enough for her to sacrifice her make-up in order to get to work on time. That’s some dedication, especially for an actress like her! She’s the youngest on the show but in real life, she’s the oldest to her two younger sisters, so she’s used to life of taking care of another people, as shown where she’s drying Kyung-ho’s hair. Awww. The maknae is the one managing the money in the NY Family’s household and she takes her role seriously. The relentless maknae mother of the family, Baek Jin-hee!
Jin-hee says that Chun-hee is her dream husband and his response: “Oppa has a wife.” LOL. Oh God, he’s a ttal-pabo who’s crazy over his cute little daughter Soyu. Forget the Chunderella you saw in Family Outing back then, Chun-hee is now a reliable man! He’s good at fixing things (the magic is in his hands?) and thinks that he’s become a true New Yorker. Ah, he wants to bring his family along if he can. The New York Daddy Lee Chun-hee, now more reliable and dependable..although his Chunderella stint does come out once in a while.
The big brother of the group is the NYC expert Kim Sung-soo: he seems to know everything about the city, except that his English skills are somehow minimal (the best English phrase he knows? “What’s your name?”) and he’s kind of worried on how to survive there. Ahaha! He thinks getting more friends from overseas will help him to improve his language skills. Chun-hee says that Sung-soo seems to be a man of few words but he’s actually a cool man.
Then, there’s a young man whose English is good, and he’s also part of the NYC Family: Royal Pirates’ lead vocalist and guitarist Moon. He’s stayed in Los Angeles for almost 11 years but he has never been to NYC even once. His English skills are going to be a big help for the family and that also means getting the attention of the women. LOL Chun-hee and Kyung-ho are so jealous of him, who gets to share his contacts through SNS with the girls. Moon-sanova? Hehehe!
Last but not least, the Angels aka Helpers for these poor souls in NYC: Ailee and John Park, the true New Yorkers. They help the NYC Family to get through the difficult days there since they are used to the place. I find it interesting that the singers in the group are those who possess decent English while the actors are clueless most of the time. What will happen to them?
The third and last question: Why do they live in the city?
It’s not simply going to live and eat in the city of NY but to get to see the real life of the citizens of NY, including getting to know Harlem’s law of society, practicing the law of vitality among the Yankees and the Central Park runners, and the law of life and death from a fellow Korean immigrant’s loss in 9/11 attack. Through thick and thin and the time spent together, they will get to know the law of the city, and let’s begin the real journey with them!
Episode 1: When the Seoulites become the New York people..
They held a meeting to gather the cast together two weeks before they leave for NY and the first person to arrive at the meeting place is Lee Chun-hee. Jung Kyung-ho was the second and they seemed to be close…oh yeah, they worked together in the drama Smile, You (2009) and they’re under the same management company! Big hyung Kim Sung-soo arrived shortly after and he knew Chun-hee from working as models before. Kyung-ho seemed to be so cautious as he’s not familiar yet with him and Sung-soo pleaded him to make himself comfortable. LOL it couldn’t be helped since he’s the maknae there!
After a little confusion over the camera angle, in which Sung-soo thought that they weren’t allowed to move around and the PD explained that there were many cameras to capture their faces, they started to discuss about the other cast. Sung-soo had done his research: he looked on the internet and Jin-hee was going to join them, but then he started to throw some random names (just to mess with his hoobaes) like Lee Seon-kyun and Choi Yeo-jin. He even made a call to Choi Yeo-jin, leading her to make a surprise love confession to Kyung-ho. Oh God, they’re having a good time teasing Kyung-ho, hinting his girlfriend’s name (while SNSD’s song Run, Devil Run playing on the background) and finally, he just said that he liked both his girlfriend and his Yeo-jin noona. Aigoo, Chun-hee was grinning widely since he used to work with Sooyoung in Dating Agency Cyrano 😛
Suddenly, there’s a knock on the door and instead of Yeo-jin, a young man appeared..and no one recognized him. Aww. He introduced himself as Royal Pirates’ Moon and Sung-soo was curious about his name (because moon/mun means door in Korean). His full name = Kim Moon-chul, stage name = Moon. He’s technically a newbie in the entertainment industry since his band debuted in August last year and it was his first variety show. He’s the maknae among the guys (Sung-soo’s 41, Chun-hee’s 35, Kyung-ho’s 30, and Moon’s 25) and Kyung-ho seemed to be relieved to hear that Moon was good in English. The big hyung suddenly asked his million-dollar question to him: What’s your name? Oh my, he’s not going to go around the city later asking only that question, isn’t he?
Moon thought that they would need English names and they entrusted him with the task to choose one for each of them. Sung-soo got Kevin and they teased him for being the old, 42-year-old (Korean age) Kevin instead of the young Kevin in Home Alone. Chun-hee was given the name Scott and Sung-soo thought that Spock suited him better (while pulling Chun-hee’s ears to resemble that Star Trek character). Kyung-ho was anticipating his own English name…and Moon decided that he should be called Jack (and the Beanstalk. Kekeke). They introduced themselves with their new names and Kyung-ho’s name was the weirdest: Jack Jung, which could be mistaken as Baekjeong (the word means butcher in Korean or in the classic setting, refers to the outcasts, so that explains the Chuno OST playing in the background).
In the middle of their conversation, the last member appeared…the only girl and the youngest (24), Baek Jin-hee. The oppas introduced themselves with their new names ans Kyung-ho was the only one hesitant to say his own. When he said it, the rest laughed out loud and the sad Chuno theme played again while the poor Jack was drowning in his sea of bean sprouts. Hahaha! Since Jin-hee didn’t have her English name yet, Moon chose the name Emma for her.
So…we get five eager entertainers ready to go to New York (they were still in the dark about Ailee and John Park becoming their helpers there later) but before that, the PD explained the rules, for instance: they would start their lives in NY from zero. Of course, they started to wonder if they won’t be given a house too and Kyung-ho thought that they should be given a house. Chun-hee tried to ask for three-day guarantee, then Jin-hee suggested for one week…and Kyung-ho was like, “Let’s just make it ten days then.” He bargained with the PD, asking for a house and a meal per day. LOL he would be so useful during market day!
The PD gave them the chance to voice out their own opinions about the house matter and Chun-hee listed out several possibilities for them, such as signing a lease contract before leaving for NYC or deferred payment for the house to stay. Moon agreed with their opinion on securing a house, but he’s also longing for the experience of surviving the big city, being the young guy he is. Jin-hee sided with him, thinking that suffering together in their survival was something she would like to do. The hyungs were surprised with the brave hearts of the maknaes and Sung-soo asked about their blood types. It turned out that the two maknaes were Type O while the three hyungs were all Type B. They’re so going to have some problems later…
The PD further explained about their trip after signing the consent form, about they would be earning their living by their own effort ( including the working visa and other stuff) , plus the production team had been briefed about what they were going to face there and made the needed preparation. They were given a big luggage each to be filled with whatever they thought should be brought along with them to NYC. Two weeks passed by in a blink of an eye and with the ample time for preparation, they were ready to fly~
They were scheduled to depart on 1st of April and they arrived at the airport with their black luggage. Jin-hee was clearly the little dongsaeng, taking group pictures and showing her excitement. They faced a small problem when their luggage exceeded the weight limit. Anyway, they bid goodbye to their managers and boarded the plane with anticipation. They spent the fourteen-hour flight with reading, looking at the maps, sleeping, eating, and stretching. Finally, they reached their destination, New York City!
The first thing they spotted outside JFK Airport was the yellow cab and they were so excited like little kids that even the yellow school bus was something new for them! Sung-soo the tour guide of the family pointed out the famous baseball stadium Citi Field and the high rise buildings such as Freedom Tower, Chrysler Building, and Empire State Building. They were heading towards Manhattan and the driver told them about the history of the Queensboro Bridge that they saw along the journey. They also passed through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel which crosses under the East River. Chun-hee wondered if it was safe to have such bridge but rest assured, the mitigation plan was constructed well in case of any incident! Their car entered Manhattan and they passed by Times Square, to their excitement.
The clueless souls were still in the dark about their house and guessed that they would be staying close to the big city, while they were moving further and further from the buildings. They grew nervous, wondering where they were heading to but the Brooklyn Bridge and the Status of Liberty managed to distract them for awhile, but they returned to their initial nervous state when they realized that they were entering Brooklyn. Moon tried calling the real estate number advertized on a building but the contract was only limited for yearly one, not to mention the expensive rent.
The surrounding changed into what resembled an industrial area, with stacks and factories seen around the area. They reached their soon-to-be-called home, and to their surprise, the place looked like a warehouse. The place, situated in Greenpoint, was specially chosen by the production team to represent the real life of the humble citizens instead of the luxurious apartments with swimming pools. Well, time to get a grip of reality, people! The large industrial elevator they rode to go to the the third floor, where they would be staying. They got the water and electricity running, so it won’t be a big problem for the time being!
After handing over their belongings, including all the money, credit cards, and personal phones, they were given new phones and a notebook to be used over the course of their stay there. The adventurous maknaes took the time to go to the fourth floor and they found an empty (and somehow creepy) floor but with a nice bathroom. The hyungs explored the room next to their ‘house’ and the space turned out to be the production team’s hotel (and the crews were seen sleeping on the floor). So, they’re all going to live there together! The bathroom on the third floor seemed decent but it’s a unisex bathroom that’s going to be used by 40 people living in the same building. Nice~
Chun-hee went to check the sink and found out that only cold water was available. On top of that, it was a portable sink that had to be refilled and emptied when the containers were full. Jin-hee was still wandering around the fourth floor and found the rooftop, where the Manhattan skyline was visible. Ah~ at least the scenery was breathtaking! They decided to do the cleaning for their new home (after ‘buying’ the wood planks they saw on the rooftop from the owner )but the only thing they had was Moon’s mini sweeper. It’s so small but Sung-soo decided to use it, squatting while sweeping the dusty floor.Maknaes Jin-hee and Moon headed outside to borrow the things needed for cleaning but it wasn’t easy since they weren’t in a residential area. They walked further and lucky them, they saw a gas station! Moon wanted to leave his small neck pillow for guarantee but the manager was very kind to let them borrow anything they needed.
Meanwhile, further exploration of the place by Chun-hee yielded a hidden floor mop and he went to soften the strings, but the tap water flow was too weak. He looked around…and saw the toilet bowl. Really? He dipped the mop into the bowl and continued to rinse it with the flushed water since the water in the tank was clean. Well, that was logic but I won’t do so in a frequently used toilet…They finished the cleaning and made cloth lines to hang their clothes, but something was missing: a place for Jin-hee to change clothes. Luckily, the thoughtful Chun-hee brought along with him a small tent for her but it was a translucent tent. LOL in the end, they settled down with another layer of sheet to cover it.
Their next agenda was to gather what they had brought from Korea which might be useful to them during their stay there. From things that could be sold (Jin-hee’s clay dolls, Chun-hee’s woodwork, and Moon’s signed CD), daily necessities (portable burner, all sorts of tools, Kyung-ho’s food steamer, kitchen towels, and rubber gloves), to expensive groceries (rice, ramyun stock, several types of banchan, and canned food). Sung-soo was the last one to bring out his share of food supplies and they were all expecting something precious…except that his turned out to be sticks of rice cakes and almond. LOL but he insisted that the food would be useful soon!
Among their items were two wooden rectangular things that looked familiar…and they were Chun-hee’s, who shared his fearful experience during high school: someone put a rat inside the vending machine and he’s still traumatic about the whole experience. Awww, poor Chun-hee! That’s why he brought along those mouse traps with the hope to prevent the rats from snooping around…but then, would there be any rat around that neighbourhood?
The night came and it’s time for dinner, their first meal in NYC. They decided to cook the rice cakes using the steamer while Chun-hee was admiring the new kitchen table. He put his mouse trap on the floor when suddenly, it snapped. Luckily he didn’t get hurt! Amidst the excitement of cooking their dinner, they realized that the steamer wasn’t working properly and Chun-hee pointed out that the voltage there was lower than Korea. At that rate, the rice cakes would take a while to be cooked. The rice cakes were pretty hard but the hungry Chun-hee chose to chew one, with Moon following suit. Chun-hee was definitely starving since he eagerly suggested for them to eat the canned whelks but Sung-soo thought that they would soon run out of food if they eat everything. Cautious hyung lost to his dongsaengs who insisted eating it. Ah, the heart of the eldest who had so many things to be worried about, while the maknaes were only thinking about the food.
They decided to eat only one can of whelk mixed with the red pepper paste (gochujang) while waiting for the rice cakes to be ready and finally, it’s done! Resident chef Sung-soo showed them how to make almond whelk ddeok that tasted like real ddeokbokki. Kyung-ho then said that the chewy combo of ddeok and whelk with the hard almond made his jaw hurt. He wished to buy chicken breast on the next day, but Sung-soo predicted that the easy-to-cook ddeok would be their staple meal for about three days. Really?! Kyung-ho was already crying that his tummy was still hungry, how could they last for a few days eating the same meal?
It’s bedtime and they tried to block the cold wind from entering through the windows but it was still cold, not to mention that they had to sleep on the floor in their sleeping bags (I would be freezing at that instant). Jin-hee adorably wished that she could sleep on a nice comfy bed while the guys prepared to go to sleep. Suddenly, the production team dropped by to give them the styrofoam mats so that they won’t be that cold through the night. With Moon wrapping up his first day in a variety program, Sung-soo sighing about his skin condition, Chun-hee trying to escape reality by dreaming about his home (but Kyung-ho curtly reminded him that they had to hunt for food instead of dreaming), and Kyung-ho’s wish to earn money as soon as possible, the day came to an end…