The Story of Park’s Contract Marriage: Why netizens stay hooked

Lee Se Young scintillates, Bae In Hyuk charms, and the chemistry is intense

The Story of Park's Marriage Contract (from VIU)

The Story of Park’s Contract Marriage
Starring Lee Se Young, Bae In Hyuk
12 episodes
Streaming on Viu

Avid K-Drama followers have seen the beautiful and seemingly ageless Lee Se Young play varied roles that display not only her thespic prowess but also her beautiful face so loved by viewers. It also helps that most of the dramas she has starred in were well written.

Her latest drama, the well-received and highly rated The Story of Park’s Contract Marriage (still streaming on VIU) ended several weeks ago, but netizens are still raving about it.

According to Nielsen Korea, the first episode of this fusion sageuk time travel series, earned 5.6 of audience share nationwide, making it the 8th most-watched show on Korean TV on Friday, and placing it in the #1 spot in its time slot. Streamed on VIU for international viewers, after this episode, it rated 9.4 out of 10 among its audience — leosigh.com

Based on a webtoon, the story is about Park Yeon Woo (Lee Se Young) who, in 19th century Korea, loses everything when her husband has a heart attack and dies on their wedding night. Then she is kidnapped and thrown into a well, but she doesn’t die, instead she time-travels to present day Seoul 200 years later where the first person she sees is Kang Tae Ha, who looks exactly like her husband. Aside from being a deadringer for her late husband, Tae Ha has the same heart ailment and has a childhood trauma. He is the heir to SH Seoul Corporation, and his ailing grandfather wishes to see him married before he dies.

In a strange twist of fate, Yeon Woo finds herself being asked by Tae Ha to enter into a contract marriage with him. But, notwithstanding the arrangement, Tae Ha is not interested in a romantic relationship with Yeon Woo. How this dynamic changes as the series unfolds makes for an interesting watch.

The time travel, the contract marriage and the reincarnation angles are not new, but what is it about The Story of Park’s Marriage Contract that has viewers avidly following every episode?

For starters, there is the beautiful Lee Se Young, whom fans still remember for her stellar portrayal in the popular historical drama The Red Sleeve. Here, she is paired with the younger Bae In Hyuk (My Roommate is a Gumiho), and their chemistry is so palpable that you forget she is much older.

Lee Se Young carries The Story of Park’s Marriage Contract on her slim shoulders, and does so in a most beguiling way. She has many comical moments in the modern Seoul episodes, is alternately winsome and charming, and her dorky love story with Tae Ha is fun to watch. Bae In Hyuk plays her husband with just the right amount of charm so that their pairing tugs at the hearts of viewers especially towards the end of the drama, when it is revealed that they have only two weeks together before she returns to Joseon in order to keep Tae Ha alive.

[B] What viewers and critics say:

The Story of Park’s Contract Marriage is a wonderful drama with a beautiful balance of (the) historical (old Joseon) mixed with modern times (new Joseon), fantasy (time-travel), romance, and light comedy… I did get drawn in right away with the historical episodes with the wonderful early love story, the beauty of the Lee Se Young and the costuming and sets… Bae in Hyuk who plays Kang Tae Ha is just as captivating with his acting and handsomeness. — PalmBeachG m.imdb.com

The story of the past was melodramatic and intense. On the contrary, the current storyline got boring and predictable. Also, the ending didn’t handle the time travel that well. Lee Se Young gave an energetic performance. Bae In Hyuk did a good job with his character. — kjreviews928468066.wordpress.com

What a beautiful, swoon-worthy story. The lead actors were both super good looking and their chemistry was amazing right from the first episode. I liked them both in modern roles as well as in the historical roles… this show had elements of both time-travel and reincarnation making it well worth the screen time. In all, it was a very watchable, likeable series which will remain close to my heart. — priyasshashank79 m.imdb.com

It is an interesting idea with a contract marriage, but the plot is never very deep like the characters so the story can be plodding at times. What saves the story is the chemistry between the two leads which makes a believable and sweet romance. — Trickster guy m.imdb.com It is the same trope and the same cliched scenes, but I loved it despite that and am enjoying it. The couple have cute chemistry. — absentin_spring reddit.com

[B] Why I liked the series:

Park’s Contract Marriage works mainly because of the choice of actors to play the main characters. The brilliant choice of OTP in Lee Se Young and Bae In Hyuk made a very convincing storyline of a couple transitioning from an arranged marriage to loving partners making the most of their last few days together before they part ways.  Despite the possibility of a sad ending, viewers did heave a grateful sigh as the closing credits rolled. Having said this, however, to finish watching all 12 episodes of Park’s Contract Marriage, I did have to suspend disbelief in several instances and remind myself that this is a fantasy series.

I especially liked it that the show did a marvelous job of showing Yeon Woo’s as a talented and independent woman pursuing her passion in 19th century Joseon. With a secret career as “Madam Butterfly,” she designs undergarments. Not only was it unheard of for women of her class to get into business, but she did so in a most audacious way. She walks a tightrope every day leaving her home dressed like a mysterious top-tier gisaeng. She conducts business in the backroom of a dress shop after making a deal with its owner. At the end of each day, she changes back to her noblewoman’s attire to quietly sneak back into her home.

Her husband in the Joseon time frame suffers from a heart ailment providing a parallel to Kang Tae Ha with whom she gets into a contract marriage in modern Seoul. A conversation the young Yeon Woo has with Tae Ha during their childhood also provides anchor for the storylines in both time frames. She tells Tae Ha: “You shouldn’t allow people to put you in a cage. You can be happy without worrying about what people think.”

That in essence is the Yeon Woo who navigates her way through the contract marriage with Tae Ha and the confusing nuances of life as a chaebol wife in modern Seoul. It is beautifully juxtaposed in the drama.

Then there are the comic scenes of Yeon Woo in modern-day Seoul. Most hilarious is the one where Tae Ha is stupefied to see her in a hanbok, trying to enter the car through the window. In old Joseon one entered through sliding doors, opening a car door was simply alien to them.

The in-fighting in the modern corporate world as shown in SH Seoul Corporation is handled with just the right amount of screen time, not getting in the way of Yeon Woo and Tae Ha’s romance.

Finally, The Story of Park’s Contract Marriage gives enough screen time to allow Yeon Woo to fulfill her hope as Madam Butterfly to see the world one day, bringing to a wider clientele her exquisite designs. And, she does travel, and how.   This may not be one of those fusion sageuks that will reap awards for its cast and its creators, but it is a delightful series that will allow you to pass the time on a slow day and help you stave off boredom.

About author


After saying goodbye to daily deadlines in 2009, WINNIE DOROTHEO VELASQUEZ worked from home editing manuscripts and writing on subjects close to her heart. She discovered the world of K-Drama in the early 2000s. Today, she cooks, does some gardening, and is training Cookie, da mutt-with-the-mostest.

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