Secret Garden is one of the most popular kdramas, with a dedicated fan following, but I had a hard time getting into it at first. In fact, I watched the first episode, decided it wasn't for me, and moved on. But I came back to Secret Garden and gave it another chance, and I'm so glad I did. It still took me a few episodes to get invested in the story, but once I got into it I was into it.
Secret Garden is the story of a stuntwoman, Ra Im, and the CEO of a department store, Joo Won. Ra Im works hard, and is great at her job, but doesn't get the credit she deserves. Nevertheless, she's dedicated to stunt work and hopes to become a stunt woman turned movie star. She has a caring and supportive boss who's secretly in love with her, because of course he is. Joo Won is pretentious and wants to have the best of everything while being the best at everything. He's in constant competition with his cousin, Oska, who's a famous pop idol.
The two characters meet when Joo Won mistakes Ra Im for Chae Rin, the movie star she's doing stunts for. Joo Won is actually seeking out Chae Rin as a favor to Oska, who needs help convincing Chae Rin to keep her and Oska's relationship a secret. Joo Won and Oska are always trying to one up each other with the most successful venture or the most expensive toys, but they are practically brothers, and they really do love and support each other.
Through a series of events, Joo Won, Oska, and Ra Im are all brought together on Jeju Island, where Oska is shooting a music video. Ra Im is a huge Oska fan, and has won a chance to be in her idol's video. Joo Won can't seem to stop thinking about Ra Im, even though she's of a much lower class and not his usual type of lady, so he follows her to Jeju Island. The three go on a bike ride, Ra Im ends up getting separated from the group, and Joo Won searches the forest for her. After the two are reunited, they stumble upon a restaurant - that clearly looks like it's run by a witch - called Secret Garden. The owner of the restaurant gives them each a bottle of floral wine (WTF is floral wine?) before they leave. Back at the hotel, Joo Won and Ra Im drink their respective wines, and in the morning the two wake up in each other's bodies. They try to switch back and forth, learn about each other's lives, and start to like each other. You know the drill.
Two things really struck me about Secret Garden (both of which made me like the show and keep watching). First, the body switching is really well acted and fun. I loved watching Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won play each other's characters. They pick up on little mannerisms that make their performances believable, and they're always well in character, even when they're not the focus of a particular scene. Maybe I just really like body switching as a plot line (I do. I really do.), but I loved watching every time Ra Im and Joo Won did the ol' switcheroo. Sure, it's goofy and over the top, but that's what body-swapping story lines are all about.
The second thing I noticed about Secret Garden may only make sense if you've seen a lot of kdramas. As an American (or whatever. Non-Korean.) when you watch a drama, you have to get used to a different type of romance. Touching is not something done willy-nilly. Every time two characters touch each other, it's a big deal. Hugging is a big deal. Two characters that like each other hug, and it's in slow motion, shown over and over from six different angles. It's weird at first, but after you watch a few dramas you get used to it, and before you know it you're gasping, "Ohmigod!!" when they hug. Okay. Now we're on the same page. So, in Secret Garden, Ra Im and Joo Won break the mold, and are really physical with each other. Again, probably not noticeable if this is your first drama, but I've seen a bunch, and I was surprised at all the touching going on. But I'm not complaining. In fact, I loved it. I'm probably reading too much into this, but I think it's because they've switched bodies. They're so comfortable with each other's bodies that it's not a big deal to have a lot of physical contact. If you're familiar with dramas and the "No touching!' rule, watch Secret Garden and see if you pick up on all the touchy-feely action going on.
I came back to Secret Garden after my failed first attempt because I had seen My Lovely Sam Soon and fell in love with Hyun Bin. I figured if Secret Garden was a bust, at least I'd have my BF Binnie there to ease the pain. But as I watched, I got invested in the story and fell in love with Ra Im and Joo Won as a couple. To sum up, Secret Garden is a great body swapping story that has action, romance, comedy, and touchin'.
Pronunciation: Either say it in a Dracula voice (Seeeeeecret Gaaaaaarden!) or with a French accent (like how in Charade Jean Louis says, "Ah wood berry eet en zee ga-eurden!")