Coffee Prince is a 2007 romantic comedy that epitomizes what everyone wants from a romantic comedy. A television show, even one from South Korea, is made up of two equally important parts: story and production. When these elements come together well we have a winner and when they don’t we adjust our expectations accordingly. I’m here to help!
Coffee Prince has a huge cast. There are four central characters, like many romantic comedies, but there are many side characters, like his and her family, plus their joint cafe family, the coffee princes. Each and every one of these actors excelled at portraying their characters as genuine people.
Due to the greater than normal suspension of disbelief needed to believe in this premise, the story could have easily collapsed with one off performance by any single secondary character. Instead with Coffee Prince each one of the princes and family members added to the story in a way that supports the premise.
Go Eun-chan’s Family
Go Eun-chan growing up was a total tomboy and the apple of her daddy’s eye. He died when she was 16 years old and since then has been the sole bread-winner for her family. Her tomboy ways developed into an easy and comfortable androgynous look as she learned to let people assume her sex in order to get work. She’s never been allowed to develop a marketable skill and takes on many jobs in order to pay the bills. Her mother is a good woman but doesn’t curb her desire for nice things. Her sister has fantastical dreams of how she can help Eun-chan support their family. This places a heavy burden on Eun-chan to give her mother the little extras and to help her sister reach her dreams.
It’s no wonder then, that Go Eun-chan is such a capable workaholic. She has to be due to pressures at home. Eun-chan’s life intersects though with the Choi cousins. Han-kyul becomes her boss and Han-sung becomes her friend.
Even though it’s been 2 years since Choi Han-sung broke up with Yoo-joo, he’s still struggling with his lingering feelings of betrayal after 8 years loving her. When he meets Eun-chan he doesn’t have any intentions other than to bask in her great innocence and good attitude. We see this on his face at their every meeting.
When Han-sung takes their friendship a step too far, Eun-chan has to take steps to reassure Yoo-joo whom she sees as the perfect woman, talented and beautiful. Because of Yoo-joo’s past indiscretions there is this need in Han-sung to balance out the hurt. It’s human nature and Eun-chan is the tool. Yoo-joo though has always been more loved than she herself loves. She kept Han-kyul as a friend even though she knows it hurts him she doesn’t reciprocate for just this purpose. So Yoo-joo is quite surprised at her feelings of jealousy toward Eun-chan because her own personality has no hope of duplicating the innocent’s allure.
Choi Han-kyul’s Family
Choi Han-kyul is the only heir to his chaebol grandmother’s food company which deals in a lot of coffee. Coming home after an extended stay in New York, he’s given an ultimatum to shape up or be cut off from his privileged lifestyle. While he loves his family he also feels burdened by the desires they hold for him as they conflict with his own. We see this in the obedient way he follows through with their request to meet blind dates. While at the same time using Go Eun-chan to provide the girls a reason they won’t want to marry him – he’s gay!
By subversively rebelling against his family’s plans for him he tries to ride the edge between his and their desires for his future. It’s no wonder he’s so childish at times, he gets his way and doesn’t have to step up to his responsibilities. Then he runs headlong into Go Eun-chan the mysterious boy he’s so attracted to!
When one gets our way too often we hold onto things we don’t even really want anymore and one of those things for Han-kyul is his cousin’s girlfriend, Han Yoo-joo. He’s clearly moon-eyed over her, even going out alone together on what could easily be construed as dates. So why doesn’t he make a move, cousin or no? Han-sung gives us a clue. He never seems to worry when his girlfriend and Han-kyul are together and doesn’t even show jealousy. Han-sung is a perceptive man and understands their desires, Yoo-joo’s to be overly loved and his cousin’s to childishly hold on.
Yoo-joo’s own actions shows she loves Han-sung and not Han-kyul. Even though she has to lower her pride she returns to Han-sung. When Han-kyul intimately hugs her to test his sexuality she looks on it as odd behavior not as an overture for a physical relationship.
The Coffee Princes
Sun-ki is the mysterious waffle chef hired off the street after his mobile shop got confiscated by the police. He’s cool and takes everything easily except for love. His unrequited passion is burned out but love bounces back. His take on Eun-chan and Han-kyul’s love is refreshing as is his reaction to Eun-chan’s secret. He gets between Min-yep and his love for a time too, much to our enjoyment.
Ha-rim is the extreme playboy wannabe of the coffee princes and also waiters at the cafe. He falls for Eun-chan the first time he meets him(her) when Han-kyul asks for his help renovating the cafe. He’s her biggest fan and one of the most clueless of the coffee prince crew. His reaction is extreme yet understandable. He does find happiness but also gets his just desserts chasing the girl.
Min-yep is the rather stupid and obsessive lover of Go Eun-chan’s sister. He submissively does whatever she commands him and they have a rocky relationship over her domineering ways. He’s also a coffee prince who waiters at the cafe. This is the first real job he’s had and has almost gotten fired a couple of times. He meets Eun-chan when her sister introduces her as her boyfriend. In his pursuit of her sister he learns Eun-chan’s secret and is much pressed to keep it that way.
Gae-shik is the coffee-house brewer and takes on Eun-chan as his apprentice. He has a lot of affection toward her since they knew each other before Han-kyul came in to turn the cafe around. He’s made choices to pursue love that led him to a rundown cafe and a dirty, empty apartment. Luckily Han-kyul’s grandmother is a forgiving woman and sends her grandson to help him out so while the two butt heads he has to give in. A lot!
These are the coffee princes! Each of them are attached to Eun-chan and Han-kyul to varying degrees and each have their own romantic story of love. They bring the cafe’s work place to life and add richness and conflict to the day-to-day interactions between the lovers.
Coffee Prince‘s production excelled in its excellent cast. Every character made a believable journey of love that’s worth watching. What else can you ask of a k-drama? Well perfect locations and sets for the cafe, and their living quarters certainly helps!
What I love most is that everyone made a sacrifice at some point in their journey, for someone they love, because ultimately if we love someone we make room for them in our lives no matter what we need to give up! I didn’t give away all the secrets because I want you to have the pleasure of the families in Coffee Prince too.
I’ve exposed my rabid fan-dom of the Hallyu wave to criticism here so you’ll give the television addiction a fighting! chance. Check out the different genres for your perusing pleasure here. When watching Korean Dramas it’s best to start with a giant from among all the many choices to be found in k-drama-land and this is one of them: Coffee Prince.