New Tales of Gisaeng episodes 21 – 30 review: Sa Ran and Da Mo

OK, So Sa Ran becomes a gisaeng. But then she starts making even crazier decisions! In a  nutshell, after Sa Ran joins the gisaeng house, Da Mo tries to date other women but can’t forget her. He finds her and tries to get her to leave the house and marry him. She won’t because she doesn’t think she’s good enough for him. She decides that the only way to get Da Mo to leave her alone is to have her hair raised in a gisaeng marriage! She meets an older, rich, single guest  and he agrees to raise her hair… 




The New Tales of Gisaeng, 2011, SBS

Now that Sa Ran knows more about her background, she has changed her outlook on life. She didn’t believe in fate before but now becomes very fatalistic – believing that being a gisaeng is the life for her and she doesn’t deserve any happiness or to live a normal life. She decides that she will not hope for anything – love, money, or happiness. In a way, this fatalistic thinking makes her very passive. She makes no attempt to try to find her real parents or to follow her dreams. She’s acting like a victim. And although I think it’s nice that she’s grateful to her parents for bringing her up when she’s not even their blood, at the same time she should realise that they they wanted a child too, since they couldn’t have any of their own.

Sa Ran coldly asks Da Mo for her hairpin back, New Tales of Gisaeng ep 21 SBS

Her dad is still really annoying me! He’s so weak. First he stands by and lets Sa Ran’s step mother tell her that he’s not her real father, and then he pretends that he doesn’t know where she was found as a baby so she has no chance of finding out who her real parents are. Why is he lying? I don’t get this. Is he afraid that she will find her real parents and leave him? But he is happy to sit back and watch her give up her chance of a normal life by becoming a gisaeng? What is he thinking? And as for her step mother… She is totally selfish too and obsessed with money. She’s happy to quit her job and let Sa Ran support the family. When Sa Ran gets her first big tip from a guest, she goes off and buys everyone presents. She even gets her step mother something too – even after the way she treated her. ooooh!

It’s a sad scene when Sa Ran leaves home to go to the gisaeng house. Her step mother can’t wait for her to go and start earning money. But when Gong Joo comes home and sees her standing there with her suitcase she tries to stop Sa Ran from leaving, but she can’t. Her mother hits her for trying to change Sa Ran’s mind. Son Ja tries to stop her too but she is too stubborn to listen. She feels more obligation to support and pay her father back for bringing her up since he’s not her real father after all.

Sa Ran prepares to go to the gisaeng house; New Tales of Gisaeng ep 21 SBS

Da Mo has been pretty clueless and arrogant up to this point. He doesn’t know what’s going on in Sa Ran’s life and thinks she’s just playing hard to get, since he thinks everything just centres around him. Before she enters the gisaeng house, she asks him for her hair clip back. She wants the hair clip to remind herself never to trust a man or fall in love again. Oh dear.

Da Mo continues seeing his new girlfriend and they plan to marry even though he has no feelings for her. She started off feisty at the beginning and I thought we were going to get some good scenes with her after her cat fight with Gong Joo, but her part soon fizzles out. She doesn’t want to live with Da Mo’s parents (I don’t blame her) and so her mum advises her to tell him that they have bought a nice apartment for them to live in after they marry (lucky them). But he insists that they live with his parents as he is an only son. This is strange to me since a minute ago he wasn’t getting on with his dad at all and should be happy to leave home. I suppose this is meant to show his filial piety but also that he doesn’t really love her. If he did, he would probably be keen to set up a love nest with her away from his parents. His parents are not against this either. If she refuses to comply, he says they can call off the wedding as there are plenty of other women out there! Charming.

Rather than being worried that their son has no feelings for his future wife, his parents congratulate themselves that Da Mo is putting his foot down. She tries to persuade him to live separately but he refuses and casually finishes the relationship. She is shocked and later turns up with a large basket of flowers for Da Mo’s mum. But his parents hide in another room and Da Mo tells her they are out. She is meek and apologetic and wants to try again. (WHY??) Then Da Mo delivers the most unbelievable speech ever! He says she is too tied to her mother and can’t think for herself. This is probably true but then he says he wants a woman who will just do everything that he wants her to do! And she sits there and says that she wants to give it a go. IS SHE MAD?? Meanwhile his parents stand listening at the door in the next room praising their son’s good work. Unbelievable!!

Sa Ran spends her first night in the gisaeng house. Lots of girls sleep together in one room. Ms. Lee makes her hand over her mobile phone as they are not allowed. All phone calls must be made on the house phones. This is to stop the girls having secret relationships with the guests. She is told a bit about life at the house. She must call Ms. Oh Omonim (mother) and train herself to have good manners at all times. She must  do her best and not use bad language or be lazy at any time. Looking good is important so eating well and exercise are a must – Ms. Lee will get her a swimming instructor as this is the best way to lose weight – although she does not need to lose weight!

Ms. Oh sees that there is something bothering Sa Ran and she wants to find out what’s really going on, so at the risk of making the other girls jealous, she takes her away for a few days. She gives her lots to drink to try to make her tell her why she is hurting so much, but she is very strong minded and doesn’t say anything.

Da Mo thinks that Sa Ran is playing games and has entered the house to make him come after her. He’s so arrogant! He punches his walk in wardrobe door in frustration. Da Mo goes to the gisaeng house and tries to persuade her to leave. She refuses of course. He manages to persuade the head gisaengs to let him meet Sa Ran one last time before he gives up. They meet by the river and she wears the hairpin that he gave her. (this must mean it’s not good news for him) It’s a very dramatic scene and Da Mo discovers to his horror the real reason why she wanted the hairpin. She refuses his offers of money and help – he offers to start a dance studio for her. She’s angry. He’s not saying he wants a relationship with her. He seems to only want to help her financially because he feels guilty. But he becomes angry when she tells him to visit the gisaeng house as a guest!  He slaps her face. She slaps him back. She storms off and he tries to grab her and hug her but she pulls away. He’s left in shock – this is not going as he had planned. Sa Ran is driven back to the house.

Da Mo decides to go to the gisaeng house and spend his money on Sa Ran. He arrives with his friends and a bunch of large cheques for tips. (Even though he has no job and is nearly 30 years old! What a life he has.) Sa Ran only dances for them and does not sit at the table. His friends enjoy themselves with the other gisaengs, but Da Mo can’t and leaves early. He also leaves a large tip but Sa Ran insists that the other girls are given it.

At home at the breakfast table, Da Mo seems to have an aha moment when his father starts to talk about rice – he wants to eat rice three times a day and so dislikes having to eat western food when he’s away because he can’t have rice. This is a turning point for Da Mo. He has been lying to himself about his feelings for her. But now he realises that he loves her. He sends a note to Sa Ran asking to meet her in a tea shop, where he admits he was wrong and wants to marry her! She says no – he’s still selfish and is not used to others not going along with whatever he decides. His speech is good though – he went looking for spaghetti and steak (other girls) but what he really needs is rice – something that he won’t get sick of having every day. And Sa Ran is his rice! (A cynic would say that this means he will sometimes want to have steak or spaghetti though…)

Da Mo won’t give up and later turns up at the house with a huge ring and proposes. Sa Ran drags her hand away. Manager No is watching from inside and collapses at the sight of the romance! Sa Ran takes Da Mo inside and explains that she is not angry with him anymore and she will remember him fondly but she can’t marry him.

Now things start to get odder. Da Mo has another plan. Ms. Oh who is strict about relationships between the gisaengs and men, now allows Da Mo to live and work at the house for no pay! But this is crazy. If all the VIPs in Korea go to the gisaeng house then surely he is going to bump into people that he knows or his father knows?? This is his last chance to try to win Sa Ran back. Sa Ran is realistic and knows that his parents would never agree to their marriage so she asks Ms Oh to make life hard for Da Mo so that he will give up and leave. But Da Mo is turning on the charm with the head gisaengs and he wins them over so they all try to help him instead! They want to give him a chance because they know that getting married is better than becoming a gisaeng – Ms. Lee shouts at Sa Ran and slaps her across the face because she is wearing the same colour yellow hanbok as Ms. Lee. Sa Ran is shocked but she’s also tough and stoically goes to change. Ms. Lee exchanges a look with Da Mo. Then Ms. Lee purposely gives Sa Ran lots to drink. Da Mo feels bad and takes her some radish water to sober up.

Some of the other gisaengs don’t like the fact that Sa Ran’s boyfriend is staying at the house. They are probably jealous. Da Mo drives the girls to the swimming pool but then he puts his trunks on and goes swimming too! He grabs Sa Ran and kisses her under the water. She struggles and is upset with him as the other girls look on enviously. They admire his looks and body and wonder if he’s a model. But they think he doesn’t have a job which is a problem.

One day the other girls see what happens if they break the rules when one of the gisaengs is caught keeping a phone and secretly meeting one of the guests. She is wrapped in a blanket and beaten 5 times in front of everyone and told to leave the house. This is like a scene from a Joseon period drama. But her punishment is no way near as harsh as it would have been back then. Back then she would have been beaten 50 times..

In the house Da Mo keeps an eye on Sa Ran and checks that she is not drinking with the guests or being treated badly. On her birthday Da Mo gets up early to make seaweed soup for her and buys expensive fish for everyone for breakfast. He takes her out and gives her a birthday cake but when he starts to sing happy birthday, she stops him and tells him that it’s not really her birthday. Da Mo is told how she was left on a doorstep and since she is an orphan they can’t marry. She drinks champagne but neither of them can eat now. On the way home she asks him to hug her once before he leaves. He seems confused. But then tells her he won’t leave without her and isn’t concerned about her past.

But she still refuses. She threatens to call his parents and tell them he is planning to marry a gisaeng. He says go ahead. She calls the number but then can’t speak when his mum answers the phone. He plans to find her real parents but she thinks this will be too hard. She suggests that he could raise her hair – take her as an official mistress and financially support her. He is totally against that as he wants to marry her properly.

It had to happen – Da Mo’s dad turns up at the gisaeng house for dinner! Da Mo has to run and hide. On the same evening a VIP party asks for Sa Ran to come and dance. One of the guests, the CEO of the entertainment company, watches her carefully. He is single but a playboy. Maybe he likes her. When she sits down he tells her that she is fake. He is rude and throws a drink in her face. But she’s tough and throws water back in his face. It’s hard to watch. Da Mo stands outside not doing anything although he imagines going in and punching the guy. She leaves without accepting the tip he gives her. Later she’s told that he always treats the gisaengs badly at first. After that he is nice to them.  (Why?) The other girls talk about Sa Ran. They realise she is different because they all cried the first time they met the CEO.

Da Mo is shaken and angry about the way Sa Ran was treated and he goes to see her as the girls are getting ready for bed. He tries to drag her away. Then he sits in front of the building and won’t leave. Everyone gathers around and in the end Sa Ran makes Mr. Seo pour a bucket of water over his head! Then he gets dragged away! The next day Da Mo is sick with a fever (should have seen that one coming) so in her hanbok Sa Ran makes some chuk (rice porridge) for him. It looks as though she may be softening towards him.

But just as it seems that Sa Ran might give in to Da Mo she gets another set back. Da Mo’s mum decides to go and have a look at the gisaeng house too with her friends. We can guess what’s going to happen – sure enough she sees her son waiting tables. She collapses in shock and has to be carried out!

The next day Da Mo’s mum talks to Ms. Oh and discovers that Do Mo likes one of the gisaengs. On the way out she spots Sa Ran coming home. She recognises her and takes her to a coffee shop to talk. She discovers what’s been going on between Sa Ran and Da Mo. How he broke up with her but then tried to win her back but she has tried to shake him off. It’s like both women know this can’t work. His mum says his dad will go mad when he finds out and might cut him off completely. Sa Ran has to help her work out a way to stop her son wanting to marry her! OK this is weird! His mother just wants him to get over Sa Ran and is worried that he will be all right. How selfish! She doesn’t spend a second worrying about Sa Ran’s feelings. Unbelievable.

His mother confronts him but Da Mo tries to persuade his mum to look at Sa Ran more favourably. He explains what she does at the house and says she doesn’t even pour drinks for the guests….

The meeting with Da Mo’s mother makes Sa Ran realise again that they can’t be together. Then she sees an opportunity to really get rid of Da Mo. – The entertainment CEO arrives alone and wants to see Sa Ran. He apologizes for his rude behaviour and she pours him a drink to show there are no hard feelings! After they chat he says he is interested in dating her. She says she can’t because she will get beaten and thrown out of the house. He wants to know if this is an excuse or if she is interested. She says she will think about it! Really? She seems to be flirting with him. She tells him that if he raises her hair then they can have a love relationship but not a legal marriage. He thinks about it and then agrees! First he offers to marry her instead. She suggests he raises her hair and then if they grow to love each other then they can marry! WOW. He agrees to her request and will speak to Ms. Oh about it. He takes Ms. Oh and Sa Ran to see the apartment he has for them. Very grand.

Da Mo’s mum tells him that she is not against the marriage after all but his dad will never accept it. Da Mo sees a little hope but he doesn’t know that another man is about to raise Sa Ran’s hair…

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