Yoo In-Na in My Secret Hotel: A Strong and Successful Business Woman?

Image Source: HanCinema

It’s been awhile since I posted anything new on this blog. Summer (or can I still call it summer?) has been quite busy–teaching, teaching, teaching…and studying, studying, studying. Sadly, writing has been lying in the dust, because my mind has also been wandering, refusing to find time to sit down and write. So now, I am going to finally write.

[WARNING: there are spoilers]

In the past month, I picked up a new Korean drama that combined a murder mystery and a romance: My Secret Hotel. Currently, it airs on Mondays and Tuesdays. Episode 1 sweeps in with stunning visuals, the camera following a well-dressed, beautiful woman walking briskly from one room to another in a hotel, making sure all aspects of a wedding celebration is intact. Fresh flowers on every guest table. Sound system ready to go. Lights in place. The Aisle straight and smooth.

This beautiful woman is Nam Sang-Hyo, an ambitious manager of the wedding department at Secret Hotel in South Korea. Behind her strong, professional facade lies a secret. Seven years ago, she married a man she deeply loved and divorced after 100 days in America. What caused the break after three passionate months? Episode 6 reveals a flashback where she and her husband argued about her job of being a waitress at a hotel. To put it simply, he hated her job and wanted her to quit. However, Sang-Hyo told him that her dream was working and rising up in a hotel professionally. She was clearly hurt that he looked down on her. Whether this one argument was the breaking point that untied the marital knot, I am not sure, since there are ten more episodes that will explore more of their history.

Yoo In-Na is the actress who plays Nam Sang-Hyo. This is the third Korean drama I have seen her acting in. I enjoyed watching her play a cute, happy-go-lucky girl in Queen In-hyun’s Man, the first drama I saw her starring in. Because of this first drama, and her angelic appearance, my impression of her as a person and as an actress in character roles is that she is a “good girl” and a “lady-in-damsel” type of woman. I did not imagine her having a role like Nam Sang-Hyo, a tough , “I’m-in-charge” kind of woman who experienced divorce. I just could not see how Yoo In-Na can play the depth of such a woman.

In the first couple of episodes, I did not think she pulled off such a role too well. She did not give off the professional vibe that I would “stereotypically” see in strong women like Mulan, Gone with the Wind‘s Scarlett O’Hara or Wuthering Heights’ Catherine Earnshaw, just to name a few. In Yoo In-Na, I see a portrayal of a weaker woman. I did not think such a woman had what it takes to climb up the corporate ladder of a hotel. She’s too nice. She’s too friendly. She’s too pretty and angelic. She looks too young.

However, I questioned my line of thinking. What is a tough, successful woman? Is a successful woman limited to a typical media portrayal of such a woman? Does she need to be cold? Does she need to be more strict? Does she have to be plain? Does she need to be tall and intimidating? Does she need to appear more confident?

No, she does not have to be. Now, I actually do enjoy this fresh take on Yoo In-Na’s version of a successful business woman–and as a divorcee. I look forward to how the next ten episodes will flesh out her character. My hope for Nam Sang-Hyo is that she will not remain stuck in her past, and eventually move on to a brighter future.

For those who are currently/are interested in watching this drama, what do you think of Yoo In-Na as Nam Sang-Hyo?

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