Review: KBS’ Baker King, Kim Tak Goo – Best Korean Drama of the Year

Some spoilers for first couple of episodes.

It is only September, but one Korean drama seems poised to be the most watched and quite possibly the best drama of 2010.

This drama has taken the country by storm hurricane, now officially a “national drama” by quickly rising to ratings upwards of 40% and poised to top the rare 50% mark as it nears its finale. A series that probably not even KBS, its network, expected to become such an immense hit.

The drama is Baker King, Kim Tak Goo (제빵왕 김탁구/King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo/Int’l title: Bread, Love and Dreams), an emotional roller coaster of a series that tells a story of revenge, hope, love, and dreams in a way no other Korean drama has done this year.

A Full, Carefully Crafted Story
Baker King begins by introducing us to the wealthy Goo family who own a food empire that focuses on family patriarch Il Jung’s passion for baking. But not all is happy in the manor as the family only has two daughters yet no son to inherit the land. As frustration over the lack of an heir weighs on the minds of Il Jung, his wife In Sook , and his mother, Il Jung begins fancying a nurse, Kim Mi Sun, an employee of the manor, whom he basically seduces to hope a son is born of their one night together.

Being equally frustrated despite continually trying with her own husband and finding out of Mi Sun’s pregnancy by him, In Sook lets it all out to Han Seung Jae, Il Jung’s right hand man who harbors feelings for her. They too share a night together and she becomes pregnant… with a son! whom she will continue to pass off as her husband’s.

Mi Sun leaves the mansion, despite Il Jung and his mother insisting they stay. Fast forward 12 years later when Mi Sun and her son, Tak Goo (a name suggested by Il Jung) are living a simple life in the country. Not wanting to keep her already street smart son struggling in life, Mi Sun takes Tak Goo to his father, hoping they will take better care of him than she could.

Tak Goo isn’t necessarily welcomed with open arms, especially by In Sook and her son Ma Jun, knowing Tak Goo could take everything away from her and her son as the eldest male heir of their now food empire.

Tak Goo isn’t happy about staying at the mansion either, preferring to be with his mother and their simple life. But with many hands on deck wanting to keep Tak Goo from getting anywhere near the company and family and with the first of just many surprising twists, Tak Goo and his mother Mi Sun are separated for the next 12 years. And during those 12 years, Tak Goo lives on the streets, fending for himself and searching the entire country for his mother.

And that is only the beginning.

Now in his 20s, Tak Goo begins crossing paths with the people of his childhood, the people he holds responsible for him being separated from his mother, and his first love.

Tak Goo used to love the smell of bread, gifted with a powerful sense of smell that allowed him, among other things, to distinguish between good and bad dough for baking; a quality highly admired by his father, a student of baking himself, during their short time together. Because of the events 12 years ago, Tak Goo swore off bread, pointing out the bad memories it brought about. But soon it is bread and baking that he uses to prove himself, prove his worth, and drives him to move forward when a master baker (whom he first meets that night 12 years ago he started life on his own) takes him into his bakery as his mentor.

Never a Dull Moment
That seems like a lot, already the entire plot of a typical Korean drama series. But what probably makes Baker King stand out from the rest is that the writers have written a carefully crafted story that continually drives the series forward.

The series is fast paced, easily able to fill its 30 episode order with story when some dramas can’t even fill the typical 16-episode order without going in circles and/or unrelated subplots.

There are so many moving pieces in each episode, all contributing to the overarching story. With one surprise and twist after another, Baker King manages to not only keep the story moving, but grab a hold of your interest and never lets it go.

The series’ ability to jerk itself away from tired drama clichés is a major part in that continuous flow. Just when you think they’ll delve into stereotypical soap, they jerk you back onto the road less traveled.

Baker King is an emotional roller coaster in the best way possible. Happiness, sadness, anger, excitement; Tearing up from being so moved to standing up and cheering to wanting to throw something at the television in anger, Baker King arouses emotion so well that you are more than invested in the lives of these characters, especially our hero Kim Tak Goo.

Strong All Around
While other current Korean dramas are slickly produced, Baker King smartly uses it’s incredibly strong cast to boost its already strong script. Yoon Shi Yoon, who is a relative newcomer, leads the series like he’s been doing this for years. Charming and likeable, you can’t help but want to root for him.

The rest of the cast including newcomer Joo Won as Ma Jun, young drama veterans Lee Young Ah (as Mi Sun, granddaughter of the master baker Pal Bong) and fan favorite Eugene (as Tak Goo’s first love, Yoo Kyung) as well as the real veterans Jun Kwang Ryul, Jun In Hwa, Jun Mi Sun, and Jung Sung Mo all bring to life characters you want to root for and love to hate.

It is not hard to see why South Korea and the rest of the world have been captivated by Baker King, Kim Tak Goo. It is a story of revenge, hope, love, determination, and dreams. It is excellently written, flawlessly performed, and a real winner.

A very big, but welcome surprise in the world of Korean drama.

English subbed teaser from KBS World

0 thoughts on “Review: KBS’ Baker King, Kim Tak Goo – Best Korean Drama of the Year

  1. A thousand cheers for The Baker King. Aside from Yoon Shi Yoon ( Tak Gu) I applaud the performance of the actor who played the role of Tak Gu’s father. I cry every time I watch the father and son reunion scene. I don’t watch TV programs that often and when I do, I prefer American Sitcoms – Frasier, Friends… but I got hooked on The Baker King. Some say that they were disappointed on how the drama ended . I’m not. To give everything to Tak Gu is just too much – no matter how lovable he is. Ma Jun deserves a break.

  2. bakier king is not your typical soap opera. it is full of tist and turns yet maintains its interesting story. what i love about baker king is the that it is full of moral values that would inspire the viewers. when you watch baker king a new hope would come into you. whenever you feel down or depressed just watch baker king and you would surely realize that every problems has its solutions as long as you look for it. baker king has moved me in every possible way it made me realize a lot of things about how important friendship is,honesty and gratitude. never quit on your dreams and achieve your dreams the right way.

  3. Baker King is simply the best!!
    Outstanding production.
    Very good story line.
    Excellent cast.
    Superb direction.

  4. i was happy with the ending that take goo didn’t take the business. i mean i don’t blame In Sook for trying to keep him and his mother out because she is the first wife of the family. she and her children should be the true heir to the business-no matter how mean they are. the reason they are mean is because they are threatened by someone trying to steal their fortune.

    tak goo’s mum bought a majority of shares from the company. who wouldn’t feel angry and try to stop her? i don’t blame In Sook at all.
    the one thing i didn’t like about the movie is how they portray In Sook as the evil and Tak Goo’s mum as the good.

    is the movie trying to promote infidelity in a marriage??!

  5. You have some screwed principals. In Sook initiated the affair with the Manager. She did it coldly and calculatedly with the intent to defaud her husband and to also deceive the Manager. Then, she sought to murder the baby, Mi Sun and later Tak Goo again. She also would be convicted of the murder of the grandmother in a court of law. She has violated numerous criminal laws as well as moral laws.

    In contrast, Mi Sun was a young victim of a powerful employer. She didn’t initiate, and she didn’t benefit in any way. She wasn’t trying to take anything from the other kids or wife. However, Tak Goo was entitled to be taken care of by his father. I was initially angry with Mi Sun but then I noted that she didn’t act like a greedy, grasping person. She could have easy fallen the K-Drama other women who seduce and then kick the family out. But she lived a simple life with only her son.

    Anyhow, I definitely think you’re nuts to even compare the two. In Sook is greedy and psychotic. She also helped corrupt the Manager beyond any possible sympathies.

  6. Absolutely agreed with your wonderful review. Simply THE BEST DRAMA! The production is so outstanding yet down to earth with superb cast and excellence storywriting. I thought it’s going to be a typical makjang kdrama, oh boy was I wrong and so awestruck with every plots, twists & turns. The best twist is the 2nd lead MaJun ended up with the heroine YuKyung which is so unlikely with cliches in every OTP in kdrama that is such a refreshing and welcome respite! I was so hooked on their complicated yet addictive and intense relationship. Not forgetting the budding bromance between MaJun & TakGu caused this two guys rock – this show have awesome bromance between rivals that don’t kill each other but love each other as siblings should.

    I love all the 3 couples – MaJun + YuKyung, TakGu + MiSun and TakGu + MaJun – that’s why it’s a WINNER! The OST is simply wonderful too!

  7. It’s such an excellent drama with so many lessons to learn, love the ending especially. The whole plot of the story was the fight between 2 women to place their sons as heir, with no thought of whether the sons wanted it or not, so for the ending tat both sons let go of the positions for their sister is a PERFECT ENDING for me!!! also it’s a lesson tat man and woman should be equal, and it’s nt the time anymore to favour boys over girls. I couldn’t hate Ma Jun coz he was like that due to circumstances, I couldn’t hate Manager Han either, he was a good guy in the beginning, but In Sook used and betrayed his love for her, thus made him ‘crazy’ in the end. and I couldn’t really blame In Sook’s ambition either, so no real villains in his drama!! I couldn’t even hate the thug who eventually moved by Tak Goo’s love for his mom!! Enough say, this drama is ROCK!!!

  8. what a very good actor is yoon shin yoon and a good actress eula shin very exiting to watch your show here in the Philippines at GMA network i hope you can visit the philippines again if you visit it ones

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