Successful Story of a Bright Girl review or The taming of the jerk chabeol

A review by Drama Fan (with her special guest “Mom”)

I avoided Successful Story of a Bright Girl for the longest time. Call me shallow but one of the things that was stopping me was Jang Hyuk’s style in this (that hair, the wide pants, etc).  There was also my low tolerance for jerk chabeol male leads. I know they are a staple of korean dramas but they generally irritate me. And the third reason was that lately I had been in the mood for more complex stories, but I knew that one day, I would be in the mood…


This is after all Jang Hyuk’s first hit in a lead role, and it reached 45% of ratings when it aired in Korea.  So I bought the DVD’s and had them sitting in my room. Gumi reassured me that this was “one of the good old dramas, one of the first jerk chabeols before they became a staple, so it has some historic value 😀 and there must be a reason why it reached high ratings” but I was still waiting to feel the desire to watch it. I was also dreading watching my last Jang Hyuk series available (until he does another one) I have officially watched them all now.

So, that day came last Sunday. I was so tired from having watched Nine, an extremely thought provoking and intense drama. And I was missing Jang Hyuk so I decided to give this a try.

Successful Story of a Bright Girl first scene, sets us up for what will be the main theme of the whole drama: “Dimwit Prince in distress is saved by smart heroic girl”. Yang-Soon (Jang Nara) has a recurrent dream in which she saves a Prince Charming from a perilous situation. This dream will start to come true when she meets obnoxious spoiled jerk chabeol  Ki-Tae (Jang Hyuk) . Not only must our bright girl deal with her own issues in life, her economic situation, her ailing grandmother, her con artist parents, etc but she must also deal with this crazy creature named Ki-Tae, who, despite all his money, seems to have not had a proper education and lacks all kinds of manners. Ki-Tae’s best and only response to life’s obstacles is to kick, punch and scream (and nothing took a beating like his jacket).



When I watch this couple, I think of Lilo & Stitch. Not so much for Lilo, because Yang Soon is actually a cheerful gal, although she does have Lilo’s spunk and fast mouth, but Ki-Tae and Stitch’s similarities are uncanny 😀 When I look at Ki-Tae, I can’t help but recall that seemingly cute alien creature with anger personality problems. tumblr_mu6rmypCoS1rvlnwko1_500

My mom and I look at Ki-Tae and go into fangirling mode “Oh he is so sweet looking, ah his cute little mouth, oh his beautiful nose, he is so cute when he sleeps and then ROWWRRRRR Ki-Tae gets angry for whatever reason, opens his mouth huge, transforms his whole face and goes into epic tantrum mode, and we are like Wow!!!! Could somebody inject some sedatives on this guy? His aggressive personality is so out of control that it makes him blind and clumsy. He literally and metaphorically trips and falls throughout the drama, on his own. The bad guys don’t have to work much to “ruin” him. So this is a story where Yang-Soon saves Ki-Tae, mostly from himself.

Our heroine, much more mature, much smarter, much more reasonable, has a “calming” effect on Ki-Tae. She shows him how to “behave like a human being”.  She is also there to comfort and guide him when Ki-Tae starts receiving some life lessons (or rather, some b*tch slapping). But she is also there, to point out his ”situation” and keep him humble (sometimes rather sadistically and on occasion she sounds like a nagging mother).


My mom and I hoped that Ki-Tae evolved and tamed his aggressiveness. On the other hand, Mom made a great point that, he couldn’t completely get rid of it, because his aggressive nature is what kept him going and fighting against adversity, but he needed to add some brain to the equation. And that is more or less what happened. We see this in many dramas, and certainly we’ve seen Jang Hyuk do a “turn around” from jerk to prince in the middle of the story (Robbers, Thank You) In this case I felt wasn’t all that smooth, but on the other hand, it wasn’t all that radical, so I guess it was satisfying and believable within the context of this story.

Not that I want to justify Ki-Tae (or maybe I do) but he seems to have raised himself (he lived on his own since age fifteen, under the indirect supervision of her parents associate) and is also traumatized by the death of his parents when he was nine years old. They drowned trying to save him. Behind his wild behavior, we discover a lonely, scared child, who is putting up a front, to protect himself. This is so obvious that it is really hard to take his harsh words seriously and hence, it is hard to hate him (or maybe it is just that Jang Hyuk looks too cute with some baby fat still showing on him and his triangular shaped mouth in all its splendor, that I can’t possibly hate him)

I love to see our main couple banter. They constantly negotiate and go from nagging each other, to comforting each other, to playing around, to picking a fight. He might be aggressive but she definitely does not take his nonsense. The Jangs have extraordinary chemistry. Even when they fight you feel their connection and you feel that deep down, no matter what, they are on the same team.

SSBG_sleepykitae1 SSBG_sleepykitae2 SSBG_sleepykitae3

They complement each other beautifully. Because of that chemistry I was craving for more angst between them and more adult couple situations. There was some, conventional soap opera like situations that provided a taste of what that angst could’ve felt, but their misunderstandings got resolved fast and had minor consequences. What they lacked on the angst  department was very compensated by the good amount of sweet romantic moments. These were natural and effortlessly cute. The Jangs made quite a believable lovely couple and they had many dates and “failed proposal” scenes for us to melt over.

Yes, my boyfriend is a dork!

Yes, my boyfriend is a dork!

But I adore him :)

But I adore him 🙂

This is my first time seeing Jang Nara and I have to say, I’m very satisfied with her performance. She is effortlessly cute and sold me her resilient, fun, smart Yang Soon from the first moment.

Ryu Soo-Young also does a good job as Jun-Tae. The cold and resentful villain, who was the exact opposite to erratic and mercurial Ki-Tae. Unfortunately Jun-Tae did not have great character development and became a bit repetitive towards the end. Actually, most of the characters in this series were one dimensional.

I definitely enjoyed Ki-Tae although this is not my favorite Jang Hyuk performance. Obviously, rookie Hyukie, will lose when compared to seasoned actor Jang Hyuk. But even when compared to his early dramas, I prefer his performance in Daemang which was much more subtle in my opinion, and even in Into the Sunlight, where he played the second lead (Gumi doesn’t agree with me here, and I give her a lot of credit. My perception might be different because I rely on subtitles, so I miss some nuances). For a fan of Jang Hyuk, this series is interesting to watch anyway, because it allows us to see his evolution as an actor. We can see what was accomplished through practice and experience and what was innate.


Jang Hyuk was certainly a talented young actor but I do have some buts…His crying scenes in this series didn’t move me as much as they do nowadays. He already had the ability to give those paralyzing angry stares, but his performance when the character was angry (which was often) was wild, completely unrestrained, and not as effective as what we see these days, in my opinion. He was always expressive, and capable of speaking with his eyes, but the transitions between one feeling and the other, didn’t always feel smooth and there was too much screaming. This is one characteristic some people criticize in Jang Hyuk, his tendency to scream. I don’t mind it when the character and the story justifies it (Chuno, The Tree with Deep Roots) although on occasion I have thought that toning it down a notch would not hurt the scene. But in this one, the screaming was definitely excessive. Ki-Tae seemed like a lunatic for the first half of the show and I wonder how such a person could survive in the civilized world.

SSBG_crazykitae SSBG_crazykitae2

Having said that, he was really good in the scenes when he was depressed or quietly feeling sorry for Yang Soon, falling in love with her or longing for her.


His falling in love face was as good as ever. Interestingly, while he has certainly worked and mastered his “intense and angst” expressions these days, he seems to have always been a natural at being a romantic sweet goofball. Those are my favorite scenes of his in this series.


I also like that, despite having watched Jang Hyuk in everything, and being able to recognize all his characteristic gestures and mannerisms, I could see Ki-Tae as a separate individual. It was not a perfect performance, but he did sell the character to me and made me care for him.

My mom and I enjoyed SSBG, the same way we used to enjoy a good ol’ telenovelas, with their abundance of predictable plot twists and clichés. In fact, those clichés are precisely what make them so comfortable to watch.  We know what will happen, but if we feel enough for the characters (which definitely happened here) we will enjoy the “well known” ride . We couldn’t wait for Ki-Tae to learn his lessons and become “human”, we couldn’t wait for him and Yang-Soon to kiss (don’t expect much in this department), we couldn’t wait for our heroes to triumph over evil and we couldn’t wait for the bad guys to pay for their crimes.

Successful Story of a Bright Girl is an old rom com, so it does look dated and there is some overacting, but it is surprisingly fast paced, except for the last three episodes, where the story dragged a little.  It is the kind of show where you will need to suspend your disbelief constantly, but it is also highly addictive and easy to enjoy. My mom and I watched it in three nights.

Enjoy some of the cutest moments in this MV made by our Gumi

42 responses to “Successful Story of a Bright Girl review or The taming of the jerk chabeol

  1. I have not read the entire review and I can’t read the comments for fear of spoilers. Can someone help with two questions?

    1) Where can I watch this series that didn’t have HUGE gaps of dialogue that has no subtitles?

    2) Are the DVDs missing subtitles too?

    • Hi Beezus, did you try dramacool? The DVDs subtitles are good.

      • Hi, DramaFan. Thanks for responding so quickly 🙂
        Yes, and everywhere else I’ve tried to stream are using the same version (the DramaCool logo appears in the right-hand corner). Besides small gaps not being subtitled throughout, the last 15 minutes is not subbed at all. And of course, it’s the most interesting part of the story immediately after she douses JH with the bucket of water!

        I finally moved on to episode 2, but it really inhibits my enjoyment. I LOVE DramaCool and I’m totally fine with less than perfect English grammar and spelling in subs especially if it means I’m getting more cultural “flavor”. But I’ve found that some of DC’s subtitles are Korean to Taiwan then to English which results in English gibberish – random English words thrown together that sounds like vocabulary words were tossed in a hat and randomly pulled. While DramaCool is my fav and I appreciate them, I wish they’d screen those and wait to post better subs. I’ve watched movies that, after investing a couple of hours, there’s no way to know what happened at the end if for some reason it becomes gibberish. I don’t know if it’s a lack of proofreading or a substitute subber takes over mid-film or what.

        Sorry for the rant. But I’m proceeding with watching “Bright Girl” despite the gaps. At least it’s not gibberish. 🙂

  2. SSOBG is my first favorite Korean drama and I’ve watched it hundred times. I even bought the DVD’s in 2003. I really love their chemistry and I’ve been stalking acejunghyuk before. And FTLY brings back my love for JH and JNR.

  3. dramafan,
    i borrow your gif to show soompiers how JH can be a jerky chaebol coz some of them hv doubt either he can bring that in FTLY soompi thread. kkkk. TQ btw.

  4. Pingback: Oldie but Goodie: Successful Story of a Bright Girl (2002) Kdrama Review | kdramadreamer

  5. I’ve been looking for a DVD set of Successful Story of a Bright Girl with good English subtitles that will play in the US. Have you found one?

  6. Yes, that’s a good point about Yang-Soon and her parents. I like your theory! 🙂

  7. I’ve watched 9 episodes so far and I’m loving this series. I have to agree with Drama Fan in that you can’t be too analytical when it comes to the plot but it still is very enjoyable.
    I don’t think Ki-Tae’s screaming is excessive. He raised himself after his parents’ death when he was 9 years old. His lack of any emotional restraint is understandable when you consider that he grew up without parental guidance, no one to set limits. Emotionally, he has maturity of a 12 year old boy. It was so cute to see him acting like a little boy around Yang-Soon after he falls for her! I kind of have to agree with Gumi in that JH’s portrayal of Ki-Tae was exceptional. I can’t say that JH had the depth that he has now. But I still fell for this character even with his short temper and his tendency to resort to violence ( I was aghast when he kicked a guy that he works with in the first episode). For me, this happened when he started showing some compassion towards Yang-Soon when her grandma died.
    What I can’t stand to watch are Yang-Soon’s parents. First of all, it seems pretty far-fetched for a well-grounded, responsible, reasonable, and smart girl like her to have been raised by a couple of con-artists. Secondly, I just find their actions absolutely despicable. All in all, this is a charming story despite its flaws and I’m glad I’m watching it again after all these years. Thank you, Drama Fan for writing the excellent review.

    • Thank you all for reading and commenting 😎You know? That is exactly when I fell for Ki-Tae, as soon as he showed compassion for Yang-Soon which happened in the early eps 😉That is why I never really disliked Ki-Tae. As inmature as he was, he showed his heart right away. About Yang-Soon, sometimes kids mature fast, when they have inmature parents. It is almost a survival instinct. She had the grandmother to provide an example of “adult”, “responsible” behaviour so in a way she became her parents parent (Thats my theory 😊)

  8. your gif and Gumi ‘s clip was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cute
    What happened to Zoi ‘s blog ? it Password Wants for come in !!!You have it?

  9. Oh It was a niceeee review drama fan thank youuuuuuuuuuu very much I saw this drama about 9 months ago agree with you …He shouted really but he shouts almost all of his movies and dramas often !Even more interesting is his quiet speaking voice is very soft ! Really speaks softly … but in this series , we did not hear Jong Hyuk’s soft voice !It was a sad scene of the film partly because Han Ki Tae wanted to take his ring from Young Son , and his behavior was quite far from the culture ( I mean that rol was bad not JH )Unlike most dramas ,in this drama funny moments was much more than sad moments Ki Tae Young Sun Han i loveeeeee that scene where Young son’s father and Ki tae went to a public bathroom he is only 25 years old !Before going into the military , I feel he is more relaxed after the military and even in his movies he less screams .. but .. in a tree with deep roots screaming really loud !(Dolbuk)i love that scene where he is really sleepy , but he falls to laugh for the young Sun .. really love it !
    Drama Fan WowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwYou mentioned to his lips !I really believe in Jang Hyuk ‘s face instead of lips is a little triangle that occasionally make me cry ( joke )I ‘d call him man’s lips triangular

  10. And your gifs and captures are so freakishly cute

  11. Yup I do have to disagree, I personally think JH’s acting for Ki-tae was close to being flawless. I would not have believed that it was his first lead role…I didn’t feel the rookiness in his acting, which was so obvious in his two previous works School and ITS. His skills have gotten much, much smoother since ITS. But I do agree that Ki-tae screams a lot and is such a jerk, and current JH has much more depth than 2002 JH. I’ll put it this way: Han Ki-tae was a role for a young actor, and young JH handled that role perfectly. Young JH would not be able to handle Daegil in Chuno, but then current JH also won’t be able to handle Han Ki-tae…cuz I think when Ki-tae is screaming and being emotional, he is supposed to look total immature childish jerk. JH right now is too mature and carries too much weight to be like that 😛 So yup blame me for being a super subjective fan, but I do think Ki-tae was a flawed character but JH’s acting was near perfect. (Or maybe I watched the show too long time ago and I’m only remembering good parts….?)

  12. Oh my goodness! Look at that baby fat! How old was he here? I almost didn’t recognise him. It sounds like he’s Kim Sam Soon’s Samshik but 10x worse, I’m guessing Ki Tae was the template.

    • Hi DDee, I got curious and looked it up. Jang Hyuk was 25 when he did this. I think back then, he looked younger than his age. The military certainly added more than two years to him (and some hotness). Kim Sam Soon is from 2005 and SSBG is from 2002, so yes it precedes it. Apparently, k-drama male leads prior to Han Ki-Tae weren’t as insufferable lol! but I guess we would have to investigate further to find out who really started this trend. It even precedes Hana Yori Dango (BOF original japanese version) which I watch a long time ago. Actually, Ki-Tae reminds me a lot of that character from Hana Yori Dango, because Samshik was a lot more quiet lol!

      You know what? I was actually thinking of my reaction to KSS these days, maybe because of the jerk chabeol connection. I watched it after much insistence from a good friend. I remember appreciating it at the beginning, but it took me some time to get through it and when it finished I realized I was bored. I finished it and I appreciate that it is not badly written or acted, and it does stay away from some cliches, but I just didn’t fall in love with it and went zzzz several times. Maybe it’s because I’m not into any of the actors (although after Salaryman I fell in love with Jung Ryeo Won).

      With this one, on the other hand, maybe because of my Jang Hyuk mega crush, I found it easy to bypass the flaws, the overacting, everything and enjoy the good aspects of it. And the chabeol, he was so pathetically powerless, clueless and incompetent, that I felt sorry for him, much more than I felt like slapping him (although there was that too). And it was impossible to go zzzz over all that screaming lol! (Man! I suddenly got a flashback of Gaksitaaaallll!!! up until now I considered that one to be loudest drama I had seen, it even gave me headaches)

      • Oh KSS was one of my first dramas and I completely fell head over heels in love with it! HAHA. It wasn’t immediate, it did take it’s time, but I was just so taken in by Kim Soon Ah, that I didn’t care about it’s flaws (the few there are). The only thing that didn’t do it for me was Jung Ryeo Won and Daniel Henney, but that’s because that pair is so boring compared to the much more interesting main pair. And I think objectively, KSS holds up so well.

        I’m really interested to watch the older dramas now (I’ve just downloaded one from 1995) and since Ki Tae is one of the early versions of jerk chaebols, I must put this on my list! And I will brace myself for the shouting. 🙂

        • And you are not alone in the world. I read so many people who mention how thet turned into kdramas because of Kim Sam Soon. I also agree that objectively, it is good, well written, has good dialogues and good acting. And that the second couple was boring 🙂 The issue is that I didn’t connect with it for some reason. It happens to me that sometimes my brain says ok this is good but my heart says meh! I don’t care. It might’ve had something to do with my mood when I watched it. I’m so moody ☺️

          • Oh that happens all the time. I can like a show objectively speaking without being emotionally involved, except I can’t think of one right now. 😉
            The other thing about Sam Soon was that I found it hysterically funny. It really cracked me up!

        • Ddee did you continue watching Chuno? that one has its slow parts but it really rewards one’s patience. I also highly recommend The Tree with deep Roots which was to me, easier to get into than Chuno. The first episode grabbed me despite its lack of “eye candy” (Jang Hyuk was fully dressed and the few shirtless scenes didn’t emphasize the choco abs at all :D) It was my first Jang Hyuk series so I can say with certainty that I objectively loved it 😉 In fact, the first time I tried to watch Chuno I didn’t have patience with it and dropped it, so it was after watching The Tree that I gained the strength to endure some of those Chuno slow parts.

          Which is the old drama you just downloaded? I am cuirious about older dramas too. I recently started Sandglass but I think I’ll put it on hold for now.

          • Yes I’m still watching Chuno, except very slooooowly. I am enjoying it for the most part, except when DG’s silly ex shows up all perfectly clean even while she’s supposedly being chased through the countryside. Tree W/ Deep Roots is definitely on my list too.

            The oldie I just got is Feelings, one of the first trendies, I believe. Sandglass? Did you download that or get the DVD? I have to watch that too! So many, the list never ends…

    • Btw, the “jerk chabeol”, “or the spoiled brat” has been the male lead in spanish telenovelas ever since the 70’s lol! So maybe that is why I’m allergic to them in general. It takes a favorite actor or a highly recommended story to make me watch them.

      • So true. Some jerks are not worth the time spent watching. And I get really frustrated with the dramas where they stay jerks throughout the entire series. It’s like they’re supposed to be redeemed simply because they fall in love with the poor, nice, girl? Please. The drama ‘Only You’ from 2005 was like that. I was having 2nd lead syndrome the whole way with that one.

      • Hmm I’m not familiar with telenovelas even though they are pretty popular here. But I have seen the Betty La Fea and I really liked it, and thought it was far superior to the Hollywood version!

        • Well, lucky you because you watched one of the best telenovelas ever. Betty, la fea is a classic, although at the time it was considered original and caused a revolution 🙂 But see? even in that one the male lead was a rich jerk 😀 but he had one of the most satisfying redemptions ever. I think Lady G is right, I think the problem is when they stay jerks throughout and we are supposed to accept them because “they are in love”.

  13. I got all excited for nothing. It’s not on DramaFever. 😦

    • Hi foreverhyuk, It is a pity they don’t have in Dramafever. With all its flaws, this drama is still better than many others that they have. I bought DVD’s but I think this drama is on youtube as well. Aren’t they totally Lilo and Stitch? Annoying and adorable at the same time. And yes, that is an engagement ring. He tried to propose to her so many times, that I lost count! Btw, he was incredibly adorable, awkwardly trying to express his feelings to her. Those scenes were really well done and natural.

    • Hi Foreverhyuk, I saw this on gooddrama, but be warned, lots of subtitles are missing, from almost every episode. I don’t know, it’s like the subber fell asleep on the job. Maybe they got tired of all the screaming. haha.

  14. I love the title of this post, Taming of the Jerk Chabeol. also the comparison between Lilo & Stitch.

  15. Thank you so much for this review!
    It’s been several years since I watched this series and I think I skipped through a lot of it so I don’t remember much. I’m not exactly sure why I was exacerbated watching this drama that drove me to fast forward through many of the scenes. Maybe it was the excessive screaming that you mention here. lol. I do remember thinking that JH was over acting or trying too hard in many of the angry outburst scenes. However, the chemistry between Jang Nara and JH was good and the bickering between them was fun. Your review makes me want to give this another try, just to see the angst between JH and JNR…and also to see how JH has evolved as an actor. But who knows… I might end up fast forwarding through half of this drama again. 🙂

    I love your gifs of Ki-Tae falling asleep at the table and him laughing and clapping his hands like a dork! Is it a ring that he is picking up in the last gif? I don’t remember these scenes at all so I must watch it again. He looks absolutely adorable.

  16. Oh gosh, my brain is in a fog! Gumi’s video is really cute. And I forgot to add that I hated Yang Soon’s parents, bunch of conning leeches. But loved when he lost his fortune and to move across the way from her.

    • Hi Lady G: Yes, I couldn’t find the humor in the parents either. They were despicable characters and the cause for so many of the problems in the drama. One must definitely watch this show, only when in the mood, because if you watch it with your “logic” hat on, your “critic” hat on, etc, it won’t pass the test. It has many flaws. But it also does have heart and charm. So yeah, I suggest people to put on their “suspension of disbelief” hat and maybe wear some ear plugs to soften the sound of Ki-Tae’s screams lol! I didn’t dislike Yang Soon’s country girl accent, but I can see why if might be a turn off to others. One of my favorite moments, was also when Ki-Tae calmed down, grew some brain, and started to pretend in front of Jun-Tae. It was a little disappointing to see Jun-Tae buying it, but then again, that guy only seemed smart, but his ego and resentment also blinded him and he was such a coward. He was only able to ruin Ki-Tae, because Ki-Tae was such an easy target at the beginning.

      • I appreciated when he finally smartened up too and they all worked in secret to recreate the make-up formula. Ki-Tae was surely explosive and I agree, there were charming parts.

  17. Oh, and I love your gifs!! The jacket ones are so funny.

  18. Excellent review! And I agree with you and your mom. The anger and lashing out got too excessive. When I got around to watching this drama it was after I saw his later ones-TY, TWDR, Chuno, so I saw the difference and the improvement in his acting. For a rom-com he took all that anger up a thousand notches. But when you point out his life situation, some of that anger makes some sense. Still it eventually started drawing the line between Rom-com and Melo. One scene where I truly hated him was when he trashed her food stand to shreds. He was worse than any gangster. Even though he was putting on a show, it was a horrible thing to do and I felt bad for her. But of course we know he needed to hide his association with her from the others.
    I never saw a Jang Nara drama before this, but all her screeching and nagging and that over bearing country girl voice wore me down. I agree that Ki Tae needed some ‘sweet mother love’ and discipline, but for me her character was as over the top as his anger and screaming. So eventually the drama became a turn-off. I had to watch this one online and chunks of subtitle were missing. boo. So that made it harder to stick with it. It was cool to see Ryu Soo Young as a villain! 😀 He did a good job. Even though it’s true the secondary characters lacked dimension. But we can say that Jang Hyuk started the blazing trail of Nappeun namjas that flock every other drama since.

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