And That’s It. Love Heals And Sets Free In “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha”

“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” is a hit romantic-comedy Korean drama and an outstanding remake of the 2004 film, “Mr. Hong”, starring Kim Seonho and Shin Mina.

It centers around two opposite lives, Doc Hye-jin, a perfectionist dentist from the city of Seoul and Chief Hong Dusik, a free-spirited jack-of-all-trades from the seaside village of Gongjin. The story progresses as they cross paths and get to know each other through inconveniences and adorable bickering.

However, there is more to the blossoming romance between Chief Hong and Doc Hye-jin. Here are 3 healing truths from their growing relationship:

1. Love sees beyond imperfections.

Doc Hye-jin was first introduced to us as an outspoken, intelligent, perfectionist, picky, with high standards but clumsy kind of woman. In fact, Chief Hong felt annoyed when they first met on the beach where Hye-jin’s fancy shoes got lost.

As series of unfortunate events allowed them to bump into each other, Chief Hong got to know her more. Doc Hye-jin’s flaws were exposed when she caused a huge mess at a party, badmouthed the residents, and underestimated the countryside lifestyle.

In several ocassions, Chief Hong confronted her:

  • “Your shoes always cause trouble.”
  • “You freely judge other people’s lives, but are offended when you’re being assessed?”
  • “We live in a society. You can’t hate being around people.”
  • “The hedgehog is just like you. You are both spiky.”
  • “Don’t we all need some time to adjust?”
  • “Don’t judge a book by its cover. That’s being prejudiced.”

Nevertheless, Chief Hong sees beyond her imperfections. In the first episode, Chief Hong was surprised to see a different side of her—a compassionate Hye-jin helped the troubled kids on the street, a simple Hye-jin used the slippers he offered, and a childlike Hye-jin had fun learning how to remove squid innards with the grannies.

Smitten by the heartwarming side of the dentist, Chief Hong helped her resolve all the conflicts that she faced in the following episodes. “On the outside, she’s as cold as ice. But she has a soft heart,” grannie Kim Gamri describes her to Chief Hong.

When Chief Hong met and had a private talk with Hye-jin’s father, he described Hye-jin, saying, “She’s a warmhearted person. So I truly hope that she’ll find someone good that she deserves.” Hye-jin’s father responded, “And that could be you.”

On the other hand, Hye-jin was annoyed with Chief Hong for being loud and nosy when they first met. “I hate it when people cross the line and touch my stuff,” she told Chief Hong.

Despite the things that he hates about Chief Hong, she slowly began to lay down her spines like the hedgehog. Due to the many instances that Chief Hong was always around to help her survive life in Gongjin, she saw a pure and kindhearted man in him.

For instance, she smilingly agreed when granny Kim Gam-ri told her about Chief Hong, “He is kind, but too nosy.” She also started missing him when Chief Hong was not around.

Although she tried to deny her feelings several times, she defended him in front of her father, saying:

  • “Why does it matter when I make enough money? He’s a good guy. And he’s not the incompetent man you’re making him out to be. He’s handsome, tall, and graduated from SNU.”
  • “Orphan? How could you say that? He had a family as well. He just lost them when he was little. It’s not a sin to have no parents.”

Truly, love sees beyond imperfections. Despite the annoying flaws they hate about each other, Chief Hong and Doc Hye-jin chose to love. It’s not being blind to one’s shortcomings but embracing an imperfect person perfectly.

2. Love transcends differences.

Chief Hong and Doc Hye-jin are completely two opposite lives with different lifestyles, values, traits, and perspectives in life.

  • Dr. Yoon Hye-jin: I have high standards. An overall vibe that incorporates an antique, simple, and European style. Wainscot paneling on the walls and porcelain tiles on the floor. Spanish tiles in the foyer and light fixtures from Denmark would do.
  • Chief Hong Dusik: How about some new wallpaper instead? Off-white like teeth would be nice.
  • Dr. Yoon Hye-jin: I’d love to have some wine by the Han River.
  • Chief Hong Dusik: Drinking makgeolli by the ocean is just magnificent.
  • Dr. Yoon Hye-jin: That restaurant has great pasta.
  • Chief Hong Dusik: Eating snow crab ramyeon on a boat is the best.
  • Dr. Yoon Hye-jin: I can’t believe I have to return to the boondocks.
  • Chief Hong Dusik: There are skycrapers everywhere. It’s so suffocating. I can’t wait to go back to Gongjin.

When the town’s gossip went into overdrive about the two staying the night together, Doc Hye-jin clearly defined her standpoint with Chief Hong, “To be frank, we’re not a good match. You and I have different social positions. You know the more similar backgrounds, the better people get along, right? Since they have similar values and lifestyles, they’ll clash less.”

Chief Hong responded in disgust, “Don’t be so calculating.”

She was also confronted by her bestfriend, Miseon, “Hey. Love shouldn’t be about weighing things. It’s all about what’s in your heart.”

In denial and bothered, Hye-jin chose to reject what she was feeling for Chief Hong and decided to set boundaries with him, “I’ve been letting myself get too comfortable here. This won’t ever happen again. From now on, I won’t ever get involved with Chief Hong.”

However, emergency situations brought the two together. While Hye-jin tried to step back, Chief Hong did his best to clear the misunderstanding and break the awkwardness between them. As Chief Hong was consistently present to protect her from the town’s inconveniences, the fascinated dentist slowly broke open her walls.

As soon as she began to clearly reflect and realize her feelings for Chief Hong, she drove all the way from Seoul to Gongjin and confessed to him, “I’m one of those people who plan every second of their lives according to a lifespan of 99 years. I don’t like people crossing the line or crossing it myself. And I’m fond of expensive shoes. I guess I’m your complete opposite. It’s the same with our blood types and personalities. I bet we’re not compatible in any aspect. We’re probably as different as penguins that eat krill and polar bears that feed on sea lions. But to hell with all of that because I like you.”

Chief Hong reciprocated the feeling and positively responded, “I can’t deny it anymore either.”

And they kissed.

Truly, love transcends differences. No matter how diverse Chief Hong and Doc Hye-jin are, the power of mutual love unified them.

3. Love heals and sets free.

It is in relationships that we get hurt the most. But it is also in relationships that we learn to mend the broken parts in us and restore.

Chief Hong and Doc Hye-jin are two broken lives whose childhood were both injured by circumstances.

As the story grew deeper, we learned that there is more to a perfectionist Seoulite. Upon the demise of her mother, Hye-jin grew up to be an independent girl who conscientiously survived life according to her standard, intelligence, and resourcefulness. On the other hand, she was emotionally distant with her father who neglected her needs and remarried again.

In episode 5, we learned more about her past revealing trauma, insecurity, and embarassment from an ex-lover who despised her for being terrible in her fashion sense, having only a few pieces of clothes and shoes. “She looks pathetic,” the ex-boyfriend told his friends.

No wonder Hye-jin loves to collect designer brands, clothes, and bags, most especially shoes. To wear something expensive became her sense of worth and identity.

Chief Hong subtly untangled this insecurity in different occasions.

  • “It’s healthy to walk barefoot.”
  • “Money and success aren’t the only valuable things in life but happiness, self-contentment, world peace, and love.”
  • “As long as it’s not true, there’s no need to overreact. Let’s not be so sharp around the edges.”
  • “Life isn’t a mathematical equation. It doesn’t have a clear answer. There’s no right answer either. You’re just given a problem, and it’s up to you how you solve it.”
  • “You’re bound to meet unexpected situations in life. Even if you use an umbrella, you’ll end up getting drenched. Just put your hands up and welcome the rain.”

Meeting Chief Hong shattered her self-doubts, pride, and uncertainties in life. In addition, he was the key to break the emotional distance between Hye-jin and her father. “It’s strange. This is their first time meeting. So how does he seem to blend in so well? How does he make us feel so comfortable? How does he warm our hearts like so?” grateful Hye-jin thought.

On the other hand, we learned that there are several mysteries in the life of a jolly, dependable, and charming Chief Hong that convey a seemingly deep and heartbreaking story.

He lived with undisclosed feelings of deep-rooted trauma and fear of abandonment that only his psychiatrist knew. He personally believed that he was the one to blame for his loved ones’ death.

“Do you still feel that those around you and everyone you loved has left you?” the psychiatrist asked him.

With trembling hands and tears streaming down his face, he painfully uttered, “Yes. And I’m to blame.”

In episode 10, Hye-jin helped her mend his feelings of guilt concerning his grandfather’s death, “Those what-ifs are pointless. There are too many variables in this world and they’re beyond our control. So it’s not your fault.” Chief Hong smiled with ease as if it was the first time that he had a meaningful conversation with someone about his personal life aside from his psychiatrist.

Likewise, meeting Hye-jin somehow filled the void in Chief Hong’s life. “She talks and giggles a lot. You easily get distracted in her presence. Still, it feels empty now that she’s not around,” stated Chief Hong when Hye-jin already left after his grandfather’s memorial service.

Spending time with Hye-jin also helped him experience less horrible nightmares. When he woke up one time from a bad dream with Hye-jin beside him, he felt comforted and did not bother to take the prescribed medication to ease his anxiousness.

During his last appointment with the psychiatrist, he was told, “It seems you’re sleeping better now. At this rate, I think we can lower the dosage.” Chief Hong is slowly recovering.

When the right time came, he finally confessed to Hye-jin his life’s disappointments and trauma. He took the risk to expose his darkest and yet, he is loved all the more by Hye-jin. That’s healing for Chief Hong and pure love for Hye-jin.

Moreover, the presence and wisdom of Gongjin neighbors also helped him deal with his aloneness and arise from his fears.

Truly that it takes the love, understanding, acceptance, and support of significant people in life that sets a person free from inner entanglements. It’s in a community of relationships that we learn to heal and grow.

And that’s it. Genuine love heals and sets free in “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha”.

Drama Creators: Director Yu Je-won, Writer Shin Ha-eun

Photo cover: Netflix Korea