[K-DRAMA] Basketball (2013)

warning: may contain spoilers


A drama set in the 1930s during the Japanese occupation.

Kang San grew up in a poor village and was having difficulties in paying his tuition fees for school. He is also interested in sports particularly basketball, so he applied to be a member of the school’s basketball team. Even if he has good skills, he was not chosen. A rich classmate, by the name of Lee Hong Ki, was chosen to be a part of the team, after his mother bribed the coach with money. Coincidentally, a man named Gong Yoon Bae, asked Kang San if he wants to join his ‘basketball game’ which involves gambling. He declines at first, but after seeing his mother having hardships, he accepts in exchange for money. He was extremely good in the sport and this helped Yoon Bae earn money. Since then, San has joined Yoon Bae and his men. One night, San along with Yoon Bae and others attended a party. He sees a girl named Choi Shin Young being disrespected and San bravely saves her. It was love at first sight indeed. They met frequently after that night. The two’s relationship were hindered by several factors including love rival and social status. And Yoon Bae, he isn’t just a simple man who wants to earn money. The drama depicts the lives of young Koreans living during the Japanese occupation as they cope up with their own challenges and hardships.



The last time when I watched a drama wherein Basketball was used as a theme was in My MVP Valentine (Taiwanese drama), and that’s way back 2002. I was never into this sport, but would love to watch a drama about Basketball. I found out that this was taken place in 1930’s during the Japanese Occupation. It was refreshing to see a period drama; it’s been a long time since I watched one. The drama showed the culture and traditions of the past. Anyone who’s interested in history would actually find this drama nice to watch. I learned how Koreans were treated lowly by the Japanese. There was no freedom of speech and people were sent to Manchuria as slaves and workers. Arranged marriages were often done. It can be seen that government really rules and the higher authority should be obeyed always. The drama did its best to show the lifestyle and traditions of the 1930’s. However, when both basketball and traditions are incorporated in this drama, the outcome isn’t really nice. Basketball reminds me of modern times and placing it in a old setting like this isn’t really the best choice to have. I wished they just removed the concept of Basketball and plainly talk about the traditions. I understand that bringing basketball in this kind of setting will make it unique. I just didn’t like how the writers incorporated these two. Maybe if they improved on the writing, I might like it.


The start of the drama turned out fine. It wasn’t boring that one would quit, but the first few episodes sort of introduced most of the characters. It also focused on the love relationship of Shin Young and Kang San. As episodes passed, the writing became horrible and draggy. I do not understand the sudden changes of the character’s attitudes and behaviour. Kang San was an admirable lead character during the start, but I just hated the fact that he had no choice but to abandon his neighbourhood for money. He really felt helpless and portrayed a weak character. Choi Shin Young is not a likeable character for me. I didn’t like how she made her decisions which made both men love and hate her at the same time. Min Chi Ho’s character development is the only thing I liked. From an arrogant man, he became a responsible man. Overall, I really think that the writing could be more coherent. I wished they removed unnecessary scenes and concluded a better ending.


This wasn’t a much talked about drama and there are several factors to consider why. One is because it’s a cable drama and another would be the cast. I would like emphasise on Korea-Japan relations or simply Japanese occupation. It’s a controversial and sensitive issue even until this day. I do think that this is one factor of the ‘failure‘ of the drama. I highly appreciate and salute the staff for being so brave and confident in producing a period drama set during these times. However, I really think the Koreans would not be glad to see how the Japanese treated them in the past even if “past is past”. Watching this drama would make them remember those horrible things. It was simply a time where living was hard and difficult. I could not imagine myself in those characters’ positions. Dirty politics and corruption were evident even in the past. People were easily blinded by money and they do what they are told to achieve a higher position. People were also easily bribed as they don’t want to be killed or experience hardships.  They were unable to do anything things as they wish, but they were either controlled by their parents or by the government.


What I Find Most Amusing: Jo Hee Bong as multi-characters

At first, Jo Hee Bong confused me. I thought that he was simply disguising, but after seeing him in several, yes, I mean more than ten roles, I finally understood that he plays a lot of different characters. His roles are usually 1-2 lines except for the first role as a teacher, but you will always remember him because of his distinct look and voice. He exerted effort in having a different hairstyle and voice for every role that he is portraying. I do think that this is one charm of the drama, and not merely because of ‘shortage’ of actors. lol Have you ever watched a Korean drama with one actor portraying different characters? Now, you have an answer, and that is Basketball. Great acting by Jo Hee Bong as he can play variety of roles from teacher to taxi driver to referee to worker to soldier. I don’t think I can finish mentioning them all!



I’m not so sure if the staff did the right choice to choose relatively new actors to be part of the main cast. New actors hardly create buzz in the news. I wished they added at least one popular young actor in the main cast so the drama could attract more attention.


Do Ji Han as Kang San — He is a Korean actor who doesn’t look like a Korean, if you know what a typical Korean looks like. This is not a bad thing though, as his face could be easily remembered by many. I am not familiar with him even if he starred in smaller roles in the past. His acting is quite good but definitely needs to improve if he wants to become a successful actor. I know he must felt pressured to be given such a role. I do think he is not quite ready yet. Even if he was great, it was just standard or average. There’s nothing memorable with his acting and his role.


Lee Elijah as Choi Shin Young — Same thoughts for Lee Elijah. This is Elijah’s first acting project and she was given a lead role. Oh, the pressure she must have felt! Her acting was good as well but it was just an average performance. I have to see more from her in the future. I think these young actors should start from the bottom first rather than jumping to the top at once. And I have nothing against Lee Elijah, but I noticed there’s a mole on her upper lip. At first, I thought it was dirt or something, but later I found out it was actually a mole. I just felt disturbed while watching her. No offence though~


Jung Dong Hyun as Min Chi Ho — Another newbie we have here. Out of the three, I have to say Jung Dong Hyun’s performance was the best. It could be because of the height that he attracted my attention, or maybe because of his acting? I really find his role the most memorable out of the three. Great acting as well, but he still has a long way to go.

I must say that even if the staff recruited a bunch of new actors, most of them were all good-looking and charismatic. Bae Sung Won was very manly and charismatic. I love his style. Lee Hong Ki was adorable. He wanted to become popular like Min Chi Ho and Kang San. Oh In Soo was also a good-looking one! And Director Kim, despite of his cold stone face, he also looked good in suit. Loved the visual cast!


Ending (spoilers):

That was it? One of the most disappointing endings ever! I’ve watched many dramas like Dr. Jin and Big which made viewers dismayed with the ending. These two weren’t that bad though for me. Many viewers mentioned how Basketball was similar to the two drama’s endings and this time I have to agree with others. An ending which is really ambiguous and cut short midair literally. Will the bomb explode or not? What will happen after? Do all them die or some will survive? How big is that bomb and how many people will be affected? So many questions and I am completely unsatisfied. By the last few episodes, I’m a bit worried because there are no signs of wrap-ups or scenes coming to an end. I was right because they did not solve many problems. I guess the writers were lazy to wrap-up and solve the problems that they made up or they were cut short from 20 episodes to 18 episodes. Who knows? Several problems left hanging here and there such as what happened to Min Chi Ho’s father, the little kid with a disease taken to an island, and most especially the relationship of Kang San and Shin Young. I didn’t expect that they will end it this way. Is this their “dream” of a new world? I would want to give this drama a good rating, but because of the ending: -1. Conclusion: lazy writers!

Final Thoughts:

The drama was really intriguing for its old setting during the Japanese occupation and adding the sport Basketball to it. My interest boiled down after watching a few episodes but I was still hopeful and I stayed to watch until the end. Bad decision, because it was one of the worst endings I’ve ever watched. I applaud the writers for showing past traditions effectively, but Basketball was kind of lacking in some aspects. Worst ending and so-so newbie actors. It’s not a recommendable drama, but if you’re someone who’s interested in history particularly Japanese occupation, it’s something worth checking out. The culture and traditions were evidently shown in this drama and this is the only thing worth praising for.

Rating: 5/10 



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