Rules of Dating
This one really surprised me.

Maybe because I thought it was just another romantic comedy. The cover on the DVD looks that way, most of the blurbs I’ve seen say that it is – but it is not.

It’s a romantic drama with quite a serious story to tell.

Lee Yoo-rim (Hae-il Park) is a teacher. When the new student teachers arrive, he is teamed up with Choi Hong (Hye-jeong Kang), to whom he is immediately attracted, even though she is 27 – a year older than him (and that’s a big deal in Korean society).

He asks her straight out to have sex with him, telling her that he does not believe in love – even though he has had a girlfriend for the last six years. Hong is about to marry her doctor boyfriend in a month, but Yoo-rim does not care – he just wants to have sex!

He keeps trying to persuade her, and even tries to force himself unto her. When it comes down to it she seems slightly interested in a passive kind of way. He seems very immature about women and their feelings, he just seems to care about his own needs – in a typical male fashion?

Of course they have sex. They start to talk, and we learn why Hong acts as she does. And then things escalate. Actions, reactions, feelings and we’re off to the races.

This is director Han Jae-rim’s first film, and I liked it a lot. It shows that even though things are changing in Korea, it is still a more male dominated society than most western European countries.

Like most men Yoo-rim does not understand the pressure that even a smart and resourceful Korean woman is put under from a chauvinistic cheating Korean man – how her surroundings almost automatically put the blame on her, and how she has to bear all the consequences.

Her solution to this is clever and does not seem contrived, but arises naturally from her situation. If a man cannot emphasize with a woman’s plight – put him in a similar situation, and suddenly he understands things a lot better!

So why was this marketed as a romantic comedy? I have no idea. Maybe someone who knows more about Korean society can tell me? “Rules of Dating” certainly has romance, it is very honest about sex, but to me the comedy aspect just was not there. And it should not be – it is not a comedy at all.

That does not mean that the film has no humor or is very dogmatic about getting it’s message through. It is both warm and alive and especially Kang Hye-jeong is doing a terrific job. She tells Choi Hong’s story so well that any man will have a hard time tearing his eyes away from her beautiful face – even in the sex scenes!

I don’t know if the English title “Rules of Dating” is an adequate translation (I tend to think it’s another aspect of the romantic comedy marketing ploy), but the film pokes at a lot of sore spots in male behavior without trying to preach and it shows a lot of heart doing it.

Here in Scandinavia we like to think that we have come a bit farther in creating equal standards for both sexes than the picture this film draws of Korean society – but we haven’t come so far that we will leave the theatre completely unscathed.

Go and watch “Rules of Dating” – it’s a good film.
Uffe Stegmann
September 18, 2005

Original Title
Yeonae-ui mokjeok
South Korea
Jae-rim Han
Hye-jeong Kang
- Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)
- Antarctic Journal (2005)
- Three…Extremes (“Cut”)(2005)
- Oldboy (2003)
- Nabi (2001)
Hae-il Park
- My Mother the Mermaid (2004)
- Memories of Murder (2003)
- Scent of Chrysanthemums (2003)
- Jealousy is my Middle Name (2002)
- Who are you? (2002)
- Waikiki Brothers (2001)
DVD Availability
Available on DVD from YesAsia: