Netflix K-drama Welcome to Samdal-ri: Jeju-set romantic comedy sees Shin Hye-sun and Ji Chang-wook share laughs and chemistry

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To get there, she had to break up with her childhood friend Cho Yong-pil (Ji, The Worst of Evil), who is just as brilliant as Sam-dal but has never shown any desire to leave the island.

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He has become a weather forecaster at the local meteorology centre and his refusal to compromise on his forecasts has made him a thorn in the side of his colleagues. Unfortunately for them he’s always right.

The Seoul head office has been courting him for years but he refuses the transfer. Those around him believe it is because he is too scared to bump into Sam-dal again in the big city.

It’s surely no accident that the series’ director, Cha Young-hoon, also directed 2022 meteorology-themed romantic comedy Forecasting Love and Weather.
Ji Chang-wook as weatherman Cho Yong-pil in a still from “Welcome to Samdal-ri”.
Beyond coincidentally having the same last name, Sam-dal and Yong-pil were also born on the same day in neighbouring houses. Surrounded by village ajhummas (Korean middle-aged women), their combined births will seem very familiar to anyone who saw this year’s The Good Bad Mother.

Welcome to Samdal-ri tells the story of these fated friends, but when it begins the focus is mainly on Sam-dal and her tribulations as her dazzling career as a photographer hits the skids thanks to a disgruntled apprentice.

Bang Eun-ju (Jo Yun-seo) has been working under Sam-dal for four years and has begun losing her patience. Following a flare-up between them that occurs after Sam-dal exclaims that she still doesn’t think she is ready, Eun-ju triggers a scandal when she attempts suicide and then accuses Sam-dal of being an abusive boss.

Shin Hye-sun as photographer Cho Sam-dal in a still from “Welcome to Samdal-ri”.

With her bratty behaviour and haughty attitude, Eun-ju appears to be the villain early on, and that’s even before Sam-dal learns that Eun-ju was the “other woman” who seduced her two-timing boyfriend.

The show invites us to side with Sam-dal, but was she in fact a bad boss holding her apprentice back? Abusive mentor-mentee relationships are not uncommon in Korea, but only time will tell if the show will explore this angle.

To escape the media onslaught, Sam-dal is forced to return to Jeju and her grown-up sisters. All three of them are unmarried and thus a disappointment to their hard-working mother, Ko Mi-ja (Kim Mi-kyung), who leads a group of haenyeo (women who dive for shellfish) on the island.

Ji Chang-wook as Cho Yong-pil in a still from “Welcome to Samdal-ri”.

By contrast, we learn relatively little about Yong-pil in the series’ opening episodes. He begins the show as a singer who stands up on the stage of Korea Sings, a hugely popular televised talent show that has been on the air for over 40 years.

He may be in the spotlight, but the shy Sam-dal is by his side as his manager. Her dominant personality soon comes to the fore in the present. She struts Seoul’s streets with a Chanel shopping bag and enters a gleaming high-rise where she removes a container of gone-off kimchi and walks over to a man sitting at a table.

This is her boyfriend, who she recently discovered was cheating on her. She dumps him by dumping the kimchi all over him.

Shin Hye-sun (left) as Cho Sam-dal and Ji Chang-wook as Cho Yong-pil in a still from “Welcome to Samdal-ri”.

The show excels in this kind of slapstick humour, thanks in no small part to Shin and Ji’s sterling portrayals of their hot-headed characters. Another early highlight comes when Yong-pil drops in on Mi-ja and Sam-dal attempts to hide.

Yong-pil believes a thief is hiding in the other room, and since in her haste Sam-dal accidentally closed the door on the string of her sweatpants, a furious tug of war begins.

There isn’t too much doubt as to where the story will lead, but as long as it allows Shin and Ji to maintain their chemistry, we should be in safe hands.

Welcome to Samdal-ri is streaming on Netflix.

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