How Not to Choreograph a Fight Scene: Fermentation Family Ep. 1

Whoever choreographed the opening fight sequence in Fermentation Family should have been told that taking a leaf out of the Yankumi School of Fighting isn’t exactly the best way to accomplish things. *spoilers under the cut*

Song Il-gook plays Ki Ho-tae, a gangster (or so we’re led to believe) who finds himself caught up in a power struggle when his employer is hospitalised and the latter’s #2 seizes the opportunity to wrestle control of the group.

The opening scene is supposed to establish that he’s a badass who can take on a bunch of thugs all by himself. Of course, anyone can do this if these people are just waiting in line to get their asses handed to them.

Case in point: What the hell is the guy standing behind Ho-tae doing? Waiting for a red carpet invite to beat the crap out of him? And why are the other gangsters keeping such a wide berth?

The only reason I can think of is that he has a very bad case of B.O. How else can you explain why they’re keeping their distance?

Fear my pong

The same thing happens in two other scenes in the same episode, which induced some major eye-rolling from me. While Ho-tae is slapping someone around, the other gangsters are just running in circles around him. Really, I kid you not. Compounding the lameness of these scenes is the fact that Song is not very convincing as a gangster. (It doesn’t help that I just finished watching Ninkyo Helper and am still experiencing withdrawal symptoms for Hikoichi.) In fact, there isn’t much to distinguish his current character from the one he played in Crime Squad (yet.) Just swap the inspector duds for a gangster suit, slap a dragon tattoo on his back and voilà, you have Ho-tae.

Fight choreography aside, the writing for the opening episode has been far from stellar. I’ll just give a brief run-through of the story and talk about the things I found problematic.

In a nutshell, Park Jin-hee plays Lee Kang-san, a chef who works in a European restaurant. She soon finds herself having to take over the helm of Cheon Ji In, a traditional Korean restaurant that’s been in her family for the past three generations when her father disappears. The problem is that as highly regarded as it is, it is also heavily in debt.

While still employed at her former workplace, she meets Ho-tae, who disses her skills as a chef, which in turn sets up their bickering relationship for the rest of the drama. Ho-tae, as it transpires, has an amazing palate that allows him to recreate the flavours of any dish that he’s tasted. It’s also made him a bit of a picky eater, which is laughable because he’s supposed to be an orphan with a presumably hard-luck childhood. Whatever happened to the saying ‘beggars can’t be choosers’? [Btw K-drama Gods, can you please stop this trend of characters with amazing palates? You are making a mockery of the entire cooking profession. Taste is not the only thing that makes a chef.]

What I didn’t like:

  • The scene where Kang-san saves Ho-tae from the gangsters: So lazily written like woah. Ho-tae & Co were in a secluded junkyard. How did she know that a fight was taking place there? And given the angles, how could she even see it taking place with all those stacks of rubbish and bulldozer obscuring her view? Also, I’m not sure if this is a cultural thing but do South Koreans have police sirens in their cars? If not, why does she have one?
  • Kang-san’s sister: We’re only 48 minutes into this drama and already I can’t stand Lee Min-young’s character. I was neutral about her up to the point when she accused Kang-san of looking down on her because a) her gullibility makes her a frequent target of con men and b) she doesn’t have any academic credentials or prospects to her name (it took her seven years to graduate from elementary school. WTF, writer? Is making her this stupid really necessary? You have a 30-year-old woman who has no employable skills to speak of, such that all she can do is work as a server at her father’s restaurant and hope some man marries her. Excuse me while I hurl.) I’m sorry but I am extremely allergic to self-pitying, passive aggressive people like this. If you don’t want people to look down on you, then friggin’ do something about it. Pick up some skills and do something with yourself. Don’t just sit there and whine about it. God.
  • How much better would it have been if the scriptwriter had conceived Lee’s character as someone who is also skilled in cooking, except that unlike her sister, her expertise lies in traditional Korean cuisine. One of the issues that this drama will probably be dealing with is how to make traditional Korean food more accessible to a wider audience so that the restaurant can attract more customers etc, so such a set-up would have enabled both characters to use their respective skills to update the restaurant’s menu. Not to mention, it would have opened their eyes to other aspects of cooking they hadn’t previously considered.
  • Getting Kang-san to work at Cheon Ji In: You know the writing isn’t very good when the scriptwriter has to resort to ham-fisted means to get a character to where s/he is supposed to be. So Kang-san doesn’t want to work at Cheon Ji In. She wants to sell it and then return to her job at the European restaurant. What does her sister do? She phones Kang-san’s boss behind her back and tells him that she’s quitting her job. Seriously, are you kidding me??? If my sister did that to me, she would have been dead.

What I liked:

  • The scenery: The landscapes and food scenes all look like they could be a part of KTO’s next tourism campaign. This is the food nerd in me talking but I’m hoping they do what Osen did and provide a bit of how-to expository.

Er…that’s it.

That being said, dramas do improve with time and there’s no reason why Fermentation Family should be an exception (I mean, the writing can’t get any worse, can it?) It does have a number of interesting story threads going for it — the reason behind Kang-san’s father’s disappearance, Ho-tae’s backstory and his connection to Cheon Ji In, and the reason the little girl Eun-bi keeps showing up at the restaurant — and provided the writer does not screw things up by focusing on other inconsequential matters instead, Fermentation Family could be one of those slow burners. (I don’t have high hopes though. The fact that this is a 24-parter fills me with uneasiness because a lot of K-dramas tend to drag on longer than necessary and would benefit from having a much shorter run.)

Here’s what I hope will not happen:

  • I know K-dramas like their love triangles but I do not want a love triangle involving involving Ho-tae, Kang-san and Woo-joo at all. Actually, I think I’d rather like it if love didn’t blossom between Ho-tae and Kang-san either — it would be quite refreshing to have a platonic relationship between the leads for once.
  • The restaurant regulars were pretty unfunny in episode 1. I don’t know what purpose they’re supposed to serve but I hope the writer doesn’t bog the whole drama down by focusing on them more than is absolutely necessary.


  1. So are you gonna stay for the long haul? 24 episodes is a pretty long time to invest in a drama. Merry Christmas dear. Haven’t been on Twitter as well.

  2. Hey, hope you had a good Christmas!

    Er, no. I decided to drop it after 3 episodes so that it wouldn’t taint my affection for Park Jin-hee. Given that its ratings are pretty ho-hum, I wonder if the network is still going to go with a 24-ep run.

    So what are you watching now? Did you give Ninkyo Helper a go? :D

  3. Happy New Year chingu! Nah haven’t had the time during the holiday watch anything or even post on twitter. There were so many parties to go to… but I will really watch Ninkyo Helper on Finished jdoramas Hunter & the one with Takuya Kimura and the dogs in Antartica and wept like a banshee over my christmas eggnog. Drama gods I need more days in the week and hours in a day to watch all these dramas. Stilll waiting for my baby Jo In Sung to come back in a movie or drama. Hug

  4. Wow. If you had stayed with the drama, it would have answered your questions about how PJH found SIG in the shipyard. You would also have found out why LMY’s character behaves that way she does. And no, there isn’t a love triangle. Oh well, to each its own. The drama can do with one less unappreciative viewer. And for the record the last 2 eps of Ninkyo Helper were a letdown and the ending was such a cop-out, so don’t know what you are raving about. Yes everyone can have an opinion, but yours based on just viewing one ep and misunderstanding everything is just laughable. Stick with watching dramas with no depth.

    1. Oh Allen, it sounds like you have a major case of butthurt.

      Let’s get one thing straight: I gave this drama a few more episodes after the first one and if I had seen anything that warranted a revision of my opinions, I would have done so. I’m all for eating crow…provided there is crow to be eaten. Btw, you seem to think that this is a review of the entire series. It is not. As indicated in this post’s header, it is a commentary of the first episode, which I thought was a very patchy one.

      Now, I’m aware that there are many people who loved this drama. Good for them, I say. On the other hand, I know for a fact that there are also those who didn’t think too highly of the writing and acting in Fermentation Family. Are you going to go to their blogs and harangue them for being unappreciative viewers as well?

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