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Hwang Jeong-eum, Yook Sung-jae offer mysterious counseling at ‘Mystic Pop-Up Bar’

“Mystic Pop-Up Bar” (JTBC Studio)
“Mystic Pop-Up Bar” (JTBC Studio)

South Korean rom-com queen Hwang Jeong-eum is returning to the small screen after two years -- this time as a mysterious, hot-tempered bar owner named Wol-joo in the upcoming JTBC drama “Mystic Pop-Up Bar.”

Based on a popular Korean webtoon of the same title, the fantasy drama tells the story of Wol-joo and her employees, Han Kang-bae and Chief Gwi, who visit their customers in dreams to help them resolve their inner demons. Singer-actor Yook Sung-jae plays Kang-bae, and veteran actor Choi Won-young plays Chief Gwi.

Hwang, who is known for her work in romantic comedies such as “Kill Me, Heal Me” (2015) and “She Was Pretty” (2015), says she accepted the role because she was a huge fan of the original webtoon.

“I wanted to attempt a character that wasn’t comical. But in taking up the role, although there were some comical aspects to her, she really weighed down in situations when she had to be serious and wasn’t a shallow character,” the 35-year-old actress said Monday during a press conference. The event was livestreamed due to concerns about the novel coronavirus.

Choi, who is teaming up with Hwang for the second time -- previously, they worked together on “Kill Me, Heal Me” -- manages Wol-joo’s pop-up bar as Chief Gwi. In Korean, the establishment is known as a “pojangmacha” or “pocha” for short.

“The ‘chief’ title comes from his role in catching ghosts. Although he is called the chief of the bar, he takes charge of all the miscellaneous chores. While he gets shoved around by Wol-joo most of the time, he uses his special power and shows courage in critical situations,” Choi said.

Yook, a member of the K-pop boy band BTOB, was not present at Monday’s event as he had enlisted in the Army the previous Monday. According to JTBC, all the episodes have been filmed and Yook’s absence will not influence the drama’s schedule.

In a prerecorded video played during the press conference, Yook introduced his character, Kang-bae, as a warm-hearted person who “holds a superpower to make people spill out their secrets by even the slightest touch.”

Budding actress Jeong Da-eun, who made her name with the 2018 film “The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion,” and established actor Lee Jun-hyuk are also among the lead cast members. Jeong plays Yook’s counterpart, Kang Yeo-rin, while Lee takes up the role of the grim reaper, Chief Yeom.

The original webtoon by author Bae Hye-soo kicked off in October 2015 and is still running on the portal site Daum. It is one of the longest-running series on the platform and is among the few pieces to have received full marks from viewers.

The 16-episode series is produced by Jeon Chang-geun, who previously directed “The Package” (2017) for JTBC and “What Happens to My Family?” (2014-2015) for KBS.

The series will air every Wednesday and Thursday at 9:30 p.m., starting this week.

By Choi Ji-won  (