It’s easy to guess that Encounter will be a Cinderella story from the opening credits, and if you still missed that visual clue, Song Hye Kyo’s character, a cool aloof CEO, also entrusts her shoes to the freewheeling young traveler, played by Park Bo Gum.
He keeps her shoes but he’s not the prince. She’s the princess. And in some ways the drama might remind you of another fairy tale, one in which a princess is held prisoner in an icy tower. Song’s character has few friends, no support from her parents and is recovering from an unhappy arranged marriage.
I never appreciated the appeal of Park Bo Gum before Encounter, nor did I think I would believe a romantic kdrama starring Song Hye Kyo with anyone other than Song Joong Ki, after they starred together in Descendants of the Sun and then married in real life. Yet minutes into the drama’s first episode, it’s easy to believe that the bright optimism and childlike delight displayed by Park’s character will stir her heart.
To help thaw her icy armor, the story opens in sunny Cuba, with a glorious montage of sun-drenched pastel scenery, complemented by a sultry salsa soundtrack. Park is there backpacking, taking photos, soaking up local culture, and Song is there signing deals for a new hotel. The visuals are so beautifully captured, that the first episode might prompt more than a longing to see another episode. You might want to visit the island before all the beautifully painted vintage cars and marvelous old buildings disappear in a rush of modernization.
In Cuba, fate draws Park and Song together more than once. They spend time watching the sunset, enjoying beer and local eats, then listening and dancing to music. Because her impractical designer sandals leave her heels raw, he buys her inexpensive shoes, and he also helps her get home after her purse is stolen. Even more surprising, he makes her smile. They plan to meet the next morning for breakfast and then their plans fall through. He keeps her shoes in his backpack.
What happens on Cuba, however, does not stay in Cuba. Once back in Korea, Park realizes that Song is the CEO of the grand hotel he just got hired at. There aren’t many dramas in which the woman is the CEO who falls for the poor boy. It’s usually the other way around, although I Do I Do with Kim Sun Ah, My Fair Lady with Yoon Eun Hye, and High Society with Uee, are fun examples of dramas in which female CEOs fall for poor boys.
Park’s character is worried it might get awkward at his new workplace, but, although she can’t stop being interested, she’s gracious about the coincidence. In true kdrama fashion, fate will keep providing encounters until they realize they were meant to be a couple. When they do, they will have a lot of obstacles to overcome. Not only is she rich and influential, powerful families want to use her as a pawn. She’s also older than him, considerably, So, it’s easy to imagine there’s a scandal brewing since Song’s CEO is constantly photographed wherever she goes.
Will Park’s character remain optimistic and cheerful in the face of all these challenges? Will his exemplary character be his most princely quality? Let’s hope the shoe fits and the icy princess finds her prince charming.
You can see the drama at viki.com: