What can be more appropriate than having my first post here be about my first Korean drama?
Three Families Under One Roof (한지붕 세가족) was a MBC Sunday morning family drama that aired for eight years between November 9, 1986 until November 13, 1994.
It is considered to be one of the longest running Korean dramas of all times. If I recall correctly, it’s third only to Diary of a Rural Village (전원일기), which aired for 22 years from 1980 until its finale in 2002, and Love on a Jujube Tree (대추나무 사랑걸렸네), which aired for 17 years from 1990 until 2007. As typical of such long-running dramas, Three Families Under One Roof went through several director, writer, and cast changes during its 8-year run.
The story was a simple one of conflicts and camaraderie between neighbors, and similar to American family sitcoms, it had a new story every week. The three main families lived at a two-story house, with the landlord’s family occupying the first floor, a tenant’s family living on the second floor, and another tenant’s family living in what I can only best describe as a one room unit adjacent to the main house (it always reminded me of a garage turned into a living dwelling).
The earlier cast members included Lim Chae Moo (Golden Bride), Lim Hyun Shik (Dae Jang Geum), Park Won Sook (Three Sisters), Hyun Suk (You’re My Destiny), and Choi Joo Bong (Harvest Villa, Everybody Cha Cha Cha).
Indisputably, the biggest star of the show was the child actor, Lee Gun Joo, who stole the hearts of the entire country in his role as Soondol, the chubby troublemaker son of Lim Hyun Shik and Park Won Sook. Even to this day, many people say all they remember whenever they think of Three Familes Under One Roof is Soondol.
Riding on his fame from playing Soondol, Lee Gun Joo went on to star in several movies during the late 1980s. But like many other child stars, he was never able to repeat his popularity as an adult. You may recognize him as one of the eunuchs in the 2007 drama, King and I.
Despite being my first Korean drama experience, I admit I don’t remember much of Three Families Under One Roof. I remember Choi Joo Bong’s character always coming over Lim Hyun Shik’s store to rub it in his face that his son (and Soondol’s archnemesis), Mansoo, got 100 on his school exam once again. It was a repeated joke of the show that Choi Joo Bong’s character annoyed all the neighbors with his constant talks of, “Our Mansoo, our Mansoo!”
One of the most memorable episode of the drama was right before the first cast change occurred. The story had the landlord selling the house in order to (surprise, surprise) immigrate to the U.S. The neighbors came to the airport to bid farewell to the landlord’s family as they left, and Soondol cried his heart out as he said goodbye to the landlord’s daughter, a noona character who was always kind to him. This scene continued to haunt me for a long time thereafter, perhaps because it reminded me so much of when I moved to America myself.
The cast changeover happened gradually, with different neighbors moving in and out during the entire run of the show. Later cast members included Kang Nam Gil (Who Are You, Playful Kiss), Lee Jung Gil (Boys Over Flowers, Iris), and Kim Hye Soo (Style). But by then, the show was past its prime and I was no longer following the drama. Surprisingly, the show went on to air for a couple more years before finally signing off in 1994.
Here’s the opening theme song from during the latter years of the show. By this time, most of the original cast members were gone.