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Lee Hye-ri in a still from My Roommate Is a Gumiho.

K-drama midseason recap: My Roommate Is a Gumiho – fantasy romance couple search for freedom

  • Lee Hye-ri’s college girl character was forced to live in the house of gumiho – a supernatural creature – Jang Ki-yong, but now she’s free to leave
  • He can’t seem to forget her, but she prefers to be out drinking with friends. As we see hints of the fate awaiting him, a secondary romance offers a diversion

This article contains spoilers.

No matter what one’s station in life, we all crave freedom in some form or another. In these trying times that have challenged our notions of what it means to be free, this has never been more true.

In the Korean drama series My Roommate Is a Gumiho, Lee Dam (Lee Hye-ri) stays in the mansion of Shin Woo-yeo (Jang Ki-yong), a supernatural creature known as a gumiho. For her protection, since she accidentally swallowed a special bead that contains his life force, she must abide by certain house rules.

For a spunky college girl like Dam, these rules, which include a curfew and moratoriums on alcohol and certain favoured foods such as fried chicken, quickly become a major source of inconvenience.

Woo-yeo may look like a dashing young man, but in fact he’s 999 years old and Dam always refers to him with the honorific reserved for senior citizens. With his well-maintained house, careful manners and strict rules, he embodies the conservative older man to a tee. What’s more, the rules he enforces for Dam are not unlike those a young adult woman may be forced to abide by when still living with their parents, particularly the curfew.

In 2021 in South Korea, that curfew also evokes the 10pm business closure guidelines that have been in effect across much of the nation since late last year, in accordance with social distancing protocols. Youth in the country, just like the rest of the world, have seen their liberties taken away from them at a crucial time in their lives.

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Dam could well serve as a stand-in for any number of young people in Korea at the moment. Her pleasures are simple, if occasionally a little irresponsible, but without them life is a little more complicated.


Despite its name, the cohabitation angle of My Roommate Is a Gumiho evaporates at the halfway point, when Woo-yeo finally takes his bead from Dam, erases her memories and sends her home.

Unexpectedly for Woo-yeo but fortunately for those rooting for their potential romantic pairing, his mind wipe trick doesn’t work this time, as Dam seems to remember everything about her experience with him. Woo-yeo can’t bare to stay away from Dam for long, but once he reappears before her she seems less than thrilled.

Lee Hye-ri (left) as Lee Dam and Kim Do-han as friend Do Jae-jin in a still from My Roommate Is a Gumiho.

While Dam may be upset about Woo-yeo terminating their “contract” early, one thing she’s thrilled about is no longer having to follow the rules she was forced to live by while she stayed in his home.

To celebrate her new-found freedom, she devours multiple baskets of fried chicken at a restaurant, as her stunned friends look on, while also downing mugs of beer, glasses of soju and potent so-mek (soju and beer) cocktails, before ordering another round of chicken and beer.

Just as in most prime-time drama series, drinking features prominently in My Roommate Is a Gumiho, even in the episodes when Dam isn’t supposed to be drinking. She drinks seven bottles of soju in a tent restaurant with Woo-yeo, and any time she drinks with her friend Do Jae-jin (Kim Do-wan), he gets blackout drunk, damages people’s cars and has to be escorted home by a friend.

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Korea’s drinking culture is known to be quite extreme, in some ways as a form of stress relief in a high pressure society, and most dramas set in the present day benefit to some degree from product placement contracts with alcohol distributors. But My Roommate Is a Gumiho’s relationship with booze seems particularly unhealthy.


The problem isn’t so much the amount of alcohol consumed, but the depiction of the drunken behaviour of these characters as innocent. Dam’s drunkenness endears her to Woo-yeo and Jae-jin’s blackout vandalism is immediately forgiven each time.

Then again, for college-age characters like Dam and Jae-jin, drinking is a form of freedom. It’s a way to escape from the family home, to temporarily strip oneself of responsibility and to indulge in personal pleasures. In a sense, the oblivion found at the end of a bottle is a rebellion against the rules set forth by society which don’t allow for many other freedoms.

Kang Ha-na (left) and Kim Do-han in a still from My Roommate Is a Gumiho.

With the bead out of Dam’s stomach, the direction of the show has veered into the romantic lane, but fantasy elements remain in play. A series of unusual deaths are found out to be the handiwork of a gumiho that has gone over to the dark side, having failed to become a human before turning 1,000 years old.


This, of course, is the fate awaiting Woo-yeo, and what remains to be seen is how Woo-yeo and Dam’s relationship and his metamorphosis into a human can be achieved together. For Woo-yeo, becoming a human would mean freedom from an immortal life bereft of human emotions.

Meanwhile, former gumiho Yang Hye-sun (Kang Ha-na) and Jae-jin are looking more and more likely to turn into an unexpected item, and this much needed secondary romance is threatening to be more interesting than that of the lead pair.

Jang Ki-yong (left) as Shin Woo-yeo and Lee Hye-ri in a still from My Roommate Is a Gumiho.

Still dancing on the sidelines is Gye Sun-woo (Bae In-hyuk), who has never stopped pining for Dam but remains a fleeting and perplexing presence on the show.

My Roommate Is a Gumiho is streaming on iQiyi.