Bridal MaskGaksital

Bridal Mask ~ Review

Gaksital

“Of course, hitting a rock with eggs may seem reckless.
A layer of egg will just break when it hits the rock.
However, no matter how sturdy the rock is, it’s not alive.
Eggs are alive, even though they are weak.
Rocks will become sand in time.
But there will be chicks hatching out of the egg
And they will triumph upon the sand.”

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Truth be told, it’s rare finding dramas that won’t drag after they pass the 20th episode, even 16-episode dramas drag quite often! Don’t ask me why i hadn’t watched Bridal Mask all this time, i don’t know either, but the positive voices around me were growing in numbers and while i am absorbed by Yong Pal i decided to give it a shot. Whether it was a huge mistake or a wise decision during exams period i really can’t say, only time shall tell.

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However, i don’t regret a single second i invested in watching Bridal Mask and i still can’t believe it didn’t feel like dragging during this 28-episode journey; not at all. At first i thought it was my arch enthusiasm, but at the end of the drama i was quite certain it was flowing like water in cascades proving that this marathon was well-conceived and well-executed. Needless to say that it’s one of these dramas that gently enforces personal participation to a wider extent as episodes pass by!

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Bridal Mask is based on Huh Young Man‘s same-titled 1974 manhwa, Gaksital. The drama reflects the story of Lee Kang To (Joo Won), a local cooperator of Japan’s imperial machine during Japan’s oppressive colonial rule of Korea. Kang To is a proud member of the imperial police and his passion to suppress any sparkle of rebellion is carved all over his face. Being a native Korean makes his attempts more vulgar in order to abolish any remains of Korean heritage running in his veins and that’s the reason why he’s often more violent than the Japanese colonists themselves.

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Ever since Bridal Mask, a revolutionary figure bound to keep the hopes of an entire nation breathing, appeared Lee Kang To’s life changed once and for all. Catching Bridal Mask became his sole reason of existing and all traces of humanity started vanishing one after the other, but this violent journey was also the reason why the beast within would be tamed and humanity would steadily blossom anew in Kang To’s life.

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Bridal Mask is a bright example of what nationalism/fascism and like-minded forms of “ideology” can do to hearts and minds as they are led by blind fanaticism through the prism of a “higher cause” in order to preserve ill-natured and ever-expanding ambitions. If wars are a crime against humanity, fascism through strict uniformity is just one drop of the poison and wealth and power are the lurking reasons. Bridal Mask reflects all three sub-levels of inhumanity to a wide extent without attempting to appear user-friendly on screen. On the contrary, it is raw because you can’t approach such subjects in an amiable tone, especially when you want to strip righteous-seeming uniforms and most and above all the sickening cause behind its “noble” contours.

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Even though Bridal Mask is seen through the Korean prism it still remains a protest against gruesome “beliefs” which are bound to leave scars on the very soul and essence of humanity. Given the circumstances, Bridal Mask doesn’t neglect bringing to the surface comfort women, enforced army enlistment of Korean youth to find themselves at the Chinese front for the Japanese war machine to have less casualties, tortures based on evidence or assumptions, humiliation of human rights and dignity, extreme citizenship discrimination and an attempt for Koreans to abolish their heritage and embrace a Japanese way of living in order to acquire a chance of becoming first class citizens of the empire.

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In times like these, an idealist figure is always needed to raise the heads and eventually the moral of an entire nation’s population, except for those who chose the colonial side for their own well-being as opposed to their fellow Koreans’ struggles and their presence throughout the drama is more than palpable. However, not every Japanese citizen was preserving the “ideals” of the empire and it’s being depicted through very specific figures at some points in their lives. It’s one of these aspects of Bridal Mask that don’t make the drama one-sided in its point of view even though it focuses on the Korean side which indeed suffered under the colonial rule.

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The mask itself was a symbol of anonymity depicting that any Korean citizen could be under that mask as the prayers for freedom and brighter days were growing in numbers while the ongoing struggle and oppression were perfectly presented through the burden of the figures partaking in this drama. Just like the mask was forged by the cries of an entire nation, the face behind the mask wasn’t bound to remain stable and the successor to the righteous avenger’s “throne” was meant to go through all the steps of internal change, depending on the circumstances in the beginning, but walking upon the enlightened path that had already been paved.

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Bridal Mask masterfully depicts the flames of revenge and the way it progresses through very different perspectives as it ranges from pure yet purposeful hate to noble intentions or blind hatred and in reverse. It’s all about how the arch thought of revenge makes one’s heart’s cogwheels rotating differently, especially when it appears as an inevitable option. Revenge was the main crossroad in Bridal Mask’s world with both roads externalizing the internal collision. The first pathway was forging a humane side given the circumstances and the second one was nurturing the beast within.

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There’s also an ongoing sense of familial love both in presence and absence since there’s a wide variety of characters trying to be accepted by their parental figures while pushing them away at the same time with their decisions. There’s a distinctive presentation for every character when it comes to that very specific aspect somewhere between a parent’s expectations/ambitions which distort a child’s personality and a parent’s love and longing for wisest decisions.

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Albeit a cliche in the world of dramas, the past which brings together and tears apart many of our figures at the present was essential in Bridal Mask. It doesn’t only show how some of the characters met during turbulent times, it also reflects a part of their choices at the even more explosive present and the way all of them progressed solely and through their manifold interactions.

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There’s an ongoing and ever-changing battlefield where friendship, emotion, conscience and duty struggle for the upper hand in a threatening surrounding environment. The captivating storyline never loses its pace and it gives the characters the opportunity to evolve and grow wiser or lose themselves in the vehemence of the circumstances. The soundtrack evokes a bittersweet aura forging a sound background which climaxes everything going on in the foreground in the most representative way.

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Dramas like Bridal Mask are very demanding in order to preserve to the fullest everything they want to convey. A multi-layered and thought-provoking script in combination with exceptional cinematography is not enough if the acting isn’t top-notch. Bridal Mask excelled in that factor and Joo Won was a living masterpiece through his transcendent and versatile interpretation. A wide variety of facial expressions was parading in front of our very eyes since Joo Won is an emotional chameleon even when the role is more than challenging.

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Minimal whenever needed but also exaggerating without seeming pretentious or pompous just for the sake of it whenever the circumstances were asking for it, Joo Won always managed to bring to the surface Kang To’s plenteous characteristics in the way he progressed as a character. During the first episodes he was depicting a figure you could hate to the fullest for all the reasons in the world, but his transformation was immense and we could witness the course he was paving step by step in a masterful way. Joo Won’s acting in Bridal Mask is beyond any expectations, he’s one league of his own and the way he breathes through a wide variety of emotions from one edge to the other is simply astonishing.

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The most complex characters of Bridal Mask have to be Lee Kang To and Kimura Shunji and they progressed back to back while embracing one another’s former nature by perfecting two figures’ parallel yin and yang opposition. Park Ki Woong was as stellar as Joo Won and he was highly representative of Shunji’s arch warmth and kindhearted nature, but he was literally glimmering in the darkness once the poison befriended Shunji’s veins with only one destination, his heart. Just like Kang To was progressing step by step, the same applies to Shunji and Park Ki Woong was paving his own way with every step being even more darkening during an ongoing struggle to maintain his humane side.

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I usually read negative opinions concerning Jin Se Yun and this was the first time i saw her in a drama. I have to admit that i found her pretty decent and she fervently brought to life Mok Dan’s character. Her revolutionary nature and non-compromising spirit, along with her longing which was related to the past, were there and i liked her interpretation. However, the female figure that stole my impressions was no other than Ueno Rie. Such a multifaceted personality, so much grandeur, finesse and elegance under a menacing veil were brought to life in an entrancing way by Han Chae Ah‘s vibrant and irresistible presentation. Ueno Rie was the woman of a thousand dresses and she was a living catwalk of that era as she never wore the same outfit twice. Her background story and the way she progressed were highly intriguing, as intriguing as Han Chae Ah’s genteel presence and glowing acting!

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The number of secondary figures and guest roles is quite a big one since the nature of the drama was asking for it. It’s true that main figures are the front line of a drama, but if the rest of the cast don’t possess the dynamics of presenting distinctive figures then the overall outcome isn’t as majestic as it should be. Thankfully enough, Bridal Mask has nothing to do with this and you could differentiate each and every character from the first moment they started making their appearances.

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Ahn Hyung Joon was putting many second leads to shame as Katsuyama even though he was only a supporting role, Jeon No Min was simply flawless as Dam Sa Ri, Shin Hyun Joon was shining as Lee Kang San, Kang To’s brother, Yoon Bong Kil was presenting Abe, the person you could never hate regardless of his uniform while Yoon Jin Ho was no other than the person you could only hate, Goiso, alongside Kimura Kenji who was exceptionally presented by Park Joo Hyung. I named just a few, but there are many fascist characters, local cooperators, renegades and conflicted ones along with the quirky ones that were easing the tension with their humorous approach just like the grotesque figures of Lee Shi Yong (Ahn Seok Hwan), Lee Hwa Gyung (Kim Jung Nan) and Shin Na Da (Lee Byung Joon).

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Bridal Mask is breathtaking with diverse fight choreography, representative cinematography, a wide variety of emotions presented through many angles, mesmerizing acting, excessive and ever-expanding chemistry and a cleverly woven thought-provoking and history-reminding storyline through a fictional scenario reminding everyone that authoritarian approaches don’t last forever since people will always oppose oppression regardless of the sacrifices they have to make.

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Kwon Sang Seung

Kwon Sang Seung

elles viennent
autres et pareilles
avec chacune c'est autre et c'est pareille
avec chacune l'absence d'amour est autre
avec chacune l'absence d'amour est pareille
-Samuel Beckett-

30 Comments

  1. September 19, 2015 at 12:41 am — Reply

    Bridal Mask is such a breathtaking drama. Like you, I didn’t think it dragged at all in 28 episodes, and I was completely glued to my screen.

    This drama made me a die hard fan of Joo Won thanks to his incredible and powerful acting. The relationship between Kang To and Shunji is one of the most complex I have seen and is one of my favorites in all dramas. Fabulous and insightful review!

    • September 19, 2015 at 1:02 am — Reply

      Before i started watching i thought “damn, 28 eps…?” and once i finished it i was like “it would had been nice if it had more episodes!” XD
      Joo Won definitely shone here and the bromance turned to warmance was indeed complex and multifaceted! Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts and for your words as well! 🙂

      • September 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm — Reply

        Kwon…
        How do you rate/review joo won’s acting here in Gaksital compared to yongpal?

        • September 22, 2015 at 7:04 pm — Reply

          I haven’t forgotten about the previous comments, will reply to them soon once i finish a review! 😀 Hm, it’s a tough question, his role in Gaksital was more demanding and multifaceted, so i’d say a straight 10 in Gaksital and a 9 in Yong Pal without this meaning that he’s not excellent in Yong Pal too!

  2. eny
    September 19, 2015 at 12:42 pm — Reply

    bridal mask is the best drama in my list, i watch many drama, love many drama n drop many drama but bridal mask is still no 1

    • September 22, 2015 at 8:38 pm — Reply

      It has become one of my favorites as well, so i can totally understand how it is your number one drama and i am glad you loved it so much! 🙂

  3. September 19, 2015 at 1:18 pm — Reply

    Wow! I didn’t expect to see another review of Bridal Mask mainly because this show was in 2012.
    I admit I would never have watched Bridal Mask if not for Joo Won. Historical dramas set in this era aren’t my type. But after swooning over Joo Won in Ojakgyo Brothers, I just had to try it. The rest is history, pun intended. Like you said, it never felt like 28 episodes long. So much happened in the first 6 episodes and episode 6 was such a stunner. Incidentally, when I was watching Yong Pal, it was like deja vu when I was at episode 6.
    I can’t agree more with what you wrote about Joo Won. The fact that this comes from a male viewer, it’s even more special 🙂
    Bridal Mask was where I set Joo Won apart from his peers. He has this ability to ‘disappear’ into his character and all you see is Lee Kangto or Kim Tae Hyun and not Joo Won.
    Thank you for a wonderful review.

    • hariaharia
      September 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm — Reply

      Οh yeah! Episode 6 is the turning point, no doubt about that, and along with episodes 7&8 (you know why, right?) and ep.19 ( *no spoilers* it’s the jolly little cage where Shunji spends hours of entertainment!) are the most vivid memories of Gaksital.

      • September 19, 2015 at 3:07 pm — Reply

        I too was left stunned by episode 6. Definitely one of the best kdrama episodes ever. And the aftermath in 7 & 8 too! There are just so many amazing moments in Gaksital!

    • September 22, 2015 at 8:47 pm — Reply

      I like historical dramas related to Japanese occupation and the Korean War (Comrades, Road No 1), but i am not that much into Sageuk. Bridal Mask felt so right to watch it while diving more and more into Yong Pal’s world because i was unable to wait for a week’s time for the next episodes! Is Ojakgyo Brothers a mind blowing drama? Haven’t read anything about it, but i know that Joo Won and “Chief Surgeon Lee” play there! 😀 “The rest is history, pun intended.” XD
      The first 6 episodes were marathoned within a single day and the 6th one was a GREAT one by any means necessary! I didn’t have the 6th ep Gaksital-Yong Pal deja vu since i hadn’t watched Gaksital when the ep aired, but i can relate to it up to an extent right now!
      “He has this ability to ‘disappear’ into his character and all you see is Lee Kangto or Kim Tae Hyun and not Joo Won.” This is a powerful truth and i have to totally agree! You are very welcome for your words and i am deeply thankful for sharing your thoughts once again! 🙂

    • October 6, 2015 at 5:58 pm — Reply

      Mr dimple
      Cool! I should start watching joo won…

  4. hariaharia
    September 19, 2015 at 2:35 pm — Reply

    What a fantastic review! You’ve said it all without actually revealing anything. Wow…
    After more than 2 years, I have no clear memory of every little scene but I’m thrilled I can still recall the feelings I had while watching back then. Imperialism and fascism is an explosive mixture that has destroyed mankind more than once and no one can deny this fact. Severe oppression leads to despair every single time and from despair it comes only one thing: Revolution. People are ready to sacrifice their lives when they see their children having no future under those magnificent “empires” ; all it takes is only one man or just an idea or even one (usually minor) event to start a revolution.
    Your closure is one of the best I’ve ever read on online communities. Yes, you’re right, not even Roman Empire couldn’t last for the thousands of years its Caesars had planned to because people “opposed oppression” no matter the cost. That’s the human nature,- freedom above anything!

    • September 22, 2015 at 8:51 pm — Reply

      haria*2-ssi!!! 😀 So happy to read your thoughts once again! 🙂 Even though it’s pretty recent to me, i can understand why there are so many vivid memories from Gaksital even though 2 years have passed! Such a captivating drama! When they see no future for their children people will always set aside their own lives so that their children will live in a better world regardless of the sacrifices they have to make at the present! All empires eventually fall as the past has shown, especially when they reach an ill-natured peak. “That’s the human nature,- freedom above anything!” and i have to agree with all of your lines on the subject! 🙂 You are very welcome haria*2-ssi and i’m thankful for your thoughts for one more time of these countless times! 😀

  5. September 20, 2015 at 12:53 am — Reply

    Amazing review! I am really glad you completely enjoyed this wonderful drama. It is true that there are not many dramas that are so good in development..
    I have also heard a lot of times negative opinion about Jin Se Yun, but I like her, she was great in this drama I liked her character, and I think she is an okay actress (obviously needs to improve but I haven’t found her terrible).

    • September 22, 2015 at 8:53 pm — Reply

      Thanks a lot chingu and i am glad as well i enjoyed it to the fullest, 28 eps aren’t a small number to begin with! 😀
      Great to see another one having the same point of view when it comes to Jin Se Yun, i agree with every single word you said! During the weekend i will start the drama so i will pass by your reviews/recaps!

  6. Mrmz
    September 20, 2015 at 8:10 pm — Reply

    Hey brightestStar here (grumpy smurph) 😛

    Oh my reading this review felt like watching the drama all over again! Totally agree with everything you said!

    Bridal Mask is the whole package, where the whole is greater than the sum. Great writing and acting can create many good dramas, but this drama had the cinematography, choreography, and great directing the made the pacing great to follow, and not a minute felt like a waste, where you want to skip. I’ve said it before I rarely watch dramas longer than 16 episodes, but this one went by so fast.

    I think that drama is the one that defined Joo Won’s career, and he sure deserves all the praise. He gives his heart and soul to acting. Park Ki Woong Has been acting secondary roles for years but in here he quite knew what an opportunity it is and went through it with the same amount of energy, managing shine more than anything I’ve seen him before. As for Jin Se Yun, I didn’t hate her here but she sure was outshined by everybody else’s performance. I can’t really blame her, I think her character was written more as a plot device that affects all the other characters. Han Chae Ah though was the total opposit. I expected her to be some usual second lead but her character’s development mirrors both Kang To amd Shunji.

    Great review! Like the drama reading this review went just as fast 😉

    • September 22, 2015 at 9:18 pm — Reply

      Yuei Yuei, so happy to see Brightest Star chingu and member of the comradeship here! 🙂
      Yup, i remember you saying that despite not watching many dramas longer than 16 episodes Bridal Mask was a revelation to you both in terms of number of eps but for the drama itself!
      It’s truly rare such a lengthy drama to not feel lengthy at all, especially after a marathon where you pay attention to many things in a row and you’ve got all the potential to feel tired and want to stop for a while. This never happened with Bridal Mask!
      I will have to agree with your thoughts on Joon Won and his take on Kang To and the more than positive effect it had on his career! It’s the first time i saw Park Ki Woong and i was truly impressed on his potential in such a demanding role! I may have hated the character (you already know it XD ), but the acting was topnotch! Se Yun was outshined indeed, but she was decent in her role and i agree on the way you see her role, she was pretty much everywhere making the storyline flow! “Han Chae Ah though was the total opposit. I expected her to be some usual second lead but her character’s development mirrors both Kang To amd Shunji. ” Noona was so astonishing and quite a revelation both in development and the way she was reflecting both Kang To and Shunji’s worlds which were related at some points in their lives.
      Thank you SO much for reading the review and for your sharing your words as well, i was really happy you passed by! 🙂

  7. September 30, 2015 at 1:13 pm — Reply

    my Katsuyama feels * deep sigh * I think Jin Se Yeon is a decent actress, but I feel like she plays characters that always end up being annoying. Like pointed above,in Mok Dan’s case, how many times the plot uses the kidnapping trope with her just to show Kimura Shunji’s obsession and Kangto being the hero to save her? I mean, from my point of view, there’s nothing moe annoying than a female character presented as badass, but all her badassery is what puts everybody in dangerous situations and she doesn’t even help saving the day in a meaningful way. I’d rather have a true damzelle in distress that does what’s expected of her and doesn’t get in the way, rather than the girl looking all tough but her actions, no matter how sincere and genuine she is, arre dumb. And Mok Dan… It was like for any cool move she made, she ended up turning the situation twice worse. And this was even more visible because Ueno Rie was the female character whose actions actually helped and when it backfired, it was in a way in which she looked cool. The relationship between Kangto and Shunji was already so complex that the love triangle felt like a distraction for me by the time we reached the middle of the drama. I just didn’t care enough about this love story. That’s why I had very mixed feelings about the ending. I liked how we get the message that anyone can be Gaksital and how it’s about fighting together for what you believe in. Howeverrr, I think there had been enough build up in the previous 25 episodes to determine that Kangto will keep on fighting, so using once again someone’s death at this point of the plot seemed unecessary to me… * shrug *

    Anywayyy, I agree with everything you said. Mok Dan’s 1-dimensional character development was my only problem here beccause the rest was awesome. Even Park Ki Woong’s “GAKSITAAAAL” still got to me every time, despite all the way many too times they made him shout it. Ha! 😀 Really, really good drama.

    • October 5, 2015 at 9:41 pm — Reply

      Ha, this comment thought it would escape from me! But it couldn’t! How are your Katsuyama feels sunny lady of sunny town?! 😀 I definitely agree with everything you said on Mok Dan’s presentation, but the fact that she was a revolutionary spirit made me very forgiving despite the outcome of her actions XD there were plenty of fascist figures so my negativity was being infused elsewhere in an overly expressive way x) Ueno Rie <3 She has enslaved my heart you know! XD "The relationship between Kangto and Shunji was already so complex that the love triangle felt like a distraction for me by the time we reached the middle of the drama." SO TRUE! This bromance turned to warmance was simply awesome! Yush, this GAKSITAAAAAAAAAAL can echo any time, but EUNDONGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH will keep echoing twice as much in my ears! XD

      • October 5, 2015 at 10:06 pm — Reply

        my katsuyama feels * sighs * i was shipping so so hard and i still am, three years later and i probably always will. You can be forgiving… Mok Dan cannot be hated by everyone. That would be too harsh for a lead non-villain character

        • October 6, 2015 at 4:02 pm — Reply

          Something tells me your Katsuyama ship will be sailing forever in the wild waters of sunny shipyard beach! XD

          • October 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm

            i couldnt have said it better, I swear no k-drama character got me fangirling like this… Katsuyama was soooooo cool and made Ueno Rie his priority no matter what… * holds heart * such a beautiful ship.

          • October 6, 2015 at 4:14 pm

            Imagine what would have happened if he talked more than usual! XD His love and loyalty were always too strong with his life always on the line for her! Why do i think that he’s somewhere out there like a shadow keeping her safe? XD

          • October 6, 2015 at 4:20 pm

            IKR??? gosh he only said a few words, but his gaze spoke thousands and my heart listened to each one of them. I want to believe that he did follow her without her knowing until she’d be in some sort of danger and he’d be there to save her and they’d stay together foreverrrrr

          • October 6, 2015 at 4:24 pm

            He truly put to shame most of the 2nd leads and he was just a supportive role! Minimal and meaningful to the fullest! XD They already have a baby by now! XD

          • October 6, 2015 at 4:30 pm

            i see you’re trying to take my mind to some places… A love scene between these two… * hands in the air * my ship, my ship. O the frustration… I really need to find rhat fanfic i wrote so so long ago; I had put all my feels into it

          • October 6, 2015 at 4:37 pm

            It wasn’t intended, but you could see it that way since you mentioned it! XD I can’t even imagine the amount of feels lurking in that fanfic!

          • October 6, 2015 at 4:31 pm

            the irony that my fav. K-drama character was Japanese… Wait, was he? or was he a Korean raised in Japan like her? I don’t remember 😡

          • October 6, 2015 at 4:35 pm

            HAHAHAHAHAHA! “the irony that my fav. K-drama character was Japanese” I LAUGHED SO HARD!!!! I HAVE A JOKER SMILE WHILE WRITING DOWN THESE LINES! XD Sorry for the caps! XD I think he was Japanese, there wasn’t any reference him on being a Korean being raised in Japan like my love Ueno Rie <3

          • October 6, 2015 at 4:40 pm

            ah well he could have been since he was fluent in Korean, just like her… too much feels for me to handle. I”m going to go fangirl over Song Joong Ki oppaaaaaaaaaa

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