Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

A café in Seoul full of mystery, humor and romance

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 10, 2022 10:52 am

Hongdae is a student-friendly neighborhood in Mapo-gu, Seoul that a director might say exudes “texture”: it’s loaded with hip little cafes and eateries, including Bebeco (“Trendy Doughnut & Bakery Cafe”), where the Netflix series Café Minamdang is shot. Its mustard and orange-trimmed exteriors are already instantly familiar to viewers.

We hung out there after a nearby presscon with cast members Seo In-guk (playing shaman/profiler Nam Han-jun), Oh Yeon-seo (playing lead inspector Han Jae-hui), Kwak Si-yang (barista/detective Kong Su-cheol), Kang Mi-na (hacker Nam Hye-jun) and Kwon Soo-hyun (prosecutor Cha Do-won). Before chilling out at Bebeco, where owner Jeon Byunghoon (who partnered with Netflix to open this special branch where the exteriors for the show are shot) attended to guests with cream donuts and iced coffee brews, we heard the actors discuss the series — part comedy, part mystery, part thriller, and mostly kilig.

In-guk plays a cocky, self-styled shaman crime-solver. His “gig” is using his past profiler skills — and fake Korean shaman moves — to suss out past crimes.

The media fans got very revved up as moderator Park Seul-gi gave out props to the actors and had them explain the significance, then held a very intimate Q&A with guests that included “missions” for them to carry out onstage (reciting three-line poems, foreign phrases, doing imitations, and taking selfies with chosen fans).

The cast of Café Minamdang in Hongdae: (from left) Kwon Soo-hyun, Kang Mi-na, Kwak Si-yang, Oh Yeon-seo and Seo In-guk

In the show, In-guk plays a cocky, self-styled shaman crime-solver with a rabid following of fangirls. (Kind of like real life, we suppose.) His “gig” is using his past profiler skills — and fake Korean shaman moves — to suss out past crimes, helping corporations to hire the right people (he does this with the help of kid sister Mi-na, who feeds him info over an earpiece).

He’s paralleled by Yeon-seo’s cool-headed team leader of the Violent Crime Squad, known to many as the “Cold Ghost” because of her stealth skills in taking down drug cartels and criminals singlehanded. Si-yang and Mi-na play brother and sister to Han-jun, so there’s a lot of sibling chemistry onscreen. The show is a little bit Ghostbusters, a little bit Scooby-Doo, with wacky humor and superhero martial arts antics thrown into the mix. And of course, there’s a love triangle, as we learned during the presscon.

Café Bebeco serves as an exterior locale for the series Café Minamdang. (The coffee’s good, too.)

In-guk, holding shaman bells as a prop, says it’s easier playing a fake shaman: “It would have been a lot more research if I was playing a real shaman who falls into trances, but he’s actually a con artist. So I looked more into learning information about a person: his emotional patterns, or even the dust on his coat.”

Selfies with Kang Mi-na and other cast members

His co-star Yeon-seo holds crime scene tape and handcuffs: “Actually, I’ve had a lot of fans who wanted me to take on a detective role, but it seemed too difficult,” she says. “My nickname is ‘the Cold Ghost,’ so when I appear I bring this cold wind with me. My character is a master of martial arts, so I attended live action acting school for this role.”

“She’s amazing,” confirms In-guk. “She walks on the walls. It’s the first time she’s doing action scenes, and it’s unbelievable.”

Mi-na and Si-yang play the shaman’s siblings, helping him close cases: “I’m the little sister and an ex-hacker,” Mi-na says. “Han-jun can’t do anything without me. You see a lot of chemistry between brother and sister. I rarely call him ‘oppa,’ but occasionally I do, so watch for that!”

The media fans got very revved up as moderator Park Seul-gi gave out props to the actors and had them explain the significance

Si-yang plays a hick barista at Café Minamdang by day, police agent by night on the show: “Before, I’ve played CEOs, serious high-ranking officials a lot, but this time I’m a comical character. So I changed my hairstyle and attire, gained some weight and used a kind of regional dialect to show a comical side.”

Finally, there’s Soo-hyun: “My character’s a prosecutor from a conglomerate family and — I’m shy to say this —the intro says he ‘has great looks.’ So he’s the golden boy. Usually, the prosecutor is serious and cool-headed, but this one is adorable and clumsy, and he’s sweet and looks after Jae-hui (Yeon-seo), so look out for that.”

So it’s a crime-solving triangle, and a love triangle as well.

“Han-jun is my rival,” he says to audible whoops. “We have a triangular relationship (with Yeon-seo), so we’re rivals in that, too.”

* * *

Season 1 of Café Minamdang is now on Netflix.