Flower Boy Ramen Shop (Hangul: 꽃미남 라면가게; Hanja: 火辣的拉麵店; RR: Kkotminam Ramyeongage) is a 2011 South Korean romantic comedy television series, starring Jung Il-woo, Lee Chung-ah and Lee Ki-woo. The series was directed by Jung Jun-hwa and produced by Pyo Min-soo. It was broadcast on cable channel tvN from October 31 to December 20, 2011 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 23:00 for 16 episodes.
This drama is about “pretty boys” who, with good looks and individuality, operate a ramyun shop with a lively college girl and experience the happenings of daily life. It was the first installment of tvN’s “Oh! Boy” series of Flower Boy programming targeted at the teenage demographic, and was followed by Shut Up Flower Boy Band in 2012 and Flower Boys Next Door in 2013. On November 23, 2011 the series was sold to Japanese distribution company Culture Convenience Club at a record price of $100,000 per episode.
The series is also known as Flower Boy Ramyun Shop (following the Korean pronunciation of “ramen“) or Cool Guys, Hot Ramen.
Yang Eun-bi (Lee Chung-ah) is a university student in her mid-20s preparing for her civil service exam with the dream of being a high school teacher. She accidentally encounters Cha Chi-soo (Jung Il-woo), the arrogant heir to the biggest food conglomerate in South Korea. Cha Chi-soo, newly home after a failed attempt to attend school in New York City, fascinates women with his good looks and easy charm. Eun-bi is attracted to him before she finds out that he is only a high school senior and thus several years younger than her. However, her student-teaching assignment finds her not only working at the high school that Chi-soo’s family owns, but teaching his homeroom class. She grows to dislike him for his arrogance and lack of empathy. He, on the other hand, becomes fascinated with her because she is outspoken and athletic, unlike the other women he knows. Yet, he does not interpret the fascination as romantic interest, since he is out of her league and usually dates pretty, self-interested girls like Yoon So-yi, a ballet student also dating Chi-Soo’s rebellious classmate Kim Ba-wool. Eun-bi resists her attraction in turn, believing Chi-soo is only toying with her. Eun-bi wants a more serious relationship after being dumped by a cheating ex-boyfriend after waiting for him to complete his mandatory military service. She frequently turns to her dating-savvy roommate/ex-high school volleyball teammate Kang Dong-joo for advice.
After Eun-bi’s father (Jung In-ki) passes away, she is surprised to find that he left the ramen restaurant he owned to Choi Kang-hyuk (Lee Ki-woo), who he had helped when Kang-hyuk was a troubled youth, instead of to her. It is soon revealed that Eun-bi’s father did this with the hope that Kang-hyuk and Eun-bi would marry. Eun-bi, after losing her student-teaching assignment because of her conflicts with Chi-soo, starts to work at the ramen shop, along with homeless fellow students Kim Ba-wool (Park Min-woo) and Woo Hyun-woo (Jo Yoon-woo). Chi-soo wants to work at the restaurant as well, in order to get over his growing obsession with Eun-bi. Kang-hyuk, who knows that he and Chi-soo actually have the same mother, allows him to join the shop out of concern for his cold half-brother.
Kang-hyuk quickly develops feelings for Eun-bi, but she finds herself more attracted to passionate Chi-soo. Chi-soo, after many misunderstandings, realizes that his obsession with Eun-bi is attraction and actively competes for Eun-Bi’s affections with Kang-hyuk. However, Chi-soo’s father (Joo Hyun) disapproves. Chi-soo’s (and Kang-hyuk’s) mother had also been an average (not rich) woman, and Chi-soo’s father believes that difference was one of the causes of their separating several years before. Chi-soo’s father’s company is planning to redevelop the area in which the ramen shop is located, and Chi-soo’s father tries to use the possible destruction of the ramen shop as leverage to keep Eun-bi and Chi-soo apart. Chi-soo has become attached to the ramen shop and is also afraid of being disowned, and so he initially chooses to stay with his father. Eun-bi realizes, however, that she wants to try seriously dating him; she storms his family’s apartment to claim him from his father, and they leave together. The ramen shop is forced to close, but its workers accept this development without complaint. Chi-soo’s father disinherits him and has his U.S. citizenship revoked, so that Chi-soo is now subject to the South Korean military draft. The show ends with Chi-soo visiting Eun-bi after he has completed his two-year service in the South Korean Army without contacting her; they kiss as the camera pans over the neighborhood where they first met.
- Jung Il-woo as Cha Chi-soo
- Lee Chung-ah as Yang Eun-bi
- Lee Ki-woo as Choi Kang-hyuk
- Park Min-woo as Kim Ba-wool
- Jo Yoon-woo as Woo Hyun-woo
- Kim Ye-won as Kang Dong-joo
- Ho Soo as Yoon So-yi
- Joo Hyun as Cha Ok-gyun
- Jung In-ki as Yang Chul-dong
- Seo Bum-suk as Coach Seo
- Song Jae-rim as Hee-gon
- Kim Hye-soo as fortuneteller (cameo, ep 1)
- Gong Hyo-jin as record store clerk (cameo, ep 9)
The series was directed by Jung Jun-hwa, who previously helmed the 2008 film Lost and Found (also known as Sweet Lie). It was produced by Pyo Min-soo, along with the production crew of 2009 KBS drama Boys over Flowers.
According to AGB Nielsen Media Research Cable Households, the episode broadcast on November 7 achieved a viewership rating of 2.07 percent, the highest rating in its timeslot, thus the most-watched cable program for the second week in a row. It also recorded a 200 percent increase in viewership from the previous episode among 20 to 49 year old men. It was reported that it was the most-viewed show among women in their teens to 30s as well as among men in their teens to 20s. The series was watched by one in three teenage girls with 30 percent audience shares, and in Busan, it recorded five percent in viewership ratings. The series scored viewership ratings in the four percent range, the highest ratings amongst its cable competitors in the same timeslot for eight weeks.
Its popularity has spawned a web cartoon version of the show, taking off from characters Ba-wool and Hyun-woo as 20-year-olds managing a ramen restaurant. The cartoon has had over 1.8 million page views since its release on online portal Nate, with the number of visitors increasing by an average 32 percent per day.