Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First Love

It's Spring now...well, at least it's spring in kimchiland. I was blogging about spring love on my Breakfast with Tiffany blog. It got me thinking about Korean dramas and it's really quite amazing how so many of the dramas has this first love or 첫사랑 as its theme, especially the childhood sweetheart part. You know the scene, 2 or 3 children grew up together (normally 2 boys and 1 girl), one of the boys and the girl like each other, then for some reason (normally illness, amnesia, 'death' etc), they seperate, leaving the remaining boy (who also like the girl) to fill the void and start a relationship with the girl. Then when they are all grown up, the boy whom everyone thought had died/ disappeared/ left, comes back and of course, it becomes a love triangle or love rectangle. There are normally some variations to the theme, but that's the gist of it. Think this is uniquely Korean? Wahaha!

I had a brief chat with Amanda once about this strong interest in one's 1st love and was wondering if it was all just exaggeration. But she told me that generally Koreans are really interested in this. Me? I have no interest whatsoever in looking for my 1st love, or 2nd love or 3rd or any of my past lovers. Of course it doesn't mean I didn't want to see them. I'm sure I would be civil enough when I meet them- after I throw a rotten egg or two at the guy who dumped me. And I can't even remember any particularly interesting boys from my childhood days..they were all rather pesky. But then again, as I was more interested in catching fishes and tadpoles from the drains and running around than playing with boys....

Maybe that's why we all love all these Korean dramas...if only to indugle in a little romantic fantasies for awhile.


First Love
Starring Bae Yog Joon, Choi Soo Jong, Lee Seung Yeon, and Park Sang Won (recently seen in TWSSG together with BYJ) and Choi Ji Woo. At 65.8%, it is still one of the highest rated TV drama. Of course, if you watch it today, you may not feel as connected as this was set in the 60's/ 70's feel and filmed in the late 90's. At over 60 episodes, you need some patience as well, though judging from the current drama trend nowadays, long dramas seemed to be the norm. But the children's roles were well played.

           

Gist: Chan Woo (Bae Yong Joon), Chan Hyuk (Choi Soo Jong) grew up together Hyo Kyung (Lee Seung Yeon). Chan Hyuk and Hyo Kyung have loved each other since young. But Chan Woo also holds a torch for Hyo Kyung whereas Shin Ja (Lee Hae Young), a neighbour likes Chan Hyuk. Wait, that isn't all, Suk Jin (Park Sang Won), the son of a business associate of Hyo Kyung's father and her childhood friend, also likes her. And to top it all, in the later episodes, Suk Hee (Choi Ji Woo), Suk Jin's sister, likes Chan Woo. Making you dizzy? Hehe! Actually, it's ok once you start watching. I'm not sure why this was such a big hit, except perhaps it reflected the class system very clearly and probably striked a chord at that time in Korea. It showed that it was possible for the poor to be become educated and hold great jobs, and the rich will have their just rewards. There were not many children scenes but I think it did adequately conveyed why they grew up into what they were. There was also some element of Romeo and Juliet in it. I did find it fascinating and interesting as it gave me some insights into Korea and the society as it was then and perhaps even now. Ironically, BYJ was not meant to be the main lead. The main lead was of course Choi Soo Jong. But BYJ gave such a credible performance that for the last one-third of the drama, he became the lead. If you want to see a rebellious BYJ, a vengeful BYJ and a younger version of Frank Shin ('Hotelier'), then watch this. Also, you can catch a very young Cha Tae Hyun and even younger Song Hye Gyo.

             

Choi Soo Jong last acted in the looong running historical drama, 'Dae Jo Young'. Lee Seung Yeon, after the disastrous comfort women incident, starred in Kim Ki Duk's '3-Iron', a brilliant movie. Park Sang Won teamed up with BYJ again in the recent drama, 'Tae Wang sa Shin Gi/ Legend'. Choi Ji Woo would act with BYJ again 5 years later in the hit romantic melodrama, 'Winter Sonata'. And I almost couldn't recognise Lee Hae Young, until I made a quick search. She was last seen in the popular 'Dalja' Spring' as Dalja's friend. I really liked her in that drama.


Glass Slippers

Starring Kim Hyun Joo, Kim Ji Ho, Han Jae Suk and So Ji Sub. Truth is... I didn't really watch this drama. I did glance through some episodes but err...unfortunately, Han Jae Suk wasn't really my kind of man, so I wasn't as keen. But the chemistry between the 2 sisters was really good.

                         

Gist: 2 sisters, Yoon Hee (Kim Hyun Joo) and Tae Hee (Kim Ji Ho) were seperated by an accident after they became orphans. Yoon Hee was knocked down, lost her memory and ended up being raised by the family who knocked her down (this is increible) and changed her name to Seon Woo. Tae Hee, meanwhile, was brought back to her rich grandfather by a young boy, Jae Hyuk (Han Jae Suk) (who actually was plotting for revenge). Aiyoh, can't they have a normal storyline? Tae Hee of course, liked this prince charming, who 'came' to her rescue in times of need. Yoon Hee/ Seon Woo in the meantime, has the affection of the local gangster, Cheol Woon (So Ji Sub). Then all grew up, and by chance (always by chance, dear), Jae Hyuk and Yoon Hee met and found themselves falling in love. What happened in the end? Well, one died, one left for overseas and only two were left together. ^^

I can't remember the ratings but I believed it did quite well, and the strong sister factor was one of the reason. I know many people wept buckets over them and the ending was a fitting one too.

Kim Hyun Joo came back after a 2 years hiatus to act in the 2007 drama, 'In Soo is Pretty'. When we were in Korea last December, a couple of the girls managed to catch her filming with Kim Min Joon...I was not one of the lucky girls..I would have loved to see Kim Min Joon. Kim Ji Ho seems to be doing mainly daily sitcoms. Han Jae Suk did 'Lobbyist' recently after military service. He lost a lot of weight and I almost couldn't recognise him. Unfortunately, the drama didn't do very well. So Ji Sub....has yet to do anything after leaving the army last year. His drama, 'Cain & Abel' has been delayed again and again. But it hasn't stopped him from getting CFs though...


Fashion 70's
Starring Lee Yo Won, Joo Jin Mo, Kim Min Jung and Chun Jung Myung, this was one of my favourite drama and I blogged about it here. This is one drama where the children scenes were absolutely essential...and they were all brilliant!


Gist: During the Korean war, 3 children, Joon Hee (Lee Yo Won), Kang Hee (Kim Min Jung) and Dong Young (Joo Jin Mo) grew up in the army camp. Joon Hee is the only daughter of a fairly rich couple, Kang Hee is the only daughter of a single, poor mother and Dong Young is the only son of a general. In the ensuing chaos, the children are all seperated from their parents. Kang Hee met Jang Bin (Chun Jung Myung), the only son of a fashion designer. Anyway, Joon Hee lost her memory and is adopted by Kang Hee's mother, who changed her name to Dong Mee. Kang Hee got adopted by Joon Hee's father and got her name changed to Joon Hee (in commeration of his daughter whom he thought was dead). Whew! This is one tangled relationship. But seriously, the children scenes were fantastic and crucial to the whole storyline. Sometimes when I don't really enjoy the childhood scenes as I think they don't add much to the whole story, but this one was different. Not only were the child actors brilliant, it made me understand their complex characters in their adulthood and gave me some insights into the times during the Korean war then.


Forbidden Love
This was one of those rare fantasy Korean drama, starring Jo Hyun Jae, Kim Tae Hee, Jun Jin, Han Ye Seul and Uhm Tae Woong.

           

           

Gist: Shi Yeon (Kim Tae Hee) and Min Woo (Jo Hyun Jae) are childhood friends (and obviously like each other alot). One night, Shi Yeon's entire family was killed and she was adopted by a mysterious clan. She found out that she's actually a nine-tail fox (who needs human liver to survive). Mu Young (Jun Jin), is the son of the current chief. He lost his heart to Shi Yeon when she came into their clan. And Chae Yi (Han Ye Sul) is another nine tail fox, whose love for Mu Young is unrequited. There you have it, a rectangle relationship right from young. Frankly, I didn't find the childhood friendship/ love between Min Woo and Shi Yeon so strong that it lasts till adulthood. I don't think they spent much time together, and a walk through the woods and exchanging of gifts do not count. And I'd rather take Jun Jin (in this drama anyway) over Jo Hyun Jae. hehe! This drama actually had a good and unusual storyline but unfortunately, the script and direction was so-so.... and I kept seeing traces of 'Stairways to Heaven' in Kim Tae Hee's acting, especially her expressions, which err...leaves much to be desired. But oh...the clothes they wear are so cool and of course she got to kiss both male leads.


One of the discovery made in this drama was Uhm Tae Woong. I remember we were asking just who this guy was because he had a rather mersmerising role as Mu Young's bodyguard/ friend/ senior. He was last seen in 'The Devil', a brilliant drama. Kim Tae Hee last appeared in the movie, 'The Quarrel', of which there doesn't seemed to be much news of. Jo Hyun Jae is due to appear in a new drama, 'Three Dads and One Mon' with Eugene, Jae Hee and Shin Sung Ruk. It sounds like a very interesting drama and one that I'm looking forward to. Jun Jin has not done any acting for a while but he has released his long awaited single. The photoshoot was done in Singapore when Shinhwa performed here! And Shinhwa will be having their last concert in March before they all split up as some of them will be going to army. Sigh...wish I could attend the concert.


Damo
This drama became a cult drama despite it's not too high ratings. Starring Lee Seo Jin, Ha Ji Won and Kim Min Joon. Some of us still discuss about it. ^^

           

           
Credits for above 4 photos: Damo thread @ soompi

Gist: Jang Jae Hee (Ha Ji Won) and Jang Sung Baek (Kim Min Joon) are children of a disgraced official. Persecuted by the court army, they escaped but were seperated due to the attacks. Jae Hee was taken in by Hwangbo Yoon's (Lee Seo Jin) family and became a slave and a sort of companion to the young master. Her name was changed to Chae Ok. Hwangbo Yoon is the son of the high official and his concubine and as such, could never achieve high status in the eyes of the society. Whilst investigating a case, Chae Ok met Jang Seung Baek again but did not recognise him as her brother (he had changed his name too). And thus a tragic love triangle began. This is also another classic where the children scenes were crucial to the whole drama. And I am constantly amazed at the acting abilities of these child actors. When the young Chae Ok was seperated frm her brother and cried on the beach, whilst surrounded by the army...that was one heart breaking scene. If you have not watched this drama before, I highly recommend it and of course, I was totally drawn to Kim Min Joon. You can catch the beautiful mv here.

Lee Seo Jin is involved in another loooong running period drama, 'Lee San'. Think it has just been extended again. Ha Jin Won made a strong presence in the 2006 drama, 'Hwang Jin Yi' and last appeared in the boxing movie 'Miracle on 1st Street'. I must say that she's taken on quite a variety of roles. Kim Min Joon was last seen in 'In Soo is Pretty'. He also made a cameo apperance in the current drama 'On Air'. I really like Kim Min Joon...^^


Stained Glass
This 2004 drama starred Kim Ha Neul, Lee Dong Gun and Kim Sung Soo. Unfortunately, not the greatest drama.


Gist: Dong Ju (Lee Dong Gun) and Ki Tae (Kim Sung Soo) are orphans and best friends. Ji Su (Kim Ha Neul) became part of their group when she moved into their hometown. Dong Ju and Ji Su like each other. One day, Dong Ju is swept away after jumping into a river to retrieve Ji Su's ocarina. He is assumed as dead. Years later, Ki Tae and Ji Su is a couple (more on Ki Tae's part than Ji Su's). One day, Dong Ju came back and of course, everything became a mess. Were there any special moments to make believe Dong Ju and Ji Su shared strong special feelings for each other? Not really...unless you count jumping into the river to retrieve valued object as one. And I know dramas often transcend reality but this one does take the cake. Throw in an feeble attempt of some sort murder plot and I don't know where the storyline went to. BUT...Lee Dong Gun was brilliant in the first few epsiodes.

Kim Sung Soo last appeared in the bombed drama, 'Bad Love' together with Kwon Sang Woo. Poor guy seldom gets the chance to be the main lead. I quite like him. It's sad to hear that Lee Dong Gun's brother has just been murdered in Sydney. His latest work is the movie 'Do You Live with Your Lover Now/Changing Partners'. Quite a controversial subject but I think he's been trying to shake off his 'Sweet 18' image for awhile. He is scheduled to do another drama before going into the army. Kim Ha Neul surprised many (including me) with her current drama, 'On Air'. It is so different from all her previous fragile, weak roles. I am totally enjoying her aloofness and arrogance in it.


Stairway to Heaven
Another tearjerker starring Choi Ji Woo, Kwon Sang Woo, Shin Hyun Joon and Kim Tae Hee. This drama launched Kwon Sang Woo as a major star and heartthrob.

           

Gist: Song Ju (Kwon Sang Woo) and Jung Suh (Choi Ji Woo) are childhood friends (and quite rich, from the looks of it). Jung Su's father remarried after his wife died. With this new mother, Jung Suh also gained a step brother, Ta Hwa (Shin Hyun Joon) and step sister, Yu Ri (Kim Tae Hee). Suffering under the hands of the evil step mother and step sister, Song Ju received some comfort from Tae Hwa. On the night when Song Ju returned from his overseas study, Jung Suh is run down by Yu Ri. From then on, it's a rather bizzare storyline as she is presumed dead/ missing (it's weird why the father never attempted to find the daughter). Anyway, add in amnesia and cancer and you have the typical love story. Oh...plus suicide to save another person as well. Were the children scenes believable? I guess so, though this is mainly due to the actors like Baek Sung Hyun (as the young Song Ju), Park Sin Hye (the young Jung Suh) and Lee Wan (the young Tae Hwa). The scenes between the young Song Ju and Jung Suh were especially sweet. Were they neceaary? Let's just say they could have been cut down.

Besides Kwon Sang Woo, the drama was also well known for the song, 보고싶다 by Kim Bum Soo. Still gives me goosebumps when I hear it. Or watch him sing it live here. Guarantee to make your heart melt.



Btw, Kim Tae Hee and Lee Wan are real siblings...so technically, they have appeared together in the same drama, but not at the same time.

Kwon Sang Woo's comeback drama, 'Bad Love' after after 2 years didn't do well, though I think it's not entirely his fault. The script was urghh! Choi Ji Woo's comeback drama, 'Air City' also didn't do well despite an initial strong showing and with the droolicious Lee Jung Jae. Sigh... Not sure what Shin Hyun Joon is doing now but he did act together with Choi Ji Woo again in the Japanese drama, 'Rondo'.


Heaven's Tree
Starring Lee Wan and Park Shin Hye reprises their roles in 'Stairway to Heaven' as step brother/ sister with no blood relationship.


Gist: Hana (Park Shin Hye) has a new Korean step brother, Yun Suh (Lee Wan) when her mother remarried. Initially aloof and rebellious, Yun Suh slowly warms to Hana and opened up. Suffering under the hands of the evil aunt and cousin, rhey find comfort with each other and fell in love but she felt this was wrong and did not proceed further.

This is a fulfilment of the unrequited love in the earlier drama, 'Stairway to Heaven'. This drama was aimed at the Japanese market (it was also done in collaboration with Fuji TV), hence there were Japanese actors and it was based and filmed in Japan. I actually rather enjoyed this drama though I must admit it's not a great. Perhaps because I enjoyed Lee Wan's acting and their chemistry was good enough and the 첫사랑 part was believable even though I think Park Shin Hye was way to young to tackle this role.

Lee Wan recently appeared in the drama, 'In Soo is Pretty'. He is scheduled to appear in the Japanese version of 'My Sassy Girl'. I must say he's grown up quite abit. ^^ Park Shin Hye is unbelievably young (she's only 18 this year). Her recent daily sitcom, 'Kimchi Raddish cubes' where she also had her hair cropped like Yoon Eun Hye, did alright.


Time of Dog & Wolf
This was a breakthrough for Lee Jun Ki as he puts up a brilliant performance here. Also starring Nam Sang Mi and Jung Kyung Ho.

           

           

Gist: Soo Hyun (Lee Jun Ki) became good friends with Ji Woo (Nam Sang Mi) when they were living in Thailand. They spent many happy moments together. He comforted her when she was forced to leave her father (who is from the triad). Then one day, Soo Hyun watched his mother killed right before his eyes and in an instant, he became an orphan. He was adopted by his mother's colleague, another NIS agent and thereafter grew up together with Min Gi (Jung Kyung Ho). The two, though seemingly different in character, are the best of friends. You know the rest...love triangle, assumed death, amesia etc... BUT, though it has some of the usual storyline, I must say this drama is still a compelling watch and although I do find it a little hard to believe that Ji Woo would still be holding a torch for Soo Hyun after so many years, the children scenes were quite necessary, at least the part where Soo Hyun watched his mother died. Lee Jun Ki is simply fantastic in here and those who have only seen him in the acclaimed movie 'King and the Clown' and the drama, 'My Girl' and think he's sissy, should definitely watch this.

Lee Jun Ki will be starring in a new period drama, 'Iljimae' and after much delay, it will finally air in May. Jung Kyung Ho looked so different from when I last saw him in 'I'm Sorry I Love You' that I almost couldn't recognise him. But I like him in this drama and think he did well. Not sure what he's doing next. Nam Sang Mi was so-so in the drama. Perhaps her next role in the drama, 'Gourmet' with Kim Rae Won will offer her more room to express herself.

Of course, it's not only dramas that have this childhood sweetheart theme, movies have them too, but because of the time constraint, not many movies can afford to have about 10 minutes of showtime of the main leads as children. So often, the childhood part is shown in flashes.


Temptation of th Wolves
Starring Jo Han Sun, Kang Dong Won and Lee Chung Ah, this is one of my all time favourite movie and in the process, introduce me to 반찬- Kang Dong Won and Jo Han Sun.

           

Gist: Han Gyeong (Lee Chung Ah), a plain looking, innocent girl from a small town, moved to the big city to live with her mother, who has remarried. In a very short time, she's managed to attract the attention and love from two of the hottest guys in town- Hae Won (Jo Han Sun) and Tae Sung (Kang Dong Won). These two guys also happened to be rivals and leaders of their own gang. As the wooing and rivalry intensifies, Han Gyeong finally chose Hae Won, leaving Tae Sung heartbroken. But there is another secret to be revealed and that's when the flasback to the childhood days are seen. Somehow, even though those scenes were brief, I can quite belive why Tae Sung would have such strong feelings for Han Gyeong. Perhaps this is due to Dong Won's acting. And although there is some of the typical Korean plots involved (siblings, cancer), the movie was able to show a bittersweet love story and the angst of teenagers perfectly. A thoroughly enjoyable movie.

Kang Dong Won has moved on to more arthouse movies and was last seen in the movie 'M', which also had something to do with first love. Jo Han Sun's latest work is the movie, 'My New Partner', released in Korea this month...but I haven't read much news leh....Lee Chung Ah appeared in the sequel, 'My Tutor Friend'. There seems to be mixed review...wonder if anyone out there saw the movie.

But I think the King of 첫사랑 dramas belong to PD Yoon's 4 seasons dramas- 'Autumn in my Heart', 'Winter Sonata', 'Summer Scent' and 'Spring Waltz'. Though only 2 of his 4 dramas have this childhood theme, all 4 have a first love theme in it.


Autumn in My Heart
Starring Song Seung Hun, Song Hye Gyo, Won Bin, Han Chae Young, this drama launched Won Bin, Song Hye Gyo and Song Seun Hun into the limelight and was the starting point of the Hallyu wave.

           

Gist: Yun Joon Suh (Song Seung Hun) and Yun Eun Suh (Song Hye Gyo) are brother and sister, but Joon Suh always seemed to feel just that little bit more for this sister of his. One day, they discovered that there was a mistake at the hospital and the daughters of two families were switched. The Yun family migrated, and years later Joon Suh came back with his fiance and his real sister, Shin Ae (Han Chae Young). Eun Suh has also grown up and met a rich, spoilt guy, Tae Suk (Won Bin), who fell head over heels in love with her. The chance meeting between Yun Suh and Eun Suh, after many years of seperation on the beach was quite dramatic. One of the most tragic ending of the 4 dramas (got the usual terminal illness, plus suicide). The childhood scenes were one of he most beautiful that I've ever seen. It actually made me believe in the sweet, innocent, childhood romance. The sight of the young Joon Suh and Eun Suh riding their bicycles along the countryside with autumn leaves in full bloom was really quite something. In fact, I would say it probably spark the first boom in tourism for Korea.

Song Seung Hun's latest drama is 'Fate' with his good friend, Kwon Sang Woo. It is apparently receiving strong interest at the moment. I'm sure it will make it's way to Singapore soon. Song Hye Gyo has been attempting to change her sweet image too and took on 'Hwang Jin Yi' but it didn't do as well as expected. Won Bin has been absolutely quiet since being dismissed from the army. And Han Chae Young appeared together with Lee Dong Gun in the movie, 'Do You Live with Your Lover Now/Changing Partners'.


Summer Scent
Starring Song Seung Hun, Son Yeh Jin, Ryu Jin and Han Ji Hye. This was the 3rd in the series for PD Yoon's season series. Song Seun Hun is again the lead actor. I once read that PD Yoon chooses the male lead first before deciding on the female lead and it was his wish to have Song Seung Hun in his drama again.

Gist: Yoo Min Woo (Song Seung Hun) lost his 1st love in a car accident. Her heart was then donated to Shim Hye Won (Son Yeh Jin), who has suffered from a heart disease since young. One day, they met by chance and Hye Won's heart started beating madly...actually, her heart beats faster everytime she is near him. Right....And then of course they fell in love...but is it Hye Won he loves or because she has his 1st girlfriend's heart beating in her. And was it Min Woo that Hye Won loves or is it because of he heart? Park Jung Jae (Ryu Jin) and Park Jung Ah (Han Ji Hye) are a pair of brother and sister, who is in love with Hye Won and Min Woo respectively. Can never understand how come always so coinident that brother and sister fall in love with the other couple. Anywaaay....this was the only drama of PD Yoon that didn't involve a childhood sweetheart or 1st love (well, the 1st love part was indirect).


I didn't find the drama very appealing, and frankly, I was rather irritated by the heartbeat sound whenever she is near him, although I was actually thankful that there was any 1st love them. In terms of ratings, it lost out to 'Attic Cat', despite the popularity of Son Yeh Jin at that time (she had just finished the movie, 'The Classic'). For me, this was the worse of the 4 dramas in the series.

Song Seung Hun is making a big comeback after his military service. Besides the movie 'Fate', he will also be starting on a new drama, 'East of Eden'. Son Yeh Jin has been trying to change his image and appeared as the leader of a pickpocket gang in 'Open City'. She is also due to appear in a new drama, 'Spotlight' with Ji Jin Hee. Should be interesting. I last saw Ryu Jin in the drama, 'Seoul Scandal' and I really, really like him in there, much better than this blah character in 'Summer Scent'. Han Ji Jye has grown up and taken on a variety of roles. She has been getting good reviews in her current daily sitcom, 'I Hate You but it's Fine'.


Spring Waltz
Starring the charasmatic Seo Do Young, Han Hyo Joo, the smooth as silk Daniel Henney and Lee So Yeon. This was the last in the seasons series and was filmed partly in Austria (beautiful scenery!)

           

Gist: Su Ho/Jae Ha (Seo Duh Young) escaped to a remote island with his father and met Eun Young (Han Hyo Joo). She give him much support and comfort in his hours of needs. Then because of an accident, she needed an operation and Su Ho agreed to be adopted by this couple (who has just lost their son) so that they will pay for the operation. Ok, this was another one of those wierd storyline that can only happen in a Korean drama. Anyway, he is led to believe that Eun Young died during the operation. Su Ho, who is now known as Jae Ha, is devastated. Eun Young's name has also been changed as she was also adopted (can it get anymore complicated?) Years later, Jae Ha is now an accomplished pianist, with Philip (Daniel Henney) as his manager. And I Na (Lee So Yeon), who is the original Jae Ha's childhood sweetheart, still have fond memories of him. Aiyoh! I have yet to really watch this drama though I did glance at a couple of epsiodes. I think the children put up a credible performance and their growing up days were believable enough. At least, it makes me understand and empathise with Su Ho/ Jae Ha on his attachment to Eun Young.

I find a certain charisma in Seo Do Young though he doesn't seemed to say much. He's now currently in the daily sitcom, 'Unstoppable Marriage'. I rather enjoy it and it's refreshing to see him in a comedy role. Han Hyo Joo has just been casted in the new drama, 'Iljimae' with Lee Jun Ki. Now, that should be interesting. I'm not a great fan of Daniel Henney but I must say he's been trying hard. Not sure how his latest movie, 'My Father' did but at least it was a serious role. Lee So Yeon appeared in the movie, 'Highway Star' together with Cha Tae Hyun last year. But I think most of us remember her as the young virgin girl in 'Untold Scandal'.


Winter Sonata
Starring Bae Yong Joon, Choi Ji Woo, Park Yong Ha, Park Sol Mi. This was the 2nd in the season series and started the whole Hallyu boom, particulaly in Japan.

           

Gist: Jung Yu Jin (Choi Ji Woo) and Kim Sang Hyuk are childhood friends, with Sang Hyuk harbouring thoughts of more than just being a friend. One day, a transfer student from Seoul appeared at their school. Kang Joon Sang (Bae Yong Joon) is moody, mysterious, smart and handsome and captured the attention of the school belle, Oh Chae Lin (Park Sol Mi). Through misunderstandings, dates and pranks, Yu Jin and Joon Sang fell in love. And then, on New Year's eve, when the two lovers were supposed to meet, Joon Sang met with an accident and died. Yu Jin was bereaved at loosing her 1st love. 10 years later, Yu Jin met Min Hyung, who looks exactly like the deceased Joon Sang. But Min Hyung, who is now the boyfriend of Chae Lin (can there be anymore coincidence?) is completely different from Joon Sang.

Frankly this drama has the full works of a typical Korean drama- suspected siblings relationship, fake death, amnesia, terminal illness, family objection etc. And it doesn't have any childhood sweetheart storyline (Sang Hyuk and Yu JIn doesn't count).

BUT, I think this is one of the best example of 1st love (though of course many may not agree with me). The things that they did together- climbing over school wall, skipping school, going on dates, playing in the snow...they all portray the innocent, budding love between two young lovers. And surprisingly, even though the scenes and lines should be cheesy, they came across as refreshing. Perhaps, that was why it did so well in many countries.

And because of Winter Sonata, Korea experience a boom in tourism like never before. Many of the sites now have become tourist attractions.

Choi Ji Woo is still very popular, although her dramas and movies have not done much for her career. 'Air City' had a promising start and I was even applauding her change in there..unfortunately it went downhill halfway through. Park Sol Mi last appearnce was in the movie, 'Paradise Murdered' together with Park Hae Il. There were mixed reviews for this movie so I'm not sure if it's any good. Park Yong Ha is now acting in the rapidly popular drama, 'On Air'. And I must say he's good... both in looks and acting. Btw, he also sang for the ost as he's quite an accomplished singer...especially in Japan. And Bae Yong Joon? After a beak of 4 years, he returned with the blockbuster historical fantasy drama, 'Tae Wang Sa Shin Gi/ The Legend'. It had rather good ratings in Korea and though the ending seemed a little rushed, I think most agreed that it was a rather good drama...and not just because of him. Btw, TWSSG also had the childhood sweetheart theme though I supposed we shouldn't count it as there's fantasy involved.

Whew! It does seemed Korean dramas thrived on this first love theme and I have left many others as there were just too many. But unfortunately, this chidlhood/ 1st love theme doesn't always work. Sometimes they are crucial to the whole story, sometimes they are believable, sometimes they are redundant and sometimes they are incredilous. Like everything else, they should be used onyl when necessary and adds to the story.

But no matter what, the child actors are always absolutle brilliant, sometimes, they are even better than their adult peers. I've always wondered if Korea has a special school somewhere where these child actors are housed.