Unforgettable, beautiful, heart-warming, inspiring, sweet and tender, spiritual, funny, boasting utterly fantastic writing, superb acting, and grand music, the romantic fantasy-melodrama of 49 Days (2011) has EVERYTHING fans of Korean drama yearn for. There really aren't enough superlatives in the English language to describe it, or how much I love it! It will always be in my Top Five of Korean dramas no matter how many hundreds I watch in my lifetime. Any show that has to do with the Afterlife is profoundly interesting to me.
The Story: A beautiful, happily spoiled, and rich young girl named Ji Hyun (the exquisite and angelic Gyu Ri Nam) is about to be betrothed to a dashing young man named Min Ho Kang (Bae Soo Bin, in his first role as a villain) who works for her father Shin Il Shik's (actor Jung Woo Choi, from Master's Sun) successful company. On the day of her betrothal party she is delayed by traffic and she and her two best friends Eun Jung Shin (actress Ji Hye Seo, who has the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen on any woman!), and Seo Woo Park (lovely and sweet Geu Rin Bae) make a dash for it on foot, with Ji Hyun losing the heels of her shoes from running.
Eun Jung graciously offers her her own shoes to wear (a kind act which Ji Hyun never forgets). Secretly in love with Ji Hyun is a classmate of hers from high school, Kang Han (admirably and warmly played by actor Jae Jo Hyun from Love Letter), who attends the betrothal party but who arrives very late, which annoys Ji Hyun. She has no idea that Kang is in love with her and has been for years; she fails to see how Kang is torn up inside about the wedding, especially since he considers Min Ho the groom-to-be his best male friend.
All is not what it seems however, for this upwardly mobile couple. Min Ho has cheated on Ji Hyun with her best friend Eun Jung for years, and the two of them had devised a plan to cheat Ji Hyun's father out of his company. Min Ho used the engagement to get closer to Ji Hyun's father and win his trust.
After the betrothal party is over, Ji Hyun is driving, after shopping for bridal party dresses, and sees Min Ho and Eun Jung together in his car, embracing. Flustered and upset, Ji Hyun keeps driving and drops her cell phone. She takes off her seat belt to reach for it when suddenly she is involved in a massive traffic accident. Upon impact her soul leaves her body and as crowds gather she peers inside her car and sees her own body unconscious, her head against the steering wheel, bleeding.
At this point she looks up and sees a strange man on a motorcycle, and he seems to be the only person who can see her soul which is caught in between life and death. It turns out this is The Scheduler (fascinatingly played with great dramatic flair and humor by the iridescent actor Il Woo Jung), a sort of "angel of death", who greets the souls of those who are to depart from earth and guides them "up or down the elevator" to heaven or to hell. Ji Hyun's body is taken to the hospital for surgery and her soul waits in anguish, seeing her parents and Min Ho grieving for her outside the operating room. The Scheduler acknowledges her, and so begins a unique journey for the both of them that will have everlasting consequences.
He gives her a teardrop necklace and tells her she must collect three genuine tears from three people who truly love her, and then her soul can be re-united with her comatose body and she will re-awaken. At first Ji Hyun thinks this will be easy, but she is told parents and siblings do not count, therefore it has to be true friends who cry for her. Who are Ji Hyun's true friends who will weep for her? She has 49 Days to find out! It turns out to be a lot more difficult than she expected!
The Scheduler arranges it so that she can enter the body of a clinically depressed young woman named Yi Kyung Song (beautifully played by fantastic actress Yo Won Lee); she has given up on life since the death of the man she loved, whose identity is not revealed until later in the drama. She lives in a one room apartment, eats nothing but ramen noodles, goes to work at a convenience store at night, and sleeps all day. As Ji Hyun takes over this woman's body she begins to care about the person who has been living such an empty life for five long dull years, but there is something of major importance about Yi Kyung that Ji Hyun has yet to find out.
In the meantime, as she uses the woman's body, she can appear in front of family and friends under a new identity, and most importantly, try to expose false friend Eun Jung and cheating fiance Min Ho. She sees that they are trying to rob her father of his company and in the form of this other woman she can establish new relationships with them and uncover their devious secrets. There is a catch, however: the Scheduler tells her she can never reveal to anyone that her soul is using Yi Kyung's body.
Meanwhile, her friend Kang from high school, who loves her, begins to catch on to her true identity. He knows Ji Hyun so well, and even remembers the key signature of the favorite song she used to sing, so when, as Yi Kyung, she plays the piano and sings this song in the same key he is amazed and confronts her about her true identity. Will she reveal it to him and risk everything?
From left to right: Ji Hye Seo, Bae Soo Bin,
Jung Woo Choi, Nam Gyu Ri, Ji In Yu
This wonderful, sterling 20 episode drama has many surprises in store for its audience, and some adorable side characters add fun, humor, and warmth. Some viewers claim the first episode is a bit slow, but I disagree. It's exciting leading up to the car accident which changes everything, sets up the plot for what is to follow, and is very necessary to begin to understand the foundation of this drama's expert and imaginative story line. You will care deeply about beautiful Ji Hyun's plight, and root for her to gain her 3 tears of genuine love, so that she can emerge from her coma and greet her loved ones once again. You will miss the characters dreadfully once the show is over. I know I did and had to revisit them several times with repeat viewings. It's just that good!
49 Days is a must-see K-drama. Viewers of all ages will enjoy it. I watched with my 16 year old daughter at the time and she was completely engrossed in it with me. Its universal themes of love, forgiveness, and acceptance are brilliantly executed and unforgettable. This drama could very well change your life, and cause you to re-examine your own philosophies of life and death. Best way to watch: PURCHASE DVD RELEASE AT AMAZON I have bought this DVD release and it's excellent. Don't bother with bad streams online, this is a classic and deserves the best picture and sound quality. The streaming sites show disappointing prints that don't always work, are too soft, and have screen bugs constantly running throughout. Disrespectful. When this was on Netflix it looked its best, but K-dramas only stay on there for about 2 years so it's sadly no longer there.
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