유리구두 (2002) SBS 40 Episodes
Melodrama, Grade: A
Korean Drama Review by Alison, USA
There are two things you need to know about the Korean drama Glass Slipper (2002). The first is that it is very long – a two part series told in 40 episodes. The second is that this drama is absolutely worth the investment of your time. By the end of episode one, I was crying over the fate of the two sisters around whom the story revolves: sisters Tae Hee and Yun Hee, who are orphaned and separated at a young age, and whose lives follow very different paths as a result.
The shining star of this drama is actress Hyun joo Kim, who is a dazzling beauty with tremendous charm and spirit. As Yun-hee, the younger of the sisters, she will steal your heart and earn your admiration. She is expertly supported by Kim Ji-ho, who plays her serious sister, Tae hee; So-Jisub, as the young friend who loves her; and Jae-suk Han, as a mysterious businessman with ties to both Tae-hee and Yun-hee.
To begin: We see the two sisters being raised by their single parent father, having lost their mother when she gave birth to Yun-hee. They are struggling financially, and the father has just learned that he is suffering from leukemia. Tae-hee is the serious, dutiful one, while Yun-hee is feisty and determined. The father is the son of a wealthy family in Seoul, but he is estranged from them because they disapproved of his marriage. He goes to the city to get help from his family, but they turn him away. On his way back to his daughters, he dies tragically in a car accident, collapsing in the snow (I wept buckets).
Not wanting to be taken to an orphanage, Tae-hee takes charge and decides that she and her sister must make their way to Seoul to find their grandfather, and he is in fact looking for them too. However, they are separated during their attempted journey. When they are robbed by a pickpocket, Tae-hee decides to go after him, leaving Sun-hee to wait for her. The little girl begins to wander around and is accidentally hit by a car. Frightened by what they have done, and afraid of a confrontation with police, the family in the car whisks her away. Fortunately for that family, after awakening, the child suffers from amnesia and does not remember the accident nor who she really is. Tae hee searches for her to no avail. Giving up for the moment, and with the help of Jae-hyuk Jang (played as teen by solemn, extremely talented Woo-hyuk Choi from Autumn in My Heart and as an adult by Jae Suk Han) a young man himself fleeing from gangsters, she eventually ends up at her wealthy grandfather’s door. The grandfather is played by Il-seob Baek, veteran of literally hundreds of Korean films and dramas. A quick word here on this actor’s performance he convincingly starts out as a cruelly rigid father who rejects in own son in his hour of need, and evolves into a loving, compassionate grandfather – what a talent!
So Tae-hee is raised in wealth and privilege, while Yun-hee is raised like Cinderella by the really awful family who abducted her. That scheming couple lavish all their affections on their biological daughter, Seung-hee (Min-sun Kim, an actress who later changed her name to Gyu-ri Kim). Meanwhile, teenage Jae-hyuk Jang was sent byTae-hee’s grateful grandfather to study abroad. Little does the grandfather know that the young man is secretly nursing a grudge against him and plans to one day wreak his revenge on the entire family.
Fifteen years pass. Tae-hee grows up to be a successful businesswoman working for her grandfather. She is a bit remote and aloof, still longing to find the younger sister for whom she was responsible and feeling guilty that she lost her. When Jae-hyuk returns to Seoul, her long ago affection for him is reignited and she falls deeply in love. Bu he is obviously holding something back and it is clear that he does not return her feelings, though he might not mind using her a bit for his own gain. It seems he has an agenda of his own and he is clearly determined to achieve it. Meanwhile, cheerful and still feisty Yun-hee, renamed Sun-woo by her adoptive family, wants to better herself and is working hard to save money. She is constantly mistreated and eventually flees the abusive situation by seeking refuge with the family of a young man from the neighborhood Chul-woong (played by an adorable, cheeky Jisub So). He fell in love with her after being the object of her righteous indignation, and will do anything for her. However, she has no interest (a fact that still has me shaking my head).
Then yet another twist occurs that is typical of K-drama: Sun-woo applies for a job at the company her grandather owns and where her sister Tae-hee works. But no one realizes her true identity .In fact, when she and Tae-hee run into each other, not only do they not recognize each other, they don’t much like each other either. However, there is a good reason for Tae-hee to be resentful of this newcomer: Jae-hyuk has also met Sun-woo, and he is very taken with her, despite maintaining a relationship with Tae-hee. Jae-hyuk admires Sun-woo because like him, she comes from poverty and wants to better herself. Of course, he also notices that she is lovely.
Tae-hee also has a very good reason for not recognizing Sun-woo: she believes she has actually found her sister after all these years. Through her efforts to trace what happened to Yun-hee, Tae-hee has been led to the family that actually abducted her and made inquiries. When Sun-woo’s jealous and self-absorbed adoptive sister, Seung-hee, finds out that heiress is looking for her younger sister, she realizes that she can take advantage of the situation.This is because she has the proof of identity of that younger sister (a small necklace that Sun-woo has had since she was a child) which she has stolen from her. This vulgar and selfish young lady successfully passes herself off as the long-lost Yun-hee and enters the wealthy family. Her own family is delighted as the grateful Tae-hee provides them with financial compensation for taking care of her “sister.”
Finally, the ‘fake” Yun-hee has another reason to resent the real Yun-hee, because she is in love with Chul-woong, who remains devoted to his first love. She hopes that now she is a “rich girl” she will be able to win him over. Tae-hee is a bit appalled that her little sister has changed so much from the loving child she remembers, but is willing to accept her with open arms and not judge her too much. The fake Yun-hee is just wily enough to play on everyone’s guilt and sympathies and to make the most of her newfound position as an heiress.
Thus the stage is set for wondering what will happen. Will the real sisters ever put aside their adult enmity and realize their true relationship? How far will Seung-hee go to get what she wants? What is Jae Hyuck’s true agend and how many people will he hurt to accomplish it? By the end of the first 20 episodes, the two sisters’ lives are endangered, and it is another 20 episodes to get the various loose ends to come together, as Tae-hee ultimately has to deal with yet another life threatening challenge and Sun-woo also faces danger.
Glass Slipper was the third Korean drama I ever watched, after my favorite I’m Sorry, I Love You (introduced to me by my childhood friend Jill, whom I did NOT meet in an oprhanage) and my second favorite, Sad Love Story. I gobbled up the first 20 episodes, then took a hiatus for several months before resuming the story to find out the fate of the two sisters. I would say that Part 1 is more satisfying than Part 2, simply because it sets up so many intriguing twists and turns. By the time you get to Part 2, there is more melodrama than ever, and some level of impatience for the sisters to wrap all this up and be reunited.
However, in its entirety, Glass Slipper is a delightfully absorbing series, centered around a very endearing character, Hyun-woo Kim's Sun-woo (Yun-hee). As a little girl, she stands her ground and exhibits a great deal of bravery. She becomes a plucky young woman who never loses her spirit despite all the hardships she endures. She is almost always cheerful and smiling, determined to make the best of things, and she is an absolute knockout. It is no wonder that the two leading men fall hopelessly in love with her pretty much at first sight -- and what they both appreciate about her is that she is a strong personality. Hyun-woo Kim is an enormously engaging actress, and I followed her eagerly in lesser quality dramas like In Soon is Pretty and Partner after seeing her in Glass Slipper (she was also in Boys Over Flowers and more recently starred in another lengthy saga called All That Glitters). She can make anything worth watching.
All the other actors are wonderful, too. After I’m Sorry, I Love You, Jisub So could do no wrong with me, and he is terribly young, handsome and cute here as a cocky, somewhat clueless but entirely loyal and devoted young man. He is the one that you root for to win Sun-woo’s love, despite her preference for the more polished and dashing Jae-hyuk. As this mysterious character, actor Han Jae-suk is perfect. He can seem cold and ruthless one minute, and completely charming the next. He is not entirely a cad with Tae-hee either; it is just that she belongs to a family he has learned to hate. His feelings for Sun-woo are sincere, and it shows in his gentleness and caring with her. The couple has a strong chemistry between her lightness and his somberness. In fact, that is clearly the attraction she has for him – she takes him away from his dark purpose and reminds him what it is like to feel happy.
As Tae-hee, attractive actress Ji-ho Kim has the less sympathetic sister role. She is smart, she is admirable in her determination to suceed at work, and she struggles with her guilt over losing the little sister entrusted to her care. Just as she was as a child, she remains responsible and decent. Eventually everything about her plight is touching, but it is bit hard to warm up to her. Kim Ji-ho does an excellent job conveying this somewhat conflicted character, who wants to show her soft side, but believes it is not safe to display vulnerability.
As for Min-soo Kim, now Gu-ryi Kim (and apparently there are now two Korean actresses by that name), well, you just love to hate her in this, she is absolutely a horror, selfish, lazy and mean-spirited. She also gives the drama some of its comical moments as she really is a ridiculous character. I think the actress truly enjoyed herself being able to play this grasping girl with her delusions of grandeur.
With a name like Glass Slipper, this drama bears just the slightest resemblance to the story of Cinderella, who is taken advantage of by an evil stepmother and stepsisters, but eventually finds her prince. However, the story is so much more powerful than a simple rags to riches saga or love story. It is about sisterly love, loyalty, courage, and having a positive attitude about life. It is about achieving your dreams, and taking charge of your life whatever happens.The ideally cast youngsters who play the sisters as children grab your affections and your compassion. Once they have morphed into their adult counterparts, they are equally as winning and throughout their respective ordeals, you are rooting for them finally to find each other again.
Glass Slipper is entertaining, touching, and in its way, inspirational.
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