Heartwarming, funny, bittersweet, and unforgettable, My Friend Is Still Alive (2013) is a KBS Drama Special a little bit elevated from the norm. Male bonding is the main theme here, and deep friendships among young men can be just as special as friendships between young girls. Two of the main male actors, specifically Lee Gi Kwang and Lee Joo Seung, turn in dynamic and amazingly realistic performances. Another interesting performance is given by actress Jeon Soo Jin (Descendants Of The Sun), the girl student they both develop feelings for; she is smart enough to make her character slightly annoying and childish, but sympathetic at the same time, a difficult feat for any performer to do well. No wonder she was hired for Sun!
The Story: Two buddies, high school students Chi Hyun (Lee Joo Seung from 9 Seconds - Eternal Time) and Myung Soo (Kim Chang Hwan) always take care of their best friend Kyung Sook (Lee Gi Kwang from Me Too, Flower), who has been fighting leukemia for years. They shave their heads in sympathy, they take him to the beach, they tell him jokes and tease him to make him laugh.
One day his doctor will tell Kyung Sook he is getting better and the next day he will tell him his prognosis is grim. This yo yo indecisive diagnosis trend from the medical professional (I wanted to sock him!) puts the three long time friends on a roller coaster ride of sorts, and so when they are together they rarely talk about the illness, preferring to clown around and be just normal schoolboys as much as possible, discussing their non-existent love lives and their goals for the future. (Just as an aside, I noticed the high school they filmed this drama at was the same school building featured in the classic Winter Sonata -- I felt like I was getting a serious case of deja vu at times).
One day Kyung Sook decides he wants to make a bucket list of last wishes that he wants to achieve if he has to die young. His last wish is to kiss a first love before he dies, but he has never experienced falling in love. Friends Chi Hyun and Myung Soo look for a girl who could become Kyung Sook's first love, with some very funny results. Things are just not looking up in this area. Chi Hyun especially puts himself out on a limb to find the perfect first love for his dying friend (if you are new to K-dramas you should know that "first loves" are essentially the ones that matter the most, no matter how old the characters are! It's just something you get used to when you watch shows and films from their culture).
By chance, they meet Kook Hwa (Jeon Soo Jin - "kook" was a perfect name for her!) and they succeed in connecting Kyung Sook with Kook Hwa after her previous "boyfriend" drops her. However, Chi Hyun decides he admires Kook Hwa's honest but childlike ways, and he falls for her himself. He becomes heartbroken watching his best friend Kyung Sook and his first love Kook Hwa falling in love, even though he knows it's for a good cause.
The boys decide to hide the truth of Kyung Sook's illness from her, which isn't exactly fair to her. Then Kyung Sook's health takes a big nosedive and it becomes impossible to lie to Kook Hwa anymore.
What will happen? Will the dying Kyung Sook ever get that first kiss before he passes on? That question is answered in the most beautiful scene in the entire drama! I had to play it back twice more because it was so touching and so well done. I cried.
You can watch this lovely KBS Drama Special My Friend Is Still Alive with great English subtitles right here if you'd like, courtesy of KBS uploading their best drama specials onto YouTube for people around the world to watch. Despite their young ages the cast in this one are exemplary. South Korea simply has the best actors in the entire world today. Enjoy!