KDRAMALOVE KOREAN DRAMA REVIEWS



Rebirth - Next
환생-넥스트
MBC (2005) 14 Episodes, Grade: A
Romantic Melodrama / Reincarnation
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

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A completely hypnotic and addictive reincarnation love story of two couples who continually interconnect with one another through various time periods in Korean history, Rebirth - Next (2005) impresses everyone who watches it - IF they possess a poetic, romantic soul. While I admit I don't personally believe in reincarnation, I'd be the first to recognize that it provides for compelling storytelling arcs, and also provides actors with a superb chance to play different types of characters during the course of one television drama. During the course of this series the four main actors pictured above get a chance to play 5 different characters each. Opportunities like this don't come along for actors very often! 

Who cares if this is from 2005, to me it's a classic romantic tale with an exquisite looking cast (especially the leading lady
Jang Shin Young (Empire Of Gold) who reminded me of a young, gorgeous Song Hye Kyo), not to mention the music soundtrack is out of this world beautiful. Every romantic viewer will love it, and its melodies will haunt you long after the drama is over (heck, I'm even humming them as I type up this review!). If I had one real criticism of this show, it's that I wish it were longer than just 14 episodes! This is not a drama for those who prefer realism: this is pure romantic fantasy all the way!



Such pretty music!

The two leading men are frankly - hate to say the word because I sound like a teenager - but ... HUNKS! ;)  Ryu Soo Young has been a favorite since I watched My Princess years ago, and Lee Jong Soo (Yi San) could easily be a male model. Both male stars got to try out widely (and wildly!) different looks in hairstyle, clothes, etc. during the course of the show. They must have had fun with all those changes when they filmed this drama. Second leading lady
Park Ye Jin also starred with Ryu Soo Young in My Princess, so it was fun to go back in time and watch them appear opposite one another here in this story when they were younger. In each different time segment the leading ladies switched playing the main beloved, with the other playing the jealous rival. That was very interesting, to see them switch roles like that, they must have relished it as actresses.



The Modern Love Story (The Foundation):

A lovely, soft-spoken young lady named Kang Jung Hwa (Jang Shin Young), who is finishing up her college degree in theater arts, works hard at various waitress jobs to put herself through school. She is also involved in performing the lead role in the college play, which her nice boyfriend Min Ki Soo (Lee Jong Soo) is partly directing, as well as acting in. There seems to be no trouble ahead ... until Jung Hwa meets a surgeon named Min Ki Bum (Ryu Soo Young) in a most unlikely way ... on the subway as she suddenly experiences chest pains and he runs to her to assist her medically.

We transfer to the hospital where she is examined and fortunately there is nothing seriously wrong except her drinking too much caffeine and suffering from insomnia because of her hectic schedule. (There was one funny scene between them when he asks her how her menstrual flow is, larger than normal? and she smiles and says "I don't know how heavy other women's are, so I can't compare." LOL!). Can you imagine that conversation on an American television show? I can't.

Jung Hwa admits to suffering from chronic insomnia and he gives her the name of a female psychiatrist Lee Soo Hyun (Park Ye Jin) who might be able to help her (but he conveniently doesn't tell her he is tentatively engaged to Soo Hyun). It's obvious immediately Jung Hwa has fallen in love at first sight with this doctor, and while he tries to maintain professionalism it's obvious he's attracted to her, too. (Who wouldn't be, the woman is gorgeous!). She gets herself a job at the hospital coffee shop so she can see him during the day, and of course he's wise enough to see through her real reason for working there.



Soo Hyun the psychiatrist takes an immediate liking to this young patient and even goes to see her play at the school. When Jung Hwa insists on wanting to be hypnotized because she senses she might be having troubling dreams that are keeping her awake at night, Soo Hyun against her better judgment says she will do it.

Under hypnosis Jung Hwa vividly recalls having met Soo Hyun before when they were little girls, remembers they were friends. The doctor doesn't have any memories of meeting her earlier in her life. Only later does it become clear that Jung Hwa is speaking about having lived before in the Joseon era, and her accounts of living back then, and being friends with her doctor, floor Soo Hyun, and she discusses what to do next with her "sunbae" (Senior) doctor (Ahn Suk Hwan) at work. He says it sounds fascinating and to keep hypnotizing her!

Meanwhile, the attraction heats up between Jung Hwa and doctor Ki Soo and they end up spending the night together, which of course makes him feel guilty about being secretive toward Soo Hyun. Every time Ki Soo sees Jung Hwa at the hospital sparks fly. She feels he is her destiny and that they have met before. Under hypnosis she discovers she is correct ... and then discovers even additional past lives she has lived before when her paths have crossed her two friends' lives and her lover's!

The First Joseon Era Flashback Love Story: (my favorite because it was the most romantic)

Geum Young (Jang Shin Young again) and Yeon Hwa (
Park Ye Jin again) were indeed the best of friends in the Joseon era but tragedy separates them for ten years. Geum Young's father, a teacher at a prestigious school, was executed for being a traitor to the crown, despite having many friends and supporters who knew he wasn't guilty. This now makes the teenage Geum Young a lowly serf, but despite that she is graciously accepted into the home of her childhood friend Yeon Hwa, who welcomes her with open arms. Yeon Hwa's parents want her to marry a handsome scholar named Yoon Myung Jin (Ryu Soo Young again). However, while everything is being arranged, the scholar becomes intrigued with Geum Young instead of Yeon Hwa (a repeat of what was happening in the modern story).

 

The secret love flourishes between the serf and the scholar; they exchange trinkets, poetry, books, and he buys her a small gold mirror (this mirror shows up in each flashback sequence, connecting the couples). But then trouble arises in Myung Jin's school, as the student body are organized to try and prove the innocence of the late father of Geum Young. Myung Jin loves Geum Young so much now that he is willing to risk his life by defying the crown to prove her father was wrongly executed. If he can do so that will restore his beloved's good family name.

 

Because of the school controversy, Yeon Hwa's parents call off the engagement, and now Myung Jin is free to pursue his own heart, which is steadfastly cleaving to Geum Young. The green eyed monster claims Yeon Hwa and she tells her mother she has heard that Geum Young is having an affair with a silk peddler named Wan Bo (Lee Jong Soo again). She also confiscates the love letters Myung Jin has been sending to Geum Young.

Geum Young is banished from the house and made a servant to a dying relative. Wan Bo is smitten with her and helps her escape, but he and Geum are discovered, brought back to the house, and
severely beaten. Geum Young's only hope is in her scholar lover Myung Jin, but then Wan Bo discovers he has been executed, along with other student protesters against the crown. What will Geum Young do now? Settle for Wan Bo's love, go on alone in life, or do herself in?

The Mongolian Invasion Flashback Segment:

When Mongolia has invaded Goryeo many people try to flee to safety including a beautiful former courtesan - musician named Ja Woon Young (
Park Ye Jin again) and her elderly servant who cares for her toddler brother. Woon Young is engaged to Goryeo General Kim Woong Seo (Lee Jong Soo again) who is fighting the Mongolian General Kaseru (Ryu Soo Young again) and his hordes of invaders.

After a frightening first hand encounter with the barbarian Kaseru (first time we see him he is slicing off heads!) the patriotic Woon Young secretly volunteers to pretend to be a courtesan again for the barbarian so that she can stab him to death while he sleeps. Her fiance is at first against the idea but she is determined to succeed, knowing that if the Mongolians lost their most famous leader their troops would be in disarray and the
Goryeo troops might be able to counter attack.

 

However, Kaseru is determined to make this courtesan see him as a man worthy to be loved, not as a rapist. It's a matter of his pride. His soldiers warn him against her but, ever the egotist, he feels he can succeed with her using his own seductive methods. Although he could take her if he wanted, he wants to make her want him first. A very passionate cat and mouse game ensues.

Eventually, the impossible happens and the two actually fall in love, with Kaseru protecting her life on several occasions. By secret message Woon Young is told by her fiance that she must cut Kaseru's throat in 3 days or the Goryeo troops will invade and do it for her, and then she will forever be seen as a traitor to her nation because she couldn't go through with it.

All along, watching her man falling for another woman, is his former lover Ah Hae (Jang Shin Young again) who vows to expose Woon Young. Will she succeed? The
green eyed monster can be a very determined enemy. Who will live and who will die? Will the Mongolian troops succeed in Goryeo or retreat?

The Second Joseon Era Flashback Story:

For me this was the least interesting flashback segment, because Korean dramas have so often in the past used this plot device where two people fall in love and then discover they are actually siblings! In this case, fraternal twins who were separated at birth! Aigoo! Not again! If they hadn't resorted to this old turkey for one of these segments I would have given this show an A+ instead of an A. (Just go with the flow, the Japanese occupation segment makes up for it!).

A noble woman gives birth to boy - girl twins, but a sage / prophet claims they will end up marrying incestuously and that the nation will suffer divisions in power because of it (I suppose this is to symbolize the division of North and South Korea). The mother pays married servants to take the daughter far away and she raises her son alone.

 

The son grows up to be a warrior named Soo Baek (Ryu Soo Young again) and of course he meets a young woman who has also been trained to be a fighter, named Yoo Ha (Jang Shin Young again). It's love at first sight ... and first sword. Even a beautiful female merchant named Ga In (Park Ye Jin again) can't turn his attention away from the lovely Yoo Ha. However, these are indeed the separated siblings the prophet warned about at their births.

Since their parents' deaths, the younger brother of Yoo Ha, named So Ho (Lee Jong Soo again), has watched over his sister, taught her fighting and weaponry skills, and tells his sister that
she should marry warrior Soo Baek with the intent to disarm him and kill him and his father for what he perceives as their treachery to the nation state. She refuses and a big fight ensues until she finally, sadly, under duress, agrees.

Will there actually be a marriage and if so, will both survive the tumult which will result when the knowledge that they are siblings is finally exposed?

The Japanese Invasion Era Flashback Story:

Jung Lim (Park Ye Jin again) is a nurse working at a private doctors' clinic in Seoul during the Japanese invasion period. She inadvertently gets mixed up with an insurgent publisher named Suk Ho (Ryu Soo Young again) who is on the run from Japanese agents out to get his hide for publishing a newspaper geared toward getting the Japanese out of Korea.

After he is shot in the arm by one of these agents, Tamura (Lee Jong Soo again), and escapes, he seeks shelter in the clinic and the nurse hides him in a spare cubicle connected to her office. She takes care of his wounds and fever, and then becomes friends with him while bringing him literature to read, since she's always loved books too. Then of course it's obvious they are falling for one another. The doctor she works with (Ahn Suk Hwan again) catches on early that she is hiding an insurgent but is sympathetic to the cause and says nothing to authorities.

   

However, insurgent Suk Ho happens to be married, to a lovely, quiet and poorly educated girl named Young Sook (Jang Shin Young again). They've been married for ten years but it's obvious she loves him deeply while he is only fond of her. She is aware her husband is in love with this nurse, but tries to befriend her, and even asks her to teach her how to read. She patiently studies her Hangul alphabet and writes her first love letter to her husband.

However, will he ever receive it? He is being pursued by the Japanese agents again and can no longer stay in the nurse's office without putting her life at risk. He wants her to come with him far away, so they can live their lives in peace, but she is legitimately torn, not wanting to sin by running away with a married man. One of her best friends is a nun, oh that can't help matters of the heart! Will she listen to her friend? What will happen to the wife? For that matter what will happen to Suk Ho the insurgent? Is there a bullet aimed at his back this time instead of just an arm?



The faces of two women who love the same man
(my sympathies were completely with THE WIFE!)

Back To The Future Segment:

Near the end of the series we return to the present day and the decisions each character has to make regarding their love lives. Some of this is sad, some happy; some forlorn, some matter of fact and inevitable.
Kang Jung Hwa, the college aged actress who was being hypnotized, seems to hold the key to their multiple past lives and their future lives.

Unsure of what to do next she gets on a bus to return to her mother's home for awhile, and while on the bus she sees the same prophet she has seen numerous times in her past lives. She asks him point blank if she will forever be doomed to be re-incarnated. What do you think he replies? You'll have to watch this intriguing and romantic and philosophical drama to find out. I loved it and watched it twice in three months, liking it even more the second time around.



  If you're a romantic at heart, this one is for you!
RIP to the older actor, above, who died in 2016.

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