If you like a darkly tragic, romantic melodrama - one which will make you cry buckets - no, rivers! - of tears, then Sad Love Story (2005) is your K-drama of first choice! Stock up on the tissues, folks. I've given you fair warning!
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This magnificent show is sadly not available on either of the two legal online websites for K-dramas, for some unknown reason (probably copyright related), so I would strongly suggest you buy the OOP YA Entertainment Region One DVD boxset off Amazon or better yet rent the Region One DVDs from Netflix (which is how I watched it). It's really a disservice to yourself to watch this haunting, unforgettable show on website streaming with poor resolution, junky sound quality, station bugs and commercials breaking into the story, or on a bad, cheap bootleg version which compresses down the images and sound (especially because it has a beautiful soundtrack which enhances the story). The official YA Entertainment Region One DVDs are your best bet for superb HD viewing. That's what Netflix carries; last I checked they were still available for mailing as part of your DVD membership.
With a perfect cast, including as the leads Kwon Sang Woo (his best K-drama performance), Hee Sun Kim, who was so beautiful with Lee Min Ho in Faith, and Jung Hoon Yun (from the K-drama Mask and from the sweet Korean film Daddy Long Legs), this plot fully lives up to its title name. There is little to no laughter to lighten the mostly dark but ultra-romantic story of a blind girl who is torn from the arms of the boy who has loved her deeply since childhood, and who meets him again years later when she has recovered her sight after surgery.
Another powerful performance comes from actress Kyung Jin Hee as the blind girl's aunt and guardian. Also, special mention should go to the brilliant child actors who played Kwon Sang Woo's and Hee Sun Kim's characters as young people: one of my top favorite male actors Seung Ho Yoo, who grew up to play the male lead in Operation Proposal, and more recently the hit Remember, and So Eun Kim, who so impressively played a blind girl here at such a tender age. She was angelic. Only four years later she had blossomed to be cast as Jan Di's best friend in Boys Over Flowers and more recently she appeared in The Liar Game.
STORY SYNOPSIS: Our story begins in "America Town", a small military base community in South Korea that is filled with American soldiers. Joon Young Seo (Seung Ho Yoo) is the son of a bar - nightclub owner named Hyang Ja Seo (Young Hee Na from My Love From Another Star and Legend Of The Blue Sea) who serves the soldiers drinks, music, a place to dance ... and sometimes a little bit on the side. Joon Young does not have an easy time of it with a mother who is called a prostitute by his classmates; the kids are always teasing him and beating him up. Joon Young harbors great resentment toward his mother for her lifestyle. She seems to care for him in her own blunt way, but she isn't exactly the Beaver's Mom.
Enter the flamboyant Lee Mi Sook, with the stage name "Audrey" (Hee Kyung Jin), a new singer to the nightclub, who has a blind niece around Joon Young's age named Park Hye In (Kim So Eun). Despite her affliction she is a bright, cheerful child. Although they have a rough start together, Hye In soon inspires Joon Young to feel protective over her. For the first time in his life he becomes close enough to someone to feel the power of love and affection and devotion. They spend a lot of time together, especially in their own favorite spot, an abandoned old house off the beaten path by a picturesque lake. They also live near each other so they can go back and forth to school every day together. She gives him her Braille necklace, and he writes songs for her on his guitar.
Another little girl likes Joon Young, whose name is Hwa Jung Cha (Go Ah Sung from Beating Heart and the blockbuster film The Host), and she becomes jealous of his relationship with Hye In. She lives with her hairdresser mother named Min Kyung (Mi Young Lee) and her taxi driver father, who are always arguing over money and how they can possibly get together for some intimacy with their little girl under foot all the time. As the children all move into adulthood Hwa Jung maintains her obsession with Joon Young, even though its plain to see which girl he truly loves. She even tells a momentous lie which threatens to ruin all their lives permanently at one point in the story.
Another character of note is "Charlie" who works at the bar, an effeminate but super nice guy who tries to seek peace among all the principal characters whenever there is trouble brewing. I really enjoyed his character, he was a rare sweetie pie in the midst of almost constant turmoil. He really provided the only smidgen of humor to the show. The actor who played him, Seo Cheon Hong, is the most prominently open gay celebrity in Korea, having come out of the closet in the year 2000. In any case he was a lot of fun to watch.
When the kids become teenagers the troubles in their lives intensify, though their devotion to one another only deepens. Audrey gambles away all her money, and Joon Young gets into a big fight with some boys who try to molest Hye In. He ends up in the hospital. That prompts Joon Young's mother to tell Audrey she must leave "America Town" and take Hye In with her, that she will never allow her son to marry a blind girl, which would drag his life down (as if it hasn't already been brought down by his own mother's activities!).
Audrey steals Hyang Ja's jewelry in spite and quickly leaves town with Hye In and heads for Busan, where they initially stay with a friend of Audrey's. Hye In begs her aunt to let her contact Joon Young, but Audrey refuses, knowing that if she did so the police would be on her tail for stealing the jewelry. Joon Young and Hye In are heartbroken to be separated. Hyang Ja is fed up dealing with her distressed son and dumps him on his biological father, Joon-il Choi (Young Ha Lee from I'm Sorry, I Love You), who happens to live in Busan. Joon Young looks for Hye In everywhere, narrowly missing her on many occasions.
Joon Young gets a job pumping gas and at the station runs into a rich playboy, Gun-woo Lee (Jung Hoon Yeon), who rubs him the wrong way at first but who eventually becomes his best friend. Meanwhile Hye In is wrongly told that Joon Young had tragically died and she is grief-stricken. How can she possibly move on? She loved him so much. He was her lifeline during years of troubles.
Joon Young (Kwon Sang Woo) looking all over for Hye In, his lost love,
in Time Square, Manhattan, USA (nice location shots!)
Gun Woo's life, Joon Young's life, and Hye In's life are to weave together in amazing ways in future, including a life changing trip to New York City in America, and a miraculous surgery which restores Hye In's eyesight, paid for by Gun-woo, who has fallen in love with her. But Hye In had never seen Joon Young's face, she only knew him when she was blind ... how will she be able to recognize him?
She meets Gun Woo's best friend who is now calling himself by a different name professionally, Joon Kyu Choi, and while Joon Young is astounded to meet his best friend's fiance - who is his own long lost love - Hye In has no idea who he is. For his friend's sake Joon Young stays quiet, but can he bear to maintain his silence for too long, when his heart is yearning for Hye In every time he sees her? She too is puzzled why this friend of Gun-woo's is so cold to her. Will the ice ever break, and if it does, how will that affect Gun-woo's relationship with the woman he loves and expects to marry?
Sad Love Story is the perfect K-drama for those who like their melodrama loaded with suspense, romance, tragedy, cliffhangers, and for those who especially like location shoots in different locales other than Korea. The scenes in Manhattan are some of the best I've seen in any K-drama and made me miss New York tremendously, the most exciting city in the world. There are some characters you will intensely dislike and want to claw their eyes out (especially an American man Audrey marries who then abuses both her and Hye In), but then there are others you will love and grieve to say goodbye to once the show is over.
That is the Magic of K-dramas - you can't fully forget them because they are just so darn GOOD! Who CARES when they were made? A classic is TIMELESS!
Alison's Review of Sad Love Story (2005)
Sad Love Story was the second K-drama I ever watched, and I remember being entranced by it, totally drawn into its world and the characters. The young lovers, played by Kwon Sang Woo (one of the most versatile and charming of Korean actors) and Kim Sun Hee (one of the most exquisite and talented of Korean actresses) are so endearing, and the trials and tribulations they go through to be together are heartbreaking (not to mention frustrating).
Virtually every episode ends with a cliffhanger and you just can’t wait to see what happens next. Sad Love Story has it all … wonderful love story, great pacing, numerous plot twists, a sympathetic love triangle, menacing villains, beautiful music … and a scene set in New York City’s Times Square, where the two sweethearts actually find each other by chance amongst all the bustling tourists.
The drama begins with that oldest of K-drama clichés: the two lead characters who meet as children and grow to love each other as young adults. But the love story never seems hackneyed. The two of them are just such good people, you root for them in every way. Over and over the two are pulled apart, with fate deciding that their paths might cross but they won’t be able to get together. I remember literally jumping up and down and shouting "hooray!" at one point when they were finally reunited … but of course there were still obstacles in the way.
Athough the love story is indeed “sad” it is also perfect – perfectly believable and in a way, inspiring. If you have the slightest belief in “soul mates” this drama embodies the concept of really being true to one person, no matter what, and never giving up. This K-drama is already ten years old, but it’s really timeless – and I think stands right up there with the passionately devoted romances like those found in Winter Sonata, I’m Sorry I Love You, That Winter the Wind Blows, Shark and 49 Days (just to mention some of my other favorite dramas). I think it’s a must watch for any K-drama fan.
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