MBC (2003) 17 Episodes
Family Melodrama, Romance
Grade: A
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

Snowman (2003) is a gem of a passionate K-drama that boasted a controversial, unique story-line, with a superb group of actors and actresses who had me in the palms of their hands from the get go. I had no idea what to expect, only that I knew actress Gong Hyo Jin (Master's Sun, Producer, It's Okay, That's Love,Thank You, Ruler Of Your Own World) had never disappointed me before; she always picks interesting projects, so I figured this show would be a safe bet to capture my attention, and boy, was I correct, for I found this drama totally gripping and addicting and marathoned it over two days, finding it nearly impossible to tear myself away, even to walk my dogs! In addition to the complex story, as is typical of the vast majority of K-dramas, the musical soundtrack was stunning and added to the potent ambiance of the story, and I promptly downloaded it on iTunes after I was finished watching it. You can find it easily if you copy and paste the Hangul for Snowman (눈사람) into their search engine. I particularly loved the Main Title humming theme and a chosen Hebrew song in the OST sung by Ishtar called The Eucalyptus Forest

This show depicts the emotionally turbulent life of a young orphan girl named Yeon Wook Suh (Gong Hyo Jin) from the age of 17 to 28, how she matures and grows and falls in love -- against her will -- with her own compassionate brother-in-law, her older sister's husband, the only real "father" she ever knew. She keeps her tormented feelings private for as long as possible, until everyone starts to suspect what she is hiding in her heart and the inevitable confrontations begin.

Nothing inappropriate ever happens between her and her brother-in-law, Detective Han Pil Seung (Jo Jae Hyun from the K-drama Punch and the film The Fatal Encounter), in fact during the whole show there isn't even one kiss between them: he is truly in love with his wife Yeon Jung Suh (played by Oh Yun Soo, who played the older sister involved with Nam Gil Kim's character in Bad Guy), and eventually has a little son with her, however the two sisters grew up as orphans together after their parents were killed in a building collapse, and their bond is so strong that the older sister, even after marriage, does not want to be separated from her younger sister.

Two adult women and one man in a small apartment is bound to lead to complications emotionally, despite all good intentions otherwise, and that is indeed what happens. The brother-in-law grows fond of his wife's younger sister and tells himself he has nothing but fatherly-brotherly feelings for her, but all along we, the audience, suspect he is perhaps lying to himself ... and is actually attracted to her in his own silent way. It's very subtle but people who are discerning viewers will pick up on it.

Eventually their family life is shaken up by dramatic revelations, forcing the young girl Yeon Wook to grow up quickly, to find a job (she goes to school to become a traffic cop), and her own apartment. She asks her oldest sister's forgiveness for her feelings and her sister forgives her: "We are from the same branch and cannot be cut off from each other." Yeon Wook tries to squelch her long standing affections for her brother-in-law with distance and time, even dating another man, Sung Joon Cha (Kim Rae Won, Love Story In Harvard, What Planet Are You From?) a successful businessman specializing in producing designer sports gear. She tries to love this man, he is kind and devoted to her, but she struggles each time she sees him, haunted by past memories of more carefree times she had spent with her brother-in-law detective. Despite her repressed feelings, she agrees to date and then become engaged to Sung Joon, over his own parents' objections because she is a poor nobody in their eyes.

Then tragedy strikes and after the two sisters go shopping together for wedding china they separate on the street, and Yeon Jung is struck by a drunk driver while crossing the street and is in a coma for several days. The doctors tell the family she is brain dead and soon her heart will fail too: do they want to sign a form to donate her organs to people in need of transplants?

Yeon Wook is horrified but eventually consent is given by the loving husband, who, in one of the most moving scenes in the drama, asks the nurse for nail polish and paints his comatose, dying wife's fingernails for the last time, crying over her body. I needed two tissues for that moment, let me tell you! I literally sobbed! The wife / older sister character was such a beautiful woman, a good wife and mother. I was sad to see her go, but at least for the remainder of the show we still see her again in flashbacks as the husband remembers her fondly while daydreaming and missing her.

Why are Korean kiddie actors
always so gosh darn cute???

I thought the show depicted the various complicated stages of grief after loss admirably: the tears, the anger, the depression, the inability to give up clothing and other items that were important to the deceased person, and the need for alone time to reflect on life's journey in general, and what the future may bring. The husband makes some mistakes, like handing over his grieving four year old son to his relatives so he can work hard at the office to escape from his pain. He at first tells Yeon Wook that she can't see the boy anymore and then changes his mind when he sees how much his son is missing his auntie. The child is told his mother took an airplane to heaven and that God loves her so much He has handcuffed her to Him and doesn't want her to go back to earth. Awwww!


Their co-workers and friends try to understand the situation but suddenly gossip starts erupting about Yeon Wook and the detective, which might cost them their jobs. Even when they protest that they have no relationship whatsoever except family no one quite believes them because they have witnessed their family devotion for so many years, and then Sung Joon hears it too and is hurt, and the wedding is eventually cancelled.

Then Yeon Wook's best friend Soo Jin Lee (Bit Na Wang) just blurts out to her one day, "Why don't you just live together with him and his son?" and Yeon Wook is shocked. "People will throw stones at me if I do that," she replies, and Soo Jin says the most beautiful thing a friend could say, "If people dare to try and throw stones at you I will take the stones and build a castle for you to live in."  Awwww! I'm going to remember that line for a long time. Now that's a great friend.

Say WHAT? Are we still
in the Joseon era?

The detective asks to be transferred to a country post and Yeon Wook tells him she is brave enough to face any criticism coming their way, and that she wants all three of them to live together as a family. She breaks up with Sung Joon for good, and now the way seems clear for them to be together but the detective is still filled with fear and self-doubt. "I hate myself for doing this to you," he says, but she will not accept his guilt as legitimate. Will they have the personal strengths within them to buck conventions and an antiquated law, move to the country and start life anew with one another?

This is where the crux of the show was headed the whole time, I think: the fact that Korea will not hand out marriage licenses to former in-laws who fall in love and want to marry after a spouse dies!!! It's impossible for them to marry! What an antiquated law. If a spouse dies the surviving spouse should be free to marry again. There's no blood ties there. I think Gong Hyo Jin agreed to accept this drama because she thought it would be good to shine a light on this antiquated law so that it could be revoked. Sort of like she agreed to do It's Okay, That's Love because she read a study that suggested 65% of the Korean public has some form of mental illness. Or the way she agreed to do Thank You to highlight the risks of blood transfusions spreading HIV. She often seems to care about social causes in the scripts that are submitted to her for her consideration.

Gong Hyo Jin:
h an incredible actress!

Apart from that, I just enjoyed the sincerity of this script, the fact that the characters held serious conversations with each other when things were troubling them, the fact that they held back physically and sought the right thing to do for all parties, this all contributes to making the show one for discerning grown-ups, who understand that feelings are simply feelings and how we react to them is what makes us strong, or what makes us crash and burn instead. Compare to the awful K-drama Temptation, where outright adultery is sanctioned and condoned by that particular screenwriter. Night and Day with this show, which showed good people struggling against their feelings, trying to do the right thing.

This is a special K-drama that will take a special person to understand it.
Those who mainly enjoy simple fairy tale dramas might not appreciate it, but if you are tired of Cinderella and want to watch something more symbolic of a serious Shakespeare morality tale then check it out.

is a mostly sad story dealing with love, inner conflict, and what is socially acceptable.
I wish there were more down to earth, real life story dramas like this one coming out of Korea today, and less fluff.

  The absolutely gorgeous Hebrew love song in Snowman
Don't leave this page without listening to it! Every time
they played it in the background I teared up, sentimental me.