Stained Glass
유리화 2004 SBS 18 episodes
Romantic Melodrama, Grade: B

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

I'm a huge fan of actress Kim Ha Neul (her 2000 film Ditto is one of my favorites) so I went into this Korean drama with a lot of anticipation and excitement. The writing was pretty standard, however, nothing original or unique. Not the actors' fault - they are all sweet, talented people! (They should have new scriptwriters study this show to learn how to avoid writing an unoriginal screenplay!). Maybe it was partly due to watching yet another "raised in an orphanage" story that was already "old hat", even by the earliest months of my Korean drama viewing in 2006! However, don't let this review stop you from checking it out if you are interested in a story of three friendships from childhood to adulthood, or if you are a fan of any of the actors. Everyone is different and what is an old story to me might be something new to you!
Stained Glass (2004) is a pretty straightforward romantic melodrama about two men who are best friends, Han Dong Joo (Lee Dong Gun from Super Daddy 10, Perhaps Love, Lovers In Paris, Friends and Ruler Of Your Own World) and Park Gi Tae (Kim Sung Soo from Bad Love), who grew up in the same orphanage together after being abandoned by their parents, but who end up both falling in love with the same woman, Shin Ji Soo (Kim Ha Neul from A Gentleman's Dignity), who comes to the orphanage to live after a family tragedy. They all go to school together and live together and forge strong bonds. Gi Tae is such a generous soul that he even donates part of his kidney to Dong Joo when he becomes ill. One day while in church the three friends make a vow: that they will always protect one another, be Three Musketeers, that even if something were to happen to one of them then the other two friends should remain close throughout their lives. Then of course, predictable as death and taxes, that something DOES happen.

Through a bizarre event (trying to fetch Ji Soo's ocarina that fell into a river), Dong Joo gets caught up by the currents and is presumed drowned. However, unknown to the others, he survives and is found and adopted by the president of a large Japanese insurance company,
Yukio Yamamoto (Soo Han In) and his wife Keiko (Kuroda Fukumi), who are childless, and he becomes the heir to their corporate insurance world. He spends his early adult years in Japan, working in his father's business, and his name is changed to Yuichi Yamamoto.

Meanwhile, Ji Soo has grown up to be a professional photographer, and Gi Tae, who was adopted by an emotionally distant man, works in his business. Ji Soo grows close romantically to Gi Tae, but deep down she has never forgotten Dong Joo and she misses him. Gi Tae is crazy about Ji Soo and wants to marry her but Ji Soo seems to be afraid of totally committing to him, she is more involved with her career. She goes to Japan on a business trip to obtain photos of a popular actress and her latest beau, who just happens to be Yuichi (Dong Joo). The two do not recognize one another, since many years have passed, but there is an instant attraction between them. Dong Joo comes on to her in an aggressive way, saying he is not a nice fellow and that he objects to Ji Soo's photography work because it invades his privacy. Ji Soo pushes him away and soon goes back to Korea.

Then Yuichi (aka Dong Joo) visits Korea on a business trip, to increase his family's insurance business exposure, and also with an intent to find his two childhood friends. When he meets Gi Tae again he at first doesn't recognize him, and vice versa. He sees Ji Soo again and the attraction between them blossoms once more. His feelings towards Ji Soo start to deepen with time, causing Gi Tae to begin to unravel because he loves Ji Soo so much.

Once everyone is aware of their real identities (in a flourishing, big way, of course!) the situation becomes even more intense. Ji Soo simply has to make a decision between the two men, but she delays and vacillates, delays and vacillates, delays and vacillates, driving both men crazy (and me, too!). True to form, the conclusion of this melodrama is unoriginal too (the above video contains spoilers, if you can figure out what you are looking at, so beware).

Sure, there were some nice scenes, the cast was pretty and conveyed the right amount of angst, and the music soundtrack was hummable, but I was left with the feeling, "I've seen all this before, and done better too." (i.e. Shark from 2013, with a similar outline). Maybe if this had been my first K-drama I would have been more bowled over, but after you've seen dozens of them and seen enough love triangles to fill a giant football field, you tend to be desperate for some originality to the love stories you watch. I didn't get it here!

You can buy the official YA Entertainment DVD boxset for the show on Amazon. (Highly recommended for the best viewing experience). Or you can rent them through Netflix. Or you can watch it online at GOODDRAMA. However that site is really iffy for quality. Other sites seem to have difficulties getting the licensing down for any Korean drama that has scenes in it that were shot in Japan, including this one, and dramas like Tree Of Heaven. Classics are classics for a reason. The true K-drama fan will seek them out, no matter how difficult the process is sometimes.