For my 70th K-drama I knew I wanted to pick one that was very, very special, and I succeeded in a big way! I Hear Your Voice (2013) has every element that makes a smash hit show: romance, melodrama, science fiction / supernatural / fantasy qualities, criminal intrigue and courtroom scenes, sweetness and humor, family love and devotion, true friendships between characters, the personal growth of characters over the course of a show, thriller and suspense moments that will have you on the edge of your seat, intelligent script, addictive music, innovative camerawork, and superb direction that doesn't miss a beat. I was hooked in the first five minutes of this show and marathoned it all the way through without stopping! It was one of the biggest hits of the Korean drama 2013 season and it's easy to see why when you start to watch it: all the best of the industry were brought in to make it, including primary cast members with many years of acting experience and many great character actors you've seen before if you have been a K-drama fan for any length of time.
Two young teenage girls, Hye Sung Jang (talented So Hyun Kim from The Suspicious Housekeeper) and Do Yun Seo, who are competitive classmates in high school, come upon what looks like a traffic accident at night, but the man in the truck, Joon Gook Min (character actor Woong In Jung, with one of the scariest villain faces I have ever seen!) who hit the car carrying a man and a boy (father and son) jumps out of the truck after the smash up, grabs a steel pipe, and repeatedly hits the skull of the father in the car, brutally killing him. Hye Sung, watching the "accident", takes out her cell phone and snaps pictures of the murderer with the bloody steel pipe. Joon Gook goes to the passenger side of the vehicle to kill the terrified little boy, but hears the cell phone clicking, turns around and then chases the two girls down the street, leaving the little boy all bloody in the car, but police sirens make him run from the girls who are hiding in bushes. He yells out to the girls that he will find them and kill them someday if they don't keep their mouths shut about what they witnessed.
Bound from childhood into adulthood, Soo Ha and Hye Sung develop an
intense relationship which becomes a "Noona Romance" as the show progresses
The young boy Soo Ha Park (child actor Seung Hoo Gyo from The Manny) becomes mute from shock, but writes down what transpired to police, and when they find the perpetrator the judge and jury have to decide whether a shocked, mute little boy's testimony can be used against Joon Gook when the smashing of the victim's skull appeared to occur from the impact of the accident. The steel pipe was never found, so there is an element of doubt about it being murder, and when there is doubt you are supposed to acquit. Just when the case is going to be dismissed as an accident the bravest girl, Hye Sung, shows up in the courtroom and proves herself a witness to the murder, bringing her cell phone pictures as evidence. Soo Ha is grateful and holds her hand, but the murderer jumps from his seat and tries to strangle the young girl in the courtroom. He is sentenced to only ten years in jail because he had never been in trouble with the law before. We aren't told for quite some time what the motive was for this murderer to kill Soo Ha's father; it's a twist that I suppose was used to give this criminal some sympathy but I have to be honest: I didn't agree with the verdict! I thought he should have received life in prison! (but if he had then there wouldn't have been any more to the story!).
Ten years pass and the boy Soo Ha (terrific actor Lee Jong Suk from Secret Garden) grows up an orphan. An uncle who takes him in doesn't care one whit about him, he does it to gain access to insurance money and a house the father left his son in his will. Soo Ha does regain his voice with time and also becomes psychic after the murder of his father and he can hear people's thoughts when he looks into their eyes. Soo Ha never forgets the girl who came to his rescue and incriminated the murderer by her testimony. He had told her as a child that he would always protect her. When he turns eighteen he tries to track her down and discovers she has become a public defense attorney (fantastic actress Lee Bo Young), taking charity cases that private practice lawyers don't take. He follows her around quietly, watching her to judge her character, taking the same bus routes she takes, finding out where she lives and even fixing some street lights near her home when he hears her complaining she is afraid to walk down the dark street at night.
The Aquarium Scene - Love Confession
Finally they meet in person when a female classmate of his, Sung Bin Go (Ga Eun Kim), is accused of a crime she didn't commit and Hye Sung is assigned to her case, but it takes her some time to ask Soo Ha's name and remember who he is. At first she nicknames him "Gumshoe", a little dig at his youth and inexperience; however as the series progresses it becomes apparent that in many ways Soo Ha is a lot more mature and wise than the older Hye Sung! He sits in on her court cases, and helps her win them and make a name for herself, because he can read the minds of everyone in the courtroom, which gives her an edge as a defense attorney. This is especially important to the very ambitious Hye Sung, who often goes up against her competitive high school classmate, Do Yun Seo (actress Da Hee Lee), who became a prosecutor to please her Judge father Dae Sook Seo (veteran actor Dong Hwan Jung).
Then the murderer Joon Gook is let out of jail and at first pretends to be a born again Christian (ha! we've heard that one before, Son of Sam!). He puts himself in the good graces of Hye Sung's mother, shopowner Choon Shim Ha (expert veteran character actress Hae Sook Kim), but with the intent to kill her. He tracks down where Hye Sung lives and stakes her house. Soo Ha discovers that Joon Gook is free and vows to protect Hye Sung with his life, even if it means he has to move into her apartment and be her bodyguard.
Character actor Woong In Jung does a masterful job playing the scariest villain I've seen in K-dramas, Joon Gook
Unknown to Hye Sung, the young Soo Ha has fallen in love with her, and eventually admits his feelings, in a memorable wordless confession kiss scene at a sea aquarium. I loved the idea of an older woman with a younger man in a "Noona Romance". It was just so beautiful and sweet and innocent. It worked great here, it worked great in Faith, it worked great in Personal Taste, it worked great in My Love From Another Star, it worked great in I Need Romance 3. It's not age on a calendar that makes people fall in love, it's shared interests and an intangible spark that makes them come together because they simply can't live without each other. Soo Ha then disappears for over a year, leaving Hye Sung one tremendously worried Noona! He returns under extraordinary circumstances, and you can bet that somewhere in that mix our scary villain Joon Gook is involved!
There are many more layers and sub-plots to this magnificent eighteen episode I Hear Your Voice K-drama than I have written here, including a triangle romance in which another public defense attorney, Kwan Woo Cha (handsome actor Sang Hyun Joon who played Oska on Secret Garden), vies for Hye Sung's love and attention, but this review is already way too long!
I will just say that if you want to introduce someone to K-dramas for the very first time then this fantastic show could be introduced to them first! It will definitely hook them and make them understand what all the fuss is about Korean drama and why it's night and day better than ANYTHING on American television! It's a drama that I could easily watch again and again. Aigoo, I just completely adored this show! Congratulations to all the cast and crew for filming such an unforgettable love story! Saranghaeyo!