On The Way To The Airport
공항가는 길
KBS2 (2016) 16 Episodes, Grade: B
Romantic Melodrama
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

I will admit I wouldn't have given this double marriage breakup story melodrama On The Way To The Airport (2016) a chance at all if this cast wasn't made up of some of my long term, top favorite Korean actors, including Kim Ha Neul (films Ditto, Blind, and popular K-drama A Gentleman's Dignity), Lee Sang Yoon (Angel Eyes, Liar Game, Twenty Again, Jung Yi: Goddess Of Fire), Shin Sung Rok (My Love From Another Star, The King's Face, Thank You, Liar Game, Trot Lovers), and Choi Yeo Jin (I'm Sorry, I Love You, Beloved). Lee Sang Yoon won Best Actor and Kim Ha Neul won Best Actress at the 2016 KBS Drama Awards for their performances in this drama.

I decided to take the plunge, with reservations, since I try to steer away from adultery stories after the likes of bombs such as Temptation which earned a D grade from me and put my teeth on edge big time! My review was so scathing for that one that I dubbed it "pig slop". However, if a story can be more like this one, with characters wrestling with their relationship decisions and feelings, concerned with how their choices will hurt others around them, and making the wisest decisions by the end, then the drama's story is redeemed a lot in my mind. In Temptation the two adulterers couldn't care less who they hurt, they were just obsessed with one another and followed their own desires without any guilt whatsoever. The cheated on wife was left alone to walk into a bunch of bushes while the adulterers went on vacation to South America to whoop it up and have fun!!! No, no, no. Cannot tolerate that nonsense. The characters here hold intelligent conversations about the ramifications of their decisions, and the story doesn't leave you feeling dirty for having watched it, nor do you feel that you have wasted your intellect on a drama that's about distasteful adultery alone. 

The production values for On The Way To The Airport were very impressive. Many wide angle and panoramic camera shots, an exotic travel location to Malaysia, appropriate sets to reflect the characters' workplaces and styles, and flawless costume, makeup, and hair styles for the actors. The music was nice and understated and didn't hit you over the head with the same love song repeated over and over again. The drama leaves you with the feeling you have watched a big budget film, not a television drama. 

Kim Ha Neul & Lee Sang Yoon sure made a lovely couple on screen

The Story:

Choi Soo Ah (Kim Ha Neul) is a busy flight attendant with Air Asia, with twelve years experience on the job. She’s married to jet pilot Park Jin Suk (Shin Sung Rok) and together they have a precocious young daughter named Park Hyo Eun (Kim Hwan Hee). Due to his rigid personality, Jin Suk controls everything in their lives, which includes where to send their daughter to school. He prefers to send her abroad, thinking she will get a better job later in life if she learns English as a second language; his wife prefers she stay with them in Korea, but as usual her opinion doesn't count for much with Jin Suk. (Gotta hand it to actor Shin Sung Rok, playing heels so often like this one; he always manages to make them a bit different each time).


I could kind of see his reasoning about the school decision, for with their hectic schedules as flight attendant and pilot they wouldn't be around much to oversee their daughter and her education, so a boarding school might actually give her more stability, as well as other children to play with so she wouldn't be alone too often. In one funny scene between father and daughter they play with a soccer ball as a gamble as to who will win: if she wins she gets to stay in Korea, if he wins she must go to a boarding school he has picked out in Malaysia. Little does she understand that the game is really going to be fixed from the beginning by Dad.

Although Choi Soo Ah is rather lonely she thinks she is content with her lot in life, not knowing that when her husband is off on frequent flying trips he often has short affairs with the flight attendants he knows in each location. Perhaps it's a case of being willfully blind for Soo Ah, but it's obvious to the audience there really is no more intimacy left in their marriage. It's a shell and a farce. (This is where my own impatience comes in: if it's a dead relationship why stay with it? Get a divorce first and then find someone else to love! Do all things in their proper timing). 

When her daughter is sent to Malaysia to the boarding school, Soo Ah is even more lonely; walking into an often empty apartment after a long flight is depressing and tiresome. She has one good friend she can confide in, a fellow flight attendant named Song Mi Jin (actress Choi Yeo Jin, who played So Jisub's character's first girlfriend in
I'm Sorry, I Love You so many years ago), but this good friend is well aware from experience what having a personal relationship with a man as rigid as Jin Suk can mean.


Happily, the daughter Hyo Eun makes a good friend in her new roommate, a girl named Annie Seo (Park Seo Yeon, in a lovely but too brief performance). However the friendship is only to last a short while: when Soo Ah arrives in Malaysia to visit her daughter she walks right past an upset Annie in the airport; the girl had learned that once more her own mother, an artisan named Kim Hye Won (Jang Hee Jin from The Village: Achiara's Secret) didn't want her to come home on a planned trip to Korea so she cancelled her ticket. Upset, Annie drops a marble in her possession, which Soo Ah picks up, and then Annie runs out in the street outside of the airport, weeping, suddenly getting hit and killed by a motorist. Soo Ah has no idea at this point who Annie is, and later she is heartbroken that her daughter lost such a great and supportive pal.

Then in a chance meeting at the airport and flight Soo Ah comes into contact with Annie's step-father who had loved her very much, an architect professor named Seo Do Woo (Lee Sang Yoon). It takes a little while before the two of them put two and two together to make the personal connection between their two daughters and themselves. Soo Ah's sympathies and compassion go out to Annie's grieving Dad. Their relationship starts as friendship and as it grows they begin to become aware they might be falling in love. They agree to a no touch policy ... but it doesn't last that long. When Do Woo's mother dies it's Soo Ah who comforts him while his prickly wife, Hye Won, could seem to care less about the woman's passing.

Hye Won is a strange mystery: she never seems to grieve much over Annie's death, she wants Annie's remains to stay in Malaysia, she never seemed to want to spend time with her when she was alive -- the audience is left to wonder for several episodes why she is so strange and distant. However, when she senses Do Woo is becoming emotionally distant from her she tries to make a harder, calculated play for his affections, but it's really too little, too late. So too does Jin Suk become more possessive when he senses Soo Ah is going to leave him, but especially in his case, it's really too little, too late. Having multiple affairs for years is no way to hold on to your wife!

Do Woo and Soo Ah’s lives become intertwined even more over time. They begin to view their cold marriage partners in a new light and begin to wonder if life should be more than duty toward already dead relationships. They struggle with the situation for quite some time. Eventually there is a kiss, but what will happen after that? Will Soo Ah finally learn about her husband's multiple affairs and finally make a permanent break with him? And will Do Woo finally learn about the real reasons Hye Won treated Annie so cruelly while the girl was alive?


The ending is mostly satisfying, partly sad and wistful, yet beautiful at the same time. If anything this show should serve as a warning to married folks never to take a marriage for granted, that it requires time and effort and honesty, as well as affection to succeed. Once the honesty and affection are gone, the marriage is over.

If you are up to a rather slow and pensive drama about marital relationships breaking up then by all means check the drama out.
Unlike many other dramas that were airing around the same time as this one, the pacing of this drama was slow and reflective. If you’re the type of person who likes a quick, zippy pace in your dramas, then this melodrama is probably not for you, as it’s really a slice-of-life drama about two people from different walks of life making a deep personal connection as soul mates. The airport they often pass through serves as an important metaphor about life, the transiency of relationships, about various types of people and the special ties that bind them together.




At script reading time ...


Are they playing basketball together ... or a Liar Game? ;)