가인과 아벨 (2009) SBS 20 Episodes
Family Melodrama, Romance, Suspense, Medical
Grade: A

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
Updated After Second Viewing In 2019

Korea poured a lot of money into the production of this sprawling 2009 melodrama, Cain And Abel, inspired by the Biblical Genesis story of the first murder to take place on earth, with one brother killing another brother due to jealousy; Cain thought God the Father loved Abel more than He loved him. In this drama the same jealousy occurs - one brother is upset that his father seems to love the other brother more. Yet there are some additional twists you won't see coming as you watch this story.

My favorite Korean actor So Jisub won multiple awards for his leading actor role in this drama: Top Excellence Award for Best Actor in the SBS Awards, Best Actor in the
Grimme Awards, and Actor Of The Year in Broadcasting by the Ministry Of Culture. (I would love to take a peek into So Jisub's living room sometime and see the huge lineup of all the awards he's won since starting in show business over twenty years ago!). This was the second So Jisub Korean drama I watched; the first was his hit 2004 melodrama I'm Sorry, I Love You, which made many people around the world fall in love with him for the first time. After seeing him in that wonderful melodrama, I wanted MORE, so I purchased an early DVD set for this show (now sadly unavailable on Amazon). After re-watching this again in 2019 and looking back over the bulk of So Jisub's career, I have to honestly say that So Jisub appeared at the peak of his physical attractiveness in Cain and Abel. His face still looked young, his swimmer's body was at its most incredibly impressive and muscular, and the lovely transformations that the makeup and hairstyle people gave him during the run of the show were stunning (I particularly loved his facial hair sequences, Zowie!). ;)

The Story: Like the incredible opening scenes on location in Lapland in the K-drama The Snow Queen, the opening scenes in Cain And Abel, filmed on location in a desert in China, bowled me over too - they reminded me of certain scenes in the classic film Lawrence Of Arabia. With sandy desert vistas all around him, So Jisub's character looks to be dying, he's been shot in the head and is all bloody, he fears he is losing his memory, and he collapses and stares at the sky, looking like he is about to give up the ghost. "Wow!" I exclaimed, "I think I am in for another great So Jisub experience!"

To be sure, he was the absolute BEST thing about this series, his performance was always spot on in every scene; and the next best thing about this show was the powerful actor who played his brother, Hyun Joon Shin, who had been so excellent in the classic 2003 K-drama, Stairway To Heaven. There was lots of great chemistry and intensity between the two men on screen whenever they had scenes together. swiss replica watches

The two actresses who played the love interests, always delightful Han Ji Min (Padam, Padam, Rooftop Prince, Hyde Jekyll and I), and Jung An Chae (When A Man Loves, Coffee Prince, The Prime Minister and I) gave excellent performances too. Both ladies are just outstandingly beautiful, so much so that at times they seemed unreal.

After the dramatic opening desert scenes, we flashback to an earlier time. Cho-in Lee (So Jisub) is a gifted and spirited young doctor who has worked very hard all his life, partly to impress his loving father Jong-min Lee (Yong Jang), but mostly to try and follow in the footsteps of the older brother whom he admires, Seon-woo Lee (Hyun Joon Shin), who is a John Hopkins' trained neurosurgeon.

Growing up, the two boys had always been competitive, and shared an admiration for a mutual female friend who is a well-known musician and singer, Seo Yeon Kim (Jung An Chae as an adult, Kim Yoo Jung as the child). Seo Yeon had initially fallen in love with Seon-woo but was angered when he went to the US for several years for medical training and deserted her (and, as it comes out later, for his own health reasons as well). After Seon-woo returns from America, he discovers that it's Cho-in who has proposed to Seo Yeon first, bringing an engagement ring to her after one of her concerts, beating out his older brother, who was following up in the rear to try and hook up with her again romantically.

A bitterness begins to foam up in the rather parched soul of the older brother against the younger brother. Although they had greeted each other warmly with a big hug (on the rooftop of the hospital, Koreans just LOVE those rooftop scenes!) when Seon-woo had come home, the warm feelings Seon-woo had for his younger brother begin to disintegrate almost immediately, as he realizes he will have to compete for Seo Yeon's affection. She had loved him first, but in his absence had turned to Choi-in www.vollmer-replica.com.


Professionally it's Seon-woo who gets the most glory at first, especially from their mother, who is the administrator of the hospital,
Hye-joo Na (Kim Hae Sook, veteran of dozens of films and dramas). For many years she had favored Seon-woo over Cho-in because Cho-in was adopted and not her biological son. (It comes out later Cho-in is the biological son of the father, born from an affair with another woman). The mother naturally resented having to raise him, hence the conflict.

The audience can easily see that the Cho-in character is the Abel character, full of altruism (he often pays for poor patients with his own money), and the Seon-woo character is the Cain character, more uptight, more ambitious, questioning who really loves him and who does not. The brothers' father lies in a hospital bed comatose; he had been the hospital director before his illness and now the cantankerous mother has taken over the position. When the hospital is deciding whether or not to fund the neurosurgery department, instead of an emergency clinic, the board members have to decide which to focus their funding on -- Cho-in represents the emergency clinic because it would help more poor people, and Seon-woo represents the neurosurgery department, for people with enough money or insurance coverage to pay for delicate surgeries. (Already we can see where "the love of money is the root of all evil" - 2 Timothy 6:10). Before a crucial board meeting is supposed to take place, the mother claims there is an important surgery that Cho-in should go watch in China, because it will help him to eventually operate on his father, to get him well again. The way too trusting Cho-in agrees - anything for Dad!

Once he lands in China, Choi-in meets a young lady named Young-ji Oh (Han Ji Min) who is supposed to be his tour guide while he is there. He assumes his loving brother arranged it, but such is not the case. She is a scrappy young lady who lives on the edge, born in North Korea, but who had escaped to China with the hopes of getting to South Korea eventually. While in China she is trying to get some family members out of North Korea and so she has to raise a lot of money fast for that purpose.

She is confronted before meeting Cho-in by some thugs hired by the nasty mother character back in South Korea, who tell her she will receive lots of money if she can constantly keep Cho-in tracked in China while he is there. Young-ji initially is going to have to, unknowingly, be the mother's spy, keeping tabs on Cho-in, and trying to keep him in China for as long as possible (so he misses an important hospital board meeting); Young-ji is falsely told that Cho-in is a bad person, a huckster, unworthy of respect, so she is more than a little surprised to see that the image she's been told about him doesn't quite fit this gentlemanly, kind young man who arrives in the airport.

Young-ji never lets Cho-in out of her sight, which leads to some mildly amusing situations -- she is afraid if she loses him she won't get paid. Meanwhile, with Cho-in over in China, the funding about to be voted on by the hospital board members, for either the emergency clinic or the neurosurgery department enhancement, doesn't quite go the way the nasty mother character anticipates - it turns out there is more support for the clinic than she originally thought, even without Cho-in there. Also a new will by the comatose father is presented suddenly to the mother by a private lawyer, leaving control of the hospital to Choi-in.

The mother begins to panic. An order is given out to get rid of Cho-in ... permanently. She wants all the glory to go to the only son she really loves, Seon-woo. Meanwhile, without Cho-in around, Seon-woo is able to make a new play for his old love interest Seo Yeon, who had accepted Cho-in's engagement ring and is waiting for him to return from China. Seo Yeon struggles with her old lingering feelings for Seon-woo. Growing up she had struggled with a heart condition that apparently could return at any moment (those dang heart conditions, they keep showing up in K-dramas, along with leukemia!).

Two brothers, separated by a devious mother,
turn their attentions onto two different girls

Back in China, Young-ji gets appendicitis and begs Cho-in to operate on her outside of a big medical complex (she is afraid of being tagged by the authorities as an illegal alien and sent back to North Korea if she goes to a hospital). When he operates and heals her, Young-ji finally realizes that Cho-in is a good doctor and person, not a bad one. However, she isn't successful to save Cho-in in time from the thugs working for the mother and her loathsome male assistant, who is in cahoots with her back in South Korea.

Cho-in is kidnapped by the thugs hired by "Mom", shot in the head, and dumped in the desert to die, at the same time Seon-woo is operating on their comatose father. Back home, the nasty mother had seemed to have a last minute change of heart, feeling the dastardly plot is all going to backfire on her, and she states she wants the order to kill Cho-in cancelled, but it's too late -- Cho-in is dying, just like she had privately hoped for in the beginning, and now Young-ji has no way to keep an eye on Cho-in anymore because her life is in danger too from the thugs who hired her. 

Cho-in watches in horror as the thugs
who kidnapped him dig his own grave!

What are the chances our doctor Cho-in would be rescued in the middle of the desert? Practically none, right? Yet that is exactly what happens. A miracle of grace. I will leave it to you to watch these incredible scenes and see how the New And Smarter Cho-in rises to the occasion because of all the tragic situations he has to go through. Afterward he has amnesia for a time, is given a new name by his rescuer, but his new persona is no longer the same: he is not naive, he doesn't trust people, he is angry as hell, and he determines to find out who orchestrated the plot against his life.

This part of the drama is where So Jisub's acting really shines and comes into its own -- the expressions in his eyes are much more intense, his body language changes completely, even his voice gets thicker and more resolute. It's amazing to watch his transformation of this character. I can tell he learned a lot as an actor while making this drama. While I did kind of miss his former kindly personality a bit, it had definitely been more bland, and from episode four on everything changes and takes off like a rocket. Both Choi-in and Young-ji end up in South Korea and grow closer romantically. Choi-in has no memory at first of his former sweetheart Seo Yeon, nor of his brother, adoptive mother or his father in a coma, or even that he is a doctor. Yet, little by little, his memories begin to come back to him, partly due to intense psychotherapy sessions.

Will he discover who planned to kill him? His brother also does not act in his best interest, and becomes more and more jealous and afraid of him when he finally returns home to South Korea. For some reason the moment that Cho-in was shot Seon-woo had started to lose his surgical brilliance. He develops spasms and convulsions out of the blue. It's almost as if God is taking His own revenge on "Cain". Then Seon-woo faces cancer of the brain - will Cho-in operate on his own brother to save him? Will the scheming, evil "mother" ever get her just comeuppance? What will happen to the two ladies who both love Choi-in?

The once kindly, loving eyes of Dr. Cho-in
turn into eyes of mistrust and sadness

To sum up, I think you should enjoy the first few episodes of this drama like you would a nice merry-go-round ride, but the middle and later parts of this drama as you would a giant roller coaster ride. The ending is unpredictable as well. You won't quite get the full Old Testament interpretation, but one more in line with New Testament teachings of forgiveness and redemption. To give you a clue -- I really didn't shed a single tear watching this drama until the very last episode, in particular the last few scenes. They were quite beautiful.

This show is definitely an old fashioned good vs. evil story, with some romantic twists, yet with a double edged "Love Story" between two men who had once loved each another as brothers in childhood, but who were pitted against one another as adults, and began to hate one another. All the actors give wonderful performances, and if you are a long time K-drama fan you will recognize a lot of familiar character actor faces pop up in this cast (and they all look so young, too!).


The link to purchase a DVD set for Cain And Abel is here on Amazon. Although it is now out of print, sometimes used sets become available. If you are a die-hard So Jisub fan it's worth every penny. Trust me. He is so fine in this drama. Then the following year, 2010, he excels in Road Number 1 as well, playing a passionate Korean war soldier. Enjoy the show.