If You Wish Upon Me
당신이 소원을 말하면

KBS2 (2022) 16 Episodes
Medical Melodrama / Romance
Masterpiece, Grade: A+
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

Outstandingly beautiful, riveting, and inspirational, Korean drama If You Wish Upon Me (2022) is a must-see new classic, with themes that reminded me a lot of the kinds of Korean dramas I first fell in love with two decades ago, that sadly have largely been abandoned today, replaced with too many dreary and dark themed shows with crime and evil being the centerpiece of the stories. Frankly, I am sick and tired of them and refuse to watch them anymore, no matter who the stars are who are featured in them! Some sadness in the characters' lives is fine to show, for that is how we see them grow as people during the dramas' duration; however, when they give you constant portrayals of evil and tragedy in a drama it wears the audience down. We see enough evil represented in our daily news' reports: when we seek entertainment we desire an ESCAPE from that dreariness. If You Wish Upon Me provides that escape and had me hooked from beginning to end by its poignant beauty and sweetness. I was so touched by its story that I basically marathoned it over three days' time. In my estimation this is the best Korean drama of 2022, bar none! You can watch the drama in full on Viki.

Starring handsome Ji Chang Wook (Healer, Empress Ki, Kara: Secret Love) and beloved veteran actor Sung Dong Il (It's Okay That's Love, Jirisan, Dear My Friends, Chuno), with lovely actress and Girls' Generation pop star Choi Soo Young (Squad 38, Oh! My Lady), whose exquisite smile could melt an iceberg, the drama was based on the work of the Ambulance Wish Foundation, which originally started in the Netherlands, enabling last requests of dying hospice patients to be fulfilled. With such a set-up for a drama one would think it would be depressing, but it is anything but sad; rather, it is beautiful! All the volunteers in the hospice depicted in this drama were positive and loving people, and reflected all age groups and family backgrounds.
When you make something positive out of your own life you can help others achieve happiness too. This philosophy is what changes the life for the better of the main male character played by Ji Chang Wook (this role is now definitely my favorite of his!).

The Story:

Drifter through a troubled early life, which included paternal abuse and abandonment, escaping to an orphanage, and unfortunately getting involved with criminal thugs as a teenager, twenty-something ex-con Yoon Gyeo Rye (Ji Chang Wook) is released from prison hoping against hope to have some semblance of a normal life at last. "I want to be happy like everyone else" is Gyeo Rye's keen wish. The first person he reunites with is an old friend who is a veterinarian, named Jin Goo (Park Se Jun), who had taken care of his beloved pet dog for him while he served his time in prison. Gyeo Rye had named his dog Son (Adeul) and felt a strong bond with him, especially since the pup had originally been cruelly abandoned by his human "parents" too. Now the dog is nearing the end of his life and Gyeo Rye wants to spend quality time with him before he passes on 

His friend Jin Goo the vet cautions him that if he wants a new fresh start he should fully give up his old criminal ways, but Gyeo Rye isn't convinced enough to follow through with that advice completely, at least at first: he still has hidden a large sum of money he had stolen from the thugs who had threatened his life, the main one being Jang Seok Joon (Nam Tae Hoon) who knows he has been released from jail and is watching him from a distance, planning to chase him until he gives that money back. Gyeo Rye takes some of it and buys a fancy new red sports car, and off he and his dog go on the highway, to hopefully find that happy new life he craves, ideally by the seaside.

However, in a car chase which erupts once Gyeo Rye realizes gangster Seon Joon is after him, he inadvertently causes an ambulance to be forced off the highway, which apparently injures the driver, hospice volunteer Kang Tae Sik (Sung Dong Il), who can suddenly no longer drive because his leg is hurt. Gyeo Rye loses control of his new car and goes off the road as well, and Tae Sik confronts him on his crazy driving. Tae Sik drags Gyeo Rye to the ambulance and tries to force him to get in and drive. However, Gyeo Rye sees gangster Seok Joon in pursuit, and as Seok Joon runs toward him to exact revenge, Gyeo Rye throws a large sum of the money he stole from Seok Joon onto the road. Unfortunately for Seok Joon, other people had stopped on the highway because of this traffic tie up, and they all run to grab the money instead! Gyeo Rye is forced to drive the ambulance with a critical patient inside, whose last wish was to visit his wife's grave by the beachside. (To my delight this cameo of the patient was played by veteran actor Jeong Dong Hwan who played the father in the 2000 classic Autumn In My Heart and the baddie from 2013's Nine: Nine Time Travels). As the staff of the hospice help the dying patient fulfill his last wish, Gyeo Rye takes off with his dog and, overwhelmed with despair, decides to commit suicide by drowning in the ocean, taking Son Adeul with him. But someone grabs him from behind and stops him: the ambulance driver Tae Sik! "This won't solve your problems," lectures Tae Sik, and hauls him to the police station, where he is ordered to do over 30 hours of community service to avoid jail time again. (Privately, Tae Sik had told the cops Gyeo Rye should do this community service at his hospice, for a private reason we only learn about closer to the end of the drama).

Tae Sik is the head of "Team Genie", a volunteer group that helps dying patients achieve their last wishes. He invites Gyeo Rye to his workplace, the local Woori hospice sponsored by Roman Catholic nuns. There Gyeo Rye finally finds some good people who help stabilize him, including a compassionate nurse named Seo Yeon Joo (Choi Soo Young), and various volunteers, cook Yeom Soon Ja (veteran actress Yang Hee Kyeong, All That Glitters, Secret Love, Prosecutor Princess, Love Letter), married retired couple Choi Deok Ja (Gil Hae Yeon) who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and husband Hwang Cha Yong (Yoo Soon Woong), tender-hearted high school student Yoo Seo Jin (Jeon Chae Eun, excellent performance for one so young), and dedicated nuns Lee Jong Sook (Jung Eui Soon) and Lee Jin Young (Park Hyun Young).

Gyeo Rye slowly warms to the staff, with the exception of the main doctor on the payroll, Yang Chi Hun (Shin Joo Hwan), who quickly resents Gyeo Rye, whom he senses will become a love rival for the affections of nurse Yeon Joo. He sure is proven right over time! The doctor is rather humorless, and Gyeo Rye, with his new, loving, adopted "family" at the hospice, becomes humanized and even develops a sense of humor for the first time, especially when he's in the presence of nurse Yeon Joo. Their mutual attraction quickly grows, especially when they are thrown together so often helping dying patients fulfill their last wishes. Some of these situations are very moving, for instance the man who wanted to return to his old home to see the persimmon tree blossoming in the yard, and another man who wanted to visit a giraffe at a zoo whom he had taken care of years before. Soon Gyeo Rye begins to care more about others than he does for himself. What a miracle! Then Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo become even closer when the dog Son looks like he's dying and she makes a special movie of Gyeo Rye and Son together to show on a big screen on the beach as a sort of goodbye between "father" and "son".

Funny First Date Scene With Sweet Kiss

Events seem to be coming together for everyone when the gangster Seok Joon tracks down Gyeo Rye's new location, and so does a troubled "sister" of Gyeo Rye's named Ha Joon Kyung (Won Jian) who has been obsessed with Gyeo Rye for years. She insists that he leave the hospice and room with her as "family". Even more complications arise when it becomes apparent the gangster Seok Joon is obsessed with Joon Kyung and doesn't want her joining her life with Gyeo Rye's. Will he exact revenge on Gyeo Rye now, not just for the money that is owed him, but also for the love he desires from the strange Joon Kyung, a woman who seems to bring a black tide of despair with her everywhere she goes?

If you enjoy a humanistic Korean drama filled with unique characters played by stupendous actors and actresses, and filled with addictive plot surprises that keep you on your mental toes throughout, then be sure not to miss If You Wish Upon Me. It's one of the best Korean dramas I've ever watched. Plus it has that ADORABLE doggie! I love Korean dramas that feature dogs and cats as major characters. Enjoy!