An excellent Science Fiction - Time Lapse story Korean melodrama, Kairos (2020) was well-written by Lee Soo Hyun with no plot holes, beautifully acted by an experienced, well-regarded cast, creatively directed by Park Seung Woo, and the drama kept up the suspense of the story to the last episode. I think it's the type of Sci Fi drama that is more readily accepted and enjoyed by foreigners than Koreans themselves, since the ratings for it remained under 5% in Korea during its entire run; kind of disappointing for a drama that gripped me, an older American fan, from beginning to end. Perhaps the low ratings had something to do with the fact that there was no romance between the lead couple, Shin Sung Rok (My Love From Another Star) and Lee Se Young (The Crowned Clown), who had worked together before in the 2014 Korean drama Trot Lovers as well. Plus there really were no teen or early-twenties boy or girl idols in the cast for the younger generations in Korea to "ooh" and "ahh" over. ;) Most likely only older, more mature Koreans tuned in to Kairos.
Trailer for Kairos
Kairos is an Ancient Greek word (καιρός) meaning the right, critical, or opportune moment in time for some event to take place. The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos (χρόνος) and kairos. Chronos refers to chronological or sequential time, while kairos signifies a proper or opportune time for action. In that respect the drama was very aptly named, since the two main characters, played by Shin Sung Rok and Lee Se Young, can meet for only one minute of time every evening, by cell phone, with a mysterious one-month time lapse between them when they can communicate. That situation sometimes could get confusing, although the production team was very good about showing the proper dates on the screen: you just had to stay on your toes mentally to keep up.
Also in the great cast, as second female lead, was one of my favorite actresses (and singers!) Nam Gyu Ri (who played Ji Hyun in the masterpiece 49 Days); like Shin Sung Rok I will watch her in practically everything. She's so outstandingly gorgeous, and a magnificent actress! Her character here, as Shin Sung Rok's oft-neglected wife, must have been a big challenge to her; at times she seemed like a predictable, one-trick pony character, but then she'd behave in a completely different, deeply ambiguous manner, so that you weren't 100% sure where her character's basic loyalties lay (ahem!): to her family, or elsewhere. For me, as her long-term fan, I often tried hard to give her character the benefit of the doubt, but she was essentially a troubled, selfish character at her foundation, so it was difficult for me to always have sympathy for her.
A well-to-do architect manager named Kim Seo Jin (Shin Sung Rok) seems to have the perfect upscale life. He has a prestigious job in a big architectural firm that specializes in designing skyscraper buildings in Seoul, a gorgeous wife named Kang Hyun Chae (Nam Gyu Ri) who plays the violin beautifully, and a darling, sweet little daughter named Kim Da Bin (Shim Hye Yeon). Dig a little deeper, however, and one begins to notice a few problems right at the outset: Seo Jin is hardly ever home because he is a workaholic, and hence his wife and child feel neglected. When he comes home from work there are no obvious affectionate hugs or time spent with one another. Slowly we begin to suspect that this couple married each other for other reasons than love: he to have a talented and lovely wife to boast about at work, and she to live a luxurious lifestyle on her husband's money, to escape previous poverty.
When Seo Jin's firm holds a big charity party he tells his wife that he expects her to play a violin concert, to show off her skills. Hyun Chae feels used again, like she's just a prop to impress his boss, the aged CEO Director of his firm, named Yoo Seo Il (veteran actor Goo Shin, who played Grandpa in Thank You, which also starred Shin Sung Rok as well - although Goo Shin's mean character here did NOT earn him any Choco-Pies in my book!).
As she plays the violin to impress his co-workers, and Seo Jin is hobnobbing with the jet set, their little daughter Da Bin slips away from her babysitter at the dinner table and gets lost, although the audience is quick to realize there has been a kidnapping. This clues us into the fact that Seo Jin obviously has enemies at work who want to see his career suffer and his fake family life crumble. Seo Jin and Hyun Chae look properly distraught over their missing daughter Da Bin. (Though I noticed as they wept they only hugged each other once, briefly).
Who could have kidnapped Da Bin, and for what purpose? The police are called in and the detective in charge of the case, named Park Ho Young (Lim Chul Hyung), becomes even more rattled about the case when a child's severed finger is delivered to the family's house in a box! The DNA seems to match Da Bin's. Has she been killed already? Hyun Chae, totally distraught, goes to a city bridge and jumps off, apparently killing herself over the loss of her child. (This situation makes the audience think at first that her character won't show up again, but with these time lapse stories you often see death scenes that are prevented as the story is amended by the flashback and time-jump plot twists). Don't count Hyun Chae out too soon! As time goes on we begin to see more of what made Hyun Chae so volatile a personality: she had been severely abused by an evil father (Sung Ji Ru) while growing up.
There is also apparently someone else who is grieved by her "death"; a work assistant of Seo Jin's named Seo Do Kyun (Ahn Bo Hyun, below, from Descendants Of The Sun, Her Private Life) who is secretly in love with her. Another worker at the corporation, a shady one at best, is Lee Taek Kyu (Cho Dong In), who pretends he respects Seo Jin, but who is secretly working for CEO Yoo as a thug and a spy against him.
When Da Bin the child originally went missing she had first walked into a convenience store and met the female clerk working inside, who seemed troubled that she was by herself, named Han Ae Ri (Lee Se Young). While Ae Ri was distracted by a phone call regarding her mother, Kwak Song Ja (Hwang Jung Min), who has a severe heart condition, little Da Bin left the store and wandered away. Later, when Ae Ri sees the child's face on missing child posters she calls the number provided -- and talks to Seo Jin, but he seems to have no clue what she is talking about, saying "You've got the wrong number", and hangs up on her. The audience is clued into the one month time lapse between the two main characters. Then Ae Ri's beloved Mom goes missing too, and she and her two closest friends, Im Gun Wook (Kang Seug Yoon) and Park Soo Jung (Lee Joo Myung), mobilize to find her again, before she can have a heart attack and die. (During this whole series Ae Ri is far more concerned with her mother's welfare above all else, which leaves her no time or inclination whatsoever for any romantic entanglements with any of the male characters in the story).
Eventually Seo Jin and Ae Ri realize that there is something supernatural going on in their lives, with the one month time differences between them, and their cell phone conversations that last for only one minute each night. They start to team up to help each other save other people: she to help him save his family, his wife and child, and he to help her track down her mother so that she can be restored to health. Many plot twists and turns happen, which would literally take me a novel-long treatise to go into in-depth. Suffice it to say that they both grow to care about each other as friends, as well as the significant others in their lives, and they eventually even get to meet in real time. Soon they even learn they had a family connection together: Seo Jin had been in a building collapse when he was a teenager, and Ae Ri's father Han Tae Gil (Kwon Hyuk) had been in it too and died to save Seo Jin's life. Seo Jin's father, named Kim Yoo Suk (Choi Duk Moon), began to suspect that the building, for which CEO Yoo was responsible for, had been deliberately exploded by him, and because of this knowledge he was murdered. So both Seo Jin and Ae Ri grew up without fathers, and psycho CEO Yoo had had a hand in both tragedies.
Yoo had threatened other people they both loved too, all to get access to an incriminating, secret video of himself that he had lost. Seo Jin and Ae Ri are determined to get him arrested for all his crimes. Can they ever succeed when filthy rich CEO Yoo has so many thugs at his beck and call? What about Seo Jin's wife, Hyun Chae? Can she be saved before she tries to commit suicide, and be reunited with her child? Does her marriage have any chance at survival once Seo Jin realizes Hyun Chae may have been in love with someone else, even before she met and married him? Any chance for forgiveness, or will the characters all go on to new lives, as friends severely tested by time and space?
If you love a science fiction tale that is told well then be certain not to miss Kairos. It is quite brilliantly written by male screenwriter Lee Soo Hyun. While it was running I put other shows I was watching on the back-burner, because I was mostly engrossed in this one: always a great sign that you will not regret tuning into another superb Korean drama! Enjoy!
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