Queen Of Tears
눈물의 여왕
tvN (2024) 16 Episodes
Romance, Marriage, Melodrama
Grade: A
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
(Some Spoilers)

There aren't too many Korean dramas which explore the ups and downs of a marriage; mostly Korean dramas depict romances between single people. So I was very interested in checking out Queen Of Tears (2024, tvN, Netflix) which explored a compelling, intense marriage, starring two of my favorite K-drama stars whom I've been watching for two decades: wonderful Kim Soo Hyun (My Love From Another Star, Dream High, The Moon Embracing The Sun, Producer, It's Okay To Not Be Okay, Will It Snow For Christmas?, Father's House, Jungle Fish, films The Thieves, Miss Granny) and cerebral, beautiful Kim Ji Won (My Liberation Notes, Descendants Of The Sun, Gabdong: The Serial Killer, To The Beautiful You, Heirs, Waiting For Love, film Romantic Heaven). Both actors are in their thirties now so both were able to communicate with great skill and poignancy the various stages of a sometimes difficult marriage. The writer of the drama was the popular Park Ji Eun who wrote the worldwide blockbusters Crash Landing On You, My Love From Another Star, Legend Of The Blue Sea, Producer, and Queen Of Reversals. She wrote our main couple as very diverse in background and family status, and the drama focused on each person individually with such in-depth examination that you become more and more curious about whose perspective in the relationship is based on reality, and whose on fantasy. The mysteries of their characters keep you glued to your television set watching; their superb chemistry together was addictive. The ratings for this drama on tvN were outstanding, topping out at over 28% nationally. Today most K-dramas rarely break 5% because there is so much more competition now than there was decades ago, so 28% was quite impressive, especially for a smaller cable station like tvN. Directors were Kim Hee Won (The Crowned Clown, Soundtrack 1) and Jang Young Woo (I Need Romance 3). 

Something else that was quite different about this K-drama was that the second male and female leads were often villains instead of sympathetic support to the main couple. Second male lead was played by Park Sung Hoon (3 Days, Jealousy Incarnate, The Glory 1 and 2) and second female lead by Lee Joo Bin (Find Me In Your Memory, Doctor Lawyer, Love In Contract). It seems to take some time before the lead couple finally realize the nefarious hidden objectives of these two double-crossers.

The Story:

Beautiful Hong Hae In (Kim Ji Won) is the formidable female CEO of the illustrious, massive Queen Department Store in Seoul. Her aging, sickly granddad Hong Man Dae (veteran actor Kim Kap Soo, who played the Dad in the classic horror film A Tale Of Two Sisters) gives her this position knowing she is a no-nonsense type of person who will put their family corporation first in her life. She is respected at work almost to the point of fear since the employees know she holds ultimate power in the corporation.

Handsome Baek Hyun Woo (Kim Soo Hyun) works as the legal director for the Queen corporation. He is the most successful person to have come from his humble country village of Yongduri. His loving parents, Dad Baek Du Gwan (Jeon Bae Su, Extraordinary Attorney Woo) and Mom Jeon Bong Ae (Hwang Young Hee, Beethoven Virus) run a farm. He was considered a genius at his law school, but when he first arrives to the legal department at Queen he finds it takes awhile before other employees warm to him. Everyone is very cautious in this company! Tread lightly here but carry a big (symbolic) stick!

When Hae In meets Hyun Woo it's obvious there is a suppressed physical attraction between them, although they sometimes clash on work-related situations. Gossip at work begins when they are spotted spending more time together outside of work. Finally both are honest to confess their feelings to one another, and they get married in a large flamboyant ceremony.

After several years of marriage strains grow between them, including stresses due to the grievous loss of a child, and they seem likely to be headed for divorce. Then Hae In learns some frightening news: she has a rare type of brain tumor, it's inoperable and the doctor tells her she probably only has three months to live. Hyun Woo puts away divorce plans after hearing the tragic news. He realizes he still loves his wife and grieves about the possibility of losing her. Can they restore their once loving relationship? A pleasure trip to Europe seems to help (loved those location scenes!). He seeks to recommit to their relationship but Hae In ultimately was too hurt after learning about the divorce he had been initiating, and they separate yet again.

Taking advantage of their tumultuous, strained marital relationship are two ambitious people who know they will benefit financially from the married couple's potential divorce: the supposedly wealthy private business owner Yoon Eun Sung (Park Sung Hoon, who plays villains very well!) and a female Queen employee Cheon Da Hye (Lee Joo Bin).

Eun Sung is propelled forward to cause problems in the tenuous marriage of Hae In and Hyun Woo by the calculating wife of Hae In's granddad, Moh Seul Hee (fantastic veteran actress Lee Mi Sook, Wok Of Love, Cinderella's Sister, films Untold Scandal and ...ing). The now troubled Hae In, who is suffering from vision / perception / memory problems due to her brain tumor, is too pre-occupied with her troubles to recognize how these supposed friendly acquaintances are taking advantage of her. Soon enough, though, Hyun Woo realizes they are troublemakers. Thankfully there seems to be some hope that Da Hye will become a better person when she grows closer to a good man named Hong Soo Cheol (Kwak Dong Yeon, Big Mouth, Radio Romance, Avici). That leaves Eun Sung as the main villain intent on breaking up the marriage, even if that means somehow "disposing" of husband Hyun Woo. He sure comes up with many ideas to do so! Yikes!

Although Hae In has kept her medical diagnosis secret from her family and at work of course in time the truth eventually is revealed. It will take a medical miracle to save Hae In's life; will she see that miracle happen? If not, how will Hyun Woo possibly go on?

I thought the camerawork in this drama exceptional. Frequent close ups of leads Kim Soo Hyun and Kim Ji Won were breathtakingly beautiful. The story gives us a lot of flashbacks which I sometimes had trouble deciphering: were these scenes in the present day or the past? My own preference is for a more linear, straight style in drama storytelling. That's about the only mild criticism I can make of this K-drama, and it's definitely just a personal bias. I think the story at times could be troubling to some viewers (although there were definitely moments of comedy too!) so perhaps it's a better drama for older viewers, especially those who are, or who have been married, and not so much for the teenage crowd. Examining a troubled marriage is not everyone's cuppa tea, but I enjoyed Queen Of Tears as a change of pace from the norm. Check it out for yourself and see what you think. Enjoy.