Road No. 1
로드 넘버원 (2010) MBC 20 Episodes
War, Melodrama, Romance, Grade: B+

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


While watching this great Korean War twenty episode mini-series last year, Road No. 1 (2010), I was reminded of the special American war mini-series of the past, like War and Remembrance. It was just as intense and entertaining and informative as the American war shows but make no mistake about it: this show is no comedy like M*A*S*H*! It is not for the faint of heart, but only for those who understand that often it's only through war that peace can be achieved. I will admit I cried buckets during this show and it really helped me understand the brave sacrifices so many soldiers made for their country's freedom from communist aggression.

My favorite actor So Jisub (Master's Sun, I'm Sorry, I Love You) and another favorite of mine Kim Ha Neul (A Gentleman's Dignity) had potent chemistry together as the lovers cruelly separated by the Korean conflict in 1950. Perhaps not too many young people today want to watch a series on the Korean War, but for those who are willing to open their hearts and minds to it, you will find many heart-tugging, special moments that you will not forget. As the series reminds us, right at the beginning of the show, the Korean war is STILL not ended. They only had an armistice. At any moment that war could start up again between South and North Korea, and the comfortable lives many modern day South Korean people have achieved for themselves could disappear overnight. That is why there is a mandatory two year military service requirement for all adult South Korean males. So Jisub served his time a number of years ago, and so did his male co-star
Kye Sang Yoon, and in preparation for this series all the lead actors underwent military training with Korea's Fifth Division Army for several weeks.

So Jisub Sings The First Lullaby

The title, Road No. 1, refers to the route connecting Seoul (the current capital of South Korea) to Pyongyang (the current capital of North Korea), where the soldiers' long and brutal military struggle majorly took place. For most of the series we see a fictional "Company Two" band of brothers, but they are symbolic of many foot soldier warriors and what they experienced during the conflict. At the beginning we see a modern day elderly male veteran in a wheelchair visiting a Korean War Memorial, rubbing his hand over the engraved name of his dead comrade, while weeping and apologizing to him. It's not till the end of the mini-series that we see him again and understand who he is and how he is related to the story.

Jang Woo Lee (So Jisub) grew up as the son of a servant of a wealthy family and he secretly loves the oldest daughter of that family, Soo Yeon Kim (Kim Ha Neul). He likes to draw and one evening while she is bathing he peeks in through a window and sketches her at her bath. He is discovered and as punishment his hand is stabbed with a knife, leaving a permanent scar and some nerve damage. Once Soo Yeon realizes he truly loves her she gives her heart to him too and they grow up meeting clandestinely under a beautiful tree, by a stream, and in a barn on the family's property. He tells her she is the only model he will ever draw and he has a special notebook filled with beautiful drawings of her that he has made over the years. This notebook will continue to have special meaning as the series progresses.

Soo Yeon yearns to be a doctor and so to pay for that education Jang Woo joins the equivalent of the Marines, to fight against the encroaching communists from north of Road Number One. Soo Yeon is devastated that he plans on leaving her and chases after him over a bridge, weeping profusely and begging him not to go. (I have never seen an actress cry so violently in any show or film before; Kim Ha Neul gave new meaning to the phrase 'prostrate with grief' in this scene!). He kisses her and promises her that when the dandelions bloom again next Spring he will return to her and marry her. He performs so well in the military that he is tagged with the nickname 'Typhoon'.

Dynamic, impressive actor Kye Sang Yoon plays So Jisub's rival for Kim Ha Neul's heart

Soo Yeon patiently waits for Jang Woo's return but then after almost a year she hears he has died in combat. Not wanting to live anymore, she prepares to commit suicide by jumping off the same bridge he had said goodbye to her on. However, as she is about to jump she is grabbed by a soldier named Tae-ho Shin (Kye Sang Yoon, who starred with Kim Ha Neul in the film Lovers Of Six Years and in the K-drama I am watching now, Beyond The Clouds), an officer who graduated from an army academy at the top of his class. Though she can't forget Jang Woo and tells Tae-ho this, she makes a tentative choice to put her past behind her and marry Tae-ho, who has fallen deeply in love with her. Tae-ho carries his potential wedding ring with him through many future battles, to keep his hopes alive.


However, right on the eve of their wedding Jang Woo suddenly appears again; his death notice had been a mistake. He had been hospitalized after being shot and he was counting the days until he could return home and be together with Soo Yeon once more. Their reunion is dramatic, and takes place on the same bridge where they had separated, but Tae-ho objects to Jang Woo taking away his fiance. Just when a major fight between them is to take place explosions are heard in the night sky. It is June 25, 1950, the first official day of the Korean War, with the North Korean communist army invading South Korea. Both Jang Woo and Tae-ho are immediately conscripted into the regular army and are sent north to the front lines off Road Number One. Many bloody battles later Jang Woo and Tae-ho are still alive and still in competition with one another - in more ways than one! Meanwhile, Soo Yeon uses her doctor skills to help wounded soldiers but through a series of unexpected twists she is suspected to be a communist sympathizer and her existence becomes very precarious. She does manage to have an unexpected one night passionate reunion with Jang Woo and conceives his baby, but sadly miscarries sometime later.


Kim Ha Neul gives a poignant performance as Soo Yeon, a doctor serving during the Korean War, and caught between two soldiers who love her

Meanwhile, during all their military battles serving together as comrades in arms, Jang Woo and Tae-ho incredibly come to respect one another as brothers, despite both of them understanding that they will have to fight one another for Soo Yeon's heart in the end. So Jisub and Kye Sang Yoon do a powerful job fleshing out this unique and impressive "bromance". It almost seems like, by the end, the REAL "romance" is between these two guys! (Hint: the weeping of the elderly veteran in the beginning of the show is related to their relationship).

There are many many additional side characters to enjoy as well (I particularly got a kick out of the American war correspondent character 'Danny', who spoke fluent Korean, how I envied him!), but really the heart of the story between the three leads is enough to warm your heart.

This show only covers the first year of the Korean War, but so much happens in that one year that it feels like three years before the series finally ends! Peaceful villages are destroyed, many civilians die as well as brave soldiers. Of our main three characters who will live, and who will die? Road No. 1 will have many surprises in store for you by the time you arrive at its beautiful - and inspiring! - conclusion.


And all So Jisub fans MUST see this remarkable Korean drama. If you don't you are really missing out. He is outstanding in it and I feel he has NEVER looked better as he does here in Road No. 1 as a soldier. The man is literally drop dead gorgeous to look at! Those eyes! I'd be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time I sighed in ecstasy looking at him. Lucky Kim Ha Neul, being able to play such passionate love scenes with him. The man spoils you for any other Korean actor, no matter how impressive. When he is standing next to them your eyes can only look at him! 

You can watch Road No. 1 by purchasing the DVDs on Amazon for your K-drama library, but don't miss it!



Sigh !!!