Stars Echo / 별의 소리
Joint MBC and Fuji TV (2004)
K-Drama Special - 2 Episodes
Romantic Melodrama, Grade: B
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

I love going back in time and searching for early K-dramas with my favorite stars: love seeing as full a scope of their acting careers as possible. I usually have to go "off the beaten path" in the depths of cyberspace to find these oldies but I almost always enjoy the results. I also happen to love the short dramas because you can watch a 2 to 4 episode K-drama special in one evening, as opposed to waiting weeks for the longer, newer ones to unfold. They're good to watch in-between waiting a week for new shows' episodes to appear on your television or computer.

I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found this one online, a 2004 joint Korean-Japanese television drama called Stars Echo, starring
3 Korean actors I love: Jo Hyun Jae (who spoke pretty fluent Japanese here, I was surprised!) from 49 Days, the second female lead a very young and super skinny Lee Da Hae (My Girl, Chuno, Miss Ripley), and lo and behold a rather chubby in the face Joon Ki Lee (Two Weeks, Arang and the Magistrate, My Girl) who also looked like he needed braces because he had buck teeth back then! (Maybe he had braces in between this drama appearance and his lovely film Virgin Snow (2006), also made in Japan). Who knows? The Korean actors and actresses are usually very quiet about cosmetic procedures they undergo.

Stars Echo was actually part of a trilogy of short dramas which were a joint cooperation between estranged Korea and Japan, an artistic endeavor between MBC and Fuji TV to build bridges between the two countries and perhaps mend some broken fences. The first drama was from 2002 (the same year as Winter Sonata which the Japanese ADORED) called Friends, starring Won Bin (loved that one), the second drama was called Passing Rain (2003), and the third, 2004's Stars Echo. I haven't seen Passing Rain yet but I will keep searching for it. I think it was an admirable idea for the Koreans and Japanese to collaborate on dramas together -- they should do that more often.


The Story: Jo Hyun Jae's character Sung Jae is a musician and composer, and he has a part time job in the summer on Jeju Island: he's a musician playing the piano for a grand hotel's events at night and also a tour guide during the day. He runs into a Japanese girl tourist named Misaki (Nakagoshi Noriko), literally, banging into her by accident and dropping her bag. She starts to yell at him and her boyfriend, the nice and unassuming Suji (
Tanihara Shosuke) tries to calm her down. Later she sees Hyun Jae playing the piano outside the hotel and applauds him, so the ice is broken between them, and an attraction begins at that moment.

For a year Misaki shuts herself off from
dating due to the death of her boyfriend

However a tragedy occurs, Misaki and Suji are driving along a steep road on Jeju and having an argument when a bus comes toward them suddenly in their lane and she swerves and goes down an embankment, the crash killing her boyfriend. Shattered, she goes back to Japan feeling tremendously guilty, a year goes by and she doesn't even date (although her boss makes overtures), she just concentrates on her clerical job at a company that makes telescopes. Then she is told she will need to go on a business trip to Korea and she isn't looking forward to that, it holds bad memories for her. 

Once there she meets Sung Jae again by coincidence (or maybe not?), the Korean man she met on Jeju a year earlier. He is also hurting because his father's business went bankrupt, he now has to make his living creating karaoke tracks professionally instead of pursuing his dreams of performing, and his long time girlfriend
Ji Young (Lee Da Hae) has dumped him. She expects the finer things in life like nice jewelry and clothes, but he can't afford them.

When the Japanese lady Misaki and the Korean man Sung Jae meet again they discover they like similar things in life, like stargazing and music. When Ji Young his old girlfriend sees him happy again with this Japanese girl she is none too pleased and tries to dislodge her from his life, even using some emotional and physical blackmail to upset Misaki and cause her to leave the country. Her tactics ultimately fail, of course .... she's only second female lead here, which doesn't account for much in K-dramas! ;)

The transition of Joon Ki Lee's career as an actor:
Stars Echo, his first drama, Virgin Snow, first film, &
Two Weeks (2013), I consider his best performance.

Wonderful Joon Ki Lee plays Hyun Jae's fun loving cousin in this, his first drama. He didn't have much to do but be supportive of his cousin and look cute, but just seeing him so young was fun, since he's become so famous since those days and had many lead roles instead of supporting. My favorite performance of his is his modern drama story Two Weeks, where he plays a reforming petty gangster, similar to So Jisub playing one in I'm Sorry, I Love You (written by the same screenwriter, too, who also wrote Thank You). Since then he's played in too many sageuk type roles and I wish he'd break free from them, for a little while at least. Play some modern guys again! I'm afraid he's going to get typecast in the historical genre.

There's nothing too original in Stars Echo, but it is charming and the stars give good performances. Here are some screen captures I grabbed from the show. Enjoy!