SBS (2019) 16 Episodes
Espionage, Romance
Grade: A-
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

MY SOAPBOX: What should easily have been the best Korean drama of 2019, Vagabond, fizzled out completely with a half-assed, extremely disappointing open ending with no closure, and made me scream with annoyance at the end, and immediately I lowered the grade of the drama from A+ to A-.

will Korea stop with these STUPID-BEYOND-BELIEF OPEN ENDINGS with no closure for the audience? They have to know people don't like them. As I made the rounds of social media after the conclusion of this drama not one single person liked the ending on it. Most seemed as angry as I am. This can result in people disliking the actors as well, actors who didn't speak up for their fans by telling the powers that be, "This ending sucks. We can't do that to the fans!"

What if the great authors of all time had ended their classic stories with lackluster, inconclusive open endings like this one? Their novels would be long forgotten, not remembered fondly and re-read again by future generations. Korea just HAS to STOP DOING THIS SHIT. I AM ANGRY. I don't sit through sixteen hours of a drama not to know how it turns out by the end, not to know what happens to the characters I grow attached to during the course of the story. I don't want to wait for sequels that 9 times out of 10 never come! Give your audience closure.
I'm sure a fortune was spent on this drama, so with all that money, to come up with such a ridiculously stupid and lame open ending made no sense at all. Why don't they just kick the worldwide audience in their collective stomachs? It amounts to the same thing. They keep doing this to us, and they never used to do it in the old classic days of Korean dramas. All shows had definite conclusions; we knew whether the characters would live or die, whether they would end up together romantically or not. I can take happy endings, I can take sad endings, but I hate and despise open endings! They are an insult to the audience. They should have made this drama 20 episodes instead of 16 if they needed more time to conclude their story properly.


Off My Soapbox Now: Vagabond was a re-teaming of actors Lee Seung Gi (Shining Inheritance) and Bae Suzy (Dream High) who were both the leads in 2013's Gu Family Book. Since I had loved that drama I was looking forward to seeing them together again in a new story. Also, another favorite actor was in this one, Shin Sung Rok (My Love From Another Star, Thank You, On The Way To The Airport, The King's Face, etc), and I was happy to see him again, in a story that grabbed my attention a lot in the beginning. Foreign location shoots like in Morocco also added interest and intrigue. Everything was going well until the last two episodes, when the drama seemed like it was being written by a totally different author than the two assigned to it, and the continuity fell apart. For instance, they had a scene where one of the main characters had a prison mug shot taken and the date on the board she held up for the camera said 2012. The action is taking place in 2018 and 2019, that 2012 date made no sense at all! Continuity, people!

The Story

A mysterious South Korean plane crash kills 211 civilians, including many children who were on a school class trip, whose parents and guardians are devastated at their loss. They band together to seek the truth behind the crash. Korean stunt man Cha Dal Gun's (Lee Seung Gi) little nephew Cha Hoon (
Moon Woo Jin) was among the victims, and he won't rest until he finds out what caused the plane to crash and kill his beloved nephew. He's not buying the official explanation that it was an accident. His nephew had sent him cell phone video of himself on the plane before take off, and Dal Gun's quick eye had noticed a suspicious man sitting behind Hoon on the plane.

He embarks on a long, intense investigation, mostly on his own at first, which ultimately leads him into a tangled web of national and international corruption and intrigue, even leading up to the head man of the Blue House (the equivalent of the US White House), President Jung Kuk Pyo (Baek Yoon Sik from Tomorrow's Cantabile), who ends up being impeached and resigning after he is implicated in the scandal of trying to hide the real cause of the crash, which was terrorism due to two air defense companies competing for a prestigious government contract.

The head of one of the aerospace companies John And Mark, named Jessica Lee (Moon Jeong Hee), seems to be the main person who conspired to bring the plane down, in order to make the other company, Dynamic, who owned the doomed plane, look bad, so that they don't win the government contract. However, could she just be a pawn that other, more powerful, government officials control behind the scenes? 

Dal Gun's life intertwines with a National Intelligence service agent named Go Hae Ri (Bae Suzy), and they join forces in a covert operation, with people determined to discover if the plane crash was truly an accident, or whether it was sabotage by mysterious people in government and / or private enterprise. All the relatives of the victims of the plane crash want the truth of the situation as well. When it comes out that it was internal terrorism they are even more outraged.

Also involved is a well-experienced NIS agent named Ki Tae Woong (Shin Sung Rok) who heads up a team of secret agents to discover the truth behind the crash, including the devoted agent Kim Se Hun (Shin Seung Hwan). Go Hae Ri's friends in the agency also help out in the secret operation when called upon to lend their expertise: computer expert Gong Hwa Suk (Hwang Bo Ra from Sly And Single Again and Arang And The Magistrate and Fates And Furies, just love her!) and the kindly but forceful
Kang Joo Chul (Lee Ki Young, The King's Face), director of the NIS.

The investigation really heats up when it is discovered that one of the pilots, named Kim Woo Gi (Jang Hyuk Jin) survived the plane crash, and might have been in league with that suspicious man on the plane whom Dal Gun had spotted sitting behind his nephew, named Jerome (Yoo Tae Oh), who also survived, to bring down the plane for money. Kim Woo Gi had signed on to a big insurance payout for his wife, Oh Sang Mi (Kang Kyung Hun) to pay off their debts, while she knew ahead of time that he would survive the planned plane crash. When confronted by bereaved families and the government she tries to hide her guilt.

Since this married couple know so much detail about the background of the crash there are certain other nefarious people who want them both dead so that they can't testify in a Korean court eventually. Kim Woo Gi is kidnapped by them and for a lot of the drama Dal Gun, Go Hae Ri, and Tae Woong fight to track him down as a witness and bring him safely back to Korea to testify. Even though Dal Gun hates his guts, since he partly blames him for killing his young nephew, to preserve his life in an attempt to get him to testify in court he even gives Kim Woo Gi a blood transfusion when he is severely injured.


Other characters, with their own ambitions for power, work behind the scenes to try and make sure this investigation team and their witness never make it back to Korea alive. They include Secretary Of Civil Affairs Yoon Han Ki (Kim Min Jong, A Gentleman's Dignity) and Prime Minister Hong Soon Jo (Moon Sung Keun) and the head of Dynamic, KP Edward Park (Lee Geung Young, D-Day). Some characters who seemed good at the outset, like Edward, and the NIS agent Min Jae Sik (Jeong Man Sik), end up corrupt and in league with the devil players. Some of them like to contract out to a female assassin named Lilly (Park Ah In) to kill the investigation team, but though her character talks a good game she rarely delivers. Near the end she even saves the life of Dal Gun, which made no sense to me at all. Whenever Korean dramas try to reform certain bad characters as their stories conclude it always falls flat with me. Leave the bad guys and gals -- the bad guys and gals! Don't try and reform them. It doesn't ring true. You can't reform a character who knew ahead of time that a plane filled with innocent people, including children, was going to crash and kill them. It's obscene to even consider it, in my view.

Prettiest OST Songs for Vagabond

Through all the intrigue, Dal Gun and Hae Ri fall in love, even though when the story begins she has a huge crush on her senior, agent Tae Woong (the kiss scene between them in the beginning in flashback was so cute!). We don't see a lot of lovey dovey scenes in this drama, but there are enough to make us smile occasionally, at least. If you primarily watch Korean dramas to see a great romance, however, don't look here. Since the main story is about a plane that crashed, with a lot of innocent people on board who were murdered, it almost seems sacrilegious in a way to emphasize a romance too much -- there's been too much tragedy and pain for that to occur.

I do so wish that the two writers of this drama had not vacillated so much as the story ended, but given us a happy ending that Dal Gun and Hae Ri deserved, after so much pain and loss. Then this drama would have been a masterpiece. What a waste. I won't hold my breath for a sequel either.



My Face At The Stupid, Unsatisfying Ending Of Vagabond