Spring Waltz
봄의 왈츠  (2006) KBS 20 Episodes
Melodrama, Classic 4 Seasons' Series Romance
Masterpiece, Grade: A+

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

The lyrical and haunting Spring Waltz (2006) is the last of the "Four Seasons" series of Korean dramas (which include Autumn In My Heart, Winter Sonata, and Summer Scent), and it's my top favorite of the four, all filmed by the same famed director, Yoon Suk Ho, all of which were responsible for increasing the stunning popularity of the Korean drama genre around the world (this phenomena is nicknamed "The Hallyu Wave"). Although all four dramas had some themes in common, Spring Waltz executed them flawlessly, in my opinion, perhaps because it was the last drama in the series and the director knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish for this addictive twenty episode romantic melodrama. It achieved close to 27% ratings as it neared its conclusion (a number which is very high for Korean dramas, most of which average between 5% and 10%).

Casting largely unknown actors at the time as the leads was revolutionary, and Director Yoon gave all these actors an enhanced visibility which would serve them well as their careers expanded after this landmark drama.

The Story: Filmed in Austria and South Korea, including several beautiful Korean islands, the show begins with two Korean ladies traveling next to each other on a plane to Austria from Korea. They strike up a conversation to pass the time. We discover that one is a confident publicist named Yi Na Song (So Yeon Lee) traveling to Austria to meet the man of her dreams, a famed classical pianist, and the other is a sweet, humble craft artist named Eun Young Park (Hyo Joo Han), who had won a contest back home in Korea for a free trip to Austria to visit a famous crystal art museum.

The two women discuss the merits of the famous pianist Jae Ha Yoon (dreamy actor Seo Do Young) as Yi Na shows Eun Young his picture in a magazine. Yi Na tells her she hasn't seen him in years but that he had proposed marriage to her when they were younger, and she intends to follow him and hold him to his promise. Eun Young, who has been kind of drifting for most of her life, envies the polished young lady sitting next to her who is so full of promise. As for herself, she cannot forget a young boy she had grown close to as a child in Korea (new actress So Hee Han gives a powerful performance as Eun Young in flashbacks). This boy, named Soo Ho Lee (young actor Eun Won Jae - from the haunting Korean film masterpiece Hansel and Gretel), had disappeared after Eun Young had undergone a heart operation after the death of her mother in a car accident. She thinks of Soo Ho often, partly blaming him for her mother's death, but still wonders if she will ever see him again.

As the drama progresses we begin to realize that the famous pianist Yi Na wants to marry, and the boy Eun Young had loved and lost in childhood, are one and the same person. This boy Lee Soo Ho, a kid of the streets then, with an errant drunken father named Lee Jong Tae (Lee Han Wi, who won acting awards for his performance) who constantly abandoned him, had been adopted by a well-to-do diplomat man and his wife (Jung Dong Hwan, Geum Bo Ra). They had paid for Eun Young's heart operation, on the condition that Soo Ho would become their son, and be renamed Jae Ha Yoon, after their own son who had died in a rafting accident in Canada. The son who died had been very similar in appearance to Soo Ho. They both lie to the boy and tell him his little friend Eun Young passed away on the operating table after her heart operation, and then they move to Europe and send Soo Ho / Jae Ha to music school to become a classical pianist.

Although he is filled with grief about losing Eun Young, Jae Ha applies himself in the music field, and soon becomes brilliant on the instrument, very successful throughout Europe giving concerts. But none of this gives him any real pleasure. He remains haunted by his terrible childhood years, and the loss of his friend Eun Young.

~ Actor Do Young Seo gives the performance of a lifetime
as the tormented Jae Ha Yoon aka Soo Ho. I still believe his
is the best male performance I've seen in K-drama history ~

Jae Ha does not trust anyone, except for his one long-term male friend and personal manager named Philip (played dashingly well by incredibly handsome American actor of Korean descent Daniel Henney, who had made a name for himself in Korea in 2005's hit drama My Lovely Sam Soon). As in that drama, Daniel plays second male lead in Spring Waltz as well, and I'm sure there were millions of female K-drama fans around the world who developed the common K-drama disease I call fondly Second Male Leaditis Syndrome while watching Daniel fall deeply in love with Han Hyo Joo's Eun Young.

"When did you fall in love with Mom, Dad?"
"When we were chasing chickens, Son."

All four principle characters meet in Austria and begin to develop emotional ties with one another, though Eun Young doesn't recognize Jae Ha as the boy she lost in childhood. Jae Ha for his part begins to resent Eun Young because she reminds him so much of the young girl he thought he lost to death in childhood. A series of events makes him suspect his adoptive parents had lied to him, and he begins to do private investigations of his own to uncover Eun Young's true identity.

A series of shady events causes Jae Ha to think he might have been wrong about this Eun Young. He tries to be distracted by a friendship with Yi Na, but it turns out to be very short-lived. Back he goes to obsessing over Eun Young. He can't seem to help himself. She reminds him so much of his lost childhood love.

Yi Na Just Can't Capture Jae Ha's Heart

Eun Young's life had undergone a huge change after the operation; she also was adopted by her loving but poor aunt named Yang Soon Jo (played by the versatile actress Kim Hae Sook, who was in all the 4 Seasons' dramas and The Suspicious Housekeeper), and she moved to Seoul and was given a new last name. She works in her Mom's food stall cafe to earn money, alongside her male cousin Sang Wook (Choi Siwon), as well as selling her crafts on the street, along with her best friend Hong Mi Jeong (Choi Ja Hye).
While Philip has fallen head over heels in love with Eun Young, she only likes him as a friend. Against her will she seems to draw closer and closer to the troubled Jae Ha, even though their relationship is stormy because of Jae Ha's repressed feelings. Yi Na tries to get Jae Ha to commit to her in marriage, but failing that, decides to become his publicist and expand his professional music career in his native land of Korea. Their small company Green Music plans to put out classical piano CDs with Jae Ha as pianist.


When the action switches to Korea the drama takes on a whirlwind pace, with many plot twists and turns. The feelings deepen between Jae Ha and Eun Young and become so strong that everyone else can no longer fail to see what is going on between them, including the jealous Phillip and Yi Na.

Will the two sweethearts ever finally discover that they were the same children who were so brutally separated fifteen years earlier? (There is a scene in this drama when Daniel Henney has to hit Seo Do Young on the face with his fist, and he pulled his punch wrong and actually cracked Seo Do Young's cheekbone! In the extras section of the DVD set you can see Daniel Henney pacing around frantically as Seo Do Young is doubled over in pain. And Director Yoon left the punch scene in the drama! It delayed production for several weeks, and in the next scene Seo Do Young played you can see his one cheek still looks visibly swollen).

Filled with intensity and angst and deep romance, Spring Waltz will hold your attention from start to finish. Certain scenes are like old Hollywood classical movie shots, with great sweeping crane shots of Austria's and South Korea's beautiful landscapes. Director Yoon rented a tall crane just to get some lovely island shots for the drama. He said it was a big deal to bring it from the mainland to the island by boat but he wanted those beautiful shots. That's dedication to beauty!

I will never forget sobbing my eyes out at the scene where Jae Ha's biological father, who deserted him in childhood, comes back into his life and saves him from a scandal, and then dies on the street after being hit by a truck. Jae Ha rushes to the hospital to see his father one last time, but arrives too late. I personally feel that that scene is one of the top three best acted scenes I have ever watched in the five hundred + K-dramas I have watched since 2006, the year this exquisite drama premiered.

I remember in the Extras of the YA Entertainment DVD set which I bought that the director was interviewed and spoke with reverence at the beautiful performance beginner actor male lead Do Young Seo gave in this drama. I think he was recalling the father's death scene as he spoke his words of praise. Also impressive acting work and camera work can be seen in this "Buy some gum" scene, where Jae Ha first meets the young lad who actually turns out to be his half-brother (though he doesn't know it yet). What a powerful scene, as Jae Ha recognizes himself in the young boy -- his alcoholic father forcing him to sell gum on the street in order to survive.

Haunted By His Childhood
The musical soundtrack is also second to none, my top favorite K-drama OST, with lots of gorgeous music composed and performed by the genius South Korean pianist - composer Yiruma. KBS once again released two separate CDs of the score compilations due to its huge popularity all throughout Asia and the West. Of course I had to buy both of them. ;)
Spring Waltz is a Class Act Korean Drama, an essential viewing experience for everyone who loves Korean drama. It is so special to me that I just about consider it a holy show, and I often have to go back and watch it again, just to plunge into one of the most unforgettable Korean dramas ever made. Yet major portals for K-dramas are too cheap to pay for the license to stream this masterpiece. How can they call themselves, "the best K-drama site!" if they don't host the Four Seasons' essential K-dramas? Your desire to watch this beautiful classic in its best condition will lead you to the right option for you. Chinese bootlegs of this title are garbage. Avoid them like the plague. Get the YA Entertainment DVD only.


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