Winter Sonata


Reviewed by: sukting

October 05, 2003

Rating: three

Year produced
2002

How long
20 episodes

Foreword
What will you do if someone who looks like your dead lover appears before you? Will you remain faithful to your fiancé or love the former blindly? If you are the fiancé, will you give up? If you are the third party, will you still persist in achieving your aim?

Story

10 years ago, Jun Xiang transferred to Spring Village High School to look for his natural father. You Zhen and Cai Lin were interested in him. However, he was very hostile to the monitor, Xiang He because he suspected that he was his half-brother. Both guys were in love with You Zhen. When You Zhen was lost during a trip, Jun Xiang taught her to find her way back by observing the Polaris. One day, Jun Xiang was knocked down by a truck on New Year’s Eve and was believed to be dead.

10 years later, You Zhen sees a man resembling Jun Xiang and misses her engagement ceremony with Xiang He because she goes frantically in search of him. Later, she is shattered to know that he is Cai Lin’s boyfriend, Min Heng. Min Heng is the new architect at Marcian that is working with You Zhen’s Polaris company named after Jun Xiang.

You Zhen always looks at Min Heng tenderly in the same way she looks at Jun Xiang. Cai Lin badmouths her to make Min Heng dislike her, saying that she likes to imitate her and that she seduced Cai Lin's previous boyfriend. Later Min Heng discovers the truth and breaks off with Cai Lin and falls for You Zhen. I like the way that he presents her with the Polaris necklace – so romantic to place it in a snowball.

Xiang He forces You Zhen to marry him. When she refuses, he tries to kill himself to make her return to him. At this time, Min Heng finds out that he has amnesia due to the accident. His selfish mother erased his memory. Xiang He forbids him to tell You Zhen so he decides to go to the US. Before leaving, he gives her a CD ‘The First Time’ – the same song that Jun Xiang recorded and played for her on tape.

You Zhen tries to make him remember the past but to no avail. He still leaves the next day but is injured when he pushes You Zhen away from an oncoming truck. This woman is the main cause for his blindness later – hate her if you can because she just runs across the road blindly!

Upon recovery, he goes to Spring Village with her and remembers the past. He also finds out that his mother, Mei Xi was formerly engaged to You Zhen’s father. She tried to kill herself but was saved by Xiang He’s father. Jun Xiang didn’t know that the two had a one night stand. Mei Xi doesn’t deny that You Zhen’s father was also his father. He is very depressed over it.

Despite this, he still carries on his wedding plans with her but is stopped by Xiang He. He brings her to the seaside to spend their last times together. When she knows of the truth, she is upset but gives him a model of a house designed by her before parting ways.

Jun Xiang finds out that his father is Xiang He’s father. But now he has a blood clot in his brain after the second accident. If he doesn’t remove it, he will die. Xiang He is still selfish to tell him not to let You Zhen know about the truth. He even asks Jun Xiang to tell You Zhen to study in France with him. But he tells the truth after knowing Jun Xiang’s serious condition. They are too late upon reaching the airport.

3 years later, You Zhen returns and Xiang He doesn’t accompany her to Paris. She finds the house she designs built on an island. She discovers a blind Jun Xiang there. He has built it for her before going blind. Both embrace in the evening sunset.

Introduction on characters

1. Li Min Heng/ Jiang Jun Xiang – Bae Yong Jun
He is cool and lonely in the high school uniform but somehow I feel that he isn’t that convincing as a 19 year old. However, Bae manages to show Jun Xiang’s hostility well to others. The 18 year old Jun Xiang is a top Mathematics Olympiad winner for 2 years. He also inherits Mei Xi's talent in playing the piano.

He looks more suitable as the 28 year old Min Heng. Min Heng is a director and also a well-trained architect. However, he doesn't know how to play the piano. But I am quite bothered by the length and the too-golden colour dye of his hair. Surprisingly, I adore the darker dye and shorter length that he has when he is blind – but bad it only lasts a few minutes for the last scene.

Being friendly and also sensitive, Bae is charming and as usual, his smiles capture everyone’s hearts. At first, Min Heng is curious to know why You Zhen behaves hysterically when with him. Cai Lin deceives him about You Zhen’s personality. The scene where You Zhen is drunk and mistakens him for Jun Xiang can show his disgust. He is quite ruthless to kiss her and later belittles her.

He falls for her and pities her after knowing that she is truly a simple person. He even tries to console her to cheer her up by following her to Spring village. He is so pathetic when You Zhen doesn’t believe that he is Jun Xiang. Many cry (but I don’t know why I don’t) when he suffers so much for You Zhen – even to send her to the hospital to Xiang He but she doesn’t return later.

Bae is good in sad scenes. He has unspoken chemistry with Ji Woo. The scenes where he tries hard to remember the past with You Zhen but fails really moves me. He also cries very well but I’m beginning to think that he is going to be another Ji Woo when the crying scenes are too frequent. I don’t really like Jun Xiang to be such a weakling and indecisive. I like him more as Dong Xian in ‘Hotelier’.

2. Jin Xiang He – Park Yong Ha
He was too gentle to get bullied by Jun Xiang when younger. Although he is with You Zhen for 10 long years, he doesn’t dare to admit that he likes her. Jun Xiang wins over him and even haunts them after his ‘death’. Actually I can understand how he feels when You Zhen becomes his fiancée even when she can’t forget Jun Xiang. But why not let her off since she makes him so miserable?

Upon reaching 28, he is a successful radio producer. He loves her too much and knowing that Min Heng is threatening his position, he becomes over-protective. Some may say that he is over jealous when You Zhen dresses up for the company’s party. Please understand – You Zhen doesn’t even doll herself up to this extent in front of him any other time!

But I disapprove of him trying to rape her. I also dislike the part of him announcing his marriage date to a big crowd. When this attempt fails to make her agree to it, he tries to starve himself to death. I have expected to see a woman using this low tactic and never expect a man to do it. He even lies to her that he quit his job but in actual fact, he is only clearing his leave when staying in the hospital. How cunning he is!

I am so disgusted by his ways to keep her with him. Even knowing that Jun Xiang and You Zhen are not half-siblings, he still has the cheek to tell him to leave her. Because Jun Xiang bullied him 10 years ago and he wants him to make amends to him?

Yong Ha’s performance is quite okay. But the lack of a tall build and striking appearance make him a less formidable love rival. Those who watch ‘Endless Love’ will find it difficult to choose between Jun Xi (Seung Heun) or Tai Xi (Won Bin) as both guys are equally outstanding and willing to sacrifice for love. In Xiang He’s case, it is doomed from the start as his character is quite unlikeable too.

3. Quan Yong Guo – Liu Cheng Xiu
He is Xiang He’s close friend and a veterinarian. Xiang He shares his worries with him. I enjoy the scene when Jing Ya brings her dog to him and he pities the animal under stress like the owner. He doesn’t like Jun Xiang but is also upset over his death. However, he tries to be the mediator between the two half-brothers. He marries Cheng Shu and has a daughter.

4. Mr Jin
A Maths professor in the university. He is sure naïve – can’t he tell that Jun Xiang is his son from his age? Has he forgotten his one night stand with Mei Xi? How can he not tell the truth although Mei Xi lies and still has to rely on DNA tests? Furthermore, Jun Xiang’s looks that resembles his father is one clue.

Another obvious clue will be he shares his genes in Maths. All will recall the scene when a high school student, Jun Xiang, is able to solve a difficult question that undergraduates can’t do. Many curse him when it is too late for Jun Xiang to know the truth. He gets along so well with him when both discuss Maths questions – doesn’t he notice it? He is really a moron!

5. Jin Zheng Yu
Jun Xiang’s senior who is his great helper. Humourous to say that he and Jing Ya are the servants of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu to bring You Zhen and Jun Xiang together.

6. Jin Sheng Long
An experienced architectet at Polaris. He is You Zhen’s good friend and is a comical person.

7. Mr Zheng
The most innocent person in the serial – he only appears in photographs. He is not given the chance to defend himself when Mei Xi lies that Jun Xiang is his son. You Zhen hates him for it. This reminds me of a Chinese saying ‘dead without evidence to prove it’.

8. Zheng You Zhen – Choi Ji Woo
She looks suitable for the 18 year old part. And a different way she is in here – You Zhen is very playful – late for school and is punished. Laugh at the scene when she dances along to the song ’Dancing Queen’. She even plays truant with Jun Xiang.

As the 28 year old interior designer, she expresses her emotions well: from her cheerfulness to shock, surprise and sad. The way that she looks at Min Heng for the first time in the office is very convincing, trying hard to find out whether she is dreaming of Jun Xiang. Later, she runs out crying as she can’t control herself anymore.

She has tried to avoid him but treating him coldly after being forced by him to make a presentation. She finds him a cold person later when he tries to fire an employee. She stands up to him and quarrels with him.

Later, she risks her own life to save Min Heng from falling poles. When both are stranded at the ski resort because of bad weather, she removes his spectacles when he is asleep and looks at him closely. Seeing that she is still in the past, Min Heng finally declares his love for her but she avoids him. The fond memory of Jun Xiang is a sad man which is completely different from the cheerful Min Heng.

She is terrified after Xiang He attempts to rape her. Her mind is a total blank. When Min Heng calls her, she doesn’t even know where she is. Min Heng turns pale and searches her frantically in his car. Finally he gets to see her and both hug each other in tears. At first, she is confused over her love for Min Heng but later confirms that she has not mixed him up with Jun Xiang.

I don’t like this character. If your fiancé loves you, why not try to accept him? She has caused so much harm to both brothers. It is so unhealthy and stupid of her to cling to the past. If she decides to stay in the past, be it then and stay single! Why give Xiang He false hopes and disappoint him later?

Min Heng is right to scold her for being so stubborn. I detest the way she presses Min Heng to answer her questions on the past on what Jun Xiang has done. He was a totally different person to her then. After knowing that he is Jun Xiang, she is so persistent to bring him to all the places to rekindle his memory.

Whenever she does this, I want to scream to her to tell her to stop. Can’t she see that the poor man is suffering when he can’t remember? And he tries too hard to please her. What happens if he can’t recall anything at all till old age? She could just start creating new memories for him from the present.

Her last appearance 3 years later is a complete disaster. She looks so ugly in the long, curly wig. Can't they design a better hairstyle? Bae looks so glamourous but she looks like a person just woken up from sleep and is untidy in the hairstyle!

Ji Woo’s acting has scaled to greater heights than in ‘Beautiful Days’. However, she isn’t that good in the drunk scene before mistakening Min Zhe with Jun Xiang in the next moment. She also looks weird with short hair. I take a long time to get used to it.

9. Wu Cai Lin – Piao Shuai Mei
Does Cai Lin love Min Heng because he resembles Jun Xiang? If so, she is no different from You Zhen. I find her overdressed like a Christmas tree with her permed hair and over colourful hair clips.

She is over-confident of herself and tries all despicable means to get her way. She is a fashion designer but it seems that Min Heng has more daring taste in clothes. Remember the low cut dress he tells her to wear for his company’s function? She is scheming to lend Cheng Shu to get the same one for You Zhen to frame her.

I am appalled when she encourages the couple to elope even after knowing they are siblings. She should be gloating over their misfortune or try to get Jun Xiang back, isn’t it?

10. Kong Cheng Shu – Li Hui En
She is brainless to spill the beans to all the people all the time. She can’t keep secrets at all. But I am glad that she tells the truth to Min Heng that Jun Xiang really exists. The poor You Zhen has suffered all enough.

11. Li Jing Ya
She is You Zhen’s senior in Polaris. She is often at loggerheads with Zheng Yu but is won over by his experience and humour. I also wish to comment – her prediction cards really come true for the couple.

12. Zheng Xi Zhen
She is You Zhen’s younger sister. I adore the child actress more. She is so funny – upon seeing Jun Xiang the first time, she can’t take her eyes off him. She even goes to hug his leg, saying that she will want to marry him! The usually cold Jun Xiang can’t hide his smile and bends down to hold her hand.

You Zhen has to coax her to prepare food with her as Jun Xiang is hungry. Laugh when she tells Jun Xiang her good points – she wakes up early and loves drinking milk which You Zheng detests to impress him. The producer manages to find an actress who resembles the child actress. So my liking for her continues.

13. Mrs Jin/ Lin Zhi Ying
She is quite selfish. She doesn’t like You Zhen all along and doesn’t treat her well. But be moved when she is ready to accept her for Xiang He’s sake. Many will blame this mother for spoiling her only son rotten.

14. Jiang Mei Xi
The most selfish mother among the 3 mothers. She has a sick mind. She should have accepted the fact that Jun Xiang is Mr Jin’s son all along. How can she deceive herself that he is You Zhen’s brother? The poor dead man ‘eats the dead cat’(please allow me to borrow a Cantonese phrase for translation as I can't think of any other suitable description) and is treated unfairly at his grave.

I think he cannot rest in peace when his beloved daughter keeps blaming him for the tragedy. And why drag her poor son to suffer with her? I can’t believe that she can be so happy when he loses his memory after the accident so that he will not question his identity further. She can then remarry and give him a new name to educate in the US.

15. Mrs Zheng
She is only worried of losing face and doesn’t fight for You Zhen’s happiness at all even though she knows that her daughter doesn’t love Xiang He. When Mei Xi opposes to the couple being together, she feels remorseful for breaking her and her late husband up. So she wants You Zhen to make up for it. She is so selfish.

Favourite character
The child Xi Zhen – she is so adorable. But she disappears too fast.

Most hated character
ALL of them! They think they have done right but make the wrong choices and hurt so many people.

Songs
I bought the ost at S$18 that comes along with a 4 MTV VCD and 17 songs/musical arrangements. It also includes a handphone accessory which looks like the necklace in the serial. The themesong ‘From the start to now’ is very sad. The subtheme songs ‘My Memory’, ‘Don’t Forget Me’, ‘Swallow Flower’ and ‘Lover’(Chinese version) also runs in the same way. These songs are sung by Ryu.

Many had initially thought that he is Ryu Si Won but he turns out to be another young, promising singer. I like all the songs. The Chinese versions of the songs are sung by Taiwanese singer, Zhang Xin Zhe. Another song ‘The Love That Can’t Let Go’ by Jin Yuan Xuan isn’t that outstanding.

It has two versions. One has the leads on the cover when they are high school students. Another is classics with both hugging each other in the snow 10 years later. It has 15 music pieces played by the piano and the violin which also includes the piano book.

Remember the music piece that Jun Xiang plays for You Zhen, ‘The First Time’? It is actually played by a female university student in the serial to play for Bae’s behalf. It comes to her at the spur of the moment and it becomes the theme in the serial.

Flaws

The make-up unit has poor taste to choose light purple lipstick for the actors. I feel so weird.

Many dialogues that drag the pace – it is better to axe it into 16 episodes. Moreover, the musical pieces are played repeatedly throughout for ‘From the start to now’ and ‘My Memory’ till I get sick of it.

Xiang He is destined to be the born loser from the beginning and there is no suspense to find out who wins You Zhen’s love finally.

All the four leads said that all they loved were their first love. It is quite unfair to Xiang He and Cai Lin who remain unattached in the ending. We wonder how many can really be so persistent to have one track minds in real life.

The director has wanted Jun Xiang to die of illness to make amends to Xiang He and make You Zhen leave for Paris alone. Due to viewers’ protests online but still to be FAIR to him, Jun Xiang survives but is blind. Is this really necessary? But many are still touched to see how the blind Jun Xiang feels his way around.

Interesting facts/Behind the cameras

All things worn or used by Yong Jun and Ji Woo become hot items. Their hairstyles start a trend. Ways to tie the scarves, the Polaris necklace and the car become popular. Some Bae’s sweaters are for display and not for sale in shops. He seldom wears rings but he wore one under the designer’s suggestion. The Gucci ring that he wears becomes the exchange gift between lovers.

Many also eye his Frank Muller watch but it is the only one available in Korea. Needless to say, the Samsung phone that he uses is also popular with fans. The green half-rimmed glasses he wore are also a collector’s item.

Many like the cheerful You Zhen in the serial which shows a different side of Ji Woo. But she had a lot of NGs filming the dancing scene in the recording studio. And thanks to this role, her usual habit of reading lines unclearly was corrected.

She commented that Byun Hun was hospitalized due to overwork in ‘Beautiful Days’. In here, Yong Jun also fainted on a few occasions as he rushed for many scenes and had little sleep. He insisted on continuing even though he was placed on the drip. He was so tired that he really slept in the hospital scenes. The supposedly weak Ji Woo was well and didn’t even catch a cold!

Yong Jun had not wanted to be a young Jun Xiang. But the director told him that Min Heng and Jun Xiang must look exactly the same. He tried to reduce 4 kg and stopped his favourite exercising. He was so afraid that a muscular physique would make him look weird in the uniform. After filming a scene, he would look nervously to watch the effect. He was impressed when the director managed to help him look so young. His camera never left his side and he still took pictures of others but not of himself.

But after this, he was very relaxed and even played with the film crew off the set. Many claimed that he had finally returned to his old self in the early 90s. The first 3 episodes with him as a high school student had 16.3%, 16.6% and 19.2% ratings respectively. But when Min Heng appeared, ratings rose to 21.6%. Yong Jun even broke his tradition of not reading the script beforehand as not to restrict himself in his acting. He hated to place-read lines and wanted to act naturally.

Ji Woo and Yong Jun cared so much for each other. She took care of his makeup while he was always there to cheer for her even though he wasn’t involved in the scenes. When she couldn’t get the right emotions, the director would ask where he was and asked the others to bring him there. After filming the last scene on Jiju island , Yong Jun even offered his shoulder to let her sleep on. Many joked that they really looked like lovers even though she addressed him as ‘big brother’ fondly.

Many complained to the director that the act in letting Jun Xiang regain his memory through the second accident was too deliberate. He confessed that he had no more ideas left but he couldn’t let Jun Xiang cure his amnesia in hospital so he had to do it again.

The wooden house scene when both are stranded in the resort wasn’t shot smoothly. Ji Woo couldn’t push open the door and took a long time to do it. And to make the blind Jun Xiang discover her, she was supposed to push the table harder but she had no strength. No one could hear any noise at all. The last scene where Yong Jun was supposed to cry nearly drove him crazy because he couldn’t cry at all. Ji Woo had to accompany him to cry and he felt very apologetic.

KBS had wanted to shoot for 2 more episodes. But Ji Woo and Yong Jun are too popular now. If their job assignments are delayed, their managing company will lose out 4 billion won. Now his price is coming to 13 billion so his company will not let him go. His fans who visit the filming spots when he was there got to enjoy the coffee that he bought for them. How lucky they are!

Yong Jun likes white and his favourite car is the white Ford Explorer in the serial. Even his handphone ringtone is of this serial’s music. To project the Westernized educated architect, Jun Xiang, Yong Jun blew his hair and even dyed it for the first time. This is also Ji Woo’s first time to cut her hair short.

About 300,000 copies of the OST were sold in Korea within a month. A pop group ‘Black hole’ accused the songwriter of copying their starting for ‘From the start to now’. Wonder how the case was closed. Many rumoured that Ryu must be ugly to hide behind the scene. but when he appeared to promote the album in Hong Kong and Taiwan, they are amazed to find that he is actually nice looking. However, he had no wish to be an actor as he found it to mushy to read love lines.

The ratings for this serial were never above 30% - the highest was only 27%. The first part ‘Endless Love’ (or Tale of Autumn) was above 40%. It is still popular as many have longed to remember their first love. Some guessed that the leads aren’t that young to attract younger viewers. Wonder how part 3 ‘Summer Fragrance’ is doing?

However, Yong Jun and Ji Woo are chosen as the best screen couples in many online contests. When both were interviewed in a programme, Ji Woo claimed that she would not forget her first love if he was Yong Jun, he was so shy that his face turned red. It was rumoured that they were a pair when they turned up in lovers’ attire in the celebration party after filming ended.

Yong Ha is Ji Woo’s fan and he was so overjoyed when he had many intimate scenes with her. He always hummed on the set. Yong Jun and Ji Woo enjoyed listening and persuaded him to cut albums. Judging from his popularity, he could be as successful as Kim Ming Jong.

In KBS’s TV awards, Yong Jun won the best actor and most popular artiste award. Ji Woo won the best actress award. In the telephone voting contest, he was 40,000 votes ahead of the rest. He thanked all for helping him, especially the director. But all were amused when the compere found a chance to make fun of him as he seldom appears in entertainment programmes. She exclaimed how handsome he was and wanted to fulfill her wish. She demanded that he look into her eyes to say he loved her.

This was ‘live’ and would allow no cuts. Poor Yong Jun was so taken aback and was shy. He looked elsewhere and stammered in his speech. He smiled and said that he couldn’t look at her directly. When she still insisted,. he finally finished saying it. Some commented on her way to satisfy her own craving but found it amusing to see that Yong Jun was so reserved after acting as a Casanova for so many serials.

Conclusion

The snow scenes are beautifully shot. I like them very much. Initially, I thought the autumn scenes in ‘Endless Love’ were good enough – the cameramen have done a great job.

Unlike others who can cry buckets of tears, I was unmoved by this story. I don’t know whether it is due to me watching too many sword fighting dramas or that I don’t believe in unrealistic stories. Many find the serial romantic but I find all the leads very selfish when I do the analysis one by one.

Few Korean dramas attract me to give a high rating. This serial lacks originality too – it is the same like ‘Endless Love’ believing that both lovers are siblings but the mistake is discovered later. And tragedy must happen to ‘cheat’ viewers’ tears. But the thought of Jun Xiang deliberately asking You Zhen to marry him really sickens me. To create incest even after knowing their relationship?

This series is too depressing for me. The acting is good but the pace is really slow. I don’t fancy any character at all. These people just make all the wrong assumptions. What’s the difficulty of asking a simple question? If Mei Xi decides to lie, go for the DNA test then – not with Mr Jin but I’m sure the two half-brothers can have something else in common.

Only go for this serial if you are faithful fans of Yong Ha, Ji Woo or Yong Jun. KBS - please also spare me the agony of seeing actors applying purple lipstick. They look terribly girlish! The story doesn’t impress me but their acting is worth your time. Unpatient people like me may have to forward some scenes as they are repetitive.

On songs : * * * * 1/2 (Scale of 5) (have to cut 1/2 * because the songs and music pieces are overplayed)

On acting : * * * (Scale of 5)

On story : * * 1/2 (Scale of 5)


Add your own review and become a featured critic on spcnet.tv!

Or, add your comments below:





Advertise on SPCNET.TV