Friday, February 05, 2010

TV: Winter Sonata

Korea has a temperate climate, with four distinct seasons (it's near the same latitude as Virginia). Winters are long and cold on the peninsula, especially in the mountains. The endless expanse of snow is a popular backdrop for TV shows filmed there, like KBS' 2002 drama "Winter Sonata":

If you ever wanted to watch a prototypical Korean soap opera, "Winter Sonata" is the one to study. The series, directed by KBS stalwart Yoon Suk-ho, has proven to be incredibly popular even outside of Korea (it's been broadcast throughout Asia and adapted into anime form).

Despite its mass appeal, though, the show hews closely to the established formula for Korean soap operas. There's a pair of star-crossed lovers, Joon-sang and Yu-jin, who are separated by improbable circumstances (Joon-sang gets hit by a bus, to be exact). There's the "secondary couple," friends of the main couple who do their best to separate the two leads. Toss in some standard soap opera plotlines (unrequited love, scheming parents, sudden amnesia, etc.), shake and bake, and you have a series.

I didn't find "Winter Sonata" very compelling for two reasons: the central "mystery" of the story is easily guessed, and the lead actress, Choi Ji Woo, plays her character with enough tearful sentimentality to clog every scene she's in. Maybe teenage girls in Kyoto like watching a grown woman fuss over a man for 16 hours, but I like my soap operas with a little more incident.


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