Winter Sonata is a Korean television drama (K-drama) produced by the South Korean television network KBS. It was produced in 2002. The series is the second installment to director Yun Suk-ho's romantic seasonal TV dramas, Endless Love. The other TV dramas that make up the collection include Autumn Fairy Tale, Summer Scent, and Spring Waltz. The four series have no plotline or character intersections, but they have similar fundamentals in the romantic love story. As an overall K-drama, Winter Sonata delivers a soapy love story about tragedy and a sordid love affair involving multiple people. It has several strengths and proves to be a strong K-drama.
The premise is similar to K-dramas such as Spring Waltz, Stairway to Heaven, and Glass Slipper. It involves soapy love triangles coupled with memory loss, dead people who aren't really dead, and mistaken identities. It amounts to a fantastic K-drama that will pull you in and not let go. Winter Sonata begins with Jung Yuijin (Choi Ji-Woo) on the bus to school. She falls asleep and ends up in the wrong place. On the bus with her is Kang Joon-Sang (Bae Yong-Jun). He is a recent transplant to Seoul and in Yuijin's class, although she does not know it yet. Since they both missed their stop, they share a cab to school. When they arrive, Yuijin finds out Joon-Sang is in her class.
As the days go by, Yuijin and Joon-Sang's paths keep crossing. Notably, one evening while walking home in a dark alley, a drunk man attacks her. Joon-Sang hears the struggle and comes to her rescue. From that moment, they start to get very close to each other and eventually fall in love. All the while a couple of their fellow high school friends are envious. Oh Chelin (Park Sol-Mi) had her eyes on Joon-Sang and wanted to date him. Kim Sang-Hyuk (Park Yong-Ha) is a longtime friend of Yuijin and has romantic feelings for her. With Joon-Sang in the picture, both Sang-Hyuk and Chelin are out of luck.
On a special night (New Year's Day), they promised to meet and profess their love for each other. However, as Joon-Sang was making his way to Yuijin, something terrible happened. While running across the street, he was hit by a car and died. The next day at school, Yuijin is unaware of what transpired. She believes Joon-Sang stood her up. She is shocked to learn from her peers that he died.
After this dramatic introduction, the story picks back up after ten years have passed. Yuijin has moved on and found happiness in Sang-Hyuk's arms. They were recently engaged. However, on the way to the engagement party, she saw someone who looked like Joon-Sang! Later, she and Sang-Hyuk go to a mini-reunion with friends from high school. Chelin brings her boyfriend Lee Min-Hyung with her. Min-Hyung happens to look exactly like Joon-Sang. The resemblance is uncanny, but he claims he has no knowledge of Joon-Sang. He was raised in the United States.
At this point, the story starts to focus on the developing relationship between Yuijin and Min-Hyung. They are forced to work together on a project, which causes a lot of tension from their respective partners. At the same time, there is a truth uncovered about Min-Hyung's true identity. As the story progresses, the love triangles involving the main characters produce a lot of soapy content with an over-the-top subplot about family ties. There is, of course, more to it, but you will have to watch to find out.
What works for the K-drama is the over-the-top, soapy, melodramatic content. It is true to the K-drama genre. More specifically, it is a compelling story and offers a lot of great soapy detail. It is at the level that K-drama fans will enjoy it a lot and have a hard time putting it down. Another strong aspect is the production values. The series has a beautiful and artistic tone. This approach is accomplished with the filming, scenery, and characters. Another big strength is the acting performances. Notably, Choi Ji-Woo is terrific as the leading lady. She is adorable and handles her performance as a woman torn between two loves perfectly. Bae Yong-Jun is also worth mentioning. His character has a lot of conflict to deal with as he struggles to understand exactly who is and was.
Overall, Winter Sonata is solid K-drama with all of the right elements. For fans of the genre, this one should not be missed. It provides nonstop drama with one soapy development after the other. It is a fantastic storyline with great characters and it will make anyone a fan.
This release is given in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The picture quality is excellent, providing a clear and clean picture with minor color distortions and compression artifacts. Both dark and bright colors are represented very well.
The audio is given in Korean 2.0 stereo sound. The track is dialogue driven and has limited use of the surround/stereo capability. The music sounds good; it is dynamic and vibrant. For non-spoken language options, there are English and Chinese subtitles.
For extras, Winter Sonata comes with a variety of special features. The content runs for a little over fifty-nine minutes. There are some fun featurettes. The bloopers segment offers the best entertainment value. There are also cast & crew biographies, show synopsis, and a photo gallery. Here's the breakdown:
- Popular Mini-series 'Winter Sonata' (1:25): is a short teaser for the show and focuses on a scene in the snow with creative narration.
- Production Process & Filming Scene Sketches (14:06): is a behind the scenes featurette with a lot of different things going on. It starts with the crew as they put the show to life (from a production stand point). It includes interviews, behind the scenes footage, and clips from the show. This part is pretty generic. Eventually the feature dissects some of the "special effects" and how some of the trickier things were put to life. They are presented in a comical manner and make for a fun watch. The later content continues with some feature dialogue from the cast and goofy narration.
- Blooper Scene Collections (31:21): is a long running sequence of bloopers. The cast gets a little silly at times. It is a nice change of pace when compared to their melodramatic roles.
- Best Filming Locations (3:05): is a short featurette showing two of the places used in the story.
- Success Secrets of 'Winter Sonata' (2:16): is another short featurette. It begins with fans expressing their awe for certain actors. Then there is behind the scenes footage and talk about the unity of the cast/crew. Basically, it highlights some of the driving factors behind the show's success.
- A Very Special Rendezvous on the 'Suh Se-won Show" - 'Winter Sonata' (7:03): is an interview featurette with Choi Ji-Woo, Bae Yong-Jun, and Yoon Suk-ho. They joke about the whereabouts of the two other lead performers and then dive into the quality of show, actors/actresses, director, etc.
- Photo Gallery: is a sequence of photographic stills of the cast posing and scenes from the show. All of which having a nice winter frame
- Synopsis: is a detailed synopsis of the show.
- Characters: detailed character information of the cast. Profile information is given for pre-Joon-Sang (high school) and post-Joon-Sang (ten years later).
- Cast & Crew: contains biographies of the cast and crew.
Winter Sonata is a K-drama about four individuals caught in a sordid love affair. While the concept is common to almost every series in the genre, Winter Sonata provides a beautifully outlined story with great characters. The traditional love triangle storyline is supplemented with mistaken memories and sordid family ties. It makes for a compelling and engaging experience. For those who enjoy soapy melodramas, Winter Sonata has it all.