Phoenix (2004) is a South Korean television drama (K-drama) that aired on the MBC network. It is a traditional K-drama and has all of the necessary elements to be a soapy, melodramatic production. The story is about a young couple in love and life's obstacles in the path to happiness. A young woman from a rich family marries a poor man against her family's wishes. After some drama they get a divorce. Ten years have passed. The rich girl is poor and the poor man is rich. When their paths cross again, their love resurfaces, but some people have other intentions for them. For a K-drama, Phoenix is engaging from the start. The storyline unfolds well and the drama is intense.
Jang Sae-Hoon (Lee Seo-Jin) is the male lead. He is a good-hearted person with a lot of ambition. When he was a child, his father passed away in an untimely accident. Afterwards, Sae-Hoon went to work at a gas station. Since, he keeps up with his studies and is being consideration for a prestigious scholarship in the United States. His life changed for the better or worse -- depending on how you look at it -- when the leading lady Lee Ji-Eun (Lee Eun-Joo) entered his life. Ji-Eun is a spoiled brat from a rich family. She is a snob with no care about anyone but herself.
Sae-Hoon and Ji-Eun first met after she irresponsibly drove her car through the gas station. While the accident was clearly her fault, she blamed him for it. In her angry state, she stole his book bag. The loss of the bag prompted Sae-Hoon to pursue her. Coincidentally enough, Sae-Hoon approached Ji-Eun after she had struck a deal with some of her rivals. She bet her "friends" that she had a great looking boyfriend and would bring him to their friend's wedding. To her dismay, Sae-Hoon is her only option. She begged him to be a pretend boyfriend. He reluctantly agreed. Afterwards, they developed feelings for each other and fell in love.
Unfortunately, the young couple's love is forbidden. Since Ji-Eun comes from a rich elitist family, they do not welcome the poor Sae-Hoon into their home. Ji-Eun develops a plan to make them accept him. She gets impregnated. When Ji-Eun's father learns of it, he demands she gets an abortion or leave the family. She goes with Sae-Hoon, who is now her husband. Sae-Hoon is happier than ever. He does everything to give Ji-Eun a good life, but despite taking on another job, has difficulty pleasing her. As the situation unfolded, Ji-Eun had a miscarriage and demanded a divorce. He gives her one and leaves to study in the United States. Ji-Eun has second thoughts and chased after him. Her father went to stop her died in a car accident.
Ten years later, the storyline picks up. After Ji-Eun's father died, her family lost everything. They went from riches to rags. Ji-Eun was forced to become the kind of person she despised, poor. Now, she is kind, somber, and understands the hardships of life. Her mother is miserable and her younger sister blames for ruining their lives. Ji-Eun does what she can to make things good for everyone around her -- partly due to her guilt. At the same time, Sae-Hoon returns to Korea as a new man. He has become rich, powerful, and well respected. Oh, how the tables have turned.
As fate would have it, Ji-Eun and Sae-Hoon cross paths. Their first sighting of each other is awkward, as the role reversal is full of irony. The series' drama continues to focus on their new relationship. There is still chemistry between them, but there are a couple roadblocks: Suh Jung-Min (Eric Mun) and Yoon Mi-Ran (Jeong Hae-Yeong). Jung-Min and Mi-Ran are the other two leading characters. Jung-Min is the heir apparent to the Suh-Rin group, where Sae-Hoon was recently appointed as director. These guys have some drama facing each other as who will run the company. Mi-Ran is an old friend/rival of Ji-Eun and Sae-Hoon's fiancee. Mi-Ran and Sae-Hoon's love is not real. They were in a car accident and she lost the use of her legs. Since, he has felt guilty and allowed himself to fall in love with her.
The most enticing developments involve the love triangles with the main cast. Clearly, there is something between Sae-Hoon and Ji-Eun. However, the other leading characters have their own opinions about it. Jung-Min has feelings for Ji-Eun. He is a ladies man, who acts carelessly to cover up a personal demon. His feelings for Ji-Eun make him want to live and love again. He desperately tries to win her heart. Mi-Ran is also a contender. Her love for Sae-Hoon is not pure. After finding out his first wife was Ji-Eun, she enacts a cunning and conniving plan to keep him at her side. As the story unfolds, there are many other gripping developments and the entertainment factor never falters.
Overall, Phoenix is an intense K-drama with all of the right elements to make it topnotch. The leading characters are fantastic in their roles. Lee Eun-Joo is adorable as Ji-Eun. She is very convincing in her somber role. She is someone you can feel for. Lee Seo-Jin makes for the prefect male lead. He carries his character with the right demeanor and interacts with the other leads well. Jeong Hae-Yeong is sweet at the surface and fits the villainous role. Eric Mun is also good in his role. He is not as outstanding as the rest of the cast, but he makes for good competition. The show's other aspects, such as writing and presentation are also worth mentioning. The writing is strong and unfolds a soapy, melodramatic storyline in an enticing and entertaining manner. In the end, Phoenix is a topnotch K-drama that will not fail to impress.
This release is given in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The picture quality is good, 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 subtitles.
The entire first episode for the K-drama Damo is included.
Phoenix is a K-drama with an underlying premise like many others in the genre. However, what separates Phoenix as a shining star is the strong cast, the excellent writing, and the intense storyline. The developments, both character and plot, are executed very well. Despite the soapy, over-the-top melodramatic nature of the show, it provides a compelling drama with characters who feel real and people you can truly care about. Overall, Phoenix is the K-drama genre at the top of its game. It is must see TV for K-drama fans and will also serve as great introduction for newcomers to the genre.