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.