Into the Sunlight (1999) is a Korean television drama (K-drama) from the South Korean network MBC. It consists of sixteen hour-long episodes. The series is similar to the common K-drama format with melodramatic content, complete with love triangles, some deception, and dirty family secrets. However, unlike many other K-dramas, Into the Sunlight is not always very entertaining. The quality varies and it tends to be a slow going, drama with little appeal. Personally, I have come to love K-dramas and was very disappointed with it. The show has a great cast, but the storyline and the presentation offer little. Overall, it is a rental at best.
The series is about four twenty-somethings who come from very different backgrounds and face hardships. They overcome life's trials to find happiness and go "into the sunlight". The four main characters are Kang In-Ha (Cha Tae-Hyun, My Sassy Girl), Jung Soon-Bin (Kim Ha-Neul, Stained Glass), Lee Yeon-Hee (Kim Hyun-Ju, Glass Slipper), and Han Myung-Ha (Jang Hyuk). In-Ha comes from a rich family and has everything he needs provided to him. Despite, he feels empty and acts like a spoiled brat. Soon-Bin also comes from a wealthy family. She just wants to have her own life, which is difficult because her parents are always trying to get her married to the right guy. Yeon-Hee is a poor, sweet girl with no parents. She has had a hard life and works diligently to make it better. Myung-Ha is a poor and troubled individual. He has a violent history as a gangster and never knew his father. He tries to do right, but things always go wrong.
The show begins in the past. Yeon-Hee and Soo-Bin are seniors in high school. Yeon-Hee is mistaken for Soo-Bin by some of the girls. She is befriended by Myung-Ha's younger sister. Yeon-Hee goes to the Kang's house for dinner. After the family finds out Yeon-Hee is poor, she is mistreated. In-Ha takes her home and after a series of events, has a heated meeting with Myung-Ha, who is Yeon-Hee's neighbor and good friend. As the school year continues, Soo-Bin is withdrawn from her peers. However, she makes friends with Yeon-Hee.
A few years later, the story resumes. In-Ha is being forced by his father to get a real job. He spent the last few years overseas in school, although he spent more time having fun than studying. His family evens lies about him getting a degree to their peers. In-Ha's father wants him to start working at the family business. Unfortunately, he has no desire to do so. Myung-Ha has given up his gangster ways and is trying to keep a regular job. Unfortunately, as an ex-convict he has trouble. Yeon-Hee is in college to become a writer, but has financial problems. Her aunt is poor and her live-in mate spends their money without regard. Soo-Bin hates her life with a passion. Her parents want her to be someone she is not. She drinks to forget about her problems.
As the story continues, the four reconnect in different ways. In-Ha runs into Yeon-Hee and realizes that he has feelings for her. Those feelings turn into love. He chases after her, but receives the cold shoulder. One day, Yeon-Hee brings Soo-Bin to her home after getting really drunk. Myung-Ha helps take care of Soo-Bin (and does again on a separate occasion). Soo-Bin starts to view Myung-Ha as a knight in shining armor, falls in love with him. The situation gets complicated when parents of In-Ha and Soo-Bin play matchmaker. They are forced into dating, which eventually turns into discussions of marriage. The two rich families want to unite, as the family businesses have common interests.
Beyond the love triangles, there is a bigger plotline about a dark family secret that make the love triangles even more complex. In-Ha and Myung-Ha are brothers. In-Ha's father and Myung-Ha's mother had a scandalous relationship years ago. In-Ha went to live with the father, while Myung-Ha the mother. This development produces a lot of drama for the entire cast. The other key focus involves the main characters coping with these trials and hardships to find what makes them happy.
Overall, Into the Sunlight is not the most exciting K-drama available. The premise has the right elements and the cast is strong. Unfortunately, the storyline and the writing are another issue. Into the Sunlight has a problem with the manner that the developments are provided to the viewer. When I started the series, I had a real hard time keeping interest in the story and even following what was going on. It was not until about episode four that things started to make sense. Perhaps the initial confusion about the premise is the source of my distaste. Nevertheless, the show never got really good. With most K-dramas, I quickly find myself immersed in the storyline, the characters, and the soapy, melodrama. Into the Sunlight did not have that effect on me.
On a positive note, the cast is very good. All of the leading actors and actresses are great in their role. Of note, Kim Hyun-Ju was exceptional. She fit into her role as Yeon-Hee, the poor girl trying to succeed, with purpose and determination. Her performance was similar and almost as good as her role in Glass Slipper -- an amazing and emotionally powerful K-drama. For this reason, it was a disappointment that the story didn't come off as strong as the characters.
In all fairness, Into the Sunlight is a decent K-drama. It starts off poorly and gets a little better. While the intensity is not as strong as other K-dramas I have reviewed, it has a few good moments. Unfortunately, there are not enough of these moments to make this K-drama must see TV. At best, it will make for a decent rental for the hardcore K-drama fans.