What’s On TV – Winter Sonata

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 224/501
Title: Winter Sonata
Episodes Aired: 20
Year(s): 2002
Country: South Korea

Right, so statistically speaking it probably wasn’t time for me to be watching another show from South Korea given that there are only 7 on the list. However, since I’ve actually booked tickets to go there in seven months, I just couldn’t say no to this when it came out the bucket. Especially as I loved My Lovely Sam-Soon and am continuing to laugh out loud at the antics of the Infinite Challenge crew (although my favourite host has now changed to Noh Hong-Chul).

Over the last few years the spread of Korean pop culture into the West has been an interesting thing to see. To be honest, the first time I realised it was happening was when one of my science students back in 2013 told me that she skipped school to go to camp out and see her favourite K-Pop band Super Junior. I’m going into this to highlight the importance of Winter Sonata and how, back in 2002, it became the gateway drug into Korean culture for people across the globe.

If I had somehow stumbled across this back when I was 12, I would have been another casualty to the Korean wave. Hell, I think at 29 it might have demonstrated that I need more Korean dramas in my life and that I need to see what I can find on Netflix. Guess it shows how, 17 years later, Winter Sonata is still able to work its magic.

As I have mentioned before for the 1001 films list, I am a fan of a good melodrama and that is exactly what Winter Sonata served me. It’s 20 episodes of twists, turns and me yelling at the television over how the actions of everyone is impacting on Yoo-Jin the central heroine. She’s starts out as a clumsy leaf in the wind who, by the end, finally has the agency to take her life into her own hands and carve out the ending she wants. It’s just that she has to deal with everyone else’s expectations of how she should live… as well as the possibility of mild incest.

I know I’m not selling this well. After all, Winter Sonata is about love lost and re-found again; a story containing all the melodrama tropes of amnesia, near-death, incest, doppelgängers, twists, false alarms and hot men with glasses and chunky scarves. It’s one of those shows that works best in short bursts rather than binge-watching, mainly because things get very emotional and the even-numbered episodes are armed with the best twists.

Whilst there are not that many K-dramas left on the 1001 list, it feels like genie is now out of the bottle. It feels like it’s time to find some other ones out there to give a proper go to… which is exactly what I need, more television on the to watch list.

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