I’m Sorry, I Love You K Drama

I’m Sorry, I Love You TV Review

Mild Spoilers

I’m Sorry, I Love You is one of those shows that stay with you long after the final credit rolls. This Korean Drama from 2004 became a huge hit, nigh a phenomenon, across Asia and catapulted the two leads into huge stars. As the show aired, the ratings continued to rise to incredible viewing numbers. After watching this spellbinding series, it’s not hard to see why. I’m Sorry, I Love You is one of the most romantic, heartbreaking, and unforgettable dramas I have ever seen. In part due to the incredible writing from Lee Kyoung-Hee. And in part due to the ensemble’s performances – most notably the two leads, So-Ji Sub as Cha Moo-Hyuk and Lim Soo-Jung as Song Eun-Chae.

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I’m Sorry, I Love You is a Revenge Drama and Romantic Tragedy about Cha Moo-Hyuk, an Australian street thug/conman who was abandoned in South Korea by his birth mother.

He grows up on the streets and learns Korean from his Korean girlfriend. He dreams about one day finding his birth mother and rescuing her from what he imagines a poverty-stricken existence. Why else would she have given him up?

Life for Moo-Hyuk takes a tragic turn when his long-time girlfriend abandons him to marry a gangster named Jason because he has money.

It’s not long after this betrayal, that Moo-Hyuk crosses paths with the naïve and innocent girl, Song Eun-Chae who is visiting Australia from South Korea. Eun-Chae is a Fashion Coordinator for the famous singer, Choi Yune, her childhood friend she’s also in love with. She is a selfless character who is always there for everyone and yet is constantly treated like a doormat. Eun-Chae decides to leave Australia when Yune and her movie star friend, Min-Joo, begin dating. However, when she tries to leave, all of her belongings are stolen. She’s then pushed onto the dangerous streets of Australia without being able to speak English.

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Cha Moo-Hyuk rescues Song Eun-Chae on the dangerous streets of Australia.

Moo-Hyuk finds her wandering alone and decides to help her. He saves her from being sold into slavery and then later from being attacked by other street thugs by holding her closely all night. Taking pity on her, he then finds all of her belongings and returns them to her.

Eun-Chae then leaves Australia never thinking she’d see this strange benefactor again.

A few weeks later, Moo-Hyuk attempts to put a stop to the wedding of his ex-girlfriend. But to no avail. During the wedding, rival gangsters show up to murder Jason. Fearful for his ex’s life, Moo-Hyuk jumps into the path of the bullets and saves her, only to be shot himself. He has so much love in his heart he is willing to die for someone he loves even though she betrayed him.

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Moo-Hyuk after being shot at the wedding.

Shot with two bullets in his head, Moo-Hyuk barely survives. When he awakens he learns he only has a short time to live as they couldn’t remove one of the bullets.

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And that’s where I’m Sorry, I Love You really takes off. Moo-Hyuk returns to his birthplace, South Korea (with enough money to last a lifetime from his ex-girlfriend) to go in search of his birth mother and die in his birth country. But his birth mother isn’t who he expects. He quickly learns he has a twin sister (who after an accident has the mind of a six-year-old) who was also abandoned. She lives in poverty with her son and is sexually abused by the local men. This makes it even harder to accept the actual truth about his mother: That she is the famous and very wealthy celebrity, Oh Deul-Hee, and not the poor woman he imagined. And not only that, she is the doting mother of the famous singer, Choi Yune.

The story takes a fated turn when Moo-Hyuk discovers the girl he rescued in Australia is connected to his birth family. She, along with the rest of her family, live on the same grounds as Yune and his mother. Song Eun-Chae works for Yune, while her father is Deul-Hee’s manager/assistant/chauffeur, and her mother is the housemaid. The two families are incredibly close despite their social and financial differences.

When Eun-Chae discovers Moo-Hyuk hanging outside the gates of the house, she mistakenly believes he’s there because he must be in love with her. He lets her believe the lie and quickly develops real feelings for her. This sweet girl who has never been given much consideration by anyone. She is a selfless character always caring for others but without much free will of her own. Her life’s choices are dictated by everyone around her. Yune (who is so attached to her he can barely handle having her out of his presence) tells her constantly what to do. And her family control her decisions as well.

Moo-Hyuk appears and turns her life around. Unlike everyone else, he sees the pain she conceals and he sees how mistreated she actually is.

From there, Moo-Hyuk begins to plot revenge against his birth mother and brother. He becomes close to Yune and eventually becomes his manager, all in an attempt to eventually ruin him and his mother – who he believes threw him away like garbage. When he sees the horrible situation of his twin sister, the way Eun-Chae is treated and more, it only convinces him all the more to go down this dark path of revenge.

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Does anyone do romance better than So Ji-sub? In this scene, Eun-Chae’s health has been ignored by others because of what they all need from her. When they don’t even notice she’s fallen ill, Moo-Hyuk, in a righteous rage, carries her away to get the medical help she needs.

However, Moo-Hyuk quickly falls deeply in love with Song Eun-Chae and starts to change. He will do anything for her – sometimes without her knowledge.

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Ultimately, I’m Sorry, I Love You becomes about their ill-fated love – and it is truly heartbreaking – and at times even difficult to watch the story unfold. This is not a happily ever romance. And this isn’t a spoiler rather part of the entire premise. You know fairly close to the beginning of the series. Plus, when you have one of the main characters reciting a scene from Romeo and Juliet near the beginning, it doesn’t take much to put two and two together how this story will end.

Besides the romance, the other stories and relationships are incredibly written as well. Each and every character is layered and never completely demonized. The relationship between Moo-Hyuk and his mother, Deul-Hee is especially compelling and ends in a way that will likely leave you with an empty box of tissues.

Moo-Hyuk with his birth mother, Deul-Hee

Moo-Hyuk with his birth mother, Deul-Hee

There is something mesmerizing, even hypnotic about I’m Sorry, I Love You with a gorgeous soundtrack to support it. As if you can’t stop watching – no matter how heart-wrenching and tragic the story becomes. Part of this comes down to So Ji-Sub’s incredible performance. This is the part that catapulted him into stardom in South Korea. And it is really no surprise. You can feel every emotion Moo-Hyuk feels. You can see his every thought. So Ji-Sub’s performance is so nuanced, he uses his face, voice, and even his body to act and emote. If you don’t become a huge fan of So Ji-Sub after watching this drama, I would be surprised.

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Moo-Hyuk may be a flawed, dark anti-hero but he’s also warm, thoughtful, and deeply caring. He’s filled with so much love for others he could burst. He is a melancholy, layered character not easy to overlook. Watching his loneliness – a deep well of pain and ache for a mother to love him will break your heart. And then watching the star-crossed romance between him and Eun-Chae will haunt you.

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Song-Eun-Chae is just as compelling of a character. Also lonely, beaten down, and sometimes treated like a dog, she connects to Moo-Hyuk in a deeply, emotional way. Their relationship is old-fashioned romance at its tragic best. The chemistry between the two is electric. And every romantic scene clings to your heart and makes it skip a beat. You root for these two even though you know with each episode he’s coming closer to death with no hope of a cure.

One of my favorite scenes was in the final episode. Eun-Chae has a Jane Eyre moment of declaration about being a human being with love and her own desires. Her claim for independence is heartbreaking. Especially since this is not the happily ever after type of story found in Jane Eyre.

I’m Sorry, I Love You is not without a few bumps, however. There are a couple of episodes (around 10 and 11) that were especially frustrating to watch because Eun-Chae feels torn between loyalty to her family and Yune (who eventually realizes he IS in love with his best friend) and her feelings for Cha Moo-Hyuk. Watching her wander around with a seeming nervous breakdown and some of her irrational responses to Moo-Hyuk were a little bit exasperating. But by the end, you do realize these scenes and episodes do have a thematic purpose.

Some suspension of disbelief is also required in the beginning when So-Ji Sub speaks English. His accent is clearly not Australian. But we can easily forgive this. It would take a nearly impossible skill to switch from native Korean to English and then add an Australian accent! So just go along with it!

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Going in, one should be prepared for some cultural differences. I’m Sorry I Love You is a show not worried about presenting flawed characters. And I mean, incredibly flawed. Due to his brain injury, Moo-Hyuk has violent outbursts (this does make it easier to forgive him because the outbursts aren’t completely his fault). Sometimes he can be a bully and even mean. There is some yelling at female characters that will likely make viewers uncomfortable. And even some controlling behavior from the male characters. But this is a series about transformation in some respects – at least for Moo-Hyuk. But despite the flawed characters who make some very questionable choices, you can’t help but care for every single character. This is an example of what fantastic storytelling is all about.

The writer uses archetypal elements of [Romeo and Juliet] to weave together a story so compelling you won’t be able to stop watching.

Cha Moo-Hyuk and Cha Eun-Sang

Cha Moo-Hyuk and Cha Eun-Sang

Overall, I’m Sorry, I Love You is one of the best romantic tragedies I have ever watched. The writer cleverly takes some of the often ignored themes of Romeo and Juliet and explores them in surprising ways. Now, this is not an interpretation of Romeo and Juliet by any means and is a completely unique story of its own. But rather the writer uses archetypal elements of the tale to weave together a story so compelling you won’t be able to stop watching. This series is in many ways about consequences. The characters have made bad choices and ultimately they have to pay the consequences for what they have done. And those consequences will leave you both disturbed and in deep thought after the series is over.

You can watch this heartrending, touching romance on Dramafever and Viki. You can also buy the series on Digital from Amazon.


Other titles include: Sorry, I Love You, Mihanhamda, Saranghanda, and 미안하다, 사랑한다

Photos: KBS2

OVERALL RATING

Five Corset Rating Lower Byte Size

“The stuff that dreams are made of.”

ROMANCE RATING

Five heart rating

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

I have loved none but you.”

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