I was really looking forward to watching When Time Stopped for a few reasons… First and foremost it stars Kim Hyun-Joong and this is his first drama since returning from his mandatory military assignment. Second, it looked like it was categorized as a romance drama and I haven’t seen a really great love story since Mr. Sunshine. And lastly, it was about someone who could stop time so that had to be almost as good as traveling through time, and you all know how much I love time travel shows. But, sadly, this drama just didn’t live up to my expectations. What, exactly, was the problem? The writing. In my opinion it was a jumbled, muddled, disjointed, confusing disappointment.
The story is about a young man, Moon Joon-Woo, who has the ability to stop time with the simple snap of his fingers and the young woman, Kim Sun-Ah, who is unaffected by that power.
Moon Joon-Woo is a talented restorer of ancient artifacts – repairing broken pottery and fixing small holes in parchment – who works for an old art collector. While looking for a place to live he runs across Kim Sun-Ah and, through negotiating a good rental price, becomes the basement tenant in her building. One rainy evening, in an effort to save her life, Joon-Woo snaps his fingers and is stunned to discover his control over time has no affect on Sun-Ah. Joon-Woo ends up explaining everything to Sun-Ah and the two gradually get closer as they work together using Joon-Woo’s amazing time-stopping ability to help others in need. But someone is watching Joon-Woo and that stranger may pose a deadly threat to his very life.
When Kim Sun-Ah’s father passed away she inherited his building and his enormous debt. Although she quit high school to begin making money in a desperate effort to pay off the loan shark, her multiple part-time jobs don’t generate enough income for her to even pay the interest each month. She uses the little spare time she has to write, hoping to win a writing contest someday. Because the apartment building was so important to her father she refuses to give it up even though that may be the only way to get out from under the tremendous debt.
Ever since he was a little boy In-Seob has been in love with Sun-Ah even though she wasn’t very kind to him. When he finally gathered the courage to let her know how he felt she broke his heart by treating his confession lightly, reading his love letter out loud to the entire class. Although she doesn’t think of him in a romantic way, he is the first person she calls when she needs help. In-Seob lives in her apartment building and works at a car repair shop. Sun-Ah may think she knows In-Seob better than anyone else but he’s definitely not as transparent as she presumes.
Myung-Woon is the best grim reaper there is. He is a quiet, solemn loner who fulfills God’s assignments – get rid of humans with extraordinary abilities.
Although Kim Hyun-Joong has described himself as a studious child, he dropped out of high school to peruse a music career. Later, he ended up passing his high school exams and enrolled at Kyonggi University only to drop out once again in order to focus on work. However, in 2011 he was a student at Chungwoon University studying stage production management. His entertainment career debut came in 2005 as a member of the group SS501. In 2008 he branched out to acting with his first leading actor role in the mega hit Boys Over Flowers, for which he won two awards. In 2010 he took on the leading male role in Playful Kiss which wasn’t accepted well in South Korea but was a tremendous hit internationally and instrumental in making him a Hallyu Star. In 2011 more than 70,000 pre-ordered copies of his first solo album Break Down were sold in just ten days! He released a second album that same year and began a Japanese concert tour. By the year’s end he received the Best Male Artist award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards. His humongous popularity in Japan was instrumental in him releasing songs sung in Japanese. The man has won tons of music and acting awards and there is a wax figure of him in Madame Tussauds’ museum. He donated 350,000,000 KRW to earthquake relief efforts in both Japan and China, donated the proceeds from his debut solo concert to an orphanage in Japan, and donated tens of millions of won to the Kim Hyun-Joong Scholarship fund. In 2014 he starred in the drama Inspiring Generation. Sadly, there have been some controversies Hyun-Joong has been through. In 2014 his girlfriend filed assault charges against him. He admitted to accidentlly injuring her while practicing martial arts and she dropped some of the charges, however he was fined five million won for the injuries it caused. In 2016 the ROK Courts cleared him of all the allegations against him. Medical evidence even showed the woman’s 2014 injuries were, in fact, done by herself while at a gym. In December of 2015 a paternity test showed he was the father of that same girlfriend’s baby, which she had given birth to three months earlier. Today they share custody of the child. He also had criminal charges filed against him due to drunk driving. During his mandatory military assignment he was stationed as border patrol in the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
I apologize for not being able to find more information on An Ji-Hyun, the actress who plays the part of Kim Sun-Ah, other than the fact that she was born in Busan, is 26 years old, was a student at Yonsei University studying East Asian Economy and Business, and began working as an actress in 2010 with her debut being in a Drama Special called Texas Hit. She has appeared in a Halla Man music video, was in the motion picture The Flu, and has been in several Kdramas. Ones I’ve seen that she’s been in are School 2013, Adolescence Memory, Secret Love, Beyond the Clouds, and Goblin.
The things we learn about every single character in this story is done through flashbacks. We discover why these people are in these particular situations by watching their backstory. Who is the middle-aged bachelor who spends his time volunteering at an orphanage and helping out at a church? Why has a young woman closed herself off in her room for years? Who is the old antiques collector? Where did the grim reapers come from? Who exactly is God? Why does Joon-Woo have this time stopping ability? What caused Sun-Ah’s father to be so in debt? Why is Myun-Woon such a quiet, standoffish loaner? Wait awhile and we find out just about everything through flashbacks.
I love how Joon-Woo and Sun-Ah address each other. He calls her “Building Owner” and she refers to him as “Basement.” Personally, I love nicknames. They’re special. There may be a lot of Joon-Woos in South Korea but there’s only one “Basement.” However, when the two characters become close the writer has them call each other by their given name. Not as cute but it shows growth in their relationship.
In my opinion, the writing isn’t great. There isn’t a whole lot of sense to so many different things in the storyline. Here’s just one example of what I mean… In this story God is not a person but an office, kind of like a president. And he isn’t very Godly. I mean, the whole show is built around God’s “mistakes.” My belief is that everything God does has a purpose so the whole show just didn’t hold any credibility for me, not even in my imagination. I just couldn’t pretend something that, in my way of thinking, was flatly impossible. Another inconsistency is reincarnation, which is real in this story. Now, although I don’t believe in it personally, I have no problem going along with it in a story as long as it sticks to some rules, and this show breaks its own reincarnation rules. Not okay. I can’t help but wonder if the writer was hoping we would be so emotionally involved in the love story that we wouldn’t catch the bending of the rules. Well, I caught them.
The filming seems to have been done with a special kind of lens that makes the picture soft, less clear than it could be. I’m not a huge fan of that effect.
I’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. Kim Hyun-Joon had to have gathered a ton of courage to face reporters at the press conference for When Time Stopped, which you can see on YouTube. Because of his bad choices he did a lot of humble apologizing and promised to gain back the trust of his fans. Hopefully, his mistakes won’t be a tremendous career set-back and he’ll be cast in many, many more dramas as time rolls on. I can think of two amazing actors (both on my favorite actors list) who have faced criticism in light of a scandal and fought to make a successful entertainment career comeback – Song Seung-Heon lied about his health in order to get out of serving in the military and Lee Byung-Hun was unsuccessfully blackmailed by two female stars. Let’s keep our fingers crossed Kim Hyun-Joon can join the ranks of those stars who fell only to rise again and shine even brighter than they did before.
Sadly, South Korean fans can be quick to accuse and slow to forgive and it shows by the fact that domestically When Time Stopped was a tremendous flop in the ratings while overseas the show did very well. In fact, Viki.com viewers very generously gave it a 9.5 rating.
When Time Stopped’s soundtrack is excellent and filled with beautiful ballads. Every time I heard the lovely song Just For My Love, which is what I consider to be the show’s theme song and my personal favorite, I kept thinking, “This sounds like Kim Hyun-Joong’s voice,” and I was thrilled to find out my ears were spot on! He is the artist for that song, and he sings with such passion! It’s Over You, sung by Jung Dong-Ha, has quiet verses but an overwhelmingly powerful chorus, making the otherwise pretty song uneven. I Promise You is performed by Park Je-Up from IMFACT and Kim Da-Yeon lends her lovely voice to You’re My All. Han Seung-Yeon softly sings Temperature of Time, her voice being accompanied mainly by an acoustic guitar. I loved the added chimes here and there. The Maze, performed by Snuper, is my second favorite song on the soundtrack.
As for scenery, there’s nothing special that stands out. It’s all just everyday places. The one thing I thought was strange was “heaven.” God looks like a CEO and heaven looks like an office.
I really wish I had a lot of wonderful things to say about When Time Stopped. In my opinion the best thing about this show is that it stars Kim Hyun-Joong and that gives his sincere fans hope of seeing him in other dramas very soon.
Kim Hyun-Joong’s comeback drama
Decent special effects (time stopping)
Confusing, muddled, inconsistent, writing