Superb, fantastic, excellent, tremendous, wonderful, magnificent, splendid, terrific – Crash Landing on You. It’s a powerful, beautiful love story that warmed my heart as it made me cry. I dare say it’s one of the top three, best romance Kdramas I’ve ever seen.
Se-Ri’s Choice is about to introduce a new line, sports clothing, and Se-Ri herself insists on testing the paragliding suit, much to her aide’s dismay. Although the weather service is forecasting harsh winds, Se-Ri is an experienced paraglider and assures everyone she will be fine – nothing to worry about. But she has no way of bracing herself for the tornado that hits just after she gets in the air. Luckily, she survives and awakens from the terrifying ordeal to find herself alone, dangling from a tall tree. Unfortunately, her walkie-talkie doesn’t pick up anything and her desperate calls for assistance go unnoticed. However, help soon arrives in the form of a handsome soldier wearing a North Korean uniform and it only takes one second for Se-Ri to realize she has crash landed behind enemy lines!
Ri Jeong-Hyuk was born into a wealthy, North Korean military family, his father holding an extremely high and prestigious position in the army. His beloved older brother took after their father and became a soldier but Jeong-Hyuk had a different dream. He had set his sites on being a professional pianist but an unforeseen tragedy changed all that. While Jeong-Hyuk was busy studying in Switzerland he received a devastating phone call – his dear brother had passed away due to a car accident while on duty. In honor of his brother, Jeong-Hyuk quit playing the piano, joined the army, and is now the captain of an elite group of soldiers. While out on patrol with a few of his men, he discovers Se-Ri hanging from a tree and instead of turning her in, decides to help her find her way back home.
Because Yoon Se-Ri is the illegitimate daughter of Yoon Jeung-Pyeong (the owner of a huge conglomerate) the other members of the family have always considered her to be a second class citizen. She came to live with the Yoons as an infant but was never really thought of as a family member. Her older half-brothers were always less than warm to her and hated the idea of having to divide their inheritance to include their father’s illegitimate child. And to the woman she thought of as “mother,” Se-Ri was simply a constant reminder of her husband’s infidelity. Once she was old enough to leave home she started her own company, Se-Ri’s Choice, which has been extremely successful. When Se-Ri finds herself stuck in North Korea she tries her best to fit in, claiming she is a spy from Division 11 who had been sent to live in South Korea, while trusting her life with Captain Ri and a few of his soldiers.
Smooth-talking Gu Seung-Joon is the man Se-Ri’s brother wanted her to marry. They had been engaged at one time but she called it off. Seung-Joon took money from Se-Ri’s father’s company, by way of her brother’s stupidity, and is now hiding out in the last place anyone would ever look for him – North Korea. Se-Ri’s brother hires people to track Seung-Joon down and get the money back but Seung-Joon isn’t about to let that happen.
Seo Dan is the heiress to a Department Store in North Korea’s largest city, Pyongyang. Ten years ago her parents and Jeong-Hyuk’s mother and father agreed to have their children marry. Dan has had a crush on Jeong-Hyuk ever since their days in high school but he has no memories of the girl, or feelings for her, and simply agreed to the marriage because he is an obedient son. Dan has been studying music in Europe and is now back in North Korea, ready and eager to become Jeong-Hyuk’s bride.
The men who help Captain Ri Jeong-Hyuk hide Se-Ri are –
Master Sergeant Pho Chi-Soo (he finds excuses to drink, even while on duty, and tries to come across as stern and indifferent), Staff Sergeant Kim Ju-Muk (he is a huge South Korean drama fan who especially loves Choi Ji-Woo), Private Geum Eun-Dong (he is the youngest of the group and the sole financial supporter of his family), and First Lieutenant Park Kwang-Beom (he is so handsome he could very easily be a model).
Jo Cheol-Kang works for the North Korean Armed Forces Security Bureau. The man is greedy, evil and the one responsible for the murder of Jeong-Hyuk’s brother. When he discovers Jeong-Hyuk is trying to help Se-Ri get back to South Korea he’s determined nothing will stop him from exposing the truth. He would love to see the downfall of the Ri family.
Kdrama fans everywhere are so lucky to have Hyun Bin playing the part of Captain Ri Jeong-Hyun. He is the one responsible for making that character so wonderful. I first fell in love with him while watching him play Kim Joo-Wan in Secret Garden. If you haven’t seen that classic drama yet, I highely suggest you do so. His acting was utterly amazing in that show and it just keeps getting better with every single character he plays. You can read about him in my Memories of the Alhambra review.
My introduction to Son Ye-Jin, the beautiful actress who portrays Yoon Se-Ri, was through the Kdrama Personal Taste, opposite Lee Min-Ho. They were darling together but I think her chemistry with Hyun Bin is even better. You can check out my Something in the Rain review for information on this talented actress.
This isn’t the first time Hyun Bin and Son Ye-Jin have acted opposite each other. In 2018 they were in the crime/thriller motion picture The Negotiation where Hyun Bin played the villain, quite different from his kind and gentle hero character, Ri Jeong-Hyuk.
The soldiers who assist Captain Ri in aiding Se-Ri add so much charisma to the show. The combination of their different personalities blend perfectly, making it so easy for them to steal every scene they’re in. I loved them and cared about their safety and happiness. They are magnificent supporting characters!
Crash Landing on You’s head writer, Park Ji-Eun had an idea for a romantic comedy swimming around in her head – it would involve a South Korean heiress and North Korean officer. But the fact that she had no direct knowledge of what life was like in North Korea concerned her. Then, in 2018 she was introduced to a North Korean defector named Kwak Moon-Wan. He had served in the Supreme Guard Command, which is a special security force in charge of protecting THE Kim family, but defected in 2004 while being assigned to work for a North Korean trade company in Moscow. Before he went into the military he had spent time studying film. After an interrogation (that all defectors go through) he was told about a filmmaker, was offered a job, and began working at a film company. So, with the help and advice from an actual North Korean student of film, writer Park’s idea came to life. Thanks to Kwak Moon-Wan’s intimate knowledge of military life inside North Korea, the world has the honor and privilege of being able to enjoy this amazing Kdrama!
You might be wondering how accurately Crash Landing on You portrays life in North Korea. Everything I’ve heard and read admits most of its depictions are fairly accurate, all except for how nice Se-Ri’s clothes are and how seemingly easy it is to escape to the south. The house searches, the power outages, the upper class, the refrigerators being used as dressers… it’s all true. In fact, one North Korean defector who was an extra in the show claimed she felt like she “was actually back in a North Korean village.” Yet, the Christian Liberal Party is suing tvN for violating the National Security Act in “glorifying North Korea” in the drama. That’s absolutely ridiculous! I didn’t see anything that could remotely be considered “glorifying.”
One thing I really appreciated is the lingering wounds on the injured people in this show. When Jeong-Hyuk gets marks on his face they are still there days later. It adds reality to what we are seeing. High praise to the director and make-up people for allowing wounds to heal at a more realistic pace!
As I watched this deliciously entertaining story I couldn’t help but think about what the country I live in would be like right now if our North vs. South Civil War had ended like Korea’s did – stepping across a line puts you, not only in a whole different country but, in enemy territory. That has to be scary and heartbreaking at the same time. While engrossed in this story, I felt sincere grief for the good, decent, caring people in North Korea who live with fear on a daily basis. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. Even if the two countries never reunify, I sincerely hope they can someday get to a point where the people can freely cross back and forth and don’t consider the other side their enemy.
If you’re watching (and listening) carefully you’ll find several references to other South Korean dramas, and one movie, in this show.
*Kim Soo-Hyun reprises his role as Dong-Gu, a North Korean spy from Division 11, from the motion picture Secretly, Greatly.
*While Jeong-Hyuk is intensely focused on playing a video game we hear classical guitar music just like what Hyun Bin’s character hears before the bad guy shows up in the video game fantasy/thriller Kdrama Memories of the Alhambra.
*A man is shot and unable to go to a hospital because the police would have to investigate the matter, so he is taken to an underground doctor just like in the drama Yong Pal.
*Staff Sergeant Kim Ju-Muk makes reference to something heartbreakingly tragic that happens in the old, Choi Ji-Woo drama Stairway to Heaven.
Not surprising, Crash Landing on You did very well in the ratings, coming in as the second highest rated Korean drama in cable television history – beating out Reply 1988 and Goblin (aka Guardian: The Lonely and Great God), and just two points behind the number one rated cable Kdrama -last year’s Sky Castle. Yep, it’s that good! There are 16 episodes total, each one being just shy of an hour and a half long, so you’re looking at a 24 hour time commitment – worth every second!
Unfortunately, Crash Landing on You can only be seen worldwide on Netflix. I implore Kdrama lovers who have that particular service not to miss this show. Those of you who aren’t Netflix subscribers, find a friend who is and talk them into letting you come over and watch it with them. Tell them you’ll provide the popcorn. I’ll bet even if they’re not a Kdrama fan they’ll be hooked after the first episode.
As for music, the song that first comes to mind is the one Jeong-Hyuk composed for his brother. It’s simple, especially considering the fact that Jeong-Hyuk has studied classical piano, but the simplicity of it all allows us to remember its charming melody and hum along. I’m going to do something I’ve never done before in my review of a drama’s music, and provide a link. It will take you to a four handed, piano duet, medley of Crash Landing on You’s original soundtrack which I ran across while surfing YouTube for the drama’s music. A couple known as Bella & Lucas perform the songs flawlessly and the fact that they are dressed like Jeong-Hyuk and Se-Ri just adds to the emotions we feel while watching them play the music. Of course, every original song is beautiful but there’s just something special about this particular medley. Enjoy!
Crash Landing on You was filmed in Switzerland, Mongolia, and South Korea. The shots of Switzerland are breathtakingly gorgeous! How is it possible for one tiny country to contain such varied and awe inspiring scenery? I’m guessing the shots of North Korea were the ones filmed in Mongolia. Since the show was shot in autumn and winter most of the scenery there is bare, colors are drab, and there’s very little sign of modern conveniences. The shots of South Korea are exactly what we’re used to – bustling and up to date (except for a few areas).
If in writing this review I haven’t convinced you to begin Crash Landing on You the second you finish the drama you’re engaged in right now, then I don’t mind, at all, resorting to begging – please, oh please don’t miss this amazingly written, beautifully acted, wonderfully filmed Kdrama! It is nothing short of stupendous!
*Note: In placing Crash Landing on You on my favorite dramas list (limiting myself to just 20) I chose to remove Uncontrollably Fond.
Everything, but in being specific…
Emotional love story
Hyun Bin and Son Ye-Jin’s chemistry
Authentic portrayal of North Korea
Music fits the drama perfectly