Is it a fantasy, a romance, or ghost story? It’s actually a combination of all of those – with a twist. When a ghost is given the chance to live again, will she grab the opportunity to take back what was hers before she died or choose to give it all up? Find out in the new Kdrama Hi Bye, Mama!
It only took Cha Yu-Ri and Cho Gang-Hwa three seconds to fall in love. They were a couple for several years, then married, and were happily in the process of having their first child when fate stepped in and changed it all in the blink of an eye. While Doctor Gang-Hwa was busy performing surgery, his loving wife was in the emergency room of the same hospital fighting for the life of their unborn baby. Sadly, when the surgery was over and Gang-Hwa was told of his wife’s accident, it was too late for him to do anything except grieve the death of his sweetheart. After some time, Gang-Hwa remarried and tried to settle into a new life. Cha Yi-Ri, on the other hand, refused to “go up” and be reincarnated. She wanted to stick around as a spirit and watch her daughter grow up, comfort her husband, and be by the side of her family and friends. Suddenly, after five years, Yu-Ri is sent back to the human realm as a not-quite-human/not-quite-ghost with the promise that if she is able to reclaim her place as Gang-Hwa’s wife and Seo-Woo’s mother in just a short 49 days she will be able to live again. But a kindhearted woman named Oh Min-Jung has taken those spots so now Yu-Ri has a huge decision to make.
Cha Yu-Ri had a excellent relationship with her own mom and was excitedly looking forward to being a mother herself and sharing parenthood with the man she loved so much. In one quick instant that dream was stolen from her so she made the conscious decision to postpone reincarnation and remain a ghost in order to be with her family, even though they had no idea she was there. She had every intention of “going up” after she was able to see her daughter take her first step but there were so many things she wanted to be a part of that after five years she was still following her loved ones around. She thinks it’s not fair that the family she so happily looked forward to having now belongs to someone else. Although Oh Min-Jung is a loyal wife and a kind mother, she’s in the spot that was Yu-Ri’s in the first place.
Poor Gang-Hwa was left alone to raise his daughter, Seo-Woo, and some days it was almost more than he could bare. He blamed himself for Yu-Ri’s death, believing that if he had been there she wouldn’t have died, and that guilt has crippled him. He was once the hospital’s top cardiothoracic surgeon but now only performs outpatient services. For the past five years he hasn’t even been able to even set foot in an operating room and his boss is pressuring him into receiving psychological counseling in order for him to keep working at the hospital. After Yu-Ri’s death he stayed single for a long time but then, at the encouragement of Yu-Ri’s best friend, he decided to go on with his life and remarry. He lives each day, trying to be the perfect husband and father in order to avoid future regret and guilt.
Oh Min-Jung went to the same school as Gang-Hwa and majored in nursing so they have the medical field as their profession in common. She liked Gang-Hwa while they were still in school but didn’t even approach him when she found out he already had a girlfriend. Since they worked at the same hospital, when Yu-Ri passed away, and she could see Doctor Cho’s suffering, she kindly stepped in to try and comfort him and their relationship naturally grew from simply colleagues to one of a romantic nature. She is the only mother Seo-Woo has ever known and that little girl adores her. Min-Jung does her best to be a good mom and thinks it’s unfair that step-mothers in stories are all mean. She loves her husband dearly but feels that because he won’t let go of Yu-Ri he hasn’t been able to truly give his heart to her. Because of that, she has seriously been contemplating getting a divorce, although she hasn’t mentioned anything about it to Gang-Hwa.
Cho Seo-Woo is a darling little girl who is loved tremendously by her parents. At just five years old she not only goes to kindergarten but is also involved in art, ballet, and English classes. She seems to be a well adjusted child but the snoopy mothers at the kindergarten tell Min-Jung they are concerned that Seo-Woo doesn’t talk and is slower than the other kids her age, even suggesting Min-Jung take Seo-Woo for some child psychological testing. Since Yu-Ri has been by her side since birth Seo-Woo, being an innocent child, has developed the ability to see ghosts although no one is aware of her gift.
Ever since college Yu-Ri and Go Hyun-Jung have been friends. In fact, it was Hyun-Jung that inadvertently brought Gang-Hwa and Yu-Ri together. Although she is several years older than Yu-Ri they get along extremely well. She and Yu-Ri were each due with their first baby within just days of each other, Hyun-Hung having her boy before Yu-Ri’s girl. She was broken-hearted when her best friend passed away and did the best she could to support Gang-Hwa, including encouraging him to go on with his life and marry Min-Jung. She and Min-Jung are on cordial terms but wouldn’t really be considered friends. Hyun-Jung is an entrepreneur who owns and runs her own bar/cafe’.
Kye Keun-Sang and Gang-Hwa went to medical school together and now work at the same hospital. Keun-Sang is concerned about his friend not being able to operate any more and has been trying to council him, since he is a psychiatrist, but nothing has helped. Doctor Kye’s favorite hobby is posting pictures of the outfit he is wearing each day for all his social media followers to see. He had recently been working with a famous baseball player who recently passed away and now follows Keun-Sang all over. Hyung-Jung and Keun-Sang are married.
Ms. Mi-Dong is the shaman in charge of the ghosts in the area Yu-Ri is in. Unlike other shamans, she refuses to “send up” people who are not yet ready to go on so she has a host of spirits she is trying to convince to leave this world. She is sympathetic to their feelings and wants to help them resolve the issues keeping them from progressing. She is amazed when Yu-Ri is given another chance at being human and sincerely wants her to get her rightful place back so she can go on living. Ms. Mi-Dong is trying to figure out how and why the gods gave Yu-Ri this second chance.
There are many “ghost” characters, Yu-Ri’s friends, we are able to meet and we get closer to them as we discover the reason they haven’t yet chosen to “go on.”
The last time Kdrama fans saw Kim Tae-Hee (the actress who plays Cha Yu-Ri) was in 2015 when she starred opposite Joo Won in Young Pal. For the past five years she’s been doing the mom thing and has been sorely missed in Kdramaland. I, for one, am thrilled she’s back. In 1999 she began attending Seoul National University where she was the president of the Women’s Ski Club. She graduated with a degree in fashion design in 2005. While still in school, Tae-Hee was riding a subway and was approached by an advertising executive who offered her a modeling job. She began appearing in both commercials and printed ads and a year later made her acting debut via a small role in the film Last Present. In 2003 she played the evil step-sister in the tear-jerker Stairway to Heaven (no matter how many times I see that show I always end up sobbing) which garnered her a lot of attention. Then, she starred opposite Kim Rae-Won (lucky gal) in Love Story in Harvard (enjoyable show) and won a Most Popular Actress Award. In 2009 she got to play an NIS profiler, opposite Lee Byung-Hun (yep, she’s lucky alright), in the action thriller Iris (which got a perfect 10 from me as well as a spot on my favorite dramas list). She’s been in several motion pictures as well as on the small screen and has racked up numerous awards. After dating singer/actor Rain for five years they were married in 2017 and have two little girls.
In 1999, after seeing the movie Swiri, Lee Kyun-Hyun decided he wanted to be an actor. He was part of the theater club in high school and was later accepted into the film and theater department at Kyung Hee University. When he found out his favorite actor, Choi Min-Sik, had attended Dongguk University, Kyun-Hyun transferred there and ended up graduating with a Theater Studies degree. During his mandatory military service he was part of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s “Whistle Theater.” His acting career officially began in 2001 when he had a small role in the movie Kick the Moon. Since then he has appeared in a plethora of theater productions which include musicals, many motion pictures, and quite a few TV dramas. After seeing his performances in two plays, the producer and writer of Prison Playbook asked him to audition for a role, which he landed and received high praise for. Last year he won an Excellence Actor Award for his role in Doctor John. I would love to see him win another award for his portrayal of soft-hearted Cho Gang-Hwa.
Every single character in this show is likable. There aren’t any bad guys (not counting the exorcist that shows up for a quick few minutes a couple times) and each person is perfectly portrayed by the actor/actress playing them. The chemistry between all the actors/characters is very believable – how they say they feel about each other and their roles in each relationship are acted out perfectly.
For anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one, this drama may be exactly what you need. It gives us several different perspectives of death – spirits who are unwilling to leave the sides of their family and friends, people who semi-successfully deal with the death of a loved one but only on a minute by minute basis, people who are unable to accept the loss of someone special and refuse to make the adjustments needed to continue happily living their lives, those who constantly live with regret or guilt due to the death of someone they love…
Our thoughts and feelings about death are very personal. There are those who feel death is a permanent end to that individual’s life/absolutely nothing after one dies, those who feel there is a heaven where spirits dwell with God for eternity or a hell of endless torment with the devil, those who believe death is a way of progressing in a way we can’t on earth, those that feel there is reincarnation and creatures who have died go on to have another life as something or someone else… but one thing is certain – death is something every living thing has in common. This story helps us ponder and attempt to work out our own beliefs (or hopes) about death.
We are told everything about life before Yu-Ri’s death in flashbacks, bits at a time. Some things the writer makes us wonder and speculate about for quite some time before letting us in on what actually happened. It’s a great way to keep the audience engaged in the story.
Kim Seul-Gi and Lee Jung-Eun reprise their roles (the first as the virgin ghost Shin Soon-Ae, and the second as the shaman Seobinggo) from the romantic Kdrama Oh My Ghostess. Anyone who has seen that show will most definately recognize Seul-Gi. Both dramas happen to have been directed by the same person, Yoo Ji-Won, who also directed Abyss, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, Tomorrow With You, and High School King of Savvy.
Because Yu-Ri’s mom has heart problems, in trying to figure out what field of medicine he wanted to go into, Gang-Hwa decided to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. Since I didn’t know exactly what that was I looked it up and discovered it is a medical doctor who specializes in surgical procedures of the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. So, now you know, too.
The ending of this drama is extremely important. At first Yu-Ri views her opportunity to be alive once again as a gift but after a while she begins to see it as a punishment. From the very beginning we can’t wait to find out what happens to Yu-Ri. Well, I’m not about to give you even the tiniest of hints but I will tell you I was satisfied.
Here’s an interesting fact that surprised me – Seo Woo-Jin, the child that plays the part of Cha Yu-Ri and Cho Gang-Hwa’s daughter, Cho Seo-Woo, is really a five year old little boy. People wondered why a male actor was chosen to play the part of a female character and the production crew explained that it was for two main reasons – “his striking resemblance to Kim and his stable acting skills despite his young age.” Sadly, some have had less than a positive reaction to the decision and the parents of this darling little actor have received some serious criticism for allowing their son to do this role. In response, Woo-Jin’s mother took to social media and explained that, “… when I was offered for him to play the role of a girl, I asked Woo-jin for his opinion, and he willingly said that he was OK and that he could do it well.” Hi Bye, Mama! is the seventh Kdrama this little boy has had a role in so I’m fairly confident he understands what acting is all about -pretending… being and doing something that isn’t real. I’m sure you’ll be very impressed with this young man’s acting abilities once you see him in action.
Two other Kdramas I remember whose plot has to do with the idea of someone coming back from the dead are Please Come Back, Mister and Into the World Again. Which one did I enjoy the most? Well, Hi Bye, Mama! is my favorite, with Into the World Again coming in a close second, followed by Please Come Back, Mister. Here’s a fun bit of trivia for you – Kim Tae-Hee plays someone who comes back from the dead in this drama and her husband, Rain, plays the main character who also comes back from the dead (but in a different body) in Please Come Back, Mister.
The special effects in this show are decent but, unfortunately, the ghosts aren’t consistent in what they can and cannot do. Sometimes they are able to touch physical objects in this world and other times they aren’t. I didn’t like that. There are also a few very noticeable little “oops” (like the time pregnant Yu-Ri is eating strawberries while watching TV with Gang-Hwa and the berry in her hand instantly changes from having a bite taken out of it to being whole) in the first few episode. Rats!
Hi Bye, Mama!’s music is very nice. The one I liked the best is To You sung by Hen. The song is very methodical and had a way of touching my heart even though I couldn’t understand the words. There’s an octave change a little more than halfway through the song which just adds to the dramatic beauty. My second favorite is a lovely ballad called In the Night, sung exquisitely by Parc Jae-Jung. The chorus’ lyrics “Like a satellite, waiting for you in the night,” describe perfectly what Yu-Ri must have been feeling for the husband she so dearly loved and had planned to grow old with, and the tiny daughter she was so anxious to hold but never had to chance to cradle in her arms. After her death, staying next to them like a satellite and waiting for them was all she could do. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.
There’s nothing special about the backgrounds or scenery but that’s what I admired – the normalcy of it all. The house Yu-Ri grew up in isn’t anything special, Go Hyun-Jung’s bar/cafe’ isn’t fancy, Gang-Hwa and Min-Jung’s apartment seems small, and the offices that Gang-Hwa and Keun-Sang occupy in the hospital are very tiny. Real life normal.
I really enjoyed watching Hi Bye, Mama! It was nice to see Kim Tae-Hee (one of my favorite actresses) back on the screen and I discovered a new guy (Lee Kyun-Hyun ) that just might soon be on my favorite actors list. The story is interesting, original, and most importantly it makes us do a lot of thinking – what choice would I make it I were each of these different characters?
Note: Before I began watching this drama I had no idea its review would coincidently be published on Mother’s Day. My hope is that the mothers who are still with us and the ones who have gone on are all doing well.
Excellent acting by all
Makes us face our thoughts about death
Kim Tae-Hee returns to Kdramas after a five year absence
Ghosts’ abilities aren’t consistent
Too many little “oops”