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I finally finished SBS’s 49 Days, a Korean drama that aired from March to May of 2011.The drama starred Lee Yo Won as Song Yi Kyung and Shin Ji Hyun (when she was possessed).Nam Gyu Ri played Shin Ji Hyun, a woman who goes into a coma at the beginning of the story, and thus begins her 49 day journey to win three pure tears, which will give her the right to come back to her body. Jo Hyun Jae plays Han Kang, Ji Hyun’s silent supporter and a victim of unrequited love. Bae Soo Bin is Ji Hyun’s manipulative fiance, Kang Min Ho, who has spent the last two years in a fake relationship with her so that he can take over her father’s business. Seo Ji Hye plays Shin In Jung, Ji Hyun’s backstabbing best friend. The cast is rounded out by Ji Hyun’s parents, Choi Jung Woo and Yoo Jin, and Ji Hyun’s other best friend named Seo Woo (played by Bae Geu Rin).
Shin Ji Hyun was enjoying absolute bliss as she was about to marry her fiancé, Kang Min Ho, but her perfect life is shattered when she gets into a car accident that leaves her in a coma. She is given a second chance at life by a reaper, but it comes with a condition: she has to find three people outside of her family who would cry genuine tears for her. In order to do this, she borrows the body of Yi Kyung, a part-time employee at a convenience store for 49 days.
Shin Ji Hyun is a happy go lucky woman, a woman who has doting parents, great friends, and a loving fiance. While immersed in her love for Kang Min Ho and busy with her wedding plans, she fails to notice that her old high school friend, Han Kang is also in love with her. One day, while driving home from a dress fitting, she gets into a car accident because Song Yi Kyung uses that moment to attempt suicide. Song Yi Kyung steps out into oncoming traffic, which causes a pileup. Shin Ji Hyun is one of the victims of that pileup. Shin Ji Hyun’s spirit flies out from her body, and she is justifiably confused by what is going around her. As she stands at the hospital, watching her parents and friends cry over her comatose body, she meets the scheduler.
The scheduler is administrative staff for the in between, and tells Ji Hyun that she wasn’t on his schedule, meaning that she wasn’t supposed to die at this moment. Because of Song Yi Kyung’s actions, Shin Ji Hyun has suffered, thus the Scheduler offers her 49 Days to retrieve three pure tears from people that are not related to her by blood. Shin Ji Hyun happily agrees, counting on her fiance and best friends to provide those three tears. Shin Ji Hyun will get to use Song Yi Kyung’s body while Yi Kyung is asleep, will have to earn her own money, and can tell no one that she is Shin Ji Hyun. The moment she does, the tear necklace around Shin Ji Hyun’s neck will break and Shin Ji Hyun will immediately have to take an elevator to the other side.
Shin Ji Hyun takes over Song Yi Kyung’s body, who works during the night and sleeps during the day, and immediately goes around looking for her friends and for a job. Ji Kyung (Ji Hyun in Yi Kyung’s body) cajoles Han Kang into hiring her, and then sees Kang Min Ho and Shin In Jung meeting in a hotel room. It is at this point that she remembers seeing them together before her accident, where Min Ho had been kissing In Jung’s hand. Her disbelief and shock from that had caused her to be inattentive enough that she had the accident. Now realizing that she cannot count on Min Ho and In Jung for pure tears, she spends time looking for friends who can give her those tears. She soon comes to realize that she has nowhere near the number of friends/tears she needs to survive. She also finds out, in the course of her investigation, that Kang Min Ho has set a plot in play, where he will takeover the Shin’s company through clever maneuvering. She realizes that Min Ho and In Jung have been working together for years, and their plan is about to come to fruition. Deciding that it would be futile to attempt to get those tears, she decides it’s more important to save her parents and the business before she dies.
While she works in Han Kang’s restaurant, Han Kang comes to be unwillingly attracted to Ji Kyung. This causes him to be harsh to her, as he has been to Ji Hyun in the past. Ji Kyung takes this as the norm, since she has always been treated like this by Han Kang. The more Ji Kyung is aroung Han Kang, the more Han Kang realizes how much she is like Ji Hyun. Through various clues, Han Kang is able to figure out that Ji Kyung is in fact the woman he loves, Ji Hyun. He then vows to help Ji Hyun in any way he can, making it easier for her to come and go when she needs to, and assisting her in saving her father’s company. Through his hard work and dedication, Han Kang is able to block all attempts by Kang Min Ho to take over the company, and is able to indirectly reveal to Ji Hyun how much he loves her and how much he wants to be there for her. Ji Hyun’s feelings for Han Kang grow when she comes to realize that this man is doing all of this out of love for Ji Hyun, and not because he is interested in Yi Kyung.
Ji Hyun’s selfish use of Song Yi Kyung’s body causes Yi Kyung to lose her job. We then find out that Yi Kyung is really close to the edge, because she attempts to commit suicide once more. Ji Hyun decides to focus on Yi Kyung’s health and of taking care of Yi Kyung, as well. She exercises for her, eats good food for her, buys clothes and personal care items for her, and is able to comfort her, once they start communicating. She finds out that the person Yi Kyung is depressed over was named Song Yi Soo and was Yi Kyung’s love. Ji Hyun finds out that Yi Soo is actually the scheduler. The scheduler, who knows that he is spending five years as a scheduler for a chance to do something, does not remember what that something is. When Ji Kyung brings around the yearbook that has his picture in it, he begins to realize that he has a connection with Yi Kyung. He finds out that Yi Kyung thought that Yi Soo betrayed her, and that is the reason she is not able to let go of Yi Soo. When he finally gets the chance to speak to Yi Kyung, he makes her understand how much he loved her, but that she needs to let him go for his and her own good. Knowing that Yi Soo loved her, Yi Kyung is finally able to move on.
As Ji Hyun is about to give up initially because she isn’t succeeding at anything, midway through the drama, she receives a tear. She finds out later that it is Han Kang’s tear, and it is only then she truly comes to realize how much Han Kang loves her. In the last hours of her allotted time, she receives those last two tears and is able to return to life once more. While one of those tears is from Seo Woo, the other, we assume, is from Yi Kyung.
Ji Hyun was expressly warned that she would not remember anything if she awakened, because no person can go back with the knowledge of the in between and the afterlife. Ji Hyun acts as if she doesn’t remember anything, but we soon find out that she has retained her memory of those 49 days. She is allowed to remember because she was supposed to die a week later and all that hard work was really for nothing. The heavens, knowing that, allow her the chance to leave the world after saying her goodbyes. Ji Hyun tells her parents how much she loves them, tacitly forgives In Jung, and has a perfect date with Han Kang. She leaves the world without hurting anyone with the knowledge of her impending death and wishes to only leave good memories behind.
After her death, the truth is revealed that Yi Kyung was actually Ji Hyun’s sister. Through Yi Soo’s initial work and Han Kang’s keen obervation skills, we discover the truth. Ji Hyun’s mother reveals that their child had been kidnapped as a young child and had never been heard from again. Yi Kyung gets a family, a friend in Han Kang and a new lease on life. We also find out that the final tear had come from In Jung, who had broken down when she had been thinking about taking off Ji Hyun’s oxygen mask. In Jung realized how much Ji Hyun loved her, repented for all she had done and ensured that Kang Min Ho, the love of her life, would be punished for what he had done.
I initially wanted to see Yi Kyung and Han Kang to get together, because I loved the chemistry between these two actors. Irregardless of the fact that Yi Kyung and Han Kang didn’t have any type of interaction until the last few episodes, I liked the contrast between Ji Kyung’s bubbly and sometimes airheaded nature and Han Kangs dour, yet protective mien. In the end, it was Han Kang’s love and support for Ji Hyun, and Ji Hyun’s love and longing for and quiet enjoyment of their last moments that won me over to the Ji Hyun/Han Kang team. My definition of a happily ever after changed through the characterizations of both Han Kang and Ji Hyun (as portrayed by Lee Yo Won), and I just wanted to see Ji Hyun live happily ever after with Han Kang by her side. Yi Kyung would have been in their lives as Ji Hyun’s sister. I would also have been fine with Ji Hyun taking over Yi Kyung’s body permanently and remaining with Han Kang, while Yi Kyung died and reunited with Yi Soo. But I did not expect to see Ji Hyun die, leaving behind two halves of two broken pairs to mend and survive without their better halves. By the end of the drama, I could not see Yi Kyung and Han Kang ever ending up together, which is kind of depressing.
Although there is a big age gap between Lee Yo Won and Jung Il Woo, I thoroughly enjoyed the chemistry between these two actors. I loved their match up, and how they seemed to be having fun when they were in scenes together. Their interactions as Ji Kyung and the Scheduler were fun and zippy. The flashbacks between Yi Soo and Yi Kyung, were poignant and heartrending because we knew their love was doomed. While we didn’t see a lot of flashbacks with the two of them being happy together, the bits we did see had a lot of depth. It is kind of heartbreaking to see these two struggling together and trying to make their dreams come true, only because we are looking at their past and know how fragile their lives truly are. These two were truly alone in the world and clung desperately to each other. Once Yi Kyung loses Yi Soo, she completely breaks. It was sad at the end to see Yi Kyung’s confidence that Yi Soo was returning to take her away, only to have Yi Soo say he loved her but that she needed to let him go so that he could be happy in the next life. Each scene the two of these actors were in together kept me captivated.
When Ji Hyun first took over Yi Kyung’s life, she only cared about her worries and her desires. Her single-minded pursuit of that goal caused her to abuse Yi Kyung’s body, and she only came to realize how fragile Yi Kyung was when she saw Yi Kyung about to commit suicide, and could do nothing to stop it. Ji Hyun begins to care about Yi Kyung’s physical health, and about her mental health. She begins to call Yi Kyung unni (older sister), and greets her happily when Yi Kyung returns home. Over time, the barrier between Yi Kyung and Ji Hyun begins to fade. Yi Kyung is able to access Ji Hyun’s memory (being able to recognize Kang Min Ho when he barges into her job), and is able to eventually hear her ghost. Though at first she is shocked and decides to leave it all behind when Ji Hyun blames her for the accident, she eventually relents and agrees to help Ji Hyun by allowing Ji Hyun to possess her body whenever Ji Hyun needs it. The quiet moments between the two, when they are sitting side by side, mulling over their individual situations, or when Ji Hyun cries because Yi Kyung is crying over her lost love are a treat to watch. When Ji Hyun asks Yi Kyung to continue living and live happily, or comforts her with Yi Soo’s presence and imminent visit, or when she reveals the burden of her impending death, we see the close friendship and caring that has grown between these two women in the most unusual of circumstances. All these moments are all the more meaningful when we find out that the two were sisters and received a chance to be loving sisters before Ji Hyun left this earth. If things hadn’t worked out this way, Ji Hyun would have died without ever knowing Yi Kyung.
Lee Yo Won was the perfect actress for this role. She played the differences between Yi Kyung and Ji Hyun perfectly and with great success. There was never any doubt when Lee Yo Won was Yi Kyung or when she was Ji Hyun. Additionally, she was able to successfully show Yi Kyung mellowing from the extreme depressive state she was in to the maturity she adopts when she realizes that there are people who are worst off than her. Lee Yo Won’s portrayal of Ji Hyun as a gangly, hyperactive bubbly girl was a stark contrast to Yi Kyung, and a pleasure to watch. This woman had chemistry with each of the males actors she worked with in this drama, from Jo Hyun Jae to Jung Il Woo to Bae Soo Bin, and also had great chemistry with Nam Gyu Ri. Without her this drama might not have been as beautiful as it was.
Nam Gyu Ri’s acting was a bit raw throughout the drama. Her tears a bit fake. But she was able to be competent for the most part, and I could bear watching her. I’m sure she will get better with time. Gyu Ri’s best acting was in the quiet moments. When Ji Hyun was sitting with Yi Kyung and talking about the future or serving Yi Kyung dinner and talking about Yi Soo, I found Gyu Ri the most believable. Nam Gyu Ri also did her best acting at the end, when Ji Hyun had realized that she was about to die. Nam Gyu Ri was able to portray the maturity and change that knowledge would bring about in a person. Her last date with Han Kang was tragic, because she was able to show that tragedy in her quiet acceptance of her fate.
Jung Il Woo began as the cranky Scheduler, who was interested in living his afterlife to the fullest and was largely irritated by Ji Kyung. He had his moments of depth, as in when he reminded Ji Hyun that she was crying about her life when she had a chance. He asked her to imagine how it would feel to know that your life ended at 23? His discomfort and unconscious fascination with Yi Kyung, when he still had no memory of her were fun to watch because one could see him fighting himself regarding this attraction. Jung Il Woo’s portrayal of cranky and short-tempered Scheduler, the sweet innocence and love of the Yi Soo of the past and the depression and regret of the Yi Soo of the present was stupendous. Each change in the character was gradual and beautifully done. I never once doubted that these changes were organic to the character, and that was due to Jung Il Woo’s hardwork. He made it look effortless.
Han Kang’s love and dedication to Ji Hyun won me over to his point of view. This is the first drama that I have seen of Jo Hyun Jae’s and he did a great job. I liked Han Kang because Jo Hyun Jae made him likeable and aww-worthy. His chemistry with Lee Yo Won was also a treat to watch and I enjoyed every scene with the two of them on screen. I find it a bit regrettable that Yi Soo and Han Kang never really got to interact together, despite the one scene they were in together in a flashback. It would have been fun to watch them being dour and cranky in the same scene.
Bas Soo Bin’s portrayal of Kang Min Ho made Min Ho an understandable character despite his repugnant goals. Bae Soo Bin was able to make one sympathize with Min Ho’s horrible past, and to understand what drove him to take over the Shin’s business by all means necessary. There was the realization that there might have been a moment when he could have been saved, but when his own love, Shin In Jung, presented this plan of fooling Ji Hyun and snatching away her wealth due to her own twisted jealousies, he went along with it. In the end, I even came to feel a little sympathetic to the character, because this guy had the bad luck to fall in love with Ji Kyung, a woman that could never really exist in this world. Ji Hyun herself had noted that while she was in Yi Kyung’s body, she found that she was smarter and different in that body. Therefore, Ji Kyung is this mixture of two personalities that Min Ho can never have because he failed to appreciate Ji Hyun and Yi Kyung could care less about him. In the end, Kang Min Ho honestly regrets what he did when finds out that Ji Hyun has passed away.
Seo Ji Hye was a competent Shin In Jung. I thoroughly disliked In Jung, therefore, I believe that Seo Ji Hye did her job. Ji Hyun had happily done a lot of favors for In Jung, which ultimately became a burden that In Jung could not handle. She began to resent Ji Hyun and turned on her, wanting to see how twisted Ji Hyun could become if she was left with nothing, just like In Jung had started out with nothing. In the end, she comes to regret those actions, and Seo Ji Hye’s portrayal of that regret and gradual maturity is believable. I did believe that In Jung realized that she should never have measured Ji Hyun’s actions on her own scale of perception, but she should have just appreciated the friend she had in Ji Hyun. Her self-loathing comes across to the viewers in the moments that she has to face an awakened Ji Hyun and Seo Ji Hye did a good job in that scene.
49 Days was a beautiful drama to watch. It had wonderful writing, great actors, great direction and just the right pace. The chemistry between the actors made this drama even better. The concept of 49 days was something that I had never heard of before, and therefore, it was something new and fresh. There were no surprises; we knew that the Scheduler was Yi Soo from really early on and anyone could have guessed that Yi Kyung was the Shins’ lost daughter. But the way that the drama gets to those points and explores them thoroughly before moving on made this drama a treat to watch. The one surprise, killing off Ji Hyun, was unwelcome, but even then I couldn’t say that it didn’t fit with the story. The drama had made no promises of happily ever afters, and when Ji Hyun was about to die, it seemed like a natural thing. As in, see, this is what happens in life; there really are no guarantees. The only regret I had, besides the fact that there were no happily ever afters, was that they spent too much time on the business aspect of things. I stopped caring about whether the business would be saved long before that plot point was resolved.
Ultimately, I would highly suggest that you watch this drama if you have the time. If you don’t have the time, make it. You won’t regret it.