As a big fan of thrillers, I wanted to write something for scriptwriter Kim Eun-hee since I watched her recent works, from Sign to Signal. She is known for penning what I think are rollercoaster-like crime thrillers, enough to make your heart skip a beat and also race like crazy. Her stories are those that definitely live up to their titles all the way till the dramas’ end; I somehow became a fan of her writing so this post is dedicated to the writer and her works.
Just to be clear, this Writer Kim is not the one who wrote 2002’s hit classic Winter Sonata and Prime Minister and I in 2013. (They share the same name)
The four dramas that I am going to talk about have very different premises (and directors) but they are reminiscent of writer-nim’s style. She is so good at incorporating twists and turns in her stories and their development is always rift with tension. Not one moment is boring, because it doesn’t take long for the potential conflict to play out after the set-up. One thing that I appreciate the most about her writing is how the story’s ending goes back to how it all started, whether it is a person or thing. And she does it in an amazing way, despite the plethora of cases and changes that the plot has gone through. There is always something to learn with each closure, such as values in life and questions that provide food for thought.
I’m going to start with the one that most of you are familiar with, and that is this year’s mega-hit Signal. It’s definitely well-deserving of all the praise and hype the show has gotten; I hope that this will spark your interest in checking out her previous works (if you haven’t)! I feel really happy that writer-nim, as well as the cast and production team are getting more recognition from this drama’s success!
Setting: A detective from the past Lee Jae-han (Jo Jin-woong) solves cold cases with the help of modern day profiler Park Hae-young (Lee Je-hoon) and detective Cha Soo-hyun (Kim Hye-soo).
Signal is unique because of the concept used – time lapse between the present and the year in which the case(s) occurred. In the beginning, it took time for me to get used to the changing years as we moved from past to present and vice versa. It was slightly confusing at first as I was trying to understand how the whole thing worked but found out pretty quickly that it’s not that complicated after all. Furthermore, it was clear whether the events were playing out in the past or currently because of the colour tone used in past scenes. A signal coming from an old walkie-talkie was what started the communication between Hae-young and Jae-han, which might have become the key to give closure to cold cases that investigators had given up on. The plot flowed and moved in one complete loop – I mentioned this earlier but I really like how writer-nim crafts her scenes to be reflective of one another, even though the characters may be under different circumstances. It helps to remind us that every story has a beginning and keeps us grounded in the show’s reality. In hand with writer-nim’s awesome script, the production team and group of experienced actors made Signal enjoyable and it’s safe to say that this is easily her best work yet.
Setting: Forensic pathologist Yoon Ji-hoon (Park Shin-yang) and rookie Kim Da-kyung (Kim Ah-joong) work together to solve a series of murder cases.
I kinda watched this drama by chance since at the start it wasn’t part of my watch-list then. It was also the first time I saw writer-nim’s work so Sign certainly holds a very special place in my heart until now. If I remember correctly, I watched this on DVD and was hooked from start to finish. The engaging plot played a very big part, but Sign had great cast at its helm too; which made for admirable and winsome characters. Ji-hoon’s strong belief in how the victim’s bodies can help in figuring out the truth of their deaths was what led him to be able to unravel the mystery and catch the mastermind (though it might have been through others). Finding any sign – be it physical evidence or any marks on the corpses would mean that we were one step closer to the truth. Da-kyung eagerness and her perseverance in pursuing the truth was what shaped her to become a better pathologist over the course of the series. Sign remains as one of my favorite thrillers and (I think) this is the only kdrama surrounding forensic doctors so far.
Ghost / Phantom 유령
Setting: Cyber investigation team leader Kim Woo-hyun (So Ji-sub) and his team work together to reveal the truth behind cyber crimes.
I looked forward to this drama because of writer-nim, and I was also coming fresh off Eom Ki-joon’s performance in Scent of a Woman where he stole my heart as our heroine’s doctor good friend. True enough, Ghost did not disappoint. It was a lot like Sign in many many ways but I’m saying this in a positive manner – Show took me for a ride packed with action and emotion. The journey to find out who the Phantom was wasn’t easy at all, but our cyber team overcame the odds with the help of a genius hacker cop 😉 And despite the heavy premise, Ghost didn’t forget to include the fun and comedic moments in the team members’ interactions. Amidst the complicated cases, there were smiles~ All the actors did well in their roles, but I especially enjoyed Eom Ki-joon’s performance as the villain. It wasn’t difficult to put his motivations into perspective, but his actions were clearly wrong from the start. What I want to say is, I couldn’t hate him totally. On the whole it was an exciting watch for me, with a satisfying ending.
Three Days 쓰리 데이즈
Setting: A team of bodyguards have 3 days to find and bring South Korea’s president Lee Dong-hwi (Son Hyun-joo) to safety after an assassination attempt. In the process, a deeper conspiracy is unveiled.
This was the first drama that I actually thought a time frame was pretty useful in the story, having served its purpose. It wasn’t the best thing about the show since there were flaws but personally I would say that the important parts were covered well. And out of the 4 dramas, Three Days was the one with the most politics, largely because of the premise but besides the action scenes I enjoyed the conversation scenes between the President and Tae-kyung (Park Yoo-chun), as well as President and villain Kim Do-jin (Choi Won-young). Their relationships were established interestingly; I enjoyed actor Choi Won-young’s performance and felt Yoochun’s acting improvement after Sungkyunkwan Scandal. For me, Three Days did not have sufficient kick as with the other 3 dramas but there were many instances in which the plot hit climatic development and was still very exciting.
Writer-nim’s works always revolve around crime and corruption. The criminal cases, specifically murder form the basis of the storyline which consequently cannot run away from the police, aka detectives who will try to seek the truth. Some of her main characters may not necessarily be cops, but they are passionate about their occupation. Her heroes, for that matter are written to be courageous people who will do whatever it takes to honour and be worthy of their jobs. Corruption is usually what forms the dynamic of clashes between our good guys and the baddies – those who are willing to give their all for a better world versus those who are blinded by greed. This provides a very effective conflict between the two sides, making you want to punch the screen in anger at times or strongly root for the characters. That is not to say the villains are ineffectual, because somehow I end up feeling for the antagonists too (and this is credit to both writer-nim and the actors). However, I also want to highlight that writer-nim’s dramas are definitely more than this. While these themes are essential, the underlying values and messages are even more important.
Besides her heroes who are tenacious characters that will persist till the end, I love how writer-nim’s heroines are strong-willed characters in their pursuit to get to the bottom of the truth. Like the heroes, they also go head-on even in the face of danger. As compared to the typical damsels in distress in most kdramas, I prefer to see determined ladies. And with that, I can get double the action and suspense in my drama-watching experience! How good is that?! 😄 Another thing that I value about her writing is how romance is shown with the right amount in her dramas. Most thrillers are not romance-centric, but I like that we only get tinges of it. You know, it’s not totally absent but just nice not to have anything more than necessary. One last thing I want to touch on is how she writes about the death of a main character in her stories. At the same time, I will not give away spoilers. It may sound like there is nothing much to it but she has overflowing creativity with regards to this. In just 4 dramas, we see a character’s death in different styles and ways. It can be quite a high risk to take but their deaths served a purpose in the dramas and stayed true to her stories. Really high quality work there.
Writer Kim Eun-hee recently appeared as a guest on MBC’s Infinity Challenge with her director husband Jang Hang-joon (who directed half of Sign and co-wrote the script) to pen a script for Infinite Company’s action blockbuster. If you are interested to watch, she only comes on in the second half of the episode. 🙂 She has also been nominated for Best Scriptwriter at the 52nd Baeksang Art Awards under the Television Drama category for Signal. It will be held on 3rd June 2016 and will air on jtbc at 8.30pm KST (later today) I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate her on the nomination, and let’s hope for the best for her at the awards ceremony!