부활 (Rebirth)

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24 Episodes
A KBS Production
Timeslot: Wednesday and Thursday Evening, 10:00 PM
Genre: Revenge Thriller
Format: 1080i Dolby Digital 2.0 – 60 Minutes
Ran from: 2005/Jun/01~Aug/18

WITH 엄태웅 (Eom Tae-Woong) as Seo Ha-Eun/Yoo Shin-Hyeok; 한지민 (Han Ji-Min) as Seo Eun-Ha; 고주원 (Go Ju-Won) as Jung Jin-Woo; 소이현 (So Yi-Hyun) as Lee Gang-Joo; 이정길 (Lee Jung-Gil) as Kang In-Cheol; 김윤석 (Kim Yoon-Seok) as Chief Cheon; 안내상 (Ahn Nae-Sang) as Yoo Geon-Ha; 이대연 (Lee Dae-Yeon) as Gyeong Gi-Do; 고명환 (Go Myeong-Hwan) as Kim Su-Cheol; 최용민 (Choi Yong-Min) as Heo Deok-Woo; 서우은숙 (Seo Woo Eun-Sook); 이연희 (Lee Yeon-Hee) as Kang Shin-Young; 조재완 (Jo Jae-Wan) as Ahn Jae-Hoon; 강신일 (Kang Shin-Il) as Seo Jae-Soo; 기주봉 (Gi Ju-Bong) as Jung Sang-Gook; 유혜정 (Yoo Hye-Jung) as Yoon Mi-Jung; 김갑수 (Kim Gap-Soo) as Lee Tae-Joon; 이한위 (Lee Han-Wi) as Im Dae-Shik; 김규철 (Kim Gyu-Cheol) as Choi Dong-Chan; 정호빈 (Jung Ho-Bin) as Mr. Lee; 주진모 (Ju Jin-Mo) as Park Sang-Cheol; 이동규 (Lee Dong-Gyu) as Park Hee-Soo; 이진욱 (Lee Jin-Wook) as Stephen Lee; 박은빈 (Park Eun-Bin) as Teenage Eun-Ha; 곽정욱 (Kwak Jung-Wook) as Teenage Ha-Eun;

CREW Production Director 박찬홍 (Park Chan-Hong) B-Team Director 전창근 (Jeon Chang-Geun) Main Writer 김지우 (Kim Ji-Woo) Chief Producer 홍성덕 (Hong Seong-Deok) Director of Photography 변춘호 (Byeon Choon-Ho) Lighting 정길용 (Jung Gil-Yong) Editor 김영주 (Kim Young-Joo) Art Director나이선 (Na Yi-Seon) Music 지평권 (Ji Pyeong-Kwon) 이임우 (Lee Im-Woo) Action Choreography 박주천 (Park Ju-Cheon) Assistant Producer 모완일 (Mo Wan-Il), 차영훈 (Cha Young-Hoon)

RATINGS
AGB Nielsen Nationwide
HIGHEST: 19.3% (08/18 - E24)
LOWEST: 6.2% (06/08 - E03)
AVERAGE: 13.34%

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SYNOPSIS

Yu Gang-Hyuk was only 7 years old when his father was murdered in a car "accident" and separated from his identical twin, Yu Shin-Hyuk. He forgot his name and family and given the name Suh Ha-Eun by his adopted father Suh Jae-soo. He falls in love with his adopted sister, Eun-ha and tried to be very honorable about it. He was led to become a cop because of his father's badge. While investigating an alleged case of suicide, he eventually learns of his twin brother. Against the warnings of his peers, Ha-Eun becomes more and more involved in this suspicious case. As a part of a larger scheme, Ha-Eun is targeted for a hit by unknown individuals. And when Ha-Eun and Shin-Hyuk finally meet for the first time after twenty years, the murderers kill Shin-Hyuk accidentally mistaking him for Ha-Eun. As a result, Ha-Eun vows to get revenge by giving his enemies psychological torture and takes on his brother's persona as an undercover cop and that is where the drama begins... This is a wonderful detective drama with a psychological twist. [Wikipedia]

IN SHORT

Doppelganger, split personalities, one of the most popular subjects in both literature and cinema. From Oscar Wilde to Guy De Maupassant; from Kurosawa Kiyoshi's ドッペルゲンガ- (Doppelganger) to Choi Dong-Hoon's 범죄의 재구성 (The Big Swindle). But when it comes to Korean TV Dramas and even certain films, in recent years the basic structure of the Doppelganger has become a sort of escapade to prove something. Need an image transformation, something to prove your acting has matured? Here's your nice 1인2역 (One Person, Two Roles). Of course, that's mostly been used in the laziest possible way: the 'evil twin' syndrome. One of them is rich and arrogant, the other poor, nice, and probably doesn't even know he has a twin. Creating two black and white characters instead of one doesn't make any difference. Better yet, it makes things even worse, like Jung Joon-Ho's tentative to use the Doppelganger theme for his latest comedy 역전에 명수 (The Twins). And of course, few films really take into account all the defining traits of the real Doppelganger syndrome, when dealing with their characters' emotional state. But what if that situation is not a simple psychological condition, but something reality forces on you? The basic idea of the Doppelganger syndrome and its psychological consequences is at the foundation of 부활 (Rebirth), one of the biggest surprises of recent years on Korean TV.

The setup is simple enough: Yoo Shin-Hyeok (Eom Tae-Woong) is Vice-President of a successful company led by his stepfather Kang In-Cheol (Lee Jung-Gil). He's a very opportunistic young man, even going as far as setting up a fake marriage with his friend Gang-Joo (So Yi-Hyun). Why? Because that will create good opportunities between their two families. He's not really arrogant, just indifferent to anything - including other people's feelings - not involving money or power. On the other hand of the spectrum we have Seo Ha-Eun (Eom Tae-Woong again). He was just 7 when he lost his father in a car accident. Growing up with his mentor Jae-Soo (Kang Shin-Il), Ha-Eun became an easy-going person and especially a capable detective, able to differentiate between petty crimes which can be forgiven and bigger fish to fry, which is what people like him should focus on. He certainly doesn't have a very straightforward modus operandi in dealing with suspects, but his instinct and unpredictability always ends up helping him at work. Although he grew up along with Eun-Ha (Han Ji-Min) for most of his life, and she's become like an acquired sister, the two know there's something more than that growing inside them.

Ohhh... sounds nothing special, right? Well, with a few exceptions, that was my reaction regarding the first two-three episodes of the show. Here's another trendy drama dealing with the 'evil Twin' syndrome, with cardboard cutouts acting up their peculiarities until they finally meet and it's all out war. That's what I thought. Although the supporting cast looked good on paper - with greats like Kim Gab-Soo, Lee Dae-Yeon and Lee Jung-Gil - the main four leads didn't promise too much. Eom Tae-Woong showed good acting range in poor TV Dramas like 구미호 외전 (Forbidden Love) and 쾌걸 춘향 (Sassy Girl Chunhyang), and even left a lasting impression in small roles on the big screen, like in 공공의 적 2 (Another Public Enemy). But let's be honest: until this TV Drama, he was just Eom Jung-Hwa's little brother. And although I'm sure I saw her before in smaller roles, the first time I really became aware of Han Ji-Min was when she played 'little Song Hye-Gyo' in 올인 (All In). She looked like a doll, so innocent and beautiful. And, sure enough, she repeated the same roles over and over again: in the underrated Police TV Drama 좋은 사람 (Good People), and to a lesser extent even in 대장금 (Dae Jang Geum). The other two, Go Ju-Won and So Yi-Hyun, were just pretty faces acting here and there, without ever leaving a mark.

So what happened, then? I'd love to spoil it, and it wouldn't be even that much of a spoiler, since it happens after a few episodes. But I'll let you enjoy it. A major plot development changes the cards in a way I - someone who should be used to things like this, after years and years of watching Korean TV Dramas - never expected. No, Yoo Shin-Hyeok and Seo Ha-Eun don't meet each other and start bitching, it's actually the opposite. At the end of their first and last meeting, only one of them remains. And this is where the brilliant script of this show begins to shine. It's no 'evil twins', it's not even a Doppelganger. It's two people inside one. The third choice, so to speak. To find the culprit of such plot development, Shin-Hyeok and Ha-Eun become one person, but then something incredible happens. The script doesn't just let the personality of the two clash and wake up people around them that something is fishy. This is no mere 'Oh! This guy didn't use to act like this... he must be an impostor!' like in most Doppelganger films or TV Dramas. No, the fact the two personalities become one creates an entirely new person, who has to live with the pain of both people, with the realization that even if he finds the culprit, there's no way for him to return to the past. And, even better, that he's starting to embed some of the personality traits of the 'twin' he's impersonating. And that in itself is changing him, making him like a powerful warrior who knows he's going to die one way or another.

Words won't do justice. When you'll see Eom Tae-Woong punching the steering wheel of his car, not even able to cry because of the pent up anger inside him, you'll understand. There are moments of amazing intensity on this show, the kind you never find in TV Dramas of this type, because they're simply too interested in creating an entertaining show for their viewership. The questions that arise, the way the writers took care of developing characters around their relationships instead of lame cliffhanger bait shows the kind of love for storytelling that seemed to be lost in today's 'Korean Wave' Dramas. It even shows some pathological reactions to the Doppelganger Syndrome, namely the Capgras Syndrome - a.k.a. delusional misidentification, a pathology which makes the subject suffer a kind of paranoia, thinking a close relative or friend has been replaced by an impostor. And that's just the beginning. There's also a multitude of sub-plots, including all the corruption and murders committed by the people who put Eom Tae-Woong's characters in this situation, a really nice - and mature - portrait of father-daughter relationships gone wrong, the idea of adopting people not related to you (still a touchy subject in Korea). And the characters are so well written, they seem like people coming out of a great giallo novel.

Take for example how the story builds up a formidable villain for almost the entire show, then pulls the rug from under your feet at the last moment. No, it's not a Sixth Sense-like swerve, all the hints had been planted from the first episode. But the exciting pace, the tremendous performances of the cast and the great writing let you fall into the storyline so much you could have missed them. Praising the performance of the real villain and the fake one would be the biggest spoiler, so I won't name names. Let's just say one of them perfectly hides his identity even though you can feel something strange is going around him, while the other acts like a baddie from a Disney cartoon, but then shows his humanity and weakness when it counts. Brilliant, just brilliant.

But the real star of the show is Eom Tae-Woong. He doesn't just follow the usual path of Doppelganger characters, playing a good and a bad one. He shows both sides of the coin in all characters, and when they unite it's really his moment to shine. He said in a recent interview that his characters in this Drama reflect a lot of bad experiences he's made in his life, a lot of bad people he met, a lot of demons he had to combat. And it's the kind of performance you'd expect from Song Kang-Ho or Choi Min-Shik, not from a young actor who just shot a few TV Dramas and films. The last time I was so excited by a young talent's performance was in 2002, specifically Yang Dong-Geun in 네 멋대로 해라 (Ruler of Your Own World). And there are more surprises: So Yi-Hyun gives a surprisingly mature and multi-faceted performance, particularly poignant when she discovers even 'daddy' can be a corrupt man. And there's really no need to praise people like Kim Gap-Soo and Kim Yoon-Seok. Hats off to another great effort, which sadly often ends up becoming forgotten.

Rebirth had the arduous task of competing with a little Drama called 내 이름은 김삼순 (My Lovely Sam-Soon), and the ratings suffered as a result. The show went down as much as 6% ratings, while Kim Seon-Ah's hilarious turn in the hit Drama was hitting the high 40s. People actually asked KBS to re-run the show during the weekend, so they could watch both Sam-Soon and follow this story. And, go figure, the moment My Lovely Sam-Soon ended, Rebirth shot up to nearly 20%, enjoying the same kind of rebirth its characters face. It has become a 'Mania Drama', those shows with a tremendous following online, that somehow end up struggling in the ratings, for whatever reason.

But this show needs to be seen, even if you've never seen a Korean TV Drama. Its script is almost flawless, the characters interesting, multifaceted and true to life. The 'love triangle' shenanigans are really only an afterthought, just there to pretend this is a Trendy Drama, and when there is a touch of melodrama it always feels sincere. Why? Because such emotional intensity is brought up in an amazing crescendo that when it explodes, it's like a Scud Missile. And I'm not talking about easy, formulaic 'Korean Drama' histrionics. Trust me, you'll feel it as well watching the show.

Those who've read my film reviews might beg to differ, but I actually don't like hyperbole. Will you allow me to use it this time? It's deserved. I'm going to pull out the dreaded 'M' word. M for 'maybe the best Korean TV Drama in the last 3 years'; M for 'maybe the TV Drama which will open you to the fact it's not all about lame love triangles and pretty faces acting like fools'.

And, definitely, M for masterpiece.

- Originally Appeared on Twitch, 2005/11/04

ACTING GRADES

94 엄태웅 (Eom Tae-Woong)
93 김윤석 (Kim Yoon-Seok)
92 이정길 (Lee Jung-Gil)
91 이대연 (Lee Dae-Yeon)
90 김갑수 (Kim Gap-Soo)
90 김규철 (Kim Gyu-Cheol)
82 안내상 (Ahn Nae-Sang)
78 조재완 (Jo Jae-Wan)
74 최용민 (Choi Yong-Min)
72 이동규 (Lee Dong-Gyu)
70 소이현 (So Yi-Hyun)
70 박은빈 (Park Eun-Bin)
70 강신일 (Kang Shin-Il)
70 주진모 (Ju Jin-Mo)
65 정호빈 (Jung Ho-Bin)
64 한지민 (Han Ji-Min)
63 기주봉 (Gi Ju-Bong)
63 이한위 (Lee Han-Wi)
62 서우은숙 (Seo Woo Eun-Sook)
60 유혜정 (Yoo Hye-Jung)
60 곽정욱 (Kwak Jung-Wook)
55 이진욱 (Lee Jin-Wook)
52 이연희 (Lee Yeon-Hee)
50 고명환 (Go Myeong-Hwan)
49 고주원 (Go Ju-Won)

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