By: Brett Andrew Rikke P. Bungcayao
Uncover the greatest love story that conquered the oceans. Heo Joon Jae and Shim Cheong’s love for each other was weaved by the most tragic circumstances unimaginable, but characterized by a triumphant courage that earned them their own “happy ever after”.
A myriad of Korean dramas have been trying their best not only to snag the highest ratings in the television scene but also to make everyone’s hearts flutter and immortalize the concept of believing in true love. Undeniably throughout the years they have been successful in doing such as they give high-quality drama series that viewers get addicted with hence creating multiple fan bases all over world since Korean dramas are also aired internationally.
There’s something about Korean dramas that makes them appealing to the soul and remarkable to the memory- armed with unforgettable lines, heavy drama that makes you cry so hard, hilarious stints that never fail to make you burst into laughter and the undeniable “kilig” that comes naturally from the main actors that makes you scream and run out of oxygen whenever you decide to ditch review time for your exams and enjoy the pleasures of a K-Drama marathon. Korean dramas have the unparalleled gift ability to weave and narrate compelling stories that makes one think about life and at the same time change a person’s perspective towards the world, love, family and friendship.
SBS’ recently concluded offering, The Legend of the Blue Sea written by the critically-acclaimed Park Ji Eun (writer of 2013-2014 blockbuster, My Love From The Star) which stars Korean superstars Lee Min-Ho and Jun Ji-Hyun didn’t deviate from the unusual plot as it enhanced the juxtaposition of history and reality aiming to unravel a new romantic scheme portraying an impossible-love story between a human and a mermaid. The series bravely answer the questions “is love enough to change one’s predicted tragedy?”, “can love last longer than a lifetime despite the inevitability of death?” and “is love strong enough to challenge reality and make the impossible, possible?” After being absorbed into the world of Heo Joon Jae and Shim Cheong, you come to realize that “love is indeed enough to change fate, it can last more than a lifetime and it is strong enough to make the impossible possible.”
TALE AS OLD AS TIME
The story begins in Heupgok-hyun, Gangwan-do kingdom circa August, 1598 (Joseon Era) where Lord Yang (played by Sung Dong-Il ) resides as he exploits riches and manipulates the townspeople with authority and power. After a raging storm, his men were able to capture Se Hwa (played by Jun Ji-Hyun) a mermaid who was beyond beautiful in the eyes of everyone and was believed to extract golden oil that was priceless when sold. Dam Ryeong (played by Lee Min-Ho) son of a magistrate and was the newly appointed town head – he felt an immediate spark and connection as soon as he saw the captured mermaid. He finds a way to release the mermaid by emphasizing the laws violated by Lord Yang. Se Hwa was found her way back to the ocean as she reached Dam Ryeong’s hand as way of saying thank you.
Dam-Ryeong later discovers that when he was a kid, he nearly drowned and he was saved by a young mermaid. Dam Ryeong meets the mermaid and names her Se Hwa after her younger sister. They ended up falling in love, but one day Dam-Ryeong was forced by his family to marry another woman. Devastated by the news, Se-Hwa decides to remove all Dam-Ryeong’s memories of her and their love.
MERMAID MEETS MAN
The fates of Dam-Ryeong and Se-Hwa become entwined with their modern-day incarnations. Shim Cheong (played by Jun Ji-Hyun) is a beauteous modern-day mermaid with supernatural abilities (unmatched strength, the ability to transform her tears into pearls, possessing a large appetite for food, a second voice that only Heo Joon Jae can hear and the power to erase human memories) and a pre-school level of understanding is drifted ashore in Spain, in the luxurious stay-in house of con-artist, Heo Joon Jae (played by Lee Min Ho), a handsome frustrated heir who scams people for a living. The two unexpectedly meet and get intertwined in a series of misfortunes as one of Joon Jae’s scammed clients seek revenge and plans to kill the aforementioned. After being chased by killers and gunmen who want to track Joon Jae down, Shim Cheong still in incapable of her peculiarities and understanding the real world, but Joon Jae decides to show her gallantry, respect, kindness and care and eventually becomes her guide in the frustrating modern life.
After running away from the killers, Joon Jae shares to Shim Cheong how wonderful Seoul (Korea) is, the food, the vibrancy and the people, and he even promised Cheong that they’d watch a fireworks display. They eventually arrive at the Heracles lighthouse wherein Joon Jae expresses his misery and how much he misses his mother that abandoned him. The duo unexpectedly gets cornered in a cliff towards the open sea by the same group of men chasing Joon Jae. Shim Cheong and Joon Jae jumped underwater to escape. Cheong reveals her mermaid form and kisses Joon Jae. Cheong already felt that she was falling for Joon Jae but she knew the rule all too well: a mermaid’s kiss has the ability to erase the memories of a human being making the mermaid vanish into bubbles not leaving a single memory of hers in Joon Jae’s mind.
Confused, Joon Jae returns to Seoul with memories of an unknown woman whom he met in Spain. He was bothered by his dreams and miraculously fragments of memories of Cheong started to resurface although they weren’t enough for Joon Jae to remember. Determined to be with the love of her life and continue the spark that was ignited in Spain, Cheong swims all the way to Seoul to find Joon Jae.
Cheong arrives in Seoul and immediately finds Joon Jae. There were doubts and hesitations at first but he feels drawn to the nameless woman. He allows her to move in with him and gives her a name (Shim Cheong). Sooner than later, the two begin develop feelings for each other, but it was only the beginning for the worst was yet to come.
THE DREAM: STAR CROSSED LOVERS
Dam-Ryeong had already predicted that he would die because of Lord Yang’s wicked ways. Lord Yang together with his concubine spreads the gossip that Se-Hwa was the reason of the unpredictable storms and why there were misfortunes in the town. With Dam-Ryeong being romantically involved with Se-Hwa, Lord Yang captured Dam-Ryeong and vowed to have him exiled from the town. Lord Yang, unsatisfied with the exile of Dam-Ryeong, prepared his men and plotted to kill him and capture the mermaid. In mid-battle, Se-Hwa resurfaces from the water and was ensnared in a large fish net. In mid-battle, Lord Yang releases a large spear aiming towards Se-Hwa but it was Heo Chi-Hyun (played by Lee Ji-Hoon) and his Joseon incarnation that threw the another spear that hit the mark. Unable to see Se-Hwa die like that, Dam-Ryeong throws himself into the ocean and saves Se-Hwa as his heart was stabbed by the spear.
Se-Hwa felt like life wasn’t worth living without Dam-Ryeong. She holds the spear that stabbed his lover firmly and impales her heart with the spear as well. The two tragically died, their souls as cold as the ocean but their hearts as certain as the moonlight. Thoughtfully, after the series of heartbreaking events had happened Dam-Ryeong intelligently thought of a way to warn his reincarnation. Because he feared that the same ill-fate that afflicts himself and Se-Hwa will purposely repeat itself in the future, Dam-Ryeong sends artifacts to be discovered in the future -to try and warn his future self. The artifacts include a porcelain-jar with a picture of a mermaid and a man kissing in the ocean engraved in it while the other is a painting-portrait of Dam-Ryeong with cautionary words.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
Shim Cheong finds out that her life on land is limited through a fellow merman he just met, Yoo Jeong-Hoon. She discovers that once a mermaid steps on land, her heart begins to cold down and slowly hardens and that the only way to keep her heart beating is for Heo Joon-Jae to love her back. Desperate enough, Shim Cheong does everything she can to make Joon Jae fall for her until they both agree that Joon Jae will eventually tell Cheong if his plan on liking her back is coming true. Unexpectedly, Joon Jae discovers his connection with Dam-Ryeong as his incarnation and vows to protect Cheong so that what happened with Se-Hwa and Dam-Ryeong will never happen to them. As each day passes by, Joon Jae eventually sees a large space in his heart for Cheong until they mutually feel love for each other.
Linked by dreams and mysterious artifacts, Joon-Jae learns of Dam-Ryeong’s world and his own fate are connected. Everything was bound to happen but Joon Jae assured Shim Cheong that he will do everything he can to protect her and save their blossoming relationship. Until Heo Chi-Hyun (Joon Jae’s stepbrother) together with his mother, Kang Ji-Yeon (played by Hwang Shin-Hye) becomes greedy with wealth and position plotted to kill Joon Jae’s biological father to exploit his riches and the company he has built. Joon Jae also gets entagled with a myster-solving case aiming to capture Ma Dae-Young (Lord Yang’s reincarnation) who’s a serial killer and is romantically involved with Kang-Ji-Yeon. Just as the series makes your hearts flutter with the romantic and undeniable feelings of Shim Cheong and Heo Joon Jae towards each other, fine lines of tragedy were beginning to weave itself.
Joon Jae’s father suddenly dies as Kang Ji-Yeon murders him with wolfs bane flowers in which anyone who digests it, the poison takes effect within a minute. Joon Jae plans to give justice to his father by uncovering the crimes of Kang Ji-Yeon, through a setup, Kang Ji-Yeon was able to confess her crimes while Joon Jae tape-wired it intelligently. All could’ve been well as Kang Ji-Yeon and Heo Chi-Hyun were arrested, but Chi-Yun was agile enough to snatch a gun and aimed for Joon Jae. The past was bound to happen, but Shim Cheong opted not to her lover die, so she takes the bullet for Joon Jae.
LOVE AGAINST ALL ODDS
With the tragic happenings, Kang Ji-Yeon is arrested and Heo Chi-Yun takes his own life by drinking the poison his mother made. Shim Cheong receives surgery due to extreme blood loss and because the bullet went through her heart’s right and left ventricle but miraculously recovers due to her superhuman abilities. Ma Dae-Young is also arrested and is bound to be locked-up in prison for the rest of his life.
As the events suddenly interlace beautifully- a happy ending is fittingly deserved by our protagonists but there was a tiny complication: Shim Cheong’s heart isn’t stable and she needs to return to ocean to recuperate and regain her strength. If she remains in land, she might die. Shim Cheong tells his heartbreaking plan to Joon Jae, and convinced enough, Joon Jae lets her do so because he can’t afford to just watch Shim Cheong fatally die. Shim Cheong confesses that she might not return forever but Joon Jae assured Cheong that his love is longer than his lifetime, and if she couldn’t make it back, Joon Jae wittingly suggested that they will be both born again and return to their old routes, and in that way they can see each other and love each other again.
Heo Joon Jae courageously gives Shim Cheong the option whether to erase their memories or not – hence she kisses Joon Jae goodbye absorbing every little bit of memory of hers in his. She also meets up everyone she met in her entire stay in Seoul and erased their memories as well.
Three years passed, Heo Joon Jae becomes a public prosecutor eventually turning his back on scamming. Despite his success, he feels that something is missing – that a piece of him needs to be complete because a beautiful woman keeps bothering him in his dreams. With nothing to answer his questions, he just tears up and says he misses “her”. He would lock up in his rooms and visit the ocean every sunset.
With Shim Cheong fully recovered, she decides to return ashore to check if Joon Jae is doing well. Finding herself in a tour bus, she returns to Seoul and sees Heo Joon Jae after a very long time. Heo Joon Jae denies knowing Cheong and leaves. Shim Cheong was left broken and decides to follow him hoping that Joon Jae still has feelings for her despite of his impaired memory. About to surrender, Joon Jae appears and confesses that there was never a day that he forgot Cheong. In the past three years, Joon Jae tried his best to read all of his written entries in his diary (memories of Cheong he wrote in his diary long before she erased his memories) .He also says that she may have erased most of his memories, but his body remembers her and she was always engraved in his heart. The two got back in each other’s arms and Joon Jae promised that day that he will never let Shim Cheong slip away from his arms, memories and heart ever again. The two got married and Shim Cheong became pregnant. They are happily residing in a wonderful home near the calm and placid ocean.
Their story didn’t only prove that love can change everything, even one’s destiny, it can always last a lifetime because death doesn’t put an end to love nor does forgotten memories – love will always find a way to survive despite the ugliest circumstances that inevitably arise and most of all, love is an unexplored possibility that can turn the unimaginable, imaginable.
With its final episode aired last January 25, everyone was left with hearts aflutter as the legend ended strikingly. It is an out-of-body experience to be watching a series that gave a deliciously painful concept of how one’s fate may turn out beautifully or tragically and at the same time instill in the minds of viewers how powerful true love can be -leaving the most important lesson in our hearts. The series renewed everyone’s perspective about the world and has established a universal truth that love doesn’t only conquer the odds, but it also survives the longest time, the deepest ocean and the farthest distance.
Disclaimer: All of the photos are originally print-screened (PrtSc + Ctrl P) by the author.
Listen to The Legend of the Blue Sea OST (Original Soundtrack) <Copy this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAMiAmrQzdo >