Editor’s Note: This review contains some mild spoilers.
My wife and I rarely watch any TV shows or movies together as we have a hard time agreeing on what to watch. According to her, my go-to choices are usually filled with betrayal, espionage, blood, and murder. Hers, on the other hand, usually involve scenes of good-looking Asian actors staring teary-eyed at each other or loud and overdramatic *ahjummas—which make no sense to me.
So I was surprised that we managed to spend four days binge-watching the latest Korean drama on Netflix, “Crash Landing on You” (or CLOY), together.
CLOY, which has taken over the world by storm, marks the first Korean drama I have ever watched and completed. My wife had started the series and I wanted to sit through at least one episode with her to see what all the hype was about.
By the end of the first episode, both of us were hooked.
But it was evident halfway through the series that my wife and I were engaged in the drama for different reasons. During the most romantic moments, she would be close to tears watching the main leads, Yoon Se-ri and Ri Jeong-hyeok (played by Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin, respectively), stare at each other for a good 30 seconds. On the other hand, I would be holding back my laughter over how cheesy some of the lines the couple exchanged were.
For those who have not watched the series, here’s a brief summary of the plot. The story begins with a paragliding mishap that sends South Korean heiress Yoon Se-ri crash landing into North Korea—and the life of army Captain Ri Jeong-hyeok, who helps her hide while she finds a way back to the South.
It’s highly unlikely that any of us would be caught in such dramatic circumstances as Se-ri was, but if you ever feel like life is crash landing on you, here are three survival tips that I picked up from the drama—hopefully they’ll work for you too:
1. Find trustworthy friends
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13
For me, one of the highlights of the drama was Company Five, Captain Ri’s team of trusted comrades. Besides being loyal and trusted companions to their Captain, they were critical in helping Seri cope with the challenges she faced when she was stranded in North Korea. Even when they were caught in hostile enemy territory, they put their lives on the line to help Seri evade capture.
Among the quartet, two of them, Sgt Major Pyo Chi Soo and Private Geum Eun Dong, stood out most for me. Sgt Major Pyo provided the most entertainment through his love-hate relationship with Se-ri. His sharp temperament and harsh words toward Se-ri never failed to remind her of the hostile relationship between the North and the South.
Yet behind all that bravado was a soldier who secretly had a soft spot for Se-ri, cared deeply for his friends, and was prepared to make sacrifices in the interest of others. We see this when he and his friends were running away from the South Korean National Intelligence Service, and he offered himself as a decoy to lead captors away from his friends.
Private Geum Eun Dong, the most timid of the four, also showed great trustworthiness when he refused to divulge information about Jeong-hyeok and Se-ri’s whereabouts to the villain Cho Cheol-Gang during an interrogation scene.
When and if we do find ourselves in tricky situations like Se-ri, wouldn’t it be heartening to know that we have friends who would be willing to give up their lives in our place?
2. Find contentment in all circumstances
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. – Philippians 4:11-13
As an heiress, Se-ri is used to a living a luxurious life in the South. But when she was trapped in the North, she had to step out of her comfort zone and embrace a new way of life in order to survive.
With no refrigerators to keep food fresh, no washing machines for laundry, and limited electricity and water heating, it would have been easy for anyone in the same position to feel really uncomfortable and frustrated. However, I am glad that Se-ri didn’t respond to her circumstances like a whiny princess—at least not for too long.
Instead, through the help of her friends from Company Five, she willingly took to the simple pleasures of life they exposed her to and the value of community living, and learned to find contentment in the midst of it.
I still get hungry thinking about the scene where Se-ri enjoys Clam Bulgogi (clams doused in kerosene and served with soju) around a campfire with the men of Company Five. Used to eating only clams cooked Bouillabaisse style and paired with Sauvignon Blanc, she was initially skeptical about whether the clams were adequately cooked, but that was soon replaced with a mouth-watering experience and an enjoyable evening with friends around a fireside.
This challenged me to think about how I would respond if I find myself uprooted from my present “comfortable” circumstances. Would I complain or make the most out of the situation and remember our source for true contentment as believers?
3. Find your reason to live
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
For the first seven episodes, Se-ri’s main motivation to stay alive in the North was to find a way to return to South Korea to inherit a business that was rightfully hers. But that motivation soon shifted as the love she developed for Jeong-hyuk began to grow. This was evident when Se-ri gave up what seemed to be her only opportunity to escape the North in order to be with Jeong-hyuk, who was critically injured.
In other moments of the show when the couple’s lives were hanging by a thread (not to spoil it further), they managed to press on by choosing to focus on each other as their reason to live.
Watching such sacrificial displays of love never fails to warm our hearts or leave some of us (like my wife) teary-eyed. But in reality, we all know that romantic love is not something everyone gets to experience in their lifetime. And even for those of us who are in a relationship, there is no guarantee that our love will be strong enough to tide us through the challenges of life.
So when life does feel like it’s crashing around us, where can we find purpose to keep us going? The truth is, we do not have control over how our lives will turn out or when we live or die. But as believers, we can place our hope in Christ, the one who loved us so much that He sacrificed His life for us, and has promised to never leave us nor forsake us—unlike any human companion.
Because of that, we can find the courage and strength to endure the toughest circumstances or trials that may come our way, knowing that Christ is with us, and has overcome the world and achieved victory for us.
And there you have it—a first-timer’s take on a Korean drama. Two days after finishing the drama, I was still puzzled over the reasons that kept me hooked. But I guess what made me complete my very first Korean drama was the connection I had developed with most of the other characters, and lessons about life that I took away from their interactions.
(Last confession: I have to admit that the female lead grew on me as the show progressed.)