Endless Love is among the works of Yoon Seok-ho, a South Korean television drama director. It is a set of four television drama series that are named after the four seasons. It includes Autumn in My Heart (2000), Winter Sonata (2002), Summer Scent (2003), and Spring Waltz (2006). The series contributed to the surge of the Korean Wave or the global popularity of South Korean culture and entertainment. Yoon won the Baeksang Arts Awards for Best Director (TV) in 2002 for Winter Sonata.
Autumn in My Heart (2000)
Autumn in My Heart stars Song Seung-heon, Song Hye-kyo, and Won Bin. It was very successful in South Korea and across Asia.
A child roams into the hospital room where his new-born younger sister is and causes the swapping of his sister’s name card with that of another baby’s. As a teenager, he goes to the same school with the girl that he calls sister and cares so much about. But when a female classmate of hers is hit by a truck and needs a blood transfusion, their lives will change forever. The past incident is revealed and the girls return to their respective parents. The boy has a well-to-do family and the girl he calls sister moves into the restaurant of her poor mother. To leave the past behind, the boy’s family together with his real sister goes to America. They lose touch with the girl left in Korea. Ten years pass by and the boy is now a man (Song Seung-heon). He comes back to Korea and meets his old friend (Won Bin). The friend’s family owns the hotel where the now-woman (Song Hye-kyo) that he calls sister works. In a twist of fate, the two people who once knew each other to be real siblings fall in love with each other. But he has a fiancée, their families are against their love, and his friend, who has also fallen in love with her, proves a tough opponent in her affection. And then, something will come between them yet again and take them apart.
Winter Sonata (2002)
Winter Sonata stars Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo in the lead roles. It also stars Park Yong-ha and Park Sol-mi. The soap opera is often cited as the series that really kicked off the Korean Wave. It shot Bae Yong-joon to stardom in Asia. In Japan, he rose to a heartthrob status among middle-aged women and was given tight security during his visit in the country.
A student (Bae Yong-joon) from Seoul enrolls in a high school in rural South Korea. Born out of wedlock, he doesn’t have a good relationship with his mother who tells him that his father is dead. But he suspects his father is alive and he teaches in the school. He comes to know that his father has a son (Park Yong-ha) who studies in the school. Jealous of the fatherly love, he pursues the girl (Choi Ji-woo) that the son loves. One day, the two boys have a confrontation and he admits to his ulterior motives, which she overhears. He feels guilty for hurting her feelings and on a camping trip, it is he that finds her when she gets lost in the woods. He apologizes and tells her his feelings now are real, and she forgives him. One day, his mother shows up to take him to America. He goes to the car with his mother but jumps out of it on the way to the airport to at least say goodbye to the waiting girl. He is hit by a truck and reported dead. Ten years later, the now-engaged woman sees somebody that is a spitting image of her young love of yesteryear. She follows him but loses him. The next day, a former high school classmate (Park Sol-mi) walks in and introduces her boyfriend – the man she was following the day before! But the man has a different name and personality from the boy that she remembers and doesn’t know her. Their lives will get entangled and the past will haunt the present.
Summer Scent (2003)
Summer Scent stars Song Seung-heon and Son Ye-jin in the lead roles. It also stars Ryu Jin and Han Ji-hye.
A woman (Son Ye-jin), who had a heart transplant, goes up the mountains with a friend to look for some rare flowers. They get separated from each other; she falls and injures her ankle. A man (Song Seung-heon) comes back to Korea from Italy after years of grieving over the death of his first love. He goes up the mountains and meets the injured woman. He helps her and they are forced to spend the night together because of bad weather. In the morning, as they find their way down, he notices some striking similarities in the words being spoken by the woman and that of his first love. Meanwhile, the sister (Han Ji-hye) of the woman’s fiancé (Ryu Jin) also comes back to Korea from Italy. When the four meet, the two pretend they did not meet before. However, when the woman’s fiancé hires the Italy-educated man for a resort renovation project, their hearts will be put to test. The woman is going to be the florist in the project; the two have to work together. As their feelings for each other deepen, they fight them for the people around them. Above all, he feels as if he is betraying the woman that he first loved. On her part, she finds out that her heart donor is the man’s first love – which she speculates to be the reason it beats wildly whenever he is around. She agrees to push on with her wedding with her fiancé. An incident sends her to the hospital and she needs another heart transplant. The man goes back to Italy. Years pass by after hearing of the woman’s death, the man comes back to Korea again. Unbeknownst to him, she’s still alive after undergoing heart transplant procedures in Korea and America. One rainy day, as he walks up a long flight of steps and she down, her new heart beats wildly. She turns around and sees him.
Spring Waltz (2006)
Spring Waltz stars Seo Do-young and Han Hyo-joo in the lead roles. It also stars Daniel Henney and Lee So-yeon. The leads were relatively unknown when they were cast for the series. It would contribute significantly to their careers later on. The broadcast rights to the series had been sold to nine countries even before the soap opera aired, which caught the widespread interest of the media.
A famous classical pianist (Seo Do-young) from a well-off family holds successful concerts at the heart of Europe and his CDs are bestsellers. But he is reserved and unhappy; he only trusts his friend and manager (Daniel Henney). Two women from South Korea meet them in Austria: a publicist (Lee So-yeon) who has liked him since childhood and a craft artist (Han Hyo-joo) who has won a prize to travel to Austria for free. The pianist misses his childhood sweetheart whom he believes to have died and the craft artist has been longing to meet again a boy from her past. As the pianist decides to expand his music career to his native Korea and their lives get more entangled, the feelings between him and the craft artist grow deeper and a lot of things from the past get revealed. They were long-lost childhood sweethearts. His biological father was a conman who stole money from her mother — money that was intended for the daughter’s surgery. Both of the children were adopted and given new identities. But like music, life is not without ups and downs. The pianist’s playboy friend-manager becomes very jealous and unrelenting in pursuing the craft artist’s affection. On top of that, his biological father, who abandoned him in childhood, wants to come back to his life. And a scandal will threaten his career. Like the other three series in the Endless Love collection, Spring Waltz features beautiful backgrounds: this time, breathtaking landscapes in both South Korea and Austria. It is the last series of the four, which gives the impression that this time the director has really incorporated and refined all the elements that he wanted for a romantic soap opera.
South Korea is now among the top producers and exporters of entertainment products worldwide. Even the Western countries are starting to become regular consumers of television series, films, and songs from the East Asian nation. Also, South Korean actors and actresses often hold fan meetings overseas and boy bands and girl groups from the country frequent concert venues in several countries. Is the Korean Wave just a fad? We don’t know. But, what we know is, as long as the country continues to produce top-quality entertainment products, the number of fans of Korean entertainment will continue to grow.