Movie Review: Once upon a Time Ha Ji-won Did Sex Is Zero (2002)

You can’t call yourself a true blue K-Drama fan if you don’t know the amazing Ha Ji-won. Her immensely successful dramas such as Something Happened in Bali (2004), Secret Garden (2010), and Empress Ki (2013) catapulted her to fame, making her one of today’s most popular figures in the Korean entertainment industry.

Currently, Ha Ji-won is making waves aboard her ongoing human medical drama called Hospital Ship. But did you know that before she achieved her Hallyu status, she did a movie wherein the genre is so far from the dramatic style that she’s best known for? Now curious of what it is? It’s the American Pie-ish sex comedy film titled Sex Is Zero.

This film that follows the sexcapades of a group of college students was the fifth most popular movie in Korea in 2002, selling over four million tickets locally. PD Yoon Je-kyoon’s writing and directing of the film was heavily inspired by Western gross-out comedies like American Pie, so it is expected that Sex Is Zero contains sexually explicit and stomach-turning scenes for the most part of it. Well, not until the movie drastically shifted to a melodramatic tone for its final 30 minutes.

Fun fact: Did you know that another Hallyu star “aced” the movie’s sequel? Yes, you’ve got it right. Ace Song Ji-hyo joined most of the original cast in Sex is Zero 2 released in December 2007.


The then 24-year-old Ha Ji-won played the lead role of Eun-hyo, a campus cutie who aspires to become a national aerobics athlete. After feeling a strong physical attraction for each other, she and the rich-kid, campus heartthrob Sang-ok (Jung Min) start a relationship. They fall apart when Sang-ok heartlessly suggested to Eun-hyo to get their lovechild aborted. Though Ha Ji-won’s portrayal here isn’t my favorite performance of hers, I still have to say that her dramatic scenes prophesied her destiny to become a critically acclaimed actress.

Fun fact: Did you know that Ha Ji-won has a steamy sex scene with Jung Min here in Sex Is Zero? Ooops, I won’t tell which part exactly it is. Hee-hee.

Starring opposite Ha Ji-won is Im Chang-jung, who portrayed the character of college student Eun-shik. He is in a one-sided love with Eun-hyo, and is doing his best to win her but always ends up in embarrassing situations instead. But his genuine love and care for Eun-hyo eventually earn him her heart. It is actually my only encounter with Im Chang-jung, so I don’t have any reference to use as comparison to his performance in this movie. In all fairness, he was funny; it’s just that there were times when his acting made me think of his character as a mentally challenged person, which should not be the case. Nevertheless, his decent chemistry with Ha Ji-won made up for it.

The movie’s attempt to touch on a sensitive issue, which is abortion, is so brave that it deserves a thumbs up. Actually, two thumbs up. I like how it tried to remind the viewers to always be responsible and conscious of their actions. This could’ve been the film’s strength if not only for the too sharp maneuver in tone. The final part that showed a physically, emotionally, and mentally drained Eun-hyo following her baby’s abortion felt so disconnected from the first two-thirds of the film that showcased mostly hilarious scenes like students masturbating while watching porn, funny sex acts, and accidental swallowing of a rat, among others. The intention is good, but it could’ve been better if the abortion angle is omitted. Eun-hyo could’ve just caught Sang-ok two-timing with another girl, making her realize that he is nothing but a good-looking jerk. I think the abortion topic could stand alone on its own on a different material where it could be tackled more profoundly.

So now let me present to you some of the most epic scenes from the movie:

  • Eun-shik drinking soju mixed with everything yucky *ewww*

  • Eun-shik accidentally swallowing a live rat *ewww*

  • Kissing with a mouth full of vomit *ewww*

  • Eun-shik feasting on a sandwich with rat poison and his roomie’s child a.k.a. semen in it *ewww*

  • Wrong girl drinking the boys’ homemade Viagra *lol*

Final verdict: Funny, but could’ve been funnier. 3/5

~All the credit for photos/stills/GIFs/videos used in this review goes to Showbox.

<< K-Drama Reaction: Hospital Ship | Episodes 1-2

5 thoughts on “Movie Review: Once upon a Time Ha Ji-won Did Sex Is Zero (2002)

  1. I ‘ve always been a big fan of Ji-won.I admire her acting skills.It’s just superb.The time I spent in watching The Secret Garden was never wasted.I wish her all the best.I am happy for her success.Thanks for this article.😁

    Liked by 1 person

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