Whenever you hear of the Korean wave, what’s the first drama that comes to your mind? Out of all the numerous K-dramas that successfully penetrated the world stage, our newest throwback offering lies on top of them. The massive success of this series was so much evident in its long list of achievements that it even launched the first generation Hallyu fever across Asia.
Autumn in My Heart (or Autumn Tale) was a 16-episode melodrama aired in 2000 starring Song Seung-hun, Song Hye-kyo, and Won Bin when they were just beginning in the entertainment industry as young stars who are full of talent and potential. The series was the first installment of season-themed tetra-logy Endless Love series directed by Yoon Seok-ho. The drama was very popular in South Korea, with an average viewership rating of 38.6% and even reached a peak viewership of 46.1%.
The Extraordinary Plot
The story basically revolves around the lives of supposed siblings Yoon Joon-suh (Song Seung-hun) and Yoon Eun-suh (Song Hye-kyo). They were victims of a brother and sister mix-up caused by the accidental switch of Eun-suh’s name card with another baby. The truth about their biological connection was revealed when they were teenagers after young Eun-suh (played by Moon Geun-young) met an accident and needed blood transfusion. To make it more complicated, the real daughter of the Yoon household was Eun-suh’s jealous classmate Choi Shin-ae (Lee Ae-jung).
After the whole baby switching fiasco, the situation was now reversed between the girls. Eun-suh lived with the Choi family in poverty, while Shin-ae and the entire Yoon family moved to the US. Ten years later, Joon-suh returned to the country as a successful artist and with a charming fiancee. He went back to their hometown, where he met his old friend Han Tae-seok (Won Bin), who used to stay at the hotel where Eun-suh works as a receptionist. Shortly after, Joon-suh and Eun-suh reunite and rekindle their “sibling” relationship.
The brother and sister soon developed their affection for each other and secretly fell in love. But the wicked Shin-ae (Han Chae-young) exposed their relationship. The once complicated story became even more doomed after Eun-suh found out that she had leukemia.
Our heroine fell even more ill, and was too weak to continue treatment. The couple got married and Eun-suh died as Joon-suh carried her around the beach where they spent her birthday as teenagers. Grieving Joon-suh was later hit by a truck in the same place as Eun-suh’s accident during her teenage years, and his fate was never revealed.
The Hallyu Pioneer
Autumn in my Heart was undeniably one of the hallmarks of Korean melodrama history. The massive influence of this drama is still evident even until this time as several remakes have aired in different countries already. The series was also a defining factor for the reputation of Song Seung-hun, Song Hye-kyo, and Won Bin as Hallyu superstars. After Autumn in my Heart, the melodrama genre became a trend among the most memorable Hallyu hits, including the more popular Winter Sonata and Stairway to Heaven.
The Mark in our Hearts
Aside from all the hits, there are two misses that Autumn in my Heart proudly possessed – the sort-of incest between the main couple and the death of the heroine. If you want to enjoy watching this phenom, you should prepare to set aside your logical thinking and completely accept that the once sweet brother and sister relationship evolved into a full-blown romance.
First gen Hallyu fans would also agree with me on this: whenever a melo K-drama or K-movie was on, there was a big chance that one of the leads would die. No doubt. It took me a while to move on from that stigma of Korean movies and dramas, and Autumn was no exception. I have watched this countless times already, and it still pains me whenever I see clips of dying Eun-suh being held by Joon-suh on a piggy back ride.
Nevertheless, Autumn in my Heart was remarkable in its own right. It claimed one of the top spots of first generation Hallyu bug, and will forever continue to remain a classic to old and new fans of Korean wave.
[Photo credits: KBS2’s Autumn in my Heart, amino apps]