“I’m Sorry, I Love You” (미안하다 사랑한다)

I'm Sorry I Love You

By Jae-Ha Kim
January 5, 2016

2.5 stars

Moo-hyuk (played by So Ji-Sub)
Eun-chae (played by Im Soo-Jung )
Yoon (played by Jung Kyung-Ho)
Min-Joo (played by Seo Ji-Young)
Oh Deul-hee (played by Lee Hye-Young)
Gal-chi (played by Park Gun-Tae)

Note: Korean names denote the surname followed by the given name.

There’s a scene early on in “I’m Sorry, I Love You” that encapsulates the best and worst elements of this dramatic series. A man returns to a strip club just as they are about to auction off a young woman, who doesn’t realize what’s happening to her. He grabs her from them and they outrun the goons sent to chase them down.

What she doesn’t know is that while she had been passed out drunk, he had sold her to the bar’s owner.

So, why the change of heart?

Part of the problem with this 16-episode drama (which aired in Korea in 2004) is that we’re not sure how to feel about him. Moo-Hyuk was abandoned at birth in Korea and sent to an orphanage, where he was adopted at the age of two by an Australian family. In his backstory, we learn that his adoptive parents were abusive and basically threw him away…just like his birth mom.

Im_Sorry,_I_Love_You_posterAngry and uneducated, Moo-hyuk is street smart and quick at picking up languages. Thanks to his Korean-Aussie girlfriend, he has learned to speak conversational Korean. He has also picked up enough Chinese and Japanese to scam Asian tourists who accept his offer to help them. Instead, he and his gang steal their valuables.

That’s how he met Eun-chae, the young woman he sold to the strip club. She’s a little mouse of a girl who walks around for most of the series with a confused look on her face.

She’s a complete doormat for Yoon, her childhood friend whose music career is on the rise. She works as his stylist and is in love with him. He is in love with Min-Joo, a popular actress who also happens to be one of Eun-Chae’s best friends. After seeing the two cozy up to each other on a videoshoot in Melbourne, Eun-chae tells them she’ll meet them at the airport. That’s when she got lost, was robbed and was “saved” by Moo-hyuk.

She could’ve saved herself some trouble by simply calling Yoon or Min-Joo. Instead of phoning them — or the rest of the team traveling with them — for help, she simply stares wistfully at photos of Yoon on her phone. That’s the kind of woman Eun-chae is. She’d rather put herself in danger than inconvenience others.

“I’m Sorry, I Love You” would’ve benefited from some taut editing. Had this series had been cut down to a 2-hour film or a 4-hour mini-series, the showrunners really could have created something special.

As much as I enjoyed looking at heartthrob So Ji-Sub, watching him suffer for 16 hours was just too much. No doubt Moo-hyuk has led an incredibly difficult life. First his birth parents abandoned him. Then his adoptive parents threw him out. And then his girlfriend dumped him for an old, Aussie mob boss. Why? She loves Moo-hyuk, she says, but the mob guy is rich.

The Aussies must run a nicer mob than Americans, because even after Moo-hyuk steals her away moments before she is to walk down the aisle, there is no retribution. When he returns her to the villa, no one so much as lays a finger on him. He does, however, end up with two bullets in the head that were meant for the mob boss. Even though his ex-girlfriend had betrayed him, Moo-hyuk tried to shield her from getting hurt.

One of the bullets would become his death sentence. The doctor’s prognosis: He has a year a live. The newly minted Mrs. Mob Boss tells him that her husband now wants him dead. She gives him “enough money to last a lifetime.” (How she managed to get that money without her husband knowing is beyond me.) She tells him to return to Korea to find his biological parents.

He flies off to Korea and is reunited with Eun-chae, who believes that he came all the way to Seoul because he is in love with her.

Unlike thousands of real-life adoptees who are unable to locate their birth families, Moo-hyuk learns that he has a twin sister, who has a young son who takes care of her. When she was 5, she chased after a car thinking that her birth mom might be in there and was hit by another automobile. Since then, her mental faculties remained at that age, which is why she named her son Gal-chi. (In English, Gal-chi translates into hairtail fish.)

The time that Moo-hyuk spends with his twin and his nephew are some of the best moments of the series. Gal-chi doesn’t have to be the adult of the house when his uncle is around. And his sister doesn’t have to worry about being assaulted by the neighborhood men, who know that she can’t and won’t fight back.

Later, Moo-Hyuk finds out that his birth mom is a famous, rich actress and that her son is none other than Yoon. He had always imagined that he was given away for adoption because his mother was too poor to raise him. Why did she throw him away? Devastated and enraged, he plots his revenge on both mother and son. He befriends Yoon and gets hired as his driver.

I'm Sorry I Love You 2

One of the more amusing elements was his plot against Yoon. Moo-Hyuk sets up a swanky pad in the same condo complex as Min-Joo (the actress that Yoon pines for). Instead of wearing his ubiquitous newsboy cap, he hides behind sunglasses, slicked back hair and a ridiculous little stick-on porn ‘stache. In almost every encounter they have, he ignores her, which only makes her want him more.

His plan works. Yoon discovers the two of them together and gets into what could be a fatal car accident. Yoon could survive with a new heart.

Moo-hyuk tells Eun-chae he will give Yoon his heart, if she will stay with him until he dies.

The real travesty is the time spent trying to spare everyone from getting hurt. When Eun-chae and Moo-hyuk realize they have fallen in love with each other, they spend so much time trying to protect each other from the inevitable that they waste precious time.

His Ex, who had married the mob boss, comes to Korea to find Moo-Hyuk and say she still loves him. She has left her husband and found a surgeon in Germany who was confident he could save Moo-Hyuk’s life.

Instead of devoting so many hours on the co-dependent relationships between Eun-chae and Yoon, and Eun-chae and Moo-Hyuk, I wish that the writers had spent more time on fleshing out some of the other characters. I would like to know what Yoon’s mother was like during her youth. Was there another side of her than what was presented to us? Giving up her first child for adoption could certainly be one reason why she overcompensated by coddling Yoon. (Although, allowing a 25-year-old man to crawl into her bed because he’s having a bad dream reeks of all kinds of ewwww.) But was she always so rude to people who weren’t family?

There is not one moment when she is sincerely nice to Moo-Hyuk — not even after she learns that he has offered to donate his heart to her son.

He never tells her that he’s her first-born son.

Spoiler alert:

Moo-hyuk dies. He chooses to kill himself in a motorcycle accident. There is no last-minute miracle that saves him. And the scene is quite tragic. His body is buried in Australia. Eun-chae returns to Australia to visit his gravesite and kills herself.

Moo-hyuk’s birthmom never knew that she had a son. As a budding starlet, she had an affair with a married movie director who got her pregnant. Expecting to wake up to hold her child, she was instead told that he had died. She also wasn’t told that she had given birth to twins. Her parents had worried that her career and future would be ruined by the scandal. So they instructed her chauffeur to take the babies to an orphanage. The chauffeur was Eun-chae’s father.

Before Moo-hyuk died, Yoon told him that he had been adopted.

Yoon survives after receiving Moo-hyuk’s heart. He doesn’t tell his mother that the heart beating inside of him belongs to the son she believed to be dead.

A few thoughts about the adoption plot:

While much of this series was overly dramatic, one aspect that rang true was the adoption plotline. To this day, there is a huge stigma surrounding unwed mothers in Korea, who have a very difficult time raising children as single parents. Employers can terminate them for their lack of “morals” and the government doesn’t provide the same sort of economic assistance as countries such as the U.S.

There is also the expectation that ethnically Korean people should be fluent in Korean, regardless of where they were raised. Because this was a Korean drama aimed at viewers who speak Korean, the series had explained that Moo-kyuk learned to speak nearly flawless Korean from his girlfriend. But for the majority of adoptees raised by non-Korean speaking families, this would be next to impossible.

The scene that best exemplified these expectations was when a Korean documentary crew interviewed Korean adoptees in Melbourne. When editing the piece together, the director complained about Moo-hyuk not using honorifics, as is customary in Korean speech. The fact that a young man who was an Australian national could even speak Korean was a feat in itself. (Imagine how they would’ve praised a white man who could speak a few words of the language.) It was heartbreaking that his achievement was seen as less than.

© 2016 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved

Comments (24)

  1. Tiff says:

    I never saw this. I’d like to though because I love So Ji Sub. Hehe.

  2. Tanya says:

    Yes and thank you! That’s exactly how I felt about this show. If the male lead hadn’t been so hot, I would’ve stopped watching.

  3. Nancy says:

    LOL at the porn ‘stache comment! I never thought there was a way to make him look funny. But there was! Just goes to show that it’s all about the grooming. Also, why was his gym wear so retro looking. It was set in 2004, not 1974!!

  4. Toni says:

    I’m just curious. Do the subtitles actually say what they’re actually saying in Korean? One of my Korean friends said that it’s mostly right but not really as subtle as what they’re saying in Korean.

  5. Mary Ann says:

    I’ve just gotten into Korean dramas too, Jae. I really look forward to reading more of your reviews. Have you see My Love From the Stars yet? Oh, it’s my favorite!!! Fighting!

  6. Yoon Hae says:

    Good point abotu the phone. I thought that girl was crazy not to call for help too!!! She didn’t have to call Yoon, she could’ve called his manager or someone to come get her. Ridiculous! I thought the story b etween him and Yoon was sweet though. I wish he had lived so they could’ve bonded more.

  7. Melissa says:

    Thanks for this review. I watched the first episode and I loved it! He looked so hot even all dirty. Haha!

  8. Andrew Fillman says:

    I think you’re right. If this had been made into a feature film, it could’ve been fantastic. As it were, it was too soap opera like for me. There was just too much of nothing going on for a long time.

  9. Sandra in England says:

    Oh no, I read your spoilers and I can’t believe that the mom was mislead for all those years. How sad that others decided what was best for her. 🙁

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      I agree. It’s difficult for her to move on in many ways, because she never had closure. She didn’t get to see her baby (actually, babies, since she never knew she had twins) and say goodbye. That kind of thing does a number on you!

  10. Bernadette says:

    It’s such a good drama!

  11. Sarah says:

    I loved this series but I think that’s because of So JiSub. I could watch him sit there doing nothing and still enjoy it. I liked your review though and thought about some of the things that I hadn’t before, like Yoon’s mother. She was such a witch and I couldn’t stand her, not even at the end. What did you think of the ramen scene? I was crying my eyes out! I look forward to reading more of your K-Drama reviews. It’s about time!!!

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      The ramen scene was heartbreaking! He so wanted to have his mother prepare a meal for him, but she didn’t know she was her son asking and was too occupied thinking about Yoon in the hospital. I kept wishing people would just speak openly and not think so much about what could happen in the future. If Moo-hyuk had told her, she could’ve spent the little time he had left taking care of him. I think the mother deserved to know that her child(ren) had survived. She wouldn’t have loved Yoon any less, and if she took her anger out on her chauffeur — well — that wouldn’t have been so bad. And, now she’ll never know that she has a daughter who is still alive and that she is a grandmother.

  12. Marianne says:

    I loved this series, Jae. I loved Eun-chae and loved the slow pace. When she was reciting from Romeo and Juliet at the store that her sister worked at, I thought it was strange. But it all tied in with the ending. Sigh.

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Marianne! There were parts I really liked and others that just didn’t do it for me. And yet, I still sat through the whole thing. 😛

  13. Kath says:

    Jumped over here from your Facebook feed to jot dow some of my favorite kdramas. Thanks for the synopsis of Sorry I Love You. I haven’t watched it due to the sad outcome of the storyline even though I love So Ji-Sub (as my kids say-I like rainbow and butterfly endings).
    Historical Jumong with Song Il Gook and it’s 81 episodes brought me to Korean dramas. Secret Garden, Rooftop Prince 옥탑방의 왕세자 , The Greatest Love, Faith, Arang and the Magistrate,
    Birth of A Beauty, My Love From Another Star, The Masters Sun (also starring So Ji-Sub). Healer I really liked due to the writers not going with sappy story lines and ridiculous misconceptions to keep people apart. Things were resolved in a realistic manner. Just a partial list as others had listed many more of the same on your FB feed! ^^

  14. Robin Seabloom Kim says:

    Detective/Mystery Type K-dramas

    YOU MUST WATCH THIS ONE FIRST!!! I really don’t need to say anything more. Just watch it! (Oh crap- I think I’m going to binge watch it again!)

    Two Weeks
    Murder/Detective mystery with a (heartstring) twist. Kind of like City Hunter in that it keeps you pumped and watching. Really loved this drama.

    Hidden Identity
    Detective/Undercover Cops story. Loved it. I really like all these actors, so I knew it would be good.

    Beloved Classic K-Dramas

    Coffee Prince
    This was ​my husband’s and my introduction to K-dramas. We watched the last maybe 6 episodes on TV. Had no idea that K-dramas were like this. We were hooked- and then it was over! This was probably ​8​ years ago? We thought that K-dramas were only for old people and on video. So we were surprised​ when we caught this on TV​. This drama is iconic- every Korean knows it, I think. ​​

    My Lovely Sam Soon
    Loved this drama. ​Nearly, t​he entire Korean country watched this drama. At the time of its released, there were less K-dramas on TV, so the ratings were extremely high.

    Traditional K-dramas -Melodramas

    Baker King Kim Takgoo
    Classic K-Drama. Loved it. The actors are quite good and the storyline is ssoooooo classic Korean drama.

    Fabulous lead actors – male and female; light and fun, “Yeh Chep!” (Yes, Chef!) became kind of a laughable, coined-phrase.

    Fantasy K-Drama – but remarkably believe​able​ and memorable

    My Love From Another Star
    Amazingly great.Took Korea​ (and Asia)​ by a storm. K-dramas know how to do fantasy (and I’m not much into the fantasy genre​, but with K-dramas ….​). I’m pretty sure I cried during this one, but don’t tell anyone.

    I Hear Your Voice
    A guy can hear the thoughts of others. It’s a love story, court drama, and there’s a serial killer that scared the crap out of me. Even when I saw this actor later on a variety show, I was on edge the whole time, knowing he had a hidden knife just ready to slit someone’s throat. Loved it.

    Secret Garden
    Certain scenes have become iconic and still talked about. Fun, fun, fun! Over the top fun (the mother!!!). Love all these main actors.

    Heal Me
    Every Korean on the planet loved this one​ (or so it seems)​. Ridiculously funny. Last week, the lead actors and writers won every single best award from MBC

    Historical K-dramas – Loved both of these (and I don’t like Sageuk dramas ….)

    Historical drama; I rarely watch Sageuk dramas, but this one had me enthralled. Loved it.

    Bridal Mask
    Another Sageuk drama that I watched. It’s​ set​ during the time of the Japanese Occupation. Great actors, etc. This is based on a popular Korean manhwa. Riveting.

  15. Sara Yu says:

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