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Stairway to Heaven: over-rated?

Saharial‘s first Korea TV drama review – and she has her doubts about one of the most popular ones.

I am a busy gal and simply do NOT have time to waste on a drama that doesn’t push all the right buttons for me. I have been lucky though, that in all this time there have only been three dramas I didn’t finish watching. I thought I would start with one of these as a more unusual approach to drama reviews. After all my life is precious…

Life's a roundabout # 1: Shin Hyun-joon with Kim Tae-hee
Life’s a roundabout # 1: Shin Hyun-joon with Kim Tae-hee

Stairway To Heaven (천국의 계단) (SBS)

Story: Han Jung-Suh (Choi Ji-woo ) and Cha Song Joo (Kwon Sang-woo) were childhood friends who grew up together and helped each other through tragedy until he goes abroad to study. Her father remarries an actress who is cruel to her, as is her step sister. Years later, when Jung-suh and Song-joo are to reunite, Jung-suh falls foul of an accident caused by her stepsister and loses her memory. With everyone except her stepfamily thinking her dead, will she ever reunite with her true love?
Cast: Choi Ji-woo, Kwon Sang-woo, Kim Tae-hee, Shin Hyun-joon, Lee Wan
Year: 2003/4
Genre: Romantic drama
Reason I started to watch: Everyone said it was a classic and a must-see. (The last time I listen to that reason I promise)
Reason I stopped: A mix of boredom and growing intolerance to cliché and someone spoiled the ending.

In 2003 when this drama began, it was a massive hit. Final ratings at 45.3% were well above the 38.8% average, and the main theme song ‘Bogoshipda’ (I miss you) sung by Kim Bum Soo is still seen as the most romantic song in a drama. The problem is, that 7 years on, every scenario from the drama has been re-used, rehashed and worn out, and taken away the very thing that gave it its popularity in the first place. It was a trendsetter for tragic romance. This drama was the birthplace of all things cliché or the summation of it depending on your point of view.

The cast all look good, but the side characters, like Shin Hyun Joon who plays the stepbrother, had more complexity and depth than the more simply-written main cast. The evilness of the stepmother is done well, Lee Hwi-hyang being a well-respected and experienced actress, but Kim Tae-hee loses a good opportunity with the stepsister to create any sense of complexity or sympathy.

Life's a roundabout #2: Kwon Sang-woo with Choi Ji-woo
Life’s a roundabout #2: Kwon Sang-woo with Choi Ji-woo

I quit watching I think more because I just couldn’t care less about anyone except the stepbrother, and even then after 10 episodes I just couldn’t go on. I might have continued if the ending hadn’t been spoiled for me, but knowing what was coming simply took away all will to live through any more episodes.


Apart from the obvious box set of the series, YesAsia (and presumably other outlets) have made available other memorabilia to satisfy fans who want to mimic the characters in the drama.

Links for these items on YesAsia are below. Of course, this is not an exhaustive selection!


Kwon Sang-woo – recently married and now a father, Kwon was often seen as a reliable box office pull in the past. Appears serious and solid and was actually one of the first actors I encountered in Korean Film when I saw him in Volcano High. I miss the days when everything was new and shiny and the roles he picked didn’t all have the same feel to them. Recently pipped at the post by Jay Chou for a Hollywood role as the sidekick Kato in the new adaptation of The Green Hornet, and with his last drama project not the expected big hit, he has to regain some popularity lost to the younger generation.

Choi Ji-woo – There is no denying she is massively popular still, particularly in Japan due to her role in Winter Sonata with Bae Yong Joon. She has elegance and charm, which I think will endure, and she does have enough sense and talent to select roles she is capable of fulfilling. A Star’s Lover, her last drama, has been released in Japan with great success.

Shin Hyun-joon – This is the first of three dramas he has co-starred in with Choi Ji Woo, (well OK one was a cameo) though I always knew him as the actor from Bichunmoo, the second Korean film I ever saw. His younger self in this drama was played by Lee Wan who is Kim Tae-hee’s younger brother.

Kim Tae-heeStairway to Heaven was the big fame booster for her, and although she is pretty and does well in the CF side of the business she is limited in her actual level of ability, something she is aware of and has spoken about in interviews. She is keen to improve though, and perhaps with more time and experience this can happen for her.

Who put that piano there?
Who put that piano there? Kwon Sang-woo tinkles the ivories

Saharial is expecting some spirited comments below…

4 thoughts on “Stairway to Heaven: over-rated?

  1. First time I saw Hamlet I thought how many cliches it had – but then I realised they were good turns of phrase (probably being used for the first time), which had subsequently become overused and hackneyed. Was Stairway good / original when it came out but now seems devalued by poor things which came later, or was it not very good to start with?

  2. its hard to say really – there are some very common themes in Korean Drama and this one seemed to amass all of them together. I started listening to Kpop and watching dramas about a year after its airing. but even as a first one i found it draggy as time went on and enjoyed it less and less. I simply didn’t care enough about the main characters to even want to find out what happened to them – the only one i had any sympathy for was that played by Shin Hyun-joon, but all the running around and is she/ isn’t she based on her memory when a simple DNA test could solve everything just irritated me too much. Maybe i am too practical for it haha. I htink there was massive debates sparked about the ending, so perhaps i should have persevered…

  3. i love Stairway to Heaven drama and i fell like im apart of it its explain our feeling for love even if i still search for my love but it sooooooo touch its touch our heart and leave buitiful felling and i cry alot finally its soooooooooooooooooooo perfect i love it

  4. i really love stairway to heaven this drama is hearthtouching to anyone i cried a lot of this im a boy but i cried…..i love this drama…and choi ji woo..shes very cute & beautiful…shes my idol….i hope that choi ji woo & kwon sang woo will be paired again in a new beautiful drama…..i love this loveteam…

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