Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin’s Crash Landing On You is the Olive Garden of romances, revolving around the star-crossed love story of a South Korean heiress and a North Korean military officer. The 16-episode show became an international sensation and possibly one of the few shows that registered with non-Hallyu fans, apart from Goblin and Boys Over Flowers.
It was a supremely unrealistic love story — a woman goes paragliding, but lands in North Korea after a tornado. Using all the K-drama tropes available, a forbidden romance between her and a military officer begin to flourish, just as he tries to get her across the border surreptitiously. He does so, and then he has to find a way back to South Korea because he realises she is in danger. Emotional dialogues are delivered, hugs in cold winters are exchanged, and tears are shed, more raining of bullets, a near-death experience and finally, a bittersweet ending.
Sounds absurd, but goodness, did the show hit the sweet spot. The chemistry between Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin was overwhelming, and let’s be honest, those of us who saw the show, were reaching for the tissues at the border scene. A sick and recovering Yoon Seri (Son Ye Jin) rushes to stop Captain Ri Hyeuk from crossing the border. He sees her from a mile away, and all he keeps saying is, “Don’t run!” It’s a powerful scene, as the two embrace and the officers from North and South Korea watch them, ready to shoot if needed. It was impactful and the message was received: Love has no borders. This blooming on-screen bonding translated into a real relationship off screen, making Bin-Jin fans shriek with joy.
The show comes down to the magical chemistry between Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin — that glosses over the gaping loopholes that logical minds would find. The two actors were already well established in South Korea and were known to pick solid scripts such as Hyun Bin’s Secret Garden and Memories Of The Alhambra and Son Ye Jin’s Something In The Rain.
But before CLOY (as it’s often called), there was a film called The Negotiation — a film that had nothing to do with mush. It was a psychological hostage drama, starring Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin. Apparently, Hyun Bin did the film because he knew Son Ye-Jin was in it. “My first impression of [Hyun Bin] was that he had really great skin and hair, and I thought he must be an actor that actresses are really into,” Son is quoted as saying on Soompi.
In an interview to Esquire Korea, Hyun Bin mentioned how keen he was on working with Son Ye Jin. “There are times when I feel great charm and thrill from seeing the actor opposite me show unexpected acting. There’s also a thrill to my own reaction to that acting. While filming The Negotiation, I saw that in Son Ye Jin, so I thought, ‘I want to try working with her again.’ At the time, [we had filmed separately], so I wanted to try acting with her in the same space, making eye contact, and breathing the same air, and that opportunity came quickly,” he had said.
The Negotiation starred Son Ye Jin as a matter-of-fact Seoul Police Inspector Ha Cha-Eun, who is a hostage situation expert. Hyun Bin plays a smarmy arms dealer, who is allegedly holding captives on an island in the straits of Malacca. Cha-Eun is forced into a video chat with him, and she has the nerve-wracking task of finding out his demands. For almost the entirety of the film, the two interact through monitors. There is heavy social messaging as Min-Gu is out to avenge the death of his sister, from a system that is ridden with corruption. For the most part, the film is entirely forgettable and stretches to beyond ridiculous towards the climax.
However, it’s the ending — where the two of them finally are in the frame — that somewhat salvages the film. The tensions and chemistry that the director had been trying to relate through monitors, finally explodes between the two. Cha-Eun has realised why he is doing this, as it is to bring a loved one to justice, who suffered for no fault of hers. She comes to beg him that there is a better way than killing those responsible for the death of his sister. The hard shell of the hostage-taker cracks, and he becomes vulnerable in those last moments, as he reveals his guilt in letting his sister die. There is a heated exchange of words and he almost points his gun at her, but is unable to do so as he is torn between his motivations and growing feelings for her. It’s an if-only-I-met-you-in-another-lifetime moment, and he sheds a tear as she continues to beg him to change his ways. He says, “I actually did want to get a drink with you.” Snipers are in position by this time, and this story does not have a happy ending.
And it’s just a matter of five minutes, or perhaps even less. That’s literally the only screen time Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin shared and it was enough for fans to pray for a show with both of them, and in 2019, they got CLOY.
Now fans are just patiently waiting for another show, with the two of them.