I just received my latest K-Drama DVDs and it is the 2004 hit STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN starring Choi Ji-Woo. It's a 20 episode series that encapsulates everything that people love about KDramas.
Jung-suh and Song-joo are childhood sweethearts, destined to be with each other. When Jung-suh's mother dies, evil stepmother brings in evil stepsister Yoo-ri and kind but simpering step-brother Tae-hwa. And there's the love-rectangle (and for anyone even remotely familiar with the KDrama formula, you know how the realtionships are going to play out).
Jung-suh and Song-joo are in middle school and are in love; they plan to study overseas together. However, evil stepmother manages to hold Jung-suh back and Song-joo goes away, but not before they pledge their love to each other. Fast forward four years or so. Song-joo returns, but Jung-suh is struck by a car driven by evil Stepsister Yoo-ri. Everyone thinks Jung-suh died when she's really just lost her memory and been put in the care of Tae-hwa and his father.
Five years later, Jung-suh and Song-joo meet again, this time as strangers...
So far, it really does hit all the emotional points and while it stays true to the formula, it does so quite well. Of particular note are the evil stepmother and evil stepsister. They really steal the show and are rage-inducingly awful and manipulative. Meanwhile, alternate lover Tae-hwa is so riduculously pathetic that it's hard to take him seriously and lead man Song-joo, while very handsome, is quite wooden and boring.
The plot goes to some nice places and is engaging. It's a bit overlong in the beginning when the machinations of the mother/sister start, but only drags a little bit. Episode 9 is when the show really picks up momentum.