Queen of Tears—Korean Drama of the Year?

Actors Kim Ji-won and Kim Soo-hyun
Actors Kim Ji-won and Kim Soo-hyun

As a Korean drama connoisseur, I was eager to binge watch the new Netflix series, Queen of Tears. Coined as the biggest K-drama of 2024, the much anticipated series was an instant hit—the series’ first episode aired on March 9th and ended recently on April 28th.

Directed by Jang Young-woo and Kim Hee-won, Queen of Tears embodies a fresh storyline with a mix of romance, suspense, and heartwarming moments. Nowadays, the love we see in our lives is simple and predictable; Queen of Tears, however, throws the viewer into a whirlwind of complex relationships that come with marrying the daughter of a chaebol—the Korean term for a rich business family. As a whole, Queen of Tears pleased audiences with an engaging yet enigmatic plot, forwarded by a cast with clear chemistry, and cinematography and scenes worth rewatching. News of it already becoming the most watched K-drama of 2024 comes as no surprise.

The drama follows the turbulent relationship between Baek Hyun-woo (played by Kim Soo-Hyun) and Hong Hae-in (played by Kim Ji-won). At first, Hyun-woo, an office worker, falls for Hae-in, a clumsy intern. He supports her throughout her work and eventually, their relationship buds into a romantic one. Only when Hyun-woo discovers Hae-in’s true identity does he realize the new world he is about to enter; Hae-in, in fact, is the heiress to the very company that the two work for. 

The drama begins with a flashback to the good times of marriage between the two, but soon moves to the present, where Hyun-woo is considering a divorce. The idyllic romance that once existed between the couple has morphed into a hatred and unbearable annoyance for each other. Queen of Tears does an excellent job in portraying Hyun-woo’s turmoil and in seeking sympathy from the audience. The striking scene of him weeping and drinking in the dark streets of Seoul, alone, is an example. Hae-in, meanwhile, is painted as a workaholic who only cares about one thing: reaching her goal of one trillion won in sales at the department store managed by her family’s company. This only heightens Hyun-woo’s frustration, and eventually, he decides to go on with the divorce. Just as Hyun-woo is about to show Hae-in the divorce papers, though, she reveals that she has been diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. With her limited time left to live, Hyun-woo decides to endure the marriage. However, as Hyun-woo remains by Hae-in’s side, romantic feelings begin to rekindle.

Kim Soo-Hyun speaking to Kim Ji-won in “Queen of Tears”

The film as a whole builds each character effortlessly. At times, you even want more scenes with the two lead characters. Both are played by actors who completely complement each other; Soo-Hyun’s charismatic yet quiet approach makes him fit as Hyun-woo, a lawyer, while Ji-won’s charm and ability to switch from being confident to being vulnerable matches the double sided life Hae-in lives—one as business manager and the other as a patient. Soo-Hyun and Ji-won’s acting together make the film a treat to watch. Most striking, however, is the antagonist of the film, Yoon Eun-Seong (played by Park Sung-hoon), a corrupt investor hoping to take over Hae-in’s family’s business. Sung-hoon’s acting throughout is superb; his stoicism and mysteriousness makes his character even more hated by viewers. The plot of Eun-Seong’s obsession to be with Hae-in offers an appreciated conflict that balances with the couple’s ongoing divorce. Additionally, his shady relationship to Hae-in’s family and his eerie childhood makes his character all the more interesting.

Actor Park Sung-hoon as Yoon Eun-sung

Queen of Tears is also showered in beautiful cinematography. Notably, the scenes filmed in Berlin, in front of the Sanssouci Palace, were stand-outs—colors are vibrant and supported the emotion of the moment. The OST was also excellent. From the very first episode, I found myself scrolling through Spotify to find the opening song. Each song in the drama imbued a sense of nostalgia and a mix of romance that made you feel relaxed.

The only downside of the drama is its pace. At times, conversations between Hyun-woo’s family in the rural outskirts of Seoul are too repetitive. This tends to make the episodes longer for no reason and seemingly claustrophobic.

Nevertheless, Queen of Tears is still a series worth watching. The stellar acting and sudden plot twists will hook you on. It’s a K-drama that will leave you tearfully satisfied.

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