SEVERAL years ago, occasionally I would be window shopping at Selayang Mall, near Kepong. On the first floor of the mall is a video cum Japanese manga outlet.
Whenever I passed by that shop, I would hear a familair melancholic tune. The scenes showed a young couple strolling across a park during winter. It was only later I found out that it was the latest Korean drama TV series entitled Winter Sonata.
Time slipped by swiftly. Wherever I go, I see pictures of this familiar pair of lovers in winter. Winter Sonata, the title keeps fleeting through my mind and across my life. I paid no heed to it.
Recently, a friend of mine loaned me her DVD box set of Winter Sonata after hearing me talked about it.
I thought, okay I give it a go but if it gets a bit too soppy, I shall bail out after the first disc. To be fair, the box set was visually attractive. The disc folder holds six discs. Each disc consists of four episodes of about an hour each.
There are about 20 episodes, so the total viewing time is about five full length movies. Winter Sonata starts off slowly, showing secondary students mingling and enjoying that carefree stage in their lives.
By the end of the first disc, that is after four episodes, the story becomes so addictive that it was almost compelling to move on to the second disc immediately.
The Winter Sonata theme is so haunting that it has the ability to lull you into a state of subsconscious dreaming. My Memory by Ryu is so intensely hypnotic in its tempo that it's almost like a very slow waltz through the Vienna Woods.
Gyeoul Yeonga (Winter Sonata) has a number of lovely soundtracks. They are all guaranteed to make your mornings and evenings most memorable.
Actually, a man shouldn't be saying this but I will risk it anyway. The songs will awaken the sensitive side of any male and make him want to be extra nice to his girlfriend, wife or his family.
With the breathtaking winter scenery that punctuates the undulating terrain of Korea, the easy and yet lilting tunes of Winter Sonata put the viewer on a smooth glide across some of love's finest avenues.
The story of Winter Sonata is like some of the greatest love stories ever told, except that in this case director Ho Yoon Suk had added some very fine touches that knocks very gently on your heart.
He does this with the assistance of Bae Yong Joon who plays Kang Jun Sang/Lee Min Hyung and Choi Ji Woo who's Jun Sang's sweetheart Jung Yu-jin.
With softest flow of tears and longing looks, anybody would break down in the solitude of their living room in front of the TV. The two writers of Winter Sonata, Kim Yun Hee and Yun Eun Kyung should be presented with several bouquets for a marvellous job.
I have not enjoyed such a magnificent love story for decades. After watching the six discs and skipping dinners and sometimes even high tea, I can understand why Winter Sonata (Gyeoul Yeonga) was a tour de force when it came out in 2002.
The other characters in the series like Kim Sang-hyuk (Park Yong Ha), Oh Che-lin (Park Sol Mi), Jung Dong Hwan (Sang Hyuk's dad), Kim Hae Sook (Yu-jin's mother) and Lee Hye Eun (Jinky Gong) have all added the flavour and spice make the story more believable.
The gist of Winter Sonata is about two school mates who fall in love, only to be separated dramatically by the death of the boy (Jun Sang). His girlfriend Yu-jin pines for him thereafter.
Ten years came and went, and meanwhile, Yu-jin's lonely moments are filled by Sang Hyuk, a ex-schoolmate who adores her. One day, Yu-jin sees a man who bears a striking resemblance to her late boyfriend Jun Sang.
Her heart missed two beats. She frantically searches for "Jun Sang" but loses him in the streets. A day later, Yu-jin meets Che-lin's Korean-American boyfriend, Lee Min Hyung, and he turns out to be that dead ringer for Jun Sang.
As cupid fires arrows, love finds its target. Min Hyung is strangely attracted towards Yu-lin, just as she is to him. It's an inexorable force that neither could ignore nor resist.
As gently as the snow flakes cover the lovely land, the coldness of the season could not dampen the glowing warmth in Yu-jin and Min Hyung's hearts.
They fall in love but Sang Hyuk who has been dating Yu-jin for 10 long years and Che-lin, Min Hyung's girlfriend try to stop their relationship.
Winter Sonata has a long series of convulated subplots that gently twist a simple love story into an ikebana of love's many colours.
The avenues of relationships lead to many surprising alleys which will sadden, at times, but gladden around the corners.
The love that oozes out of almost every other scene of Winter Sonata is so infectious that you will feel warm and friendly to everybody, including strangers for the next couple of days.
The songs and instrumental (violin, harmonica and piano) tunes are always gentle on your mind. As background music, they infuse those intense moments with a glimpse of eternity. Love afterall is forever.
Since most of us do not understand the Korean language, I would suggest that those who want to have a deeper understanding of the nuances of the language to get the DVD version of Winter Sonata.
The English subtitles are more accurate and more complete. I recall seeing episodes of Winter Sonata on 8TV. The subtitles were way off at times.
Hence, certain scenes do not seem quite right because the subtitles were off the mark.
The feeling that lingers after watching a particularly poignant episode is akin to continue sleeping snugly in your bed at 7 in the morning.
By the way, it's also raining heavily outside and you can hear the pitta-patta of raindrops on the rooftiles. On top of that, it is your day-off.
Or, you are having a wonderfully soothing dream and you just want it to go on and on.
Then you wake up, half-upset on realising that it was just a dream, and you just want to fall back on the bed and sleep on because the lingering vapours of that happy dream. That, my friends, are some of the effects of watching Winter Sonata.
Now before someone smack me with a frying pan to knock some sense into me, let me say that Winter Sonata or Gyeoul Yeonga is deemed as one of South Korea's greatest tourism exports since Jewel in the Palace, the other immensely popular Korean TV series.
The South Korean Tourism Organisation has happily created a website promoting some of the places highlighted in Winter Sonata. These include Namisum Island, Yongpyong Ski Resort and the Chuncheon area.
For those who are hardcore Winter Sonata fans, if you want, you may visit some of these popular sites in South Korea. Waiting for you are precious collector's items like the Polaris Necklace and Winter Sonata scarves which can be purchased at a nominal sum.
In case, you have developed an insatiable taste for Korean drama series similar to Winter Sonata, director Ho Yong Suk has also produced two equally famous series, namely Autumn In My Heart (Gaeul Donghwa) and The Scent of Summer (Yeoreum Hyanggi).
You may want to get hold of these two series to open your heart for some more love. After Winter Sonata, I think I shall casually walk into a few more video shops to check out the titles above.
Like I say, if you feel like being a true human being again, that is, tears, joy, laughter plus some bouts of blues, then watch Winter Sonata. But don't blame me if you push your bedtime to 4am.
It's true! Winter Sonata turns you back to a true human being. Bae Yong Joon turns you back into a true human being. Bae Yong Joon reminds you how a true woman or man one should be.