Netflix K-Drama sure to ‘Crash Land’ into your heart

September 4, 2020

The Korean drama “Crash Landing On Youhas become one of the most binge-worthy series in the midst of the pandemic and quarantine. Even without the pandemic, however, “Crash Landing On Youcaptivates its audience with its heartfelt plot, characters and overall aesthetic. 

This drama follows the story of South Korean part-heiress, part-business executive Yoon Seri who crash lands in North Korea due to a paragliding accident. She is instantly discovered by North Korean army captain Ri Jeonghyuk. Rather than turn her in, the captain agrees to help Seri find a way back to South Korea with the help of his unit—a group of soldiers who, after a chaotic first meeting, inevitably grow to love and bond with their new South Korean friend.  

The audience, immersed in the world’s understanding of North Koreans, will be surprised to grow attached to the North Korean characters almost immediately. Almost all the North Korean characters, from the silently heroic Captain Ri Jeonghyuk to the endearing village auntie Na Woolsuk, are characters who the audience cheers for and sympathizes with. The majority of North Koreans Yoon Seri interacts with are, both to her and our surprise, just as human and complex as herself. 

In the first few episodes, Jeonghyuk’s unit of soldiers quickly proves to be a caring and fiercely loyal bunch by refusing to reveal any secrets to North Korean officials—and in later episodes, we find those same soldiers cooking meals for Seri as a farewell, for what they think is her last day before she escapes back to South Korea. Their scenes together are touching: the soldiers wish Seri to be healthy and happy, and even when Seri returns to South Korea, we find her looking constantly to where she thinks Jeonghyuk and the soldiers are still posted. (Not to worry, even after Seri returns to South Korea, there are more events that bring the characters back together—it’s not the end just yet). 

There are other humanizing moments too: the North Korean characters such as Seodan, a young woman who was in an arranged marriage with Ri Jeonghyuk, goes on her own journey of self-respect. Jeong Manbok, a wiretapper coerced by the villain to eavesdrop on the goings-on of his own village, eventually breaks free from his own fear of the threats of those above him. 

Through the eyes of our South Korean protagonist, the audience is introduced to North Korea and its people in a way that has not yet been explored before in South Korean or, frankly, any other country’s media. The majority of the world often depicts North Korea as a dark, dangerous place with people who are brainwashed puppets or absolutely helpless. And while the audience can’t ignore the fact that North Korea is indeed a fascist country, “Crash Landing On You” takes greater care in preserving the nuances of a people that are, actually, not quite as distant as non-North Koreans would believe. The writers were thoughtful of such representation, calling on former North Korean defectives to offer input on the story and set details. 

This is not to say that the drama romanticizes North Korea. A disclaimer before each episode reminds the audience that all of these characters and the story is a work of fiction (so please do not actually go into North Korea thinking that you’ll find the love of your life and a group of soldier boys to adopt). There are moments in the drama which show the actual dangers of living in a fascist country: the main villain is the power-hungry government officer Cheolgang who threatens and blackmails people into tipping the scales in his favor. There are instances in which family members are still taken away by the government. Camps are still a big fear among the North Koreans. 

But where there is darkness and hushed voices, there is also some light and laughter in the depiction of North Korea’s citizens, and while the audience doesn’t forget how dangerous the reality of the country actually is, the drama asks its viewers to at least view the people under a more humanizing light. 

At the end of the day, “Crash Landing On You” goes to show how people are so often more complex than one may think them to be—and that there can be both platonic and romantic love found between people who come from entirely different worlds. Perhaps one could argue that such themes are too hopeful in regards to the current tensions between North and South Korea; but given the state of the world right now, “Crash Landing On You” is still—even in all its fictionality—a welcome invitation into a place where some form of connection can be made possible. 

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