By Michelle Aye and Woojin Lim
Crash Landing On You tells the world-flipping tale of star-crossed lovers separated by borders and their respective nationalities: South Korean heiress Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) and North Korean army officer Ri Jeong-hyuk (Hyun Bin). The lighthearted rom-com unveils themes of sacrifice, family, and togetherness that elicit smiles and tears alike, leaving viewers craving for more after each episode. With a candid, humanistic portrayal of North Korea, Crash Landing On You challenges the predominant stereotypes of North Koreans as being morally backwards, underscoring a unique and intrinsic goodness of humanity that prevails over political divides.
One fateful day, while affluent Se-ri goes for a paragliding ride in Seoul, South Korea, a strong gust of wind, takes her off-course across the 38th parallel. Se-ri awakens to find herself having accidentally crash-landed on the treetops of a forest on the other side of the demilitarized zone. There Se-ri is found by North Korean army officer Jeong-hyuk, who secretly provides her shelter in his humble home and aims to help her return to South Korea. Their story continues to unfold in a small military village with low-roofed houses lined across unpaved dirt roads.
As Se-ri becomes more acquainted with the countryside village, she discovers that the seemingly plain village is rather vibrantly colored by the chatty but pure-hearted villagers with whom Se-ri develops fond bonds. Jeong-Hyuk and his team of handpicked soldiers weave through twists and turns to keep Se-ri safe from a North Korean state security officer and the principal villain of the story, Cho Cheol-gang (Oh Man-seok), who eyes to bring Jeong-Hyuk and his influential family down using Se-ri.
Se-ri and Jeong-hyuk’s tale is intertwined with that of Seo Dan (Seo Ji-hye), the daughter of a wealthy North Korean department store owner who is set to marry Jeong-hyuk, and Gu Seung-jun (Kim Jung-hyun), a British businessman and fraudster formerly betrothed to Se-ri who has come to North Korea to hide from Se-ri’s brother. A fated Romeo-and-Juliet-like romance (or, as the North Korean villagers would term it, a love story like Kongji and Patzzi, a traditional Korean love-tale from the Joseon Dynasty), flitters between the two sets of couples.
Combined with hints of comedic irony and tearjerkers, Crash Landing On You centers around the powerful chemistry of main actors Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin. With scenes shot by drones covering the sublime alps of Switzerland and the fields of Mongolia, the drama swerves in and out of picaresque landscapes, waltzing from bucolic mountaintops and yellow-patched grasslands to North Korea’s buzzing capital, Pyongyang.
Having consulted with real-life North Korean defectors, the show provides a near-realistic portrayal of the North Koreans, their lifestyles, and their dialects. Alongside a beautifully strewn soundtrack—including a captivating piano arrangement of “The Song for My Brother”—the drama tugs at the viewer’s heartstrings and brings down to earth the often heartlessly portrayed humans of North Korea. Though the story picks up on a rather bizarre first episode with a poor CGI of the tornado, the show evolves into a dazzling story of a forbidden love that endures.
Crash Landing On You is currently available for streaming worldwide on Netflix.