Living happily ever after is an expected ending in most Korean dramas. But for those who are open to unconventional conclusions, some series offer just that. Just like in life, we don’t always get what we want, some dramas also give those hard truths. If you’re up for it, here are seven dramas with bittersweet endings.
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Many would agree that this drama was a romantic tragedy with a time-traveling spin. It all started when Go Ha-jin (Lee Ji-eun) is transported back in time to the Goryeo Dynasty and becomes Hae Soo. There she meets Wang Wook (Kang Ha-neul) the warm-hearted eighth prince, which makes him easy to love. However, Hae Soo eventually falls for the mysterious fourth prince Wang So (Lee Joon-gi).
Animosity and corruption in this family that you’d be shooting for the moon to find a happy ending. The story led Wang So to become king, but at the price of losing Hae-soo, whom he found to be his true love. Even though this is quite expected, since Hae Soo’s true self doesn’t really belong in that world, it was heartbreaking nonetheless. The ending demonstrates that “true love” may not always end up in a happy ending.
Scarlet Heart Ryeo may not be a commercial success in South Korea, but it was popular amongst international K-drama fans. This was a sad ending that is truly worth watching!
Hotel Del Luna
At first look, Hotel Del Luna is this fantasy series, but it’s actually more than that, as it tells about the reality of death and unfinished business.
Hotel Del Luna is a special place that is nestled in the heart of Seoul. It may be visible to the human eye, but it’s actually an enchanting hotel that caters to the dead. Jang Man-wol (Lee Ji-eun) was the chosen owner after having committed a huge sin a millennium ago—her soul is practically bound to the hotel. Her search for a new manager led her to Gu Chan-sung (Yeo Jin-goo). With his help, they were able to help souls with their unfinished business. However, little did he know that he was also helping Man-wol on a journey of self-discovery, that she never once encountered after all those years.
As the characters grow on you, they finally work towards resolving the issues that bound them here on earth. So, there was a sense of loss when it was time for them to leave. The real tear-jerking moment was when it was finally Man-wol’s turn to bid goodbye. It was sad seeing that just when she finally found a beautiful purpose and true love, those were also the things will break her chains. She was finally free to move on to the other side. But instead of being a triumphant transition, her journey to the afterlife became the saddest goodbye.
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
It is a remake of the Japanese TV series “Sora Kara Furu Ichioku no Hoshi. The story follows the fateful romance of a mysterious man Kim Moo-young (Seo In-guk) suspected of murder and a woman Yoo Jin-kang (Jung So-min) whose life is completely changed after meeting him.
Jin-kang wants to be Moo Young’s safe haven because she bears as many emotional scars as him. Her brother, Yoo Jin-gook, is a homicide detective with 27 years of job experience. He strives to “reveal” who Moo Young really is and attempts to keep his sister away from him. Little did Yoo Jin-gook know that he is the key to both Moo-young and Jin-Kang’s intertwined history.
This story is not for the faint-hearted as it piles up tragic moments that can leave viewers clutching their hearts in pain. It may not send you into a cry-fest, but the story is heartbreaking nonetheless. The way that the relationships in this story are built only for them to fall apart will keep your curiosity burning as revelations unfold throughout the series.
Unlike the original version, this K-drama version moved away from the “taboo” part of the Japanese series, which is something to look forward to.
It was a general consensus by viewers that “Uncontrollably Fond” was a true tear-jerker that left many heartbroken by its bittersweet ending. The story unraveled when Shin Joon-young (Kim Woo-bin) and Noh Eul (Bae Suzy) met again with memories of their breakup still fresh on their minds. One would expect that a happy ending should be in sight, but this story takes on a pragmatic approach based on existing circumstances. Even though Joon-young was faced with the reality of death, things didn’t necessarily went his way. Hence, forbearance was needed to appreciate the lesson behind Joon-young and Eul’s love journey.
Brimming with tear-jerking moments and having the male lead die at the end was such a punch to the heart, but executed beautifully. This drama is not for those who crave light and sweet romance stories. But if this is your cup of tea, there is something to learn even from love stories that are melancholic but still live on to tell a tale about true love.
The Hymn of Death
This 2018 romance melodrama tells a tragic love story born out of self-sacrifice. Hymn of Death is based on the true story of Yun Sim-deok played by Shin Hye-sun, Korea’s first-ever professional soprano singer, and Lee Jong Suk as the playwright Kim Woo-jin. The two meet while working on a play during a very tumultuous time in Joseon during the Japanese occupation.
The lovers face their own personal difficulties when it comes to achieving their dreams and living their lives how they want to. Kim Woo-jin is unhappily married and working in the family business after reluctantly following his father’s wishes, while she struggles to support her poor family. Society and their families have definitely tied them down. When a romance sparks between them, even that becomes a forbidden love that stands in their way of happiness.
This was a story of a man and a woman who lived their lives trying to please and make sacrifices for their families. To cut the story short, Woo-jin and Sim-deok boarded a ship bound for Joseon where they danced for the first time and kissed for the last time. It was there that the two decided to end their lives.
Their story might not appeal to the general public, owing to how it touches on themes like forbidden affairs, disobedience to parents, and depression. But it was written in a way where viewers are made to understand the weight of emotions bottled up inside them which pushed them to a tragic closure.
With just three episodes, you can finish the drama in one evening. Just be sure to grab a box of tissues before you start binging!
Stairway to Heaven
This K-drama classic brims with heartbreaking moments at every turn, and it starts off with Cha Song-joo (Kwon Song-woo) and Han Jung-seo’s (Choi Ji-woo) childhood friendship. They were separated only to meet again years later. Puppy love soon turned into something more, but it seemed that this reunion was doomed to fail. Accidents, memory loss, possessiveness, insanity, and even potential blindness threaten to tear them apart once again.
Luckily, Han Tae Hwa filled the void in Han Jung Seo’s life with his unconditional love. He always loved her, even though her heart belonged to someone else. After five years, Hang Jung Seo lives under the name ‘Jisoo.’ She lives with Han Tae Hwa as he supports her and comforts her. On the other hand, Chang Song Ju gets engaged to Jung-Seo’s evil step-sister, Han Yu Ri.
This drama is one of those that give us second-lead syndrome, but it also leaves us conflicted for the main couple. Stairway to Heaven is a story of love, acceptance, forgiveness, and selflessness only augmented by a heart-wrenching soundtrack.
Hi, Bye, Mama!
This drama revolves around Cha Yu-ri (Kim Tae-hee), a young mother who died but was given the chance to come back to life and regain her place within 49 days. However, this couldn’t come at such a wrong time now that her husband is trying to start over.
Throughout this drama, we see how Yu-ri has always been devoted to her child even as a ghost. She also kept watching over her husband, her family, and even her close friends. Viewers understand her longing for them having died unexpectedly having been there through each milestone for the past five years, even as a ghost. This is why it’s inevitable for anyone not to tear up when she was finally given the chance to come back. However, a heavy truth also looms throughout the series knowing that she is only given 49 days to earn her place back. Now that her husband has remarried, things weren’t so easy.
What’s so beautiful about this drama, is that even with the fantasy aspect of reincarnation, they took a realistic approach to how it should end. Albeit a heartbreaking one, we understand why it was right to just follow the course of nature, even if it meant having to say goodbye for a second time. If anything, this drama is a cry-fest that ended quite sadly, but it’s a bitter reality check for anyone watching.