“Blood is thicker than water” as the saying goes referring to family members as having the strongest of bonds. But what happens when the members of a family are not bonded by blood? A lot, actually. And things can get complicated for better or worse. Such is the case of a blended family. There is simply a different set of realities that a blended family deals with on a daily basis, and the tricky part is, they do so without having the guarantee that they will stick through thick and thin out of a biological connection.
When a traditional family – bonded by blood – experiences crises, each member inevitably reacts to them. The family then will either come together stronger than ever or break apart, but regardless, a hope of reconciliation can spring out at any given point because of the permanent bond they share. But what if a blended family run the gauntlet, so to speak? What entails is intriguing drama that reveals a lot of things about the human person.
This week, Grumpy Flashback features the complicated life of Jung-suh – from her mother’s painful death, her father’s remarriage, and her stepmother and stepsister’s cruelty. From being one of the household names in Korean drama must-watch list to helping the world ride the Hallyu train, Stairway to Heaven is definitely one of those dramas that will leave a lasting impact on its viewers. No wonder its lead stars Choi Ji-woo and Kwon Sang-woo are still considered as A-list superstars in Korean entertainment industry despite the drama’s broadcast 14 years ago. This drama also gave rise to the careers of both Park Shin-hye (who played as the younger version of Choi Ji-woo) and Kim Tae-hee (who played as Ji-woo’s evil stepsister).
Stairway to Heaven revolves around the love story of childhood sweethearts Han Jung-suh (Park Shin-hye) and Cha Song-joo (Baek Sung-hyun). They both share the pain of losing a loved one: Song-joo’s father died in a car accident and Jung-suh’s mother died of eye cancer. Soon after her mother’s death, Jung-suh’s father (Ha Jae-young) weds actress Tae Mi-ra (Lee Hui-hyang), who brings her real daughter, Han Yoo-ri (Park Ji-mi), and son, Han Tae-hwa (Lee Wan) into the Han household.
Out of jealousy, Yoo-ri has always been a mean brat to Jung-suh. When Jung-suh’s father is away, the stepmother-stepdaughter tandem assaults our poor heroine. This maltreatment remained a secret from Jung-suh’s father for a long time. On the other hand, Jung-suh finds comfort in Tae-hwa, unaware of his unrequited feelings for her. Later on, Yoo-ri and her evil mother targeted to win the affection of Song-joo because of his rich background.
Years later, as Song-joo (Kwon Sang-woo) and Jung-suh (Choi Ji-woo) were about to meet-up, a jealous Yoo-ri (Kim Tae-hee) intentionally hits Jung-suh with her car. This incident opened an opportunity for Yoo-ri to fake her stepsister’s death. She took the real Jung-suh to her biological father’s home, and Tae-hwa (Shin Hyun-joon) seized the opportunity to run away with the now amnesiac Jung-suh and start a new life together.
As Jung-suh lost her memories, she now lives as Kim Ji-soo with Tae-hwa. The two of them were living happily until one day, she was spotted by Song-joo at the carousel where they used to frequent as kids. Now that Jung-suh is still alive, Song-joo was determined to make Jung-suh remember him and their past. They don’t need to remember all the events in the past though because Song-joo and Jung-suh fell in love with each other again despite living under new circumstances.
All the things that I loved about this drama started in this part where the truth has been revealed. Jung-suh regains her memory, forgives Tae-hwa for deceiving her, and moves on with Song-joo to start their new life together. My most favorite part of this drama was when Tae-hwa made the ultimate sacrifice of giving up his own life to donate his corneas to Jung-suh, who was later on revealed to have the same eye cancer that killed her late mother.
It’s not your usual happy ending with this drama, but it hit the right notes to make a very compelling attempt to tell a story. The opening and ending scenes of this drama are the same, showing a melancholic Song-joo playing the piano by the sea. Let me share with you Song-joo’s words while grieving the love of his life’s passing:
“Perhaps that person may have loved that girl more than I did. But though I say that, I am not saying that I loved that girl any less.”
Ugh, my heart. It’s just so romantic and sad at the same time.
There were some debates about Stairway to Heaven being one of the landmarks of the Hallyu wave. Some people did not like it, while some loved it. I personally had no problem with the drama except that it’s just so depressing from start to end. Choi Ji-woo and Kwon Sang-woo were exceptional in this drama, but I think Shin Hyun-woo shined the most. His perfect portrayal of Tae-hwa as the lovelorn stepbrother of Jung-suh is one of the most iconic second leads in Korean drama. How far would you go for the one you love? Donate your eyes.
To end this segment, I will share with you some words from the Huffington Post about painful love, written by
“Love is painful, because it creates the way for joy, for bliss and for compassion. Love is painful, because it transforms you. Love is growth.
Love itself does not hurt. It is growth that hurts, the ego that stings.”
Credits: SBS Stairway To Heaven, hancinema.net