By Han Sang-hee
MBC will start airing the highly anticipated drama ``Road No.1'' this month and hopefully renew hope, love and sacrifice in the hearts of the viewers while commemorating the treacherous and devastating times.
The Korean War (1950-53) may have lasted three years, but it has left lasting scars on many during the 60 years since. Among them would be young and passionate lovers, who had to go through a separation they didn't see coming.
``Road No. 1'' hopes to highlight the sad story of such lovers, played by heartthrob So Ji-sub actress Kim Ha-neul and singer-turned-actor Yoon Kye-sang. Lee Jang-woo (played by So) and Kim Soo-yeon (played by Kim) are in love, but the Korean War tears them apart. Lee is forced to leave Kim to contribute to the war effort, and years later a note arrives for Kim telling her that the love of her life has died in battle. Struggling to move on, Kim meets officer Shin Tae-ho (played by Yoon) and decides to marry him and leave the past behind her. This takes a turn when Shin discovers that Lee is not only alive, but is in fact counting the days until he can return home and reunite with Kim, his lover.
The drama may be set in devastating times, but the bombs, guns and battlefields are not the only features of war that the makers had in mind.
The head producer Lee Jang-su, who became famous for his work ``Stairway to Heaven'' (SBS, 2003), joined fellow producer Lee Jin-min, known for his stylish scenes in the drama ``Time Between Dog and Wolf'' (2007), to add more drama and emotion to the sequences, while writer Han Ji-hoon from the film ``Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War'' (2003) managed to include movie-like battle scenes.
``We had two goals when we were planning the drama,'' director Lee Jang-su said during a press conference last week at Sangmyung University.
``First, we decided to work on something dealing with war since Korea was already famous for its romantic dramas in Asia. We thought the theme `war' would translate well not only in Asia but also in America and Europe. The second goal was to shed new light on the Korean War and also modern history for the younger generation who are only dimly aware of the tragedy over the years,'' Lee added.
Unlike other dramas which are filmed as they are aired, ``Road No.1'' was entirely pre-produced. It took three years and 13 billion won to complete the series, and the script was also finished completely before the start of filming. This is not common for Korean dramas, as writers and producers tend to change and edit their scripts and scenes along the way.
``Pre-production is something we have to follow in the future. Of course, this means we cannot change the script after listening to viewers' comments and feedback, but we managed to create a great drama in the end,'' Lee said.
The makers and writers had to fulfill their parts and match the deadline, but for the actors, the challenge was on an entirely different level.
``It was a grueling and hungry experience. We had to starve in order to experience the same pain our ancestors had to go through 60 years ago,'' Choi Min-su, who plays a South Korean general, said.
Fellow actors So and Yoon also explained their hardship in filming the war drama.
``There were a lot of dangerous scenes and whenever there was an explosion, we had to duck and try to avoid the flying dirt and debris,'' Yoon said.
Such dodging didn't secure everyone from damage, and So was injured in the eye after a dynamite scene while Yoon got numerous bruises all over his body.
For Kim, the intensity was more emotional than physical, and the 32-year-old actress expressed her excitement on working on such a big budget drama.
``This is my first period series, and I still remember the emotions I had when I was acting. I always wanted to play a character who longs for her lover,'' she said.
``When I laid in bed at night after a scene from the soap, I could still hear the director shouting `Cut! Okay,' and also all the noise around the set. I wasn't sure if it was a dream or not,'' Kim added.
Expectations are high, but the drama has some rough competition ahead. Fellow war drama ``Comrade'' (KBS) already began airing last week with successful ratings and positive feedback from viewers for its realistic war depiction and impeccable acting from the veteran actors. Beating the dramas during the Wednesday-Thursday time slot also looks tricky. SBS' ``Bad Boy'' has garnered fans with its cast including actor Kim Nam-gil and actress Han Ga-in, while ``Bread, Love and Dreams'' has captivated the younger crowd with its fun storyline and cast including Eugene and Yoon Si-yoon. Despite the pressure, the actors and crew are hoping for a successful ride, both in popularity and ratings.
``Of course ratings are very important! We've been through so much over the past few months, I do hope our drama will do better than the others,'' Kim said laughing.
``Road No. 1'' airs June 23 at 10 p.m. on MBC.