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‘Queen of Tears’ tells the story of a broken marriage

Baek+Hyun+Woo+and+Hong+Hae+In+pose+for+a+wedding+photo.+
Image courtesy of Netflix
Baek Hyun Woo and Hong Hae In pose for a wedding photo.

“Queen of Tears,” a 16-episode Korean drama series starring actor Kim Soo Hyun and actress Kim Ji Won, aired on Korean television channel TVN as well as Netflix from Mar. 9, 2024 to April 28, 2024. The series gathered an enormous amount of anticipation even before its release, with fans excited to see the chemistry between two of the hottest Korean actors of the current generation. Following its release, the series reached the highest viewer rating in the history of all TVN shows, breaking records and solidifying its place as a legendary K-drama. As a fan and audience member myself, I was highly impressed by the quality of acting from the actors and actresses, with the depth they instilled in each of their characters. I was, however, pretty frustrated at the plot sometimes, which many viewers also seemed to express. 

“Queen of Tears” is not your typical K-drama love story, where the woman meets the man and slowly falls in love through a series of events. Instead, this drama begins with an already married couple. Baek Hyun Woo (Kim Soo Hyun) is the husband of three years to wife Hong Hae In (Kim Ji Won). Hong Hae In is a third-generation chaebol, or a member of a large family-owned business conglomerate, following her grandfather and father. Baek Hyun Woo on the other hand, comes from a regular family in the countryside, with parents who farm and own a convenience store. 

But something is off about this couple. They sleep in separate rooms, barely interact, and often brush past each other without a word even in their own house. We as an audience are thinking, “What went wrong?”. 

Baek Hyun Woo lives with Hong Hae In’s family in their large mansion. Hong Hae In does not have a great relationship with her parents, especially her mother, and the vibes are always tense and cold within the house. Hong Hae In is also the current CEO of her family-owned company, Queens Department Store, with Baek Hyun Woo working as the company’s legal director. Baek Hyun Woo is tired of the unbreathable air in his own house with his stony-hearted wife and family and wishes to get a divorce. 

When Baek Hyun Woo finally gathers the courage to discuss a divorce with Hong Hae In, Hong Hae In blurts out shocking news before he can even speak. She has a rare brain tumor with only three months to live. 

Everything spirals from this point on. Baek Hyun Woo can’t hide the slight anticipation he has to be able to finally leave this family once Hong Hae In dies. He starts being overly nice to Hong Hae In, knowing this will all be over soon. Hong Hae In goes through a series of struggles with her brain tumor, with her not being able to remember things. 

We introduce Yoon Eun Sung (Park Sung Hoon) at this point, the main antagonist of the show. Yoon Eun Sung is Hong Hae In’s old college friend, who appears as a high-class businessman, here to help Hong Hae In with her business deals. His true intention is to gain Hong Hae In’s love, as he has been loving her since he was a child. The story flashes back to Yoon Eun Sung and Hong Hae In’s childhood multiple times throughout the series, revealing why Hong Hae In has such a bad relationship with her family, and how Yoon Eun Sung became a villainous person in the first place. 

Baek Hyun Woo and Hong Hae In are not the only couples we get to explore. Hong Hae In’s younger brother Hong Soo Chul (Kwak Dong Yeon) has a love story of his own with his wife Chun Da Hye (Lee Joo Bin). These two have a toddler between them, but we later learn that the child is not biologically related to Hong Soo Chul, and that Chun Da Hye has been lying about her identity this whole time, sparking more drama. 

Hong Hae In flies to Germany to find treatment options for her rare brain tumor. She is lonely, broken, and hurt in the process, wishing her husband was by her side. This is the part of the series where we begin to realize that Hong Hae In and Baek Hyun Woo still love each other; they just don’t realize it. We get flashback scenes revealing why the marriage fell apart, a very emotionally sensitive part in the series. The two slowly begin to find their love for each other again, confessing their scars and misunderstandings towards each other. 

For me personally, one of the saddest and most heartbreaking scenes of the entire series was when Hong Hae In, in her final days of life, was found crying outside the church in Germany by Baek Hyun Woo. At this point, Hong Hae In was given two choices: to go through a surgical procedure and lose all of her memories or to just accept death as herself. She weeps to her husband, “Stop making me want to live” and the two both cry uncontrollably, expressing to the audience the pain involved when having to lose a loved one. 

Some frustrations I had with the plot were with how the writer curated the episodes. We mostly have conflict building up until episode 14, and as an audience member, I expected and also wished for the last two episodes to resolve all conflicts and have a happy ending. However, the writer crammed in even more conflict during the last two episodes making the audience worry if it would ever all get resolved. There were also many elements and questions that were brought up in the series that never got elaborated on, leaving the audience with even more questions and confusion. 

One of my favorite parts about this entire series was the unique epilogues at the end of each episode. It was something I had never really seen before in a k-drama and it left each episode with a feeling of warmth, despite the horribly dramatic endings of most of the episodes. Every epilogue displayed a scene of Baek Hyun Woo and Hong Hae In’s love for each other, whether that be when they used to date, or even little actions during their marriage, showing that their love was always there and will always last. 

Overall, “Queen of Tears” delved deep into the topics of love and family, with there being elements of comedy and laughter incorporated into the series as well. I loved the wide spectrum of characters even beyond those I mentioned, with each character having their own unique color that added a fun twist to the plot. This will definitely go down in history as one of my favorite K-dramas and I hope it can spark the emotions I felt in others who watch the series for the first time. 

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