Sunday, March 22, 2020

“Crash Landing On You” rom-com / action, synopsis by episode (Eps. 1-16, no spoilers)

Jump to synopsis of Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16 (Finale); How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers: Historical backgrounders and other information (some episodes also have their own backgrounders); Lessons in photography from “Crash Landing On You”

”Crash Landing on You” is a South Korean drama directed by Lee Jeong-hyo and featuring Hyun Bin, Son Ye-jin, Kim Jung-hyun, and Seo Ji-hye. It is about a South Korean woman who accidentally crash-lands in North Korea. It aired on tvN in South Korea and on Netflix worldwide from December 14, 2019 to February 16, 2020. It is the second-highest-rated Korean drama in cable television history.

Written by Park Ji-eun (who also wrote “My Love from the Star,” “The Producers,” and “Legend of the Blue Sea”), this drama was inspired by a real-life event in 2008 when South Korean actress Jung Yang and three others were rescued after their boat drifted into the waters between South and North Korea. (Wikipedia)

How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers

1. I assumed that you will be reading these summaries and watching the videos chronologically.

2. I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

3. At the beginning of each summary starting with Episode 2, I placed in a table a recap of the major twists and turns of the previous episode. But because you have already watched the video of the previous episode, they aren’t spoilers anymore.

4. I followed this structure all throughout, except for Ep. 16 (Finale) where I included some spoilers. Reason - most people want to know if the drama has a good ending or a sad ending before they invest the time in watching it. (Spoiler alert: if you want to know right now, well, yes, “Crash Landing On You” has a splendid, romantic ending for the first leads.)

Episode 1

Characters introduced in Ep. 1:

Se-ri – a young, successful businesswoman; her father is chairman of a large conglomerate but has been in jail because of financial crimes.

Se-jun – Se-ri’s eldest brother, a hot-tempered guy; his wife is Hye-ji.

Se-hyeong – Se-ri’s other brother who has been swindled out of millions because of his greed; his wife is Sang-a.

Ri Jeong Hyeok – an upright North Korean officer who’s highly-respected by his men; his nemesis is Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang of the State Security Department.

Gu Seong-jun – the man who swindled Se-hyeong; currently hiding in China, he wants to move to a more secure place.

Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men - 1st Lt. Park (young and inexperienced); Master Sergeant Pyo Chi Su (gruff, always looking out for himself); Kim Ju Meok (avid fan of South Korean dramas); Geum Eun Dong (the youngest)

Yoon Se-ri is the owner of “Se-ri’s Choice,” a well-known cosmetics and fashion company. Despite her success, she’s estranged from her family; she also jumps from one romantic relationship to another.

Se-ri’s father is released from prison. To the dismay of her mother, brothers, and sisters-in-law, her father decides to turn over to her the leadership of his “chaebol” (business conglomerate). Assured by her father that she can fire even her brothers, she accepts the offer but asks for some time to finish some matters in her company.

The next day, despite being warned by her faithful but harassed secretary Mr. Hong, Se-ri decides to to personally try out her new extreme-sports clothing line. She goes paragliding, but, while she’s being filmed by another paraglider, a tornado suddenly appears and wreaks havoc everywhere.

Se-ri crash lands in the North Korean side of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), where she’s caught by Captain Ri Jeong Hyeok. As she runs away, Ri Jeong Hyeok tries to stop her, but he steps on a land mine.

Led by Master Sergeant Pyo Chi Su, Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men chase after Se-ri who runs across the fields, unaware that land mines are everywhere. As she’s about to jump the fence, Sergeant Pyo Chi Su shoots at her.

After walking in the woods throughout the night, Se-ri stumbles upon a small village.


1. During the welcome dinner (6:59 mark), Se-ri’s sister-in-law offers a tofu cake to her father. Since the days of the Joseon Dynasty, tofu has been given to newly-released prisoners; it’s the symbol of a new life or beginning.

2. As she confronts Ri Jeong Hyeok (30:28 mark), Se-ri mentions the movie “Joint Security Area” aka “JSA.” This is a hit, 2000 movie starring Lee Byung-hun (Eugene Choi in “Mr. Sunshine”) and Lee Young-ae (star of the worldwide-hit drama “A Jewel in the Palace”). “Joint Security Area” won Best Film at the 2000 Blue Dragon Film Awards and the 2001 Grand Bell Awards; it was also highly-praised by Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino.

In the movie, Lee Young-ae plays the role of a Swiss Army officer of Korean descent; she’s assigned to investigate a crime committed in the JSA (Joint Security Area) or Panmunjom, the truce village. While investigating the crime, she discovers her real identity.

3. At the 31:42 mark, Se-ri becomes terrified of being charged as a spy and then sent to the Aoji Coal Mine. Located in Kyonghung County, Undok, North Korea, this mine is a notorious place where South Korean POWs were tortured and imprisoned. (Aoji means “a place of burning stones.”)

Episode 2

Ep. 1 recap:

To the secret delight of her brothers, Se-ri can’t be found despite a massive search.

Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang of the State Security Department kills the grave robbers by using armored trucks.

Se-ri stumbles upon a North Korean village, but she’s saved by Ri Jeong Hyeok from being spotted by Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang.
Despite his misgivings, Ri Jeong Hyeok takes Se-ri into his house. Se-ri, meanwhile, uses all her charms and promises to reward him and his men if they can help her get back to South Korea. Afraid that the State Security Department will arrest all of them if Se-ri is discovered, the men agree to help. But since their duties at the DMZ have ended, Ju Meuk (the K-drama fanatic) offers his uncle’s help in getting her out by boat.

To Ri Jeong Hyeok and his men’s annoyance, Se-ri begins making demands, such as having meat for lunch. Luckily, they have some meat, provided by the village women who adore Ri Jeong Hyeok.

In China, Gu Seong-jun signs a contract that will enable him to hide in luxury and with full security in North Korea.

After finding out that the grave robbers died, Ri Jeong Hyeok asks permission from the Senior Colonel to go to Pyongyang to continue his investigation. Before leaving, he orders Se-ri to stay put inside his house.

When things go wrong in Pyongyang, Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang retaliates by conducting a surprise house-to-house inspection in Ri Jeong Hyeok’s village. Ri Jeong Hyeok finds out about the inspection, but he’s still in Pyongyang, several hours away from his village, and his men can’t contact Se-ri to warn her.


1. At the 10:29 mark, Se-ri tries to convince Ri Jyeong Hyeok to help her by citing “Heungbu and Nolbu,” a popular, 200-year old, Korean bedtime story for children. The story tells of a greedy, older brother (Nolbu) and a kind, younger brother (Heungbu). Nolbu cheated Heungbu of the inheritance from their father, but Heungbu later became rich after he rescued a swallow that was about to be eaten by a snake. In other words, Se-ri wants Ri Jeong Hyeok (Heungbu) to help her (the swallow), and someday, the swallow will reward him greatly.

2. Se-ri and Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men cook their food as they sit on a low table, the kind which you’ll often see in K-dramas. This table is called “pyeong-sang” or literally, flat table. (The 2nd picture is from Ep. 4.)

Episode 3

Ep. 2 recap:

Ri Jeong Hyeok is the surviving son of Director Ri, the general who leads the General Political Bureau; his brother was murdered by Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang.

Ri Jeong Hyeok rescues Se-ri from being arrested by claiming that she is his fiancée.

Epilogue: In deep depression over her life, Se-ri went to Switzerland to seek assisted suicide. But the clinic refused, advising her instead to lift her spirits by visiting the beautiful places in Switzerland.

When Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang remains suspicious and demands to see Se-ri’s identification cards, Ri Jeong Hyeok stuns him and the villagers by saying that Se-ri is from South Korea.

Ri Jeong Hyeok continues to investigate the deaths of the grave robbers; through an outpost officer, he gets a lead on where the armored trucks could be. Meanwhile, his men guard Se-ri and keep her away from the nosy village women.

Ri Jeong Hyeok’s real fiancée, Seo Dan, arrives in Pyongyang after seven years of music studies in Russia; in the airport, she bumps into Gu Seung-jun. Finding out from her uncle that Ri Jeong Hyeok doesn’t know about her upcoming recital, she decides to visit him later on.

In Seoul, Se-ri’s brothers and their wives plot how to take over her company. Meanwhile, the insurance salesman refuses to give up hope that Se-ri is still alive.

Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang orders a wiretapper in the State Security Department named Man Bok (aka “Rat”) to monitor everything happening in Ri Jeong Hyeok’s house.

Having grown close to Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men, Se-ri gives each one an award as a farewell gift. Later, that night, she and Ri Jeong Hyeok leave for the port where a boat will take her out to sea and to freedom.

Note: At the 45:55 mark, the insurance salesman persists in telling Se-ri’s secretary Mr. Hong that Se-ri could have survived the paragliding accident, just like the way a woman named Ewa Wiśnierska (a member of the German national paragliding team) survived a paragliding accident. In 2007 in New South Wales, Australia, Ewa survived extreme cold, lightning, and lack of oxygen during an ascent to almost 33,000 feet (higher than Mount Everest) inside a cumulonimbus cloud. She landed 3.5 hours later about 37 miles north of her starting position. (Wikipedia)

Episode 4

Ep. 3 recap:

Ri Jeong Hyeok tells Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang and the villagers that Se-ri is a member of Division 11, a secret group of North Koreans who have carried out missions in South Korea.

Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang used Man Bok’s wiretapping expertise to carry out the murder of Ri Jeong Hyeok’s brother.

Ri Jeong Hyeok and Se-ri’s boat is intercepted by the North Korean coast guard.
Ri Jeong Hyeok and Se-ri manage to convince the coast guard officer that they are lovers out for nighttime fishing and some romantic moments. The coast guard boat leaves, but Se-ri loses her chance to escape.

Later, Se-ri takes matters into her own hands; she climbs up a mountain and uses her two-way radio to send a message to South Korea. But the State Security Department intercepts her radio signal; led by Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang, soldiers race up to the mountain.

Convinced that Ri Jeong Hyeok is a low-ranking officer who doesn’t have any power, Se-ri begins befriending the Senior Colonel’s wife, the leader of the village women.

While buying some meat in the market, Man Bok (the eavesdropper) meets Ri Jeong Hyeok. Meanwhile, Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang uses his connections to verify whether Se-ri is really from Division 11.

As he continues his investigation, Ri Jeong Hyeok goes to the Engineer Brigade’s repair unit; he orders 1st Lt. Park to get the records from the unit’s officer.

In Seoul, Se-ri’s father decides to turn over the conglomerate’s leadership to Se-hyeong. Exploding in anger, Se-jun says that, as the first son, he should be given the position; he also says that, unlike everyone else, he has always treated Se-ri as part of the family. Se-ri’s mother breaks her silence, berating everyone and saying that Se-ri could still be alive; she also has a flashback of Se-ri being alone at nighttime on a beach.

Ri Jeong Hyeok’s fiancée, Seo Dan, travels to to his village. Along the way, her taxi breaks down, but Gu Seung-jun, who’s passing by after coming from a hunting and shooting trip, offers her a ride to the village.

Notes/spoiler alerts:

1. Starting at the 47:00 mark of Ep. 4, Se-ri and Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men tease and mock each other as they play word games, with the differences between South and North Korean cultures becoming apparent by the different words they use for the same things. At the 47:30 mark, a piano and cello arrangement of “Arirang” begins to play; the music continues until the 49:06 mark when Se-ri wakes up to the smell of the freshly-brewed coffee that Ri Jeong Hyeok made for her. With great insight, this drama uses “Arirang” to point out the unity among the peoples of South and North Korea.

“Arirang” is often considered as the unofficial national anthem of South Korea; it is generally associated with separation and strong feelings of sorrowful longing. It has numerous versions in terms of “lyrics, the timing when the refrain is sung, the nature of the refrain, the overall melody, and so on.” (Wikipedia).

Meaning Behind the Song Arirang

The Vienna Boys Choir - Arirang

BTS version of “Arirang”

The song “Picture of My Heart” from the OST contains chants of “Arirang” starting at around the 2:56 mark.

2. A Dramabeans recapper rants against the drama’s writer for the way Se-ri and Ri Jeong Hyeok escaped from the mountaintop. The recapper says:

“But mostly I was rolling my eyes because Jung-hyuk had just told Se-ri she couldn’t paraglide to safety because she’d be seen and caught, then his solution for escaping the soldiers was… to paraglide to safety! Only seconds after saying it wouldn’t work! Still, I love the characters so much that I’ll let this one go, but Show, don’t pull anything like that again, okay? It’s one thing to make an honest storytelling mistake, but please don’t treat your audience like we’re stupid. You’re better than that.”

IMO, the Dramabeans recapper is wrong. What Ri Jeong Hyeok meant was that Se-ri would be spotted if she used her paraglider to fly from the mountaintop, across the valley, between the mountains, and across the electrified fences of the DMZ. Notice that, at the 11:06 mark, Ri Jeong Hyeok went to the edge of the mountaintop and looked straight down. This means that he and Se-ri did not use the paraglider to fly across the valley; they used it to fly down as close as possible to the the mountainside, where they would not be spotted.

(What about Se-ri and Ri jeong Hyeok’s combined weight? Well, some models of paraglider wings can support weights of up to 500 pounds.)

Episode 5

Ep. 4 recap:

Se-ri and Ri Jeong Hyeok escape from the mountaintop by using her paraglider.

Ri Jeong Hyeok gets Man Bok’s wallet back from the gang of snatchers.

Se-ri is her father’s illegitimate child.

Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang verifies that Se-ri is not a member of Division 11.

Epilogue: In Switzerland, Ri Jeong Hyeok sees a woman (Se-ri) who’s about to jump off a bridge; he saves her by distracting her attention, asking her to take a picture of him and his fiancée Seo Dan.

On their way home, Se-ri tells Ri Jeong Hyeok that her heart fluttered seeing him search for her in the market with a lighted candle. To avoid any misunderstanding, however, Ri Jeong Hyeok confesses that he already has a fiancée.

Ri Jeong Hyeok and Se-ri see Seo Dan waiting in front of the house. After making up an excuse that he and Se-ri are working on an official mission, he takes Seo Dan back to Pyongyang.

After visiting his parents in Pyongyang, Ri Jeong Hyeok comes back to the village and tells Se-ri that he has come up with a plan to get her out of North Korea. But Man Duk (the eavesdropper) reports to Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang about Ri Jeong Hyeok’s plan for Se-ri.

To prepare Se-ri in going to Pyongyang and meeting, Ri Jeong Hyeok’s fiancée, the village women help her get a new hairdo and some new clothes.

The next day, Ri Jeong Hyeok and Se-ri travel by train to Pyongyang to get a photo for her passport. Unknown to Se-ri, however, Gu Seung-jun is also on the train.

In Seoul, Se-ri’s faithful secretary Mr. Hong and the insurance salesman meet a man who was able to record her two-way radio call from the mountaintop.

Se-ri’s brother Se-hyeong finally catches up with Gu Seung-jun’s contact man. After having the contact man beaten up, he makes a deal with him and the man who’s protecting Gu Seung-jun in North Korea; he promises to pay them handsomely if they deliver Gu Seung-jun to him.


1. Starting at the 20:32 mark, the village women try to comfort Se-ri for having been dumped by Ri Jeong Hyeok in favor of Seo Dan. Se-ri tells them that her love story with Ri Jeong Hyeok is like that of Romeo and Juliet. When the women say that they don’t know who Romeo and Juliet are, she then tells them that they’re like Gyeonwu and Jiknyeo.

The story of Gyeonwu and Jiknyeo is part of Korean mythology relating to the “Chilseok” festival. They’re lovers who are permitted to meet only once a year, and their tears during their separation signal the start of the monsoon season. For more information, please read “Chilseok: The Traditional Korean Valentine’s Day” (Asia Society) or view the video below.

2. Because Se-ri does not have any money to pay for the clothes that she wants, one of the village women takes her to the pawnshop. At first, Se-ri considers pawning her necklace, but she decides to pawn instead her luxury watch. This whole scene revolves on the hilarious interaction between Se-ri and the pawnshop owner, who gives her a measly amount because he appraised the watch on the basis of its weight and the leather strap. (Part also of this scene is Se-ri finding a watch that will turn out to be the watch that Ri Jeong Hyeok gave to his brother).

But why did the drama show Se-ri hesitating in pawning her necklace? It could have just gone straight to Se-ri taking off her watch and pawning it. Well, first of all, it’s a product placement opportunity for Swarovski, one of the drama’s sponsors. But the drama could have chosen any other necklace from the variety of necklaces from Swarovski; it chose, however, the “feather pendant necklace.” I think it’s because the “feather pendant” is shaped like the wing of a paraglider. Remember that in Ep. 2, Se-ri was struck with wonder as she watched the paragliders in Switzerland — which means that this drama pays attention to the smallest detail.

Speaking of paying attention to details, if you go back to Ep. 2 when Se-ri was looking at the books in Ri Jeong Hyeok’s closet, one of the books that you can briefly see is titled “Memoirs of a Geezer.” It’s the autobiography of John Wardle, better known as Jah Wobble, the bass player of the UK punk group “Public Image Limited.”

Episode 6

Ep. 5 recap:

Seo Dan’s mother subtly pressures Ri Jeong Hyeok into marrying Seo Dan. Later, in exchange for a favor, Ri Jeong Hyeok agrees with his father’s plan for him to marry Seo Dan by the end of the year.

Through his father, Ri Jeong Hyeok plans to include Se-ri in the North Korean international track team that will be traveling to Europe.

Gu Seung-jun meets Se-ri in the hotel lobby.

Se-ri tells Gu Seung-jun that Ri Jeong Hyeok is her bodyguard; she’s also surprised that he doesn’t know about her disappearance. Later, at the coffeeshop, she tells Ri Jeong Hyeok that Gu Seong-jun could possibly contact her family or even get her out of North Korea.

Seo Dan finds out that Ri Jeong Hyeok and Se-ri are in the hotel. After asking her mother to set up a dinner date with Ri Jeong Hyeok’s parents, she goes to the hotel to confront Ri Jeong Hyeok and Se-ri.

Gu Seung-jun is trapped on the rooftop by Se-hyeong’s goons. But he makes a deal with Se-hyeong — he will keep half of the money that he stole in exchange for telling Se-hyeong where Se-ri is. Later, Se-hyeung and his wife Sang-a order Gu Seung-jun’s contact man that Se-ri must never come back to South Korea.

After he is released from the State Security Department, Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang visits Gu Seung-jun. To his surprise, Gu Seung-jun shows him a picture of Se-ri.

Se-ri says goodbye to the village women and, later on, goes on a picnic with Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men on a riverbank. The next day, 1st Lt. Park drives her to the airport where she will join the North Korean track team on their way to Europe.

Note: While at the coffeeshop, Se-ri sees the first snow falling; she explains to Ri Jeong Hyeok that lovers in South Korea always look forward to being together when the first snow starts falling.

From “For Koreans, the first snowfall is a joyous moment. In traditional society, ‘soseol’ was not a seasonal holiday and was perceived simply as a day that signals the beginning of winter preparations. These preparations included stocking up on kimchi and preparing fields for the upcoming frosts.” According to popular belief, if you confess your love for someone during the first snow, you will always be with that person.

As I said in the introductory part of this blog post, this drama was written by Park Ji-eun who also wrote “My Love from the Star.” In that drama, she offers another explanation for the significance of the first snow — it marks the day when people can tell a lie, and the Joseon king will forgive them.

Episode 7

Ep. 6 recap:

Se-ri and 1st Lt. Park are attacked by the armored trucks. As they try to avoid being crushed by the trucks, Ri Jeong Hyeok appears from a side road, riding a motorcycle and shooting at the truck drivers.

As he tries to protect Se-ri, Ri Jeong Hyeok gets shot on the back.
1st Lt. Park begs Se-ri to leave him and Ri Jeong Hyeok so that she can go to the airport and catch the airplane that will take her to Europe. But seeing Ri Jeong Hyeok bleeding and unconscious, she decides to rush them to the nearest hospital.

While recuperating, Ri Jeong Hyeok dreams about the day that he found out about his brother’s death and about playing the piano on a small wharf by the lake. When he awakes and sees Se-ri beside him, he berates her for not having gone to the airport, saying that he and his men risked their lives for her for nothing.

Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang finds out that Ri Jeong Hyeok signed out several firearms from the armory; he orders all his staff to begin calling hospitals within a 20-kilometer radius of the shootout.

Seo Dan and her mother show up in the village, looking for an apartment where she and Ri Jeong Hyeok will live after their wedding. Later, while waiting outside Ri Jeong Hyeok’s house, she meets Gu Seung-jun.

Two truckloads of soldiers led by Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang arrive at the hospital. The soldiers surround the hospital, and Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang orders that Ri Jeong Hyeok be arrested for harboring a South Korean spy.

With Gu Seung-jun’s help, Se-ri escapes from the hospital.

Seo Dan finally finds out Se-ri’s real identity.

Episode 8

Ep. 7 recap:

After finding out that Se-ri gave her blood for him, Ri Jeong Hyeok calms down; he finds her outside the hospital and then kisses her.

Ri Jeong Hyeok’s parents, Seo Dan, and her mother all arrive at the hospital. Director Ri prevents Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang from arresting him. Later, when Ri Jeong Hyeok confesses his love for Se-ri, Seo Dan says that she’s still willing to go on with their wedding.

Gu Seung-jun takes Se-ri to his hideout and tells her to forget about Ri Jeong Hyeok.
When Seo Dan presses him on why he’s harboring a South Korean woman, Ri Jeong Hyeok remembers how he failed to protect his brother; he tells Seo Dan that, despite the risks, he will see to it that Se-ri gets back home. Meanwhile, Gu Seung-jun tells Se-ri that she has been lucky all this time but that everyone who has helped her could get into serious trouble.

From the hospital’s security footage, Ri Jeong Hyeok sees Se-ri getting into a car; he writes down the license plates, and later, he borrows an ambulance and begins looking for Se-ri.

Seo Dan and her mother begin moving furniture into the apartment; later, she contacts Gu Seung-jun and asks him if he knows of Se-ri’s real identity. When she threatens to report Se-ri to the authorities despite the risk to Ri Jeong Hyeok’s safety, Gu Seung-jun hastily tells her of an alternative solution.

Seo Dan’s mother goes to Ri Jeong Hyeok’s house in the village where she finds his men. Sensing that Sergeant Pyo Chi Su is a loudmouth, she gets him drunk, and soon enough, he spills everything about Se-ri.

In Seoul, Se-ri’s faithful secretary Mr. Hong and the insurance salesman find out that the police has closed its investigation of the recording of Se-ri’s radio call from the mountaintop. Undeterred, they lie in wait in the parking area to try to contact Se-ri’s father; when a car drives up, the insurance salesman suddenly rushes out but then comes face-to-face with Se-hyeong.

Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang secretly meets with the Military Director of the Central Committee and proposes a plan to bring down Director Ri from his position by using Se-ri. Later, after harassing the hospital’s officials, he goes to Gu Seung-jun’s hideout and threatens him at gunpoint to reveal Se-ri’s whereabouts.

Episode 9

Ep. 8 recap:

Gu Seung-jun tells Se-ri that, to keep her safe, they can get married by using his fake Italian identity ("Alberto"). He then gives her an expensive ring.

Ri Jeong Hyeok fights off Gu Seung-jun’s security men, but Se-ri tells him to stay away from her. Dejected, he walks away, but unable to control her emotions, Se-ri takes Gu Seung-jun’s car and goes after him. After spending the night in a schoolhouse, they return to the village.

In the village, Se-ri buys from the pawnshop the watch that belonged to Ri Jeong Hyeok’s brother. She plans to give it as a Christmas gift to Ri Jeong-hyuk, but as she walks back home, she’s kidnapped by several armed men.
Se-ri is kidnapped at gunpoint by several men; on a truck, as she says goodbye and says “I love you!” on the phone, Ri Jeong Hyeok hears a gunshot. Returning to his house, he sees the men from the State Security Department searching for Se-ri; when he attacks Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang, he’s beaten up and then arrested.

Man Bok’s son has seen Se-ri being kidnapped; he takes the package that Se-ri dropped and brings it to his father. When Man Bok sees the watch, he recognizes it as the watch that belonged to Ri Jeong Hyeok’s brother.

Seo Dan meets Ri Jeong Hyeok in the State Security Department’s jail; in bitterness, she says that he should stay locked up until their wedding. Later on, Ri Jeong Hyeok tells his men how they can help in getting him out.

After being released from jail, Ri Jeong Hyeok rushes to his parents’ house in Pyongyang.

Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang shows the Military Director of the Central Committee some surveillance photos and convinces him that it’s time to bring down Director Ri from his position as the head of the General Political Bureau.

Seo Dan meets Gu Seung-jun in a bar and gets drunk as she remembers how she met Ri Jeong Hyeok in school during their teenaged years and how she has been waiting all these years for them to get married.

In Seoul, Se-ri’s mother and her sisters-in-law manage to get into her apartment; while Sang-a goes through Se-ri’s financial records, Hye-ji takes from the closet some of Se-ri’s designer bags.

Because a North Korean soldier has defected, an emergency company switch has been ordered, and Ri Jeong Hyeok and his men are assigned back to the DMZ.

Note / spoiler alert: Se-ri finds out that it was Ri Jeong Hyeok who played the piano near the lake in Switzerland; she tells him that the music gave her the hope to continue living.

Episode 10

Ep. 9 recap:

Se-ri has been kidnapped by men from the General Political Bureau and brought to the house of Ri Jeong Hyeok’s parents in Pyongyang.

Despite his father’s anger, Ri Jeong Hyeok tells him that he will protect Se-ri and make sure that she gets back to South Korea.

Because of the emergency switch, Ri Jeong Hyeok manages to get Se-ri to the DMZ and into freedom.
Se-ri shocks everyone — her employees, managers, directors, brothers, sisters-in-law — by turning up alive and well. Later on, she has a frosty meeting with her mother. During dinner, Se-jun tells her how their father found out that she was possibly alive several weeks ago.

In North Korea, Man Bok finally confesses to Ri Jeong Hyeok how Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang forced him to help carry out his brother’s murder; he also gives back the watch.

Gu Seung-jun is accosted by several government agents in a hotel, but Seo Dan and her uncle intervene on his behalf. Later, he reveals to Seo Dan how he helped Ri Jeong Hyeok get Se-ri back to South Korea.

Se-ri begins getting her life back to her normal routines, but she also misses Ri Jeong Hyeok, his men, and the village women.

Based on the information that Ri Jeong Hyeok provided, Lt. Commander Cho Cheol Gang is prosecuted for several crimes, including the murder of Ri Jeong-hyuk’s brother. When the investigating panel finds him guilty of all the crimes charged against him, he goes berserk and attacks Ri Jeong Hyeok, screaming that he will get his revenge against Se-ri.

On the way to prison, the soldiers who are transporting Cho Cheol Gang are ambushed by an armored truck.

Episode 11

Ep. 10 recap:

Unlike her previous self-centered ways, Se-ri becomes kinder to all her employees and staff. She also takes Mr. Hong to the border and tries to see if she can spot Ri Jeong Hyeok in the DMZ.

Gu Seung-jun tells Seo Dan that there’s no future for her and Ri Jeong Hyeok; he says that she’s not in love but merely obsessed with Ri Jeong Hyeok.

Cho Cheol Gang sneaks into South Korea, intending to take Se-ri back to North Korea to bring down Ri Jeong Hyeok and his father. He manages to become part of the security team in Se-ri’s office building.

While out on a walk, Se-ri sees Ri Jeong Hyeok on the street.

Ri Jeong Hyeok tells Se-ri that Cho Cheol Gang escaped from prison and has come to South Korea to take his revenge against her and his family.

Se-ri takes Ri Jeong Hyeok to her home, but later on, her brother Se-hyeong and his wife Sang-a force their way in. Se-hyeong blackmails her that they will make known to the public that she was in North Korea during the time that she was missing.

Se-ri introduces Ri Jeong Hyeok to her staff as her bodyguard. Meanwhile, Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men continue with their misadventures in Seoul.

Se-ri’s eldest brother Se-jun also finds out that she was in North Korea during her disappearance.

In Pyongyang, Gu Seung-jun escapes from the goons sent by Se-hyeong; he reaches his car, but the people whom he calls refuse to help him. As he sits in his car thinking of his next move, he gets a call from Seo Dan.

Through an informant, Ri Jeong Hyeok gets a lead on where Cho Cheol Gang is hiding; Se-ri wants to go with him, but he says that it’s dangerous. Besides, he says that if he captures Cho Cheol Gang that night, he will immediately head back to North Korea.


Starting at the 38:59 mark, Se-ri buys several expensive suits and shirts for Ri Jeong Hyeok. When Ri Jeong Hyeok sees that the total price for the purchases is 25 million won (20 thousand US dollars), he takes Se-ri aside and asks her what she’s doing. But Se-ri reassures him that she’s the grateful swallow (42:18 mark) who is rewarding the farmer who saved her. Although the subtitles use the word “farmer,” if you listen closely to Se-ri’s dialogue, you will hear her say “Heungbu.” Please review my note for “Heungbu and Nolbu” in Episode 2.

Episode 12

Ep. 11 recap:

As he spends time with Seo Dan, Gu Seung-jun begins to fall in love with her.

The informant sets up Ri Jeong Hyeok for an ambush in a darkened building. Meanwhile, back in Se-ri’s office building, Cho Cheol Gang chases Se-ri and corners her.

Ri Jeong Hyeok arrives, and as he looks for Se-ri, Cho Cheol Gang aims his gun at him.
Cho Cheol Gang gets spooked when other security men arrive; Se-ri brings Ri Jeong Hyeok home and secretly asks a doctor to treat his knife wound.

A week later, Se-ri and her secretary Mr. Hong go back to the place where Ri Jeong Hyeok was ambushed. She offers the men who attacked Ri Jeong Hyeok a big reward if they can find Cho Cheol Gang.

In North Korea, as Seo Dan becomes more involved with Gu Seung-jun, she finds out the reason why he swindled Se-ri’s brother Se-hyeong.

Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men find out that Se-ri is opening a new store; they dress up as regular South Korean men and attend the opening. But when they arouse the suspicion of the staff, they run in panic.

Se-ri’s eldest brother Se-jun tells her that Se-hyeong did not do anything to bring her back from North Korea; he also tells her of Se-hyeong’s relationship with Gu Seung-jun’s former contact man, who’s now in Seoul.

Se-ri, Ri Jeong Hyeok, and his men are finally reunited. Se-ri brings them back to her house, and they spend some happy moments teasing each other and eating together. But later that evening, Se-ri overhears Man Bok telling Ri Jeong Hyeok about their deadline to bring him back to North Korea.

In the village, the women rally around their leader when her husband (the Senior Colonel) remains under arrest.

Gu Seung-jun’s former contact man arranges a meeting between Cho Cheol Gang, Se-hyeong, and his wife Sang-a. When Cho Cheol Gang says that she cannot guarantee Se-ri’s safety once she’s back in North Korea, Se-hyeong walks out of the meeting.

Se-ri’s mother visits her, but old wounds resurface when Se-ri reminds her of that time she was alone on the beach. Later, when she gets home that night, Ri Jeong Hyeok and his men are gone.


Ep. 12 recap:

Seo Dan finds out that Gu Seung-jun’s father was swindled by Se-ri’s father more than 20 years ago. Gu Seung-jun wanted to marry Se-ri and bring her family down from within, but when Se-ri proved to be too tough, he swindled Se-hyeong instead.

One afternoon during her early teens, Se-ri was abandoned on the beach by her mother.

Ri Jeong Hyeok and his men give Se-ri a surprise birthday party.
After the birthday celebration, Ri Jeong Hyeok gives Se-ri a ring.

In North Korea, Seo-Dan’s mother meets Gu Seung-jun in the apartment and is mortified to see Seo Dan in bed, with a hangover.

Sang-a continues to pressure the board of directors of Se-ri’s Choice to remove Se-ri as CEO, but Se-ri’s mother intervenes.

While on a date, Se-ri finds out that before the events in North Korea, she and Ri Jeong Hyeok met years ago on a bridge in Switzerland. Later on, they join Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men in a fried chicken restaurant where they watch a soccer match. Man Dok steps out for a while, and to his shock, he meets Cho Cheol Gang.

In North Korea, Seo Dan finds out that Ri Jeong Hyeok followed Se-ri to South Korea. Meanwhile, Seo Dan’s mother finds out the Gu Seung-jun is a swindler from South Korea.

Se-ri’s father angrily confronts Se-hyeong on lying about Se-ri’s disappearance; when he says that he will remove him as CEO of the business conglomerate, Se-hyeong begs for mercy and shows him the photos of Se-ri and Gu Seung-jun together in North Korea. He claims that Se-ri and Gu Seung-jun connived in swindling him.

Se-ri’s father orders Se-hyeong to contact Se-ri and tell her to come to the house and explain things. Se-ri agrees to come, but Se-hyeong has also told Cho Cheol Gang the route that Se-ri usually takes in going to the house.

On an isolated stretch of road, Se-ri’s car is blocked by three cars; several men with blunt weapons emerge from the cars and rush towards her.

Ri Jeong Hyeok, meanwhile, walks into another ambush set up by Cho Cheol Gang.

Episode 14

Ep. 13 recap:

Man Bok confesses to Ri Jeong Hyeok that Cho Cheol Gang threatened him.

Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men are hiding inside Se-ri’s car; after engaging Cho Cheol Gang’s goons in a brutal fight, they rush to help Ri Jeong Hyeok.

Se-ri gets shot as she puts her car between Ri Jeong Hyeok and Cho Cheol Gang.
Ri Jeong Hyeok rushes Se-ri to a hospital where she’s operated on and remains in a coma for several days. Later, however, Se-hyeong and Sang-a fire him as Se-ri’s bodyguard and hire their own bodyguards.

In North Korea, Seo Dan grieves after finding out that Ri Jeong Hyeok went to South Korea for Se-ri; to comfort her, Gu Seung-jun calls her and asks her to meet him on the bridge.

After having his gunshot wound treated in a dingy room, Cho Cheol Gang contacts the Military Director of the Central Committee and sends him the evidence against Ri Jeong Hyeok and his father.

Man Bok has secretly bugged Se-ri’s hospital room, and later, he gives her recordings of her mother, Se-hyeong, and Sang-a.

Officials from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) have studied the security footages of the tunnel; after concluding that the two men who used the tunnel could be after Se-ri, an NIS officer visits Se-ri and her father in her hospital room.

Ri Jeong Hyeok gets a lead on where Cho Cheol Gang is hiding; he goes there at night, but the NIS officer and his heavily-armed agents follow him from a distance.


Starting at the 50:23 mark of the full video, Ri Jeong Hyeok tries to comfort Se-ri when she complains about the scar that will prevent her from ever wearing a bikini again; he shows her the various scars on his body by almost taking off his shirt.

This funny scene echoes a similar scene in Son Ye-jin and Kim Nam Gil’s 2014 movie “The Pirates.” In that movie, the characters played by Son Ye-jin (pirate captain) and Kim Nam-gil (bandit chief) try to outbrag each other by showing off the battle scars on their bodies. But that scene from “The Pirates” isn't original because it was copied from a scene in the 1992 movie “Lethal Weapon 3” starring Mel Gibson and René Russo.

Episode 15

Ep. 14 recap:

Through Man Bok’s recording, Se-ri finds out how her mother regretted abandoning her on the beach.

Se-ri’s mother meets Ri Jeong Hyeok and pleads with him not to leave Se-ri’s side.

After listening to the recording of Se-hyeong and Sang-a’s conversation when Se-ri was still in a coma, Se-ri’s father fires Se-hyeong as the conglomerate's CEO.

As Ri Jeong Hyeok confronts Cho Cheol Gang, the NIS men surround the place. Cho Cheol Gang whirls around with a gun in his hand and then fires at Ri Jeong Hyeok.
Cho Cheol Gang dies in the shootout with the NIS agents, while Ri Jeong Hyeok is arrested. Later on, in the hospital, all of his men are also arrested, despite Se-ri’s desperate pleas.

In the village, Man Bok’s wife and son are picked up by agents of the State Security Department.

Se-hyeong fails to win back his father’s approval, but Sang-a assures him that their goons are now bringing Gu Seung-jun back from North Korea. Se-jun and his wife overhear their conversation and report everything back to Se-ri and her mother.

Gu Seung-jun escapes from Se-hyeong’s goons and goes back to Ri Jeong Hyeok’s village. He meets the village women, who give him food and shelter.

The NIS has found out the Ri Jeong Hyeok’s father is the director of the General Political Bureau; they investigate all his movements in South Korea through the available CCTV footages. But Ri Jeong Hyeok sticks to his story that he merely wanted to bring Se-ri to North Korea because of her business acumen and that his men are part of North Korea’s delegation to the miliitary games. On the other hand, Se-ri tells the NIS officer that Ri Jeong Hyeok helped her numerous times to escape from North Korea and that he came to South Korea to go after Cho Cheol Gang.

Because of their conflicting stories, the NIS officer brings Se-ri and Ri Jeong Hyeok for a face-to-face confrontation. But because of Ri Jeong Hyeok’s harsh words, Se-ri collapses and is rushed back to the hospital.

In the village, Gu Seung-jun says goodbye to Seo Dan; he will be leaving for Europe the next day.

Episode 16, Finale (with spoilers)

Ep. 15 recap:

Se-ri’s condition takes a turn for the worse because of blood poisoning.

Gu Seung-jun abandons his plan to leave for Europe; with his shotgun, he engages the men who are holding Seo Dan hostage. In rescuing Seo Dan, however, he gets shot.

On the way to the hospital, Gu Seung-jun dies.

Se-ri runs to Ri Jeong Hyeok as he and his men are being repatriated to North Korea.

The Military Director agrees to forget everything that has happened, but he insists to Director Ri that he will handle the repatriation of Ri Jeong Hyeok and his men.

Seo Dan vows revenge against everyone responsible for Gu Seung-jun’s death; meanwhile, Se-hyeong and his wife Sang-a turn against each other.

Se-ri begins receiving scheduled text messages from Ri Jeong Hyeok. She also receives some seeds from Ri Jeong Yeok that later blossom into edelweiss.

Sergeant Pyo Chi-su is promoted as the new captain, and Ri Jeong Hyeok is appointed as the new pianist of North Korea's National Symphony Orchestra.

One-hour version of this song
is also available on YouTube.
Se-ri establishes a foundation that will sponsor and train talented, young musicians from all over the world, with a yearly concert-festival to be held in Switzerland.

Every year, Se-ri goes to the concert-festival in Switzerland, hoping to meet Ri Jeong Hyeok there but to no avail. One time, however, as she walks along the street, she hears someone playing on the piano the song that Ri Jeong Hyeok composed for his brother.


1. At around the 58:00 mark, the village women receive from Seo Dan’s mother the latest cosmetic products from Se-ri’s company. To their surprise, the boxes for the cosmetics have their names and images printed on them. Seo Dan’s mother tells them that Se-ri’s name for this line of cosmetics is “Saudade.”

“Saudade” is a Portuguese term meaning “deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one cares for or loves while simultaneously having positive emotions towards the future. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never be had again.” (Wikipedia)

2. Ri Jyeong Hyeok’s men remember their happy moments in South Korea and the things they will miss. As they lie on their backs thinking about these things, we see in the foreground flowers that look like yellow chrysanthemums. Why did the drama include this shot of the chrysanthemums? Well, yellow chrysanthemums symbolize either neglected love or sorrow. In the scene’s context, the yellow chrysanthemums are used to symbolize or reinforce their sense of sorrow. (Please read “What do flowers mean in Korean Dramas?”)

Alternative interpretation: The yellow chrysanthemums could represent “hope” or “hope fulfilled.” In Ep. 9, as she’s about to go back to South Korea, Se-ri and Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men talk about their lives and their hopes for a better future. Notice that, in this scene, there at least three shots of Se-ri and Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men with their backs to the camera and with an empty foreground.

Historical backgrounders and other information

1. “Crash Landing On You” was inspired by a real-life incident involving a South Korean actress and her companions whose boat drifted into the waters between South and North Korea, For more information, please read “Boat Carrying Actress Rescued Near Border” (Korea Times).

2. The paragliding accident of lead character Se-ri in Episode 1 is based on a 2007 accident in New South Wales, Australia. A woman named Ewa Wiśnierska (a member of the German national paragliding team) survived extreme cold, lightning, and lack of oxygen during an ascent to almost 33,000 feet (higher than Mount Everest) inside a cumulonimbus cloud. She landed 3.5 hours later about 37 miles north of her starting position. (Wikipedia)

3. North Korean YouTuber Shares What’s Real And What’s Not In “Crash Landing On You”

4. “South Korean drama Crash Landing On You offers glimpse of daily life in North Korea” (Straits Times)

While North Korean issues are a recurring theme on big and small screens, Crash Landing On You is arguably the first to extensively feature everyday life in a small village, where blackouts and house checks happen regularly, and in the brighter, more glitzy capital Pyongyang.

They also roped in a defector as one of their writers and got an expert in North Korean language to review their scripts.

At least two defectors, including beauty YouTuber Kang Na-ra, have said that the drama is 60 per cent accurate in portraying North Korea.

5. In several scenes set in Switzerland, Ri Jeong Hyeok is shown taking pictures of landscapes and of Se-ri; Se-ri also uses the camera to take a picture of Ri Jeong Hyeok and Seo Dan. That camera is the 24 megapixel, Black Paint special edition Leica M-P 240, fitted with a Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH lens. It is the world’s second full-frame mirrorless camera and is compatible with Leica’s legendary M lenses. Total price of the Leica body and the lens is approximately US $10,000.

6. “Crash Landing On You” filming locations in Korea, Mongolia, and Switzerland

Rainbow Bridge (Korea)

7. Starting at the 47:00 mark of Ep. 4, Se-ri and Ri Jeong Hyeok’s men tease and mock each other as they play word games, with the differences between South and North Korean cultures becoming apparent by the different words they use for the same things. At the 47:30 mark, a piano and cello arrangement of “Arirang” begins to play; the music continues until the 49:06 mark when Se-ri wakes up to the smell of the freshly-brewed coffee that Ri Jeong Hyeok made for her. With great insight, this drama uses “Arirang” to point out the unity among the peoples of South and North Korea.

“Arirang” is often considered as the unofficial national anthem of South Korea. It has numerous versions in terms of “lyrics, the timing when the refrain is sung, the nature of the refrain, the overall melody, and so on.” (Wikipedia).

Meaning Behind the Song Arirang

The Vienna Boys Choir - Arirang

BTS version of “Arirang”

The song “Picture of My Heart” from the OST contains chants of “Arirang” starting at around the 2:56 mark.

Lessons in photography from “Crash Landing On You”

Linear perspective, low angle shot
Out-of-focus highlights,
bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Conveying depth through background blur
Aerial perspective, linear perspective
Aerial perspective
Decisive moment
Lead room or nose room
Short siding
Short siding
Partial frame, foreground and background blur
Partial frame, foreground and background blur,
bokeh (aesthetic quality of the blurred areas of a photograph)
Shallow depth of field
Partial frame, foreground and background blur
Line of direction, hidden geometric patterns
Partial frame, line of direction
Balance and symmetry, converging lines
Focal center of interest
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Shooting groups, balance and symmetry
Shooting groups, balance and symmetry
High angle shot (high angle point of view)
Low angle shot (low angle point of view)
Rule of Odds
Conveying depth through overlapping forms
Rack focus (focus in, focus out)
Rack focus (focus in, focus out)