The amazing thing about Korean dramas is how they introduce you to wonderful lead and minor characters…and then kill them off as major plot twists! There could be a horrible illness that can't be cured. There could be a psychopathic villain who murders as a hobby. There could also be out-of-nowhere car crashes or some kind of explosion that just catches you off guard.
Sure, you anticipate character deaths in Korean drama series from time to time, but that doesn't make the heartache any less crushing. The feels are too real and scenes like the ones listed below just make K-dramas so moving.
Warning: MAJOR spoilers ahead!
1. Eun Suh in Autumn In My Heart (2000)
This drama was the first installment of the iconic Endless Love series. As such, it set the tone of how heavy and emotional the series will be. ICYDK, the dramas were far from the usual lighthearted rom-coms you might be familiar with. Aside from the baby-switching and family-switching drama, Eun Suh (Song Hye Kyo) was afflicted with leukemia.
Trying to help her deal with the terminal illness, Tae Seok (Won Bin) and Joon Suh (Song Seung Heon) prove how genuine and unconditional their love for her was. Unfortunately, cancer took her life and the grief over her death led to Joon Suh's open ending of the tragic story.
2. Han Sung in Hwarang (2016 to 2017)
The period drama centered on flower boys in hanbok played by real-life flower boys Park Seo Joon, Park Hyung Sik, and Kim Tae Hyung, aka BTS' V as Han Sung. The story was riddled with secrets and political power plays, but it also shed a spotlight on brotherhood.
Han Sung's older half-brother was determined to redeem their clan's social status. In the process, he became distant, so Han Sung started treating Seo Joon's character (Moo Myung/Kim Sun Woo) as his brother. Because of this, Han Sung went as far as getting stabbed in place of Moo Myung. The sweet, innocent boy died in the hands of his half-brother who poisoned the sword.
Early in Hwarang, there was another "necessary" death that was a real tearjerker, too: the death of Mak Moon, the real Kim Sun Woo (Lee Kwang Soo). He was Moo Myung's only friend, and his loyalty was so commendable.
He died for his friend and became the catalyst for how Moo Myung found his way into the city and eventually saved the Kingdom of Silla from imploding. Kwang Soo may have been just a cameo, but his short bit in the story truly made an impact and fueled the devastation and anger of the lead.
3. Shin Joon Young in Uncontrollably Fond (2016)
This is one of those series with endings that just make you say, "WHY?!" Fans who've watched it know how upsetting it was that Shin Joon Young (Kim Woo Bin) had to succumb to his terminal illness.
The irony of it all was that the actor, Woo Bin, got diagnosed with nasopharyngeal character in May 2017, less than a year after the drama ended. Since then, Woo Bin has undergone treatment and has recently been seen looking healthy. There's no confirmation yet whether or not he's making a comeback soon, but fans are just glad he's doing well now.
4. Goblin and his Bride in Goblin (2016 to 2017)
The series was filled with kilig and heart-stopping romance, but it had plenty of moments of anguish, too. You'd have to have a heart of stone if you didn't feel the pain when Kim Shin (Gong Yoo) died in the arms of his bride, Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun). The latter's sobs and screams of "Ande!" (No!) and "Kajima!" (Don't go!) were enough to crush you and make you feel like the world is ending, too.
And if that wasn't enough, let's fast forward to the finale episode. There, Eun Tak is the one who sacrifices her life for the good of others and leaves Kim Shin behind. "The person left behind has to live to the fullest," she said. How, Eun Tak, how?! We dare you not to feel the agony of Gong Yoo weeping.
5. Most of the deaths in Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016)
If there's any drama that's a little bit comparable to Game Of Thrones in terms of making an art out of killing off characters, it's Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016). The chain of heartbreaking deaths started when Lady Hae, Eighth Prince Wang Wook's wife, got sick. She loved her husband so unconditionally that she let him be happy with her cousin.
Then came several deaths in the palace and in the royal household. Each one was muddied by betrayal and greed for power. One of the most tearful deaths was when Court Lady Oh was executed as a sacrifice for Hae Soo (IU. Another was when Tenth Prince Eun (EXO's Baekhyun) and his wife were slain as one of the other princes ascended to the throne. And it happened just as they were finally starting to be content as a couple!
Lastly, Hae Soo dies of a literal broken heart before she gets to reunite with her true love, King Wang So (Lee Joon Gi). It was so frustrating how Wang So never visited her until she passed just because he didn't read his brother's letters!
Another salt to the wound was that they had a daughter he never knew about. And it all ends with Hae Soo returning to the future and realizing how lonely Wang So must have been after she was gone. It's got to be the best-slash-worst open ending in K-drama history, and until now, four years later, we're still waiting for a resolution. Can we please have Season 2?! Chaebal!
6. Seung Joon (aka Alberto Gu) in Crash Landing On You (2019 to 2020)
While Crash Landing On You's lead characters, Se Ri (Son Ye Jin) and Captain Ri (Hyun Bin), had a star-crossed love story unlike no other, the drama's second lead couple charmed us with their unforgettable (read: tragic) romance.
Kim Jung Hyun played the cunning conman Seung Joon (aka Alberto Gu) who won the heart of North Korean rich girl Seo Dan (Seo Ji Hye). Both of them were previously engaged to the lead couple and shared painful pasts which brought them even closer to each other. All was going well for them—Jung Hyun even proposed to Seo Dan and she said yes!—but then in a wicked twist of fate, Jung Hyun was abruptly killed off in the penultimate episode with him dying in Seo Dan's arms. It was a plot twist that left viewers in a collective state of shock. Say it with me: SEO DAN DESERVED HER HAPPY ENDING.
Bonus: Heartbreaking Movie Deaths
Seok Woo in Train To Busan (2016)
In this zombie movie, Gong Yoo played Seok Woo, a father traveling to Busan with his daughter. He does everything he can to spare his daughter from the disease afflicting the train passengers. He was brave, smart, and strong throughout the story, but unfortunately, he got bit by a zombie, too.
As much as it pained him, he ensured his daughter's safety and stayed away from her despite her pleading for him to stay. Don't watch the clip if you can't bear to see oppa bawl his eyes out!
Yong Goo in Miracle In Cell No. 7 (2013)
Anyone who has seen this movie would probably argue that it's one of the most heartbreaking Korean movies ever made. The moment where the reality of his death sentence sunk in for Yong Goo (Ryu Seung Ryong) was so devastating. He couldn't help but cling to his clueless daughter and shout in hopes of being saved.
Never watch this movie unless you're ready for some serious ugly crying!
What other heartbreaking K-drama deaths can still make you tear up until now?
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