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[Friday Flashback] 49 Days

Released: 2011

Genre: Melodrama, Romance, Supernatural

Synopsis: Ji-hyun has the perfect life, but just before she’s set to walk down the aisle and enter marital bliss, she’s involved in a car accident. With her body in a coma, her spiritual form is presented with two options: willingly pass on into the great beyond, or spend the next 49 days collecting tears shed by three non-relatives who truly love her. If she can collect three pure tears by her deadline, she’ll wake up from her coma… but she quickly learns that it’s not as easy of a task as she initially thought. During her quest, she’s allowed to borrow the body of Yi-kyung, a convenience store worker who has lost her own will to live.

Why You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Watch 49 Days:

This is one of the very few dramas that has made me ugly cry, so if you haven’t seen it, I’m warning you right now: watch with a box of tissues and some of that cookie dough that’s conveniently packaged like a burrito — you know what I’m talkin’ about. You’re going to need it because — unless you lack a heart or tear ducts — this drama packs one hell of a wallop.

Although it’s a more melodramatic approach to the ghostly body-snatching trope that often skews towards comedy (e.g. the currently airing Ghost Doctor), 49 Days does have its share of laughs. Our leading lady Ji-hyun (Nam Gyuri) is a spoiled-but-endearingly-naïve-and-slightly-dumb rich girl, so when she enters her 49-day contract with the flower boy Scheduler (Jung Il-woo), it’s hard not to chuckle at their interactions. It’s uncommon that the leading lady doesn’t fall in love with the handsome fantasy creature, but even without a romance bringing them together, this odd couple still presents the audience with some great onscreen chemistry. Admittedly, most of it can be credited to the Scheduler’s tsundere personality and facial expressions, which give away exactly how he’s feeling whenever Ji-hyun demonstrates her complete lack of critical thinking skills.

While there are romantic undercurrents to this drama in the form of a second — or is he a first? — male lead who has had a long-time crush on Ji-hyun, I wouldn’t seek this drama out if you’re in the mood for a light-hearted romance. As I stated before, this drama sucker-punched me in the feels, and part of it is because the romance is more of the what-could-have-been variety. The romantic story arcs are also a bit passive, taking a backseat to our leading characters’ individual growth.

49 Days is more focused on the characters healing from trauma and the loss of a loved one. Characters such as Yi-kyung (Lee Yo-won). Ji-hyun not only borrows hijacks Yi-kyung’s body on her quest, but Yi-kyung also serves as Ji-hyun’s foil. While Ji-hyun is — occasional pity-fest aside — optimistic and chipper, Yi-kyung is depressed and suicidal. After a tragic accident left her grieving, Yi-kyung has voluntarily closed herself off from the rest of the world. But Ji-hyun won’t let her wallow in solitude with unwashed hair for long. These two women need each other, and the story is about their connection — both spiritual and emotional.

That said, 49 Days is kind of like a soft-core makjang. Once you move past the initial fantasy set-up for Ji-hyun’s journey, many of the challenges she faces are makjang-like: affairs, love triangles, birth and death secrets, hostile business takeovers — oh my! I think what prevents this drama from going full-blown soap opera, though, is how the story weaves all the drama together. Instead of driving the narrative and dropping the twists randomly to add suspense, the majority of the makjang tropes are revealed within the first couple of episodes, allowing the rest of the story to focus on Ji-hyun’s journey to collect tears and prevent bad things from happening to the people she loves.

And instigating those bad things is a devious, backstabbing fiancé. Although his character lacks originality, his presence is less eye-roll inducing because he’s utilized fairly well to provide conflict and sidetrack Ji-hyun from her quest. There wouldn’t be much of a story if she collected all three tears in under ten days, so she needs some reason to drag her feet and stave off trying to emotionally manipulate people into crying tears of pure love.

So does this Friday Flashback stand the test of time? I like to think so. While some of the acting can be a little lackluster, the writing makes up for it. It’s also one of the few fantasy dramas that has concluded and left me feeling satisfied. I mean, I may have looked like someone hosed my face down with a pressure washer afterwards, but 11 years after my original viewing, I’m still coming to terms with how much 49 Days completely wrecked my emotions. That’s gotta count for something, right?


 
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I remember that a lot of people were involded with the Scheduler's story (Jung Il-Woo's effect I guess) but I was most interested to watch Nam Guyri finding her 3 persons who will shed a tear for her. It's why I really hated the end. She did it, she discovered that her best friend loved her... and then "Congratulation, you will die anyway!".

I really liked Jo Hyun-Jae in this role.

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The story was about the way both women learned how others really felt and who they were, and how was important to make the most of it. If she had lived it would almost have been only a romantic adventure instead of a philosophical drama disguised as soap opera.

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I don't agree. They gave rules and didn't follow them. She could learn about these things and live. It wasn't only about the love relationship but her, she grew up a lot. Or just let her die and reincarnate in someone else. She wouldn't have known the truth, but she was happy.

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That was exactly my problem with this drama. And what would be the point of learning anything if she just dies anyway? It actually casts some doubt on whether those lessons were worth it or not- not very good philosophically.

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This drama scarred me for life.

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I remember reading the DB recaps for this long back. I think there was even another post on DB on how if they had to change the ending of a show, it'd be this one? I was warned away and never got around to watching it - it still hangs on my endless 'to watch' list. Maybe it's finally time to give it a go 🤔.

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I log in just because I want to leave a comment on this. 49 Days was the drama that led to me discovering Dramabeans, following for its recaps and staying for more until now. It has also been the drama that led me to watch Kdrama religiously, knowing the broadcast schedule and understand the agonizing wait for subtitles. The last 2 episodes left me dehydrated and were a lot to process, but all in all, I'm glad I watched it and definitely appreciate writer So Hyun-kyung for sticking to her original script idea to deliver a meaningful story.

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You know, that’s a good point about the writer sticking to her original plan. But man, people were PISSED 😡. That’s what I remember most about this show!
And of course, Jung Il Woo who simple leapt! off the screen and left everyone asking, who IS this guy?

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Wow. That really hits hard and it made me realize how long I've been a kdrama fan for. I love 49 Days especially with that ending! I remember people hating the show for it but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cried my eyes out.

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49 Days is a drama that I've watched multiple times. The ending is heartbreaking but this is a drama worth watching.

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One of my favorite dramas.

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Jung Il Woo was the standout for me. It’s worth watching to see the hype on JIW.

Nam Gyu Ri’s acting was wanting. After 49 days, I then watched Cruel City - and here it was apparent NGR was the weakest link in a cast full of powerhouse acting. I actively avoided Nam Gyu Ri after those 2 experiences until Children of Nobody came long, where she redeemed herself.

Lee Yo Won fared better. Her dual personality had moments of inspired acting. But her depressed look sometimes appear as blank sulking. Maybe due to prolonged scenes. I liked her better with her vibrant personality.

I knew about the ending so it didn’t hit me emotionally as I guessed it should.

In the end, I can only recommend this as one of the early gateway dramas of Jung Il Woo.

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This was my second drama and it is still one of my favorites. Not many dramas are as bold as this. I don't remember another female lead that was ever guilty of being self-involved while still being very nice to everyone. The best kdrama reaper story ever. Best of all were the philosophical messages disguised in a soap opera.

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It feels like that was the first Grim Reaper drama, is that true? Does anyone remember? After that, there were lots.

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Oh I most certainly remember this show. It was the Scheduler's storyline that hit me sohard; it was like a punch to the gut, it was so heart-wrenching. To this day I am traumatized by this show! This show was one of the reasons why I said I would never live-watch a show again. (A rule I have broken and I've often been burned by breaking that rule. Anyway...) Nam Gyuri's acting wasn't that great, but Jung Il-woo and Lee Yo-won totally destroyed me. When he walked away (and for those who've seen the show, you know what scene I'm talking about), I just about died inside. It was a beautiful show about life, love, loss, and moving on, but man it was hard on the heart and tear ducts.

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Wow, this drama. In some ways, I have a lot of fondness for it because it one of the first dramas I watched once I committed to Korean dramas, probably the 3rd or 4th drama I watched. I loved the makjang-ness of the show and really I was invested in everything except that 11th hour plot-twist from the last 20 minutes of the finale. I was so upset at how it came about (I prefer my plot-twists to have some hints that I can look for in the re-watch) and how it was not set up that I pretty much vowed to forget the shows existence. After 11 years, I might have healed enough to re-watch it, no guarantees lol.

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There were some hints from earlier episodes, and I could have sworn I later read something about those hints. I do think the reveal could have been hinted at in better ways, but there were some small references to a connection.

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I will forever be bitter.
If everything else wasn't so good, the ending wouldn't have been such a stab in the back.

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You make a good point. The most disappointing ones are those that are great- and then they pull the rug out from under you.

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I remember bits of this, but most of all a few feelings:

1. The frightening feeling of being in a nether world of not being seen but hearing everything and learning about what people really think and not being able to communicate.
2. The desolate world of Yi-kyung. That room...
3. On top of that, the frightening realisation of how hard it was to find three people who truly mourned her

It was gratifying that she grew up. Btw I don't mind people dying in dramas because it seems more realistic. It makes sense to me that in those 49 days, one would see things from a whole new perspective.

But mercy me, how could I have forgotten that it was Jung Il-woo? Banish me!!!!

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Han Kang!! I fondly remember having a huge crush on Jo Hyun Jae here. Plus this js the first drama I saw and liked Jung Il Woo. I will always remember this drama with affection.
Yes the fiance and fake bestie makes my blood boil to this day. I also cried bucket of tears with the ending. Why show? Why? But I understand why it ended the way it did. * sniffles*
*runs away to look for clips of this show**

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Personally on the floor because of @daebakgrits comment about burrito cookie dough. Yes, I do know what you're talking about! 🤣😂 Please, let us oversimplify the already convenient. Seriously though, this was a great rundown and summary!

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“Soft-core makjang” made me LOL 😆

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@bbstl There's something for everyone lol

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The one line I have always remembered from this drama which hit me hard in the philosophical area goes along the lines of "Don't think of dying for me just because I'm dead. We don't reunite after death but rather we'll be searated even after that. That is why it's called death in that we don't get what we want" and it's the exact opposite of life. Said by the reaper. Gives a really new meaning/twist to the "We'll reunite in death" philosphy. Great drama which made me cry buckets. I felt for all the characters.

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OMG THIS DRAMA

I genuinely cannot think about the ending without tears welling up in my eyes. I hated the ending so much but at the same time I get why it ended the way it did.

The only thing I really hate in retrospect was the therapist who was... highly unprofessional even for Kdrama standards.

Oh, and I also remember thinking how weird it was that the Scheduler wasted so much of his time sending his long lost girlfriend out shopping or something while he fixed up her flat? Like... dude, you were granted a cosmic gift of a few precious hours to be with her so, like... actually be with her? 😅

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I loved this drama and was also satisfied with the ending - which is weird since most people hated the ending and felt betrayed by it. I guess it would have made sense too if they went with a happily ever after. Even though it sucked that Ji-hyun ultimately died and the promise to come back was betrayed, the extra days she had were ultimately a gift. She was able to prevent her bastard fiance from ruining her family, save her suicidal sister, bring her sister back to her family, bring her terrible friend back from the dark side, and resolve her relationship with her old friend/now love.

Even after the initial shock of being told that she was always destined to die, she spent the remaining time even more preciously. And she left the world with a smile escorted by Scheduler friend. I really admired Ji-hyun for her strength.

I dislike death endings, but I felt really at peace with this one even with all the crying I had to do.

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My memory of this drama is hazy, it's been so many years, but still remember that ending. On reflection, I really like it - it's such poignant irony, a testament to the fact that no-one really knows what'll happen in life. Who can whether that accident Nam Gyu-ri's character was in was a good or bad thing?

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I'm re-watching it now. This drama is a favorite of mine, and the Dramabeans recaps were everything. The ending tore me up though, and yes, it will make you ugly cry. Traumatized for real.

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