Mr. Sunshine Korean Drama Review

Mr. Sunshine is set during the early 1900’s and follows the story of a man (Lee Byung Hun) who was a slave as a child but escaped aboard a U.S. ship and grew up in America.  As an adult, he returns to Joseon as a soldier during the final years of the Joseon era and the beginning of the Japanese occupation. He also develops a relationship with a noblewoman (Kim Tae Ri) who is part of the Righteous Army.

Finally! A new historical to check out. There haven’t been many this year, so I was more than ready to dive into a new one. And it’s none other than the highly anticipated drama Mr. Sunshine.

This writer/PD combination has given us hit dramas like Goblin: The Great and Lonely God and Descendants of the Sun. So as would be expected, Mr. Sunshine is a visual feast for the eyes! Each shot is so stunning to behold. This is an incredibly high quality production. It had a huge budget, a large cast, and most of the beautiful sets had to be constructed specifically for this drama.

And I sure do love the time period! The setting of the late 1800’s to the very early 1900’s is so unique and is rarely depicted in dramas. The setting and costumes are so wonderful to see. A vast array of costumes were on display which included traditional clothing from Joseon and Japan, western fashions, and military uniforms from several countries. There really is a lot to see and enjoy with this one!

It’s also a time of transition as Joseon encounters all sorts of different cultures coming into their country. It really was so interesting to see so many cultures interacting. Some of it was a good thing, but there was a lot of bad happening too. The struggles were real with the stakes being very high during this tumultuous time.

Lee Byung Hun plays Eugene Choi/Choi Yoo Jin. Eugene was born a slave and circumstances led him to flee Joseon and board a ship to the United States. He eventually became a military captain and returned to Joseon on a mission.

He harbors a lot of resentment towards his birth country, but he struggled to fit in in the United States. This puts him in the difficult position of not truly feeling like he belongs to either country. It’s a lonely place to be.

Kim Tae Ri is Go Ae Sin. Ae Sin is a noblewoman who is educated, strong, and wants to help her country regain its freedom. This is how she becomes a fighter for the Righteous Army of Joseon. In the midst of her mission, she finds herself drawn to Eugene as well as in some complicated relationships with two other men.

Yoo Yeon Suk plays Gu Dong Mae. Dong Mae was born the son of a butcher which is one of the lowest positions in society. How he was treated growing up causes him to have ill feelings towards Joseon. He’s a harsh and violent man with superior fighting skills. But he does have a soft spot for Ae Sin that becomes a sort of obsession.

Kim Min Jung is Kudo Hina. She is the widow of a rich Japanese man which is how she ends up running the Glory Hotel in Joseon. She is a sophisticated woman with a lot of knowledge and understanding of people.

And finally, we have Byun Yo Han as Kim Hui Seong. Hui Seong is the fiancé of Ae Sin and has spent the several years living in Japan. He’s a good-natured man who is trying to live down the bad deeds of his parents.

Mr. Sunshine is a drama that starts off strong and pulls you in with its grand story, atmosphere, and cinematography. We also have a solid set of characters to bring everything to life. And don’t forget the wonderful soundtrack running throughout the drama.

The story is plotted well with plenty of stuff always going on. There is action, romance, intrigue, and well-developed character journeys. I tend to like this writer’s dramas in general, but I do usually find them a bit dry. I had a similar experience with this one in the beginning, but I did find myself growing more attached to the characters and invested in their stories as the drama progressed.


The drama does go through some slow spells though. It’s one of those times where it could have definitely benefited from fewer episodes and tightening up the story. These are some long episodes! But this is definitely a case where I was so enthralled with the atmosphere and the time period that it made up for a lot of what the drama lacked.

Although Mr. Sunshine is perfectly enjoyable on its own, I do think being somewhat familiar with the Korean history of the time would be beneficial to appreciating the events, the high stakes, and enhancing the overall enjoyment. It just really puts everything in perspective when watching these major events play out.

Of course, there’s the typical questionable acting from many of the foreigners in the drama. This is always a bit disappointing especially considering how stellar the other actors are as well as everything else in the production being top notch. You just kind of have to grin and bear the cringiness. But at least I always knew I would be in for a goodhearted laugh anytime David McInnis was on screen. He just embraces the cringe and was always highly entertaining.

The personal journeys of Eugene and Ae Sin are fascinating to see. They come from very different backgrounds, but they find common ground. It’s interesting to watch their relationship develop as they begin a bit at odds, then develop a respect for each other, and eventually fall in love.

And that’s where that star-crossed love comes in as society has placed them as far a part as possible combined with dangers lurking at every corner. Their love is a difficult one with a lot of obstacles to overcome in order to be together. Now this isn’t a romance that got me all swoony, but it delivered a lot of those small, subtle moments that create a lot of impact. Their relationship is very meaningful in so many ways.

There’s also a very interesting relationship that develops between our three leading men. Eugene, Dong Mae, and Hui Seong are about as different as can be. They have led completely different lives which have set them on completely different paths from each other.

But the situation in Joseon throws them together. They have a sort of love/hate relationship that is very complicated. While they never become truly close, they develop a sort of respect and fondness for each other. It’s just one of many fascinating relationships in the drama.

Despite some slowness here and there, the last quarter of the drama really ramps things of as Joseon has to deal head on with Japan. It’s sad to watch as their country is taken over with little that they can do to stop it. The brutality against the people of Joseon is devastating to see. This sets up some intense and heartbreaking final episodes that are incredibly sad yet also very inspiring.

The Righteous Army was up against terrible odds right from the beginning and that continues throughout their existence. But they are a group of people who will stand and fight no matter how many times they get knocked down. Despite a seemingly futile chance at winning, they will continue forward clinging to the tiniest hope of regaining their country’s freedom. Their sacrifices and their fiery spirit kept hope alive during a very dark time in Korea’s history. Their story certainly had me very emotional.

So in the end, Mr. Sunshine featured breathtaking cinematography that highlighted the time period, exquisite costumes, and sets to perfectly bring the time period to life. The scope of the drama definitely feels grand with a story that carries immense weight.

It definitely wasn’t perfect and had its flaws, but it’s a story that makes an impact in both an extravagant but also a very meaningful way. It’s a unique drama among historicals, and it really delivers a memorable experience on so many levels.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Kay

Greetings! I’m Kay, creator and author of Kdrama Kisses. Kdrama Kisses is dedicated to bringing you the latest in kdrama casting news, drama trailers, reviews, and more. Happy drama watching to everyone!
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36 Responses to Mr. Sunshine Korean Drama Review

  1. raistlin0903 says:

    Great review, and one that I have been waiting for to be sure! It’s nice to hear that overall it’s a drama that was very worthwhile. Honestly I am not surprised by the fact that this one did end up as maybe having a bit too many episodes. It’s hard to stay interesting over 16 episodes, let alone even more. And as you say, these are very long ones too. All in all though, this drama does sound like a winner, and having seen only the first episode so far, I was already very impressed by the way it looks. And the final score 8/10 certainly is a good one for a drama😊 Definitely am looking forward to finally getting back to it myself! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! 😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      It really was a fantastic drama in many ways. The ep length and count was it’s biggest flaw. 24 eps with times frequently over 1 hour 15 minutes is a lot. The last episode was even 1 hour 37 minutes which is like its own movie, lol.

      But the story, the characters, the amazing cinematography, and so much more was so impressive. I think it helped that I was very much in the mood for a historical too since it was only my second this year. That really allowed me to just take it in and appreciated it. I really hope you enjoy it when you get back around to it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • raistlin0903 says:

        Well, usually we end up liking the same shows, except on some very rare occasions, so I highly doubt it that I’m not going to enjoy this. And the added incentive for me is that this would be the first real historical K-drama for me, so there is that 😊 The only thing that might be a problem is finding enough time for it. Next week I unfortunately have to get back to work again, so it will be hard to find time especially on weekdays. But…that said, very interested in seeing this one, so I’m sure I’ll find a way 😊😊

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kay says:

          You definitely need to get that first historical in. But I can see how this one would be a problem time wise. I spent most of the last two weeks watching it! It really cut into my grand total of watched dramas for the year, lol. But hopefully, you do find time around your work schedule at some point 🙂


  2. snow says:

    It definitely is a very gorgeous drama. Haven’t seen the whole thing as I found it too slow to continue (as I already have so many other things on my plate)…but it surely is pretty grand with strong actors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      I think the one thing everyone can agree on is that it truly is a gorgeous drama. It definitely has its slow spells though. But yes, overall it had a grand feeling with wonderful actors headlining 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. dramajunkie says:

    After 8 episodes I got so bored. I dropped it after 10-12 episodes and now I am in drama slump can’t even go back and finish it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Aww, that’s too bad. That middle section is definitely where the worst of the slowness is. It starts to pick back up around 15 or 16, but it doesn’t really get going until about ep 20. So I can understand your hesitance in going back in. We really need to get you out that slump though!

      Liked by 1 person

      • dramajunkie says:

        Please do recommend me any good currently airing drama that I am sure to love. How about Third charm or that So Ji sub drama? Is it going good?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kay says:

          I haven’t started them yet, but I’ve heard a lot of positive things about the first couple episodes of The Third Charm and Terius Behind Me. They might be worth giving a look to see if they grab you from the start. Heard good things about Devilish Joy too, but also that’s it’s pretty cliched, so just depends if you don’t mind that sort of thing. Have you tried all of the ones that recently aired already?


  4. MyKDramaticLife says:

    Hi! I can feel you #raistlin0903 because I also only watched the first episode (which was very tensed and complicated) like two months ago. Hahahaha. And just before I’d continue watching it since Mr. Sunshine is really one that I looked forward for, it was even my top pick on the July 2018 premiers, I was caught up by some other exciting and daebak current dramas (Familiar Wife (8/10), Ghost Detective (9.5/10) and Lovely Horribly (9.5/10) ). So I think it’s now time to go back to my delayed excitement with this drama. Hehehe.


  5. BiblioNyan says:

    I’ve seen the trailer for this one on Netflix and it looks so gorgeous with the settings, scenery, and period costumes. The only reason I hadn’t picked it up was because it’s still airing here in the US, which kind of sucks because then I can’t marathon it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. dramajunkie says:

    No, I am just downloading pilot episodes of some 6-7 new dramas and then I will watch one and by one and see which one I like.


  7. Marlene says:

    I fell in love with Kudo Hina, she is elegant, fierce and witty, her death and Dong-mae’s touched me more than the other deaths in the drama because I was so drawn with their character, also the bromance between Eugene, Dong-mae and Haesu is one of the best element of the drama, I just felt like the writer doesn’t know what to do with Ae-sin so she was just left by herself with no one to love except her country

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Kudo Hina was an awesome character! So intriguing and complex. And her death was definitely the most impactful. I really liked the odd little bromance we had going on too. It was just one of many nice little surprises. And yeah, it was just Ae Sin and her country. It was sort of sadly poetic though.


  8. Fred says:

    Beautiful and painful. Had we been Koreans familiar with their history, this drama would have been even more painful and inspirational to watch. Tragic seeing that they still haven’t achieved their goal (a free and united Korea) this 2018. They’re still a divided country wherein larger foreign countries and jockeying for influence.

    Anyhow, the main characters were well-developed. You get to understand and feel what they are going through. Amazing to see that there are at least five characters you are rooting for. Though my favorite character is Hina Kudo. I love her. I mentioned previously that I loved the leading lady of Lawless Lawyer. But I love Hina Kudo even more. That’s how much I love her. Hard to explain why. I’m just drawn to her. HAHA.

    You seem to have mentioned most of my thoughts about this drama. That’s why I love your reviews. And I also cringe when I see non-Korean actors in ALL Korean dramas. Their gangsters, bodyguards and soldiers do not look – and move – as scary or intimidating as they should be. I don’t get it. Do they just get random people from the streets? HAHA.

    Lastly, how in the world did Eugene end up in New York and not in LA or San Francisco? They seemed to have forgotten – or they never knew at all – that Korea is in the Pacific so it would have made more sense that he ended up in the West Coast. But I’ll let that one slide. I need to enjoy dramas. HAHA.

    Now time to watch Thirty But Seventeen. I read ‘romcom’ and ‘9’. No questions to ask. I’m trusting your assessment. HAHA.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      I loved your comment as it sums up a lot of my thoughts. It really was a beautiful and painful drama. And yes, so many great characters! I think a lot of people’s favorite was Kudo Hina. She was such an interesting, complex, and powerful woman. It’s easy to see why she was loved.

      Yep, the foreign actors are usually pretty cringe worthy. They always stick out like a sore thumb. As to where they get them, there really just aren’t a lot of foreign actors in Korea. I think they just end up with a lot of students and English teachers who do acting on the side. And it doesn’t help how English speakers are directed either. They are frequently instructed to speak in a slow and awkwardly emphasized way. I’ve seen good foreign actors seem terrible in dramas because of how they are directed.

      Haha, yeah, I guess a few things may need a pass. I certainly have gotten quite good at overlooking a variety of things. I just want to enjoy my dramas too!

      I wish you the best of luck with Thirty But Seventeen. I was surprised how much I loved it. Simple yet so impactful, funny, and wonderful 🙂


  9. Yeah… It was a bit slow from the start and I had to admit I kinda lost interest in watching it completely. But I love the set of the drama, and I must agree that it has that high-quality-movie-like texture to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      The slowness was really the biggest downfall of the drama. It would have been better to reduce the episodes to make the pacing better. But luckily, everything else worked pretty well. And yes, it was a gorgeous drama to look at!

      Liked by 1 person

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  11. Jill Wentworth says:

    I loved this show more than I can say! Never was I bored, in fact I’ve rewatched the entire thing and still having withdrawals. It was perfect! The cinematography, music, acting…I became immersed, and loved these characters like family!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Oooh, it does sound like you loved it 🙂 It really was a wonderful drama and such a high quality production. Visuals, acting, and story were superb. Glad you enjoyed it so much! 🙂


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  13. Kathy says:

    The movie is great n has a sound and precise plot. The chemistry between them was obvious and sweet but I think they were too decent for reality.Not even a kiss!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      It really was a great show 🙂 Haha, yeah, it was disappointing that we didn’t even get one kiss though. At least there were some very romantic moments between the pair 🙂


  14. Carolyn says:

    Loved this series! Everything about it was excellent. (Although I would have enjoyed less blood). The ONLY slight disappointment has to do with the ending. Don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t watched, so don’t read any further….
    I wish there had at least been a final tender embrace and kiss (if not on the lips, even the cheek, forehead, or the hands would have been better than no kiss at all). When speaking of love’s “steps”… there was mention of first the handshake, then the hug, but they never reached the introduction of “the kiss”… My highest hope was that in the end they would sail off to America to live a happy life free from the terror they had endured. If it had to end with their permanent separation, why couldn’t it have at least been preceded by a tender moment of a kiss sealing their love.
    Still highly recommend this series!!! But was just a bit let down by the way it ended.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      It really was such a well done series 🙂 Great story, high stakes, beautiful cinematography, excellent acting. I know what you mean about wishing we could have at least got one little kiss. It would have been nice. I’m glad they had such a sweet relationship though.

      And yes, it sure would have been nice for them to be able to live happy lives in America after everything they went through. I think the end of their relationship sort of paralelled what the Joseon people went through. He was sacrificed after much tragedy, but then she lived on in hope for a better future someday. That’s very representative of all the tragedy the people as a whole went through. Many lives lost, but those left tried to cling to hope for freedom. Still incredibly sad though. Such a moving series!


  15. Snow Flower says:

    My favorite kdrama of 2018. I agree that there were a couple of slow spots in the middle, but the last couple of episodes really stood out. I have watched it 3 times so far, and the emotional impact does not diminish. Unforgettable characters, gorgeous cinematography, memorable soundtrack, all of the ingredients for a great drama!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Good pick for your favorite of 2018 🙂 Yeah, despite a few slow spots, it really had everything else going for it. Completely agree, amazing production, cinematography, actors, soundtrack, all of it! It’s truly a unique drama among historicals 🙂


  16. Snow Flower says:

    Mr. Sunshine is like a great 19th century novel, remarkable despite its flaws.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Elmo Harris says:

    I have watched the series from start to finish three (3) times now. It gets even better with time.:-)

    I have to disagree with the slow spots you mention. They were necessary to carry the story forward and further build the characters. I wouldn’t want it cut in any way. That is something Hollywood would have done and ruined a wonderful story to satisfy those that can’t keep up. The first episode was a bit confusing but reveals the significance of the events later in the story.

    I agree with the comments about the foreign actors. They were terrible. I’ve seen better acting and dialog delivery from elementary school plays. You have to gloss over that as they were the only flaws in a truly magnificent series.

    Watch it again. I’m sure your rating will change to at least a 9/10 or even a 9.5/10. It’s one of the best series I’ve seen in the past couple of years. It sets a new standard in binge worthy series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Glad you loved this series so much 🙂 It really is a unique and special drama. Although I did find it a bit draggy here and there, I think the pluses of the series far make up for that, particularly because of the overall atmosphere that was created. We all have different tastes and interests though, and what one person finds slow another doesn’t. Neither is wrong, it’s just different opinions, and that’s okay 🙂 I still loved the drama and am glad we got to enjoy such a high quality production 🙂


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