Where Stars Land (also known as Fox Bride Star) is about two rookies who work in the passenger service department at Incheon Airport. Yeo Reum (Chae Soo Bin) tends to get into troublesome situations a lot while Soo Yeon (Lee Je Hoon) just wants to live an ordinary life but hides a painful secret.
Where Stars Land was my follow up drama to The Smile Has Left Your Eyes. And that definitely puts it at a disadvantage since that drama was so compelling. I ended up having some mixed feelings about Where Stars Land, but thankfully, it skewed towards the positive.
Lee Je Hoon plays Lee Soo Yeon who works in the passenger service department at the airport. He’s good at his job and prefers to keep to himself. He just wants to live an ordinary life. But a big secret he holds causes him to distance himself from those around.
Chae Soo Bin is Han Yeo Reum. Yeo Reum has struggled to get her position at the airport and tends to get into trouble a lot. But she is incredibly kind with a big heart and is more than willing to work hard. When she gets paired with Soo Yeon, they initially are at odds. But soon she takes notice of some unusual things about him and her curiosity continues to draw her to him.
Kim Jee Soo plays Yang Seo Koon who is a Team Manager in the passenger service department. She comes off a bit cold and stern, but she is very fair and has a kind heart. She’s always doing her best at her job as well as trying to help her team.
Lee Dong Gun is Seo In Woo who is another manager. And this guy was something else! His animosity towards Soo Yeon was very overwhelming. He seemed set on causing him trouble and outing his secret. He’s a character I never really grew to like.
Where Stars Land is one of those dramas that I had some reservations about pretty early on. Now I was actually interested in it for a couple reasons though. I really like Lee Je Hoon a lot and also enjoy Chae Soo Bin. The writer of the drama also created a couple of my favorite dramas, King of Baking and Gu Family Book. So that was enough to pique my interest.
But I’ll admit, on paper, the story sounded pretty bland as it focused on people working at an airport. And while the trailers were fine, they really didn’t do a lot for me. So I just wasn’t sure.
But then it was really well received by fans, and I heard glowing recommendations for it week after week. Now I was excited to check it out. Then to my dismay, I was disappointed with the first few episodes.
Sadly, it mostly did just feel like an office type drama set in an airport. The big story wasn’t kicking in strongly, and it seemed to be settling into a pattern of the workers having to deal with a new crisis each week. Oh no, not an episodic office drama! I was pretty dismayed. Now it’s not that it was bad, it’s just not my kind of thing. I started contemplating dropping it.
But there was one thing that I held on for. Lee Je Hoon’s character of Soo Yeon. Lee Je Hoon is already an actor I think is very talented. He has this subtle charisma that I find very charming and endearing. And he was perfect for the character of Lee Soo Yeon.
Now I will be openly discussing Soo Yeon’s secret since it is revealed in the first few episodes. For a drama that seems very ordinary, it suddenly introduces something pretty unusual. In the early episodes, Soo Yeon demonstrates what almost seems like superpowers when using his right arm. It has super strength, doesn’t feel pain, and is magnetized. What on earth was going on?
Well, it turns out, he was in a terrible accident as a teenager and damaged his right arm and leg. And with a bit of a miracle, he was given a robotic device to wear over his injuries that allowed his to function normally. Well, a little better than normally! I was highly interested in this story.
And what a story it was! My heart absolutely broke for this man. Soo Yeon went through something terrible, faced judgment, and almost took his own life after the accident. But he was given a new opportunity in life. And he wanted nothing more than to be ordinary. He wanted to blend in, have no one notice him, and just live his life.
But being the good man that he is, when people were in need, he couldn’t resist helping them, which consequently, brought attention to his abilities. And that attention was always a threat to the normal life he wanted to live. He didn’t want to be judged and just wanted to enjoy his simple life. And all of that was being threatened not only by his good deeds, but by a person from his past creating trouble for him. I just felt so bad for him and really felt his pain.
I did still find much of the airport happenings fairly mediocre though. Of course, there are a variety of characters we meet, and we get a window into life at the airport. Multiple relationships are explored as we learn several people’s stories.
And while I still didn’t love the crisis of the episode scenario, most of the situations that were dealt with were emotional and heartwarming. Some of it felt a bit forced, but overall it was done well enough.
I also thought the show took way too long to dig into why In Woo had so much hate towards Soo Yeon. It seemed excessive, and I kept waiting to get a little more insight into their back story than the little bit we were given.
It would have helped to learn his motivations sooner so that maybe I could have some sympathy towards him. We don’t really get any answers until almost the end of the drama. That’s way too much time spent disliking a character to have any major turn-around.
But back to the good stuff! The way the drama was written and directed was in such a thoughtful way. A lot of care was put into many of the important scenes to really make an emotional impact. It just had a lovely and moving feel to it.
This was highlighted the best concerning Soo Yeon’s story. Thankfully, the second half of the drama focuses much more heavily on him. That was something I was very grateful for! My interest in the drama grew immensely.
I will mention that some of the finer details surrounding his bionic arm and leg are a bit fantastical and to much scrutiny could definitely ruin the story. Don’t think about the logistics to hard. The main focus of the story is mostly his personal journey and the immense pain he deals with.
We watch him try his best to be normal and see just how much his injury affects him. It’s a really interesting scenario where with his robotic arm and leg he is basically super human, but without it, he is wheelchair bound. Those are quite the extremes. He hates feeling helpless and like less of a person without his aids, so he wants to use them at all costs.
But then they start to act up a bit, drawing extra attention to him. And this happens just as he is getting to know Yeo Reum. His feelings for her are rapidly growing, and he is captivated by her. She is also drawn to him and curious about who he is.
And I loved how supportive of him she was. As strange things happen because of him, most want explanations. But she sees the struggle he is having and allows him to take his time and only open up when he is ready.
Her feelings for him are so genuine and caring. Yeo Reum’s acceptance of Soo Yeon was truly moving. And the relief he felt by being accepted by her was so sweet. I really enjoyed watching this relationship blossom.
But of course nothing is easy. Soo Yeon continues to want to hide his disability and then finds out his robotic aids are malfunctioning due to his feelings for her as well as muscle necrosis starting to set in. He then proceeds to jeopardize his health in order to continue the relationship as well as working his job all while still hiding what was going on.
And of course, just when he begins to think he may be able to be happy with her despite his disability and was ready to show her his true self, she gets injured, and he is unable to be there for her. This amplifies his feelings of helplessness.
The latter episodes of the drama have Soo Yeon being so stubborn and wearing his robotic aids even at the cost of his life. His health rapidly deteriorates, but he has basically decided he would rather die than be back in the wheelchair. This was so sad to see.
The drama adequately portrayed his extreme feelings around the issue, but I was just so hoping for that point where he would see that he could still find happiness even without the robotics. Watching him allow his health to spiral downward was frustrating.
Now for the ending. I’m one who isn’t usually too bothered by the classic separation of the couple that happens so frequently in kdramas. I definitely don’t love it or think it’s necessary, but it doesn’t upset me. But this drama is one of the exceptions.
I disliked the one year separation because I felt it took away the impact of many of themes the drama was hitting upon. Soo Yeon struggled the entire time with accepting his limitations and loving himself as he was.
And while I am glad that he ultimately decided to live after seeing how much Yeo Reum loved him, I hated that he basically disappeared for a year until he could use his robotic aids again.
It would have been much more meaningful to have Yeo Reum be there during his recovery and while he was in his wheelchair. Then he still could have still eventually got better and used the aids again. And it would have been fine because he would have seen that Yeo Reum loved him either way and that he could have loved himself and found some happiness even in that condition.
But instead we needed the dramatic reunion after a separation moment that didn’t really have the impact it could have. This wasn’t a major issue, but I really think there was a missed opportunity.
END OF SPOILERS
In conclusion, while I didn’t love some of the airport happenings and wish the focus of the drama would have been greater on Soo Yeon from the beginning, Where Stars Land is at its heart a very moving story.
It highlights how we all just want to be accepted, faults and all. But it’s hard to reveal your true self because of the fear of judgment and the effect that can have on our lives. It really starts with accepting ourselves. There will always be people that judge us and look down upon us. But realizing that each of us is important and unique should build up our own self esteem. Then the people that truly matter will accept us. They are the ones that count.
Watching Soo Yeon struggle was difficult, but it highlighted some important issues. Life may not always be easy, but we need to start with loving ourselves just as we are.
My Rating: 7/10
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