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K-drama Flashback: Six Iconic Scenes from Descendants of the Sun

The show is a heartwarming tale of romance, comedy, and adventure in a not-so-quintessential wartime K-drama

Debashree Dutta May 14, 2022

Photo: Courtesy of KBS

Descendants of the Sun was my first dose of Song Joong-ki, the hero who made me forget every other Korean actor I was crushing on at that time. Such was his impact. The unique narrative added to the effect. I literally binged-watched the show multiple times in a row. Yes, I did, and never once did I get bored. It’s a not-so-quintessential wartime K-drama with brilliant aesthetics, camerawork, and a heartwarming tale of romance, comedy, and adventure that boasts stellar performances, coupled with mind-blowing OSTs. In a nutshell, Descendants of the Sun is a little bit of everything that comes together flawlessly to form a picture-perfect cult classic.

At the centerpiece of the story lies Uruk – the strife-torn land where Captain Yoo Si-jin (Song Joon-ki), Seo Dae-young (Jin Goo) and the Alpha team members are tasked with hostage relief and neutralizing terrorist activities. These men, alongside Doctor Kang Mo-yeon (Song Hye-kyo), First Lieutenant Yoon Myeong-joo (Kim Ji-won), and Haesung Hospital Medical Services personnel band together to overcome adversities: dreadful circumstances, natural catastrophe, and deadly disease. What follows is a saga of unforgettable moments of romance, high-octane action sequences, comedy scenes, and witty dialogues.

The humorous banter between the lead characters provides the best comic relief in an otherwise serious narrative. Additionally, the bond between the military men and the health department officials in the service of the country is truly inspiring. Today’s K-drama flashback piece will therefore take you down memory lane while reviewing the six most iconic scenes from 2016’s megahit blockbuster, Descendants of the Sun.

Sparks fly when Captain Si Jin encounters a feisty yet beautiful cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Mo Yeon. Without wasting time, Si Jin takes her out on dates at regular intervals, but the call of duty keeps interrupting their time together. A distraught Mo Yeon soon discovers that their perspectives are irreconcilable (Si Jin will kill for his country, and she will honor the Hippocratic oath and save lives at any cost). A blossoming romance is nipped in the bud as opposing viewpoints collide. However, little do they know that fate has other plans. One of my personal favorites is the following scene – a humorous snippet from their first meeting.

Si Jin and Dae Young are dispatched to Uruk to aid the United Nations in sustaining regional peace. Mo Yeon, on the other hand, discontinues surgical procedures after being denied a professorship due to her lack of contacts. So, she decides to become a doctor in charge of VIP patients at Haesung Hospital, a role that carries a celebrity status that goes against her principles. Later, her refusal to accept the hospital chairman’s romantic advances land her in Uruk as a medical team leader to serve a clinic in the area – a time when Mo Yeon and Si Jin are reunited by chance.

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With the prince of Abu Dhabi on the verge of dying, Si Jin asks Mo Yeon if she can save him (he wants to ensure that the prince lives and the doctor isn’t blamed). As Mo Yeon confirms that she can, Si Jin and his team point guns at the prince’s men and vice versa. While the latter command Mo Yeon to withdraw, Si Jin, on the other hand, is adamant about saving the prince. So, he tells Mo Yeon to carry on with the treatment. Amid a gun standoff, the medical team starts wheeling the patient to the surgery room. As Mo Yeon leaves, Si Jin turns to look at her. Deep inside he admires the doctor’s commitment to saving lives, and she admires his courage.

Lieutenant-General Yoon’s daughter, Yoon Myeong-joo, is a South Korean army doctor. During her probation, she meets Dae Young and is immediately drawn to him. Although their relationship is public, their differences in rank make it forbidden. He is a non-commissioned officer, while she is an officer. But their feelings being strong, Myeong Joo isn’t dissuaded from pursuing Dae Young (much to her father’s dismay). The next scene is a throwback to Dae Young and his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. We see him congratulating the bride-to-be when suddenly, Myeong Joo appears out of nowhere introducing herself as his present girlfriend.

Mo Yeon unexpectedly reveals her feelings when in Uruk (much to the delight of Si Jin and the rest), and the two begin dating again. The wine-and-kiss moment from episode five is one of the many other points in this drama that exemplify why the ‘Song-Song couple’ (Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo) was and still is a fan favorite. Si Jin encounters Mo Yeon, who is sipping wine and offers to share it with him. “It’s not like there’s no other way,” the captain responds, immediately sealing the moment with a kiss.

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Having already binge-watched it several times, I would gladly watch this drama again just to see Dae Young and Myeong Joo. In my opinion, for the first time in comparison to other K-dramas, the second leads were as well-liked as the main leads. Jin Goo’s superb representation of a broken soul divided between duty and love comes to life beautifully. In front of Myeong Joo, he remains silent and says nothing, but deep inside, he’s a latent volcano of emotions waiting to erupt. Dae Young returns home in the following clip, and when Myeong Joo calls, much to her surprise, he answers. Even though he doesn’t speak, Myeong Joo is overjoyed that he has received her call.

The grandeur of this show cannot be conveyed in just a few scenes, as seen above. I’m sure many of you are familiar with this drama and love it as much as I do. But those who are new to the K-drama realm, do watch it without fail, and it is for you in particular that I don’t want to give any more spoilers. However, there is one interesting fact about the series I’d like to mention: it was totally pre-produced before it went on air, which is unusual in Korean dramas. According to Kim Won-seok (co-writer of the show), the approach aids in improving a drama’s quality. Apart from Descendants of the Sun, no other pre-produced dramas have been this successful, including Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Uncontrollably Fond, and Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth.

Descendants of the Sun’s fame was also catalyzed by its fantastic album, which has some of the most beautiful love ballads I’ve heard to date. Below is the complete playlist for you to enjoy.

Featuring Kang Daniel, Dreamcatcher, (G)I-DLE, Sunmi, P1Harmony, BIBI, Bang Yongguk, Holland, Victon's Hanse, Suran, Junny, and more, get a nuanced understanding of the Korean music landscape with  Rolling Stone India's K-Music Special issue.  Buy your physical copy here.