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Hit drama ‘Phoenix’ rises again 16 years later

The cast of SBS’ “Phoenix” poses during Tuesday’s online press conference. (SBS)
The cast of SBS’ “Phoenix” poses during Tuesday’s online press conference. (SBS)

MBC’s drama series “Phoenix” from 2004 that featured actor Lee Seo-jin, Mun Jung-hyuk and the late Lee Eun-ju returns as an SBS daily morning soap opera starting from Monday at 8:35 a.m.

The script for the 2020 “Phoenix” remake is once again written by Lee Yoo-jin, who wrote the original series.

“Pheonix” revolves around Jang Se-hoon, who is poor, and Lee Ji-eun, from a rich family, as they get married, get divorced and meet again after their financial situations have reversed.

In 2004, the drama series caused a sensation, with the final episode recording a 27.9 percent viewership rating. Fans of the TV drama were called “Bulsaerian,” after its Korean title “Bulsae,” and took to quoting memorable lines like, “Do you know why the Korean War happened? Because we were caught off guard.” It was also actress Lee Eun-ju’s last TV drama before her death by suicide at the age of 24 the following year.

“I enjoyed watching the original drama so I wanted to play the role of Lee Ji-eun,” said lead actress Hong Soo-ah. “‘Phoenix’ is Lee Eun-ju’s last piece, and it is an honor to play her character in such a piece. I also prayed a lot.”

Lee Jae-woo, who plays Jang Se-hoon, also talked about the excitement and pressure to live up to the character played by Lee Seo-jin in the original series.

While morning soap operas in Korea are known for their intense and complex plots with twists and turns, producer Kim Jae-hong explained that “Phoenix” reflects the broadcaster’s wish to move away from that reputation.

“Rather than a soap opera in the morning, we are thinking of it as a series of 30-minute melodramas that airs in the morning,” said Kim, who joined the online press conference Tuesday. Director Lee Hyun-jik did not attend the online press meeting.

Kim also mentioned changes that have been made in the 2020 version.

“While the original drama was a 26-episode miniseries, the new drama is a 120-episode soap opera, so elements of mystery and suspense will be added. New characters will also make the story richer,” said Kim.

The TV drama is to air at 8:35 a.m. Monday to Friday on SBS.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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