Blast From the Past: Faith Wins Best Korean Drama in Japan for 2014

This particular award is so peculiar in both selection and timing I’m just left scratching my head. It does make me reconsider revisiting it with the possibility that my opinion may change. The 2012 K-drama Faith starring Lee Min Ho and Kim Hee Sun was just named Top Korean Drama in Japan for 2014 by the Gayo Entertainment Awards. Gayo (a subsidiary of Yahoo Japan) is arguably Japan’s largest paid video streaming portal and just released its own awards for offerings available over its stream service.

Faith was the number one most watched K-drama this year on Gayo, and I’m assuming the win was over a competition pool also included the two most popular K-dramas of last year in Heirs and You From Another Star. The reasons given for the popularity of Faith even two years after it aired was due to the Japanese love of epic period dramas, Lee Min Ho’s runaway popularity in Japan along with the stoic character he played in General Choi Young, and the drama’s themes of loyalty and devotion.

Faith was considered a disappointment in terms of domestic Korean audience ratings when it aired. It also wasn’t well received with the critics at that time. But there was a small and very devoted (and vocal) group of viewers who loved the drama, making it a memorable as a cult hit of sorts. I know folks who absolutely loved it, and also know just as many that hated the first few episodes and dropped it. I watched four episodes myself before calling it quits.

I couldn’t stand Kim Hee Sun’s grating voice or screechy acting and Lee Min Ho seemed somnolent in the role. Even worse was the visual mismatch and nonexistent chemistry between the leads wrapped in a really weird (and not in a good way) story. With that said, after watching Kim Hee Sun in Wonderful Days I’ve grown to like her and wouldn’t mind giving Faith a second look with a different eye towards her character. What do Faith aficionados have to say if you were to try and sell this drama to new viewers?


Blast From the Past: Faith Wins Best Korean Drama in Japan for 2014 — 42 Comments

  1. I could not watch much of it either. The king and his wife were the only things going through most of the drama. My husband would put it on and I would promptly fall asleep. Such long epic drawn out sessions with the government geezers. Lee Min Ho has used the weather to excuse his acting. Every drama shot in summer has that problem albeit not every actor wears a rubber suit to play their part like he did. The walking down lines to kill was weird as was the non-existent love story. I do not understand when I read this was Lee Min Ho’s best work ever. If it was he has no where to go but up and he has my deepest sympathy as I thought it just stunk. Sorry to all who disagree. I feel he did much better in several other dramas and I like him a lot, professionally and as a person, but I do feel he needs pushed directing and a great script to get his best acting out of him.

  2. The plot spins in circles in the last half, but I’d say it’s worth watching. It was a really interesting take on the time travel trend, considering the gender-reverse and the fact that all of the characters could look out for themselves.

  3. I dropped it after the first five episodes, but a few months later decided to give it another try and absolutely loved it. i don’t know why, given that I found it boring and unconvincing the first time around, but it struck a real chord. I liked how the characters where literally fighting for their lives, but there was a really low-key vibe about the whole thing. Some characters and plot lines were tosses away willy nilly, but they were weak ones so that didn’t bother me too much. I liked the OTP more and more as the story progressed and the secondary pairing were just as engaging, if not more so, with their complete misunderstanding and mistrust of each others motives.
    I say give it another try and see if it does anything for you this time.

  4. I dropped it too after watching two first episodes
    but it is still in top 10 most viewed dramas on a popular portal here in Russia
    so I decided to give it second chance and I LOVED it!!!!!!!
    Kim Hee Sun seemed so beautiful and charming to me
    and I also liked her feisty and cool character
    I found their romance with LMH believable
    they matched well)))

  5. As one of the (small) group of people who absolutely loved “Faith”, I do think that this drama had a number of flaws. So to start with the negatives (because it would be embarrassing to immediately start gushing just for seeing this drama mentioned): The cinematography was mostly uninspired, the editing as well. The fight scenes weren’t very exciting for a sageuk action drama (this was especially true after the beginning, when they probably also started to have to deal with budget problems). Interesting bits of the scripts didn’t make it into the actual episodes at all, due to time and other constraints; this was mostly just annoying/disappointing when we’d compare the original scripts (uploaded by the writer on her website) with the episodes, but it was tragic as regards the final episode (because they couldn’t film it as it was intended, the ending was left with plotholes). But then even the writer’s original story for this drama wasn’t flawless; there were slow parts (politics-related), and there was unwelcome repetition of other plot beats (eg. Eun Soo getting poisoned). So… I think this mostly covers the negatives.
    As to the positives… This isn’t Lee Min Ho’s best drama (imo, that would be City Hunter), but it’s my favorite role of his, no contest. Actually, the characters are all interesting and varied and layered. But Lee Min Ho does, I think, an especially good job at portraying the evolution of his character from a somnolent captain who is frozen inside and is sleeping his life away, to a true warrior leader and the king’s most trusted subject (and friend and mentor). (I think it’s infinitely more difficult to portray a man who is the silent type, with all his emotions repressed, than a guy like Gu Jun Pyo, who wears all his feelings on his sleeve and is always unapologetically in-your-face)
    Kim Hee Sun does start out a little screechy, but she gets so much better, and she’s given such wonderful stuff to work with (characterwise). She’s a modern woman, a little bit cynical, a little bit materialistic, a little flawed, a lot real. She re-learns what it means to be a healer (as opposed to just pursuing medicine/plastic surgery for money) and, of course, she brings the deadened-inside Choi Young back to life, kicking and screaming. And that’s actually the best aspect of this drama, and why it is one of my favorites of all time: the romance. In as many other aspects as “Faith” disappointed, in this it absolutely did not. The love between Eun Soo and Choi Young shone like a beacon of light, undimmed, growing and gaining in brilliancy until the end. It changed them both, and it also changed the world around them (the kingdom and the people) in very tangible ways. It elevated the entire story and the entire drama. How high, it of course depends on each viewer. And of course, it depends on how you perceive the chemistry between Kim Hee Sun and Lee Min Ho. (I totally bought it, obviously. All delicious glowing embers, bursting into a veritable raging inferno later on. But that’s just me.)

    • I belong to that minority that like Faith a lot too.

      @ Adnana,

      Your comments totally resonated with me. I actually liked Lee Mi-Ho best in this role. Next would be City Hunter. Personal Taste, Heirs and Boys Over Flowers come nowhere close.

      As for Kim Hee-sun, I enjoyed her a lot less in Wonderful Days.

      First off, I was biasedly prepared not to enjoy Kim Hee-sun, and skeptical the LMH-KHS pairing could even work. I was left eventually sold by their romance. She was feisty and direct, he was quiet and stoic, an introverted man of actions rather than flowery words, without needing to look like a hero.
      His caring for his men; the camaraderie among the soldiers, and their respect for their general and their barrack support for his chosen ‘queen’ was another highlight.
      While she was impulsive, he quietly supported her actions. Ditto his, for her.

      While I wouldn’t call it best drama, nor would it win points for historical accuracy or in the science fiction genre … it was a watch-worthy enjoyable drama.

      More importantly, I felt for the leads, which was surprisingly unexpected. The other romance between the King and his Queen was captivating too.

    • Thank you so much,@Adnana. I totally agreed with you how you expressed your comments about this drama. I am too belong to the minority fans of Faith and I love it every moments.
      Those people hate Faith are mostly want to watch their idols in great chemistry and melodrama but this one isn’t. You got to know the story deeper and you will enjoy it along the journey to the end of the drama. I love the pairing Lee Min Ho and Kim Hee Sun.
      What can I say? They ‘re the best couple in the historical Korean drama for me now and ever.

  6. Actually I disagree that the leads had no chemistry and didn’t match, I loved the couple and rooted for them. I thought was plausible how they came to like each other, and fall in love, I personally thought that they were a good couple and I liked them together.

    The thing for me was that Faith was like a live version of all the historical romance novels I read in my teens, it made me feel nostalgic of the time I would read those books.

    The tall dark and handsome brooding hero with a dark past.(I think Lee min ho was good at it)
    the fiery red headed heroine (since a lot of romantic novels were set in the highlands in scotland, there was always a fiery redheaded heroine!)

    They hate each other at first and can’t see eye to eye because they are opposites or misunderstand each other, but then something happens where they discover that they are complementary, each has strenghts the other need, grudginly they make peace, and then they fall madly in love. Or they fall madly in love and make peace because they can’t help feeling drawn to each other despite not agreeing about everything.

    The court intrigues, the fights , the dramatic rescues,
    It was all exactly the same basic blot as any historical bodice ripper novel. I enjoyed it thoroughly,for what it was since I started to watch it without any expectations.

    It was all historical romance novel 101. (there was even a forced engagement plotline!)

    Maybe if I had known beforehand watching that it was supposed to be a,big budget epic fantasy historical drama,I would have been disappointed.

    But I watched it just thinking it was simple romantic drama, in an historical setting and with some fantasy elements,I didn’t expect anything deep or extraordinary, I just wanted be entertained, so I though it was good.

    So in that context where someone starts to watch it without any prior expectations, I can understand why they would love the show and it would win an award.

    • I absolutely loved Faith for partly the same reasons. I love to watch historical romances. My second favorite genre is time travel. So put it together, it’s drama heaven for me!

      However, I think the historical romance storyline drew Japanese fans in. For anyone who has watched historical Japanese drama, especially taiga dramas, the romance aspect is minimal. In Faith, the skinship between KHS and LMH appears quite often. That’s something I haven’t seen in a Japanese historical drama in a long time. I used to Japanese dramas before Korean dramas. So Faith is probably a breath of fresh air for those craving a good romance storyline.

      Also, Jin was a popular time traveling drama in Japan. So it’s possible that fans of Jin might have tuned into Faith since it is about another doctor going back in time. But what makes Faith unique, is it’s a woman going back in time. Most Korean and Japanese time travel dramas have men going back in time. This is one of the reasons I tuned into Faith too.

  7. Was I the only one who thought Lee Philip had a ton of chemistry with Kim Hee-sun? I watched snippets here and there and I thought the two of them matched well. Not that the pairing would have been possible though.

  8. That’s crazy…it only speaks to how popular Lee Min Ho is. But sorry it wasn’t the best korean drama of 2014. They must not have watched enough korean dramas. Pathetic.

    • I watched the whole drama. It was fine. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. It certainly wasn’t the best. I would say if you love Lee Min Ho and and you like Heirs, then this is the drama for you. The storyline actually moves and you get to see Lee Min ho being the typical leading man in scenarios that people typically really like.

    • “Pathetic”? That’s a strong judgement. Different people appreciate different things, and I think that’s okay–not pathetic.

  9. Yippee! Congratulations Faith! One of my most favorite kdramas ever! I can’t tell you why I love this absolutely perfect (for me, anyway) kdrama, and I’m glad I marathoned it before I read the heaps of negative reviews about the drama. There are some dramas where the alchemy just matches and it becomes magic, and for some unexplained reason this one just worked out that way for me. I must have watched it literally like dozens of times…

    Glad to see that others appreciate it like I do…

  10. Hmm if I were to tell U the selling points of the series, they would be:
    Awesome heroine (srsly one of the best in the past few yrs includin the heroines from qihm, ihyv, yfas, twtwtb maybe(?))
    One of the very few stories in dramaland whr heroine is smarter(!) than the hero
    Awesome OTP (it starts slow after 4 EPs maybe at which point I thought no way can they sell me on the otp, holy was I wrong! Ate crow, tasty crow! I ws OBSESSED with this otp!(the exclamations hopefully convince U!))
    Growth(s) of all 4 leads – from frozen somnolent general to trusted aide and beacon of strength to king (hero), from materialistic and commitment phobic to becomin a true healer and learning to open her heart & love truly (heroine), from riddled with self doubt and insecurity to becoming a strong leader and kind husband (the king), from stickin to pride and being resentful to becomin a strong supportive and loving queen
    .. You will grow to LOVE all 4 leads! And the heroine might seem screechy in the beginnin but somehow I had found the OTTness in the beginning natural(?) as against theatrical overactin.. It had just seemed to me like the charac is freakin out so her reactions (& actin) seemed in syn with me.. Bt in any case, no more shriekin post ep 2.. And like i said, they strt to sell the otp only after the first 4-5 EPs so plz persist and watch.. Watch it as a historical romance come to screen rather than a thickly plotted political thriller and i think with the managed expectations U mite grow to love it too(fingers crossed)..

  11. What I liked about this drama watching a 2nd time (since the 1st I skip ALOT of ep) was the leading couple took its time with falling for each other. It wasn’t like BOOM love bug hit them! My fav Ep is the last one! Lol
    It sounds sarcastic but I’m serious.

    • As same as me too, I re-watched ep.18~final episodes more than 20 times. Serious, no kidding. Kim Hee Sun become so beautiful and sweet features really mesmerised me and my handsome hero, Lee Min Ho. Anyway, I am Asian love slow romances rather than Thunder storm strike romances.

  12. I watched the entire show and kind of liked it. The fact that I finished the show should mean that there is something positive about it for I dropped almost 70% of the show I watched. But if you ask me what were the good things about it, I honestly don’t know since I’m not even a fan of Lee Min Ho or Kim He Sun.

  13. i thought this was an OK drama, not my favourite LMH drama (that definitely would be CH) but it was ok enough. i got kinda bored at the political stuff but i guess that’s just me.
    my parents loved the drama though

  14. I actually liked Kim Hee Sun’s character in this one. She was way more fun than Lee Min Ho’s general. Their chemistry is fine, not explosive like maybe the kind you like but a comfortable kind. I liked the leads, all of them, no meddlesome second leads. The villain is a hoot and the derp faces he makes is hilarious. I kinda understand how japanese audience might embrace this…the story itself is reminiscent of something a manga might come up wit, albeit a less convoluted one. Well, the villains are mostly ineffective but I like to watch them fail, especially the main villain- he’s really hilarious, intentional or not. The ost was really good, I download them and have not tire of them yet.

    The very very bad side was how Philip’s character was written out when he had that accident, true he was hardly onscreen but when he was, he was kinda dryly funny. Oh and you can definitely see how the production funds have dried up towards the end, because wow they have maybe 10 to 20 people play an army of 400. I cut them a lot of slack for that because I guess they probably don’t have the money. And of course the editing was weird sometimes too.I think this is maybe a case of the material being not too bad but the direction/production fail to elevate the material much.

    I dunno why I stuck to it, not being a fan of either but it was pretty entertaining for me and I don’t regret watching it…

  15. Still not true that Heirs was last year’s second most popular kdrama. It wasn’t even the second most watched drama on SBS (IHYV was.)

  16. Trust me Ms.Koala, even if you re-watched it 10 times, the first impression you got will be the same. This sageuk drama is definitely riding on LeeMinHo’s overhyped persona. Because of how poor quality it is, even the Director or was that the Producer of this had to commit suicide due to bankruptcy, rest-in-peace to his poor soul. (I think the suicide didnt happen during the broadcast but sometime later.) They really had a hard time marketing & distributing this abroad!

  17. If you look into Lee Minho(aka Choi young)’s eyes you would know why people love faith so much. Those soulful eyes tell everything. For me Lee Minho has the purest eyes ever.

    • Okay, you had me at “soulful eyes”. Marathoned Faith over the summer and fell so hard for those eyes it isn’t even funny. Heirs was terrible but I’d have done it all over again for those eyes. Though I gotta say, Ha Woo Jin, or Lee Sang Yoon rather, (if you’re watching Liar Game) has my soul forever, but man LMH can stare me into eternity.

  18. So far .. I found Lee Min Ho most good looking in FAITH. I love him most in FAITH. Rather than his other drama. Second best looking in CITY HUNTER. He looked so calm, determined … And when he smiled, it melted my heart away 🙂

  19. Faith was my very first k-drama and that dramatic shot of LMH in the rain was, I am embarrassed to say, my very first look at Koreans on screen, at least with knowledge that the actors were Korean. Needless to say, LMH’s physical beauty has already given him a place in the beautiful actors hall of fame. And I would like to think that his acting will continue to mature and come to match his physicality. I look forward to seeing how he does in his first movie.

    As for the series Faith, I have watched a good number of “foreign” films and read lots of international literature in my life, something that has helped to broaden my view of the world, and it was an embarrassing revelation to realize how ignorant I was about Korea before Faith and subsequent K-dramas opened a door into things Korean – history, culture, food, etc. I am grateful for Faith just on that level.

    I will confess to watching almost uncritically. I forgave it when suspension of disbelief became difficult or characters were conveniently lurking in the background in critical moments and simply immersed myself in the fun of it all. Just starting the story with a “folk tale” got my attention. Then there was the combination of time travel with history – a favorite for science fiction writers-and readers. And soon I was googling info about the actual historical people and events. (So grateful to the internet)

    So, having become aware that Faith was no big hit in it’s homeland, I was happy to read that it got drama of the year in Japan. It probably is not the greatest all time k-drama. But I am glad it was my intro to a genre that has given me a lot of pleasure. I do plan to watch it again some day. It will be interesting to see how it holds up.

  20. Would no one mention the other love pair?(i.e. the joseon king and yuan queen) i actually watched this just for LMH although he was very pretty in here, the king and queen lovestory was the one i remembered more(i shipped this pairing much more than the main leads actually) There was just something off about the chemistry between the two main leads, i was even hoping that female lead would end up with joseon doctor but alas, that could never happen. *sigh*

  21. I think faith is definitely a better bet than the heir.. I stopped watching faith because of the monotonous acting. You just have to sit back and enjoy the good camaraderie, a non typical heroin who voiced out whatever she thinks is right. I always likd my heroine feisty and fiery..not some timid bimbo who can’t even kiss right…

  22. I liked Faith, too. I watched it before I read all the negative criticism and thought, “wow. What’s wrong with me. I didn’t think it was that bad at all.”

  23. I liked Faith, it had its faults but overall i liked the new take on time travelling and i believed Lee Min Ho and Kim Hee Sun’s chemistry.
    Lee Min Ho is smokin’ hot, that everyone has to admit, whether you’re a fan or not. His eyes are just too beautiful for words!

  24. The strength of this drama is in its characters. The chemistry between Kim Hee Sun and Lee Min Ho is amazing. I think it is one of the best OTP’s ever. There are so many scenes interspersed between the drama that is funny, sweet, tender, and touching. They are such an unlikely couple that when it finally works, it is beautiful. All the characters just work so well together. The king and his queen is another great and tender OTP. There is so much love, faith and loyalty. That is why the Japanese love it. Since you like KHS in Wonderful Days, give this another chance and then tell us how you feel after episode 24. I think LMH makes a great Choi Young and so do the Japanese women.

    • One more thing, I know of some who are not Lee Min Ho’s fans but love him as Choi Young. Love the character as portrayed by Lee Min Ho.

  25. Faith was awesome and to this day I still think it’s my fav OTP. Their chemistry was simply to die for. If only Kim Hee Sun isn’t married then I’d definitely ship this OTP from reel to real.

  26. Faith remains my fav OTP til today. IF only Kim Hee Sun isn’t married then I’d easily ship this OTP from reel to real. Their chemistry gives me awesome flutters in the heart and butterflies in the stomach.

  27. Whatever those hater netrizen said all the nasty and negative comments about Faith? In fate, they are the one who sit back and enjoyed every moment until ending. Trust on Japanese fans because they are more advance and international than most 3 world countries. They know how good is this drama? So do I. Mostly, I don’t like historical drama but this one was unexceptional and it was my favourite Korean historical anime drama. Kim Hee Sun and Lee Min Ho are my dream pair of lover. HaHaHa!

  28. In the first 3 episodes, I thought the drama is like a joke considering that it’s a historical drama with characters having fantasy-powers. I also hated Kim Hee Sun’s acting in the first episodes. She’s like a drunk nonsensical girl.
    But overall I DID love it. I fell in love with Lee Min Ho’s character warrior- Choi Young and eventually, I come to like Eun Soo. I loved the character development from when Eun Soo was at the start only concern of healing Choi Young then to the point when she got irrevocably in love with him that she gave up on returning home. On the other hand, when Choi Young removed the Red Moon Army cloth, it meant Eun Soo already conquered his heart to the point of no return. I was just a little bit disappointed in the ending though because it ended so soon and it showed no epilogue. I was so curious of what could have happened to them. Did Choi Young remained a general? Did Eun Soo remained in the palace? Or did Choi Young quit as a warrior and they went far from the palace and lived a quiet life?

    • @divethereal We are like minded 🙂 For me it was a ‘struggle’ to continue watching the early episodes. The early episodes of characters introduction was too drawn out and to me LMH Manga hairstyle seems odd for a period drama.

      But because I like the background story and I almost always follow a story until the very end, I kept watching. This time it turned out as NOT a wasted hours of my life I could not get back.

      Episode 8 was when I got hooked. Coincidentally in the Writer’s Q&A episodes 8 & 16 was also the turning point in her story.

      I also thought the ending should have been prolonged and there shoud have been an epilogue of Young & Eun Soo, after all their graves are next to each other.

      The last script of Faith is a good story, it should have been produced better, not in term of budget but understanding which correct part of its script to be elaborated and which to be cut short or even deleted.

      This drama had its own drama in its production, it is such a pity it was not a success, that even the PD had eventually committed suicide. Showbiz industry is so cruel.

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