“49 Days” Straddling Between Life and Death


The first episode of SBS’s 49 Days started off with a bang. Right from the beginning, scenes of babies being born and people mourning at a funeral flashed before the audience’s eyes. These opening clips clearly defined the theme of 49 Days – it’s a drama about life and death.

Bright and happy Shin Ji Hyun (Nam Gyu Ri) lives the good life – she’s from a wealthy background and has a father (Choi Jung Woo) who dotes on her. Her fiancé is her knight in shining armor; their first encounter was like destiny – he came to her rescue when she lost her way in a mountain. She also has the best of friends who are always by her side. On the other hand, poor and despondent Song Yi Kyung (Lee Yeo Won) lives the complete opposite life of Ji Hyun’s. She’s an orphan who works at a convenience store and eats instant cup ramen almost every day (ramen has become a symbol of poverty in Korea because it is a cheap and easy food many underprivileged people eat to meet ends). Yi Kyung lives her life like a zombie; she’s unresponsive to the people and things around her.  

Soul-switching dramas and movies have always been popular subjects, even before SBS’s Secret Garden. 49 Days will chronicle the changes Ji Hyun goes through as her soul borrows Yi Kyung’s body. While the plot itself is very dramatic and heavy, the story manages to keep it bright and humorous.    

Ji Hyun has plenty of reasons to live; however, her body is in a comatose state. Contrastingly, while Yi Kyung is physically alive, she has no reason to live. Yi Kyung decides to end her life by jumping in front of a truck – only to have caused a series of collisions. Unfortunately, Ji Hyun is caught up in the accident, and that is where their fates get intertwined.

The Scheduler (Jung Il Woo), a modern day Grim Reaper, gives Ji Hyun an opportunity to return to her normal life. That is, if she can fulfill a mission: “You must find three people who will sincerely cry for your loss. To complete this mission, you are to borrow Yi Kyung’s body. Nothing here happens by chance. There is a reason as to why you and Yi Kyung’s fate are intertwined.” It seems as if what the Scheduler says is true: nothing happens by chance. As Ji Hyun sees her life from a different perspective, she realizes that her best friend and fiancé betrayed her. Behind their fake masks of friendship and love laid dark ambitions and heated jealousies.  

While Ji Hyun and Yi Kyung seem to live completely different lives, they share many similar traits. Both live with heartbreaks and setbacks, but they will probably endure and grow stronger.

To Ji Hyun, 49 days is a countdown to D-day. Once the 49 days are over, her fate, whether its life or death, will finally be decided. However, the main point of the story is not about whether she succeeds in returning, but it is about Ji Hyun maturing as she goes through the process.\

 Written in Korean by [email protected]; translated by [email protected]