Im Sung-han

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Im Sung-han
Im Young-ran

(1960-08-24) August 24, 1960 (age 59)
Other namesLim/Yim Sung-han
Im Hyang-ran
EducationChungju National University - Computer Science
Years active1990-2015
AgentMyeongseongdang Entertainment
Spouse(s)Son Moon-kwon (2007-12; his death)
Korean name
Revised RomanizationIm Seong-han
McCune–ReischauerIm Sŏng-han
Birth name
Revised RomanizationIm Yeong-nan
McCune–ReischauerIm Yŏngnan

Im Sung-han (born Im Young-ran on August 24, 1960) is a South Korean television screenwriter. Her best-known dramas include Miss Mermaid and Dear Heaven.


Im Sung-han began her career writing for single-episode anthologies. Her first known work was the 1991 episode "Standing in a Maze" for KBS's Drama Game, then she moved on to MBC's Best Theater in 1997, with "Definitely" (for which Im won a screenplay award). She also used another pseudonym, Im Hyang-ran (Korean임향란), in writing other Best Theater episodes.

This led to her first television drama series in 1998, See and See Again (also known as Looking Again and Again and Can't Take My Eyes Off You), about two families doubly related by marriage. Despite its popularity (50% viewership ratings), it was considered by TV critics as one of the worst dramas that year. Im's follow-up Foolish Princes (2000) was about four half-brothers, and she and director Jo Jung-hyun had conflicts over her writing.

Miss Mermaid (2002) starred Jang Seo-hee as a TV writer whose father left her and her blind mother years ago, so she decides to wreak revenge by writing a thinly veiled autobiographical series and casts her unsuspecting stepmother, an actress, in the role of the blind, deserted wife; she also steals her half-sister's fiance.[1] It recorded high ratings of 40%, resulting in several extensions for the drama. At the MBC Drama Awards, Jang won Best Actress and the Grand Prize. But Miss Mermaid also attracted criticism, and the Anti Im Sung-han Café was established,[2] an Internet community club whose thousands of members are vehement critics of Im. It was the first ever "anti-café" to target a Korean drama writer. Their online posts mocked the drama's "nonsensical" plot, along with scenes which implied that a baby's autism was caused by his mother's stress during a divorce, and that washing each strawberry with a toothbrush is described as normal.[3]

Lee Da-hae rose to fame in Lotus Flower Fairy (also known as Heaven's Fate, 2004), in her role of a woman who loses everything when she becomes possessed by spirits as a Korean shaman, called a "mudang." The drama questioned whether it's possible to overcome one's fate.[4] When ratings remained in the 20% range, Im was later replaced by another writer, Kim Na-hyun.

Dear Heaven (2005-2006) starred Han Hye-sook as a middle-aged woman who wants to atone to the biological daughter (Yoon Jung-hee) she'd abandoned, by deliberately matchmaking the latter with her current stepson (Lee Tae-gon). Viewers were divided on whether it was "immoral" and "incestuous,"[5] and the controversy propelled it to becoming the 5th highest rated TV program in Korea for the year 2006.[6] Han won the Grand Prize at the SBS Drama Awards.

Ahyeon-dong Madam (also known as Queen of Ahyun and Opposites Attract, 2007) explored age differences in relationships, when a female public prosecutor (Wang Hee-ji) falls for a male colleague (Kim Min-sung) who is 12 years younger.[7]

Assorted Gems (also known as Jewel Bibimbap, 2009) portrayed the ups and downs of a family with four brothers and sisters named after jewels: Jade, Ruby, Coral, and Amber (played by Go Na-eun, So Yi-hyun, Lee Hyun-jin and Lee Il-min, respectively).[8]

The premise of New Tales of Gisaeng (2011) was that "gisaeng" -- the Korean equivalent of courtesans equipped with wide knowledge in poetry, culture and politics, who entertained noblemen and royalty of the Joseon Dynasty -- continue to exist in modern-day Korea. Newcomers Im Soo-hyang and Sung Hoon played the lead roles.[9] Despite ratings of over 20%, it was criticized for Im's abrupt inclusion of supernatural elements which were considered "pointless" to the plot by viewers.[10]

Princess Aurora (2013) was about the romance between the youngest daughter (Jeon So-min) of a wealthy family who owns a food conglomerate, and an irritable novelist (Oh Chang-seok).[11] But the show gained notoriety when Im abruptly killed off 12 characters and was accused of nepotism.[12]

This was followed by Apgujeong Midnight Sun (2014-2015), about four people (and their families) whose lives intersect while working at a cable TV station. But the series received scrutiny from the Korea Communications Standards Commission for a revenge storyline that the review board deemed too "violent" and "unethical."[13]

On April 23, 2015, MBC released a statement that the network would no longer work with Im in future projects; Im responded by announcing her retirement, saying she had intended to quit the TV industry after writing 10 dramas.[13]

On January 2019, Im launched her first book, "Cancer Cells Are Part of Life" (literal translation), which chronicled her health issues and habits. Published by her own company Book Soopulim, the title was based on a controversial line from Princess Aurora.[14]

Critical assessment[edit]

Im is considered a hitmaker, as most of her projects reach 20-30% television ratings on average. But she is divisive, becoming a target of criticism from viewers and the media for her excessive use of provocative storylines (called "makjang" in Korean, this typically involves adultery, revenge, rape, birth secrets, fatal illnesses and incest).[5]

Personal life[edit]

Im met assistant director Son Moon-kwon[15] while filming Dear Heaven, and the couple married in January 2007. They later collaborated on Ahyeon-dong Madam (like the protagonists, Im and Son also had a 12-year age difference), Assorted Gems, and New Tales of Gisaeng.[16]

On January 21, 2012, the 40-year-old Son committed suicide by hanging himself from a staircase with a necktie, at his house in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province.[16] Im was the one who found him, and she requested the police that the death be kept a secret from his family and colleagues. News about Son's death broke nearly a month later on February 13.[17][18]

In March 2012, Son's family filed a ₩50 million lawsuit against Im for psychological injury because she told them of his death three weeks after the fact, and held the funeral secretly, preventing an opportunity for family and friends to pay their respects. In an interview, Son's sister alleged that her brother and Im were married in name only (in order to further Im's career), and never lived together in their five years of marriage.[19] Finding it suspicious that Im lied to them that their son had died of a heart attack, and doubting the authenticity of his will,[20] Son's parents asked the police for a re-investigation, in case of foul play. In October 2012, prosecutors cleared Im over her husband's death, and officially ruled Son's death a suicide.[21] The psychological injury lawsuit is ongoing.


  • KBS Drama Game "Standing in a Maze" (KBS2, 1991)
  • MBC Best Theater "Definitely" (MBC, 1997)
  • MBC Best Theater "Two Women" (MBC, 1997)
  • MBC Best Theater "Solomon's Thief" (MBC, 1997)
  • MBC Best Theater "Gasibeosi" (MBC, 1997)
  • MBC Best Theater "Sex, Lies and Seonggyeokcha" (MBC, 1997)
  • See and See Again (MBC, 1998-1999)
  • MBC Best Theater "Secret Tears" (MBC, 1999)
  • Foolish Princes (MBC, 2000-2001)
  • Miss Mermaid (MBC, 2002-2003)
  • Lotus Flower Fairy (MBC, 2004-2005)
  • Dear Heaven (SBS, 2005-2006)
  • Ahyeon-dong Madam (MBC, 2007-2008)
  • Assorted Gems (MBC, 2009-2010)
  • New Tales of Gisaeng (SBS, 2011)
  • Princess Aurora (MBC, 2013)
  • Apgujeong Midnight Sun (MBC, 2014-2015)


  1. ^ Chun, Su-jin (12 March 2003). "Getting even is never having to say sorry". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Viewers Launch Massive Cyber Attack against TV Series The Mermaid". The Dong-a Ilbo. 27 May 2003. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  4. ^ Lee, Jin-yeong (4 May 2004). "Kim Sung-tak to Play Lead In MBC's Fairy of the Flower King". The Dong-a Ilbo. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  5. ^ a b "New SBS Drama Sparks Morality Controversy Even Before Its First Episode Airs". The Dong-a Ilbo. 8 September 2005. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  6. ^ "Dramas Sweep the Top 10 Ratings List". KBS Global. 5 February 2007. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  7. ^ "Opposites Attract". MBC Global Media. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  8. ^ Han, Sang-hee (1 September 2009). "Network to Bring New Sitcom, Dramas". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  9. ^ Lee, Ga-on (22 November 2011). "Lineup of Korean dramas for the 1st half of 2011". 10Asia. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  10. ^ "New Gisaeng Story increases in rate despite issue about ghost appearances". Hancinema. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 2015-04-23.
  11. ^ "TV dramas use similar names for main characters". The Dong-a Ilbo. 12 September 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-04.
  12. ^ Ko, Dong-hwan (17 July 2013). "Hallyu drama Princess Aurora defamed for vicious cast-kill". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  13. ^ a b Lee, Sun-min (24 April 2015). "Censured drama writer to step down". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2015-04-24.
  14. ^ Notorious drama writer returns with health book
  15. ^ Also romanized as Son Mun-gwon.
  16. ^ a b Noh, Hyun-gi (13 February 2012). "Drama producer Son committed suicide Jan. 21". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  17. ^ Park, Hyun-min (13 February 2012). "New Tales of Gisaeng Producer Committed Suicide in January". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  18. ^ "Suspicions arise over the death of program director Son Moon-kwon". Korea JoongAng Daily. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  19. ^ Lee, Jin-ho (13 March 2012). "Son Moon Kwon and Im Sung Han Were In Contract Marriage?". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  20. ^ Sunwoo, Carla (13 March 2012). "Family of Son Moon-kwon doubts legitimacy of his will, to sue widow". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
  21. ^ Sunwoo, Carla (16 October 2012). "Lim Seong-han cleared over husband's death". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-08-03.

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