Kim Eun-sook

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Kim Eun-sook
Kim Eun sook 2016.png
Kim Eun-sook in 2016
Born1973 (age 48–49)
EducationSeoul Institute of the Arts - Creative Writing
Years active2003-present
AgentHwa&Dam Pictures
(a subsidiary of Studio Dragon)
Spouse(s)Choi Sang-hyun
Korean name
Revised RomanizationGim Eun-suk
McCune–ReischauerKim Ǔnsuk

Kim Eun-sook (Korean: 김은숙, born 1973) is a South Korean screenwriter. She wrote the popular television dramas Lovers in Paris (2004), On Air (2008), Secret Garden (2010), A Gentleman's Dignity (2012), The Heirs (2013), Descendants of the Sun (2016), Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (2016–2017), Mr. Sunshine (2018) and The King: Eternal Monarch (2020).


Lovers "trilogy" and film debut[edit]

Kim first gained attention when her television drama Lovers in Paris became a major hit in the summer of 2004, with viewership ratings averaging 41.3% and a peak of 57.6% (#11 highest rated of all time). The cast and crew flew to France to film several scenes in Paris and Nice, igniting a trend among Korean dramas for overseas location shoots. A Cinderella-like story of a cheerful, ordinary girl who becomes the housekeeper of a cold and suave businessman, lead actors Park Shin-yang and Kim Jung-eun shared the Grand Prize ("Daesang") at the 2004 SBS Drama Awards. Then at the 2005 Baeksang Arts Awards, Lovers in Paris won the following awards: the Daesang, Best TV Actress for Kim Jung-eun, and Best TV Screenplay for Kim Eun-sook and Kang Eun-jung. It also became popular internationally, and Kim Jung-eun was named Best Actress at the 2005 Asian Television Awards.

Kim chose another European setting for her next drama, Lovers in Prague (2005). In a gender reversal, Jeon Do-yeon played a diplomat in Prague, Czech Republic, who falls in love with a police detective, played by Kim Joo-hyuk. Kim Eun-sook said she wanted to feature a romance in which the woman's social status is higher than her partner, and wanted to make the social difference between the two main characters as extreme as possible by also making the heroine the daughter of the president of South Korea. Kim added, "Although some might say it is another unrealistic story, a drama is a drama. I just want to make people enjoy the fantasy."[1] Jeon won the Daesang at the 2005 SBS Drama Awards, and Kim Joo-hyuk won Best TV Actor at the 2006 Baeksang Arts Awards.

Kim tried her hand at writing for the big screen in the 2006 melodrama Fly High (also known as Loving is Okay). Directed by Kwak Ji-kyoon, it starred Ji Hyun-woo as a high school student who falls for a girl with a terminal illness (Im Jung-eun). The film was a critical and box office disappointment,[2] and Kim soon returned to her milieu, television.

Despite overseas shoots in Hainan, China, the conclusion to Kim's loosely named "Lovers trilogy" was simply titled Lovers (2006-2007). Based on the Lee Man-hee stage play Turn Around and Leave (that also inspired the 1998 film A Promise), Kim again cast Kim Jung-eun, this time opposite Lee Seo-jin, as they played a plastic surgeon and a gangster entering into an unlikely romance.[3][4] Though not as successful as its predecessors, Lovers recorded solid ratings in the high teens to low-20s.

On entertainment, politics, and body-swapping[edit]

Kim's next drama, On Air (2008), revolved around four entertainment industry figures - a newbie TV director (Park Yong-ha), an established screenwriter (Song Yun-ah, as Kim's alter-ego), a diva actress (Kim Ha-neul), and her struggling manager (Lee Beom-soo), whose personal and professional lives intertwine during the shooting of a fictional TV drama.[5] Filled with cameos and a gossipy, insider look at stars behind the scenes, On Air was a hit, and director Shin Woo-chul (in his fourth collaboration with Kim) won Best TV Director at the 2009 Baeksang Arts Awards.

In City Hall (2009), Cha Seung-won played an elite deputy mayor with presidential aspirations who unexpectedly falls for an unwitting female government employee-turned-town mayor (Kim Sun-a).[6] Though she left space in the script for Cha and Kim to ad-lib, Kim Eun-sook called it her funniest work. She said she used politics as a backdrop for the romance to show her idealism regarding public officials.[7]

A love story between the rich, arrogant and eccentric president of a department store (Hyun Bin) and a brave but sweet stunt woman (Ha Ji-won) whose bodies switch souls whenever it rains, Secret Garden (2010-2011) became one of the biggest hits of Kim's career.[8] After writing six dramas, Kim said she "contemplated on whether to write a drama that benefits the world or one that will garner good ratings" and decided to "abandon the depth I showed in City Hall" (which recorded solid, if unimpressive, ratings in the high teens). Instead, she "made an easy, light drama for the whole family to enjoy on weekends," and intentionally wrote it "to be fun."[9][10][11] Secret Garden won Best TV Drama at the 2011 Baeksang Arts Awards, as well as Best TV Screenplay for Kim, Best New TV Actress for Yoo In-na, and the Daesang for Hyun.[12] Kim also won Best Writer at the Seoul International Drama Awards, the Korea Drama Awards, and the Korea Content Awards.

Jang Dong-gun's TV comeback[edit]

By this time, the writer-director duo of Kim and Shin had gained a reputation for making hits, and their projects attracted high-profile actors. In 2012, after 12 years of acting in films, superstar Jang Dong-gun made his television comeback in A Gentleman's Dignity. Jang said that Kim and Shin's involvement in the project influenced his decision. After repeatedly alluding to him in On Air, Kim confessed her "ulterior motives" that she had really wanted to work on a drama with Jang. She and the crew were so determined to cast him in the lead that not only was the airdate moved back from March to late May to accommodate his schedule, but Kim, in the hopes of getting him to take the role, lied to Jang's wife, actress Ko So-young that there would be no kissing scenes.[13] Instead, Kim wrote racy and sexy scenes, as befitting what has been called a "40-year-old, male version of Sex and the City."[14] The drama portrayed the humorous love lives of a group of close-knit male friends played by Jang, Kim Min-jong, Kim Su-ro, and Lee Jong-hyuk, and previous On Air star Kim Ha-neul played Jang's love interest.

The Heirs[edit]

Kim said she wrote the hero of 2013 drama He Who Wishes To Wear the Crown Endures Its Weight: Heirs (also known as The Heirs or The Inheritors, 2013) specifically for actor Lee Min-ho.[15] He starred opposite Park Shin-hye in a Gossip Girl-esque trendy drama set in a high school populated by the uber-rich.[16][17] Kim said the biggest difference was writing about 18-year-olds when her previous characters had been in their thirties and forties, calling The Heirs "a teen romance for grown-ups". She admitted that she utilizes clichés, "but all my previous works used plenty of cliches and were embraced by audiences. The key is making characters that are different, so the audience forgets the clichéd setting. That's what I'm good at, and that is what I find fun. I want people to think, 'I've seen something like this before, but still this is strangely fun.'"[18]

Descendants of the Sun and pre-produced dramas[edit]

Three years since The Heirs, Kim Eun-sook announced that she would be coming back with a human melodrama about a man and a woman who bond gradually as they save lives in disaster zones and end up falling in love. Titled Descendants of the Sun, the drama starred Song Joong-ki in his first television drama after military discharge along with Song Hye-kyo. Set in the fictional world of Uruk, Song Joong-ki plays a special forces captain who juggles peacekeeping duties with wooing a surgeon played by Song Hye-kyo. The military drama gained huge success and received immense popularity across Asia.[19] It has given rise to the popularity of Korean soldier talk.[20] The show also contributed to the rise of tourism in Greece, where scenes of the drama were shot.[21]

The success of Descendants saw a change in tide toward pre-produced Korean dramas. However, in an interview, Kim Won-seok (co-writer of Descendants) stated that said there were some parts that could have been improved on if the show had been shot as it was being aired, per local industry norm.[22]

Following the success of Descendants of the Sun, Kim Eun-sook wrote her next two dramas, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God and Mr. Sunshine for cable network TVN in 2016 and 2018. Both dramas held the highest average nationwide ratings recorded for cable dramas—12.955% for Mr. Sunshine, and 12.428% for Guardian: The Lonely and Great God—until the former's two-year long record was broken by The World of the Married in 2020.

Kim Eun-sook returned to free-to-air television with the series The King: Eternal Monarch on SBS. She worked again with Lee Min-ho of The Heirs and Kim Go-eun of Guardian: The Lonely and Great God in the leading roles. After premiering with a promising double-digit rating of 10.1%,[23] the drama peaked at 11.6%[24] for the second episode but ratings slid to as low as 5.2%[25] during the eleventh episode, the lowest ever recorded for her works including her cable dramas with the series received criticisms for its screenplay, direction and editing, leading to lower-than-expected domestic popularity in Korea.[26][27][28]

Critical assessment[edit]

Kim's trademark is slick and glossy romantic comedies with fast-flying banter. Some critics have opined that Kim writes shallow characters, and she is as polarizing as she is successful. But not only do most of her dramas appeal to a wide age range of viewers and receive high ratings, but they often have that extra element that make them pop-culture buzz projects, whether it's due to a particularly catchy line of dialogue or a recurring joke.

In 2012, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the SBS Drama Awards.


On March 10, 2022, Kim made a donation 60 millions to the Hope Bridge Disaster Relief Association to help the victims of the massive wildfire that started in Uljin, Gyeongbuk and has spread to Samcheok, Gangwon. and donated money 40 millions to help Ukraine war victims.[29]



Broadcast period Title Broadcaster
2003 South of the Sun [ko] SBS
2004 Lovers in Paris
2005 Lovers in Prague
2006 Lovers
2008 On Air
2009 The City Hall
2010 Secret Garden
2012 A Gentleman's Dignity
2013 The Heirs
2016 Descendants of the Sun KBS2
2016–2017 Guardian: The Lonely and Great God tvN
2018 Mr. Sunshine
2020 The King: Eternal Monarch SBS
TBA The Glory TBA




  1. ^ Park, Chung-a (14 September 2005). "Drama Looks for Love in Prague". The Korea Times via Hancinema. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  2. ^ Kim, Tae-jong (17 August 2006). "Fly High, Outdated Melodrama". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  3. ^ Cho, Chung-un (1 December 2006). "HERALD INTERVIEW: Actor Lee Seo-jin seeks versatility". The Korea Herald via Hancinema. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  4. ^ Garcia, Cathy Rose A. (17 April 2007). "Celebrity Romance Heats Up". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  5. ^ Kwon, Mee-yoo (27 February 2008). "On Air Looks Into Making of Dramas". The Korea Times. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  6. ^ Oh, Jean (29 April 2009). "More romantic comedy for prime time". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  7. ^ Han, Sang-hee (21 April 2009). "City Hall to Bring Public Officials to TV". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  8. ^ Kwon, Mee-yoo (26 January 2011). "Secret Garden leaves fairytale love story". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  9. ^ Lee, Ga-on (11 November 2010). "PREVIEW: SBS TV series Secret Garden". 10Asia. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  10. ^ Lee, Ga-on (19 November 2010). "SBS Secret Garden – "Forget about City Hall, you'll find Lovers in Paris instead"". 10Asia via Otayamin. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  11. ^ Seo, Bo-hyun (14 November 2011). "The 5 Charms of Secret Garden". Sports Seoul via Otayamin. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  12. ^ Hong, Lucia (27 May 2011). "Hyun Bin, Lee Byung-hun win top prizes at Paeksang". 10Asia. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  13. ^ Oh, Jean (24 May 2012). "Jang Dong-gun gets first 'proper' kiss scene". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  14. ^ Sunwoo, Carla (28 July 2012). "Gentleman's Dignity to air in Japan". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 15 August 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  15. ^ Hong, Grace Danbi (29 March 2013). "Lee Min Ho to Return to TV with Secret Garden Writer". enewsWorld. Archived from the original on 6 June 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  16. ^ Lee, In-kyung (25 July 2013). "Officials Complain That The Heirs Has Swept Up All the Actors". enewsWorld. Archived from the original on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-26.
  17. ^ Oh, Jean (8 October 2013). "Lee Min-ho, back to class". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  18. ^ Won, Ho-yeon (10 October 2013). "Famed scriptwriter revels in cliche". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  19. ^ Kang, John. "Korean Drama 'Descendants Of The Sun' Breaks Records Thanks To Chinese Investments". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Tourists flock to this country to stand where Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo stood in 'Descendants of the Sun'". allkpop. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  22. ^ "Yonhap News Agency". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  23. ^ "Nielsen Korea". Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  24. ^ "Nielsen Korea".
  25. ^ "Nielsen Korea". Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  26. ^ "[E!시청률] '더 킹' 8.5% 기록, 2049는 5.1%…두 자릿수 못넘고 '시들'". (in Korean). 10 May 2020. Retrieved 2020-06-05.
  27. ^ "[SC초점] '더킹' 부진은 다 김은숙 탓? 디테일 부족→연출도 한몫했다". 스포츠조선 (in Kanuri). 2020-05-22. Retrieved 2020-06-05.
  28. ^ "Star screenwriter struggling with lower-than-expected popularity of 'The King'". Korea Herald. May 18, 2020. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  29. ^ Kim Kyung-hee (March 10, 2022). "김은숙 작가, 우쿠라이나 전쟁 피해자+산불 피해이웃돕기 성금 기부" [Writer Eun-sook Kim, donated money to help the victims of the Ukrainian war + the victims of forest fires] (in Korean). iMBC. Retrieved March 10, 2022 – via Naver.
  30. ^ "Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards announces winners". Kpop Herald. 25 October 2016.
  31. ^ "'Guardian,' 'The Handmaiden' win big at Baeksang Awards". Korea Herald. 4 May 2017.

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