Possibly the ultimate Korean drama, Sandglass became an instant classic and cultural phenomenon when it aired in 1995. It drew one of the highest ratings in the history of Korean broadcasting, between 50 and 65%. Drama lore has it that shops and businesses closed early so workers could get home in time to watch. Created by the same producer and writer behind Eyes of Dawn, often considered the first modern Korean drama, Sandglass possesses a breadth of scope and richness of detail almost unparalleled by other dramas.
Charting a politically tumultuous period in Korean history (late 1960s to 1980s), Sandglass traces the relationship of two best friends through politics, crime and social upheaval as they choose wildly different paths in life. Tae Soo (Choi Min Soo) and Woo Suk (Park Sang Won) are best friends from childhood. But when the truth of Tae Soo’s father’s past is revealed, he is rejected from military school. Embittered, he embarks on a path that takes him into the world of organized crime and corrupt politics. Woo Suk, meanwhile, driven by the political oppression suffered by his family, pursues law and becomes a prosecutor fighting for social justice.
With Tae Soo fiercely loyal and dedicated to the mob and Woo Suk righteous and committed to social justice, the two maintain a tenuous relationship despite their very different lives. Their friendship begins to fracture when Woo Suk falls in love with one of his former classmates, Hye Rin (Ko Hyung Jung). When Woo Suk introduces her to Tae Soo, she falls for Tae Soo instead. Hye Rin, an activist and the beautiful, independent daughter of a wealthy casino owner, plans to take over her father’s business, and becomes caught between the two men. In the midst of this, all three are affected by political upheaval, as a rebellion (based on the bloody 1980 Kwangju rebellion) shakes their world…
Delving into an event and time period that had been virtually taboo up until this point, Sandglass gave voice to many Koreans who had suffered through the events of the 80s and early 90s, and opened the door for other projects to address this time period, such as films The Petal (1996) and Peppermint Candy (2000). Romantic, historically relevant, and sophisticated, Sandglass is a masterful work of storytelling that set the standard that today’s dramas still aspire to reach.