Winter Sonata refers both to the hit South Korean Soap Opera and its Animated Adaptation. It was broadcast on Japan's NHK and has been a major part of the 'Korean Wave' both there and throughout Asia.
The story revolves around the fated love between pretty Yuujin and brooding Joonsang. They first met when Joonsang transfers to her high school, with the secret intention of discovering the identity of his biological father, whose name his mother has hidden from him to the extreme point of removing it from his memory. Armed only with an old, damaged photo of his mother standing between two men (one of the has his face burned), Joonsang is looking for one or both of those men, as possible candidates. He comes to believe that the father of one of his classmates, Sanghyuk, is also his father (possibly making them half-brothers); to complicate matters, Sanghyuk is Yuujin's friend-zoned best friend. Meanwhile, Chae-lin, the class Alpha Bitch, decides that she will conquer Joongsang's heart.
Despite (or rather because of) their different personalities, the free-spirited Yuujin and aloof Joonsang fall in love, to the chagrin of Sanghyuk and Chae-lin. But during a melodramatic visit to Yuujin's home, Joongsang discovers that she has a complete copy of the photo Joonsang has, with the burned face revealed to be the late father of Yuujin (possibly making Yuujin his half-sister). Now dubious about his conclusions, he decides to confess everything he knows to Yuujin on New Year's Eve, but before he can meet her, he is hit by a truck. The next day, the school receives news that Joonsang has died, leaving both Yuujin and Chae-lin in despair.
Ten years later, Yuujin (now an architect) and Sanghyuk (a radio host) are engaged to get married. But the night of their engagement dinner, Yuujin meets a man who looks eerily similar to the late Joonsang, and becomes so shocked and distraught that she fails to go to the dinner. The mysterious man happens to be Chae-lin's new boyfriend, an American-raised architect named Ming-hyun. Yuujin becomes greatly troubled, exacerbated by a series of coincidences constantly causing her and Ming-hyun to cross paths, and she fears that she is falling in love with him. Although the very open and easygoing Ming-hyun is nothing like the serious, brooding Joonsang, there's just something about how both men are so alike that Yuujin's heart simply can't let it go...
This Korean drama provides examples of:
- Alpha Bitch: Chae-lin.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Joonsang
- Bittersweet Ending
- Revised Ending: The anime ends with a live-action scene of Joonsang and Yujin's wedding. Also note that while Joonsang went totally blind in the original series, it's hinted that Joonsang didn't in the anime.
- Beta Couple: Two of Yujin's classmates get married halfway through the anime.
- Pair the Spares: Sanghyuk and Chae-lin.
- Brother–Sister Incest: Why Mi-Hee, Joonsang's mom, is against him and Yujin hooking up.
- Childhood Friend Romance: With Sanghyuk.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Junkyuk, who is very cute for a psychic veterinarian.
- Domestic Abuser: Sanghyuk seems to love alternating between piling the guilt on Yuujin and pressuring her through her mother, not to mention assaulting her in a hotel room.
- Dresses the Same: Che-lin tricks Yoo-jin into wearing the same dress at the same party, then claims it's because her friend is jealous and mentally ill.
- Evil Matriarch: Mi-Hee, to the extent to brainwash her amnesiac child to make him forget his unhappy childhood, and his probably incestuous romantic interest.
- The Atoner: After Joonsang's mom realized everything she did caused more harm than good, she went into exile in an asylum. Sanghyuk's father had to coax her out of the asylum.
- Gene Hunting: The reason Joonsang went to his mother's old town and high school.
- Generation Xerox: Joonsang' mom and Yuujin and Sanghyuk's dads formed a love triangle very similar to the one their descendants have.
- Inelegant Blubbering: In a series where everybody cries tenderly, the scene where a drunk Che-lin loses it after she proposes that "the jilted ones" (she and Sang-hyuk) start dating comes off as this.
- Luke, You Are My Father: Joonsang does this to Sanghyuk's dad, Jinwoo twice. He doesn't invoke this back in high school, but after the Brother–Sister Incest fiasco with Yujin, he demands a DNA test.
- Foreshadowing: Every time Jinwoo brings Joonsang to the hospital, he gets questioned whether he is Joonsang's father.
- Meaningful Echo: Joonsang gets into a truck accident, which leads to him forgetting Yujin. Later, as Minhyung, he gets into another accident. He's safe, but the shock brings back all of his memories of Yujin.
- Missed Him by That Much: Yujin misses her engagement party while wildly looking for someone who looked like her first love.
- Parental Marriage Veto Mii-hee tries (twice!) to impose this on her son, for the reasons above.
- Surprise Incest: Yujin genuinely has no idea of this being a possibility until late in the drama.
- Two-Person Love Triangle: When Yuujin falls in love with Min-hyung, she isn't sure if it is for himself, or because he looks too much like the disappeared Joonsang. Turns out Min-hyung is an amnesiac, post brainwashing Joonsang.