When Netflix announced the Korean remake of the 2019 Taiwanese hit romance series "Someday or One Day," the news stirred a mixed reaction from fans, who held high hopes and worries that it might not live up to the original.
Director Kim Jin-won, who helmed the Korean adaptation, "A Time Called You," shared the weight he felt in recreating the popular series that already had a strong fan base.
"I'm one of the big fans of the original series myself. So the most difficult part of making the series was that the remake was too different. But also, if it's too similar, there comes a question on our series' identity and on why we are making this series," Kim said during an interview with The Korea Times, Monday, at a cafe in Jongno District, central Seoul.
"I struggled and put in a lot of time to finding the balance between staying true to the original and carving out new identity."
The 12-part fantasy romance series, which premiered on Sept. 8, follows Han Jun-hee (Jeon Yeo-been), a woman grieving the recent loss of her boyfriend in a plane crash. One day, she magically travels back through time to 1998 and wakes up in the body of a high schooler lookalike, Kwon Min-ju.
There, she meets her fellow classmates, Nam Si-heon (Ahn Hyo-seop), who has a striking resemblance to her late love, and kindhearted Jung In-gyu (Kang Hoon). While caught in the love triangle with Nam and Jung, Han grapples to write a new fate for all of them, all the while entangled in the mysterious time travel scenario.
The series is scripted by Choi Hyo-bi, who wrote the 2016 thriller series "Babysitter."
Kim noted that the most significant divergence from the original is in the characters themselves.
"We didn't deliberately try to make huge changes since working on the series' script. As we go with the flow, we know it will have certain aspects of the characters that will naturally deviate … There have been a lot of changes to the characters, rather than in the overall story," he said.
"The changes to the character of Si-heon are one of the elements that changed the overall tone of the series. The scriptwriter told me that she feels our series' male lead character is more mature and adult-like."
Particularly, the character of Nam underwent changes that shifted the overall tone of the series. The director explained that it was important for Nam to be thoughtful and mature to convince the viewers of the romance story of the adult Han with the teenage version of her late boyfriend.
"I pictured Si-heon as a person who empathizes with In-gyu's heartbreak and stays considerate to Min-ju although he firmly turns down her feelings for him. I believed that creating Si-heon as more adult and mature would help to develop the story more smoothly."
Despite his effort, the series was still faced with mixed reactions from the original's fans with some expressing that the adaptation falls short of the original, especially with the awkward portrayal of Nam in his 40s.
Kim defended this choice, saying he intended the character to reflect the years of devastation he lived through.
"The most important point in the 40-year-old version of Si-heon was that it needed to show the depth of his pain. He went through loss and had to give up a lot. So I felt he would look drained, not looking after himself and living with a sense of desperation."