Jirisan -- Episodes 1 & 2: Mt. Jirisan
There is so much to like about Jirisan as a story, everything from what the mountain actually means to the many who visit it, but more to those sworn to protect it even at the cost of their own lives, evident in the monologue at the drama's opening narrated by the legendary Ryu Seung Ryong nonetheless. His words foretold the danger, but the pride in Jirisan, in how many have visited it for its symbol of hope even at the face of the great danger it holds.
The dangers notwithstanding, knowing that many still bring their stories to the mountain, since it remains a place at the border between growing hope and severe devastation, between life and death, where a beginning and an ending still coexist. Mt. Jirisan is the land this world, and the next makes it a force to be reckoned with if not admired.
Everything from the monologue that unfolds like the journey of life to the breathtakingly beautiful sceneries of the Mt. Jirisan, the cinematograph and shots, the mystery of the mountain, the premonitions, and potential serial murderer makes Jirisan appealing. It's astounding how magnetic, yet dangerous nature can be all at once, even without the added human element. I don't know how I would act if I lost my way on a hike, let alone a child in a place like Mt. Jirisan, but to know that there are park rangers and volunteers willing to risk their lives to find me would definitely ease my mind.
It's amazing how Jirisan managed to give me a tremendous appreciation to park rangers, and the thousands of lives they rescue, at the risk of their own lives, all that in the opening episode. And even as I pondered and imagined what more Jirisan could have in store for us, it quickly proved it did and does, have a lot more. To go from thrilling rescues and an exhilarated team to a 360 change was an eye opener that there was more to Jirisan than simply thrilling action. There is personal loss, pain, and a huge backstory that promises answers, but not before it unearths mysteries. I doubt any of those involved imagined or dreamed of the mountain.
And just as the excitement and rawness of the first episode subsided, the second brought with it the proof and reality that, despite it being a place of hope, Mt. Jirisan was also a place of many painful secrets, anguish, and destruction. Watching the lively and dedicated Park Ranger Seo Yi Kang (Jun Ji Hyun) confined to a wheelchair, looking defeated, and her easygoing partner Kang Hyun Jo (Joo Ji Hoon) in a coma, and all that happening in just two years was unexpected. It compounded the mystery of the mountain, the people who visit it, those who protect it, and the ones willing to kill for it and in it.
Again, there is a lot to like in Jirisan and the mysteries within it, and for that I appreciate the makers and participants for the details, the swing camera shots and angles, and the intricacies of the stories. I can only imagine the amount of training the actors had to go through to bring this story to life - kudos to them all. It goes without fail that Joo Ji Hoon is a must watch, but to have Jun Ji Hyun, Oh Jung Se, Sung Dong Il, and the rest of the star-studded cast all in one drama makes it a must watch. And if all that isn't convincing or compelling enough reason to watch Jirisan, then the chemistry between Ji Hoon and Jun Ji Hyun, his easy going nature to her stoic, is more than sufficient reason. Despite the pain that awaits to unfold, I am all in. Watch episodes 1 & 2 here.