Editor’s note: Since Snowdrop’s beginning, the show has not been without controversy. The most notable of which is the backlash over what many claim to be the drama’s alleged revisionist approach to South Korea’s democratic uprising in the 1980s, a movement against dictatorship marked by blood and loss. Following its premiere on December 18, a petition to stop the broadcast of the drama has gathered upwards of 300,000 signatures. Anyone going into Snowdrop should, therefore, watch it with a grain of salt.
The first few minutes of the show introduce us to Eun Young-ro (BLACKPINK’s Jisoo), a freshman at Hosu Women’s University, who, like any college student, is more interested in the social aspect of college life than studies. Along with three roommates, she puts up in Room 207 – which is important to remember, since it quickly becomes the place where her life turns.
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On the other end of the story is Im Soo-ho (Jung Hae-in), a recent graduate from the University Of Berlin, now preparing for his Master’s thesis in South Korea. Calm, composed and taciturn, Soo-ho and Young-ro have a fateful meet during a group date, when the latter tries to save his doomed matchstick tower from collapsing. While they couldn’t continue their conversation on the group date, they run into each other again at a record store, where he catches her singing along to a track, charmed by her naivete.
The budding romance is contrasted with the power dynamics in the Aemin Party, where two high-ranking officials – Secretary General Nam Tae-il (Park Sung-woong) and Director of the Agency For National Security Planning (ANSP) Eun Chang-soo (Heo Joon-ho) – are trying to one-up each other to curry favour with the party’s president. At the crux of this power struggle is Operation Phoenix: a plot to abduct Professor Han I-seop, the “brains” of the opposition party, and blame the opposition party for colluding with North Korean forces to tarnish their standing.
Political strife with the North and the use of fear as political propaganda becomes a key element in the story – during the roll call at Hosu Women’s Dorms, one of the rules is, “No protest”. In another scene, Young-ro quickly swipes in and hides the communist literature her friend Jeong-min was reading in the dining hall.
There are also the agents involved with the ANSP. Primary among these is Lee Kang-moo (Jang Seung-jo), an agent recently returned from Germany and pursuing a suspected North Korean spy only referred to as Taedong River 1. On his team, in a tense relationship of rivalry and distrust is Jang Han-na (Jung Yoo-jin), the ANSP’s first female agent, in charge of tailing Professor Han by leveraging her rapport with the opposition. Elsewhere, Soo-ho seems insistent on working on his Master’s thesis under Professor Han’s guidance, which brings us back to the record store.
Young-ro tries to make a graceful exit after her awkwardly adorable encounter with Soo-ho, but is stopped when he ends up buying her the CD she couldn’t. As he tries to leave, she goes after him, but is stopped when Soo-ho pulls her into an alleyway to hide from some officers searching for some wanted men. Scared and concerned about Soo-ho’s panic at running into the officers, she pretends to be a scorned lover confronting Soo-ho about his infidelity – her split-second ruse works, and the officers leave them alone. Finally getting a chance to speak to him, Young-ro offers to pay him back and invites him to lunch at the same cafe they had met each other for the first time. She runs back to her dorm giddy and in love at first sight – only, the next day, Soo-ho never shows.
Six months later, Kang-moo is closing in on Professor Han, thinking he may have helped Taedong River 1 sneak into South Korea, and pins his suspicions on Soo-ho, whom he’s spotted around the professor with increasing frequency. When Han-na’s investigation reveals that there was no record of Soo-ho ever having been at Berlin University, their suspicions are cemented.
The same night, Soo-ho, along with some men, watch Professor Han from a car and conveniently offers him a ride after the latter discovers a flat tire, thus confirming that Soo-ho is, indeed, a North Korean spy. While travelling, they are ambushed by ANSP agents – informed by Han-na. After the incident leaves the Professor and his driver unresponsive, Soo-ho narrowly escapes on foot, eventually reaching the Hosu Women’s Dorm. Scaling the building, he crawls in through an open window, only for it to be revealed as Room 207, where Young-ro finds him unconscious just as ANSP agents barge into the building.
As the agents close in, the dorm’s strict warden orders everyone to barricade themselves inside, getting on Kang-moo and Han-na’s bad sides. Back in Room 207, Young-ro and her friends – after some convincing by Young-ro – hatch a plan to conceal Soo-ho just in time for the agents to obtain a search warrant, thinking that he’s a protestor being framed for being a spy. They sneak him down to the girls’ public bath, hiding him inside the hollow wooden seats, where he stays during a tense confrontation with Han-na.
Kang-moo and Han-na are eventually ordered to give up the pursuit of Professor Han completely, since their ambush of Soo-ho and Professor Han throws a wrench in Operation Phoenix – which would have sent him to North Korea for some carefully orchestrated photos, to be used as leverage against the opposition party in the media.
After the ANSP agents leave empty-handed, Young-ro and her friends sneak Soo-ho into an abandoned attic on the dorm’s rooftop with the assistance of Kim Man-dong (Kim Jong-soo), the genial hall manager. Thus begins a tale of shy push-and-pull between Young-ro and Soo-ho: while she sneaks him supplies and food, he mends the old radio inside the attic and tries to pick up on military frequencies. The well-meaning Young-ro also provides Soo-ho with information about the dorm’s structure and floor plan, unaware of Soo-ho’s identity.
It all comes crashing down, however, when one evening, a student discovers water seeping through the ceiling of the library, situated just below the attic where Soo-ho is housed. Her suspicions about someone accessing the attic confirmed, she approaches the warden, who – along with Man-dong – rushes to the rooftop to investigate as Soo-ho and Young-ro wait inside, with bated breaths.
Will the dorm mother find the two? Or will the two hatch another lucky plan to escape being discovered?
Questions We Have
- Contrasting her stickler for rules personality, the dorm mother actively goes against Kang-moo and Han-na at the risk of her own life, and even chews out another student for “speaking too much” about the occupants of Room 207, lest it get them killed. What’s her story?
- There also seems to be history between Kang-moo and Han-na. When Kang-moo is frustrated about having to give up his pursuit of Professor Han, Han-na calls him out on (possibly) giving up on her. What’s their deal?
‘Snowdrop’ airs every Saturday and Sunday on JTBC at 10:30pm in South Korean, and is also available in the APAC region on Disney+