Kromance: The Scent of Sadness

I watched yet another stereotypical Asian movie, you know, the tear-jerking, heartaching type. A South Korean film, Scent of Love 국화꽃 향기(2003), literally Scent of Crysanthemums, is a story of undying love, devotion, sacrifice, and hope.

Directed by Lee Jeong-wook (이정욱)


I realized the subway can be a love haven or a tunnel of terror. Here, a love story awaits. In-ha becomes love-stricken upon seeing Hee-jae help a pregnant woman. By chance, they meet again at the university bookstore. Later, they travel to a remote island to work at a camp. There, Hee-jae encounters a mischievous, difficult boy, who makes her swim in the ocean. Well, she cannot swim, but she selflessly does it anyway to fulfill a promise to the child. A near-death experience ensues, but In-ha is there to save her.

During her recovery, In-ha confesses his love for her. Sadly, the love is unrequited. She is a few years older and believes his feelings are only fleeting. She punches him in the stomach before she leaves. For him, the pain is not the physical one that struck his stomach, it is the intangible one through in his heart.

Years pass. Hee-jae is set to marry the love of her life. The happiness does not last for long as tragedy hits and leaves her in shambles. Needless to say, In-ha is still in Seoul and in love with her. The sensitive and romantic type, he buys her favorite yogurt and builds a little fortress outside her gate to catch her attention and let him into her life. Top it off with a stuffed animal, an all-nighter, and his love-letters on broadcast, he wins her affection and lights up her life again.

Wow, a man like In-ha with a soft heart of gold, peppered with commitment, patience, persistence, and courage, is rather touching… In-ha writes these love letters and reads them over the radio, hoping Hee-jae listens. He loves Hee-jae so much he knows her from the inside out – her favorite food, her habits, her dislikes, etc… Even after the marriage, he continues to express his undying love for Hee-jae.

I’d marry this man in a heartbeat and live happily ever after… Well, keep in mind this is a Korean drama movie and something bad will happen. And that bad thing is an untimely death in the form of cancer T_T

The tables have turned, and now Hee-jae anonymously writes her love letters for her husband. She writes about her deep love, her fears, and her sadness. She should be happy with her new baby on the way, but instead, she is constantly in pain and suffering from stomach cancer. One part of her writing that makes me sad is when she begins to lose her sense of smell, the smell of her husband’s cologne and the good things around her. Smell and memory are well-linked in the brain, so when she loses her smell, she’s afraid of losing a part of herself.  However, the young wife and mother is willing to risk her life to give birth to this baby. She knows she will be gone, but she wants to leave her beloved with a precious gem worth the world between them. She wants to be remembered when he looks into the baby; Hee-jae will live on in the child, forever a part of In-ha’s life and future… T_T 

Side notes

  • Sad movie and reality indeed. The lead actress, Jang Jin-young, ironically succumbed to stomach cancer in 2009 at the tender age of 35. A bizarre and tragic coincidence? Young, beautiful, talented, and well-loved in South Korea, she accomplished so much in the entertainment industry, especially after winning many awards for her role in Sorum (2001), but left too early.


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