Airplanes lighting up a night sky look like stars, and it’s this romanticized idea that sets the stage for a drama centred around ordinary airport employees and a dreamy love story.
Where Stars Land, Fox Bride Star, or People of Incheon Airport (alternate titles) is about Lee Soo-Yeon (Lee Je-Hoon) who once dreamed of being a pilot, but his aspirations were tarnished after an accident, which leaves him as an individual with level one disability. Instead, he aims to live quietly, working at Incheon Airport as a member of the Passenger Service Department that handles miscellaneous tasks and work that goes unnoticed.
He meets Han Yeo-Reum (Chae Soo-Bin) a woman who wants to be anything but ordinary. She’s always lived in the shadows and wants to succeed in life, showcasing her best in whatever she does. Her bubbly personality and tenacity to meddle causes all kinds of troubles, forcing Soo-Yeon to step out into the light and save the day.
Before we dive into the actual drama, there’s a few things I should probably share. First off, I’ve been watching the drama for a solid month in order to figure out where the circulating criticism regarding the female lead comes from. Secondly, I was also hesitant since the pre-production aspects were a bit shaky. The drama originally sent out casting offers to Park Shin-Hye and Hyun-Bin who both turned down the offer and the drama also went through several title changes (not too unusual) but the information given before it’s premiere was unclear and didn’t give us anything to formulate plot or character wise other than the setting being Incheon Airport.
After 8 episodes, I can definitely say that the criticism and dislike towards Han Yeo-Reum is uncalled for since she’s actually quite endearing and goes through a convincing and genuine character development. She has her flaws and is a byproduct of societal standards that displaces and belittles women in the workforce, but she discovers sides to herself through her interactions with the male lead and team leader, and allows herself to let loose the emotions and opinions she’s repressed. She’s not a weakling either and stands her ground towards men when she can no longer tolerate their behaviour towards her, and has a good understanding of what it’s like to be constantly judged by others.
I think her emotional trajectory and big heart are remarkable contrasts to her mundane duties at work, although the drama manages to escalate work-related incidences so we’re given far more dramatic scenes that would never actually happen at an airport, or if they do, then rarely. This bit of narration is probably to give our male lead a more heroic stance despite the fact that his words and firm belief in his values are what make him heroic, and the drama might be intentionally making these parallels since we see the action-heroism but currents of emotions and human understanding that really set him apart and make him unique.
They couldn’t have picked a better actor because Lee Je-Hoon’s micro-expressions and soft spoken voice give so much life to Soo-Yeon, providing a sense of refinery to a character that seems fairly deadpanned on the outside. It’s the man’s actions, feelings, and heart that make the character lovable and not his disability which every person in the drama is dead set on discovering or uncovering.
In a nutshell, our leads create this adorable little bubble when they’re together and I live for those moments of transparent dialogue and a romance that’s sweet but very real; our female lead is practically one of the few people willing to give Soo-Yeon space.
Another character that I’d wish would back off is Seo In-Woo (Lee Dong-Gun) of course he’s slowing climbing the ladder to be a spiteful antagonist, but it’s hard to sit there and watch the actor portray a role that’s somewhat meaningless and petty. In-Woo shares a past with Soo-Yeon but his deep-seeded hate is barely justifiable other than a tremendous amount of guilt being transformed into hatred and hostility.
He’s not the greatest of antagonists and I wish the show would solidify him a bit more so we get either a man struggling with an immense amount of guilt or a villain who’s willing to crush the male protagonist because Lee Dong-Gun would definitely give us a performance that would leave us all wanting more. I also think the drama would be better off to let the actor dive into his character more to give us a grand performance with more depth and emotion, so it seems like a bit of a loss to have such an actor play a repressed role, and basically undermining his abilities. But who knows, the drama might take us all by surprise and really utilize his acting chops to give us something entirely unexpected.
Overall, I like the issues the drama is addressing especially in regards to disability although skewed at times, and I thoroughly enjoy the romance and chemistry between Lee Je-Hoon and Chae Soo-Bin as well as the melancholic air that creates the drama’s atmosphere. The show however, does feel like it’s lacking plot wise with a few secondary characters that could have been written out better so it’s really a case of what you can tolerate and prefer. I’m currently watching it for the romance and the leads’ backstories since the show doesn’t seem like it’ll budge when it comes to other aspects. Despite my apprehensions and qualms with the drama, it’s still fairly decent and a good watch so don’t write it off until you’ve seen it and assessed the show for yourself.
Release Date: October 1, 2018 (Eng Sub available on Viki)