Secret Love Affair

Secret Love Affair (2014)

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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 1,656 users
Reviews: 20 users

"Secret Love Affair" tells the story of secret romance between Oh Hye-Won, a woman in her 40's, and Lee Sun-Jae, a man in his 20's. Oh Hye-Won, works as the director of planning for the Seohan Arts Foundation. She is elegant and excels at dealing with other people. Oh Hye-Won becomes involved in a love affair with Lee Sun-Jae. He is genius like pianist in his 20's.

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Music in Korean dramas and films; part 1: classical
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17 of 18 people found this review helpful
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May 15, 2014
  • Overall 7.5
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 9.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
Great roles for middle-aged actresses are rare. I loved that Secret Love Affair was anchored by a smart, sexy, morally complicated 40-something female protagonist, and it was obvious that the phenomenal Kim Hee Ae was having a blast playing the part. Yoo Ah In also does a fine job as a young piano prodigy, and when he’s onscreen with Kim, they make beautiful music together, both literally and figuratively. The love story read more generates plenty of heat, and, despite its salacious premise, feels genuine and ultimately quite moving. As long as the two leads are playing duets together or sharing bowls of noodles the show sings.

Unfortunately, I found the world surrounding the lovers to be less fleshed out and compelling. While I understand that the awfulness of most of the other major characters is meant to highlight just how terrible Hye Won’s life is despite its surface luxuries, I would have loved for there to have been more layers to the antagonists. Their universal loathsomeness did draw sympathy to the protagonists, but it also undermined the realism of the show and simplified its conflicts. It’s not hard to cheat on a husband with no redeeming characteristics, but that felt like an easy out for the screenwriter (and the audience) rather than an honest exploration of the challenges of marriage.

The directing of the show is carefully composed and the pacing slow. This allows for some lovely, unhurried emotional beats, but it can also feel a bit stifling. There were times I would have liked less precision and more abandon. The technique mirrors Hye Won’s fierce control, but when the fissures open in her life I wish the show had cracked open more deliriously as well. The main couple and the music are amazing. Everything else feels well worth losing for their stolen moments of joy.
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31 of 35 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Jun 18, 2014
  • Overall 9.5
  • Story 9.0
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 8.0
Imagine all the negative prejudices possible that one can have against a drama, and then add a little more negative biases; that's exactly how I felt before watching this drama. I hate love affairs, so I thought I could never ever bring myself to watch this. Watching the first episode was a momentary insanity for me, and guess what? I was blown away by the brilliance of this drama!! The majestic combination read more of perfect acting and breathtaking portrayal of their passion, the amazing directing and cinematography, and most of all the phenomenal choice of classical music got me hooked.

I think this drama is severely underrated and in my opinion mainly because of its poor choice of title "Love affair" brings out the notion of betraying romantic emotions of someone and their trust at the deepest level. It's a dirty and unforgivable act. However, this story is about anything but love affair. Granted the female lead is married, but in this scenario, considering her marriage and how the relationship is, I don't think anyone who will watch this would think that this was a love affair, it simply doesn't fit the category!

This is not your average light and bubbly love; it's dark, complex, passionate, bitter-sweet, and even sometimes torturous. It's a battle where we'll cheer as hard as we can for love to win against all odds. It's a story of growth and maturing oneself through experiencing love, a story of how easily one can lose oneself if s/he is chasing the wrong goals, and how they can still go back to true happiness regardless of their past/bad choices. It’s a story to show how love can change one for better or the worse.

Before analyzing the rest of the drama, I just have to say that I LOVED the music in this drama!!!!! They played so many beautiful pieces that were very well integrated within the flow of the story. Also, unlike your average drama, the music actually added meaning and depth to the drama. Most of the pieces were classical music played by the main leads (and let me tell you, I still cannot believe that they are actors not professional pianists!!!) There was one song that was not classical music, and it fitted the drama better than Cinderella's glass shoe fitted her. Anyone who has any appreciation for classical music is going to enjoy this drama enormously. And I'm not overselling it by stating that it's through the music that we can truly understand their passion, their fears and their love.

The pacing is slow, but surprisingly it didn't bother me at all. I loved that I could take my time and savor their every single gaze, touch, and emotion. The slow pace allowed me to synchronize my emotions with them; to not only understand, but also feel how they felt for one another. I guess the only negative point of the drama is the business part of it, but trust me; this one is not as bad as the others out there. It’s not the strongest part of the drama and the writers try not to get very technical with it. But I think it wasn’t that poorly written/executed. In the scale of the drama as a whole, it didn’t bother me at all!

The characters are complex, and it takes time to truly understand them. There were times that I was very annoyed with the main actress because I didn't really understand her. Nevertheless, as the drama progressed, my understanding of the characters deepened and I start too feel their pain, their hope and most of all their passion. It had been a very long time that I had felt such complex emotions with such intensity. It was almost like I was one of them.

Well I can go on and on, but I want to keep this review at a semi-reasonable length to allow ppl to read it. So if you're a fan of classical music, or if you want to go on a very emotional and bittersweet journey of love, fear and loss, I would recommend you to definitely give this a chance.
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Make a Recommendation More recs (11)Recommendations

The basic plotline (affair) is obviously similar. But also the complexity of the relationships. Both are drams that are darker, more intense romances that really challenge views and make them think about love and life.
Recommended by alexa
Secret Love Affair is an amazing show. Definitely on par with Master's Sun. So if you already watched MS 2x and would like a change of flavor. Try Secret Love Affair which also portrays a strong female lead - a very smart mature relationship that will warm your heart and brighten your days.
Recommended by CjRun

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Comments (119)

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  • Reply
    nastou19 18 days ago

    I had a hard time rating this drama. The love story was intense but I had to fast-forward everything else as it was so slow. So here I was, hesitating between a 6 and an 8. I settled inbetween ;)

  • Reply
    Ineta Aug 23, 2016

    This drama is definitely not for everyone. It is a must-watch if you like classical music (!), mature and very very realistic dramas with no rainbows and unicorns, where everything gets shown clearly as it is and it isn't made to be, let's say, fluffier just so it's easier to watch.
    Another thing to note is that this drama is slow-paced all the way through. For me, I found it more relaxing than boring, however after episode 10 it did get slightly draggy.
    I also felt like the main focus of the drama was not the romance. It was more about people's relationships and of course, music..
    That being said, I would like to mention that figuring out some of the characters was actually quite hard at times, as it was relating to them, at the end I felt like they kind of forgot to give endings to some of the characters.. And I found Kim Heeae's acting a little bit too cringy / fake at times.

  • Reply
    naccu Aug 23, 2016 - edited

    I caught the Yoo Ah In fever after Six Flying Dragons and decided to try this drama just for him! I got to know that it's one of the worst dramas I've ever seen!! This is my personal opinion so please don't make offensive comments below :/
    It is so boring!! The cinematography may be dark and "elegant" but that's also a reason I didn't like it! Everything was so slow, even their movements.I skipped most of the part about that woman and her mother-in-law or whatever she was. It was dull.. Really boring..
    Also, I honestly can't understand how he could be drawn to her sooo much after meeting with her only once!
    Yoo Ah In may be an amazing actor but even he couldn't save this drama for me!

  • Reply
    ultramarin Aug 7, 2016

    This drama is something else... I know that judging by the title and synopsis it sounds really cliche. But it's much more than that.. It's dark, it's elegant, it's deliciosly angsty and the music is indeed amazing. The leads had excelent chemistry (really did not expect this, given the age gap). So, if you want a little break from the usual happy cheesy romantic dramas, give this a try. You might really enjoy it... If think about it, it's as elegant as the movie 'In the mood for love', the story is really different tho..

  • Reply
    Mimo Jul 22, 2016

    i love this drama very hee ae and yoo ah in were amazing.

  • Reply
    pjvalentine Jun 6, 2016 - edited

    I watched this as it aired in 2014, I enjoyed it and rated 8, but I recently rewatched it and actually upped my rating which has never happened for me before! Perhaps it's because I could appreciate the storytelling and cinematography more or maybe it was just the mood I was in, but although I knew what was going to happen, I was still completely absorbed in the drama. I understood the story a lot more this time (I didn't really understand all the politics that were happening before) and picked up on a lot the metaphors that I missed the first time. I also want to mention that the music has such presence in this drama. I've watched so many dramas that revolve around music (or is supposed to revolve around music) and all they do is play the same 2 songs over and over again or just don't utilize it fully, but here, from the background music to the 'live' playing, every moment is just beautifully crafted and thought out. Love it.

  • Reply
    Nick May 4, 2016 - edited

    The drama actually has a great story. This is the first drama where I actually enjoyed the slow progression because everything builds up. Theres a lot of tension and atmosphere in this drama that I haven't felt anywhere. The CON: is just bad execution. For some reason, I think if they remake this drama and enhance by taking away the flaws some people are talking about, it can be an easy 10/10.

  • Reply
    NaijaLuv_88 Apr 25, 2016 - edited
    Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      Reavel Jul 24, 2016

      -applauds- great review

  • Reply
    CjRun Feb 2, 2016 - edited

    I hate Noona romance. But the first episode is pulling me. I really love Kim Hee Ae..cant stop watching her. So sincere so real.

  • Reply
    Domo Jan 21, 2016 - edited

    Even though many people like me probably cant ever get past the element of adultery, that is not the point of this drama. And the acting from the leads is the reason why that message was conveyed so well. The acting really cannot get any better from two artists who always try to offer something new and meaningful, by portraying two souls who bond over the love for another form of art that is music. It is truly one of the most riveting and deep Kdramas, the whole SA team (especially Yoo Ah In & Kim Hee Ae ) should give themselves more than a pat on the back for job well done

    • Reply
      CjRun Feb 2, 2016

      yup. It really is beautiful show.

    • Reply
      shiu545 Feb 5, 2016

      I watched Kim Hee Ae in My Man's Woman and she was superb in that. She is one of the best actresses.

    • Reply
      Chocobana Apr 15, 2016 - edited

      Hmm, I absolutely hate affairs and I can't stand seeing them portrayed in any kind of positive light, but in this case, it's not exactly an affair. Legally? Yes. But emotionally? No. There was nothing between the married couple here. It was a complete business relationship as someone else pointed out.

      ETA: Just thought it sounds like I 100% condone their relationship (since I'm making excuses for them). No, I don't. But the whole situation is all kinds of complicated and I totally rooted for their love to triumph, ethics aside.

  • Reply
    Akaisora Jan 19, 2016

    The main actor and actress are both amazing. I watched this solely for them, especially the guy; he conveys the character perfectly.

  • Reply
    Kizzy Jan 16, 2016

    I will say this: To some this drama will seem draggy, but that's an aspect I actually enjoyed about this drama. It took it's time. The slow and natural progression of the lead's relationship made it believable and realistic (which, truthfully, the story needed to work.) If you aren't a fan of slow paced stories this just isn't for you... but that doesn't mean that this isn't a good show. It's just not to your liking. I wanted to make that clarification. Beyond the pacing, the story IS about a young man and an older women. Know the type of story you're walking into, and try your best to keep an open mind. You may be surprised by what you see. If, after all, you still don't enjoy it, at least you'll know you gave it a try:)

  • Reply
    bossmama Dec 26, 2015 - edited

    I want to try this but I just can't get over the chaebol thing... I don't care if it's realistic in South Korea but it feels so out of touch with reality (that I know)...

    • Reply
      ireth Jan 8, 2016

      Chaebol? This drama is not about chaebols...

    • Reply
      bossmama Jan 9, 2016

      ah, I know, but there's some chaebol machination involved, no? at least in the first episode I watch the main character works for a chaebol's family, didn't she? or maybe my interpretation of chaebol is wrong?

    • Reply
      ireth Jan 9, 2016

      Yes, she works for a Cheabol's family. I thought you were talking about the main characters. >.<

  • Reply
    pammo1949 Dec 7, 2015

    A very mature and moving drama from the sole of your feet to the top of your head emotional whirlwind. Beautiful in all aspects - actors, story line, cinematography. THe depth of the emotion called love is defined and vicariously shared through music and it was so amazing I couldn't stop watching. A great show to marathon. Once of the best K Dramas ever!!! Unbelievable work of art - worthy of many awards.

  • Reply
    blg Oct 22, 2015 - edited
    Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      CjRun Feb 5, 2016
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  • Country:

    South Korea
  • Type:

  • Episodes:

  • Aired:

    Mar 17, 2014 to May 13, 2014
  • Aired On:

    Monday, Tuesday
  • Network:

  • Duration:

    60 min.


  • Score:

    7.6 (scored by 1,656 users)
  • Ranked:

  • Popularity:


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