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The Hong Sisters: When Writing Kdramas Is A Sister Act

BY Joan MacDonald | Jun 23, 2013 11:28 AM EDT

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A lot of attention is given to how well actors and actresses bring kdrama characters to life, but those characters have to be created first. A writer has to think up the characters and make the characters so real they jump off the page.

It takes talent and sometimes that talent runs in the family. It certainly does with the Hong sisters, the sibling screenwriting team that is practically a brand name in Korean entertainment. The sisters have produced a series of kdrama hits and some of their shows have achieved an international cult following.

Who are the Hong sisters? Hong Jung Eun, 39, and Hong Mi Ran, 36 have always written comedies as a team. The sisters started out writing for variety shows and then co-wrote the romantic comedy "Sassy Girl Choon Hyang."

"We were both working in the entertainment industry when we decided to work together on a drama," said Hong Jung Eun. "If that project had failed, we would not have been able to continue."

Fortunately for kdrama viewers, the comedy was a success.

"Sassy Girl" was based on a Korean folktale Chunhyanjeon, but the writers updated it by making the heroine headstrong and sassy. The heroine of their next drama, "My Girl" featured just as likable a female character. The story about a con artist who pretends to be a rich man's granddaughter made stars out of its young actors Lee Da Hee, Han Chae Young, Lee Jung Ki, Lee Dong Wook and Jae Hee.

After "My Girl," the sisters wrote "Fantasy Couple," a remake of the American film "Overboard," then "Hong Gil Dong," based on stories of the Robin-Hood-style folk hero Hong Gil Dong. Their next comedy, "You're Beautiful," starring Jang Geun Suk and Park Shin Hye, did not get top domestic ratings but became an international hit, inspiring Japanese and Taiwanese remakes. Next, the Hong Sisters took on the mythical creatures named gumihos in "My Girlfriend is a Gumiho." That drama starred future half-gumiho Lee Seung Gi as the boyfriend. Their drama "The Greatest Love," starring Cha Seung Won and Gong Hyo Jin earned great ratings plus writing awards.

The sisters have written a new drama, which is currently in production. "The Master's Sun" pairs actress Gong Hyo Jin with actor So Ji Sub. In the drama, she plays a woman who can see ghosts and he plays a man who does not believe in them.

Their romantic comedies are known for sweet silly scenes that somehow lure viewers into deeply caring for the quirky characters they have created. It's highly unusual for two writers who are siblings to work together. But not only do they work together. The Hong Sisters do just about everything together. The sisters have said that they have to spend every day together or they could not write as a team.

"We have to be together 24/7," said Hong Jung Eun. "Or it wouldn't work."

Actress Gong Hyo Jin said she is personally scared of paranormal stories such as "The Master's Sun" but she could not resist taking on this role or another Hong Sisters' script.

"I was really attracted to the characters and the story," said Gong Hyo Jin. Of course. The Hong sisters wrote them.

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