Sandglass (TV series)

Sandglass (Korean모래시계; Hanja모래時計; RRMoraesigye; also known as The Hourglass) is a South Korean television series. It is one of the highest-rated Korean dramas in history, and is also considered one of the most significant.[1] Written by Song Ji-na, directed by Kim Jong-hak and produced by their own company Jcom, it aired on SBS in 1995 in 24 episodes.[2]

Sandglass 1995 TV series DVD cover.jpg
DVD cover
Also known asThe Hourglass
Written bySong Ji-na
Directed byKim Jong-hak
StarringChoi Min-soo
Park Sang-won
Go Hyun-jung
Country of originSouth Korea
Original languageKorean
No. of episodes24
Running timeMondays to Thursdays at 20:40 (KST)
Production companiesJcom
SBS Production
Original networkSeoul Broadcasting System
Original release10 January (1995-01-10) –
16 February 1995 (1995-02-16)

A depiction of the tragic relationship among three friends affected by the political and civilian oppression of 1970s and 1980s Korea, the series mixed politics, melodrama, and action. It recorded a peak rating of 64.5%, the fourth highest of all time, and launched its leading trio of Choi Min-soo, Go Hyun-jung, and Park Sang-won into stardom. Its reenactment of the Gwangju Uprising (interspersed with archival video footage) has been called one of the most realistic and memorable moments in Korean TV history.[3]


Sandglass is the story of two men whose friendship is put to the test through the 1970s and 1980s, one of Korea's politically tumultuous periods. Park Tae-soo (Choi Min-soo), tough and loyal, grows up to become a gangster. Kang Woo-suk (Park Sang-won), smart with firm moral values, grows up to become a prosecutor.[4] Yoon Hye-rin (Go Hyun-jung), a beautiful and spirited daughter of a very wealthy casino owner, not true, they live in the same private dormitory. Hye-rin is introduced to Tae-soo via Woo-suk and they fall in love.[5]

A notable aspect of the series is its handling of the 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement, an event during which the head of the military junta (which had taken over South Korea after the assassination of President Park Chung-hee), General Chun Doo-hwan, sent paratroopers into Gwangju to put down the uprising resulting in a massacre of hundreds of civilians. A taboo subject during the airing of the series, the violent scenes (based on individual accounts) resulted in shock and grief for the South Koreans at that time. (The mid-90s South Korea had not come to terms with what happened after government muzzled free speech.) After the drama aired, there was a visible output of films dealing with the subject (such as A Petal (1996) and Peppermint Candy (2000)). It even influenced the prosecution of ex-President Chun Doo-hwan responsible for the massacre (he was finally jailed, decades after the incident).[6]



  • In the table below, the blue numbers represent the lowest ratings and the red numbers represent the highest ratings.
Episode Seoul Nationwide
1 30.7% 29.8%
2 32.5% 34.1%
3 36.6% 35.9%
4 37.8% 36.9%
5 40.3% 40.1%
6 41.5% 41.7%
7 43.2% 43.3%
8 43.8% 43.9%
9 44.1% 44.0%
10 45.9% 46.5%
11 47.0% 47.9%
12 48.3% 48.7%
13 48.5% 48.9%
14 56.6% 55.7%
15 59.1% 59.6%
16 60.0% 60.3%
17 60.1% 60.2%
18 60.2% 60.1%
19 60.3% 61.6%
20 60.6% 64.1%
21 63.4% 64.7%
22 63.3% 64.4%
23 63.9% 62.1%
24 64.5% 64.3%
Average 50.5% 50.8%


Traffic was visibly lighter and pubs reported slow business as government officials, students and office workers alike headed home early to watch Sandglass every Monday through Thursday evenings.[citation needed]

Sandglass remains one of the highest-rated TV series in Korean broadcasting history (by single episode viewership rating):

  1. 그대 그리고 나 - You and I (66.9% / 1998-04-26 / MBC)
  2. 첫사랑 - First Love (65.8% / 1997-04-20 / KBS2)
  3. 사랑이 뭐길래 - What is Love? (64.9% / 1992-05-24 / MBC)
  4. 모래시계 - Sandglass (64.5% / 1995-02-06 / SBS)
  5. 허준 - Hur Jun (63.5% / 2000-06-27 / MBC)
  6. 젊은이의 양지 - Youth's Sunny Place (62.7% / 1995-11-12 / KBS2)
  7. 아들과 딸 - Son and Daughter (61.1% / 1993-03-21 / MBC)
  8. 태조왕건 - Taejo Wang Geon (60.2% / 2001-05-20 / KBS1)
  9. 여명의 눈동자 - Eyes of Dawn (58.4% / 1992-02-06 / MBC)
  10. 대장금 - Dae Jang Geum (57.8% / 2004-03-23 / MBC)

A song, titled "Zhuravli" ("crane"), by a Russian singer Joseph Kobzon was featured in the series. Although many Koreans did not understand the lyrics, it is still one of the most widely recognized song in Korea thanks to the show's popularity. The song actually mourns the Soviet soldiers killed while defending their homeland and who later became cranes. The lyrics blend well with the theme of the show since one of the major plot devices of the show, the Gwangju Massacre, commemorates the dead who were caught in the middle of the tragedy.[7]


Year Award Category Recipient Result
Daesang (Grand Prize) Sandglass Won
Best Drama Sandglass Won
Best Director (TV) Kim Jong-hak Won
Best Screenplay (TV) Song Ji-na Won
Best Actor (TV) Choi Min-soo Won
Best New Actor (TV) Lee Jung-jae Won
22nd Korean Broadcasting Awards
Best Drama Sandglass Won
Best Writer Song Ji-na Won
Best Actor Choi Min-soo Won
Daesang (Grand Prize) Choi Min-soo Won
Top Excellence Award, Actor Park Sang-won Won
Best New Actor Lee Jung-jae Won
8th Producers Association Award
Daesang (Grand Prize) Sandglass Won
Best Drama Sandglass Won


As a tribute to the late director Kim Jong-hak (who died on July 23, 2013),[8] cable subsidiary SBS Plus aired reruns of Sandglass from July 29 to August 15, 2013 at 20:40 every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with two consecutive episodes per night. This was exactly how the show was originally broadcast in 1995.[9]


  1. ^ "The Sandglass Voted Best Korean Soap Since 1980". The Chosun Ilbo. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2013-07-24.
  2. ^ Flinn, Jennifer (28 October 2006). "History Cast Ashore". UCLA Asia Institute: Asia Pacific Arts. Archived from the original on 20 August 2014. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  3. ^ "SBS: The Dawn of a New Golden Age". YesAsia. 9 September 2006. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  4. ^ Song, Pyeong-in (4 June 2011). "The fate of sandglass prosecutors". The Dong-a Ilbo. Retrieved 2013-07-24.
  5. ^ Mitchel, Duncan. "Sandglass (1995, SBS miniseries)". Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  6. ^ Robinson, Jeffrey (19 October 2006). "Sandglass (SBS TV Series)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  7. ^ "러시아 음악 감상 / 'Crane(백학,두루미)'" (in Korean). 개밥바라기. 7 April 2007. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  8. ^ Kim, Tong-hyung (23 July 2013). "Director of Hourglass commits suicide". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  9. ^ Jeong, Mi-jeong (29 July 2013). "SBSplus,김종학 추모 '모래시계' 재방송". The Daily Mail (in Korean). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2013-07-30.

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