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Iris (아이리스) is a South Korean Spy Drama, notable for being the highest-budget South Korean TV production to date when it made its debut on October 14, 2009 and has ratings American producers would kill for since it was a success in both South Korea and Japan when it was broadcasted on KBS2 and TBS with a Japanese dub. There are plans to bring Iris to the west. So far, there is no news on whether it is a success or not aside from being released in the US via Hulu. Note: To avoid confusion, names are in western (given name first) order.
The plot revolves around two friends from the 707th Special Mission Battalion recruited into a secret South Korean black ops agency known as the National Security Service. Of the pair, recruit Hyun-jun Kim begins to uncover evidence that his Mysterious Past may not be so irrelevant to his joining of the secret organization after all. As the two friends find their loyalties tested and forge new, unlikely alliances, the journey takes them from their home country to Hungary, Japan, and China where they find themselves at the center of an international conspiracy when Hyun-jun finds out that an international terrorist group named IRIS has some big plans of their own regarding the planned unification of the North and South.
As Hyun-jun tries to stop the conspiracy, he finds out that some of his allies may not be his allies at all and some of his enemies may not be his real enemies.
A Spin-Off, Athena: Goddess of War, is already in South Korean TV via SBS. A Sequel Series, Iris 2, is planned for a Winter 2011 release. A movie version of Iris was released in 2010. It was shown in the 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival, the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore so far. When the movie was marked and distributed, the movie was called Iris: The Last. A TV special was aired as well, showing off some of the locations used in filming the TV series and interviews with the main cast. Unlike their peers doing the Athena series, this was not done due to some of the actor's availability.
The series won numerous awards, including the 2009 KBS Drama Awards, the 46th PaekSang Arts Awards and the 2010 International Drama Festival. Byung-Hun himself won an award from the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism for the show's promotion of Akita as it took place in the Iris series. Byung-Hun also appeared in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival to promote the show during a break. The main cast had also attended training sessions in preparation for the show's combat scenes in handling weapons and unarmed combat as well.
The Iris original soundtrack was released as a 16-track album on November 13, 2009, with music composed by Yi Dong-jun and Choe Seong-gwon. The soundtrack contained a number of the vocal themes used in the series, including those by Baek Ji-young, Shin Seung-hun, and Big Bang.
On December 24, a limited edition was released as a two-disc set with a 76-page photobook. The first disc contained ten vocal themes, four of which were used in the second half of the series and not included on the original release. The second disc collected fifteen instrumentals used as backdrops during the show's run, including four not on the previous collection. In the week preceding the premiere of Iris on Japanese television, it was announced that Big Bang would be contributing an all-new ballad to be inserted into the TBS airings. Titled "Tell Me Goodbye," the song was released as a single in the country on June 9, 2010 and was available in both a CD and a CD & DVD edition.
Coinciding with the initial broadcast of the series in Japan, a deluxe soundtrack box-set was released on May 26, 2010. In addition to featuring thirteen vocal themes and nineteen instrumentals on two discs, the release includes a 72-page photobook adapted from the previous Korean release and a DVD of music videos used to promote the series. Those featured were "Hallelujah" by Big Bang, "Don't Forget" by Baek Ji-Young, and "Love of Iris" by Shin Seung Hun.
- Action Girl: Seon-Hwa Kim of the Korean People's Army. Specifically the Guard Division from her stint in bodyguarding political leaders. Choi Seung-hee as well.
- All According to Plan: Hyun-Jun from the day he was on the run after agreeing to help the North Korean commandos attack NSS HQ. That way, he was eventually able to apprehend Baek San with help from Seung-Hee.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: NSS' covert base being attacked by North Korean commandos in Seoul.
- Anti-Hero: Hyun-Jun after being on the run.
- Anyone Can Die: Hyun-Jun.
- Badass: As this is a spy series, practically everyone.
- Bash Brothers: Hyun-Jun and Sa-Woo.
- Bilingual Dialogue: Korean and Japanese. Some Korean and English with Korean and Hungarian for Kim Seung-Woo.
- Bittersweet Ending: At the end, both Hyun-Jun and Seung-Hee retire from NSS. However, Hyun-Jun is assassinated in his car and dies as he lays his head on the steering wheel. The culprit is not identified but if you watch the movie version, you'll see that Seon-Hwa was the assassin responsible for killing Hyun-Jun.
- Black and Gray Morality
- Bottomless Magazines: Not seen a lot.
- Cat Fight: Seon-Hwa and Seung-Hee in Episode 7, except it was a legit fight and not played for fanservice.
- Clark Kenting: Seung-Hee prior to Hyun-Jun and Sa-Woo's recruitment.
- Cloak and Dagger: This is a Spy Drama based on counterintelligence agencies between two countries.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: As an entrance exam!
- Cold Sniper: Hyun-Jun during his NSS stint. Vick as part of IRIS.
- Conspicuously Public Assassination: In the first episode, no less.
- Coup De Grace: NSS guards being executed after NSS HQ was raided.
- Cultured Warrior: Hyun-Jun after being ordered to study in university from his assignment at the 707th Special Mission Battalion.
- The Danza: So-yeon Kim as Seon-hwa Kim. The nature of names in Korea makes surname Danzas more common than in western countries.
- Death Is a Sad Thing: Pretty obvious.
- Defeat Means Friendship: For the North and South Korean agents.
- Double Agent: Some here. A majority of them belonged to IRIS.
- Dirty Communists: With the attempted Seoul bombing by North Korean commandos.
- Elite Mooks: The North Korean commandos when they stormed NSS HQ.
- Estrogen Brigade Bait: Byung-Hun himself. When he was in Japan, several Japanese actresses paid a visit to him when he was a guest in Akko ni Omakase!
- Faceless Goons: Averted.
- Fake Nationality: After a fashion: the North Korean characters are all played by South Koreans, unsurprisingly. According to actor Kim Seung-woo, he had assistance from an ex-North Korean military officer who taught him how to act like an actual North Korean officer.
- Fan Service: Byung-Hun in the first few episodes. Tae-Hee during her Japan scenes.
- Finger-Twitching Revival:
- Flashed Badge Hijack: Or, at least, flashed gun...
- Good Guns, Bad Guns: Done here. But for the anti-IRIS faction, they used Western-made weapons as well. Hyun-Jun secures an AKMS while Seon-Hwa uses a Makarov in the shootout in downtown Seoul.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Averted.
- Government Agency of Fiction: The National Security Service.
- Government Conspiracy: A North Korean military officer orders a commando unit to use a nuclear weapon on Seoul, being that he's with IRIS.
- Gratuitous English: Averted. Byung-Hun learned English from his time in university. Though the matter with Kim Tae-hee...
- Handguns: North Koreans naturally use Eastern-bloc pistols such as CZ-75s and Makarov pistols, and the infamous Desert Eagle is used by a few antagonists. However, by far the most common handgun is the Glock, with everyone from NSS operatives and security, to the IRIS group members and the Blue House secret service. It's almost as if Hyun-Jun carries an HK USP to avoid having a generic gun.
- Happily Ever After: Totally averted.
- Hates Everyone Equally: Hyun-Jun hates IRIS, Sa-Woo and Baek San equally.
- Heel Face Turn: Seon-Hwa after being captured by Hyun-Jun. She decides to help him stop the IRIS conspiracy.
- Hero Antagonist: Hyun-Jun (If you like) and perhaps Sa-Woo.
- Heroic Resolve: Hyun-Jun to save Seoul from a nuclear attack. So's everyone in NSS who aren't with IRIS.
- I Did What I Had to Do: When Baek San confessed that he assassinated Hyun-Jun's parents due to Western pressure to dismantle South Korea's covert nuclear program.
- Innocent Bystander: A few are killed in the shootout between Hyun-Jun/Seon-Hwa against the commandos.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Not always.
- Market-Based Title: The IRIS movie known as "IRIS: The Last" for Japan.
- Missing Mom: Hyun-Jun's mom before he learned she was covertly assassinated.
- Mission Control: No need to explain.
- Non-Action Guy: The personnel in the Situation Room. Even if one of them had a hidden gun, he wasn't able to use it.
- Oh Crap: A North Korean commando when he saw grenades on a car seat during the shootout when one of them was shot by Hyun-Jun with one of the grenades on a car window.
- One-Man Army: Hyun-Jun. Also Sa-Woo.
- Orbital Shot
- Product Placement: At least the Hyundais/Kias used by NSS. Their logos are covered if an episode airs with their appearances.
- Race Against the Clock: A nuclear device in downtown Seoul has to be found and disarmed.
- Redshirt Army: The NSS guards after the HQ building is attacked.
- Reality Ensues: People running away from the streets in the shootout.
- Revenge Before Reason: After Hyun-Jun's Hungary assignment.
- Shown Their Work: The IRIS cast knowing how to handle their weapons as they had firearms training prior to filming the series.
- Sniper Rifle: Sun-Hwa uses a scope-mounted G3A3 during her Hungary assignment. Hyun-Jun with a PSG-1 during his time in Japan.
- The Dragon: Sun-Hwa to Park Chul-young. Sa-Woo to Baek San.
- This Is Unforgivable!: See You Killed My Father.
- Triang Relations: Type 3, with Seung-hee Choi as the Alice, and Hyun-jun Kim and Sa-woo Jin as Bob and Charlie. Hyun-jun and Sa-woo are unaware of this.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Done here.
- Would Not Hit a Girl: Averted. Hyun-Jun and Seon-Hwa killed a female North Korean commando in the shootout.
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Majorly averted in the Seoul shootout.
- You Killed My Father: After Hyun-Jun finds out that Baek San did it.