K-Drama Review: “Liver Or Die” Is A Long Albeit Satisfying Journey To Family Togetherness

By  | 

KBS2TV’s weekly family drama Liver or Die has come to a satiating end.

The Lee siblings, headed by their eldest brother Poong Sang, finally set aside their differences to unite as a family. However, it took Poong Sang’s illness for the siblings to finally grow up and think of others for once.

Initially, Liver or Die was unbearable due to the annoying characters of the siblings. The one redeeming factor was Poong Sang himself. In the end, the siblings managed to turn their lives around.

Liver or Die | KBS

Liver or Die | KBS

Title: Liver or Die
Network: KBS
Theme: Family Drama, Social Satire
Length: 40
Broadcast Date: 9 January 2019 to 14 March 2019
Main Leads: Yu Jun Sang, Oh Ji Ho, Jeon Hye Bin, Lee Si Young, Lee Chang Yeop
Highlights: Heartwarming family drama, Full of family values and life lessons
Drawback: Overdrawn drama, too many problems piled on in the story line
Overall Rating:
Rewatch Value:
Related Drama: Father is Strange, Shining Inheritance, What Happens to My Family?


The Lee Siblings



Head of the family Poong Sang raised his siblings on his own since they were young. Taking over from an absentee mother and father, Poong Sang did his best to rear his younger siblings and treated them as his own children. As a result, his own personal life suffered as he always put their needs before his own.

As adults, his siblings caused more trouble than Poong Sang can handle. In spite of this, his siblings still resented him for favoring Jeong Sang over them. Their sister Jeong Sang was the only successful sibling. Despite their resentment, Jeong Sang supported the family since she was grateful to her elder brother.

The two main troublemakers, Hwa Sang and Jin Sang, were the ones who caused most heartaches in the family. Totally irresponsible, they relied on their older brother to bail them out of trouble each and every time without remorse. On top of it all, they still resented Poong Sang and habitually disobeyed him.

Wae Sang, the youngest sibling, was a child conceived from another man. Poong Sang’s father refused to take him in, but the 18-year old Poong Sang took responsibility and raised Wae Sang himself.

Poong Sang Discovers His Cancer

Image via KBS

Image via KBS

The elder brother discovers the reason he has been getting sick. Devastated, Poong Sang keeps his illness a secret from his family. He suffers through their mean and harsh words but stays silent.

Upon receipt of the insurance money, he spends it all on his family instead. First, he tries to pay off part of his siblings’ debt and gets beaten up in the process. He gives money to his wife Boon Sil, but receives harsh and painful words from her in return. Lastly, he tries to keep money for Wae Sang, which Jin Sang steals eventually and gambles away.

Even though he is sick, Poong Sang struggles to work. He refuses to tell his family, much less ask for a liver donation that could save his life.

The Family Finally Finds Out

Image via KBS

Image via KBS

Eventually, the cat gets out of the bag and the family struggles to save their brother. Not without any squabbles, Hwa Sang and Jin Sang both refuse to donate their livers and run away. Jeong Sang needs Hwa Sang to donate with her since their livers are too small. Jin Sang is unable to donate since he was too fat.

Their irresponsible mother volunteers to donate but asks to be paid. During the surgery, she runs away and refuses the operation. Frustrated, the siblings finally realize that the mother they were longing for is actually not the mother they expected her to be. One by one, they realize their elder brother was right to turn his back on her. Seeing their mother in a new light, the siblings abandon the mother who wants nothing but money from them.

In the end, the twins settle their differences and secretly donate their livers to their older brother. Unknown to them, Poong Sang is fully aware that the donated organ comes from them. However, his wife begs him to accept it and treats it as their gift to him instead. Poong Sang tearfully agrees and eventually gets healed.


Image via KBS & Viu

Image via KBS & Viu

The one highlight I would like to emphasize on is Poong Sang himself. This man deserves to have the highest honors that can be given to any individual. Not only that, he deserves to have a statue erected in his honor.

Never have I seen a more selfless man than Poong Sang. He dedicated his entire life to his selfish siblings. No matter how much his wife and child complained, Poong Sang would always put his siblings first.

Nevertheless, he was also at fault. Because of his generosity, his family suffered with his neglect. While all his attention was poured toward his siblings, his family received none.

Perhaps, his only fault really is that he loved his siblings too much. Personally, I cannot blame Poong Sang for acting the way he did, refusing treatment and donations, instead he still tried to put his siblings before himself.

Also I would like to highlight Boon Sil. Even though she felt neglected by her husband, she still went back and took care of him. She was a true symbol of unconditional love because no matter how she wanted to move on, she still took care of her sick husband. Poong Sang could rely on his wife to put her foot down and disciplines his reckless siblings.

No matter how much I complained about this drama weekly, I still found myself drawn to it. I faithfully followed Poong Sang’s journey and made sure that he got the happy ending he deserved.


Image via KBS

Image via KBS

To be honest, Liver Or Die was very frustrating to watch. I felt like the writers put all the annoying people and their equally annoying and selfish attitudes in one drama.

If any, the family drama centered around a problematic family that seemed to be doomed to fail. Lamenting on their bad luck, the siblings trudged around with clouds over their heads. Instead of working to improve their lifestyles, they gave in to their selfish whims and relied on Poong Sang to bail them out when needed.

Halfway through the drama, I understood the drama’s poster – the one that Poong Sang carried his siblings on his shoulders. He carried their burdens and made them his own burdens. He neglected himself and his family all because of how much he loved his siblings.

The drama itself was exhausting. I felt that it dragged on for too long. After every episode, I felt that the siblings went too far with how much they used and abused their older brother, but the next week, the drama surprised me again with yet another dilemma and hardship. Poong Sang went through everything for them. He got beaten up, he landed in jail, he lost money, and was humiliated by his own daughter.

Although delayed, the siblings’ change of heart eventually happened. How I wished they could have resolved their issues earlier. The cancer had to happen to Poong Sang for them to realize their shortcomings. In just three short years following the surgery, their lives are finally in order and their family is still intact. I would have loved to see this resolution happen earlier in the drama. It would have been more fulfilling that way, instead of just a few minutes of seeing them enjoy each other’s company.

Also, did the cliffhanger at the end of the drama signal a second season? Who was at the door? We will just have to wait and see for now.


What's Wrong Poong Sang *Image via KBS*

To be honest, I wouldn’t want to watch Liver or Die again. It surprised me that it received very high ratings and even reached #1. However, I also admit that I enjoyed it. It kept me engrossed in the story. It gripped me in the sense that I, too, longed to see Poong Sang receive the love he freely gave to others.

If you’re a fan of family drama, then this one is for you, as it combines all the elements of a normal family, then exaggerated it twofold.

Nicole is currently juggling motherhood, her job, and her immense love for K-dramas and K-pop. On most days, the latter wins.  Sleeping can wait – is her motto as she eagerly devours episodes of her favorite K-dramas. Her absolute favorite drama would be Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo.

She is currently watching Legal High and is looking forward to Kill It.