Updated: Apr 1
In Part 1 of this two-part special timeline on BinJin, Hallyu's newest power couple, we saw how fate teased both Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin, intertwining their paths yet also keeping them apart. Yet, it would also seem that someone grew tired of waiting for fate to play her tricks again, and so now, we begin to see tiny signs of reel ever so slowly becoming real.
Here, we walk you through everything we know of what happened between the time those grainy grocery photos from Los Angeles (LA) emerged and the long-awaited confirmation on January 1 of this year, plus the most recent developments. In the third chapter of Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin's love story, destiny finally allows our couple to crash land on each other.
Son Ye-jin goes on vacation to the United States. On January 9, two days before her 37th birthday, an anonymous poster in an online forum claims to have spotted her and Hyun Bin having dinner with her parents in the US.
On January 21, pictures of the two actors grocery shopping together are posted online. Originally thought to have been taken at a Ralph's supermarket near LA's Koreatown, fans later speculate that the images could have actually been taken at a Pavilions grocery in Newport Beach, a highly affluent coastal city in Orange County, California. The Pavilions is a short drive away from The Resort at Pelican Hill, a posh golf resort Son Ye-jin is known to have visited in the past.
As the photos spread online and ignite dating rumors across the globe, VAST Entertainment and Son Ye-jin's agency MSteam both issue the expected denials. They claim the two are just friends who happened to be in the US at the same time and decided to meet up (and shop for groceries together, because that's such a friendly thing to do, right?). The agencies also categorically deny the dinner-with-parents rumor, saying her parents were in Korea.
This incident inspires the Bin-Jin fandom to eventually adopt the hashtag #InGroceryWeTrust as its battlecry.
It's important to point out that this is the first dating "scandal" that Son Ye-jin has ever been involved in throughout her entire career. (Note: Dating among celebrities, regardless of their age and status, is generally frowned upon by the Korean public and media, hence the pejorative term "scandal.") Now finding herself in this situation for the very first time, will the extremely private, guarded, and elusive Son Ye-jin lean into it, or will she run as fast as she can in the opposite direction?
Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin make their first public appearance together since the LA rumors. As endorsers for sister companies Mediheal and ma:nyo Factory, they attend the 10th anniversary celebration of L&P Cosmetics. Fans record them leaving the event together.
CHAPTER 3: CRASH LANDING ON EACH OTHER
In the Korean entertainment industry, “love teams” are not a thing, and it's uncommon for actors to do more than one project together. But you know how they say that if you want something bad enough, the universe conspires to make it happen? After repeatedly expressing their wish to work together again, the chance comes earlier than expected.
And so in 2019, following a decade of missed connections and a period of negotiating ways to get closer to each other, our power couple finally crash lands on each other.
The casting Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin for the newest drama by hit-making writer Park Ji-eun (My Love from the Star, Legend of the Blue Sea) is announced, reviving the dating rumors. With the initial English title Crash Landing on Love, the drama is inspired by the 2008 boating incident of a South Korean actress lost in North Korean waters.
The cast of Crash Landing on You gather for the drama's first script reading.
August to September
Filming begins in Switzerland and South Korea, with the cast and crew heading to Mongolia in September (as a stand in for North Korea).
Netflix releases the first official teaser.
CLOY is formally launched at a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Jongno, Seoul. Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin are all praises for each other's acting, echoing that they have wanted to work together again since The Negotiation days.
"Son Ye-jin is a good partner to me. I've seen and learned a lot more as an actor by working with her. She has a lot of ideas and inspires me." - Hyun Bin
“It’s rare for actors to meet again in another project, so I think this is fate. Hyun Bin is flawlessly suited to his character in the drama. Our chemistry, too.” - Son Ye-jin
When asked if they found their dating rumors burdensome, Hyun Bin responds, “As you can see, we just laughed it off. The rumors did not hinder my decision to choose this project. I had worked with and gotten close to [Son Ye-jin] through The Negotiation, and she was an actress I really wanted to work with again. The opportunity came, and I happily took it.”
Son Ye-jin adds, “I felt the same. Hyun Bin said everything I wanted to say. After working with him, I wanted to work with him again in a nice romantic comedy. I also didn’t hesitate to choose this project. I also believed he would be the perfect fit for the male protagonist of Crash Landing on You, Ri Jeong-hyuk, when I reviewed the [script]. Now, it seems we are also becoming more compatible in terms of acting.”
In their coverage of this press conference, Taiwanese entertainment reporters describe what it was like to witness their chemistry firsthand, and insist something must be going on between the leads. Korean entertainment reporters also can’t help but comment on and speculate about their chemistry.
Here they are bickering like an old couple in one of their 2-on-1interviews on the same day:
Fueled by excitement over Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin's first small screen pairing, CLOY debuts to high ratings on tvN.
Son Ye-jin uploads a photo of herself with Hyun Bin in Switzerland, wishing fans a Merry Christmas. (Fun fact: In Korea, Christmas is regarded as a couple’s holiday.)
Netflix releases the Couch Talk segment on its YouTube channel, The Swoon. In this widely-viewed promotional segment for CLOY (with over 8.6 million views as of this writing), the actors radiate serious old-couple vibes with their comfortable banter. See for yourself and enjoy the kilig (heart-fluttering moments)!
Son Ye-jin celebrates her 38th birthday on the set of CLOY, as they film the drama’s ninth episode. Yoon Se-ri and Captain Ri’s emotionally-charged goodbye kiss at the border as they part ways is filmed. Hyun Bin later reveals this to be his favorite scene in the whole drama.
As CLOY's ratings rise steeply with every episode and Netflix releases more Swoon videos, fans can't help but think they're dating.
A restaurant owner uploads a photo of herself with the two stars dining at her restaurant. VAST requests her to take the photo down, but at this point, the internet already has receipts.
As filming wraps up on CLOY, a staff member captures this precious behind-the-scenes moment between the lead actors.
The cast and crew gather for the CLOY wrap-up party on the night of the series finale at a restaurant in Seoul. Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin arrive separately, but in color-matched outfits. Amidst loud applause and cheering from everyone gathered, the lead actors give each other a congratulatory hug.
The finale breaks tvN records with its 21.7% rating, surpassing Goblin (2016) to become the highest-rated single episode in the cable giant’s history. With an average rating of 12.4%, CLOY is now the #7-rated cable show of all time based on average ratings.
Another dating rumor, sparked by behind-the-scenes footage of what appears to be the actors holding hands under the table in between takes, prompts a fourth (and final) denial from VAST.
They claim Son Ye-jin is holding her own hand (judge for yourself below: is it his hand or hers?). MSteam does not comment.
CLOY and Bin-Jin fever linger long after the finale has aired. With much of the world under some form of lockdown or quarantine because of the pandemic, people turn to online streaming for entertainment. CLOY turns out to be the perfect gateway k-drama, ushering in a new wave of Hallyu and further catapulting its stars' popularity abroad. The community of online Bin-Jin shippers grows. Not wanting to "move on" from the drama, fans binge on the abundance of behind-the-scenes footage, promotional videos, Wattpad fan faction, and countless fan-made videos dedicated to the series and its lead couple.
Here are some of our favorite behind-the-scenes moments:
Korean entertainment media outlet Dispatch, known for its explosive scoops on celebrity couples, releases an article on Hyun Bin's and Son Ye-jin’s personal real estate holdings. Since it doesn't offer any new information, people wonder why the seemingly random article was published. Some fans take this as a sign of Dispatch hinting they know something about the couple that the public doesn’t. (They were right---it turns out they were already dating at the time.)
April (to December)
As both stars continue to rack up individual brand endorsement deals (known as "commercial films" or "CF" in Korea), fans notice a regular pattern of synchronicity in the release of their CFs. Over a span of eight months, the sheer volume of near-simultaneous CF releases, as well as common visual elements in some of them, leads fans to speculate that this is no coincidence and that the timing is in fact coordinated by the stars’ agencies and with their consent. Is this their way of hinting that they're together?
Philippine telco Smart unveils Hyun Bin as its latest endorser. In the video interview with Metro Dot Style below, he talks at great length about how much he admires and respects Son Ye-jin as a fellow actor (Timestamp: 1:58). When asked a question that has nothing to do with her, he breaks into giggles then casually drops her name (Timestamp: 3:50).
Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin win the Baeksang Arts Awards for Most Popular Female Actor and Most Popular Male Actor through international online voting. They arrive at the ceremony separately, both dressed in Ralph Lauren. (Fun fact: Matching “couple outfits” are also a thing in Korea).
Backstage, they pose for photographs sharing a single trophy, despite each having their own. A fancam spots them leaving the venue together. Romantic Doctor 2 actor Ahn Hyo-seop is also later quoted as saying he greeted them together after the ceremony.
Although not publicly known at the time, this is actually their first public event together as a couple.
Much later in the evening, at around 2 a.m. Korea Standard Time (KST or GMT+9), Son Ye-jin, for the first time in her career, goes on an Instagram "liking spree," bestowing hearts on over 40 photos that fans have uploaded and tagged her in, many of which were of her and Hyun Bin. She even "likes" a photo captioned "Please tell us you're dating!" This unprecedented and unexpected move by the famously private actress herself has many fans (this author included) taking this as confirmation of their relationship (and hey, we were right!).
(Collage by: Twitter @missbennettt_)
Hyun Bin departs for Jordan to film his upcoming action thriller with veteran Hwang Jung-min, Point Men (Bargaining).
Son Ye-jin films her Smart CF at the Tribowl in Songdo. Fans upload videos of the star arriving at the shooting location with her security detail. They are identified as Hyun Bin’s personal bodyguards, another detail fans attribute to their being a couple.
Son Ye-jin officially joins Hyun Bin as a Smart endorser. The fact that she has accepted the commercial deal which would undoubtedly link her to Hyun Bin is another major clue that the two are already a couple. Her CF is made to match his in tone and style, and hints at a joint CF in the future. (As of Jan. 2021, it is rumored to have been filmed.)
In an interview with Japanese Anan Magazine, Hyun Bin is quoted as saying, “I think Yoon Se-ri is the most beautiful woman in the world.” (Fun fact: In a previous interview, he said that Yoon Se-ri is 100% Son Ye-jin). So, therefore...?!
Hyun Bin returns to Seoul just in time for his 38th birthday.
Media outlets tease that Dispatch will reveal its 2021 celebrity couple the following day, using the silhouettes of the alleged couple. Fans match the silhouettes to recent pictures of Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin.
At 10 a.m. KST, Dispatch announces Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin as their 2021 New Year Couple.
CAPTION: [Exclusive] "This dating rumor is real"...Hyunbin ♥ Son Yejin, 2021 #1 Couple Hyun Bin and Son Yejin, I hope this love will settle down. Like Ri Jung-hyuk's line, “It was not a coincidence, it was fate."
According to the report, the couple started to develop feelings for each other after CLOY ended, and officially started dating eight months ago. They supposedly bonded in get-togethers with the drama's other cast members, and over their shared love of golf. The report includes paparazzi photos of Son Ye-jin, wearing golf attire, standing outside Hyun Bin's SUV at what is said to be a golf resort.
One source close to the couple is quoted as saying, “I think Hyun Bin had developed feelings after the drama finished and when they had to separate, he developed a feeling of longing for her.” Another says, “It wasn’t easy for Son Ye-jin to change her relationship with Hyun Bin. But, the busier they became, they became more affectionate towards each other.”
At 1 p.m. KST, VAST and MSteam release nearly identical statements confirming reports of Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin's relationship, asking the public to wish them well.
"Hello, this is VAST Entertainment. We would like to make our official announcement regarding the news of Hyun Bin reported earlier today. Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin formed a relationship through work which developed into lovers with good feelings after their drama ended. Please send your warm attention to them and your support."— VAST Entertainment
"We would like to release our official position regarding the news between Son Ye Jin and Hyun Bin which was released today. The two built a friendship through their work, and after their drama ended, they started to meet each other with good feelings, and developed into a relationship. Please look upon them warmly and support them so they can continue meeting each other well."— MSteam Entertainment
At around 4 p.m. KST, Son Ye-jin posts a picture of a basket of flowers on her personal Instagram account. Although no names or specifics are mentioned, it's very clear that she is shyly acknowledging their relationship.
Her caption reads:
"It’s a new year.
I'm appearing in front of all of you with news about my personal life rather than work-related news for the first time, I wonder why I feel so embarrassed..
Yes, that’s how it turned out..^.^
I’m not sure what I should say, but I thought I should at least say something to all of you.. It feels very awkward and strange..^^;
I’m thankful to have been able to meet a good person, and I’ll work hard to tend [to the relationship] with care… The love and support that all of you give me, I’m always keeping it in my heart.. I hope there will be many good things in the new year. Be healthy. Ppyong."
Korean YouTuber DUCKHU TV later explains the significance of her choice of words in acknowledging her relationship, saying her language is more commonly used in the context of caring for one's family in the future.
A follow-up report cites entertainment industry insiders as saying the actors started developing feelings for each other back in 2018. According to a source, "Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin purposely kept distance right after the wrapping up Crash Landing On You, in order to separate their private feelings from professional emotions tied to the fictional work."
Many fans find the eight-month dating timeline hard to believe, insisting that the couple has been together for much longer. However, if it is true that they waited until after filming CLOY to sort out their feelings, it would be entirely consistent with what Son Ye-jin has been saying since the early days of her career, and could help explain why it has taken the 20-year industry veteran this long to publicly announce that she's in a relationship.
In this excerpt from an interview she did for a Japanese variety show back in 2008, she explains her philosophy on separating her feelings as an actor from her personal feelings: