The South Korean version of the Ring, titled Ring Virus for US distribution, more or less follows the Japanese original. There are the expected name changes of characters, but there are a few instances where elements of Koji Suzuki's original novel pop up that didn't appear in even Ringu. One of them involves why "Sadako" was killed, another involves her brief career in show business.
Yes, there is a journalist whose niece died from mysterious circumstances. This time, she's Hong Sun-Ju, and she is a single mother, but with a young daughter, Boram. Sun-Ju investigates the death of Sang-Mi and as it turns out, her friends, Kyung-Ah, who paged Sang-Mi before her own demise, and Chang, who was on the phone with Sang-Mi before she died. The coroner's verdict is cardiac arrest, yet Sun-Ju wonders "Why would you grab your own hair during a heart attack?" She gets some help from her colleague Kim, who'd rather go out with her. He does investigate the whereabouts of Park Eun Suh, the Sadako of this version.
Eventually, she traces things to a resort where there is a video in a plain white case, and which she watches. So who does she work with? Her partner is Dr. Choi, a quirky coroner who relies more on gut instinct rather than concrete evidence. He believes Kyung-Ah and her boyfriend died from some supernatural shock rather than some virus from a recent meteor shower. "You're playing a dangerous game, Sun-Ju. It's like nothing you've ever seen," he warns her. His laidback nonchalance gets on Sun-Ju's nerves, especially as when they search for information, he insists she does something, reminding her that she has less time than he does. He's so flippant he tells her "why don't you show the video to lots of people? You'll have plenty of helpers on your hands." Yet he sees this as "a game of life and death" and professes to a certain curiosity. Yet later, when things look hopeless, he says the only thing that scares him is dying before solving what he considers a third-rate riddle. The interesting difference is that there is no previous association between Choi and Sun-Ju as there was between Reiko and Ryuji in Ringu. And the supernatural element is caught on earlier by Choi
The familiar things in Ringu, such as the distorted photographs, ghostly apparition coming out of the TV set, the dialect, investigation into the paranormal, the trip off the mainland, and flashbacks to the past are all there. The cursed video isn't that creepy, but the differentiation between abstract images and those that are more concrete is a dynamic from Suzuki's novel that gets a mention here. Another thing from the novel played out here is that it's the four teenagers who spitefully erased the curse's solution that was on the video after the images, presumably to scare the next people watching it. If their selfish perverseness was the reason, then they definitely deserved to die.
The only other unique thing other than having a young daughter (Boram) is the idea of a hermaphrodite exemplifying feminine beauty and masculine strength in the age where cloning has been introduced. This is from an artist Sun-Ju interviews at the beginning. Later, Choi reintroduces that idea in reference to Eun Suh's medical condition, then ties that in with this: "we only know parts of reality, but we can't know the beginning or the end. That's life."
While not a bad rendition, Ring Virus suffers primarily in its female lead character, Hong Sun-Ju. She's a bit of a cold fish here, not at all personable, and one doesn't care whether she lives or dies. At least the characters of her little daughter and Choi are more fun. And some of the subtitles are introduced out of sync with the dialogue. Other than that, worth a look as a comparative study with the far superior Ringu.