응답하라 1988 (Reply 1988 Finale)

Reply 1988 exceeds expectations and prove naysayers wrong as it writes history and breaks cable ratings record. It sets itself apart from the previous Reply series with the way it introduces its characters and how it uses its running time to get to know them better the same way we establish our real life relationships with people around us through time and understanding. We get to see how individuals from different kind of families manage to survive their ups and downs together in interweaving story arcs. I feel like I’m a part of the whole Ssangmungdong community and I’m going to miss them big time. Which is why, even though I am happy that Choi Taek got the girl, I’m sad that Jung Hwan didn’t even get a proper send-off. We’ve seen so much from his point of view so it hurts when he just gave up on his feelings and even made a joke out of probably one of the most heartfelt confessions in Kdramaland. This is exactly the downside of developing subplots other than the main romance. We get too invested in one side of the story and yet, deprived of the how the main character feels for the sake of not spoiling the big reveal.

Although we’ve seen how Deok Sun lived her awkward teenage years, overcame a first love, and struggled to find her life ambition, we never really had a glimpse of how she felt about TaeImage result for reply 1988 hyeri bogumk until the final episodes. Just as Dong Ryong said, it was never about how much the guys loved her. At the end of the day, it was about who she loves. This has always been the series’ biggest flaw. I didn’t see how she developed her feelings from treating Taek as the baby of the group to looking at him as man or the way her feelings for Jung Hwan have subsided over time. I wasn’t convinced when she told Taek that her feelings won’t change because her previous feelings for Sun Woo and Jung Hwan did.

Even though I knew it was going to be Taek, my mind just can’t seem to accept it for some reason. I was hoping for the slightest chance that there’d be a big reversal but it didn’t happen. I think the show was initially  building up Jung Hwan to be the endgame but then eventually, Deok Sun came off as someone who means the world to Taek and it’s just suddenly ok to let Jung Hwan give up on her because he is the emotionally stable one who could pursue other dreams and I swear if Taek didn’t win, he’d end up overdosing himself with those pills.  Taek earned the right to be Deok Sun’s husband anyway. From his loving stares to huge sacrifices for her, no one would question Deok Sun’s decision in marrying him.

Anyway, despite my sadness over Jung Hwan’s lack of presence in the finale, I’m impressed with the way the writer handled the love triangle that doesn’t fit the mould of the typical Kdrama romance. Taek and Jung Hwan never really tried to one-up each other for Deok Sun’s attention the way romcom rivals usually do. They just naturally took care of Deok Sun the best way they know how and they even tried to be as careful as possible to not hurt their friendship in the process. It’s just that we had more time to see how much Jung Hwan secretly giggled like a dork and suffered silently. He competed against himself and in the end, he lost, not because he loved her any less but because he hesitated in expressing his feelings. The problem is the way the show concluded things for him, going from lead to supporting in a matter of episodes and then he just sent himself off the army and completely disappeared in the finale without a hint on whether he lived happily or not.

Jung Bong and Man Ok were mentioned but Dong Ryong who played a bigger role as all around funny, fart guy and occasional counselor was left out. Bora and Sun Woo’s wedding seemed to have taken the spotlight so it felt like the finale was done in a rush.

I appreciate the ending scene where Deok Sun reminisces about the good old days. I’m turning another year older this year and what I wouldn’t give to get my youth back. The drama reminded me that it’s not just me who’s growing old, but also my parents, my friends , the house where I live in and the places I’ve been to. I was still a baby in the year 1988 but I witnessed some of the early 90s fashion in my early years and I grew up with some of the obsolete technologies of the bygone era- a lot of things young people these days didn’t get to see. That’s when I realize that the laptop I’m using now, the smartphone I’m holding now and the people around me now would eventually disappear as well. There’s nothing sadder than when a drama hits you with reality and it hits you damn hard.

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치즈인더트랩 (Cheese In The Trap)

Cheese in The Trap is based on the webtoon of the same name. Its serialization on Naver started in 2010 and became a huge hit with over 1 million views on each episodes, totaling about 1.1 billion views. I haven’t read it but based on the number of articles that came out before the premiere, it’s obvious that this series has a huge fanbase who are both excited and skeptical about the live-action drama adaptation.

Directed by Lee Yoon Jung (Coffee Prince), Cheese in The Trap stars Park Hae Jin (My Love from Another Star, Dr. Stranger, Bad Guys) and Kim Go Eun (Coin Locker Girl), a relatively new face in the small screen. And as usual, TVN did not disappoint. The drama is a pleasant surprise. It’s not narrative-heavy but the characters are intriguing enough to get me hooked.

Park Hae Jin looks a bit too old to be playing a school sunbae but he portrayed Yoo Jung in such a way that would make you want to know more about him. Aside from the obvious (he’s a hottie!), he’s also smart and popular but behind his smile is a sinister look and at times, manipulative ways. It’s hard to understand what he’s up to and hard to predict what he’ll do next.

The series is presented in Hong Seol’s point-of-view, which makes me question myself as to whether I’d agree with her ability (or lack thereof) to judge people and draw conclusions about them. She immediately saw through Yoo Jung’s superficial charm. And unlike the typical shoujo heroine who’d fall for the main guy just because he is swoon-worthy albeit abusive or stalker-like, Hong Seol actually wonders about Yoo Jung’s motivation in befriending her. I like Hong Seol even though the character comes off as rather timid. At least, she’s not a complete doormat.

I heard that most fans were initially disappointed with the casting but I think Kim Go Eun did a fantastic job. First impressions last and she didn’t have any annoying moment in the pilot episode unlike Goo Hye Sun as Jan Di or Shim Eun Kyung as Naeil.

I saw her movie last year and she went from badass..

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..to this:

so genuinely that you might actually think it’s not the same person.

After seeing her in Coin Locker Girl, I think Kim Go Eun’s acting is on a different scale. She’s raw, daring, and totally natural. She’s the kind of actress that I’d see in critically acclaimed films and/or artsy, indie projects so it was nice to see her do a feel-good series as her first ever TV drama.

The man with mesmerizing eyes, Seo Kang Joon, plays Baek In Ho. He’s introduced as someone who has known Yoo Jung for a long time but is currently not in good terms with him.

Only two episodes have been released so there really isn’t much to say but so far, both director and cast are doing everything right, and I just can’t wait for the show to reveal the boys’ past to further understand their personalities and relationships.

응답하라 1988 (Reply 1988)

It’s my first drama for 2016 and I binge-watched all the Reply 1988 episodes that run at almost two-hour long each.

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I didn’t think I would be able to enjoy this series since I was literally a baby in 1988. On top of that, the whole Chilbong friendzoning was quite traumatic. However, the writers prove that although here goes the husband hunting again, Reply 1988 offers so much more than fakeouts and shipping war. Since I am teaching Korean students, I also find this drama quite informative as it gives me some relevant topics that I can actually use in my class discussions such as the Olympics, the Gwangju Uprising, Hangul, university exams, and more.

Just like the typical Reply series, 1988’s narrative is a nostalgia-filled, slowly paced, with past and present timelines. Deok Sun (Lee Mi Yeon) narrates her teenage years, played by her younger counterpart, Hyeri. Unlike the overly drawn-out future husband guessing game with the previous Reply leads, 1988 focuses not only on Deok Sun’s love interest but as well as her family. Her middle child syndrome comes out in several, highly understandable occasions, which make her a relatable character and Hyeri, a better actress than she was in Hyde,Jekylle,Me.


Hyeri is a member of the female idol group, Girl’s Day and choosing an idol for a lead is quite a huge risk but just like in the case of  Eun ji and Go Ara, the gamble paid off. Her role as Deok Sun propelled Hyeri’s popularity, in and out of South Korea, with a million Instagram followers to prove it. 

The parents are once again played by Sung Dong Il and Lee Il Hwa bringing along their undeniable chemistry. For a change, Sung Dong Il’s character isn’t well-off or famous and their different financial background makes their family dynamics and daily struggles more touching. Deok Sun’s sister Bora was initially annoying. I just couldn’t stand her attitude and it makes me feel thankful that I don’t have an older sister in real life. I would’ve probably pulled all her hair out! But Bora’s character, as well as the actress Ryoo Hye Young, is someone who’d grow on you. I think this is the advantage of having a slowly paced narrative. Reply 1988 has enough time to flesh out the characters and eventually make me care about them more than I expected.
Rounding up the members of Deok Sun’s family youngest brother No Eul, a shy kid who didn’t seem to be good at anything but turned out to have a special talent. He’s a teenager played by an old actor, Choi Sung Won, just like Samcheonpo. 

In the pre-internet and smartphone era, the main characters are especially lucky that they grew up in their small community where secrets are impossible to keep but strong bonds of friendship were formed. Deok Sun’s childhood friends include: the manly but quite reticent, Jung Hwan; the mature, all around-good boy, school president, Sun Woo;  the Baduk genius but socially awkward baby of the group, Choi Taek; and the funny, attention craving son of the Dean, Dong Ryong. One of them will eventually grow old and will be played by Kim Joo Hyuk, the current-day husband.

Personally, I am not too invested in the mysterious husband’s identity anymore since the writer made this series a little more episodic, wherein each episode highlights a special theme on love, friendship and family. I like that there are more characters to focus on and the subplots are quite nicely wrapped up. 

Jung Hwan’s family lives more comfortably than the rest. His father, who previously played Samcheonpo in Reply 1994 has totally transformed into quite an eccentric dad who loves old school gags; and his tough mom is played by Ra Mi Ran. The parents get to use their real names in the series. He has an older brother, Jung Boong, who is good at everything else except studying.  

I haven’t seen Ryu Joon Yeol in anything before so I have no idea how he is as an actor but I am quite satisfied with how he plays Jung Hwan with an air of mystery and ‘bad boy’ vibes but actually dorky and good-natured. He’s no match against Park Bo Gum in the looks department but he has his own charm and this character made him look more attractive than he is. One of my Korean students actually went to the same school as him, and she was deeply surprised by Ryu Joon Yeol’s popularity. She thought he was just ordinary. Well, I guess not anymore.

Sun Woo is the most normal kid on the block. His sunny personality makes up for his father-less family. He has an open and sweet relationship with his mom and he takes care of young Jin Joo like the best oppa in the world.

My student was surprised when I told her I know who Ko Gyung Pyo was because she didn’t. And apparently, a lot of Koreans were really unfamiliar with him until this drama came out. Prior to this, I already watched him in Flower Boy Next DoorNaeil Cantabile, and Coin Locker Girl. He was always the funny guy. I’m glad that he got a more “normal” and actually swoon-worthy role and he pulled it off big time, I actually find myself in love with Sun Woo’s character at times.

Choi Taek who is considered a god in China thanks to his world class Baduk accomplishments is actually just a clumsy little kid for the rest of his friends. While Sun Woo is without a dad, Taek grew up without a mom. His character is similar to Park Bo Gum’s real life shy and baby-like personality. Even the behind-the-scenes clips prove that’s oozing with aegyo, and yes he’s awkward when cursing out loud. From the first time I saw him in that very small role in Gaksital, it’s amazing how Park Bo Gum has come a long way and gets more and more recognition these days. Among all the characters in the drama, Choi Taek has become a household name. Even other celebrities call him Choi Taek these days. I loved him in I Remember You where he played Seo In Guk’s messed up little brother but I think I love him more now as Taekkie.

Dong Ryong has both parents but it feels like he has none. They are constantly working and he’s left alone at home, ordering food delivery for himself. What makes it worse is that instead of meeting dad at home, he gets to see him in school!

Lee Dong Hwi proves his comic chops in this series. He’s appeared in several movies before but his Reply 1988 character made him a supporting star to watch out for.

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Their different family backgrounds make the characters’ lives a little more intertwined with each other and are the source of heart-tugging story arcs.

It’s all the more fun to see the bromance since it’s not just the cute things that make their friendship fun to watch but the small sacrifices they make for each other.

So when the romantic storyline came in and the emotions get revealed but held back, things became complicated. I am still waiting for the subtitles for Episode 17 and 18. While Deok Sun feels hurt by the thought that nobody wants her, I am hurting here seeing my baby Taek and Jung Hwan both loving her and protecting the friendship at the same time.