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Lessons on lost chances through the lens of Jung Hwan in “Reply 1988”

Written by: Helga Mari

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Photo source: reply_tvn

“In the end, fate and timing do not just happen out of coincidence. They are products of ardent desire and earnest, simple choices that make up miraculous moments. Being resolute, making decisions without hesitation — that is what makes timing. He was more ardent, and I should’ve had more courage. It wasn’t the red lights, nor the timing that was bad… but the countless times I hesitated” – Kim Jung Hwan

The lines evoke a mixture of emotions that still haunt me to this day. The words cut so deep which gave out a bittersweet aftertaste, I feel like something inside me is being pierced.

And so when the scenes from Reply 1988 showed our Jung Hwan finally coming to his senses when he drove as fast as he could to be with Duk Seon in the concert, adrenaline rush took its toll on me with the idea that what he had been keeping in his heart for the longest time will, at last, find its way to Duk Seon through words. True enough, time was of the essence here. But too finite was time that introspections came out at the very sight of Taek courageously going for Duk Seon without hesitations.

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A painful wake up call indeed. But his heartbreak won’t be left in vain as he shared with us some things to ponder from this whole experience.

1. Courage

Photo source: reply_tvn

It is always the starting point of everything. Victories, whether significant or trivial, are products of brave determination to pursue something that one’s heart so desires.

2. Value Of Time

Photo source: reply_tvn

Time, as a universally accepted principle, is a finite resource. Everything that exists in this world is time-bound. And it does lay down two important things for us — chances and choices. And yet in life, not everyone is given the equal opportunities to take countless chances and make great choices. How we make the most out of it really depends on us.

3. Speaking Up

Photo source: reply_tvn

There is nothing sadder than living the story of an untold love. How lonely could it possibly be to be burdened day by day by the emotions you’ve been bottling up for the longest time only to find yourself mourning for it alone. Love should always be greater than the fear of rejection, loss of pride or whatever it is that hinders one to speak about what one feels.

4. Fate Lies In Our Hands

Photo source: reply_tvn

I, for one, do not believe in coincidences. A thing exists not because it is bound to exist by itself, but because something caused it to exist. Such that you cannot pin your hopes to fate, destiny, or whatnot. If you want something to happen, you should, at least, make an effort for it to happen. Whether or not you get the end that you hoped for, the best part was that you gave it a shot so as regret won’t come running after you years down the road. At the end of the day, life is what you make it.

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5. Letting Go Graciously

Photo source: reply_tvn

In the end, no matter how long it has been overdue, you still have to make your choice. Whether to go in pursuit of what you love regardless of the outcome or to step back and give way for something or someone for a selfless reason, you are transforming yourself into a man of substance. There’s nothing bigger than a person who can sacrifice his/her own happiness for someone dear to him/her.

I have a strong bias for Jung Hwan through and through and regardless of how many times I re-watch Reply 1988, that would never change. But I sometimes find myself in reverie, putting myself in Duk Seon’s place while pondering about what could have happened in an alternate reality had Jung Hwan bravely confessed his feelings for her.

I wanted him to give Duk Seon some sort of a closure — that all the while, she wasn’t giving herself an assumption; to finally shed light on the vague signals she was getting from him; that at some point in their not-so-distant past, they fell mutually in love and had brought out the best in each other. I wish Duk Seon knew how she was deeply loved in silence. And while it may no longer be relevant for her, she can at least put the assumptions to rest and move on happily with her blossoming relationship with Taeki.

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Photo source: reply_tvn

In the end, though, I was still amazed by the person Jung Hwan has become. He may have lacked the courage to acknowledge his feelings for her, but he certainly had the courage to graciously let go of something that was meant for another without holding a grudge or feeling remorseful about it. And he did it quite well.

The only consolation he got out of the whole time he endured his silence was that he made two persons genuinely happy with their shared love for each other. And they happened to be the ones he values so much.

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  1. I love this Korean drama so much…& after finishing that drama I cried for a week, I can’t express how much I miss this drama….and your definition in details make this drama more beautiful ……you have presented a very fine collection of lessons that helps people in many ways, your writing on “lessons on lost chances” gives me courage and it felt so good after reading it…..keep writing lots of love from India.

  2. Jung Hwan is selfless and his love is unconditional. He is willing to sacrifice himself in the happiness of his love ones. that’s what made me love him more….

    1. This is by far, the best article I have read about Reply 1988 particularly about my beloved character Jung Hwan. I loved the on point analysis and these are exactly my thoughts too. There are lessons to be picked up about his experiences and it’s for us viewers of the drama to learn from it. Thanks for writing this article!

  3. My favorite drama of all time! Thanks for this article.
    “A thing exists not because it is bound to exist by itself, but because something caused it to exist.” Wow! Very philosophical… Indeed, Kim Jung Hwan was such a very impactful character in Reply 1988 as his character had the biggest development in the drama. No wonder he became endeared to a bigger portion of the audience. I am #TeamTaek myself but to me, Jung Hwan is just so indispensable and very important part of the story, Reply 1988 wouldn’t be that beautiful without Jung Hwan. Well written and impressive character review on this article. Hope to read a lot of this kind of in-depth analysis in your site.☺️

  4. Found this article on fb and such a good read… Love the words and how it described jung hwan… I miss this series so much! Still my all time fave…

  5. Very well said! We ca learn so much from JungPal’s experiences.. This is my fave kdrama and i miss each characters a lot..

  6. Although I still enjoyed the ending of Reply 1988, I went HARD for Jung-Hwan right up until the bitter end, and I swear to you I felt his pain! His role was played to perfection and you could really see the love he had for his two best friends. I made my peace with the ending by realizing that JH must have seen something I didn’t see from the start – on some level he must have felt that Taeki had the best shot at making her happy.

    Still though …….. In some alternate universe I would have loved to see him get the girl. He loved her for so long and for so hard that his “fiance ring” speech scared me for life 🥺

  7. Well there r many aspects to this story..LIKE .who JH was ..what’s his upbringing…and same goes for DS …as i ponder over details i came to understand this thing that both lovers r stuck by life miseries….JH being a extreme poor in childhood understands the power of relationships and friends and why they’re indispensable…on the other hand DS being a middle child’s always longs for love and finds happiness in small things …. JH will always put his family and friends over his own desires and will let go bcoz thats what he is a “Giver”…DS being herself will always stay away from big issues and will choose a path which is more comfortable for her…like she will run back towards the same place where she finds comfort….in this case it was teaki…. overall as i go through the story i came to understand that it was a doomed love bcoz everything which comes close to perfection will weither away …’s was way too good love hence it has to die ….now I know why it’s said that second lead in triangle is always for viewers … I know why it looks like a story told by JH perspective….and why everything turns grey and dark in the end …..bye JH u lived and sacrificed well …and lastly of all u were the only character that seemed nonfictional…..

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