Written by: Jamaica Rose D. Simbul
Korea has always been in trend when it comes to fashion, make-up, skin care products, music (even if we don’t understand the lyrics of the time), and Korean dramas. Name it and Korea has always something to bring on the table.
But have you ever wondered what Korea was in the 80s? Even before BTS, EXO, and Blackpink, or dramas such as CLOY, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, and Descendants of the Sun. Since most of the Korean dramas today has either a fantasy, modern or historical drama set-up, we rarely see old school-themed K-drama.
However, if you want to see and experience the 80s by watching a K-drama, I recommend you to watch REPLY 1988. It’s a drama about five neighborhood friends living in Ssanmundong, they were friends since they were little but the story solely focused on 1988 fast forwarded to mid-90s and reminisced in 2016.
So, who are those five main characters that I am talking about?
Choi Taek played by Park Bo Gum
Choi Taek, also known as Master Choi is such a shy guy who plays Baduk well. People looks up to him because he sets records even at his young age competing with older guys. On the other note, his friends tell him he’s stupid because he doesn’t know much about life.
He was actually the most idiot within the group. His mother passed away before they came to Ssangmundong, so he was the last one to be part of the group, and most likely the group’s baby.
He always looks pale and weak and confused on how to do things, but at the middle of the drama, Choi Taek showed his strengths which I did not expect at all. When he sets a goal, he makes sure to achieve it. If he failed once, he will try harder next time. He felt like he was a normal person since he gave up his Baduk career.
Sung Deok Sun played by Hyeri of Girl’s Day
The most hyper character I have ever seen in my life watching drama. A typical high school student who doesn’t really like studying. I honestly hated her at first because of her character who was so clumsy, doesn’t do well in school, and not to mention how loud she was.
If I was a boy and I met her, I can definitely say that she is a major turn off summed up in a body of a teenage girl. But as the story goes, I realized that Deok Sun’s character was just like most of the other girls in her teenage years. They are just innocent. They don’t really know what they want, but eventually she matured in her own way because of the things that she encountered and achieved.
Although she has that kind of character, people in their neighborhood love her because of her personality. She is sweet and smart, and someone who is willing to help in any way and willing to protect her family and friends. Also, she’s funny and easily gets along with everyone. Deoksun ended up as a flight stewardess.
Kim Jung Hwan played by Ryu Jun Yeol
He’s my favorite character. I honestly had a second lead syndrome because of this guy. A smart student, a disciplined son, and a loving brother, but there are times when he was just a normal teenager.
Jung Hwan loves studying, reading books, and watching movies. He doesn’t always tell people how he feels but he was actually a warm person who is always there whenever his friends are in need and in trouble.
The first few episodes show him being the bully one most especially to Deoksun, but little by little, his warmness captured my heart. He became a lieutenant assigned at Saechon.
Sung Sun Woo played by Go Kyung Pyo
The smartest of them all who is the president of the Student Council. He is a loving son and a caring brother. What’s unique about his character is that he loves his mother so much.
People always complain about his mother’s cooked food being salty, but for Sun Woo if that is the only thing that will makes his mother happy, he won’t complain and will eat it.
He lives by his principles which he took after his dad who passed away two years ago. I like it, although he was too good to be true but at the center of the story, he showed his weak side and I am glad that they did that to show that even the strongest and kindest guy can have weakness too.
Ryu Dong Ryo played by Lee Dong Hwi
Oh well what can I say with this guy — he is the funniest among the five. The story won’t be complete without him. A guy who were always there to help Deoksun. He also struggles at school even if his dad was the school Principal.
Dong Ryo is a son who lacks attention from his parents, that’s why he keeps on doing stupid things because he felt like his parents doesn’t really love him. His mother was always busy with work, and his father was always mad at him because of school.
Some may say that he was lucky because they are financially stable and has the freedom that every teenager wanted to have, but in reality, he was lonely. He always feels alone just like some teenagers whose parents are both busy working in order to provide the needs of their families.
Sung family (Deok Sun)
- Sung Dong-il as Sung Dong Il (Deoksun’s father)
- Lee Il Hwa as Lee Il Hwa (Deoksun’s mother)
- Ryu Hye Young as Sung Bo Ra (Deoksun’s older sister)
- Choi Sung Won as Sung No Eul (Deoksun’s younger brother)
Kim family (Jung Hwan)
- Kim Sung Kyun as Kim Sung Kyun (Jung Hwan’s father)
- Ra Mi Ran as Ra Mi Ran (Jung Hwan’s mother)
- Ahn Jae Hong as Kim Jung Bong (Jung Hwan’s older brother)
Sung family (Sun Woo)
- Kim Sun Young as Kim Sun Young (Sun Woo’s mother)
- Kim Seol as Sung Jin Joo (Sun Woo’s little sister)
Choi family (Choi Taek)
- Choi Moo Sung as Choi Moo Sung (Taek’s father)
Ryu family (Dong Ryong)
- Yoo Jae Myung as Ryu Jae Myung (Dong Ryong’s father)
What does this drama made me realize?
All families are different.
One thing that I’ve learned in this drama is to never compare your family with the other families. Just like what Deoksun’s dad said, “No matter how much better others’ thing may seem, they all have their faults.”
This drama shows different kinds of families — from rags to riches family of Jung Hwan, the family of Deoksun who lives in a half-basement, Sun Woo’s family without his dad, Choi Taek living only with his Dad, and Dong Ryong whose family was just like any other families, which parents are both working.
All these families have their ups and downs, but still at the end they stick together, even in sickness and in health.
The iconic one for me in this drama is that, whatever kind of family they have they always end up eating together whether the food is salty, delicious, or even if the side dishes are all vegetables because their mom couldn’t afford to buy meat.
All mothers are strong. They are like wonder woman trapped in your mother’s body. She is someone who will protect her family more than herself. They wouldn’t think about their own pride because they will do everything for their family.
“The reason religions exist in the world, perhaps it’s because of all the sons and daughters in the world. It’s because of their parents who would pray to anybody for their children’s welfare and happiness.”
So always say thank you and I love you to your parents, and the way to console them? Tell them that you need them because in that way, your mother will feel that no matter how matured you become, a mother will always be a mother.
Our father is our own superman.
Did you know that we all have our own Superman in our lives? It’s our father. He is someone who may look like as hard as stone on the outside, but they are someone who deeply worries about their child. Fathers who only dreams for their child to become successful and healthy.
When you feel like everyone tuned you down, he would appear out of nowhere. “He was a hero of heroes on whom you can’t find weakness.” It’s because they never reveal it. Who says man can’t cry? It may be shameful but they are human after all, Superman is also a human.
They can be someone who do not really know how to express their true feelings like Choi Taek’s dad, or he can be someone who secretly protects his child like Dong Ryong’s dad. He can also be someone who is as funny dad of Jung Hwan or he can be the most supportive dad of Deoksun.
Despite their differences, the only thing that’s common is their love for their child. “So many terrible, dirty, sickening, sad and hard experiences that a father had to face. And now, I realized that no matter how terrible, sickening, dirty, sad, scary and hard it is, the reason why they endured it was because they had somebody to protect.”
“There’s nothing more annoying and tackier than something that has belonged to me for a long time. However, another way to say tacky and sick of is accustomed and comfortable. The feeling of accustomed only comes with having spent a long time with something and only the people I’m comfortable with can truly know me, embrace me, and console me that you don’t want to look at it. But the only people in the world who can protect me are my people. People I’m used to, and whom I’m comfortable with. The people who have been my people for a long time are people who you cannot help but to love them. We cannot help loving them. You can’t help but to love them.”
This line is one of my favorites from the drama. Sometimes, we become comfortable towards the person to the point that we just take them for granted and not appreciate what they do for us. So, be expressive and show people how much you love them. One’s feelings can be expressed in words, that’s why just one remark can give us such warmth in this cold and harsh world.
Moreover, the thing that allows one to recognize the warmth from another person is not the wise sayings, or a refined, witty remark. Rather, it’s one warm remark filled with one’s raw, unrefined feelings. So always say I love you and thank you because you never know how much these words can brighten up someone’s mood.
Second Chance in love.
They say, everybody deserves second chance, most especially when it comes to love. Whether you are like Sun Woo’s mom and Choi Taek’s dad whose spouse were both dead, and then eventually find love in each other’s company while helping each other with their problems.
This is a nice part where they actually proved that it is not over for someone who’s loved one passed away. You can always love again, but that doesn’t mean that they have to forget their greatest love. All love is different and as we grow old, we realize that it is really nice to have someone to be with until our hair turns gray.
Bo Ra and Sun Woo had their share of second chance of love, after six years of being apart, they eventually found their way back in each other’s arms. They proved that there are things that time can change, but not everything. Love can be so old but still be so good.
Be kind and be humble.
Do you know why this drama is unique? Because all the characters are kind. They are all warmhearted person and willing to help one another if someone is in need.
Those sweet little act of kindness of Deoksun’s dad? Someone who is only best at buying useless items to help someone. He believes that money come and go. We will never be satisfied with it for long.
He believes that there are so many unfortunate people in this world so he is someone who is willing to help as much as he could. He always displays kindness while living in poverty and can’t resist the poor things.
Who will forget Jung Hwan’s dad who was always been humble even though they are the richest in the block. He always remembers where he came from. He doesn’t like pricey stuff and always wear the same jacket to the point that his wife gets mad at him. Old habits die hard.
So, always remember to be humble no matter how successful you are right now. Always remember where you came from and how you got there and never forget the people who was there since the beginning. You will only achieve happiness while being successful if you are humble.
Chasing your dreams.
As teenagers, a step to achieve their dreams is to study hard and focus on what they want to become. But for Deoksun who isn’t fond of studying, it is hard for her to achieve anything.
What’s harder is that she doesn’t even know what she wants to be in the future. However, we always have to try and do our best because if you give up without even trying, then that will be a total lose for you.
If you want to succeed, be prepared to suffer through anything and work very hard. And if it still doesn’t work, then there’s nothing you can do. So, as long as you can try harder and harder, do not ever give up on your dreams.
Our girl Deoksun gave her best and worked her ass off to study hard to the point that her nose bleeds, but she is happy because she felt that she’s really trying so hard to study. Who would’ve thought that a girl with no dreams like her will end up being a flight stewardess? Chase your dream, always remember that.
The most refreshing part of the drama. I felt nostalgic while watching every episode because it reminds me of my childhood friends when we sleep together, eat together, or do stupid things together. But the level of friendship that they depicted here was different. They always insult each other but you will know that they couldn’t let each other down. They are always there for each other and won’t judge one’s decisions and opinions.
The strongest representation of friendship is when Choi Taek and Jung Hwan knew that they both like Deoksun, but instead of being selfish and competing with each other, they chose to let go of their feelings so that their friendship will not be affected.
“Sometimes, destiny will not just come to you. If there’s a need to explain about destiny, it has to be that sometimes it comes to you accidentally in a dramatic moment. That’s destiny. So, there’s another word for destiny, it’s timing.”
Remember the scene where Jung Hwan tried to go to Deoksun who will watch a concert alone because his date eventually dumped him? That is really frustrating for Jung Hwan to mustered up his courage to be with Deoksun, but ended up crying because Choi Taek was seconds earlier than him. His first love was always tied in bad timing.
“However, destiny and timing will not just come to you accidentally. That right moment is just a miracle which is made by the eagerness from the choices we took. Giving up without hesitation, a prompt decision, that is what makes a timing.”
Because of Jung Hwan’s countless hesitations, he felt like he doesn’t have a choice because that’s the destiny he chose, so he told himself to never regret, never complain, and never be heartbroken. May this be a lesson to everyone out there who is always waiting for the right time to tell how much they love someone because you may never know if you have time left, if you a chance left.
It doesn’t have to be a perfect moment just like how most of the characters confessed their feelings during the first snow. It doesn’t need to be as breathtaking as when Jung Hwan tried to confess his feelings. By the way, that scene really made me cry and wished I was Deoksun at that moment.
You can see Jung Hwan’s sincerity and his eagerness to tell how he really feels because he lost the chance to do it the first time he attempted to. As long as you are sincere with your feelings, then it’s okay to confess. You never know what will happen unless you will make a move.
“Loving someone is not just the feelings of wanting to give them stuff. It’s the desperate desire to give them things.”
It’s really hard to love someone, because it doesn’t always mean that they have to be around you, it means to compromise yourself to them. It also means that no matter how much pain or grief that person causes you, and you find yourself wanting to hate them so much, you will never get yourself to hate them eventually.
“Love doesn’t mean that you don’t hate them, it means that you can’t hate them.” Whether it’s a love for friendship, for a family, or for someone who you want to spend the rest of your life with, love in general will always be the same.
Why this drama is a pot of gold in K-drama world?
The reason why this drama is very heartwarming, solely because of it’s simplicity that can easily captures viewer’s hearts. This drama may be boring most of the time, yet it depicts our own everyday lives. It is not like any other drama where the main characters have superpowers or antagonist who were super weird, brutal, and a sociopath.
The characters itself are relatable because we see ourselves in them. The transition from 80s to 90s were very real, and I find myself reminiscing those good old days when everything is just fine and not toxic at all. This drama overflows with kindness, love, and friendship while leaving us a nostalgic feeling.
And that is the warmth of Ssangmundong in the 80s.