Written by: Helga Mari
“They say that God created mothers because He can’t be everywhere at once. Even when one is at the age to be a mom, one’s mother is always one’s guardian and even saying the word “mom” is something that has the power to tug one’s heartstrings. Mothers are always strong.” – Sung Bo Ra
While Reply 1988 mainly follows the story of five childhood friends who grew up in the quiet neighborhood of Ssangmundong in Seoul, one of its sub-narratives highlighted three special women who are mothers to the main characters, and they are Ra Mi Ran, Kim Sun Young and Lee Il Hwa.
Their personalities couldn’t be more different, but each was able to portray some important aspects of womanhood — being a mother and a wife. Their different depictions of motherhood and femininity leave a sense of relatedness and affinity as we, ourselves, think of our own mothers.
So it’s high time to turn the spotlight and pay homage to these ahjummas of Ssangmundong whose unconditional love for their respective families is a constant source of comfort, joy and assurance for their loved ones as they take on the world full of challenges.
Let’s take a closer look at each of them and celebrate their characters.
Ra Mi Ran (Jung Bong and Jung Hwan’s mom)
She is dubbed as the Singing Cheetah of Ssangmundong. This well-off ahjumma rose from their impoverished status after a stroke of luck. But living in comfort didn’t make her cold and distant towards others. Rather, it gave her reasons to be more giving to her neighbors by sharing their family’s abundance, be it money, food or even the intangible ones like genuine friendship and moral support.
Mama Cheetah’s maternal character gives us the best of both worlds. She has this strong and feisty outward persona which can sometimes be mistaken as intimidating at face value. She is usually loud that her husband often bears the brunt of her nagging. As a mother, she speaks to her sons as a parent who asserts authority over her children, but in a manner that yields respect from them.
But she also has this soft side in her wherein she can take off her pride and bare her weaknesses in front of her children if need be. And how she firmly stood as the family’s fortress when her older son, Jung Bong, underwent a heart surgery showed us her feminine strength and grace under pressure.
Favorite moment: Aside from her consistent generosity, her persistent attempt to reach out to her stoic and reserved son, Jung Hwan, showed us that she can set aside her parental authority even in the most awkward moment just to let him know that she also wanted to feel needed by her son. And the gentle manner she conveyed her message speaks volume of her fragile side.
Kim Sun Young (Sun Woo and Jin Joo’s mom)
Having been widowed at a young age with two minor kids to raise, left her a heavy burden to carry as a single mother. Yet she embraced the difficult challenge without any complaint. Indeed, there isn’t anything heavy for a mom who willingly defies any struggles life throws at her if only to give her kids a good and decent life in the best way she knows how.
As a mother who tries her very best to make both ends meet, Sun Young’s persistence to take on even the dirtiest job to provide for her children’s needs showed us how noble and priceless a mother’s love is. They may be lacking in material things, at times, but her affection for her kids more than made up for it.
Though she sometimes comes up short in some aspects like her cooking, it doesn’t stop her from doing her best and aiming for improvement.
Favorite moment: The time when she worked as a public bathroom cleaner at night without Sun Woo’s knowledge just to buy him a pair of shoes and to save money for his schooling really tugged at my heartstrings.
Lee Il Hwa (Bo Ra, Duk Seon and No Eul’s mom)
Raising three kids with contrasting characters that fall on the extreme opposite sides of the spectrum is quite a heavy task to handle for a mother especially with her two daughters having hair-pulling fights almost on a daily basis. Add up the fact that her husband’s meager paychecks usually come up short to run their household and to pay for their kids’ school fees, it isn’t easy to be in Il Hwa’s place.
But she silently bears these family dilemmas on her own while keeping a cheerful facade. She would rather take all the burden by herself than to let her children feel that they are lacking in comparison to some kids their age.
Given that they have scarce resources, the way she scrimps on herself to make sure that her family’s needs are being taken care of, just shows that it is her family that always comes first before anything else.
Favorite moment: The scene when she came to Bo Ra’s rescue in the middle of a rainy night and threw herself in front of the police officers who were questioning her daughter showed us that she will do anything by all means to protect her daughter in the best way she knows how.
With their unique love languages, these ahjummas showed us that a mother’s love knows no boundaries. Their hearts are too big that these hold an unfathomable love to shower over their loved ones. Indeed, nothing is too big nor too heavy to handle if it is for their families’ good and well-being.
And in one way or another, these women are also our own mothers — that despite their humanness and imperfections, they try mightily to give their very best for the people they love and value the most.
All photos are credited to reply_tvn on Twitter.