The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers
Reply 1988 revolves around the lives of a group of five friends in Ssangmun-dong, a small neighborhood in Seoul. Most of the series covered their struggles and memorable moments when they were 18 and 19 years old. The story starts in 1988, covers 1989, and fast-forwards to 1994 and 1995. It also has snippets of 2016, where Deok Sun (Lee Hye Ri) is being interviewed with her husband, whose identity is only revealed later on in the story.
Deok Sun, a middle child, lives with her two siblings and parents in a half-basement. Above them lives Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol) and his family, who (unlike Deok Sun's debt-ridden family) got rich overnight. Choi Taek (Park Bo Gum), on the other hand, lives with his widower dad and doesn't struggle with money, too. His biggest struggle was winning baduk matches, and he becomes famous in Asia for being a genius player. Sun Woo (Go Kyung Pyo) and Dong Ryong (Lee Dong Hwi) with their respective families are the other neighbors of the first three. All five usually hang out in Taek's room and share food (their eommas' request) with each other during mealtimes. Their moms—the ajummas—stay at home, while the dads work to fend for their families.
These childhood friends have each other's back no matter what trouble they get into. As neighbors, their parents have grown close, too, and depend on each other. The different characters go through various points in life—from tough years at school to that physically, psychologically, and financially draining stage called adulthood.
The Short, Honest Plot
The series is a wonderful depiction of friendship, family, and first loves. It shows the ups, downs, and total 180s that Koreans in Seoul have experienced in the late '80s and early '90s. The five lifelong friends may be the official lead characters, but their moms, dads, and siblings are each like a bida in their own right, too.
The Actors And Where You Might've Seen Them
1. Lee Hye Ri as Sung Duk Seon/Sung Soo Yeon
Hye Ri is from the K-pop group Girl's Day, which is why seeing her act like she sucks at dancing in Reply 1988 was extra entertaining. After the series, she was cast in the series Entertainer (2016).
2. Park Bo Gum as Choi Taek
Bo Gum was already quite popular before starring in this series, but after it, his Hallyu idol status soared through the roof. He has made a special appearance in The Producers (2015) and more recently, he was the lead in the period drama Love in the Moonlight (2016).
3. Ryu Jun Yeol as Kim Jung Hwan
Before the series, he played a minor role in The Producers (2015), and after, he played the lead in Lucky Romance (2016).
4. Go Kyung Pyo as Sung Sun Woo
Kyung Pyo was part of the first three seasons of Saturday Night Live Korea (2011-2012). After Reply 1988, he was cast in Jealousy Incarnate (2016) and Chicago Typewriter (2017).
5. Lee Dong Hwi as Ryu Dong Ryong
Dong Hwi has played minor roles in a couple of dramas before and has starred in some variety shows. Recently, he was in Entourage (2016).
6. The Sung Family
Sung Dong Il, who played Deok Sun's father, has starred in several films including the recent Midnight Runners (2017). It's impossible for you not to recognize his face by now if you're a K-drama fan, as he starred in several series like Lovers in Paris (2004), My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho (2010), It's Okay, That's Love (2014), Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016), The K2 (2016), The Legend of the Blue Sea (2016), and Hwarang (2016).
Lee Il Hwa, who played Deok Sun's mother, has also played various maternal roles. She was in very popular shows, too, like She Was Pretty (2015) and My Love From the Star (2013).
Ryu Hye Young, who played Deok Sun's older sister Sung Bo Ra, has starred in several movies, while Choi Sung Won, played Deok Sun's younger brother Sung No Eul, has been in a few dramas before.
7. The Kim Family
Kim Sung Kyun played Jung Hwan's father. He has been in various series including Reply 1994 (2013), Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016), and Entourage (2016).
Ra Mi Ran played Jung Hwan's mother. She has starred in several movies and series like The Heirs (2013), Witch's Romance (2014), and Please Come Back, Mister (2016).
Ahn Jae Hong played the role of Kim Jung Bong, Jung Hwan's older brother. He has also been in several movies, but Reply 1988 is the first series he starred in. After that, he became part of the cast of The Legend of the Blue Sea (2016) and the more recent Fight for My Way (2017).
8. The Other Mom and Dads
Kim Sun Young, who played Sun Woo's mother, has been in various series and movies, and Kim Seol played Sun Woo's super cute little sister, Jin Joo. Choi Moo Sung played Taek's father, and you might know him from Uncontrollably Fond (2016), My Wife's Having an Affair this Week (2016), and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (2016). Yoo Jae Myung played Ryu Jae Myung, Dong Ryong's father in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017)
Did You Know?
1. Sung Dong Il and Lee Il Hwa (who played Deok Sun's parents) and Yoo Jae Myung (who played Dong Ryong's father) were also a part of Reply 1997 (2012) and Reply 1994 (2013). Kim Sung Kyun, who played Jung Hwan's dad, was also a cast member of Reply 1994.
2. Sung Dong Il, Lee Il Hwa, Kim Sung Kyun, Ra Mi Ran, Kim Sun Young, and Choi Moo Sung all used their own names in Reply 1988.
3. The screenwriter Lee Woo-jung focused on love among family members and friends on purpose in contrast to the predecessors, which focused on romance.
4. The character Choi Taek was loosely based on a real-life baduk player, Lee Chang Ho, 9-dan. Bo Gum's character starts at the 6-dan rank and eventually ends up with the 9-dan rank.
5. A lot of the young cast members are still friends until now. Just follow Hye Ri on IG for proof! #SquadGoals, right?
6. Sadly, the set of Ssangmun-dong in Gyeonggi-do has been torn down already, as the story was shot when preserving filming sites for tourism wasn't usually done. But a few of the landmarks in the series still remain, such as the Ssangmun Station and Dooley Museum.
(Warning: The next two items ahead are spoilers!)
7. In the 22nd Shanghai Television Festival (2016), Director Shin Won-ho said, "...during filming, nothing is to interfere with the development of the main story. So, right from the beginning, we have already decided that Deok Sun will end up together with Taek eventually." That's why they didn't change the progression and ending despite Korean fans clamoring for Jung Hwan to get the girl. #SecondLeadSyndrome
8. But IRL, Jung Hwan did get the girl! Just a few days ago, their agencies confirmed that Hye Ri and Jun Yeol are dating. That's why so many Reply 1988 fans resurfaced, had a bit of their SLS cured, and made noise on social media. The writer of the series got it right—it ain't over till it's over and timing is everything! (Chukkahae, Hyeri and Jun Yeol! <3 And sorry, #TeamTaek!)
What My Friends Think:
"At first, I was really hesitant to watch it given the setting (1988) but the series turned out to be #1 on my list. The story of friendship and importance of family will surely captivate you and leave you wishing for it not to end. I don't think there will be another drama as good as this. The nostalgia is real."—Josh Dela Paz
"I loved it because interesting 'yung story n'ya and it has bits of everything—romance, comedy, love, ups and downs, friends, and family. Plus, nagka-background pa ako on Korean history. Sa una, parang boring s'ya kasi ang tagal (one hour and 30 minutes) pero habang pinapanood mo, you'll get hooked sa story. Gusto mo na din maging kapitbahay sila sa Ssangmun-dong Dobong District. Legit 'yung production—sobrang pinag-isipan from clothes to furniture… everything!"—Debbie Taylor
What I Think:
I didn't get the appeal of Bo Gum before. He just seemed so cute and innocent, while the oppas I'm attracted to are the "manlier" types like Park Seo Joon, Gong Yoo, and Ji Chang Wook. That's one of the reasons why I held off from watching the series. Another reason is I didn't know the other cast members and I wasn't attracted to their looks. I didn't understand why there was so much hype for the series and why there are so many Reply 1988 fans.
The sage advice to not judge books based on their covers could not have been truer. You don't have to be a fan of any of the actors to like the series, too. The story was such a pleasant surprise that I regretted not having watched the series sooner.
The 90 or more minutes for each of the 20 episodes will feel like a roller coaster ride. You'll laugh out loud, ugly cry, reminisce about your old friends and family, feel extreme kilig or heartbreak, and laugh some more. Despite the length of each episode, you will never get bored, and you'll come to love virtually all the characters like dear old chingus, titos, and titas.
I totally adored the actors, too, especially the ones who played Dong Il, Mi Ran, Sung Kyun (Aigoo, Kim sajang!), Jung Bong, and Dong Ryong. And yes, I finally got how adorable Bo Gum is (still not lusting over him but I do like him already).
And the OST is TO DIE FOR! Like in Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, I couldn't understand the lyrics of most of the songs, but their melodies definitely spoke to me. "Ice Cream Love" by Im Byeong Su instantly became my fave, too, because the scene below (which I've replayed so many times already and have used to convince people to watch the show) is simply GENIUS! Who knew Hangeul and Spanish lyrics could become awesome songs?!
The ~*feelings*~ were so intense, too. I watched a few episodes while riding the MRT and some UV Express cars—BIG. MISTAKE. It was so embarrassing when I giggled too loudly or started tearing up at the emotional scenes. That's how hooked I was, and I feel like this will be one of the series I'll be repeating more than twice.
I'd Recommend It To:
Anyone who's starting to lose interest in the usual storylines of K-dramas or rom-coms, or who's interested in Korean history and pop culture. Disclaimer: It's also just for anyone who has time (again, each episode lasts 90 minutes or more, but the puyat, tears, LSS, and bursts of other emotions will be worth it, I swear!)
You can watch all 20 episodes of Reply 1988 on Viu Philippines.
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