Who was your first love? When did it happen? Was it your childhood crush? Or did you meet him or her later?
"First love never dies" may be a cliché, but let's be real—it's true. There have been countless ways of telling a story with a timeless theme. But it's always entertaining to see a Korean drama or movie put a new spin on "cho sarang" (first love). It's not always heart-fluttering, of course, and some first loves are more heart-breaking—just like IRL. Which of these first love stories can you relate to the most?
Korean dramas and movies about first love
1. 20th Century Girl
Were you the loyal type that will do everything for the sake of your bestie? Then, you'll find Na Bo Ra very familiar. Played by Kim Yoo Jung, Bo Ra makes it her mission to find out everything about her best friend's crush, Baek Hyun Jin (Park Jung Woo). Her bestie (played by Roh Yoon Seo from the K-drama Our Blues) had to fly to the U.S. for heart surgery. As Bo Ra tries her best to get to know Hyun Jin, she gets closer to him and his best friend, Poong Woon Ho (played by Byeon Woo Seok from Record Of Youth). As you can guess, the mission doesn't end with just romance for her bestie. Eventually, she finds her own heart racing in this romantic comedy set in 1999.
2. My First First Love
Were you in a "platonic" mixed-gender barkada (friend group)? If you secretly harbored feelings for one of your friends, then you might relate to Ji Soo's character, Yun Tae Oh. In this drama, he has a girl best friend named Song Yi (played by Chaeyeon), and just like a lot of boys his age, he can't really figure out if he seriously likes her or not. Eventually, they both enter different relationships and a "love square" naturally develops. The complicated web of feelings stars Jung Jin Young from Police University as Tae-o's friend and Song-I's boyfriend. Their group later on also includes another first love couple, played by Choi Ri and Extraordinary Attorney Woo dream boy Kang Tae Oh. The five of them live in one house and navigate life in their early 20s.
3, 4, 5. Weightlifting Fairy, Start-Up, and Twenty Five, TwentyOne
If you meet a guy as dreamy as Nam Joo Hyuk in your teens or twenties, wouldn't he be your first love, too? This oppa—who will most likely enlist in the military this year, by the way—had three hit dramas where he was someone's first love.
He gave Kim Bok Joo (Lee Sung Kyung) a mad case of the butterflies as Jung Joon Young. He pretended to be the first love of Seo Dal Mi (Bae Suzy) and eventually made her fall for real as the tech genius Nam Do San. He most recently played the cool "kuya" (big brother) figure and sports reporter that captures the heart of fencing prodigy Na Hee Do (Kim Tae Ri). Watch any of these K-dramas, and you'll be sure to reminisce about those fleeting kilig moments with your first love.
6, 7, 8, 9. She Was Pretty, Fight for My Way, What's Wrong With Secretary Kim, and Itaewon Class
If your first love was more on the suplado (snobbish) type, maybe you'll remember him or her through Park Seo Joon. The main theme of the actor's works is usually about finding your passion and finding fulfillment in your career. But his characters always seem to be either someone's first love or someone experiencing love for the first time.
He played the ill-tempered editor boss and childhood love of Kim Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum). He also starred as Ko Dong Man, a mixed martial arts fighter who has been the closest guy friend and love interest of Choi Ae Ra (Kim Ji Won). They may have had different relationships, but eventually, it was revealed that they've liked each other when they were kids. Then, he was the narcissistic boss who eventually tries to win back his skilled secretary that resigned from work, Kim Mi So (Park Min Young). He also portrayed the unforgettable Park Saeroyi, who kept getting entangled with his first love Soo Ah (Kwon Na Ra) while fighting for his dream.
10, 11, 12. Reply 1988, 1994, and 1997
Did your first love come with growing pains or family drama? This popular anthology by Director Shin Won Ho and head screenwriter Lee Woo Jung might be uber-relatable for you. Ready your feels as you see various characters discover love while busy with finding themselves. One was busy trying to survive high school, the other was busy with college, and the last one was busy with… fangirling. Despite the recurring actors, all of the leads had unique families, friends, and storylines that included their sweet encounters with their first loves.
Now this plot is a bit controversial, but it really happens: what if your first "love" was someone so much older than you? Lee Sung Kyung stars as Ga Young in this movie with Kim Min Jae as Sung Woong, a competitive wrestler. He likes Ga Young and gets all excited when she confesses that she has feelings for his...father! Yup, just like those girls who get cute crushes for their teachers. The dad, played by veteran actor Yoo Hae Jin (from Space Sweepers, A Taxi Driver, and Confidential Assignment), tries to sort out the situation and restore his relationship with his son in this hilarious movie.
14. Our Beloved Summer
Have you recently reconnected with your first love? This 2021 Korean drama might just be the sign you're looking for on whether to rekindle the romance or leave it in the past. It stars A-list Hallyu celebs Choi Woo Shik as Choi Woong and Kim Da Mi as Kook Yeon Soo. The pair met during their teens, fell in love, and broke up with a promise never to cross paths again. However, they are forced to be back in each other's lives as their documentary from high school becomes trending in the present day. They discover the changes they both have gone through now that they're in their late 20s and find out if the spark between them is still there.
15, 16. 17. My Sassy Girl, Architecture 101, and The Classic
These last three are a few of the most well-known and well-loved romantic movies in South Korea. Like Our Beloved Summer, their plots are basically about meeting and reconnecting with your first love. These were such a hit that they earned Jun Ji Hyun, Bae Suzy, and Son Ye Jin the unofficial title of "Nation's First Love." Unlike the recent series and films on the list, which you can watch on Netflix or Viu, it's hard to come by legit streaming services for these movies, so when you do get the chance to catch them, don't miss out!
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