K-Drama Rewind: Reply 1988

Annyeong, ahjummamshies! It’s my birth month, so I took this opportunity to feature some of my most favorite K-dramas… the dramas that never left my heart. It was really hard to pick just two dramas to feature for this bi-monthly segment here in our humble blog, so I hope you will have fun reading my simple present for all you, our readers. ♥

Reply 1988 Poster.jpg

For the first part of my Grumpy Flashback birthday series, I will feature a special drama that’s also a fan favorite among K-drama lovers. Starring Lee Hye-ri, Park Bo-gum, Go Kyung-pyo, Ryu Jun-yeol and Lee Dong-hwi, Reply 1988 is the third installment of tvN’s Reply series which aired in November 2015 to January 2016 for 20 jam-packed episodes. Set in 1988, the drama revolves around the life of five friends and their families living in the same neighborhood of Ssangmun-dong, Dobong District, Northern Seoul.

Reply 1988 Bora Noeul.jpg

It remains the undisputed highest-rated cable drama in South Korea, with its finale recording an 18.8% nationwide audience share. Although Reply 1988 was bashed for it’s unexpected ending, the drama was still well-received critically by K-drama fans worldwide. It followed the husband guessing game trope that was evident in every installment of the Reply franchise.

Reply 1988 friends.jpg


It was really hard to pick just one sound track, but after much deliberation, I have decided to feature Park Bo-ram’s version of this oldie-but-goodie hit, “Hyehwadong” (Ssangmundong).


The most notable characteristic of this nostalgic series is the magical adventure to the 1980s. It will make you feel that you are inside the dramaverse, a part of the fictional community they built. It’s like your enchanting magic carpet ride back to where you spent you early days with neighborhood friends. Of course, this drama would not be as successful if not because of the perfect portrayal of the five childhood friends’ parents. They were the light and foundation of this series. Not to mention the Reply franchise used the real names of the actors and actresses portraying the parents (just like in the first two installments), everything just felt so personalized and real. The neighborhood ahjummas – Lee Il-hwa, Ra Mi-ran, and Kim Sun-young were like our birth mothers. From the way they spent their whole days without the internet and smart phones, to the way their took care of their families.

Reply 1988 Ssangmundong Ahjummas.jpg

Every single relationship in the neighborhood was also featured since the drama followed a sort-of episodic approach. Per episode, it displayed a different subplot – from each of the friends’ relationships with their families – which made this series extra special. That’s why when it was time to leave the Ssangmundong block, the families’ goodbyes were very hard to watch. Every character grew on me (especially the ahjummas), that it was hard to really let go completely.


This show introduced us to the best 80s squad ever: Sung Deok-sun (Hyeri), Choi Taek (Park Bo-gum), Kim Jung-hwan (Ryu Jun-yeol), Sung Sun-woo (Go Kyung-pyo), and Ryu Dong-ryong (Lee Dong-hwi). They were together since they were children up until their married life. They grew up together, ate together, studied together, and experienced hardships together. I want to take this time to feature my most favorite friendship moments in this series:

Reply 1988 Deoksun squad.jpg

Jung-hwan and Sun-woo

Ah, this two. Their bond was the first one to be featured in this series as the conflict happened in the earlier episodes. Jung-hwan was not the early fan favorite because of the other eye candies in the squad, but when Sun-woo was bullied by school seniors, the seemingly cold Jung-hwan was introduced to us in the best way possible. He stood up for Sun-woo and punched those who bullied his friend.

Reply 1988 Junghwan and Sunwoo

Reply 1988 Junghwan and Sunwoo.gif

Jung-hwan and Taekkie

The affection between Jung-hwan and Taek was widely displayed in the entire series as the main plot. They both loved the girl, but they were also both ready to take a step back in order for the other person to get her. Their bond is stronger than any other bond in their friendship cycle that it goes beyond their first love. They both value each other first that their own personal welfare comes next. Who else here cried here when Taek (who hates asking favors) asked the hospital chief to perform a surgery on Jung-hwan’s father? Or how about whenever Jung-hwan ties Taek’s shoes (and the numerous times he protected Taek)? He can’t even tie his shoelaces properly, but when push comes to shove, he will do his best to help his family. And finally, how about the ultimate sacrifice of Jung-hwan to let go of his first love?

Taekkie and Sun-woo

They were brothers, after all. I know they already treat each other as brothers, but Taek and Sun-woo were associated by family. Although they were put in an awkward situation at first, and Sun-woo had a hard time accepting Taek’s dad as his stepfather, all is well that ends well. The happiness of both their parents was the most important thing in this extended family. They were able to set aside their differences and live a normal life.

Sharing Taekkie and Deok-sun’s dad’s conversation about moms:

“Mothers tend to be the ones you missed the most whether they’re dead or alive.” -Sung Dong-il

Dong-il: “Taekkie, when do you miss your mother the most?”

Taek: “Every day. I miss my mom every single day.”

Sun-woo and Deok-sun

Sun-woo is an amazingly written character and I am happy that Go Kyung-pyo was able to breathe life to him perfectly. He eats everything his mom cooks. He said that if you want your mom to be happy with her cooking, eating disgusting lunches would be easy. Also, when Deok-sun thought Jung-hwan’s fancy English skills were annoying, and turned to Sun-woo to say, “I am raining,” he corrected her without calling her stupid, which said a lot about his character.

Reply 1988 friends.gif

From being the consistent honor student to a loving son and brother, he was the ideal boy-next-door that every girl would fall for. No wonder he was Deok-sun’s first love! LOL. With the help of her girlfriends fanning the flames, Deok-sun harbored a secret crush on Sun-woo, mistakenly thinking that he felt the same way for him, too. This was the first hilarious twist of this series. And I’ll never get tired of watching Deok-sun’s misadventures in discovering that Sun-woo was in love with her unnie Sung Bo-ra, and not her.

Reply 1988 Deoksun makeup.gif

“Confusion is short, but a misunderstanding lasts a long time. That’s why illusions offer freedom, while misunderstandings chain you down.” – Deok-sun

Deok-sun and Dong-ryong

Dong-ryong was the resident clown of the series! But he can also talk some sense to everyone whenever he wants to. And that’s the best part of him. When he ran away from home, he was able to bring his friends together in an impromptu beach trip. When he got hemorrhoids, he was able to bring his parents together to take good care of him for the first time in a very long time.

Reply 1988 Deoksun and Dongryong.jpg

But the scene that got me admiring Dong-ryong most was his heart-to-heart talk with Deok-sun. Dong-ryong made the most sensible advice to Deok-sun about love. Instead of waiting for someone to like you, why not think of whom you really like. Instead of listening to other people, why not face your own feelings and start liking someone for who they really are and not because people told you to.


Reply 1988 Kim Junghwan bus.gif

If you don’t know it yet, let me explain briefly why Kim Jung-hwan is called Jungpal by almost every one here. The nickname “gae jungpal” is derived from “dae” which means “dog” in Korean, Jung-hwan, and “pal” or friend. Only Deok-sun adds the “dae,” while the rest of the boys only call him “jungpal.”

Jungpal is known for his prickly, no non-sense attitude. Also a consistent honor student, he is different from the bookish Sun-woo because he does not like studying. He often spends his time watching adult movies, reading comics, and playing football. It’s just fascinating that the actor who played Jung-hwan (Ryu Jun-yeol) is also intelligent, knows how to speak English, and loves football. So, I can definitely say Jun-yeol is indeed Jung-hwan and Jung-hwan is Jun-yeol. (IFKWIM)

Reply 1988 Junghwan and Jungbong.jpg

His love for his parents and his brother Jung-bong (Ahn Jae-hong) was also beyond eternal. We all know Jung-bong as the timid boy with a heart ailment, who always failed the college entrance exams, but got himself a girlfriend! But Jung-hwan’s promise of fulfilling every dream that Jung-bong had was the most admirable thing he did for his family. He also surprised his parents of a wedding reception after realizing that their wedding picture was not real. He wrote English characters on her mother’s passport so she can read it when they traveled abroad.

Reply 1988 Junghwan love fam.jpg

Adding to the long list of moments wherein Jungpal displayed his perfection was when he cared for his friends more than he cared for himself. He had tickets for the Lee Moon-sae concert but chose not to go after learning that Taek liked Deok-sun, too. He drank with a brokenhearted Sun-woo even when he was about to return to his military duties.

Reply 1988 squad.jpg


It would take me forever to write about the other relationships featured in this heartwarming series, so I guess it’s time to stop it here. LOL. I know you still have other characters in mind that you wanted to talk about, but with Reply 1988, everything just boils down to these two: TEAM JUNG-HWAN vs TEAM TAEK.


For those who are familiar with Reply 1988’s ending, we all know by now that Deok-sun did not end up with everyone’s favorite guy. Ryu Jun-yeol even gained the nickname “Nation’s Husband” because of this. Winning numerous polls from different fan sites, Jung-hwan was undoubtedly the most favored second lead in K-dramaland. But as the news broke out that Jun-yeol and Hyeri are confirmed to be dating, I guess it’s safe to say that Jungpal got the girl in the end! So to celebrate the success of Jung-hwan and Deok-sun shippers, the ahjummamshies squad compiled our most favorite moments of the (real-life) lovebirds!

  • Alley scene – Jungpal’s turning point

Reply 1988 Alley Scene.gif

  • Cutesy “meow”scene inside Taek’s room

  • Bus scene protecting Deok-sun from getting tossed around during school rush

Reply 1988 junghwan superman.gif

  • When Jung-hwan waited for Deok-sun under the rain

Reply 1988 Junghwan Rain.gif

  • When Jung-hwan said this to Deok-sun after the McDonald’s date

“Think properly with this brain, the reason why I came.”

Reply 1988 Mcdo date.gif

  • When Deok-sun asked Jungpal if she can go to a blind date… and Jungpal said NO

Reply 1988 blind date

  • Jung-hwan’s smiling while Deok-sun and Sun-woo bantered

Reply 1988 Jungpal 3

  • Deok-sun waiting for Jungpal every morning
  • When Jung-hwan hesitated a thousand times in front of their gate if he will approach the crying Deok-sun
  • When Jung-hwan had the Forrest Gump moment

Sorry, not sorry. I just had to include this dialogue. I figured it would not hurt anymore because of the real-life dating news, right?

Every Reply 1988 fan would know by heart that these lines were from the dreaded Episode 18, the episode we cannot re-watch without crying:

“Fate doesn’t come around at any time. To use the word fate, it has to be a dramatic moment brought by coincidence—that makes it fate. That’s why another word for fate is timing. If I hadn’t gotten caught at just one of those lights, if those damned red lights had helped me out just once… I might be standing in front of her right now, like fate. My first love was always held back by damned timing. That damned timing.

However, fate and timing will not just come to you accidentally. That right moment is just a miracle which is made by the eagerness from the choice we took. Giving up without hesitation, a prompt decision – that is what makes timing. He wanted her more than I did, and I should’ve been braver. It wasn’t the red lights, nor the timing that was bad… but the countless times I hesitated.”

Reply 1988 Forrest Gump 1

With the way Jung-hwan was written by the scrip writer, I can honestly say that he loves Taek more than he liked Deok-sun. He values their friendship more to be able to give up on his first love. His many hesitations in the past was not just because he was afraid of confessing his feelings for Deok-sun, it was because he knew someone will get hurt if he pursued her. Be it Sun-woo (at first) or Taek, he always knew (or thought) that someone else likes Deok-sun. It’s just sad that he realized it when it was all too late – when the timing was not on his side anymore. Up until the last minute, his confession to Deok-sun ended up as trivial. Deok-sun never even knew that he kept the pink button down shirt all along, that he never gave it to Jung-bong hyung. All the steal glances, secret knight in shining armor moments were admirable and sweet, but not enough to get the girl in the end.

“I like you. I said, I like you. Do you know what I’ve done because of you? I waited for an hour by the front door every day so that I could go to school with you. I waited until you came home from the study room. I was worried about you and was not able to sleep. ‘Why is she so late?’ ‘Did she fall asleep again?’ You were on my mind. It’s just you. Whenever I meet you on the bus coincidentally and when we went to the concert, and also, on my birthday, the shirt you gave me as a present, I was really happy that I thought I was crazy. I wanted to see you more than a dozen times a day. I was just so happy to see you. I wanted to tell you this a long time ago. I really like you. I love you.”

jungpal taek.jpg

Now… Out of all these things mentioned, why on earth is Jung-hwan still not the one? The answer is simple and it even came from his mouth. Taek wanted Deok-sun more than him. Taek loves Deok-sun more that he never had to hesitate when it comes to her. Well, there’s one scene with the cancelled movie date because Taek was able to find out about Jung-hwan’s feelings through that picture in his wallet. But what did the almighty Jung-hwan do? He still wasted all those freaking chances! It’s so frustrating to the point of absurdity. When you really love someone, heck, when you really want something won’t you do everything to get it, protect it, cherish it? Is his love not enough to make even just a single step towards Deok-sun? Or are all those hesitations and monologues about timing just excuses?


Believe it or not, I was the only one on the Taek-Deok-sun ship in the ahjummamshies squad. While they were wailing because of the sinking Jung-hwan ship, I was in cloud 9 because of Taek. Since Episode 1, my gut feel told me that Deok-sun will end up with Taek. If you ask me, why Taek when Jung-hwan was the fan favorite? Personally, I like straightforward guys. I prefer those who are all-out in displaying their feelings towards the girl they like. Taek may be timid, but he always tell everyone how much he likes Deok-sun. His innocence and honesty were what made me root for him.

Sun-woo: “Why Deok-sun?”

Taek: “I just like her. I like being with her and I almost feel like I could die when she smiles.”

To defend the 1988 OTP, the drama’s PD had this to say after being bashed:

“Contrary to normal drama productions, we have a team of writers working together on this drama. Every writer can express their views and I will choose ideas from different writers. Having ten people with IQ of 130 is smarter than having just one person with IQ of 200. However, no matter how many people there are working on the script, before we start filming, we will fix the main storyline. This is the direction that is approved by everyone, during filming, nothing is to interfere with the development of the main story. So, right from the beginning, we have already decided that Deoksun will end up together with Taek eventually.” – Shin Won-ho PD at the 22nd Shanghai TV Festival

What I love most about this squad was the way they took care of their maknae, Choi Taek. He was their neighborhood pride, their country’s national gem. But despite the fame and wealth, they treated Taek as an ordinary kid who just loved to play Go (Baduk). Remember when Taekkie was coping up with his loss? While every one else was tiptoeing around Taek, Deok-sun and the boys all pointed out what went wrong. They even taught him how to curse!

Reply 1988 squad 3.jpg

Turtle means eternal love.

I want to end this birthday feature on a happy note by highlighting the love Taek and Deok-sun. Taekkie, who was so cute he can’t even turn on a cassette tape on his own, was able to get the girl of his dreams because of two things: 1) He was always ready to fight for the love of his life, and 2) he was always so sure that it was Deok-sun for him. It was always Deok-sun in his heart… and he was ready to tell the world how much he loves her. He even asked for Jung-hwan’s permission as a sign of respect.

Reply 1988 Kiss.jpg

Whenever someone engages in love, it always involves risk – a calculated one, in fact. While falling in love may be fate’s way of pulling strings, acting on it lies solely on the people involved. Act too soon and recklessly, and you become a perv. Act too late and indecisively, and you might lose the chance forever. Falling in love, and winning someone’s heart then means, knowing what to do with your emotions, and when exactly.

Reply 1988 squad 2.gif

[All credit goes to tvN for the photos, videos, and gifs included in this blog]

2 thoughts on “K-Drama Rewind: Reply 1988

  1. There are a lot of memorable scenes in this series, but the cafe scene of Jung-bong and Man-ok is the most epic one for me! 😀 It made me think that smartphones could help us a lot these days, especially if you’re going on a blind date. 🙂 I agree there’s a lot to talk about Reply 1988 and I still can’t get over it. Worth watching again, too. 😀


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