Record of Youth
Studio Dragon (2020) 16 Episodes
Youth Melodrama / Comedy / Romance
Grade: B+
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

Record Of Youth (2020) is yet another example of a Korean drama in which I loved the actors, but felt the script was wanting in places, with an abundance of similar plot structures that long-term K-drama fans have seen for decades now. This seems to be quite the trend in K-DramaLand of late: don't rock the boat and strive to be unique, but stick with the same plot formulas they've used for ages. Perhaps the Korean entertainment industry is simply churning out too many Korean dramas per year now, because of their popularity around the world, and the quality of writing on many of them is falling short of exemplary because of rushed schedules. I can just imagine how much more funny and refreshing Record Of Youth would have been if writers like the Hong Sisters had breathed life into it. This particular writer, Ha Myung Hee, has written several dramas I had troubles falling in love with, or finishing previously. Oh well .... I guess her pattern with this drama is running true to form, for me, at least.

I honestly watched this for the two main actors, whom I love: Park Bo Gum (I Remember You, Moonlight Drawn By Clouds, Tomorrow's Cantabile, Encounter, etc) and Park So Dam ("Jessica" from the hit film Parasite, Beautiful Mind, Because This Is The First Time, Cinderella and The Four Knights, etc), and neither of them disappointed me in their performances here. Their characters were interesting enough to keep me going, even though sometimes I lost patience with the long-suffering personality qualities the writer subjected them with, such as putting up with the annoying abuse of family members and professional colleagues.

Second male lead, Byeon Woo Seok (Search: WWW, Live Up To Your Name, Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Dear My Friends), gave a nice, charming performance too: sensitive and tender at times, and totally believable as an actor-star whose mother often had more to do with his success than his own talent alone. Another performance I enjoyed was from supporting actress Shin Dong Mi, who played Park Bo Gum's character' new manager, and who made me giggle quite a lot with her comedic expressions and dialog. She looked so familiar to me, but I couldn't place where I had seen her before, and so I went looking at her resume, and was totally shocked to find out she had played the brain-damaged sister in the haunting Haneuljae Murder drama special from 2013, the one who shot her sister dead! Once you've seen her in that part her character will haunt you forever. I was glad to see her playing comedy here, instead of tragedy! She was excellent.

The Story:

Sa Hye Jun (Park Bo Gum) is an aspiring actor in his mid-twenties, who has achieved some notoriety as a model, but acting success eludes him whenever he goes up for auditions. He tries to hide his depression about it from his working class family, but with little success. He and his family all live together in a small apartment, which adds to the stress. They include his over-demanding father, Sa Young Nam (Park Soo Young, My Mister, Fix You) who is in construction; his mother Han Ae Sook (Ha Hee Ra) who works as a housekeeper for a rich family; his older brother Sa Kyeong Jun (Lee Jae Won, Master's Sun) who works in construction with the father; and his beloved grandfather Sa Min Gi (Han Jin Hee, Temptation Of An Angel, Cheongdam-dong Alice) who is his biggest supporter in the household. His Dad is always on his case about not bringing enough money in to contribute to household costs - at his age he considers this shameful. As it approaches time for Hye Jun to go fulfill his two year military requirement his father is furious at him for putting it off as long as possible because of his acting dream. (And of course in real Park Bo Gum immediately joined the Navy after finishing this drama - we won't see him again in a drama or film until 2022!).

Sa Hye Jun has two best friends from childhood whom he remains close with: the most important is a successful model turned actor named Won Hae Hyo (Byeon Woo Seok), whose rich mother Kim Yi Young (Shin Ae Ra) is your typical pushy stage mother, planning his career non-stop behind the scenes. For instance, she buys thousands of fake fan identities on Instagram for his web page, to make him look like he has more fans than he really does, and she constantly wines and dines journalists who report on entertainment news, to make sure he stays on top as a celebrity. She is estranged from her husband, Hye Jun's father, Won Tae Kyeong (Seo Sang Won) and they sleep in separate beds. It's pretty obvious she cares more about her son's success than she cares about her husband's affection. Hye Jun's mother works for this rich family, hence why the boys grew up as friends. Hye Jun's second best friend is Kim Jin Woo (Kwon Soo Hyun) who is barely scraping by as a photographer / crew person on the sets of Hae Hyo's dramas. He has a crush on Hae Hyo's younger sister, Won Hae Na (Jo Yoo Jung), which results in some cute, funny scenes.

One day both friends Hye Jun and Hae Hyo go to get their makeup done for a fashion shoot, and meet the sweet but quiet Ahn Jeong Ha (Park So Dam), who is a professional makeup artist but working under the cruel thumb of an older female boss named Jin Ju (Jo Ji Seung), who is jealous of her talents. Jeong Ha has one good friend who works with her named Choi Su Bin (Park Se Hyun), and she has had a very long-term crush on model Hye Jun. Her background photo on her cell phone is of childhood friends Hye Jun and Hae Hyo standing close together, and later, when she is confronted by Hye Jun, who senses she likes him, she lies and says it's actually Hae Hyo whom she secretly likes.

This upsets the apple cart for a very short time, but soon enough Hye Jun and Jeong Ha become friends, and then sweethearts. Hae Hyo seems a little interested in Jeong Ha, too, but it's obvious who she cares for the most as time goes on. They encourage her to open her own makeup shop, which she does. Away from the nastiness of her jealous boss, Jeong Ha starts growing stronger personally and professionally. She's also very kind and often gives free makeup tutorials to regular, every day girls who would like to look more attractive.

Hye Jun also begins to grow phenomenally, with his new financial success, breaking away from his former agency and signing on with a new one, headed by acquaintance Lee Min Jae (Shin Dong Mi, who definitely provided the most laughs to me in this show!). I loved all their banter back and forth. Hye Jun is finally cast in a good drama and his career takes off. However, this still doesn't please his father, who think it's all a flash-in-a-pan and that Hye Jun should do his military stint and then come back and get a solid, respectable job and start a family with someone.

Friction between father and son never seems to quiet down - until the very end of the drama when they beautifully make peace with one another - the ONLY scene in the entire drama that made me cry!


What will happen to Jeong Ha's and Hye Jun's growing romantic relationship now that they are both so much more successful and independent than they were when they first met? Will one of them, or both of them, put their careers first, and their romance second? What will happen to them when Hye Jun finally has to do his military duty? Will they split up, with the hopes of getting back together when he returns? I think the show did allow us to see the many stresses families in Korea feel when their sons have to by law train in the military for two years, unless they are deemed unfit to serve for health reasons. In real life I hope Park Bo Gum returns to civilian life and to new acting projects with great success. I shall miss him.

As for Park So Dam, I will always love her, in fact I got a signed autograph from her, how sweet. I will always follow her career closely, and I was THRILLED for her when her film Parasite won four Oscars earlier in 2020, including Best Picture. What a pip she is! My favorite of all her work so far is, honestly, her 2016 Korean drama with fabulous actor Jang Hyuk, Beautiful Mind, which I consider an A+ Masterpiece. They had fantastic chemistry together; they even had the same smile! Don't miss that drama if you are her fan.

Enjoy Record Of Youth. Despite a bit of dragging sometimes in the script, and some overuse of cliches and tropes, overall it portrays interesting personal and professional relationships among its characters. I think it's especially suitable for young viewers, and new fans to Korean dramas.