Twenty Years Old aka 20's Love Story
스무살 (Jan. 2014) TvN 4 Episodes
Romantic Comedy, Grade: B-

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


I watched this charming young people's romantic Korean drama Twenty Years Old (2014) with my then 16 year old daughter and we both enjoyed it immensely. It's nice to share quality Korean dramas with young people; these shows are so much better than anything on American television today. This one is much shorter than the typical length K-drama of 16 to 20 episodes; it's only four episodes, so it's a good intro choice for American kids, to get them interested in high quality K-dramas and Korean culture.

The twenty year old young lady in this drama, named Hye-rim Kim (spirited actress Da-in Lee who will soon star in Hyun Bin's new movie The Fatal Encounter), has to make some difficult moral choices in regards to friendship and love and intimacy, and she is a sweet combination of sensitive, wise, introspective, funny, patient, and compassionate, so it is fun to watch her; a good role model for young girls like my daughter. Hye-rim is concerned with many of the same things many other young girls care about today: peer pressure, makeup and fashion, dating, education. She's not perfect, she makes mistakes, but she learns from them and doesn't repeat them. She lives with her best friend Ga Young (Hye Ji Kim) while going to college, and at first she has a crush on a young man named Tae Woo (
Tae Oh Kang) who hangs out in their clique of friends, but one night he texts her to meet him alone and he tries to steer her into a local seedy motel. She is shocked and makes a hasty retreat, crying in the rain, her hopes for a nice romance dashed.

Friend Ga Young has a mammoth crush on a K-pop idol named Ki Kwang Lee (the actor's real name) who performs with a band named Beast. Hye-rim had known him in middle school and they had had a pre-teen romance going on, but Hye-rim keeps this information to herself. Ga Young persuades her to attend one of his concerts and she reluctantly goes. Then afterward, amidst screaming fangirls, Hye-rim loses her sandal and gets down on hands and knees under crowds of girls to find it; however it is kicked right to the front of the line and when Hye-rim lifts her head there is the idol Ki Kwang staring down at her. A rush of memories come flooding back to her, of their days in middle school, and a moment where their innocent romantic relationship had gone wrong due to a misunderstanding. He does not say one word to her but looks at her penetratingly for a minute and then walks off to get in his waiting limo. "He probably doesn't recognize me," Hye-rim reasons to herself, but gosh, how wrong she was!

One night when Hye-rim is out on a walk she runs into a boy with his face hidden by a sweat jacket hoodie. He lifts it up off his face and smiles at her and says, "It's me!" and Hye-rim is shocked to see Ki Kwang standing there, looking embarrassed but interested in getting to know her again. They walk along the street and chat and then she invites him into her home, figuring that her roomie Ga Young will be there, but no, she is missing from her bedroom, so Hye-rim is left to awkwardly entertain Ki Kwang by herself. Suddenly she starts crying about the incident they had had years earlier that had ruined their fledgling puppy love romance, and he apologizes over and over and over again. When she stops crying they have an open discussion about it and she thinks to herself, "Maybe if we had been able to talk about it calmly back then like we are doing now who knows what would have happened between us?"

They start to date but Ki Kwang is ordered by his publicity team to keep their relationship secret. Hye-rim still doesn't tell her best friend Ga Young about their relationship. Then on Hye-rim's 21st birthday, as Ki Kwang takes her to a secluded spot to give her a cake and sing happy birthday to her, suddenly their nice date is interrupted by throngs of reporters shoving cameras in their faces and shouting out questions about their relationship. He runs to his car and shouts for her to get inside, and they hurry away from the chaos. His publicity team is upset at the leak and even more upset is Ga Young, who is angry that Hye-rim didn't trust her enough to confide in her about her relationship with her favorite band idol. Ga Young leaves the apartment, it appears for good, and Hye-rim is devastated to lose her best friend. Then Ki Kwang has to leave and go on tour with his band and doesn't bother calling Hye-rim for weeks. She feels forlorn for a long while until finally she makes amends with Ga Young, and not too long thereafter Ki Kwang comes back into her life. This time he is adamant that his relationship with Hye-rim should be an open and above board one, and he courageously tells the press that they are seriously dating.

This is not the most provocative K-drama you will ever see, but it's really a thoughtful one in its own special way, and shows the dating stresses felt by the current pop idols in Korea, and how those can negatively affect the loved ones they are dating. Korean entertainers are very private about their relationships, compared to those in Hollywood, where gossip is god. While watching this drama we see why there is concern with protecting the loved one from the glare of the press so they can lead as normal a life as possible.