Twinkling Watermelon
aka Sparkling Watermelon
반짝이는 워터멜론
tvN (September - November 2023) 16 Episodes

Genres: Time Travel, Family, Romance, Music
Grade: A+ (Masterpiece)
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
(Some Spoilers)


An exquisite, enchanting, and engrossing time travel Korean drama masterpiece, Twinkling Watermelon (late 2023) had a huge production budget of 16 billion won, and the extraordinary quality showed in every episode. Independent cable station tvN outdid themselves with this special story, similar to the high quality seen in their many outstanding earlier dramas like Goblin, My Mister, Nine: Nine Time Travels, The Crowned Clown, Dear My Friends, and Crash Landing On You. The writer, Jin Soo Wan, has a great script-writing resume history, including the outstanding Chicago Typewriter (another tvN masterpiece), The Moon Embracing The Sun, and the popular Kill Me Heal Me. The director was Son Jung Hyun who had also directed delights like When My Love Blooms and Protect The Boss. With this pedigree I knew I would be in for something extra-special, especially since a trusted friend had watched it before me and loved it.

The excellent main cast was filled with relatively new young actors such as Ryeoun (The Secret Romantic Guesthouse) and Choi Hyun Wook (D.P.) and actresses Seol In A (Record Of Youth) and Shin Eun Soo (Summer Strike), as well as many delightful character and veteran actors and actresses such as Choi Won Young (Twenty Again, Mystic Pop Up Bar, Alice, Heirs), Seo Young Hee (Would You Like A Cup Of Coffee?, Mermaid Story, film The Classic), Cheon Ho Jin (City Hunter, Bridal Mask, The Story Of Park's Marriage Contract), and the always joyful to watch Ko Doo Shim (Twinkle Twinkle, The Snow Queen, Swallow The Sun, When The Camellia Blooms). Then later in the story up pops another long time favorite of mine, actor Kim Tae Woo, who had played the unforgettable villain Mul Chul in That Winter The Wind Blows. Also, the always wonderful Park So Han from My Mister and Maestra.

So Great To See Actress Lee So Yeon Again

I was also thrilled to see actress Lee So Yeon, whom I had loved in the classic Spring Waltz, and actor Ryu Jin who had played Ye Jin Son's fiance in Summer Scent. And to make me grin in the last scenes, another long time favorite actor of mine shows up in a brief cameo role, Ryu Soo Young (My Princess, The Memory In My Old Wallet, Two Weeks, The Good Witch, film My Puppy). So many favorites in this cast, such a joy! Then I was delighted to see that most of the drama was filmed in the city of Chuncheon, which always brings back to me great memories of classic dramas that also had scenes filmed in this city and its environs, such as Winter Sonata, Sad Love Story, Goblin, and 49 Days. I always enjoy watching Korean dramas that have scenes filmed outside of the usual Seoul for a change, so I can see more of the country of Korea besides that one city. 

Tree-lined Alley in Chuncheon In Twinkling Watermelon
Made Famous In Winter Sonata When Bae Yong Joon and Choi Ji Woo
Walked Along Its Path Together Two Decades Earlier

The Story:

A bright and personable young boy named Ha Eun Gyeol (fabulous child actor Jeong Hyun Jun, My Dearest) is the caring son of two deaf parents (Choi Won Young, Seo Young Hee) who love him and his older deaf brother Ha Eun Ho (Bong Jae Hyun from the boy idol group Golden Child) unconditionally. Because Eun Gyeol is the only member of his family who is not deaf he is often relied upon by his family to take on the heavy responsibility of communicating to others outside their family who have troubles trying to understand his parents or brother because they can only communicate through sign language or the printed word. They own a small restaurant and Eun Gyeol and his deaf brother often help out to make the running of the place go smoothly. Despite all this extra responsibility Eun Gyeol is an excellent student, so much so that his Dad expects him to go to college and eventually become a lawyer. However, Eun Gyeol has his own secret passion: learning music, especially playing the guitar when a kindly local music store merchant nicknamed Grandpa Viva (Cheon Ho Jin) takes an interest in him and begins to teach him the instrument free of charge.

During a move to a new apartment, run by a cantankerous older landlady (Kim Mi Hwa), Eun Gyeol becomes the target of her bratty little son (Kim Ha Eun), and the family actually suffers dangerous consequences when the nasty kid kicks a lit cigarette butt into their apartment, which sets the place on fire. On the night that happened the parents had gone out, leaving Eun Gyeol in charge of the sleeping brother Eun Ho. However, Eun Gyeol, in what seems like the only time in his life so far where he had disobeyed his parents, runs out to go to the music store and that's when the fire occurs, risking his brother's life! The parents come home to find their apartment in flames and their mean landlady having a hissy fit that her apartment complex has been ruined. While firefighters work to put out the blaze Dad runs in and rescues the sleeping brother and then again runs in to try and find Eun Gyeol, thinking he might be trapped in the apartment. But Eun Gyeol arrives outside the burning building from his secret visit to the music store, and is shocked at the fire, yet ultimately relieved to find both his brother and Dad are all right, just requiring some medical intervention. Now the family has to find yet another place to live. The rotten little kid who had started the fire gets off without blame, even though his own mother quietly suspects he had started the fire.

Then a tragedy hits Grandpa Viva. It seems like the old fellow might have died by suicide. Eun Gyeol is devastated and stands outside the music store weeping after hearing the news that his friend and teacher is dead. At that moment a woman and her young daughter pass him by on the street and the little girl stares at him sadly before they enter the now closed up music shop. We suspect that this little girl will eventually have a big impact on Eun Gyeol's life, especially when we learn that she had been Grandpa Viva's own granddaughter. In time the music store is torn down and a house is raised in its place, where Grandpa's daughter and grand-daughter live as the girl grows up.

Years pass and Eun Gyeol is now 18 years old and soon to graduate high school. He is still close to his deaf parents and brother. His grades are still excellent and his Dad continues to praise him, encouraging him to plan for a career in law. However, Eun Gyeol's true love is still music, and he sometimes sneaks off and plays the guitar for the public in the city, though masked up so nobody recognizes him to alert his Dad. The guitar he plays is a fancy electric one that Grandpa Viva had left him, which his grown daughter had delivered to him after her Dad's death.

Then a young rock band calling themselves Spine9 (actors Koo Jun Hoe, Yeon Oh, Han Min, Jung Gang Hee), one that is popular in town with teens, approach Eun Gyeol and ask him to join their group. He agrees and begins to join in their performances in concert halls, though still masked. Then one auspicious night he removes the mask, the crowd cheers when they see his handsome face, but his old nasty landlady happens to be in the audience and spies him playing rock music with the band. Later she slyly goes to Eun Gyeol's Dad and lets him know that his son is playing in a rock band instead of studying to prepare for college. Uh oh! The truth will out!

Dad hits the roof and confronts Eun Gyeol angrily, but Eun Gyeol lashes back at Dad for the first time in his life and tells him that he wants to live his own life, make his own choices for a career, and he wants that career to be in music, not law. The huge argument between Dad and son is to have long term implications on both their lives. Soon thereafter Eun Gyeol meets a strange man nicknamed Master (Jung Sang Hoon) who runs a music instrument store in town, and he seems to know everything about Eun Gyeol. Without Eun Gyeol understanding the importance of the moment this Master mystically gives him a ticket to a portal door to the time period of 1995! As Eun Gyeol leaves the music store he is shocked when he realizes he is in a different time period, had just left a book store and not a music store, and even more shocked when he suddenly meets a young man with the same exact name as his Dad, but that this young lad can hear just fine, speak just fine! "Dad, is that you?"

Journey To 1995!!!
This high school student who appears to be his Dad when young, Ha Yi Chan (Choi Hyun Wook, lovely performance), believes that Eun Gyeol is a musician he and his friend were planning on meeting so that they could ask him to join their newly formed band. Oh! So Dad himself had loved music too when he was young! What happened to turn him against music as a career? Eun Gyeol is intrigued and plays along with the situation. He is invited to stay at Yi Chan's mother's boarding house, a warm Ahjumma named Go Yang Hee (Ko Du Shim), whom Eun Gyeol recognizes as his own grandma, only years younger. She is only too happy to allow Yi Chan's friends and Eun Gyeol to meet at her place for friendship and music practice, rest and delicious food. Much camaraderie occurs as time passes and the boys form their band called Watermelon Sugar (member actors Ahn Do Kyu, Yoon Jae Chan, Lee Ha Min, Lee Su Chan).

Teen boys, of course, develop their crushes on certain girls who enter their lives, sometimes in odd or mysterious ways. Yi Chan at first zeroes in on the local high school's famous cello player named Choi Se Kyung (Seol In A) who comes from a wealthy family and who seems to already have an older fiancee picked out for her by her family. Yi Chan doesn't let that stop him from flirting with her, to the point of almost seeming to be a pest about it. Finally she tells him if she likes his band she'll consider dating him. She doesn't expect to like it so she figures that will give her a good excuse to tell the pest to beat it for good. Watching all this develop from the sidelines is Eun Gyeol who becomes very concerned: this Se Kyung girl is not his own deaf mother! He doesn't want his Dad Yi Chan to end up with Se Kyung! Then he'd never be born!

Then we meet another teen girl in the school who keeps to herself, never talks to anyone, and who almost always seems to have ear buds in her ears. Her name is Yoon Chung A (Shin Eun Soo) and it's obvious she has a crush on Yi Chan because she often stares at him longingly from a distance. Eun Gyeol soon realizes that this girl must be his future mother when he learns her name and that she is deaf!

Is there anything Eun Gyeol can do to divert his new friend - his teenage Dad! - from Se Kyung the cellist to the quiet deaf girl Chung A? It seems like it might take a miracle but since Yi Chan is basically a very chivalrous young man that works in Eun Gyeol's favor when circumstances force him to help out Chung A from a dangerous situation. Once he realizes she is deaf his compassion grows for her, he begins to learn sign language, and over time his romantic interest in Se Kyung fades and focuses instead on Chung A. He even gifts her with a little kitten (at which point I kept melting!).

While all this is occurring it seems that it's Eun Gyeol who is becoming more and more attracted to Se Kyung! Through all the fluctuations in romantic feelings the two girls, Chung A and Se Kyung, become fast friends. Eun Gyeol begins to suspect that Se Kyung is full of mysteries and seems to know what will happen in the future to all of them. Could Se Kyung possibly be ... a time traveler herself???

Chung A's family situation is hazardous to her, with a Chairman Dad named Yoon Gun Hyeong (Kim Tae Woo) who doesn't quite recognize early enough that their long time private housekeeper (Kim Joo Ryung) is not fond of Chung A at all and would privately love to see her destroyed in favor of her own morally loose son (Kwon Do Hyung). Thankfully the Chairman eventually catches on to her evil nature and tells her and her son to leave their mansion. He plans to send Chung A to a college accepting hearing impaired students when she graduates high school.

The friendship between Yi Chan and Eun Gyeol grows deeper day by day, especially through their love of music. As time goes by, however, Eun Gyeol worries about how his dear friend-dad could possibly go deaf, as he was as an adult. Was it due to an accident or sabotage by a lurking enemy? If it will be an accident or sabotage how could Eun Gyeol prevent that disaster from happening? If he could save Yi Chan would Eun Gyeol decide to remain in 1995, or return to 2023?

Twinkling Watermelon is really a must-see Korean drama; it's not your typical time travel romance story, but combines themes of family devotion and compassionate family restoration. I came a little late to the drama but I am so glad I finally took the plunge! It's available streaming HERE on Viki.com.

I wondered how I would feel if I could travel back in time and meet my parents when they were very young, before they were married and before I was born. I probably would have loved and understood them better, even more than I did while we were all together while they were still alive. :)

My Parents Before I Was Born

The performances in this drama were all beyond poignant; especially in episodes 14 and 15 I lost count of how many times I cried! Not because the scenes were particularly sad, but because they were so BEAUTIFUL. So impressive, so unforgettable. Don't miss Twinkling Watermelon!



Picture Gallery