Record of Youth: The Missing Stories of Jung Ha
It was not about the ending. I could take it. It’s just the presentation of how the main characters’ stories evenly narrated. I got it; Record of Youth could serve as the send-off drama for Park Bo Gum’s enlistment in the military. This drama is made for him and he nailed his character as Sa Hye Joon. But to be fair, or shall I say as a Park So Dam fan, her character as Ahn Jung Ha equally deserves the screen time, deeper story development in the entire 16 episodes. She is a main and the only female lead after all.
I don’t have much power to have a coffee with Writer Ha Myung Hee and ask her why she made Jung Ha in almost half of the show like a guest in her own drama. Instead, I made a short list of the story angles on Jung Ha’s character, which I desperately wished were touched a bit more minutes in Record of Youth.
WARNING: The following contents include spoilers!
It’s a one-step closer to make use of her YouTube platform, to help Hye Joon in proving that he’s not gay and has actually a girlfriend. It’s a channel for make-up enthusiasts, and to add a content about her personal life is both a risk and an opportunity.
I got it when Jung Ha declined the help from a company to develop her YouTube channel—because she is an independent woman. Why did she not stay true to that independence until her YouTube channel served as the initial way of getting clients and building her own make-up studio, instead of feeling uncomfortable in getting a recommendation from her friend, Won Hae Hyo (Byeon Woo Seok)? In some instances, her YouTube content did help in securing a client. But if the story did not forcibly highlight the love triangle of Jung Ha, Hye Joon, and Hae Hyo, then her YouTube career, which was plotted good in the beginning, had some more screen time and thus, more story about Jung Ha. To stay low and to protect her personal life is anyway already at half-risk the moment she started the channel.
The story of Hye Joon’s family is one of the highlights of Record of Youth, and it has the greatest flow—each member has. Why couldn’t Jung Ha’s family share the amount of story, which actually has a big potential to develop? The female lead’s family has affected her youth and how she’s been dealing life—from her parents’ separation to living alone. It has a totally different set of flaws and fine points compare to Hye Joon’s. The lack of Jung Ha’s family to be narrated could be more acceptable if Hae Hyo’s or other character’s family were given a lesser amount of exposure. The family of Jin Woo (Hae Hyo’s and Hye Joon’s friend), a supporting role, was even tackled more than Jung Ha’s parents. What kind of new families that her parents have, were not even talked a bit more. The recovery journey of Jung Ha’s father from a penniless artist into a rich man who can support his daughter’s business could have been an interesting side for Jung Ha’s story. How Jung Ha’s mother could support her alone when they left her father, could also be another story to narrate, instead of allotting scenes for the unnecessary and too many characters who try to ruin Hye Joon’s career.
Meeting Hye Joon’s Family
I patiently waited for the meeting of Jung Ha and Hye Joon’s mother, Ae Sook (Ha Hee Ra). These two most important women in Hye Joon’s life could never share a cup of coffee or tea. These two women, who can truly understand Hye Joon, could never share the same frame throughout the show. That classic scene in a K-drama when a loving mother prepares a complete set of dishes when there’s a special visitor was missed terribly. Jung Ha’s story needed that scene to complement her “living alone” story. Jung Ha, who grew up in a broken family, could find that missing piece of realising and seeing how important it can be to have a support system (in whatever form) from the members of your family.
The meeting of Jung Ha and Hye Joon’s grandfather was a good start. But just like the other potential scenes to give Jung Ha’s story more highlight, the script did not give the audience enough satisfaction. A simple call of Hye Joon’s grandfather to Jung Ha when he started receiving some jobs for modelling could be sufficient for extra minutes in the screen of the drama’s female lead. Isn’t Jung Ha who gave an idea to Hye Joon that his grandfather can be a good model?
Circle of Friends
While Hye Joon’s friends and even his ex-girlfriend, were given enough direction in the show, Jung Ha’s circle of friends were hardly to be found. Okay, she has this friend in the salon and even appeared in the last episode. Okay, Jung Ha is an independent woman who solves her problems by her own. But, she is still a human, vulnerable of loneliness and in need of a companion of a true friend and not someone who looks at her in a romantic way. Yes, there were enough scenes of her and Hae Hyo hanging out together. A scene of having a drink with her only girl friend in the drama would do no harm. A scene of meeting and finding friends from her customers could be an ideal story for her. A scene of being close with Hae Hyo’s sister could also be an additional stretch to Jung Ha’s limited participation as a female lead.
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These are just some questions and ideas that could easily feed my starving eyes as a Park So Dam fan. Record of Youth was not a bad drama. But with a lot of overly good K-dramas in 2020, both in story and cast criteria, Record of Youth can hardly stand in the Top 10, nor Top 20 for my liking. Its potential to give the main leads’ proportional chance to cater their talent was not justified. If you a Park Bo Gum fan, definitely watch this drama for the reasons of seeing him a lot and validating his acting talent. If you are looking for a drama that will not cut your interest in the middle of its run, Record of Youth might not be for you. If you like Park So Dam, you might want to wait for her next project where she can be treated as a real female lead in terms of screen time or watch her in Parasite and in Cinderella and the Four Knights.
Everything mentioned above is based on the writer’s opinion. Have you watched Record of Youth? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Fangirling: Started from Full House. Continued in Secret Garden. Though a total K-drama addict, she’s a newbie in the world of Korean and Chinese idols.
Personal: She is a lover of coffee and cheese. She’s been wandering slowly (very) for seven years, finding home in cities she fell in love with. When she can win over laziness, she will let the words flow.