Park Bo-gum might be gone for the next two years as he’s now fulfilling his military service, but we won’t be deprived of him for too much thanks to his new drama ‘Record of Youth.’ Park So-dam (Parasite) joins as the female lead with Byun Woo-seok (Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency) rounding out as the second male lead. ‘Record of Youth’ will center around our three characters and their path to self-discovery as a coming-of-age story. Life isn’t easy and there’s going to be plenty of twists and turns, but it’s the process and all the details in between that will amount to bigger and better things.
Record of Youth: Episode 1 Recap
The first episode starts off with Sa Hye-jun (Park Bo-gum) re-enacting a scene from the Korean movie ‘The Terror Live’ that originally starred Ha Jung-woo. After watching the audition clip, the director of the movie voices his approval and interest in Hye-jun and is impressed by his acting. The rest of the staff feel otherwise as they’re certain they’re going to cast popular model-turned-actor, Hae-hyo (Byeon Woo-seok) for the role, but the director stands his ground.
Hye-jun is busy with one of his many part-time jobs. He stands outside of the waiting room for actor Park Do-ha (cameo by Kim Gun-woo) as a security guard. His ex-girlfriend, Lee Bo-ra (cameo by Kim Hye-yoon), pushes her way inside the room to meet with the actor who clearly gave Hye-jun instructions not to let her in. Although reluctant at first, Hye-jun eventually makes Bo-ra an exception and he lets her into the room. Bo-ra goes off on Do-ha upon meeting and exits shortly after declaring their break-up. Of course, Do-ha isn’t so happy with Hye-jun who was supposed to keep her out and the actor ends up beating up Hye-jun quite badly. While getting beaten up, Hye-jun thinks to himself how he hopes to become and have what Do-ha has as an actor. If a jerk like Do-ha can make it, then so can Hye-jun. The only thing is: he doesn’t have much time left. After the fight, Hye-jun stops by the restroom to treat the scar on his face.
It’s the year 2018. While taking a break during his photoshoot, Hae-hyo chats with his friend Jin-woo (Kwon Soo-hyun) after checking Hye-jun’s latest SNS post. Hye-jun’s posted a photo of his now wounded face and they grow concerned and curious as to what happened. Of course, this also prompts them to remember about the role that both Hae-hyo and Hye-jun auditioned for. Hae-hyo isn’t too worried about it since he’ll take care of Hye-jun if Hae-hyo was to get the role. Eventually, Jin-woo is called back to work while Hae-hyo picks up a call from his mother. She demands for him to get a haircut at her hair aned make-up salon, but he declines. The phone call ends and Hae-hyo’s mother (who I’m going to informally refer to as Mama Hae-hyo) turns her attention back on herself.
The only staff member present at the salon is Ahn Jeong-ha (Park So-dam) whose senior make-up artist is busy meeting with their salon director. Mama Hae-hyo is quite impatient and demanding and she instructs for Jeong-ha to do her make-up. Although Jeong-ha politely declines at first as she doesn’t quite feel prepared just yet, she is eventually thrown into doing Mama Hae-hyo’s make-up with no choice. Jeong-ha’s senior colleague, Jin-ju, returns to the salon to find Jeong-ha doing Mama Hae-hyo’s make-up which she isn’t so happy about. It’s not until the appointment concludes and Mama Hae-hyo leaves the salon that Jin-ju unleashes her anger out on Jeong-ha. She warns Jeong-ha never to steal her clients again or else she will face humiliating consequences the next time.
After the harsh scolding, Jeong-ha and her friend/co-worker, Su-bin, talk about the incident with Jin-ju back in the storage room. Su-bin cheers Jeong-ha up and concludes it as Jin-ju just simply feeling inferior to Jeong-ha who’s great and talented at her job. Speaking of Jin-ju, she’s attending the Homme fashion show that Hye-jun will also be going to. This would be the perfect opportunity for Jeong-ha to meet her idol and favorite celebrity, Hye-jun! However, Jeong-ha isn’t so keen on the idea. She rather her encounter with him be natural and fateful. To gain a little bit more strength, she glances at a few photos of Hye-jun that she’s saved in her phone. There’s nothing like having a lockscreen of your bias!
While heading to his company building, Hye-jun visits Hae-hyo’s SNS account and grows envious of the types of trips and photos that his friend has been posting. While Hae-hyo’s dream protects him, Hye-jun’s situation is the polar opposite in that his dream costs him a lot of money. He checks his account balance and it’s obvious that he’s struggling financially. When Hye-jun visits his CEO, CEO Lee, he demands for the money that he never was paid for his modeling gigs. CEO Lee comes up with a bunch of excuses to justify his actions, but it’s clear that he’s scamming models like Hye-jun and keeping all the money to himself. Sitting not too far away is former employee, Lee Min-jae (Shin Dong-mi), who threatens CEO Lee to pay Hye-jun for his work. She does have a bunch of photos and information that she could report CEO Lee for, like the photos of him with other ladies that she shortly sends to his wife via text.
Min-jae eventually leaves the office and is followed by Hye-jun who proposes that she be his manager. She can be his manager and they can work together in the future. However, Min-jae isn’t so opened and accepting of the idea just yet and she leaves Hye-jun empty-handed. Hye-jun returns to the office to end things with CEO Lee. He requests to terminate his contract with the CEO, but CEO Lee reminds Hye-jun that it was him who made Hye-jun the model that he is. It was him who helped Hye-jun rise to be a successful model. Hye-jun is fed up with CEO Lee and comes nearly close to punching him, but he refrains himself from doing so at the last second. It wouldn’t be worth it. Even with CEO Lee’s taunting comparison between successful Hae-hyo and struggling Hye-jun, Hye-jun keeps his calm. Hae-hyo is his friend so it’s different. The two eventually terminate their contract with each other and Hye-jun leaves the company without any money but he comes out a winner with freedom.
Just as Hye-jun exits the office, he receives an encouraging text message from Grandpa who showers him with support. Hye-jun chokes up upon reading the text, especially after the agitating encounter with CEO Lee, and the two have a friendly phone call with each other. Like usual, Grandpa showers Hye-jun with love, support, and encouragement. Although Hye-jun’s acting career might not be off to a great start, he knows Hye-jun will eventually come around to succeeding. He’s a gem that is bound to shine. And so while Grandpa returns to having some fun with his friends, Hye-jun proceeds to his other part-time job at Subway (NOOOO, NOT THE SUBWAY PPL. All I can think about is ‘Goblin’). Hye-jun is still a successful model so some of his fans show up at the store to support him. Hehe.
Back at her house, Mama Hae-hyo asks her maid, Mama Hye-jun, to hand wash some clothes that she had forgotten to throw into the washer. Mama Hye-jun explains that she has a family gathering to prepare for since her oldest son, Gyeong-jun, has earned a new job, but Mama Hae-hyo won’t let Mama Hye-jun go so easily. So although Mama Hye-jun originally didn’t want to, she stays behind to wash the clothes. Of course, Dad sends a reminder in the family group chat to which Hye-jun claims he’s going to be late. Mama Hye-jun knows Dad won’t be so happy with Hye-jun’s tardiness. Speaking of Dad, he chats with his co-worker/friend, Jin-woo’s dad, about the family party later on that evening and about Hye-jun. Dad’s not so happy with Hye-jun’s acting career and wishes that his son would just give things up. If it didn’t work out for seven years, Hye-jun should know better and just call it quits. Dad isn’t in the best physical condition as he’s had to work at a young age to pay off Grandpa’s debt. Now he’s worried about his son and he can’t help but be stressed out.
Mama Hae-hyo pays Mama Hye-jun some extra money for keeping her longer than scheduled. Mama Hye-jun and Hae-hyo chat for a bit before she leaves the house which Mama Hae-hyo is envious of. Her son is so friendly with Hye-jun’s mom, but doesn’t do the same with her. She also inquires on the fashion show that Hae-hyo has the next day and what she should feed her son. Hae-hyo isn’t so comfortable with his mom following his every move; although Mama Hae-hyo does a lot for him, he wants to show people that he got to where he is all on his own.
Mama Hae-hyo meets up with one of the staff members on the upcoming movie that both Hae-hyo and Hye-jun auditioned for. She uses her speaking skills as well as some gifts to bribe her way into ensuring that Hae-hyo gets the role. When Mama Hye-jun returns home from the grocery store, she’s joined by Jin-woo’s mother and together, they chat about the military draft notice that’s come in for Hye-jun. Mama Hye-jun can already imagine what the dinner party is going to look like and she’s not excited for it. While wrapping up work, Jeong-ha and Su-bin make plans to have dinner over at Jeong-ha’s house. Jeong-ha is also invited by the director of the salon, Director Yang, to the Homme fashion show taking place the next day. Jin-ju will need the extra help.
Hye-jun’s family as well as Jin-woo’s family prepare for the party for Gyeong-jun. Grandpa anxiously waits in his bedroom and ponders on when he should make his appearance at the party. Jin-woo’s younger sister, Jin-ri, stops by Grandpa’s room and invites him to join the rest of them in the living room. Hye-jun prepares to head back home after he finishes his part-time job at a barbecue restaurant. The owner of the restaurant encourages Hye-jun to stay at the restaurant and to work his way up as a manager. He’ll even give the position to Hye-jun after Hye-jun’s military service. However, Hye-jun has no plans of staying at the restaurant. He’s only doing it to make money at the moment and doesn’t see himself working there permanently.
After work, Hye-jun and Jin-woo walk together back to their neighborhood. To release some stress, Hye-jun goes on his usual night jog which Jin-woo isn’t the biggest fan of. Hae-hyo joins Hye-jun and Jin-woo as well upon finding them in the neighborhood and they all hang out at the neighborhood playground afterwards. Back at home, Jin-woo and Hye-jun’s family finally have dinner. It’s obvious there’s bad blood between Grandpa and Hye-jun’s dad and the two take jabs at each other in front of everybody. To clear up the air, Hye-jun’s dad congratulates Gyeong-jun on getting a job and they all give a toast.
Hae-hyo’s younger sister, Hae-na, stops by the playground to pick up Jin-woo and the couple go on a little date. Hye-jun and Hae-hyo stay behind and walk back to their respective houses. Hye-jun shares the pressure he’s been feeling as of lately and how the reality has been hitting him hard. They chat a bit about the movie that they both auditioned for, but neither Hye-jun or Hae-hyo has heard any news or updates yet. Regardless of who gets it, they’ll still be friends like how they are now unless something changes between the both of them. There’s no way of knowing what’s going to happen in the future, but the two vow to stay as friends.
Jeong-ha and Su-bin head to Jeong-ha’s house together for a pork belly dinner party! Fun! They record a video of themselves on the way home and then eat some dinner together. While eating at Jeong-ha’s house, Su-bin now understands why Jeong-ha always wants to eat at home. For Jeong-ha, it gives her a sense of stability. Su-bin argues that if Jeong-ha wants a sense of stability, she should get married. But marriage nor love is in any of Jeong-ha’s future plans and she doesn’t really care for either things. She doesn’t want to be in love, but she does want to be happy. Living alone in a house by herself gives her that happiness and stability.
When Hye-jun arrives home, he finds his father building a new door for Gyeong-jun’s bedroom in the front yard. Dad once again scolds Hye-jun for being out and not doing what he thinks is productive in Hye-jun’s life. Hye-jun skips past Dad and he enters the house to find Gyeong-jun’s bedroom door perfectly fine while his bedroom door is all beaten up. Mom then pulls Hye-jun aside to talk about the military draft notice that’s come in for Hye-jun. The aspiring actor isn’t so surprised or shocked at the notice and he gives in to his reality. Gyeong-jun shoves himself into the conversation and pushes Hye-jun to just serve in the military. It’s about time anyways. Hye-jun isn’t so happy with Gyeong-jun’s harsh words and treatment, but he’s also not so happy when he learns that his entire family has been talking behind his back (mom included). Dad eventually enters the house to also join the conversation to stand up for Gyeong-jun. Hye-jun leaves the living room to enter his bedroom where Grandpa awaits him after overhearing everything.
Seconds later, Dad follows Hye-jun and also enters the bedroom. He’s learned about the military draft notice and assumes Hye-jun hid it from him. Furthermore, he pushes Hye-jun to also serve. He’s wasting his days living as a model and trying to become an actor, but it’s all just a waste of time. He’s barely making any money and he’s not getting anywhere in his career. Dad uses Grandpa as an example and shows how Hye-jun could possibly fail like how Grandpa did as a celebrity. Because Grandpa was scammed using Dad’s money, Dad’s worked his entire life to pay off the debt and to provide for the family. Dad doesn’t want the same thing to happen so he discourages Hye-jun from pursuing his dreams of becoming an actor. Hye-jun is angry and upset with Dad for not believing in him and for talking about him behind his back. Mom cuts the conversation before it gets even more heated and she drags both Dad and Gyeong-jun into the restroom for a talk. She demands that they wait for Hye-jun to make his own decision on his life and for both Dad and Gyeong-jun to stay out of it. Hye-jun too needs some time to think things over like how Gyeong-jun was given the opportunity to do.
While editing the video that she took with Su-bin earlier that evening, Jeong-ha takes a short break to watch a video of Hye-jun modeling at a fashion show. She’s entertained by the video and excited at the thought of meeting her favorite celebrity. Hehe. While sleeping, Grandpa takes good care of Hye-jun and it’s obvious that he has a lot of love for his grandson. The next morning hits and it’s the day of the Homme fashion show! Everyone prepares for the show during the rehearsal and the fashion designer, Charlie Jung (Lee Seung-joon), gives tips to the models as they walk down the runway. He’s especially fond of Hye-jun who is the only model he compliments while he critiques everyone else. His producer (Tak Ho-jin) has to remind him to pay attention to the rest of the models as they proceed with the rehearsal.
Jeong-ha too is at the fashion show and she prepares her make-up station. She’s approached by both Hye-jun and Hae-hyo and is immediately starstruck upon seeing Hye-jun. Hae-hyo eventually is paired up with Jin-ju while Hae-hyo seats himself as Hye-jun’s client. She’s a bit nervous and accidentally drops a bottle that he happens to catch with one hand (wooooah he’s so cool). Eventually, Jeong-ha gets started with Hye-jun’s make-up and like the pro she is, she finishes his make-up effortlessly. Since he finishes first, Hye-jun is about to excuse himself, but he receives permission from Jeong-ha to stay at her make-up station as Hae-hyo isn’t done just yet since he’s waiting for Jin-ju to return from talking to Director Yang.
With Jin-ju away, Hae-hyo becomes conflicted as he receives a phone call from his mom who wants to meet with him to give him something. Hae-hyo doesn’t want to leave with his make-up not finished yet and Mama Hae-hyo only wants to meet with her son. With that, he requests for Jeong-ha to finish his make-up which she initially declines at first. He’s not her client so she can’t. Hae-hyo and Hye-jun assume Jeong-ha and Jin-ju must not be on good terms with each other which Jeong-ha is quick to deny, but her hesitant responses give it away. Eventually, Jeong-ha feels the pressure to do Hae-hyo’s make-up and she gives in. Of course, Jin-ju returns to find Jeong-ha working on her client and she’s not so happy. Like she warned before, she humiliates Jeong-ha in front of the two models and criticizes her for her actions. Hye-jun comes close to standing up for Jeong-ha, but Jin-ju warns them that doing so would only make things worse.
Jeong-ha steps outside to take a break after being scolded and ridiculed by Jin-ju. She’s not feeling the greatest, but she’s at least thankful that she was able to meet and interact with Hye-jun. While staring at her lock screen, she admires Hye-jun’s face and is grateful that she’s his fan. Seconds later, she hears someone approach her and ask her if she’s his fan. It’s none other than Hye-jun who walks up to her with a puzzled look on his face. Is Jeong-ha a fan of his? Does she like him? Jeong-ha freezes in shock upon seeing her favorite celebrity and she’s uncertain as to how to respond to the question.
Yes, Park Bo-gum! I am your fan! I like you! Jokes aside, that ending scene was a cute and adorable one. I’ll be honest — I wasn’t expecting our two leads to meet this early (which isn’t even early really but I’m more used to the two leads in a drama meeting more dramatically later on in like episode 2) and this informally in a drama so I thought that was a pleasant twist. I like that Jeong-ha and Hye-jun didn’t randomly meet on a street or at a restaurant or at one of Hye-jun’s many part-time jobs. They met at a fashion show where they were both respectively focusing on their jobs and they just happened to meet while preparing for the fashion show. It’s nothing too dramatic or too big and I liked how informal and effortless their first encounter was. I think dramas often love to often emphasize on the first meeting between the two leads and try to make it “fateful” or dramatic of some sort, but ‘Record of Youth’ was really nonchalant about everything which I appreciate. Hye-jun and Jeong-ha met under normal, simple circumstances and the drama wasn’t pretentious in how it set up their first interaction with each other.
I wanted to like this premiere episode a lot more, but I found myself not really drawn into things until the make-up scene part at the fashion show. That’s not to say that everything else leading up to that moment was boring or not interesting or not fun, but it wasn’t the most compelling for me personally. I did like the foundation that the drama set up and the context that was provided on Hye-jun’s life. I like that we got to witness what his relationship is with his parents and his family as well as this uncertain phase that he’s going through in his life at the moment. However, there wasn’t anything too gripping for me until Hye-jun and Jeong-ha met and that’s when my interest was fully capitalized.
I do feel for Hye-jun though and I get where he’s coming from and I like the fact that he’s fighting for his dreams despite knowing that it’s not what his family wants. I like that he’s not listening to what others have to say about him or that he’s not letting people influence him on what his plan in life should be. Sure, Hye-jun does feel discouraged as reality is hitting him (and the military draft notice doesn’t help either). However, if there’s anyone who’s going to decide on what his outlook in life should be, it’s going to be Hye-jun (as it rightfully should be) and I like that he doesn’t back down even when the odds are stacked up against him. Even when the world is against him or when his former CEO or even his own family is opposed to what he’s doing, he doesn’t let any of that get to him. Hye-jun possesses a persistence, confidence, and determination that is admirable and there’s going to be times where that persistence will waver but that’s okay because that’s all a part of life.
I appreciate that while we witness the current struggle that Hye-jun is going through in his respective life between his dreams vs. his family’s wants and expectations, he’s not entirely alone. He has Grandpa who he has an adorable relationship with and he also has his friends to lean on. I am a little afraid that the drama is going to twist Hye-jun and Hae-hyo’s friendship around since they both dream of being successful in the entertainment industry. Hae-hyo is already well on his way to big successes and wins and movie roles and he already has his name out there, but I’m scared that this is what is going to eventually tear apart his friendship with Hye-jun. Yes, they can claim all they want that they’re going to remain friends, but when competition is rough and roles and opportunities are scarce, things are going to change and things aren’t going to be easy. I hope Hae-hyo and Hye-jun do continue to remain friends through all the good and hard and bad times, but with just how competitive things are, I can also foreshadow a different outcome where things don’t go so well between the two and they find themselves growing apart. Is there a world where both Hae-hyo and Hye-jun can succeed and get their name out there and still remain good friends or will they grow distant as they strive to achieve their respective dreams?
With this writer being the same one who’s written dramas like ‘Doctor’ and most notably ‘Temperature of Love’, I think I was expecting something a little more. Granted, I’ve never watched either dramas before, but I’ve heard some good things about ‘Temperature of Love’ so I was a little surprised with the writing in this first episode. I think the same thing could be said about the directing where the director’s previous works includes ‘Memories of the Alhambra.’ I know ‘Memories of the Alhambra’ wasn’t the greatest drama per se (which now explains Charlie Jung and his fashion show producer’s appearance in this episode.. I knew they looked familiar), but I do remember it looking pretty cool, seamless, and pretty so I think I was expecting something similar for ‘Record of Youth.’ I understand that the genre and needs of the two dramas are tremendously different given that ‘Record of Youth’ is a more simple coming-of-age drama, but I would have appreciated a little extra boost in the directing. I think some more fun in the directing would have allowed me to like the drama a little bit more and would have definitely been more captivating. ‘Record of Youth’ wasn’t bad with its first episode, but it wasn’t one of those premiere episodes that hit all the right spots in the right place. Sure, I enjoyed it, but it didn’t completely blow me out of the park or capture my interest.
‘Record of Youth’ wasn’t off to a horrible start and it has the potential to tell a beautiful ‘coming-of-age’ story, but I do think there is definitely room for improvement. Granted, this is only the first episode out of many, but I hope there’s opportunities for it to be even bigger and better than it was with this first episode. I’m placing my trust in Park Bo-gum given that this was his last project prior to his military service and with other names like Park So-dam, I’m holding onto the hope that things will take off and get better. To ‘Record of Youth’, please leave a good record in K-dramaland!