Ending With A Whimper
We begin episode 16 of Record Of Youth with Hye-Jun and Jin-U meeting up at their familiar hang-out spot with Hae-Hyo. Given how much they’ve all been through, Jin-U doesn’t want to talk to Hae-Hyo and leaves. When he does, the best friends discuss Hye-Jun’s break-up with Jeong-Ha.
We then skip forward to the moments following the end of episode 15. Hye-Jun drives Jeong-Ha down to the seafront but their conversation is frosty and standoff-ish . Hye Jun’s not happy with the way she ended things and encourages her to lean on him. She’s having none of it though and eventually they agree to remember and look back fondly on their time together.
Elsewhere, Yeong-Nam helps Min-Ki with his photoshoot and has a keen eye for his Father’s good side. The manager there learns of his familial connections and immediately asks for help. Yeong-Nam drives a hard bargain though.
Back home Hye-Jun contemplates signing his contract with Min-Jae. Only, midway through mulling over the terms, Ae-Suk arrives with food. There, she learns that he and Jeong-Ha have broken up.
While he eats the food she’s got her, Hye-Jun tells his Mother he wants her to stop working at Hae-Hyo’s house. It’s strenuous work and tells her if she really loves him then she’ll do this for him.
Tae-Su looks at the news surrounding Hye-Jun’s drama and deliberates over exactly how to sign him up. This is only made worse by Do-Ha’s destructive record continuing with the girls he met the previous night. After calling one of the girls dense, there’s a hefty settlement of 500 million won hanging over this.
Tae-Su plays the girl at her own game though, showing that he’s actually recording her and finishing things mutually without a deal. As the girl leaves, we cut across to Jeong-Ha who records her final YouTube video, thanking her subscribers for their help.
Meanwhile, the trio of friends all meet up and discuss their futures following a game of basketball. Hye-Jun deliberates over whether to quit completely and enlist in the military after fulfilling his dream. Heading home, he calls a family meeting.
Hae-Hyo has a meeting of his own too, speaking plainly with his Mother about how the spotlight has changed to Hye-Jun instead of him. He doesn’t have ill feelings toward this though and although he hates not being centre of attention, he still believes he’ll make it and that I-Yeong raised a good son.
He then tells his sister that he’ll support her decision no matter what regarding the relationship with Jin-U. When she’s picked up by him, he tells her to return to her life and doesn’t think they should be together.
On the back of Hae-Hyo’s encouraging words, I-Yeong decides to take control and become her son’s legal advisor when his contract runs out. Before she can continue though, Jin-U’s Mother quits her job as chef. She’s not the only one either, as Ae-Suk also quits too despite I-Yeong trying to to guilt-trip her into staying.
Meanwhile, Yeong-Nam meets Jin-U’s Father and the pair catch up before their scheduled family meeting. There, Hye-Jun makes his decision and tells them all he’s decided to enlist. Given how much effort it took to get to the top, the rest of the family have soon changed their tune since earlier in the series.
Things eventually become heated, leading Yeong-Nam to doubt his own parenting skills. He takes his leave and questions with Ae-Suk alone whether he’s a good Father or not.
Min-Jae meets Hye-Jun where they discuss the contract. He decides to renew with her for 3 years – with 2 of them taken up with enlistment. It’s a sigh of relief from Min-Jae but another nail in the coffin for Tae-Su. Su-Man releases another damning article, this time surrounding Do-Ha’s debt scandal which causes Tae-Su to scramble and try to play damage control.
Jeong-Ha meets Hae-Hyo at the library but she can’t stop thinking about Hye-Jun there. She immediately decides to leave but it turns out Hae-Hyo is enlisting in the military very soon, which is the real reason he met her originally. He doesn’t disclose this to her though and lets Jeong-Ha head home. In her house, Jeong-Ha watches Hye-Jun’s drama and even wears the shoes he got her too.
Hae-Hyo meanwhile heads home and gives his Mother a big hug. He clearly hasn’t told her what’s happening and heads out early, ready to enlist. He does leave a message for her though, thanking I-Yeong for her help and how she did a good job raising him. Upon reading this, she breaks down in tears.
After sending a message to his fans, informing them all where he’s going, Hye-Jun heads back to the library and reminisces on his time with Jeong-Ha. He then does a live broadcast for everyone and – live on-air – thanks his fans for the love and support they’ve given him. He promises to return in good health.
2 years pass and Jeong-Ha is very busy, with clients lined up and talking on the phone. Hye-Jun returns from enlistment to celebrate Min-Ki winning an award too. There, Min-Ki thanks Yeong-Nam specifically – a throwback to when Hye-Jun missed him off at his award ceremony. He promises to repay Yeong-Nam as best he can and dedicates his award to him.
Back home, Yeong-Nam speaks to Hye-Jun and apologizes for the past. Specifically, he regrets not being there for him during his difficult moments. It’s been a long time coming, but the pair finally talk openly after all this time.
Yeong-Nam also regrets hitting him and was angry at himself for not being able to support his son. He felt like he could do nothing for him and was scared.
With everything resolved and the kids entering their 30’s, Jin-U, Hae-Hyo and Hye-Jun meet up in their familiar spots and talk about their changing fates. Their friendship has endured over time and Hye-Jun settles back into his role on-set just as before.
Rocking up at the same drama happens to be Jeong-Ha. Both her and Hye-Jun lock eyes on passing and eventually walk together, catching up on what they’ve missed. It turns out she’s wearing his shoes but claims not to be hung up on him though. The duo appear to be content being friends and walk off together.
The Episode Review
So this is how Record Of Youth ends; with a whimper rather than a roar. In terms of slice of life dramas, I guess this one does a pretty good job depicting these characters growing up in Korea but without the character growth to go with it.
I-Yeong is a horrible, selfish woman and even here, after 16 episodes, her character just has not grown. She’s still unable to see beyond her own vanity and it’s only Hae-Hyo’s letter about enlisting that causes her to start crying.
And what of Hae-Hyo’s career and love life then? Clearly nothing happened between him and Jeong-Ha as he enlisted but his career and aspirations are completely sidelined for Hye-Jun’s journey instead.
Jeong-Ha is now a hotshot beautician but again, those 2 years that caused her to ascend that way aren’t really shown. That’s to say nothing of Jin-U either who decides not to become romantically attached with Hae-Na and now has his own studio.
And what about that award ceremony too. While it’s touching that Min-Ki thanked Yeong-Nam for his help, it does feel a bit out of character that he didn’t at least mention Hye-Jun. And Hye-Jun, from the looks of it, has slotted nicely back into his role of doing dramas.
When you look at where the characters are now compared to at the start of this show, yes they’ve all grown in terms of their careers but personality-wise there isn’t that much of a seismic shift. Yeong-Nam and Hye-Jun’s relationship is probably the big highlight but everything else here is just so forgettable.
There’s no ill-feelings, regret or tension between Hye-Jun and Jeong-Ha at the end either and there’s a weird nonchalant feel to this one in the way it unceremoniously ends.
Record Of Youth has been a real rollercoaster ride as I’ve said before but unfortunately it’s a tame one at best. Compared to all the brilliant dramas that have released this year from Korea, Record Of Youth is not one you’ll keep a record of anytime soon.