Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 4/5
The Gwangju Uprising marks a horrific moment in Korean history. Back in May 1980, protestors were shot down and beaten for their part in protesting against the government.
Released at the start of May no less, Youth of May is a well written romantic Korean drama that centers on this conflict while weaving in a forbidden love angle around that. The result is one of this year’s bigger surprises; a beautifully written and touching tribute to those 600 people who lost their lives during this horrific incident.
At the center of our story lies Hee-Tae, a student-doctor who’s lost the passion for healing after witnessing an accident involving his friend Seok-Chul. With the boy recovering in hospital, Hee-Tae instead succumbs to his Father’s wishes and agrees to get married to a woman named Soo-Ryeon.
Free-spirited Soo-Ryeon is in no mood to be tied down though; an active protestor and a girl determined to fight against martial law. Instead, she sends her best friend Myung-Hee to her date. Myung-Hee is a hard-working nurse who’s worked for the last 3 years and stands up against injustices.
As fate would have it, Myung-Hee and Hee-Tae hit it off immediately and fall in love. Unfortunately Hee-Tae’s father also happens to be in charge of the military, a government minister by the name of Ki-Nam. He’s not happy with his son and when he finds out he’s seeing Myung-Hee, sets out to put a stop to this insolence.
As drama unfolds, the episodes tick by and fall squarely into uprising territory. In fact, the latter period of episodes are incredibly dramatic, highlighting the raw intensity and shock that civilians must have felt during these moments.
This is captured really well on screen too and there’s some incredibly tense sequences around this time. It’s here where friendships and relationships are tested, with all of our characters pushed to breaking point. All of this culminates in a dramatic, tear-jerking conclusion to this tale.
Instead of the usual 16 episode run though, Youth of May instead opts for a straight forward 12 episode run – and it’s all the stronger for it. The early episodes do tend to be a tad slow at times, but on reflection it’s needed to grow the relationship between the different characters.
This also serves to pull off the emotionally stirring conclusion, as our trio of main actors do an excellent job bringing their characters to life. No spoilers here of course, but given the subject material being dealt with, it was always going to be difficult to pull off a satisfying ending without disrespecting those lives lost in this conflict. Thankfully Youth of May absolutely nails its conclusion.
This is easily one of the bigger surprises this year; a mid-week gem that tells a compelling story well with enough emotion, heartache and tension to stand the test of time. Youth of May is a wonderful Korean drama and a must-watch for 2021.