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[One True Pairings] That weren’t set up by Fate


Fight My Way

By @rinny

I think we could all agree that in the land of dramas, the most common reason for a One True Pair to come together is the magic wand of Fate. In recent dramas, you could argue Moon-ho and Gang-do in Just Between Lovers, Jia and Min-kyu in I’m Not a Robot, and Sun-mi and Oh-gong in Hwayugi were all drawn together by Fate.

But what about the couples that are just a good match? The couples brought together by a more realistic reason? Where are they? They exist, but they can be a little more difficult to spot in dramaland. They are commonly found in friends-to-lovers or slice-of-life dramas, where they come across much more organically. Fight My Way had a great couple in Ae-ra and Dong-man, who kept coming back to each other not because of the magic of fate but because they were such an integral part of each other’s lives they were less of themselves without the other.


Fight My Way

When you compare all the “fated” pairings to more organic pairs, they feel hollow to me because they take away from the autonomy of the characters. This is especially true when the characters go from enemies to lovers, where often, circumstances outside their control keep pushing them together.

But of all the non-fated couples, there is a specific set that stands out to me. The Answer Me series revolves around several stories of ultimate One True Pairings. If I were to write a list of my favorite couples, all the Answer Me couples would rank among the best. And the reason for their relationships being so great? Fate is not the driving force. Instead, it is because the characters made and acted on choices that followed behavior already set up earlier in the drama.


Answer Me 1988

The reasons the stories were so well loved and drew so many angry tears, particularly in Answer Me 1988, was because the stories could have gone differently if the characters did not actually take authorship in their own stories.

So I would like to nominate the One True Pairing that is the truest of them all, Sung Shi-won and Yoon Yoon-jae of Answer Me 1997, because their characters were brought together by the choices they made. Sure they ran into each other in a coffee shop after years of separation, but one coincidence is not fate. And in the end, they both chose to act on their feelings and try for a relationship, rather than wait for fate to give them a sign that it was guaranteed to work out.


Answer Me 1997

 
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Loved your article! I enjoyed FMW because it had no rich boy poor girl trope, the guy was not a jerk, the girl was not a doormat and most importantly cos of their relationship. I liked it exactly for what you said.
As far as R97 is concerned- yes they decided to act on their feelings and while we all knew who she would end up with, it did make me frustrated just a teeeensy bit cos of YJ's indecision and hesitation. ..Thank god SW and even joon hee were steadfast enough to bring him back into his senses.
R88- I don't want to start a fandom war again; it's just my opinion but that same indecision and hesitation on JH's part cost him the girl. ..don't get me wrong. ..I equally swooned along with the rest and did root for him...but like he said it was his own hesitation that stopped him...so maybe I'm just one of the few who would've been fine with either guy getting the girl or even actually happy with the ending.
And can I add BTLIOF to this list -both SH and JH came together because of decisions- initially for practical purposes( a little illogical but still) but later because they fell in love and chose each other over housing, parents and whatnot.

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BTIOFL is definitely up there for OTP not moved by fate but rather by their own decisions, I completely agree!

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I most thoroughly agree. I get that, in Kdrama shorthand, fate is supposed to make an OTP MEANT TO BE in all capital letters, but when put into actual practice, it pales in comparison to compatibility, chemistry, mutual understanding, and yes, conscious choice. It's "I have to be with you (because fate says so)", not "I want to be with you (cause you're awesome)".

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YES! I have not seen Fight My Way but I completely agree about the Answer Me series. The charm in that series is its realism and the choices made with the romances stayed true to that. Yoon-jae and Shi-won will always have a special place in my heart and are definitely one of my favorite OTPs ever.

I feel like so many dramas involve fate in some capacity that I don’t really notice it anymore, but I definitely appreciate it when the characters are not bound by fate and that they-knew-each-other-as-children-but-didn’t-know-that-they-knew-each-other thing that happens so often. There is really nothing better than two people choosing to love each other without any sort of external, almost supernatural forces putting them together.

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Congrats @rinny for getting published! 🎉🎉

What a great read! I never really paid much attention to fate or no fate these days with dramas. So I'm glad you pointed them out. I liked Fight My Way and loved how you described the OTP as "organic". I agree with what you wrote in so many ways. Yes, the Reply OTPs chose to act on their choices to be with who they wanted. Except I didn't finish R94 coz of her choice. 😭😭 #chilbongie4eva

Thank you for submitting and sharing this piece. Only thing missing was a rinny gif!! 😜😜Hope you are feeling better.

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Answer Me 1994 was the drama that hurt me the most in the series, it made me go into 1988 with a fully guarded heart. Thanks, I am glad you liked this piece (feeling lots better, it was a bad day)!

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I completely agree re the FATE issue. I find it hard to ship an OTP where the writers are telling me they're DESTINED.*

But while I agree that there aren't many relationships in kdramaland that are organic, I do disagree that INAR was an example of a fated relationship. Aside from the very contrived way the couple met, I felt they fell for each other for actual reasons.

*I will not mention Goblin, I will not mention Goblin, I will not...

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oh Goblin... then again, the WHOLE premise was about fate, so you can't really blame them...

I'm currently 1/2 way through Just Between Lovers and, in as much as I do think this couple is cute and they interact very organically together etc, theirs was definitely the stereotypical "FATED" loves, where they had met a few years before, were bound together by a terrible accident, could relate to each other due to common survivor's guilt and loss... yeah, FATE.

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I’m much more forgiving of a drama when it’s touted as a fantasy, as Goblin was. But Goblin Is in a different echelon, I feel. And because it never ran away from its original premise about destiny, it made it even more compelling. There was still free will also encompassed in that drama, making your own destiny within the confines of a greater purpose.

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we're of the same opinion: Goblin was essentially a fantasy about intertwined fates, destiny, karma and rebirths, so I was fine with the way relationships grew here.

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when you mentioned organic, I said to myself so there are inorganic relationships then... like natural and artificial....LOLS...

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I think Fate and Choice aren’t mutually exclusive. I believe in fate/destiny, however I don’t think that takes away from me having a choice in life.

I think specifically for INAR, the leads were brought together by fate, like you said, however it was their choice to stay together despite everything. I think same can be said of so many couples. Even Ae-ra and Dong-man - yes it was their choice to move to love from friendship. However, I think fate played a part in all of it too. Not just in the way things fell together bringing them success in the same work field but also in finding each other at the right timing eventually.

I think choice is driven by fate and fate driven by choice. It’s half-half to me, which is what makes things so much more interesting lol.

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When I read only your title, I imagine myself writing immediately about those so called OTP driven by Destiny who were actually a very wrong match, like in that drama "falling for innocence" which I didn't watch but read the recaps, ha ha... (awful story, super jerk main male lead)
I think there are lots of "forced" OTP created with less or no coherence at all in the mind of a writer and when put into action in front of the camera they just don't work, LOL!!😂😂
But I know I am just being negative, sorry for that.
Your article very good. I agree with you with FMW and you made me want to watch the answer me franchise. 😉

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Lol, I actually watched Falling for Innocence! It really is my benchmark for how much a couple works or is just "fate," because they were so forced.
Answer Me is the series I try to sell to everyone, if I convinced you, mission accomplished! Lol

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My love for the Answer me series never ends....

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"Falling for Innocence" was definitely forgettable...

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I don't really agree with the specifics on this. I think there is a difference between a couple that is fated to end up together, and a couple who are fated to meet. I agree that using fate as an excuse as to why people end up loving each other or staying together when they wouldn't have otherwise makes for a flimsy romance and shows like that become tiring. But there are many dramas where a pairing meets because of fate, but then a natural and believable romance develops all because of the choices of the actions after the initial meeting.

The ones you mentioned fall into that second category. In INAR, they met by maybe a twist of fate, but became friends and were able to help and encourage each other in ways no one had before, and in the end chose to overcome the betrayal and make something work. in JBL they met because of a shared history, were also friends first, and came to understand and support each other on a very deep and meaningful level because they chose to open up to each other. Hwayugi hasn't finished airing yet, so hard to make a full analysis, but they are actually fated to kill each other, so it seems like they're actively fighting against forces who want to keep them apart.

I would like it if drama writers didn't rely on the fate trope so much--there are a million ways people can meet and really why does everyone have to know each other as kids! But I don't think its use alone precludes organic or meaningful relationships.

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I like your point of view, and I do think a couple can develop a relationship that is meaningful after an initial push of fate. Mostly, I was thinking about what drama OTPs made me feel happiest when I finished the drama (an entirely subjective measurement) and was trying to figure out what was in common between them.

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I like your backward-moving method to try and get down to the commonality, and I like that this was a great starting point for some good discussions on fate. Also, I liked Reply 1997 and 1988 so much, so there you were preaching to the choir.

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I get what you're saying, I do. Some dramas that utilize fate do try to choose Fated Love's less evil twin, Fated-to-Meet. I like to think my favorite OTP, Healer's Jung Hoo & Young Shin, falls into this more benign category of cosmic meddling, but it's still a slippery slope that makes it hard to tell where fate ends and free choice begins (just look at the debates about certain OTPs going on right here). For me at least, that's why removing fate entirely has such appeal. Then there's no question of whether the characters would be together if fate hadn't intervened. More work has to be put into drawing them together and the emphasis is solely on why two characters with all their unique faults, virtues, and quirks fit together and belong together. Their bond has to be earned and is between them alone, nobody else. Personally, I find it far more romantic if someone chooses their partner for themselves rather than the universe choosing for them like some overbearing mother-in-law. So while I don't inherently hate Fated-to-Meet loves, or even Fated Loves, I do hate their ubiquity and how fate can have the power to negate free will or at least make it irrelevant.

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I can understand that view. I do think it's a real case-by-case basis whether fated-to-meet and fated-to-be lovers feel like they actually would have fallen in love without the nudge of the gods. And I can also see starting a new drama and seeing two leads meet in some fated moment, and having an epic eyeroll like "here we go again."

It's a shame to me that this trope is so overused, because I do think there can be interesting developments between couples where fate is supposed to be involved, especially when the trope is subverted or a new angle is used. But often it's often used to add a sense of depth to a relationship where one maybe hasn't been earned.

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Couldn't agree more. While paired by fate does seem magical, I do have a soft spot for characters who grow to love each other as friends and lovers.

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I liked your article. I'm really not a great fan of the Fated Couple.

You don't mention the Fated trope I hate most: when the couple are clearly meant to be, because they shared their first kiss. Whenever there's that childhood/youth flash-back, I just roll my eyes. (Maybe I would be more gripped by it if I actually remembered the boy I had my first kiss with.)

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Adrian Ralph. I was six and he was five.

That totally counts.

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Not only does it totally count, it's the Real Thing. Any chance of him returning from abroad and unexpectedly becoming your new boss?

I'm jealous. I do remember at that same age tying a boy's shoelaces to show my utter devotion. That'll have to do.

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Clay was mine, only we didn’t actually kiss, but we did lay our heads down on the table on top of our outstretched arms the exact same way indicating that we were destined to be together and he was placed next to me in line at Kindergarten graduation. If that’s not fate, I don’t know what is! 😉

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Mikey Karounas, first grade. He grabbed me and kissed me (very kdrama!) and I ran home crying in the middle of the school day ☺️

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@bbstl

And the kdrama critic in me wants to point out that is not your first kiss, that's assault. Kissing should be mutual.

But then the two times a man tried to kiss me without my consent, one of them ended up head butting a brick wall instead and the other ended up with a very bruised face and possibly a damaged coccyx

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lol @ "Any chance of him returning from abroad and unexpectedly becoming your new boss?"
the odds, right?

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We even kissed "like they do in the movies" and my Dad caught us and I got grounded and we weren't allowed to see each other for two weeks. Because my Dad's reaction to everything is a nuclear explosion circa 1952.

I really hate when I'm watching a show that's otherwise quite good and then they have the "revelation" that they knew each other as kids. Healer gets an out because of reasons I haven't articulated yet.

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The childhood trope is okay to me if it's executed well. For example, in Weightlifting Fairy Bok-joo, the OTP knew each other in primary school and their childhood camaraderie was a factor in bringing them to get to know each other in the beginning.

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Oh don't get me wrong, I like childhood friends - or childhood enemies like in Let's Eat 2 - if it's part of the plot, or it's what gets the story started.

It's when they add it apparently randomly, to show that this was clearly Fated Love, that it annoys me.

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That could be true in real life. What are the odds that you meet your primary school mate in uni, almost >50%....cos it happens....

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WFKBJ was sooooo good, really. I didn't feel the childhood trope at all. I mean, i knew it but it didn't seem pushed or forced, like in Oh my Venus, and don't get me wrong, I loved oh my Venus because it was lots of fun, but having them meeting as children in the very last scene, I found it needless. Oh my Venus was really good in subverting the first love trope. She didn't end up with the first, but with the second love.

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I felt the same about JBL. Main lead recognized female lead and that was the exact reason he firstly chose to get to know her. Same goes for Falling for innocence.
As long as it isn't random first childhood love trope, I guess it isn't exactly fate

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@rinny I enjoyed your article. Sometimes I feel like the OTP is being matched more because they are the "main couple" set by the writer so I don't sense their chemistry as much as a couple who gets to know each other step by step.
Besides, your article made me think of a webtoon named "Love Revolution" with a gender bender OTP. There, the male protagonist decides to pursue the female lead because he thinks she was his first love from kindergarten (I understand the childhood trope but boy, this guy watched too much dramas hehe). Turns out, he wasn't and he was actually very mean to the girl back then and was even grossed out by the idea that they could be an item. While he was crushed at the idea that they weren't fated, they decided to stay together because they did like each other, despite their differences. Or maybe I didn't understand your article well :p

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That sounds hilarious!

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That webtoon sounds intriguing, I should look for it. The undermining of the power of fate is a different take.

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In a way, the idea of OTP already contains the implication that a couple are ‘meant to be’. If there is only ‘one true pairing’, then any others are fake, the other love interests are a distraction, or the character wasn’t thinking straight and was blind to true love... Sometimes the writer didn’t clearly fate them together (ala Reply 1988 I agree) but fans assume who the OTP is. I can tell who the OTP is in episode 1, or even when casts are announced. From the start of most romance dramas then, there is an OTP fated by the way dramas are made and received.

I am trying to think of the drama or movie where someone says ‘I believe we make our own fate’ but memory fails me...😬

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You right about knowing who are the OTP from watching a drama. You know at times I wish in real life it works that way, where you can just know who your OTP is. If that can happen, believe me when I say lots of people will be spared unnecessary heart breaks....

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And then there was CITT and THE KING LOVES

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I didn't watch king loves and I didn't finish watching CIIT

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Probably the worst two shipping wars in recent kdrama history. The second leads ended up with the girl. I hVent seen CITT either because of all the controversy. I did thoroughly enjoy THE KING LOVES though, and was on the right ship from the get go!

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Not in CITT. The outcry was because the second lead got so much screen time in the latter half - instead of giving us more developement of the first lead and OTP.

I think the producers of TKL trolled us by using the idea of OTP... the teasers and intro showed one of the guys about to kiss the girl, so of course we thought ‘OTP’ (I was also on the right ship hehe 😉)

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@wishfultoki Thanks for the clarification!

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I think we need to distinguish between fate and coincidence (yes I'm talking about INAR. when am I not talking about INAR?). the easiest way to recognize a fated relationship is when the couple has already met as children. or in their previous lives. or as children in their previous lives. man, LOTBS was weird.
I agree with everything, though. I was so happy Shopping King Louie was just about adults helping each other out and then they had to ruin it with the fated encounter 20 years earlier. I mean, like, I'm ok with my OTP just being good for each other, the fact that they reached for the same roll of toilet paper once 5000 years ago won't make them better partners or love each other more, why bother?

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Talking about INAR (and why not) - if they had added a scene where for example Jia's mother's funeral had been right next to Min kyu's family's funeral, that would have totally ruined it!

I sometimes wonder if the writers are worried that they haven't totally convinced us viewers that the OTP should be together and just stick in a childhood meet scene to make sure that we get it.

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Why did that make me laugh I'm a bad person funerals are sad
Yeah I'm certain that that's the case. That's why I'm so proud of INAR writer for actually not showing us how Min-kyu learned about Jia's inventions. It doesn't matter. It just doesn't. It's cute to think he might have inspired one of them, but ultimately all that matters is what happened after they officially met. And even without the robot plot, which is the most fate-like element in the show, I could EASILY see Min-kyu fall for Jia the courier cause they just had a lot of chemistry even on the phone. Someone shut me up I'm pressing send so that I don't wite another INAR essay here whoop

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And to think when I wrote my comment above, I thought "Here I go with INAR again". I got nothing on somebody...

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this is bullying and treason ; ;

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I also didn't like that they put Louis and Bok shil to have met in the past when they were basically babies!!! Not necessary. But anyway... Louis and Bok Shil still met by chance and fell in love by living together. It was sweet...

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I do believe there is order to the universe and people are not just meeting each other randomly. There’s a reason for every connection you make, whether in childhood or as adults, our lives are made of seemingly insignificant decisions that lead us in certain directions to purposely meet individuals who help us on this journey. So, I would dare say that the relationships in your essay were also likely meant to be, fated, just not from childhood, which is true for 99% of relationships in the real world. Thanks for introducing me to these couples!

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I really love the Asian (I think Chinese?) idea of the red string of fate - that the people you are meant to meet are tied to you by an invisible red string. It's usually romantically but it can be best friends or people who help you in your life. I think of course you need more than fate to actually make a relationship work but it's often the stepping stone.

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Wasn’t this in a sageuk recently? Yes, I think it was The King Loves. I love that imagery as well.

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Love your write up. Thanks. My fav among the pairings you wrote about is the Answer me series mostly the 1988 version. I still cant get over the drama, it depicted real life relationships that can happen not just in korea but also anywhere in the world....

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I forgot to mention another OTP from I need romance 3. Though, they met during their childhood as baby and babysitter but the lead actress decided to be with the lead actor based on her choice.....

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I loved Sung joon in this! The childhood scenes were adorable too!

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I think the Reply series show you how the Universe can give you opportunities but it's up to you to grasp them at the right time. There was a Taiwanese drama very similar to the Reply series, and in the end, it was the 3rd male lead who got the girl because he was a supportive friend while keeping his crush secret (to the point people thought he liked 2nd male lead lol) and he knew when the girl was ready to accept his feelings. The 2nd male lead did a fatal mistake of confessing when she was pretty naïve about love and even later, they could not start dating since the 90s technology at that time did not help overcome their distance.

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Do you remember the name of the drama? It sounds interesting.

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Thank you!

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When I read about this whole fate thing in general, I remember the line spoken by grandma in JBL - "I wasted my energy over nothing. People who are meant to be, meet somehow anyway." I guess the deciding to stay and be part of each other's lives is another thing. That's where good writing comes in and that's why I think Gang Doo and Moon Soo can also be a part of your second category.

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It's been a long time ago I watched "My girlfriend is a gumiho", so I might be wrong... But wasn't Mi-ho fated to be with the second male lead (Dong Joo) instead of the main male lead (Dae Woong) , or something like that? Because (if I'm not mistaken) she is the reincarnation(?) of Dong Joo's past lover? If That's the case, then its a very interesting twist, 'cuz Mi-ho didn't end up with her destiny... instead she ended up with Dae Woong. How often do you see that happening? But like i said , I could be totally wrong about MGIAG, i gotta rewatch this adorable drama :)

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A good point, *until final episode* when destiny took the lead and literally returned her to life during an eclipse. ;-)

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@ChinguMode,
Ah! That explains why it's wasn't fate and we are not together today! Well, that and the fact that I grew up about 4" taller than he did 😂
I think it's so cute that we're talking about this on Valentines Day ❤️

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Oops, this was supposed to be part of the #9 thread about first kisses!

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I'm trying to recall, the OTP in 'Cheese In The Trap' lacked any mystical/coincidental connections, right? They were just school classmates. Unless I'm forgetting something. They never met as children (Oh My Venus), the were never manipulated by ghosts (Oh my Ghost), and most Karmic of all, one hadn't been murdered by the mother of the other (Arang and the Magistrate)

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I'm a practical and rational thinker who still believes in fate, there are many things in life which happen out of control like we don't chose to whom we're born or who will be the people surrounding us as we grow up, of course bonding a relationship is where individual roles come in but fate seems to play a huge role too.

I sometimes think I could've met different people in my life just by choosing a different school or uni but the very reason I chose a certain thing is maybe because its fated for me.

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Yes!!!

Sung Shi Won and Yoon Yun Jae will always remain as my fav OTP for eternity.

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FFMY was definitely my favourite pairing of last year. The set up and development was so natural between the two leads (and even the other two friends) that I couldn't help but root for them to be together. On the other hand, I would still like to forget about Answer 1988. It still hurts.

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