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Youth of May: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread

We’ve got a new drama in town, and boy, am I happy to see it. I’ve been waiting for retro romance Youth of May to come around for months now, desperate for something sweet and melo. (And okay, desperate to see Lee Do-hyun’s face again.) It’s satisfying to say that the wait was so worth it.

 
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP

I know enough about Youth of May’s setting to know that we’re in for a lot — anger, passion, resilience, loss of innocence. We’re in Korea 1980, a time just after the assassination of an authoritarian president, only for another authoritarian figure to impose martial law and crush the country’s dreams of democracy. We’re specifically in the city of Gwangju in the month of May, where tragedy looms.

The drama introduces us to modern-day Gwangju first, and we get a hint of this tragedy as a construction site unearths skeletal remains speculated to be from the Gwangju Uprising. At a train station, a broken man looks as if he’s about to jump off the platform, but news of the remains stops him. Is he someone we’ll come to know? Probably. We’ll have to wait and find out — it’s time to dive back into the ’80s.

It was this transition to the past that caught me off guard. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this bright, upbeat vibe. It reminded me of the film A Taxi Driver, which also took place in this time period and opened with big, welcoming energy. Of course, even in the beginning, we do get those glimpses of darkness.

We meet our hero HWANG HEE-TAE (Lee Do-hyun) as he quite literally drives through a student protest. He’s a carefree guy with a big mouth, and shows zero interest in the movement. However, it seems like this wasn’t always the case. Something happened to him recently, where a friend of his got hurt, and he’s clearly traumatized by it.

Though Hee-tae’s friend is in critical condition, she asks him to bring her back home to Gwangju. So Hee-tae travels all the way to Gwangju to arrange her transfer. There, at the local hospital, he witnesses a patient being rough with a nurse. This nurse is our heroine KIM MYUNG-HEE (Go Min-shi), and she’s more than capable of standing up for herself, which leaves a strong impression on Hee-tae.

Rounding out our leads, we have the well-off siblings LEE SOO-CHAN (Lee Sang-yi), who returns from abroad, and LEE SOO-RYUN (Geum Sae-rok), who’s lifelong friends with Myung-hee. I find Soo-ryun especially interesting because she leads a double life, taking part in the movement.

As the day goes on, we get to know our leads, as well as the people in their lives. Hee-tae gets caught in the city by his father HWANG KI-NAM (Oh Man-seok) and has to confess that he postponed his graduation from med school. His father is in the torture biz — gathering information from protestors — and he barely thinks of Hee-tae as a son, which is already giving me anxiety. But Hee-tae promises to make himself useful and do whatever his father wants. In exchange for his friend’s hospital fees.

Switching over to Myung-hee, we learn that she’s the breadwinner of her family and that she holds some type of grudge against her father. She gets accepted to med school in Germany and she doesn’t even tell him. But her path to education won’t be easy; she doesn’t have enough money for a plane ticket. At the same time, Soo-ryun and friends get caught and arrested for printing flyers, and her father LEE CHANG-KEUN (Uhm Hyo-seop) bails her out. He’ll release her friends on only one condition.

As it turns out, Ki-nam and Chang-keun know each other very well, as it’s Ki-nam who is always getting Soo-ryun out of trouble. Ki-nam, wanting more power and security, suggests their kids start dating (this being the dads’ condition for what Hee-tae and Soo-ryun want). Soo-ryun hates the idea of meeting the son of an anti-communist investigator, so she gives her bestie Myung-hee an offer: Go on the date pretending to be her, and she’ll pay for her plane ticket. Cue makeover montage!

On the way to the date, Hee-tae sees a little boy get hit by a car and is overwhelmed with memories of his bloodied friend. He’s thrown into a panic attack but snaps out of it when someone rushes to help the boy — the nurse from before. We’ve had a ton of setup so far, and this is where the drama really took off for me. Hee-tae and Myung-hee finally meet face-to-face, and he’s adorably ecstatic to see that his blind date is the nurse. Myung-hee is on a mission to get herself rejected, but sorry girl, he’s already into you.

On top of that, Hee-tae is just… a good guy. She takes him to a shabby restaurant, and he reveals he’s used to places like that. She drags him into a store, saying she’s a total shopaholic, but he just buys her new shoes (after noticing that Soo-ryun’s heels are too big for her). Despite the fact that this is ruining Myung-hee’s plan, she can’t help but feel touched.

The second date just ruins her plan further. Myung-hee’s co-worker shows up at their restaurant and badmouths her, and seeing her discomfort, Hee-tae approaches the doctor and dumps water over his head. He does it with such a straight face and then dramatically goes, “Oh dear! My hand slipped!” Way to make me laugh and swoon at the same time.

The couple relocate outside, by the cherry blossoms, and have a genuine moment of connection. Hee-tae even reveals that the reason why he hasn’t graduated is because he wants to play guitar at an upcoming music festival (in which only students can participate). He asks if they can meet again, before the flowers wilt, so he can play for her, and she agrees with a smile.

Eventually, Soo-ryun’s friends are released from jail, meaning Myung-hee can stop the act. Myung-hee feels bad having lied to Hee-tae all this time, and though she doesn’t say it, she seems to feel even worse at the thought of never seeing him again. Just then, Soo-ryun is called downstairs to meet a visitor, Myung-hee right behind her. They stop short when they see none other than Hee-tae sitting with Soo-ryun’s father.

Yes. Yes. I love this. I love it because I know exactly what Hee-tae is going to do — he walks right up to the girls and greets the actual Soo-ryun, not blowing their cover. And, argh, the smile he gives Myung-hee, with that knowing look in his eye. This is sure to get complicated, if he really does keep up the act to keep both dads happy.

Like I said, we were given a lot of setup and so many more characters that I didn’t even mention. But I like the seeds that have been planted. The main couple. Soo-chan obviously having feelings for Myung-hee. Soo-ryun having a spark with the officer that arrested her. Hee-tae and Myung-hee’s younger brothers, who are training in track together and already butting heads. Ahem, the main couple. I’m all in. I’m ready for one eventful May.

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I was on board with both our leads. They were both super charming in their own ways. Our ML seems carefree, but he’s deeper than that and pays attention to those around him. Our FL seems like the standard prickly character type, but you see her softer side when she’s dealing with her brother or her friends.

Not sure what to make of the body found in the present time. We’ll obviously get to know who it is at some point, but seems to hint at the melo to come I suppose.

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The beginning tells me this is going to be a tragic ending. However, our leads are adorable. they both seem kind especially our FL. That being said, that restaurant scene was WRONG, lol.

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I loved the first two eps! I'm already so invested with the main couple. LDH and GMS's chemistry is popping as always. I also loved Heetae's character so much. I need me more of these chaebols that aren't a-holes (i also love tsunderes but time for a change I guess heh).

As much as the first eps were cute, I bet we're gonna be in for a heartbreaking tragedy as teased in the beginning. And I'm here for it.

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The laws of kdramaland pretty much require that the guy who was disturbed by news of the skeleton must be one of our two male leads, and that the dead person must be one of the other 3 leads. Which means even more heartbreak than we knew going in... The more we like our characters, the harder it will get when the fun dating turn to bloodshed and the more nervous we get as we approach May 18.

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I am trying to prepare myself for a bloodbath. The characters are well drawn and likeable, so the heartbreak will be intense...

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Yes, we can surmise that one of our leads was killed and their body wasn't found but there could be more of our characters among the dead. I'm prepared for lots of heartbreak.

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If the guy at the train station is Hee-tae, then my money is on the body being of the FL. *sniff*
The OTP is being set up to be destroyed.
My question is will they get to meet before the cherry blossoms wither?

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Unrelated. I laughed when the scene shifted to the scenic cherry blossom rendezvous after she sprained her ankle in some restaurant. Did he carry her all the way to the middle of the scenic walkway to treat her :)

Yeah. My bets are on FL too. Young, poor, hardworking, lost opportunities to become a doctor, loving younger sibling etc etc. all set up for a tragic loss of life.

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I wished the skeletons belong to Myung-hee.

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Only if it's the Myung-hee from Vincenzo, not the one in this show.

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@sailorjumun I’m here reporting for Lee Do-hyun Fan Club duty!! 🥰 Hee-tae and Myung-hee are going to be one of my favourite couples (and are sure to break my heart 😭)

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LDH fans unite! 🙌🙌

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The whole time I watched Hotel del Luna I kept wishing for a whole drama based on the past setting just because of LDH...

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I had to search down Viki's show list before finding it. I would've missed it entirely if it weren't for Dramabeans. Finally, something to watch that I didn't already watch two years ago.

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Really liked both episodes. There were a lot of characters but the set-up was clear and well done. Haven't seen Sae-rok in much but she was perfect as Lee Soo-ryeon I thought. Lee Do-hyun was charming as always - impossible not to fall for him.
I realised only after I started watching that it's only 12 episodes. Which might be a relief after a glut of 20 episode dramas. Also I'm not sure I'd be able to take the inevitable tragic angst for too long. I just know LDH is going to leave me in tears again.

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Oh goody, only 12 episodes. After a couple years of Kdrama watching, I've roughly calculated that at least 1/4 of all the eps will be mired in angst. Angst reduction is welcomed but I've also observed that the sweeter the meet-cute the harsher the angst. We are in for a gut punch.

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I mean we are assured of at least one dead lead given the opening scene. Bracing myself for the gut punch.

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I am all in too!

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Omg your recaps are as good as the episodes!?? Absolutely loved the tone they've set in the first two episodes. What I like best is that the show sticks to these individual's perspectives. Everything we see is through their eyes. And that also keeps the focus streamlined. Now for the more important stuff...weeeeeeeewee...Lee Do Hyun is just marvelous as always and I am so eager to witness the messy relationships..a love triangle maybe? And I really hope the baby brothers will become great friends.

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Yes! I also hope for a great friendship between the baby brothers.

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We rarely get to see a drama set in this time and usually if we do, it's one for the books. The premiere week definitely delivered, especially our main lead. The moment they shared the screen together, sparrkksssss! Chemistry is off the charts!

Angst may be looming in the coming episodes but I'm willing to go through it with our main OTP. Bring it on!

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Will we survive the kiss??
Bracing for the impact. Buckle up.

And hello Neener. Hope you are doing well.

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Give me all the kisses and giggles.

Hi Blue! I'm doing well. Hope you are good as well!

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Guys I loved the premier. Lee do hyun and go min shi are so freaking adorable together. I was so happy that hee tae came to soo ryeon house and greeted her while smiling at myung hee..swoon.

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I loved it, and it's only been two episodes! the teasers looked promising and I'm so glad it delivered. The chemistry between LDH and GMS is so good! I loved their first date where she tried to get him to be repulsed by her but it only backfired haha, I'm trying to enjoy the cuteness for now because I know it's going to get pretty sad soon :(

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I wasn't really fan after the first episode. The opening with the discovery of the skeleton was morbid and the way they introduced the characters plot was confuse.

The second episode was better, I like the couple even if there were too many slow motion moments :p

I was surprised they didn't say the sex of the body, it's one of the first things they can know about it just by watching it.

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My own only theory for upcoming episodes: Hee-tae will be arrested due to alleged participation on one of the protests. He will release 41 years after jail.

Now, for the music section, I felt the Youth of May soundtrack felt like either mixed originals or covers or else the licensed songs around during its entire show's run.

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For instance, there was a bit of Korean disco songs during 1980 even after May 1980. But that was the time when the original disco trend was on the way to its global decline.

When Hee-tae drove this used car from protesters whose begging to resigned president and wanted to end martial law emergency on his way to used car place, I heard that licensed Korean disco song (I guess it was from 1979 or 1980) by an obscure Korean male disco singer and I love the car "drone cinematography"

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I have been waiting for this show since I first saw the storyline being advertised. The opening week did not disappoint me AT ALL!!

Great leads, complex 3D side characters with stories of their own, a solid - albeit tragic - setting... This show has everything going for it. Fingers crossed. 

I lost count of the number of meet cutes there were in these two eps, and not just between the OTP! LDH is such a charmer. And I loved that the leads all seem to be good, kind people, just caught up in their own little situations. 

I'm sniffling a little already, at the prospect of the tragedy to come. But I'm here for the ride. 

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I like the set up. The youth, cause, social and economic class divide , romance etc. Based on these I have a guess on who died. But I will not think about it for another 3 episodes.
It’s only a 12 episode drama. I like that!!

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The one other show that did politics of this era (thought not about Gwangju specifically), IIRC was When my love blooms. While I liked the younger versions of the leads in that show, I didn't think it captured the political / college protests scene very well. I'm hoping this show does it better, especially since that is the story pivot.

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I don't think this drama will go in this direction after the recent issues about Korean History portrayal in Kdramas. The PD said it was about universal emotions felts by young people during this area.

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During second episode...:
1. There's subtitle under Madonna Fashion but in real life during 1980, singer Madonna did already hit underground (i.e. after met famous French male disco singer Patrick Hernandez) or before her charted hit days (i.e. she was a member of band The Breakfast Club before their pre-hit) just two years before her fame with the Everybody era (1982).
2. During 1980 South Korea, it was the entire university courses were boycotted by goverment-funded professors, means all classes are cancelled and some were deferred from graduation. They might shut profs' doors and report any facts.
3. Wow... there were so many blind dates and of course, a national and a junior (military?) sports festival that included the Spartan training teams.
4. We have a notable mentioned food menu for this episode: jajangmyeon, tangsuyuk, ramyeon, kimchi, New York steak
5. No more jaywalking. I knew it was like a normal law that anyone using sidewalk and its rarely one of Kdramas with the jaywalking issues although it was a brief hinted jaywalking PSA.
6. Jung-tae's mother was a mistress?

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I am so excited after the first two episodes!
I keep telling myself it’s going to be tragic but I can’t help all these feels. Hae-tee is just so swoony with his little acts and smiles. I love that he knows. No misunderstandings. Yay!!
All the characters are interesting.
I need to see the rookie cop more. He is a cutie :)

Hae Tee father gives me the chills. (He is the same actor from CLOY right??)

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Yup, Oh Man-seok was the villain in CLOY. His character here seems similarly cold and power-hungry, so I'm concerned, to say the least haha.

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Oh Man-seok is such a solid actor, I yay-ed when I saw him on screen. The rookie cop is a goner already. I saw it coming in the police station only, didn't have to wait for the jaywalking to happen. And yes! I loved it that Hee-tae knew from the start itself, thank goodness; the mistaken identity trope would have one too many to handle here.

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Love how the girlfriends tackle the date, ha! This has the same feel as Girls’ Generation 1979 which I also loved. Retro romance is its own genre.

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The chemistry is already off the charts and I’m fully invested in our main leads. Hee-tae is so sweet during the dates. Myung-hee is a much stronger woman I am for trying to get rejected. I 100% would’ve given up after the first few times because Hee-tae is just too swoony (...not sure what that says about me).

Of course, I realize this makes me fully vulnerable to the inevitable pain and tears, but I am prepared. *reaches for tissues*

Also, I’d be remiss not to mention it, the cinematography is gorgeous.

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I have fallen hard for him already... he is so charming and mischievous. Cursing myself for watching this show now because it will probably hurt to wait between episodes

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From sibling (Sweet Home) to couple? I'm so ready for this! Will definitely catch up the episodes later😍.

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I liked the premiere, but not loved it.
I will give it another week, because OTP is super cute and it's only 12 episodes, but I need something more.

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The same for me. I think it was because I kinda could feel their efforts to make a touching and beautiful love story.

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I’m glad the secret is out. Can’t wait to see it unfold.

It has the same vibes as kdrama classics (with better cinematography).

I think it’s smart to keep it at 12 eps . Too many dramas outstay their welcome by dragging repetitive plots.

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I'm not seeing much on Lee Sang-yi or his character in here. Is he forgettable? I was mainly considering watching for him after first noticing him in to.Jenny and sebsequntly falling hard for the man in Once Again (Although LDH's charms don't hurt either, hehe)

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I watched the first episode yesterday night. I liked the set up. It reminds of the movie Taxi Driver, which I loved and recommend it so much.

It is not an easy topic to discuss, to make a drama of it, so I am gonna stick around for more.

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