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Youth of May: Episodes 11-12 Open Thread (Final)

We’ve had a long, emotional journey throughout this May in 1980 Gwangju, going from a sweet romance to a heartbreaking tragedy. We’ve seen how truly awful human beings can be and, in turn, how it can bring out the best in others. In our final episodes, we definitely get the best of our characters, as their true strength is tested.

 
EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP

I’ve been dreading going into this week, knowing our story could end a few different ways — all of them painful. That fear only intensifies when we’re plopped into present-day Gwangju, with the homeless man we met in the first episode. After hearing about the found skeleton, the man comes into the police station to identify it. He sees the pocket watch that was with the remains and starts to cry, telling us that he knows exactly who this is.

Back to 1980. Myung-hee is fighting with her father (who currently possesses the pocket watch), when news breaks out that Hee-tae was in a car accident. But Hee-tae is nowhere to be found — Ki-nam took him from the scene and now has him tied up in his home office. Ki-nam tries to scare him, saying that he’s an orphan and that no one would look for him if he died. And Hee-tae throws back that Ki-nam is the orphan, since no one would ever choose to be his family. I love Hee-tae’s sass here; he’s just done being afraid of his dad.

Myung-hee knows that Ki-nam must be behind Hee-tae’s disappearance and feels completely helpless. But remembering Hee-tae’s last words to her, to wait for him, she decides the best thing she can do is stay at the hospital until he finds her. Soo-chan and her father try to convince her to flee, but it doesn’t take much for them to understand how much Hee-tae means to her.

At the Hwang household, Jung-tae and his mom are horrified to discover Hee-tae in the upstairs office. Under Ki-nam’s control, however, they think they can’t really do anything. Jung-tae voices to his mom about how wrong this is, and something in his mom clicks. So when Ki-nam leaves the house, Mom ultimately does the right thing and releases Hee-tae.

Meanwhile, Ki-nam is following up on Hye-gun’s interrogation, threatening to kill his family. Hye-gun figures that there’s no way out of this situation but that he can at least go out hurting Ki-nam. He cries that he’s friends with Ki-nam’s son, and to shut him up, Ki-nam beats him to death. But the damage is done — his claims get Ki-nam in trouble with his superior.

At the hospital, Hee-tae and Myung-hee tearfully reunite. While Hee-tae is being treated for his wounds, Myung-hee’s father visits him and gives him his blessing, as well as his life savings and his pocket watch. (My heart rate just shot up.) Later, our couple hides out in Myung-hee’s church, and Myung-hee reveals that being apart from Hee-tae only confirmed that she’d be devastated if she lost him. She suggests that they get married.

The next day, our couple writes their wedding prayers and holds their own little ceremony. But their happiness is cut short when they learn that Myung-hee’s father was killed while trying to escape with Myung-soo. They put her father to rest in a coffin, surrounded by so many other families with their own loved ones in coffins.

Ki-nam orders one of his minions to get rid of Myung-hee once and for all, which Jung-tae overhears. Jung-tae reaches Myung-hee in time to save her but ends up getting shot himself. What’s interesting is that when Ki-nam reaches the scene, he actually seems worried for Jung-tae. He even seems hurt when Jung-tae pulls away from him. It’s the last we ever see of Ki-nam, looking dazed and deservedly alone.

After saying a sad goodbye to Myung-hee’s father, and a big Screw you to Hee-tae’s father, we also get a decent wrap-up for the Lee siblings’ father. He catches the siblings breaking into his factory for supplies and, now being 100 percent supportive of their cause, encourages them to take whatever they need.

Going back to our main couple, things only get worse and worse. After the commotion with Jung-tae, they realize that Myung-soo is gone. The poor kid ran off, wanting to get the rest of his family for his father’s funeral. Hee-tae and Myung-hee go out to look for him, eventually reaching a fork in the road and deciding to split up. They embrace, knowing very well that any goodbye could be their last.

Hee-tae gives Myung-hee her father’s pocket watch and they part. Myung-hee ends up being the one finding Myung-soo, along with a group of soldiers. She leaves the pocket watch with her brother and tells him to run, while she lets herself get arrested. One soldier aims his gun at Myung-soo and, panicking, Myung-hee moves forward. ACK, NOOOOO!

Myung-hee is shot and left for dead in the woods. Thankfully, Kyung-soo is there and he makes sure Myung-soo leaves safely, picking up the watch that he dropped. Kyung-soo returns to Myung-hee’s side and, finding her written wedding prayer, realizes she’s the girl his best friend loves. Crying, he leaves the prayer and watch with her before rejoining his group.

At the same time, Hee-tae is arrested by a different group of soldiers. Kwang-kyu is with this group, and he stops Hee-tae from getting shot by claiming he knows him. As Kwang-kyu escorts him away, Hee-tae looks back to the woods, having no idea what’s happened to Myung-hee. It breaks my freaking soul watching him have to walk away as she looks up at the night sky and dies.

Some time later, after the Uprising has subsided, an exhausted Hee-tae goes around handing out Missing Person flyers. You can feel how broken he is — he knows in his heart that Myung-hee is gone.

Present-day Gwangju. We get to see grown-up Hee-tae as a doctor (amazing cameo by Choi Won-young). He’s still the silly, charming guy we love, saving nurses from aggressive patients and encouraging young doctors to hang in there. He’s also still in contact with Jung-tae, the Lee siblings, and Seok-chul — all alive and well.

Hee-tae is visited by Myung-soo (aw, who still calls him “Hyung”) and hears that they finally found Myung-hee. Confirming that the mystery skeleton is, in fact, our heroine. Hee-tae visits the police station to pick up the belongings, and he stops at the sight of the homeless man. Immediately, when they lock eyes, I know that the man is Kyung-soo. The two don’t exchange words, only a knowing nod and smile.

At home, Hee-tae reads the wedding prayer he never got to hear from Myung-hee. She’d written that if something happened to them, she hoped that those left behind wouldn’t drown in their sorrows and instead swim safely throughout life. Hee-tae smiles through his tears, narrating that he did drown in his sorrows for a while. He even tried to kill himself by walking into the ocean, but the tide merely brought him back to shore.

Hee-tae buries Myung-hee, his narration continuing that his own wedding prayer was answered. He prayed that he would carry more pain than Myung-hee, and he did so for 41 years. “The remaining years of my life,” he says, “will be an answer to your prayer. No matter how many more times the rising tide pushes me back to that May, I have you here now. Until we meet again, I will swim against the tide with all my might.”

With that, he signs off: “2021, the first May. From Hwang Hee-tae.” It’s a beautiful start to the next chapter of his life and a beautiful ending for the drama. Admittedly, Myung-hee’s death was the one ending I didn’t want, because I knew it would leave me the most heartbroken. I didn’t want it, yet it’s also the most fitting. And I appreciate that the drama kept Myung-hee dead instead of forcing a happy reunion.

Youth of May, from the start, was Hee-tae and Myung-hee’s story. The Uprising was simply the setting they were thrown into, and by making us fall for these characters, it was that much easier to fall into the history and see it through their eyes. I won’t be forgetting them anytime soon, just as I won’t forget the very real youth who endured this May.

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One of the many sad things about the show it that things like it depicted still happen in other countries. Even the bit about soldiers shooting at ambulances has been in the news recently.

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The skeleton being Myung-hee’s was not unexpected, but I think the writer made the right decision. Myung-hee’s dad’s death was tragic. Soo-ryeon or Soo-chan dying would have been tragic but would not have had the same impact as Myung-hee. I think the death had to make that impact to drive home how many lives were destroyed that May, how many families are still waiting to put their loved ones to rest.

I’m glad Hee-tae became a doctor and made the best life for himself that he could, even if he never moved on.

It’s depressing knowing that there is still not an accurate account of how many lives were lost because the government covered it up. It’s even more depressing knowing that those responsible went unpunished or were pardoned, free to continue spreading their lies and propaganda. This was a tragic love story set in a specific time in Korea’s history, but it was also an universal story. We all have our Gwangju Uprisings.

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I don't know why it keeps raining in my eyes. Am not even cutting onions.
This show is life. I never wanted it to end. Just never.
To lessen the pain of finale, I read every spoiler I could. So I knew who it will be?! But the moment hee tae turned to his younger self, i lost it. I was bawling at 2am in the morning, and I cried myself to sleep, because it happened in reality. Those cruel people, just how much they tortured the youth of that time. That is so unfair. I cried again reading the recap.
I don't know, I never wanted to see them cry, but when hee-tae gave a smile to myung hee promising to live as per her wish, I cried again.

Our favorite drama coming to an end is a heartbreak, and when it is not a happy ending, you just go into the sadness mode for a long time. Thankfully racket boys is a light show, warm and fuzzy.

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I had a lot of mixed feelings after finishing the finale. There were a lot of heartfelt moments that I absolutely loved and then some not so great moments that left me feeling a bit frustrated. It wasn't perfect by any means, and on a technical level, it did feel a bit rushed and all over the place at certain points. The writer knew they'd be killing MH off, but it felt like they didn't know how to go about it properly. I wasn't a fan of how things played out and all the decision making that led to her having to die. It all felt a bit too forced and contrived for me.
On an emotional level though, MH dying made the most sense. No other character's death would have been as impactful or as poignant as hers, not even HTs. It was cruel, heartbreaking and as tragic as it was intended to be. In a way, she represents those whose lives got caught up in the whirlwind of things. Someone who was simply just living her life and trying to do what she could to get by while being kind and selfless. She dies not as a fighter but as a protector. Not for the cause but because of the cause. This is not to take away from all those whose precious lives were also lost during that time, but since MH is our main heroine, I wanted nothing more than for her to catch a break.
As if it wasn't already obvious, MH is my favourite character, and I was surprised at how much negatively there was surrounding her. Whether it be because of her attitude towards her father and their broken relationship, her indecisiveness or her constant need to be self-sacrificing to a fault, I never saw these traits as things that made her a bad character/person. If anything, I loved her more because of these flaws and found her to be painfully realistic and at times quite relatable.
Overall, I'm glad the writer stuck with the tragic ending. As I said, it wasn't perfect, but it was by no means bad. The show did what it set out to do and stayed true to itself. In the end, Youth of May was a beautiful but heartbreaking love letter dedicated to MH and HT, a bittersweet romance that blossomed between two people living during 1980's May while also being a tribute to those who experienced firsthand the horrors and atrocities of having lived through such a tragic event.
Thank you so much for doing open threads for this drama! It may have not gained as much interest compared to other dramas, but the show still delivered some very meaningful messages that'll have a special place in my heart ♡

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I also love MH to the very end. In fact, I love all of our 4 leads from beginning to end, especially our OTP, even when they became frustrating or selfish or stubborn because despite this being only 12 episodes and quite fast paced the characters were very human and quite dimensional. I applaud the writing and the actors for bringing them to life.

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That is exactly what I thought too! I totally agree that MH dying was the ending with the most emotional impact, but I also agree that the chain of events that led to MH's death felt a little contrived. Overall, a very memorable drama with just a few flaws.

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I didn't like the way Myunghee died too. It was poorly written, but most of all, it could have been directed so much better. The staging of those scenes with the soldiers searching for them in the wood felt so unnatural. Then, Myeongsoo ran in the direction that was directly in the soldiers line of sight. It made no sense. That's probably why I was did not shed a tear at Myunghee's death scene.

However, the writer nailed the ending with Heetae. I was scared at first that they would romanticize suicide but luckily they didn't. I suddenly started crying when Heetae learned that they had finally found Myunghee's body, and I started balling when he read her vow. Also, Lee Dohyun's acting on the beach and in that restaurant was heartbreaking. I'm tearing up just thinking about it.
His final monologue about how he kept living in hopes that he would find her again, and that now that he has found her, he will go on living knowing he can always visit her grave whenever he is in need of comfort and courage.... ok, now I am crying again lol

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I found the balance of this drama wasn't so great. I didn't like some direction choices. At first, the scenes between MH and HT were pretty cringey, with too much slow-motion. Then, it was completely depressing with MH who always was pale and lost all her energy. I understand why she couldn't be the same anymore but it was too much in relation to the character. The beginning was too pinky and the second half too dark.

It didn't bother me that MH died but the way she did was too far-fetched. Her father died to save her brother and she died to save her brother? His reason to go in the forest was weak the way he ran away when everybody could see him was stupid, so MH's death was not dramatic but a result of stupid decisions. She died alone in the forest, how her body ended up in the town?

I really liked the actors in their roles they did well. GMS and LDH were super cute together. I'm happy to see GMS in a lead role, I really liked her in The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.

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My friend @kurama I just wanted to pick on this: She died alone in the forest, how her body ended up in the town?

40 years (approximately) have passed and as cities expand the suburbs are losing their trees to accommodate humans and their lifestyles. So yes what was a Forest or farm land or barren land can now be a part of a township or a city.

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But he didn't burry her. They already took off all the forest and started to build buildings. It means installing mains in the ground.

It's weird nobody found her before. The soldier should have burried her, it would have been more credible.

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Sorry, but from what I have seen and read of revolutions, I know that the ordinary who die, caught in the middle of a conflict, are not even provided an iota of dignity. The fact that she got shot and not abused speaks a ton about how sensitive the creators were and how they wanted to ensure that those who lost someone would feel acknowledged but not more hurt by an insensitive portrays. This drama was a validation of sorts for them, I think.

The fact that one of the soldiers left her with a keepsake for the minutes or hours that she had left was a merciful moment, generally people are just thrown in pits. Ok, I think I will stop being graphic but just say, think of this as a conflict setting and not the everyday world that we know of. Maybe reading Kang Han or some literature on missing people in Latin America might help. It is painful.

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I wasn't speaking of the moral part of the fact he didn't bury her. I was talking about the fact her body should have been found before.

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Thoughts on the ending:
-'Worst brother of the year' Award goes to Myung Soo: Got his dad AND his noona killed within a span of 24 hours, in the same way. Kid never learns. No wonder he became priest after that. I'm hoping Myung Hee and Dad's ghost haunted him every now & then.

- The 'bum and the skeleton' twist at the end. ISTG, they had DoHyun in prosthetics playing that old man, that turned out to be cute-soldier guy instead. Or I need to get my eyesight checked. Man... the writers totally bamboozled us, Class A Red-Herring. Super happy with the writing there! Although I pretty much bawled my eyes off when the timeline shifted to 2021, and we see the old-doctor turn into Hee-Tae. T_T

-Hee Tae's dad as seedy govt. agent was giving me major flashbacks to his CLoY role. Oh, how I love to hate him! Visually & acting-style wise, he reminds me of this Indian actor who recently passed-away! The other two-dads from Start-Up had great character arcs here! Infact, everybody from Jung Tae and his mom, the Lee siblings, even the short-haired girl (protestor) had well-written character arcs! :D

-Was kinda hoping Jung Tae to also die in the scuffle. I thought it really was going the way of the 'boy in the blue pajamas' direction , with whole 'exchanged fate of the privileged and the poor boy.' Disappointed with this, but ah well, we cant have cult-hollywood references everywhere.

-Speaking of Hollywood-references, the doomed romance against a tragic setting.... reminded me a whole damn lot of Jack and Rose , a gender-flipped version atleast. The references were there everywhere: from the whole cursed-watch being passed on as a harbinger of death, to the 'i can see the stars', to repeatedly trying to escape but getting pulled back into the situation again & again? Plus the whole 'rich one has a fiance(e), abusive parents' and 'falls for the poor & kind soul who is heroic but dies anonymously'? Like I have about 20 more similarities I can write about, but I will spare DB of the rant.

-Okay, anybody here as PISSED as me with MH's death? I mean the political part of the plot kinda had it guaranteed she would turn out to be the skeleton. But she was pretty much left to bleed to death under an open sky full of stars. Anonymously. Let me get this straight. She was 'Jack Dawson-ed'. The HERO of the story, dies a sad anonymous death. I wanted something more noble, grand and glorifying for her last moments, but I guess that would have defeated the whole purpose.

-Bonus: Military crackdown on civilians and students always makes for heart-breaking plot lines, no matter what the era. I wish we could have an artistic re-telling of the Tiananmen Square incident.... hope I didn't get too political, when I said this. I also now have high hopes for Snowdrop :)

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I was really sad Myung Hee died and all alone at that. I knew this drama would be tragic, but honestly how sad. To take 40 years to bury her too, just wow.

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1. That damn pocket watch gave me anxiety chills every freaking time it was being passed around.
2. I must be really evil to wish MS be shot instead of MH because Boy!! Kid or not, to go back to the very place and situation that just got your father killed is just outrageously stupid! I really thought he was gonna die and the troops were going to bury him cuz he's just a child. And...I wouldn't even have felt that bad. That was just plain stupid!
3. JT got physically impaired for life while saving MH, ending his athletic career while MS got his sister killed because he Ran.
4. I cannot believe KS waited for 41 years to reveal MH's whereabouts despite knowing who she was.
5. I cannot see LDH cry! I just Can't!! 😭😭
6. Looking forward to future projects from this writer.

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Overall enjoying the awsome production (It's been a while since KBS investing a quality show), and the good writing. While it's not perfect, the drama certainly has heart. It's been a while I'm watching the old classic romance melodrama feels, despite it's not only focus on romance, but still, the romance conflict is connect to the narrative stake of the character turmoil inner feeling.

Love Geum Sae Rok, Lee Do Hyun and Oh Man Seok for their performances here. I hope Oh man Seok won't get typecasted by always playing the baddies. Finally, He is continuously playing in a good drama, from beautiful world, and now youth of May.
But At this rate, I will be rooting for the baddies at this point, lol.

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Yes, there were flaws, but on the whole this was a great little drama. Each of the characters was interesting - sometimes infuriating but nevertheless interesting - and we had a clear journey for them all with believable endings. I didn't guess that the homeless guy was Kyung-soo till it was revealed, but then I really liked that - he was exactly the kind of person (super-sensitive, traumatised by all he saw and had to do) that would have fallen off the rails after the event, struggled to keep it all together, and withdrawn into himself out of guilt. It made perfect sense to me that he would have kept quiet for 41 years.

I've been majorly impressed by LDH in a couple of other dramas and this one has consolidated my very high opinion of him. He makes me *feel* his character's emotions. When he broke down in the restaurant when trying to locate Myung-hee, I suspect everyone on set was sobbing with him. Powerful stuff.

And, alas, Myung-hee never got to know the title of Annie's Song...

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Several things I can nitpick, especially how the ending came about for one, but this was the conclusion I wanted as it just made a lot of sense from a narrative perspective. Overall the great things about this drama outweighed the flaws for me so I won't let those bother me much. ((Also, the kid brother MS was pulled from his training camp by his father and taken along in his first attempt to leave Gwangju - just because he was there and his father sacrificed for him doesn't make him at fault. MH's death is another matter, but at the end of the day so many things went wrong above a young boy's recklessness.))

I love the classic old school romance and vibes here. The tropes worked well because of it, and also because GMS and LDH's acting and chemistry was quite refreshing. I miss them the most and I hope one day they have the opportunity to lead opposite each other again. For this drama to have impact, they had to carry the romance and their characters, and both delivered superbly.

Additionally, the entire cast and characters are awesome. I love what they did with second leads SR and SC, not only that they were great characters by themselves but that they were strong together (because of the siblings connection and because too often second leads are removed from each other and exists just for one of the leads).

I realized this drama didn't dwell so much on backstories, with only a few flashbacks/snippets about certain characters (our leads) and while I wouldn't say no to diving deeper it might have thrown off the focus of the drama of 12 eps (and I love how short this drama is). Instead, I found enjoyment in mentally deconstructing each character based off the clues they did drop. For instance, although HT and SR were said to be very similar with their strong headed qualities, but I thought at a deeper level HT and MH actually had more similarities that allowed them to understand each other. Both were removed from their family, either by distance or emotionally, and were lonely souls. Despite having a rich and politically powerful father, HT grew up with his ailing mother eating leftovers. Both leads had dreams and had to work to pull themselves up i.e. HT wasn't given freebies either. Both like roses with thorns, and MH expressed herself coldly while HT has his aloof cheerfulness and motto to live without regrets.

Also the OST is underrated.

I only jumped onboard during the last week on a binge watch and waiting for the final 2 episodes, but this drama will still linger with me for some time. Although the discussion was low, I appreciate all the people that followed this from beginning to end, especially as I had forgotten about this drama and only the posts reminded me that there was something of LDH and GMS that I had put on my watch list.

Thanks for the weecaps!

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A couple of final thoughts on YOUTH OF MAY and a film recommendation.
Congratulations to Go Min-si and Lee Do-hyun and really the entire cast for giving wonderful performances. I remember the emotional punch of CHICAGO TYPEWRITER (2017) but maybe YOM was more draining emotionally because it was a romantic drama first with the historical events of 1980 eventually enveloping our couple.

I may be in a minority but I thought the two main child actors gave beautiful performances for their parts as written. The two boys were a contrast. Myung-soo was so sweet and pure hearted. He could not believe that the SK army would shoot at its own citizens. It had to be the NK army as he reported to his coach. Jung-tae was such a burdened, hard nosed child. He knew better. He loosened up when he experienced the camaraderie of the boys on the team and after he had the heart-to-heart with Hee-tae. This is just picking out a couple of performances.

The entire YOM cast and crew can be proud of their work.

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The film recommendation.
Jump ahead to 1987 and the events leading up to the “June Struggle” (June 10-29, 1987). Info here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_Struggle#Death_of_Lee_Han-yeol
This film is based on a true story and dramatizes the events around the death of student Bak Jong-cheol. He died by torture in January of 1987 but his death helped precipitate the events of June that year.
The film is entitled: “1987: When the Day Comes”. It appears to be available on pay per view.
Info on the film:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1987:_When_the_Day_Comes

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Spot on with the two brothers. I found it interesting that Myung Soo grew up poor and Jung Tae was rich, but MS seemed more like the sheltered one while JT with his wrecked family and the gossips understood how cruel people could be.

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All good points.

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ughhhghghghg, i am not okay right now

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Question: What happen to Lee Sang-yi's character, Lee Soo chan at the present time? I'm so curious, he is my favorite character among the four leads. Ha ha he. Please...

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I apologize, I was very disappointed that Myunghee was killed, I disagree with any reason that her death was justified. The Myunghee and Heetae love story was fictional and like the beautiful love stories CLOY, IOTBNO, and SYHH, Youth of May should have had a feel-good ending. I understand the pain of the tragedy of the true story of the Gwangju uprising in 1980, and it should never be forgotten, but this film was fictional, about the beautiful love story of Myunghee and Heetae, written in the setting of the uprising. If it had been a happy ending, I dare say the popularity of this film would be much greater and rank as high as CLOY, and that exposure in itself would bring light and education to the worldwide audience the tragedy of Gwangju uprising. Myunghee should not have been killed, that was a mistake.

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So glad I decided to watch this show. Even though til the very end I was hoping maybe MH was not the skeleton at the end, I agree that her death gives the story the most meaning. MH and HT's decision to love each other despite everything and make the decisions they wouldn't regret makes the end of her life that much more poignant. I appreciated seeing how the production team included brief moments of how other people within that time period (the officer, the protesters, family members, nurses) were experiencing the loss of lives. I think it really speaks to the themes I saw within the drama: take care of yourself before worrying about others, take responsibility for your words, make the best choices you can without pushing it onto others, commit to your values and beliefs, family first, etc. Few dramas have such meaningful/thoughtful endings so I applaud this one for getting there.

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More than a love story between Hee-tae and Myung-hee, I felt this was a hearbreaking tribute to the people of Gwangju who courageously resisted, including those who were just caught in-between but rose to the occassion.

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