“Reply 1994“, a tremendously popular drama set in the year 1994 and featuring the pop culture icons of the era, has finally come to end. 11.9% of Korean viewers tuned in to watch the conclusion of the gripping love triangle in the December 28th finale, making it the most popular cable drama ever and the second most popular cable broadcast of all time. The finale for the second season of “Super Star K”, which attracted 18.1% of all TV viewers, remains the most popular cable broadcast. Throughout the series, viewers relived the college basketball and music trends that gripped young people in the 1990s.
While online there was some disappointment with the ending, most were sorry to say goodbye to the characters and were happy to have found a completely different kind of drama. “Reply 1994” and its prequel, “Reply 1997”, drew praise for perfectly capturing an era for a generation of viewers just starting to feel nostalgic.
[Note: Spoilers ahead!]
“Reply 1994” finale: Comfort for the “youth from the 90’s”.
An ordinary office worker was once part of the new generation, Generation X. A nagging ajumma was once a passionate fangirl who’d throw herself at her favorite stars. tvN’s drama “Reply 1994” was soothing nostalgia for youth from the 90’s right up until the end. “Reply 1994” launched its time machine in the first episode, “Seoul People”, that aired in October 2013.
In the final episode that aired on December 28th, Seong Na-jeong’s husband was finally revealed, completing the central question of the series. On June 22nd, 2002, when the quarter-final match of the Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup took place, the man who was standing next to Na-jeong (Go Ara) was not Chilbong (Yoo Yeon-seok) but Trash (Jung Woo). The long guessing game of who Na-jeong’s husband might be and the will-they won’t-they tension finally came to an end in the 21st episode.
One day in January, 2000, a teary-eyed Na-jeong headed to Trash’s home after receiving his text message explaining that he’s sick. Due to her working in Australia for the previous two years, she had experienced a “break-up without breaking up” with him. When she received the text message, she was overloaded with emotions. After finally realizing each other’s feelings, the couple kissed each other passionately.
After Kim Jae-jun’s identity was revealed, every clue dropped throughout the series began to make sense. On the day of the wedding in 2002, Trash couldn’t conceal his happy smile while being scolded by his father-in-law Seong Dong-il because of the empty seats due to the unexpected advancement of Team Korea into the quarter final of the World Cup. At the historical moment of advancing to the semi-final, Kim Jae-jun was the happiest groom. Trash decided to become a neurosurgeon in memory of Na-jeong’s brother who died from an incurable disease. Na-jeong’s mother was reassured about her son-in-law’s warm heart.
When time was turned back to January, 2000, another man was preparing for the “beginning of the end”. Chilbong had decided to put an end to an constant games, this person was actually Kim Seon-jun. He decided to let go of his heartbreaking first love and left the hospital despite his injured shoulder. After realizing this later, Na-jeong went to Chilbong and quietly hugged him. For Na-jeong, Chilbong was a pillar of the experience that made her pretty youth shine. Na-jeong revealed her true thoughts saying, “Chilbong, you are the most handsome man I’ve ever known. Thanks to you, I realized how decent person I am and I will remember my 20s as a beautiful time.”
In 2013, Kim Jae-jun and Seong Na-jeong are parents. The special tie of “first love” has become part of everyday life but still remains beautiful. Samcheonpo Kim Sung-kyun and Cho Yun-jin, who were like cats and dogs at first, eventually became a married couple with four children. Bingeure Kim Dong-jun, who was confused about his sexual identity, ended up marrying Die-die Jini, who was his senior student. Haitai Son Ho-jun, who went through an abrupt military conscription and break-up, married his first love Ae-jeong after his tumultuous life in the boarding house. For these country folk, the Sinchon boarding house was the place that encompassed every memory of their youth. It was there that they met each other and ended up forming miraculous ties.
“Reply 1994” was produced by the team of scriptwriter Lee Wu-jeong and PD Shin Won-ho, who also produced “Reply 1997”. The drama completely broke the sophomore curse and enjoyed phenomenal popularity that surpassed the previous work. Unlike the previous series based in Busan [Reply 1997], this drama portrayed ‘country bumpkins’ who garnered sympathy. The plot begins as students from all over the country gather in a boarding house in Sinchon, Seoul. Guessing Na-jeong’s husband added more fun to the plot. The depiction of popular culture in 1994, such as the pro basketball league and Seo Taiji & The Boys, brought back nostalgic memories.
Comments from Naver:
Samcheonpo’s narration at the end struck such a chord with me that I got teary.
I choked up hearing Kim Sung-kyun’s narration at the end. Now what enjoyment should I live for…
It seems nothing in our current times can substitute the nostalgia from the past. Reply 1994 satisfied such a need. A very cool drama.
TV dramas so far had three themes: romance, family, and tear-jerking events, and the dramas that successfully covered two or all of these elements were regarded as masterpieces… I think Reply 1994 succeeded in all those plus bringing out nostalgia in the viewer.
A drama that I want to watch again… A heartbreaking but sweet and lovely drama.
I really liked Samcheonpo’s final narration… It seems some articles are raising issues about how the drama ended but I was moved by his calm narration. The drama made me feel warm and happy for several weeks. Goodbye, “Reply 1994”. Goodbye, 2013.
“Do you hear me? If you can hear me, then reply, my 90’s.” [The last line in the drama]
I’m 42 years old. I was able to take the time machine to the golden times of my life every weekend. I sincerely thank all the drama staff for letting me visit the best times of my youth.
Finally a worthy drama after all those makjang dramas about cheating, heh.
Watching the drama, I missed my 20s badly. Thank you, Reply 1994!!!!
From Sports Kyunghyang:
“Reply 1994” PD Shin Won-ho “Trash was determined to be Na-jeong’s husband from the start”
It was almost like a mystery drama. tvN’s drama “Reply 1994” has kept its viewers on the edge of their seat. Drama viewers were busy talking about whether Na-jeong will be with Trash or Chilbong. In the final episode, Trash was revealed to be her husband. After the finale, viewers were curious about the decisions that led to writing the ending.
“The course of the plot was set from the beginning.”
We met the drama’s producer Shin Won-ho at CJ E&M Center. We listened to why he decided on such ending, and why he chose to make a drama starting in 1994.
Shin said, “Chilbong liked Na-jeong, who in turn liked Trash. The course of their romance was never changed in the drama.” He had no intention to flip the pre-determined ending. He said, “Who likes who was also clear in the previous drama ‘Reply 1997’.” He used the love triangle throughout the entire drama as a structure that held each individual episode together. He said, “One episode would talk about married couples and another would talk about friendship. I used the theme of finding Na-jeong’s husband as the pillar of the drama and added the story around it.”
He said he didn’t reveal the husband until the end not to get ratings but in order to tell the story. He said, “In an entertainment show, when one team is leading by 5:0, we would insert slow-tempo segments to make the viewers wonder whether the result will be flipped despite the obviously favorable situation for the winning team. We tried to maintain interest for each episode like that.”
Viewers tried hard to guess the husband. Some guessed it would be Trash because of the towel with the text “It is fate”. Shin said, “We rented a youth hostel instead of a hospital to film the drama. We noticed that a scene in the drama captured a towel in the hostel that had “It is our wonderful fate” written on it. We thought if we say we didn’t put any meaning to the towel, that would create unintended confusion. We just didn’t interfere with anything once it’s aired.”
Shin has now produced two dramas set in the 1990s, including the previous “Reply 1997”. He just wanted to tell a different story. In brainstorming sessions, Shin and the writing staff, including main scriptwriter Lee Wu-jeong, piled a bunch of snacks on the table and talked long into the night about any topic that came into their heads. In a meeting before filming “Reply 1997”, a writer who was a hardcore fan of Tony from H.O.T. brought up her experience. Other writers also had a similar experience so they had a good chat about it. Shin said, “It was new to Wu-jeong and I. It seemed the young staff all had the experience of being a passionate fan, which I found fun to listen to. Why have we never done this theme before?”
From there on, they began searching for materials about the theme of a “fangirl story” and “retro”. They realized that many events and incidents happened in 1997 and the year was culturally unique. Shin said, “There were many memorable dramas and songs from that year. It was also a historically significant year when Korea went bankrupt due to the financial crisis.” They did not originally intend to do a sequel to “Reply 1997”, but in production meetings they realized that it was necessary to cover the year of 1994. Big incidents happened during that year, such as the collapse of the Seong-su bridge and the serial murder of the Chijon Family, along with the release of many good movies and songs. Before the drama series, he was worried about whether he could portray the 90s as retro. Then he realized that fifteen years is a long period of time. Shin said, “The world changes so quickly now. The changes between 1997 and 1982 are different from the changes between 1997 and 2012.”
As Shin expected, viewers also perceived fifteen years to be a significant period of time. Shin said, “The Reply series basically talks about the times that you can never go back to. It seems our viewers are reminded of their younger days and feel heartbroken about something that we can never get back.” Shin remembers the 1990s as a bright era. He said, “In the 70s or 80s, many young people spilt blood for democratization. But in the 90s, you could be disinterested in politics without fear of criticism. You could feel guilty about neglecting social issues, but you could still enjoy personal hobbies and travel freely without getting blamed.”
Will he continue his “Reply” series? Shin said, “We need to have more discussion about that. At least, we wouldn’t try to force further episodes just because the viewers felt reluctant to say goodbye to the series. I want to produce entertainment shows or dramas that revolve around humanism. Judging by the fact that many people positively responded to ‘Reply 1994′ in how it portrayed multiple characters’ different stories and not just romantic relationships, I think my approach has resonated with the public.”
Comments from Naver:
Although I knew it had to be Trash, it still made me nervous until the end~~ I could sleep well after the finale.
The moment they tried to trick us into thinking Trash was her older brother, I knew he would be the husband, ke ke ke ke ke ke. The plot twist in the second episode surprised me.. *shivers*
So Na-jeong’s husband was determined to be “Trash” from the beginning… Now that sounds a bit weird.
I think I heard on TV that they had not decided on the husband from the beginning… eh… I don’t know.
I knew it! Judging from the production staff who were fans of Jung Woo, I guess he had to be Na-jeong’s husband~
If it was determined to be Trash from the beginning, wouldn’t it have been better if they were connected earlier and the later episodes showed other events? The biggest interest of the drama was who the husband of Seong Na-jeong will be but I think it dragged on too long. At the end, the drama received mixed ratings.
Just considering how much airtime was used for Trash should give you an answer. I think the love triangle dragged on too long.
After it was revealed that Trash was not her older brother in the second episode, Trash was determined to be her husband and the primary male lead~ he he. Wasn’t that obvious? They added the love triangle for the plot’s development~ I want to see all the Sinchon boarding house people again ㅠㅠ ke ke.
If you just consider Na-jeong’s feelings, the answer was obvious, ke ke. She never give any chance to Chilbong, which was almost cruel. ㅠㅠㅠㅠ The scene where she just handed a fork to Chilbong when he was opening his mouth sent a strong message.
The love triangle dragged on for too long… I really felt sorry for Chilbong at the endㅜ I wish they connected him to Jung Yu-mi and added some episodes about them.
Popular music from the 90’s played an important role in bringing back vivid memories of the 1990s for many viewers. Among the hundreds of songs used in the drama, koreaBANG picked out five of the most memorable, and paired them with modern cover songs.
Seo Taiji & Boys: To You (1993)
Sung Si-kyung: To You (2013)
The Blue: Feeling Only You (1992)
Jung Woo, Yoo Yeon-suk & Sohn Ho-jun: Feeling Only You (2013)
BANK: You Whom I Can’t Have (1995)
Hi.ni: You Whom I Can’t Have (2013)
ECO: Happy Me (1997)
Lim Kim: Happy Me (2013)
Park Ki-young: The Beginning (1999)
Go Ara: The Beginning (2013)