Why Park Bo Gum & Park So Dam starrer Record of Youth's ending was never meant to be a typical 'happy ending'

It's been weeks since we've had to say goodbye to Record of Youth and while there's a major debate over the open ending, I share my thoughts on why the finale was as good as it gets.
Why Park Bo Gum & Park So Dam starrer Record of Youth's ending was never meant to be a typical 'happy ending'
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In the past few weeks, every time my mind ponders over Record of Youth and what it entailed after 16 episodes, I go back to Adam Levine's lyric from Lost Stars: "Youth is wasted on the young, it's hunting season." And while many have debated over the finale of the tvN drama, I share my two cents on why I felt it was the ending the lead characters deserved.

*SPOILERS ALERT* During the course of the series, we're focused heavily on three characters: Sa Hye-joon (Park Bo-gum), a model who is a struggling actor with a strict mindset when it comes to achieving his dream. Even if this meant being constantly berated by society and his own father, which many youthful individuals will relate to. On the other hand, Hye-joon's best friend Won Hae-hyo (Byun Woo-seok) is also a model and aspiring actor, albeit, born with a silver spoon along with an overbearing mother who could give Kris Jenner a run for her money. Let's not forget Ahn Jung-ha (Park So-dam), a practical go-getter who aspires to be a big makeup artist.

While the three main characters have their own individual traits and charms, what unites them is their exuberance to succeed in life. Each of them has a motivating factor that drives them (with a parental trap figure in place!) and through this journey of shifting from their 20s to 30s, we see ourselves in Hye-joon, Hae-hyo and Jung-ha. We see them through the good, the bad and especially the ugly. Because even at the brink of a young-life crisis, they never give up!

Many fans had a problem with how Ep 16 ended when it came to Hye-joon and Jung-ha's love story. But, from the get-go, I was always made to be in the know through the storyline that Record of Youth was never meant to be a love story. It was supposed to be a love letter to the confused youth, who get thrust into reality and have to fend for themselves while fighting for their dreams. In life, it's not always a 'happy ending' and that's not always a bad thing. Some relationships have an expiry date, not because the pair didn't love each other, it just wasn't the right timing or came in between a much larger goal.

Jung-ha wasn't selfish when she decided to break up with Hye-joon and even if one might feel that way, it was always her choice, to begin with. Seeing how her parents' marriage crumbled, she's always had to have a practical mindset when it came to love and as we leap into two years later, once Hye-joon returns from his mandatory military service, the look of fulfilment on both their eyes spoke wonders. If they had decided to work things out, who knows if they would have lasted the long-distance relationship. Instead, there could have been a scenario where they could have broken up much later and flat out loathed each other. Moreover, writer Ahn Gil-ho cleverly leaves the conversation between the two open-ended as now, in their 30s, they might have a different perspective on life and love. Maybe, just maybe, they even work things out. And even if they don't, it's not the end of the world.

As for Hye-joon's personal arc, the catharsis moment arrives during his conversation with his father Sa Young-nam (Park Soo-young) in which the latter apologises for not motivating him enough. Hye-joon confessed that he only ever wanted his dad's approval and now that he got it, he finally felt free. This stems from the fact that Young-nam's father Sa Min-gi (Han Jin-hee), who wasn't there for his son when he was younger dedicates his award for modelling to Young-nam. The juxtaposition sees Hye-joon earlier dedicating his Best Actor award to his grandfather and his mother Han Ae-sook (Ha Hee-ra) while snubbing his dad.

When it comes to Hae-hyo's character arc, I found it especially endearing that even when he was at the lowest of all lows, he refused to hate his mother Kim Yi-young (Shin Ae-ra) and that Yi-young never turned into a new leaf overnight and remained exactly the same. Hae-hyo decides to take charge of his own life and let his actions speak louder than words as enlisting to the military was solely his choice. While we're not sure if Hae-hyo was able to achieve the success that he so desperately craved, it was also a heartwarming thing to know that he never lost out on his friendship with Hye-joon. And that, at the end of the line, the three best friends - Hye-joon, Hae-hyo and Kim Jin-woo (Kwon Soo-hyun),  still remained the strongest bond in the series. Moreover, the fact that Jung-ha never leads Hae-hyo on, as a potential love interest, even til the end when he informs her that he's enlisting to the military had a relatable quality attached, unlike typical love triangles we witness on-screen.

Even with Jin-woo, the fact that he decided to end things with Hae-hyo's sister Won Hae-na (Jo Yoo-jung) given their class difference, is again something that occurs in real-life. Instead of showing Yoo-jung as someone who can give up her elite life for love in a moment's notice, they showed the reality that it's not as easy as it is to adapt to an environment so alien from your own.

ALSO READ: Record of Youth Ep 16: Park Bo Gum fans left in tears during series finale; Found the open ending heartwarming

As I wrote earlier, Record of Youth's ending was never meant to be a 'happy ending,' it was meant to be a 'real' record of youth. "In your 20s, you learn to detach yourself from your parents' influence. Now, we're entering our 30s. The age at which you can no longer blame others," Hye-joon said it best.

In case you agree or disagree with my viewpoint on Record of Youth's ending being as good as it gets, do take over the comments section and share your thoughts with Pinkvilla.

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Anonymous 2 months ago

Will there be S2 to show what happens between the two after all this?

Anonymous 2 months ago

One of the most revolutionary korean dramas I've watched till date. This show was a tremendous success for a reason. Also, RoY is better off without a second season. This kind of a drama doesn't require a second season. It has already conveyed everything it needed to.

Anonymous 2 months ago

Thanks for this. I can now see it in the other side.

Anonymous 2 months ago

I did not like the ending at all- I understand why you said that but it wasn’t a satisfying ending. I like something unique like CLOY which is my favorite drama.

Anonymous 2 months ago

I loved that the ending was not your typical happy ending it was more realistic. It gives greater anticipation for season 2.

Anonymous 2 months ago

Excellent point of view! And although I confess that I did not like the ending, it makes sense, I have re-visualized some chapters and have found answers to that ending. Hye Joon was determined, He knew what He wanted and what he could do to pursue her dream and maintain a relationship. But I don't want to focus on him, but on Ahn Jung Ha, at all times she was sincere and honest (as a friend and as a girlfriend) although she gave herself the freedom and a space to go against her beliefs and values, her paradigms because of her personal history. In the end she picks up again, recognizes that the experience was beautiful and helped her grow as a person, that it helped her to redefine herself and to vindicate herself with her values and principles. I would consider that a bit selfish, but, it's part of being young.

Anonymous 2 months ago

One of the best endings I watched... Record of the Youth is full of lessons in life not only for the young people but for the not so young as well. The storyli e encompasses all cultures.... everyone feom any countey and culture can teuly relate to their individual story! Congratulations to all!

Anonymous 2 months ago

I've couldn't summarized ep 16 any better way then what is already been said I can totally relate to this drama by trying to follow your dreams while keeping your integrity when they're would be times you feel tempted and other times you have to yield in order to accomplish your homework according to how Sa Hye-Jun ( Park Bo-gum ) calls it and while others who sowed evil seeds will finally reap what they sew in time this drama gave me the inspiration to accomplish my dream in life I'm happy that Sa Hye-Jun showed us that eventhough life maybe hard how bad and how much are you willing to put forth to dream that there's always going to be one or more people to not approve and will put you down because of where you going in other words Jeong-ha was never Sa Hye-Jun's dream I don't dislike her but sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to finish the rest of dream. I LOVE THIS DRAMA THANK YOU PARK BO-GUM AND TO THE OTHER ACTORS WHO CONTRIBUTED IN THIS DRAMA TO GIVING INSIGHT AND REMINDING US THAT LIFE ISN'T ALL GOLD WHEN TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR DREAMS AND TO DO THAT YOU'LL HAVE TO WALK A LONELY PATH BECAUSE NOT EVERYONE WILL AGREE. 감사합니다.

Anonymous 2 months ago

Nice story. The actors were awesome. Looking forward for part 2.

Anonymous 2 months ago

Totally agree!

Anonymous 2 months ago

Thank you. It gives me a different perspective.

Anonymous 2 months ago

Thank you for your review! It really sums it up well and makes people understand why RoY was a great drama. After reading so many bad comments about Park So Dams acting and the no chemistry etc. I didnt feel sad when they broke up because I felt the girl wasnt giving enough in the relationship or it was a relationship for the young and innocent. A season 2 is a must..could show a more mature relationship with a different girl? Like with Namlee with whom he had great chemistry in that very short cameo?

Anonymous 2 months ago

Very well said..

Anonymous 2 months ago

Looking forward to Season 2. Love it.

Anonymous 2 months ago

I totally agree in this. The series shown the reality of youth life and it wasn't actually a sad ending.

Anonymous 2 months ago

Thank you for your review. Agree with you. The open ending is realistic n heartwarming. It's a good drama showing love, friendship n family life. I've enjoyed watching it. Well done to the team!!

Anonymous 2 months ago

Thank you for explaining the last episode. I am not finish watching the series but saw the last episode. It’s not that I got bored but wanted to see how it turns out. You are right the title of the drama entails what the youth are undergoing from family expectations, life goals and relationships. You struggle and feel pressure. You need a break to reset and rethink your priorities. The last episode was kinda hanging but it was meant for the viewers like me to visualize the ending we prefer.

Anonymous 2 months ago

This is a good review, thank you, and I fully agree. Both the lead characters are now individually successful, and they appear to have maturely put their past unsuccessful relationship behind then. That is, they have played their Record of Youth. I love the way they are starting again with their bantering back and forth. It shows that their characters, in a way, have not really changed and I bet they get back together again.

Anonymous 2 months ago

It's an open ending to show that Hyejoon has matured after enlistment. Their love story was never meant to be. Even if Jeongha realized there should be a love story between them starting with still wearing those shoes, Hyejoon has realized otherwise. He has now a different perspective in life, in love. He will still be friends with her, they move in the same business, how can't they be.

Anonymous 2 months ago

I hope that Park Bo Gum’s project after his Navy service would be Season 2 of Record of Youth.

Anonymous 2 months ago

I enjoyed it too as i see it in different perspective as well... it's refreshing and not your common kdrama in high octane all the time..the open ending can have many interpretations so I too is happy with the ending

Anonymous 2 months ago

Omg I just love Korean movies I wish they have Season 2. I will be waiting

Anonymous 2 months ago

Totally agree,i love Korean movies, not much nudity,for me it's two thumbs up

Anonymous 2 months ago

What we really need is season 2 of vagabond

Anonymous 2 months ago

Agree with you, but we deserve a new season of RoY, I want discover the life of Sa Hye Joon in his 30 years old age

Anonymous 2 months ago

I disagree I like season 1 and if they do make a season 2 I wouldn't want it to tarnish the whole meaning on why it's called Record of Youth.

Anonymous 2 months ago

I hope that Season 2 of Record of Youth will be Park Bo Gum’s next project after he returns from his Navy service.

Anonymous 2 months ago

I absolutely agree with you. It's a heartwarming movie.

Anonymous 2 months ago

I cannot help but agree on the article written above. The series spoke so much about LOVE, love of friends, love of parents and love for one's self. I hope second season will be coming soon. I will surely look forward to it!

Anonymous 2 months ago

I was ok with the ending. Gave me hope that just maybe they'd get back together. Hope there's a second season soon!

Anonymous 2 months ago

No way buying this review. Writers screwed up last 4 episodes with unnecessary crap. Luckily both of these actors were able to save this show in spite of. Park is a great actor. Wish him a show like CLOY next time.

Anonymous 2 months ago

CLOY is a irrealistic rom com and Park Bo Gum said to choose scripts that have deserving messages, he will never make a drama with a meaningless story. I support him also for this.

Anonymous 2 months ago

As the episodes went on, it showed signs that the spark that should make our heart flutter was not really there in the relationship of the characters of Park Bo Gum and Park So Dam. It was more on friendship.

Anonymous 2 months ago

Thanku for the review...now I feel relieved.i am also one of the person who afraid the reality..I think that's why I feel wrong about last ep...

Anonymous 2 months ago

yes...well said....young ppl...listen and pay attention

Anonymous 2 months ago

You've clumped everyone together. Not everyone feels this way in their 20's. The 1st 8 episodes gave me a feeling of hope. The kind you carry with you. By episode 16...

Anonymous 2 months ago

For real, they gave me hope from the first yes, but the meaning and lessons they taught in this show, I found it beautiful and another reality. It basically shows that you don't always end up together like what we expect them too. But then again, we do love our happy endings where they end up together and so which we can see in other dramas of course. I love this show and totally recommend

Anonymous 2 months ago

For real, they gave me hope from the first yes, but the meaning and lessons they taught in this show, I found it beautiful and another reality. It basically shows that you don't always end up together like what we expect them too. But then again, we do love our happy endings where they end up together and so which we can see in other dramas of course. I love this show and totally recommend

Anonymous 2 months ago

Waiting for Season Two❤❤❤

Anonymous 2 months ago

i don't think there will be any

Anonymous 2 months ago

Well said and I agree with your analysis.