“Answer Me 1994” (응답하라 1994)

Answer Me 1994

By Jae-Ha Kim
jaehakim.com
February 4, 2016

2.5 stars

Na Jung (played by Go Ara)
Chil Bong (played by Yoo Yun-Sook)
Trash (played by Jung Woo)

The premise for “Answer Me 1994” is pretty much the same as its superior predecessor, “Answer Me 1997.” Here, a group of college students room together at a boarding house run by the female lead’s parents. She will marry one of the men…but which one?

The writers give it a good shot at trying to disguise who will become Na Jung’s husband, but there really are only two choices. Why? Because in all the wedding flash forwards, we see that her husband is really tall. The only two who physically fit that requirement are med student Trash (on the left) and baseball prodigy Chil Bong (on the right).

Answer Me 1994 men

Though I was rooting for one over the other, my choice was incorrect. I knew this prior to the reveal in the final episode, because I screencapped one of the wedding shots where the husband’s face was blurred out and I could still tell by the haircut and facial structure who she picked.

Does that make me sound creepy, clever or just really determined? Discuss.

Though we’re supposed to care about Na Jung’s love life, the most interesting aspect of this 21-episode Korean drama was the lifelong friendship that these seven college roommates shared.

I didn’t understand why the male characters were so besotted with Na Jung. Though actress Go Ara gained almost 20 pounds and cut her hair to try to appear less attractive, she was still ridiculously beautiful. Less attractive was her gross eating habits, slovenly manners and freakily immature obsession with a college basketball star.

I was more vested in the relationship between Samcheonpo (Kim Sung-Kyun)  and Yoon Jin (Min Dohee). Though he was the youngest character and the most socially awkward, he also was the most honest. He said what was on his mind, even when it would tick off his girlfriend. When Yoon Jin was expecting an engagement ring, she was disappointed (at first) to see that he gave her three bank books instead. One was for savings, the other was for a house and the third was for their wedding. He knew that wasn’t romantic, he said, but it was who he was.

This series — which aired in Korea in 2013 — dragged on for me. Truth be told, I was tempted to stop watching after a handful of episodes, but I wanted to get the back story in case any of the players showed up in “Answer Me 1988” (the final series in the trilogy).

Answer Me 1994 trio

____________Trash______________Na Jung__________________Chil Bong

There were some wonderful moments in the series. Early on, Na Jung explains how Trash became her de facto big brother after her actual big brother (who was also Trash’s best friend) died during his childhood from a brain tumor. Na Jung and Trash were both wary of transitioning from a sibling-like relationship to a couple for obvious reasons.

I enjoyed the non-linear story telling and liked seeing that each of the characters ended up fine as adults.

Meta moments: 

Sung Dong-Il and Lee Il-Hwa return as the female lead’s parents. (Fans will recognize that the characters they play share their real-life names.) This time, they’re Na Jung’s parents. Instead of coaching the Busan Seagulls (as he did in “Answer Me 1997”), Sung is the coach of the Seoul Twins. Lee continues to serve ridiculously large amounts of food at every. single. meal. and it all looks delicious!

It turns out that Na Jung and her husband (whose identity I will reveal in the spoilers below this trailer) live one floor beneath the couple from “Answer Me 1997.” Stop reading if you don’t want to know who they are… for real…’cause I’m going to tell you who they are…NOW: Yoon Jae and Shi Won. Shi Won’s dad and Na Jung’s father — both played by the aforementioned Sung Dong-Il — get to share split-screen time. (See the trailer below for more.)

The cast members of “Answer Me 1997” make cameo appearances in Episodes 16 and 17. It was refreshing to see them, but I really hated the interaction between Shi Won (who was obsessed with the K-Pop band H.O.T.) and Trash. I actually found it disturbing.

The 1997 kids board a bus that Trash is already riding. When a song she likes comes on the radio, Shi Won asks the driver to turn the music up. Trash asks him to turn it down. The disagreement turns into a full-out brawl, with Trash calling her ugly and hitting her. This was written as a funny moment, but …

No.

In what universe is it OK for a 24-year-old man to verbally abuse and hit a 17-year-old girl? This is also out of character for Trash, who was written to be a funny, caring man.

Spoiler alert:

Na Jung marries Trash. Binggeure (played by B1A4 member Baro), who was silently questioning his sexuality, marries a female doctor. Chil Bong also got married — though we never see his wife.

Chil Bong should’ve moved on years ago. Na Jung had already pronounced her love for Trash and Chil Bong still didn’t get the hint. In fact, he went to Trash and told him that it wasn’t over.

Dude. Yes it was. It was over before it ever began. She had already made her choice.

For the record, I thought Na Jung picked the wrong man. Rumor has it that the writers had her all set to marry Chil Bong, but viewer response was so strong in favor of Trash that they changed the storyline about halfway through to make Trash more likeable.

@2016 Jae-Ha Kim | All Rights Reserved

Comments (14)

  1. Sammie says:

    Oh, I loved this series so much! I loved it as much as the others and thought she ended up with teh right guy. 🙂

  2. Robin says:

    “Does that make me sound creepy, clever or just really determined? Discuss.”

    If my opinion counts, you sound absolutely normal, because, uhm, that’s exactly what I do.

    I did not watch this series because I watched “Answer Me 1997″ and LOVED it. I was afraid this one might fall short of it, and I just didn’t want to witness that. Ha! Since then, however, I watch “Youth Over Flowers” with three of the “Answer Me 1994” boys and thought they were so endearing. I’ve made up my mind to watch the series this summer when I can let myself get emotionally caught up in something that is as unimportant in my real life as a K-drama (but my mind and heart doesn’t understand that).

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      LOL! Birds of a feather…

      I’m so glad I watched these in the order they were released. I would’ve been ticked off if I had watched this one first and already knew who Na Jung would marry in “1997”!

  3. Karen says:

    I loved this review Jae! I thought the series was good, but I watched it out of order. I wanted Answer Me 1997 AFTER this (the years confused me!) and knew who she married ’cause I saw it here. That kind of took the fun away.

    I too love the mom and dad. And I agree that the food the mom prepares all looks so delicious!! I eat at least one bowl of ramen during each episode. HAHA!

  4. Melissa says:

    The mom’s cooking and the kids facial expressions of shock looking at all the food never failed to amaze me. HAHA! It was like she prepared a jehsah feast every single day. Lucky kids!!!

  5. Keith Troell says:

    Is Chil Bong a real name? If it is, may I be Chil Bong, or would that be considered cultural appropriation?

  6. Jessica Gant says:

    Jae-Ha Kim (Journalist) do you ever post spoilers? I didn’t read this one just in case!

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      I do include spoilers, but that’s at the bottom of the review underneath the trailer… and it starts off with the notation that a spoiler alert is upcoming. That said, I do reveal the other couple (not the primary one) — but that’s revealed in the series pretty early on. smile emoticon

  7. Yeah, I am not a fan of Korea’s live-shoot change-the-plot-to-what-we-think-the-masses-want system. It ends up making too many dramas that started out great end in a really mediocre way.

  8. Sean Bermingham says:

    Have been watching on line. So, does this mean even though they show coming attractions of an episode 22, we are left high and dry with no ending to this series? That would be a disappointment!

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      Sean, what episode are you on? The series finale is episode 21 and all the loose ends are tied up by then. There are two bonus episodes (episodes 22 and 23) that are basically bloopers, interviews and behind the scenes.

      • Sean Bermingham says:

        Saw episode 21. At the end they showed coming atractions for a next episode, don’t understand why, if episode 21 was the last one! Also, with nearly all of the Korean shows I’ve watched, at the end they show a collection of photos of the actors and production crew to celebrate the end of the show. That didn’t happen this time! It’s easy to read the ending of the main couple but how about wrapping up what’s going on with the rest of the caracters?

  9. I too thought it would be Chil Bong because of the hairstyle. I am actually a little annoyed they changed the story as it went on based on the response. I also think hitting a girl is never funny or good. This was my least favorite of the Reply/Answer Me shows. 1988 was the best and months later I can’t stop thinking about some of the situations and characters in that show.

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      Thanks for your comments on my review. For whatever reason, I wasn’t notified of your two comments… Ugh. Technology! I agree with everything that you wrote… Great minds think alike? 🙂

      I hope you’re having a nice summer!

Join the Discussion

Psssst! Your E-mail address will not be published.

Name *

E-mail *

Website