First Impression: Reply 1988

Same old same old, and yet, new. Reply 1988 continues the Reply franchise with the same nostalgic feel of yesteryear, and using actors/actresses that are best known for sideliner roles as leads. But this time, the narrative doesn’t juz center on the young people, but also on their parents.


Main cast:

  • Hyeri (from Hyde, Jekyll and Me) as Sung Duk-sun. The middle child of a family of three, and she grows up being overshadowed by a bully of an older sister, Bo-ra, and having to give in constantly to the only son of the family, No-eul.
  • Sung Dong-il and Lee Il-hwa as themselves. Parents to Bo-ra, Duk-sun and No-eul. Typical of other parents roles they played in Reply franchise, they are not exactly well-off, but get along well enough to provide for the family. Being the stay-home housewife, Mama Il-hwa is best friends with her neighbour ahjummas — Ra Mi-ran and Kim Sun-young.
  • Ryu Joon-yeol as Kim Jung-hwan. Reticent young man, he drives his mum nuts by cutting her off from his life. (not that he intends to, he juz prefers to keep things to himself) He has a nerdy elder brother, Jung-bong, whose sole hobby is to look up strange names in a tel directory. (remember, there’s no such things as computers then)
  • Kim Sung-kyun and Ra Mi-ran as themselves, and parents to Jung-bong/ Jung-hwan. Papa Kim is rather a bit of a weird nutcase, as opposed to his wife…who puts up with his antics with this long-suffering face. Although I’m not sure what is Papa Kim’s occupation, this family appears to be a little bit more well-off than the Sungs.
  • Go Kyung-po (in Flower Boys Next Door) as Sun-woo. A little bit of the Mama’s boy, he is on very close terms with his mum after the demise of his dad. So much so that Mdm Kim prides herself on knowing the latest gossip amongst the youngsters (much to Mdm Ra’s envy).
  • Park Bo-gum (in Nodame’s Cantabile) as Taek. The supposed whiz kid at baduk, but rather socially inept. He gets pushed around by Dong-ryong even though they hang out in his home and watch movies on his tv. He stays with his widower dad, who owns the jewellery store on their street.
  • Lee Dong-hwi as Dong-ryong. I don’t think he is of the same neighbourhood, but in the same school as Duk-sun and friends.


Read full recaps from Dramabeans.


The story of Duk-sun and her friends’ past is narrated by an older Duk-sun herself. It starts off with the momentous event of 1988 — when Seoul hosted the 24th Olympics. Duk-sun is selected to be the flag bearer for Madagascar — which later pulled out of the Games for political reasons. Nevertheless, Duk-sun still gets her chance as a replacement flag bearer for Uganda.

Being the middle child, Duk-sun gets overlooked by both her parents, who dote on their intelligent undergrad eldest daughter and their only (youngest) son. Duk-sun finally explodes on the day when she thinks she has lost even the one small chance to outshine her unni — when she is informed that she may not be needed as flag bearer to Madagascar.


In the other families, we learn of the boys’ backgrounds and more of their personalities. Jung-hwan appears to be a little of a hooligan, but surprisingly, he performs pretty well in his studies. He drives his mum crazy by not telling her anything — since she gets to be “compared” with Sun-woo’s mum who seems to know everything.

But not all is sunny in Sun-woo’s family either. Mdm Kim is plagued by insecurity that one day, her son will drift away from her. After the demise of her husband, she relies emotionally on Sun-woo, who has sorta taken on the role of the Man of the house.


Ep2 introduces the romance (and friendship) angle between Duk-sun and her future husband (who is one of the 4 boys, but unknown as yet..) as well as how the 4 guys (and 1 girl) cement their friendship over the years.


sab: Like all Reply narratives, the pacing is leisurely to the point of being snail like. But that gives plenty of opportunities for the writer to slowly flesh out our characters, and without meaning to, you suddenly end up caring for them more than you should.


In ep1, Duk-sun’s middle child syndrome really gets to me. It feels real, and I must say, Hyeri does a better job here than in Hyde. Duk-sun’s little outburst at having to co-celebrate her birthday with her unni again may seem pathetic and childish on paper, cos her parents do love her, and she knows that. But considering that she had a really bad day (she only knew about her role as flag bearer made redundant while being interviewed for national TV), you can understand why her pent up frustration evolves suddenly into a screaming, wailing episode. And although her dad later apologizes and makes up to her, old habits do die hard — they forget to rescue her in a gas leak at home. (well…like i said, they do love her…but…)


Another feature which I like about 1998 is the spotlight on the parents. In previous Reply, the focus is on the young people, and how they navigate through their youth in that particular era. The parents (aka Sung Dong-il and Lee Il-hwa) are peripherals and supporting roles. But in 1998, we get to see the interactions and friendships between the neighbourhood ahjummas. Like the youngsters, these women’s friendship is juz as precious and formed over years of sharing meals (and beers) and gossiping while trimming vege.


I suppose in an era where internet is totally unheard of, Friendship is limited to the handful of people you meet and talk with daily — and not the number of “Likes” received on a Facebook post.


kooriyuki: I was hesitant to start watching (Answer Me 1994, it’s ALL your fault), but then again, who can resist the old school charm? I’m glad that I watched the first two episodes, because this instalment feels more like the very first season of the Anwer Me franchise, and I’m NOT going to care who Deok Sun marries! I was literally groaning because those lying writer and producers of the franchise swore up and down it’s not going to be a “guess the husband” game, BUT IT IS!

That aside, the first two episodes of this season feels more like an exploration on the themes of friendship and family, which yes, I have a grudgingly agree that the writer kept to her promise on this front. I hope it keeps it this way too, because what happened in Answer Me 1994 is just too much to handle (Justice for Chilbong is still very much valid, I’m telling ya!). I’m going going to board the solo ship of Taek and Sun Woo, because OMG they’re just so cute and sweet characters.

3 thoughts on “First Impression: Reply 1988

Add yours

  1. I really enjoyed the first two episodes.. For me this series is all about friendships and I liked the new light that this new one puts on the parents relationships too! 🙂

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