Directed By: Ahn Gil-ho
Written By: Ha Myung-hee
Genre: Drama; Slice of life
Number of Episodes: 16
Run time: 60-75 minutes
Park Bo-gum – Sa Hye-jun
Park So-dam – An Jeong-ha
Byeon Woo-seok – Won Hae-hyo
Kwon Soo-hyun – Kim Jin-woo
Shin Ae-ra – Kim Yi-young
Ha Hee-ra – Han Ae-seok
Han Jin-hee – Sa Min-gi
Shin Dong-mi – Lee Min-jae
Lee Chang-hoon – Lee Tae-su
Park Soo-young – Sa Young-nam
Lee Jae-won – Sa Gyeong-jun
Record of Youth is a 2020 South Korean slice of life drama. It explores the struggles and successes of 20-somethings who want to make it in the entertainment industry.
Offering a commentary on South Korea’s classist society that divides people into ‘silver spooners’ and ‘dirt spooners’ based on their upbringing, the series uses recurring motifs to highlight the difference between how we are perceived and what we want to portray.
Sa Hye-jun (Park Bo-gum) is a model who aspires to be an actor. To him, acting becomes a space to break away from socio-economic limitations because as he puts it, to the actor, a spoon is just an instrument; it doesn’t decide your fate. His father Sa Young-nam (Park Soo-young) is a carpenter who is in debt, while his mother Han Ae-seok (Ha Hee-ra) works as a housekeeper at his friend Hae-hyo’s (Byeon Woo-seok) house. Hae-hyo does come from privilege but his life is micro-managed by his mother Kim Yi-young (Shin Ae-ra), who sees her children’s success as an extension of her identity. Their friend Kim Jin-woo (Kwon Soo-hyun) is a photographer who dreams of owning his own studio but is expected to work for a photographer who is publicly dismissive of him. An Jeong-ha (Park So-dam) became a make-up artist after quitting her corporate job, something that is frequently brought up.
None of them are working for the sake of livelihood alone but because they have dreams they wish to fulfil. These dreams do come at a price, for the series explores the loneliness and anxiety of the youth who have to deal with the burden of expectation such as Jeong-ha, whose mother expects her to follow the conventional route and be a salary-woman and as such she cannot confide her professional choices with her. Even the many intimate relationships portrayed in the series are affected by socio-economic factors.
The youth of the story are unlike the generations before them and the script uses conversation to discuss this gap. The communication in the parents’ generation uses internal monologue to express what they truly feel versus what they actually say. The next group, such as the ones closer in age or temperament – Hye-jun’s brother Sa Gyeong-jun (Lee Jae-won) and his manager Lee Min-jae (Shin Dong-mi), frequently mutter under their breath or speak in low undertones. The ‘youth’ however, expresses themselves openly which works against them. After all, society upholds manipulation and doublespeak.
A recurring motif is that of the characters being shown and then shown through the mirror. This mirroring of the self and the reflection discusses the idea of perception – self and the other(s). Interestingly, the word ‘mirroring’ is actually mentioned a couple of times by Sa Gyeong-jun when he explains his responses to the malicious online comments on Hye-jun.
Since the lead actor enlisted just before the series released, many of the performances discussed in Record of Youth seem to be a nod to his career as an actor up till this point. It does bring up the enlistment requirement for young men and their concerns regarding their careers.
As a slice of life drama, it is realistic in how it depicts relationships both platonic and non-platonic, the anxiety of career choices, and the fears/ excitement of life. As a record of the modern youth, it comments on class structures and dreams, joining a host of recent releases from South Korea that focuses on these divisions.