Perhaps it is due to the “cable” factor. Or it is thanks to the writers’ past experience in writing “real variety” shows. Or still yet, maybe the actors are simply doing a great job bringing to life what’s in writing. But it strikes me how the teens in Answer Me 1997 actually talk like real teens.
WINTER 1998, BUSAN
(BGM: Turbo’s “Reminiscence“)
Siwon: Oppa, why do you like me? (pause) I said, why do you like me?
(Hakchan and Yoojung are listening to Fin.K.L’s “Blue Rain”)
Yoojung: Do you like me or Fin.K.L.?
(Hakchan points to Yoojung.)
Yoojung: Why? Why do you like me?
EPISODE 10: THE REASON I LIKE YOU
At Sungjae’s insistence, the boys are gathered in front of “colatech,” a nonalcoholic club for teens. Hakchan suggests going to his house instead, but Sungjae insists, “No. After Joonhee dances tonight, the girls will be all over us.” Dressed in mere tracksuits in the middle of winter, Sungjae shivers.
Joonhee: Aren’t you cold? Wear a jacket!
Sungjae: I’m fine. I’m fine!
Joonhee: You’ll freeze to death.
Sungjae: I’m fine. I’m fine!
Yoonje: No, you’re not. Your lips are blue!
Sungjae: I have to dress like this to get the girls!
Hakchan: Let’s go in before he freezes to death! I’m dead meat if Yoojung sees me here.
Yoonje: Let’s go in!
Sungjae: They should be here soon.
Hakchan: Someone else coming?
Sungjae: Yoojung and Siwon!
Yoonje and Hakchan look at Sungjae with bewildered eyes.
Hakchan: Why are they coming here?
Sungjae: You’ll get caught by Yoojung anyway. Just have her here from the start! And Siwon really wanted to see Joonhee dance. That’s okay, right? (The boys remain silent.) Ah, it’s cold! (He quickly goes in.)
Hakchan: I will kill him tonight.
Inside the club, they see President Eun dancing to Yoo Seung Jun’s “Nightmare.” Sungjae goes completely head over heels for her, and as soon as he receives a page that Siwon and Yoojung have arrived, he leaves his friends in order to freely pursue President Eun.
The girls arrive, with Siwon jumping on Yoonje’s back.
Siwon: Guess who!
Yoonje: Stop already!
Siwon: Is Joonhee here? I’ve never seen him dance before.
Yoojung: Did you two fight? It’s the first time seeing Yoonje being mad at you.
Siwon: Why would we fight?! (Turning to Hakchan and trying to pretend everything is fine.) I hear he dances Deux better than Turbo. Is he dancing as Lee Hyun Do or Kim Sung Jae? [Note: They're both members of Deux.]
Hakchan: He does both by himself. I’ve seen it a couple of times and it’s… (Hakchan puts his thumb up.)
At that moment, Joonhee comes out and dances to Deux’s “Turn Around and Look at Me.” The girls go crazy.
Yoojung: Kang Joonhee, I’m yours!
Siwon: Kang Joonhee, take me away!
Yoojung: Kang Joonhee, you are the lord of my soul!
Siwon: Kang Joonhee, I’m three months along! I’ll take care of your mom! [Note: Bella disagrees with me, and thinks Siwon said, "I'll take care of you for the remaining three months." I'm going to ask someone else for a third opinion.]
At this, Yoonje stares at Siwon, and Hakchan laughs hysterically. But when the dance is over, Joonhee’s eyes are at Yoonje alone.
Joonhee comes down from the stage, and is greeted by President Eun.
President Eun: Hey Kang Joonhee, you’re pretty good! (hands him a bottle of water) Here.
President Eun: Do you have a girlfriend? Do you?
President Eun: Then be my boyfriend starting today. I’ll be good to you. (hands him a paper with her pager number.) Here. Page me. Everyday.
Joonhee: Wait! I’m sorry. I like someone else. (walks away)
President Eun: You said you didn’t have a girlfriend! Who is she?! Who’s the bitch?! Is she prettier than me?! That can’t be! Hey, Kang Joonhee! Hey!
She turns around when Sungjae taps her shoulder.
Sungjae: President Eun, I’ve fallen for you. (hands him a paper with his pager number) Page me!
She sighs and walks away, but turns around to tell him to follow her and carry her bag.
Meanwhile, Taewoong now has other employees working for him in his dot-com company. They are always working at the office, not even having enough time to go home. And so Taewoong tells them to go home at least once a week and go out on dates.
Employee #1: We don’t have time to have a girlfriend. We barely have time to wipe ourselves after taking a dump.
Taewoong: Really? But I do.
(Taewoong shows them a photo of Siwon.)
Taewoong: What do you think? Isn’t she pretty?
Employee #2: Is she really your girlfriend?
Taewoong: Yes, of course! Why? She isn’t pretty?
Employees (all together): No! She’s… pretty. Very pretty.
Their hesitation to answer indicates that at least in the context of this drama, Siwon is not perceived to be a particularly pretty character by others.
Taewoong: That’s alright. You don’t have to lie. I know she’s not pretty. (looking with loving eyes at the photo.) Ugly, strong, and even last in her class.
Employee #2: In her department of major?
Taewoong: No. In her classroom!
Everyone gapes at the realization that Taewoong’s girlfriend is a high schooler. Just then, Taewoong receives a call from Siwon. He walks out to take his call in private.
Yoonje, Hakchan, Yoojung, and Siwon are waiting for Joonhee outside the club. At the sight of Joonhee, the girls start fangirling once again.
Yoojung: Kang Joonhee! I didn’t know you were this hot!
Siwon: Kang Joonhee, you really were the best!
Yoojung: You’re much better than Jae Deok! (Note: A member of Sech Kies; also from Busan.)
Siwon: Hey, let’s date.
Yoojung: No, he’s going out with me!
Hakchan: Hey, what did you win today? Did you get a useless washing machine like last time?
Joonhee: This competition was only for students, so the prize was not too grand. But I still got… Tada!
Joonhee turns around and shows off his prize – a new Shaqille O’Neal backpack!
Yoonje: It’s my first time seeing Shaq!
Hakchan: That would be awesome when matched with Air Jordans!
Yoojung: Is that Shaqille O’ Neal?
Siwon: Look at the sturdy zipper! Wow!
Joonhee: Let’s go. I’ll treat you today. (taking out an envelope of money from his coat pocket.) I also won cash!
Yoonje: Shall we go do Nampo-dong*? [Note: A neighborhood in Busan known for their food alleys.] Noodles, green onion pancakes, and soju?
Joonhee: We’re still students. Let’s go have some sashimi. There’s a place my sister works.
Yoonje: Shall we? Let’s go!
Yoojung (grabbing Hakchan): Sorry. We have to go somewhere. You guys go. (to Hakchan) Did you reserve the movie tickets?
Yoojung: See you later!
Hakchan and Yoojung leave the others, although Hakchan is reluctant to go at the thought that he would miss the sashimi dinner.
Yoonje (to Joonhee): A movie this late?
Joonhee: I know…
Siwon: Oh, you poor fellows! Don’t you know that they show three late-night movies back to back at the theater by Busan University? But then again, how would you guys know?
Joonhee: Watching a movie all night long? Wouldn’t that be boring?
Siwon: Do you think it would be boring when you’re watching it with your date?
Joonhee: Anyway, let’s just the three of us go.
Siwon: I have plans too.
Joonhee: What plans?
(Siwon’s phone rings.)
Siwon: I’ll see you at school tomorrow! (whispering to Joonhee) Have fun on your date!
Yoonje is in a daze as he watches Siwon walk off, not even noticing Joonhee repeatedly calling his name and suggesting that they go home instead.
Yoonje: I want to eat sashimi. Let’s go. We can go on a date! But where is this punk Sungjae?
Joonhee: He’s completely gone crazy for President Eun.
Yoonje (laughing): Crazy bastard!
Sungjae and President Eun, and Hakchan and Yoojung are watching Sechs Kies’ movie Seventeen in a theater. Eun Ji Won’s acting was… umm… terrible in the movie, which Hakchan (also played by Eun Ji Won) comments on.
Hakchan: Isn’t his acting terrible? Even I could have done better than that! [Keke, well, they do say that being able to laugh at yourself is a sign of maturity, right?!]
Of course, this gets Eun Ji Won’s fangirl, Yoojung, upset. “Let’s break up.” Quickly realizing his mistake, Hakchan changes the subject by offering to buy coke.
Yoonje and Joonhee are at the pojangmacha (tented street food stall) where Joonhee’s sister works. She offers the boys plates and plates of food.
Joonhee: Noona, stop already. We can’t eat them all!
Sis: Just eat it! I can’t do this when the boss comes back. I’m dead meat if I get caught. Yesterday, I almost got slapped on my cheek after getting caught stealing two packs of sea cucumber. He looked at me pathetically. I considered ripping his stomach open, but I held back. Hey kids, do you want some soju?
Joonhee: Forget it! Can’t you see we’re in our uniforms? Are you blind?
Sis: I am, you crazy bastard! Calm down. (pointing to Yoonje) Is he your friend?
Joonhee: He sits next to me.
Yoonje: Hello, I’m Yoon Yoonje.
Sis: So good looking. Eat up!
Joonhee: She’s my seventh oldest sister.
Yoonje: Really? Is she the one who Sungjae met at the karaoke?
Joonhee: No, they’re twins.
Joonhee: I said they’re twins.
Joonhee’s sister is sifting through the food, looking for the “pig’s balls.”
Joonhee: She has a sailor mouth, but she’s nice.
Yoonje: Then what about your eighth oldest sister? Your youngest sister?
Joonhee: She’s my twin sister.
Joonhee: You didn’t know?
Yoonje: How would I know, you crazy bastard? Why didn’t you tell me?
Joonhee: It’s nothing to brag about.
Yoonje: Is there anything else I don’t know about you? Tell me!
Joonhee: No, I don’t.
Yoonje: I think there is. Like maybe your father is a gangster? Or your balls are lopsided… Or… you have a huge crush on someone?
Joonhee suddenly becomes quiet, and Yoonje carefully observes him. Finally, Joonhee responds, “There’s none.”
Yoonje: You sure have a lot of secrets! Why don’t you just let them out?
Joonhee: Then what about you?
Yoonje: What about me?
Joonhee: Why didn’t you give the puppy to Siwon? Didn’t you buy it for her?
This time, it’s Yoonje’s time to be unable to answer. He asks Joonhee’s sister for some soju, which she happily complies.
Meanwhile, Siwon and Taewoong are on a date of their own. As she watches Taewoong drink a can of beer, Siwon stares with longing eyes.
Siwon: Oppa, can i have just one sip?
(Siwon gulps it down.)
Taewoong: When are you leaving for Seoul?
Siwon: The day after tomorrow, at dawn. You have to put in good words to my dad. Okay?
Taewoong: Do you like H.O.T. that much?
Siwon: Yeah. Of course.
Taewoong: What do you like about them?
Siwon: My oppas are good looking, they’re good dancers, they sing well… I don’t know. I just like everything about them! (giggles)
Taewoong: How about me?
Taewoong: You have to like me that much too, okay?
Siwon: Are you not going home again tonight?
Taewoong: I have to go back to work after seeing you.
Siwon: What are you going to do with all that money you earn? You should just earn a little and spend a little.
Taewoong: How can I, when you eat so much?
Siwon: Do I eat a lot?
Taewoong: Well, it’s not a little.
Siwon: So do you not like it?
Taewoong: Of course not.
(Back at the pojangmacha…)
Yoonje: How did you know?
Joonhee: How could I not?
Yoonje: Why don’t you tell Siwon that you like her? Why? Is that a secret too?
The following day, the rivalry between H.O.T.’s fans and Sechs Kies’ fans are especially tense, with the Grand Prize (Daesang) winner of the upcoming music awards show up in the air. In the classroom, Siwon gets into another physical altercation with President Eun, when President Eun accuses Siwon of sabotaging Sechs Kies’ poster.
(December 5, 1998 – At National Theater)
The fans are waiting outside to enter the theater and attend the awards ceremony. H.O.T.’s fans are gathered together, all cloaked in their white H.O.T. raincoats. Likewise, Sechs Kies’ fans are in their signature yellow raincoats.
One lone girl in a yellow raincoat dares to cross over to H.O.T’s side. It’s Yoojung.
Siwon: Hey, are you crazy? What guts you have to come here?
Yoojung: That’s not what’s important!
Siwon: How is that not important?
Yoojung: The Golden Prize winner has already been determined.
Both rival fans are positive that their oppas will take the prize. To make this atmosphere even more tense than it already is, it starts to rain. One by one, the girls start to stand up in a dramatic face off, led by each club’s president (in a cameo appearance by comedians Kang Yumi and Ahn Young Mi) in a parody of the film Nowhere to Hide.
H.O.T.’s fan club president, Kang Yumi, is sporting the same hairstyle as S.E.S.’s Shoo (a group under the same label as H.O.T.), and Sechs Kies’ fan club president, Ahn Young Mi, is sporting the same hairstyle as Fin.K.L.’s Sung Yuri (a group under the same label as Sechs Kies). They throw insults at each other, and just as they’ve taken all they can and are ready to grab and pull one another’s hair, a staff comes out and announces that the two largest fan clubs may now enter the auditorium in two rows… at the same time.
Inside the auditorium, the fans continue to chant for their favorite groups. There are small groups of male fans cheering for the girl group of their choice, ahjumma fans holding up signs for Kim Jong Hwan, and even a small group of fans for rocker Kim Kyung Ho. (One girl hilariously makes a “loser” sign at the chanting fangirls). But the great majority of the audience is divided into white balloons and yellows balloons for H.O.T. and Sechs Kies.
Back at Siwon’s house, as her parents are watching the awards show on T.V., her dad admires singer Kim Hyun Jung’s legs.
Mom: You scold Siwon, but you’re just like her.
Dad: How dare you compare me to her? Mine is an innocent, agape love as a fan. That girl is just crazy.
The host of the awards show, Shin Dong Yup, gets ready to announce the Grand Prize winner, but not without first teasing the fans.
Shin Dong Yup: This year’s Grand Prize goes to… Who do you think it will be? So many people want it… then, should we just give it to H.O.T.? It also seems reasonable to give it to Sechs Kies this year. Will it be Sechs Kies? No, will it be H.O.T.? The result is in this envelope. I will really announce it this time. The 1998 Golden Disk Awards Grand Prize… This year’s Grand Prize goes to… Kim Jong Hwan of “For Love.” Congratulations!
Complete silence fills the auditorium. In contrast, back at Siwon’s home, her mom jumps up and down, elated at the result.
After the show, the fangirls from both camps sit deflated outside the theater, waiting for their bus home. And just then, Kim Jong Hwan’s ahjumma fans run past them to catch their star’s van, shouting, “Jong Hwan oppa!”
The boys are playing basketball when Sungjae receives a page from President Eun that they’re back in Busan.
Sungjae: She’s here. I’m off!
Hakchan: Oh, then Yoojung must also be back. Sorry, I have to go!
Joonhee: Don’t you have to go too?
Joonhee: To Siwon.
Yoonje: There’s someone else who will go to her.
Yoonje: Why do you… why do you like Siwon?
Joonhee: What about you?
Joonhee: At first, I thought you were twins. Even though you fought everyday, you always went home together. So I thought you two were fraternal twins like me.
Yoonje: How could I be twins with that ugly girl? You have such wild imagination!
Joonhee: Isn’t Siwon the closest person to you, just as a twin would be? When you’re together, it feels nice and comfortable. You don’t feel awkward even when you don’t talk or do nothing at all. I envy that the most. Isn’t that why you like her?
Joonhee: Then why? Why do you like her?
Yoojung (to Hakchan): Why? Why do you like me?
Siwon (to Taewoong): Oppa, why do you like me? I said, why do you like me? Because… I resemble Songju unni?
Joonhee: Then why do you like Siwon?
Yoonje: Because she’s pretty. She’s pretty… in my eyes.
Yoojung: Why do you like me?
Hakchan: You’re cute… and pretty….
Siwon: Because… I resemble Songju unni?
Taewoong: No. It was that at first. But not anymore. It’s because you’re pretty. That’s why I like you.
Siwon: I’m fat. I have a big, round face. And yet, you still think so?
Taewoong: Yeah, in my eyes. But you may not be pretty to others.
President Eun: Why do you like me?
Sungjae: Your chest.
(President Eun walks off.)
Sungjae: No, your legs, your legs! No, arms!
2012, SEOUL- BUSAN GWANGAN HIGH SCHOOL’S 38TH CLASS ALUMNI REUNION
Yoojung: What did you like about Kyung Mi?
Siwon: What did you like so much about Eun Dokki?
Sehyung: What I liked was… she’s pretty. Her accent, her wrinkles around her eyes, even her athlete’s foot. Everything about her is pretty to me.
Kyungmi: Honey! In my eyes, you look like you’re 180 cm tall!
Sehyung: In my eyes, you’re the nation’s fairy!
Kyungmi: Oh my!
Sehyung: Where are your wings?
(Back at the basketball court)
Yoonje: She’s pretty. She’s pretty… in my eyes.
(Joonhee looks at Yoonje quizzically, not understanding why Yoonje thinks of Siwon as pretty.)
Yoonje: Why do you like Siwon?
Joonhee: I’m not into Siwon. I don’t like her. There’s someone else I like.
Yoonje (laughing): You crazy bastard! Fine, I’m not curious either! You crazy bastard… you scared me!
Yoonje: Cut it out, you crazy bastard!
Joonhee’s voiceover: The reason I like you? Because it’s you. Because you’re you. Is there any other reason? I wish I knew why. Then perhaps I could find a way to not like you. But if I can’t avoid it, there’s only one thing I want. To remain unchanged, by your side, for a long time. Here’s to our heartaching love.
Interestingly, I still vividly remember watching that exact Golden Disk Awards show in 1998 and even the conversations that took place. As I was living in the States, we had to rent the videos (VHS tapes, of course) at the local Korean video rental store. Although we had traditionally rented the end-of- the year awards shows every year, my parents were becoming more and more reluctant about wasting our money to watch these music awards shows. As they put it, more and more hooligans were coming out each year and calling themselves singers.
But the truth was that I did want to watch it that year. I had become a fan of Sechs Kies’ song “Couple”, and thought they deserved to win. I even remember the exact words I told my mom. “If Sechs Kies can’t win this year after the popularity of ‘Couple,’ then that means they can never win because I can’t imagine them ever topping that song. This will be their only chance, whereas H.O.T. will have many other chances in the future.” And so, I cheered on Sechs Kies.
The camera zoomed in at the audience, filled with what my parents called “little kids” noisily screaming for their oppas. “Man, why are they so loud?”
I wonder if she ever suspected that her daughter was in fact screaming along with them in her heart. “Sechs Kies. Sechs Kies. Sechs Kies,” I whispered under my breath.
After several minutes of relishing in teasing these crazy fans, Shin Dong Yup announced the winner. Kim Jong Hwan. I remember bursting out laughing at the sudden silence of the audience, whereas my mom nodded in agreement. “Yeah, Kim Jong Hwan had a great year. At least they got it right this time.” And I agreed, “Yeah, pretty clever choice. And they singe-handedly prevented the possible riot by the ‘losing’ fans. But man, I do feel sorry for Sechs Kies.”