tvN’s ‘Reply 1997’ (script writer LeeWoojung/director Shin Wonho), that teens to those in their fifties can relate to, have one thing that is hard to find on the ground wave. It is nineteen-year-old boy Kang Joonhee’s (Hoya) loving one-sided feeling towards Yoon Yoonjae (Seo Inguk), a boy boy love line. Brothers Yoon Yoonjae and Yoon Taewoong’s (Song Jongho) love for Sung Siwon (Jung Eunji) is another heart wrenching painful story about love that the drama displays.Why would they choose ‘homosexuality’ out of all the things? About this Shin Wonho PD recently responded in an interview with Newsen “At the planning level while we were thinking of all these different characters I thought of this. I heard that in the 1990s, among the girls there was the culture of homosexuality. They said that there were friends who liked girls with a sense of masculinity. Because I heard that so much from the writer, I decided to put it in.”
He continued to explain, “Although we started off like that we didn’t start off with a certain type of ‘homosexuality.’ It was just ‘Kang Junhee likes Yoon Yoonjae,’ it was not the idea of a boy liking a boy. Never once did we say that it was about ‘homosexuality’ or about being ‘gay.’ Even during our staff meeting we only said ‘Junhee likes Yoonjae..’ and the words ‘homosexuality’ or ‘gay’ never came out. The story that we wanted to tell was ‘so and so likes so and so.’ I myself like those warm things so I selected it.”
Like Shin PD’s words, in ‘Reply 1997’ there are no emotions such as hatred and displeasure that you see in other different dramas. Just Sung Siwon likes HOT’s Tony, Mo Yoojung (Shin Soyool) likes Sechs Kies and Do Hakchan (Eun Jiwon), and Sung Dongil (Sung Dongil) and Lee Ilhwa (Lee Ilhwa) love one another while fighting. Like this, Shin PD only wanted to display the main characters in a four way love relationship (Yoon Taewoong Yoon Yoonjae Sung Siwon Kang Junhee) and various warm beautiful sides of ‘love.’ Kang Junhee’s love also had that meaning.
Shin PD emphasized, “On the viewer board there were some replies that had a violent meaning but, although I don’t know the exact sides of these people, I thought I don’t have to think hard about it. Honestly I also heard things like ‘If you put this in wrong you’ll get criticized!’ But it wasn’t to interpret with a social view and essentially nitpick homosexuality. It’s simple. We just wanted to say Kang Junhe likes Yoon Yoonjae. With those feelings if we were in a time period where it was stricter, then wouldn’t it have been harder? Because it was a generation where it was more unacceptable, it became a more heart breaking one sided love story. It was nothing like reasoning every detail in the story, narrow-minded viewpoint, or let’s break all the bias on homosexuality. We just wanted to do ‘liking.’ Because then there would be nothing that’s hard.”
Which couple’s story does Shin PD value the most in ‘Reply 1997.’ Shin PD surprisingly replied by saying Kang Junhee’s one-sided love. Shin PD said, “To be honest, I treasure Kang Junhee and Yoon Yoonjae’s love line the most. Even while editing it, my heart hurt so much. Especially the scene when Kang Junhee confessed to Yoon Yoonjae, I looked at it for a long time and said ‘What should I do with this?’ It’s to the point where even while filming, the staff know that Junhee’s story is my favorite.”
Shin PD is not the only one that values Kang Junhee and Yoon Yoonjae’s love line. Female viewers who have seen the model student boy with the quiet and neat personality, Junhee, looking at Yoon Yoonjae with a depressing love and worrying have said, “Don’t make Junhee cry.”
Shin PD said that some reactions were so agitated that “There are even replies on the board that make it seem like they would be in a fanfic such as ‘They say that Sung Siwon will become the surrogate mother and Kang Junhee and Yoon Yoonjae will continue on,’ ‘They say Kang Junhee and Yoon Yoonjae will get married.’”
At the question “could that be possible” Shin PD replied, “To take it like that would be hard. I wondered ‘what is this love’s end,’ but I want to end it very calmly so Junhee won’t get hurt. I want to end it so that Junhee’s beautiful feelings won’t be damaged. Junhee could be hurt till the end or he cannot be hurt. But I plan to finish it so that it’s ordinary and calm. If it becomes like that I feel like because it’s calm it might be a more heart breaking love.”
Likewise the process casting of the important character Kang Junhee was different as well. While casting the actor for Kang Junhee Shin PD had put a very particular order. Shin PD said, “The process of Junhee’s casting being difficult was because I had said I don’t want a feminine person to be casted.”
Shin Wonho spoke his mind by saying “If he’s feminine isn’t it too obvious. I thought that if a feminine friend did the delicate acting it would become the boring character that everyone has seen already. If a feminine imaged actor acted as Junhee then it would become too much. I needed an actor who could over come that and could do detailed and delicate acting. But it was really hard to find an actor like that. Even during the audition a lot of people with a lovely line. That why I said ‘if it continues like this it will be really boring.’”
In the end, the actor became Infinite member Hoya. Hoya who was born in Kyungnam Changwon, able to speak in satoori*, and had a manly imagine, was qualified. ‘Hawk’s eye’ Shin PD thought this choice was ‘daebak**’ Hoya, not only as Infinite, but as an actor to the general public, left a deep stamp. Despite only having a few lines because of Kang Junhee’s quiet personality, Hoya’s acting of loving sad feeling has made the viewers fall in love.
Shin PD complimented him by saying, “I was constantly looking for a friend that had both sides but then I met Hoya. As soon as I saw the kid I felt that he can speak in satoori and is manly. While asking, he said that in his group they call him ‘real man’ these days. When talking to Hoya, he is like said, a real man. But when acting he displayed sides of delicateness and innocence as well as many other heart lines well. That is why I thought he was fit exactly with Junhee’s part so I casted him.”