Student protesters line the hallway in a college building.  They are refusing to sit for exams until the government does away with the constitution.  An instructor walks down the hall and enters a classroom.   There are only two students inside.  One of them is Kang Woo-suk.  He passes out the exam to Woo-suk and the other student, and the camera pans to the blackboard behind him.  The protesters have written messages on it: “Support the boycott against testing.” “Refuse mid-term testing.” “We’ll elect our own student president.”

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After the exam, Woo-suk walks upstairs.  A few students approach him and ask if they can speak with him.  He meets with Student Leader Jung Un-gyong and a few other students who want to know why he is opposing the student body’s decision to boycott all studies.  Not only does Woo-suk oppose the boycott, he also supports mandatory testing Un-gyong notes.  Woo-suk asks what’s wrong with him opposing their decisions.  He says dictators are leaders who don’t permit opposition and accuses the protesters of doing just that.

He and Un-gyong go to a restaurant to continue their talk.  Un-gyong agrees with his earlier remark and says democracy does grow stronger through opposition and criticism.  However, he says Woo-suk is the type of person they fear will run the country’s judicial system.  He’s the boy genius in his hometown, the top student in high school who works his butt off in college and will become a prosecutor or judge one day.  But he doesn’t really know much about society and Un-gyong thinks he’ll have no problem sentencing someone to jail time or even death without asking why the person did what he did.

Their conversation is interrupted when a disgruntled patron yells at a woman at another table and slaps her.  Yoon Hye-rin is sitting with the woman who gets slapped, and she stands up and slaps the guy back.  He crashes to the ground, but he recovers and tries to attack her. Un-gyong grabs him before he can hit her and other patrons help drag the guy away.

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The next time Woo-suk sees Hye-rin, they’re both at the library and he sneaks peeks at her through the book stacks until she notices him watching her.  When he’s looking away, she goes to the next row and catches him looking around to see where she went.  She approaches him later and asks if he knows her.  He smiles (and we don’t get to hear his response).

Two men have a picture of Hye-rin and follow her as she walks home in the dark.  She keeps looking over her shoulder and eventually hurries away and hides.  Woo-suk sees her hiding and approaches her from behind.  She’s startled at first, then she’s relieved that it’s him.  He lets her hide in his house and asks what has her so afraid, but she just laughs.  He finally gets the chance to introduce himself.

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Some time later, Hye-rin sees Woo-suk in the cafeteria having lunch.  She walks over to him and says hi, then sits down.  She hungrily stares at his meal and asks if he’s going to finish it all.  He gives her the rest of his lunch and asks if she doesn’t even have money for ramen.  She shakes her head no.  He tells her he knows a young student looking for a tutor and asks if she’s interested in the job.  She declines though. She knows the student he’s talking about is actually the student he tutors and, if she takes the job, then he won’t have one.  He says he has another job so she agrees  to do it.  As she leaves, she tells him one day she’ll marry a guy just like him.

Hye-rin was right.  Woo-suk has to take a job driving taxis to make up for his lost income.  After he turns in his earnings at the end of a shift one night, he finds Hye-rin standing outside. She’s mad because he gave up his tutoring job for her and now has to drive taxis to support himself. She starts yelling so he ignores her and walks away.  She follows him and grabs his hand.  They take the bus home, and she falls asleep with her head on his shoulder.  He smiles to himself as the bus rolls down the street.


Fall 1968

Flashback.  In the Korean countryside, farmer Kang Man-suk (Woo-suk’s dad) is refusing to sell his land to investors who are trying to build a golf course in town.  One of the investors argues that Mr. Kang will be living alone in a thatched-roofed house while everything around him is modernized.  Mr. Kang says he won’t be alone because he has his sons and his land.  When the investor leaves, Mr. Kang explains to a young Woo-suk that the issue is not about selling land. It’s about those investors wanting to take the land that people’s lives are built on and turn it into a playground and that’s just not right.  He tells Woo-suk to get back to studying and Woo-suk begins reading aloud about democracy.

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Some time later, Mr. Kang and his other son, Kang Young-suk, have gone into town for farm supplies.  Mr. Kang pays for the goods he buys and the employee at the store documents the sale on a clipboard he’s holding. There’s someone in an office looking at the exchange.  As they finish loading the wheelbarrow, the man watching Mr. Kang picks up the phone on his desk and makes a call.

On their way home, Young-suk asks Mr. Kang why Woo-suk gets to just study instead of helping in the house and taking care of the farm like he does.  Mr. Kang tells him it’s a matter of national importance.  “From a national perspective, one boy must study and the other must work,” he says, “The country needs smart people, but it needs workers too.”  He asks Young-suk if he likes studying, and Young-suk admits that he doesn’t.

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That night, someone knocks on the door calling out for Mr. Kang.  It’s the police.  They let themselves in and start dragging Mr. Kang away.  Mrs. Kang resists though.  She demands to know why they’re taking him.  They ignore her, but Woo-suk blocks their path before they can leave.  He asks what crime his father is accused of committing. The police officer claims Mr. Kang stole farm supplies from the co-op.  Woo-suk calls the officer a liar.

Meanwhile, another officer comes from the Kang’s storeroom and says all five bags of the missing goods are there.  He notes the bags have the same serial numbers as the bags reported missing.  Mr. Kang insists he paid for the supplies, and the officer asks if he has a receipt as proof of payment.  Mr. Kang doesn’t, but Young-suk says to himself he knows his dad paid for those bags.

The next day, Woo-suk and his mother go to the co-op office.  The guy who sold the supplies to Mr. Kang denies seeing Mr. Kang at all the previous day.  So later that night, Woo-suk goes looking for witnesses to testify for his dad.  He finds a farmer from the next village who says he was at the co-op that day and saw Mr. Kang.  He also saw Mr. Kang pay for the supplies.


Having procured a witness, Woo-suk and his family wait outside the police station expecting Mr. Kang to be released. Other villagers gather outside to wait too.  The farmer Woo-suk got to testify for his father comes out of the station.  Woo-suk is excited to see him emerge, but the farmer has changed his story.  He insists he didn’t see anything and tells Woo-suk he doesn’t even know his father and starts to leave.  Young-suk asks what’s going to happen to their dad now, but Woo-suk can only stand there and stare as the farmer walks away.

That night at the station, one of the officers tries to convince Mr. Kang to give in quietly to the conspiracy against him.  The officer implores him to think about his children.  According to the officer, his son has the makings of a general and it wouldn’t look good to have his father redlined on the family register.  Mr. Kang hangs his head, and in the next scene, the family of four have all their possessions packed on the back of a truck and leave town.


Woo-suk sits in the back with his father and has tears in his eyes.  Mr. Kang tells Woo-suk to go to law school, pass the bar exam, and become a judge.  He wants Woo-suk to help the unjustly accused when he becomes a judge.

Woo-suk’s family moves to Kwangju where he eventually meets Park Tae-soo.  Tae-soo and Woo-suk are studying at Tae-soo’s house one day when Woo-suk’s father shows up.  He yells for Woo-suk to come out.  Tae-soo’s mother comes out as he’s fussing at Woo-suk for staying at a gisaeng house.  He remarks that Woo-suk left a perfectly good home to shack up with some prostitutes.  Tae-soo’s mom introduces herself, but Mr. Kang ignores her and demands that Woo-suk pack his things and come home.  Tae-soo’s mother gets on her knees to apologize and Mr. Kang drops down to his knees too. She thanks Mr. Kang, saying because of his son, her son has cleaned up his act and is studying hard.  She blames herself for asking Woo-suk to live with them because he’s such a good teacher to her undeserving son.  She offers to get them separate housing immediately if he allows Woo-suk to stay.

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Mr. Kang doesn’t respond, but Woo-suk is allowed to stay.  Woo-suk takes his father to the train station to see him off.  As they’re standing together on the platform, Mr. Kang tells Woo-suk things are either right or wrong and if you start compromising with evil, you’ll find yourself sucked in with no way out.  He remarks that a swan shouldn’t play with a raven and tells him to keep that in mind if he’s going to practice law in the future.  Then he gets on the train and leaves.

There is a montage of Tae-soo crying over his mom’s coffin and the picture of Tae-soo and Woo-suk that they took when Tae-soo announced he wasn’t going to college.  We see a teenaged Tae-soo fighting with his gang alongside Oh Jong-do.  Then the scene transitions to an adult Tae-soo fighting.

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Adult Woo-suk runs to a hospital looking around for someone.  He’s there to see Tae-soo, who has been injured in a fight.  Jong-do spots Woo-suk first and remarks that it’s been a long time since they’ve seen each other.  Woo-suk walks pass him without responding and goes to Tae-soo’s hospital bed.  He helps Tae-soo into a wheelchair and pushes him away from the ward.  He lectures Tae-soo as he pushes the wheelchair, asking how long he’s going to go around fighting and going in and out of jail.  Woo-suk wants Tae-soo to leave with him and make a fresh start.  He says he’ll help him, but Tae-soo tells Woo-suk he has nowhere to go.

Woo-suk says he’s going to be a judge or a prosecutor one day.  If that happens and Tae-soo keeps living like this, they may go up against each other. Woo-suk asks if that’s what Tae-soo wants. Tae-soo says he’ll be too big by then and Woo-suk will be too afraid to touch him. “That’s the way the law really works,” Tae-soo remarks, “They don’t touch the chiefs–just the Indians.”  Woo-suk looks at him and pulls an envelope from his pocket.  It’s the money he borrowed from Tae-soo.  He’s written down his address in Seoul too and invites Tae-soo to visit whenever he wants.  He starts to leave, but Tae-soo calls after him asking if they’re still friends.  Woo-suk turns around and looks at Tae-soo but doesn’t answer.

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Tae-soo serves a prison sentence.  On the day he’s being released, Woo-suk arrives outside the facility with tofu in hand to welcome him home.  Tae-soo’s gangster friends are waiting just outside the prison too though.  Before Tae-soo sees Woo-suk, the other gangsters greet and hug him. Woo-suk watches from afar as Tae-soo gets in a car with his gang members and rides away.

Back at university, Hye-rin and Woo-suk get off the bus (it’s after their taxi stand argument).  Instead of walking away, Hye-rin just stands there staring at Woo-suk, refusing to go home.  Woo-suk gets her a room at a motel and tells her to get some sleep.  She yells at him for wasting money and says she can sleep in his room.  He cuts her off and tells her to call home before she goes to sleep.  She says her mom is dead and she can’t call home because her dad is a gambler who will sell her off to someone before long.  Woo-suk looks at her awkwardly and says he’ll leave her to rest.

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In the morning, he’s waiting outside when she comes out.  They head to school together and it’s comical to see how shy he is.  He clearly wants to put his arm around her shoulder as they walk side-by-side, but he can’t muster up the courage to make a move.  Luckily for him, Hye-rin isn’t bashful and grabs his arm and holds onto it as they stroll.

Woo-suk writes home to his father later.  In voice over we hear him tell his dad he’s returning the money dad sent and asks that he not send anymore because he’s too old (being all of twenty) to receive an allowance from home. He assures his dad that the student protests he reads about in the papers haven’t affected his studies.  However, as he writes, we see Hye-rin and other protesters making posters.  Woo-suk visits her while she’s working and they have lunch together.  Afterwards, Hye-rin has her head on his lap and naps as he reads on the steps at a park. Woo-suk ends his letter by telling dad that he’s focused on his goals, and he is happy and at peace.

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Some time afterwards, Woo-suk is studying in the library when he hears a huge commotion outside.  Soldiers have come to campus to arrest the protesters.  He sees Hye-rin among the students trying to escape and runs out to help her.  He locates her in the crowd, and they run into a theater where the students, totally oblivious to the chaos outside, are practicing for a performance.  He grabs her and kisses her when a group of soldiers enters the theater looking for protesters.  The soldiers see the pair kissing and leave.  Once they’re safe, Hye-rin pulls away and slaps him.  He just smiles in response.


Another good round of performances from the actors in an episode that continued to set up the back story of our main characters.  This episode, it was Woo-suk’s dad who was the standout to me.

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