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[Replay the Classic] ‘Still 17’: Shin Hye Sun’s Physical and Mental Incongruity Performance Stands Out

Edited by Jeon Gyeong Ju
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: tvN, SBS

tvN’s fusion historical drama Mr. Queen heated up the small screen from the beginning with various controversies (the original novel’s anti-Korea sentiments and distortion of history) as intense as its humorous story. Although some unpleasant labels have been marked on the drama, Shin Hye Sun’s performance as the title role Kim So Yong (Queen Cheolin) is impossible to raise an objection. Seeing her, who had innocent yet sedate images since her debut, perfectly pulling off “a queen with a 21st-century man’s soul,” it makes me wonder if there was actually a dramatic incident related to this change that happened in the actress’s own life. In this regard, SBS’s Monday-Tuesday drama Still 17 that aired in 2018 is a work that shows Shin Hye Sun’s “true value.” The time and circumstances are different from Mr. Queen, but Still 17 also shows interesting changes in the main character, whose body and mind are at odds with each other.

Still 17 is a romantic comedy that depicts the love between a woman who woke up from a coma after 13 years and a man who has cut all ties from the world. She Was Pretty screenwriter Cho Sung Hee penned the script, while I Hear Your Voice and Pinocchio director Cho Soo Won helmed the production. 

 

The Growth of the Sweet and Lovely “Kkongseol Couple”

Like the nickname they earned, “Kkongseol,” that adorably combined their names, Woo Seo Ri and Gong Woo Jin’s romance was just cute and charming. Although Woo Jin picked up the unfortunate nickname “Dung Man” when he sat on Seo Ri’s precious chocolate pie, unlike most dramas that start with “hate-relationship” (a relationship where the two characters hate each other but still exchange interest or keep intertwining with each other), the pair start off pretty mundanely. The two who have been struggling for the past 13 years voluntarily or against their will, will provide enlightenment or become a rock for each other, mending their hearts and growing up together for a better future. With the aftermath of the year 2020, which was unusually challenging due to various factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, still affecting our lives, Woo Jin and Seo Ri’s happy ending is likely to scatter sweet afterglow in our hearts for quite some time. 

 

It’s a Bit Sad But Cute! Second Lead Who Can’t Let Go of His Love Even While Being Treated Like a Baby

What can’t be left out in the k-romance is the friendly and dedicated second lead character. Yoo Chan from Still 17 is Woo Jin’s nephew who madly falls in love with Seo Ri, who is an acquaintance of his uncle but is mentally his age, after he becomes her close friend. He becomes anxious when Seo Ri points out the cookie crumbs on his lips as if she’s helping a baby.  And his fluctuating emotions that go back and forth between joy and grief while listening to people’s reactions, either calling him “mister” or “student,” as he walks down the street in a fancy black suit puts a smile on viewers’ faces. If this was a makjang drama, the female lead would be forced to face a hard time as she’s stuck between the male lead and secondary lead’s power game, or the two male characters will experience hell as the female lead has them on her hook. However, Chan sends off his first love with his last unfulfilled confession, letting viewers feel more affection for the drama. 

 

A Rare Drama with Neither Villains nor Absurd Plots

Still 17 was also a drama like a pollution-free diet with just a little stimulating seasoning. Yes, some hidden ties between the characters seem somewhat artificial as the plot reached the second half, but considering how so many people had been cramped in this small piece of land, there seems to be no particular problem with the way their relationships are intertwined. Even though there were no villains that interferes with Seo Ri and Woo Jin’s love, nor were there any provocative stories that were forcefully inserted just to heighten the humor, we all enjoyed the overall development with a comfortable mind. I wonder if there will be a case where I want to cheer for the future of all the characters who have made the drama shine, such as Tae Rin, who politely apologizes to her opponent whom she has always been jealous of and seeks a new life, the aunt, who shook off the guilt and stood in front of Seo Ri again, Hyung Tae, who chose to stay a friend even after choosing a different career for Seo Ri, and Jennifer, who found emotions again after overcoming the pain of losing her family.

Editor Jeon Gyeong Ju: A natural-born media geek who is physically Korean and mentally multinational. All dramatic stories are my favorite sweets for life. TVs and streaming platforms are not only the playgrounds but also the weapons.

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