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Is Youth of May based on a true story? Upcoming K-Drama will focus on history of Gwangju Uprising

A promo picture from Youth of May (KBS2)
A promo picture from Youth of May (KBS2)
Neetha Kurup
ANALYST
Modified 26 Apr 2021
Feature

The upcoming Korean drama, Youth of May, promises to be quite different from the dramas that have been of show recently. The potentially tragic love story is set in '80s South Korea, an era that has not been visited much except for the beloved Reply 1988. Like Reply 1988, viewers should expect a story set against the backdrop of real events.

But just how much of Youth of May is true? While all indications point to the show's characters being fictional, its plot points and teaser trailer clue viewers in on the tragic backdrop to the Gwangju Uprising in 1980.

The event may be familiar to some, being the historical event covered by International Booker Prize-winning author, Han Kang's novel, Human Acts.

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What is Youth of May about?

Youth of May tells the story of two young people who fall in love during the Gwangju Uprising that took place in May 1980.

Hwang Hee-tae (Lee Do-hyun) is a medical student at Seoul National University who postpones his graduation due to the trauma he suffers following the incident. Appearing carefree, lighthearted, and slightly mischievous, Hwang Hee-tae works hard to overcome the prejudice he faces from society on being raised by a single mother.

Kim Myung-hee (Go Min-si) is a nurse three years into her career, who is not afraid to stand up to her superiors in the face of injustice. She is the sole breadwinner of her family and works hard to help her patients.

Hwang Hae-tee and Kim Myung-hee fall in love, and both end up changing each other in Youth of May. However, events around them set up what could potentially be a tragic ending.

Other characters in Youth of May include Lee Soo-chan (Lee Sang-yi), a businessman who works at a trading company and relates with Kim Myung-hee, as well as Lee Soo-chan's sister, Lee Soo-reon (Keum Sae-rok), who fights for social justice.

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What is the Gwangju Uprising?

The uprising was one of the largest uprisings in the country as students rebelled against the authoritarian government of Chun Doo-hwan. Over 100 people were killed; however, estimates from Gwangju's citizens imply the death toll could be over thousands.

During the uprising in Gwangju, Chun Doo-hwan sent soldiers, paratroopers and Special Forces to contain the unrest. He authorized them to beat protestors and unleash tanks as well.

The uprising came to an end in May, with the city of Gwangju devastated. However, the Gwangju Uprising became one of the most important democratic movements in South Korea and East Asia. Chun Doo-hwan was convicted of mutiny, treason, and corruption, but was later pardoned.

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How will Youth of May portray the Gwangju Uprising?

The Gwangju Uprising played a very important role in South Korean history, and how it is depicted in Youth of May will be something to watch out for. Given that Korean broadcast dramas do not usually go for extreme levels of violence due to rating issues, Youth of May will most likely focus on the impact the uprising had upon people.

In a teaser trailer for Youth of May, Lee Do-hyun's Hwang Hee-tae narrates:

"If it had been any other spring full of sunshine, they would have loved like the faintness of spring. They would have lived ordinary lives with dreams in their hearts. A story of youth."

The trailer also features characters running away from attackers, and other trailers also feature the sound of gunshots. Youth of May is also rated 15+, so fans should expect the drama to be darker than most dramas.

Youth of May promises to be a heart-wrenching dive into one of the most painful chapters in South Korean history.

Youth of May premiers KBS2 on May 3 and will air every Monday and Tuesday.

Watch the teaser trailers below.

Published 26 Apr 2021
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