This article has been updated to include additional scenes from new episodes.
Netflix and tvN‘s latest K-Drama Twenty Five Twenty One recently premiered, and viewers are loving it.
While there are only four episodes released at this time, new episodes released every Saturday and Sunday, viewers are already hooked. With a great and relatable storyline and an all-star cast including Kim Tae Ri, Nam Joo Hyuk, Cosmic Girls‘ Bona, and Lee Joo Myung, we can definitely understand why.
Still, there’s another unexpected reason viewers have been enjoying the drama so far. It’s due to a relationship but not between the male and female leads.
The K-Drama alternates between the present day and the past. It begins with Kim Min Chae (The King’s Affection‘s Choi Myung Bin), who quits ballet, discouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic. She then runs away to her grandmother’s (Seo Jae Hee) house, where she ends up going through her mother’s items, including a journal, from when she was a teenager in 1998. The majority of the show focuses on the mom, Na Hee Do, played by Kim Tae Ri, in flashbacks as Min Chae reads about her mom.
In a time when dreams seem out of reach, a teen fencer pursues big ambitions and meets a hardworking young man who seeks to rebuild his life.
Despite being two very different time periods, it shows the parallels of today with the past. While kids may feel discouraged and struggle due to the difficult circumstances created by COVID-19, people struggled in the late ’90s too due to the IMF (the International Monetary Fund) crisis.
By May 1998, 80% of households had suffered from lower incomes. Unemployment more than tripled from 2.05% in 1997 to 6.96% in 1999. South Koreans participated in a gold collecting campaign in the hopes of paying off the loans. Approximately one-quarter of the nation’s population participated in the campaign from all social classes, selling gold such as wedding bands and sports medals. $2.2 billion was raised from the gold campaign.
At the start of the drama, we see Min Chae going through her mom’s items from the ’90s. She was especially curious about her mom’s old journal.
When she begins reading the journal, she reads about her mom’s excitement of seeing “that kid” every Saturday.
She wonders if teenage Hee Do was referring to a boyfriend at the time.
From there, the episode flashbacks to Hee Do in high school. She appears especially happy at the start of the day. Some could certainly interpret her spirits as that of someone “in love.”
Yet, as the episode continues, we see Hee Do show no interest in any boy nor implications she’s seeing anyone until later when she befriends a new neighbor (Nam Joo Hyuk). Instead, she is focused on fencing and her idol, fencing gold medalist Go Yu Rim (Bona).
She goes to watch her practice every chance she gets. Additionally, Hee Do would visit Yu Rim’s mom’s restaurant in hopes of seeing her.
Without question, Yu Rim is “that kid.”
There’s an especially heartwarming scene between these two in which Hee Do goes to Yu Rim’s school to watch her practice. When Yu Rim prepares to leave, it rains but unfortunately has no umbrella. So, Hee Do goes to the rooftop and drops her own umbrella for Yu Rim so that she can get home unsoaked.
Due to the IMF crisis, Hee Do’s school cuts the fencing program. So, she dreams of transferring schools to join the same team as Yu Rim and finally makes that dream a reality in Episode 2, much to her excitement.
On her first day, Hee Do met the school’s “pretty boy,” who confessed to her that he has a crush on Yu Rim in hopes that Hee Do may operate as his wingman.
She retorted that she likes Yu Rim “way more” than he does.
Hee Do asked him what he likes about Yu Rim. He responded generically that she was pretty. Hee Do had to agree but went so far to say Yu Rim is “perfect.”
Still, as they say, “You should never meet your heroes” because they will likely disappoint you… Yu Rim reacted to the addition of Hee Do on the team negatively and treated her coldly, even more so when Hee Do admitted to her that she was a fan of hers.
Enemies to lovers, anyone?
With all this considered, viewers have been picking up on some sapphic vibes from Hee Do and Yu Rim’s relationship. Following the storyline, it has even made some wonder if the drama is a GL (Girl Love) storyline with two female leads being lesbians.
— jwds (@daddyissuseo) February 13, 2022
Yet, these characters’ relationships with Nam Joo Hyuk’s character Baek Yi Jin (sometimes romanized as Back Yi Jin) communicate otherwise…
Furthermore, during the drama, we see Hee Do communicate with an online friend in a chat room regularly. They don’t know each other in real life and have promised to keep personal information private. Yet, they are clearly each other’s closest friends, confiding their struggles to one another.
For some time, we suspect that Yi Jin is “Injeolmi,” the one Hee Do has been chatting with online. There’s one scene in particular in which Injeolmi suggests to Hee Do that they meet up because they want to be there for her. The scene then cuts to another showing Yi Jin getting up from a computer and pick out a suit, making viewers think he was getting ready to meet her. However, we find out later he was preparing for a job interview.
— 2521 ᵇᵘᵇ (@jjwohyuk) February 13, 2022
Finally, in Episode 3, we find out the true identity of Hee Do’s online friend Injeolmi. She returns home one evening after serious disagreements with both Yu Rim and Yi Jin and goes online to vent.
Earlier, Yu Rim and Hee Do had stayed late at school to practice and were confronted by a sunbae. The sunbae began to bully Yu Rim, and Hee Do stood up for her. Rather than be grateful to Hee Do, she got angry at her, claiming that the sunbae would only bully them more now that they fought back and that Hee Do should have just apologized.
You’re both equally impossible to talk to. It would have been over if you had apologized. Talking back like you only makes them nag and abuse us more. Life become easier if you back down briefly.
— Yu Rim
Hee Do countered Yu Rim’s argument, pointing out that it’s unfair for them to be required to tiptoe around the seniors. Consequently, they’re unable to train properly.
You have to lose to them in a spar and in official matches too. How is that easy?!
— Hee Do
After the disagreement, Hee Do visited the comic store she frequented, where Yi Jin also works. He’s shocked that she came only to return a book and leave as she’s usually talkative and friendly.
He asked her, “What’s wrong?” After some prodding, she finally hinted at the argument.
Hee Do: Can you say something, no questions asked?
Ye Jin: What is it?
Hee Do: ‘Yu Rim was in the wrong.’
Yi Jin hesitated because he is friends with both girls and doesn’t know the details of the argument. Yet, this only frustrated Hee Do more. So, she returned home, upset and confided in Injeolmi, who told her exactly what she wanted to hear.
To viewers’ surprise, though, we find out that Hee Do’s beloved online friend is none other than Yu Rim!
In Episode 8, the scene in which the online friends finally go to meet also completely gives romance implications. Both girls dressed up and brought a rose!
After the two finally confess their identities, they become fast friends. Even Baek Yi Jin is confused by the relationship and asks if they’re on “a blind date” while filming a documentary about the athletes.
If this didn’t give potential romance vibes already, there have also been flashbacks of the two…
After a previous argument, Hee Do had flashbacks from watching Yu Rim win her gold medal on TV, visiting the school to see her practice, etc. Likewise, when they compete against each other, Yu Rim has a flashback to her childhood, and it is revealed that they dueled when they were little kids! Yu Rim later confessed to Hee Do that she remembered her ever since the moment she lost to her then.
Every K-Drama lover will recognize that it’s a common trope for the romantic leads to having previously met as kids.
So, viewers are wondering if these GL vibes are legitimate or not. Could Hee Do’s character be a lesbian or bisexual? It’s already pretty clear that she will end up with Yi Jin. Yet, she clearly had a “girl crush.”
Fans of Kim Tae Ri also point out that this wouldn’t be her first role in which she portrays a character with feelings for another woman, and possibly that’s why Tae Ri chose the role in Twenty Five Twenty One in the first place. One of her most famous roles is the 2016 erotic psychological thriller The Handmaiden. In the film, she acts as a Japanese heiress’ maid, and they fall in love.
Similarly, fans of Bona also pointed out that she has rocked sapphic concepts herself in the past.
— June (@June37152452) February 20, 2022
Regardless of the true storyline in Twenty Five Twenty One, the GL vibes are certainly there, and fans love it as K-Dramas continue to progress slowly but surely. But in the end, we know Hee Do will fall for Yi Jin. However, that has sparked another debate as viewers are unsure about the age gap between the two. Read about it below: