Sweet 18

Like its title, Sweet 18 (2004) is sweet indeed. Some of us might find ourselves floating out of our skins because as feel-good dramas go, this one is hard to beat. Some of us (especially if we watch the drama now) might experience an attack of the sniffles. Why? Because the happy-ever-after that we wanted for the leads (the actors, not their characters) did not quite materialize in the end, that’s why! WAHHH! But I digress…

Yoon Jung-sook (Han Ji-hye) is a ditzy 18-year-old high school student with equally ditzy friends. Her mother owns a modest drycleaning business and Jung-sook drives her mom crazy because she keeps stealing wearing the customers’ clothes. Kwon Hyuk-joon (Lee Dong-gun) is a 28-year-old public prosecutor. She in her school uniform and psychedelic-colored winterwear. He in his plain white shirt, black suit and tie. You get the picture.

The first time they actually speak to each other is when he almost arrests her at a nightclub and she shoots a sassy retort back at him. His first impression of her: “What a brat!” Her first impression of him: “This old fuddy-duddy!” Imagine their mutual horror then when they find out that they are supposed to marry each other in a pact their respective grandfathers made years ago.

Hyuk-joon is the firstborn son in the revered Andong Kwon clan, its members still very much steeped in the old ways. His marriage to Jung-sook is a duty; opposing it is out of the question. Initially aghast at the whole idea (what day and age is this to be honoring such harebrained pacts?), Jung-sook changes her mind when she realizes that Hyuk-joon is actually the mysterious stranger that she’s been having a crush on. So, after a series of comic misadventures, our mismatched pair finally get married.

Still in her teens, the impetuous high-school kid that we saw in the first episode has now become the hanbok-wearing wife of Prosecutor Kwon. But instead of fighting her new and frighteningly foreign role, Jung-sook embraces it. Her compelling reason? She loves her husband.

Two obstacles stand in her path, however. First, he is not in love with her. Second, his old flame has returned.


I liked Sweet 18 because it was full of sweet and romantic moments that made me go, “Awwww…” It was also really funny in places. But more than all that, what I liked most about the drama were its many heartwarming moments.

I loved Jung-sook’s devotion to Hyuk-joon and the steadfast way in which she trusted him, even in her dark hours of fear and uncertainty. I loved that, unlike some wishy-washy male lead characters (can you say Full House and Attic Cat?), Hyuk-joon was so faithful in his commitment to his bride. I loved watching the slow and awkward way in which he fell in love. He did the funniest and sweetest things for her! I also really enjoyed watching their banter.

The supporting characters also did a wonderful job. Lee Da-hae made a lasting first impression as Hyuk-joon’s ex-girlfriend now come back to renew her claim on him. (Aside: I like Lee Da-hae best when she’s playing serious characters. Her role in Green Rose is still my favorite.)

Hyuk-joon’s grandfather was wonderful, possibly my most-loved character in the whole drama. One of my favorite scenes was when he came to Seoul and Jung-sook took him out to see the sights. She was hurting so much inside, but she put on a brave front for him and they had so much fun exploring the malls. Everyone was staring at them because he was such an oddity in his traditional Korean clothes, but he just took it all in his stride.

I watched Sweet 18 thrice, in quick succession. That was how much I was enamored of it four years ago. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it now, though, especially when I look at some of the pics of Han Ji-hye (she seriously looks like she’s overacting, no?). Still, my lingering memories of this drama are warm and positive ones. I loved its old-world charm (an early introduction to the period drama which I have now come to love fiercely) and its old-world values. If you want to feel uplifted and transported when you watch your Korean dramas, this one is about perfect.


10 thoughts on “Sweet 18

  1. Hiya Julie, my fansubbing buddy! Fansubbing and blogging can co-exist, haha, but sleep… what is that?

    Wonderful Sweet 18 review at your blog, and I see there are other reviews too, yum yum. Oops, that reminds me… I promised you that I would watch Emperor of the Sea. Is it February already? Where did the time go?

  2. Thanks for this post. I am reminded again what started the K-drama obsession and I have this one to thank. Sure I watched Winter Sonata first but it never got me crazy about the dramas till Sweet 18. And to think I scoffed at it when my mum was watching this on DVD. The scoffing didn’t last long once I gave it a chance. Looks like this will be on my list of to-buy for next month. It certainly is one that I can watch again and again…

  3. Hi ineedmoredrama (love your nick, by the way!)

    Thanks for commenting on this post and the others as well. Thrills me no end when readers comment on some of the older and less-read posts. (Psst, wanna check out Hi Dharma? The poor thing hasn’t moved up at all from its least-read position, lol, with a dismal 25 hits!)

    I watched Sweet 18 a long time ago, back in the days when I wasn’t critical about plot, acting, characterization and so on. This was written then and unearthed this year when I started the blog. I believe if I rewatch it that I will still enjoy it, although not to the same extent. It’s just a really sweet drama (with a happy ending, too!).

  4. Thanks! 🙂

    Just checked out Hi Dharma – is it at 26 hits now? lol. Will leave comments if I ever get a chance to watch it.

    “back in the days when I wasn’t critical about plot, acting, characterization and so on”

    Hmm… I wonder if I will feel that way too if I watch it again. I remember enjoying it – like you had and perhaps I may be all the “wiser” now and not enjoy it as much. Besides, it doesn’t star Rain/ Ji Sub/ any other actor I’m crazy about (the list is too long)…

    Anyway, in case I haven’t said it before, love the blog, love the writing – and while I don’t always agree with you I thoroughly enjoy your posts (too much so as I should be working instead). Hope to see more new posts whenever you have the time to update 🙂

  5. Sweet 18 is one of my all time fav. LDG & HJH makes a perfect couple. Too bad they broke up in real life. It’s true that HJH over acted but I can overlook that coz this couple look so good together. Sigh…..ahjussi!!!

  6. I have just about finished rewatching this (yes, I own the official dvd set, I’m not ashamed!) and as cheesy as it is I still like it as much as when I first saw it years ago. Sure there are some HORRIBLE scenes (what was up with the gangster kidnapping?) and the lead female is SO naive like when she is so shocked that men can kiss without being in love. Still, it is just sweet and heartwarming. BTW, did they really think they could be married for the rest of their lives without having sex?! Come on!

  7. Thundie, I have been looking for something light and funny with less doses of makjang and evil second leads. I like other leads in this show and I browsed for information on the show until I came a cross your review. You just made my choice easy, so am settling in for a long three day weekend coming up and this is on my top list of things to do. Thank you for the review

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