Love, Timing & Traffic Signals

Every detail in Kim Won Suk’s dramas matters, down to even small details like traffic signals. Whether this was a conscious or subconscious direction, traffic signals in My Ahjussi indicate timing for Dong Hoon & Ji An’s relationship.

Key takeaways:

  • Other than green lights, every other signal indicates that the timing is off
  • Going against the signal (e.g.: not stopping at a Stop sign) indicates heartbreak / disappointment

Stop + Caution

Stay, Maintain a distance

  • [Ep 5] Ji An runs to check up on a suicidal Dong Hoon, but settles for looking over him from a safe distance.
  • [Ep 6] Ji An gets worried when Dong Hoon lingers by the Han River bridge for too long, and rushes over to check up on him – from afar – until she confirms that he’s alive and well.
  • [Ep 9] Ji An runs over to check up on a depressed, heavily breathing Dong Hoon. She looks over him from afar, all the way till he reaches home safely.
  • [Ep 13] Dong Hoon thanks Ji An “for staying by [his] side”. Both tear up, and clearly long to be together. But they just can’t be. Not at this time. And that breaks both their hearts.
  • [Ep 15] Ji An remembers how stern and upset Dong Hoon was with Assistant Manager Kim as he said, “I heard about everything”… and imagines that he feels the same way toward her as he said those same words. She tries to make amends to bridge the gap between them, apologizing over and over, from afar.

Stop + No crossing

Stop / No, Maintain a distance

  • [Ep 10] Dong Hoon is disappointed that he didn’t run into Ji An at their regular bar, and is ticked off when Ji An walks right past him by the railway tracks without acknowledging him. It probably would’ve been best if he had just let her “ignore” him. Once she turns back and faces him, she forcefully puts their blossoming relationship to a screeching halt.
  • [Ep 15] Ji An stops listening in on Dong Hoon by deleting her wiretapping program.

Red light

Stop / No

  • [Ep 9] Ji An plans to present Dong Hoon with slippers over dinner, but Dong Hoon has too much on his mind following the loan shark’s phone call. So he turns her down, saying, “Let’s eat together next time.”

Flashing red lights

Stop, and then proceed with caution

  • [Ep 5] Ji An is moved when Dong Hoon helps move Halmeoni back and forth. To top it off, he tells her, “You’re a good person.” Ji An stops her shady dealings with Dong Hoon, and actively starts looking out for Dong Hoon.
  • [Ep 5] Dong Hoon stops Ji An from heading home, and invites her to their department’s staff dinner. Ji An proceeds to look out for Dong Hoon, slapping Assistant Manager Kim when he badmouths Dong Hoon.

Yellow light

Red light (Stop) is soon to follow

  • [Ep 13] Dong Hoon emphatically denies the idea of Ji An being planted on him by Joon Young when Director Park Dong Woon suggests it. This is the last day he sees Ji An (effectively putting an end to their non-dates) until he confronts her at her custodian guardian’s place.

Flashing yellow lights

Proceed with caution

  • [Ep 2] Dong Hoon suspects that Ji An stole the gift certificates he lost. Ahjussi can no longer sit passively – he has to do something. But he better be careful, this girl could be trouble.
  • [Ep 16] Dong Hoon and Ji An pass by Saman E&C and presumably are reminded of each other. They’re almost about to be reunited.

Red lights switch to Green +/- Zebra crossing

New beginning / Yes, Safe to go over

  • [Ep 3] Ji An asks Dong Hoon to buy her food, but is turned down. Despite the traffic sign indicating that it’s safe to cross the road, she stays rooted to her spot. (Ji An is disappointed.)
  • [Ep 4] Ji An sympathizes with Dong Hoon for the first time. They both come to see each other as the most pitiful person in the world.
  • [Ep 5] Ji An forgets her persimmons behind. Dong Hoon picks them up and runs behind her… but only after it’s safe to cross over.
  • [Ep 7] A lot of first’s. The first time Dong Hoon waits for her at their regular bar; the first time she runs over to him and can actually be with him; the first time they spend time together without any pretense of “I’m only treating you to thank you”; the first time they share smiles.
  • [Ep 9] Ji An misses her stop, and Dong Hoon conveniently delays going home to shop for groceries. By the time Ji An leaves the subway station, Dong Hoon is done with groceries. Despite missing each other at first, their timing is right… and they walk back to their neighborhood together. By this point, it’s become an unspoken agreement that they walk home together.
  • [Ep 16] “Yes. Yes!” The end is the beginning for the two of them. Their timing is finally right.

Other signs:

  • [Ep 2] Traffic in motionSomething is in motion – Dong Hoon thanks her for the first time. Ji An smiles for the first time.
  • [Ep 3] CautionBeware of proceeding – Dong Hoon is flustered and angry when Ji An attempts to kiss him. Ji An starts on the wrong footing with Dong Hoon.
  • [Ep 10] Safe signJi An is safe in Dong Hoon’s company – Grandma can finally rest assured that “someone as kind as” Dong Hoon “is by Ji An’s side”.
  • [Ep 12] Safe signJi An is safe in Dong Hoon’s community – Jung Hee and the ahjussis treat Ji An as one of their own and walk her home.
  • [Ep 14] Caution: ElectricityDong Hoon’s pent-up emotions running dangerously high – This sign shows before, during and after the phone call.

Conclusion:

As they say, timing is everything when it comes to the pursuit of love. No matter how palpable the chemistry or amazing the attraction, if the timing isn’t just right, then it won’t be. According to one blogger: “If you want the best opportunity possible for a potential relationship, only proceed if the light is bright green.”

And so, even though our OTP have such sizzling chemistry from the start, it wasn’t the right time for either of them have a relationship together. They only begin their romantic relationship when they’re both ready for it, and the timing is just right.


Traffic signals as indicators of other relationships:
Dong Hoon / Yoon Hee / Joon Young

[Ep 5] Red lightsStop / No – Dong Hoon tracks down the public payphone Yoon Hee has been using to contact Joon Young, and becomes 95% certain of her affair. Her affair is headed for a Stop.

[Ep 6] Stop + CautionStay, Maintain a distanceDong Hoon’s heart is heavy after the revelation of Yoon Hee’s affair. Something’s burning in the air… their relationship appears to be headed for a Stop.

[Ep 6] Yellow lightsPrepare to stop this relationship (Dong Hoon – Yoon Hee). Dong Hoon witnesses Yoon Hee, shortly followed by Joon Young, pull up to their meetup hotel.

[Ep 7] Yellow lightsPrepare to stop this relationship (Joon Young – Yoon Hee). Ji An force-stops Yoon Hee’s affair.

[Ep 8] Red lightsStop / No – Yoon Hee doesn’t pick up Joon Young’s phone call. It’s over between them.

[Ep 8] Stop + No crossingBad timing / No – Yoon Hee doesn’t pick up Dong Hoon’s call. Not in time with you.

[Ep 12] Red lights switch to greenGo – Yoon Hee confirms Ji An’s feelings for Dong Hoon. Red lights switch to green, but Yoon Hee stays put. The time is ripe for her to start rebuilding her relationship with Dong Hoon… but she breaks down, as though to mourn the end of her marriage. It’s really over.


References: Source 1 | Source 2

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!

16 thoughts on “Love, Timing & Traffic Signals”

  1. What a thorough study of the carefully planted signs. I am impressed at how consistent they are throughout the show, which proves yet again what a masterpiece this is. The greatest works of literature endure because they hold up under heavy scrutiny and tearing apart, and it looks like My Ajusshi will also survive any attempt to take it apart piece by piece.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I know this is irrelevant to traffic signals and I am not sure if this has been mentioned before, but I happened to re-watch episode 3. When Dong Hoon was waiting for Ji An’s call for the dinner date and while drinking with Sang Hoon who kept teasing him about Ji An (right before the kiss attempt), they were talking about DH’s willpower. When DH explained that he never got into any trouble not because he has a lot of willpower, but more because there was never any temptation. At that moment, JA was obviously listening while doing her extra job at a restaurant’s kitchen and a fiery blazing fire could be seen at the background. It was very telling at that point that JI AN IS THE TEMPTATION. And DH was right, he could not resist that temptation even with that strong willpower of his. Even more interesting, nothing else in his 45 years of living actually that tempting until JA came along.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Yes! You are so right! Ji An = Fire = Temptation.

      I remember seeing discussions on this bit on Soompi just after Ep 13 aired, but we haven’t posted on it here… yet. Keep an eye out for it! 😉

      Thanks for your support, Jackie.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t mention. I love this drama to the moon and back and still could not get over it even until now, not to mention that I keep comparing it to whatever currently airing dramas yet non could even come close to this masterpiece.

        You guys are great and I appreciate every single postings on this beautiful fansite. Thanks a lot.

        If only I could write (like you guys here), I would have posted a write up to Dramabeans on the theme of the month section that is “What Drama Needs a Sequel?”.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s true about the road signs and I find it as interesting and as a good idea to indirectly give us signs of their relationship.
    And I don’t know if this applies well but something I always notice is about a blue and white light which I don’t know exactly what it could mean but I think it could be like ’emergency, help flash’ in terms of traffic, plus the white light can be like ‘light the way, be safe’, those lights appear completely when Dong Hoon sees Ji An while he is with Ki Hoon in the van (in episode 13) where he just thought he didn’t know the way to end his marriage and he just sees her and he is shocked and keeps looking at her, meaning that Ji An is going to help him end that marriage (with her love).
    And maybe those lights mean that the feelings are very high, that they are healing feelings, that you can move forward, be enlightened, be safe.

    And I want to emphasize that I only analyzed this with Dong Hoon and Ji An.
    I find it interesting

    Liked by 1 person

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