For Park Dong Hoon, the neighborhood restobar is the safest place in Hugye, and he goes there whenever he wants to be alone, away from the observant eyes of the Hugye gang and Yoon Hee. Over the course of our story, it’s a place where he lets show his longing, smiles, worry, and even his tears.
It’s also the special spot where he invites Ji An to join him. From the time he takes Ji An there for a drink in Episode 6, to the time they have their bittersweet farewell in Episode 16, the restobar sees several important and increasingly-intimate scenes unfold between them.
As usual with other locations in this show, the restobar is packed with symbolism and things to discover. For one thing, there’s at least one male-female couple in almost every instance.
There are never any individual diners (except for Dong Hoon) – nor groups of diners – but only couples.
Candles also feature in the restobar scenes, giving a warm glow to Dong Hoon and Ji An’s conversations.
And there’s the curious matter of the bar owner changing the color of his shirts, from black in the early episodes to green in Episode 10 and beyond.
After Dong Hoon discovers that Ji An slapped Asst Manager Kim, he and Ji An end up at the restobar for the first time. Dong Hoon is familiar with the place, as he’s already helped the bar owner keep track of the tilt and cracks of the building. So he knows it’s a quiet place where he can talk to Ji An.
There are candles and two couples in the background:
Ji An lets down her guard, sharing that she always wonders when people will find out about her secret. Dong Hoon promises that no matter what he hears about her, he’ll feign ignorance. A tentative friendship starts taking root.
Episode 7 – Part 1
In contrast to Ji An’s earlier demands that Dong Hoon buy her dinner, in this episode she vulnerably asks him to treat her. Dong Hoon offers to buy her food and drinks, and for the first time we see them eating a full meal together on more equal, comfortable footing.
Candles and one couple accompany Dong Hoon and Ji An:
And one cute detail is that their soju bottles have been pushed together behind their hot pot:
Dong Hoon opens up about the bribe and Do Joon Young’s scheming, and an increasingly-loyal Ji An offers to kill Do Joon Young. She’s not really joking – and we hope it never comes to another killing – but we can see she’s willing to fight for Dong Hoon.
Dong Hoon also takes this opportunity to buy carryout for Ji An’s grandmother. He is relentlessly kind, and when Ji An’s at home with halmeoni, she’s touched that halmeoni is so content tonight.
Episode 7 – Part 2
Right after Dong Hoon and Do Joon Young have their explosive confrontation on Saman’s rooftop, Dong Hoon visits the restobar alone.
He drinks silently.
As we watch this quiet moment, we don’t know he’s hoping to see Ji An. We just think he’s shaken because of his clash with Do Joon Young. So it’s a surprise when he turns to the bartender and says:
“Who?” The bartender asks.
“You know. The one who always underdresses for the weather. With the pretty face.”
Whoa! Who knew he felt that way about her? But Dong Hoon is under no scrutiny at the restobar, unlike at home and at Jung Hee’s. His willingness to ask if she came, and describe her as pretty, shows how free he feels here.
Ji An overhears him and runs to the bar. When she arrives, the bar owner is observant:
But he leaves them alone as they share more personal conversation and a smile:
This is a key moment. Something feels different between them as they smile shyly at each other. We’ve known for a while that Ji An cares about Dong Hoon, but this is the first time we see him express his longing for her company. Combined with the revelation that Dong Hoon thinks she’s pretty, we see his growing attachment – and dare we say attraction – to her.
The wind blows hard, shaking and rattling the door. In Korean, param can mean wind or affair. The bartender comes over and says, “This is quite serious, huh? Will the building be ok?”
We have the same question for Dong Hoon: “An affair is quite serious. Are you going to be ok?”
The three of them head outside to survey the building. @africandramalover has an excellent analysis of this scene in Park Dong Hoon: Built in 1974, Renovated in 2018. Part 1/3: His Structural Cracks.
I just want to highlight that as Dong Hoon says, “It might stabilize, so let’s wait and see,” the camera pans to Ji An.
As we see in later episodes, Ji An does become a stabilizing force for Dong Hoon, eventually becoming so necessary to him that she helps him breathe. Here, right at Dong Hoon’s lowest moment when he’s discovered Yoon Hee’s affair and has just left behind a defiant Do Joon Young on the Saman E & C rooftop, we have a hopeful foreshadowing of what’s to come.
By Episode 10 we’ve seen Dong Hoon:
- draw encouragement from Ji An’s, “Fighting!” in Episode 8
- feel sad when she ignores him outside Jung Hee’s bar
- fight Kwang Il when he offers to pay off her debt
- learn her terrible secret (all of these in Episode 9)
- and receive her gift of slippers earlier in Episode 10
His connection with Ji An has been growing.
On the other hand, he can’t stomach seeing Yoon Hee when he arrives home. He heads back out to the street, and while he walks to the restobar we hear the bar owner’s voiceover:
I thought that she’d disappear. A wife who comes back is more detestable. She’s more detestable for trying hard. She’s detestable no matter what she does.
It’s a matter of, do you endure it for 3 years before you get a divorce or endure it for 10 years before you get a divorce?
Now that my wife cheated on me, I understand the meaning of “You wouldn’t understand unless you went through it.” It’s such a common plot line in TV shows. The world was filled with stories of people who cheated on each other. But when it became my story, I can’t describe it. That’s the only thing I can think of if I just sit still. About my wife and that bastard.
Dong Hoon asks, “So, you made the divorce official today?”
The bartender nods, and says “Sheesh. Hey, even a guy like me can survive this. So what could someone like you possibly be worried about?”
The way this sequence is filmed – with the focus on Dong Hoon as the voiceover plays – it’s safe to assume that the bar owner’s words represent what Dong Hoon himself is going through: he detests Yoon Hee for coming back and he can’t help but think about her and Do Joon Young constantly. At this point, Dong Hoon thinks that as long as Yoon Hee doesn’t know he knows, he can endure. But the bar owner is pretty clear that divorce was inevitable in the long run, especially because all he could think about was his wife with the other man.
Among the different ways to say “wife”, chib saram is what the bartender uses, just like Dong Hoon does. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
In Episode 7 and 8, each time we see the bartender, he’s wearing a black shirt. Today – the very day he signed his divorce papers – he has on a green shirt! He continues to wear a green shirt in every subsequent restobar scene, perhaps symbolizing a new, fresh start after divorcing a cheating wife.
Putting all these elements together, I believe the show uses the bartender’s situation to give Dong Hoon permission to eventually escape his own dead marriage.
Meanwhile, Dong Hoon is hoping and looking for Ji An to join him, and once again he feels so comfortable in this place that he doesn’t care if the bar owner sees it.
As we know, soon afterward Ji An makes her first confession to Dong Hoon at the train tracks. The poor guy doesn’t react very well. He never should have hit her, but we do feel some sympathy for him. It’s been a strange couple of months.
Coming to the end of Episode 12, some major events have occurred to further cement Dong Hoon and Ji An’s friendship: Dong Hoon has demanded she replace the slippers she threw away, he and the Hugye gang have walked her home, and she has just testified in support of his promotion. At the end of a tense, long day, they sit silently at the table.
Notice that their beer bottles are sitting even closer together:
As always, there’s another couple. Something has changed in this episode, though: both the other man and woman are featured in the foreground for the first time. Previously, the other couples were always in the background, or in the case of Episode 7 – Part 1 (see photo above), only the woman was shown in the foreground.
It’s as if Dong Hoon and Ji An’s feelings for each other are coming even more into view, especially in light of the other huge thing currently going on in his life. He and Yoon Hee have now openly talked about her affair, how worthless it made him feel, and what the future might hold for them.
Basically, there’s a lot of emotion going around, and both Dong Hoon and Ji An are lost in thought.
Dong Hoon finally breaks the silence and says, “You’re brave. But I’m not as decent as you make me out to be.”
Ji An says what Dong Hoon desperately needs to hear:
By the way he’s looking at her, Dong Hoon truly needed that affirmation.
He’s pleased (and shy).
Then he flashes back to how abject and low he felt in discovering Yoon Hee’s betrayal, and his tears spring up.
Ji An gets him, so she knows exactly how he feels. They sit again in silence, but we can sense a solidarity and a bond that goes deeper than words.
Now this is a sad scene. Ji An has been on the run for a few days, and Dong Hoon has been consumed with finding her. In his showdown with Do Joon Young in the parking garage, Dong Hoon learned the extent of Ji An’s love for him – she went into hiding to protect his promotion and to protect him from humiliation.
For the third time, Dong Hoon goes to the restobar alone (Episode 7, Episode 10, Episode 15). Yet each time he’s there alone, Ji An is on his mind. (And, during or after each solo visit, he actually does see her.)
For the second time in the show, another couple is featured in the foreground, and even more prominently than the other couple from Episode 12.
Since this is the last time another couple appears in the bar, I want to pause and consider how significant of a symbol these couples have been. These other couples, out for dinner, are on dates. Maybe they’re already together, or maybe they’re just getting to know each other. In either case, they are men and women doing what men and women do when they’re attracted to one another – they’re spending time together, eating and drinking together, having intimate conversations, and building their relationships. In short, they’re already in love, or they’re on the road to love.
@oldschooler writes: “But I’d also like to think that this is a VIP world where the only special pass is love given and received. The random couples in Kojubang had licence of entry into the special restaurant where Dong Hoon and Ji An met regularly. Unless we know love and are touched by it, we have no business transgressing into their world.”
One reason PDnim chose to put only couples in this restaurant is to show that Dong Hoon and Ji An belong here, among them.
In this scene, it’s interesting Dong Hoon sits right at the bar, not in a private back corner.
Anyone else would think him crazy to be speaking in to his phone and telling someone not to be on the run anymore, but Dong Hoon is fine if the bar owner hears him.
Dong Hoon doesn’t feel the need to hide his worry or distress. His inner self is once again free to escape:
And to his great relief, after leaving the bar he hears from Choon Dae and finally finds Ji An at the shack.
In our final episode, Dong Hoon walks toward the restobar, not knowing that Ji An is about to drop some shocking news.
So I’ve been emphasizing how safe Dong Hoon feels here, and how he lets his inner self come through. This all comes to a head in this scene, as he reveals his feelings for Ji An mostly through his facial expressions and just a couple of times through his words. Ji An has been consistently open about her feelings – but he has always been a bit of a wild card. Tonight, though, Dong Hoon expresses his longing and regret:
He doesn’t want her to leave. And he doesn’t want to just run into Ji An by chance:
The poor guy looks bereft.
But he puts on a brave face and tells Ji An that she must have come to Hugye to save him. They toast to being happy.
However, there’s one interesting detail that emerges when we watch the scene live (video below).
First, some context: besides having candles add a touch of romance to the restobar, the show has used fire and flame in these episodes:
- When Dong Hoon talks about temptation in Episode 3, Ji An is shown with fire behind her:
- At omma’s birthday party in Episode 8, she says that her only wish in life is, “To see all of you with suitable partners before I die. I just want to see you all live happily before I die.” She closes her eyes for a long time, making her wish, and blows out a beautifully-lit cake right after:
- in Episode 12, Yu Ra and Ki Hoon make their relationship official:
(The original Korean is: 뭔가 둘사이에 뜨거운게 지금 흐르고있어.)
- In Episode 16, omma tells Dong Hoon she thinks Sang Hoon and Ae Ryun are getting back together. As she says this, she turns on the stove:
In the show’s symbolism, then, fire seems to signify attraction, romance, and love. Maybe even passion!
Coming back to this final restobar dinner, we see the camera pan three times across Ji An and Dong Hoon, and each time the large candle in the window moves across Dong Hoon. It doesn’t move over Ji An at all, but only across Dong Hoon. In my mind, the show is saying that Dong Hoon’s love for Ji An burns strongly and brightly, even though he can’t acknowledge it all the way. In case we had any doubt before, in my mind this candle is telling us: he loves her!
On the other hand, Ji An appears to be fading into the shadows since she’s leaving him.
Note also the green shirt on the bar owner and the fact that Dong Hoon and Ji An have the place to themselves during this goodbye. They’re completely in their own world this evening:
All I have to say is thank goodness these two reunite after the time skip. Otherwise we would remember this last dinner as the saddest dinner ever.
Looking back over all the restobar scenes, we see how the place has become a special haven for Ji An and Dong Hoon. At first it was just a quiet place to have a drink, but over time it turns into the place where they exchange significant conversation, encouragement, and confessions. And whereas their interactions at Saman, on the subway, or outside are awkward at times, whenever they’re in the restobar they have each other’s full, warm attention.
In the restobar Dong Hoon and Ji An can know each other and be known. Their love has found a place here.
For more on the scenes that take place at the restobar, see:
Lacan’s mirror stage theory and the mirror image in My Ahjussi (Soompi Forum post by @Thomas Zhang)