As the summertime is upon us, Korean dramas are thriving. A very difficult battle between the two Netflix weekend dramas is about to ensue, but we’d recommend catching both as they’re airing! See You In My 19th Life is based on the Webtoon of the same name and is actress Shin Hye-Sun’s return to the drama scene after her much-loved show Mr. Queen. The drama is a fantasy tale about a young woman who remembers her past lives every time she’s born again. At a certain point, she became tired of remembering these lives, but in her 18th life, when she was young, she met a boy who she found interesting. The girl wanted to stay by the boy’s side but ended up dying unexpectedly at age 12. In her 19th life, she decided to go find him again to continue what they started in her past life.
Episode 1 Recap: Who is Ban Ji-Eum?
Ban Ji-Eum is born into a poor family with an abusive father. Ji-Eum, at the age of 8 or 9, remembers all her past lives and comes to the realization that she wants to meet Seo-Ha, a boy she met in her last life, and make sure he’s still alive. This is Ji-Eum’s 19th life, and she’s determined to get back to Seo-Ha. Because Ji-Eum remembers these things from her past lives, she’s able to label herself the “girl of many talents” and ends up taking part in television competitions where she shows off her many talents and becomes a childhood sensation. Unfortunately, her father and family leech off of her and take all her money, so she’s back to square one. After a lot of hard work, Ji-Eum decided she had enough and decided to travel to a woman named Ae-Gyeong. Ae-Gyeong happened to be her niece when Ji-Eum was born as a circus performer in her 17th life. Now Ae-Gyeong is old enough to be Ji-Eum’s aunt herself. Ji-Eum attempts to borrow some money from Ae-Gyeong without telling her the truth at first but later confesses that she is a reincarnation of her uncle. Ae-Gyeong is rather fascinated by the young girl and ends up giving her the money she needs to find her friend Seo-Ha.
In the meanwhile, we see flashbacks of Ji-Eum’s previous life (as Ju-Won) with Seo-Ha and how they became friends. Ji-Eum was born into a wealthy family and they were close to Seo-Ha’s rich family as well. Ji-Eum got to hang out a lot at Seo-Ha’s house, and since she was a little older, she enjoyed teasing him a lot. They quickly grew close, and when Seo-Ha’s mother was sick, Ju-Won promised to be by his side at all times. Ju-Won had never felt such closeness to any of the people she met in her past lives, and so this time, she wanted to do things differently. Unfortunately for her, a different path was awaiting her. Seo-Ha’s mom died soon after, and he really needed Ju-Won to take care of him. On Seo-Ha’s birthday, Ju-Won had planned an outing for them, but their car had been hit by a truck. Ju-Won had been giving him hints about something she had hidden for him to find later, but he never heard the third hint. Finally, Ju-Won died right in front of Seo-Ha’s eyes after saying something important to him, but Seo-Ha never heard those words because his hearing had been affected by the accident.
In the present day, Ji-Eum was able to find a grown-up Seo-Ha and feel satisfied. She followed him around as much as she could but simultaneously studied hard and began living with Ae-Gyeong, who had no other family of her own. Then one day, Seo-Ha disappeared, and eight years passed just like that. Ji-Eum got into a good college and made her former niece, Ae-Gyeong, proud. After a lot of work as an adult, she was able to find Seo-Ha on the internet. He was in Germany though, so she decided to join the MI group in order to go to Germany someday. Ji-Eum is a fantastic engineer, and a rival group wants to scout her, but she vehemently declines these fancy opportunities because her only goal is to meet Seo-Ha. She tries her best to be sent to Germany from the team she works at, but the German side of the company scouts locals rather than Koreans, so she never gets the chance to go. On one fine day, Ji-Eum hears the news that Seo-Ha is making his much-awaited return to Korea, so she follows the news and ends up applying to be part of the MI hotel. Seo-Ha plans on bringing the hotel back to its long-lost glory after his father’s mistress had taken over it. Seo-Ha’s mother had originally been the soul of the hotel way back when, but when she died, everything had been lost. In contrast, Seo-Ha’s father is of no mind to help Seo-Ha or have him rebrand the hotel like before. He doesn’t even care for his own son’s well-being.
Ji-Eum applies for a role under Seo-Ha so that she can help him with the hotel, and, of course, return to his side. She’s too overqualified for the kind of job Seo-Ha has to offer. Still, his friend and assistant, Ha Do-Yun, convinces him to take up an interview with her at the least. Ji-Eum is quick to realize Seo-Ha can’t hear properly and associates it with the accident. Seo-Ha tells her she’s not the right fit for the hotel work, but Ji-Eum ends the episode with the words, “date me,” bewildering Seo-Ha. She’s here for a job interview, so why would she suddenly say such a thing?
Episode 2 Recap: Will Seo-Ha Remember Who Ji-Eum Is?
Seo-Ha is concerned after meeting a person like Ji-Eum and wonders if kids these days are different. His friend Do-Yun calls him a boomer, but he, too, agrees that there’s something strange about Ji-Eum. Ji-Eum had finally told Seo-Ha that if he didn’t want to hire her, he could try dating her to see what she was capable of, somewhat like a test. He pretended it was a joke and moved on. She then told him that they’d met before, but he had to remember. At home, Ae-Gyeong has a nice laugh with Ji-Eum about the whole situation, and she still calls her ‘uncle’ in a very endearing way. Seo-Ha has still not recovered from the trauma of his childhood and can’t sit in the back of the car. He can’t be going around showing his weakness to people, especially back home, but Do-Yun suggests they take it slowly.
The next day, Ji-Eum saves Seo-Ha from a panic attack by distracting him from the situation. She then spews nonsense (to him, it sounds like that) about how she learned to run when she was a “sole survivor” during the Japanese conquest of Korea. She then tells Seo-Ha she read it in a book in which she felt like the real character. Seo-Ha goes on to call her a pathological liar, but he tells her that she can tell him her secret and he won’t share it with anybody. She tells him to marry her instead, and Seo-Ha’s too stunned to understand what’s happening. Ji-Eum then clarifies that it’s a hint to remind him of how they met before. She then shows him an idea of how to use traditional Korean items to make the hotel fancier, and he’s quite impressed. Ji-Eum is later reminded of the time Seo-Ha had told her (as Ju-Won) to marry him as a child. She had asked if he knew what that meant, and he had replied it was when two people always stayed together and made each other laugh in any kind of situation. He had asked her to promise him.
Back in the office, Ji-Eum returns to show her face to Seo-Ha, who tells her she will get a call if she’s needed. She then hands him some documents she’s prepared to help restore the hotel. Seo-Ha agrees to read it later. Cho-Won, Ju-Won’s younger sister, comes in to the picture too and shows up at the office. It looks like something is up between her and Seo-Ha, but Ji-Eum can’t decipher the feelings exactly. She’s happy to see them both having grown up so wonderfully. We see an interaction between Seo-Ha and Jang Yeon-Ok, his father’s mistress. They both look like they won’t back down, and Seo-Ha makes sure he puts all his cards on the table for her. On the other hand, when Ji-Eum sees her, she remembers a memory from her previous life in Seo-Ha’s house. She had seen Seo-Ha’s father get close to that woman, so she can piece together what was happening by the look of things.
Ji-Eum gets accepted to the team because Seo-Ha is impressed by her dedication and the stuff she showed him regarding the hotel. Do-Yun definitely thinks there’s something strange about her and even asks her directly if she has an ulterior motive. Ji-Eum doesn’t deny it, but she also clearly tells him that she means no harm to Seo-Ha. At the same time, Cho-Won shows up and asks Ji-Eum to slip in her portfolio for landscaping the hotel because if Seo-Ha knew it was her, he would never even take a look. After a long day of work, Seo-Ha goes for a swim. He has had this ritual of sitting inside the pool with his eyes closed since his childhood, and while he’s doing that, he remembers who Ji-Eum is!
What’s Do-Yun Up To?
It turns out that Seo-Ha remembered young Ji-Eum back when she had followed him around. Because he was having a rough day where he had made some bad choices Ji-Eum had shown up to save him. They ran hand in hand away from some people, just like Ji-Eum made Seo-Ha run when he almost had a panic attack. She was nine at the time, and she had asked him to marry her then as well. Seo-Ha remembered that he met a weird child back then who saved him from trouble and also made him happy on a difficult day. Ji-Eum had used her handkerchief to tie up a cut on Seo-Ha’s hand. He had kept it all those years and now gave it to Ji-Eum to prove to her that he remembered how they had met. Ji-Eum tells him he was her first love, and she worked really hard to get to him again so many years later. He still can’t understand how one childhood memory could be enough to go this far, but he looks somehow flattered.
On the other hand, Seo-Ha’s father and his mistress tell Do-Yun to continue doing his secret work in Korea. That is basically spying on Seo-Ha for his father. Do-Yun declines the extra money Seo-Ha’s father is giving him, but he has to do what he’s asked to do, or he’ll be fired. Do-Yun doesn’t seem too moved by this job, but there’s definitely a deeper wound there. Considering Seo-Ha is his best friend, though, he might always take his side. Because Do-Yun’s phone is switched off, Seo-Ha ends up calling Ji-Eum to do a favor for him. She had told him earlier that if he needed anything, he could call her. Seo-Ha needs Ji-Eum to drive him to Ju-Won’s grave, and when Ji-Eum sees it, she’s hit with guilt. At the end of the episode, Ji-Eum realizes that in all these lives, she had only ever thought about her own sadness, but this was the first time she saw what it was like for the person who got left behind after she died. Ji-Eum promises to bring a smile back to Seo-Ha’s face.