’20th Century Girl’ follows Na Bo-Ra, a 17-year-old student who is tasked with gathering information on a boy her friend has a crush on. The Korean rom-com film is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
In 2019, Na Bo-Ra, who provides voiceovers for advertisements, gets a call from her father. She has received the tape for an erotic film, which brings back memories from her past.
Flashback to 1999, Bo-Ra and Yeon-Doo are shown to be the best of friends. Yeon-Doo tells Bo-Ra about her crush on a boy who came to her Mom’s store.
Since Yeon-Doo needs to travel to the US for heart surgery, Bo-Ra promises to collect information on the boy and email her all the updates.
Bo-Ra remembers the name on the boy’s jacket, Baek Hyun-Jin, and runs into him. She starts to follow him around and understand his interests. In her email to Yeon-Doon, she mentions that he is always with his best friend, Poong Woon-Ho.
When she overhears Hyun-Jin’s intention to join the broadcasting club, she applies as well. While Bo-Ra gets in, Hyun-Jin doesn’t. This moment is pivotal as she is working in the broadcasting industry in the present day as well.
One day, she attempts to get Hyun-Jin’s pager number by calling through phone booths and posing as a surveyor, but the person on the other side turns out to be Woon-Ho.
He agrees to help her get the pager number if she gets him an erotic film from her father’s DVD rental shop, the same one she received at the start of the film.
However, she gets caught at school and gets into trouble. But Woon-Ho stays true to his word and brings Hyun-Jin to the DVD store, and claims he’ll get a free number if he gives them his pager number.
Bo-Ra and Woon-Ho spend more time together as she wants to know more about Hyun-Jin. One day, she uses her taekwondo skills to protect Hyun-Jin.
After this incident, he is smitten by her. He takes her out to eat and asks her out on a date, but she rejects him as she has no interest and leaves.
Woon-Ho is surprised at this as he believed she liked him, but she is unable to explain why she has been snooping around.
Hyun-Jin pursues her persistently but she keeps avoiding his advances. After getting drunk one day, she clearly shows interest in Woon-Ho.
The two spend more time together and end up kissing. Bo-Ra likes him but is never able to clearly tell Yeon-Doo about it.
Hyun-Jin still doesn’t give up and takes her to the ice cream shop where Woon-Ho is working. She spots Yeon-Doon outside, who has returned from the US.
In a twist, it is revealed that the boy Yeon-Doon had a crush on wasn’t Hyun-Jin, but Woon-Ho. He was just wearing his jacket that day.
This completely shatters Bo-Ra. She begins avoiding him to help her friend gets closer, but Woon-Ho only wants her.
Woon-Ho is confused by this. He manages to meet her, but she falsely claims that she never liked him, all for her friend.
Woon-Ho is distraught by this and is unable to give her a letter where he had confessed that he had liked her since he saw her at the DVD rental store, but was never sure if she liked him back.
He wrote the letter because he didn’t think he could tell her this face-to-face. He ends up throwing it away. During the school break, Woon-Ho leaves for New Zealand.
The four go to an amusement park after the break, and Yeon-Doo asks Bo-Ra to take Hyun-Jin away so she can confess her feelings to Woon-Ho. However, he follows Bo-Ra on a rollercoaster ride.
Hyun-Jin tells Yeon-Doo that Woon-Ho and Bo-Ra like each other. She feels betrayed by her friend and their friendship is ruined as she would have gladly given up on Woon-Ho for their friendship.
However, she finds an email where she told her everything about her crush on Woon-Ho. Realising how she has always sacrificed for her, Yeon-Doon decides to help Bo-Ra.
She tells Woon-Ho that she likes him back. When he tries to find her at the DVD rental store, she isn’t there because her brother, Ba-Da has been hospitalised.
He tries calling her to tell her he’s leaving for New Zealand but she doesn’t pick up due to her brother’s condition, which is later revealed to not be serious.
20th Century Girl ending explained in detail:
Does Woon-Ho move to New Zealand?
Yeon-Doon fakes being unconscious to get Bo-Ra to talk to her after their argument. She asks her to go after Woon-Ho, who is on the verge ofleaving. Hyun-Jin ends up driving her there on his bike, after complaining about his reduced role in the story.
Bo-Ra reaches him on time and confesses her feelings towards him and lets him know that she was actually heartbroken when she came to know he was leaving.
The two finally accept their feelings for each other. However, Woon-Ho has to leave to be with his brother, Joseph, but he promises to return.
What happens after Woon-Ho leaves?
The two keep emailing each other after he leaves. They joke about how it is predicted that the world would end in the year 2000, which never happens.
But Woon-Ho suddenly stops replying to her. She gets into university and years pass by but there is no word from him. She starts to worry whether he is okay and wonders about the possibility of him ghosting her after moving there.
She claims to have eventually started moving on from him, but when a blind date turns out to be named Woon-Ho as well, she starts crying.
Did Woon-Ho die?
In 2019, she finds a pamphlet alongside the tape for a gallery by the artist, who is Woon-Ho’s little brother, Joseph.
There, she sees stills clicked by Woon-Ho, along with the words ‘Remembering Poong Woon-Ho (1983-2001)”, revealing that he had actually died.
Joseph talks to her, letting him know that Woon-Ho always wanted to return to her in Korea. He found the tape over 15 years ago after Woon-Ho had hidden it.
Joseph decided to contact her and organise the exhibition. He was initially jealous of her as Woon-Ho wanted to leave New Zealand to reunite with her, but later realised she was the person he truly wanted.
Back at the DVD store, Bo-Ra finds a VCR and plays the tape. It has a lot of footage from their school days. At the end of the clip, Woon-Ho talks to Bo-Ra directly and says it’s officially the 21st century. He specifically wanted to show her the sunrise in the clip.
He parts with the words: “It’ll be amazing in the 21st century,” and Bo-Ra is unable to hold back her tears, bringing the film to a close. It is never revealed how Woon-Ho died.