Han Ji-yul, one of the main leads of Netflix K-drama ‘Once Upon a Small Town’, has seemingly let go of a core memory he was a part of, along with another lead, and potential love interest, Ahn Ja-young. Why can he not remember a memory that Ja-young treasures so dearly?
Once Upon a Small Town has kicked off with three decent episodes, all packing sufficient goofs, gags, tiny doses of drama, and now a dreaded love triangle as well.
However, one of the prime queries on every viewer’s mind, and on Ja-young’s as well, is why exactly can’t Han Ji-yul remember anything about his “secret friend” during a childhood summer break?
Two hypotheses could be posited in an attempt to answer the pressing question. One of these hypotheses has been entertained by Ja-young herself and is quite a bore if it proves to be true.
However, the other hypothesis is the more interesting one as it allows the story to delve more into the emotional backstory of one of its main leads. So what are these hypotheses?
Han Ji-yul simply grew out of the forgettable experience
At the end of episode 3, Ahn Ja-young shares her “secret friend” with her best friend Lee Sang-hyun. She reveals to him that Ji-yul is that secret friend she made during a summer break when she was 12.
She later surmises, sadly, that Ji-yul has simply forgotten about her because he might have not deemed the memory important enough to keep with him. Whereas she has held on to the experience, dearly, for all these years since it’s akin to a core memory for her.
It is plausible, albeit a less interesting route, should the story entail Ji-yul just skipping on the memory because he didn’t deem it important enough as Ja-young did.
While Ja-young, self admittedly, has been living in Huidong all her life, Ji-yul has lived a life amidst the hustle and bustle of Seoul. It’s reasonable to believe he must have had a lot more encounters with people and way more life experiences than Ja-young.
Perhaps Han Ji-yul just put the summer break when he was twelve in the shelf lower than all the other experiences with other strangers, friends, and loved ones as he grew up to be a successful and hard working veterinary doctor.
However, it’s a bit difficult to believe that he doesn’t remember even a bit from a time he wasn’t even that young a person. In fact, he was in his early teens and people remember stuff from way earlier in their past.
It would be especially cruel to Ja-young, who has been holding onto the memory so close to her heart and is clearly hurt that his secret friend doesn’t remember her anymore. This is where a more likely possibility enters the discourse, one which can also explain if Ji-yul truly has forgotten about Ja-young or has just saved somewhere deep within his subconscious.
A memory buried deep following tragic events
There’s another, darker, and possibly more plausible explanation for Han Ji-yul lapsing on the whole “secret friendship” he struck with Ja-young in the past. This one involves his familial life, which has probably been, as the show reveals in the first episode itself, somber and lonely.
In the first episode of Once Upon a Small Town, Ji-yul’s grandfather wrote a letter of apology in advance, explaining why he tricked his grandson into taking care of the home and clinic while he and his wife go on a world trip.
His grandfather mentions in the letter that Ji-yul’s grandmother has been living like a half-dead person ever since her son and daughter-in-law (who are more than probably Ji-yul’s parents) passed away. Hence the cruise trip around the world, to fulfill one of her dreams and cheer her up.
This gives us some crucial insight into how Han Ji-yul has been leading his life. It’s reasonable to deduce that the passing of his parents might have affected Ji-yul’s life in a drastic manner, where it becomes clear how he’s been living an almost jaded, ultra-busy, and hard-at-work life.
Even his grandfather can be seen advising him to not work so hard at the clinic. It’s also clear that Ji-yul has created a lot of boundaries around his heart.
And while anyone can be thrown off by the Huidong populace that doesn’t believe in superficial things like boundaries and personal space, Ji-yul’s aversion might also be aided by an already isolated and dejected lifestyle.
His lapse in memory might be a consequence of him trying to not dwell on the hurtful past. If his parents passed away sometime near the summer break he became friends with Ja-young, it’d be all the more reason for him to repress the memories surrounding such grief.
However, even if his parents passing away has nothing to do with it (plus it’s also a possibility that the son and daughter-in-law that died are not Ji-yul’s parents but his uncle and aunt), Ji-yul’s current life is just so busy with his work that he seems so devoted to.
Amidst such a hectic city and work life, it’s understandable that he just buried the memory of him and Ja-young somewhere deep within his mind.
Also Read: Ahn Ja-young and Han Ji-yul’s secret friendship explained