TvN‘s Twenty Five Twenty One may be one of the hottest K-Dramas at the moment, but it has left the public divided over its age gap relationship. The heat that it has been receiving has only intensified with the release of Episodes 9 and 10.
Twenty Five Twenty One tells the story of Na Hee Do (played by Kim Tae Ri) and Baek Yi Jin (played by Nam Joo Hyuk). In the first half of the drama, Hee Do is a 19-year-old (Korean age) fencer with big dreams, while Yi Jin is a 23-year-old (Korean age) young man rebuilding his life after the financial crisis bankrupted his chaebol family.
The two enjoy a platonic relationship before falling in love. At the end of Episode 9, Yi Jin and Hee Do spot a rainbow on the horizon, reminding the latter that she isn’t sure of how to label her feelings for Yi Jin.
- Baek Yi Jin: You always lead me to do what’s right and to a good place.
- Na Hee Do: That’s my definition of our relationship. Also known as a rainbow.
- Na Hee Do: Wait. You said it wasn’t a rainbow. You still haven’t said what it was if not a rainbow.
It’s at this moment when Yi Jin confesses to Hee Do, saying he loves her.
Love. It’s love. I love you, Hee Do. I don’t need a rainbow.
— Baek Yi Jin
In the next episode, Yi Jin further describes what he feels for her.
Well… You see, this has nothing to do with what you think of me. Whatever you do, or no matter what you look like, I’m in love with you for who you are. Right. I couldn’t ask for anything more than to make you happier by telling you how I feel about you.
— Baek Yi Jin
Although confessions are usually met with excitement from viewers, many Korean netizens expressed their displeasure with this particular one, referring to it as “romance with a minor.” The legal age in the country is 20 years old (Korean age). Hee Do, however, is still 19 years old at this point in the story, while Yi Jin is 23.
They pointed out that the drama is normalizing an older man developing feelings for a minor.
- “Imagine a college kid making moves on a high school girl. Anyone would find that insane.”
- “Just because she’s ‘almost 21’ doesn’t change the fact that she is 19. Romance between adults, please.”
- “I think by Episode 10, the plot should’ve fast-forwarded so Hee Do is an adult. When Yi Jin started talking about love at the end of Episode 9, I assumed they’d move on to adulthood. But nope, she’s still a minor.”
- “Um, is a 23-year-old man hanging out with high school kids and confessing romantic feelings to a 19-year-old girl considered normal now? IRL, if a minor starts to catch feelings for an adult, the adult should know to walk away. Why is the show titled Twenty Five Twenty One if for ten episodes they’re going to be 23-19? It should’ve been called Twenty Three Nineteen instead. It isn’t called that because the producers know it’s weird.”
- “There will be older men who watch this and use this as a way of justifying their abnormal feelings for minors. Trust me, it happened when Guardian: The Lonely and Great God aired, too.”
Many complained that Hee Do should have at least become an adult first before they had mutual feelings for each other. They called Yi Jin a “creep” for mingling with kids instead of people his own age.
- “I honestly thought Hee Do and Yi Jin would fall in love AFTER they’re both adults. What the… I felt so uncomfortable watching the recent episodes.”
- “I was counting on Hee Do turning 20 but nope. Instead, the conversation kept getting more flirtatious.”
- “Teens these days are savvy and they know better… but it’s the older men who are clueless. They’re going to expect romance from teenage girls, which is the real problem here.”
- “Please. Even a mid-20 dating an early-20 is frowned upon these days. To show an employed adult flirting with a 19-year-old high school girl? And to have big-name actors pretend like it’s okay and to have it air as something completely normal on a TV show? It’s problematic.”
- “I had no idea this is what the show’s about. I’ve only heard the title Twenty Five Twenty One and obviously assumed that’s how old the main characters are…”
- “I’m disgusted. I mean, if you think about it… IRL, he’s the equivalent of a creepy adult who can’t find a group of friends his age hanging out with high school kids instead.”
Furthermore, they pointed out scenes in the drama where Yi Jin touches Hee Do…
…and looks at her longingly.
In contrast, many international fans were pleased with the development.
I am so in love with Twenty Five Twenty One. It's really a one of a kind drama that everyone needs to watch 🥺💙 pic.twitter.com/TafaMeNF2L
— kdrama tweets (@iconickdramas) March 12, 2022
They praised Episodes 9 and 10, adding that they had the best scenes yet.
— 제로 (@imzeroclock) March 13, 2022
— 제로 (@imzeroclock) March 12, 2022
“i love you, na heedo. i don’t need a rainbow.”
— 제로 (@imzeroclock) March 12, 2022
They gushed over Yi Jin for his “endearing” confession and the way he looks at Hee Do.
"I love you. I dont need a rainbow."
What makes this confession so endearing is the perfection combination of time and finesse. He waited at the right time to properly process his feelings. Simple yet deep and heartfelt.#TwentyFiveTwentyOne #TwentyFiveTwentyOneEp9 pic.twitter.com/sI1EoR55z3
— zee base 🗯 (@zygmaund) March 12, 2022
— sab💫 (@sabiiu_) March 12, 2022
Unlike Korean netizens who called Yi Jin out for falling in love with a minor and hanging out with high school students, people on Twitter have been insisting he is a “green flag.”
It's insane how 2521 literally has two walking green flags and the best girl squad. Put them together and they literally become the best squad ever 😭😭😭 ily 🥺 #TwentyFiveTwentyOneEp10 pic.twitter.com/GZ6YtkAtWr
— Pot (@arcanablooms) March 13, 2022
Twenty Five Twenty One isn’t the only K-Drama that has sparked an online debate because of its controversial plot. Last year, tvN’s Melancholia received backlash for its student-teacher premise. Learn more about it here: