Happy Ending Romance

A story about personal acceptance

Very rarely am I left speechless after a series has ended. No matter how chaotic my thoughts are or how emotional I am, there’s an ease to putting my thoughts and emotions on paper. Typing and writing them out organizes them. 

Today, I am speechless. 

And it’s all because of the Korean BL Happy Ending Romance starring Leo (Kim Jung Hyun), Ha Jong Woo (Han Tae Young), and Karam (Cha Jung Woo). Not only does it beautifully capture the dark side of the publishing industry and why writing for an author is impossible to walk away from, it delves deeply into human nature and the things people will do in the name of love. Often to the detriment of each other. 

In my initial review of this drama, I wrote that the romance inside Happy Ending Romance gets lost in the story, which is a compelling reason to watch. I stand by that even more so after the final episode. 

As lovely as the romance between Jung Woo (Karam) and Tae Young (Ha Jong Woo) is, it pales in comparison to the bigger story that is Jung Woo and Jung Hyun (Leo). 

There isn’t a single fully likable character inside Happy Ending Romance. All of them fall short. All of them make questionable choices. All of them are innately selfish in one form or another. And every single bit of that is human. For this, I applaud the writers. It is challenging to pen a story that remains truer to human nature than it does to the romance inside a story. But Happy Ending Romance does just that. 

As a full-time published writer who has seen firsthand how cutthroat and insidious the industry is, I related to this drama in a deeply visceral way. Like any art, writing is a dream requiring putting ourselves on the line. It’s about placing stories on paper in hopes that it impresses while also fearing rejection. It’s bleeding words on paper and then allowing the world to criticize it. It’s personal.  

Happy Ending Romance focuses on the personal. It gave us two writers, Jung Woo and Jung Hyun, who are in love and have the same dream. When Jung Woo faces off with corruption, he loses his dream and everything he’s worked for. While emotions are high, Jung Hyun steps in and, in the heat of the moment, makes a choice that will change both their lives. He gives up his name, allowing Jung Woo to ghostwrite his books. In the process, he rises in fame and popularity. But with each new bestseller, Jung Hyun loses a part of himself. He loses the man he chose to be out of love inside a man who became ashamed of his own work because it wasn’t his. 

On the other hand, Jung Woo loses himself inside Jung Hyun’s shadow. He’s achieved fame under someone else’s name. An intricate web of lies and love traps them, sucking them both dry of the dream they craved and the love they could have had. 

When the brilliantly cheerful publisher Tae Young appears, it throws the lies Jung Woo and Jung Hyun have built around themselves off-kilter. 

And this is where things get complicated. 

As much as I wanted to love the romance inside Happy Ending Romance, I was too drawn into the web that was Jung Hyun and Jung Woo to truly appreciate the developing love story between Jung Woo and Tae Young. I also found myself too hurt by the choices Jung Woo and Tae Young make in the name of love to fully embrace it, which says a lot about how well this story is written and how well it captures human flaws. 

As healthy as Jung Woo and Tae Young seem to be for each other in the face of what appears to be Jung Hyun’s villainous behavior, the truth is their entire romance is built on obsession and lies. Tae Young’s obsession with Jung Woo’s writing blinds him to his business partner, Chi Hyung’s (Im Tu Cheol), needs and dreams while also blinding him to the truth that is Jung Woo and Jung Hyun. Jung Woo’s lies create a perceived victimization that makes it easy to accept his choice to leave Jung Hyun while also making his relationship with Tae Young feel wrong somehow. 

The final two episodes of Happy Ending Romance bring everything to light. For most of the drama, Jung Hyun is the sacrificial antagonist, a man desperately trying to hold onto his name and love while making choices that appear conniving and deceitful. The truth is, he’s shouldering the lie that Jung Woo shrugs off. In his quest to write under his own name, Jung Woo breaks free of Jung Hyun without truly breaking free of Jung Hyun. By withholding the truth of his ghostwriting from Tae Young, Jung Woo begins carving a path for himself in an industry that turned its back on him without taking the time to consider the consequences of his past choice to ghostwrite. He wants to pave a new path without fully closing off the one he started on with Jung Hyun. 

Therefore, by the end, it’s clear that the antagonist in the story isn’t Jung Hyun; it’s everyone. It’s the choices each character makes based on their dreams and their hearts. And at the center of it is Jung Woo and Jung Hyun’s lie. A lie Jung Woo wants to pretend doesn’t exist. A lie Jung Hyun can’t move past until he faces it. There’s no way for Jung Hyun to take back his career until the truth is revealed first. 

This lie brings me to Jung Hyun. The only character I cried for in this series was him. It’s not because I felt he was better than anyone else in the series, and it’s not because I wanted him with Jung Woo. It’s quickly evident by the second episode that Jung Woo and Jung Hyun are toxic to each other. The reason I cried is because of how villainized Jung Hyun became. 

From the first episode, it felt like Happy Ending Romance was trying too hard to make Jung Hyun the antagonist, making him appear selfish and manipulative while seemingly washing Jung Woo’s hands of any wrongdoing. The series sets itself up more like a reason to break up than a sacrificial love story about two men who made a choice that destroyed them both emotionally. By doing this, the series sets the stage for a frustrating week-to-week watch where something doesn’t feel quite right. 

I applaud the writers for this. In reality, we are always quick to blame one person in a relationship. Sometimes, one person is the issue, but in most cases, there’s a deeper underlying reason why a relationship doesn’t work. By giving up his name, Jung Hyun made a choice he had to live with for the man he loved and then had to break free of in a way that didn’t hurt anyone, even if that meant being villainized in the process. 

In the end, both Jung Woo and Jung Hyun carried the same lie, but it was Jung Hyun who revealed the truth, consequences be damned. We don’t always make the right choices in the heat of the moment, leaving us with harder decisions to make later. The true test of character isn’t in our past choices or mistakes but in what we do with those choices/mistakes in the future. 

Happy Ending Romance is an excellent example that we should only judge someone with the whole truth to work with. Jung Hyun and Jung Woo made a choice together. Both gave up their names. Both took them back. Jung Hyun kept his promise and took the heat for a lie he didn’t carry alone. He gave up his name out of love and then lost himself in the shame of wearing a mask. 

But only he got the heat for that. 

While Jung Woo is surrounded by love, encouragement, and obsessive affection, Jung Hyun is left toeing the line of their lie while being attacked from all sides. While how he tried to protect Jung Woo wasn’t the best and made it reasonably apparent why he was villainized, it’s also important to remember that, like Jung Woo, he lost his dream. And in the process, he also lost the man he loved. 

Ultimately, he took back his dream, and the writer in me cried for him. If the person I loved were a writer who lost everything, a writer who I thought couldn’t recover mentally from the stress, I would have made the same choice as Jung Hyun. I would have given up my name for them, even knowing it was not a wise decision. No one wants to lose the person they love to depression. Jung Hyun felt like he was saving Jung Woo, but instead, he was leading them both down a path of mutual destruction and spiraling depression. 

The happy ending in this drama isn’t a Jung Woo and Tae Young endgame. The happy ending stems from Jung Woo and Jung Hyun taking back their identities. I found I was more satisfied in that ending than I was in the romance I admittedly lost interest in. 

Happy Ending Romance is a well written story about human nature and the hard choices we make out of love that can end up detrimental to a relationship and ourselves. Kudos to the director, cast, crew, and writers behind it. 

For an impressive, realistic story about human nature, love, and the pursuit of dreams, check out Happy Ending Romance on Viki and Gagaoolala.