Netflix’s South Korean drama show ‘A Time Called You‘ brings an endearing romance that spans years between two lovers torn apart by time. Gu Yeon-jun’s death causes Han Jun-hee, his girlfriend’s life, to come to a standstill as the latter finds herself incapable of moving on from their extraordinary relationship. However, after discovering a seemingly inconspicuous cassette player, Jun-hee travels back in time to the body of a shy schoolgirl, Min-ju. Worse yet, it seems like one of Min-ju’s only friends, Si-heon, is a perfect copy of Yeon-jun. Destined to travel between 1998 and 2023, Jun-hee is given a chance to write her love story or change the tapestry of fate.
The show’s premise heavily relies upon time travel and presents multiple streams of timelines for the audiences to follow. As such, it can be hard to follow the show’s take on time travel mechanics and the narrative’s overall timeline. Therefore, here is everything you need to know about it! SPOILERS AHEAD!
Time Travel in A Time Called You
Time travel forms the base groundwork for the show’s central storyline, with the lead protagonists sharing interconnected pasts, presents, and futures. The idea presents itself as an exciting avenue at first, something that Jun-hee can use to uncover secrets and change time from unfolding as it has. Nevertheless, the further she utilizes time traveling, the more she ensures everyone arrives at their predestined destinations.
Within the narrative, a cassette player with a tape of the song ‘Gather My Tears’ by Seo Ji-won acts as the conduit for time travel. At first glance, the cassette tape works like this: If someone falls asleep while hearing the song, they wake up in the body of their lookalike at a different point in time. Therefore, when Jun-hee hears the cassette for the first time in 2023, she’s transported into Min-ju’s body in 1998. While possessing one’s lookalike’s body and life, time moves differently for the traveler.
Months can pass in the traveler’s consciousness, but only a few minutes will have passed when they wake up in their own time. Furthermore, in all observable instances, the channel between lookalikes is open only through one end, i.e., of the two lookalikes, just one can possess the other’s body. In that regard, the time-traveling concept in this show has structure and rules, but they’re all constructed in service of one thing: fate.
At its core, the show presents a battle between free will and destiny, with its time-traveling element manifesting as an argument for both sides. The time-traveling cassette only works when fate allows characters to meddle in the past or the future. As such, time-traveling only works when it’s serving a pre-written destiny.
The one exception to the rule is when Jun-hee convinces fate to bend, traveling in time while using a broken cassette player. In doing so, the narrative uses time-traveling as a vessel for free will, arguing that with enough determination, one can write one’s own destiny. The thing to remember about time travel in ‘A Time Called You’ is that it isn’t a sci-fi tool but rather a fantasy one. As a result, there’s no scientific explanation for how it works within the show. Instead, its rules, regulations, and exceptions are governed by narrative themes of overarching fate.
A Time Called You Timeline
By equipping multiple parallel storylines, all unfolding at different points in time, ‘A Time Called You’ sets the viewers up for some minor confusion. The story possesses a cyclic nature, with a convoluted chronological order that does not match the linear passage of time. Therefore, the different timelines we follow have different storylines unfolding within them. To understand the timelines better, here’s a linear rundown of the various years and their effect in the grand scheme of things.
1998 presents the most crucial time period within the narrative. It’s the year Min-ju befriends Si-heon and In-gyu before Jun-hee takes over her consciousness following a head injury. Jun-hee lives as Min-ju for the next few months. Meanwhile, Chan-yeong, from Jun-hee’s time, is also in charge of his older brother Cha-min’s body and lives alongside Jun-hee.
Even though Jun-hee flickers in and out of this time period once for barely a moment, the second time she slips out of 1998, she is refused control over Min-ju upon her second return. This time, Min-ju remains in control of her life with Jun-hee stuck inside her head. Although Min-ju tries to imitate Jun-hee to get everyone around her to like her, especially Si-heon, she fails, sending herself into a downward spiral.
Min-ju already believes she’s without worth. She has lived her life in her brother’s shadow, with her classmates ignoring her year after year. As such, to see Jun-hee arrive and win everyone over grates at Min-ju’s psyche. Since Jun-hee is from the future, she knows someone murdered Min-ju on October 13, 1998.
Therefore, by extension, Min-ju knows about it as well. As such, once she’s left hopeless, Min-ju decides to allow her attacker, Chan-yeong, to murder her so that she can be fondly remembered in people’s memories as someone full of potential who died too young. However, when the murder falls through, with Chan-yeong returning to his time before he can finish the job, Min-ju takes matters into her own hands and jumps out of the unconstructed building’s ledge.
In-gyu, who witnesses the entire thing while trying to talk her out of committing suicide, watches Min-ju fall to her death without being able to save her. As a result, he decides to carry the blame for her murder to grant Min-ju her dying wish. Since Min-ju is dead, Jun-hee returns to her own body in the future, no longer connected to 1998.
The next period of time that is crucial to the show’s narrative comes in bulk. In 2002, while Si-heon is returning from an unsuccessful prison visit to In-gyu, his bus gets in a horrible accident that puts him in a coma. However, since Si-heon is listening to the ‘Gather My Tears’ cassette on the ride, his soul gets transported to 2007 in the body of Gu Yeon-jun.
After passing his exams, Yeon-jun goes on a road trip with his close friend and crush, Tae-ha. During the drive, Tae-ha, a novice driver, becomes distracted, leading to a crash that leaves Yeon-jun injured and Tae-ha dead. However, when Yeon-jun wakes in the hospital, his body is overtaken by Si-heon. The event proves to Si-heon that his childhood friend Min-ju had told the truth when she said she was Jun-hee from the future.
Losing Jun-hee in 1998 through Min-ju’s death wrecked Si-heon. As such, this “reincarnation” allows him a chance at reuniting with his lost love, just as 1998 presented Jun-hee the opportunity to reunite with hers. Si-heon goes on to live as Yeon-jun and crosses paths with Jun-hee at university. He recreates the love story Jun-hee told him about in the past, putting their relationship into motion.
Meanwhile, Si-heon lives another life, this one as himself, wherein he keeps his distance from Jun-hee and tries to fix the past. During this time, Si-heon witnesses his best friend commit suicide and meets with his Yeon-jun counterpart at an airport to tell him about his impending doom.
Although 2023 is the year that starts Jun-hee’s time-traveling journey, not much happens in this time period. For the most part, this year serves as the home base for Jun-hee to return to after months of being Min-ju. Since 2023 is the future, Jun-hee discovers many clues about the past here, including the truth behind Yeon-jun’s death.
Yeon-jun died in 2022 due to a plane crash, but Si-heon wakes in his own body back in 2007. Therefore, by 2023, Si-heon gets older, with a limp and scars acquired from his accident. This Si-heon reunites with Jun-hee and explains the intricate fabric of destiny to her. Simultaneously, Chan-yeong becomes privy to the cassette’s time-traveling ability and travels in time. Ultimately, this year sees the murder of Si-heon at Chan-yeong’s hand, which leads Jun-hee to decide that she will return to 1998 one last time and change the past forever.
Near the story’s end, Jun-hee successfully prevents Min-ju from committing suicide and destroys the cassette player, along with the ‘Gather My Tears’ tape. In doing so, she creates a Grandfather paradox. When Jun-hee destroys the cassette, she destroys the means for her past self to travel in time, rendering the current timeline impossible. As such, the timeline resets, leaving everything after Min-ju’s 1998 minor car accident erased out of existence. Since the record player is gone, Jun-hee, Si-heon, and Chan-yeong never travel in time, which remains linear.
Nevertheless, even in this alternate reality, Jun-hee and Si-heon found each other one snow-ridden night in 2011. Following a linear passage of time, the couple meets with Si-heon in his early 30s and Jun-hee in her mid-20s. Even though these two versions of Jun-hee and Si-heon have never met before, some part of them recognizes the other as their cosmic destiny.