Cold hands, 따뜻한 마음

Last night my wife and I had dinner with friends in their new apartment. After dinner, we watched an episode of the Korean drama 응답하라 1988 (eung-dap-ha-ra), of which I was previously unaware (more about that later). Unlike the dramas my wife watches online, this one, on a streaming service, had English subtitles, so I was was able to follow most of the story (apart from figuring out who was who and how they were related). At one point the female lead and one of her male friends are sitting in the rain. He asks “Why are your hands so cold?”. She replies “Because my heart is warm”.

That is equivalent to English “Cold hands, warm heart”, which I haven’t seen or heard for years. My wife later told me that the full expression in Korean is 마음이 따뜻하면 손이 차갑다, or If you heart is warm, your hands are cold. (There are variations on the internet, including some which put the hands first, as in English.) I haven’t been able to find whether this expression is meant to be literal, figurative or both, and which way round the cause and effect is. My Facebook friends have been unable to help me. As is the often way with most of these sayings, there are multiple interpretations.

I later found that 응답하라 1988 was shown on Korean cable tv in late 2015 – early 2016, which explains why I didn’t know it. I was in Korea at the time, but not watching any cable tv (and very little free-to-air tv). The title 응답하라 1988 is officially given as Reply 1988, which doesn’t make much sense. Some sources give it as Answer me 1988, and Google and Bing both translate 응답하라 by itself as respond, both of which make more sense.

Early in the episode, one character refers to McDonald’s in Apgujeong. Yes, the first McDonald’s there opened in 1988, at the time of and almost certainly because of the Olympic Games that year.

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