Lazy Viewing… It is Not

We already wrote a post showing that My Ahjussi is not an example of lazy writing, and as such it should be accorded some un-lazy viewing.

By @akhenaten and @tiger457_stv from Soompi


Annyeong, everyone! Today is the first Wednesday that we won’t be looking forward to a new episode. However, though we no longer have the excitement of a new chapter in the story of Park Dong Hoon and Lee Ji An, I think we shouldn’t feel bad. The beauty and complexity of the story we were given is such that we can re-watch it and discover something new or savor it all over again.

I’ve finally completed the whole series (ha! I delayed my gratification to prolong the feeling though I already spoiled myself beforehand :)) and I realize that My Ahjussi has more in common with classic literary novels and great films than modern-day television dramas because of the way it was written. Not to be demeaning or offensive but this drama isn’t for the viewer who doesn’t want to exert any effort to think and analyze and ruminate on the scenes and dialogues and all the nuances of the story. You can’t get into this if all you want is something to watch while de-stressing at the end of the day, when all you need is some form of background noise while your brain winds down. MA requires your full attention and emotional investment, otherwise you’ll miss its context and beauty and you’ll be left with nothing more than what seems to be on the surface: a forty-five year old man sharing an intensely emotional relationship with a twenty-one year old woman. And it will sound off and feel icky to you. I can liken it to the controversial Ang Lee film “Lust, Caution”. Incidentally, this also involved a significant age gap between the leads but their interactions were also highly charged. On the surface, it would seem that the film was just all graphic violence and sex. But if you go deeper and read between the lines, watching the faces of the characters, listening to their tone and not the words that they say, then taking everything into context, it’s actually a heartbreakingly beautiful but tragic love story. Like MA, it wasn’t romantic either, but if you watch closely, you’ll see the pain of two people finding love with each other in the worst circumstances and knowing in the end that it can never be because of who they are and what they stand for. (Though I hope Dong Hoon and Ji An will be, because given what they had and clearly still have, I can’t imagine them being with anyone else and not being in deep pain about it.)

My Ahjussi is the kind of story that’s meant to be experienced when you see it the first time, then revisited and savored again.  I use the word “experience” because to me, that’s what it was. An experience that I lived through with Park Dong Hoon and Lee Ji An and all the other characters in the drama. I felt how overwhelmed Ji An was with everything that Park Dong Hoon made her feel in the midst of her anger and darkness and bitterness, and when I looked at her looking at him with such pain and longing and love, and practically laying her heart and dignity and life on the line for him, my own heart broke with her. I felt Dong Hoon’s depression and frustration over his inability to break out of the bondage of his duties to family, community and work, his conflict and repressed anger at the situation and himself because his sense of duty keeps him there, to the point that he’s sacrificed his own self and became an empty shell of a man. And I felt his pain at being unable to respond to Ji An’s affections because of his situation, despite feeling so much for her, forcing himself to keep her away even as he knows he’s causing her so much pain.

Even the other characters resonated with me in one way or the other. I wept with Jung Hee over her anger and frustration at being unable to rid herself of the love and resentment that she still feels for Sang Won after all these years, even as she wanted so much to move on. I felt Sang Hoon’s shame at his failure in being the head of their family even as he masks it with his levity. I felt Ki Hoon’s frustration at being in a creative rut and running away from his failures by looking at Yu-ra as a scapegoat.  I even felt sorry for Yoon Hee and sympathized with her reasons, though I could never condone her infidelity. And so on.

This drama, through its sensitive but realistic storytelling, has taken the mundane lives of ordinary people and transformed them into a thing of beauty.  And through the story of Park Dong Hoon and Lee Ji An, it has shown us how redemptive and transformative a real and selfless love can be.



One clear thing is that Engineer Dong Hoon at his worst selfishness, won’t match Monk Sang Won.  He will always think of others first….and above everyone is Ji-an, due to the emotional bond they share.

@mujay was upset that he let her leave (for the 2nd time) when she told him she found a job in Pusan without trying to stop him.  In reality what could he say?…”please don’t leave Lee Ji-an, stay with this pathetic old married ajusshi whose life is a shamble, whose future is unclear….   OR please Ji-an, come back to the office so that Miss Jung can snear at you behind your back…murderess while others look at you with trepidation?”

Ajusshi was in no condition to ask her to stay, so he said “do you have to go so far away…i.e how are we to meet if you go all the way to Pusan”.  So she bravely said that she will find her own happiness since what makes her happy cannot be achieved.

Mr. Park Sang Hoon case is depressing.  for a man, turning 50 should be the best years of his life, with established family, money and the best mental capacity (before Alzheimer sets in)…. but what does  have have:  No money, no wife, no confidence living with his mother.  No wonder his obsession about how he will foot the bill for his mother’s funeral and everyone will be there!   He wants to get back some self esteem.   Becoming a house cleaner may seem a great let down, but actually give him back his self-respect.

Mr. Park Ki Hoon is in the same boat, being an unsuccessful writer/director bitter at life for pushing him into the sewage, mired in frustration and boredom….hence his violent tendency (it’s bitterness coming to the forefront).  He found redemption in helping a struggling actress get ahead, and devote himself to his cleaning work…but perhaps he could rise again as a writer?   If he can, he would overcome his self-pity which is why he broke up with actress Yoo-ra.

Ms. Jung-hee is the most pathetic of the whole lot, unable to climb out of the well of depression she was in.  Her problem is that she could not let go of the past, to try to get to the future.  One major problem is that hanging around that small neighborhood, there is no opportunity for her to find a mate.  Everyone knows each other….it would be like dating her brother.  But at the end she was contented.

Lawyer Kang Yoon Hee is a victim of her own infatuation.  It is very probable that she initiated the relationship which end up with her marrying to Engineer Dong Hoon (him being as correct and passive as he is).   But she married down into a poorer family which always feel  uncomfortable with her presence.   She then found out that her husband is more devoted to his family and to others than to his own immediate family…and everything fell apart.  The faults are shared by all of them.  But she also found redemption when she helped Ji-an with her legal mess.   It is ironic that the lawyer councils the young girl who likes her husband, trying to keep the latter out of prison, against her ex-lover, while the girl was hiding that fact to protect her husband….What a twisted entanglement of kudzu vines!   But she did without resentment and now can raise her child in a different country, finding her own destiny.

Even Kwang-il the loan shark-junior, mired in his resentful state where he tortured the one he  cares about demanding justice for his father’s death (she never was convicted due to self  defense)…finally realizes that the reason Ji-an never fought back was because she felt guilty for killing his father, and because in her own way, she cares a great deal about him (2 street urchins sharing the cruel tough childhood  survival together).   Hence he finally finds redemption too.

So @akhenaten, this reader, like you, will be savoring this tale for a long time… unless something better shows up….in a few years or decades!!!  hahaha


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