Not Every Man’s Story, But His Story

Here’s another response to the Inchon Business Article: If It’s Love, Then Even Wiretapping is OK? This writer argues, among other things, that this is just one man’s story, and as such, it is not a recipe for how others should live their lives.

by @noor1 from Soompi

It’s a good review. I like it, though I beg to differ. Of course, the writer Sun-Hee Kim is obviously coming from a particular perspective and background and sees the drama as subversion of females etc., etc.

–  “First, it was clearly the objective (of the drama) to show a romantic relationship between an adult man and a young woman.” No, I don’t think that was the main point, it was about unlikely ‘last person to have empathy or anything common with you’ respecting and liking and helping you becoming a better individual. The gender is there: he IS a man, she IS a young woman. So the way society viewed them together was through stereotypical lens and they defied that time and again, especially Dong Hoon who persistently took her side because he is a good kind man. I still believe Dong Hoon considers Ji-An as his non-monk female best friend and is happy he can still see her in restaurants at the end! He even told his brothers that he didn’t want to thank her / praise her for how it would appear (especially since – he didn’t tell his brothers – the ‘little girl’ likes him as a man and he starts to like her as something more too!) so he was always clear about how he saw her (and what he wanted from her, he’s not a demanding fellow! Like he says in the end: ‘Come by sometime and meet your former colleagues’!). But even if you are a shipper and believe that these two will end up in bed together sometime in the future, the fact is that no one would have questioned the relationship if Ji-An had been a guy. Then the dynamic, conversations, and everything would have a totally different meaning – so who is to blame? The writer or the viewers or the society that is used to seeing men and women as sex / love objects?

I have to add one thing: the drama DID use sexual / sensual suggestive innuendos to frame Dong Hoon and Ji-An scenes together. For e.g. the first time she eats in front of him, she picks a long nugget topped with white sauce and puts it in her mouth while he looks on. The waiting at the restaurant, forever staring at each other or looking for each other, romantic music in the background, all the frantic running, breathing, raised temperatures and was very suggestive of an under-radar amorous connection. Even when she gives him the gift (which was a very platonic, sensible gift for him, but got read as some kind of confession when he wore them later on as Director!) Even in the end scene of the last episode, he is looking at her lips and then face, his eyes circling her face while she talks. So viewers did get mixed signals with what was happening between the two of them! Though I still think he saw her in a concerned, unconditional affection way, especially since she was his backbone when no one else was, and she liked him because he was the first one to be nice to her and who was unreservedly good and non-judgmental – still their personalities were such, lonesome and serious and way too intense, that viewers were right in interpreting their scenes in more than one way!

– Looking down at Ji-an’s feet in short socks that exposed her ankles and wearing worn-out sneakers Dong-Hoon said, “Why do you wear such short socks in winter? Do you think it’s sexy?” He goes to a bar in which he had a drink with her before, looks around and asks the owner, “Did you see that girl who came with me before, by chance? That pretty girl…” The drama’s PD insisted that he wanted to depict human love rather than man-woman love, but he insisted on referencing “sexiness” and “pretty,” thereby not letting the viewer’s expectations for romance die. He is a skilled hunter who killed two rabbits with one stone: get high ratings and silence the critics.,………On the other hand, Sang-Hoon (older brother) and Ki-Hoon (younger brother) were excited the moment they became aware of Ji-An’s existence. They wondered if a flirtation had begun between a young woman and their brother, Dong-Hoon, and they became happy and envious.” Considering that Dong Hoon is an enigma, we can only judge him through his words and actions: throughout the drama he justified his helping out Ji-An as an employee and someone who had a calming influence on him. In the beginning, he was curious about the apparently poverty-stricken girl who killed a lady bug and did not wear warm clothes, and that’s it. He didn’t do anything about it. Did he buy her socks or jacket? No. It didn’t mean anything in the beginning, till it meant something – talking about things together without judgments. I see the comments made (‘pretty’, ‘sexy’, ‘colleague has a thing for my younger brother’ etc.) differently and an extension of how guys see girls / women in general: his brothers, especially the irrepressible Sang Hoon, is a loudmouth and guys DO talk like this about all women! Thank God the writer did not show what score Sang Hoon held Ji-An on a scale of 1 to 10!!! And maybe he would have, if Dong Hoon had not stopped him from talking (the second time they saw Ji-An). Dong Hoon may be an honorable married man, but for God’s sake, is he allowed to notice women? Apparently, he did not, until Ji-An. So what’s the problem? (and he is the ONLY one in the director’s guild to think she’s pretty!!!)

Also, if the writer had just given a kiss in Episode 15, I am sure the ratings for Episode 16 would have hit through the roof or at least beyond 10 points!

If people were checking out the drama for romance, boy! were they in for a shock! It has none of the usual tropes, and the ones it does have, leave people scratching their heads! (we are still talking about what they meant to each other!!!!)

– “the glamorization of violence and crime.” I swear, I am so sick and tired of hearing this. Viewers laud the realistic depiction on one hand and then mope about why Ji-An is being beaten up or why punches are shown! That was what her life was like!!!! To show how desperate she was, how bad her situation was, why she swindled or did illegal things, it had to be shown: she was trapped in debt and couldn’t get out of it nor could she stop Kwang-il from beating her up! That’s what bad guys in real life are like: they show no mercy – and he had double the reason for being nasty on her. She killed his dad! And people (idiotic teenage girls) actually thought Kwang-il was a love interest and sooooooo happy when he turned a corner in the end!!! I did not see any glamour in the beating. It was raw and brutal, not a Quentin Tarantino blood fest!

 “The main character who is in his mid-40s and his family have each failed to achieve independence from such existence and continue to surround each other, and band together in a “sticky” bond and straddle the line between warm human love and collectivism.” A lot of soompiers also objected to Dong Hoon putting up with his family’s problems and that he should have separated emotionally from them, even saying that Yoon Hee was right to feel lonely. I disagree. I think people read / saw this family all wrong. Sang Hoon was a good employee, he got laid off, then he lost all his savings in a bad business. His wife kicked him out over debts. So that’s why he has ended up at his mother’s house. My mom still cooks whenever me or any of my brothers show up at her place and she worries about us too! That’s what moms do! I did not see anything out of the ordinary in the mom’s behavior. What wouldn’t any son / daughter give to see his / her mom the way Dong Hoon’s mom looked at Dong Hoon outside Jung Hee’s bar after his promotion celebration? That’s pride and love and more pride. Ki Hoon has lost track of who he wants to be and is just killing time but he is a hard worker and a thinker. So should Dong Hoon let them go to hell or help them? Why wouldn’t he help his brother when his only daughter is getting married?! Why wouldn’t he help his younger brother? All three brothers are failures in their own way! And all three learn to pick themselves up from their ruts and move on in life as more empowered individuals.

Same is the case for the community/ neighborhood: this is what lower middle class and middle economic classes are like – they all know each other’s histories, problems and try to solve them. This is what ‘inner city / town’ culture is like every where in the world. When movies on big cities are made, they always show the disconnect and loneliness that people feel because they are alone and by themselves and don’t have a support system around like they did in the village/town/neighborhood. Where do the naysayers/this reviewer think Dong Hoon should have gone and worked? Jeju island? Far away from his mother and brothers and school friends? They are a part of him and his identity. He is not a young man. In this stage of his life, he is set in his ways, just like any other 40-plus person. He knows who he is and what he isn’t. So why should he dump everyone who matters in his life? Who is he if not a family man (and by family, I mean, the entire bouquet of affiliations)?

I think the reviewer, like some soompi / Dramabeans commenters, wanted a Western/ American image of a family and that is not what Dong Hoon was. And I don’t see why he had to be any other way. It’s his story. Not every man’s story, but his story!

– The most serious thing is the glamorization of Ji-An’s phone-tapping. She begins tapping Dong-Hoon’s phone with the purpose of committing a crime, but through it, she feels compassion and love……If someone comes to truly love you and you become precious to them, then is it okay to be phone-tapped? In this world, would anyone ever feel okay to be phone-tapped? Even if I think about this 100, 1000 times, and it is still appalling.” I did not see any post where the writer or director are telling Koreans and the world at large to tap people’s phones. It’s a drama – and a dramatic contrivance – deal with it! It’s not the end of the world! Yes, they glamorized it and Dong Hoon did not mind it (I knew he wouldn’t). And the way I interpreted his scene with broken-shoulder Ji-An, he played the ‘adult’ in the non-relationship relationship and admonished her for trying to help him ‘as a young girl’ when he should’ve been helping himself and would from here on. By that point, he knows she didn’t mean any harm, didn’t divulge any ‘secret’ and is refusing to go to hospital. He didn’t care – because he cared about her more than about himself. That’s the ‘unselfish’ part of their weird relationship! That does not mean you shouldn’t care. But Dong Hoon didn’t care. That’s about it!

– “Third, the biggest, most unpleasant element is that it is centered on one cuckolded man. Dong-Hoon’s wife, Yoon-Hee is having an affair. Her partner happens to be an old foe of her good-hearted husband. Thus, Yoon-Hee’s purpose becomes a “perfect criminal” than no one can sympathize with. None of the character nor any viewer has any reason to sympathize with her.” True. I agree, but Dong Hoon gave her respect till the end (I also thought it significant that Ji-An never met his mom, he referred Yoon Hee to Ji-An as ‘my wife’, never said anything negative about her even in front of his brothers, is talking about her pleasantly in the end as ‘kid’s mom’ and has THREE pics at his office desk, which may or may not be an indication of ……. something I don’t want to think about!) Does it really matter what the viewers think?

And I think the reason why he spent all his spare time with his brothers and then later at Jung Hee’s bar (once Jung Hee was back) is because there was no one at home, and even when there was, Yoon Hee wasn’t interested in what he was interested in, and vice versa. Many people shared Dong Hoon in their lives. Yoon Hee wanted him all to herself. He was not a modern man! He was very conservative, very old-fashioned and very low on conversations. He couldn’t change her, she couldn’t change him. He couldn’t just dump everyone else for her, especially when they were all extensions of him. And she got tired of waiting! I actually had more sympathy for CEO Do Joon Young than her – Yoon Hee was a very disloyal woman. I did not like her but I knew Dong Hoon, being Dong Hoon, would never leave her.

 “This drama speaks of endlessly warm humanity. But it is all based on someone’s assumed unconditional sacrifice and devotion. In the end, it skillfully and sophisticatedly indoctrinates a very old-fashioned patriarchal perspective that is dream of by men. But after absorbing its lingering imagery and the many varied opinions, I discovered an even greater monster. More than I expected, I witnessed many people saying, “This is the type of adult I would like to become.” I loved this paragraph! Wow! And here I thought the drama actually told Dong Hoon to live ‘selfishly’ and ‘for himself’ and ‘do something for himself’! I didn’t see the drama give any kind of advice on any kind of behavior or attitude or experience. It showed plenty of unenviable people living unenviable lives, with mostly unenviable results! If it did have a point, it was simply that you should be good, do good and good will happen to you too. And also, live your life to the fullest, without compromising on the essentials, especially if something is making you unhappy. If Dong Hoon had started ‘expecting’ something from Ji-An, then all the floodgates of hell would have opened up on him exploiting her! He had to look and act pure because the story was about healing each other without expectations of anything in return. And frankly, he did not expect anything from Ji-An other than her presence every now and then, and that she was happy and settled.

If anything, the drama makes a case against patriarchy, and that women and young women can take care of themselves better than many middle-aged men and know their minds and are more open with their hearts than men! It also showed a young woman taking charge at every turn, while the 40-plus man was left to pick up the pieces of everything in his life and wonder why he ended up that way!

Even Yoon Hee took a risk – affair with Do Joon Young – it failed, but if it had worked, she would have been extremely content with a younger, good-looking, more high-profile lover. Dong Hoon, his brothers, the entire ajusshi neighborhood, never took a risk in their lives!

– “The many strifes in this drama was always left to be solved by an individual. Dong-Hoon, who felt deep compassion for Ji-An goes alone to the feisty loan shark in his 20s, Kwang-Il and fights a life-and-death battle with him. Ji-An is left alone to care for her old, infirm grandmother who is also deaf. Seeing her situation, Dong-Hoon tells her to seek government assistance, and Ji-An begins to be saved by Dong-Hoon.” No. Ji-An helped and saved Dong Hoon more and did more for him than he did for her. That was one of my pet peeves during the show, how this 40-plus man was constantly being rescued by this girl! Technically, Dong Hoon only took a stand when disclosing the affair and even on that point, Yoon Hee was the one to first suggest it! He was forever passive! When Dong Hoon beat up Kwang-il, it made her feel like someone finally understood her, but it didn’t end her debt – she ended her debt herself. Likewise, she didn’t disclose any of his weaknesses and decided to leave the job, place, neighborhood and be on the run forever, just so that he could be at peace. Even at the end, in the cafe’ scene, Dong Hoon doesn’t utter a single word of making a move and simply tells her to ‘come by sometime to my office and meet former colleagues of yours’ (!!!) It is Ji-An, who makes the move (or what can be construed as a move) and opens up their old way of being together – which may or may not lead to something more.

– “When Ji-An’s penniless grandmother dies, Sang-Hoon gives all his hard-earned money he earned by cleaning so that Ji-An can have a grand funeral for her.” He was hiding money. He had debts and debt collectors (I think his wife even mentioned a few in the beginning), so he was not saving it for anything responsible – he certainly was not saving it to pay back his debts!!! (probably wanted to buy that red car! or some expensive dark glasses and suits!)

 “But we have come to cross a pond that we cannot turn back from. To achieve our current society in which eating and living has not become so difficult, many individuals had to sacrifice so much. Our lives are so that we barely have enough space to save ourselves. Haven’t we all experienced so many times in which the most important thing was so protect ourselves? Now that we solved the problem of how to make a living, and now demand protection from society, “My Ahjussi” tells us this. “The old days were good, that is the true way to live,” it tells us warmly and beautifully.” I think what Sun-Hee Kim is saying is that we have to grow up and move on and get out of our shells and cocoons in life (as in leave the nest and the old neighborhoods) to forge out new identities and just when we as civilization have achieved it, and stood on our own two feet as individuals, the drama is telling us that good old days when we had the protection and comfort of neighbors and family and mothers were best and are ideal ways of living. Well, yes, but it IS Dong Hoon and Ji-An’s life! If they want to live in Hoogye, why shouldn’t they?! Why is that a bad thing? They are small-time people wanting the safety of a small town!

I think this reviewer thinks community, family, parents are crutches, or weak spots, that one should leave behind if one has to assert one’s independence, because they hold you back! This drama shows them as strengths and responsibilities and a good thing. What’s so bad about it?

Dong Hoon’s junior colleagues leave their company to join him in his start-up (independent and risky business). Is that bad?

Yoon Hee went abroad to her family, to pursue higher studies and probably get a job in U.S. and spend time with her son. Is that bad?

Ji-An saw Dong Hoon again but did not go overboard in her interest like some pitiful desperate girl and still sought him for a meal. Is that bad?

The drama was about choices, choices that lead to fulfillment, self-actualization, greater good, hopeful contentment. Not neighborhoods and mothers and patriarchy and visions of great honorable men who stand firm and tall and unmoved when faced with pretty young things! But if someone thinks of the drama that way, that’s their choice too!

Other response to the same Inchon Business article:

Is There Only One Acceptable Form of Society?


13 thoughts on “Not Every Man’s Story, But His Story”

  1. “I have to add one thing: the drama DID use sexual / sensual suggestive innuendos to frame Dong Hoon and Ji-An scenes together. For e.g. the first time she eats in front of him, she picks a long nugget topped with white sauce and puts it in her mouth while he looks on.”

    What the… I never noticed that!
    The thought never even crossed my mind…
    While watching that dinner scene all I think about was how the food looked very delicious, and LJA ate with such gusto showing how pitiful her life was because she rarely eat that much of food…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess this is like that subway scene in episode 3 where he tries with all his being not to touch her while she uses the opportunity to plant a bug in his phone. Some people see it as highly erotic while some insist it’s just his paternal instinct taking charge to protect this little helpless girl. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I think i am too naive. The scene never cross my mind as somewhat sexual.
      I thought donghoon face show that he was confused why did this young girl suddenly ask me to buy her dinner.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hi Ika, you’re probably right about Dong Hoon. I don’t think he is thinking any dirty thoughts at all. At the same time, I think the director might be deliberately playing tricks with viewer’s mind also.

        Liked by 3 people

    3. I find this comment disrespectful Hahahaha lmao anyway its a free interpretation. But no i dont agree with you I think that scene pnly shows how Ji ann was so hungry that would emphasize the thing of eating anything when u are hungry without thinking how u are eating it.


      1. Sorry, just to make things clear.
        The quoted part (first paragraph) of my comment is from the post, not my interpretation.
        I’m personally never even thought about that scene that way, like I said at the second paragraph of my comment.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. IMO the pictures from his desk (as a CEO) is a big indicator of separation. We were able to see his family picture many times at the older desk, so if everything was fine til the end why bother to leave that picture behind? (same about him saying “my kid’s mom” to his friend, if the marriage was still on why don’t you say “my wife” intead? Never heard a husband call his wife that way, while being married, before).

    And yes, DH would never leave her for tons of external forces, but YH moved on already and a looong time ago. I’m 100% sure that she was the one who put an end, and DH, the passive DH, the engineer DH, who never actually really fought in order to get his wife back, accepted (like as he was saying to YH: your’re the one who likes adventures, take risks, and live a western life… if this marriage, as it is, is not good enough for you, I won’t stop you from leaving either).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree that his absence in the new pictures is very telling. But I think what bothers some people is the fact that there is not one, but three pictures of Yoon Hee and son on his new desk. Why three? I think it’s a case of Dong Hoon overcompensating. He feels like he’s failed at keeping this family together, so now he is going the extra mile trying to make it up the best he can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, I think it’s a overcompensating case as well. And I dare say that not only the family in general, but his son in growing up without his presence… that must be hard for him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As said above, I don’t think this is the case… the kid abroad bit is strange to Westerners’ eyes, but apparently pretty common. Frankly, even if his wife had not cheated on him, as long as they were not willing to compromise on their requests, in his case his core values, they couldn’t have reached a satisfying solution. Not sure why he is not in any of the photos, though.


    2. I don’t think that he blames himself. It’s something he did in the rest of the drama, taking all this baggage on himself, but by the end he has learned that he should like for himself and let himself be happy, without guilt. Frankly, I think that it was a ploy to make us uncertain about his relationship with YH (if it had been the kid or him and the kid, we would have been more certain they had split up, if it had been all three together, we would have suspected they were still together). I don’t think that he thinks he ought to “make it up” to them, given that his wife was the one that had an affair with a man that suppressed/mistreated/had him be mistreated by his goon at work, and planned to fire him (none of which were deal breakers), on top of trying to get him out of his job herself (in a completely self serving manner, thinking he wouldn’t be able to get anyone to follow him, and encouraging him to take on debt and mortage his house, endangering not only him, but the rest of his family’s financial future). She had a growth arc and was a different person in the end, less self absorbed, as demonstrated that she cared enough about JA to spill the beans for her, while in the beginning she was indifferent to DH’s ability to keep his job, even after the breakup with her lover, before discovering he knew, if it meant her secret wouldn’t be exposed.


  4. The piece above also mentioned that the team followed PDH to the new company.

    On top of the facts that (1) PDH wanted and needed a new life, and (2) His team had confidence in him, that narrative has one more implication (from a corporate perspective):

    PDH left Saman on good terms. Probably everything well arranged. (Non compete terms always restrict departing employees/ executives from taking their team, so PDH must have left with the Chairman’s blessing. Further evidenced by the fact they still kept in touch later on… BTW, it’s not unusual for WS bigwigs to support and even seed the startups of their star managers.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s