I wonder if someone has commented on what Dong Hoon keeps in his drawers: unseen, private, and potentially shameful stuff that others must not know about. The unconscious parts of his desires in which he sometimes loses (aka forgets, represses) stuff when they slip through the cracks and fall behind/below the drawer compartments, as Sang Hoon complains: “He is always losing something behind his drawers.” (paraphrased)
1. The bribe – It was his first temptation. Dong Hoon succumbed momentarily to a temptation he had never encountered before, perhaps out of desperation to resolve his financial situation. He covered the bribe with a file and put it into his drawer. Through the bribe, he received the full backlash of breaking a clear moral principle. Everyone knew about it! From his colleagues to his family. It was only through a miracle that he escaped the consequences and emerged as a phony righteous man. He knew he was not the virtuous man he appeared to be. He learned a big lesson about shame and not doing the right thing from this temptation.
The bribe was also his first link to Ji An. Ji An, suffering from similar/worse financial problems, also wanted the bribe money. Using covert means, she stole it from Dong Hoon, only to relinquish it when she was unable to use it. The material nature of the bribe reflected the first level of desperation which both Dong Hoon and Ji An were both facing. Money is important for survival.
2. Joon Young’s Caller History Log – This was the temptation of power, of using crooked means to have the upper hand on Dong Hoon’s enemy. As usual, Dong Hoon placed the phone log in the drawer. I think it slipped through the crack again (as Sang Hoon observed) and therefore was not traceable by the fraud/investigation team. Dong Hoon was not comfortable about using the list as a weapon against his enemy, not attempting to open it when he first contemplated it during his bus ride home. This was not his style. But desperate times required desperate measures; when he was once again egged by Joon Young to the point of suicide, he decisively retrieved the envelope from his drawer. Again, the “power” that he obtained from the caller log was unusable on one level – revealing his wife’s affair was a double edged sword that would hurt Joon Young but literally kill him (hence the Han river bridge scene).
But on another level, the caller history log provided Ji An with the opportunity to help Dong Hoon intentionally for the first time, by giving him a clue about the origin of public phone numbers. The underdog helping another underdog. It also broke the “see no evil, hear no evil” policy which Dong Hoon had kept in the past in order to insulate himself from deep, hurtful realities.
3. Ji An’s slippers – Did Dong Hoon wise up after being burned by the two previous temptations? After all he had tasted the consequences of near-public humiliation and of digging too deep into reality for his own peace of mind. The slippers had all the consequences of the first two temptations. So what did he do with the slippers? Put them in his private, unmentionable drawer. It occupied such a big space this time that removing it created a big hollow in the compartment. However, it was a temptation he could not return to Ji An to “make things clear”. Whenever he removed his work shoes, he instinctively opened the drawer, tempted to wear those slippers. @africandramalover and others mentioned, this was Dong Hoon reaching for his comfort. However, he was not able to show it to the public. When Chief Song asked, “You bought a new pair of slippers?” Dong Hoon acted as though his deepest, darkest secret was revealed, and he covered the slippers and hid them again.
I like that the writer/director used the analogies for the three temptations of money, power and sex/love in Dong Hoon’s life. They were all morally/ethically wrong, especially loving Ji An at this point of his life. No matter how much we sympathize with the third temptation, there are no moral exceptions to the temptations that beset Park Dong Hoon. I like that in the drama Pasta, Lee Seon Kyun’s chef character was warned by his sous chef that mixing love and work in the kitchen is unethical, as a chef’s position gives prestige and power, and this power could be abused against those who have less power. Thus, if Dong Hoon had used his superior position, maturity, knowledge, etc. to woo Ji An or to accept Ji An’s love to fulfill his emotional needs, he would be breaking these universal ethical laws. (I’m not saying Ji An is not powerful, wise, intelligent in her own right, but we must acknowledge that it was still an economically, socially, emotionally imbalanced relationship that put Ji An in a vulnerable position with a married man). Therefore, it was only when the coast was clear, when Ji An had left the company, when he was at a safer position at his workplace and the threat of scandal was gone, that Dong Hoon was able to bring the slippers out of the drawer and wear them publicly and comfortably.
I would just like to add that for each of Dong Hoon’s temptations, he got interviewed by the company – for the bribe, the caller log, and finally, for Lee Ji An. He got stronger with each interview, perhaps to project the character growth that had happened to pass each “test”. And the ending of the drama shows the reward for good ahjussis: Park Dong Hoon got his money (his company did well), status/power (he was director, then CEO), and naturally, his … (…). But not before dying to each of them, and to find them magically “reincarnated” in a roundabout way.
*All previous inaccuracies have been fixed. Credits to @oldschooler and Ruby.
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