Do Joon Young is the slimy CEO we all love to hate, the cause of many of Park Dong Hoon’s problems and the one who doesn’t care if people get run over on his quest to maintain power.
There’s so much to say about him, but I want to focus on his relationship to Dong Hoon and his relationship with Lee Ji An. His interactions with these two demonstrate his character as well as one key role he plays, that of naming the love between Dong Hoon and Ji An.
Part One: Dong Hoon’s Antithesis
There are several parallels between Dong Hoon and Do Joon Young. It’s as if they’re two opposite points in space, orbiting around the same axis. Or as if Dong Hoon is the good twin and Do Joon Young is his evil twin. They are polar contrasts but their lives overlap in key ways:
- Yoon Hee is married to Dong Hoon but having an affair with Do Joon Young.
- Both men attended the same college and now they work for Saman E & C. Even though Do Joon Young is the CEO, Dong Hoon was his senior in college and thus deserves a level of respect. Our CEO knows this, thus he always calls Dong Hoon “sunbae” when he’s talking to Dong Hoon and when he’s talking to Yoon Hee about Dong Hoon.
- Dong Hoon spends time alone with Ji An, and Do Joon Young also spends a lot of time alone with Ji An. She has a relationship with each of them, and the show surprisingly gives ample screentime to her meetings with Do Joon Young. More on this in Part Two.
In the beginning of our story Do Joon Young is Dong Hoon’s outright antagonist, attacking him on two key fronts — he wants him fired and he wants his wife. Director Yoon, an extension of Do Joon Young, also hates Team Three. Later, Do Joon Young starts attacking Ji An, going after her with the photographer and telling her to quit her job. Everywhere Dong Hoon turns, the specter of Do Joon Young’s bad behavior looms large.
Another interesting parallel is that Dong Hoon and Do Joon Young are the only two individuals that other characters frequently, consistently talk about. We discover vast amounts of information from what people say about each of them.
Here’s a very small sampling:
The Managing Directors talk about Do Joon Young:
- Episode 1: Executive Wang says, “He would be perfectly fit to be my secretary. But now that he’s sitting in a high position, he’s overacting.”
- Episode 2: Park Dong Un says to Director Yoon, “So this guy is trying to become the owner by getting the chairman’s shares, but there are so many people in the way, huh?”
- Episode 10: The Managing Directors mock him at lunch: “That punk Do Joon Young is nothing. He got into a chaebol’s home, but got kicked out after getting only a sniff. How lacking in fundamentals was he that he got kicked out after less than a year? He still goes around telling others that he was the son-in-law of a high-class family, doesn’t he?”
The Managing Directors talk about Dong Hoon:
- Episode 2: After Executive Wang learns that Dong Hoon threw away the bribe, he and the Chairman are talking. Executive Wang says, “They’ve put a nice person through a tough time.”
- Episode 13: In this instance Park Dong Un is talking to Dong Hoon, but I think it perfectly captures what the Managing Directors think of him: “You were never the type to be part of any rumor involving a girl. And everyone at the company knows that bribery wouldn’t work on you.
Other characters talk about Do Joon Young:
Episode 1: After being ignored at the elevator bank, Assistant Manager Kim asks Dong Hoon, “Was he such a jerk in college too? If we greet him, he should at the very least acknowledge it.”
Other characters talk about Dong Hoon:
Episode 4: Yoon Hee muses to Do Joon Young, “If Dong Hoon had married some other woman, he would have had no problems. He’s faithful and kind, but he is a bit lonely. So he makes the person with him feel lonely too.”
Dong Hoon and Do Joon Young also talk about each other:
Dong Hoon talks about Do Joon Young:
Episode 3: When Yoon Hee confesses that she called Do Joon Young, Dong Hoon says, “That punk has such greed boiling in his eyes and is strutting his CEO self around, acting like a saint.”
Do Joon Young talks about Dong Hoon:
Episode 3: After Dong Hoon turns down the Chairman’s first invitation to dinner, Do Joon Young walks with him and says, “Park Dong Hoon is a great man, but lacks a little flexibility.”
After getting to know both men, by Episode 9 Ji An has her own clear opinion of them:
There are (surprisingly) many more examples not mentioned here. Through them all, we see Dong Hoon regularly being praised for his kindness and integrity. His passivity also draws comments. On the other hand, our CEO is regularly condemned for putting on airs, being a jerk, and grabbing for power. The attributes of both men are well-known and well-established in the minds of other people. Even a newcomer like Ji An susses them out in just a couple of months. No other characters in the show evoke this kind of widespread commentary.
Why the constant commentary? I believe one reason is to show us that Do Joon Young is a worthy opponent for Dong Hoon; he’s a man to be taken seriously. They have a history of at least 20 years, they know each other, and they loathe each other. For Do Joon Young to have an affair with Yoon Hee is a personal attack on Dong Hoon. You don’t do that to a friend. (Yoon Hee’s not so bright here, either, having an affair with a man she knows her husband despises.)
When the two men talk to each other, their assessments about the other are spot on. Check out the confrontations that occur in Episode 7:
- At the campsite, Dong Hoon calls out Do Joon Young on the affair:
- Later, Dong Hoon drags Do Joon Young up to Saman’s rooftop and it’s Do Joon Young’s turn to lay into Dong Hoon:
(He has the gall to blame Dong Hoon!)
Every word that they say to each other rings true; you can see it in their expressions. I think as viewers we’re meant to take these confrontations as accurate descriptions of each man.
It’s curious and important that at this point Do Joon Young is fine exposing the affair. He has nothing to lose. Only later, once he realizes Ji An has recordings of his deeper scheming does he fear word getting out. But regarding the affair coming to light he doesn’t care nearly as much as Dong Hoon does. For Dong Hoon, exposing the affair means disgracing his wife, being humiliated, and having his mom and brothers worry about him and think poorly of Yoon Hee. It could also mean the end of his marriage. Do Joon Young has none of those issues — so he genuinely doesn’t have much to lose, and he knows it.
The Pitiful Do Joon Young
The themes in the two confrontations in Episode 7 are revisited when Yoon Hee goes up against Do Joon Young in Episode 8. She says she’s been thinking about it, and she wants to hurt him a little bit as they break up:
“You are pitiful. You are very pitiful. You’ve been pitiful since college. You were afraid people would find out you were poor, so you used to act like you were well-off and had everything. We all knew about it. You married well and things started working out for you so I was a bit happy for you. But for some reason, I still felt sad for you. And you were still so nervous. But at least when you were with me, you seemed less nervous, so that made me feel special. I thought I was a smart woman. I didn’t think someone would ever do something like this to me.”
Do Joon Young: “We loved each other but things just got complicated. It’s not as if I did something to you.”
Yoon Hee: “What do you mean love?”
Do Joon Young tries to squirm his way out:
Yoon Hee is astute here when she asks Do Joon Young:
She continues, “I was planning on getting a divorce. Because of a jerk like you.”
Now Do Joon Young turns the screws on her and asks her:
He finishes with, “You couldn’t do that.”
Eventually Yoon Hee says, “You even for one moment, were you ever sincere with me?”
(Now that we know him, the obvious answer is No.)
Yoon Hee is absolutely right — her lover hasn’t endured any dangers through having an affair. Perhaps he got off on the excitement of the affair or the fact he was screwing over Dong Hoon by sleeping with his wife. But, as Do Joon Young said to Dong Hoon on the rooftop, he didn’t have much to lose: he could always move on to another CEO position. I noticed that losing Yoon Hee didn’t seem to affect his heart the rest of the story, either.
The interesting thing about him, though, is that he’s nervous. He’s not an assured villain, he’s nervous and pitiful.
Ji An, Dong Hoon, and Do Joon Young are all characterized as pitiful in the show. But the only ones that are shown compassion and pity are Ji An and Dong Hoon. No one actually takes pity on pitiful Do Joon Young because he’s always doing sneaky things himself.
Do Joon Young becomes increasingly nervous as the story continues.
The dual “problems” of Park Dong Hoon’s possible promotion and Ji An’s eventual betrayal squeeze our wily CEO mercilessly.
In Episode 9, Dong Hoon himself describes what his rival will do. Ji An tells him to get promoted to Managing Director and fire Do Joon Young. Dong Hoon says Do Joon Young won’t let that happen and that, “He’ll do all sorts of things now that he’s nervous.” (Netflix’s subtitles). And it’s true – the more nervous Do Joon Young gets, the more paranoid he becomes and the more he acts to cover his bases:
- In Episode 8, Do Joon Young hires Ji An to date Dong Hoon so he can trap him.
- He rebukes Director Yoon in Episode 9 for doing a background check on Ji An.
Note that Do Joon Young doesn’t care that doing a background check is wrong. After all, he already asked Yoon Hee to do a background check on Ji An earlier. He just doesn’t want the opposition to be able to use it against him.
- He hires a photographer in Episode 10 to trail Ji An and Dong Hoon and starts meeting with the private detective to gather more dirt.
- It’s telling that in Episode 12, after the Chairman tells him and Executive Wang to fight clean, Do Joon Young is angry about it. Just look at his face after he calls someone to tell them not to release any of the anonymous tip-offs.
Compare him to Dong Hoon. When Dong Hoon finally musters up the courage and fights, it’s out in the open and it’s clean — he confronts Do Joon Young at the campsite, he drags him up to the Saman rooftop, he visits the condo villa office and “persuades” him to apologize to Sang Hoon.
In contrast, Do Joon Young uses all sorts of nasty tactics in his fights, then he sulks because the Chairman told him to treat everyone well. It’s laughable!
But we know he’s in a pickle because Yoon Hee has told Do Joon Young she will ruin him in Episode 10:
Dong Hoon tells him he will crush him in Episode 11:
And Ji An vows in Episode 13 to get Park Dong Hoon promoted and see Do Joon Young fired.
All that can’t be fun for anyone to hear, but you can see fear and indignation in his eyes as he realizes these people are serious.
He also has the small matter of blackmail to deal with.
As we know, instead of coming clean to the police Do Joon Young does gather the money and waits for the caller to call him back. Ultimately the police get the USBs anyway, and Do Joon Young has to face the law.
Earlier we explored that both Dong Hoon and Do Joon Young are the objects of frequent commentary. If we look at the track record of the last 20 years (hinted at through the commentary), we get an idea of the choices each man has made. Dong Hoon chose to withdraw and sacrifice himself, but he always maintained his integrity. My Mister is his story of waking up and finding his own voice.
Do Joon Young regularly chose to use underhanded tactics and grab for power even if it meant he lost his integrity along the way. One of the stories of My Mister is the story of his demise. We feel sympathetic toward him because he grew up poor and was a nervous person, but like Dong Hoon we don’t like how Do Joon Young lived his life. If he had made different choices along the way — to treat people fairly, to honor Yoon Hee’s marriage and leave her alone, to refuse Ji An’s help in getting Park Dong Un and Dong Hoon fired — he would have turned out very differently.
Unfortunately for him, in the end the three areas where Dong Hoon and Do Joon Young’s lives overlap – Yoon Hee, Saman and its politics, and Ji An – are all working to bring him down. And he deserves it. He’s one of the only characters in the show without a redemption arc.
Continued in part two of this series, Do Joon Young: Captain of the Ship. Over the course of our story, Do Joon Young tries to use Ji An to trap Dong Hoon. Then he starts vigilantly observing Ji An’s special relationship with Dong Hoon, and he sees some things that intrigue and repel him.