Despair and True Love
Someone wise once said love is a lot like life, that there will always be ups and downs. Or was it golf? Regardless, the ecstasy of Ah-jung’s love meets its match in despair.
Ki-joon’s aunt, in an attempt to rid of Yoon-joo for good from Ki-joon’s romantic life, arranges Ki-joon, Ah-jung, and Yoon-joo together in a restaurant to tell Yoon-joo that Ki-joon is secretly married to Ah-jung, so hands off. Shocked Yoon-joo leaves the table, and distraught Ki-joon chases after her, not realizing the effect his action would have on Ah-jung.
Ki-joon chases after Yoon-joo, not because he loves her, but because he doesn’t want to let her leave under the false pretense. He owes her at least that much, and he is too responsible of a man to let her think otherwise. But that sends a wrong message to Yoon-joo, and Ki-joon is too passive and soft to tell her that their relationship is over.
Ki-joon finally finds Yoon-joo along the beach where they first parted 3 years ago, and she hugs him thinking that he has rightfully chosen her. More out of reflex than anything, he starts to hug her back, but something, or more accurately someone, stops him.
Speaking of someone, Ah-jung, who had chased after Ki-joon, only to get “Sorry” from him as he continued to pursue Yoon-joo, causing Ah-jung to worry if he still loves Yoon-joo, wakes up from troubled sleep because she dreamt that he and Yoon-joo were hugging each other willingly and passionately and he was about to kiss Yoon-joo.
Unable to go back to sleep, she spends the night sleeping on the steps of Yoon-joo’s apartment when her cell phone alarm awakens her. As she gets up and walks to her car to leave, Ki-joon drives up with Yoon-joo. Ki-joon tells Yoon-joo to go in first, but Yoon-joo invites Ah-jung in because she has “something to tell” her in the episode 8, time 56:15.
Once inside Yoon-joo’s apartment, she tells Ah-jung, “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.”
“No, it’s okay. You had every right to think that.”
“But thanks to you, we’ve met again.”
With pain showing on her face, Ah-jung looks at Yoon-joo first, and when Yoon-joo tells her, “Thank you,” Ah-jung looks at Ki-joon.
Ki-joon doesn’t look at her, and Ah-jung forces a smile, “Is that right? That’s good… that’s really good. In truth, I was a little worried that I would cause trouble between you two. It’s not Mr. Hyun Ki-joon’s fault at all. I’m the one who asked him to lie about being married. So, (don’t think badly of him…)” She suddenly has no stomach to continue and citing work excuse, she leaves.
Without telling Yoon-joo why, Ki-joon suddenly gets up from the sofa and chases after Ah-jung, telling her to “Wait!” But Ah-jung doesn’t give him a chance to explain. I think she has already come to her own conclusion and she thinks giving him an opportunity to talk can only hurt her that much more.
She tells him, “I know what you’re going to say. And I won’t worry. ‘You don’t have to worry about our lies.’ – You were going to say that, didn’t you? I knew that you had uh-ri.* I’m so relieved. Bye.” *(Uh-ri (의리) is a principle to live the life by in a righteous way)
As you watch Ah-jung cry, repeatedly telling herself, “Ah-jung-ah, it’ll be okay,” it hurts to watch her. She makes you want to cry along with her, because your heart aches for her. When she cries, you can feel not so much her despair but the true depth of love for her man because she cries with such feeling and abandonment. From the moment Ah-jung thought Ki-joon looked handsome in the emergency room till now, you realize how deeply and intensely she has grown to love him.
But despite such love for him, she’s willing to let him go, only because that’s what he wants, or at least so she thinks. This is, I think, what separates Yoon-joo’s love from Ah-jung’s love. If you truly love someone, and that someone doesn’t reciprocate your love, then by letting him go, you demonstrate how much you truly love him and how much you care about his happiness, whereas if you cling to him, then you really love only yourself.
In fact, Ah-jung, thinking it’s completely over between her and Ki-joon, goes over to So-ran’s and tells her that the marriage between her and Ki-joon never existed and that it was all a prank.
We get a glimpse of what kind of friend Manager Park really is to Ki-joon in the episode 9, time 07:50. Ki-joon tells Manager Park that he can’t hurt Yoon-joo again, but that is the extent of his feelings for Yoon-joo. Manager Park tells Ki-joon that too much bae-rhyeu* can cause more pain, that cruelty can sometimes be more humane than kindness. She’s essentially telling him to let Yoon-joo know in no uncertain terms that they are over.
*(Bae-rhyeu (배려) is kindness or thoughtful consideration for another person)
Ki-joon learns from So-ran that Ah-jung has told her their marriage was a sham. And even though Ah-jung, to save face and also to make it easy on Ki-joon, tells him not to worry because they both acted, she cries her heart out again when she sees their cherry blossom lane bench devoid of cherry blossoms, perhaps seeing it as a sign that her romance with Ki-joon may truly be over. Her father, having inadvertently run into her, comforts her, and later at home suggests seun (Korean arranged date) for her. To her father’s surprise and delight, she agrees.
Ki-joon, on the other hand, must have really believed Ah-jung when she tells him in the episode 9, time 13:38, that she was acting. When he tells her to “just be angry, instead of having that strange expression on your face,” I thought he knew that she was putting on a show, that he understood her, and that her being angry is a more normal response because he realizes he’s not helping her much but in time he’ll explain everything.
But he must have taken her words at their face value when she told him that she’s not angry, that why would she be angry when both of them were just acting. Thinking about Ah-jung’s comment about acting, he, later at home, throws a water bottle in anger. I know men can be pretty dense at times, but I must say that I am a little disappointed with Ki-joon for setting the average density bar for men a tad bit lower here.
In this simmering state of mind, Ki-joon runs into Ah-jung in a business setting in Jeju Island. Ki-joon becomes inappropriately mean, ugly, and confrontational with Ah-jung, but after Manager Park puts some sense into his thick head, he apologizes to Ah-jung in the episode 9, time 30:53. After Ki-joon apologizes to both Ah-jung and her co-worker, Ki-joon politely asks the co-worker if he can excuse them. Ah-jung, however, tells the co-worker not to move. Ki-joon again politely asks him to excuse them.
The co-worker, named Kim Gyu-jin, deliberates the situation for a few seconds, and then starts to leave, when angry Ah-jung calls out his name to make him stop. After a few more seconds of deliberation, the co-worker mimics spooning, “Bahp*. I’ll be back after I have bahp.” And he skitters away. *(Bahp (밥) has two meanings: cooked rice or a meal, any meal, so we know he’ll have a meal, but not necessarily rice)
Ah-jung tells Ki-joon, “Don’t bother with the apology.”
“I’m not apologizing. Leave this place.”
“Mr. Hyun Ki-joon!”
“I feel uncomfortable seeing your face. Makes me angry. Puts me in a foul mood.”
She finally lets her feelings fly, “Why should you get angry? I am the one who should be angry.”
Getting angry, “Then you should just express your anger.”
Simmering in anger herself, she tells him, “I don’t think you fully realize this, but you really should be apologetic to me. Why did you lead me on? Why did you kiss me? Not just once, but twice. I mean, I can understand once. (Could happen to anybody, once) But why did you do it twice?”
Not backing down himself, “Because I like you.” Looking like she’s going to cry again, she repeats softly, “You like me? Then who is that woman, and who am I? Wait, I know. You like me a little bitty much, and you must like the other woman a whole lot more.” She gets up abruptly and walks out of the room. He stands there, perhaps realizing that she just got angry, just like he asked her to, and by doing so, he realizes that maybe she feels the same about him as he does her.
Absence makes heart fonder… and head clearer
To clear her head from anger and confusion, Ah-jung goes deep into the woods and, of course, gets lost and in trouble. High on the mountain top, she sits on a wooden bench thinking about all that has happened when suddenly the bench, perhaps due to uneven ground because of rain and tear, topples over sending Ah-jung tumbling down to the bottom, and she loses consciousness. Ah-jung’s co-worker informs others of her missing status, and a search party including Ki-joon and Manager Park combs the mountain.
Ah-jung finally wakes up, but her ankle appears to be twisted, and her cell phone doesn’t get any reception so she can’t call for help in the episode 9, time 38:40. She tries to get up but she can’t put weight on her foot without pain, and she calls out for help but no one answers her.
Time passes, sun sets, and in the dark, Ah-jung gets jumpy and scared at the sounds of various creatures of the night when she hears a voice calling out her name. She yells back to aid in locating her position when suddenly she sees Ki-joon standing at the top looking down shining a flashlight at her. Surprised more than happy to see him, she can only utter his name. He’s not as bashful, and calling her name, he, in his immaculate business suit and all, jumps and slides down feet first to where she is.
Sounding concerned, he asks her, “Are you okay?” Sounding more like a wife, “How can you just come down like that? You should’ve called the rescue team first.” She means they have now two, instead of one, who can’t climb out.
He surveys the surroundings and calls, probably his secretary or Manager Park, to inform of their approximate location and to hurry. How is it that his cell phone has no problem with the reception? Maybe he has Verizon (Korean counterpart) and she doesn’t?
He then, like a typical man, tries to take control of the situation, “Here, let’s first try to get up.” But he finds that she can’t, so he tells her he’ll carry her on his back piggyback style. She hesitates, perhaps because she still feels uncomfortable about his true feelings, and he gets impatient and tells her to hurry. She timidly (or shyly) reminds him, “You called the rescue team, remember?”
She always seems to be the voice of reason between them. He looks around, and visibly calms down, “Okay, then. They should be here in 20 to 30 minutes. It shouldn’t be long.*” *(He actually tells her to chahm-uh (참어 or참다) which means to endure or persevere, and the way he says shows his concern and tenderness)
They are sitting somewhat apart from each other, both feeling somewhat awkward, when Ki-joon notices that Ah-jung is shivering. He takes off his jacket and puts it over her, “Here, at least wear this.” She refuses, “It’s okay.” He insists, “Go ahead and put it on.”Tiredly she pushes his offer away, “I said it’s okay.”
He tries a different approach, “It’s better than dying from hypothermia. Wear it.” She starts to protest again, but stops in mid-sentence and accepts the jacket. She appears to perhaps sense his true feelings because she touches his jacket lapel tenderly.
Some time passes, and Ah-jung starts to doze off toward him. Seeing that, he quietly slides closer to her, and in the process jars her head slightly unbeknownst to him. The soft impact awakens her briefly, and sensing what he did, she slowly puts her sleepy head on his shoulder.
Not knowing that she knowingly put her head on his shoulder, he slowly smiles, happy and content just to have her lean on his shoulder… for now. He can’t ask her outright to be his woman now, before he finds a way to solve the complicated situation, at least in his mind, with Yoon-joo, but he is content just to be in the same space with her. Ah-jung has become that precious to him already.
In the episode 9, time 46:10, we see that Ah-jung is not yet ready to believe that Ki-joon loves only her. Ki-joon tries, but she doesn’t believe him. In the emergency room, Ki-joon tells Ah-jung that according to the doctor, her ankle should heal in a few days and that she has no other injuries.
He then tells her, “It’s not that I like you a little and Yoon-joo a lot.”
“Stop treating me like a fool. I no longer want to be confused or feel like a fool.”
Frustrated that she doesn’t seem to understand him, he starts by calling her name indignantly, “Gong Ah-jung!” But they are interrupted by Ah-jung’s co-worker who fusses over her.
In the episode 9, time 50:45, Ki-joon begins to set things right. He tells Yoon-joo to leave for Paris once her work is finished here in Korea. He tells her, “I don’t think us starting over is a good idea.” She doesn’t take him seriously, “Are you telling me that you no longer like me? Hah! It’s not funny at all. Don’t joke around like that.”
“I like someone else.” Her lips quivering, “Is that person Miss Gong Ah-jung?”
He turns to look at her, and even though he doesn’t say anything, and even though Yoon-joo desperately wants to deny it, she can see it in his eyes, and that spoken words would be too redundant. So they just stare at each other without saying anything.
It’s obvious that Ah-jung is far from being over Ki-joon. Her father informs her in the episode 9, time 58:30, that the seun (Korean blind date) with the analyst is at 7 PM tonight at the World Hotel sky lounge.
When Ah-jung shows her displeasure about the location, her father tells her, “It so happens that he has all day meeting at the hotel.” Ah-jung grumbles that why can’t he have meeting at the hotel and have seun somewhere else. Her father reminds her of their original agreement that the guy side gets to choose the location.
The analyst guy appears to be taken with Ah-jung. He asks her, “I’m sure you must hear often how you don’t look like a civil servant.” Ah-jung demurely tells him, “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
At that moment, Ki-joon walks into the lounge and notices her sitting in an obvious seun situation with a guy dressed in a suit. Ki-joon’s eyes burn in sheer jealousy, but he hides it quickly. When Ah-jung happens to look in his direction, she becomes somewhat flustered, but Ki-joon, waving to the foreign business men sitting in a table past Ah-jung, walks right past without acknowledging her.
Sensing her discomfort and her frequent glances toward Ki-joon, the analyst asks Ah-jung if she knows him. Ah-jung tells him, “No. Don’t know him at all.” But that doesn’t stop her from stealing glances his way or steering subsequent conversation in hopes that Ki-joon will overhear what she has to say.
She asks the date, “How did you decide to become an analyst?” Smiling, “Because I like money.” Giggling in an exaggerated manner, “Really? I like money, too, but why do you think I’m a civil servant?” She giggles some more and even claps in appreciation of her own humor, while stealing a furtive glance at Ki-joon.
And then she, looking more serious, tells him, “I think analyst has more vision than a hotel president.” Surprised and pleased at her compliment, “Ah, thank you for that grand opinion (of me).” “Uh-muh! I’ve heard that you’ve always been grand.” And then she giggles some more.
Seeing Ki-joon leave with his guests, Ah-jung looks positively dejected. She excuses herself to the powder room. As she comes out of the restroom, Ki-joon grabs her hand and drags her into an elevator in the episode 10, time 02:05. Manager Park witnesses their holding hands in the elevator, and she seems surprised at the newest turn of events.
Ki-joon stops the car by the water, and irate Ah-jung gets out of his car, “How can you just drag a person against her will?” Ki-joon doesn’t appear to be too fond of her, either, “Why do you keep appearing in front of me when you said it was over between us?”
“Didn’t you see me? We were on a mat-seun.” (Mat-seun (맞선) is a more complete way of saying seun, where mat means to be face to face, and seun means blind date) He yells at her, “Work excuse, mat-seun excuse, is this your idea of a breakup?”
“All you have to do is to not let it bother you.”
“You are making it impossible for me to do that. For someone who doesn’t want to be confused or made a fool of, all you could think of was to have a seun in my hotel for me to see?”
“If I grated on you, I apologize. It wasn’t intentional on my part, but obviously I was short-sighted.”
“Don’t worry. You will never see me again.” And then she stomps away, while he looks regretful.
As Ah-jung walks away, she’s feeling sorry for herself, “Why does he have to drag me here when he could’ve just talk to me? And why did he hold my hand, sending mixed signals again? He’s really a jerk.”
Then all of a sudden, a soccer ball hurls in and bonks her on the head, causing her to squat down in pain. Even though the kids come and apologize to her, the senseless injustice of getting hit by a soccer ball compounded by her heartache sends her over the edge, and she starts to cry.
Ki-joon comes up behind Ah-jung and gently asks her, “Are you okay?” While still sobbing in the squat position, she confesses, “I like you.” He seems taken by her confession, and she repeats defiantly, “I said, I like you.”
She suddenly gets up, and while still sobbing, “So, don’t like that woman anymore. Since I like you, don’t like that woman anymore.” After the shock wears off, he tells her, “Good. Don’t hold back if you have something to say. That’s only way I’m going to know how you feel… what you’re really feeling, what your true feelings are.” About him.
“Then how do you really feel? What are your true feelings?”
“I’ve already told you that I like you. Don’t you remember?”
“If you really like me, then can you just like only me? Don’t keep hurting me (like that). Can’t you like only me?”
“I can’t hurt an innocent person again. But that’s all.” He’s telling her that he’s only being kind to Yoon-joo with no romantic feelings whatsoever, but I don’t think she sees it that way.
Looking disappointed, “You must think you have to take responsibility for your past as well.”
“And if I’m not… can you love someone like that? You prefer that I become a no better person than that?” Seemingly not understanding why he has to be even kind to a woman he used to have romantic feeling for, just not understanding why her man cannot understand how his actions make her feel insecure, she tells him, “I must’ve been crazy. Don’t mind me.” And she walks away, while he looks pained and frustrated.
Fearsome Manager Park
In the episode 10, time 13:35, Yoon-joo, after being told by Ki-joon that he shouldn’t have started again because he likes someone else, comes to see Manager Park to feel her out and perhaps enlist her help.
Manager Park is too smart for her. She tells Yoon-joo that even though she and Ki-joon are friends, they don’t confide in each other about personal matters, and the only thing she knows is that Ki-joon cares for Yoon-joo a lot. “Whether that is love or something else, that’s for you to figure out.”
Yoon-joo replies, “I know oppa better than anyone.” Manager Park does one better, “That’s why you’re insecure right now.” Because deep inside, Yoon-joo knows Ki-joon loves Ah-jung and not her, but she doesn’t want to admit that to herself or to anyone else.
Yoon-joo sounds disappointed, “I thought you were always on my side.” Manager Park tells her, “You two looked good together when you were in love, and thus I wished nothing but the best for you two.”
“(You’re saying) you don’t feel that way now?”
“That’s because the President (Ki-joon) seems to be having hard time (lately).”
“It’s hard for me as well.”
The Manager tells her it’s been three years. “Don’t look at the man Hyun Ki-joon was three years ago, but look at the man he is now.” Yoon-joo smiles faintly, “I can see now why oppa was always scared of you.”
And we get to see firsthand why Ki-joon has always been scared of Manager Park in the episode 10, time 15:10.
Manager Park yells at Ki-joon over the phone in lower language, “Hyun Ki-joon!” Sensing he did something wrong for usually unflappable Park Ji-yoon to yell, he asks her evenly, “What now?”
“Whether you’re agonizing or dating, you do it outside the hotel. Don’t do it where all the staff can see you.” She’s referring to him holding Ah-jung’s hand in the elevator.
Amused, “Why are you being so forceful?” Raising her voice, “Because you are gallivanting around holding a woman’s hand at my work.” He starts, “That’s …” She interrupts him, “I made this very clear to you before, that too much kindness can cause pain. Don’t offer kindness you cannot be responsible for! That may be your best (intention), but that only applies to you. You’re going to hurt her anyway, so do it right!” She’s referring to Yoon-joo.
The Sweetest Sound: Ah-jung-ah
Speaking of Yoon-joo, it always appears to be “her” first. Ki-joon doesn’t even come second, because there doesn’t appear to be anybody but her in her little world.
In fact, in the episode 10, time 16:30, Yoon-joo insists that Ki-joon is “wandering astray” because she (Yoon-joo) was away from his sight for so long, even though Ki-joon repeatedly tells her that he likes Ah-jung. She suffers from delusions of grandeur a little because she tells him, “I tried to understand you, but why are you like this? Do you know how strange oppa’s being right now? I haven’t changed, so how can oppa change?”
The last train left, but she keeps insisting she wants to buy the ticket. While I understand that she may be in a denial stage, and that I should be more compassionate about her pain, my point here is that she is definitely more self-absorbed than Ah-jung.
For once I’d like to see a normal, non-venomous, non-calculating villainess in Kdrama, you know one of those people we all encounter at some point in our lives. The ones who, just because we “steal” their lover, won’t scheme to get us bankrupt, maimed, or killed in our sleep. But once again, our seemingly sweet if slightly cranky villainess turns, true to Kdrama folklore, evil in the episode 10, time 27:25, when she lies to Ah-jung that she and Ki-joon are getting married.
When shocked-but-pretending-to-act-cool Ah-jung asks Yoon-joo, “Why are you telling me this?” As in ‘why should I care about you guys are getting married?’ “Because I felt obliged to tell you…” Ah-jung senses something ominous coming her way. “(I’ve heard that) you told oppa you like him.”
Considering how embarrassing that was, Ah-jung handles it fairly well in front of Yoon-joo, but she erupts with Ki-joon when she calls him while he’s in a meeting, “I’ve told you to forget it. Why did you tell her when I’ve asked you not to even think about it? You wanted to brag in front of that woman? You two must’ve had a barrel of fun (at my expense). I’ve asked you not to tell anyone, SO WHY DID YOU TELL HER? WHY?” She then hangs up, leaving Ki-joon completely perplexed as to how he has fueled her ire so much.
Oh, Yoon-joo is certainly tame by most Kdrama villainess standard, since she confesses to Ki-joon what she did later, and she sounds somewhat repenting, although she really should apologize to Ah-jung instead of just saying she should.
This brings up a pet peeve of mine. Why do men in Kdrama always have to choose between a near-saint and a pseudo-psycho? What’s wrong with having a choice between two relatively normal people? Maybe one can be somewhat eccentric but a lovable woman and the other emotionally off-kiltered somewhat but still a normal lady?
Tom Hanks gets it in the 1998 movie, You’ve Got Mail, when he chooses Meg Ryan character after his live-in fiancée loses her cool and snap barks at him because she couldn’t handle the stress of being stuck in the elevator together. Well, it was more than that, but under such duress Tom Hanks finds out in relatively short time that his fiancée is shallow, selfish, temperamental, and clueless. And when he moves out she doesn’t become a clinging vine.
Just a little subtle thing like that is sometimes all you need to help you decide whether she is your soul mate, and Kdrama doesn’t have to treat us audience like we are grade-schoolers and deigns to give us black and white, good and evil stark contrast each time.
But enough lambasting the Kdrama’s tried and trusted formula. Let’s go back to fuming and embarrassed Ah-jung. Her co-workers, in an attempt to console her, convince her to eat out, and walking outside she runs into Ki-joon who has been waiting in front of her work building.
Ah-jung completely ignores Ki-joon’s request to “talk,” and he follows her to the restaurant in the episode 10, time 30:33, and the repartee between them is like a courting I never get tired of watching, they are so cute together.
Two tables down from Ah-jung and her two co-workers, when Ki-joon yells to the owner for more ribs, one the co-workers tells him that he has a hearty appetite. Ki-joon jovially replies that he had skipped lunch. Ah-jung looks around the restaurant, “How come there are no customers here?” Perking up, she offers “Cheers!” to her co-workers.
Ki-joon explains to her from behind, “I’ve bought the whole restaurant tonight.” That takes Ah-jung by surprise. Could she mean that much to him, she must be thinking. But her co-workers are more practical, “Does that mean that you will take care of our tab as well?”
Ki-joon can’t resist poking fun at her, “A civil servant that I know told me that any form of service, payback, or bribery cannot be accepted.” Smiling widely, the other co-worker tells him, “Not me.” The other joins in on the happy Friday mood, “Me, neither.” The two co-workers raise their drinks to offer cheers to Ki-joon, and their actions annoy Ah-jung, “Hey, why do you guys keep talking to a totally uninvolved stranger?” One co-worker cutely but respectfully replies, “It’s none of your beeswax.”
Ki-joon doesn’t let this golden opportunity pass. He asks the co-workers, “She’s hard to work with, isn’t she?” Meaning Ah-jung. One co-worker enthusiastically agrees with him, “You don’t know the half of it…” But taking a quick glance at Ah-jung’s steely stare stops his verbal bravado cold.
Ki-joon offers his good will to her co-workers by proffering them more food, and they gladly take his offer to pick up the tab, while Ah-jung tries to drown her sorrow in Korean soju and gives Ki-joon evil eyes at the same time.
Ah-jung squats outside the restaurant, obviously inebriated, urging others for, “One more round (of drinks).” When the others suggests home instead, she sets out to drink solo. Ki-joon goes after her, and Ah-jung tells Ki-joon what’s been eating her, “Don’t you think that was too much? Even if I told you that I like you, how can you tell your girlfriend that just to amuse yourselves?”
“That’s a misunderstanding.” “A misunderstanding?” She hits his chest with her hands, dropping her cell phone in the process, but too inebriated to notice, “That’s a really cruel thing to do! Don’t you know that? You dummy.” And then she takes off in a taxi.
Later, he awaits her on their bench in the cherry blossom lane, while she walks wobbly toward him. He admonishes her, “What took you so long? I’ve waited a long time.”
“What are you doing there?” “(To give you) this.” He pulls out her cell phone from his jacket pocket. After she snatches her cell phone away from his hand, she walks ahead of him, and it’s cute the way he jauntily runs up to keep pace with her. She’s not as enthusiastic, “Why do you keep following me?” “To take you home.”
Seemingly annoyed, she tells him, “Go away while I’m still being civil to you.” Undaunted, “Do you, by any chance, know what my nickname was? Hyun Ki-joon five-item set. You are dying to know what five-item set is, right?” He peers under her face as he asks her. Looking straight ahead as she walks, “I’m not least bit curious.”
As if she begged him to enumerate, he spews the list out, “I was known for possessing good looks, strong sense of responsibility as well as sensibility, refinement, and good manners to boot. Actually, it’s not an entirely inaccurate description of me.” She looks aghast at him, as if to say how narcissistic can one man be.
Sensing her disbelief, “I’m not being narcissistic. I’m just saying that ignoring an inebriated woman is against my good sense of responsibility, sensibility, and good manners.” She gives it right back to him, “For a man possessing such strong sense of sensibility, good manner, and refinement, you had no qualms about senseless gossiping?”
He doesn’t say anything, and she gives him a disdainful look and starts to walk away. She stops when he says, “I did no such thing.” She turns around, and he tells her again in a serious tone, “I did not.” She stays around, wanting to believe him, and sensing that, he steps toward her. He wants to explain it to her, and he begins by calling her first and middle name together in an intimate fashion, “Ah-jung ah.”
She wants a better explanation as to why he told Yoon-joo what he did, but she isn’t ready for such intimate and familiar calling of her name. Feeling uncomfortable, she starts to walk away. He tries again, “Ah-jung ah.” She blurts out, “Don’t call me that!” And she starts to run away. Now amused, he teases her by yelling, “Ah-jung ah!”
In the comfort of her own home, lying languidly on the wooden table in her yard, she relives the moment by trying out the way he called her, “Ah-jung ah” over and over again. She sighs and in habit more than anything, she reaches for her cell phone and turns it on. Looking at the screen, she jumps up, “Whoa! What is this? Why is this here?”
Looking at Ki-joon’s picture that he obviously wallpapered when he had the possession of her cell phone momentarily, she begins to play with the image by enlarging, caressing his lips, playfully flicking his nose, and tap his cheek when she notices, “There’s a video, too?”
In the video, he calls her, “Ah-jung ah” twice before asking her, “Good morning. You drank quite a bit last night. Make sure you have hae-jang-gook* this morning.” He smiles fondly at her, and she takes offense at that, pretending that he’s ridiculing her, “You laugh? Ahh. Yes, I’m up (so what?) What does it matter to you whether I drink or not? Huh! And why are you calling my name, Ah-jung ah, ban-mal** at that.”
But soon, the happiness she feels when he calls her, ‘Ah-jung ah’ overtakes her, and smiling like a little girl, she is uber cute when she says, “Again” and repeats his “Ah-jung-ah” while she replays the scene over and over again.
There’s a Korean saying that one word can pay a thousand debt, but here a simple word, Ah-jung-ah, thaws a misunderstood heart.
*(Hae-jang-gook (해장국), commonly known as hangover soup, is a hot soup made by boiling mostly beef bone, cow intestines, fermented soybean paste, bean sprouts, and lettuce leaves. This is one prime example why, as long as a dish tastes good, I don’t want to know what’s in it. The soup doesn’t have any particular medicinal ingredients for hangover other than that it’s supposedly nutritious, hearty, and has that clean refreshing taste to quell the nausea associated with hangover)
**(Ban-mal (반말) is speaking in lower form of Korean language)
The Contract, No More
At the end of the episode 10, when torn between keeping the integrity of being a government worker without tainted reputation and remembering Ki-joon’s gratitude for helping him get the Chairman Chun’s agreement, Ah-jung chooses her man over her job. Too bad Ki-joon tries to ruin it for her.
In the beginning of the Episode 11, Ah-jung’s boss, the head of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, & Tourism, questions her, because the Chairman Chun thinks she’s married to the World Hotel CEO Hyun Ki-joon, she tells him that she is indeed married to him. But Ki-joon arrives at that very moment to announce that they are not married.
When her boss asks her again, Ah-jung repeats that she is married to Ki-joon, and the Chairman Chun also amusedly insists that they are married. Her boss believes the Chairman’s assertion and assumes that our two lovebirds’ marriage is similar to his 30 year marriage, that some days they feel like they are married, and some days they don’t. Ki-joon tries to set the record straight, but Ah-jung adroitly changes the subject and they all move on.
In private, Ah-jung blasts Ki-joon in the episode 11, time 03:00, “We are not married? Now, what possessed you to say that? Aren’t you the one who asked me to pretend in front of Chairman Chun? I almost fainted at the thought of your deal not going through.”
He’s not exactly happy, either, “What about you? Regardless of the situation, how can you lie to the Minister? You have several heads?” (The head comment refers to the number of occupational lives, similar in concept to cat’s nine lives. He’s worried about her losing her job.)
She counters, “Did you forget about the contract? Why did you put me in an awkward position like that?” Sneering almost, he pulls out the contract from his suit pocket as if drawing a sword, “Ha! This…” To which, Ah-jung says sarcastically, “You’ve kept it very safely, I see.”
He then rips the contract to pieces as he tells her, “Don’t ever mention the word, contract, from now on because this kind of thing will never happen again.” He means drawing up a similar contract in the future, as he scatters the torn pieces of the contract into the air. She is shocked, “What did you say?”
“I’ll make it so that you will never lie again. I’m going to tell everyone that we are not married, and I am going to start from the beginning.” With her, he means. Ah-jung is confused, “Start what from the beginning?” “Thanks to your lies, my life has been turned upside down. But even so, I’m going to forgive everything, and I want to start from the beginning.” She picks a bone, “Who is forgiving whom?”
He barks at her, “Listen!” Which startles her and renders her mute… for the moment. He rants on, “If I feel like it, I’m going to take you to the movies holding your hand, and as we get to know each other better, I’m even going to kiss you, and as I get to like you more…”
Knowing instinctively she now has him eating out of the palm of her hand, she smiles teasingly, “As you get to like me more, what?” That flusters him into silence… temporarily. She lectures him while still smiling, “Listen, Mr. Hyun Ki-joon. You thought I would like what you’re proposing?” Surprised, “You don’t like it?” She just looks at him, still smiling.
He doesn’t give up easily, “Well, if you don’t like it, then I’ll just have to make you like it. Are we settled?” With this issue. “Settled what? Just because you say it, I have to agree with you blindly? Why do I have to go along with everything you say, huh?” She grumbles, “You’re always like this. You want to do whatever you feel like doing.” Surprised again, “You really don’t like it?”
She tells him in a serious tone, “I also want to set the record straight. From now on, I’m not going to lie ever again. And I’m not going to be affected by your emotions. So, don’t pick me up and down, understand?” She means for him to stop jerking her chains according to his whim. And then she walks away, while he’s not exactly sure why she’s not happy with his backdoor confession.
The Pursuit of Ah-jung
Ki-joon’s full court press, or if you’re not a basketball fan, serious mating ritual, otherwise known in the civilized world as courting, of Ah-jung has officially begun.
Due to misunderstanding, So-ran thinks there’s some kind of hanky-panky going on between Ah-jung and her husband, Jae-bum, so So-ran leaves cryptic text messages to make everyone fear she may be suicidal. In search of So-ran, Ah-jung heads to Jeju Island, having been hoodwinked again by her co-workers to take on a project nobody wants in the island.
In the episode 11, time 09:00, Ki-joon escort service awaits the fair lady Ah-jung by the roadside near her house. Leaning against his car in his usual business suit, he doesn’t initially notice that she’s wheeling a travel bag, “You’re going to work?”
She doesn’t say anything, and he notices the bag, “What’s with the bag? Are you going on a pleasure trip?” Smiling teasingly, “Do I look like such a leisurely person? What brings you here?” Ignoring her question, “I see. You’re going on a business trip. Where are you headed to?” He taps his car, “Get in.”
She appears to enjoy spurning his advances, “I have to get on a boat, you know.” Taken off-guard, “A boat? Where are you going?” “Travel from Seoul to Kwang-joo, and then from Jung-uoon to Jeju Island via sea. Is that okay with you?” Kwang-joo is a city in the South Jul-la providence. She starts to walk away, and he anxiously stops her, “So, I said I’ll give you a ride to wherever you need to go.”
“I said, there’s no need.”
“You have a bag there. And you have to ride a bus.”
Feigning irritation, “Why are you doing this?”
“I’ve told you. I’m going to start from the beginning.”
Smiling beguilingly, “Says who? Taxi!” Then she takes off in a taxi, ignoring his protest.
Ki-joon finds out that Ah-jung’s going to Jeju Island to lobby the island to be selected as one of the world’s seven most scenic spots, and his secretary tells him that convincing the judges may not be an easy task. In the episode 11, time 11:40, Ah-jung’s traveling in a bus to Kwang-joo when she gets a call from Ki-joon. Seeing who the caller is, she smiles, “Hello.”
“Where are you?” “If I tell you where I am, are you going to come get me in your car?” Reading the map, “You should have passed Dae-jun by now and must be heading toward Kwang-joo?” Smiling, “You must have ample time on your hand today? Right now I’m extremely busy going over my papers, so if you don’t have any particular issue to discuss, you should hang up.”
“Wait. Miss Gong Ah-jung. You do realize that you’re paid by the taxes that I pay, right? So, no goofing off, (okay). Gotta go. Bye.” Then he hangs up. Smiling at his goofiness and lameness, she can’t help but smile.
Despite his motion sickness, he gets on the boat with her, foregoing his plan to fly her in style in a helicopter, only because she didn’t want to fly.
Even with a Scopolamine anti-nausea patch she puts behind his ear, he is so discombobulated that he temporarily forgets to woo Ah-jung, who complains good-naturedly in the episode 11, time 19:03, “If you tagged along without invitation, at least you should offer to take the bag. I’m letting you slide since you’re sick.” We see that Ki-joon, who’s walking in front of her looking somewhat disoriented, is now wearing 3 Scopolamine patches behind his ear.
In the episode 11, time 35:40, Ah-jung has found So-ran but is having hard time convincing her that she doesn’t have a thing for her husband, Ah-jung’s “first love,” anymore because “I really have someone else that I like.” Right at that moment from behind Ah-jung, Ki-joon walks in, and So-ran’s jaw drops, “You don’t mean Mr. Hyun Ki-joon?”
Feeling embarrassed, Ah-jung looks at Ki-joon and he in turn looks at her affectionately. Seeing the exchange, So-ran appears surprised to see a real spark of romance brewing between them.
One of the more revealing conversations between Ah-jung and Ki-joon occurs in the episode 11, time 43:00, when both are out in their respective joining veranda overlooking the darkened evening ocean, Ah-jung becomes hesitant, “Could I ask you a question?”
“What?” “Did you really come here because of me?” Slowly, he replies, “No. Because of me.” That gets a surprised and disappointed look from her, until he says, “Because I couldn’t concentrate, I kept wondering about you, and I was annoyingly missing you a lot.”
She smiles and makes an observation, “You are shirking your responsibilities and just ddang-ddang-yi-chi-nae*, right now.” *(ddang-ddang-yi-chi-nae or –chi-da (땡땡이치다) means to loaf or loiter around, especially when you should be working or studying. The phrase is commonly used to mean playing hooky from school)
He laughs and agrees, “You’re right. I am. I’m ddang-ddang-yi-chi-go-in-nae. Could I ask you a question, too?” “What is it?”
“Are all women like that? All want to meet a man better than her friend’s and all want to meet a better man so as to sin-boon sahng-soak*?” *(sin-boon (신분) means position, status, and sahng-soak (상속) means to inherit, so in essence it means to better themselves socially or financially)
“Are you telling me I’m materialistic?” He looks at her evenly, “Then what would you call it?” She stammers, “I just… feel yul-baht-go* when I see someone better than me.” *(Yul (열) means heat as in body heat that you feel when you’re angry and baht-go (받고) or -da (받다) means to receive. So it means ‘feel angry,’ similar to ‘it burns me up’ or ‘makes me go crazy.’ But it can also have milder connotation such as ‘being bothered, bugs me, or it gets to me.’)
“Was it simply to say to your friend to whom you lost your first love, even if you had to lie, that you’ve met someone better than she did?” She stammers some more, “No, I just…” He smiles, “Don’t mind me. I asked because I thought maybe there was some other reason.” He’s asking her if she loves him. He tells her that he’s tired and reminds her that she has to wake up early tomorrow morning.
That night, thinking about what he said, she tosses and turns, “Why do I suddenly feel so ashamed?” She first covers her eyes in mortification and then not feeling any better, pulls the blanket over her head.
Ki-joon turns out to be a big help to Ah-jung in her attempt to convince the foreign judges. But it’s Ah-jung who ultimately moves the judges with her story about how Jeju Island is like a mother to her as she goes into detail about why she thinks that.
A Kiss with a Promise
Ki-joon appears to be impressed by Ah-jung’s speech to the judges. He throws her a lavish party for two in the episode 11, time 59:09, and tells her that she did well and that she looks beautiful.
Ah-jung tells him she thought about what he said on the terrace “for the first time” when he sort of accused her of being materialistic. She tells him, “At first I thought it was just a feeling of revenge for taking my first love, but that apparently wasn’t everything. The fact that my subject of lie was you appeared to incense So-ran more, and (in turn) I have become even more self-absorbed. Thanks to you, I think I’ve come to finally realize that. I am sorry.”
He gets up from his chair, walks over to her, and gives her a kiss on her forehead. Then he squats next to her, seeing her eye to eye, “I was ashamed, too. The contract based on falsehood and using you to benefit my work, I wasn’t too proud of myself, either.”
She tells him softly, “When you ripped the contract, I could feel your true feelings, just as I did when you told the Minister that we weren’t married.” She sheds a tear, and after wiping it for her, he tells her, “Then should we forget the past and make a new start (for the two of us)?” She nods yes as more tears come.
He rises and closes in to kiss her, but as soon as his lips touch hers, she pulls back. He looks at her quizzically when she tells him, “I’m scared. Let’s go slow.” Smiling, he tells her, “Okay. I’ll try my best to behave until you’re absolutely certain. I will look at only you… forever.”
She smiles and sniffles in utter happiness. She utters a throaty, “Thank you,” as she clasps both of his hands in hers. He smiles back. And love must truly be blind for Ki-joon not to see Yoon-joo standing by the entrance right in the line of his vision.
A Changed Man
When the deal between the Chairman Chun and the World Group was only a signature away, Ki-joon decides to risk it all by telling the chairman that he and Ah-jung are not married in the episode 12, time 13:30. When the chairman asks Ki-joon why he’s telling him this now, Ki-joon recites an old adage, punishment will come to you if you lie to others for personal gain.
I guess the reason why Ki-joon’s telling him now is because Ki-joon believes in the adage. The chairman, obviously not pleased, leaves abruptly, and the deal appears to be in serious jeopardy.
Well, Ki-joon doesn’t confess to Ah-jung. Instead, he confesses to Yoon-joo in the episode 12, time 27:15. He tells her, “I never believed in things like fate before, but now I do. Sometimes, you love someone you are not supposed to love, and sometimes you part with someone you absolutely don’t want to part with. The reason why I had to part with you then, I think that was my fate, and even though it was initially very difficult, I accepted it. Now, it’s your turn.” To accept it.
With tears in her eyes, Yoon-joo can only say, “Oppa.”
He goes on, “I love Gong Ah-jung. Like you told me before, I don’t want to be a coward anymore. No matter how many times you say it (that you love me), I don’t hear you. In my eyes, you no longer exist.” Romantically speaking. And then he drives away.
Choice, Trust, & Ice Cream
In the episode 12, time 30:10, Ki-joon and Ah-jung are standing next to their bench in the cherry blossom lane. He asks her, “Promise me something.” She gives him a go-ahead look.
“From now on, I want you to tell me everything that happens to you, whether you had breakfast or not, what you had for side dishes, whether you feel okay or melancholic, whether you cut or perm your hair, how many times you washed your hands, I’m curious about everything you do. So tell me everything that happens to you.”
She becomes shy and doesn’t say anything. He takes her hand, “And I’ll never let you suffer by yourself. Never again.” She looks at him self-consciously, “You sound like a different person.” Then, shyly, “Thank you.”
He hugs her, and she asks him, “Did you come because you were worried about me?” She teases him, “You came because you just wanted to hug me, right?” Still embracing her, he smiles slowly. They part and look at each other smiling. Then she abruptly hugs him back with her arms wrapped around his neck.
After hearing from Ah-jung’s boss that there is a talk of marriage between the World Hotel CEO Hyun Ki-joon and the step-daughter of Congressman Park Sung-gun, Oh Yoon-joo, Ah-jung starts to put two and two together.
In the meantime, Ki-joon’s aunt, in order to use Congressman Park’s influence over the Chairman Chun, invites the Congressman’s family and Ki-joon for dinner in a restaurant. The aunt tells Ki-joon that she doesn’t care about his personal life, but expects him at the dinner because this is business.
While his aunt and the Congressman’s family await him, Ki-joon, still in his office, gets a text message from Ah-jung in the episode 12, time 56:50, Where are you? I’m… in a melancholic mood today. Need comfort!!!
He smiles and is about to send her a text back when he gets a call from his aunt. When he tells her that he’ll not be at the dinner, she implores him, as an aunt who has raised him and his brother like her own, to do it for her, because she cannot allow the Shanghai deal to go to her competitor, the Great Hotel. He tells her, “I understand.”
As he gets in his car to get to the dinner, he gets a call from Ah-jung, “Where are you?” He lies that he’s in the office, and he gets flustered when she offers to come to his office. He tells her that he’ll call her once he has finished his work. She tells him, “I… hate misunderstandings or to be suspicious, and I was going to tough it out… but do you, by any chance, know Congressman Park Sung-gun?”
When he doesn’t say anything, she tells him that maybe she shouldn’t have asked and asks him not to mind her because she feels weirdly depressed today. She then cutely tells him, “If I’m to date Korea’s busiest man Hyun Ki-joon, then even though I miss him terribly, I guess I have to wait patiently, right? Go back to work. And call me when you’re done.”
“Ah-jung-ah.” “Yes?” He hesitates and then, “That’s okay. I’ll call you when I’m done.” She nods, “Umm.” Which means okay in Korean. But he doesn’t drive right away. He sits there in his car for some time. After a moment, Ah-jung texts him, and he gets the message while on the road, I’m sorry. For talking nonsense… but I really miss you.
Ki-joon stops his car by the Han River, and the fireworks in the sky adds to the turmoil in his head as he relives his aunt’s plea, Yoon-joo’s anguish, and Ah-jung’s question about the congressman. After a brief moment, apparently having come to a decision, he gets in his car and drives away.
In the episode 12, time 01:02:30, Ah-jung walks gloomily along the cherry blossom lane, “On a day like this, wouldn’t it be great if he were here.” She sits on their bench, “He doesn’t even answer when I text him. What good is a boyfriend?” At that moment, she gets a text message from Ki-joon, For some reason, I miss you terribly today.
She smiles but is still not completely mollified. Then she gets another message, Why do you look so dejected? She frowns at the message, when she gets a call, “Hello.” Ki-joon tells her, “I’m sorry for calling you so late.”
“That’s okay. You must been so busy that you couldn’t even take a restroom break.” “I’m always busy. But why the long face?”
Suspecting that he’s nearby, she starts to look around. Then he steps out from behind a tree, and she spots him. Her eyes begin to tear a little already, and she gets up from the bench and walks toward him. But she gets too impatient and starts to run, hitting him in full stride as she hugs him hard, by now her tears in full bloom.
He hugs her back just as hard, as she tearfully tells him, “Do you know what a terrible day I had, today?” He just has to top her, “Do you know how much I wanted to see you, today?”
In the beginning of the episode 13, Ah-jung sighs deeply but contently and separates from his embrace. She wipes her tears, and Ki-joon wonders, “Did something happen today?”
“No… A little. Earlier today, the Minister asked me…” “The minister?”
“He said that your family was having a marriage talk, so I thought maybe he (the congressman) was Miss Yoon-joo’s father.” “You don’t have to worry about something like that. You trust me, right?”
She laughs a nervous short laugh. He tries again, “You trust Hyun Ki-joon, right?” She smiles brightly and nods the affirmative more vigorously. “Then let’s get out of here.” “To where?” Smiling, “Since you have been worrying all day, we have to relieve your stress.” No, he’s not taking her to a motel.
They relieve stress by first eating. They order ttoek-bbok-kki (떡볶이), which is rice cake in hot sauce, from a street vendor while eating fish cake on a stick. Then, they play arcade games. She plays Whac-A-Mole, while he plays a punching board game of some kind, right next to her. And in the middle of this mayhem, Ki-joon gets a call from Yoon-joo. Seeing who the caller is, he doesn’t answer the phone, and Ah-jung asks him, “Why don’t you answer the phone?”
“It’s okay.” Smiling, “Uh? You know it’s considered strange if he doesn’t answer (the phone) while dating.” He laughs, “I’m telling you it’s nothing.”
While pounding away at the moles and smiling, she concludes, “It has to be a woman.” A short while later the phone rings again but with a different tone, and Ah-jung, while busy trying to pound some sense into the moles, knows it right away, “Ah. You’ve got a text message. Aren’t you going to check it?”
It’s a text message from Yoon-joo, essentially saying that it’s okay if he doesn’t come because of her, but please don’t disrespect her parents. When Ah-jung tries to read the message, Ki-joon hides it from her. Ah-jung becomes somewhat suspicious, “Now you are really behaving strangely.” He tells her it’s nothing and covers it by trying out the Whac-A-Mole game himself.
A little later, Ah-jung sits on a padded bench inside the mall, and Ki-joon brings her ice cream on a cone. Ah-jung, eating ice cream happily, “What happened today?”
Giving him that don’t-try-to-hide-it-from-me look, “Something happened today, didn’t it?”
“Why (do you think that)?”
She reasons that, “You were playing too happily today.”
Laughing, “That’s a problem, too?”
Smiling and poking him with her barefoot, “You’re acting suspicious. (Mighty) suspicious. You don’t answer your phone, and you hide your messages.” When he still doesn’t fess up, she leans closer to peer into his face, “You really are not going to tell me? Uh?” When he looks at her without saying anything, she gives him a mild crossed look.
He begins, “The truth is… I was supposed to attend a dinner function (tonight).”
“What kind? Work-related?”
“It could be work-related or not.”
Feeling cheated, “What is this? You expect me to tell you everything from what I ate to whether I washed my hands, but…”
He looks at her tentatively, but doesn’t say anything. Now she’s really ticked off. Smiling, “Uh? Wow, he’s still not talking.” She playfully pokes him on the side, “Tell me.” He relents, “Remember when you asked me about Congressman Park Sung-gun earlier? Your suspicion was correct. He’s Yoon-joo’s stepfather.”
Ah-jung takes a deep breath out, but looks calm and cheery. He asks her, “That’s why you were all gloomy today, weren’t you?” She gives him a half-smile, the sort of smile that says, I don’t want to talk about it. Something occurs to him, “But how did you know about Congressman Park?”
Smiling mischievously, “It was nothing. I think from now on, until you badger me to death, maybe I shouldn’t tell you anything, either.” Smiling, he pushes her ice cream cone into her face, breaking her cone into two. By pure reflex, she catches the broken top heavy part of the cone with her hand, giving her not only sticky hands but also vanilla ice cream face.
Sticky, surprised, but sounding happy, she protests loudly, “What do you think you’re doing?” Enjoying his art work immensely, he just smiles at her. Laughing, she tries to smear him back, and he screams while laughing, “No!”