지붕뚫고 하이킥 And Class (part 2 of 2)

See part 1

I have to say a word here about Jihun, because I found his character extremely interesting.  He is a blank, a difficult to read figure that other people try and fail to understand.  He buys Segyeong a number of gifts, but it is usually implied that he does it out of concern for her extreme poverty rather than with any romantic intention.  When Jeongeum falls asleep in his car he ends up driving her all the way to the East Sea, and she is unable to determine whether he did this on purpose so they could spend time together (he didn’t).  My reaction watching the show was that he was either incredibly insensitive or an incredible tease.  With both girls he would behave in a way that indicated he was interested (e.g. taking Jeongeum out in honor of the first snowfall) and then suddenly and pointedly remark that it was just a coincidence that they happened to be together at that time, or in some other way burst one or both of the girls’ bubbles.  Thinking about it now, it seems likely to me that this was the writer’s intention: he, a rich handsome doctor, was never actually interested in either girl, and he ended up with Jeongeum only after she misread him as interested enough to pursue him.  This would fit in with my overall reading of the show.

Junhyeok, the high school student son, likes Segyeong, the gorgeous housekeeper.  Their relationship centers around his privilege as a student and her inability to go to school.  In a few episodes Segyeong does go to school and gets a taste for what it’s like to be a normal child unburdened by the responsibility of supporting a younger sibling.  She ends up studying as a result of these encounters.  Junhyeok appears to a moderate student (I may be wrong, because I don’t find him to be particularly interesting so I didn’t really pay attention to his stories that much), but Segyeong’s inability to study makes his unwillingness to study look particularly bad.  In the penultimate episode they share a single kiss, which Segyeong appears to give him because she’s leaving forever.  She tells him in the final episode to never mention it again, never think about it, study hard and go to a good school.  It feels like the kiss meant a lot more to him than it did to her, a parting shot, we could say, rather than a meaningful connection between them.  Presumably it was also intended to do what Segyeong said, to make Junhyeok stop daydreaming and get on with his privileged, should-be happy life.

Both Segyeong and Shinae refuse gifts from the rich family, which I think is significant. Jihun the doctor repeatedly buys things for Segyeong the housekeeper, we are led to believe because she is so poor and he is so wealthy.  In a key episode he gives her a phone that he won in a raffle.  The next month he pays her phone bill, and she attempts to pay him back, but he returns the money, explaining that he won’t accept it and that the phone bill was a gift.  Segyeong refuses the gift by knitting him a scarf.  In the end of the episode, Jihun takes Segyeong out to a street market in a scene that would be familiar to any drama watcher as romantic.  Rather than being romantic, however, Jihun does the math.  The phone bill was for 23,000 won, the yarn cost 10,000 won and Segyong’s time was worth about $40,000 won, so he actually owes Segyeong the difference of 27,000 won.  He haggles with the scarf lady to buy Segyeong a red scarf at exactly 27,000 and declares the two even.  In the final episode Segyeong finds an envelope full of money in her suitcase and, assuming correctly that it’s from Jihun, puts it in his desk.  Shinae does the same.  A distraught Haeri, finally breaking away from her ‘Shinae is mine!’ ranting, tells Shinae to choose any three of her dolls to take with her, but Shinae refuses.  Haeri forces her to take her two favorites, but when Haeri returns home from school after Shinae’s left for the airport she finds the two dolls with a note from Shinae saying that she couldn’t possibly take them. Haeri’s reaction is one of anguish.  She wanted to give something to Shinae, but Shinae would take nothing from her.  The two girls pay their debts and except neither charity nor, apparently, gifts.

Finally I have to talk about the ending of the series.  Segyeong, Shinae and their now-reunited father are on their way to the airport in the pouring rain.  Segyeong doesn’t want to leave without saying goodbye to Jihun, who has been at work all night.  She goes to his office and waits, eventually sending Shinae and the father ahead so that she can wait for him.  She obviously really wants to see him, right?  She finally leaves a not and prepares to go when he arrives.  He was on his way out, to meet Hwang Jeongeum in Daejeon and presumably tell her that he wants to be with her even though she has no money.  He offers Segyeong a ride which she reluctantly accepts when he says he’s on his way out of Seoul anyway.  Segyeong correctly guesses that he’s on his way to see Jeongeum, and the two talk in a scene that is filmed in a car in the pouring rain with sound quality so bad you can barely tell what they’re saying.  She talks while he stares intently at the road, not saying much of anything.  She says that she was reluctant to leave Korea, and he asks why.  She says a couple of reasons, and then finally says that she didn’t want to leave because of him.  He stares at the road.  Then she says she’s finally happy because she’s with him, and she says she wishes she could be happy like that forever.  He says ‘what’ and she repeats that she wishes she could be happy like that forever.  He takes his eyes off the road and looks at her, and freeze frame.

This is the unspoken noble lie of the Korean drama.  Love conquers all, but it’s messy and painful and people will fight against your love.  There was a recent drama that I watched a bit of about the scion of a wealthy family who married his older brother’s secretary.  There was another one recently where seemingly everyone in a rich man’s family fell in love with a doorman’s children.  This is standard stuff.  Here though, that story wasn’t even allowed to happen.  It seems to have never occurred to Jihun that the poor housekeeper might like him.  I’m ignoring the age difference, which I understand to be substantial.  Segyeong liked Jihun but never did anything about it because she was poor and humble and not the kind of girl to go around telling people her feelings.  Jihun never really even considered Segyeong as anything other than a needy 동생 at best.  No magic love conquering all.  Love wasn’t even reciprocated.  Jihun just wordlessly stared at Segyeong, never indicating his own feelings or whether he even had any.  This is the kind of thing that you don’t really expect to see on even the best drama, and here they did it on a sitcom.

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~ by Joshing on March 23, 2010.

One Response to “지붕뚫고 하이킥 And Class (part 2 of 2)”

  1. I liked this show for so many reasons. First of all, just because it wasn’t the same catty BS hyperdrama that’s pretty much the only other non-talkshow fare on TV (the maddeningly idiotic “아내가 돌아왔다”, for example). Second, it was actually funny (if perhaps a little too rife with jokes about Grandpa farting). Third, it broke the social conventions you mentioned above. Fourth, while there’s a non-Korean guy in the show, he’s not a comic relief novelty; he’s more of a peer (at least no more of a comic character than Gwangsu). Fifth, while the characters obviously all had their own distinct personalities, they were all far more complex than what I’m used to seeing on TV: Haeri’s a little brat, but occasionally really sweet. Jihun is generally an emotional mystery, but he can be enormously caring (like when he bandaged Jeongum’s knee after the breakup).

    I thought the first part of the last episode was very good– it was emotional in a way that really involved the audience. We were all sad to see the end of the show and the breakup of the happy dynamic the characters all shared. I was not sure what to make of the very end– why bring such dark tragedy into an otherwise very lighthearted show? But perhaps that was the only way to do it. A happy ending (i.e., Jihun + Jeongum/ Junhyeok + Saegyoung) wouldn’t have worked because it wouldn’t mesh with the characters we know. But anyway, the show was generally a marvel at breaking audience expectations, and perhaps the tragic end was indeed the grand finale of that trend. Obviously, they can’t reboot the show, but what they have done is to create a real audience demand for more complicated and engaging stories. Bully for them.

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