Fixing Some of the Unhealthy Tropes in Korean Dramas with Because This Life Is Our First

Jung So Min Lee Min Ki.jpgOne of the best dramas to come out this season, and I watched it only, only and only for the love I bear for Lee Min Ki, despite having only seen a two-episode cameo from him in Shut Up! Flower Boy Band, as Byung Hee. The man had me in awe by just his cameo so of course I was completely, entirely in awe of how amazing he is as an actor in one entire 16-episode show. By far, I rank him in the category of big names like Kim Myung Min, Cha Seung Won and Jang Hyuk. It also makes sense that Lee Min Ki was cast opposite Sung Joon in Shut Up, because these two men definitely act in a similar fashion.

Jung So Min.jpgComing to the story of Because, it was definitely one of the most unique ones in all of the drama universe. Our female lead is Yoon Ji Ho (played by Jung So Min), who is an assistant scriptwriter for various famous drama writers, but not very successful in achieving her dream, despite longing for it for over 10 years. Thirty years of age, she feels as if everything she has dreamed of has become unable to be achieved, her love of writing, romance, and marriage. In such a hopeless place, she also loses a roof above her head, in a big city, without any shelter.

Lee Min Ki.jpgOn the other hand we have Nam Se Hee (played by Lee Min Ki), a man who is looking for an ideal housemate. Somebody who keeps his house clean, takes care of the recyclable material and feeds his pet cat, Cat. He has been unsuccessful in this endeavour with accepting male house mates, and is still desperate to keep them because he needs their payments to pay off his loans on his incredibly fancy apartment.

Lee-Min-Ki-Park-Byung-Eun-e1507399301723I must take this time to explain the other characters in this close-knit circle of characters. Se Hee works with Ma Sang Goo (played by Park Byung Eun), who runs an office where they run a social networking app similar to Tinder where men and women find potential partners. Sang Goo’s very good friends with a junior from their university Shim Won Seok (played by Kim Min Seok), who he asks to help in finding a suitable house mate for Se Hee. He mentions it to his long-term girlfriend of seven years, Yang Ho Rang (played by Kim Ga Eun), who mentions the fact that Ji Ho needs a place to live, thinking Se Hee is a woman (it does sound much like a female name). On the other hand Won Seok thinks Ho Rang is talking about a male friend of Won Seok’s, also called Yoon Ji Ho, who he suggests to Sang Goo. Somehow because of all of this miscommunication, Ji Ho ends up in Se Hee’s apartment (both thinking the other is the same gender as themselves).

Jung So Min Lee Min K.jpgOnce the two find out that the two are opposite genders, Se Hee wants Ji Ho out despite the fact that she has ranked highest in all the candidates to have shared the apartment with him. It is when Ji Ho is sexually assaulted while receiving new work from a director that she expresses her desperation to go back to Se Hee’s apartment. Se Hee’s parents, who hold a grudge against him for the last twelve years keep telling him that they will willingly pay his loans if he gets married. In such circumstances both are desperate to find comfort under the roof of marriage and so they carry out a contract marriage. The idea is that Se Hee does not want love, or engage in a romantic relationship, but just the security that he will be financially secure. Ji Ho knows she can use the excuse of a husband to save herself from the unwelcome advances of men. However, feelings do get entangled into it all and it’s one amazing mess to sit through. Se Hee makes me squeal because I don’t care if he appears cold and calculated on the surface. His every action is planned in a way not to hurt those around him. I absolutely wish every woman meets a Se Hee in her life. Nothing’s better than a man who concerns himself with those parts of your life that matter rather than creating trouble on every trivial thing.

Because-This-Is-My-First-Life-1.jpgComing to our other characters: Ho Rang and Won Seok are just so real for me. Just like I had related to Seol Hee and Joo Man in Fight for My Way, these two are the pair I could understand most. The fact that we are introduced to them from the very first episode as that couple that seems to fight and bicker all the time was just so realistic. As Won Seok says in the last episode about their relationship, ‘It may have scratches all over it but it means it’s old and tested by time and they need to cherish it.’ Those words are so bittersweet. Love can’t be in a relationship at all times, however, despite all the fights, and all the missed cues, if two people keep running into each other in times of distress and worry, the two are definitely meant to be. The way Won Seok spoils Ho Rang, a girl who wanted to get the princess treatment most of the time made me so sure about them. Her dream to marry her long-time boyfriend and her wish to have a family reminds me of Seol Hee so much. Somehow in modern times, I feel that girls who choose raising a family over a career are considered faux pas. There are way too many choices in modern times and one shouldn’t be judged for what they choose. The only thing that bothers me is that even though I can understand Won Seok’s perspective completely, I wish and wish that he comes to terms with Ho Rang’s wishes.

park-byung-eun-lee-som.pngLastly, we have the wild couple: Woo Soo Ji (played by Lee Som) and Ma Sang Goo. Having seen Lee Som in White Christmas previously, this was a different role for her. Firstly, I LOVE her body type so much. She looks killer in her professional outfits and the long flowy winter coats. Her fashion is possibly the best among all the characters. Working for a large company, having killed her ambitions to start her own business one day, Soo Ji is subject to the constant cat-calling and unwelcome sexual advances of all the men she works with. Things like how she’s dressed, how big her breasts are, and why she doesn’t smoke with all the men are things that have her driving up the wall, and yet she gives into the wishes of her superiors. The only thing she does not compromise on, is letting these filthy men get in her pants. With a general aversion to romantic relationships, Soo Ji chooses to sleep around with random men she meets under the pretense that she’s just doing what her body wants, instead of getting feelings involved. Her idea about sex sounds very typically male, and yet, I cheer for her because such women don’t call for them to be judged just like the Ho Rangs of this world. It is during one such meeting where Sang Goo is in attendance, where he sees men trying to get too close to Soo Ji and he takes offense for their behaviour. He himself has slept with Soo Ji, but also looks infatuated by her. Despite Soo Ji’s resistance to any relationship, Sang Goo is able to show her his heart by simply standing up for her whenever she’s in a weak place. He helps her break away from her unhealthy work environment, and gives her the confidence to speak up and become an independent woman in the best ways possible.

Lee Min Ki Jung So MIn.jpgWith such a variety of couples, this drama explored the fine details of love, romance, and sexuality in adult life. Questions of whether people who carry deep wounds can love again, and whether love is needed for a marriage to exist, were some of the prime ones. With long-term couples nearing break downs, and contract marriages becoming hot and steamy, this drama offered all the variety one would expect. Ji Ho, Ho Rang and Soo Ji, are the general framework of most women in modern times. The hopelessness that characterized all three of them is also real, because the fear of a loveless marriage, and a purely physical, emotionless one is one that many encounter. Similarly, Se Hee, Sang Goo and Won Seok are also real men. There are those who can empathize without saying a word, those that will cheer you on no matter what, and those who are kind at heart but unable to commit to the eternal bond that is considered marriage. With such a rich variety of characters, this drama was an amazing journey. However, I must leave with the last statement that seeing Lee Min Ki back was amazing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That reunion of Byung Hee and Kyung Jong was so welcome!!! Even though they were programmers here, rather than the rock stars of five years back. However, I look forward to Lee Min Ki’s next role, whenever it may be.