[K-DRAMA] Misaeng ; The Incomplete Life (2014)

warning: may contain spoilers

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A realistic drama depicting the everyday life of workers in a trading company.

Plot:

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Jang Geu Rae spent most of his childhood playing the board game baduk. He was preparing himself to become a professional baduk player, but it wasn’t successful. He decided to enter the work place with nothing but a high school equivalency exam on his resume. He got hired as an intern at a famous trading company called One International through an acquaintance’s recommendation. There were also three other successful applicants who got in as interns, but this was just the start of their challenges. Geu Rae faced discrimination and criticism from fellow co-workers as he wasn’t really an outstanding intern, but only got in through connections. He literally started from nothing. Meanwhile, his co-interns were also facing their own hardships as they got assigned into different teams. Will Geu Rae and his co-workers survive these challenges?

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Opinions:

Misaeng is originated from a webtoon with the same name and it was so popular among workers. I heard good reviews about this drama. It was the talk of the town when it was airing even though it was from a cable channel so I gave it a try. I wouldn’t say that it was really a great drama, but it expanded my views on K-dramas. I thought that Korean dramas are all about cheesy love lines, rich man and poor girls, and recently about action and detective dramas. I never thought that a Korean drama could be created this way; to have this kind of set-up and plot. It was really something new for me. Despite the slow pacing of the story, it was rewarding to see the characters especially Jang Geu Rae learn and grow through time.

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Jang Geu Rae is an awkward protagonist. Like really. I’m an awkward person too and I can totally see myself in him during the first day of work. It’s hard to blend in with other people, and especially when he started a week late than his co-workers, it creates more distance from them. Geu Rae wasn’t genius too and falls behind everyone else, but his hard work and dedication is on the next level. It somehow gives us hope that hard work will bring us a reward too.

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In most Korean dramas, there’s a super evil villain to annoy and ruin the life of the protagonist. There’s no exact villain in this drama, but your workmate or boss could really make your life miserable. Han Seok Yool has a co-worker who takes all the credit for the works that he did. Jang Baek Gi has a boss who doesn’t give him work to do, and he didn’t like how passive his boss is towards him. Ahn Young Yi has problems fitting in her own team. Just because she’s the only girl in the team, she was always discriminated and they spoke harshly to her. And Jang Geu Rae finds it difficult as he adjusts to his work. I’m sure in at least one time of our lives, we can totally relate with one of these characters. It can happen in work or even in school. Working is definitely not easy and working with other people is harder because of differences in habits, personalities, etc. When I was young, I wished that I could grow up faster so I won’t go to school anymore. But now I have graduated college, I want to go back to my innocent school life. I realised that there’s so many challenges and responsibilities that await us as we grow older. And this drama showed how work isn’t as easy as we expected it to be.

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Misaeng has little to no romance involved. There was a bit going on among Geu Rae, Young Yi and Baek Gi, but sadly it wasn’t much developed. I guess it wasn’t the main point of the drama; that loves comes after work. In such a competitive society, work should be one’s priority. I admit there were many parts wherein I felt bored because there’s not really much going on, but by the end of the drama, there were so many scenes that kept coming back to me. I can totally understand what the characters feel when they face such situations. It was really a drama that people can easily relate to. It’s a very realistic drama that doesn’t need fancy clothes, lines and setting. A good and relatable plot can really create a buzz among viewers.

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Characters:

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Im Si Wan as Jang Geu Rae — Si Wan proved to be a rising and popular actor through this drama, Misaeng. At first I had no idea about his dramas/movies, and I felt that his popularity needs to be justified, but after watching Triangle and Misaeng, I can now understand why Kwang Hee is jealous of his popularity. Si Wan really crafted an imperfect yet loveable character. I mean, he’s not really the number one intern and his skills were lacking, but he truly worked from bottom to top, to be likeable. Geu Rae is really an interesting character that grew on me. Now that I think about it, his character is really one of a kind in K-dramas. I really find Si Wan perfect for the role. He doesn’t really shine as an idol, but shine as an actor!

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Lee Sung Min as Oh Sang Sik — Lee Sung Min is a veteran actor who served as a mentor to these young actors. I love how he was also part of the main cast and it’s not only the young workers who are involved. It makes us realise that it’s not only us who deals with hardships, but leaders and bosses also have their own difficulties. And the seniority system in Korea is really extreme. You can’t really say anything against your superior because it would be considered disrespectful. Once you reach your superior status, you’ll in turn treat the younger ones badly to let them experience it too. It’s becoming a never-ending cycle. In Chinese culture, it’s not even followed anymore, but sadly it is still  dominant in Korean culture. Lee Sung Min is simply a nice addition to the cast to show the leaders/superiors’ perspective.

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Kang So Ra as Ahn Young Yi — I love how consistent Kang So Ra is with her acting. In most of her dramas, her characters are actually likeable. And she’s becoming prettier and prettier. She is definitely body goals as to how slim she is now. I wonder how much determination she put in order to lose weight, because I’ve been trying to lose weight too, but it seemed too hard. Anyway, she portrayed Ahn Young Yi as a strong and independent woman. If I were in her shoes, I’d probably quit after hearing those bad and harsh words. She also has a lot of potential and talent, so she could actually find a better job. So Ra is definitely an actress that everyone likes and she doesn’t disappoint when it comes to acting skills. It’s just so rare to find bad reviews about her.

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Kang Ha Neul as Jang Baek Gi— I wasn’t expecting him to be in this drama, and what more he was one of the main cast. His character Jang Baek Gi wasn’t really much likeable, because he seems a little too proud of himself. He didn’t like the fact that Geu Rae was doing better than him when he contributed nothing to his team. However, I know where he is coming from. He worked really hard to get into the company, yet an average man like Geu Rae could get in too. I’m a bit sad that Ha Neul didn’t really shine in this drama, but most of the spotlight went to Si Wan. But I love his style in this drama, wearing glasses and no bangs! This proves that he can look handsome too no matter what hairstyle he has. I’m just glad to be able to see him again. I can’t wait for him to be a male lead for once.  I hope 2016 will be his year 🙂

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Byun Yo Han as Han Seok Yool — He was a new face to me since I’ve never seen him before. Yo Han was a great addition to the cast since all dramas need a mood maker like Han Seok Yool. Although he is funny on the outside, but he actually has his own difficulties. I wished his story was shared more, because I felt that there’s more to tell about his life. I love Yo Han’s take on Seok Yool; he portrayed him in a naturally funny and likeable way. His hairstyle though is a bit disturbing, but I understand mood maker visuals are mostly like that.

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Ending:

The last few episodes were a bit boring for me, but it wasn’t what I expected it to happen. Geu Rae did not become a full time employee but finished his 2 year contract with One International. He was then invited by Leader Oh to join his new company. It makes us realise that specs are really important and people will still look down on you no matter how hard you try. Although it didn’t end up the way we viewers actually hoped for, that Geu Rae would become a full time employee, I’m still glad that he still has work afterwards. Also, the fact that Leader Oh and Geu Rae has maintained a good relationship outside work. Since usually once we leave work, we don’t contact our co-workers anymore. Even though we don’t exactly got the happy ending that we initially wanted, it was still a happy ending for him. And I think it was better for him to leave that company who kept on criticising and discriminating him.

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Final Thoughts:

Misaeng is really a refreshing drama that is weirdly different yet very realistic. The viewers can really sympathise with the characters especially if they’re workers. It’s a drama that really captures the heart of the viewers because these situations can be seen in day to day work routine. The plot though is quite flat, but it’s the characters’ development that we should anticipate. The story wasn’t very thrilling so I wasn’t really looking forward to watching the next episode, but it’s a really a good drama wherein you can pick up some life lessons. Skip this if you want a romantic drama, but recommended if you want to watch something unique 😉

Rating: 7/10

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