Monday, October 25, 2021

K-Drama: Anatomy of a Crisis

K-drama revels in peeling the layers of a crisis so that we can see the individual moving through the morass of uncertainty. Pharmacist Yu Ji-ho, the hero of One Spring Night (봄밤), is a single father, a scandalous fact in South Korea. Yu Ji-ho was managing his situation by suppressing his feelings -- a solution that can't last. The show carefully watches as he moves to the moment of falling apart, graciously then letting us see his repair. In this careful study, we can see the "anatomy of a crisis": the initial conditions, usually set before the show starts, which create the uneasy resolution; the challenge; and the recreation of the self. Shows partition the parts differently, but successful shows take us on this journey and offer some ideas about the management of each part.  

The initial conditions are set by some trauma. In One Spring Night, the trauma is the abandonment of Yu Ji-ho and his son by the child's mother. This places Yu Ji-ho in the position of social outcast, though he is diligent, even conformist, and did nothing to merit such judgement. He uses his will to control his emotions and manage the day-to-day slights and arrows of this. He shows the fortitude of the bear who, in order to become a person, spent 100 days in a cave eating mugwort and garlic. The bear became a person and the mother of Korea. 

The challenge to Yu Ji-ho's fortitude comes as he falls in love with Lee Jeong-in. She loves him and fights against the stigma that surrounds him -- a version of the Rapunzel story we met in Rookie Historian. As Lee Jeong-in tears the barriers down, Yu Ji-ho becomes more and more exposed. The growing anxiety leads to the falling apart of the fortress of fortitude and the deep hurts and insecurities are finally spoken. 

The recreation of the self is accomplished in the society of loving people, first and foremost Lee Jeong-in, but also her family, his family, his friends and his co-workers. While he has been viewed harshly, his long endurance and sweet personality triumph. That he enters this new world without bitterness is remarkable: he states a number of times that he has refused to be angry or resentful about his situation. In the end, everyone is crying with joy that Yu Ji-ho, his son Eun-u, and Lee Jeong-in can become the family they long to be. 

Principles -- like the refusal of resentment -- drive the person's path through the uncertainty. We have no guarantee that things "will work out." We are offered the security of character, tested by fire. One of the assumptions of character, which has no real US equivalent, is what I call "oori consciousness," the existence of a "we" that is larger than the self. Yu Ji-ho has been pushed out of oori by his circumstances, but he never gives up on oori. His loving stance makes it possible for his ferocious girlfriend to bring him back in and it's that deep feeling of reconnection that makes everyone weep -- like snapping wooden train cars together. One can almost hear the "pop." 

In this regard I note that the pharmacy at which Yu Ji-ho works is called "Oori Pharmacy." It is translated as "Woori Pharmacy," though to English-speakers who don't understand oori, it's probably no big deal. 

In the US -- lacking "oori consciousness" -- we limp through crisis and have less access to the spiritual healing of being embraced by the collective. I have long thought that our society is birthing a new consciousness, though I lacked the word for it. In that revolution in our thinking lies the hope of salvation in this place and time.  

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