Wednesday, November 3, 2021

K-Drama: Word Play

This article made me wish I were a journalist, covering the Hallyu beat. Wow, to get to ask directors, writers and producers what they were thinking -- that would be a dream come true. I would want to do more than scratch the surface on such tantalizing tidbits as this:

“When we made ‘Mr. Sunshine,’ ‘Crash Landing on You’ and ‘Sweet Home,’ we didn’t have a global reaction in mind,” said Mr. Jang, who worked as co-producer or co-director on all three hit Korean Netflix shows. “We just tried to make them as interesting and meaningful as possible..." (emphasis added)

What did Mr. Jang mean by "meaningful"? That is what I would have asked. In the meantime, I'm enchanted by meanings that are wrapped up in these shows and eager to understand them. Left to my own devices -- and the subtitles -- I'm sometimes at a loss, as with a strange scene in Hometown Cha Cha Cha. The heroine's father said something to the hero, Hong Du-sik, which caused him to back away and walk off in shock. The subtitles said, "It's not funny to me, you bastard." But the father is smiling and his wife says to him, "You like him, don't you?" 

Happily, Professor Kyla Park, who is my Korean teacher, explained that what the father said was a word that could be translated "you punk" or "my little baby," something that is said to children. 

Reconstructed, the whole exchange is: 

Father (to Hong Du-sik): Why do you speak to me informally?

Hong Du-sik: It's my philosophy, I think it's friendly.

Father: Not to me, "my little baby." 

Thus, the father, who had been shocked by Hong Du-sik's informality since first encountering him, trumps Hong Du-sik's friendliness, and at the same time, makes it clear that Hong Du-sik may date his daughter. Hence, the dad can drive off with a big grin on his face and his wife's observation, "You like him, don't you?"

I could be wrong about how the scene plays. I do think it introduces a small piece of meaning that shows up over and over in K-Drama: the joy of turning the tables. Ri Jeong-hyeok turns the tables on Yoon Se-ri (more than once in Crash Landing on You), Yu Ji-ho turns the tables on Lee Jeong-in (One Spring Night), etc. I love these small moments. I find myself chuckling over them, and appreciating the balance they offer to the world. 

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