은어야 은어야 뭐하니? What’s Up Fish
저 강에 고등어만한
은어가 사는 것이고
저 강에 은어의 씨까지
정치란 그런 깃이다…
What is politics?
If it’s done well
Schools of mackeral-sized sweetfish will flourish in the river
The sweetfish will be driven to extinction
Till the very last fry
Sometimes the politics in the drama makes me so uncomfortable and cautious that I feel I’m watching a horror flick. Thus in the episodes where Ha Do Ya’s (Kwon Sang Woo’s) scenes come with that “Whee!” sound whenever he triumphs over the law-bending lawmakers or the village mafia, not only do I laugh, I laugh in relief. I want more of these scenes — didn’t Daemul originate from a comic? Isn’t it a fantasy political drama?
(Photo credits: sweetfishing in Somjingang river, Cheonnam, 바람돌이’s blog)
*Sigh* Maybe the supporting actors are doing it too well — even the Heritage Club ladies: Cho Bae Ho’s wife, Jang Se Jin’s aunt, Kang Tae San’s wife..
I like it that besides showing the rise of the main female character from widow to president, the other women of the drama are less childish and bratty than typical soaps. Especially Seo Ji Young, who’s very clear of the corporate value of her life. As San Ho Group chairman’s only daughter Kim Ji Soo, she married Kang Tae San in order for his political ambitions to be married to San Ho Group’s prosperity. Here are 2 memorable lines she said:
“Well, dad, if it helps your company, I will sign it. The divorce papers.”
And later, inviting Jang Se Jin for coffee, urging,
“If you like him (Kang Tae San), just go ahead and tell him your feelings.”
Yes, this is Daemul – the politics start from home.
In the first episode, President Seo Hye Rim’s (Go Hyun Jung’s) resolution of the sudden submarine incident was heroic (and laughable — a Chinese leader resembling Kim Jong Il?!) and quickly shifted into Seo Hye Rim as a typical drama heroine’s struggle to real world success.
Then came Lim Hyun Shik’s shoe-licking scene that made me cringe. Why was the catalyst for Ha Do Ya’s gigolo-to-prosecutor transformation such a disturbing scene? I must admit, that after that scene, Ha Do Ya’s incredible rise touched my heart. It is really unbelievable, impossible, for someone like him to suddenly become the moral-political (can these 2 words exist together?) hero in this drama. But I was convinced — blinded by the audacity of that scene — that I teared even in the very simple scene of Ha Bong Do sending food to Ha Do Ya in winter.
The introduction of Kang Tae San — bulldozing his way into his presidential dreams — brought me back to fantasy dramaland again. The way Kang Tae San projects his steely gaze while always tilting his head when talking to people – this deliberate stylistic angle (pun intended) by Cha In Pyo makes me wonder if politicians can get any cooler than that.
Adding to his charisma is “Cha In Pyo’s Bunno Series”, where netizens claimed the glass-crashing bunno (fury) of Kang Tae San…
…is but an addition to Cha In Pyo’s speciality at expressing extreme anger:
But as the drama progresses and Kang Tae San tries to out-maneuver Cho Bae Ho, the mutual manipulations makes Seo Hye Rim and viewers like me confused, and somewhat disillusioned. For example, this scene in episode 11:
Kang Tae San: Please, hold another press conference and publicly retract your resignation. Tell the reporters it was a mistake.
Seo Hye Rim: But I have already announced it to the nation. It cannot be retracted.
KTS: You can’t just run away like this! If you give up your job as assemblywoman, who will protect the livelihoods of the people you represent? If you feel wronged by the corruption and injustice that the people face, you shouldn’t escape, you must fight! Harness the power of being an assemblywoman, to represent the people and fight.
SHR: So how should I fight? By spending the hard-earned money of the taxpayers, while being a parrot spokesman for the party leaders? Or by being a convenient yes man for the party? I feel so tired, trying not to betray my conscience.
KTS: If you wanted to live with a clean conscience, why did you participate in the difficult by-election and win an assembly seat? To me, living with your own conscience is easy. BUT! In politics! You have to think about the conscience of all the people you are representing! Even if that means selling your conscience, even destroying it!
SHR: Who am I really fighting against? Am I fighting against Sanho Group who’s facing corruption charges for the reclamation project? Or is it party leader Cho Bae Ho, the one reaping maximum benefits (indirectly) from the project? If not, is it you, who brought me into politics? Should I continue being at odds with you, and fight you?
KTS: Please, think about your initial ideals when you first ran for the election. The residents who were suffering in their mosquito-infested hometown. Are you going to abandon them?
SHR: I am resigning precisely because I couldn’t do anything for them. I can’t continue like this, against my own conscience. That’s the reason for my resignation.
KTS: Even if you resign, the matter will not end for the residents who will continue to suffer in the worst circumstances. Will you be able to see the residents in their never-ending agony? Can you say confidently that you have nothing to do with their suffering? Why don’t you admit it honestly — you are scared, you are pessimistic, you want to run away! Me too, I’m afraid of being a representative of the people. All the more because of that, I MUST believe in myself, believe in my fellow colleagues.
SHR: What more do you want from me?
KTS: Your assembly badge, I’m going to return it to you. With your own hands, I want you to pin it back up by yourself.
Why does it feel like Kang Tae San is right, although somewhere somehow it’s so wrong? Confusing, and a little frightening, this politics…
Kang Tae San sacrificed Do Ya’s job and his dad’s life, as bargaining chips to force Cho Bae Ho to abide to his requests for more power. This power which Kang Tae San insists is for the greater good (of whom?). Fortunately, outgoing president (Lee Soon Jae) warns him (much to the viewers’ relief ^^;)
As I entered politics before you, as a senior, here’s one piece of advice for you — Are you really sure that you, Kang Tae San, are that different from Cho Bae Ho?
Where big chaebol groups are usually the ‘bad guys’ in dramas, I feel that Daemul has given a more realistic and fair portrayal of them through San Ho Group. Veteran actor Choi Il Hwa, puppet master of Hong Ki Hoon (Chun Jung Myung) in Cinderalla’s Sister, is back here as San Ho Group president protecting his assets and his employees. For me, this is the first time in a drama where the ambition and vulnerability of a chaebol leader is portrayed so believably, especially as he switches alliances back and forth between Cho Bae Ho and Kang Tae San (and reluctantly with Seo Hye Rim). The way he accedes to Cho Bae Ho’s request without smiling (he’s not groveling, he’s just acceding);
the way he snarls and continuously reminds Kang Tae San of his precarious position
— I find all these a refreshing and realistic portrayal of a chaebol leader (with a signature neck wrap ^^;). It’s as if Sanho Group is another country fighting for it’s rights.
And now, the real-to-reel reflections of the drama. ‘Lame duck’ — I think it’s mentioned in nearly every episode, for the outgoing president (Lee Soon Jae). In episode 6’s by-election, the opposition camp of Kim Hyun Gab (Kim Jin Ho) who also happened to be candidate number 4 (ominous by intent). I don’t know if it’s just me, but when his supporters cheered for Kim Hyun Gab, I thought I heard Lee Myung Bak. (bad ears?)
No matter how democratic a country is, can a drama be this explicit? Or am I just being over-sensitive?
Of course, fortunately Seo Hye Rim’s name is scarcely similar to Park Geun Hye, and the drama is less pro-GNP and largely anti-DP. The heroes are the comic’s individuals, Ha Do Ya and Seo Hye Rim, while the bad guys are mish-mashed metaphors of realities: organisations, their processes, their manipulators and their pawns. Many coincidentally MinWOOdang-related.
And after reading some blogs and reports, I realised that the drama doesn’t really sway voters viewers away from Minwoodang — the scene which I watched with glee when Ha Do Ya detained Cho Bae Ho for a 6 hour interrogation — there were some viewers who criticized it for possibly recreating what late president Roh Moo Hyun went through.
But later, when Seo Hye Rim insisted on not exposing Kim Hyun Gab for illegal backing by San Ho group, others said that’s Roh Moo Hyun-esque too.
And then I was suddenly struck with some similarities between the mosquito-infested Nam Song land reclamation and the restoration of Cheonggyecheon Stream – one of the political propellors to Lee Myung Bak’s presidential victory.
Image 출처: http://cafe.naver.com/chbfocus/1235
It remains to be seen whether this drama can reach a convincing resolution to it’s daemul (lit. ‘big figures’ or ‘big fish’), and hopefully inject a fresh political consciousness to the nation’s viewers and other powers-that-be.