Synopsis: Jang Geu Rae played the board game go since he was a child. Playing the game was everything to him, but he failed to become a professional go player. Now he is thrown out into the real world. But when his gaming plans fail, the down-and-out Geu Rae is forced to get an office job and goes to work as an intern by an acquaintance’s recommendation for large company called One International.
Country: South Korea
Genre: Business, life, comedy, drama
Casting: Lee Sung Min, Im Si Wan, Kang Ha Neul, Kang So Ra, Byun Yo Han etc…
I was curious to know the secret behind Misaeng. When it was airing we could barely surf on the net without seeing a positive comment about that drama. I tend to keep my expectation down when that kind of phenomenon happens in dramaland, so as to not be disappointed afterwards. I think you can understand the “Misaeng effect” only once you’ve tried it on your own. Honestly I didn’t see how such story could hook me at first. No twists, no cute romance, no actions…in short nothing much appealing for a drama. That’s why it took me some time to finally take the plunge and enter the world of Misaeng. Like I said it doesn’t tell a thrilling story. The plot comes down to the life of company men and women. Nothing is romanticized. We are wholly and simply given a glimpse of the real world. And that was undoubtedly the main strength of the drama because more than any other work it managed to touch the audience with sincerity.
Who did not experience the same first weeks as Geu Rae and the other newbies in their work? Even if you’ve never worked in an office, I felt like almost everyone could identify himself/herself (at least those who have worked once in their life) to their difficulties, their awkwardness and clumsiness. Starting in an unfamiliar environment is always hard. You don’t know where to go, what to do, you’re too shy to ask, you don’t want to bother and therefore try to keep a low profile etc…Those characters are people that we know: family, friends, acquaintances, colleague, ourselves. Based a drama on the everyday life is not exciting but that creates for sure a strong link between the characters and the audience! Misaeng finally reflects the basic questions everyone encounters at some point in his/her life: how to fit in the society? how to survive? how to find its place in this big world and make our lives significant?
The vast variety of characters and the constant juggling between the different teams composing the company, prevented me to get bored despite the long format of the episodes (1h15). It also allowed the drama to broach many interesting subjects (sex discrimination, public humiliation, rumours, responsibility, endless competition, hierarchy, failure, success, team work, loyalty, friendship).
Under the good guidance of Oh Sang Shik, the team 3 was undoubtedly the best team of the company. Not in term of figures but rather in term of sociability. Each of them -and especially Oh Sang Shik since he had the highest responsibility in the team- stuck together. Loyalty and fairness might be the best word to describe team 3.
Oh Sang Shik (Lee Sung Min) embodied the kind of person that worked his ass off all his life in a company that never rewarded him. The kind of person that was beaten up by his job. He is a pride man that sticks to his believes no matter what. In other words a man that doesn’t really fit the world of business, where you must lick your boss’ boots and disregard your scruple in order to survive. He is this kind of boss you would like to have. I loved how he tripped whoever had behaved like an ass with either Geu Rae or An Yeong Gi. I loved how he acted tough with Geu Rae but protected him from behind. Their relation was complex. If at first he disapproved Geu Rae’s hiring and showed him a cold shoulder he quickly turned out to be sensitive to this ‘kid’, giving to this latter more chances to express himself than any other newbies ever had in their teams. He sees in Geu Rae a chance for him to not repeat the same mistakes as the ones he did in the past and becomes fond of this latter. Their relation was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen in a drama. Lee Sung Min was flawless in his role. One of the most talented ahjussi in dramaland, for sure!
Geu Rae (Im Si Wan) was the character that evolved the most along the episodes. Like a cute, clumsy puppy he had, at first, a hard time being accepted by his team and the other newbies, who were embittered to see an unqualified guy being taken in the same company as them. Innocent and not in the least tough nor rebel, he let himself being completely bullied by the other. He took upon himself and said nothing. Geu Rae’s journey was of the most hazardous and it was as painful to see him in that state as it was wonderful, later on, to see him blossom in his work and gain friends in the company. Geu Rae the trainee was not the same as Geu Rae the newbie. Little by little he revealed his true self to his team-worker. More self-confident he dared to speak out loud his idea without for all that becoming impertinent or rude towards his colleagues. That’s what I liked about his evolution. It was a natural continuation of Geu Rae’s personality. Even though he became a bit more “bold” along the episodes he remained himself, deep down: shy and fair. He received more from his team-mate than he ever received in his entire life, and therefore never failed to give tit for tat. Before Misaeng I was not particularly fond of Si Wan, though I didn’t really know him, apart from his role in Triangle. Si Wan is now one of these idols I’d gladly welcome in any of my future drama. He fully deserved all the praises he got from his role in Misaeng.
It took me a while to grow fond of Jang Baek Ki (Kang Ha Neul). During his training period he was the only intern to make me feel uncomfortable. Half sincere, half-hypocrite I didn’t know where to stand with his character. Strictly speaking he never participated actively and physically to Geu Rae’s bullying. But perfectly aware of the situation he still remained still. It was hard to not held a grudge against him for that but at the same time it was hard to not understand his feelings. Completely full of himself I was actually happy to see him being taught a lesson within his new team. While Geu Rae was given more and more responsibility and love by his team, Jang Baek Ki was completely ignored by his superiors and given no work or errand to do. Karma does exist and to be honest I wasn’t particularly sad of this turn of event- at least at first. I finally started feeling sympathy for him, when he showed his desire to fit in his team. His character was given another aspect which wasn’t unpleasant: being less cold and less self-centered/jealous. Just like Geu Rae’s character he kept his consistency by remaining faithful to himself but at a lesser extent. I really enjoyed seeing him come out of his shell, being shy and awkward with the Assistant Manager Kang (their scene at the sauna was hilarious!) and growing closer to Geu Rae little by little.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m also a woman, but I felt particularly touched by An Yeong Yi’s (Kang So Ra) story. Hard-worker, smart, she is the perfect employee that everyone would like to have in their team (especially Oh Sang Shik who always rooted for her). Everyone apart from one team: the resources. Cruel twist of irony, she -the only woman among the newbie- is flung in the only misogynistic team of the company. Constantly walking on eggshells, she tries her best to match this male universe and to fit in their team. Her situation was from far the worst in my opinion. She was stuck in this vicious world where she could do nothing at the risk of being fired otherwise. I admired how she always remained strong in front of her superiors. Apart from one or two time where she broke in the ladies toilet, she always hid her feelings and sufferance, bearing everything. She finally managed along the episode to find her place by working twice as hard as the other. I thought all her trouble were finally over when her team-workers started to open to her and give her more responsibility. But that was without counting the Head of department Ma, who was the worst man of the company. The resources team was rather a dictatorship than a team. Everyone in the team shut up in front of Ma and turned a cold shoulder to An Yeong Yi just to match this latter’s expectation (apart near the end when they tried to stand up for a bit and defend An Yeong Yi). You can’t imagine how many time I wished Oh Sang Shik to trip Ma but I guess (and that’s understandable) there is a limit in everything.
Han Suk Yool (Byun Yo Han) was the essential link between the newbie. I’m pretty sure they would not have been as close without him. I really liked his character who constantly made me smile when he appeared on screen. He was more surprising than what eyes had first met. His start wasn’t of the shiniest. He appeared to us as a big slacker, opportunist and hypocrite. It was only during the final evaluation of the interns that we realized the richness of his character. Han Suk Yool was the little sun of the company. I loved how he could let thousands of words slip of his mouth and in the next second be perfectly serious. How he was always looking for gossips and therefore roamed around the company. How he declared his friendship to Jang Baek Ki, An Yeong Yi but above all Geu Rae. He was the one who created this atmosphere of solidarity between all of them. Because of his personality I didn’t see coming the fact that he struggled as much as the other within his team. It was painful to see him facing the same difficulties as the other within his team. Completely over-exploited by his useless subordinate he decides, boldly, to fight back. You foresee the end of all that and witness powerless to Suk Yool’s forfeit. Fortunately he finally comes back to his old self in the end. I admired finally how he did not cede to the temptation to tarnish his boss’s image while he hold all the keys in his hands, how he finally choose to play fair and bear everything without a words.
Misaeng is a drama that requires some maturity in my opinion. In that way, I think it’s not a drama for everyone. For my part I loved it. The ost, the making, the performances, the plot were all beautiful. Misaeng is a really aesthetic drama that depicts with simplicity and sincerity a human adventure. Finally the only default I could retain against that drama would be to have hooked me during the watching but not turned into a full addiction (when I wasn’t watching it I was perfectly fine).
I would strongly advised it nonetheless to all those who are ready to put aside for a moment their rom-com, melodrama, sageuk etc…
Note de Dushbadou: 9/10
Note finale: 9/10