Highlights: “Misaeng,” Episodes 5 and 6


Episode 5 – Discrimination At The Office:

Suk Yool, Young Yi and Baek Ki suffering - Misaeng

Welcome to the real world! Trials are over, and our four new workers must adapt to their environment and their new teams (except for Jang Geu Rae, who gets to stay in what I deem to be the best team around). For once, Geu Rae doesn’t feel completely out of sorts anymore, for it turns out Young Yi is being used as a gofer, Baek Ki is being dissed by his teammates, and Suk Yool has no idea how to do regular office work (see his awesome, *cough cough* skills with the copier, for instance).

Sun Ji Young

This episode’s main theme is the trials of women in the workforce. We are introduced to a hard-working manager, Sun Ji Young (Shin Eun Jung), who is a working mom. Not only does she work really hard at work (and, according to Manager Oh, has to work doubly hard to climb the corporate ladder than her male colleagues), but on top of that she’s still expected to do all the household chores at home, and take care of her daughter… because she’s a woman.

Ji Young advises Young Yi, who’s struggling with blatant sexual discrimination, that it would be best for her never to get married if she wants to keep working. The reason? Apparently, working moms are always at fault — either they don’t pull their weight at the office, or they’re lacking at home.

Sexism at the office - Misaeng

And it’s even harder to work with male colleagues who demean women all the time, which is what Young Yi is faced with. Despite being the most qualified intern at the company, she’s now relegated to being her department’s gofer, running around to get everyone food or coffee, and being scolded for the smallest thing. Here are some choice words said by her misogynistic boss, Manager Ma, and his subordinates regarding her and her colleague (who happens to be pregnant for a third time and collapsed from overwork):

“Women should know their place.” “What did she get pregnant for again? Now we’re going to have to cover for her again.” “Women are so troublesome to work with.” Seeing how hard it is for working moms, it is no wonder that more and more women are eschewing marriage (and therefore family) for a career.

Manager Oh getting blamed - Misaeng

Manager Ma’s attitude towards women is what also got him in trouble with Manager Oh, who, the previous year, bore witness against him in a sexual harassment case (where he’d told a woman who supposedly wore a low-cut shirt that there was no reason for her to cover herself up when leaning, as there was nothing to see). And of course, ever since then, that man’s been trying to get Manager Oh in trouble, such as pretending never to have received a crucial document from him (the rest of the episode deals with that).

On this note, I’d like to have a small aside:

I know that in our modern day and age, especially in developed countries, it can be difficult to imagine that such blatant discrimination is still around (whether against gender or against race or some similar, groundless basis). Yet even I can vouch that it is still very much alive and well, thank you very much.

I remember reading an interview of Mellody Hobson, who is the chairman of Dreamworks Animation and a board member at Starbucks, in which she stated, “Being aware of challenges doesn’t make them sting less, but once you see them, you can assess the best way to handle them.” Yes, I admit it, I was one of those wide-eyed, innocent, and idealistic women when I entered the workforce less than a decade ago. But I quickly had my eyes opened — the day of my interview I was asked whether I was seeing anyone, one of our receptionists was hired because she’d been an ex-Playboy bunny so one of the bosses could brag about it when playing golf with business partners, and another colleague of mine was urgently brought into a meeting because someone had spilled coffee and apparently “women are so much better at cleaning than men are.”

And that’s in the United States. Now consider that Korea has topped the list of wage gaps between men and women among OECD nations, by a significant margin, for the past fifteen years:

korea-oecd-gender-wage-gap-2014Basically, Ji Young and Young Yi are fighting an uphill battle in the Korean corporate world. Thankfully, there are many people who do what they can to make things better — Manager Oh, for instance, is the exact antithesis of Manager Ma in many respects, and there’s Sun Ji Young’s supportive husband, without whose help she wouldn’t be able to juggle both family and career.

Sun Ji Yung - model working mom

Needless to say, when I saw this episode I definitely encouraged Manager Oh to sock the head of resources!

Other great scenes were:

1. When An Young Yi stood up to her misogynistic boss in front of everyone.

An Young Yi stands up to her boss - Misaeng

2. Manager Oh’s public apology to the head of resources (an email sent all over the intranet with a bad apple, saying “I’m frigging sorry.” Note: In Korean, the word for “apple” is the same as the one for “apology.”)

Sagwa Incident - Misaeng

3. Jang Geu Rae’s terrible attempt at inconspicuously snooping around the resources department in search of the missing document.

Jang Geu Rae tries to snoop around - unsuccessfully - Misaeng

4. Manager Oh unable to leave his house because Jang Geu Rae is sleeping off his alcohol consumption from the night before (and Manager Oh’s family is just as cute as the manager is!).

Jang Geu Rae blocking the door because fell asleep drunk - Misaeng

Episode 6 – Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold:

Jang Baek Ki unhappy at work - Misaeng

This episode is more centered around Jang Baek Ki’s team. We find the latter feeling like the outsider for once. No matter how many times he asks to help out, he’s told “later, later.” In any case, Jang Baek Ki seems to have to deal with a kiss up-kick down type of supervisor (seriously, managers should follow Richard Branson’s tip: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”)

Jang Geu Rae motivates Mr Park - Misaeng

On top of that, Jang Baek Ki’s managers are also constantly berating another of their team, Mr. Park, for being a pushover. And a pushover he is, for though it’s good to be nice to clients, he’s being too nice and letting them walk all over him. This causes a major back-up issue, which could potentially ruin a 10-year relationship between the two companies, as well as get Mr. Park fired. One of the best moments in the episode was watching Jang Geu Rae motivate Mr. Park (either directly or indirectly) to firm up, and analyzing business moves using his Go (badeuk) knowledge to gain the advantage.

Here are a few of the awesome scenes in this episode:

1. Manager Oh and the assistant boss celebrating their Uzbekistan deal going through.

Celebrating Manager Oh - Misaeng

2. The secret code between sales people of two different teams to ask how the deal went.

Secret signs - Misaeng

3. Hungover Manager Oh.

Manager Oh hungover - Misaeng

4. Manager Oh’s report regarding his failed business deal with Mr. Byun: a page full of “friggin”!

Frigging report - Misaeng

I also really liked the storyline behind Manager Oh and his old schoolmate Mr. Byun. Thinking back on their friendship throughout high school, Manager Oh thinks that this is a done deal. However, when he (and Jang Geu Rae) meet with Mr. Byun, it turns out that his friend is more of an enemy who just wants to string him along and have him beg for business before dropping him like an old sock – a payback from their high school days when Mr. Byun had to kiss up to Manager Oh (boy, does that man hold a grudge, although considering he used to be called “good-for-nothing” all the time, I guess I can kind of understand).

Manager Oh frenemies with Mr Byun

One of the most touching moments is when Manager Oh gives his tie — a present from his three boys — to Mr. Byun in a desperate attempt to please him.

Manager Oh lends Mr Byun his tie - Misaeng

What was your favorite moment in these episodes?

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