Round Table with Couch Kimchi: K-Drama Villains We Love To Hate
They’re heartless and even deadly. They are exhaustively persistent and are masters of the art of scheming. Sometimes, they are pitiful victims of circumstance and misguidedly believe that being bad is the only way to get ahead in life. Yet despite their nasty machinations, we learn to appreciate villains because they spice up the show.
REASON TO BE BAD & SIMPLY BAD
Rinchan: Ahhh … spice is nice except when it makes you want to tear your hair out in frustration. LOL.
Leila: In general, villains exist to make the leads miserable or make the protagonists realize life isn’t charmed. I’m watching “My Secret Hotel,” and I don’t consider General Manager Lee a villain, unlike when I think of Jo Gwan Woongof “Gu Family Book.” Gwan Woong is purely evil, the definition of a villain. How about you?
Rinchan: For me, Jung Woong In has played several colorful baddies. At times, their actions are straight up wicked, but the characters have an interesting twist. His characters want to do well in life, like the good protagonists, but they choose a destructive path to achieve that goal.
Leila: I love Jung Woong In! He played Ji Won in “Coffee House.” Even if he was the “bad guy” there, I couldn’t hate him. He was not stereotypically evil, but his love for Eun Young was superficial. Nonetheless, I liked his role, and he made me laugh because he was shameless in his attempts to win her back, as though leaving her for her friend was as forgivable as cheating on a diet.
Rinchan: Haha! I think he chooses the villainous roles that have depth and reason. The characters aren’t evil because they wish to be, but they see that being one is the only means of survival.
Right now, Jung Woong In is in the drama “Endless Love.” He is the other half of a very depraved couple, and he is working his wickedness all over the screen.
Leila: The designated baddie should have a purpose. I hate those that are plain vile just for the sake of the part.
Leila: The antagonist in “The King2Hearts” was also a psycho!
Rinchan: LOL. You’re right. He had nothing better to do with his life. He was just obsessed with power. Or maybe he was an undercover Lee Seung Gi fan boy; he was all about Jae Ha.
Leila: Right. Usually, villains are power hungry, greedy, or motivated by a wrong kind of love. Not getting what they want is unacceptable, and they push hard to reach their goal(s).
Rinchan: It all boils down to the way they see life. Sometimes, they can’t see the good in things or realize the only way to ensure victory is through cheating. It reminds me of what Min Woo on Temptation said: “The only rule is winning.”
Leila: Winning is good if you get it fairly, but the bad guys typically play dirty.
Rinchan: You see, this is why I love Jung Woo In’s characters. They are detestable, but often, they have the same background and social class as their victims. The hardships of their youth have made them realize that the way to the top is through underhandedness alone, whereas the protagonists try to go through a harder and more uncertain route by doing what’s right.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
REASON TO BE BAD & SIMPLY BAD
MONEY DRIVES THE DEVIL
THE TROUBLEMAKERS OF “MY LOVELY GIRL”
GOOD KIND OF BAD
MONEY DRIVES THE DEVIL
Leila: You know, if not love, it’s money that speaks to them. Unfortunately, most of them know nothing about love.
Rinchan: LOL! I feel so sorry them. Money has always been shown to be the root of all evil, and they say the power it gives you goes to your head.
Leila: Speaking of which, I remember Bae Soo Bin in “49 Days!”
Rinchan: I love him, too! When I discovered him, he was playing righteous characters, but then, I caught him being the bad oppa on “Secret.” As a matter of fact, there were two types of villains on that show: the scorned lover and Bae Soo Bin’s corrupt businessman/lawyer type.
Leila: I admit that even though I hated his character there, I still enjoyed it because Bae Soo Bin was playing the part. Haha. I’m biased.
Back to “49 days” … For money and for revenge, Bae Soo Bin’s Kang Min Ho tricked a woman to marry him. He tried hard not to become like his character’s father, but in the end, he was a greedy businessman and became even worse than the person he didn’t want to be. I could appreciate his character because of how or why he became bad.
Rinchan: I agree. In “Secret,” Bae Soo Bin’s An Do Hoon started off wanting to be an honorable prosecutor, but eventually, the perceived glamour of his dream job turned out to be more like a dead end office job. He wasn’t so much as fighting crime, but a backlog of paperwork. Still, he could have stayed a good guy, but after he had his girlfriend take the blame for his crime (of accidental manslaughter), he became desperately crooked to hide his sins.
Leila: I haven’t watched “Secret,” but I’m sure Bae Soo Bin was effective as the evil businessman. As an actor, he has a kind of warmth that makes me feel for his characters even when they’re morally unhinged. I don’t want to see him cry—ever!
Rinchan: I know. It really hits you when he gets a redemption arc; you can feel his remorse. It’ll be hard to hold a grudge in the face of those tears.
Yet, the constant scheming of villains is what makes them so abhorrent. Often times, they are insecure, but it’s also hard to ignore their greed. They plot to get what they want, but always fear that they will lose it all, and so, they scheme some more to keep what they have and then some. It reminds me of Lee Yu Ri‘s Min Jung in “Jang Bo Ri Is Here!” She has been lying and manipulating since grade school. Every time she lies, I watch in awe because there is no one who is safe from her. At one point, it looked like she would yield to her mother-in-law, but nope. She started blackmailing her, too. LOL.
Leila: What do you think of mothers-in-law being overprotective of their sons? What makes them fall under the category of a villain? How can a mother’s love become ugly?
Rinchan: The evil mother-in-law is extreme and meddles in every aspect of her child’s life. She’s the type that if her son gets a paper cut, he has to be sent to the hospital in an ambulance and the world’s best plastic surgeon must be flown in so that he can get the wound stitched up. Heaven forbid it scars.
Leila: The mother in “Emergency Couple” was very possessive and ran her son’s love life. Mom was one of the reasons why her son’s marriage failed. She couldn’t accept that her Oh Chang Min (played by Choi Jin Hyuk) fell in love with an ordinary girl and saw her as being out of his league.
Rinchan: I think Song Ji Hyo‘s Oh Jin Hee developed a complex over that, hence, the reason why she decided to become a doctor.
Leila: And regardless of the mistreatment she received, Jin Hee loved the mom. The show did teach me that when you get married, it is better to live separately from the mother-in-aw, or else, your cooking will be compared to her skills. LOL.
Rinchan: I felt like the writer was trying to send subliminal messages to international viewers: “YOU CAN’T HAVE OUR MEN!” LOL. You know the situation is bad when K-pop personalities say they wouldn’t want to marry a first son because it’s too much work.
*Sigh* K-drama leads are too nice because if it were me, I wouldn’t tolerate half the nonsense the parents pull. Unfortunately, it’s a cultural thing. The first son is supposed to take care of the family, but that doesn’t mean mothers-in-law should go crazy on their daughters-in-law. The son’s wife gets all the blame, even for things she has no control over, and she can’t even open her mouth in response.
Leila: Imagine dealing with K-drama-like monsters-in-law every day of your life. LOL.
Rinchan: ROFL. On the days when their precious son has a bad day, it would be our fault. LOL.
The mom in “Hundred Year Inheritance” would have to be the worst mother-in-aw. She went so far as to put her perfectly sane daughter-in-law in a mental institution and falsely presented that the girl was having an affair.
Leila: Putting someone normal in an asylum? That’s crazy!
In “Angel Eyes,” Ji Woon’s mother killed a woman to protect him. Where is the real love there?
Rinchan: It’s ridiculous how twisted parents will become in the name of love. There are cases when it’s the parents versus their own children. In “Jang Bo Ri Is Here!,” Jang Bo Ri has to fend off both her own mother and her mother-in-aw, and they can be sly and devious. There’s also Han Ji Hye‘s Hae Joo duking it out with her bad daddy in “May Queen.” Interestingly, Han Ji Hye later starred in “Beyond The Clouds,” where she also squared off against her father.
It seems the major discord in these families is usually attributed to the parents’ dishonesty, kind of like what Lee Je Hoon‘s Crown Prince Sado is dealing with in the “Secret Door.” His father is cunning and manipulative. In “My Lovely Girl,” Rain’s Hyun Wook is also at odds with his father over his shady ideology and shocking secrets. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: The older generation tends to have a dark and myopic perspective of things while the younger generation, though naive, has more room for progressive and optimistic beliefs.
THE TROUBLEMAKERS OF “MY LOVELY GIRL”
Leila: I am watching “My Lovely Girl,” too, and this series seems to have more than a handful of bad eggs.
I hate Jae Young the most. His ugliness stems from his love for Shin Hae Yoon, the woman in love with Hyun Wook. He’s a typical villain, and for him, hating the lead feels natural. Heh.
The music industry in the show is a dump site. People with trashy personalities are thriving or manipulating their way to success.
Rinchan: I think Rain’s character is trying to resolve that. Hyun Wook fully realizes everyone in his company is basically superficial, so, he turns that on its head by introducing Krystal’s Se Na.
As for Jae Young, he is just so ugh … there is no depth to him. He’s just a jealous blowhard. He has this “woe is me” persona and then cries foul when Hyun Wook returns as CEO. I would understand his outrage if Hyun Wook got the position because of nepotism; however, Hyun Wook is known as a genius producer with a number of hits to boast. Even without his father’s influence, Hyun Wook’s qualifications alone show that he is more than deserving.
Leila: He should just love Hae Yoon sincerely. Instead, he succumbs to his insecurity and spite.
Rinchan: Then what would make him better? I feel like his sole purpose is to stir up trouble, and to me, that just makes him a tedious baddie.
Leila: That’s exactly his role there. He created chaos inside the ANA company. Though it is a good thing that the group Infinite Power left, I only want L‘s Shi Woo to stay. At first, I thought Shi Woo was simply a jerk, but I’m finding that his character has substance. It’s Hoya‘s Kang Rae Heon who’s the real trouble.
Rinchan: True. It was initially made to appear that way, but Shi Woo’s actually being bullied. Rae Heon is as bad as Jae Young; they are both petty and share the same motives. It is not Shi Woo’s fault that he is good looking and got scouted for it, and it is definitely not Hyun Wook’s fault for being born the talented son of ANA’s CEO. Villains always seem to begrudge other people’s good fortune and are unable to see the magnitude of their own.
Leila: I like Hae Yoon’s line to Jae Young, telling him how can she like a man with an attitude like his. He showed his ugly side to her and expects love in return? So ridiculous!
Rinchan: I bet he only likes her because she likes Hyun Wook.
Leila: Probably so, and she pointed that out as well.
Rinchan: Bad people like Jae Young probably can’t recognize love or process it properly. If they receive love, they don’t trust it. It’s hard for them to understand that not everyone is a liar and a cheat like they are; one person’s truth is indistinguishable from that same person’s lie.What’s sad though is that some stories don’t show why they’re this way. In certain types of dramas, it’s clear why. Like in sageuks, the bad guys tend to be power hungry because their culture is driven by a class system. In modern dramas, how crazy is it for a jealous girl to tear down the female protagonist all because the man she likes smiled at the lead?
GOOD KIND OF BAD
Leila: Some dramas have been successful in showing how a character turns hateful. There are dramas nowadays that make sure the villains will redeem themselves that we won’t hate them in the end.
Rinchan: True, and the obstacles in recent dramas are not even characters but situations. Then in some cases, there are “mild” villains that are easier to redeem like the mistress in “Fated to Love You” and Jae Yeol’s brother in “It’s Okay, It’s Love;” neither caused any devastating damage to the leads. In “It’s Okay, It’s Love,” it was the leading man’s illness that caused the real trouble.
Leila: I loved Jae Bum in “It’s Okay, It’s Love.” His scenes were touching, even the violent ones like the shoe scene. After beating his brother, Jae Yeol, Jae Bum gave him his shoes.
Rinchan: Jae Yeol’s brother was more of a pseudo-villain. He had psychological problems, and he was harmful only to Jae Yeol. He was ascribed the bad guy title for seemingly wanting to harm his brother, but that fell apart once the misunderstandings were resolved.
More recent K-dramas have exercised more effort to make the antagonists more sympathetic, someone whom we can show a level of understanding.
Leila: I believe that nobody is born evil. A villain doesn’t know how to carry their load in life well like a protagonist would. However, without one, the story could be a bit boring. I appreciate how a lot of the bad guys are portrayed now. They may have an unfriendly attitude towards honesty, but they’re misunderstood and need more love.
Rinchan: It wouldn’t be as simple as giving them a bunch of chocolates so they feel the love. LOL. I think we can take the existence of villains as a life lesson for us in general: They are obstacles we overcome. Also, with each villain there is an untold story that resulted in their darkness.
Leila: For certain, they serve a very important purpose: They make viewers have a better appreciation of the protagonists, especially when the leads are able to defeat their struggles. A villain can help a lead grow—become even better than when he started.
Anyway, thanks for spending time with us! Check out next week’s round table when the girls of Couch Kimchi talk about idols in dramas!