Freedom is to live with dignity
Woo A-Jin (Kim Hee-Seon) lives a luxurious life due to her wealthy father-in-law, but her father-in-law’s finances become decimated and her husband betrays her. Woo A-Jin’s life hits rock bottom. Park Bok-Ja (Kim Sun-A) is a mysterious woman and she hides her heartbreaking story. She brings about fierce hardship on Woo A-Jin.
Native and/or alternative titles: 품위있는 그녀
Countries: South Korea
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Director: Kim Yun Cheol
Writer: Baek Mi Kyeong
Cast: Kim Hee Seon, Kim Sun Ah, Jung Sang Hoon, Lee Tae Im, Lee Ki Woo, Yoo Seo Jin, Lee Hee Jin, Jung Da Hye, Oh Yeon Ah, Moon Hee Kyung, Choi Yoon So, Kim Yong Geon, Seo Jung Yeon, Han Jae Young, Oh Na Ra, Lee Chae Mi, Song Young Kyu, Kim Pub Lae, Chae Dong Hyun
Basically, this drama has a very complicated story with too many branches but, for some strange reason…. I liked it a lot! The story was well constructed and well linked, the actors were top-class, the direction was wonderful and the music was spot-on.
I really wonder how long the writers wracked their brains to come up with such a story so complicated with twists in every corner and being over-the-top yet so close to reality. The drama’s background is the rich and luxurious lives of the quasi-chaebols or rich businessmen of South Korea. But the all the main leads are the females, this drama is mainly shot from a female-centric POV which was quite interesting for me. It shows the lives of the women married to rich husbands and how the secret struggles and problems they face.
But the most central character of the story is the woman names Park Bok Ja. She silently creeps her way into the family and brings with her a tornado which begins to uproot he family and create a string of issues one after the other.
Park Bok Ja is a mysterious woman who initially starts off as the personal nurse to Woo A-Jin’s father-in-law who is a quasi-chaebol. The other family members don’t exactly take a liking to her like the Chairman (father-in-law) and strongly deter him from spending more time with Park Bok Ja as others feel that she is simply a gold-digger. But the Chairman doesn’t care about all those things and ends up marrying Park Bok-Ja. After this, she makes everyone’s lives more and more difficult. She tries to accumulate more and more power and take the Chairman, family and business.
Initially her greed seems to be for money but later on, when she has the money and is living a life of luxury, she still feels an empty hollowness in her life. It turns out that she did not just want to live luxuriously but she wanted to be respected and admired like Woo A-Jin was. She wanted to be happy and content with her life like Woo A-Jin. So she goes up to Woo A-Jin and requests to make herself like Woo A-Jin.
While her rise in power from a house help to heiress, she brought misery to every family member and every person around her except Woo A-Jin, simply because in the past Woo A-Jin had treated Park Bok Ja kindly even though Park Bok Ja was only a hotel housekeeping staff, this made Park Bok Ja admire and respect Woo A-Jin.
Now, the actual main character is Woo A-Jin. She is a strong, independent woman who is talented and has a wonderful personality. She is also a natural beauty. Woo A-Jin is married to the Chairman’s son, Ahn Jae Suk, who is a spoilt rich brat and is really lucky to have married someone as amazing as Woo A-Jin who, after getting married, looks after all the major issues and responsibilities of her new family, even the business. The Chairman, in fact, trusts Woo A-Jin more than his own children to look after his business.
But, Ahn Jae Suk starts having an affair with his daughter’s art teacher who has also been helped as an artist by Woo A-Jin personally. Yet, these two continue an affair. When they are caught, Ahn Jae Suk constantly insists that he wants both the women in his life and wants the three of them to co-exist peacefully so neither will he divorce Woo A-Jin, nor will he leave his mistress, Yoon Sung Hee. He even sets-up Sung Hee in his wife’s flat which she bought with her hard-earned money. Thereafter, because of certain situations Woo A-Jin and Yoon Sung Hee end up living in that very same flat because of Ahn Jae-Suk’s indecisiveness.
These are the two main streams in the story. It is interesting in itself because the drama begins by showing Park Bok Ja’s death and the family members along with Yoon Sung Hee and an acquaintance of Park Bok Ja are the main suspects.
The other minor plotlines cover the stories of the rich wives of Ahn Jae Suk’s friends. These women are also part of Woo A-Jin’s friend circle. Each wife as their own struggles and dilemmas in their married lives and affairs are blatant (especially with South Korea making affairs legal quite recently). Some of their stories have quite a dark shade which sheds light on the problems women face, quite commonly, in Korean society as well like domestic abuse, verbal abuse, adultery, misogyny, increasing divorce, conservative views regarding women in Korean society and so on. Also, issues of class-based discrimination, hierarchical society, problems regarding the education sector are also shown (only bare glimpses though).
But, this drama does not show these women as simply weak and pitiable, the women, despite suffering, are shown as strong and empowered who, if willing, can overcome any challenge. Especially Woo A-Jin is shown as the prime example of a strong and empowered woman; a woman of dignity.
The acting was really mind-blowing. Especially Park Bok-Ja (Kim Sun Ah) was stunning in her character, from her dialect to her expressions, everything was perfect. I think I completely fell in love with her with this drama and throughout the drama, I kept waiting for her part to come. Even Woo A-Jin (Kim Hee Seon) and Yoon Sung Hee (Lee Tae Im) were really good and entertaining to watch.
And like I mentioned above, the story was great as well. But, I must say it was a little too complicated. At times it felt as if I was watching 2-3 different dramas at the same time. There were too many side stories and deviations. If they would have stuck with the main story and finished it within 12-16 episodes then I would have enjoyed it much more. Because of the side plots, the impact of the main story was slightly diluted. They should have kept to the thriller/mystery genre and skipped the melodrama or made two different dramas out of it.
Also, for me, this drama’s concept was not entirely fresh because it kind of had a similar vibe as the drama ‘Ms. Perfect’ which also revolved around the similar concepts of beginning with a mysterious murder, a psychopath villain, a strong empowered woman with a childish husband, cheating husband and both get divorced and other complications.
However, despite certain flaws, this drama was quite interesting and definitely did keep me on my tips. I was certainly shocked after finding out who the real killer was in the end. The drama was not entirely predictable and has its own charm and charisma. The great set of actors and classy production value also does help with making the drama even more appealing. Overall, for a one-time watch, this drama is a good choice.
P.S. One of the most interesting places in the drama for me was the Pungseokjung – the kimchi and side dishes making a place where all the house-help went and gossiped. In my eyes, the key-point which linked all the plot-lines together was this very place, Pungseokjun, rather than anything or anyone else.