The Perfection of Imperfection: Jung Yong Hwa in Mi Rae’s Choice

The developments of Episode 7 and 8 of Mi Rae’s Choice bring to mind a chat I had with my recapping partner-in-crime, La Petite, in which she’d insisted that the time will come when we see more of Se Joo’s flaws after the other leads have had their turn. And I had replied that I couldn’t think what else it could be, but after these two episodes… I stand corrected, La Petite. HA.

Park Se Joo is an incredibly complex character and one who holds as much potential for light as he does for darkness; this week’s episodes show us that for all his sweet likeability, the same strengths that he possesses may also become his Achilles’ heel. It’s a thought that is particularly frightening when you consider how much power he holds as someone who has been groomed from birth to succeed as the owner of Young Geon Group.

Also, new stills of Jung Yong Hwa as Park Se Joo have been released, just in time to tide everyone over until next Monday. Shall we call this… VJ style?

I had commented previously that Se Joo had a comparatively balanced philosophy at work compared to Shin, who is idealistic to a fault; he had shown in the subway fire escapade as well as in his defense of YBS’s employees when they were at risk from restructuring that he was able to balance both the moral and the practical/materialistic. Se Joo is also kind, understanding, a quick-thinker and a born leader who is pragmatic and well-suited to business, but as we see in the latest episodes, it is those latter qualities that are in equal parts his weaknesses.

So we finally see some interesting cracks beneath the surface which are a direct result of his privileged background and we become acquainted with some flaws that add depth to Se Joo’s character:

1) His privileged circumstances and overly protected upbringing has proven to be detrimental when combined with his pragmatism and cold business sense. In Episode 8, the ratings “hook” of the show was to provide a house makeover to a family who doesn’t have the financial means, but the family’s effort to dress nicely would have made their warm gratitude look like a set-up. Se Joo’s almost ruthless approach is rooted in his inability to view things from the family’s perspective – he has never had cause to understand the battle between financial insecurity and personal dignity, and unlike the restructuring (where staff clearly stood to lose hard-earned jobs) and the subway fire (where people stood to lose lives), the hurt that the family would experience if their pride was stamped on was not something that was so easily understood without experience. To him, it was a simple case of practical business – if they agreed to go on the show, shouldn’t they suit the show’s needs? Simply put, Se Joo didn’t understand the fierce pride that people cling to as their last defense when in dire financial straits. His morals and principles are in no danger when he understands the situation, I think – we have seen time and time again that he respected women (recall his treatment of Yoo Kyung and Mi Rae) and other people in general. In this instance, however, where he simply could not sympathize with where the family was coming from, their feelings would naturally seem negligible compared to the important consideration of profit. His business instinct and practicality, which has been a boon in previous situations, has proven to be a double-edged sword.

This lack of experience extends to romance, which is another result of his privileged status and has caused him to view Mi Rae through rose-tinted glasses (this is something an astute commenter had pointed out in a previous post, too). Through his conversations with Yoo Kyung, it is clear that he had become jaded from his experience with gold-diggers; so jaded, in fact, that he believes all women who hold any interest in his money could not possibly hold any real interest in him as a person, which is why he is so insistent that Mi Rae must remain ignorant of his chaebol status. An accompanying fact is that he had become accustomed to being at the receiving end of women’s interest and this prompted the growth of his confidence in his own appeal – a bit of an ego, if you like, which he’s candidly pointed out as a past flaw. In a strange way, this is also where Se Joo revealed his lack of confidence; his status has made him unable to believe that anyone could love him for who he is.

2) His stubborn determination when in pursuit of what he wants is another quality that is both a blessing and a curse. It is why he would make such an excellent businessman, but it can also cause him to plunge forward like a racehorse with blinders. With his current confusion over the reality of his feelings for Mi Rae (which are almost certainly not love, but he has confused them as such), the further provocation he received from Shin basically pushed the red button on this stubborn streak. As frustrating as it is for viewers who want him to move on, I think this is a necessary point for his character to reach – Yoo Kyung had it right in that he needs to come to a realization by himself that he has idealized Mi Rae without really knowing her before he will be able to let it go.

His declaration that he will not give up on Mi Rae and the comparison to the mini-car incident is a telling one for his personality; when he thinks that the prize is worth the effort, he will go to incredible lengths to secure it. I have seen some negative reactions to this “obsessiveness,” but I think it’s significant that he still has the mini-car in his possession. He cherishes it and it is something that he is proud of. Instead of thinking that he’s viewing Mi Rae as an object (notice Se Joo himself pointed out in Episode 3 that he was not an object that Yoo Kyung should want to “get,” so I think he’s well-aware of this), I think the point he’s making is that he thinks Mi Rae is someone worth putting as much effort into, if not more.

In my opinion, one of the greatest abilities a person can possess is an awareness of one’s own flaws and the willingness to admit to them so that one can make changes. Se Joo seems to inherently possess this ability; he has, more than once, candidly admitted to his faults. This is a gift that will be of great aid to him in his development as a character; it’s a matter of when the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place for him. Yoo Kyung is also well-acquainted with the darker sides of her nature and the influence of Ajumma Mi Rae has made Mi Rae see her own flaws clearer as well. In this respect, the only character who has much to learn in this department is Shin. He’s not unaware of his own shortcomings, but I suspect that a large part of what contributed to Ajumma’s resentment of him is the fact that he refuses to acknowledge them so that he can move on to fixing them. We saw him take baby steps forward in the subway incident (with his inflexibility), so the potential for change is there.

I think it’s important to note here that these flaws in Se Joo do not contradict the previous positive qualities that he displayed – the kind and caring Se Joo did not suddenly disappear. Rather, we’re finally seeing the other side of the coin, much like we did with Mi Rae, Shin and Yoo Kyung; the qualities that make them such likeable characters can be in equal part their weaknesses. If anything, it makes Se Joo that much more interesting as a layered, human character. In addition, we’re also finally seeing why he wanted to work from the ground up as a VJ as well as why it is such a good idea – he’s already learning from Yoo Kyung and I think her level-headedness will be a great asset to him as he continues to grow into the excellent boss that he’ll be in the future. Working as a VJ has shown him some of the bald truths of the corporate world (the harsh working environments for women, the casual disinterest of employees like PD Lee and the arrogance of people like Kim Shin), and Yoo Kyung might be the sort of influence that will keep him from becoming overly jaded. Other fans have pointed out that the writer’s execution for these points is a bit wanting and I can’t disagree (the transition does tend to be somewhat abrupt), but to take a glass-half-full perspective, I’m glad that the intention to create layered characters is nevertheless conveyed.

Images from Topstarnews

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