Stories from the community: Martina’s story!

If you didn’t already know, we’ve got a special series to kick off the new year! Guests posts, by patrons on Patreon, sharing their personal drama stories, mostly around the topic of “How did you get into dramas?” and “What does your first drama mean to you?” – with flexibility to go off on personal tangents, of course. 😁 Feel free to share your stories too, in the comments!

This guest series is MC‘s brainchild (thanks MC! 😘). You can check out the earlier posts in this series as follows: MC, Sean, Shahz & JJ. After today’s post, there will be four more guest posts by mystery guest writers, whose identities will be revealed when their various posts go live. Woot! 🥳

Today’s post is brought to you by Martina, whom, as you might remember from her year-end post, is a psychologist by training. I find that, because of Martina’s professional background, her perception and unpacking of characters and their trajectories tend to be extra interesting. Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Martina!

I hope you guys enjoy!

~ KFG ❤️

Why did I get so hooked on k-dramas?

That’s a question that really intrigued me. Fiction has always played a central role in my life.

I remember when I was 5 years old my father read me a book of fiction by an Italian author (De Amicis) that told the poignant story of a child who went to look for his mother lost in the Andes Mountains in South America. I practically cried every night….

Later, as a psychologist, one of my favourite books was “Healing Fiction” by James Hillman, a famous Jungian psychologist, in which he states that the art of healing and the art of storytelling are continually intertwined and that the way the clients tell and re-tell their story (they tell it to the point of changing themselves as they do so) is part of the healing process.

Would you like to know how many stories I witness in my work?

In between, there were many movies and many series that I watched: I still remember at University a film club of Andrei Tarkovsky’s movies. There was an occasion, when, during the viewing of Solaris, I fell asleep and woke up only when the custodian warned me that he had to close the building for the night…(well, it’s a bit of a slow movie….)

There was a time when my passion for American and European movies and series (the only ones I knew) cooled down, because I felt like there was such an emphasis on CGI and plot twists, that I no longer felt like I was seeing the emotional and psychic journey of the characters, one of the things I care about most. It was my personal opinion maybe I was wrong….

In late 2017, a young friend of mine told me about the story line of the kdrama “Descendants of the Sun” with such excitement that she made me want to watch it.

What impressed me was that it told the story of life of a soldier from an intimate point of view: his falling in love with a woman doctor who was reluctant to reciprocate his feelings precisely because of her profession.

In the end it wasn’t one of my favorite dramas because of the “push and pull” between the main characters but it was my gateway drama into k-ent.

I really like writer Willa Cather’s quote from “The White Mulberry Tree”:

“There are only two or three human stories that keep repeating themselves fiercely as if they never happened.”

I have stories that I search “fiercely” for in k-ent, one of them is that of the wounded and lonely hero, detached from the main body of the system, who has the skills and strength to enter the heart of the evil system and destroy it, thus winning the right to finally love a woman and be loved back. On this journey he becomes less wild and more mature.

In this post I will share some of my thoughts on the three versions of this story as they arise in “Healer“, “The K2” and “Warrior Baek Dong Soo”.

It is no coincidence that in all three kdramas, the main leader is actor Ji Chang Wook.

I liked Ji Chang Wook from that period so much, because he had the “physique du role” to play the lone wolf with a focused but wild energy.

In his subsequent projects, however, I didn’t like Ji Chang Wook anymore; I have the feeling that he changed something about his face through plastic surgery, that, in my opinion, took away from his charisma, instead of making him more attractive. But, that’s my unconfirmed hypothesis.

THE K2

Although it’s not an entirely successful drama (see KFG’s review), it has some unforgettable sequences: Kim Je-Ha (Ji Chang-Wook) is a former solider for hire. He is also called K2.

He is a selfless man who does not hesitate to help others, even strangers, at the risk of his life, and he has a strong sense of justice. He is a wounded hero (post-traumatic stress syndrome that prevents him from even pulling the trigger on firearms) and he lives on the periphery of the system.

Je Ha accidentally witnesses an elderly woman at a crime scene involving an important politician, and intervenes to defend her. From this moment on, he becomes the object of persecution by the true villain of the story, namely, the powerful politician’s wife, Choi Yoo Jin, played by the talented Song Yoon A.

[SPOILERS FOR THE K2]

In one of the most beautiful action sequences I’ve ever seen, that takes up half of Ep. 2 and all of Ep. 3, Je Ha, threatened with death by Choi Yoo Jin, takes her hostage to get out of her house. Then a car ride begins, that turns from kidnapping to a chase. The climax occurs when Je Ha rescues Yoo Jin, at the risk of his own life.

It’s exciting viewing to see the psychological arc between Je ha and Yoo Jin unfold in the space between the kidnapping, and the moment of the car accident, after which Je ha rescues her.

In the first encounter, there is already an erotic undercurrent from Yoo Jin towards Je Ha. In the car, she tries to negotiate with him and restore the balance of power, offering money, the only thing she seems to know how to manage well. This goes on until the moment they both discover they are being followed by a motorcycle that remotely takes control of the car, trying to crash and kill them.

At that point, Je Ha takes matters into his own hands to save their lives with his soldier skills, and Yoo Jin is totally passive in Je Ha’s hands, who gets very hurt in saving her.

It becomes clear that this is the first time in her life that she has entrusted her life to a man, and this man happens to be a stranger who has kidnapped her. At this point, the woman is totally shocked by Ha Je’s self-sacrifice and determination to save her, and she falls in love.

During the series she will try to tame him and manipulate him, but she will be the one to be transformed, for the better, even if it is perhaps too late. Je Ha will also learn from her to be more strategic and less impulsive, and put his energy to the service of a well-organized project.

[END SPOILER]

Warrior Baek Dong Soo

Warrior Baek Dong Soo” is a 2011 sageuk drama that narrates the life of a historical figure, Baek Dong Soo, a swordsman and martial artist who became a folk hero, when his group protected King Jeongjo from assassination attempts.

On a tangent, I’d like to point out that this King is actually King Jeongjo, that the actor Lee Junho plays, in the 2021 sageuk drama “The Red Sleeve.” What an interesting intersection of two stories that I really have loved.

[SPOILERS FOR WARRIOR BAEK DONG SOO]

He lost both of his parents to palace intrigue and was raised by Hook Sa-Mo, a friend of Dong Soo’s father. At the age of 12, Dong Soo’s health became precarious. He couldn’t run or even raise his hands and was always teased by other children.

Baek Dong Soo is a hero who grows up in a lonely place. Despite his physical disability, he shows remarkable willpower and an outgoing, reckless character. He overcomes his physical limitations through exercise and undergoes training as a fighter. He has a solar way of doing and is without vanity, so much so that he falls in love at first sight, and then declares his love bravely to a girl who’s destined to become a buddhist novice.

Baek Dong Soo’s friend Yeo Woon, played by Yoo Seung Ho, seems like the shadowy half of Dong Soo. Yeo Woon’s His father tries to kill him and his mother dies trying to defend him. Yeo Woon appears scarred for life by this trauma, and becomes a very skilled swordsman by training alone for hours on end. He is taciturn and introverted. The two friends fall in love with the same woman…

The relationship between Dong Soo and Woon is one of the most amazing bromances narrated in a kdrama, exploring their friendship, their loyalty and their rivalry in love.

Observing the trajectories of the two protagonists, one would think that the phrase of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “a man’s character is his destiny,” is indeed true, as we see Dong Soo transform from a fearless and impetuous boy into a controlled swordsman and a mature man, while Woon seems irresistibly drawn to a path of self-destruction, perhaps because of his guilt for being saved by his mother, who had died in his place.

[END SPOILER]

Healer

An illegal “night courier” who works under the alias “Healer“, is renowned for being the best in his field: Jung Hu (Ji Chang Wook) is a trusty hacker, and also has superb fighting skills.

He will perform any task except those that involve assassination (he has his own moral standards) and his goal is to save up and buy an uninhabited island off the coast of Panama to live on alone.

[SPOILERS FOR HEALER]

Things change after he is ordered by his client to find and protect a girl named Young Shin (Park Min Young) from people who want her dead, but then he falls in love with her, and his life trajectory changes.

Jung Hu is completely cut off from society; he lives at night and sleeps during the day; he lives in an isolated building, and to access his home you have to go through a maze of corridors; even the front door is hidden and hard to find. Although he is very talented, he lives like a wild animal, always on the alert and without any social skills. He has a traumatic life history that is intertwined with Korean History and pro-democracy struggles.

When he finds himself observing Young Shin from afar for work, at first, he feels a curiosity and raw emotion that even he can’t explain, then a strong attraction for her that then blossoms into love, and a desire to protect her at the risk of his own life.

Here, too, the hero protagonist who has undergone a lengthy apprenticeship in fighting skills, receives the call to maturity through love.

For love of the girl, he will learn to behave like a member of society, and not an outcast, and eventually give up his dangerous and illegal job.

The transformation process is so radical that he even risks his own life, due to his momentary emotional inability to go through grief. This is a topical moment in the story, in which the girl, like a modern Ariadne (who in the labyrinth helps Theseus), finds his house and literally saves him by warming him with her body (her love).

[END SPOILER]

The three sides of Ji Chang Wook

I would like to end this post of mine with praise for Ji Chang Wook: it’s my elegy for his having played three lonely heroes in three completely different ways.

Not only do they have different personalities, but they move, walk, act, cry, and love differently. Thank you, Ji Chang Wook, from the bottom of my heart.

~Martina

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

35 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
j3ffc
j3ffc
8 months ago

Thank you for sharing your story, Martina. Like others, I think the lens of a particular actor in multiple roles is really interesting, although I’ve only seen a few actors in three or more roles (Jang Hyuk and Shin Hye-sun come to mind). And, as it happens, I’ve not seen any of your key shows, except for DOTS, which was early in my drama journey as well. That being said, I have a tingling feeling that we may have an opportunity to watch Healer together…

Ele Nash
8 months ago

Oh, I know what you mean about Ji Chang-wook’s face – it definitely looks different in Lovestruck in the City but I figured they’d just put too much foundation on him now he’s getting older. I’ve loved him in everything I’ve seen him in, bar Empress Ki – but that was more the character who was bit too flimsy for my taste. Did you see Suspicious Partner? I really enjoyed that show and thought he and Nam Ji-hyun had amazing chemistry! As for K2, I didn’t mind it and thought he was very good in it. I just kept wanting the sizzle with Song Yoon-A to be the main event but instead they veered it off in a less interesting tangent with the daughter. Ah, but Healer. He is ace as Healer 😍

Princess Jasmine
Princess Jasmine
8 months ago

What a surprise in the beginning of the year – it is really not that easy to find a K2 likeable post in FGV blog (as she really hates it – ha ha ha) and hence I hereby declare this write-up as the “eighth wonder of the world”.

Just to let you know – I absolutely love K2 and have defended it as much as I could especially Ms.Choi; I think Healer is one the best things that happened to me in this lifetime (you can read my comments on it in her review); Yet to watch Warrior but now that you mentioned it – I will watch it in Mar itself.

So hence to read this appreciation post and knowing your insights (more so based on your profession) is absolutely great and many thanks for the same. Also it is interesting to see the interconnection of the lone wolf character arc between the dramas. I will remember this when I see Warrior but in K2 I saw the whole drama twice only from Ms.Choi’s perspective as I am really sympathetic towards her as a character.

Few things to consider:

Honestly I am not sure on the “face change” part of JCW. But if time permits do try Suspicious Partner in case if you haven’t watched it yet (whenever he was not playing out as the prosecutor or the lawyer – he still had the same boyish charm from Healer and K2 – I understood that he needed to look mature as a prosecutor and since I was in that profession I thought he did a good job of it);

And do try LSITC as a binge-watch (again in case if you haven’t watched it yet) perhaps because the characters were very realistic for me personally and I thought JCW played it so well (both in the beach scenes and in Seoul part) with his adorable awkwardness intact.

Finally don’t miss out on Empress Ki – this is his best so far as a complete character from start to finish and he outshone everyone in that drama including Ha Ji-won who plays the titular Empress. And its Team Temur all the way (do not get misled by the numerous posts on Team Wang Yoo – he doesn’t stand a chance honestly)

Great knowing you and many thanks for this post once again. Take care.

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
8 months ago

Yay! Ji Chang Wook! I swooned with the rest of the international community for Healer (the discussion threads for this was MASSIVE). I watched and rewatched and loved The Empress Ki (highly recommended, quite cracky once you reach the teen episodes—just fastforward the Wang Yo parts). And I rolled my eyes but still couldn’t resist finishing The K2. Maybe this year, I’ll line up for watching Warrior Baek Dong Soo.

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  Jiyuu

i haven’t watched The empress Ki yet….interesting suggestion! thanks

Leslie
Leslie
8 months ago

I love how drama watchers each bring their own lens to the screen. We can discuss many things in common – whether we agree or disagree – but there seems to be something we each take away that is our very own experience. I would not have thought to explore three different characters, played by the same actor, as you have. Thanks for offering me an additional way to enjoy kdrama, Martina!

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

thank you! what an interesting thought!

Natalia
Natalia
8 months ago

Martina, lovely post. I have only watched (and liked) Healer, but although I personally dropped The K2, I like it that you got a whole different take on it. Isn’t it amazing how the same show means completely different things for each viewer?
I haven’t watched Warrior because well, I don’t have the courage for it, I guess.
What I did have the courage though was Solaris, one of my favourite films of all times, that I have watched three (or is it four?) times! Actually Solaris is one of Tarkovsky’s faster paced films… If you want to check out a real slow paced film, try Andrei Rublev or almost any film by the (great) Greek cinematographer, Theo Angelopoulos. I remember once I fell asleep in the cinema during a waltz scene, I woke up at least half an hour later and the couple was still waltzing. The music was great though, if you feel like listening to it:
https://youtu.be/sKduJgYzFBM

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

wow @Natalia, you are a true cinephile! ❤️ I’d better avoid seeing Theo Angelopoulos movies …🤣🤣🤣

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
8 months ago

@Martina, I loved Warrior Baek Dong Su despite the rather meandering story. The characters were larger-than-life and unforgettable. Of course, I had to pretend that the last episode never happened and came up with my own proper ending.

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snow Flower, i like “larger-than-life” expression so much…thank you

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
8 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snow Flower – I have a similar sentiment 😀

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 months ago

Martina – this is so well written and your feelings about these dramas came through with each word. I love how you analyzed these three characters, each one overcoming, and growing through their personal challenges.

Because of your work, you have a clearer understanding and appreciation for those who can change to seize new opportunities. We can feel the pain these three characters went through. As hard as their challenges were, they were also quite motivating, and thankfully each character was able to meet and overcome them. This is scary for a lot of us and it takes a brave soul to stand up and ‘face the fire’. Sometimes we need a helping hand…

In these three dramas the relationships that are formed are that helping hand. In their painful times the good friend/challenger/lover was a pivotal key to unlocking new doors. As a psychologist it must have been quite interesting and satisfying to see those relationships assist each character’s personal growth successfully in all three dramas.

I did see K2 and Healer but not Warrior Baek Dong Soo. I will add it to ‘The Never Ending List’. Again, excellent post. Thoughtful, and from the heart. I really loved it.

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

, thank you! Yes i like when we discover a new side of us when we are in relationship with others…❤️

uyen
8 months ago

Loved how you shared what you love about dramas, Martina!! I also really love the focus on emotions and character growth in my fav dramas. I have to admit I haven’t seen Healer yet but it’s been on my list since the beginning and so great to see your love for it

JJ
JJ
8 months ago
Reply to  uyen

@uyen – You MUST see Healer. MUST!!!! 🙂

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  uyen

Healer is a healing view!

uyen
8 months ago
Reply to  Martina Conte

you are all are very good at selling it!! i’m sold!

Sharbani
Sharbani
8 months ago

Absolutely blown away by your post Martina! ‘Healer’ and ‘Suspicious Partner’ are on the top of my forever K-Drama list thanks to JCW! What you have said about the healing power of stories really resonated with me. I have always had my face stuck between the pages of books from as far back as I can remember and they were, and still are, my “safe space” if I’m struggling with anything! My kids introduced me to K-Dramas in 2018 and I have never looked back. They have moved on (not too sure how!) and we often have discussions about my on-going fascination (they use the word obsession) for K-Dramas. My oldest daughter expresses extreme cynicism about the entertainment industry there with its surgically enhanced and often semi-starved super-stars (happens everywhere, I stoutly argue) and the extraordinarily hypocritical moral standards they are held to by their fans (does not happen everywhere, I have to admit.) But despite all of that, K-Dramas and more importantly, the way they tell stories offer me a safe space to be in, just like books always have. Thank you! … it all makes sense to me now!

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  Sharbani

wow i like the concept of books as “safe place”…😍
Your daughter’s thoughts make sense though. It would be interesting to talk about this dark side of the k entertainment industry. Every light has its shadows….

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
8 months ago

I adored Ji Chang Wook so much in Healer I haven’t wanted to see him in other roles since! Indeed he was like a fierce wild animal, principled but lonely and untamed.

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

yes… JCW is “healer”….🧡

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
8 months ago

This is a wonderful post, Martina 😊 I am so happy to see The K2 get the wrap it deserves. I think I was the only one back at the time of kfangurl’s review that gave it a meritorious thumbs up. Those elements you describe very much spring to mind and Ji Chang Wook was superb.

I still haven’t seen Solaris, as had heard it was a snooze fest, but the promos for it always looked fabulous.

As for Warrior Baek Dong Soo, I liked it well enough, but I did comment back then re the number of sword injuries endured by our heroes did stretch our suspension of disbelief just a little bit 🤣

As for Healer, yes it is a classic. And using the reference to Ariadne and Theseus is a beautiful touch to your depiction.

Ji Chang Wook – three ways – fabulous 😎😎😎

JJ
JJ
8 months ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

– I so agree its such a wonderful post from Martina!!!

K2 Spoiler

I couldnt watch K2 after Healer. Then, I tried a little bit later and still couldnt. When they took out the cleaning person right in the beginning, I thought oh hello hollywood emotional manipulation, I am outta here.
Do you love K2 because of the whole love for Bodyguard movies you mentioned?!?!!

I saw Solaris!!!! It did look fabulous and left me scratching my head. Sigh…

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
8 months ago
Reply to  JJ

You nailed it, JJ re the bodyguard angle. Also, I’m a big fan of Song Yoon Ah and both her and JCW pulled off a relationship that made perfect sense to me – a bit like playing with fire 🔥🔥🔥

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

yes…a very interesting relationship….

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ i love bodyguard movies too…I had a bodyguard client (i work with post traumatic stress disorders)…what an interesting character… it is a job of total self-sacrifice…😊

Last edited 8 months ago by Martina Conte
seankfletcher
seankfletcher
8 months ago
Reply to  Martina Conte

@Martina Conte, it’s fascinating that you say that re your former client. Not that I have had a body guard experience as such, but there are many environments I have had to make secure and so you do get some inkling what that means and takes to keep others safe.

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

yes what an interesting life!… but also one of real sacrifice….

Natalia
Natalia
8 months ago
Reply to  Martina Conte

My first husband was a bodyguard (still is, actually). It’s a profession that sounds pretty exciting, but most of the time it’s all following spoiled brats or rude twerps around and carry their bags!

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

@seankfletcher…i’m happy that you liked the K2 and yes Warrior Baek Dong Soo has in certain moments the vibrations of a fairy tale…😊

Shama
Shama
8 months ago

Martina, your writing is beautiful, poetic! I’d probably disagree with some of your views on these dramas, but the way you write makes me want to watch it or rewatch it, to catch the nuances I seem to have missed and that you describe so beautifully!

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  Shama

😍😍😍

JJ
JJ
8 months ago

Oh Martina! I didnt want your post to end. I loved this so much ❤️❤️❤️❤️

I loved Healer have seen this Show multiple times, I loved how you connected this to Ariadne and Thesus. Swoon!

I have to go back to Warrior Bake Dong Soo ! I started it then paused it some time ago. Now with your take on it, I look forward to my return to this Show.

I love that quote from Willa Cather’s quote ❤️

More please!!!

Martina Conte
Martina Conte
8 months ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ thank you! 😍