Edited by Young Jun Yang
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Not a lot of people will turn down the opportunity to live as an heir of a rich family for just 30,000 won (about $21). But if you have to abandon your family and push a friend into poverty in return, could you still go for it? MBC’s The Golden Spoon tells the story of a boy who made this choice to change his own fate.
There’s a simple reason Lee Seung Cheon (Yook Sungjae) does everything for money – to lose that “dirt spoon” he was born with. He tries to scrape his way out of poverty by taking online lectures with money that he earned working part-time at a convenience store, sorting out expected problems for exams, and even enduring school violence. But one day, Seung Cheon hears shocking news – a friend in a similar situation as himself died with his parents having been unable to pay the debt. This friend’s death triggers an even deeper, stronger need for money and success within Seung Cheon.
Not long after that, Seung Cheon hears a tempting offer from an old woman he meets on the road – “Eat three meals at the house of a friend of the same age with the golden spoon and your fates will be swapped.” Though doubtful, Seung Cheon decides to switch his life with Hwang Tae Yong (Lee Jong Won), the heir of Doshin Group, one of the top conglomerates in Korea. The moment he feels disappointed that no changes have been made even after eating three meals, he hears someone calling him “Tea Yong” and realizes that his fate was changed and that he has become a “golden spoon.” Will Seung Cheon get to feel happiness in this new life that he was given?
The theory of “classes decided by spoons,” which states that parents’ wealth, academic background, and social status determine the future of their children, existed from way before. But from a few years ago, these parents’ “ability” was subdivided, and it is an era where we hear the bitter news of discrimination based on the color of the spoons. The Golden Spoon tells the story of people living in a society where the theory of “spoon class” is rampant overcoming difficulties through hope and solidarity rather than being blinded by the desire for money.
One of the big challenges that many webtoon-adapted dramas face is compressing the story. This is because it’s difficult to melt the story that was completed over tens or even hundreds of episodes into a 16-episode drama. Sometimes, changes made to the setting or the reduction of the episodes are met with complaints from both viewers and fans of the original webtoon, so I was half-expecting, half-worried about how The Golden Spoon with more than 100 episodes would get adapted into a series. But despite the worries, the story is smooth sailing so far. It seems like it made the right choice, keeping the central setting while giving small changes to the characters’ age or family.
However, The Golden Spoon missed a few things while focusing on the fast-paced development. The best example is Lee Seung Cheon’s incredible “adaptability.” After living in poverty, he becomes the son of the richest man in Korea overnight, but how he melts into this new life as if he’s been rich all his life makes us tilt our heads.
Also, unlike Lee Seung Cheon, Hwang Tae Yong, and Na Ju Hee (Jung Chaeyeon), the supporting characters are too flat. Even after giving up his family to escape poverty, Seung Cheon still misses them, while Tae Yong, who seems to be living a life everyone will be jealous of, is terrified of his father. Then there is Ju Hee who wants to break away from her family and live her own life. These three lead characters are portrayed quite colorfully thanks to Yook Sungjae, Lee Jong Won, and Jung Chaeyeon’s performances, but the rest are relatively flat, simple characters in the two categories, poor but kind or rich villains.
It was revealed in episode 4 that there was another “golden spoon user” besides Seung Cheon, heralding an interesting plot ahead. Moreover, Tae Yong was also seen still remembering things from his past, raising questions as to how he’ll deal with Seung Cheon that took away his life from him. While The Golden Spoon is expected to center around “solidarity” and “hope,” unlike the original webtoon, I look forward to seeing how it will unravel the narrative it’s built up so far. (7/10)
Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.