Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Pigs are innately clean animals but are often regarded as filthy, odorous creatures confined to a small pen. Unable to raise their heads, they can’t see the sky. Only when they stumble and fall do they get a glimpse of a different world – the sky. Yeong Soon and her son Kang Ho in JTBC’s Thursday-Friday drama The Good Bad Mother, which makes the viewers laugh and cry with them, mirror this pig’s life.
Set in the 1980s, ahead of the Olympic Games, Yeong Soon marries Hae Sik, a decent man running a pig farm. Their humble happiness, only enriched by pregnancy, shatters when a development boom hits their small town. Hae Sik stands up to the construction company that was pushing for the demolition of his farm, only to die and leave pregnant Yeong Soon behind alone in this world. She vows to raise her unborn child to become a powerful prosecutor to avoid the injustices she experienced.
When you think of the times the phrase “rags to riches” was prevalent, you naturally paint a picture of parents who tirelessly dedicate their lives to their children. And Yeong Soon was one of them, tossing her own life aside for her son. However, her approach is different. Cold and harsh, she gives her son no breathing room and pushes him to no end. Under her severe motherly love that only emphasizes studying, Kang Ho becomes a prosecutor as Yeong Soon wished. But his emotional scars turn him into a “vicious man” who hurts those close to him. After informing his mother of his decision to sever ties with her, Kang Ho gets into a severe accident that leaves him with the mentality of a seven-year-old child.
The Good Bad Mother tells the story of Yeong Soon, who had no choice but to become a “bad mom,” and Kang Ho, who turns into a child due to a sudden accident, recovering their lost relationship. It’s a tale of maternal love that has often been explored in the media. But Yeong Soon’s love is far from perfect from the get-go. Yeong Soon, who believed that only success brings happiness, realizes her mistake only when her son lies in a hospital bed. Just like a pig that finally sees the sky only when it falls, Yeong Soon belatedly steps out of her narrow view and regrets her past. And Kang Ho, who miraculously wakes up, gazes at his mother with a pure and innocent look, unlike his cold demeanor before the accident. Both Yeong Soon and Kang Ho are at a new starting point. This turning point is the charm of the drama, as viewers watch with anticipation, cheering for the mother and son to heal their wounds and understand each other’s hearts through this second chance.
The actors breathe life into the story with their brilliant performances. At the center is Ra Mi Ran, who perfectly portrays the complicated aspects of Yeong Soon. With her unique friendly and comfortable acting, she realistically portrays the character, expressing the tough love she showers on her son and the intense emotions that cause her to shed tears of regret. Lee Do Hyun, seemingly in an acting battle with Ra Mi Ran, is no different. The cold demeanor of Kang Ho, the ambitious prosecutor who wants to win the favor of Song Woo Byeok and Oh Tae Su, those who killed his father (not sure if he knows of this fact or not), coexists seamlessly with the pure and innocent seven-year-old Kang Ho. Then with his first love Mi Ju, he turns into a romantic. Other actors like Ahn Eun Jin, Choi Moo Sung, Jung Woong In and more solidly fill the drama with their performances, regardless of their screen time.
The script and direction are also quite stable. Writer Bae Se Young, who primarily wrote movie scripts such as Extreme Job and Life is Beautiful, tells an enthralling story by organically weaving together the central characters and various side characters, despite this being her first drama. Director Shim Na Yeon, who left a deep impression with her previous work Beyond Evil, smoothly orchestrates comedy and drama, making the narrative feel like a beautiful and warm fairy tale.
However, with Yeong Soon’s diagnosis of terminal gastric cancer in episode 6, there’s concern that the initially charming progression might be slipping into typical Korean melodrama. It’s worrisome that Yeong Soon, who should be rushing with Kang Ho’s rehabilitation, might again go for her harsh motherly love, going so obviously for somewhat forced tear-jerking scenes. It’s also bittersweet that the happiness Yeong Soon and Kang Ho have just found seems to be ending too soon. Nevertheless, all I can hope for is that Yeong Soon and Kang Ho, along with the people of Jowoori village, will get to enjoy their happiness a bit longer. (7/10)
Edited Hong Hyun Jung: I am a K-content guide who publishes various articles for people to enjoy Korean movies and dramas deeper and richer. I’ll introduce you to the works that you can laugh, cry and sympathize with.