The world of KDrama is usually filled with feels and frisson, a slow burn of long thought-out love stories that begin with stolen glances, develop into lovers in hot pursuit of each other, and end with an almost heaven-like visual of a modern day happy-ever-after.
Not this one.
Based on BBC One’s intriguing Doctor Foster, the Korean drama A World of Married Couple presents a totally different world of Kdrama altogether. Instead of a feel good romance that can help us escape from our endless days in quarantine, this series awakens something in us quite the opposite—it triggers hatred and anger, two very real and powerful emotions we might be unaware are already simmering in our gut.
The show can be torturous to watch. It takes but one episode to enrage you, make your blood boil, your loins shake, your knees weak and your stomach turn. There were many times it had become too stressful to watch that I wanted out. This couldn’t be doing my mental and emotional health any good— except I couldn’t stop watching.
The series opens with Ji Sun-woo (Kim Hee-ae) unwrapping a beautiful family portrait. “It was perfect,” she says. A shelf of awards attest to her success. She is a doting mother and a thoughtful wife. But the moment her husband is introduced is the moment chaos enters the picture. Lee Tae-oh (Park Hae-joon) comes in from a rainstorm and ravishes her in her quiet slumber. He is pictured as a slob she patiently picks up after, careless as she is keen. She’s at the top of her game; he’s but a morsel of a man.
But as careless as Tae-oh is with Sun-woo, he displays cunning in his affair with Yeo Da-kyung, a beautiful young heiress, the only daughter to the most powerful man in town.
As Sun-woo discovers her husband’s affair, her perfect life spins out of control. She loses loyalties and, eventually, her livelihood and reputation. With no one to trust, she holds back and holds everything in. She endures the pain of seeing her husband and his mistress together—just so she can plan her exit strategy. She blindsides her husband with divorce and a two-year restraining order that would keep him away from their only son, forcing Lee Tae-oh and his mistress out of Gosan.
Two years later, Tae-oh returns with a new family, and he is richer and more successful than Sun-woo. He is also determined not only to ruin his estranged wife but to get his son back and chase Sun-woo out of Gosan. But Sun-woo isn’t easily intimidated. She forms new alliances as she goes head-to-head with her ex and his new wife’s powerful parents. Tae-oh is relentless in his revenge but it is later revealed to be only a veil for everything he still feels for her.
In this revenge drama, hate is not the opposite of love, it is the evidence of it.
You may also like:
Many K drama fans are outraged by how this series ends—it’s not the kind of happy ending KDramas are known for. But it’s an ending that makes the most sense. No amount of repentance or retribution will be able to fully heal a heart as broken as Sun-woo’s. The show is an effective reminder of how painful it is to be cheated on, and how hard it is to put yourself back together after a most jarring betrayal.
“Free yourself from him,” the two-faced Seol Myung-sook (Chae Gook-hee) tells her friend Sun-woo. For many who have experienced what it’s like to be betrayed, it’s a message that rings true: freedom is sometimes the only redemption.
The World of Married Couple is 16 episodes of highly charged power play that will take you through a rollercoaster of emotions. You cheer for the wife and you condemn the husband. Your heart says you want them together but your mind understands why they need to be apart.
Photographs from JTBC