Thoughts on Ojakgyo Brothers

Ojakgyo Brothers poster

With Ojakgyo Brothers (오작교 형제들) already past 30 episodes, I have to say I’m really late in the game. The upside of that is that I don’t have to wait so long to get to the next episode since I’ve got 34 episodes waiting for me–that’s double the length of a 16-episode miniseries!

Let’s get one thing straight first: these few past years of drama watching, I look through the list of airing and/or upcoming dramas to see which ones I’m going to try. Aside from currently airing shows like Tree with Deep Roots, A Thousand Days’ Promise, and Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, I had a line-up of older sageuk dramas and other shows I wanted to watch (see list)–Ojakgyo Brothers wasn’t even on my radar of interesting shows.

Then I saw this clip.

*squeals*

Yes, I got interested after seeing a cute Joo Won clip, not some meaty, tear-inducing scene about character struggle. I’m shallow, I know. ^^

Anyway, I like UEE but didn’t like her character in You’re Beautiful where all she did was glare. I think maybe UEE just isn’t made for a role that’s too snobbish. Here, as Baek Ja Eun, she’s cute and fun and despite her character’s flaws, I rooted for her right from the very beginning. Baek Ja Eun is a little too vain and thinks she’s super pretty (well…she does have a point) and was brought up wanting for nothing, so at first glance you’d think she’s the stereotypical princess who grew up pampered and spoiled. In a way that’s right, but in a way it also isn’t. Ja Eun also lived her life longing for a mother and loving no one as much as she loves her father. She wants nothing more than her father to be happy, which means that even if her (third) stepmother treats her differently when her father is not in the room, as long as her father is happy and wants her in his life, she takes it all with a smile.

These little character snippets I’ve seen of Baek Ja Eun made me immediately take her side when she’s in her most trying time: her father goes missing in China, the debt collectors take away all their possessions, her stepmom throws her out, and all that’s left for her is a contract that states her father owning a land which he rented out to his friend almost ten years ago. She’s ecstatic to have money for her expenses and school fees and immediately goes to that place with the intent to sell it, only to find herself against the family of her father’s friend: the Hwangs who are living in Ojakgyo Farm. After ten years of cultivating the bare land and making a living out of it,  the mother, Park Bok Ja (played by the wonderful Kim Ja Ok), is unyielding. She’s made the farm that stands on that land with a decade’s worth of sweat and tears, so why would she leave? In her eyes, it’s her land, and no one–especially not a spoiled young girl like Ja Eun–could take it away from her.

While I could totally understand where the mother was coming from and despite Ja Eun’s insensitivity and seeming lack of real empathy for the Hwangs’ predicament, I felt more for Ja Eun that for Bok Ja. While they are both at a point where they can lose everything once the other gains the farm, it’s Bok Ja who’s the more fortunate of the two in that specific point in time: she’s got a family who cares for her, whereas Ja Eun is all alone with nothing but the farm to support her.

I don’t want to say anything more about the plot since from here on it’s going to be all spoilers, but so far, I really like the series. The characters are all very flawed and feel real. Although they make bad decisions (really horrible ones–like stealing a contract and throwing out the rightful owner of a farm, or getting a news scoop without confirming the facts, thereby broadcasting misinformation in national TV, which leads to very, very bad things) the drama makes the viewers see why they decided to do whatever they did, so even if the viewers don’t agree with what a certain character did, they can see where (s)he’s coming from. It’s not cackling evil here, but normal people who make mistakes.

And and and can I mention how adorable Joo Won is as the third son, Tae Hee?

He who kicks ass as a hot policeman chasing suspects

…turns into a pile of goo when voice calling his grandma!

And let’s not forget the rest of the family, from Grandma, whose word is the law; Father, who shows that he cares a lot for Ja Eun’s well-being; Mother, who took care of the farm for ten years; and the three other Ojakgyo Brothers: from first-born Tae Shik who, at nearly 40 years, still isn’t married; second-born Tae Bum, who’s a rising news reporter, able to get exclusive scoops when no one else can; and the maknae, Tae Pil, who goes from one part-time job to another.

The family is the core of this drama, and the scenes at the farm were the ones that I think are most effective at tugging the heartstrings of the viewers. From bickering and too much shouting, Bok Ja and Ja Eun slowly grow to care for and love each other, and it’s wonderful to see them go from strangers to enemies to treating each other as if they were mother and daughter. Their scenes together are so sweet and painful and I love watching them tend to the ducks and the orchard. I dread the time when the truth gets out and their relationship is destroyed.

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