TV series ‘My Mister’ portrays humor, pathos of Korean ‘ajeossi’

April 11, 2018
A poster for "My Mister," provided by tvN (Yonhap)

A poster for “My Mister,” provided by tvN (Yonhap)

Four cast members of tvN's "My Mister" pose for photos before a press event in Seoul on April 11, 2018. (Yonhap)

Four cast members of tvN’s “My Mister” pose for photos before a press event in Seoul on April 11, 2018. (Yonhap)

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) — TvN’s new series “My Mister” is a dark, heavy story of a young woman whose sole life purpose seems to be making money to pay a debt and a middle-aged man who unwittingly becomes her “friend.”

Despite the gloomy storyline, producer Kim Won-suk, also known for such hit series as “Misaeng” and “Signal,” believes his audience will ultimately see that the drama delivers a heart-warming, soothing story.

“It is about someone becoming special to someone else,” Kim said at a press event held in Seoul on Wednesday.

“This one is in line with my previous works, in that it also tells about life together and that life changes for the better, if only slightly, by meeting and interacting with others.”

The producer also hopes to draw Korean middle-aged men — the most elusive audience group — by telling stories they can relate to.

The drama, the Korean title of which is “My Ajeossi,” had a bumpy ride in the run-up to its March 21 premiere. Ajeossi means a middle-aged man in Korean. It had to urgently change one actor, Oh Dal-su, who faced sexual assault allegations. Some TV viewers took issue with the title that they interpreted as alluding to an improper relationship between a young woman and a middle-aged, married man. After all, it cast 22-year-old singer-actress Lee Ji-eun, better known by her stage name IU, and 43-year-old actor Lee Sun-kyun opposite each other.

But the story has been developing differently from what had been expected.

Lee Ji-an, played by Lee, has supported her sick grandmother on her own since she was six. She does whatever it takes to make money to repay her debt to Lee Kwang-il, son of the cruel moneylender she accidentally killed when she was a middle-schooler.

In her desperate attempt to escape from the deepening cycle of debt, she approaches Park Dong-hoon, played by Lee Sun-kyun, a warm-hearted middle manager at the company she temps at. In spite of herself, she begins to feel sympathy for Park, who suffers the heavy weight of life in his own way.

Although viewership ratings are around four percent, IU’s powerful performance of the sad woman is seen as gripping or even mesmerizing, as it is out of sync with her public image as a youthful, buoyant little sister.

“I wasn’t sure if I could play the character … but the director gave me confidence when he said I would grow a lot by the time the drama finishes,” Lee said.

“Ji-an is a very interesting character. The drama follows her objectively, rather than trying to justify her actions. I liked it,” she added.

Actor Lee Sun-kyun said he could sympathize with his character because he also cares about his family and worries about the future like any other Korean ajeossi.

“The story is somewhat dark. But I hope viewers feel life is still worth living. I have a line in the drama which reads, ‘Life is about the struggle between your inner power and outer forces. If you have strong inner power, you can overcome difficulties you face in life.’”

The Wednesday-Thursday drama has so far aired six episodes. The seventh is set to air at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.