Women’s Korean Wave vol.21 Definitely Neighbors (이웃집 웬수)
written by Yeong-ae Yamashita
(You can read Part 1 here.)
The protagonist is Yun Jiyeong (actor: Yu Hojeong). Jiyeong, a housewife, and her husband Kim Seongjae (Son Hyeonju) lose their son in a traffic accident while they are quarreling. Shocked by the loss, the couple gets divorced. She soon gets a part-time job at a restaurant, where she meets its owner and chef, Chang Geonhui (Sin Seongrok). Later, their relationship becomes intimate. Meanwhile, her husband gets to know Kang Mijin (Kim Seongryeong), a designer, and begins dating with marriage in their mind.
Although each one of the divorced couple now has her or his own life, both are the parents of an infant girl. Because of this, they cannot cut their connection to each other. One day, Jiyeong finds that Seongjae’s uncle moves in next door. Seongjae also moves into his uncle’s house to become a good father to his daughter.
In the beginning, whenever the divorced couple meet, they have an argument. Their relationship changes little by little. When Jiyeong has to work late, Seongjae and his uncle look after the girl.
As for each other’s new boyfriend/girlfriend, both pretend to be indifferent but they couldn’t help saying something on the matter to each other. Their dialogues express their complicated feelings.
Mijin, a widow and a single mother, cannot understand why Seongjae lives next door to his ex-wife. She has never got divorced. When she has questions, she asks them frankly. She gets along with Jiyeong. The dramatist Choe says that Mijin is her ideal woman.
On the other hand, Jiyeong learns a lot while she raises the infant daughter and becomes independent. When she was married, she was too obedient to say anything to her mother-in-law. After getting divorced, she became self-assertive gradually. After seeing her own senile mother, she reconciled with her father and stepmother.
Her romance with Geonhui, whose father is a big hospital owner, looks like a fantasy but is described well as what makes her grow. One thing I am discontented with about the drama is the way Geonhui calls Jiyeong ajumma. Ajumma means an older married woman who has children. It also implies an uneducated woman who cooks and takes care of children.
In a Korean custom, names two people address each other change according to their relationships. Even after being intimate, Geonhui and Jiyeong do not change names they call each other, which do not match later episodes especially when they talk about love. It may suggest that their relationship is never closer than the one defined by how they address each other’s name.
Interestingly enough, the way they talk to each other is polite but has some variations if you listen carefully. For example, Jiyeong uses casual peer-to-peer language to appease Geonhui when he woos her, or when she preaches him. By calling him “you” (너), she stresses that she is older than him and should be given precedence over. Although the way she calls him changes, Geonhui’s way of talking does not change. You cannot see such variations on Japanese subtitles at all.
Translated and adapted by Atsuko Ishikawa