One of the characters in whom I’m most interested in Ojakgyo Brothers is the maknae, Hwang Tae Pil, played by Yun Woo Jin. Youngest of all the brothers, out of the army and willfully out of work, he is the troublemaker in the family, the one brother whose life seems to be in a state of arrested development. His trouble-making includes refusing to call Tae Hee his hyung, quitting jobs that Tae Hee gets for him, speaking out of turn, and most recently, masquerading as his older brothers in order to attract rich women. The narrative has yet to reveal why he does this, if it’s just to get the women to pay for things he wants, or if it’s to get them to bankroll his next business venture; I think it may have just been a way to introduce him to his romantic partner while setting up a way to expose the conflict between him and Tae Hee. Good-looking and opportunistic, Tae Pil is the brother who most often sides with his mother, and he does so blindly. He doesn’t believe for one second that his mother could have stolen Jae Eun’s contract, and, if she had, he’d be the one who would champion it as the right thing to have done. He has this highly idealized vision of his mother, and so he’s very protective of her, which is manifested in several ways: he is resentful of Tae Hee because he isn’t Bok Ja’s biological son but she spent as much love and energy on him as her other sons; he (like the other brothers) tries to keep Bok Ja from knowing about any quarrels they have; and he treats Ja Eun with distain and suspicion.
These are the details we get about him in the first 19 episodes, but at the end of the episode he discovers the major secret of the story, that his mother did actually steal Ja Eun’s contract: the son who is closest to the mother is the one who discovers her deceit. Tae Pil doesn’t confront his mother, as I’m sure any of the other brothers would have, especially Tae Hee, he instead stews with the information he has, passive aggressively lashing out at his mother, brooding alone in his room, and continuing to refuse help from Tae Hee, even though he’s the only brother who actually approaches him to ask him what’s wrong. It’s not that his other brother’s don’t care, it’s just that they have their own problems, and they’re used to Tae Pil being the carefree, playful brother who never has anything very important to say. His discovery is finally making all his past actions and behavior come back to him, making him something of a boy-who-cried-wolf, leaving him lone to face the decision of what to do now that he knows the truth. This is the point at which this character has to start reflecting on himself, on how he’s treated Ja Eun in the past, how his mother treated her and how he supported that treatment. It’ll be interesting to see how he’ll deal with the realization that Bok Ja is actually a full person and not just his perfect mother. I think it was a smart decision on the part of the writers to also make this the episode in which his romance really starts, with Yeo Gyung approaching him, as opposed to the other way around.
I also think it was a great idea to have his confidence in and loyalty to his mother be shaken just as the relationship between Ja Eun and his mother is becoming stronger. He and Ja Eun have been at odds since the very beginning, mostly because of him (kicking over her ramen and what not) but he’s actually more similar to her than he is to any of his brothers. As the maknae he occupies a place in his family that Ja Eun held as the only daughter of a single father: they are both spoiled and used to doing whatever they want with the assurance that they won’t be too harshly punished for it, both use their looks as tools to get what they want, and they both have this ability to get along well other people. I’m looking forward to the relationship between these two. Not only are they the most similar, if Ja Eun metaphorically becomes the daughter that Bok Ja lost, then she’ll also become the little sister that Tae Pil never had. Tae Pil will no longer be the youngest in his family, and this will surely be a way for him to mature. Ja Eun will gain him (as well as Tae Bum and Tae Shik—and Tae Hee, but I don’t want to go there) as an older brother.
There are also very strong similarities between him and Yeo Eul, his love interest. Both are kind of the black sheep in their families, with their elders constantly worrying about them and urging or browbeating them into “doing something with their lives” while they have other plans. They’re both sweet and charming and carefree, which I think will make theirs an interesting noona romance, because it’s usually between a woman who is all about business and has real issues to deal with and a younger man who she sees as clueless and childish. But here they’re both pretty clueless, so I hope this means lots of rom-com high jinks.
This is what’s good about watching a longer drama. There’s time for developments to actually develop, and the creators of the show don’t have to resort to contrived synecdoches or forced metaphors in order to cram all of the story in.