“Looking At A Different Lens” A Discourse Analysis on the Korean Drama, City Hunter

Ever since radio and television began broadcasting here in the Philippines, Filipinos have been borrowing shows from foreign countries as part of the programs. Soap operas are one of the pioneering types of programs in Philippine broadcasting and it has been enjoyed by Filipino families all over the country. Personally, I am not a fan of watching soap operas because most of them are full of drama and the plots are mostly full of cliché, but I watch some episodes from time to time because my family always gather in the living room to watch primetime shows in the evening. One of the shows I watch with my family are Koreanovelas. I have observed that those who start watching a particular Korean drama cannot stop (unless they have the complete copy of entire drama) until they finish all the episodes.

[1] City Hunter is a 2011 Korean drama in 20 episodes with a duration of 55 minutes each set in South Korea. It is a story of revenge and justice and romance in the middle of all this complication.

The main plot of the first episode was a reference to the [2] Rangoon bombing in October 9, 1983 as North Korea’s attempt to assassinate South Korea’s fifth president, but the story focused on [3] Lee Jin-Pyo and Park Moo-Yul, two of the President’s bodyguards from the Blue House (House of the South Korean President). These characters are fictional, so is the story. The way the story was written had a similar approach with Titanic, the film. Although the event of the tragedy did happen, the story of the characters were fictional. I personally would not know about the historical bombing of Rangoon in Myanmar if it was not for the show. I noticed in the other Koreanovelas I watched, there is always a bit of historical background in every plot. It is not explicitly spoken, but I believe it is their way of sharing their history to other countries, considering that they get to export their soap operas.

The motive of revenge in the whole story did not just happen out of nowhere nor was it because of the bombing incident. Continuing with the plot, the President was not killed, but many officials were, which made five officials decide to take revenge by assigning a team of 21 soldiers including the two bodyguards mentioned earlier as the team leaders to go to North Korea and kill their officials with a surprise attack. However, as the mission was on going, the five who created the plan of revenge just got word from the President that he disproves their decision. They sent another team to kill the 21 soldiers before they reach the shores of South Korea.

Selfishness and guilt is written all over the faces of these five men. When you watch the scene where they decided to abort the mission, they looked serious and merciless with no sign of sympathy, but it is unspoken that they are ashamed and embarrassed for sending their own men to do their dirty work and having to betray them and at the same time covering their tracks by ripping them off of their existence in society. It tells an underlying message of the meaning of betrayal, that the enemies are not always from the other side, but can come from your own kind.

The main disruption was when one of the 21 remained alive and he is Lee Jin-Pyo. As soon as he reached the shores of South Korea, he went to Park Moo-Yul’s home, who was actually his best friend but died with the other soldiers by taking a bullet that was aimed at him. He visited the house and took Park Moo-Yul’s new-born child while the wife was looking away. This scene was very heart breaking, because it was established at the beginning of the episode that the baby was going to be important as the first shot was the wife giving birth out of labor. It made sense why that was the first shot and it was not a useless shot after all. When the baby was unexpectedly taken away without the mother knowing and finding her baby missing, seeing a letter left behind by Lee Jin-Pyo, she cried out in pain. This act of crying that portrayed pain was nothing compared to the act when she cried while pushing to give birth. They physically showed the same emotions and actions, but the message and meaning is different. It did not take words to explain it, but it succeeded in letting the audience feel empathic, well to me it did.

In the next scenes, Lee Jin-Pyo raises the child Lee Yoon-Sung as his own while training him with martial arts and teaching him to shoot guns even at a young age. The childhood scenes were really short, but it was established enough that the kid had to go through tough discipline with all the harsh activities he had to do for training. I believe the story did not dwell in childhood because they rushed in introducing the main actor of the cast, Lee Min-Ho as Lee Yoon-Sung. Lee Min-Ho is very popular and having him as part of the cast was one of the reasons why it made to our local television programs, I believe.

With that kind of upbringing in an environment of armed weapons and a family business of illegal drugs, we would expect Lee Yoon-Sung to grow up to be a dysfunctional person with emotional and social issues, but apparently he seems to have a soft spot deeply seeking for a mother’s love. By the time Lee Jin-Pyo reveals the identity of his real father and shares the motive of revenge, he asks one thing, “Is my mother still alive?” These words summed up everything, Lee Yoon-Sung wants a mother and being with her again will turn a child raised to be an assassin into a human being with feelings and empathy. This is later revealed in one of the episodes where he secretly helps his mother with her illness and saves her from Lee Jin-Pyo.

As for his love interest, [4] Kim Na-Na, this woman is a tough one. She is not your average damsel in distress, but she turns out to be the heroine, sidekick, and at one point the opposition. Physically, she looks innocent and fragile, but her role as one of current President’s bodyguards with fighting skills as well as Lee Yoon-Sung’s lover who keeps his sanity intact, says otherwise. She appears to be the strongest one in their relationship. Men have always been portrayed with strong personalities, but in this story, Lee Yoon-Sung’s weaknesses were displayed more often than Kim Na-Na’s were. Unlike other love stories where the man is often the hero in the relationship, Kim Na-Na’s character as a woman makes her the hero. Although she is still very feminine and lady-like, she is a model of gender stereotypes and roles being toppled over. I see this as one of the strengths of this drama. It is the combo-breaker of most of the Koreanovelas and even some Filipino soap operas I watched. I hope other people were able to get the message despite its unspoken attributes.


Works Cited:

[1] Asianwiki.com,. 2011. ‘City Hunter (Korean Drama) – Asianwiki’. http://asianwiki.com/City_Hunter_(Korean_Drama).

[2] http://www.businessinsider.com/photos-of-north-koreas-1983-bombing-2012-10

[3] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1982229/

[4] http://strangevision.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/review-city-hunter/

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