War of Money / Money Warfare
SBS’s new Wednesday-Thursday drama, War of Money (쩐의 전쟁), kicked off to a healthy ratings start in the 16%-17% range, then jumped up to above 24% for its second episode. That’s enough of a leap to be considered noteworthy. (And anything above 20% in its first week is quite a feat.)
This drama had quite some buzz leading up to its premiere, probably mostly due to the casting of lead actor Park Shin Yang, who is perhaps best known for his role in Lovers in Paris. As for me, the only actor I’m familiar with is Shin Dong Wook, from Cloud Stairway and Soulmate.
SONG OF THE DAY
War of Money OST – “Simple Life” by Sweet Sorrow
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Director Jung Tae Yoo / 정새유 :: Bad Family, 101st Proposal
Writer Lee Hyang Hee / 이향희 :: Solace, Loveholic
Official website: http://tv.sbs.co.kr/warofmoney/
Park Shin Yang / 박신양 :: Lovers in Paris
Park Jin Hee / 박진희 :: Come Back, Soon Ae
Kim Jung Hwa / 김정화 :: Something about 1%, Into the sunlight, Snow White
Shin Dong Wook / 신동욱 :: Soulmate, Goodbye Sadness, Cloud Stairway
First broadcast: May 16
Here’s the thing. Episode 1 of War of Money pissed me off. I almost quit entirely because I figured it wasn’t healthy for my blood pressure.
It’s not a bad show. The director is competent, the acting is good. It’s the story that got my blood boiling. I’m sure it was meant to, but I didn’t respond to it.
The setup is this: A man (Park Shin Yang’s Geum Na Ra character) lives a nice life with a lovely family. Gorgeous, caring girlfriend Lee Cha Yeon. Younger sister getting happily married. Decent job. (He has an interesting choice of name, since Na Ra is traditionally feminine. His father explains that he named him Na Ra because of its meaning — “nation” — hoping for his son’s successful future.)
But his sister’s wedding is ruined by loan sharks who come to collect money from Na Ra’s father, and they realize his father’s indebted up to his eyeballs. Or more. He’s so in debt his shadow owes rent. The amount is in excess of 500 million won and the house is being repossessed. Na Ra’s father runs away, naively believing that if he disappears, the lenders will leave his family alone. (But it sure is cowardly.) His mother collapses from the strain and requires surgery. Na Ra’s denied a bank loan. Nobody will lend him money, and he’s bordering on being fired. He’s desperate. Life sucks.
Initially, he rejects money offered by his rich girlfriend Cha Yeon. But with the situation spiraling out of control, he asks for her help. She happily offers, but her grandmother (who was in Bad Family and just finished up her role in Hello! Miss) has always disliked Na Ra, and offers him the money if he will leave Cha Yeon. He refuses.
But then, he gets the call that the hospital is about to kick their mother out without surgery. They don’t even have a house to return to. What to do?
So Na Ra takes the deal. Upon hearing about this, Cha Yeon goes to Na Ra to try to reason with him — she knows why he was forced into this. But Na Ra tells her he means it. He didn’t know he was the type of guy who could sell out his love for money, but right now he needs money more than her. And as one last parting insult, he asks Cha Yeon as she’s leaving him if she has any money she can lend him. (One of the few scenes I really liked, because it was so ballsy and desperate.) She flings all the cash she’s carrying at him, then stalks off in a fury.
Oh yeah, and then his father dies. Presumably suicide.
There’s more that goes on — the female lead, Seo Ju Hee (played by Park Jin Hee) is perhaps the only character I remotely like (and I find the actress stunning, in a girl-next-door way), but her problems are also entirely money-based and somewhat cliched (“I don’t trust men anymore; I only trust money”).
I appreciate a thematically relevant drama, but it felt like the series was trying to hammer in the “money warfare” theme a little too hard. We get it. But my biggest block with this series is entirely a personal-opinion issue, NOT a quality issue. Judge for yourselves if you like it, because I’m sure some will. I just personally found it too depressing. Everything seemed so real (just more dire). Maybe I’m too used to seeing or hearing about people’s money desperations and woes in real life to find any entertainment value in watching it unfold onscreen.
But this may perhaps explain the appeal of the show to Koreans (aside from sadomasochism?) — these private loans and debts are a huge problem in Korean society these days, and I’m sure everyone can relate, sadly enough.
After vowing not to watch any more after the first episode, I decided to give the show another try. Partly because I wanted to see Shin Dong Wook act as a coldhearted badass and partly because I loved the PD’s prior work Bad Family (which is another show that started slow but ended up fantastic).
So I watched Episode 2, and it IS a little less with the hissy-fitting and a little more with the proactive bootstraps-pulling — but not before we kick Na Ra down some more:
His mother dies too, Na Ra loses everything, becomes homeless, and constantly runs from the loan sharks. His sister (Song Hye Gyo’s friend from Full House) sells herself to a hostess bar because she can’t stand being a burden to her new husband and her brother.
Na Ra begs a famous moneylender for money advice, and embarks in Karate Kid-like lessons on the meaning of money and human nature.
It got better, but overall my opinion didn’t change.
This is a decent show. But I don’t like it. That’s all right with me. I’m sure there will be some people who love the show for reasons that I dislike it. It looks poised to become a sure hit, so I foresee lots of continued press and attention given to War of Money.
With S2 will be fansubbing this drama (you can check on the wiki site for updates on subbing status) so if this is your cup of tea, enjoy.