[Scene stealers] The traitor at the heart of the forest
by Guest Beanie
For years, the words “scene stealer” used to mean memorable comic relief characters to me. That is, until around 2 years ago when a certain drama called Forest of Secrets took dramaland by storm and almost single-handedly redefined the meaning of a good drama. It’s there that I met Section Chief Yoon, a villain so unlike any other I’d seen before. He was a bad guy that stirred in me both genuine sympathy and anger for what he chose to do. It was the first time I felt such a real sting of betrayal from a fictional character, yet that didn’t stop my heart from breaking over his tragic life story. It amazed me that a secondary character like him could loom so large in my mind. By the time the credits started rolling, I was left winded from trying to make sense of my all-over-the-place emotions.
It can’t be easy to stand out in a drama full of strong, nuanced performances. And yet, Lee Kyu-hyung, who was a relatively unknown actor in dramaland at that time, managed to do that with his subtle performance. He didn’t come sweeping in with a flashy performance to instantly capture our attention. Instead, he appeared as a perfectly ordinary civil servant: well-liked, unremarkable, hardworking, and a strict prosecutor. From early on, we saw him digging around our hero Shi-mok’s past for his boss, which in hindsight should have raised alarm about his character. But ironically, the fact that he had clear orders to snoop and was quick to acknowledge and apologize for that were the very things that won the my trust. In a drama where almost everyone was a suspect, the viewers could at least count on Yoon to be trustworthy.
Yoon remained a steadfast presence throughout the series. He was the quiet and dependable team member who was always ready to help even though he mostly kept to himself. He was almost invisible in his ordinariness so it was easy to both trust and mark him as unimportant. I remember how much it always surprised me when the show threw in unexpected tidbits about him as the drama went on. The way Yoon kept himself apart from others suddenly made sense when someone shared the story about his son’s tragic death and his subsequent divorce. His exceptional martial skills didn’t appear out-of-place anymore once you knew he’d served in special forces. I even remember how odd it was to see him laughing for the first time halfway through the series, and suddenly it dawned on me how rigidly he usually held himself.
In retrospect, it’s almost funny how every revelation that should have been alarming instead humanized and turned him into a real, flawed, and deeply hurt person. I was lulled into a false sense of security by his affable nature — and blinded by my sympathy for him. Even when the storm hit at the end of episode 12, I couldn’t help but desperately hope that Yoon was still the same good guy I’d come to know (I liked him, dangit!). It came to the point where I was angry at myself for letting him play with my trust. But the moment he brokenly recounted his story, his anguish was mine, regardless of what I thought about his twisted revenge and misguided sense of justice.
Maybe it’s no wonder then that even the littlest things Yoon did or said by the finale episode were able spark flames of hope in me. His confession meant his moral character was still salvageable. His abject apology to the victim’s son represented genuine remorse for what he did. I couldn’t help but believe that our heroine Yeo-jin’s words at the close of the drama reminded him that there was another way to deal with his grief and sorrow. With the news of a possible second season, I’m going to keep on hoping that the drama will grant us a glimpse of Yoon finding a better and healthier way to live his (hopefully, not-so-lonely) life.
Tags: Theme of the Month