A Beautiful World: Episode 8
The evils of this world seem to exist in all corners and people as our heroes try to differentiate the truth from the lies. Selfishness and deviousness continue to block the path towards justice, and those in power are willing to do anything to protect their station in life. Despite the discoveries our heroes make, progress seems to come to standstill, but that won’t stop them from fighting—far from it.
EPISODE 8 RECAP: Angel and Devil
Dong-hee tells In-ha and Moo-jin about meeting Sun-ho the evening of the incident. She stood on the edge of a busy street as old classmates flooded her phone with messages telling her to kill herself. Dong-hee walked towards the oncoming traffic, determined to die, but before she crossed the line, Sun-ho called her name.
She returned to the sidewalk, and Sun-ho greeted her as if nothing happened. After giving her a book and energy bar, Sun-ho said farewell, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. Facing Dong-hee again, he told her to live and win against those who belittled her. With a smile, he said, “See you in school tomorrow.”
Dong-soo grows angry after hearing her story and scolds her trying to commit suicide. He asks why she would die over those stupid kids who wouldn’t even feel a smidge of remorse about her death, but Dong-hee tells him that she hated everything. She hated their poverty, their abusive father and runaway mother, but most of all, she hated being a burden to Dong-soo and Sun-ho. Since she’s a ghost dead or alive, she thought being dead would be easier.
Dong-soo tries to comfort her, but he stumbles over what to say. In the end, he storms out of the bakery to beat up her bullies since that’s all he knows how to do. Moo-jin chases after him and tells Dong-soo that instead of fighting, he can help Dong-hee by listening, hugging, and comforting her. Moo-jin says that he missed his chance with Sun-ho, but Dong-soo still has the opportunity to be there for his sister.
In-ha reads the group chat from Dong-hee’s old classmates and listens to her say that nothing would have changed even if she reported it. In-ha shares a story about herself with Dong-hee, explaining how her mother also abandoned her family after her father passed away. It took three years for her mother to return, but during that time, In-ha learned that being rich in feelings is meaningless in the face of abject poverty.
She admits to having suicidal thoughts like Dong-hee at that time, but the reason she stayed alive was because of Joon-ha. Just like her younger sister helped her through those dark days, In-ha believes Dong-soo feels the same about Dong-hee. She assures Dong-hee that she isn’t a burden to either Dong-soo or Sun-ho, but Dong-hee apologizes for ignoring Sun-ho even though Joon-suk bullied him because of her.
Dong-hee tells In-ha that Joon-suk bullied Sun-ho from a distance by manipulating other kids to do it for him. Then in class, Joon-suk would act like a friend to Sun-ho. However, Dong-hee saw through his act, since Sun-ho was the only one who stood up against Joon-suk when he did something wrong. In-ha can’t imagine a middle schooler being that manipulative, but Dong-hee tells her that she experienced how evil kids can be firsthand.
Joon-suk stares at Sun-ho laying in his hospital bed and remembers the time they played “Avengers.” After Joon-suk’s provocation, Young-chul repeatedly kicked Sun-ho to the point that Ki-chan had to stop him. Joon-suk casually ended the game because it was time for cram school and sneered at Sun-ho for forgetting his place. He told Sun-ho that Da-hee was his, and if he blabbered about their game to anyone, Soo-ho would be joining them next.
Back in hospital room, Joon-suk glares at Sun-ho and blames him for everything. Joon-ha finds him standing alone in the dark room, and he stares back at her with a blank expression as images of his screaming and smiling face flicker besides him.
Eun-joo hides the lip tint she found in Joon-suk’s desk while Jin-pyo listens to the recording device he received from the school’s guard. It contains Joon-suk and Sun-ho’s conversation on the rooftop, and after listening to it, Jin-pyo nervously paces his office and chucks his earbuds across the room. Across the hall, Eun-joo witnesses everything and gasps at his violent action.
In-ha watches Sun-ho and remembers Dong-hee telling her that Joon-suk started acting nice to Da-hee after he fell out with Sun-ho. Meanwhile, Moo-jin escorts Dong-soo and Dong-hee to their home, and he asks if they can disclose her statement to the school and police. He worries about the backlash she might receive, but Dong-hee gives her permission since it was harder for her to hide the truth.
After Dong-hee leaves, Moo-jin gives Dong-soo the chance to object, but he agrees to follow his sister. Dong-soo cheers for Moo-jin to catch the criminals and make them suffer in Old Boy style, and Moo-jin cracks a smile. He orders Dong-soo to leave Dong-hee’s matter to him, and Dong-soo musters up his courage to tell him to be strong. Embarrassed, he runs away but trips on the stairs in his hurry.
Dong-soo silently joins Dong-hee in gathering their laundry, and she tells him that she will never think those thoughts again. She apologizes and anxiously waits for his response. He wordlessly takes the clothes from her hands and gently tells her to come inside with him.
At the hospital, Joon-ha tells In-ha about Joon-suk’s visit and how repentant he seemed, but the more she speaks well of him, the darker In-ha’s expression grows. To Joon-ha’s confusion, In-ha says that they’re moving hospitals and rushes out of the room.
Eun-joo asks Joon-suk how his visit was, assuming it must have been difficult to see Sun-ho, but Joon-suk gets offended by the implications behind her words. He shouts at Eun-joo for suffocating him with all her suspicions, but Eun-joo refuses to entertain his tantrum. She admits to not trusting him completely, but even so, she wants to protect him at all cost. She begs him not to treat her this way, but he reminds her that it was her choice and not his.
She stumbles out of his room in tears, but when Jin-pyo asks what’s wrong, she acts like nothing happened. He tells Eun-joo that Joon-suk will be studying abroad and will discuss the details after he comes back. As soon as he steps out, Eun-joo remembers him chucking his earbuds and snoops around his office. She finds the earbuds along with the recording device on the ground, but before she can listen, the doorbell rings—it’s In-ha, who’s here to talk with Eun-joo.
Moo-jin stops by the police station where Detective Park and his team just arrived with a couple of criminals. He tries to tell the detective about his newfound information, but Detective Park waves him aside since he’s busy right now. Moo-jin helplessly watches him leave and answers a call from Joon-ha.
In-ha confronts Eun-joo about Joon-suk’s role as the leader, but Eun-joo denies it, calling it baseless rumors. In-ha agrees that she has no evidence to prove her claim, but on the drive here, she kept wondering why Eun-joo was so forthright about Joon-suk being a bystander. She concluded that Eun-joo was trying to hide a bigger secret by appearing honest and asks if Joon-suk really came straight home that night.
In-ha tells her that Sun-ho saw someone before going to the school and apparently said he was meeting someone. Eun-joo becomes defensive and accuses In-ha of crossing the line. While she can understand her suspicions, she won’t let her blame her son on speculations and tells her to leave. In-ha wishes she could trust Eun-joo, too, but she can’t. After In-ha leaves, Eun-joo runs up to Joon-suk and asks if anyone knows about his meeting with Sun-ho, but he lies that no one knows.
Moo-jin calls In-ha who isn’t answering her phone, and he finds her at the park outside their home. He asks if she’s okay, and In-ha explains how she’s just resting here to not worry Soo-ho. In-ha hangs her head, her entire body drained of all energy, and Moo-jin silently wraps his arms around her.
In his office, Jin-pyo throws a bag at the guard’s feet and asks for the phone. The guard hands him a burner phone and claims to have thrown the original away. Jin-pyo doesn’t believe him for a second and asks if he planned all this when he called him that night. The guard says that Jin-pyo was a safer bet than Eun-joo who could fall apart at any moment.
Jin-pyo mentions the guard’s son who’s addicted to gambling and drugs which caused his wife to lose her mind. He pities the guard’s life, but through gritted teeth, the guard tells him to take care of his own family. With a menacing glare, Jin-pyo threatens the guard: “If you hurt even a hair on my son, your son will die by my hands.”
The guard acts like he doesn’t care, but he suddenly gets a message from an unknown number. Jin-pyo explains that it’s from the “rat” he put on him, and the guard watches a video of his son bound and gagged. He grabs Jin-pyo’s lapels and orders him to release his son or else he’ll send all the evidence to the police. Unfazed, Jin-pyo tells him that his son will die the moment he does so.
Just as Joon-suk is on the line, Jin-pyo says that it’s only fair that he uses the guard’s son as his insurance. Jin-pyo tells him that he’s no match for him and orders the guard to stay low if he wants his son to be safe. He then mocks the guard for threatening him for money when he used to be detective, and says he should just politely ask for it next time.
Joon-suk considers calling Young-chul, suspecting him to have told In-ha about his meeting with Sun-ho, when Jin-pyo enters his room. Sitting him down, Jin-pyo shares with Joon-suk words of wisdom his father told him: The starting point is the most important because it determines the rest of your life. Unlike most people, Joon-suk was born a leader from the top class, and Jin-pyo tells him to only focus on moving forward since he’ll clear the path for him.
The next morning, Soo-ho finds Dong-hee at school, having heard from In-ha about their meeting. She suggests working together to find the culprit since the police and school are doing nothing. Soo-ho shows Dong-hee Reporter Choi’s business, which she found in Moo-jin’s car. She plans on meeting him after school and invites her along.
Detective Park and his partner still haven’t found their main suspect despite their raid yesterday. His partner finds it suspicious that the figurehead known as “God Ice” went missing right before they came, and Detective Park orders him to investigate. Right then, Moo-jin barges into the station, and they collectively groan.
Teacher Lee hears about Dong-hee from In-ha, and seeing him grimace, Teacher Shin asks if Sun-ho’s parents are bothering him again. Teacher Lee yells at him for his comments and calls “it” pathetic. Assuming his remark was directed at him, Teacher Shin angrily shouts at Teacher Lee for his rudeness, but when he childishly brings up age, Teacher Ham scoffs at him.
Teacher Lee stands outside as he remembers Dong-hee mentioning how he treated her as a ghost like everyone else. The guilt weighs heavily on his heart as he lets out a sigh and hangs his head in shame. At the station, Detective Park tells Moo-jin that they need proof to support Dong-hee’s statement, and without a warrant, they can’t search Joon-suk’s phone. If they’re not going to act on it, Moo-jin refuses the detective’s request to meet Dong-hee.
He gets up to leave, but Detective Park stops Moo-jin and finally admits to sharing the same suspicions. Though an official investigation will be difficult, he still plans on investigating Sun-ho’s case. Moo-jin allows the detective to interview Dong-hee but only on the condition that he be present. As Moo-jin steps out, he overhears Detective Park’s partner announce the figurehead’s father is the school guard.
In-ha gets ready to stop by the school to talk with the school personnel again when two police officers look for her at the bakery. Apparently, they received complaints about her passing around her business card, and elsewhere, Sung-jae’s mother addresses a gathering of other mothers to discuss the issue of In-ha. She instructs them to file complaints and calls In-ha selfish, but Young-chul’s mother interrupts her self-pity speech.
She accuses Sung-jae’s mother for being shameless and pleads with the other mothers to empathize with In-ha. To their surprise, Joon-ha shows up and marches right up to their circle. She throws a glass of water in Sung-jae’s mother’s face and challenges her to keep this up if she wants to see what crazy really looks like. Sung-jae’s mother screams her head off, but Joon-ha walks away without even a glance back.
In-ha leaves the faculty office where the vice principal reprimands Teacher Lee for letting rumors about Joon-suk spread. He demands to know the informant’s identity, but Teacher Lee refuses to tell him. He calls himself and the school pathetic which enrages the vice principal further. Teacher Shin jumps between them and awkwardly shouts at Teacher Lee to follow him outside.
On her way out, In-ha sees the guard, and after briefly exchanging hellos, he asks her to pass along a gift he got for Sun-ho. It’s a cactus, known for its durability, and In-ha promises to take care of it until Sun-ho wakes up.
Soo-ho and Dong-hee meet with Reporter Choi, but when he hears that they came without her parents’ permissions, he tells them that he can’t write an article from their interview alone. He offers to listen to their story since they came out anyways. Elsewhere, Jin-pyo gets his usual report about the school, but more than the police investigation, he’s concerned about Reporter Choi and his snooping.
At the end of their meeting, Soo-ho asks when Reporter Choi will publish his article, but he says that it’ll take some time since he needs to gather more interviews and have his bases covered. Soo-ho offers to help any way she can, and Reporter Choi thanks her before heading off. In his car, he smiles to himself at the thought of Jin-pyo having a son who’s a spitting image of him.
Jin-pyo is on his way to a dinner meeting but has his driver turn the car around when he remembers the recording device in his home office. Eun-joo also remembers the device at that moment and takes it out to listen to the recording. While Jin-pyo grows nervous with each passing second, Eun-joo looks shocked by what she hears.
In-ha finds Moo-jin studying the security footage again, and she sighs about the lack of evidence they have despite all their discoveries. Moo-jin says that they don’t need evidence since he plans on beating up all the culprits himself, but his smile reassures In-ha that he’s merely joking. She wonders why he’s looking at the video again, but as she peeks over his shoulder, she tells him to pause it.
Jin-pyo rushes into the house, barely registering Eun-joo who is numbly sitting on the couch, and scours his office for the device. He can’t find it in his office, and then it hits him. Looking up, Jin-pyo stares through the window and sees Eun-joo standing there with the device in her hands.
In Sun-ho’s room, In-ha and Moo-jin stare at the paused video, and In-ha recognizes the car caught on camera as Eun-joo’s. Moo-jin plays the video, and they watch the car drive towards the back gate. The truth dawns on them as they both realize that Eun-joo was there the night of the incident.
It was hard enough to hear Dong-hee’s words about wanting to commit suicide last episode, but seeing her lose all hope and walk towards death was devasting to watch. She is still so young (not even sixteen by most standards), and yet she has experienced so much pain that death would be a welcome alternative to living. The part that tore my heart, though, wasn’t the bullying (which was absolutely terrible, and I don’t even want to translate what they texted), but the fact that she had internalized all the hateful comments thrown at her. Dong-hee thought of herself as a ghost, thus she saw no difference between life or death. The bullying caused her to value herself so little that she eventually believed that she was a burden to those who cared for her, and in my opinion, no person has the right to take away someone else’s worth like those kids did to Dong-hee. Moreover, the fact that the reason behind the bullying was because she stood up for someone else makes my blood boil, and a small part of me did want Dong-soo to beat those kids up. However, Moo-jin is right; physical violence won’t solve anything. In that moment, what Dong-hee needed most wasn’t someone who would fight her battles but a brother who would listen to her cries and show her love. Her bullies should be punished, but going out to beat them up would have served to appease Dong-soo’s anger more than help Dong-hee. She finally had the courage to share, and as Moo-jin learned from his own experience, the best course of action is simply to be present.
Unlike last time when Dong-hee had no one to trust or protect her, this time she’s surrounded by reliable adults and a loving brother who are looking out for her. After In-ha heard Dong-hee’s story, she immediately empathized with her, and just as she did with Soo-ho, In-ha relates to Dong-hee by sharing her own struggles. In-ha is willing to be vulnerable in order to reach out to other people, and it’s an amazing skill she has that shows just how kind and loving she is. Besides In-ha, I also loved the way Moo-jin stood up for Dong-hee by giving her a choice. Though her statement helps their case, he understands the risks and gives her the option to turn away without any judgement on his part. It’s a selfless gesture that puts Dong-hee’s needs above his own, and given the circumstances, it amazes me how compassionate both In-ha and Moo-jin are despite all the self-centeredness and evil they witnessed through this tragedy. Lastly, Teacher Lee is also becoming an ally to Dong-hee and repenting his past mistakes. The anger he feels this episode is directed at the school but also at himself. He realizes what a pathetic teacher he used to be and seems to have a renewed sense of duty. Instead of skirting his duty and turning a blind eye towards all the lies, he’s actively protecting Dong-hee and sticking to his principles. Throughout the show, Teacher Lee was always depicted as a realistic teacher—the one who does his job but nothing more. Teaching is a hard profession with very little institutionalized support in place to help teachers thrive, hence it becomes easy for teachers to only care about the students superficially. Teacher Lee was the prime example of an average teacher who showed signs of burnout, and the troubles he faced weren’t about outright corruption (though there clearly is some) but actual, real-life issues that need school-wide reforms. Though the show is about Sun-ho’s family and their fight for justice, the message conveyed is much more than that. It’s a question thrown to the audience about society and our own complacency.
While I would describe A Beautiful World as many things, “exciting” wouldn’t have made the list for me…until this episode. As more attention was put on Jin-pyo, a new source of tension was introduced. Eun-joo is a fascinating character who is twisted like her husband, but as the guard described her, she feels frail and ready to fall apart at any moment. Though she lies and commits horrible crimes, she doesn’t enjoy her actions and lives in anxiety every day. On the other hand, Jin-pyo readily uses underhanded tactics to get what he wants because he truly believes he’s above the law. When he threatens to kill the guard’s son, it didn’t feel like a bluff, and what really sold his threat was his reasoning behind it: no one would miss a drug addict if he disappeared. He shows such little regard to those he considers beneath him, and this makes him a terrifying antagonist. All those perverse advice Jin-pyo spouts to Eun-joo and Joon-suk are genuine beliefs he holds, and it reveals how dangerous Jin-pyo is because he feels entitled to his status and will do anything to maintain it. Now that we know Jin-pyo is actually an informed and active participant in the coverup of Sun-ho’s case, there’s an immediate sense of danger that wasn’t there before. Unlike Eun-joo, Jin-pyo won’t use fake tears and half-truths to get what he wants, and the uncertainty he brings as a character to the plot is oddly thrilling.
The most unnerving thing about Jin-pyo for me is how very easy it would be to depict him as a good father. Without any context, Jin-pyo could sound like a strict but loving father who wants the best for his son. He constantly offers Joon-suk guidance when he needs help, and like most good parents out there, he wants to help him succeed in life. On paper, he seems perfect, but that’s the careful image he’s created all these years. Even in his role as the school’s director, Jin-pyo knows the correct things to say and do. He rarely has to voice his true intentions out loud because he’s so skilled at manipulating people and words. However, there’s no way to defend his actions, and in a world filled with grey characters, he clearly falls on one side. He’s raising Joon-suk to be a monster, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. His actions are deliberate, and his words are chosen with precision. He’s constantly testing those around him without fully revealing his own cards, and he enjoys wielding power over others. However, even though Jin-pyo might be the big bad at the end of this tale, the true evil isn’t just one rich and powerful man but the larger society that has allowed him to thrive and prosper at the expense of others. That’s the real horror that should haunt us at the end of the day.