A Beautiful World: Episode 6
When adults don’t act like adults, the children suffer as a result because they aren’t taught how to face their mistakes, repent, and grow. Though children can commit heinous crimes and display utter malice, they are also capable of change because of their youthful innocence. However, if all they see and learn are examples of adults hiding their sins for personal gain, how can we expect them to become better people?
EPISODE 6 RECAP: The Weight of Truth and Lies
Joon-suk admits to Eun-joo that he saw her take Sun-ho’s shoes the night of the incident and holds her responsible if Sun-ho dies. She slaps him across the face but immediately regrets it as Joon-suk stares at her with hurt eyes. He runs out of the house, and Jin-pyo happens to see him leave. Meanwhile, at the hospital, In-ha and Moo-jin watch over Sun-ho and gasp when he moves his fingers. Moo-jin calls for the doctor who checks on their son.
Jin-pyo comes home and immediately approaches Eun-joo to ask what’s wrong. She takes issue with his commanding tone, and her small outburst surprises them both. Recomposing herself, Eun-joo explains Joon-suk’s behavior as stress-related, but Jin-pyo looks unconvinced. He reminds her that he’s her husband and Joon-suk’s father, but Eun-joo seethes, “How could I forget that.”
She asks if Jin-pyo even knows their son since all he does is order, criticize, and enforce. She disagrees with his parenting style, but Jin-pyo argues that her overprotectiveness is ruining Joon-suk. As the heir to his family’s foundation, Jin-pyo won’t raise a fool, and Eun-joo sadly notes how he’s parroting his father. He watches her leave to find Joon-suk and thinks back to the morning after the incident when he found the school uniform button in the toilet and flushed it down.
The doctor tells In-ha and Moo-jin that Sun-ho’s movements are a positive sign, but given the brain damage shown in his previous scans, a full recovery is still unlikely. Though cases of patients in a vegetative state recovering have occurred, the doctor calls these instances miracles. Both parents refuse to give up hope and ask for another MRI scan.
Eun-joo searches for Joon-suk as their earlier confrontation keeps playing in her head. His condemning words finally break her, and Eun-joo collapses to the floor, sobbing. Elsewhere, Joon-suk aimlessly wanders the streets, also haunted by an argument—but his is with Sun-ho.
The night of the incident, Sun-ho told Joon-suk that Da-hee tried to kill herself because of him. Joon-suk acknowledged the fact that he toyed with Da-hee because Sun-ho had a crush on her, but he argued that Da-hee was still alive and fine. Sun-ho punched Joon-suk in response, and ordered him to tell the truth.
Joon-suk yelled at Sun-ho, asking if he didn’t believe his friend, but Sun-ho said they were no longer friends. Though he wanted to believe Joon-suk wasn’t a bad person, Sun-ho realized what a pretentious coward Joon-suk really was. Remembering their last fight, Joon-suk stands in the middle of the street and cries.
Detective Park’s partner shows him the CCTV footage of Sun-ho talking with someone before heading towards the school, but they can only see the other person’s yellow backpack. Though his partner thinks that they’ve done all they can, Detective Park studies the footage and zooms in on the other person.
Still at the hospital, In-ha and Moo-jin discuss how they’ll move forward with Sun-ho’s case, and In-ha wants a retrial. Moo-jin tells her that it would be meaningless, but In-ha argues that if they let this pass with such a light punishment, then those students will never learn their lesson and repeat their crimes. She accuses him of avoiding conflict as always, but this time, she begs him to fight for Sun-ho.
Joon-ha overhears their conversation, but before she can go, Moo-jin steps out of the room. Playing peacemaker, Joon-ha tells Moo-jin that he and In-ha balance each other since if they were both the same, then it would either cause an explosion or immense frustration. Inside the room, Joon-ha also cheers up In-ha, interpreting Sun-ho’s recent improvement as his signal to them.
She then mentions how Moo-jin is fighting in his own way, too. Rather than see Moo-jin as indecisive, Joon-ha calls him thoughtful since he even cares about the perpetrators. In-ha doesn’t understand why he would worry about the students who hurt Sun-ho, but Joon-ha explains that he’s just unbelievably kind, which was exactly why In-ha married him in the first place.
On his drive home, Moo-jin remembers when Sun-ho asked if he could learn boxing in order to get stronger. Moo-jin told him that true strength comes from the heart and being kind. Instead of boxing, he suggested they run together if Sun-ho wanted to exercise. In the present, Moo-jin sighs, realizing the missed signs Sun-ho sent him, and as he waits at a red light, Joon-suk walks past him.
Moo-jin gets out and asks Joon-suk why he’s outside so late at night. He offers him a ride home, and during the drive, Moo-jin invites Joon-suk to visit Sun-ho since Joon-suk owes Sun-ho an apology. Before dropping him off, Moo-jin tells Joon-suk that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, but Moo-jin believes the important part is what comes afterwards. Just as Sun-ho is trying his best to recover and moved his hand, Moo-jin wants Joon-suk to try his best to become a better person.
Eun-joo arrives just as Joon-suk comes home, but when she reaches out to caress his face, he pulls away. He tells her that Sun-ho moved his hand today, and in a panicked voice, he asks what will happen if Sun-ho wakes up. Joon-suk considers confessing to Moo-jin since he might forgive him, but Eun-joo forbids him from doing so.
She tells him that nothing happened that day because he came home with her after cram school. Though Joon-suk expresses doubt, she repeats her lie to him again and again. He asks who could have sent the video, and remembers hearing Sun-ho’s phone ring that night on the roof. In-ha stares at him in shock since this means someone besides them knows the truth.
Moo-jin checks on Soo-ho who fell asleep with her laptop on her bed. He puts her laptop back on her desk and notices her petition. Back in Joon-suk’s house, Jin-pyo orders someone over the phone to keep investigating and warns him to be cautious while tailing the person. After finishing his call, he sternly watches Eun-joo through their glass walls.
Moo-jin reads Soo-ho’s petition, and as he stares at her sleeping, she narrates her petition in voiceover. She describes her brother as a kind and ordinary student, but a couple days ago, her family received news of him falling from the school rooftop. Though the police and school concluded his suicide as caused by stress over grades, Soo-ho explains that her brother was the victim of school violence.
She narrates how the perpetrators were none other than Sun-ho’s best friends, but rather than show remorse, the perpetrators claim that it was all a game and never apologized. The screen shows images of the students continuing their lives as if nothing happened while Joon-suk fails to reach Da-hee. Soo-ho finishes her petition with a final plea, asking people to join her family’s fight in getting justice for her brother.
Having woken up, Soo-ho finds Moo-jin in Sun-ho’s room, and when she asks if he’s okay, Moo-jin says that he’s fine. He compliments Soo-ho’s writing skills and calls her brave just like her mother. He worries, though, that she might have a tough time at school tomorrow, but Soo-ho says that it’s okay if she isn’t fine. However, that message is more for Moo-jin than Soo-ho, and she assures him that it’s not cowardly to admit you’re not okay. She hugs her dad, and he can barely contain his tears.
The vice principal instructs the three students to write letters of apology but is called away by Teacher Shin for an urgent matter. Soo-ho’s petition has caused waves in the faculty office, and the vice principal yells at Teacher Lee and Ham. He wants the petition removed in order to stop false rumors from spreading, but Teacher Lee informs him that it’s illegal to take down petitions—also adding on that the petition doesn’t contain any lies.
Teacher Lee’s comments enrage the vice principal, and he screams for Soo-ho to be brought before him immediately. Teacher Ham suggests that she speak with Soo-ho personally, but the vice principal construes her recommendation as defiance and blows up at them. He eventually calms down after noticing all the teachers shooting furtive glances in his direction, and he orders Teacher Lee to set up a meeting with Sun-ho’s parents.
Sung-jae’s mother visits In-ha with an envelope of cash as an expression of her sincere apology. In-ha counts the money in front of her and asks if this is all her sincerity is worth. Sung-jae’s mother takes offense at her attitude, arguing how one shouldn’t measure sincerity in money, and In-ha throws her words right back, revealing the hypocrisy in her actions.
Ki-chan’s mother barges into the bakery, also here because of Soo-ho’s petition, but she directs her anger at Sung-jae’s mother when she sees the cash on the table. She can’t believe Sung-jae’s mother came to settle on her own, and the two mothers start fighting inside the bakery—putting on the full spectacle of hair pulling and screaming. When they refuse to leave, In-ha shoves cake in their faces, and the mothers finally hobble out.
The only one with an ounce of decency, Young-chul’s mother reads Soo-ho’s petition, and after much deliberation, she signs it. At school, the girl Soo-ho fought with in the bathroom runs up to Soo-ho and proudly tells her that she signed her petition. She apologizes for last time, and in order to make it up to Soo-ho, she even saved up her money to buy people snacks in exchange for information.
She informs Soo-ho about Ki-chan’s interview and how he tried to frame Joon-suk as the ringleader. No one believes him, though, and instead, they all feel bad for Joon-suk since his friend betrayed him. Everyone gossips about Soo-ho’s petition, but the comments range mostly from annoyance to outright mockery of the situation. The continued buzz irritates Joon-suk, and as he leaves, Dong-hee observes him the entire time.
Teacher Lee asks Teacher Ham about Dong-hee’s reason for transferring, and she explains how Dong-hee became a target for bullying at her old school after she reported a case of school violence. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough evidence to solve her case, and to complicate matters, Dong-hee’s mother accepted compensation from the bullies’ families under the condition of Dong-hee’s transfer.
The principal and school personnel meet with In-ha and Moo-jin, asking them to reconsider their retrial request. The principal as well the vice principal claim that the students are repenting, but their words ring hollow to Moo-jin who remembers repeating the same things in defense of Dong-soo. Though the vice principal attempts to appeal to Moo-jin as an educator, Moo-jin feels ashamed for that exact reason and thinks the children are getting hurt because the adults aren’t acting appropriately. After leaving the meeting, In-ha silently places her hand on top of Moo-jin’s.
Sung-jae’s mother talks with Eun-joo about the petition, but Eun-joo doesn’t see what the problem is since Soo-ho merely wrote on her assumptions without any evidence. Sung-jae’s mother argues that the average person is swayed by herd mentality, but with an almost mocking smile, Eun-joo asks if Sung-jae’s mother considers herself to be part of the privileged class. In contrast to her composed behavior from before, Eun-joo paces nervously when alone and sees the number of signatures hit 70.
Reporter Choi pesters Detective Park for information on Sun-ho’s case, but the detective tells him that nothing definitive has come out. He changes the topic to Reporter Choi’s sexual harassment case, which ended up as false charges, and Detective Park points out how people only remember the lawsuit and not the verdict. He warns the reporter against writing articles based on suspicions since he might accidently kill a tadpole. Reporter Choi corrects him, since the phrase is about a frog, but Detective Park says that they’re still minors.
The three students clean the school’s gym as part of their volunteer work, but when they finish, Sung-jae and Young-chul don’t even say goodbye to Ki-chan as they head out to eat pizza with Joon-suk. Soo-ho enters the gym and is glad to see him all alone as a result of his lie about Joon-suk. Ki-chan says that he’s telling the truth, but having seen the video, Soo-ho accuses him of being the most excited. Though she ignores him, Soo-ho doesn’t seem very convinced that Ki-chan is lying.
The fathers call Moo-jin to a private bar room, and Sung-jae’s father talks about the inconveniences of a retrial. When Moo-jin tells them to get to the point, Ki-chan’s father jumps in and accuses Moo-jin of manipulating the press through Soo-ho’s petition. Moo-jin swipes all the food off the table, and his uncharacteristically violent action leaves the other fathers petrified.
As Moo-jin steps out of the bar, he gets a call from the police station and picks up Dong-soo who fought with his employers. Dong-soo defends his actions since they hit first, but Moo-jin has grown tired of his repeated mistakes. Feeling indignant, Dong-soo tells him to stop concerning himself with him, then, and just take care of his son.
His words pierce Moo-jin, and in his anger, he slaps Dong-soo across the face twice. He promises to stop caring about him, and Dong-soo watches him leave while fighting back his tears. Moo-jin’s rage turns into emptiness as he looks down as his hand that slapped his own student. He momentarily stops and stares up into the sky before resuming his trudge home.
Eun-joo brings a gift basket to Sun-ho’s room, but seeing him reminds her of Joon-suk and his worries about Sun-ho waking up. She reaches for his oxygen supply, looking determined to kill him, but when In-ha comes back to the room, Sun-ho is still safe and sound. She shares the good news with Eun-joo about Sun-ho’s movement and thanks her for all her help.
In-ha asks if Eun-joo saw the petition since it will probably affect her family. Though In-ha recognizes Joon-suk’s repentance, she can’t stop fighting until the truth is revealed. Eun-joo cautiously says that In-ha might be overthinking the shoelaces and jumping to conclusions, but In-ha wonders how she knew about the laces. Eun-joo lies about hearing it from In-ha at the bakery, and she buys it for now.
Before Eun-joo leaves, In-ha asks to speak with Joon-suk, and hiding her trepidation, Eun-joo agrees to pass along the message. Once alone, a twinge of suspicion creeps into In-ha, and she calls Joon-ha, who confirms the fact that she never mentioned the laces to Eun-joo. Armed with this new knowledge, In-ha paces around the room and questions Eun-joo’s good will.
Meanwhile, with a look of mounting panic, Eun-joo drives to a secluded location under a bridge and nervously glances at the clock. A mysterious hand knocks on her window, and as Eun-joo turns to face her co-conspirator, it’s the school’s security guard.
Episode after episode, I’m amazed by the little details within the show that convey so much meaning. Even characters that initially feel throwaway come back and add depth to the story. The use of Soo-ho’s classmate was brilliant in this regard. In general, it was a cute scene of an innocent middle schooler who apologizes for her mistake and wants to be friends with our prickly but lovable Soo-ho (she even refrained from buying her idol’s products which she adorably boasted). It served its purpose to bring our little hero Soo-ho up to speed, but what could have been a simple expository scene was made into a touching and riveting exploration into the influence of adults on children. Soo-ho’s classmate made a mistake like so many students in the story, but unlike the others, she was met with forgiveness and kindness. This small moment from In-ha has changed this student to not only recognize what she did wrong but propel her to become a better person. A completely minor character who is mostly tangential to the main plot has shown the greatest amount of sincerity out of all the perpetrators thus far, and the show subtly reveals how children can change if the adults around them act properly. The solution isn’t to coddle and protect students from the consequences of their actions like Ki-chan’s and Sung-jae’s parents, but to hold them accountable in an empathetic manner that teaches them repentance and how to move forward. Jin-pyo wasn’t wrong when he called for a restorative rather than retributive justice, but to earnestly do that, it must start off with reconciliation.
The scene of Soo-ho’s classmate felt more powerful to me because it came after Joon-suk’s giant reveal. As In-ha showed the classmate kindness, Moo-jin did the same for Joon-suk, and for a moment, it seemed like Joon-suk would have confessed and asked for forgiveness if he was given a little more guidance. The flashback of his fight with Sun-ho showed that Joon-suk craves for acceptance more than he lets on, but he expresses this in a twisted and damaging way. He clearly wanted Sun-ho to believe him because he’s his friend, so when Sun-ho rejected him—both his claims and his friendship—it hurt Joon-suk who chose to lash out. The memories of their last fight cause Joon-suk to cry, and to me, it felt like genuine tears of remorse. For the first time, we see Joon-suk regret his actions that have led up to this situation, and the show reminds us that he’s still a child who knows no better than what the adults around him teach. Coupled with Sun-ho’s words and distrust in him, I’m sure Eun-joo’s actions also reinforced in Joon-suk that not even the closest people around him will believe him. It must have been devasting to watch his mother mess with the scene because it showed how she thought Joon-suk could have intentionally pushed his best friend off the rooftop even when he said it was an accident. In one night, two of Joon-suk’s closest people don’t believe him and call him, directly and indirectly, a terrible person. Just as the classmate learned from In-ha, there was a glimmer of hope for Joon-suk to repent and grow as well. Unfortunately, his parents aren’t In-ha and Moo-jin but Eun-joo and Jin-pyo. Once again, we see how adults are harming the children, but almost ironically, they don’t seem to realize the damage they cause. In the fight between Eun-joo and Jin-pyo, they blame the other for ruining their son, but in reality, both are creating a mini-monster. Just as In-ha and Moo-jin are quite similar despite being opposites, Eun-joo and Jin-pyo resemble each other even if they look different on the outside. It’s truly a shame to see the adults destroying the world one child at a time, especially when there are examples like the classmate showing how easy it is to influence children to become better people.
No character seems to realize the weight of this lesson better than Moo-jin. This tragedy has been a catalyst for Moo-jin to reflect on his life and teachings, almost to a breaking point. While frustrating at times, Moo-jin is still a kind soul, and like Joon-ha, I want to interpret his indecisiveness as thoughtfulness. Moo-jin isn’t trying to dismiss the truth in order to avoid conflict, but he is just slower to act than In-ha because he would much rather be hurt than inadvertently hurt others. Therefore, he always shoulders the burden by himself and worries about his family first and foremost. This may also be why he’s always pretending to be fine and probably convinced himself that he is sometimes. However, Soo-ho sees through all this because, from the beginning, she was the observant one who silently watched her parents and gave them space to cry. Thus, it’s no surprise that Soo-ho recognizes the pain Moo-jin is going through, and despite her young age, she knows exactly how to comfort him. She doesn’t push him to confess his feelings but gently reminds him that it’s okay to be sad. Her simple words of comfort are a powerful reminder that grief isn’t a bad thing and admitting that you’re not okay doesn’t mean you aren’t brave.
Seeing Moo-jin’s kindness again and again really made his last scenes jarring. It was as if he finally blew up from all the pressure of bottling his emotions and decided to push back against the world. The internal struggle he faces is a complex dilemma without black and white answers. On one hand, I find Moo-jin to be an admirable teacher who goes beyond the call of duty to help his student Dong-soo who needs guidance. However, now in the seat of the parent, Moo-jin starts to see how cold and callous his remarks may have seemed to the victims and their family. He questions his own actions and intentions, coming to the realization that maybe his choices have actually caused more harm than good for both his students and his family. It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what Moo-jin should have done better because life is complicated and requires complex solutions. There’s no magic bullet that will answer all of life’s problems, though sometimes I wish there was one. As Moo-jin ponders these questions alone, his frustrations and hurt come out in a negative way as he confronts the two fathers and Dong-soo. The quiet Moo-jin lashes out, and for the first time, we see him intentionally hurt others. While the two fathers deserved Moo-jin’s outburst, his physical contact with Dong-soo was uncalled for, but Moo-jin seems to acknowledge this, too. It’s true that Dong-soo crossed the line first when he mentioned Sun-ho, but Moo-jin was clearly not himself in that moment. The culmination of all the day’s events along with the ongoing battle within himself over his role as a father and teacher put Moo-jin in a very precarious mental state, so when Dong-soo called him out for essentially caring too much about him and not his own son, Moo-jin snapped. While I’m glad Moo-jin is reflecting on his actions (or inaction), I still love his inherent kindness and positive outlook on life, so I’m hoping that he’ll take his own advice and not let his past mistakes define who he is.