Monthly Magazine Home: Episode 1
It’s a literal battle between the haves and the have-nots, as two very different people meet and find themselves on opposite ends of the property ownership divide. But a dramatic first encounter is obviously not the end for these two, and they find their lives entangled to a degree that dismays them both.
EPISODE 1: “A man who buys a house, a woman who lives in a house”
As we look across a city, in voiceover, YOO JA-SUNG (Kim Ji-suk) describes the disparity between the increase in salaries versus house prices in the city—always a losing proposition for the average worker. Rewind to three years ago and we see him buying out an entire neighborhood of town homes, as he narrates that to him, houses represent one thing: Money. What a peach.
We see the town boom as it grows up until the present, property prices having tripled—and of course Ja-sung is the king of this very shiny hill. As well as the force behind the eviction of NA YOUNG-WON (Jung So-min), who was traveling and never got the message that the property was sold.
She’s refusing to leave, despite suited men trying to physically force her to, when Ja-sung shows up and takes her to lunch. As she tells Ja-sung over lunch, she was renting a house whose owner defaulted on their mortgage and was auctioned off—and Young-won, taken by surprise, has nowhere to go.
She’s lost her rental deposit and her job, since she returned home today to find that the magazine she works for is shutting down. She asks Ja-sung for some time until she can get another job and a place to live.
Feeling assured that he understands, she cheerfully follows him back to the house—only to find that Ja-sung’s men have emptied out her stuff onto a truck while they were at the restaurant. She feels betrayed, but he says he only agreed to talk. He tells her to take the cost of the food as her moving fee.
In a total rage, she beats him up with her takeout bag of boiled pork. Good girl. Nightfall finds her still stuck on the side of the road with the moving truck, with no destination.
In the morning she finds her way to cheap, broken down apartment that looks barely livable—but she tells herself not to lose heart, completely transforms the place, and starts to ask around about work.
Three months pass, without a single job prospect. And then, her sunbae YEO EUI-JOO (Chae Jung-ahn) recommends her for an interview at Monthly Magazine Home, and she gets in easily.
Editor in Chief CHOI GO (Kim Won-hae) introduces her to the others: Eui-joo’s fellow editor NAM SANG-SOON (Ahn Chang-hwan), and assistants MI-RA (Lee Hwa-kyum) and JOO-HWI (Lee Ji-won). She’s just settling in when she hear’s Ja-sung’s signature, “Stop.” He’s the CEO. Of course he is.
Editor Choi introduces her, and she mumbles her name, cringing away from him—but he doesn’t recognize her. Eui-joo tells Young-won that he’s their new CEO; he owns a real estate investment company worth tens of billions, and makes vlogs.
Young-won soon finds out that she was hired as Ja-sung’s exclusive editor, and her job is to write articles to market the houses he’s putting up for sale. He takes her to the first one, a fancy mansion, but she makes a gaffe due to her lack of real estate knowledge in front of the homeowner. Ja-sung warns that she’d better study up and write a good article, or she’s fired.
Eui-joo tells Young-won that the last five hires quit because they didn’t want to write advertisements for Ja-sung’s properties—and now it makes sense how easily she got the job. They needed someone desperate enough to sacrifice her pride, and Young-won, though it stings, needs the money.
Ja-sung takes Young-won to a photo shoot for the house she’s writing up, except that he has to track down prodigy photographer SHIN GYEOM (Jung Geon-joo) first and force him to join. Ja-sung chases him close to Young-won and tells her to grab him, and she tries—only to trip and collide with him instead. Ja-sung warns Gyeom that he’d better start working as he promised.
Young-won goes to Gyeom’s studio to select photos, and then as she helps him unpack, learns that Ja-sung used to be his tutor—they’re as close as real brothers.
The magazine office is tense as they approach deadline. Even worse, Ja-sung rejects draft after draft of Young-won’s article because it has too much humanity and not enough commercialism. Can I just say that my soul is wilting along with her.
The others are worried she’ll quit, but Eui-joo assures them she won’t. Young-won has endured all kinds of humiliation and even physical pain in the past, always with a smile for her awful superiors, until she finally made to editor through sheer grit.
Young-won stays late at the office finishing, but Ja-sung unexpectedly returns while she’s in full relaxed mode with her bun and glasses. She hides, worried he’ll recognize her, but he sees her anyway—and this time recognizes her immediately as “Boiled Pork.”
She forces out an apology and pleads for him not to fire her. And besides, she points out, it’s not as though he can easily find a replacement now that everyone knows what a bastard he is.
He spitefully calls her Na Zero-won and tells her to go home. She worries he might actually fire her, but he grudgingly approves her draft.
The magazine comes out, but Young-won’s not exactly excited to see her byline. That evening Ja-sung agrees to a company dinner so Editor Go will stop bugging him about it, but imposes a one-drink, two hour limit on the gathering.
In a quiet moment, Young-won asks Ja-sung if the homeowner liked the article she wrote, and he agrees that the article he dictated was good. “Don’t write what you want from now on. Write what tell you,” he tells her. Ugh, can someone just give him a nice hard slap upside the head?
Back at the table, Young-won finishes her beer and asks for another, telling Ja-sung she’ll pay for herself from here on. “Do what you want, Na Zero-won,” says Ja-sung, and Editor Go laughs, though Eui-joo stands up for her.
Young-won ends up totally wasted, and since Ja-sung’s the only one who didn’t drink, her co-workers leave Young-won for him to drive home. Young-won gets out of his car, insisting she’ll take a taxi…only to return and treat him like a cab driver.
She comes to her senses and gets out near her place, embarrassed, but soon sees a man following her in the empty street, and trembles in fear until she realizes he’s her neighbor.
Relieved, she goes into her home—but this time there really is a man waiting to attack her. Oh no. He pulls a knife on her, when suddenly Ja-sung appears and subdues him.
At the police station, the man’s mother—Young-won’s landlady—defends her son as just “wanting to look in on a tenant.” Puke. Ja-sung points out that’s trespassing, with a weapon to boot, but the woman tells Young-won to get out. Young-won retorts that she has no intention of staying anyway.
Ja-sung returns her phone, which she’d dropped in his car (which is why he followed her) and says he’ll drive her somewhere she can stay temporarily. “And then what?” she asks. “Will a comfortable home just appear?”
Young-won finally breaks down, crying that she’s done nothing but work hard for the last ten years, and yet she hasn’t gotten anywhere. There are so many houses out there, but she still doesn’t have a home of her own. Ja-sung silently takes her to one of his empty apartments and tells her he’ll charge rent but not a deposit.
The rest of the magazine staff are still drinking, and they wonder how Young-won’s survived until now. Mi-ra, who’s a big fan of Young-won’s, says it’s all in her Single Household Living series.
We hear the secret in Young-won’s voiceover: her home was her refuge at the end of the day, where she sought comfort and relieved her stress. “Although I didn’t own it, because I had a place where I could be myself, I was able to hold on all this time.”
She has confidence she can do the same in this new apartment, and wonders how extravagant Ja-sung’s home must be if he can easily rent a place like this to her with no deposit. But we see Ja-sung go home to a spacious but completely bare apartment.
Meanwhile, someone tries to enter Young-won’s new place as she’s in the middle of watching Ja-sung’s vlog. A comment under the video warns, “Don’t be fooled by this bastard.”
I’m so glad to see Kim Ji-suk back on my screen, although his character is fully terrible right now and will have a hard road to hoe his way into my good graces. And Jung So-min is always wonderful. I found this first episode, entertaining though it was, so full of old-fashioned tropes that I was rolling my eyes a bit. A heroine so poor she’s literally homeless; a hero who not only was instrumental in kicking her out of her home but now is her boss and her landlord. Like the male leads of yore, Ja-sung spent almost the entire first episode tricking her, humiliating her, ridiculing her and threatening to fire her. Not to mention that he miraculously swooped in to save her from that attack in a very old-school alpha kind of way. I’ve honestly lost a lot of my taste for these gigantic power gap romances in recent years, but Kim Ji-suk and Jung So-min are charismatic enough, and so far have a good enough spark of chemistry, that I’m willing to bite.
I do like that this drama directly tackles the topic of housing insecurity and scarcity that’s facing not only urban Koreans but so many people who live in rapidly gentrifying cities across the world. In real life, a predatory house flipper who gleefully uses the law to evict people and increase his gross piles of money with no care for any homelessness he might be contributing to would the villain, not the male lead—but I suppose we’ll set that aside for now and accept that the premise of the drama is Ja-sung’s development into a slightly less cold-blooded person. There’s also the backstory about his humble beginnings and that weirdly empty apartment that hint at something more complex. (Grasping at straws here, okay.)
The heart of this drama so far, though, is Young-won in all her misery and sheer downtrodden bloody-minded determination to survive. (Presumably part of that is the family she’s been financially supporting since she first started working.) She put up with so much to claw her way to a job where she had a creative voice and a modicum of respect, only to lose it all and face the professional nightmare of writing recycled commercial dreck at the behest of a boss who doesn’t acknowledge her talent or her efforts. I was cringing in secondhand embarrassment when Ja-sung called her Na Zero-won in front of her co-workers. No wonder she drank so much.
Casually giving her one of his spare apartments to rent without a deposit is not nearly enough to make up for anything he’s done to her so far. And it’s yet another way that she’s now become dependent on him. But Young-won is tough and, as Eui-joo pointed out, has survived far worse—I’m sure she’ll find a sneaky way to get back at him. I don’t love that the drama has thrown every misfortune but the kitchen sink at Young-won over the course of the first hour to show us how energizer-bunny-like she is, but it does mean that we got to see more aspects of her character than the so-far one-dimensional Ja-sung.
Apart from Eui-joo, who seems like a decent (if sometimes too blunt) friend, I’m not sure how to feel about the other Monthly Magazine Home staff quite yet. They seem friendly, but they’re also fine leaving their new, very drunk female coworker for their unpleasant CEO to deal with. They acknowledge her talent and grit, but they also pretty openly pity her. But we don’t know much about anyone yet, and so far the drama has been so busy setting up this workplace dynamic, and especially the antagonism between its leads, that we haven’t gotten a chance to get to know anyone but Young-won and Ja-sung.
It seems as though one this drama’s themes will be about what a home means to different people. Not just the basic dichotomy of living vs. selling in Young-won and Ja-sung’s conflict, but why it’s so important to have a place to go home to at the end of the day. For Young-won, it’s a place where she can let out all the rage and frustration of her job, because she lives alone and doesn’t have to worry about keeping up appearances in front of anyone—not her coworkers, who she has to be professional with, and not her mother, who she never shares her problems with. (I would have done more than just shout curse words into a mirror if someone CUT OFF ALL MY HAIR for a job I didn’t even end up doing.) Having a home is a basic right of life that’s denied to so many. I’m not under any illusions that this fluffy rom-com is going to address the real problem of homelessness, but there’s a hint of melancholy in this drama’s more contemplative moments that I like a lot. (Much better than Young-won’s forced eviction being played for laughs, that’s for sure.)
- Premiere Watch: At a Distance Spring Is Green, Monthly Magazine Home, Hospital Playlist 2, Nevertheless, Voice 4
- Boiled pork and falling books bring Kim Ji-suk and Jung So-min together in Monthly Magazine Home
- Jung So-min, Kim Ji-suk showcase their homes in Monthly Magazine Home
- Jung So-min and Kim Ji-suk confirmed for new JTBC housing drama