Monthly Magazine Home: Episode 2
In this episode, we learn a little more about each of our characters and what “home” means to them. While some may go to great extremes in order to get (or keep) one, others are content so long as they have a place to exist and feel comfortable. It’s a roller coaster of an episode, but it balances out the zanier moments with some thoughtful conversations, depth of character in surprising places, and even hints of serious darkness.
EPISODE 2: “I wish I had a house of my own”
Young-won’s solitude is broken when someone tries to key in the door code. She goes nervously to answer the door. Thankfully, it’s just a security guard. He seems unsure about her presence, even after she explains that she just moved in tonight, but he leaves after telling her to lock up well.
Young-won watches Ja-sung’s video, where he introduces himself as “Gaeryong” Yoo Ja-sung, meaning “a dragon that’s risen from a ditch.” Young-won mumbles that not everyone can succeed the way he did, but – as if answering her directly – video Ja-sung tells her to get rid of that defeatist attitude.
“Instead of cursing the darkness,” he says, “light a candle.” He promises to be that candle for his viewers. By following his methods and working their hardest, he guarantees that anyone can own a house.
The next day, Ja-sung surveys an apartment complex, personally checking the distance on foot to nearby amenities like the subway station and schools. His driver offers to do the walking for him, but Ja-sung only trusts his own eyes and ears (and feet) to make sure the building is worth buying. He’s pleased with what he finds, and immediately transfers two billion won (about two million dollars) to his driver to buy all of the available units in the complex… and then has him drive to the next gas station over because the price is two cents cheaper.
At the office, he finds Young-won happily cleaning and singing her little song of real estate terms to memorize. She wants to repay his kindness for leasing her the apartment without a deposit. He insists she doesn’t owe him anything beyond monthly rent, and stops her when she praises him for helping people like herself through his videos. He does them solely to promote his company.
Young-won is surprised that the other magazine employees know about his videos, since he has so few subscribers. At that, he bristles and says that it’s ahead of its time and is sure to be acknowledged later.
In the break room, Eui-joo asks about last night, wondering if Ja-sung demanded gas money. Young-won hesitantly tells her about the apartment situation, but Eui-joo doesn’t believe he would do that without some sort of scheme in mind.
Ja-sung confirms with the security guard that Young-won is indeed his tenant. The guard is still concerned, and asks if Young-won knows what kind of place it is. Ja-sung cuts the conversation short, but the guard worries that she wouldn’t stay there if she knew what sort of place this was.
Young-won finishes decorating her apartment and declares that it finally feels like her home now. She settles in for Ja-sung’s next video, where he talks about evaluating one’s spending and not wasting money.
That makes Young-won balk, and she totals up her monthly expenses (including a hefty chunk for “supporting Mom”), which come up to almost a million won, even without groceries. She sighs that this is why she can’t save up and that she isn’t wasting anything, but an imaginary video screen of Ja-sung pops up to say she’s lying.
The next day, imaginary videos of Ja-sung scold her whenever she starts to spend money. One pops up on the t-shirt of another patron at the coffee shop; another on the screen of an ATM that charges a withdrawal fee. Each time, she tries to justify spending a little, but imaginary Ja-sung asks if she wants to be poor, and Young-won’s shoulders slump in defeat.
Eui-joo shows her an online sale, reasoning that spending is saving in this case. She shows Young-won how much she’s saving by purchasing the clothes now, and Young-won is inspired…until imaginary Ja-sung pops up on her phone too.
Editor Choi gives Young-won her next assignment: an advertorial for a five-million-won armchair, which she notes is just as much as a deposit for a lease.
Sang-soon suddenly dances into the room, singing like he’s just stepped out of a musical. He’s in a great mood, because he’s a candidate for an apartment through the merit-based housing subscription system, and he’s confident that he’ll get it.
The others tell Young-won that Sang-soon feels he has to own an apartment before he’ll be qualified to marry his girlfriend. (Currently, he’s broke and living with his parents.)
They ask if Young-won has a subscription account, and she thinks back to five years ago, when a bank teller had suggested getting one. She’d blanked out at the long explanation and then declined – she was there to cancel her savings altogether, because she was struggling to pay rent. She resolves to start saving up for a home now.
She heads to Gyeom’s studio for a storyboard meeting, and is shocked to learn that he lives there. An alarm goes off on his phone, and he rushes to his laptop to frantically click away until he succeeds in buying a pricey limited-edition tent that sells out almost immediately. Then his friend JANG CHAN (Yoon Ji-on) arrives with a package – a new chair that’s the same as two others he already has, just in a different color.
Young-won thinks this spending is too much, and even more so when she sees his fancy car, which he explains that he bought using his down payment from the magazine.
She starts lecturing him on saving instead of spending, and asks the same question she’s been hearing herself all day: “Do you want to be poor?” At his shocked look, she says that it can happen in an instant, and that she regrets not saving more when she was his age.
Ja-sung shows Gyeom a new house, and explains that he’s not the one buying it – Gyeom’s dad is. It Gyeom’s new home that his father asked Ja-sung to recommend. Gyeom insists he doesn’t need it, since he’s only working on the magazine for a few months and then returning to New York.
Ja-sung tells him to buy it as an investment, but Gyeom would rather buy a camping car instead. He begs Ja-sung to go camping with him, but they’re interrupted by a call from Young-won.
She asks Ja-sung if she can change the curtains (he doesn’t care) and hammer nails in the wall (absolutely not), and he asks if she’s planning on living there forever since she’s putting in so much effort.
Gyeom is surprised to hear that she’s Ja-sung’s tenant. Ja-sung tells him about Young-won watching his videos, and Gyeom realizes that’s why she was talking about saving earlier.
Young-won finishes hanging her curtains. They’re a little outdated, but she congratulates herself for not buying new ones.
The next video instructs her to join internet communities, explaining that it’s easier to walk together with others towards the same goal. Young-won is impressed by how hard people on the homeowner forum are working, and writes a post to introduce herself.
Monday morning, Sang-soon comes into work unshowered, unshaven, and having not changed his clothes since Friday – a psychic told him to avoid water and not change clothes so that he could win the housing subscription. Much to everyone’s horror, he bounces happily around the office, delivering boxes of red ginseng to each of them (the psychic also said he should be charitable).
Eui-joo fills Young-won in on the lengths Sang-soon has gone to try to win a housing subscription, from bowing in a Buddhist temple until his kneecaps wore out to attending church on freezing cold mornings. She starts to warn Young-won not to eat the ginseng, but she’s too late – Young-won already has one in her mouth.
Young-won, Ja-sung, and the photography team visit a hanok village for an article. Young-won gushes over how lovely it would be to live in a place like this – but Ja-sung shuts her down, again emphasizing that it’s a lovely place to buy because it will make more money.
After a walk-through of the house, they enjoy a special lunch prepared by the owner, a sweet older lady. Ja-sung says that she must have recommended this place to the magazine because tourists brought in business and caused the price to rise. The lady stammers out a, “Yes, sure, you could say that,” and Ja-sung tells Young-won to write what he said as a quote from the woman herself.
The owner offers to send kimchi home with them, and Young-won is the only one who accepts, much to Ja-sung’s annoyance. He complains in the car, and she reiterates that she’s determined to follow his advice.
She’s concerned about his low subscriber count, and launches into ideas on how to grow his audience. Just then, a car turns into their lane, and Ja-sung swerves to avoid it. The kimchi goes flying and splatters everywhere.
Ja-sung demands Young-won take responsibility, and she offers to pay for dry cleaning. But Gyeom cuts in, saying the washing machine can take care of it and that Ja-sung’s car needed cleaning anyway. Ja-sung tell him to take her (and the kimchi) home, and drives away.
Gyeom drops Young-won off at home, and tells her there’s no need to be embarrassed. She’s still upset, though, even after getting cleaned up. She asks herself if saving money is worth all this, and of course the imaginary Ja-sung pops up to affirm that it is. Encouraged, she tallies up all the money she could have spent this week and didn’t. That lifts her spirits, but only until she remembers how sorry she feels about the kimchi incident.
She texts Ja-sung an apology. But the message we see him receive is curses and death threats.
Mi-ra surprises Young-won with a binder of research she’s prepared for the armchair advertorial, and Young-won is impressed by how well-put-together it is. Eui-joo remarks that she’s a lot like Young-won’s younger self.
To no one’s surprise, Sang-soon reveals that he was rejected for the apartment. He demands they all pay him back for the ginseng, but they’ve already returned the boxes unopened – except for Young-won. She offers to give him back the rest that she hasn’t eaten yet, but he can’t return an opened box.
Sang-soon collects his box from Ja-sung as well, muttering sadly that Ja-sung didn’t believe he’d succeed, either. Ja-sung says it was obvious, because Sang-soon hasn’t accrued enough points to qualify. If Sang-soon were to get married first, he would have a much better chance, but Sang-soon is adamant that owning an apartment has to come first.
Sang-soon asks if he has any other options, but Ja-sung doesn’t offer that kind of consultation for free.
Eui-joo finds Sang-soon checking his phone over and over as though his rejection might change.
Sang-soon: I need to own an apartment to get married. But I need to be married to own an apartment. Does that make sense?
She tells him to lower his standards and just get a lease, and tries to reason that he doesn’t need to own an apartment to be worthy of marrying his girlfriend. He gets more and more agitated and finally says she sounds just like his mother.
Young-won is about to send Sang-soon the ginseng money, when imaginary Ja-sung pops up again (on the refrigerator this time) to stop her. Emboldened, she texts Sang-soon that she needs the money and will simply return what she didn’t eat.
Eui-joo urges Sang-soon to let it slide because of Young-won’s hard life. He asks if her story can possibly be more pitiful than him losing all his money to cryptocurrency investments and living with his parents because he’s broke, and she says it is.
After hearing the story, Sang-soon lets Young-won keep the ginseng. He starts to say why he changed his mind, but Eui-joo shushes him.
Sang-soon has said enough to make Editor Choi curious, though, and he hounds Sang-soon for answers over private messages. But Young-won messages Sang-soon at the same time, and Sang-soon mixes up the chats and accidentally admits that Eui-joo told him her whole life story.
As everyone awkwardly tries to explain themselves, Young-won excuses herself to go to her photoshoot, trying not to think too much about how embarrassed she is.
After the photoshoot, Mi-ra climbs a stepladder to take down a painting, but slips and falls. Young-won catches her, and the other assistant manages to catch the painting, too. Young-won lets out a sigh of relief as she and Mi-ra crash to the ground. But their fall sets off a chain reaction that tips a kerosene lamp onto that five million won chair, lighting it on fire.
Mi-ra apologizes in tears, terrified that she’ll be fired and no one else will want to hire her. Young-won takes the blame instead, letting Ja-sung yell at her for making such a costly mistake. He orders her to pay for it and take it home, and derides her for trying to save on kimchi when she should be focused on keeping her job.
Young-won lugs the chair home, struggling to get it through her front door. When she drops one leg of the chair on her foot, it’s the last straw. She falls to the floor in pain and despair over losing five million won in a single second.
Over dinner, Gyeom asks Ja-sung to go easy on Young-won since they’ve both had hard lives. Ja-sung scoffs that she’s never lived in the ditch he crawled out of – otherwise, she wouldn’t be living the way she is now.
Gyeom tells him what really happened to the chair, and Ja-sung is stunned that she would protect someone else in her situation. Gyeom says that makes her a good person.
Back at the office, Ja-sung sees that Young-won left her computer turned on. As he closes out the programs, his finds her post on the homeowner café.
Her parents had tried to buy a house, but were scammed and financially ruined. Her father left, her mother became bedridden, and it fell to her to survive however she could. As she narrates, we see flashes of Ja-sung’s young life, following a similar pattern. They’re not so different after all.
Sang-soon trudges home and ignores a text from his girlfriend. He remembers seeing a text from her mother urging her to break up with him in favor of a lawyer who owned an apartment in Gangnam.
Young-won’s narration continues:
I read in a book that a house must be a place where you can grab a beam in a dark corner and cry. My house provided that for me today. Why? Because I lost a large sum of money. Just yesterday, I had high hopes for homeownership. I guess homeownership is unattainable for someone like me.
Gyeom passes by Young-won’s building with his bike. He considers asking her to take a walk, but spots her leaving the building already. She’s headed to the convenience store, where she compares prices on cup noodles, wondering if it would be smarter to get the 1+1 deal, or just a single cup. Gyeom joins her, offering to split the 1+1, and she happily agrees. She’s all smiles now, because Ja-sung called her and said that the company would pay for the chair after all.
Gyeom asks if she want to be “convenience store mates” and meet up to split 1+1 deals like this. That way they can both save a little extra money. She commends him on the smart thinking, and he goes to grab some instant rice.
Young-won is excited to get her first comment on her community post. It’s from someone named “Dragon,” who says hardships will help her push forward. She responds that her money problem was miraculously solved and that she’s decided not to despair.
The camera pans over to reveal that “Dragon” is Ja-sung, and he replies that he’ll continue to root for her.
Gyeom looks at her through the convenience store window and smiles to see her smiling at her phone. Ja-sung also smiles just a little as he sits alone in his dark, empty apartment.
One year ago, Ja-sung pushed through caution tape into an apartment, where he found a suicide note written on a mirror naming him as the person at fault. The apartment door swings shut so that we can see the unit number. It’s Young-won’s new home.
While on the surface the people in this show do a lot of talking and thinking about homes, what they’re really wrestling with is insecurity. For Ja-sung, a home is a way to gain more money, which in turn means stability and control. For Sang-soon, it’s feeling like he’s worthy of the person he loves. For Young-won, it’s safety and warmth, and knowing that at the end of the day, she’ll be able to come back to a comfortable place that won’t be yanked out from under her again.
Gyeom baffles both Ja-sung and Young-won, because for him, “home” doesn’t seem to be tied to a place (unless it’s in New York). He’s happy enough living out of his studio for now, or in a tent, anywhere that lets him enjoy his passion. The thing is, Young-won seemed to understand this to an extent before she lost her home – and especially before she started watching Ja-sung’s videos. But listening to him has her thinking about her own home in terms of money, to the point that money itself is becoming her whole focus.
Which is why I find it concerning that she jumped so quickly from simply listening to Ja-sung’s advice to trying to enforce it on others (particularly Gyeom). She needs to establish her own internal motives for saving and spending, because right now, Ja-sung’s voice (both directly as her boss/landlord and indirectly through his videos) is very much leading her and even at times making decisions for her.
I imagine that something similar may have happened to the suicide victim who lived in her apartment before. Maybe they also took his guarantee to heart, but it didn’t work out the way he said it would. If that’s the case, it’s interesting that Ja-sung doesn’t seem to acknowledge that his methods may not work for everyone. Although it’s possible that it might never occur to him that someone who’s desperate enough could risk everything on following his advice, since he only makes those videos as a means to attract more (paying) customers.
Furthermore, it’s pretty clear he truly believes that if he can succeed in this way, so can anyone else – and that people who fail simply aren’t trying hard enough. Seeing how similar his and Young-won’s backgrounds actually are seemed to really shake him, so I’m curious to see how his view of people will continue to shift.
But even more so, I’m interested to see how everyone’s attitude toward their respective homes will shift. Will Sang-soon succeed in his dream and be able to buy an apartment before getting married, or will he learn to draw his sense of self-worth from elsewhere? Will Ja-sung learn to appreciate that most people want a home to live in and not just to buy and sell – and will he eventually come to appreciate really living in his own home as well? And in the end, will Young-won find that owning a home really is something she wants, or will she find something else to be more important?
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