Monthly Magazine Home: Episode 3
Although he may be a success now, our real estate tycoon worked his way up from the bottom and he recognizes a kindred soul in our heroine. Her drive to save money and improve her own life quickly gets under his skin, and he soon becomes her biggest supporter behind the scenes.
EPISODE 3: “Living with a parasite”
Young-won is proud of her new-found thriftiness, but is brought back down to earth when she realises that it’ll take her 20 years to get to 100 million won (about $100,000) at the rate she’s saving. She turns to Ja-sung’s videos for advice on how to speed things up and decides to set herself a goal of spending only 10,000 won a day.
Young-won posts a photo of the calendar she’s made to the homeowner forum and Ja-sung sends her a supportive comment as “Dragon” before getting a call from his secretary that a buyer has been found for the apartment he’s currently living in.
Young-won is in a good mood when she arrives at work the next day, and her co-workers are shocked to learn that their Scrooge of a boss actually agreed to pay for the damaged chair with company funds. Most of the staff buy that he was worried the business might get in legal trouble for violating labor laws, but Eui-joo looks skeptical.
Ja-sung approves a zombie-themed ad for athlete’s foot treatment despite Editor Choi’s best efforts to convince him it’s not a good fit for a home magazine, and decrees that under his leadership the magazine will be about making a profit not about integrity, and anyone who disagrees with that philosophy is free to leave.
Editor Choi suggests that Young-won buys everyone coffee to de-stress since she didn’t have to pay for the damaged chair, and she’s pressured into agreeing even though it’ll mean spending twice her daily 10,000 won allowance. Young-won apologizes glumly to her future self for breaking her new resolution already.
Ja-sung hears about the situation from Editor Choi and thinks unhappily about how proud Young-won was of her 10,000 won calendar. Mi-ra is trying to politely wrest the card from Young-won’s grip when Ja-sung interrupts to save the day, offering to buy the drinks himself to “boost employee morale and therefore efficiency.” (Ha!) The staff are floored by this sudden uncharacteristic generosity, and Eui-joo eyes Ja-sung speculatively.
Young-won goes to Gyeom’s studio to pick out photos, but he spends more time staring at her than at the screen. She shows him a lunch box she’s been eyeing up when he suggests they get a 1+1 lunch, but explains dejectedly that she can’t afford it since she’s made a resolution to be super-frugal.
At the store, Gyeom secretly switches the label on the lunch box Young-won wanted to make her believe it’s on offer, smiling at how pleased she is. As they eat, Gyeom tells her that he’s only planning to work at the magazine for a few months before studying art photography.
He assumes that she won’t see the value in it since it won’t make as much money as commercial work but Young-won surprises him. She admits that she’s impressed and a little jealous that he has the courage to follow his dreams, and Gyeom smiles at her, touched.
Young-won is congratulating herself at coming in under her daily budget when Mi-ra announces that the famous pork rib restaurant across the street is closing down today. Editor Choi, having been ordered by his wife not to come home before 10pm, seizes the opportunity to announce a team dinner and pressures Young-won into agreeing to pay again.
Ja-sung is scouting out another real estate opportunity when someone starts taking covert photos of him. He notices and looks towards the camera, and Gyeom emerges to tell him off for ruining his candid shots.
Young-won takes refuge in the bathroom and imaginary Ja-sung appears in the mirror to ask what happened to her intention to save, ordering her to stop being such a pushover. She brainstorms ways to get out of paying but can’t come up with anything convincing, and turns to the online community for help.
Ja-sung, sitting at a cafe, frowns as he reads Young-won’s plea but quickly puts his phone away when Gyeom returns with their drinks. He orders Gyeom to work for the magazine permanently, unable to understand why he wants to pursue art photography when there’s no money in it.
Gyeom argues that it’s his passion and he has someone who understands that and supports him. He tells Ja-sung that he needs to get a girlfriend who’ll teach him that there’s more to life than money — but Ja-sung replies that money is his girlfriend.
Young-won closes her eyes in despair as Editor Choi announces that it’s time to head out, but Ja-sung saves the day again by ordering Young-won to stay late and work overtime. Editor Choi is dismayed but Ja-sung can’t be reasoned with, so he has to back down.
Ja-sung goes to check on Young-won’s progress and finds the entire staff in the archives, helping Young-won finish quickly so that she’ll still be able to go with them to the restaurant. Ja-sung is rendered speechless for a moment when Editor Choi jubilantly tells him that they’ve completed all of Young-won’s work, but quickly comes up with a final task.
Ja-sung produces a drawing of a dog and demands that they find a picture of a house that looks like that before Young-won can leave. The team scour the stacks desperately, as Ja-sung lounges on the couch smug in the knowledge that they’ll never succeed because he made it up.
His thoughts are interrupted by a triumphant exclamation from Editor Choi, who against all odds has indeed managed to find a photo of a dog-shaped house, and Ja-sung gapes as Young-won hangs her head in defeat. However, Editor Choi has been sitting on Sang-soon’s shoulders to reach the upper shelves, and his celebrations cause them to overbalance and knock into a bookcase.
It creates a domino effect as each shelf topples into the next, and Young-won braces herself as it looks like she’ll be crushed. The impact doesn’t come, and when she opens her eyes she finds Ja-sung standing over her, shielding her with his body.
Ja-sung orders Young-won to get to safety and tells the team not to worry about him, he’ll stay in position for as long as he can manage so they can right the shelves. Unfortunately, his heroics are completely unnecessary — the fallen bookcase is actually leaning on the wall, not on him.
Before everyone can leave, Ja-sung stops them yet again to declare that he doesn’t trust them not to drink heavily and come into work tomorrow hungover so he’s decided to ban work outings from now on unless he’s present at them. Since he’s not going out tonight they can’t either, and Editor Choi finally has to admit defeat.
As they walk home, Eui-joo tells Young-won that she thinks Ja-sung likes her. He’s notoriously tight-fisted, but willingly paid for the chair and coffee on Young-won’s behalf and even prevented the work outing for her. Ja-sung thinks in terms of money, so he’s expressing his affection for Young-won by helping her to save.
Young-won refuses to believe it but Eui-joo points out that none of Ja-sung’s excuses about labor laws and improving efficiency account for the way he selflessly threw himself in front of Young-won to protect her from the falling bookshelf. Young-won argues that Ja-sung was just worried that there would be no one to write his articles if anything happened to her, and Eui-joo looks unconvinced but backs down.
Chan complains about the mess in Gyeom’s studio, telling him that he knows nagging isn’t pleasant to hear but he only does it for Gyeom’s own good. Gyeom thinks about Young-won warning him to be careful with his money and replies that some nagging can be pleasant to hear. He smiles when he finds Young-won yawning in the background of a photo from the chair shoot and comments on how pretty she looks, causing Chan to question his eyesight.
Eui-joo spots the 10,000 won calendar on Young-won’s wall and Young-won explains her daily savings goal, prompting Eui-joo to realize that she must be wrong about Ja-sung liking Young-won after all, because someone as obsessed with money as him would never be interested in someone as penniless as her.
Young-won confides in Eui-joo that she’s saving up to buy a house, but swears her to secrecy about it and about Ja-sung letting her rent the apartment without paying a security deposit. Eui-joo agrees to support her… as she scoops out a big handful of the moisturizer Young-won has been trying to use frugally.
Ja-sung’s secretary drops him off at the new house he’ll be living in and ventures to suggest that Ja-sung might want to buy some furniture but is immediately shot down — apparently Ja-sung believes that you have to be uncomfortable to make money.
Unable to sleep, Young-won makes a post thanking her boss for inadvertently helping her meet her daily 10,000 won goal. Dragon comments that her boss seems like a great guy (Ja-sung looks smug), and Young-won replies that she used to think he was a heartless ogre but her opinion of him has changed recently.
Young-won thanks Dragon for his enduring support and Ja-sung replies that he’ll always root for her. Unfortunately, Ja-sung’s peace is broken by another death threat from the person with a grudge against him.
At an editorial meeting, Young-won pitches an idea for an article about houses that combine traditional and modern elements, inspired by her trip to the hanok village, but gets shot down immediately by Editor Choi. He argues that old houses need to be demolished, not preserved, so that modern properties can be built in their place, and gets so angry about it that he has to leave the room.
Eui-joo explains that he’s been waiting for his rundown apartment block to be reconstructed for years so it’s a sensitive topic for him, made worse because his decision to stay there and wait it out caused him to miss out on the Gangnam housing boom. His wife lost respect for him and their relationship has been fraught ever since.
Sang-soon explains that they’d asked Editor Choi once over drinks why he tiptoed all the time and he’d explained that his wife had threatened to rip his legs off if she heard his footsteps at home while their daughters were studying, so it’s become a habit for him.
They’d wondered why he stayed in that building waiting for reconstruction that wasn’t going to happen, and he’d blown up at them before storming out with tears in his eyes. Since then he’s borne a grudge against them both, and they warn Young-won never to mention reconstruction in front of Editor Choi again.
Young-won heads over to Gyeom’s studio to schedule a photoshoot for an article about a building designed by a famous architect. They both complain about Ja-sung’s nagging and money-grubbing ways and Gyeom suggests they continue badmouthing him over snacks and beer, but Young-won tells him off for thinking about spending money again.
She makes him promise to keep saving, and he smiles fondly as she leaves. Chan, who has been napping on the bed, realizes that it was Young-won’s nagging that Gyeom was happy to listen to, and guesses that Gyeom likes her. Gyeom denies it but forbids Chan from mentioning his family background to Young-won.
Ja-sung and Young-won visit the architect’s home, and Young-won demonstrates how hard she’s been studying by reciting a mnemonic of real estate terms in a Parasite parody. The architect gives them a tour of the building, explaining that she designed it with her husband in mind, and Young-won swoons over the romance of it while Ja-sung rolls his eyes.
Young-won already knows Ja-sung well enough to anticipate what his reaction will be, and preempts his nagging by telling him that her article will stick to the financial details. The architect’s husband arrives and it’s clear from their shocked expressions that he and Young-won know one another, although they pretend not to.
Five years ago, the husband had dumped Young-won after telling her that he hated her cheap clothes and her semi-basement stench. He follows her down to the wine cellar to thank her for not mentioning their connection in front of his wife, who supports him financially, and Young-won observes that he’s still as much of a parasite as he was when they were dating.
She realizes that he must have been two-timing her with the architect back then, given that they have a five-year-old son, and her ex-boyfriend gets down on his knees and begs her not to tell his wife. Just then the architect calls for him and he panics, covering Young-won’s mouth and bundling her into the sub-basement. She lands in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, and quickly discovers that she’s trapped down there with no cell service.
The husband tells Ja-sung that Young-won had some urgent business and had to leave immediately, but Ja-sung doubts that she’d’ve left without saying anything to him. He goes downstairs to investigate, but has to pretend he was just returning a bottle of wine when the husband catches him in the wine cellar.
A man descends the stairs into the sub-basement and gets ambushed by Young-won wielding a fly swatter. Of course the man turns out to be Ja-sung, who was suspicious of the husband’s behavior and noticed Young-won’s broken hair tie in front of the locked door.
Young-won storms outside to confront her ex and out him to his wife, but stops in her tracks when she sees that their son has joined them. Ja-sung watches from the background as Young-won instead apologizes to the family for leaving mid-interview.
Young-won’s ex follows her out to apologize for locking her in the basement and tells her that he was going to let her out when his wife left. She sarcastically replies that that’s very reassuring, and whacks him around the head before leaving.
Young-won apologizes to Ja-sung on the ride home for not completing the interview, and he asks why she didn’t tell the architect what had happened. She explains that her ex-boyfriend might be an awful person but his wife and child are innocent, and it wouldn’t be fair on them to ruin their relationship with him.
Young-won reassures Ja-sung that she’ll still write the article, but he tells her that he’s decided against it anyway — not because of her of course, but because the house didn’t meet his high expectations.
Young-won puts what’s left of her 10,000 won back in her calendar when she gets home, thinking about her ex living a life of luxury in a mansion while she’s still renting and barely scraping by as she stares at the meager coins. She sighs to herself as a curtain-pole falls down and posts online that she’s come to feel that a home is a reflection of the person who owns it — and hers often seems shabby.
Young-won’s voiceover tells us that a home reveals someone’s true status, as we see Ja-sung return to his massive empty house and Editor Choi climb fifteen flights of stairs to his apartment because the elevator’s out of order, only to find a note on the door telling him to tiptoe in and not disturb anyone.
Young-won debates breaking her savings resolution to buy a much-needed drink but ultimately stays strong. Meanwhile Gyeom finds out that Chan has two free drinks coupons and buys them from him for triple what they’re worth, seeing an opportunity to ask Young-won out.
However, when we find Young-won at a rooftop bar it’s not Gyeom sitting opposite her but Ja-sung, who claims that he invited her for a drink to improve her mood and therefore her efficiency at work. Meanwhile, a disappointed Gyeom returns home alone.
After several beers, Young-won tells Ja-sung that she’s embarrassed to have dated that jerk and even more embarrassed to be living a worse life than him right now, scrimping and saving pocket change in the hopes she’ll someday be able to buy a house.
Ja-sung tells Young-won that by working hard to make her own way in the world she’s living a much more admirable life than her leech of an ex-boyfriend, and someday she’ll meet a man much better than him.
Remembering Eui-joo’s words and all the times he was kind to her, Young-won asks Ja-sung outright if he likes her. In reply, Ja-sung leans across the table to kiss Young-won, as neon hearts glow above their heads.
Wow, that kiss happened much more quickly than I expected it to! What are we going to do with the next 13 episodes now?! I’m a little taken aback by how fast Ja-sung went from aloof to all-in with Young-won, because I was expecting his feelings to develop much more slowly than this and it felt a little rushed. To Ja-sung, money is power and security, and he’s devoted his life to it. He’s unrelentingly self-sufficient, and unwilling to rely on anyone or anything other than himself, as illustrated by his nomadic lifestyle and apparent belief that comfort and happiness are signs of weakness. We know that to Young-won, her home is her safe haven from the world where she can relax and be herself, but Ja-sung doesn’t ever seem to let his guard down. Perhaps he’s tired of living this way and that’s why he attached himself so quickly to Young-won, recognizing a kindred soul in her?
I’m not impressed with our second lead. Not telling Young-won about his wealthy background is one thing, but outright lying to her and pretending to be poor is another, and it’s quickly becoming manipulative. I know Gyeom wanted to make her happy, but deliberately tricking Young-won into believing the lunch box she wanted was on a 1+1 offer felt quite patronizing to me. She’s an independent woman who can make her own financial decisions, not a charity-case. I get the impression that Gyeom isn’t taking Young-won’s savings goal very seriously, but she’s trying to claw her way out of poverty and these tiny amounts mean a lot to her. Perhaps Gyeom just can’t understand that, never having been in that position himself, but her situation resonates with Ja-sung.
Of course, Ja-sung is also lying to Young-won in a way that’s becoming increasingly morally dubious. He’s her boss and her landlord, the power imbalance is already massively in his favor without Young-won’s posts giving him insight into her thoughts, unbeknownst to her. I’m sure Ja-sung believes that it’s okay if he’s using that information to help her and make her happier, but it gives him an unfair advantage in their relationship. Young-won’s also steadily beginning to depend on Dragon for emotional support, and the longer that continues, the more betrayed and hurt she’ll be when she learns the truth.
I’m not happy with the office dynamics at the moment. I don’t care how terrible his home life is, it’s incredibly inappropriate for the editor-in-chief to be pressuring junior members of staff into paying for coffee or drinks. Young-won was obviously uncomfortable with it, and yet not even Eui-joo, who knows how precarious her financial situation is, made more than a token effort to intervene. I did appreciate all Ja-sung’s cute, convoluted excuses to get Young-won out of it, but if he can outright ban work outings I don’t see why he couldn’t just declare it office policy that staff members can only pay for those junior to them, not in equal or senior roles, which would cut Editor Choi and Sang-soon off at the knees. Then again, a lot of Korean workplaces used to have an inexplicable “tradition” where the newest hire would be expected to treat the entire staff to coffee or drinks, so maybe that’s why no one stepped in? I also think Ja-sung’s profit-focused approach to marketing is going to backfire soon — he may not care about the quality and integrity of the magazine, but surely the readership figures will tank?
I do wish Young-won had been a little more assertive in the office, because I found it very frustrating to watch her cave time and time again. As entertaining as it was to see Ja-sung save the day, when she posted that plea online I was hoping Dragon would advise her to stand up for herself rather than try and lie her way out of her predicament. Young-won needs to take control of her financial situation, but she also needs to learn to be more confident and take control of her own life, which she started to do when she confronted her ex-boyfriend and got openly angry with him rather than repressing her emotions. Personally I think that Young-won should absolutely have told the architect about the husband locking her in the basement to keep her quiet, even if she didn’t want to mention the past and risk breaking up their family. That’s genuinely psychotic behavior, and the architect deserves to know what her husband is capable of.
Although I’m enjoying the chemistry between Young-won and Ja-sung and the silly hijinks they get up to, I think Monthly Magazine Home really shines in its more melancholy and thoughtful moments. Ja-sung tells Young-won that she should take pride in her shabby life because she’s carved it out for herself, but in many ways that’s a cold comfort. I’m all for promoting saving and financial responsibility, but realistically managing to save a couple of coins here and there isn’t going to make any tangible difference to Young-won’s situation, and I think she knows that really. But what’s her alternative? Just give up on ever improving her situation and resign herself to a life of poverty? I was a little afraid that the 10,000 won calendar was a sign of that poisonous pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps philosophy, but I think instead it’s Young-won’s way of trying to fight the rising tide. She needs to believe that it’ll work, that there is a way out for her. When Young-won puts that drink she so badly wants back on the shelf and makes the decision not to break her resolution, what she’s really doing is refusing to give up herself and on trying to better her life.
- 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