What's Wrong with the Secretary?




“I want to be in the kind of relationship where I feel the tiredness of my day getting washed off just by hugging you once, even if you don’t make my heart flutter every second.” –Kim Mi So (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)

“My every moment was you. When I loved, and also when I was in pain. Even at our moment of farewell, you were the whole world to me, and every moment was you. Without you, I don’t think I can explain the story of my life so far.” –Lee Young Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)

“In this dreary and confusing life, while you deal with your business, you suddenly wonder what they are doing all of a sudden, and think of that person first instead of yourself. That’s enough of a reason to call it love.” –Lee Young Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)

“Hurting someone or stealing something isn’t the only things that make you guilty. Incompetence and being unaware of your incompentence make you guilty too.” –Lee Young Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)

“The most important thing you should remember is to make sure you make time for yourself.” –Kim Mi So (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)

As we live this life, some people unconsciously put themselves aside in order to put some others first. They think about other people too much more than they think about themselves. They put other people first before themselves. Though they are being considerate, everything that is “too much” is not always good. However, sadly that is what mostly happens in this modern society. Some people live their life by serving other people’s needs, rather than really thinking about what they really want and need to do in their life. It is not that they cannot do it, most of the times it is just that they don’t have the time to be able to do things for themselves. It’s often because of the demand of the modern society that has put some people in the situation and condition where they cannot actually choose to do things for themselves. They work hard like a cow for sustaining their family. They spend most of their times fulfilling the needs of other people in order to be able to get paid and survive in capitalistic-minded era. How can ones able to find themselves then? Korean drama series, “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?” depicts the hardship of finding oneself in modern life.

"What's Wrong with Secretary Kim?" official series poster | source: asianwiki.com

Title : What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?/Why Secretary Kim?
Genre : romance comedy, adaptation
Starring : Park Min Young, Park Seo Joon, Lee Tae Hwan, Kang Ki Young
Channel : tvN
No. of episodes : 16
Original broadcast : June –July 2018

“What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?”, or also known as “Why, Secretary Kim?” is a Korean drama series adapted from a novel and popular webtoon series of the same name. This romance comedy drama follows the story of the titular character, Kim Mi So (portrayed by Park Min Young), the secretary of a Vice Chairman (and also the heir) of one of the biggest companies in South Korea, Yoomyung Group. She was diligent, hard-working, detailed, and super-capable secretary whose skills were hard to catch up by other employees. Secretary Kim had been working for Lee Young Joon (portrayed by Park Seo Joon) for nine years since he was first joining the company. Lee was a brilliant and gorgeous man and unfortunately he knew it too well, hence it made him having this narcissistic personality that makes people around him feeling quite uncomfortable. In front of Secretary Kim and all of his employees and co-workers, he seemed to be so bold and straightforward; and nine years were quite a time for someone to be able to hold out to work closely with someone like him. Hence, many people in Yoomyung Group had respect towards Secretary Kim.
After holding on for so long, one day, Secretary Kim suddenly gave a two-week notice for Lee that she was going to resign from her job as his long-time secretary. And that he needed to search for her successor in the mean time she prepared for her departure from the company. Lee was baffled at the announcement. He didn’t want to lose Kim as her secretary, for he was believe that there’s no one else that could keep up to his pace like what Secretary Kim had done for the past nine years. Besides, he had another personal reason why he wanted to keep Secretary Kim by his side. By seeking guidance from his close friend as well as the Director of Yoomyung Group, Park Yoo Sik (Kang Ki Young), Lee began to dig about the reason why Secretary Kim wanted to resign. He was also making a plan to make her cancel her resignation, including a plan to seduce her, as he found out that Secretary Kim using the excuse to have a relationship and get married for resigning; resulting him in getting a full month before Kim finally leaving the company. However, as the two got closer by Lee’s plans, Kim began to learn the secret that Lee kept all this time.


source: tvN

When “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?” first aired, people were already talking about it and my expectation began to rise as the popularity of this drama series was soaring in the social media. When I finally finished watching this series, I was indeed feeling entertained and this series was far from boring. However, some lingering thoughts were going in my mind for some time. One of those is the moral of the story where the need of someone to live for themselves is indeed important. The story began with the resignation announcement from Secretary Kim, who has been serving her narcissistic employer in order to get some time for herself. She’s been spending her last nine years living for someone else (her boss) in order to support her sisters’ college tuition and pay her father’s debt. After her sisters graduating and getting a job, and all the debt has paid, for the first time in her life she got a chance to live for herself. This premise has gotten me so in the beginning. Indeed, as a human, we need time for ourselves; at least, for thinking about what we really want and need in our life, not as somebody’s person, but as our own self.
However, the society has been harshly shaping people into a half-human and half-robot who spend their life as the social label pinned on themselves by the society instead of living as a whole human for themselves. And it’s a sad and bitter reality. Kim was doing her best as Lee Young Joon’s secretary, and she was a dutiful daughter for her family; however, who was she when we take out Lee and her family from her life? We only live once, yet most of us spending this one lifetime by serving other people’s needs more than fulfilling our own needs. The same thing goes for Lee. He was the heir for one of biggest companies in the country; hence he lived his life trying hard to fulfill that position that had been given to him since his birth. However, who was he when we take out the company from his life? Can people really make a choice for themselves? I got to pinpoint the Lee Sung Yeon (portrayed by Lee Tae Hwan) character in this drama series. This older brother of Lee chose to get rid of his heir status and decided to become a novel author. However, this choice wasn’t purely his intention, for he was apparently trying to run away from his past.


source: tvN

From the storyline of this drama series, we learn that apparently we can really make a choice for ourselves only when we have learnt how to deal with our past; particularly, the childhood scars. Childhood scars are indeed one of the most fearful things in someone’s life, for the scars remain within ourselves even though time has passed and we have grown through the pain. And facing our deepest fear is one of the hardest things to do in life. However, running or hiding away from it won’t settle ourselves. No matter how hard, we have to try to face and fight it in order to find a closure for ourselves. And in order to do that, the first and the hardest thing to do is to be honest to ourselves, for that is the only way we can then be honest to our partner as well. I also think that honesty is one important thing in a romance relationship. When we cannot be truly and deeply honest to your partner, then we cannot put the one important foundation in a relationship: trust. When there is no trust, there is no healthy relationship. When there is no healthy relationship, there is no point of a relationship anymore. Hence, trust is one of the keys to face our fears, as well as to love.
As a scholar, though, I must say that “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?” is sadly not being free from the social construction that has been established. Even more sadly, at some point to some extent, this drama series seem to preserve what is called as the ‘Disney princess fairytale syndrome’ in popular media. The portrayal of Secretary Kim who resembles the modern day of Cinderella has been my main concern when I finished watching the series; because in the end, even the main protagonist in the series is defined by the existence of the male character, that ‘marriage’ is always the final destination, and that the ‘wedding ceremony’ is always the ending that marks the ‘happily ever after’ life for the protagonist. At first, I was excited to know that Kim was going to find herself. However, as the story goes by, I was disappointed to know that even Kim defined herself and her existence in the end by the existence of her childhood hero, who’s happened to be the man that she fell in love with. Hence, for me, the plot of main protagonist in this drama series might seem dull and predictable. However, it was forgiven instead by the plot of supporting characters.


source: tvN

When watching “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?”, I admired how not only the main characters, but also the supporting characters were well-built. Actually it wasn’t a surprise when it’s a novel adaptation, but how the production crew had successfully brought the strong characters in the novel into life-action deserved a standing ovation. Each character was strongly and well-built and successfully gave colorful atmosphere towards the drama series. I really love the relationships between supporting characters too. It wasn’t there just as accessories but it was there to help building the whole plot into a full-circle. The chemistry between Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young was also something else. Portraying two people who are less experience in romance and love life is indeed hard enough for two experienced people like them. However, they did great in portraying Lee Young Joon and Kim Mi So, respectively, who are newbies in terms of romance and experience everything for the first time together; the sincerity, the innocence, they got it all. In a nutshell, “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?” is the epitome of romance comedy drama series. It’s satisfying our senses in terms of lovey-dovey humor. So when you need something to refresh your mind without any heavy thought, this drama series will be a good choice.

“There are truths that are too painful to know.” –Lee Young Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)

“Feeling sorry for something you don’t remember is just being hypocritical, isn’t it?” –Lee Young Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)

“I know it’s hard, but I wish you will put down the agony and be free. Don’t do it for me. Do it for yourself.” –Lee Young Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)

“We all should live for the future. Until when are you going to let such old memories bog you down? It’s all in the past. Does it still matter to you that much?” –Lee Young Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)

“People say that it’s valuable to sacrifice yourself in your life. But it’s actually not. You just lose yourself by suffering and sacrificing. In any circumstances, the most important thing is yourself. Never forget that you’re most precious and the top priority in any moment.” –Lee Young Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, 2018)







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