Episode 2 “Awl”: Thoughts and Commentary

I’m always amazed by how the shows I watch seem to entwine around Real Life (RL) Issues. Case in point: While watching and reading about the BTS on this kabedon kiss scene from “She Was Pretty”, it is divulged that this scene was shot somewhere around 4 am. Obviously the actors and the crew have been filming all day; you can see Park Seo Joon try to encourage Hwang Jung Eum to pull herself together for just a little bit longer, even though it’s obvious that she’s swaying on her feet from lack of sleep. (Link to Eng sub video) What in the heck kind of working conditions are these actors going through? Yeah, yeah, I get it…they’re getting paid a mint, and they’re Top Stars, and nobody’s twisting their arm. Knowing how much these actors and actresses suffer with what I think are totally unreasonable demands to film without sleep definitely makes me feel some guilt about enjoying Kdramas so much. 

An even more egregious example is what Joo Won recently experienced. While filming “Yong Pal” he went 6 days with basically no sleep and had an IV to keep going. He lost 7 kg (16 lbs) during filming. He spoke very candidly on the mental and the physical toll it took on him. I can’t imagine any Screen Actors Guild member in Hollywood who would put up with working conditions like this for a single minute.

Note: I am going to start from Episode 2 since DramaBeans did Episode 1. I will be significantly behind due to RL demands and the length of time it takes to write and screencap each episode, so please be patient. This show is too good to be ignored. Knowing that the premise was based off a real life incident, and given what the current situation is right now in Korea as I write this makes this show more than a compelling watch.

*all screencaps from Dramacool.com*

Episode 2–Starts with a short recap of Episode 1. Then two garbage collectors are arguing over the feasibility of driving the overloaded garbage truck with bags of trash piled high:


The driver wants the older guy to ride on top and hold the bags down while he drives back, because he doesn’t want to take the time (or use the fuel) to make another run. My first thought is–wow, they’ve seen those shows on cable here in the US, “Top 20 Dumbest Ideas Ever” and all their cousin shows from “The Smoking Gun” on Tru TV.  I don’t want to know how much time my kids and I have wasted watching stuff like that!


Predictably, the trash truck goes over a rough patch of road, and the guy falls off the truck. Yikes! Just in this short scene, there’s a lot going on. The older guy is definitely intimidated by the younger (and physically bigger) driver. The driver thinks nothing over having his work partner do this very dangerous thing. The truck itself is outfitted with sheets of plywood (?) to enable it to be overloaded, so I can guess this is SOP. The driver mentions the use of the fuel as a reason not to make another run, so again I can figure that there is pressure from the bosses to ‘do it quickly’ over ‘do it safely’. As usual, the problems start at the top and filter all the way down.

Cut to Goo Go Shin arriving at the Bu Jin Labor Law Center. His trusty assistant So Jin is already there, wearing her red vest. I’m not totally sure if she works for him, or with him, or who signs her paycheck–assuming she is not just a volunteer. Hmmm. Even GGS is not clear on this, so it’s good to know I’m not the only one:


So Jin gives her “boss” a ‘lil morning wakeup call:


which causes him to spew his coffee everywhere! Ha! I’m not sure this clarifies anything, but it’s probably closest to the truth:


Seems like Miss So Jin is a quick study! GGS sputters that he’s gonna lock the door and not allow anyone in as he gets up, but the bluster seems like it’s simply for his own ego, judging by the laughter from So Jin and the other guys hanging out at the Labor Law center.

GGS goes to a hospital/clinic to hand out business cards, explaining that there is compensation if they were hurt on the job, even if the employer insists it’s the worker’s fault.


One of the card recipients is the trash truck helper who was injured.

Back at Fourmis Mart, the managers hassles a female employee over her use of perfume, which she denies using. Customers hassle the cashiers, asking for discounts. Oh my goodness! Is that Choi Han Sung from Coffee Prince haggling over the tofu?


Lemme see if I’ve got a quarter I can spare….!

His voice is so deep….ungggh! It makes Shamrockmom’s dying ovaries come back to life! Good thing I’m old. That voice could make a girl get pregnant all by itself!

Two of the ahjumma employees, Jung Mi and Young Sil (glasses) note that Lee Soo In looks even more glum and serious than usual after his meeting with with Mr. Jung:


LSI replays the meeting as he wraps some oranges:


He tells himself that he’s not a labor law attorney, and that he shouldn’t care; but he really does care, as he flashes back to his time in the military. The other cadets are doing pushups with their head on the ground, but LSI defies his commanding officer–politely but forcefully:


He muses that he actually liked the military with its rules and regulations. Follow the rules=get rewarded. Seemed simple enough. However, the corruption that seems to permeate every level of life in SK is clear, as LSI hears the concern of his buddy who knows what he’s doing is wrong:


I seem to remember another drama where a character’s brother had been in the Army and his boots were cheap and inferior….and he got a foot infection and had to have his leg amputated. I’m thinking that was “City Hunter”, but I could be wrong. (Send me a message if you know.) Hmmm, looks like a common problem. LSI sticks to the book, asking for receipts, checking up on things, but he never really stands his ground. He leaves after 10 years of service, but when he gets back into civilian life, the corruption is even worse. LSI has a goal:


At first, things seemed smooth between LSI and the management of Fourmis. LSI was praised by Gaston for working to get a vendor ousted due to consistently bad batches of fruit. LSI even notes that he got along quite well with his French employers. Still, there were some ‘dangerous’ moments–LSI is having a dinner/drink with some of the other managers when a vendor comes in to join them. When the cash bribery comes out from the vendor:


LSI gets up immediately and bails out. I love it. He doesn’t create a scene, doesn’t say anything except that it’s time for him to go. LSI believes that if he turns his head to the corruption, it won’t affect him.

Meanwhile, at the Labor Law Center, GGS is taking a statement from the trash truck guy who was injured. He says that he’s thankful the truck was full of trash and going slow:


I fully concur. Let’s take a minute to look at the incredible detail of GGS’s office….the little plants all over the office, the light filtering in through a window that looks like it barely opens from the dust layers, the paperwork stacked everywhere, the amount of old and dented file cabinets. It’s so real and gritty. The trash truck guy says he was hospitalized for 2 months but he still feels weak and is in pain. Nobody wants to work with him now because he is slow and can’t do what the young dudes can do:


He feels like he can’t keep up and the company doesn’t want him anymore. GGS tells the man that he can’t afford to think about the company right now. He fires the questions at him–Do you have savings? Land in the countryside? A child/grandchild who can support you? The answers are all ‘No’, and GGS asks him how the heck he’s gonna survive if he gets fired by the trash company:


I like how GGS is in this frame of wood; the cinematography here reminds me of “Heard it through the Grapevine”. GGS asks the man if anyone has quit between the time of the accident and now–because he needs a witness, and the chances of a currently employed worker at the company taking his side and potentially putting his own posterior on the line probably won’t happen:


The trash truck guy asked his boss about worker’s compensation, but was told this by his boss:


GGS’s response:


The company is going to be worried over their worker’s comp insurance rates and a possible inspection by the Labor Board, so of course they are going to say that! GGS warns the guy:


Back to Fourmis Mart, where the female employees are having to wait in line to have their purses searched (presumably for stolen items) before they leave. Yeah, that’s icky and humiliating. I wouldn’t want my Boss going through my purse like that and she’s a woman! There is some kind of ridiculous hassle over one of the employees who has purchased some oranges and has a receipt, yet she still gets in trouble! LSI, Manager Heo and the other managers meet later over drinks and dinner, and discuss the upper management’s command to fire their employees en masse. Manager Heo doesn’t want to do it, but feels he has no choice:


He knows better….


It appears Manager Heo has a tiny shred of decency left, as he tells the other managers that harassing the workers until they quit is just plain wrong, and he asks if anybody else is gonna go along with the plan. My guess is that if these middle managers had a spine and stuck together, the upper management might listen (then again, maybe not!) and the workers wouldn’t rebel. He appeals to their consciences:


One of the other managers gives Manager Heo a dose of reality: we are complaining to assuage our guilt, but at the end of the day:


LSI says that’s not gonna work for him:


The discomfort his simple statement causes among the other managers is clear to see. Manager Yoon floats this idea:


I don’t think Manager Yoon understands that in SK, you need cojones to join a union. If your cojones are brass plated and/or require a wheelbarrow, that’s even better. The other managers are clueless:


Yes indeed we do says Manager Yoon! He talks about how he was at another company where the workers were unhappy because after working as a Part-Timer for a year they were supposed to be promoted but weren’t. The employees made a deal with the manager’s secretary to make the management believe they were gonna join a union, and just the threat got everybody promoted. Manager Heo seems to be on the right track:


They decide to meet tomorrow night and fill out the union applications, and the managers give a toast to “The Struggle”:


LSI is in his modest and spartan high-rise apartment later that night, looking online at the labor union website. He seems pleased with their goal of helping protect the rights of the workers. He’s distracted the next day as he runs to a meeting, missing Dong Hyub and Joon Chul goofing off. Several of the managers, including Manager Heo are getting a dressing-down from their boss Jung Min Chul about not getting rid of the workers quickly enough. When Manager Heo speaks up and says that firing the workers is too harsh, he’s promptly kicked in the shin!


Hey Manager Heo! Mrs. Cop sends her sympathy to you! What is with this shin-kicking business? I can only imagine how fast a lawsuit/workers comp/labor board complaint would be filed if that happened here. None of the other managers call out Manager JMC on his bad behavior either. LSI arrives seconds too late to witness the BS, so his cheery:


is met with total disgust and frustration.

That evening, it seems like everybody’s come down with the Excuse Flu: Manager Heo says that for sure, his wife:


I’d bet Manager Heo’s wife knows Tae Soo’s wife and her friends over at “Sweet Savage Family“. Another dude says his ex-boss thought it was a bad idea. Here’s one of my personal favorites:


What a wuss! Did this guy not have a mother who said, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, you’d do it too, right?” And where is Manager Yoon?


I think LSI would call this “AWOL”

When LSI is asked what he’s gonna do about the union application…Well, heh-heh. It’s already done:


Side note: One of the things that I hated (and there were many) about the alcoholic/drug addicted parents of the kids that came to live with us was their constant use of the phrase “I’m gonna….” They were always ‘gonna’ do something, but it never got done! I couldn’t stand it. When I said “On Saturday, we are gonna go to the store and buy some new sneakers.” to either my kids or their friends, I did it! If I made a promise to those kids (and my own kids too of course) I followed through. I tried to never promise something if I had any doubt I could make happen.

I like how LSI follows the Nike phrase “Just Do It” and removes himself from being talked out of joining the union. He’s made up his mind! No whimpering…no wavering–and no bluster either. Manager Heo spews out his beer in shock!  Later that evening, he’s mashed and slurring his words badly as he tells LSI that he is different from the other managers because he was hired in the open recruitment, and they weren’t:


LSI watches as Manager Heo takes a taxi home, and wonders what’s next. After all, he ran away from the military and all the corruption there and now he’s back in the fire again.

Back to the trash truck guy and the driver who bullied him before–the driver isn’t going to cooperate:


And neither are the rest of his co-workers. One of them even gives the “I’ll do it if everybody else does” piece of BS. Back at Fourmis, the managers react against the workers with renewed anger, trying to intimidate them and make them quit on their own.


Yeah, so much for “The Struggle”!


Manager Jung goes off on one of the ahjummas for supposedly not washing a pepper, and when LSI tries to intervene on her behalf, he finds himself in the line of fire:


Note LSI’s posture in the above screencap. This is where he compares himself to a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. The CGI here just doesn’t seem to fit with the show, but that’s my opinion:


There also seems to be an editing error here too, with the same sequence playing twice, but that could be because of a break for commercials. Not sure. LSI sees that the ahjummas blame him for having Manager Jung take out his anger on them, and he tries to talk to Managers Yoon and Heo, but they try to persuade him to drop his union membership. LSI is not having a good day:


At this low moment, there is a bit of hope–the union calls him. There’s gonna be a meeting tonight. LSI practically stumbles over himself trying to tell the rep that he’ll be there. It’s at an informal mom-and-pop sorta restaurant. He’s not sure if this is the right place…then LSI sees a familiar face:


More introductions:




Next is a lesson in how to not make a good first impression:


Ms. Kyung Mi also suffers from “Foot-in-Mouth Disease”

There’s all kinds of awkwardness as she tries to backpedal, but LSI has to be feeling mighty crappy right now. He finds out there is not much that the union can do for him personally; the number of members was 300+ but is now down to 52. They desperately need members. LSI sees the ‘elephant’ union that was protecting the ‘deer’ blow up and leave 2 rabbits and 2 chickens….

The employee abuse increases at Fourmis Mart; the other managers don’t even bother to hide it from LSI anymore. The Fourmis employees remind LSI of scared privates in the army, as they are subject to all kinds of excessive abuse by their superiors. LSI surmises that the more fear they show, the more abuse is heaped on them.

Back to the trash truck guy…he informs GGS that no one will testify on his behalf. GGS goes to find the guy at the trash center. Although seconds before he’s screaming like a girl over a rat crossing his path, he walks confidently into the yard and greets the worker who got hurt:


Cool! Good to know he’s got a name now!  GGS starts up his pitch to the trash truck guys:


He’s quite a good communicator. Look how he shows empathy for the other workers, even though he doesn’t have to:


GGS tells them that there needs to be a witness to provide testimony for Mr. Hong’s Workers Comp case to proceed. He hands out his card:


Wow, he hands out so many business cards. I hope that Hye Jin’s Dad in “She Was Pretty” has the printing contract! One of the other workers brings up the sticking point:


GGS says yes, they’ll hear about it. However, the company can’t fire them for testifying–and if they do it anyways:


Then one of the bosses comes out to confront GGS, and his statement is quite illuminating. Knowing that labor unions in SK were originally associated with communism, I’m starting to get a better idea of why unions are so hated:


The boss accuses the Labor Law center of being the Commie hangout (!) and GGS says So What? (BTW, communism is illegal in SK) Geez! GGS is brave! GGS says go ahead and call the cops, but the boss grabs him by the lapels and growls:


Side note: The Vietnam war may have ended 40+ years ago, but I can tell you first hand from living next door to Little Saigon–it is front and center in everyone’s mind. South Vietnamese flags still fly outside of many businesses along with the US Flag, and any business/individual that even breathes any kind of sympathy toward the current communist government in Vietnam experiences severe community backlash. (This is an older newspaper article but it’s very accurate.) Here is a more recent example.

GGS must have a death wish, because he tells the boss guy:


Boss then lets everyone know they better not stop him–because:


The tension escalates as GGS asks the boss why he can’t stand up for his injured coworker, but has zero problem with killing a man! The ice water continues to flow through his veins as he removes the boss’s hands from his lapel. He turns away and bows to the group of workers while the boss taunts GGS, calling him a coward. Without directly looking at the boss, GGS lets the workers know:


and make sure that no one will get fired for testifying.

While Mr. Hong’s coworker whines over having to work with the injured guy, the worker who brought up the issue of losing the job over testifying steps up:


He is promptly warned by his superior not to help Mr. Hong throw the garbage cans/bags into the truck:


GGS narrates as the man gets in the truck and looks at the picture in his wallet of his young sons…one man will break through.

Back at Fourmis Mart, Manager Jung is grousing about the low sales. He asks Kang Min to go and take some pictures at another store, but Kang Min reminds him:


Manager Jung tells KM that he’s been there long enough to be a manager, and it’s just a title anyways, so he needs to do it. LSI is watching this whole exchange and tells KM to go and do whatever Manager Jung wants.

LSI goes to his computer, but suddenly can’t log in. Uh, oh! He asks the IT dude what the heck is going on. After he finds out LSI’s ID, we know the shyte has hit the fan:


LSI asks who did this:


LSI gets to the meeting late and apologizes, only to be told by Manager Jung that the meeting is over. When he tries to explain that he couldn’t access his computer, Manager Jung says no, the system is working just fine. LSI also finds out that there was a company dinner last night that he apparently didn’t get an invite to either. He wonders if that was Manager Jung who backstabbed him (duh!) then Manager Kim takes him to lunch, saying the rest of the managers are acting childish! One point for Manager Kim!

Over a delicious looking lunch:


Manager Kim asks LSI:


Ooookay, what does this have to do with anything? Manager Kim explains that the first time you spar with a partner, you can’t do much except lower your head, close your elbows and keep moving so you don’t get hit as much. Your pride is hurt because all beginners get beat up pretty bad. Then you make a big mistake:


Which lets you really take a blow….later on you feel ashamed, so you try to remember that you did take one jab at your opponent. Then you go back the next day, and get your butt kicked again:


Manager Kim asks LSI if he knows what he’s trying to tell him…


Manager Jung is jealous of LSI, which LSI can’t believe:


After all, LSI was hired through the open recruitment and the upper management has plans for a guy who has shown solid results like LSI. I could easily  believe that LSI is so humble he wouldn’t think like that. Manager Kim also reminds LSI that Manager Jung knows it’s a miracle that he’s made it as far as he has in the company, and he can’t even talk to Gaston without LSI being the translator.

Side note: Shouldn’t Gaston learn Korean too, since he works in SK?  Just sayin’…it goes both ways. For all the time my own dad spent working in SK, he never even bothered to learn any of the language. How ironic that his Kdrama watching daughter at least gives it a try!

Manager Kim has this advice for LSI:


Note: This is the only crosswalk in DramaLand that might be safe from the Legendary White Box Truck of Doom, due to the fact that it’s elevated. But I am sure on the day some poor schmuck walks across it when the box truck is illegally overloaded and violates that height limit sign, it will join all the other treacherous SK street crossings on the fatality list!

LSI has heard enough BS for today:


Their advice is nothing more than repeated cliches….unoriginal and uninspiring. LSI takes a verbal beatdown from Manager Jung, then Gaston comes on the scene and puts LSI in a headlock! Whoa!


He asks LSI why he doesn’t respect his orders, as all the workers turn around to watch the trainwreck show:


Gaston tells LSI he was supposed to get rid of the workers, but LSI says that was not a good plan. Gaston cranks up the evil by telling LSI to smile so they look like good coworkers–and it’s his job. (They are speaking in English). Manager Jung can barely hide his glee:



Gaston tells LSI that he’s picked a fight with him by joining the union…and Gaston is the wrong person to fight. Gaston has LSI round up his employees:


And makes LSI translate that there will be no promotions or pay raises, or any transfers to other departments or stores. It will be difficult to work for him (Gaston) because of LSI. He stands in front of his stunned workers, totally humiliated:


The other managers turn and walk away, as do all the workers, and LSI finally understands…there is no referee here to ensure fairness. He’s on his own. The animatronic deer lets us know:


(and I hope now that it’s in a million pieces, I won’t have to see it again!) At least one thing is cleared up:


He may be finished..but he’s not going to leave easily. He dares the management to force him to leave!

Last thought: I wonder if the producers of “Awl” knew about the villain of the classic Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast” aka Gaston:


If they did, and named the French boss character Gaston, it’s pretty funny. And if they didn’t–it’s pure blind luck, ironic, and funny too! In the late ’80’s, I was working at a dental office in Hollywood where many of the patients were involved with the BTS production of the movie, as well as some of the voice over actors and actresses. Every single person I knew who was associated with “Beauty and the Beast” raved over how amazing this movie was going to be when it was finally done–but unfortunately many of these wonderful and creative people passed away from HIV/AIDS complications before they could begin work on the next Disney animated movie.



One thought on “Episode 2 “Awl”: Thoughts and Commentary

  1. Pingback: AWL. JTBC. | IKurate

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