When a drama storytelling allows itself to stay true to it’s intent and unwavering in its honesty, there is nothing more satisfying as a viewer than to appreciate being treated like an adult. I loved episode 19 of Miss Korea even though pretty much nothing important happened in the way K-dramas love to deliver wham-bam big moments. Since the end of the Miss Korea pageant, there hasn’t been a single crescendo point in this drama but that hardly is the point. Life is not about big moments strung together, it’s a series of steps with the occasional big mountain to climb. Ji Young climbed her big mountain already and I couldn’t be prouder of how she did it. She worked hard, beauty really was just a thin veneer, and it was her determination to learn do the Miss Korea job that earned her the title. I’m enjoying Team Vivi’s second chance bet on the lip gloss product even if it feel slightly flimsy compared to their Vivi cream breakthrough. I’m not sure one lip gloss can resurrect a company’s chances, but it’s a cute product and does tie in with what I remember in make up trends from the late 90’s. The story doesn’t allow anyone to rest on their laurels and in the same way gives the underdogs a sense of hope. There is always tomorrow to wake up to, another challenge to overcome. Ji Young now has to think about what she wants to do with her life after she’s done being Miss Korea.
The fact that she’s never thought about it is telling, showing us that wuri Ji Young still has the high school teen in her who wanted to live life without planning ahead. Yet this time she does stop and think about it, whether it’s learning her fellow beauty queens actually had their own goals before entering the pageant, or contemplating Yoon’s offer to help her figure it out. Life is not a zero sum game and this drama shows it beautifully. Ji Young’s odious boss comes crawling back begging forgiveness, and even if he’s got ulterior motives, at least Ji Young got some justice for all the mistreated elevator girls who worked with her. In the process she netted another CF that ended up helping out Vivi. Miss Korea has created a vibrant world that continues to deftly weave all the characters together in ways that deliver pay offs down the line. This episode’s OTP moments were magical even if it was low key. A quick cheek kiss here, a hand hold there, but above all else, the open confirmation that they will work hard at it. Relationships aren’t done when people fall in love, and to have a lifetime in the ebbs and flows of earning a living is the biggest hurdle of all. I loved watching Hyung Joon and Ji Young take their different personalities, acknowledge each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and in the end keep on loving each other. Their second start was precious as is this entire drama. Next week’s episode 20 is the end and I’m betting I’ll be all smiles and maybe a little sniffling when all is said and done.
Episode 19 recap:
Ji Young purposely goes to the restaurant and sits down to eat lunch, during which she very pointedly applies her new Vivi lip gloss. Team Vivi is waiting for people to come get their free samples and lo and behold the crowds start rushing into the store. Ji Young wanders by the store and smiles to see it packed full of people. She jumps around to get their attention. Everyone smiles to see her (they are so cute) other than Hyung Joon.
He rushes outside and pulls her aside, telling her to leave now since she’s Bada’s model and can’t be seen here. Ji Young pouts and calls him a coward.
Madam Ma is doing the hair and make up for an MC on a TV show and decides to go with the Vivi lip gloss so her look is more natural since she’s interviewing regular folks.
Ji Young is practicing the Korean drums while Sun Young is making plans for matseons for the weekend. Ji Young asks Jae Hee if she has a boyfriend? She’s surprised Jae Hee does and asks why she never sees him or makes plans? Jae Hee is focused on the pageant and won’t see him until it’s over. Ji Young worries that he might leave Jae Hee but she’s not worried if that happens since he’s not the right guy then. Sun Young notices Jae Hee reading books during breaks to study for the announcer’s exam.
While Jae Hee wants to be an announcer, Ji Young remembers Sun Young’s dream is to be a wife and mom. That’s why Sun Young is urgently going on matseons now and she did the Miss Korea pageant to find a good man. Jae Hee doesn’t think that is anything to deride since Sun Young is honest about it. Jae Hee asks why Ji Young did the pageant and Ji Young confesses it was just like a dream to her and she never thought about what she wanted to do afterwards.
Ji Young walks by the Vivi lip gloss store but it’s closed for the night. She fixes the posters on the wall with a smile.
Dr. Ko is with the travel agent to finalize plans for her study abroad in France. She joins the rest of the Vivi team at dinner and notices the Teacher Jung is already drunk. She hears he started drinking right off the bat. The team takes Teacher Jung home but they don’t know which unit he lives in. Dr. Ko knows and the other guys are alarmed she’s progressed so fast with him. They look through his pocket for the keys but find instead a hotel room key.
Ji Young thinks to herself the question of what she wants to do after the pageant. She gets a call from Yoon who saw the Bada CF and is happy she did it. He asks what she wants to do after her term is up. She should think about it since being Miss Korea isn’t a job. If she wants help, he’s willing to help her. He tells her to call him after she thinks about it.
The Vivi team confront the awake Teacher Jung and confirm that he sold his house and that was where his money came from to help them. He says he can buy another house when the company succeeds. Dr. Ko is furious and yells at him but he yells back that it’s his house and he can do what he wants with it. Hyung Joon pulls Teacher Jung aside and asks where he got the first batch of money if the second batch came from selling his house. Was the first batch from Ji Young? Teacher Jung tells him to just pretend he doesn’t know the truth. He walks away leaving Hyung Joon standing there sighing.
Hyung Joon goes back home and sees Ji Young manning the counter in the store. He smiles at her and grabs a beer. She asks if he ate and he nods and then goes to open her bowl of ramyun for her to eat. He tells her to eat and forget starving herself for the Miss Universe pageant. She calls him back and holds his hand while she eats.
Hyung Joon tells her to let go of his hand and eat properly, he’s not going anywhere. Ji Young shares that when her mother died young, she held her dad’s hand all the time and would never let go. Hyung Joon tells her again to let go because he won’t leave. She refuses because he’s a coward. Hyung Joon worries that she’s making a mistake. Even more scared than his company failing, he’s scared for her making a mistake. Mom and Uncle come down and Hyung Joon immediately pulls his hand free and stands up.
Teacher Jung goes back to his hotel room that is empty save for a few belongings. Heung Sam and Kang Woo take the bus home and discuss Teacher Jung selling his house for Dr. Ko. Kang Woo asks if Heung Sam can do the same for Dr. Ko? Heung Sam wonders why he appears to be getting more and more miniscule in front of Dr. Ko. She walks home and stares at her study abroad packet and sighs.
It’s morning time and Hyung Joon joins the Oh family for breakfast. He sits down and Ji Young purposes kisses Hyung Joon on the cheek in front of her family. She gets up and leaves for work. Hyung Joon immediately kneels in apology while the Oh men yell at why he needs to apologize! Ji Young leaves the house with a smile and a skip in her step.
Ji Young is practicing her dreams when her old boss arrives. She immediately reminds him that she wants someone else to handle the talk. Her old boss tries to brush it off as a misunderstanding and she’s just like his younger sister. Ji Young is pissed and calls off the talks, she doesn’t want to be Dream Center’s model ever. She leaves her old boss and walks out. Her old boss gets a call warning him that if Ji Young becomes the model for another shopping center then he’s fired.
Teacher Jung leaves his hotel to find Dr. Ko waiting outside with her arms crossed and looking pissed. She tells him to grab his belongings, now that she knows the truth she can’t let him live here. He won’t so she storms inside toe grab his things. Dr. Ko takes Teacher Jung to her place and his face totally lights up. Once they get out, he asks how many rooms she has inside and hears she has just one room. He stammers that they can live together, what will the neighbors say. Dr. Ko tells him to wait and goes upstairs to grab blankets and pillows. She tells him to go stay with Hyung Joon but not be a bother which is why she is here to grab bedding for him. He yells at her not to go to France if she’s worried about him.
Ji Young’s old boss comes to the store and everyone freaks out to see him. Even funnier when he helps pick up the mop but clearly he doesn’t know these guys were the ones who attacked him. He apologizes to Ji Young’s dad for the insult last time at the department store. Ji Young comes home and demands to know why he’s here.
Teacher Jung tells Dr. Ko to go to work and he’ll head to Hyung Joon’s by himself. He puts her in the cab and then snuggles with the bedding before saying that he’s happier staying at a hotel.
Hyung Joon goes to Ji Young’s room and tells her to come out because she’s dead. Doesn’t she remember what she did this morning? Ji Young immediately crawls into bed while Hyung Joon smirks at her from the doorway. He tells her to do what she wants, so that he can keep worrying about her and one day he can hold her hand. If she was a coward as well, their romance would be so dead in the water. Which is why he is so very grateful that she’s not a coward. Ji Young smiles at Hyung Joon and he wishes her a good night.
Ji Young goes to work but her old boss is outside and immediately tells her to give him some time. They sit down at the cafe and he immediately hands her an envelope. He can’t return it all at once but little at a time. She asks if he’s bribing her? He says no, he’s returning her severance and final pay. She asks why? He explains he was wrong and mistaken towards her, it was all his fault. He did wrong because he just wanted to survive at the company while his bosses were pressuring him to get rid of all the elevator girls. He has kids to feed and thought if he got rid of her first, all the other girls would leave, too.
Ji Young reminds him that he took all the other girls money too and kicked them out. He agrees to return the money as well and begs for her forgiveness. She brings up how poorly he treated them for the last 7 years. He apologizes for taking out his own frustrations on them and offers to get on his knees and beg. She tells him to return the money to the other girls first, she’s worried about them now having jobs. He agrees and begs her to sign the CF deal with Dream Center.
Kang Woo is at the Dream Center to meet Kang Sik who lords his Vivi cream being a bestseller and gives Kang Woo one more chance to join Bada. It’s all about marketing and that is why Vivi failed. Hyung Joon doesn’t know what is beautiful and can’t succeed. Kang Woo tells his hyung to shut up, the bestselling Vivi cream was Hyung Joon’s idea and all Kang Sik can do is use money to steal someone else’s idea.
Teacher Jung finds Dr. Ko on the phone with the overseas program which makes him angry. She knows he went back to the hotel so he’s not listening to her either. She would rather leave the country soon rather than be angry all the time around him.
Ji Young is getting her hair and make up done for the Dream Center CF shoot with the two Madams. Her old boss comes in with drinks and is very solicitous. Madam Ma decides to use an extension on Ji Young today and arranges her hair with lovely fresh flowers. She wonders what lip color to use. She asks Ji Young’s old boss about this CF and hears it’s going to be purchased at all the prime time slots and get even greater exposure than the Bada Vivi cream CF. She decides on the Vivi lip gloss for a Spring feel.
Ji Young films the CF which encourages the people dealing with tough economic times to come shop at the Dream Center. Kang Woo shares with Hyung Joon and Heung Sam the open spot he saw at the Dream Center that will be open for two weeks before another booth comes in. Hyung Joon says the slot if small and perfect for them, and it’s right next to the Bada booth. Vivi sets up booth there and Kang Sik sees it and immediately looks pissed.
Ji Young can’t find anyone in Hyung Joon’s room and wonders if everyone spent the night out. Team Vivi was indeed up all night setting up at Dream Center. Heung Sam comes back to the shop to exchange places with Dr. Ko since they need a woman there to help sell. Teacher Jung helps put on Dr. Ko’s scarf but she pushes him away before running off. Heung Sam and Teacher Jung get ready to start selling the lip gloss for real and both vow to buy a house soon with the company’s success. Heung Sam wants to buy a even bigger house for Dr. Ko than the one Teacher Jung sold. Teacher Jung laughs and asks if he and Dr. Ko can live there with him. Heh.
Vivi set up their booth across from the Bada booth which has Ji Young’s face on billboards smiling back at them. The Vivi team feel like it’s a dream to be at a shopping center and Kang Woo wants to show his brother what he can do. Kang Sik calls Madam Ma and asks her to bring Ji Young over for a autograph session.
Ji Young is walking through Dream Center when she gets a call from Hyung Joon. She’s angry that he dared to stay out all night but he reveals that he was working all night and has something to show her. They talk on the phone until they spot each other in Dream Center. He is so happy and runs to tell her that he has a booth now. Suddenly there is a broadcast across the loudspeaker that Miss Korea Jin Oh Ji Young is here for an autograph session.Hyung Joon’s face falls while Ji Young doesn’t know what to say. Hyung Joon tells her to go with a smile. Kang Woo knows his brother did this on purpose. Teacher Jung and Heung Sam stand in the empty lip gloss store in a daze without a single customer.
Team Vivi stand in their empty booth watching all the customers lining up for Ji Young’s autograph. Hyung Joon smiles watching her sign. Customers come by and Vivi tries sell their lip gloss but the price is so low customers think it is a cheap product and pass. Ji Young is distracted signing and makes mistakes and doesn’t look very happy. Madam Ma and Kang Sik notice this.
Madam Ma suddenly asks for a break and drags Ji Young out of there. Heung Sam and Teacher Jung make a sale but after the customer leaves they wonder if they can sell even 10 today. Heung Sam says they need to sell at least 10,000 to make anything.
Madam Ma chews out Ji Young in the rest area and asks how she can be so unprofessional. If her love can influence how she does her job, then she shouldn’t be a model! Didn’t she sign a contract with Miss Korea to watch her personal life and not have any scandal? Does she think Miss Korea is an easy position? How can she be so dismissive just because she’s being treated well lately? Ji Young says she’s not being dismissive but Madam Ma retorts that her attitude back there was disrespectful to Bada and the people who came to see her sign and get her autograph. How can she not deliver that and put her feelings above theirs. Even if she can’t do it, then she needs to slap on a mask and do it! Ji Young cries and Madam Ma warns her to fix her make up and come up. If she does this again then Madam Ma won’t forgive her.
Ji Young comes out and she sees Hyung Joon smiling at her. She smiles back and looks determined. Ji Young starts signing and she’s much friendlier. Hyung Joon waits in line until he’s in front of her. He introduces himself as a fan and asks how Oh Ji Young is so pretty? What is her secret because he wants to share with his girlfriend. He can tell she’s tired signing but Ji Young gives him a lipstick kiss on the autograph and tells him to work hard even when he’s tired. Hyung Joon tells her fighting as well and heads back to the Vivi booth.
The next girl asks Ji Young for the same lipstick autograph and asks for advice on how to apply Wine Ever to look like Ji Young. She warmly gives the advice and even engages with fans by giving them advice on how to wear earrings and hair. Even Director Yoon gets in on it and offers advice. Hyung Joon keeps trying to get customers but no one stops though he keeps smiling at Ji Young. She continues signing and even offers secret skincare advice.
Dr. Ko is washing her face in the bathroom and she can’t help but start sobbing. Kang Woo is so angry he chases down Kang Sik and is ready to punch him in the face. But he holds back and then starts crying. Ji Young finishes her session but asks Madam Ma if she can go back inside. Madam Ma says nothing and gets in the car and leaves.
Ji Young runs back inside but finds the Vivi booth already packed up. She sees Hyung Joon sitting with his head down in the sofa by the elevator banks. He looks up and cracks a smile when he sees her.
Hyung Joon pulls her inside the elevator and asks if she remembers what this place means to them? She does, it’s the place where they got their second beginning. Hyung Joon smiles and asks if she regrets it? Regrets starting with him again? Ji Young apologizes for today but Hyung Joon says he’s the one sorry. But he’s not sorry for coming to find her and saying she is the prettiest woman in South Korea. He will never regret that and he would do that again. Even though he was nothing back then, he thanks her for accepting him.
Hyung Joon is very happy today, she got to see him selling and he’s happy that she’s the Bada model and doing well for that company. He would be sad if the situation were reversed and his product sold well but no one was standing in line waiting for her signature. He wants her to not worry about him, she needs to fly to the sky, understood?
Heung Sam gets an update from the Vivi team at Dream Center and hears they sold 20 today, and together with the 23 they sold it’s nothing. Heung Sam apologizes to Teacher Jung, at this rate he’s not going to get his house.
Madam Ma sits with Director Yoon as he wonders if Hyung Joon’s company is going bankrupt what with selling the lip gloss so cheap and no one buying today. Madam Ma says the company won’t go bankrupt and Ji Young won’t collapse because of it. She tells Director Yoon to schedule as many interviews with Ji Young as possible to show off her make up. All Hyung Joon’s company needs to do is hold on until the Dream Center CF blankets the airwaves. Director Yoon knows Madam Ma is trying to help Hyung Joon’s company but she counters that if the product is not good no one can help. He doesn’t think a 3000 won lip gloss is her level but she reminds him that if 3000 won can buy a woman’s happiness then it’s precious. It’s juicy and pretty and makes a woman’s lips look cute, that’s all that matters.
Ji Young’s Dream Center CF starts airing and her family gathers around the TV to watch happily and cheer her on.
Teacher Jung comes out of his hotel to find Dr. Ko waiting for him. She tells him to cook food because she can’t cook. He asks if she’s not going to study? Dr. Ko will study but she plans to study here. And in the meantime she’ll stay with a friend and he lives at her place. But she doesn’t want to burden her friend with food so will come back to eat. They smile at each other.
The sales start to take off as Ji Young’s CF hits the airwaves as well as the TV announcer who was photographed wearing the Vivi lip gloss. Crowds start to arrive at both the Dream Center booth and the store.
JI Young sits outside the Bada booth and signs autographs happily while watching crowds swarm the Vivi booth. Both Ji Young and Hyung Joon shoot smiles at each other in between being busy with their own work.
Thoughts of Mine:
I’m both happy and sad Miss Korea is ending in another episode. Happy because there really is no more story to tell, unless this drama becomes a sitcom and we follow the daily foibles of this endearing gang of hard working interesting characters. It would be like I Live in Cheongdamdong, one of my favorite dramas of all time, but set in a convenience store rather than a manhwabang. Having sane characters around doing rational things equals less worry and with that comes none of the required tension to sustain a full length episode of a prime time drama. It’s time to say farewell and I’ll be sad because this really was an underrated gem of the first order. There wasn’t any flaw other than it failed to connect with a broader audience. Hard to fault it’s time slot since plenty of dramas have gone against juggernauts and failed at the television ratings but acknowledged for its quality. I appreciate this story for sharing some lovely insights about life and relationships, about tenacity and second chances. The story does give viewers the sense of hope without the syrupy manufactured tidy endings. People don’t change but they can try to become better, when faced with mistakes it’s enough to acknowledge it and move on with the understanding not to do it again. Hyung Joon and Ji Young have shown us the evolution of an OTP from first blush romance to deep set love. It’s nothing life-and-death meaningful, but they touch my heart with how much they are willing to try at their relationship. Hyung Joon’s candor at his own insecurities is important so to avoid misunderstanding, Ji Young’s willingness to sacrifice for him but also support his pride is reassuring in showing me they can make it. This story delivers both the personal and professional triumphs that leave a lasting if rather whisper light imprint on my heart.
Click here to watch Miss Korea.