“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father”

I sometimes live in drama land for stretches at a time. When I emerge from a drama haze, I find that another holiday has passed or I’ve missed yet another birthday. I’m unsentimental by nature (as poor Mr. Koala bemoans day and night), and forgetful by overuse of my brain. So it astonished me to realize that I am in fact aware of the next holiday coming up, Father’s Day. I’ve also bought a present already for my dad and for poor beleaguered Mr. Koala on behalf of the babies. I pats myself on the back, yes I do.

The title of my post is from a 1994 HK movie about a character who travels back in time to meet his father as a young man in order to learn to love, understand and appreciate him. It’s so easy to take the ones we love for granted, especially if they live far away from us. But time waits for no one, and as each day passes we grow older and the time we have together decreases little by little. I’m by no means urging everyone to speed dial your loved ones, but merely taking a moment to recognize how often we overlook the people closest to us. Especially our loved ones from older generations – because we don’t relate to them as much, we have less to talk about.

I’ve recently started watching Goodbye Solo, and a character in that drama has stood out so much in a stellar ensemble that I can’t stop thinking about her. Na Moon Hee plays Mi Young, a grandmother who is mute and runs a small restaurant that brings all the other main characters together time and again for a meal, the one communal moment in each of their lives. I don’t yet know Grandma Mi Young’s back story, but I do know that the character makes both my heart ache and beat a little bit faster. I just want to lay on her lap like Kim Min Hee’s Mi Ri does, to have her pat me on the head the way she does to Chun Jung Myung’s Min Ho.

I never met one set of my grandparents, who died before I was born. The other set of grandparents passed when I was a young child, leaving vague foggy recollections that resemble nothing more than abstracts. But my parents are now grandparents, and they make me miss having my own granny or gramps around to coddle me and berate me. This longing, and a desire to spend as much time with my own parents as they enter the sunset of their lives, made me want to salute the K-drama characters of an older generation who linger on the periphery of every drama but sometimes (often) mean so much more than the young people standing front and center.

This list is by no means extensive, or all-inclusive. It’s merely a few characters who immediately come to my mind, probably because they never left my consciousness. They include grandparents and parents, secondary characters who seem to exist purely to complement the main leads, but may (did) end up making me care more about them.

5. Kang Nam Gil as Daddy Son Il Gun in Who Are You? – Amazing performance, wonderfully poignant character.

4. Mommo Beo Jin in Tamra the Island – The bedrock of an island, of a community, and of a family. Her strength and dignity was captivating to watch.

3. Grandpa Man Bok in Smile, You – That is a life lived with meaning, purpose and decency. It was heartwarming that he passed along all that he stood for to both his own family and the family of his beloved President.

2. Grandma Mi Young in Goodbye Solo (see first picture above) – Why she doesn’t want to talk is not important. Why she is so steady and cheerful breaks my heart.

1. The Grandmother in The Way Home/Jibeuro (2002) – Okay, I lied. I sneaked this one in here. It’s not a K-drama, it’s a K-movie. I watched this with my mom a few years ago, and watched it crying from about the fifteen minute mark onward. I kept crying, and crying. I’m still tearing as I write about it. The grandmother in this movie says nothing with words, and says an entire world of love with her actions. One of the most touching movies I have ever watched.

I’m a little bit wary of starting my Thank You watch, because I’ve heard there is a grandpa in that drama which might make me cry some more. But I welcome it, and look forward to it. These are performances that are based not on the actor or actress having beautiful looks, an amazing voice, or a sexy body. These are characters who feel alive and stay with us. They remind us of the people we love who are still in our lives, or have moved on but will stay in our hearts forever.

Can you tell me a secondary parental character in a drama (or movie) that you have loved and found unforgettable? I would love to put it on my to-watch list.


“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father” — 12 Comments

  1. Oh Grandpa in TY! For sure. Here…have a chocopie. You’ll feel better about everything.

    Han Kyul’s father in Coffee Prince. He put up with being misunderstood for YEARS in a gentle manner, and then the same actor scared the living daylights out of me as BB in City Hall.

  2. The grandpa in Thank You is hands-down my favorite of the K-dramas I’ve seen so far. He made me laugh, he made me cry. Both…a lot!

    I also really liked the Queen Mum / Grandma in Goong. I think the most emotional scene of the whole drama is when Chae-kyung has to say goodbye to the QM when she’s going into exile.

    LOVED Kim Gab-soo in Cinderella’s Sister, but then I love him in anything and everything!

    Great post! 🙂

  3. Shin Gu in Ruler Of Your Own World! My heart still aches when I think about him. Same with Yoon Yeo Jung in the same drama.

    So Ji Sub’s mom in WHIB was heartbreaking, too.

  4. Oh oh, do a post on “She ain’t a witch, she’s my mom” and stick Joon-sang’s mom (that pianist) in Winter Sonata right on top for target practice! Grrr, hate her to bits!! Still on hateful moms, Jung Ae-ri in Women in the Sun was chilling. Ditto Kim Mi-sook in Brilliant Legacy.

    Okay, awesome parents and grandparents… There are plenty. My current craze/love Jejoongwon has the bestest Joseon dad ever in Kim Gab-soo. Also, the main character (Park Yong-woo as Hwang Jung) has a truly touching relationship with his dad.

    The granddad in Sweet 18 was awesome. Na Moon-hee as a foul-mouthed mom in Have We Really Loved was a class act, but then she’s always amazing in everything she plays. The grandma in Brilliant Legacy was great, too.

    I second Dahee’s recomendation. Shin Gu in ROYOW! And TY!

    The parents in 1% of Anything were all kinds of wonderful, plus they must be the best-looking parents in kdramaland.

    For k-movies, I love the mom in Superstar Mr. Gam. Also Lee Mi-sook in …Ing.

    Will be back when I can think of more. 😀

  5. Oh, please please watch Thank You. The granpa in it will definitely make u cry & laugh & he will stay with u long after u finished the drama. And the OST is so heart wrenching too.

    This reminds me to watch “The way home” I have it in Eng sub somewhere. Must dig it up & watch it pronto.


  6. Thank You is next up on my to-watch list. I can’t wait to meet Grandpa!

    Thanks for all the great addition to the list of parental figures.

    Sometimes we just need to feel wisdom and love, and these parental figures provide it in spades.

    @ thundie – your wish is my command. 🙂

  7. Grandpa in TY! I was always teary whenever he’s on screen – I also lost my grandparents when I was young, never feel ‘grandparents’ love.

    Oh, I also like the grandpa in “1% chance of love”. After watching that drama, I try to always help elderly in public transportation – you never know if he’s a chaebol and have eligible bachelor grandson at home! 😛

  8. That’s it, I must find The Way Home, want to waaatch!

    I second everyone else about the grandpa in Thank You. Though I love grandma too.

    – Jung Ae-ri in Women of the Sun. She was both angel and satan, but being the latter was understandable. It’s not her fault the little girl she adopted had a few screws loose, which as it turns out, was genetic.

    – Choi Min-soo in Father’s House. Best father ever, ‘nuff said. Can’t wait to see him alongside So Ji-sub in Road #1. (Must watch him in Sandglass, too.)

    – Sung Ji-ru playing a very memorable father cameo in OB-GYN. It was a small part but it held so much impact, never have the two words ‘’aigyoo, yobo!’’ conveyed so much meaning. (I need a moment here…)

    – Hyun Bin’s omma in World That They Live In. Such a simpleton, so adorable. Broke my heart to see HB so embarrassed of having her for a mother, even bratty teens don’t have that kind of attitude, surely. Worse that she felt it and was apologetic for it, gaahh! Can we do a mum-swap, please?

  9. Thanks, djes and supah.

    What great additions to the list! 😀

    I love this post because each time we read that there are so many wonderful parental figures in K-dramas, it negates a bit of the bitter taste left by the bad ones.

  10. I liked Park Hae Jin’s adoptive parents in By Land and Sky…Jung Ae Ri had so much love for her adoptive son you can just feel it…and boy! those two can hug…. in a very filial way. The Kim family in that series has one of the warmest relationships I’ve seen in a Kdrama. From the biological grandmother (Ban Hyo Jung Of BL/SI) to the parents, real son and adoptive son (MuYong/PHJ) and MuYong’s wife JiSoo (Han Hyo Joo)…best sweetheart hugs too, great chemistry, warm and playful. This series is long…165 epi but I just watched the layers of my loved characters and was very happy.

  11. I love Na Moon Hee’s Mi Young in Goodbye Solo! That simple, poignant scene in the last episode made me cry such bittersweet tears. One of the most memorable moments in any drama for me.

    Also, totally agree with thundie on awesome father figures in Jejoongwon. Mr. Yu is such a cool father!

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