This is a man dress in business atire with his head leaning against the exterior wall of a brick building. This represents Lee Tae Oh in "The World of the Married".
Daniel Mingook Kim

There is far more to this story than should be expected

“What the hell is going on?” is basically what you’ll keep asking yourself if you ever decide to watch The World of the Married. The Korean drama which is largely based off of Mike Bartlett’s Doctor Foster, is a very stressful but addictive watch. How is screen writer Joo Hyun able to extend a simple marital feud to a confounding battle? No idea but it’s maddening.

Like Doctor Foster, The World of the Married follows the destruction of a family after a woman discovers that her husband has been cheating and living a double life with a much younger woman. The difference however, is that Doctor Foster is curbed too early, so The World of the Married feels like it will attempt to complete the story or at least lengthen the chaotic experience that the story inspires.

In this Korean drama, Doctor Ji Sun-Woo (Kim Hee-Ae) discovers that her husband Lee Tae-Oh (Park Hae-Joon) has been cheating on her for years. He is a loser. He has a failing career as a movie director and as such, doesn’t contribute to his household but he still feels entitled to her. He acts as if he’s also entitled to do little housework while using the excuse of watching their son Lee Joon-Young (Jeon Jin-Seo) to explain away his laziness. So rightly, when Sun-Woo is confronted with his secret, she becomes distraught and angry. Her fury was so pronounced, she imagined killing him, destroying his life, and hurting all the people who protected her husband as he cheated on her (she does some of these things). And yet all the while, somehow, Tae-Oh manages to twist his reality so that he can believe that he’s in the right. So between episodes one and eight, he’s insufferable. His reputation is made worst when we learn that’s he’s been stealing from his wife and adorning his new girlfriend Yeo Da-Kyung (Han So-Hee) with vacations and gifts he bought with her money. Still, he has the audacity to believe that Ji is the problem within their relationship. His reasoning is so crazy, it actually gives me a headache just thinking about how delusional he is.

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Until the ninth episode of The World of the Married, I kept getting the feeling that this show was inspired by Barlett’s work before realizing the connection. In truth, the show stayed in line with the story for so much of its beginning that it seemed like a cheap imitation, suggesting that it could never eclipse its position in Doctor Foster‘s shadow. However, this episode was the final piece to announce that Hyun’s work was diverging from Barlett’s path and avoiding redundancy. It was crazy clever.

Sun-Woo managed to instill doubt within Tae-Oh’s new marriage by approaching his wife Da-Kyung in her territory: she joined their community’s woman’s association thereby declaring war on Tae-Oh. (I’m clueless to how she plans to use that association to fight him but whatever.) Then she schemed to thwart his attempts to remove her from her position as the associate director of her hospital. All these attempts were fruitless but in the end, Tae-Oh’s mistake dominated the narrative when his relationship with Park In-Kyu (Lee Hak-Joo), a criminal and abuser, threatened the safety of their Joon-Young. Turns out that he was the one that was attacking Sun-Woo at home.

Obviously, the Korean adaptation isn’t exactly the same as its British counterpart, and fortunately so. But the two share an incisive moral: kids are so annoying. I get it, it can be hard on a kid when their family splits apart and their foundation is shifted without notice but come on! Joon-Young is so frustrating. The fact that he’s OK with his father moving on but is selfishly holding on to his mothers attention and halting her progression is angering. He is far too old to not realize that it’s unfair to keep his mom static so that he can hold on to a normalcy that never existed and he’s damn rude. How can he essentially go missing for hours without notifying his family and then respond with anger when he’s admonished? His behaviour is like those spoiled white kids everyone sees in American TV shows. Joon-Young is the Carl Grimes of this show. In fact, why are they even fighting for him? He sucks.

In spite of this, Joon-Young isn’t the worst character in the series. Son Je-Hyuk’s (Kim Young-Min) selfish and crude attitude towards his wife is disturbing. Anyone who can casually say, “but it might only get tougher for you once we have a baby. I’m a selfish guy you know,” without considering how repugnantly harmful it is, is someone who deserves a good bashing. The sexist attitude of the community makes disgraceful personalities like Son the norm, so his alarming attitude is contagious. He has an illness called misogyny and all the men in the show are afflicted by it too.

Anyhow, like Grimes Joon-Young is Dr Ji’s liability because through him, Dr Kim Yoon-Ki (Lee Moo-Saeng), a hired hand by Yeo Byeong-Kyu (Lee Kyoung-Young) is able to gain insight into the functionalities of the Lee family. But it feels so unnecessary and intrusive to hire someone to seduce information out of Sun-Woo. No? What is Yeo’s aim and what can he possibly achieve by linking the two together?

Honestly, the show felt like it was going to be meaningless and trite from the beginning but Hyun has proved that there is far more to this story than should be expected. Hyun has won my trust so my expectations are now high. I was actually waiting to see how the show will wrap up to deliberate whether it’s binge worthy so as to avoid another disappointment like Tell Me What You Saw —with its banal final episode—but this show is too good to ignore.

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