Misaeng and Moving On

*Be advised that if you intend to watch Misaeng, you may wish to do so before reading this post, as it contains major plot spoilers. And if you don’t intend on watching it, I suggest that you do, because it’s worth it. Also, I cannot tell you how much I want to write all these names in Hangul.*

So this is not at all the post I was expecting to be writing at this point, especially not on Spy Wednesday/Holy Thursday. (Unfortunately, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter have all crept up on me). But what can you do? You finish a drama, and it affects you, and you have to write about it.

If you follow kdramas at all, you have no doubt at least heard of Misaeng, aka Incomplete Life. A (surprisingly from me) short synopsis:

Jan Geu Rae manages to land an internship at a trading company through personal connections. Despite his lack of qualifications–he only has a GED–he passes the internship and becomes a 2-year-contract employee. Over the course of 20 episodes we see no more and no less than the triumphs and struggles of Jang Geu Rae and his colleagues in their corporate lives.


I like the show for many reasons, but the one I want to mention here is something I’ve talked about before, actually: the concept of moving on.

You see, the end of the series really resonates with me.

When One International refuses to extend his contract, Jang Geu Rae leaves the company. But for him, leaving the company isn’t so much about leaving the work he does; it’s about the people. He feels bad enough for inadvertently causing his beloved Manager Oh to quit, and on top of that, now he can’t even give Manager Oh the consolation of having received a permanent position. Then there’s Assistant Managers Kim and Cheon, Senior Manager Seon, and his peers, who all did their best to get encourage the company to fully hire him. It seems to be both a relief (not being constantly reminded of Manager Oh) and a pain (leaving his coworkers and disappointing his former manager) that he fails to make the cut.

So Geu Rae returns to his unemployed state. Yet he doesn’t become listless or despairing, but proactively builds up his skill set, so that he may one day work as a company man again. We even see him three weeks later, cleaning his mother’s floor while practicing English. When his former coworkers all want to have a drink with him, he meets them and has a good time. When Manager Oh offers him a job at a new startup company, he takes it. When he’s given the responsibility of chasing down an errant salesman, he hops on a plane to Jordan and gets to it. He grabs the bull by the horns, something he never would have done at the beginning of the series.

Like, he literally runs after the errant salesman. And leaps from a rooftop to a window and lands just like this. Yay dramaland!!

Instead of being stuck on his failures, or even stuck in the good memories of the past, Geu Rae cherishes what he had and continues on with his life. I am convinced that he would have done this even had he not seen Manager Oh again. Don’t get me wrong, Geu Rae grieved for what he had lost. The day Manager Oh left, the day he himself had to leave, Geu Rae was crying (beautiful performance by Im Si Wan, and everyone really). But he knew that for everything to get even a little better, he had to move on. That, as Manager Oh always said, his best skill was his endurance, and that we have to endure these incomplete lives of ours. So he gratefully took the lessons he learned from his time at One International and put them to good use. And life got better.

His life isn’t exactly as it was before. True, he’s working with both Manager Oh and Assistant Manager Kim (who couldn’t take not being around the two of them and so joined Manager Oh’s company), but Oh’s company is smaller, more at risk of failure, and his job is less stable. He doesn’t get to work with Manager Cheon, Seok Yeol, Yeong Yi, or Baek Gi. That time in his life is over and done. Geu Rae can’t pause his life just because of that.

The reason that part really pierced my heart was because it reminded me exactly of when I left college. I wasn’t being let go from a job or anything, and I hadn’t really let anyone down, but I was leaving a place and people I loved. On graduation day, after the flurried rush of chatting and pictures, we all dispersed to go home, and that was it. I was bawling. The last friend that I said good-bye to had to leave hurriedly and so I had to give him a hug with my mascara running and everything.

No runny mascara, but you get the idea.

I knew I would see my friends again, but nothing would ever be the same. We will never again have the same closeness, the same environment fostering discussion and fellowship and camaraderie, the same opportunities to learn. If we get to see each other again, wonderful; if not, then we can cherish the memories we have all the more. Most importantly, we grew and changed in those experiences, and hopefully learned from them, so that we can work on our incomplete lives, on living how we should.

And I think Incomplete Life, or “Not Yet Born” is a pretty good way to describe our earthly lives. Because here, this world, is not the place for our lives’ completion and fullness. We only find that after death–with God. And even though there will be happiness, to get to that point, we have to be like Jang Geu Rae and his friends and endure a lot of suffering and pain, sometimes by fighting back and sometimes silently, biting our tongues. To be like Christ, who suffered the ignominy of the crucifixion for us, that we might finally realize the completeness and fullness of our lives in Him.


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