Posted in Commentary, Drama Series

Misaeng: on episode 7~10

(Young-yi and Baek-ki after watching horror movie)
Young-yi: “You want me to tell you another scary story? … Tomorrow’s Monday”
Baek-ki: ….

Dang! That’ll totally ruin your weekend mood, won’t it?

Erm, maybe not — if you truly love your job that Monday blues don’t exist. But for Baek-ki who’s been an outcast in Steel Team since Day 1 and spends workdays watching the time ticks by, the inescapable approaching Monday may legitimately sound like a nightmare. Young-yi might mean it as a joke — since she’s an outcast herself — as another work week at One International begins.

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In the beginning, Misaeng focuses on Geu-rae and his struggles to stay afloat as an intern. Once that excruciating period passes, it is more on Sales Team 3 (trio) and their dynamics with Manager Oh as the axis. And the limelight is totally on him on episode 7 and 8. He as a salaryman, he as a boss, and the way he does his job/role as both.

That he is a man of integrity who gives 110% into his work is easy to see. That he’ll jump through hoops, even if that means swallowing his pride and serving his schoolmate, to end up with a signed contract is no secret. But how low must he bow and how many blows after blows must he undergo is really put to test in this pair episode. Overworked, dipsomaniac, and seemingly sleep deprived Manager Oh looks like he may collapse any time. Yet he always somehow makes it out of daily drills alive.

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It’s a new work week, and each team is submitting project proposal which needs to be approved by both department head and hard-to-please finance manager. As always, Manager Oh chooses riskier, more difficult project as he believes the easier ones can be handled by anyone. Dong-shik however rationalizes they propose a safer one this time so there will be no room for failure, which translates to more satisfactory job performance, which means Manager Oh can (finally) receive the promotion he so deserves.

Long story short, it gets boxed up and they eventually work on the project the department head favors. Even that doesn’t lead to automatic approval as it is pitted against other sales team’s proposal; the department head has the final say on which project he’ll bring forward to the executive director, which has less to do with the quality of the proposed project and more of office politics (i.e. who’s a better, more willing kiss-up). Which is… urgh.

Worse, all efforts spent researching and preparing the report turn to dust as the paperwork is snatched right under their nose and handed over to Resources Team by no other than the executive director himself. Considering the project to be above Sales Team 3’s level, he sneers at them to take on something that suits them. At which our poor guys can only hang their heads (gah!) and vent it out on food and drinks, in silent…

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Sans project on hand, usually yes-man Manager Oh refuses a certain big project recommended by department head because dealing with that company’s CEO is against his principles. He won’t budge even when the carrot dangled is more team member should the deal pull through.

An ever so reliable informant Dong-shik has become in recent episodes, he fills Geu-rae in on the happenings the latter can’t quite fathom — what’s going on (in present and past), why so-and-so does that, what possibly goes through their minds yada yada yada — especially where their manager is concerned.

This time is because the CEO Moon always wants a second round of entertainment prior to signing a contract. Nobody ever walks away with a sealed deal without it. And providing what he wants is like (or worse than) embezzlement to Manager Oh. So much so that he puts on thinking cap to come up with legit, irrefutable reason not to do it…

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First, lack of remaining operational funds — for which the department head hands his credit card to cover necessary expenses. Second, get the whole team sick (the company can’t force sick employees to work right?) by gulping down spoiled milk which has also been left under the sun for a good three hours. Which is eww but also lol. They gag and all — but they aren’t down with loose bowel.

Two fails, promise of additional staff, and seeing haggard Dong-shik dozing off on the table are enough reasons to spur a change of heart. However, he’s determined to have CEO Moon with exceedingly high alcohol tolerance down on the first round. What ensues is elaborate plan and tricks to knock the target out while staying sober themselves. All prepped and off to battlefield they go… only to find out it is over before it even begins.

Of course it is hard to watch — the moment their crafted setup goes down the drain and how Manager Oh is shoving the papers down CEO Moon’s pocket till the very last minute. Upright worker who chooses (his) people over business and principles over contract. His unwillingness to cut corner, backstab, and kiss-up more than he should probably what cause career stagnancy regardless of how almighty his children and subordinates see, look up to, and idolize him.

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(This is gonna be a very long post, isn’t it? I’ll try to cut it short from here!)

Ookay, now that case is behind our back, let’s see who the newest addition is. Tell me it’s gonna be someone worthy and supportive… nah. Judging from the look on Manager Oh and Dong-shik’s face by the end of episode 8, it is (yet another) someone the former is having bad blood with. Say (no) hello to Manager Park (Kim Hee-won) who neither gives a good first impression nor appears to be a likable character. Two managers in one team? How would that work?

Not that Manager Oh doesn’t request a staff change immediately, but Manager Park seems to be an expert in Middle East cases and has legendary sales deal under his belt. And since “even if we lose business, we don’t lose people” is Sales Team 3’s motto, Manager Oh’s determined to get along and make it work. Did he see Geu-rae that way, back then too? Regardless of what and who he is, he was too one of them?

When things start looking up, this happens. When the teamwork has gotten solid and (i suppose) Geu-rae’s hard times is a past, Manager Park comes into picture. Not only does he not willing to adjust and adapt but also abuses our golden boy like no other. Like Dong-shik points it out perfectly, getting slammed for unsatisfactory work is fine, but personal attacks are totally a different thing — he shouldn’t stay still at that.

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There are of course baduk lessons as a basis for his unperturbed stance, but to others, his submission is perplexing to the point of aggravating… until he decides to open up to Dong-shik about his past, his family, and the reason why he never once mentions his expertise in baduk. The bonding is so heartwarming they agree to befriend each other on social media too (So cute! Should i open an account there too, just because they have it? XD). If Geu-rae sees Manager Oh as a hero like he would his father, Dong-shik could totally be his big brother.

To ease heated tension in the corner cubicle, Manager Oh tells Manager Park to recommend a project. However, the Jordan project report the latter oh-so-eagerly brings to the table seems iffy. Part of revenue the other party is getting from the deal is unusually high. Unable to overlook this matter, he wishes to re-investigate. Problem is, the project has received the green light from the higher-ups and re-investigation risks the deal and relation with the other party and will also take its toll on those who approved the contract in the first place (higher position = greater responsibility = bigger repercussions to shoulder). He is thus torn between doing what’s necessary and what’s ‘right’.

We know his choice between people and business or principles and contract, but which prevails when it is people vs principles…?

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While episode 7~8 are Manager Oh-centric, episode 9~10 spend a great deal of time on our still struggling newbies. There’s Geu-rae and his snobbish nemesis of the week. Seriously, with all the negative people on the show (on other teams) already, do we really need an antagonist in our dear Sales Team 3 too? Is Manager Park just a one-time appearance or is he sticking around for more? As the latest project is Jordan-related, it throws me back to the opening scenes of present-time Geu-rae chasing after someone in the country.

There’s Young-yi and Baek-ki who despite their skills continue to be underutilized and under-appreciated by their respective superior. After numerous failed attempts to contribute, they cave in. Young-yi stops sticking out and willingly offers herself to be the errand girl: making coffee, throwing trash, cleaning up after their mess… while Baek-ki decides to jump ship. It makes me wonder if they’d be treated differently — more nicely — should they too stay in the same team as their internship period’s…

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It’s not that Baek-ki didn’t approach Kang daeri — the superior — and ask if he could be of any help. He did several times yet always came back empty handed. If Kang daeri is that busy, another pair of hands can definitely lighten the workload, no? Even when he bluntly asks what he did wrong, the answer is he lacks the basics and thus not good enough.

But screw the timing, once he secures an interview date, he gets the chance to do real work — preparing revised budget report — on Kang daeri‘s absence. The sight of him immersed in the first important task he’s had in weeks or probably months is so gratifying. And who doesn’t love the tiny smile he flashes when he finally receives guides and instructions on how to correct the wrongs? It took him (them) long enough.

Back to Young-yi, she’s ready to work her way up, all while making her presence noticed and useful, going the extra miles to prove she’s as capable and resourceful as her male colleagues. Her backstory remains a mystery but we’ll get to that eventually. So far we’ve known who the mysterious caller and the man coming to the office to see her are.

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Round up the newbies is of course Seok-yul, the source of comedic relief. But he can also be Mr. Know-It-All, the empathetic, or the comforter, depending on the situation. He isn’t as exasperating as he was in earlier episodes. Not sure if he’s stil l a slacker, but his happily roaming around the office day and night makes me wonder if he has any work to do at all. Surprise surprise(?) he does. He is under a nice daeri too, who hands him personal credit card to buy the most expensive coffee (which turns out a maxed out one) and oh-so-casually asks him to answer an important call coming in around midnight and then assist a breakfast meeting the following dawn. Smiley devil is scarier than slimy one, you think?

So far, Misaeng has portrayed mundane, day-to-day office work. Unlike typical Korean dramas, there is nothing glossy or fancy about the setting or characters. Or acting — which is done mostly with subtlety but conveys much. But i think that’s the main pull, because it felt real and relatable. Added bonus is you get to learn a thing or two about (work)life — about perseverance, patience, and endurance; about the type of person or worker you want and don’t want to be; about how to deal with bitter, negative people or pressing situations.

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However, what i like the most in these episodes is Manager Oh’s one-on-one interaction with the kids. He has a unique way to break the ice and click with them. His way of siding with the weak may be petty — the way he trips Young-yi’s superior like he did to Seok-yul in episode 3 is hilarious though — but when he can point out Baek-ki’s flaws without making him defensive, for instance, that says and shows a lot of a great manager he is.

Can’t they all come under his wings too? Is it too convenient?

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(In the end, this isn’t short at all… orz)

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