Continuing with my recent trend of watching dramas from my 2017 watch list, I decided to round it up with another little drama that I knew had potential but wasn’t able to watch last year due to work and life-MBC’s “Radiant Office”. At the time, there was too much going on for me to be able to pay attention to this drama and I only managed to watch a few episodes, but recently, I finally found the time to watch this gem of a drama which impressed me with its unconventional heroine and with how realistic most of the characters were, especially as the drama was written by a rookie screenwriter.
This MBC drama ran for sixteen episodes from March 15 to May 4, 2017. It was directed by Jung Ji In and Park Sang Hoon; and was written by Jung Hoe Hyun. As mentioned earlier, the screenwriter is a rookie writer who won the 2016 MBC TV Drama Screenplay Competition in the Miniseries category.
The show follows Eun Ho Won (Go Ah Sung), a job seeker who spent most of her working life working part-time jobs and getting rejected 99 times at job interviews, which drives her to almost kill herself in despair. However, while at the hospital, she meets two other hopeless cases like herself- Do Ki Taek (Lee Dong Hwi), a 32 year old whose girlfriend just broke up with him as he hadn’t passed the civil service exam yet; and Jang Kang Ho (Hoya), who can’t seem to get a job due to his panic disorder and who lives under the shadow of his dominant mother- and together they form a strong bond. After learning that one of them might be terminally ill with just a few months to live, they all coincidentally get accepted into a furniture company called Hauline, and from there, Ho Won decides to tackle this opportunity with a new perspective in life. There, she also meets Seo Woo Jin, a marketing manager who had failed her in a job interview before, and who hates the usual work culture of currying favors and looks at people based on their output.
One thing that I enjoyed and that I found impressive about the show was the fact that this rookie screenwriter gave us interesting and realistic characters, and was able to tackle interesting issues. Some of these issues include the workplace culture in South Korea (which I can also see of in my home country, the Philippines), the plight of single working mothers, and how it is possible for the woman to bring in more money and support the man. The characters were quirky yet relatable, as many can probably relate to one character or the other.
Personally, the characters did strike a big chord with me. Like Woo Jin, I’m the type that doesn’t really get along with the kind of workplace culture prevalent in most companies; like Ho Won, I have had to deal with unreasonable superiors and their orders and getting rejected in job interviews; and, like another major character in the series, I am currently working at my father’s firm. All of this gave me a unique perspective as I watched the series, and it further endeared it as I was able to pick out valuable life lessons from each character and from how they responded to particular situations, whether they did the right thing or not.
Go Ah Sung was wonderful as the feisty Eun Ho Won, who also wasn’t your typical K drama heroine; Hoya did a good job in portraying a young man with a panic disorder; and Lee Dong Hwi was great as the mother hen of our little trio. Ha Seok Jin played a very Ha Seok Jin role, but it amazes me that he can find different ways to make it feel different even though it does have the same template each time. Kim Dong Wook was good as Seo Hyun, however, I think that his character is where the writer failed. The rest of the cast were equally brilliant.
I also loved the character journeys that our main characters went through, and that you could see how much they grew throughout the series at the end.
My only gripe is that I think that there were some potential story lines that weren’t really focused on, and there were some plotholes that were never really explained. I do think that there were supposed to be more episodes, but it got cut down, hence the plotholes, disappearing storylines, and rushed outcomes. However, it didn’t really detract from the main core of the story.
“Radiant Office” is wonderful breath of fresh air when it comes to workplace Kdramas, with a wonderful cast, and wonderful yet relatable characters that make us want to root for them all the way to the finish line.
Now, you know the drill! From here on out, there will be spoilers!
As mentioned earlier, the strength of this show really lies with the wonderful character journeys that each of the main characters went on.
At the beginning of the series, Kang Ho was a young man crippled with a panic disorder, burdened by the pressures that society thrusts upon children of well to do families, and who only wanted to do things to make his parents proud of him. After he got into Hauline, he was still trampled upon by unreasonable superiors, and he conformed with workplace culture even though some of the practices are morally wrong just so that he can earn brownie points to secure that permanent position.
Thankfully, he found a great mentor in Jo Seok Kyung (Jang Shin Young); and listened and acted upon her advice, and the advice of his two new friends. Having this new support system really did wonders for him, because all his mother wanted him to do was make her proud so she could save face in front of her friends.
The biggest turning point for him, though, was when he decided to move out of his parent’s home, and when he decided to keep on staying there after he was able to get a permanent position at Hauline. After that he smiled more, and was more confident in himself.
Ho Won is at the core of the show, as she was the main catalyst for everything that happened to the trio and at Hauline. She went from someone who worked part-time jobs to securing a permanent position at Hauline; but more importantly, she was able to learn how to stop blaming the world and her circumstances for her plight and took action against it. In her case, Woo Jin was the ideal mentor for her, as he was able to push the right buttons to fire her up to rise above her situation and do something about it. Of course, before this happened, she had to hit rock bottom first, and once she got there, there was just nowhere else she could go but up.
I also like the slow burn relationship that she had with Woo Jin, and I’m glad that we were shown how they evolved into friends and then into lovers. Also, those little pecks on the beach took me by surprise as it fit them more than the longer kisses that we are used too.
Woo Jin actually learned a lot from Ho Won, and was guided along by the right mentor. Woo Jin learned how not to run away from situations when he didn’t like what was happening and stayed and fought back as hard as he could. He also learned that some parts of workplace culture aren’t as bad as he thought they were; opened up to his co-workers; and most importantly, learned how to judge people not just by their output, but by the effort and hard work that they also put into it.
My heart went out to Ki Taek during the entire course of the drama, as he is very much the heart of the trio. He grew a lot from taking a job to prove to his ex- girlfriend and now co-worker Ha Ji Na (Han Sun Hwa), that he is worth something, to figuring out his own strengths and what he wants. I really loved that because he didn’t get the permanent position, he was able to think about what he really wants in life, and I hope, that if he does get better from whatever he has, that he can make all his dreams come true.
I particularly love the way they tackled his and Ji Na’s relationship. I love that their break-up and seeing each other work in the same office made them realize things that they never though of while they were together. Ji Na realized that the best thing a career woman could have is a nurturing man who supports you no matter what, and Ki Taek realized that Ji Na’s initial reason for breaking up with him was a reasonable one. In the end, this couple came out strong, and is one that I will not forget any time soon.
As mentioned earlier, Kim Dong Wook’s Seo Hyun is where the writer failed, most probably due to lack of time or episode cuts. There was s much more to explore in his character that was never truly explained, and his gradual return to being a little bit good in the end wasn’t really organic at all. However, I did like that it made me realize that there are definitely two ways of being the child of the owner- you take advantage of that privilege in the wrong way or you work hard to prove that you are worth the position that you were given.
I also liked how the other characters were able to help tackle workplace issues, from the ones who curry favor, to the plight of someone light Seok Kyung (Jang Shing Young), who had to stoop down a little bit just so that she would have an advantage in her already unfair situation.
In the end, “Radiant Office” was not perfect, but it offered a unique perspective when it comes to the workplace thanks to the situations we were shown, and thanks to the quirky but relatable characters it gave us.
Have you seen “Radiant Office”? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!
Image Source: MBC