The City Hall
CREDIT FOR ALL PICTURES GOES TO THEIR UPLOADERS!
I recently rewatched The City Hall and thought that I would write an updated post for this drama because it was just that good. So, I have deleted my previous post, and put this one in its place.
The City Hall was a Korean drama that aired on SBS from April, 2009 to July, 2009. The drama centered around dirty politics, but the more important story was about how two people fell in love in this setting.
The drama starred Kim Sun Ah as Shin Mi Rae, a small town person who becomes the mayor of a small fictional city named Inju. The drama starred Cha Seung Won as Jo Gook, the politically savvy man that comes to town and changes Shin Mi Rae’s life. Rounding out the cast were Choo Sang Mi as Min Joo Hwa, one of the faces of dirty politics in Inju, and her husband Lee Jung Do, played by Lee Hyung Chul, the man who believes that politics and politicians can better the lives of average citizens.
Additionally, we had Jung Soo Young, who played Jung Boo Mi, Mi Rae’s best friend and work colleague. Yoon Se Ah played Go Go Hae, Jo Gook’s extremely rich fiance. Lee Joon Hyuk played Ha Soo In, Jo Gook’s assistant and BB’s spy. And, finally, Choi Il Hwa played the all powerful BB (short for Big Brother), a man/politician beloved by all of Korea and Jo Gook’s father.
The drama starts by introducing us to Shin Mi Rae. Mi Rae is a small town woman, growing older by the day, stuck in a dead-end job as a government employee and is appreciated by no one in that work setting. She works multiple jobs to pay for the debts of deadbeat boyfriends who have all abandoned her one by one. She runs countless errands for the townspeople and is beloved to them all. Mi Rae is best friends with Jung Boo Mi who is a higher civil grade servant than she is. Shin Mi Rae does not take care of herself, and is pretty much reviled or ridiculed by everyone at City Hall. She is also friends with Min Joo Hwa, a councilperson for the city and a rich heiress in her own stead. Mi Rae has no problem cutting Min Joo Hwa down to size when she gets too big for her britches.
One day, a stranger appears in the small town of Inju. He has been transferred from a higher position into a small deputy mayor position at Inju, and we later find out that he is there to set up a new puppet mayor for some nefarious purpose. The new deputy mayor is Jo Gook, a man who is a politician that aspires to run for the presidency. He is engaged to the heiress of the biggest, most powerful corporation in Korea. He is also the illegitimate son of a prominent politician and wants his father’s approval above all else.
The two meet and there is a strong connection between Mi Rae and Jo Gook from the beginning. While he is astonished by her crass behavior (he calls her King Kong), he is also reluctantly admiring of her courage (he gets jealous when Soo In admits that he likes Mi Rae) and plays along with her when she pretends that he is her boyfriend to show off to an ex-boyfriend. When the two are together on screen it is a treat to watch their banter, which sometimes takes on sexual overtones because of the maturity level of both our leads.
When Jo Gook enters Mi Rae’s life, he sets out to use her. He lets Mi Rae to run for a beauty pageant, which she ends up winning solely through his manipulations. Subsequently, when Mi Rae is cheated out of her prize money, he steps back and watches her getting fired, thrown out of City Hall, reviled, egged, and ridiculed face to face and online. We can see that he feels bad for what she is suffering through, but neither does he step forward and use his might to assist her.
Mi Rae is heartbroken by her treatment at the hands of former work colleagues and realizes that everyone else has power, while she can only be pushed down. But she does not let this keep her from trying to get what she deserves. She tries to protest the government corruption. Even when she loses her job and Min Joo Hwa threatens to have Boo Mi fired, Mi Rae continues on with her protest. Even when her former coworkers try to drag her away and her dress is torn, when she is egged, and when there is a fight between professional protestors and Lee Jung Do, Mi Rae continues her protest. Jo Gook then gives her information on the Mayor’s illegal activities for his own benefit, and, rather than using that to just her own advantage, she uses that knowledge to get rid of a corrupt mayor.
Mi Rae is reluctantly coerced into running for mayor of Inju, and, with Jo Gook’s help and her own ideas, she wins the hearts of the Inje citizens. Mi Rae becomes the mayor of her small city. As mayor, Mi Rae gets the opportunity to dream big for her city. In the meantime, as Jo Gook also runs for assemblyman the two become closer, and, despite the fact that he is engaged, they consummate their relationship. Jo Gook has fallen in love for the first time in his life, and he does not want to let this love go, even if BB threatens Mi Rae and her future with Inju. Due to Mi Rae’s relationship with Jo Gook, Mi Rae is arrested multiple times, accused of corruption by those closest to her at Joo Hwa’s instigation, and personally threatened by BB.
Finally, the truth comes out for why a puppet mayor was needed in Inju. Go Hae’s father plans on building a factory in Inju that will import hazardous materials. BB and the chairman need Mi Rae to sign off on this plan. When Mi Rae refuses, BB steps in and tells her that he will destroy every single person in her life until she has nothing left. Mi Rae signs the agreement, but makes sure that it will have no validity because she also resigns as mayor. Once Go Hae realizes what her father was doing, she gives up Jo Gook and continues on with plans to build a plant in Inju.
Jo Gook has spent his entire life trying to get the approval of a man that abandoned his mother and him on the side of a road with an envelope full of money. To do this, he has hurt his mother, ignored his adopted son, and locked away the man he truly is to become what BB would respect. When he sees the pain that BB is bringing to the woman he loves, Jo Gook finally makes the decision to break away from him. He exposes his relationship to BB, telling the world that BB had an illegitimate son. With this exposure he takes away BB’s hope of ever being the president of Korea. And he takes away BB’s power to ever hurt Shin Mi Rae again.
We then get multiple epilogues. We see Mi Rae and Jo Gook getting married. And Jo Gook running for the presidency. And we also see a flashback to Mi Rae’s first conversation with Jo Gook, years before they actually met face to face, where Mi Rae promises to never leave a heartbroken Jo Gook.
At first I wasn’t too into The City Hall. There was a lot of overacting going on, and I don’t really enjoy politics. If I want to see corruption in politics, then I’d watch television. But as the story moved along, I started liking the interactions between Kim Sun Ah and her co-star, Cha Seung Won. The relationship was weird, funny, and I loved that part of the drama. I enjoyed the mature portrayal of their relationship and their sexual chemistry. Kim Sun Ah and Cha Seung Won made that relationship real. I also loved the little zingers they threw at each other, and the absolute fun they seemed to have together. Yes, the drama did get a little melodramatic at the end, with the angry father coming in and trying to manipulate Mi Rae, but Jo Gook stepped in and defanged his father. All in all, the drama was a fun thing to watch, and I found it to be a keeper.
Before diving deeper into the biggest thing that I loved about the drama, I wanted to discuss some other aspects that I liked or didn’t like about The City Hall.
Go Hae was Jo Gook’s rich fiance. She had made a deal with Jo Gook that she would support him with her money, and he would take her to the Blue House with him. That is, that when he became the president of Korea, she would be his first lady. But he broke his half of the bargain when he fell in love. While we can forgive him, because he fell in love with OUR drama heroine, that doesn’t mean that what he did to Go Hae was fair. That point is kind of driven home, when he uses that line of Mi Rae being his first lady when he becomes the president of Korea. I liked the actress’ ability to use her mind, her elegance and grace to first try to get around this situation. One could feel sorry for the character when she realized that Jo Gook was picking someone like Mi Rae to replace her. She used her might unjustly for a while, but when she discovered the nefarious plans her father had in store for Inju, she stepped in and got him to back off. In atonement, she signed a contract to build that factory in Inju and she let Jo Gook go, just the way he wanted her to. It’s kind of fun imagining how this powerful lady may go on to find her own love, and maybe become Korea’s president herself?
I liked that Mi Rae was surrounded by supportive friends, and how we got to see the power of social media in today’s world. Granted it was sort of simplistic when a few videos and a few hundred posters got Mi Rae that attention, but that is reality. Later on, when Jo Gook uses that media machine to help his own campaign, it gives us a realistic look into how others use these tools to sway public sentiment.
On the political side of things, this drama was an opportunity to see how dirty politics can be. But I didn’t enjoy it that much, because besides, Mi Rae, did we ever really come across anyone in this drama that wasn’t a corrupt politician? We have hope in Jo Gook because he has Mi Rae by his side, and we have loyal and good civil servants like Lee Jung Do and Jung Boo Mi, but it’s worrisome the picture we had at the end of all these corrupt politicians in office. Additionally, I did not like how Min Joo Hwa did all sorts of horrible stuff to Mi Rae, Boo Mi, and in politics (money laundering, bribery, etc), but at the end she’s faced with the consequences of her actions (with her husband divorcing her, but even that he gives up midway) and she breaks down. All is forgiven? We’re supposed to be understanding because this woman became a corrupt politician just because she couldn’t have any babies!! Seriously?! What kind of message is that?
While I didn’t care for the politics of the drama, I loved Shin Mi Rae’s and Jo Gook’s romance. I loved the fact that their love made them better persons. Before Mi Rae met Jo Gook, she was a the weird, compassionate, country bumpkin, who was a little old and rundown. And while she seemed confident, she didn’t respect herself. She didn’t take care of herself or put herself first. Jo Gook was this sophisticated, good-looking man, with a rich fiance and a future in politics. Despite that, he wasn’t happy with his life, everything he did was well thought out and about how it would affect his politics and get BB’s love. When these two meet, they change each other and they begin to value themselves for what they truly were. Their relationship started out with banter, continued to something deeper where they began to value the other, and then turned into a love that would allow them respect themselves and change their world. With Jo Gook’s interest, Mi Rae became the mayor of a city, took care of herself, and expected her man to take care of her, too. She was no longer going to accept discourteous behavior for the sake of love. Jo Gook, with Mi Rae’s love, decided to forgo the easy path that Go Hae’s support would have brought him, let go of a father that was hurting him, and learn to love those by his side, i.e. his long-suffering mother and his son. He became comfortable in his own skin. The two were good for each other, and you could see that by the changes their relationship had wrought in them.
There’s a quote that says something like, “Life is something that happens to you while you’re making other plans.” And the same can be said for love. Shin Mi Rae wasn’t in Jo Gook’s plans, but he fell in love with her despite himself. That will be the thing I will remember most about The City Hall. Give it a watch if you haven’t seen this wonderful show. Additionally, YA Entertainment released a good copy of this drama. The company is going out of business, so if there are any die hard fans that haven’t bought a copy, I would suggest you get on that before they’re all gone.