Becoming the Mask


©xTAP, shared under the permission of CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Eun-ha is the dead fiancée of a rich heir, while Ji-sook is a doppelganger forced by his rival to assume her identity and proceed with the marriage of convenience.

Eun-ha (in writing) and Ji-sook (in person): One who dons a mask will ultimately be unhappy.

Ji-sook (continuing): One cannot be happy living with someone she does not love while pretending to love him from behind a mask. Hence, I will live my life loving him—for real.


Walt Disney director and writer Jennifer Lee, whose credits include award-winning animated features Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, said that the first thing students learn in film school is character. The worst characters are thought to be perfect characters, who feel inauthentic. Characters second only to them are those full of self-doubt. The central character of Mask, unfortunately, was one or the other most of the time. She started off as a clumsy doormat wearing her heart on her sleeve while everyone else was donning masks, even though she was supposed to be the one hiding her identity. In the second half of the series, she veered to the opposite end, playing a confident and impeccable Santa Claus to all except her nemeses. For a brief, golden period in-between, though, Ji-sook was a woman who roused roaring support from the audience as she finally studied the mindset of her tough doppelganger and stood up to her tormentors, having come to the realization that she could defend those she loved only by becoming stronger, or in other words, becoming her mask.

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The Scent of a Mature Woman

Cheng You Qing (Ariel Lin)'s clock scene in the first episode of 2011 Taiwanese drama In Time With You

The First Early Sign of Aging: The more recent events are, the more readily they are forgotten. Conversely, the more distant memories are, the higher the likelihood they are retained.

What every girl once wished would let her run faster so that she could grow enough to own her first pair of high heels, but makes the now 29-year-old me suddenly miss my 17-year-old self—that pair of white canvas shoes.

The First Standard of a Mature Woman: Finally knowing how to throw a beautiful punch in the face of evil, the way we stride with poise in our high heels.  Continue reading


Human Rights for Nonhumans

Baek Ma-ri (Seolhyun of AOA), Jung Jae-min (Yeo Jin-goo), Han Shi-hoo (Lee Jong-hyun), Jo Ah-ra (Gil Eun-hye) and their band playing in front of a fountain in 2015 Korean drama Orange Marmalade

Vampire mania has gripped mainstream media since the commercial success of The Twilight Saga film series. Over in South Korea, the trend showed no sign of dying in 2015, which saw three dramas revolving around vampire romances. Among them, however, Orange Marmalade, like the HBO series True Blood and BBC drama Being Human before it, went beyond the lust and gore factors to highlight a connection between the idea of vampires in hiding and diversity issues:

“When we eat oranges, we usually throw away the peels. However, when we make orange marmalade, we chop the peels into fine pieces and add them to the dish. This gives it crunch and tanginess. Even orange peels originally destined for the trash bin become indispensable in the preparation of orange marmalade. […] It’d be great if our band could come together to produce music like marmalade—not ostracizing people simply because they are different, but instead making room for those who are deemed useless.”

Baek Ma-ri’s speech in Orange Marmalade

In the world of the drama, vampires have made a peace treaty with humans, promising to abstain from the consumption of human blood in return for protection of their lives. They live incognito, reining in their superhuman abilities, concealing their synthetic blood diets and changing towns each time people discover who they are. Ironically, as one critic noted, this constant fearfulness makes them human. There are obvious parallels here with real-life struggles of gifted individuals, whose unusual behaviors provoke fear and misunderstanding, and those with mental disorders, to whom stigma is attached even when the conditions are kept under control.

Orange Marmalade does not stop there. Even as vampires’ rights are being championed, its male protagonist poses a sharp question: should vampires be conferred human rights when they are not human?  Continue reading


The World, Created for Dust and Ashes

Byun Ji-sook (Soo Ae)'s Cherry Blossoms Scene in 2015 Korean Drama Mask

Hasidic tales are oral traditions passed down through the centuries in a special branch of Judaism. Its followers, Hasidim (or “Hasidhim” in Hebrew, which translates to “pious ones”), were historically Jews who hailed from all strata of society, including especially the less educated classes. Hasidism values the ideal of treating as sacred even the most mundane activity in life and concentrates on the virtues of ordinary individuals. It comes as no surprise, then, that the heroes of these stories are very frequently common folks, while divinity is found amidst prosaic reality within the narratives.

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A Chest You Can Cry On

Byun Ji-sook (Soo Ae) and Choi Min-woo (Ju Ji-hoon) in 2015 Korean Drama Mask

More than an umbrella,
a person walking in the rain
needs someone who would walk with him.

비를 맞으며 걷는 사람에겐 우산보다
함께 걸어줄 누군가가 필요한 거임을

More than a handkerchief,
a person in tears
needs a chest he can cry on.

울고 있는 사람에겐 손수건 한 장보다
기대어 울 수 있는 한 가슴이
더욱 필요한 것임을.

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Sugar-Coated Haws and Hibiscus Cake

Ma'ertai Ruoxi (Cecilia Liu / Liu Shishi) in 2011 Chinese Drama Scarlet Heart / Startling by Each Step / Bubu Jingxin

Ruoxi: I loved to eat sugar-coated haws when I was young, finding them crisp, sweet and tangy. It was a refreshing experience to taste them once in a while. Later on, my father thought them unhygienic and refused to buy them for me, but that only made their taste even more unforgettable in my mind. I always thought that they were the most delectable food under the sun. Although I also liked the hibiscus cake I usually had, I felt that sugar-coated haws were superior. One day, I finally got to eat sugar-coated haws again. What do you think I felt, Your Highness?

Yin’e (a prince forced to marry another woman instead of Ruoxi years ago): You must be over the moon.

Ruoxi: Wrong, I felt disappointed, greatly disappointed. At that instant, I wondered, this snack is not unpalatable, but it definitely cannot hold a candle to hibiscus cakes, so why did I think that it is more delicious than hibiscus cakes? I then tried not eating hibiscus cakes for three months and found myself missing them terribly. Only then did I realize that what I loved most was the hibiscus cake. Your Highness, I am the sugar-coated haws, and Her Highness is the hibiscus cake. The hibiscus cake is always within reach, so you do not find it special as time passes. Sugar-coated haws, in contrast, have become tastier in your memory because you cannot have them. If, however, you were to lose your hibiscus cake one day, you would discover that it is what you love most dearly.

Season of Waiting                         The Drama

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Slow Leaps, Fast Dance

Dance Scene Featuring Song Sam-dong (Kim Soo-hyun) and Go Hye-mi (Suzy) in 2011 Korean Drama Dream High

Slow Food, Slow Design, Slow Travel, Slow Living—calls for decelerating paces of production and consumption have emerged from various corners of society and made headlines in recent years. Though frequently associated with leisure pursuits and the creative and recreation sectors, such downshifting initiatives have made inroads into the heart of economic life at large too, with advocates campaigning for Slow Schools, Slow Science, Slow LeadershipSlow Work and so on. But before modern life as a whole slows down, can any individual truly afford slow success?

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