This is a one act drama special from MBC late last year, which is where Park Ki Woong last appeared in any form of drama before his enlistment this year. It’s a breezy 1 hour watch, and although short, the story is engaging enough and tells a message of never to abuse people who work under/with you. You’ve been warned.
PS: I’ve decided to split the recap into two parts, because there’s alot to describe, and if it’s in one post, it’s gonna be a super long recap. Part 2 will be up real soon!
The camera pans over a sprawling yangban mansion, and the Prime Minister roars to his servants to “find that scum”. Apparently this is a common scene as the servants all know exactly what to do as they scramble to find poles and whatnots, and search high and low for “that scum”. Somewhere in a shed a servant looks out of the window nervously to see the minister walking around and muttering threats directed to “that scum”. The servant scrambles back to a young master sitting on the floor in the shed, apparently too cool for everything else. He is “that scum” the minister is looking for, Lee Ho Yeon (Park Ki Woong), and of course he is actually the minister’s son. He tells his servant to cool down, calling him by the nickname “Jum Baek Yi (Big Mole)”, which his servant detests. Jum Baek Yi (Seo Dong Won) argues that that’s not his name, and Ho Yeon argues back that he has a big mole on his face, that’s what he’s gonna call him. Pfft.
One of the servants find the shed they’re hiding in locked, and reports to Prime Minister Lee. He shouts for an order to set the shed on fire, and Ho Yeon and Jum Baek Yi fight each other to scramble for their way out. Ho Yeon pushes Jum Baek Yi to the ground and tumbles out of the shed, kneeling on the ground calling Minister Lee Father. Minister Lee asks if it was really Ho Yeon who drank without paying, and teased random girls on the streets, and exclaims that even the court knows about his frivolous ways. Ho Yeon insists it is not him, but Minister Lee isn’t having any of it.
He orders for Ho Yeon to be wrapped up in a straw mat and to be beaten up. Heh. Ho Yeon manages to wriggle his way out of the situation by claiming that it’s the day of civil exams today, and he’s going to be late if he doesn’t get going. Minister Lee’s immediately appeased and Ho Yeon motions for Jum Baek Yi to go along with him and off it is to the exams.
Civil exams then were only composed of composition questions, and the examinees were usually asked questions about politics and governance. Ho Yeon writes his answers to each questions as they are revealed with confidence (if not with a smirk, should I say), until the last question. It is one about slaves, “Slaves were also said to be from the gods; so how can we (the government) let it be a caste that is inherited?” Ho Yeon stops writing, and from his conversation with Jum Baek Yi after the exams, he deliberately left it blank. Jum Baek Yi is all smiles at Ho Yeon leaving the answer blank, and asks if it’s because Ho Yeon doesn’t agree with the question. Ho Yeon replies he wanted to write that all slaves should be beaten up (and Jum Baek Yi’s face darkens at that), but he felt it was a trick question so he decided to leave it blank. Ho Yeon then declares that he’s going to the gibang and visit Wol Hyang (Lee El). Jum Baek Yi catches up and tries to stop him from going. When he failed to persuade Ho Yeon otherwise, he tells a confused Ho Yeon he’ll go first to get a room and rushes off.
The said gisaeng Wol Hyang is struggling to pay the remaining of her father’s debt to the loanshark, and the loanshark is upset at the meagre amount she’s paying this time. He tries to get rough with her and Jum Baek Yi jumps in between to stop Wol Hyang from being harmed. Wol Hyang argues why should she pay her father’s debt, and the loanshark retorts that’s why he asked her to sell her father into slavery so she wouldn’t have to pay. That shuts Wol Hyang from arguing further, and the loanshark gives her till 11pm to pay the remaining debt, if not she’ll have to say goodbye to her father.
Wol Hyang’s not particularly happy to see Jum Baek Yi. He tells her Ho Yeon is coming tonight, and tells her to reject seeing Ho Yeon since she dislikes Ho Yeon. Wol Hyang asks him angrily how is she to reject customers when she’s in such dire need of money, and asks Jum Baek Yi how is he going to give her the money she needs. Jum Baek Yi is in a loss of words and sits in a slump in front of the gibang till Ho Yeon comes. He can only look on when Wol Hyang comes out to receive Ho Yeon.
Inside the room Ho Yeon tries to get hanky panky with Wol Hyang, but she pushes him away and asks if it’s okay to let his servant go hungry outside. Ho Yeon mutters that servants are meant to be beaten and Wol Hyang looks disgusted. He promises to give her anything she wants if she makes him happy tonight. We then see Wol Hyang heading outside with some food to give Jum Baek Yi, which he throws to the ground in anger. He tells Wol Hyang not to believe Ho Yeon, for all she is is a plaything for Ho Yeon. She retorts that it’s better than be a servant, and affirms that she’ll spend the night with him in exchange to save her father from slavery.
We then see Jum Baek Yi slips into somewhere presumably the kitchen, and adds some drugs to the wine meant for Ho Yeon. The scene cuts back to Ho Yeon, who drinks continuously, and imagines he’s having some hot time with Wol Hyang, when actually he’s all passed out, heavily drugged. Jum Baek Yi hurries in with some slave clothings and charcoal, and Wol Hyang is appalled that he drugged Ho Yeon. Jum Baek Yi tells her to pretend none of these happened, and declares that he’ll protect her father.
Jum Baek Yi has Ho Yeon all dressed as a slave and trades him as Wol Hyang’s debt to the loanshark. He lies that Ho Yeon is a little delusional and thinks he’s a yangban. Jum Baek Yi also confirms with the loanshark that Ho Yeon can never escape from where he is going to be sold to. Ho Yeon sleeps throughout the journey across the river to where he is to be sold, and wakes up just once to puke, yet never comprehend what is going on, and returns to sleep again. The boat comes ashore, and a butler comes to “check” on Ho Yeon.
Ho Yeon is brought back to the quarters, where he continues to sleep. LOL. When he finally comes to with a terrible headache, he shouts for Jum Baek Yi, but a deaf servant comes instead. Ho Yeon tells him in his yangban manner to bring him some water to wash his face, and that he’ll go greet the servant’s master when he has washed up. LOL. The servant tries to motion for him to go do the chores, to no avail.
Ho Yeon wanders out of the servant quarters, and laments that though the house is great, the owner treats his guests badly. He gets up a balcony and admires the view, and wonders why the water for washing up is taking so long to come. Just as he turns around, he gets splashed with water, and it’s the butler and his cronies. Ho Yeon demands for a meeting with the owner, and the butler shoves the slave papers into Ho Yeon’s face and tells him he’s called Dol Se (Stone Ox). Ho Yeon is dragged away to learn how to do chores, while the butler says aloud that Ho Yeon is really delusional.
The deaf servant is tasked with teaching Ho Yeon how to remove dried ginseng from their drying place, and Ho Yeon looks with disinterest. He plucks off one ginseng crudely, to the shock of the servant, and further shocks the others by chewing on the ginseng. Ho Yeon suddenly feels discomfort in the stomach and rushes off to the toilet. He is wondering where to get paper to clean up when the deaf servant comes along, and when he asks for paper, he gets handed a rope instead. Just as we wonder together with Ho Yeon why a rope, the deaf servant demonstrates to him how to use the rope to clean up. OMG that was totally hilarious.
Ho Yeon runs out of the house (with the rope no less), intent on escaping. He runs into the new magistrate and his daughter as they are being shown around the island, shouting as he runs that he’s not a slave. The butler and his cronies chase after him, and Ho Yeon waves the rope at them. The butler distracts him by saying the rope is dirty and in his momentary disgust as he drops the rope, the butler orders his cronies to catch him. Ho Yeon continues to shout that they’ve got it all wrong and he’s not a slave, and to silence him, one of the cronies wrapped the rope around his mouth. Eww. The magistrate comes over and upon learning from the butler the issue at hand, he warns that he does not want disturbance during his time at the office, and he is to be informed if Ho Yeon is beaten to death.
Ho Yeon tries to reason with the butler back at the house, even citing Confucius, in a bid to prove that he is a yangban. However the butler smirks at him and orders the underlings to beat Ho Yeon, and before they lower their sticks he starts to howl and wriggle vigorously on the ground. The magistrate’s daughter comes by just then and orders the beating to stop. The butler stops her from meddling with their affairs, and Ho Yeon takes the chance to pretend he’s all macho and will not succumb to their harsh treatment of him. The girl couldn’t hide her smile at Ho Yeon’s thick-skinned behavior, and saves him from further beating by telling the butler that Ho Yeon’s shouts are loud enough to be heard throughout town and is disturbing her from studying.
During dinner at the servants’ quarters, Ho Yeon looks with disgust at how the other servants eat, and declines eating with them. One servant asks if he has evidence that he’s a yangban, and Ho Yeon points to his head. He asks if they know of Confucius’ writings, and smirks when they have no idea what he’s talking about. The deaf servant looks on with interest. Ho Yeon asks about the owner of the manor, and says aloud that once he meets the owner, they’ll know what a great person he actually is.
Ho Yeon finally gets to see the owner, whom the butler calls Master Kang (the actual title is Imperial Exam Candidate), who loses his cool as Ho Yeon walks towards him with his shoulder squared, while all the other servants line up in two rows, bowed. Master Kang covers up his fumble, and as Ho Yeon tells him that since he’s a yangban, he should know if Ho Yeon’s recitation of the Confucian classics are correct or wrong, as Ho Yeon decides to rattle it off as proof that he’s a yangban. Master Kang immediately gets the other servants to drag Ho Yeon away, and shouts that it’s not that he doesn’t know the classics (hmm…), but rather he will not have a servant challenging a master.
Ho Yeon gets pulled away kicking and screaming, and the butler tells him he’ll be put to “special management” from now on. As he walks back to the slaves quarters, a boy slave hands him a letter and asks for his help to read it. The boy tells him the letter had been handed down from his granddad to his dad, and thus it must be some heirloom. The boy eagerly wonders if it’s some land deed, and is in disbelief when Ho Yeon tells him rather unkindly that it’s a document which states the slave status of his family.
Ho Yeon is set to work with other slaves, cutting firewood in a forest. As he squats down from frustration over doing the menial work, he spots the magistrate’s daughter painting by the stream with her maid. He heads towards them, and gets stopped by her maid. He retorts that she’s ugly (OMG he’s really got no EQ), when the ahgasshi asks her maid to step aside. He thanks the girl for helping him the other day, but his tone is all haughty, which irks the maid. The ahgasshi is more amused than anything.
Ho Yeon spots the plum blossom drawing that the ahgasshi is working on, and points out her mistakes in the drawing. She’s rather impressed with his knowledge, and asks how does he know about drawings since he’s only a slave. He replies that she’d be shocked if she knows of his real identity, and may even fall for him immediately. LOL. She tells him rather calmly that a person’s heart shouldn’t change regardless of one’s social standing. Ho Yeon then asks her if she’ll elope with a slave then, which she says nonchalantly it’s not impossible, and her maid exclaims at her reply. Ho Yeon says they don’t have to elope then, since he is a real yangban. He decides to prove to her he’s a real yangban, when he spots a volume of Analects on the ground. He displays his intelligence by sprouting random lines in the book, complete with the the chapter and page the line and its explanation can be found. The ahgasshi is rather taken aback at his intellect, and by then, the butler has come by as well. The butler and a minion drags Ho Yeon away, and he shouts to the ahgasshi to tell the magistrate that the Prime Minister’s son is locked up on this remote island.
Master Kang is sleeping on his books at the balcony, and wakes with a start when the butler calls for him. He pretends to be studying as the butler climbs up to the balcony. Master Kang confirms with him about Ho Yeon reciting the Analects, and asks the butler to “look into it and settle the affairs quietly”.
Ho Yeon braids the dried grass with other slaves, and gives up as he has no idea how to do it. An older slave scolds him and tells him how to undo the braids, but Ho Yeon is frustrated with doing menial work day and night. He asks what’s the purpose of working so hard, while the deaf servant look at him with interest. Ho Yeon walks out of the room, and at the sight of a sleeping guard, he decides to make the run for it. He’s pulled down before he can even climb over the wall, and we next see him being beaten up real bad by the butler’s cronies in a shed.
The butler tells him even if his father is the king, it is of no use because no one has ever escaped alive. Ho Yeon tries to negotiate with him, but the butler just leaves him with a warning that if he tries to escape again, he’ll be branded with a hot iron on his forehead. With that, the beating continues, and suddenly the deaf slave comes running into the shed and shields Ho Yeon from the cronies. He tries to tell the butler to stop the beating, and oh, he’s not just deaf but also speech impaired. The butler has the slave beaten as well. Ugh.
The slave’s son (the young boy who asks Ho Yeon to read the letter for him) tends to his wounds, and asks his father why can’t he just let Ho Yeon be beaten when he knows he himself will be beaten as well if he interferes. The boy then tells Ho Yeon that his father became deaf because he suffered a bad beating by the butler and his cronies, and what if he becomes blind from another beating? Ho Yeon then feels extremely guilty and ashamed at the knowledge of the lives of slaves.
Some time must have passed, because Ho Yeon is well enough to go collect firewood again with the other slaves. This time, he’s working hard though his collection is too pathetic compared to the other slaves and the butler pushed him to the ground for it. We then see him sweeping at the front yard, and turns around to bow at Master Kang. Has Ho Yeon changed and accepted that he’s now a slave?