Ahem…there have been some online murmurings about the insufficient screen time Yoo-jung sunbae has been receiving lately. Hmm…quantitatively speaking, yes. But, imo, his character is meant to remain vaguely mysterious, making us viewers guess at his intention — that is where his appeal lies. To me, if Cheese does an analysis on Jung and gives us a detailed breakdown on why he does what he does, it may actually water down Jung’s character. I find him the most interesting when I try to fathom what he is trying to do than have the writer hand me the explanation onscreen.

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But, my post today has nothing to do with how much screen time or whether Jung is justified to remain “unexplained”. Juz happens the title pops into mind while reading the viewers’ comments online, and it kinda fits into my piece today on whether our main characters’ actions (and their resulting consequences) are too over-the-top, or negligible.

1. Seol

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There is very clear positive growth in our doormat heroine. From ep1 where she made herself leave school in order to avoid her perceived aggressor (Jung), to more recent eps where she stands up against bullying and even got into a cat fight with Min-soo.

Obviously what she has been doing in the past (or not doing), is too little. When Sang-chul sunbae “suggests” she does more of the project work, since she is more “capable”, Seol doesn’t protest enough (hardly, actually). Result, she gets a Fail grade for poor management of her team members.

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Comparatively, when she overhears Sang-chul badmouthing her in the photocopy room (ep13), she decides she won’t bother to lend Jung’s notes to him. But then again, she was prepared to zap the entire set for him prior to the episode. So hmm… Certain things do not change: Seol is still pretty soft hearted and easily bullied if you apply the right pressure. To give her credit though, she at least doesn’t pretend she hasn’t heard Sang-chul and continue to give in.

2. Jung

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Like I said, he is and remains enigmatic. But as far as the drama Cheese goes, I see him making huge progress in terms of trusting another fellow human being (aka Seol). My reading of him is partly gleaned from his father. Although we don’t see much of Chairman Yoo, those little screen times he has and his interaction (or lack thereof) with his only son speak volumes. And note that Jung grew up without much of a maternal presence. So I’d think most of his character buildup is imprinted based on his father.

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While Chairman Yoo is unfailingly polite, from as early as eps1/2 during the short dinner he had with Jung, In-ho and In-ha, you can sense a weird dynamic between father and son. There’s a lot of distance between the two; Chairman Yoo calls Jung and discusses about In-ho/In-ha, like he’d call a consultant to get ideas on his company’s next marketing move. It’s THAT impersonal. And Jung’s measured response about stopping the siblings’ finances mirrors his dad’s tone of voice.

So, no wonder Jung will turn out “like that”. And by “that”, I mean how he deals with people in general. Like his father (who also “trained” him to be “spotless”, “polite” and “gentlemanly”), he wears this iron clad mask with a perpetual smile on it. While behind that mask, I find him to be similar to In-ho. He is easily angered. But he keeps it all in to maintain that façade.

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And maybe that is his “excuse” for the way he deals with people he hates or those who took advantage of him (and now, Seol). Cos it has been ingrained into him not to show “crude” emotions, Jung will never resort to losing his temper or using his fists. He analyses his targets like how he pays special attention to small bugs and animals, and uses their natural responses to trip them up. I believe that is how he thinks he isn’t doing anything wrong…cos perversely, it is true. For example, in ep14, he understands how Sang-chul is motivated by both greed and a desire to rise above his socio-economic status (via shortcuts if possible). So Jung dangles the promise of a job in his father’s company, and Sang-chul predictably lets his greed override his better judgment and falls into the trap.

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Whether or not that is too vicious or just retribution for a bully like Sang-chul…well…tbh, I had mentioned I do enjoy watching how Jung manipulates and crushes his opponents. So, yeah, I am fully behind that “cruel” streak of his. (i always think Jung as a character would be perfect in sageuk, where there are convoluted political maneuverings in the court)

3. In-ho

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He’s far easier to read (and oh yes, maybe cos his backstory has more screen time than our mysterious hero). Basically, he’s a volatile hothead. Both Jung and In-ho have a certain arrogance in them — prior to having his hand mangled, In-ho was juz too proud of his prodigy status, and isn’t shy to go around crowing about how good he is. So while Jung may have moved the chess pieces to cause the Accident, I feel In-ho himself has to take part of the blame. If he had treated the new student nicer, he won’t be finger pointed immediately as the tattle tale. After all, the logical explanation would be Jung sold the new student out, since Jung was the one who baited the him to the seedy pub and coincidentally, the police arrived.

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At the moment, all the actions In-ho have taken are un-proportional to the issues he face. In-ho tends to react first and think later: he left Jung’s home in a fit of anger, gave up on rehab, abandoned his music dream and joined a gang, and later became a fugitive by stealing his boss’ money… And when he is finally pushed in the “right” direction by Seol and given a second lease of life (and hope), he begins to realize what an asshat he had been. Problem is, can he dig himself out of the deep hole he has thrown himself into?

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So while Jung needs to express more of his emotions (so that people won’t find him a scary narcissistic-sociopathic-backstabber), In-ho needs to rein in more of that anger. I hope that little brawl in ep12 had helped to mend a little bit of their relationship. While Seol can act as the necessary medium of communication between the two, they need to figure out how complementary they are with one another.

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