The K-Drama “Mother” sheds light on child abuse
‘Mother’ refers to that specific person who gave birth to us, but the 2018 South Korean drama “Mother” or “Call me mother” gives the term ‘Mother’ a whole new dimension. It will show you different kinds of motherhood in various stages of life and situations. This is a must-watch drama for everyone out there because it has something in common that we can all relate to. Whether she's alive or dead, whether we like her or not we all have mothers. Adapted from the award-winning 2010 Japanese drama by the same name, “Mother” was originally written by Sakamoto Yuji. Even though the Korean story isn’t original, it showcased everything better than the original one. The 16-episode K-drama is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish forcing you to invest in both the story and characters.
The story begins by introducing us to a long-time bird researcher and enthusiast, a cold substitute teacher named Kang Soo Jin (Lee Bo Young). Soo-Jin has no interest in children or putting her dream of studying in Iceland aside. However, after filling in for a teacher on maternity leave, she becomes concerned about a 7-year-old girl in her homeroom class named Kim Hye Na (HeoYool). Hye Na always dresses shabbily, shows up at school with bruises on her body, seems to be a little "out there" mentally, making herself an easy target to be picked on by other kids in the class who can sense she is different and comes from an abusive home.
Soo-Jin tries to befriend her and earn her trust, to help her admit that something is wrong at home. But Hye Na always makes excuses for her mother Shin Ja Young (Ko Sung-Hee), who works long hours in a retail store selling makeup which is quite common in abused children as they are terrified to give their parents away. Eventually, Soo-Jin calls the police to investigate her home. Even though detectives try their best to rescue her, the weak laws in the area of child abuse in Korea that favours parental rights make him fail every time.
By that time, Soo-Jin gets to know that Hye Na is emotionally and physically abused on a regular basis by her own mother and semi-live in psychopath boyfriend SeolAk (Son Seok Goo). SeolAk deliberately targets single mothers to have affairs with, just so that he can get close to their children to abuse, and eventually, kill them. He thinks he is the reason for his parent’s separation and his mother’s death and that’s why he took this “mission” to help stressed and single mothers by killing the root of their misery – their kids. But then will Hye Na be his next victim? Before we can wonder too much about it, Hye Na’s own mother ends up being the one who commits the most unforgivable act.
After she comes home from work and sees SeolAk putting makeup on Hye Na and getting close to her in an insidious way, she hits her brutally and puts her in a trash bag outside on a bitterly cold winter night, leaving that child in shock, having overheard her own mother say she doesn't care if she dies.
When Soo Jin soon thereafter walks by Hye Na's house to check on the status of the home, she notices the garbage bag moving and Hye Na inside it. She instantly decides to kidnap Hye Na away from her horrible home situation since the law was so impotent to save the child. She plans with the child to make it seem like she might have fallen into the ocean and drowned and they take off incognito on buses and trains, with Hye Na dressed as a boy and given a new name Yoon Bok, with the intent to hide far away from the child's hometown.
During their long journey together Soo Jin and Hye Na become a loving mother and child pair, making the point in a big way that being a good mother is based on pure, sacrificial love, not biology. But will they be able to live peacefully? Watch the drama to know.
Each character had its own motive. They were not evil because they were simply born evil. Rather almost each of the main characters had their own pasts that helped dictate and show us why they acted the way they did in the drama. If SeolAk was raised properly and normally, he most likely wouldn’t have been the psychopathic murderer he became. If Jayoung’s husband took responsibility, she wouldn’t have been so lonely, stressed, and dependent. It’s not like she didn’t care about her child at all, it’s just that she finds it unfair that she has to give up so many things in life for Hye Na. She failed to manage her own life and failed to provide warmth and security to her child until one day, she thought that it was better if Hye Na was dead. All in all, it seemed like each character had their own specific role or archetype in drama. Each character was complex, very realistic, and generally very easy to relate to.
If you are looking for a light drama this wouldn’t be the right choice. The subject matter is dark. The drama “Mother” is a well-crafted drama with powerful and phenomenal performances and gorgeous cinematography that allows us to explore the true meaning of motherhood in various situations and stages of life while tackling the heavy subject of child abuse. It shows us that a person who gives birth does not automatically become a mother- a person becomes a mother once she dedicates her life to her child. It is about love.
About the people who would do anything to you see you happy and will love and support you no matter what. The dynamics between Soo-Jin and Hye Na also sheds a lot of light on a foster mother's love towards their adopted child. Every parent should understand that whatever their choice of parenting style is, children have the full right to be happy and healthy emotionally and physically.
Child abuse is not a family matter but a crime. In South Korea, even before the horrific death of a 16-month-old girl named Jeong-in, child abuse was nothing new. In 2020, a 9-year-old boy who was abused by his stepmother died after being placed inside a suitcase, and a 10-year-old girl escaped from her abusers and ran to a convenience store. The number of child abuse reports is increasing every year, not only in South Korea but in the whole world. And, to stop this we need to do something. The idea of a school teacher kidnapping a child in the drama “Mother” might not sound too appealing to you but seeing this drama get a 9.2 rating you should definitely give it a try and then you’ll understand why the show received this much high score.
* Rumaiysa M Rahman is a 10th grader at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Dhaka