K-Drama Review: ‘Baek Hee Has Returned’ is About a Family Surrounded by Misunderstandings Mixed with Comedy

iyaa.com

A Four-Episode, Family-Comedy Drama

Baek Hee Has Returned is a four-episode mini series that aired on KBS, filling in the gaps between their hit drama shows. The drama tells the story of Shin Ok-hee, a frequent runaway and borderline delinquent, who reluctantly relocates with her parents to their hometown of Seomwoldo, an island in the middle of nowhere. Through her point of view, we learn of her struggles with her mother, Yang Baek-hee, who had left her hometown eighteen year previously, as an unwed mother and under a cloud of scandal. In her mother’s hometown, Ok-hee learns that she has more in common with her mother than she knew, and encounters three men, all of whom believe themselves to be her biological father. 

A lot of reviewers online have compared the series to the American classic Mamma Mia. Its similarities include the relationship between a mother and daughter, and the daughter’s quest to find her real father. Not only that, both stories place on a small island, which also helps support the comparison. Along the way, the characters also encounter various issues dealing with the subject of women, making this an interesting watch and different than other family-comedy dramas out there. Let’s take a look at the drama mini series, BaekHee Has Returned.

Baek Hee Has Returned: Mother-Daughter Relationship, Discovers the Biological Father, and Comedy

wordpress.com

The story starts as Yang Baek-hee, who has changed her name to Becky, returns to her hometown after living in Seoul for close to eighteen years. She comes back with her daughter, Shin Ok-hee, and her husband, who was known to be a notorious gambler who takes poor care of the family. Baek-hee starts a new business, since she’s a bit of a celebrity – she starts making and selling jeotgal. Unfortunately, after some time, a petty netizen commented about how she found a fly in her food as a way to get back at Baek-hee, and her business died down. Baek-hee’s personal life could also be described as being close to hell: her own daughter hates her, doing exactly opposite of what she’s asked (model teen anyway), smokes, runs from school, and gets into fights.

Her husband, Shin Gi-jun, loathes her as well, and stays in the marriage so that Baek-hee will pay off his gambling debts. Within the first few episodes, we discover one of the reasons behind Gijun’s hatred for his wife – their daughter, a very strong-willed Ok-hee, is not his own, biological daughter. In lieu of this, Jong-myeong, a friend of Baek-hee’s, gives Gijun a nice, threatening, lecturing lesson on being a parent – he himself was diagnosed to be infertile (a problem of male infertility, usually women are only blamed for that), and yet he would give everything for the possibility to be a father, even an adoptive one, and Gi-jun has this possibility and treats his family terribly. 
That seems to be the tipping point for the drama, as it continues to explore some views and societal problems dealing with the role of women in society. For example, it discusses the struggles that Baek-hee had to deal with in high school, in regards to the rumor that she had slept with all the boys in the neighborhood. The scandal caused her to run away from the island after dropping out of high school and disappearing without a trace. Later we do find out that she ran away to Seoul not because of the scandal, but because she was pregnant out of wedlock. In Seoul, she married her current husband, Gi-jun, so that her daughter would be able to grow up in a two-parent household and could have a father.
Baek-hee married him so that she, and even maybe more, her daughter, wouldn’t be stigmatized as the single mother and a kid born out of wedlock, something that is still frowned upon to this day in modern Korean society. This is due to the fact that Korean society still adheres to traditional Confucian values. The anger and spite she felt after having done so caused her to lose all ability of connecting with her daughter, Ok-hee. The girl, however, could sense something was wrong, and her reckless and dangerous behavior was nothing other than a cry for help from a lonely child. 
blogspot.com
Ok-hee only figured out that she wasn’t Gi-jun’s daughter when they arrived on the island and her so-called father started causing more of a ruckus than usual. This prompted her to find her biological father by tracing back all the boys her mother had relationships with in her teens, which led to three names: Beom-ryong, Du-shik and Jong-myeong. Each one of them has a memory of time in intimate, romantic relationships and maybe more with Baekhee, however, it quickly turns out that only one of them really had any sex with her. That one person was quickly found to be Beom-ryong. Both sides want to find out the truth, the guys and the girl, until Beom-ryong realizes the whole quest is pointless and their attempts to know the truth wreak havoc of both Baekhee’s and her daughter’s lives.
The drama digs quite deeps when it comes to the issues of teen pregnancy and single mother households as it begins to unravel the story through Baek-hee’s point of view. After Baek-hee told her daughter the whole story, the girl realizes how strong her mother really was. She says that if she were pregnant at 18, she wouldn’t have the baby. This tackles the question of abortion and its stigma in society, as well as the responsibility women have to bear when the act of sexual intercourse is engaged in by two consenting partners. Then we have the question of raising a child alone, as a single mother – Baek-hee said that she wanted for Ok-hee to have a family, however dysfunctional it might be, because it would be even harder on the girl to be the daughter of a divorcee. Divorce, itself, is a stain on a woman’s honor, and Baek-hee would become an outcast.
blogspot.com
Other than the issues dealt with by Baek-hee and Ok-hee, we also have a refreshing take on an older character. Beom-ryong’s mother, who has dementia, is such a rare depiction on TV, Korea or no Korea. They show her losing her way to the house, forgetting names, reliving the events of the past, and defecating in her pants any time, any place she needs to do so. In her last moment of clarity, she confesses to Baek-hee it was her doing that Beom-ryong didn’t go to Seoul to find Baek-hee as they promised to each other.
She did it by stealing his pager and the letters sent by Baek-hee. Worse – after reading that Baek-hee was pregnant, she wrote a reply, pretending to be Beom-ryong, suggesting that she get an abortion. She also revealed the reason behind her actions were to keep the family’s honor intact, not wanting her son to be seen as someone who involved himself with a troublesome woman. 

Baek Hee Has Returned: The Cast

liveen.co.kr
  • Kang Ye-won as Yang Baek-hee (Becky)
  • Jin Ji-hee as Shin Ok-hee
  • Kim Sung-oh as Woo Beom-ryong
  • Choi Dae-chul as Cha Jong-myeong
  • In Gyo-jin as Hong Du-sik
  • Choi Phillip as Shin Gi-jun
  • Kim Hyun-sook as Hwang Jang-mi
  • Yoo Hae-jung as Hong Bo-reum

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch Baek Hee Has Returned

A Short Series to Take Away The Drama Fatigue

Some dramas nowadays take sixteen to twenty episodes to reach their finale, with sometimes overly-complicated plots that can drive viewers up the wall. This drama offers a short and sweet tale that is wrapped up within four episodes. The lighthearted comedy and heart-wrenching drama makes for an interesting watch that does not fatigue the brain.

An Engaging and Relatable Storyline

The storyline that centers on the bond between a mother and daughter is definitely something that most drama viewers can relate to, whether as a mother, daughter, or even bystanders such as siblings, father, and others. The deep connection between the two is definitely something that most people have experienced or seen in real life, and that, in itself, is such an important thing to showcase in modern media.

The Stunning Ocean Backdrop

The backdrop of the drama takes place on a small island, with scenes filmed with the beautiful sea as the backdrop, alongside the beautiful sunset. It is definitely pleasing to the eye. Although the quality of camera work and encoding used was lower than usual, the stunning views made up for whatever mishaps they had with the rendering.

The Three Ahjussis

The three men suspected to be Ok-hee’s father were definitely a sight to see. They were all adorable as they tried to care for and protect Ok-hee, each thinking she could possibly be his daughter, not just for the sake of her possibly being his child, but also for the friendship each o f them shared with her mother, Baek-hee.

A Fresh Outlook on A Female Protagonist

As mentioned before, the drama discusses a lot of women’s issues, such as teen pregnancy, single motherhood, promiscuity, and even abortion. These topics give a different outlook to female characters usually seen on dramas and other works of TV and movies. It’s quite refreshing to be able to see these topics and points of view brought to life, even if only in a mini series format.

So what do you think of the drama, Baek-hee Has Returned? Comment your thoughts and opinions down below!