Moms (and stepmoms) are often cast as antagonists and obstacles in K-dramas, though they can be inspiring, devoted and, in many cases, generous to a fault.
The K-drama du jour, “Crash Landing on You,” has one mom (Seo Dan’s) who values status too much, a stepmom (Yoon Se-ri’s) with secrets, and one who just wants her son to be safe (Captain Ri’s). But it is the moms of the small North Korean village who teach us lessons of unity, generosity, humility and acceptance.
One of those moms is played by an actress who constantly plays moms, Kim Sun-young. Sun-young is one of the moms in a series full of moms, “Reply.” But it is the one she is in, the seminal “Reply 1988,” that shows the different ways moms love their kids.
Sun-young is poor and will work multiple jobs to keep her children fed. Ra Mi-ran is newly rich and will provide her boys anything they want. “Reply” staple Lee Il-hwa worries about her children’s futures, and the other series staple (dad Sung Dong-il) drinking too much.
Yes, the mothers in “Sky Castle” may indeed be an example of what not to do. You want to keep telling them to just chill. Honestly, would you rather have Yum Jung-ah or Yoon Se-ah for your mom? But if there is one positive thing we can take away (maybe), it’s that, boy, they are really invested in their children’s education.
Love and warmth
In “Goblin,” (aka “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God”), the human protagonist Ji Eun-tak (Kim Go-eun) is saved when her mother, doomed to die after being struck by a car, is saved by the 900-year-old Kim Shin (Gong Yoo). Eun-tak’s mother takes the best care she can of her daughter until she finally dies, and Eun-tak, who can see ghosts, always remembers her mother as a source of love and warmth. The mom also leaves her a pretty distinctive scarf.
In “Fight for My Way,” Choi Ae-ra (Kim Ji-won) always dreamt of becoming an announcer, but has lived a difficult life. What she doesn’t know is that someone has returned and is now secretly helping her—her mother, who has been hiding in plain sight.
Perhaps the most literal and yet most substantial example of maternal K-dramas is “Hi, Bye, Mama!” When Jo Kang-hwa’s wife Cha Yu-ri (the comebacking Kim Tae-hee) dies, he is left to take care of their daughter Jo Seo-woo until he remarries Oh Min-jung (Go Bo-gyeol) five years later.
But this entire time, Yu-ri has stayed on earth as a spirit watching over Seo-woo. Then, one day, she attains corporeal form—she’s alive again—and the only way she can stay on the earthly plane is to win back her husband and daughter from the shy but otherwise good-hearted Min-jung.
Despite its lighthearted approach, “Hi Bye, Mama!” asks if a mother would make the ultimate sacrifice for her child—and as we know from all these K-dramas, the answer is always “ye” (yes).