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Worth the Watch: "Not Others"

Not Others premiered in July 2023 to little success in the ratings although its viewers were all praises for it. The heartwarming and funny slice-of-life drama about a single mother who had her daughter when she was a teenager despite the social stigma, is a wonderful portrayal of the challenges facing modern Korean women and the strength of their character.

GwenchaNoona | Worth the Watch: "Not Others" starring Jeon Hye-jin and Choi Soo-young

The Plot

As a teenager, Kim Eun-mi (Joen Hye-jin) decided to carry her pregnancy to term despite the pressure otherwise. Now both adults, mother and daughter Kim Jin-hee (Choi Soo-young, If You Wish Upon Me) work as a physical therapist and police officer, respectively. As they deal with the day to day difficulties of work, friendship, dating, and their tumultuous relationship with each other, they also have to contend with a neighborhood killer who's out to get them.

The Review

GwenchaNoona | Worth the Watch: "Not Others" (photo of Choi Soo-young)

Subtle and ordinary, the plot moves along quite slowly for k-drama fans who might prefer their pilot episodes to be sensational and unpredictable. But as with all slice-of-life k-dramas, its strength is in its ability to get its audience care more about the characters than the plot. Jeon’s portrayal of a feisty woman who won’t allow herself to be cowed by anyone is countered by her daughter’s level headedness. In this dynamic back-and-forth between the two, it is Jin-hee who sometimes plays the mother-figure to her own mother. 

As the show unpacks decades worth of issues between them, it never heads into makjang territory. Instead it shows us a glimpse of a rare and fresh relationship in k-dramaland which often only portrays mothers as silent, sacrificial two-dimensional characters who endure unbearable pain for her child or her antithesis. But while it is clear that Eun-mi loves her daughter, she is not afraid to express her own needs and in doing so, sets an example for her daughter who is still trying to find her voice. 

It takes a village to raise a child and a community to teach a woman to become. Eun-mi and Jin-hee are surrounded by equally interesting women such as Kim Mi-jeon (Kim Hye-eun, Twenty-Five Twenty-One), and the trio of funny and meddling halmoenis in Eun-mi’s clinic. In South Korea, women generally get their surnames from their fathers, but in this show it is women who give their names to their daughters and in doing so allow them to come into their own against the odds a patriarchal culture.

GwenchaNoona | Worth the Watch: "Not Others" (photo of Choi Soo-young and Park Sung-hoon)

The show also has a good stock of green-flagged leading men played by Ahn Jae-wook (famous singer and theater actor) and the talented Park Sung-hoon (The Glory), who are both drawn to and confused by the mother-and-daughter duo. 

At only 12 episodes, the show is based on a webtoon (as with most k-dramas these days) and  understands that the story it has to tell can only last so long. It stops exactly when it needs to, allowing its audience to appreciate its brevity and to believe that the characters will simply continue living their lives long after the credits roll. 

It’s a shame that this show didn’t get more love. It’s a fantastic little gem that should be getting a second chance. 

Stream if you’re in the mood for a female-centric slice-of-life.

Skip if you watch k-dramas to escape.

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