It’s pretty obvious that everyone in the world of Heirs is messed up in one way or another. Very few people are actually normal, and I count Chan Young as one so far. After this week’s episodes (nine and ten) it becomes quite clear that the real messed up ones are the parents. The children are products of their upbringing and their environment. Being around rich kids makes them take everything else for granted. Having warped ambitious parents also makes them warped psychologically.
Spoilers are included for up to episode 10, so don’t read until you’ve watched it all.
Choi Dong Wook – CEO of Hotel Zeus and Choi Young Do’s Father
Brilliantly portrayed by Choi Jin Ho (Incarnation of Money) because I really hate him.
Clearly, Young Do is a messed up kid, and it becomes more apparent when you see how ruthless his father is. While his bullying has been ridiculous, it’s tame compared to what he puts up from his father. And Choi Dong Wook is fucking. messed. up.
Dong Wook is certainly one who likes to instill order, and while his teaching methods are stern and humbling they constantly toe the line between tough love and abuse. When Kim Tan heads to Dong Wook’s office to explain that he beat up Young Do, Dong Wook does not ask if his son is okay or the reason for the fight. He does not ask if his son fought back. Instead he immediately assumes the worst and believes his son just stood there taking in the punches. He slaps his own son for not having fought back, and then proceeds to remove his belt as if he wants to whip his son. What the fudge?!
First of all, if Young Do hadn’t fought back, I would have credited him with more strength than if he did. Yes it’s a sign of courage and bravery to fight back, and yes it can make you seem like a coward if you don’t. However, it takes a man to take in the punches and not let it get to you. It takes a man to also not fight and act beneath his level. It’s also another thing to be the financial underdog (because Hotel Zeus seems to rely on Jeguk Group for a leg up) and not fight the person who’s got the upper hand (though Tan is the illegitimate child, no one knows that).
Secondly, do you think whipping Young Do would actually work? All he ever does is slap or punch his child, whether it’s in private or in public. That’s not going to earn him any respect nor get his son to listen to him any more. Perhaps Dong Wook’s Napoleon complex is coming out, since he is shorter and less handsome than his son. His grimace after his son walks out on him is near laughable because it makes him seem like a petulant child who didn’t get his way.
Another infuriating thing about the father is how he thinks he can get away with his affairs. He has sex with many other women even if he’s married, or getting married, and expects no one to bat an eye. Young Do finally raised an excellent question: could he possibly have been a bastard child himself, a baby born out of wedlock because his mother was one of those other women he had affairs with, and they just married to allow Dong Wook to have a legitimate heir? Or did his mother leave after discovering his numerous women on the side? It’s also brilliant how Esther Lee (Yoon Son Ha) deals with Dong Wook’s affairs by hinting that two can play that game; if he’s going to sleep with another woman, she could sleep with a secretary he looks down upon. Dong Wook’s reaction to that was priceless because he thought no one could ever have caught him.
Father and son are both sociopaths.
Esther Lee – President of RS International and Rachel Yoo’s Mother
She’s a really slick woman. I actually like her, but at the same time I’m frustrated with her. She’s intelligent, and I’m sure will discover in no time who Kim Tan’s mother really is after seeing how Han Ki Ae (Kim Sung Ryung) and Jung Ji Sook (Park Joon Geum) reacted to each other. She also realizes that she’s getting married for business and not for love, but can’t help being jealous when she knows that Dong Wook is seeing another woman. Simply put, she and Rachel are two sides of the same coin.
I don’t bear any grudges against Esther and I like her a lot for inexplicable reasons. (I think her hair and style has a lot to do with it, superficially.) However I am kind of sick at watching her act pathetically around Secretary Yoon Jae Ho (Choi Won Young). Obviously she is still easily swayed by romance despite her outward display of sensibility. But she is letting the rules of her society get into her head. There’s a line that she cannot cross, and that is by marrying down. She did not divorce Rachel’s father for nothing, and thus must move on up and be wealthier and more powerful than she was before. It’s irritating because she is clearly aware of her situation and has the choice to not go through with the marriage. He’s clearly going to disrespect her, and in the future it might mean embarrassing her in public. But she still wants to go through with the marriage.
Since Esther is aware of her own situation, I feel that she should be more sensitive to her daughter’s. She’s setting Rachel up in a loveless arranged marriage, so you’d think she’d understand if Rachel doesn’t want to get married to Tan. There’s no love, and unhappiness will abound. But her greed – and I guess to a certain extent, her desire to leave Rachel with a sizable inheritance – takes precedence over her daughter’s happiness.
You know that you won’t be happy following a certain path, and yet you continue on it. Let me smack my forehead in frustration.
Kim Nam Yoon – President of Jeguk Group and Kim Won and Kim Tan’s Father
Kim Nam Yoon (Jung Dong Hwan) doesn’t appear very much in the drama as he’s sickly and usually stuck at home. I did have a little sympathy for him as he’s trying his hardest to reunite his family for his own happiness before he dies. He has said he’d be happy if both his sons lived in the same roof, which indicates that because he spent most of his life working he never really got to enjoy family life. Plenty of regrets on his mind.
Just because he’s old does not mean his mind isn’t sharp though. He’s quite aware of his own mistakes at finding love, and hopes his children will not do the same. At the same time he’s always looking out for the company he carefully built. Even if his sons are pursuing women whom they’ll love and cherish, he will not allow his sons to be with these poorer women. I feel terrible for Kim Tan and Kim Won because they know that they’re being steered towards loveless marriages. I also don’t like that Nam Yoon is creating situations where their peers will tell them the love is impossible rather than himself; it’s a passive aggressive way of telling his sons to stop loving Eun Sang and Hyun Joo.
Despite all this, I can understand why he’s pushing Tan and Won to marry richer girls. I can understand him more than I can understand Esther, and here’s why: his sons, despite being heirs to the most prestigious company out of all of them, are in a more precarious position than everyone else. Young Do will be able to head Hotel Zeus. Rachel will be able to head RS International. But Tan and Won’s futures are not yet concrete.
Under Won’s leadership as the eldest and (only) legitimate child of Nam Yoon, the company has been faltering in profits and in the Jeju Convention Center project. He’s been making missteps, which could lead to him getting ousted and being replaced by the board with Tan. (Hence his hatred for Tan.) At the same time, Tan is an illegitimate child, so the company may not respect him or want him as a leader. They’ll probably disregard him and Jeguk Group will fall in the hands of a stranger. That is why Nam Yoon insists on Tan marrying Rachel. By marrying Rachel, he’s marrying up, and by marrying up, he’ll cement his reputation and gain more power in society. People will respect him, and they won’t mind him as the leader of Jeguk Group.
Nam Yoon is doing his best to protect his company and keep it within the family. It doesn’t mean I support his actions or like it, but I understand it. Somehow he manages to pull my sympathy while the others don’t, even though it’s terribly sad though that he lets his worries about the company cloud the family reunion he wishes to have.
Han Ki Ae and Park Hee Nam – Mothers to Kim Tan and Cha Eun Sang
I’m lumping these two mothers together because I actually love them. They’re insane in their own way (one is a frivolous alcoholic, and another is an opportunistic but hardworking maid), but the two of them together onscreen just lights up my face. They should star in a sitcom together. It’d be the best thing ever.
I really do pity Han Ki Ae because she wants to be a mother, but doesn’t know how to be one. She’s too preoccupied with her own position in the household and in society to really know how to react to her son’s problems at school. She’s also under virtual house arrest, which prevents her from being involved with her son’s school and interacting with other parents. I understand that Ji Sook doesn’t want her seen in public as it might cause more embarrassment on the family, but at the same time it’s kind of unfair. At least she can provide more love to her son, which is more than any of the other rich parents in this series can say for themselves.
And then there’s Park Hee Nam (Kim Mi Kyung), who’s probably the only sane parent in this world. I am glad she has enough wits about her to find opportunities and manipulate them to her advantage. (If only Eun Sang were the same…) She’s just perfect, and I think that the whole snafu of Han Ki Ae posing as Eun Sang’s mom will cause a whole new comedy in the upcoming weeks. Or at least I hope so. One thing it’s already done is teach Ki Ae how to properly say Eun Sang’s name.
Lee Hyo Shin’s Mother
We have met her intermittently, where she scolds Hyun Joo for her attire and also heads the PTA meeting. She’s someone I’d like to know more about. A soft-spoken but stern woman, she regulates Hyo Shin’s life and makes sure he attends therapy and takes pills for his depression. We learn that Hyo Shin tried to commit suicide but was saved just in time. Not sure if her precautions are out of fear for her son’s life, or if there is more to it than that.
His father, uncle, and grandfather on the other hand are top notch lawyers and judges, and so the pressure is high for Hyo Shin to succeed. It’s no surprise that his family puts a lot of pressure on him, which might explain for the suffocation he feels. But I’m really curious about her as she’s someone who won’t take no for an answer, and yet seems reasonable enough to deal with. Or perhaps that’s all just a veneer.
And Finally… the PTA ‘Fathers’
Special appearances by Jo Gook (Cha Seung Won, City Hall), Kim Do Jin (Jang Dong Gun, A Gentleman’s Dignity), Im Tae San (Kim Soo Ro, A Gentleman’s Dignity), Choi Yoon (Kim Min Jong, A Gentleman’s Dignity), and Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin, Secret Garden).