The final episode of Ms. Temper and Nam Jung-gi showed our heroes and heroines successfully rescue Lovely Cosmetics from the villains. Lee Ji-sang, having learned an important lesson from his ex-wife and her co-workers, suspends his plan to take over Lovely and takes a bow. Mr. Yang gets betrayed by his boss, ponders how some people work for more than just money and realizes that something was hugely amiss in his dealings with Gold Chemical’s Senior Manager Kim all these years. Senior Manager Kim is stripped of his job because of the unlawful gifts he has accepted but remains bitter and vengeful, a sign that he probably won’t change for the better. Ok Da-jung, also known as Ms. Temper, has found a place where she can conduct business just as she likes it – fair and square – with the people she can trust. Jung-gi who previously regarded himself as a nervous and mediocre salary man dodging big responsibilities has become a compassionate leader who takes pride in his work. The others all have found in Lovely a place that understands the responsibilities that working mothers shoulder and a place that embraces young people so that they can flourish in their career.
The show sailed on a robust narrative, engaging the upward trajectory of Lovely Cosmetics with interesting but not over-the-top details that drew the viewer to look forward to how exactly Lovely was going to survive. If it was easy to predict that Da-jung was going to turn things around at Lovely and elsewhere, it wasn’t so easy to predict how exactly she would do it. When many Korean dramas follow plots too trite that even the least astute viewer can guess what is going to unfold in the series after only the first episode, Ms. Temper & Nam Jung-gi proved that a show can run on an interesting plot that coalesces various components that make up a drama rather than solely relying on a few witty lines or a few charming characters. If more dramas depicting the ups and downs of small businesses come out in the future and the viewers become so familiar with every possible way that those companies can succeed and fail, there may come a day when Ms. Temper & Nam Jung-gi will relegate to trite, but it seems unlikely that such day will come soon. Thinking about how Ms. Temper and her crew were going to save the day kept me engaged all along.
I immediately became hooked on this show for its humor. The opening sequence in which Jung-gi wakes up in panic to find the moving company crew knocking on his balcony door like a ghost, beckoning him to open it quickly was amusing. What an excellent way to open the show. Jung-gi’s household full of testosterone comes across as bright and cheerful. The retired father rocking the frilly apron, Bong-gi’s frolics, and Woo-joo’s take on life offer plenty of opportunities for laughter. The fact that they are good-natured people who also happen to appear funny from the viewer’s perspective is a great strength of the show. Da-jung whose adherence to what is right makes her hugely appealing but also terribly funny at the same time. She especially shines next to Jung-gi’s adorably plump son when she bluntly orders him to do homework or coaches him on how to get back at the mean friend. Lovely’s chief Mr. Cho’s affinity for red bean jelly bars is another detail that lightens up the show.
On portal sites, people commented about feeling satisfied when they were watching Da-jung retaliate against Manager Kim even though they were aware of the unrealistic nature of it all. How often do you see a female subordinate launch a water bottle at her boss that it hits his nose and causes it to bleed? These outlandish moments in which Da-jung’s temper and tendency for justice propel her to get the better of the mean guys were very satisfying because she does things that we find impossible to do.
There are times when her moves are less comical but still satisfying. She not only despises corruption that goes into cementing lucrative business contracts, but she also shows that things can be done without forgoing dignity. In the hyper competitive Korean society, jobs sometimes require people to do things that make them feel less than human. It takes much courage and perseverance to disrupt this perverted culture. Da-jung, however, pulls it off so that her colleagues no longer have to agonize but simply need to work hard using honest means. In another instance, Da-jung exercises her authority legitimately to create a more suitable position for Ms. Han after she is unfairly dismissed. It’s tough being a parent; Ms. Han has to keep her job because her husband’s salary alone isn’t enough to keep the family afloat, but what measures are in place to help her juggle work and family? None according to the show. Da-jung, however, does what she can to improve her employee’s situation even when Ms. Han’s husband and her government can’t deliver. These are just two examples of why her character has been received so well.
Others have also commented about how they wish their colleagues were more like Jung-gi. Jung-gi is a diligent man with a friendly demeanor. He is attentive to those around him and makes the time to offer a word of support when needed. Nobody wants to report to a hostile environment. People like Jung-gi makes going to work more pleasant. We also appreciate feelings of self-actualization. Wouldn’t it be great if what you did at work mattered? If you could help your organization grow? The organization, in turn, helped you realize your professional goals or become more relevant as a member of society? It’s easy to brush off this notion as too ideal, but didn’t it feel good to see those guys at Lovely pulling their efforts together to keep the company rolling because they liked their job and not because they felt threatened? This positivism enabled us to see why everyone needs to be more like Da-jung who clearly recognizes the hurdles but fights hard to help her co-workers rise above the superior vs. subordinate frame that plagues the contemporary society so much.
Ms. Temper & Nam Jung-gi’s Korean title is “Ookssi Nam Jung-gi.” It reminded us of the famous novel written by Kim Man-jung in mid-Joseon during King Sukjong’s time: Sassi Namjeonggi or Record of Lady Sa’s Southward Journey. Written in Hangul, it is considered the first Korean novel to treat family as subject at the time when most novels portrayed heroes and their deeds. It tells of a family conflict involving unfair treatment of a noble man’s wife by his cunning concubine. This work of satire criticizes King Sukjong’s decision to oust Queen Inhyeon and take in Heebin. Kim Man-jung had opposed the king’s decision and was banished to the countryside. Just as Kim had done through Sassi Namjeonggi, the creators of Ms. Temper & Nam Jung-gi have produced an accessible and entertaining way for people to look at some of the biggest problems that Koreans are experiencing today. Ms. Temper & Nam Jung-gi wasn’t a treatise with lofty statements but it offered up a voice full of empathy that moved people and brightened up their days.