"Misaeng" is a TvN Korean drama which is adapted from a popular webtoon. It is about how the protagonist Jang Geu-rae (Lim Si-wan) struggles to survive working in a company.
"A road opens as you tread along it. A road that doesn't open isn't a road. Roads are open to everyone. But not everyone can have the road."
Suddenly, the drama takes us two years back to 2012. Geu-rae is a 26-year-old with only a GED (General Educational Development) certificate and without any special skill, except the skill of playing Go (traditional Chinese board game). He quit formal education to train to become a professional Go player, but had to give up his dream when his father passed away and his mother became bed-ridden. With his credential, he can only find part-time jobs such as cleaning the bath house or being a designated driver.
He struggles to adapt on the first day, he is clueless about everything, and he doesn't even know how to operate the photocopying machine. He cannot speak any foreign language and thus, cannot even handle the simple task of answering phone calls.
He meets the other interns who all seem to possess high educational qualifications. Among them are high achievers, An Young-yi (Kang So-ra) and Jang Baek-ki (Kang Ha-neul). Beautiful Young-yi is the "ace" among the interns who helped her team close a difficult deal after just ten days of interning. Baek-ki is an expert in PPTs but seems like a two-faced person. Geu-rae is sort of ostracized by the interns who are unhappy that he got in through connections, while they had to work their ass off.
Remember mum said that Geu-rae is super smart? We get a glimpse of that the next day when he memorized a list of "employees emergency contact numbers" within a short span of time. I am sure his intelligence and memory power will come in handy in the future, helping him to survive the workplace.
Anyway, Sales Team 3's manager, Oh Sang-sik (Lee Sung-min) is supposed to meet a foreign client, but he has just returned from an overseas trip and cannot make it on time from the airport. Dong-sik has no choice but to send Geu-rae down to entertain the client until Manager Oh arrives. Geu-rae does so using the only skill he has, he introduces the client to the game of Go. When Manager Oh arrives, he is surprised to see the client intrigued by Go, and not angry that he is late. Seems like Geu-rae has the ability to deal with unforeseen situations, or he is plain lucky.
Manager Oh is someone who doesn't mix business with personal life. He doesn't like Geu-rae who got in through connections, and asks him what he has to offer to the team. Geu-rae replies, "My effort. I have never worked hard so my effort is unused and brand-new." Sounds cute to me but Manager Oh is not impressed. "I'm not buying you. Hard-working guys are everywhere at work." Sad, but true.
At the end of episode 1, the interns go for a drink after work. Geu-rae goes to look for them after leaving the factory, dirty and stinking. He tells them that he is not joining them for a drink because he has to return to the office to clear some work. They sarcastically ask why he is so hardworking. As Geu-rae turns to walk away, we hear his monologue.
"You say I am hardworking? I'm here now because I didn't work hard. I was abandoned because I didn't work hard."
Ouch. Sad, but true. Those of us who spent our youth having fun instead of studying hard or acquiring skills, tend to fall behind our peers when we enter the workforce. We are abandoned by society, left behind because we did not work hard. To catch up, we have to work doubly hard.
"A road opens as you tread along it. A road that doesn't open isn't a road."
Geu-rae's dream is to be a professional Go player. However, circumstances make it impossible. This "road" does not open for him.
"Roads are open to everyone. But not everyone can have the road."
Geu-rae is lucky to get into the company, but without ability and hard work, he will not be able to pass his internship and get a permanent position. There is a "road" open but he may not be able to take it.
"Misaeng" is a jargon used in Go. It refers to a stone (game piece) which is not yet alive in a Go game but is not dead, meaning there is still a chance for it to come alive. Geu-rae is like a "misaeng" in the company, an intern who cannot fit in, but has the potential to do so if he passes his internship. He is a "misaeng" in his life, he has accomplised nothing for the past 26 years, but is now given a chance to start over again.
The first episode looks promising. Geu-rae is a character that ordinary folks can relate to, and I am rooting for this underdog to succeed. I think this drama will turn out to be motivational and inspiring.