Heartless City: Shi-hyun and His Issues


Can I say that our Bahksa Ahdeul Jung Shi-hyun having issues is the biggest understatement of the year?  Lovely Patch Friend dedicated took me up on using our Heartless Patch as grounds for lively debate and discussion with some great thoughts and insights into the issues surrounding the ending of Episode 14.

I don’t get why it was that earth shattering for Shi Hyun to find out that his mother was a distributor. He knew she was a druggie and was prostituting to earn money for themselves to live and for her drugs. So with that mind set it was highly possible that she would take part in distribution to make some more money for the drugs. Besides distribution is what Shi Hyun himself has been doing for the past 8 years and and now he wants to extend his business by producing too. What is the big difference for him finding out that his mother wasn’t just a user but also a distributor? I don’t get why he would harm himself over it.
For me it is also not plausible that he has had a vendetta against Safari, because he has thought that Safari had sold his mother drugs and had made her into an addict. Shi Hyun’s mother was an adult and she could have decided for herself to use or not use drugs, like his Auntie, who is also working in the same business line but not using drugs, or Safari or Soo or he himself, they are in the business but did not become addicts themselves. So if Shi Hyun’s mother had become an addict, how could have that been Safari’s fault? Why would Shi Hyun accuse him of murdering his mother?
All his life he has been distributing that poison to others, like Safari said. What makes him think that his mother was innocent by just using the drugs and not distributing them? Let’s say, he thought his mother was just a cornered user, who did not know any better, why has he been doing that kind of dirty work then?
If he thought that it would be okay, because he was an undercover cop and was sacrificing little fish in order to catch the bigger drug lord, so he became an underling for them to trust, so he could rise above them and put them in jail, what happened to all the people, who bought their drugs, became addicts and maybe died because of them? Do their deaths not count? Or does he take them as casualty? Why would his mother be then special? Just because she was his mother?
And at the end, if he regretted his deeds and thought of himself as the reason of his mother’s demise, why did he decide to go to the dark side?

 So much goodness!  I started replying, and then realized there was no way all of my long-windedness was gonna fit – or look good attempting to fit – on the page.  Thus I present to you… even more words! 😀


My Two Twenty Cents

Shi-hyun is in no ways innocent, nor should he be absolved of his crimes simply because he’s shmexy and drool-worthy and our hero(?).  He’s a very veeery flawed individual, but I think that might be part of what makes rooting for him such an interesting experience.  The “good guy” is Ji Hyung-min, but we find ourselves desperately hoping for Shi-hyun to outwit him time and again.  It’s not just because Shi-hyun is an undercover agent, thus technically a “good guy” – we, as an audience, were supposed to like him even before that big reveal in Episode 4.  And let’s be honest – even if he hadn’t been an undercover cop, we would have rooted for him.  Prime example: Safari.  Yeah, we later learned he was also (initially) an undercover, but we loved him for being a clever bad guy.  Those flashbacks into the past certainly put a different light on him, but half of his appeal was his ruthlessness.  These are all bad people, yet we want them to win.  Strange, no?

Now, Shi-hyun is very much aware of who he is, but somewhere along the way, I think he pushed aside what exactly resulted from the dirtying of his hands.  He’s a good guy trying to bring down the bad guys, and in the process he did a LOT of bad things.  He paid for his current position with eight grueling years of inhuman existence, and somewhere along the way, he probably justified his dirty work with the reminder that this was all for the greater good.  Do I think it’s right?  No.  But he couldn’t exactly pretend to distribute drugs, and I think he chose to shut that door on his conscience and just charge ahead.  When Safari jerked the chains around that tightly-locked door, noting that Shi-hyun was no different from him, Shi-hyun visibly flinched.  So he’s not unaware of his own crimes.  He just… doesn’t like to think about them.

If he’s willing to ruin others’ lives, why does he hate Safari with such a vengeance?  Why is it such a shocker that his mom was a distributor?  I think the simplest answer is ultimately the best answer: Because she was his mom.  There’s no logic to family ties and that thing called jeong (정), and there’s no scientific method behind development of love for our parents.  And for Shi-hyun, the poor child who had no father, his mother was his whole world.  Though he may physically be a grown man, though he may intellectually be far above anyone in his circle, he is still a young child in the emotional department.  His mom died when he was a little kid, and I think he stopped emotionally growing the moment he grabbed his mom’s measly wad of cash and bolted from the slums.  He doesn’t logically think “Perhaps my mom could have said no to Safari.”  All he thinks is (1) my mom died of a drug overdose; and (2) Safari gave her those drugs.  Chief Min is largely to blame here – he knew where Shi-hyun hurt the most, and he hit him hard.  He was like the devil whispering in the little boy’s ear, providing a target for the pent-up grief and hatred to be directed at.

From that moment, Shi-hyun has had one goal: Avenge my mother’s death by hunting down Safari.  If bringing down Busan is what’s needed to fulfill that goal?  No problem.  Like a horse wearing blinders, Shi-hyun has never looked anywhere but forward, has never thought of anything but vengeance.  He built his whole world on that one goal.  But all of that came crashing down with the revelation that his mom wasn’t a victim of Safari.  And to make things worse, he finally remembers being a cog in the drug machine.  Though not entirely true, in his mind, he essentially killed his mom by facilitating her drug use and distribution.  (Hence the agony and disbelief on his face as he stares at his hands – they which delivered the goods from Safari to his mom – and the smashing of the rock on them.)무정도시14_00016

Whether Shi-hyun has officially gone over to the dark side will be the big question this week.  And if he has, I think it’s a combination of so many different things.  The biggest, though, is his severing of ties with Chief Min.  It’s not so much that he’s no longer a good guy, it’s that he’s done being Chief Min’s puppet.  The man has been egging him on from the start, and everything started with his big fat lie about Safari and Shi-hyun’s mom.

The bottom line is that Shi-hyun is very much alone.  And yet… perhaps he has more friends than he ever thought he had.  *whispers: Episodes 15 & 16!*  Only time will tell.


4 responses to “Heartless City: Shi-hyun and His Issues

  1. Awesome post my friend. You nailed it! My reasoning for Shi Hyun going all loco which you already mentioned was the very fact that he played a part in his mother’s death by delivering the goods to her. What a sad fate Shi Hyun has 😦

    • *embarrassed* thank youuu!! i just feel so… inadequate when it comes to this show… i just don’t know. see? even now, i don’t know what to say xDD
      btw, totally off topic, but have you seen the ‘new’ won bin? the k-media is going nuts over the doppelganger lol 😉 there’s a picture of him in our “july 19 headlines” post ^^

  2. Dear Pinkblossom,
    thank you very much for your elaborate thoughts on Shi Hyun’s issues. Yes, you are right. I believe, I was thinking too logically about the issues concerning his mother and what he did as a young, misguided child. Of course, that was the world he was living in and he didn’t know anything else. That’s why he had absolute faith in his mother and in her business.
    Even after sleeping with Soo Min, he left an envelope for her and apologized if that has hurt her pride adding that it was not his intention but that was the etiquette in his world and he knew nothing other than that. So maybe he thought that his mother was just a druggie and not a distributor and was one of the victims of that cruel world as a misguided soul, who was made an addict and forced to prostitution in order to obtain money for the drugs and earn living expenses for her son, raising him alone, without the support if a husband. So, he accused Safari Ajusshi with the direction of Chief Min and made his mother an innocent victim, whereas Safari became the predator in his thoughts. When he found out that, that was not the case, that his mother was also a part of the drug chain and was responsible for the demise of the others, maybe because she had to make money for her son. So part of her guilt rooted in him, in which he also helped his mother unknowingly by being the middleman between Safari and her.
    He realized that he had misplaced his anger for all those years on Safari, and his becoming as ruthless as Safari if not more to avenge him was futile, because his true vendetta should be unleashed on Pusan, or the higher ups who are all in this “business”.
    This explains why he joined hands with Chief Min and worked as an underdog for the drug lords, became even more dangerous, ruthless and calculating than them while keeping a clean conscience as he was working as an undercover cop, so all his deeds were done if not without any but little remorse, because they were at the end done for the greater good which was embodied in the form of Chief Min.
    But seeing the various faces of Chief Min using, manipulating and misguiding him, made him rebel against him. So he wanted to take the matters in his own hands by cautiously joining hands with Safari against Pusan and stringing Hyun Min along to prove him that he was not the murderer of Kyung Mi and so to say they are on the same side. Which in return shakes Chief Min’s footing and his grip on uri Paksa Adeul, so he threatens him with the lives of Soo and Jin Sook Noona.
    I am sure you watched eps 15&16, so you have seen, where Hyun Min and Shi Hyun meet and like a superhero our slim built Paksa saves the well built Hyun Min by fighting off twenty men all by himself with his suit on, where he doesn’t shed a sweat and betrays his fear only when he is out of sight. Paksa told Chief Min that he and Hyun Min went to the police academy at the same time, so he wandered what would have become out of him if he were to work as a cop like Hyun Min and not as an undercover. Part if him is of course coveting the life Hyun Min has, where he can walk through the streets head held high and a police badge on the arm, doing his job with absolute clear conscience and not swallowing anything fir the greater good, being out in the open and not having to walk in the shadows. This is where my questions come:
    1) What do you think is the exact relationship between Chief Min and Paksa? Min knows him since his childhood, before his mother’s loss. Did he groom him to become an undercover since then? That means, Shi Hyun was is life long project, which is scary, thinking how manipulative he is and how he got angry with Paksa after finding out that he had outed himself to Hyun Min and joined hands with him to bring down Pusan on his account, without the guidance/ permission of Chief Min.
    2) How close are Shi Hyun and Jin Sook Noona? After loosing his mother, Shi Hyun was sent to orphanage, where he met the love of his life, Kyung Mi. But was soon taken “home” by Jin Sook and raised by her and Safari. This bit we see from the constant flashbacks. So how could Paksa have gone to the police academy under the nose of Jin Sook and Safari and was taught and groomed by Chief Min as an undercover cop, who has also complicated relations going on with Jin Sook and Safari to boot?
    3) How could Jin Sook survive in that cunning and cruel world until now if she can so readily believe in Soo Min and trust her blindly without having a background check on her just because she so conveniently saved her life in prison even after learning that her long time play-friend/ crush Safari was an undercover.
    4) Why do the gangsters fight with sticks and knives and not carry guns or just shoot each other? And however awesome and super duper hot that may be, it still makes it unbelievable that a simple Shi Hyun – I mean his build is nowhere to be compared to Hyun Min, but he is hotness galore especially with his guyliners and awe inducing, amazing facial expressions, great and convincing acting skills in every step of the way – can fight off twenty gangsters alone, where they surround them but attack him one by one or two at the same time at most while others wait in the queue to kindly attack him.
    5) Shi Hyun’s by the others inflicted wounds heals over night but his self inflicted wound on his hand stays unhealed under the bandage for a long time. Maybe this explains his being unbeatable and invincible as long as he does not want to inflict pain on himself, he can not be harmed by others.

  3. 1&2 are things I’m hoping will be revealed further in future episodes, though 3 is mostly a convenient plot device, which also covers Jin Sook’s unawareness of Baksa’s undercover status – she trusts those she considers family almost to the point of blindness, and she’s adopted our newest undercover Soo Min into the fold. How else could one explain that she announces SM would take over her position if anything happens and is never suspicious about any of her texts or calls?
    4 is due to Korea’s stricter gun laws, so it is fairly difficult to obtain guns if you are not a police-officer/authorized person. This was an additional reason for Baksa’s shock when Safari pulled a revolver in the zoo library.
    Kdrama medicine and healing has very little logic, but I like your analysis of Baksa’s wounds as symbolism. It gives me hope uri Baksa will make it to the end in one piece, since he seems to barely be holding together with everything he’s been dealing with lately.

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