Seo Ye-ji’s Realistic and Raw Representation of Trauma: From Lawless Lawyer to It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

Maybe it’s his sonorous voice, his piercing eyes or his sarcastic smile, or maybe it’s a combination of all three, but it’s hard to deny the power of Seo Yeji, when she comes on stage. She knows how to create an impression and absorb you into the story, without too much fuss. In one of the opening scenes of the internationally acclaimed show It’s Okay To Not Be Okay, Seo Ye-ji’s character, Ko Moon Young, sits with a child and terrifies her with a gory fairy tale. The child jumps up and cries, and Ko Moon Young has a wry smile on her face. We are introduced to the seemingly cold, antisocial, and snappy Moon Young, a popular children’s author, who writes some rather twisted and disturbing tales for children. In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine any other actor succeeding in such a role.

It’s no surprise that It’s Okay brought Seo Ye-ji to the international stage. Moving away from the maniacal pixie, the damsel in distress is a common feature of many shows. Here, Ye-ji played the role of a broken and damaged woman, struggling to cope with repressed childhood trauma that keeps resurfacing. His mother was a cold, murderous narcissist, who wanted her child to imbibe the same frigid values ​​as her and live without love or feeling. Moon-young’s father is shamefully negligent and takes drastic action after learning of his wife’s criminal ways, which drives a wedge between him and his daughter.

Seo Ye-ji and Kim Soo-hyun on the poster for It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

Moon-young grows up alone and is unable to form consistent friendships or relationships, due to her not-so-acceptable social skills. However, his demeanor changes after meeting Gang Tae, a man carrying more burden than he should. Along with the inexplicable attraction, they learn that their childhoods are intertwined, along with their deep horrors from their past that neither could get past. And so begins a process of healing and closure. Far from the notion of actually being saved – a common trope of several Korean dramas – she showed the importance of being healed.

Moon-young was multi-faceted and it took a special mastery of acting to take on such a role and portray the vulnerability, the simmering rage, combined with the overwhelming guilt that her own mother had caused. Ko Moon Young was by no means a character you could completely and wholeheartedly root for, due to his cruel nature, coupled with his violent tendencies when it came to protecting his loved ones. Yet you felt connected to her, in an inextricable way, for such was Seo Yea-ji’s acting prowess.

Seo Ye-ji was able to not only twist the knife, but also push it further in several scenes, especially those where her nightmares haunt her. In one scene, Gang Tae (Kim Soo-hyun) rushes to her room after hearing her screams of agony. She has just woken up from crippling dreams and as he struggles to care for her, she insists he leave, yet continues to cling to him. Her screams and raucous screams are particularly hilarious, and it’s a scene you don’t easily forget.

There were many such scenes in the show. Another notable scene is when she finally visits her neglectful father in the psychiatric clinic. He floats in and out of lucidity and hallucinates about his wife, nearly killing Moon-young. In a rather spooky scene, Moon-young is lying flat on the ground as everyone tries to save her from being strangled. There is a particular resignation and mockery in her eyes, as she watches her father cling frantically to any semblance of meaning in his life. It is the face of a woman who has no warm memories of a family and no one to belong to.

After realizing that her mother was the cause of the trauma that Gang Tae and her brother Sang Tae have suffered throughout their lives, she asks for forgiveness in a particularly heartbreaking scene, as a confused Sang Tae tries to feed her. Instead of being abrupt, Moon-young’s character development was particularly heartening to watch – as she mellowed, while maintaining her brash way of speaking.

There’s always something particularly captivating about a show starring Seo Ye-ji. It will not be something that exists for fun, or not cerebral. Before It’s Okay, Seo Ye-ji was seen starring in the seemingly funny Lawless Lawyer starring Lee Joongi – a tale of revenge, justice, and the search for the truth. Her character Jae-yi was tough as nails, who didn’t buy into tales of corrupt lawyers and could pack all the punch if needed as she struggled to piece together the truth of her life. Jae-yi had her own harrowing story to tell, as her mother disappeared as a child – a disappearance linked to the murder of Lee Joongi’s mother on the show. Filled with comedy, hard-hitting emotional scenes, and sharp dialogue, Seo Ye-ji has proven herself.

Lee Joongi Lee Joongi and Seo Ye-ji in Lawless Laywer. (Picture: Netflix)

There is an unusual sense of brutality in Seo Ye-ji’s acting that brings her closer to viewers. Maybe it’s the nuanced characters she chooses, or maybe it’s her ability to portray a variety of emotions with just a few words. This woman is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to Korean entertainment.

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