“The Woman Who Married 3 Times” – Final Review

I wasn’t sure how to approach the ending of this drama since it’s taken me a week to calm down. (LOL) Yes, you can guess this ended badly but being a weekend drama, that’s not surprising. What IS surprising is the fact that this drama came from such a beloved writer: Kim Soo-Hyun. (A Thousand Days Promise, Life Is Beautiful) I’ve read many wonderful things, the most flattering being: her ability to take a sensitive subject and create a moving, understanding dialogue with her audience. I saw this for myself with A Thousand Days Promise, she opened eyes regarding early onset Alzhemier’s and how spouses, family, friends and co-workers deal with this. She never sugar-coated it, she never expressed any shame and she was up-front, in-your-face about the horrors it can bring.

I know she’s a fairly modern Korean writer, her female characters are usually tough, independent and extremely intelligent. Exactly what happened with this drama remains a mystery. Is she getting too old? (She’s 71) Did she intend to shock viewers for ratings? She’s known to abhors these type of cheap tricks so that sounded implausible. She’s prickly, opinionated and out-spoken, to the point of sitting in on every script reading with the cast or refusing certain stars for her lead characters. Did she fall ill and someone stepped in to finish the ending? I have no idea but the fact that viewers and fans are coming up with such ideas and expressing such outrage tells me this drama is a huge aberration and does not fit with her body of work. Let’s discuss what happened!

We left off with our leading lady Eun Soo moving to her own place with Seul-Gi who she rescued after learning she had been abused by her step-mother. Her ex-husband, Tae Won helped which threw her cheater-husband, Joon Goo, into fits of jealousy. And there was still the matter of Joon Goo’s family demanding she give up all rights to her unborn child since she was determined to divorce him.

Seul-Gi finds out that her Mom is pregnant and tearfully begs Eun Soo to not let this baby grow up like she did – without both parents. But the next few episodes are where things got very strange for me. Not only does Eun Soo allows Seul-Gi to continue to visit her ex-husbands home (where the abuser is still present) but she tells Seul-Gi to “be nice” to Chae Rin. Huh? Be nice to your abuser? The look on this child’s face completely mirrored my own – hurt and confused. What Mother would say this?

Sure enough, Seul-Gi is cornered by Chae Rin and brow-beaten with questions about her Mom. She learns Eun Soo is divorcing her current husband and has moved into her own place with Seul-Gi. This sends Chae Rin flying off into a tantrum, screaming at her Mother-In-Law for keeping this from her. She accuses the whole family of being in cahoots to get rid of her so Tae Won can re-marry Seul-Gi’s Mother and immediately contacts Eun Soo to meet.

At this meeting, Chae Rin gets drunk, whines and again accuses Eun Soo of trying to steal her husband. She never once apologizes for physically abusing Seul-Gi but instead claims Eun Soo interfered with their relationship plus Seul-Gi lied to her. (Again, huh?) She accepts no responsibility for what she’s done. Eun Soo tries to make it clear her divorce has nothing to do with Tae Won but Chae Rin isn’t listening.

Joon Goo shows up at Eun Soo’s house late at night, banging and kicking on her door demanding she let him in. When she does, he runs around checking every single room because he’s convinced she’s cheating with her ex-husband. Eun Soo calmly reminds him she is not like him (meaning she has some morals and class) calls him a loser and makes him leave. (LOL)

Maybe she’s worried that Chae Rin’s accusations along with this suspicion from Joon Goo will complicate her divorce because Eun Soo next meets with Tae Won and arrogantly tells him she’s not divorcing Joon Goo to get back together with him. He needs to explain this to his new wife and stop blaming everything on her – he should be patient, kind and wait for Chae Rin. WHAT? Is everyone forgetting this woman slapped, hit and shoved Seul-Gi to the ground?

The next episode was clearly designed to explain Chae Rin to viewers and try building sympathy for her. This is nothing new, K-dramas notoriously wait until the end to have villains show remorse, apologize, find God or earn forgiveness in some other way. We learn that Chae Rin’s father has been physically abusing both her and her Mother for years and we get to see it first hand. Tae Won arrives to see Chae Rin’s Father slap her to the ground and kick her over and over.

He steps in to protect Chae Rin and angrily confronts his Father-In-Law, threatening if he does anything like this again – Tae Won will expose what type of man he is to the world. The camera pulls back to show us Chae Rin’s Mother, sitting in the car with an eye-patch covering one eye. She removes this to reveal a bruised, blackened eye. What he witnessed is enough to change his mind, he brings Chae Rin home. He will not be divorce her but instead, spend the rest of his life protecting her. He does mention counseling but seems to believe she’ll get better with love and meditation. *facepalm*

Tae Won meets with Eun Soo one last time to inform her of his decision. He admits he had thoughts of divorcing Chae Rin, getting back together with Eun Soo, raising Seul-Gi and even the unborn child but it’s not to be. It turns out Eun Soo had no thoughts along those lines even though it’s clear she still loves him – she could never return to his family home or dealing with his Mother. It’s fascinating to me that neither of these parents bring up Seul-Gi’s well-being or abuse.

There is a time jump (maybe 5 months?) after which we see Tae Won, Chae Rin and Seul-Gi returning from vacation. Tae Won is affectionate and caring with Chae Rin, Chae Rin is happy, laughing and smiling. She and Seul-Gi now appear to be best buds, walking into the house arm-in-arm. During this time, Joon Goo has continued to harass Eun Soo by showing up at her home demanding she let him see her pregnant belly, sending “thoughtful” text messages and trying to convince her he’s changed. She’s not interested, her only thoughts are what to do with the baby.

She finally announces her decision: she will send the baby to live with Joon Goo and his family as soon as she gives birth. Sure enough, after delivering the baby – Joon Goo and his Mother show up at the hospital to collect the child. Eun Soo and her Mother stand by and watch while they dress the baby and walk out with the nanny they’ve hired holding the bundle of joy. Eun Soo does cry but her Mother seems much more devastated by this turn of events. I’m left staring at my screen in shock, with my mouth wide open.

Joon Goo’s Mother was self-righteous and cruel in her final conversation with Eun Soo, trying to demand she not go back to her old job or give interviews. She also told Eun Soo she was going to raise this child…as if Eun Soo never existed. When Eun Soo arrives home, she covers her mouth and cries alone in her room. Seul-Gi shows up, excited to see her baby brother – which means she has no idea her Mother wasn’t going to keep him?

We don’t get to listen to Eun Soo’s explanation to Seul-Gi but only see the hug between them when it’s over. Is this because even the writer couldn’t make this believable to viewers? Or maybe she didn’t wish to show how much more Seul-Gi’s head is getting screwed up. Her Father, Tae Won tells her she will understand why her Mother made this decision when she gets older. Ummm…no, she’s going to be angry as she gets older and realizes Mom didn’t even fight for her younger brother. Not to mention that her own Father choose his new wife’s well-being over her own.

At the end, we see Chae Rin is pregnant and Joon Goo is seeing Da Mi again. Oh, and that 3rd marriage implied in the title? Never happens – she buys a third ring and marries herself. Meh?

Okay, let me first say that I have a tiny bit of understanding about the way custody and parental rights work in Korea but I’m not 100% clear. I know every family has a “registry” which lists all members of said family under the “Hoju” or “Hojuje” (호주제) (male head of family and registry) Each person is defined by his or her relationship to the male head so any children would automatically be added to the male “head of family’s” side. In cases of divorce, the wife’s name is removed but any children remain on the Father’s registry.

However, these laws changed having been ruled gender-biased or “ordered inequality” based on Confucian teachings in a patriarchal society. Prior to amendments made in 1991, any woman who petitioned for divorce in Korea automatically lost custody of children from that union unless the husband signed a special custody agreement. In other words, what happened in this drama was not based on ANY legal rules currently in place. Joon Goo and his family did not have sole rights to this child legally yet we’re left with that impression because of the archaic Hoju system. This is not true and Eun Soo did not legally have to give them the baby.

So why did she? Was it simply a matter of poor vs rich again? His family has the money to fight this in court while Eun Soo doesn’t? Or were we supposed to believe this was Eun Soo’s “punishment” for daring to divorce in the first place? (maybe even a bit of payback for her abandoning Seul-Gi at the beginning of this drama) The message is confusing, convoluted and disheartening to viewers who have lit up the message boards with their fury and disappointment. Lots of anger over this one!

Rape, adultery, and child abuse are okay – as long as the family stays together. The redemption of Chae Rin’s character might have worked if we had seen her going to counseling or changing in any way but she still acts like a 5-year-old at the end. Somewhere along the way, the writer forgot about Seul-Gi and focused on Chae Rin. And not only is the cheater still seeing his mistress, he got custody of the baby? Appalling.This might be the first drama I’ve ever seen where the “bad, evil” characters get everything they want while the “good, honest” characters get shafted. Worst ending I’ve ever seen.

Sources:
The Women’s News
Refworld
International Family Law

26 Comments

  • BMore says:

    Thank God I had the sense to wait to watch the last 2 episode. My feelings were that it was heading towards something horrible, so, to spare myself, I waited, read the comments, then cleared it from my list without bothering to torture myself with the horror of this ending. My feelings exactly reflect yours. No amount of ‘justification’ based on culture nor religion can warrant the decisions made to end this drama this way. It is seriously disturbing. One of the most charming things about Kdrama is its messages of hope and reconciliation. This drama made a joke of that entire premise. I cannot even begin to fully voice my anger and frustration over the time I wasted on this show. What an abuse of 38 hours of my life! The second worst drama I have ever watched. I’m glad to see on My Drama List it is down to 5.88/10. I sincerely hope it drops even further.

  • Dream says:

    I have not watched the drama but read your reviews here….so the heroine didn’t get to raise any of her children!!!!! What was the point of this whole story…..

    easily one of the worst dramas ever..

  • monthypythonholygrail says:

    I think the writer trolled the viewers, this drama wasn’t well rated, well liked or popular compared to her last few dramas, she basically decided to throw everything but the sink into these last few episodes. She out makjanged, the Kdrama makjang if you will.

  • houstontwin says:

    Maybe the writer has personal issues. She may well have achieved some sort of personal catharsis at our expense! I wouldn’t blame this mess on her age. There are plenty of men and women, competently practicing their careers in their 70’s.

    • tessieroo says:

      Very true, I was only passing along some of the questions/comments about what viewers were thinking of the writer. I myself have no idea.
      The very fact that some viewers might believe she’s too old or that she got sick tells me how loved her previous works are and that they can’t believe she wrote this one. Very strange.

  • trotwood says:

    I had a feeling that it was going to go this way as soonas found out the Chae Rin’s mother was being abused. I checked out after that because I knew then that no matter what Tae Won was not going to leave her. I even feared that Eun Soo would go back to her sex offender husband. However, she is alone at the end without either child, and I think it is supposed to be a cautionary tale. The lesson here is that we might think we can get our freedom, but that men only want to be ties to silent victims, finding them attractive in fact (Da Mi gets her man after she has been completely broken without him–sigh). There should be a lot of hate for this show. I thought I would finally get a show which did not insist on getting divorced couples back together as if divorce was something that people are just doing on whim; however, the alternative is to punish the woman in any divorce because she dare to break upa family and she just should be quiet (what so later she can steal her grandson away from its mother?). You are right; this show breeds so much anger. I would be really interested in seeing what Koreans are saying about the ending. My Korean is not good enough to read those commentary sites. Do you guys know what the responses were like?

    • bmore says:

      excellent comment

    • tessieroo says:

      Trotwood – The few comments I could understand from netizens were full on fury, disgust and disappointment but also concern for the writer. (is she sick? is she too old? what happened?) They pretty much sounded the same as comments left on DramaFever, ViKi and AsianWiki from other countries.

    • JadeCloud says:

      Your take is so refreshing! I couldn’t agree more with the derogatory attitude womenfolk in SK were handed, time and time again.

      The ending in this drama just added weight to emphatically denounce womenfolk for daring to ‘split up the family’, as in opt for divorce, despite the fact that the cheater spouse was at fault. As we can already see, women tagged with a ‘divorcee’ title in kdramaland are already hugely disadvantaged! The finale ending which had the main female lead being pressurized and having her baby taken away, ending up alone(self-married?…please!), was the last straw that broke the camel’s back for me, and I believe, many viewers. I can’t even begin to understand the ‘abuse’ issues presented but sadly, grossly mishandled(child abuse) and/or ignored(family violence). Was this drama the work of a writernim with a stella track record? Or some ghost-writernims? Or a combo-effort? Or due to old age or illness? That all remains a mystery. The only certainty I know of is the bad taste in my mouth that remains to-date.

      Tessieroo, kudos for a finale review so well-analyzed. Jjang! And, it was a real pleasure ‘meeting’ you in the soompi forum:) See you around!

      • tessieroo says:

        Hey! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! 🙂

        Yes, the abuse issue was very poorly handled – I completely agree. In spite of the ending, it was a lot of fun for me to discuss this with all everyone at Soompi!

  • redd says:

    aww the ending sounds bad.

  • JadeCloud says:

    Oops….Your take is so refreshing! I couldn’t agree more with the derogatory attitude womenfolk in SK were handed, time and time again….was referring to TROTWOOD’s comment:)

  • watchumlots says:

    I think the ending was terrible, similar to what truly happens in horrible circumstances: horrible outcomes.

    1) Sucky men/husbands & bad choices
    2) Horrible in-laws and horrible marriage
    3) Horrible step-parents happen to your children, and you can be helpless in those circumstances
    4) Was she going to be involved with and fighting with those x-in-laws all her life because of the the baby?
    5) How to work and care for the baby?

    The woman cheated on her 1st husband, leaving him for a richer guy. She abandoned her daughter so her rich in-laws would accept her marriage to their son. The rich husband left her for another woman. Her life resembles a toilet, that is the reality of her situation.
    It’s a very sad ending indeed. I like that this ending didn’t somehow sugarcoat and give us some improbable happy-ever-after. Losing two children and having two x-husbands isn’t going to make a happy-ever-after life very possible.

    The third marriage?? The third husband?? I think that is somewhere in a distant and difficult future.

  • NONAME says:

    It will be better ending if I write the ending… Eun Soo lied to the MIL that she misscarriage, then insist on divorce. Go some where else to give birth and rise the child on her own (together with her Daughter too), then meet another man who are super rich, not living with parents (maybe with 2 adult children from his dead wife and both of his children already grown up and live on their own), and he is so in love with Eun Soo that he manage to move her heart and she marry him and live happily together (with her 2 children too). And after 18 years, the second FIL get sick so she have pity and introduce his son to the second husband family… Everybody happy….LOL.

  • LazerKim says:

    This drama should have been good except for the ending. What’s new,a lot of Kdramas ended so badly! But I think this is the worst I have ever watched. So what happened to the 3rd marriage? I think the drama title isn’t there at all! I’ve watched a lot of Kdrama about arrange marriage that gave me the impression how weak Korean men are that would just allow themselves to be married at their parent’s choice of partner, I think arrange marriage are so primitive or old fashion that still exist in the current society in SK?? That’s so sad!
    And I cannot comprehend a man ends up with an obsessed woman who almost destroyed his life? Another man ending up with an abusive woman to the point of hurting his daughter? A woman giving up her two kids on separate occasion and different men?
    Maybe I had a wrong choice of drama to watch but I would admit I was hooked by this drama and was looking forward on how it ends only to find out it had a lousy ending!! I should have a better understanding if Eun Soo ending up with Joon Goo re-marrying and that actress should have moved on and find another man who can love her. Predictable it may be but at least it makes sense and should have a better lessons learned. But unfortunately it ended up as if Eun Soo didn’t learn from her previous marriage and the worst thing is leaving another kid again! I think the writer was aiming to make an unpredictable ending but unfortunately it didn’t work at all.
    I know I’m just watching dramas but I still have a lingering question, are Korean men that weak not to decide for themselves instead of following their parents whom to marry? Oh I hope this isn’t true to real life in SK! LOL!

    • Carolina alvez says:

      To my mind, the drama was great. Firstly I love Lee Ji Ah. An underrated actress but a great one. What really sucks was the ending were the cheater went back to that obsessed woman Da Mi.

  • Marjorie Reyes says:

    Thanks very much for the final recap..it has saved me hours of precious time to not have to watch the whole drama..Actually i only watched it coz i recently came to love and admire Lee Ji Ah on “Lucid Dream – Snow Lotus”.. Yesterday i started watching episode 1 to see if the drama is alright..I love to have to see Lee Ji Ah again in her best form but i feel the plot of this drama’s story is a bit weird..I feel Lee Ji Ah deserves to have the best roles since she has proven herself one of korea’s best actresses the likes of Choi Ji Woo, Kim Hyun Joo and Ha Ji Won…😍😍😍

    • Carolina alvez says:

      I’m a fan of Lee Ji Ah since First King afour gods with Bae Yong Joon . A lady with a big heart. She came to visit my country Philippines and cared for our underprivileged children

  • Maddo W says:

    As a newbie to Kdrama (six months), and being North American, I’m astonished at how addicted I’ve become to it. Also, being the same age as the writer of this one, I thought I understood a lot of the reasons for some of the plots. I noticed that many Kdramas have characters behave in similar ways (childish women and the men who order them about) so I figured that it was part of Korean culture and went with it. When watching Thrice… though, I wondered if Kim Soo-hyun was writing for an earlier age. Do people still expect blind obedience from daughters-in-law in modern Korea? Do rich families really have that much power that they can hit their grown sons and take a baby away from their divorced daughter-in-law? There were some parts of the plot that seemed a bit artificial just to make the story come out. Not as good as Life is Beautiful is my opinion.

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