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[Music in drama] A silver lining in a tale of vengeance

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : March 24, 2024 - 15:34

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Scene from Netflix series Scene from Netflix series "The Glory," starring Lee Do-hyun (left) and Song Hye-kyo (Netfilx)

Even in the darkest and the most brutal stories, there is often a silver lining.

In a drama full of hatred and malice, soft melodies playing in the background show that there is still some good in the world.

"The Glory," one of the most successful K-drama series of 2023, depicts the meticulous journey of a woman as she exacts revenge on the gang members who tormented her at school. Moon Dong-eun, who was subjected to all kinds of violence imaginable, including physical torture, sexual abuse, and verbal insult, lives with a single determination to take revenge on the perpetrators, including their leader Park Yeon-jin.

While protagonist Dong-eun plans the whole revenge scenario herself, some allies sympathize with her pain. A background track "You Remember," sung by Paul Kim, is usually played in such scenes, providing a break from the intense focus on vengeance.

The song was used when Dong-eun, who dropped out of high school and began working at a factory, first talked to her fellow employee, Gu Seong-hee.

Gu supports Dong-eun throughout the entire plot, providing information and tracking down the perpetrators. It is also used in the scene where Kang Hyeon-nam, a victim of domestic violence who also helps Dong-eun, leaves a note in Dong-eun's car. The song is also often used in scenes showing Dong-eun and Joo Yeo-jong, who falls in love with Dong-eun and becomes her closest ally.

Scene from Netflix series Scene from Netflix series "The Glory," starring Yeom Hye-ran (left) and Song Hye-kyo (Netfilx)

"You Remember" is a bright song with a sweet acoustic guitar melody. On top of that, Paul Kim's soft vocals create a peaceful atmosphere.

However, the lyrics are a reminder of Dong-eun's brutal childhood: "You remember the time when everyone threw stones at you. You cried, but no one listened to you. When your tears dry up, only hatred remained in your heart."

The tone switches in the last verse, where listeners can find comfort of those who deeply sympathize with Dong-eun's wounds and wish her happiness. "All I have left now is to hate instead, to erase your wounds. I wish you could be happy, and I wish I could be unhappy instead."

Ever since she decided to take revenge, Dong-eun's life was not her own. One of the most famous lines, "My dream is you," that young Dong-eun leaves to Yeon-jin as she drops out of high school, shows that her entire life has been eroded by revenge.

The song urges Dong-eun to take ownership of her life, "May your moments and eternity be solely yours."

The song that Yeo-jeong sings in the last episode of the series is in line with “You Remember.” On the road to see the ocean, Yeo-jeong sings duo Songgolmae’s "To My Babe" for Dong-eun. The song was released in 1983, and it contains loving, caring lyrics

As the sudden rhythm of old K-pop from the 80s fills the audio -- which does not quite match the story's flow -- Dong-eun and Yeo-jeong spend time together like any other couple would do, drinking beer on a dark beach, laughing and teasing each other. It is one of the rare scenes where Dong-eun, who seemed to have hardened from her painful experiences, expresses sincere joy.

The lyrics, "My love, Tomorrow is yours, tomorrow is a day of hope," seem to reflect Yeo-jeong’s heart, wishing Dong-eun to win back her life and embrace it. Perhaps the reason for the sudden summoning of songs from the 1980s was the writer and director’s intention to show Yeo-jeong’s pure support for Dong-eun.

Scene from Netflix series Scene from Netflix series "The Glory," starring Lee Do-hyun (left) and Song Hye-kyo (Netfilx)

This series offers a multifaceted look at the soundtracks of hit Korean drama series, shedding light on how the music enriches the stories -- Ed.