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[Music in drama] An ode to childhood trauma

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : April 27, 2024 - 16:01

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A scene from tvN TV series A scene from tvN TV series "It's Okay to Not Be Okay" starring Seo Ye-ji (left) and Kim Soo-hyun (tvN)

Sometimes, people with trauma due to emotional scars from childhood find it difficult to "become adults."

Aired in 2020, tvN TV series "It's Okay to Not Be Okay" depicts the story of lonely characters who pretend to be average adults despite their vulnerabilities.

Ko Moon-young (Seo Ye-ji) is a children’s book writer whose mother -- also a writer --treated her as nothing more than a piece of art. While Moon-young's books are for children, they contain brutally honest emotions.

Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun), a caregiver at a psychiatric ward, is someone who has devoted his whole life to taking care of his autistic older brother.

Moon-young and Gang-tae confront their trauma and wounds deep inside their hearts.

The fairy tale is one of the main keywords of this drama. Not only because the female protagonist is a fairy tale writer, but it is her stories where the characters discover their wounds and later get healed.

"My Tale" is the drama's original soundtrack, sung by Park Won. This song plays the gentle piano melody and the singer's warm voice comforts characters as they explore their hurtful childhood.

Through Moon-young's book, "Zombie Child," she implies she truly needed sincere love from their parents. Her mother never loved her back and her father even tried to kill her.

Gang-tae also yearned for his mother’s love as she was always preoccupied herself with taking care of her eldest son with autism. Gang-tae sheds tears as he reads Moon-young’s book, recalling his lonely childhood and realizing that he and Moon-young may share the same sorrow.

The lyrics show how Gang-tae begins to understand Moon-young: "The closer I place you and the closer I look at you, we are alike. I know you too well, so I dare not get closer to you. I just watch you from this distance."

As the song progresses, the dramatic string sounds express Gang-tae's love getting intense: "I want to read you again and again even though I read you every night, my tale."

A scene from tvN TV series A scene from tvN TV series "It's Okay to Not Be Okay" starring Seo Ye-ji (left) and Kim Soo-hyun (tvN)

AKMU vocalist Lee Su-hyun's "In Your Time," another original soundtrack song from the drama, also tells the story of the two lonely children.

With a gentle and tranquil piano melody, combined with Lee's crystal-clear voice, the song adorns several scenes with fairy-tale-like mise-en-scene.

"In Your Time" is played in the fifth episode, when Gang-tae revisits Moon-young's home, which he visited as a child. As the two protagonists, once children, become adults, this episode depicts the years-long bond between them and their still somewhat unresolved wounds.

"I meet you again and find the one I once erased. After those painful days, I hold onto you. I am still living in your time," the lyrics go on as two imperfect adults face each other.

This song is played again when their tragic past comes to light: Moon-young locks herself in the room after figuring out that her mother is related to a murder case involving Gang-tae's mother.

In the finale, the two leave on a trip for the first time in their lives, along with Gang-tae's brother Sang-tae, who also makes his personal growth. The song "Little by Little" by singer-songwriter Cheeze plays as the characters find their peace and happiness.

As Moon-young, a woman with a defensive attitude, and Gang-tae, who has lived his whole life only caring for his brother, smile at each other with sparkling eyes, the song goes on to say: "At the end of my dark times I met you, I'm truly thankful because it was you."

A scene from tvN TV series A scene from tvN TV series "It's Okay to Not Be Okay" starring Kim Soo-hyun (left) and Seo Ye-ji (tvN)

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