Awl: Piercing Through


An awl is a long pointed instrument used often for piercing holes in leather or wood. This drama certainly unexpectedly pierced through my long k-drama drought. With a flavor similar to Misaeng, Awl is based on a webcomic and true story about a 50 (500?) day sit-in that occurred in 2007 at a e-mart retail store. Lee Soo-in, our awl, is the kind of person who has to do the right thing no matter what. From childhood to being in military school, this temperament has gotten him many punishments. Yet, he can’t help himself, but be the whistleblower wherever he is stationed.  Currently employed as a manager in a supermarket, operated by French businessmen, he had planned to live the simple life where all rules are followed and everything is status quo.His straight-laced military style personality often puts him at odds with his employees and he lacks friends at work. One day, his boss orders him to fire all his temporary employees. Of course Lee Soo-in refuses to unfairly dismiss his employees just so that the executives can make an extra buck. Soo-in becomes the target of Gaston, his French boss, and his employees suffer with him. However, Soo-in decides to create a union with the help of Goo Go-shin, a labor law consultant. Creating a union is no easy task as he faces difficulties recruiting as well pressure from higher ups. However, slowly, but surely, Soo-in and the employees gain momentum.

Realistic dramas pique a certain interest in me. Whether that be it connects on an emotional level or that I have experienced such situations before. Living in country where unions are commonplace, seeing the opposite in S. Korea does put a different perspective on things. As we know, countries often outsource labor to other countries where laborers are not protected just to make extra profit. We often hear “this union is doing a sit-in” or “that union is not coming to work”, these sensationalist stories on the news. However, rarely do we look at the reasons WHY the unions are doing those protests. It is because some rules are made unfairly or people are not being treated decently. Unions are to protect the laborers from the employers unfair actions.

Ji Hyun-Woo often plays righteous characters, yearning to make a difference in an often unfair society. His rigidness is endearing in the drama, and the rare moments where true victory occurs just lights up his face. Ahn Nae-sang delivers a truly passionate act as the labor consultant. His speeches are inspiring and his perseverance is admirable. In a world where power and money is everything, he fights the lone man or underdog’s fight. The drama also inserts flashbacks artfully and not repeatedly. This is something we don’t often see in Korean dramas. The flashbacks are given in bits and pieces, just to outline a character’s actions and past. Furthermore, I do enjoy the constant metaphors, voiceovers, and graphics that intermittently occur. The drama is very well-made and delivers the stark reality that is reminiscent of Misaeng.

PS. Can I just say, a Korean mart is amazing. Full staffing and all lanes of cashiers open? Where can I find this kind of service in the US?