In a time when talks about sexual assault, rape culture and consent range from lengthy essays to heated arguments on Twitter threads, Witch’s Court comes in with a soft and pensive take on the discussion of what it means to be sexually exploited.
** Press play to listen while reading… or not.
This drama explores power dynamics in assault, abusing trust in a relationship and the dark business of sex trafficking. It’s by no means a light drama, nor is it one I would normally choose. But I stuck with it because of Ma Yi Deum, the protagonist.
Her character was undeniably bright and her optimism and energy kept the darkness at bay. What makes her one of the most interesting leads I’ve seen is her nature to do things for herself. For once we have a woman who isn’t all about helping other people and being kind to the point of fault.
Yi Deum is selfish, unethical and feisty but the audience would have never thought she was evil. Her heart is good and we understand her like this because we know how she grew up. Her mother was kidnapped without her knowing and she spent years growing up alone and hoping to be reunited with her one family member.
With a backstory like that, there isn’t much you won’t forgive.
And over the 16 episodes, we see her grow and soften without losing her edge. She began to see the importance of being a little more compassionate even if it means losing her place while climbing the ladder.
She does that alongside the male lead, Yeo Jin Wook. He didn’t have the same dynamic quality like Ma Yi Deum, but he served well with his soft eyes, compassion and relentless fight for justice without ever losing his humanity.
Through him, not only the viewers, but Yi Deum was able to learn how to be supportive and how to listen. He certainly won my heart without ever having to take off his shirt. He also never yanked on Yi Deum’s arm, never forcefully kissed her and never tried to control her. Having seen so many others were the woman is always reduced to nothing but a beautiful puppet, I’m thankful Witch’s Court stayed true to itself.
While the characters were great, the plot came a bit cliche at times. The protagonists won the battle too easily sometimes, and defeat was often only temporary. Of course, this is a fantasy world and not meant to mimic reality 100%. But if they had just taken victory away from them a couple times, it would have served the drama well to take it out of that traditional Korean drama mold where the only people who ever lost are the villains.
On that note, the drama continues to play into that star-crossed lovers motif with the intergenerational conflict we’re all tired of seeing. At the most convenient moment, the drama cash into the big reveal of “your mom did xyz to my mom so therefore let’s not meet anymore”. While not a terrible thing to do, after years of seeing revenge dramas like this one I have to say I have had enough.
I would’ve loved Jin Wook just as much even if he didn’t have to suffer in the sacrifice of his mom. He had proved his worth enough just by existing and there really is no need for this added problem.
That being said, the drama is more about the exploration of issues and the character of Yi Deum and not about the plot, so I can forgive that. And it never lost its focus on Yi Deum. In a different legal drama called Prosecutor Princess, we saw the development of Ma Hae Ri but over time the plot shifted to be revolve around her romance. But in Witch’s Court, Yi Deum remains the star and never changes into merely a love interest.
And Jung Ryeo Won portrayed Yi Deum beautifully. I’ve seen her in a couple of other earlier works, and she never wowed me like she did in this drama. Her cheeky smile and child-like crying was perfect for Yi Deum’s character and it made me adore her. Her portrayal of a woman who has nothing but continues to hope and fight sold the drama to me completely.
Witch’s Court came at a time when #MeToo swept the North American world. Independent of the viral hashtag, this Korean drama explores the many different aspects of sexual assault in a sensitive and non-voyeuristic manner. And that alone makes it a drama worth watching.