The Good Bad Mother
jtbc (2023) 14 Episodes
Family Melodrama, Revenge Drama
Mature Audiences, Grade: A
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
(Some Spoilers)

OST Instrumental "I Love You"
Composer Ha Geun Young
As I finished this highly rated jtbc Korean drama, I kept wondering why they titled it The Good Bad Mother (2023), when the mother character featured in the story, played fascinatingly well by veteran actress Ra Mi Ran (Black Dog, The Suspicious Housekeeper, film The Last Princess), started off on the bad side but then transformed into a good mother, with the help of God. Shouldn't it have been more correctly entitled The Bad To Good Mother? ;)


In general, I feel this drama is a difficult story to watch, with deep underlying themes of family abuse and revenge, particularly early on; therefore I would not recommend it for minor children. I do think it showcases substantial character growth for most of the characters, however, and that is what Korean dramas excel at. Unlike so many American television shows, in which characters pretty much do not grow as people during the length of the story but remain rather one-dimensional in nature, Korean entertainment is far more realistic, dynamic and less static: the way the characters are at the beginning of a story is not how they will be by the end. Most of them improve dramatically as people, and therefore become much more rewarding and inspiring to watch.

I think young actor Lee Do Hyun as the male lead gave another exceptional performance here (although I still love him the best in Youth Of May); he had to depict a myriad of wide-ranging emotions and aced his every scene, whether it was sad, scary, or even occasionally comical. For me his character here was far more hypnotic to watch than his character in The Glory. Other actors in that series were constantly stealing scenes away from him. Not here! In every scene he was in his vulnerable expressions captured your attention away from all the other actors, even if he was just standing still and not trying to distract you. In a very short time he's become an Actor whom you want to watch in every new series or film he is in!

The Story:

A farmer named Choi Hae Sik (Cho Jin Woong from Signal) falls in love with a neighbor lady who is an artist, named Jin Young Soon (Ra Mi Ran), and proposes marriage to her, holding one of the cute little piglets from his animal stock at the same time. He is a very kind soul and Young Soon happily agrees to wed him. Their sweet married time together is brief, however, for a tragedy is right around the corner. Because the Olympics are being held that year and rumor has it that a parade will pass by Hae Sik's farm, a never-do-well construction magnate named Song Woo Byeok (Choi Moo Sung) shows up with his thugs and "asks" Hae Sik to sell him his farm, saying that Korea shouldn't be embarrassed to have the Olympic parade pass by such a messy looking farm. But Hae Sik has a backbone and says "no", whereby late one night this magnate and his thugs set fire to the farm, destroying all the buildings and killing most of the animals.

Hae Sik hires a prosecuting attorney named Oh Tae Soo (Jung Woong In, the bad guy in I Hear Your Voice) to fight Woo Byeok but, unknown to Hae Sik, his own attorney had a backroom deal with Woo Byeok to destroy the farm! The two of them even privately conspire to murder Hae Sik and make it look like it was a suicide. All this evil was not really planned because of the Olympics' parade, that was just an excuse, but because they desired to obtain the land for themselves and were in partnership to get it.

Poor Young Soon is devastated by the loss of her husband. She doesn't even have the right to kill herself since she is now pregnant. She decides to move away from the area and start a new life, with some of the money Hae Sik had left her. She takes a few surviving pigs to another village, creating her own pig farm in a place called Jouri Village. She believes the best way to honor her late husband is to continue doing what he loved doing the most in life: pig farming!


Soon after she sets up her new farm Young Soon suddenly meets her new neighbors all at the same time, when they unite together to complain to her about the pig smell rising into the nearby atmosphere from her farm. These pesky new neighbors include the village chief, Son Yong Rak (Kim Won Hae) and his weird, constantly masked wife (Park Bo Kyung); the local miller (Jang Won Young) and his wife Park Sung Ae (Seo Yi Sook); and another currently pregnant mother Jung Gum Ja (Kang Mal Geum) with her lazy husband (Lee Do Yub) and nosy mother-in-law (Lee Joo Sil). However, the fight that results abruptly ends when both Young Soon's and Gum Ja's water breaks. They all enter Young Soon's home and both give birth naturally on the floor together! (What a scene!) The neighbors immediately become close to Young Soon and they all develop into long term friends who help each other out on multiple occasions.

As the years go by the two babies, Young Soon's son Kang Ho (Lee Do Hyun) and Gum Ja's daughter Mi Joo (Ahn Eun Jin, lovely performance) become the best of friends and then high school sweethearts. Neighbor Park Sung Ae's son, around the same age, Sam Sik (Yoo In Soo) also has a crush on Mi Joo but she only has eyes for Kang Ho. Poor Kang Ho does have some emotional scars deep within his heart, however, that hold him back from committing to Mi Joo 100%, stemming from his often tempestuous relationship with his mother Young Soon. She tells him from a a young age that he should live for studying, not friendships or romance; she is often downright cruel to him, and tells him he should aim to become a prosecutor as an adult and find out who murdered his father Hae Sik. Not once did Young Soon believe her husband committed suicide when he had loved her and their unborn baby so deeply.

So Kang Ho studies very hard, eventually graduates college and law school, and finally becomes the prosecutor his mother dreamed of. During this time he had secretly carried on an intimate relationship with Mi Joo, who had opened her own nail salon to support herself, but when the time comes for him to concentrate fully on taking down the two men who had killed his father, he breaks it off with Mi Joo, who then grieves and escapes to America for a few years, informing everyone that she was marrying an American man (who does not exist). While in America Mi Joo gives birth to boy-girl twins named Seo Jin and Ye Jin, who are obviously Kang Ho's children.

Kang Ho deliberately cozies up to the two evil men who murdered his father, Song Woo Byeok and Oh Tae Soo, but it is rather doubtful they trust him completely. Oh Tae Soo is aiming for political office, his goal is to become President at any cost. He orders Kang Ho to get rid of his secret mistress and their illegitimate baby, and Kang Ho stages a death scene for them. Then Tae Soo and Woo Byeok conspire to get rid of Kang Ho permanently, like they did with his father. Tae Soo's adult daughter, Oh Ha Young (Hong Bi Ra) wants to marry Kang Ho, and when they are both in a car together and Kang Ho falls asleep, Ha Young loses her scarf out an open window and parks the car on the side of the road to retrieve it. The next thing she knows another vehicle plows into the car with Kang Ho asleep inside. He isn't killed, however, but is unconscious and paralyzed from the waist down. When he comes to in the hospital his mind is that of a seven year old boy and he only recognizes his mother. Young Soon finally realizes how cruel she had been to her son while he was growing up, causing him to become almost as evil as the two men who had killed his father. She prays to God to forgive her and aims to become a totally loving mother to Kang Ho, with no strings attached. The kind of mother she should have been to him all along.

Then Mi Joo and her twins return to Korea, complicating the family situation all the more. Will Kang Ho remember Mi Joo? Will he ever learn that he was once a prosecutor, and that now he has two children? Will he regain the use of his body or be doomed to live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life? Will the two evil men who killed his father, and almost destroyed his life and his mother's, ever receive their comeuppance?

If you love a solid family melodrama, with lots of twists and turns, an intriguing screenplay, and exceptional acting, then definitely put The Good Bad Mother on your Korean drama queue. You certainly won't fall asleep on this series, I can guarantee you that! It is riveting! Enjoy!