Midas 마이더스
(2011) SBS 21 Episodes,
Grade: B
 Financial Melodrama, Romance

Korean Drama Review by Alison, USA

Midas (2011) takes its name from the Greek myth about a man who valued money above all things. This Korean drama is a refreshing change of pace for those of us who are addicted to the genre. Instead of focusing on love and family relationships, Midas is firmly rooted in the world of finance and has some insightful things to say about how money corrupts from within.

The leading actor Jang Hyuk (from the drama Thank You, one of my friend Jill’s favorites) is absolutely dynamite in his role as Do-hyun Kim, who is intelligent and driven. From his modest beginnings, he has managed to become the top student in his class at one of the most prestigious law schools in South Korea. Once he graduates, he could probably take his pick of job offers at major law firms, but he accepts a position working as an attorney for a wealthy family. Similarly to the young law student in the popular Tom Cruise film The Firm, he soon finds himself in over his head with his shady employers, even while his ambition nearly costs him the woman he loves.
Do-hyun has good reason to worship money. Abandoned by his father, he and his mother were left in poverty, and his mother died while he was at law school. He is frustrated that he was not able to do more for her. For several years, he has been courting the beautiful Jung-yeon Lee (Min-jung Lee from Boys over Flowers) and can only win her if he is able to satisfy her doting father that he really deserves her. Finally the father does seem satisfied with him and both he and Jung-yeon happily tease the young man about when he is going to marry her. As serious as he is, Do-hyun lightens up around Jung-yeon and truly does adore her. A dedicated nurse, she is compassionate and kind, but has no interest in wealth, and is anxious when she sees her fiance become more and more obsessed with his work, and less interested in spending time quietly with her.

So we follow the fortunes of Do-hyun as he goes to work for the wealthy Yoo family. His mentor and role model is the eldest daughter, In-hye Yoo, played by stunning Hee-ae Kim. She is a commanding presence, and the brains in the family. However, since she is a female, the men are still expected to run the show, and she has prickly rivalry with her male siblings. Several years older than Do-hyun, she is not interested in him romantically, nor is he in her, but he does admire her and places her on a pedestal as being the image of the kind of success he wants to achieve.

In-hye Yoo’s family tree is complicated: she has two elder half-brothers, a younger brother and a younger sister. In-hye's father left her mother after she had an affair, and to escape an uncomfortable situation, In-hye left Korea for the United States. She earned her MBA and went to work on Wall Street dealing with highly sophisticated financial dealings. Do-hyung has followed her career; when he meets her in person, she is the president of her own hedge fund. Along with companies owned by her grandfather and her father, her firm and the Yoo enterprises are so significant that their actions have the ability to affect Korea’s entire economy (talk about being Too Big to Fail!). In-hye is single-minded in her focus on achieving more and more wealth and power, and Do-hyun is fascinated with her for that reason, believing she is going to help him achieve the same. It does not take long for Do-hyun’s fixation on money and power to drive him and his fiancee apart. She sees that he has changed, and truly, I think he starts to feel that she is “small town” and will hold him back. Though he does not really want to let her go, he accepts her decision when she breaks off their engagement.

Myung-joon Yoo (Min-woo No) In-hye’s younger brother, is another major character in the saga. He is a bit of a playboy, living only for pleasure, but he has his reasons for that shortsighted view. Myung-joon is essentially decent, and when it is revealed that he is terminally ill, his path crosses with Jung-yeon, who will not tolerate any insolence from him and quickly earns his respect, then his love. Jung-yeon’s sweetness and dedication transforms him and the two become close, even though she still loves Do-hyun. Jung-yeon takes on more responsibility at the hospital and her life without Do-hyun is moving forward, though there is a still a strong connection between them.

Midas is a rags to riches to rags to riches story for Do-hyun, as well as his awakening to realize what is truly valuable in life. The financial wheeling and dealing is a bit too complicated for me to attempt to explain here – not that I followed all of it entirely, but it is not important. Suffice to say that In-hye winds up using Do-hyun as a fall guy, in a high-level business transaction that ruins his career and gives him a new perspective on this wealthy family he admired. He then has to work his way back up as he is determined to retaliate against them for having wronged him. Will he succeed? His plans are clever as he knows he must beat these people at their own game; if they are ruthless, he must be more so. However, this is not exactly a revenge drama. Do-hyun’s objectives are perfectly justified, and this is more of a “turnabout is fair play” story than that of an obsessed avenger. There are also some interesting subplots involving In-hye’s selfish and troubled siblings as well as Do-hyun’s half brother – these stories do not detract from the main action, but keep things from being solely business oriented.
With Midas, you do have to pay attention to how the business deals work and the consequences of certain actions. Yet none of that is dull – in fact, it is rather interesting to see how these wealthy players make their money, usually in some dishonest fashion by taking advantage of someone else. Jang-hyuk is completely convincing as a man who is intelligent and resourceful, with a tender side that few are privileged to see. As Jung-Yeon, Min-jung Lee (in real life recently married to gorgeous actor Byung-hun­ Lee from All In, Beautiful Days, and IRIS) has a delicate beauty, with dignity and sweetness galore. She is dedicated to her nursing, and though she has a gentle soul she does not let anyone walk all over her, not even the man she adores, or the patient for whom she has enormous compassion. She is the moral compass of the drama.

There are other two players of note for me, though as always with Korean dramas, all the supporting actors do a terrific job in inhabiting their roles. First is actress Hee-ae Kim, who has a tricky role as In-hye, a driven, ambitious career woman with no romance in her life. It really does seem that all she cares about is making money and attaining power. Yet her tender side is exposed when it comes to her younger brother; she loves him and is stricken when his illness progresses, and there is nothing all her money can do to save him. She is not quite a heartless ice queen, but there is definitely a critical piece missing in her. The actress conveys intelligence and determination, with just a wisp of regret and sadness. It is not really possible to like her character very much, but she does earn some sympathy, and she certainly is not a monster despite her ruthless actions. The other memorable performance is Min-woo No as her doomed brother. The actor (who was in My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox and Pasta, and who had a role in the drama Truth (though I don’t remember him in it) creates a sympathetic and ultimately charming character. He is young and adorable, and his part of the story breaks your heart.
Midas started out a bit slow for me, and I was not sure I would like it, but it did not take very long for the storyline to grab my attention and for me to become fully engaged in the characters and their exploits. It is a thinking person’s drama, replete with complexity and suspense, and the lessons learned here, about recognizing what is truly important in life, are well handled. There is not a single K-drama cliché to be found in Midas – no orphans, no childhood loves, no amnesia or mistaken identities – just the thrill of seeing the right people get their just comeuppance. That is what makes it quite special, and a drama to savor and enjoy.