A Pledge To God
신과의 약속
MBC (2018-19) 48 30 Min Episodes
Family Melodrama
Grade: B
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

Will a mother be willing to do anything to save her child from death? Even if she has to violate modern moral norms and conventions and make herself suffer? What is the meaning of the family unit in today's world? The meaning of marriage? Will a divorce guarantee unhappiness for life in the couple breaking up? Is there ever any hope to find true love again? Is true forgiveness possible? Can past friendships and love relationships ever be restored, after they have been tested to the breaking point?

This drama A Pledge To God (2018-19) asks these questions and more, and often the answers are not that clear cut to the audience as the story progresses.
The antagonists in this drama are not entirely evil, and the protagonists are not always right. In particular, the two main female characters cause our emotions to fluctuate wildly. They began as friends but turn into huge enemies; one is fertile and happily married, and the other keeps miscarrying and is unhappily married ... to the former friend's first husband! The inference is that the infertile woman is jealous of the fertile one because she seems to have everything the other lacks -- including the suppressed, lingering devotion of the fertile woman's first husband toward his first wife! Yes, it can get confusing, but as I watched I quickly realized that this writer raised all these issues intentionally! She wanted to show us that no one is entirely good, and no one is completely evil. Of course the Bible calls all of us humans sinners, but there are some humans who strive against sin and repent when they've committed it, and then there are others who justify sin and even glory in it, never repenting, which is seen as a weakness by them. That's the difference.

I decided to watch this drama because of its two main impressive Actors: 1) Han Chae Young, whom I had loved in the Hong Sisters' first drama Delightful Girl Choon Hyang, and who had been quite mesmerizing in Boys Over Flowers as Ji Hoo's first love / crush, and 2) Bae Soo Bin, who has played a wide range of characters in shows like Shining Inheritance and 49 Days. I also noticed with a smile that the second female lead was played by Oh Yoon Ah, and I had loved to hate her jealous character in Saimdang, Light's Diary, and had also enjoyed her performance in Alone In Love as a vixen - femme fatale. I knew she would deliver a powerhouse performance in her role here as the jealous ex-friend as well.

Also in the cast is Lee Chun Hee who was in Master's Sun (he played the man who also saw ghosts, who befriended Gong Hyo Jin's character and traveled with her near the end of the story) and I Remember You where he played a cop. Here he played a character who was almost too good to be true, so whenever he did appear more frail and human it was almost a relief to our sensibilities!

The Story:

Beautiful Seo Ji Young (Han Chae Young) worked as a model at one time, and she was married to an architect from a rich family named Kim Jae Wook (Bae Soo Bin). When Ji Young became pregnant she was thrilled, anticipating being a wonderful stay at home mother in future. Her life seemed perfect, but almost too perfect: she suddenly learns to her shock and despair that her best friend Woo Na Kyung (Oh Yoon Ah) is also pregnant - with Ji Young's husband Jae Wook's baby!

Na Kyung flaunts her pregnancy to try and hurt Ji Young, and it has the desired effect: Ji Young confronts her husband in anger and even though he apologizes to Ji Young profusely she does not accept his apology or forgive him, telling him that he has destroyed her life completely and she can never love him again. Jae Wook and Ji Young divorce and Ji Young gives birth to their son Hyun Woo alone as a single mom.


The Bitterly Jealous Na Kyung
(Oh Yoon Ah - Perfect Casting!)

Six years later Ji Young marries a second time, to a wonderfully loving man named Song Min Ho (Lee Chun Hee). Although in Korean society it is often frowned upon to marry a divorcee, and especially one with a child from another man, Min Ho doesn't seem to care. He loves his wife dearly and treats her son Hyun Woo like his own child. They seem very happy, until little Hyun Woo is suddenly diagnosed with leukemia. He requires a bone marrow transplant and when Ji Young's blood is not a match she is forced to see her ex-husband Jae Wook for the first time in years, to beg him to take a blood test (this reminded me very much of a similar story in the 2013 drama Two Weeks).
However, his blood doesn't match either! What will they do? The doctor tells them their only hope is to have a second child and to use the umbilical cord blood from the sibling as a match.

Ji Young is so frantic to save her son's life she even considers Jae Wook's proposal that they try for a second child, even though they are both married to different people, she to the loving Min Ho, and he to the often still poisonously jealous Na Kyung, who, as it turned out, had miscarried the baby she had become pregnant with, which had caused the divorce of Ji Young and Jae Wook six years earlier. She also has had other miscarriages, which caused a continuing rift in her marriage with Jae Wook, and the impatience of his rich parents who wanted to see him have a new heir all his own. At one point Na Kyung had even threatened Ji Young to use her clout as the new spouse to Hyun Woo's father to legally take her biological son away from Ji Young.

The decision has to be made by Ji Young as to whether or not to get pregnant again with Jae Wook's child, to save the life of little Hyun Woo, but oh the perplexities that will result in both their marriages if they do! Will they turn to medical technology like IVF to have a second baby, and if so would that be more acceptable to the ever patient and loving Min Ho, or cause Na Kyung to finally put others' lives first before her own? 

We spend much of the rest of the series finding out how everyone will react to the birth of a second child to try and save the first. And when the two boys are older will they be able to live together as brothers in one family, or forever be used and bounced around as pawns by the grown ups in their lives?

By some miracle there is a relatively happy ending to this frenetic melodrama, but getting there will often tax your patience in the extreme. As for me I stayed the course on this drama for one main reason: the luminous, nuanced performance of the female lead actress Han Chae Young. She literally glowed in this drama, and I liked her character best of all, even though she often struggled between right and wrong. How Bae Soo Bin's architect character could even LOOK at another woman when he was married to this beauty is anyone's guess. Then again, many men often regret their sexual dalliances, though they rarely admit it. Their egos won't allow them to.

A Pledge To God To
Put His Children First - Finally!

If you're up to this sometimes brutally honest family melodrama by all means check it out. The actors are all worth it, and the story of a devoted mother's love and sacrifice is rather addictive to watch in this day and age. Enjoy.