The Glory
더 글로리
Hwa&Dam Pictures (2022-2023)
16 Episodes Total, Overall Grade: B
Mature Audiences Only - Revenge Melodrama
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
(Some Spoilers)

Sometimes a good revenge melodrama can be addictive to watch, especially if the main characters are all adults. Revenge melodrama classics like Bad Guy, Shark, I'm Sorry, I Love You, IRIS, etc. are well written and focus on adults' lives, usually a male adult character seeking revenge against those who hurt him in the past. In most of these classic revenge dramas the person seeking revenge gets his comeuppance in the end by dying. Otherwise, what is the moral of these stories? That revenge is a good thing? That it never backfires on the person seeking it? Will the conclusion be any different here simply because the person seeking revenge this time is a woman?

However, when the violence that initiates the revenge takes place among minor aged school children I seriously have trouble staying riveted. Far too dark for me! I prefer sweetness, romance, and humor in my Korean dramas! I like to be inspired by characters' goodness, not their darkness. It literally took me weeks to finish the first eight episodes of this drama. I am hoping the second eight episodes are not as dark-themed! (Update Below).

I stayed the course for this dark revenge melodrama The Glory (2022-23) because of my fondness for the lead actress Song Hye Kyo (Autumn In My Heart, That Winter The Wind Blows, Descendants Of The Sun, Encounter). Because her character was severely bullied and assaulted in high school she plans revenge against all the students who hurt her. The actress rarely smiles during this series, so her usual fantastic beauty is subdued in most of the stern visuals here. In some ways she reminded me of the traumatized adult female character Bok Nyeo in The Suspicious Housekeeper classic K-drama, played so stupendously well by Choi Ji Woo of Winter Sonata fame. That character didn't smile until the very end of the drama. She sought revenge against the man who had killed her family, and only becoming involved with a new loving family began to heal her heart.

Beware Of Non-Smiling Beauties in K-Dramas!

In The Glory it doesn't appear that the character Song Hye Kyo plays even desires healing. She just wants revenge against the students who tortured her, and we often suspect at times that once she accomplishes her goals she will kill herself. She considers her life totally ruined by them. Nothing and no one will distract her from her plan to destroy these teenage student villains, not even as they all age. Also, not even the addition later in her life of a possible romance with a doctor character, played by the wonderful Lee Do Hyun (Youth Of May, Melancholia, Hotel del Luna), will distract her from her malevolent goal of revenge. 

The Glory was written by Song Hye Kyo's friend Kim Eun Sook who wrote her earlier successful drama Descendants Of The Sun and who also wrote blockbusters like Secret Garden and Goblin, and it was directed by An Gil Ho (Memories Of The Alhambra). It had big production values, so obviously a lot of money was invested in it. Still, for me, the story itself is very difficult to watch, and not inspiring at all. Buckle your seat-belt if you plan on taking the plunge. Also, because of its mature themes (including one unnecessary sex scene that I fast forwarded through without watching, not from the leads, however), this drama should not be watched by any minor children. The language was also routinely awful, lots of the F and S words. For instance, when one character cried out "Aish!" which is simply a Korean expression meaning "for goodness sakes!" the translator used God's name in vain as the translation instead. Let your children maintain their innocence for as long as possible --- don't subject them to the absolute Satanic fiends who are depicted in this drama! Even as adult characters they remain evil at their core. No redemption appears possible with any of them.

Paul Kim The Glory OST Song - You Remember

The Story:

Moon Dong Eun (excellent actress Jung Ji So, Curtain Call, Empress Ki) is a high school girl from a poor family who becomes the victim of serious bullying and torture by a small group of peers at her school, led by the cruel Park Yeon Jin (Lim Ji Yeon). Because of the constant harassment and physical torture she is subjected to by these rich, spoiled teens (for instance, Yeon Jin takes a hot curling iron and burns Dong Eun all over her body with it, which leaves lifelong scars), and the indifference of the educational staff (even the principal hits her! and only one nurse is kind to her), and the ultimate betrayal of her family (who abandon her after receiving settlement money from the school), the young Dong Eun drops out of high school to put an end to all the terrible abuse. She works hard all alone for years to support herself while preparing to take her GED exam and college entrance exams.

Sixteen years later, Moon Dong Eun (now played by Song Hye Kyo) has managed to redeem herself socially, earning her college degree in education and becoming an elementary school teacher (albeit through a little blackmail), and she works at the same school the grownup Yeon Jin's little eight year old daughter Yeso (Oh Ji Yul) attends. She even becomes the little girl's homeroom teacher. All this, however, is not enough for Dong Eun, who has never stopped thinking about her tormentors. She has also done more than just think about them: she has spent all the previous years devising a sadistic, meticulous plan to take revenge on all those who have made her suffer, especially the leader Yeon Jin, who is now married to a construction magnate named Ha Do Young (Jung Sung Il), and works as a meteorologist on television.

Dong Eun wants to destroy Yeon Jin's family, and by extension all the other bullies from her high school, including Jeon Jae Jun (Park Sung Hoon) who has the hots for Yeon Jin; Lee Sa Ra (Kim Hieora) a drug addict painter; Choi Hye Jeong (Cha Joo Young) a flight attendant; and Son Myeong-oh (Kim Gun Woo), right hand man to Jae Jun, who ends up "disappearing" first. Another person who Dong Eun seeks revenge against is the Principal who hit her repeatedly when she said she wanted to leave school; she delivers lilies to him knowing he has asthma and is allergic to them. He has an asthma attack that kills him, and his own son contributed to his murder by not opening the window when his father cried out for air, or giving him an emergency inhaler. It wasn't stated, but if he hit a young student repeatedly it was probably likely he also beat up his own son at times, and the son took his ultimate revenge, then pretended to grieve his death publicly. What an insane group all these people are! (I felt like taking a shower after each episode I watched -- LOL!).

As she plans to kill them all Dong Eun realizes that she needs allies, and she eventually ropes in a woman whose husband had beat her, named Kang Hyeon Nam (veteran actress from many K-dramas, Yum Hye Ran), and promises she will kill her husband for her too if she helps her in her mission to kill the school bullies. So Hyeon Nam learns to drive, use a camera, and she tracks the comings and goings of all Dong Eun's intended victims. Dong Eun also befriends a doctor intern she had met in a hospital emergency room, Joo Yeo Jeong (Lee Do Hyun), and the two begin to meet every day in a public park devoted to the playing of the board game GO.

Yeo Jeong teaches her well and she becomes so proficient at the game she can gamble and win money to help fund her revenge plans. When she feels he might be getting romantic feelings for her she begins to distance herself from him. It takes awhile before they become friends again and she finally confesses her plans of revenge against the bullies who had ruined her life. Surprisingly, Yeo Jeong says he will help her! (Or maybe not so surprising after she takes off her clothes and shows him the burn scars all over her body! Maybe because he has become a plastic surgeon he can help her get rid of those scars in the next group of eight episodes, I thought to myself).

Fatefully, another person becomes intrigued by Dong Eun: the evil Yeon Jin's rich husband Ha Do Yeong. He happens to see her playing GO with a bunch of old men and stares at her, fascinated. He learns this woman is his daughter's elementary school teacher and starts approaching her that way to find out more about her. He even plays the game GO with her, and expands the GO outdoor park with rich lighting and floors. Will the dastardly Yeon Jin become jealous and act out even worse than she has done in the past?


The Story (Part Two, No End Spoilers):

As the last group of eight episodes resumes we see clearly that all Dong Eun's enemies are continuing to fall victim to her clever set ups to destroy them. Because none of these enemies truly liked each other to begin with (although several lusted after each other privately over time) Dong Eun finds it easier than she expected to make them turn on each other! They end up doing the destruction work that she doesn't have to do directly: for instance, at her suggestion, one of the women villains puts a burning chemical in a male villain's eye-drops and he ends up having a terrible vehicle crash (with, you guessed it! that proverbial white truck again! LOL!). Her chief enemy, the criminally insane Park Yeon Jin, is exposed publicly for the foul human she is, and she loses her job as a weather girl, and loses her husband who files for divorce, and also loses the loyalty of her little daughter (who is much better off without her anyway!). Physician Yeo Jeong finally confesses he loves Dong Eun, but she temporarily deserts him after the confession and a brief trip to the seaside. Yeo Jeong still has his own emotional scars to deal with trying to heal from the toxic relationship he had with his jailed father, before he can ever have a wholesome loving relationship with anyone, and Dong Eun seems to sense this. Meanwhile she goes back to teaching, this time to an adult class, and seems a bit happier. She visits her prime villain Yeon Jin once more, who is now in prison, and exults over her victory over the Satanic woman. Yeon Jin still screams she will kill her next time. Will there ever be a next time?

The Glory is a very difficult journey to take, watching Dong Eun transforming herself from Victim into Planned Executioner. This melodrama is certainly not for everyone, and honestly I would never feel compelled to ever watch it again. I prefer Korean dramas that are filled with beauty, inspiration, romance, sweetness, humor. There's very little to none of those redeeming qualities in this macabre, often violent tale of revenge. Although there seemed to be somewhat of an open ending here, I confess I really don't want to see a part three! Enough is enough! I hope Song Hye Kyo goes on to make a more light-hearted drama as her next project. I want to see her smile again! :)