I Remember You vs. Pinocchio

Pinocchio and I Remember You both aired this year in Korea. One was about rookie reporters finding their footing morally and professionally while righting wrongs from the past. The other was about police investigating crimes and tracking down a psychopath who has been on the run for decades and directly caused the destruction of our leads’ families. On the surface these shows don’t have much in common, but I am intrigued by the different ways they handle the issue of brothers separated after their father’s tragic death. I am only going to talk about that aspect of these two shows, and items closely related to it, because if I talked about everything I’d have to break this up into at least two or three posts.

Cause of Separation

In Pinocchio the father dies because of a stranger’s stupidity, but the real tragedy hits when those strangers then lie about what happened with the fire and a reporter spins things so the deaths of many firemen are on his shoulders. This causes the family left behind to be reviled by their community. When older brother Jae Myung doesn’t come home one night mom breaks and commits suicide and tries to take her younger son, Ha Myung, with her. Ha Myung is rescued from the sea. Ha Myung thinks his brother abandoned him, and he doesn’t want to live as the son of a criminal, so lies about losing his memory and doesn’t look for his brother.

In I Remember You the mother had already died when the father is killed by psychopathic murderer Lee Joon Yeong, whom he had been studying/analyzing. The younger brother, Min, leaves the house to escape and ends up in Joon Yeong’s car and is kidnapped by him while older brother Hyun is left behind. Hyun ends up with significant memory loss, and since he is a young child he leaves the hunt for his brother up to his foster mom, cop Chief Hyun.

The combination of choice and chance resulting in the separation of the brothers is almost exactly opposite between these two shows. In Pinocchio chance results in the death of the father, but choices by everyone else results in the separation of the brothers. In I Remember You Joon Yeong makes the choice to kill the father but it was chance that had Min end up in his car and separated the brothers.

The one choice that was the same in both shows was the lead not actively looking for his missing brother. Both of them were children at the time and they made the choice for different reasons, but the choice was still made to not look for the missing brother. In time that choice would come back to haunt both of them.

Substitute Family

Ha Myung becomes Dal Po and has a full substitute family with a father, brother and niece. They are loving and close. They cherish each other and he falls in love with his foster niece (who is the same age as him). Much of Dal Po’s pain and choices over the course of the show revolve around how to honor and maintain both his biological family and his adopted one. We get to see many scenes of the family together for both the little every day things and dealing with big life decisions.

Hyun is raised by Chief Hyun, a colleague of his father’s, and while they are relatively close they do not live together or are on intimate terms. We only get to see one scene of the two of them acting as a family. Chief Hyun talks about how she thought of Hyun as her son, but we don’t really get to see them act in that capacity. Hyun is devastated when he finds out about her lies and cooperation with Lee Joon Yeong, but because we don’t see much of his relationship with her there isn’t much of a conflict between his biological and foster family. Even once you factor in Ji An as his new/future family there still isn’t a significant conflict between the two families.

The difference is in how the adopted families are related to the biological family tragedy. In Ha’s mom, Song Cha Ok, was a significant force in Dal Po’s mother’s suicide and the separation of the brothers. Ji An’s dad was also killed by Lee Joon Yeong, so their shared history and goals brought them closer together rather than bringing new conflicts to the relationship like Dal Po and In Ha.

Identity and Personality

In Pinocchio, the one who lost the family name grew up relatively well adjusted since he had a loving family. Even though Dal Po was hiding his true identity he had a normal, if sometimes dopey, personality and used his brains to help his new family.

Lee Hyun didn’t lose his identity, but he did lose much of his memory. He had a family of sorts in Chief Hyun but lacked a lot of social graces. He was blunt and rude, and liked to rub his intelligence in others’ faces.

Both guys treat the truth more as a tool than anything; something to be doled out only when necessary (though Dal Po tends to lie while Hyun just doesn’t tell anyone anything). Both are looking for their brothers and want to know what really happened when their father died. They both take on a lot of guilt and responsibility for their brother’s life and choices when they weren’t around.

Younger Brother vs Older Brother

In Pinocchio, the older brother grew up by himself, under his own name, with a lot of anger and pain. Jae Myung thought his brother was dead and that he was all alone in the world.

Min was the younger brother, raised by a psychopath, and he had lots of anger because he was told his brother abandoned him and gave him to Lee Joon Yeong.

Both of the brothers left behind want revenge, but on different people. Jae Myung wants revenge on the people who ruined his family, while Min wants revenge on his brother for abandoning him. Jae Myung does kill some of those responsible while Min kills similar offenders in place of his brother.

The triggers between the two killing brothers are different as well. We don’t know exactly when Min starts killing, but we do know he does it every time Hyun returns to Korea; the near presence and perceived continued indifference is what triggers Min to find another substitute. Jae Myung, on the other hand, was living a pretty normal life until he accidentally finds out that the factory workers lied about his father’s actions during the fire. This is what triggered his murderous impulses; he had always known about how reporter Song Cha Ok twisted his father’s story, but it wasn’t until he was confronted with the out right fabrication of evidence that he snapped.

The younger brother is the first to recognize his older brother in both shows, though for different reasons. Dal Po recognizes his brother because when they were separated Jae Myung was a teenager and so didn’t change as much physically as his brother who was much younger. Min recognizes Hyun while Hyun doesn’t realize it’s his brother, partially because they were separated as young children, but mostly because Hyun had lost most of his memory from his childhood. Min recognizes his brother because he had been following/stalking him for years in hopes that Hyun would remember him.

Both younger brothers had to decide when/if to tell his brother of his identity. Dal Po tells his brother to stop a moment of violence while Hyun figures it out on his own, thought Min had been sending him hints for years in a plea for his brother to stop him from killing.

Choices in Regards to Brother’s Crimes

The lead brother in both shows has to decide whether to pursue evidence of his brother being a killer, and then once that confirmation is received must decide whether to turn him in. Hyun gives his brother a lot longer to decide to turn himself in than Dal Po does. Partially this is because Hyun wants a chance to help his brother change and become more normal. Dal Po, rightly so, thinks his brother made some bad choices but doesn’t fear his fundamental personality.

In I Remember You Hyun has to contend with Ji An, a cop, knowing about his brother’s murders and giving him time to get his brother to turn himself in, while in Pinocchio it’s Dal Po’s boss who knows about his brother’s crime and is giving him a chance to decide how to deal with it.

Hyun lets Min make the choice about whether or not to turn himself in while Dal Po actively goes about turning in his brother. I think that difference comes down to three factors: One, Hyun is the older brother and feels a different kind of responsibility towards his brother. Two, with Jae Myung there was the active fear for the life of Song Cha Ok while with Min there wasn’t an active threat. Three, Hyun had concerns about Min’s basic personality that Dal Po didn’t have about his brother.

The Killing Brother

The reasons why the absent brother killed was different in the shows, but still related to family. In Pinocchio, Jae Myung kills the factory workers for revenge and a twisted justice for his father’s death. There was also an active fear he would kill Song Ch Ok since he blames her for his mother’s death. In I Remember You Min was killing those who had abandoned someone as a twisted revenge since he believed his brother abandoned him. For both these men their killing is tied up with their feelings about their families and being left alone by them.

There were signs of trouble for both brothers when they were younger. Jae Myung had a terrible temper and Min drew some creepy drawings and killed small animals. However, Min was unfortunate enough to be raised by a psychopath who nurtured his killing instinct. Jae Myung was fortunate enough to have both of his parents until they died in his late teens, and didn’t have a clear negative influence, which is probably why it took longer for his killer instincts to surface and for them to be easier to lock back down.

Insidious Guilt and Unrealistic Responsibility

Both Hyun and Dal Po feel guilt and responsibility for their brother turning into a murderer. Both feel that if they had personally searched for and found their brother sooner he would never have started killing. They seem to disregard their brother’s agency and ability to make decisions and take responsibility for their own actions, even after both of the killing brothers point this out.

Oddly enough, Dal Po who has the lesser guilt has the more extreme and noble idiot reaction. Dal Po didn’t go find his brother, so Jae Myung thought he was alone while Dal Po had his loving foster family. If Dal Po had found him sooner Jae Myung MIGHT not have killed the factory workers. No one knows for sure what his reaction would have been in that situation. It didn’t happen that way, so Dal Po reacts to his guilt by pushing away his loving family and taking on the task of legally and morally getting revenge on Song Cha Ok.

Hyun has a lot more to feel guilty about. He is the older brother who failed at protecting his little brother. He didn’t look for Min after all these years and didn’t recognize when Min was standing right in front of him. Hyun’s shooting of his mother’s killer when the boys were little may have triggered Min’s psychopathic tendencies. If Hyun had found or never lost Min so that he was not raise by a psychopath then Min probably would never have started killing. True, he didn’t have the same loving family to feel guilty about having when Min had nothing, but there is still a lot more depth and breadth to his guilt. However, Hyun doesn’t go to any extreme measures. He still includes Ji An in his life and actually starts to open up and appreciate others more. Hyun’s guilt and responsibility is more internalized and manifests as a desire to protect and serve Min, both in little things like blow drying his hair and big things like making sure Min doesn’t kill again.

Paying for His Crimes

Whether or not the killing brother would turn himself is was a consideration in both shows. Jae Myung takes some time to turn himself in, but it’s not something Dal Po has to work hard to convince him to do. It seems like Jae Myung makes the choice to turn himself in soon after meeting his brother because he doesn’t want to be a burden to Ha Myung. Plus Jae Myung turns himself in with several episodes to go so we get to see the brothers interacting at the jail as Jae Myung starts to serve his time.

Min takes a lot more convincing to turn himself in. The exact time frame is unclear, but Hyun gives Min at least a couple weeks to gain some remorse and turn himself in. Ja In even has a conversation with Min about how his decision will effect Hyun. Eventually Min is given a choice: live free in hiding under a new name or in jail as Hyun’s brother. Min chooses to turn himself in and I swear he was never happier in the whole show than when walking down the hallway after he decided to live as Hyun’s brother.

Dal Po told his brother “Turn yourself in or I will turn you over to the police” while Hyun gave his brother a different choice, but both wanted their brother to feel remorse and pay for their crimes.

Lady Loves and the Killing Brother

Hyun and Dal Po both warn their lady loves away from their brothers. Dal Po pleads for In Ha to trust him, and she promises to stay away, while Hyun demands Ji An not get close to him and makes no firm answer.

Min and Jae Myung both connect with their brother’s love interest through feats of daring, though one was coincidental and one was purposeful. Jae Myung saves a boy from a car accident which In Ha is there to see and she eventually interviews him. Min sets up an attack on Ji An and then saves her to purposefully get close to her since he is intrigued by this person who was able to get close to his notoriously cold brother.

Jae Myung and In Ha don’t interact a lot, especially once Dal Po is revealed to be his brother. Their interactions are at the professional level and Jae Myung doesn’t even know how special Im Ha is to his brother before going to jail.

Ji An and Min, however, interact a lot. The two of them have many conversations both before and after finding out about Min’s identity as Hyun’s brother. Ji An knows Min killed but gives Hyun time to convince Min to turn himself in and eventually has a conversation about that with Min. One of the scenes that broke my heart a little in the final episode was Ji An imagining what it would have been like if Lee Joon Yeong hadn’t killed their fathers and they had just met as normal kids. The montage of them growing up together and Ji An sharing Hyun’s hope that Min could have been normal tugged at my heart.

 The Lady Love

Both girls are relatively simple. They have clear cut goals and desires, and both grow to love the guy almost against their will. While comparatively uncomplicated, both girls have their own stories and character arcs.

After hooking up with the guy, both women stay true to themselves and make contributions to the plot. Ji An becomes a bit more of an appendage than In Ha does, but that is largely because In Ha is part of the problem and guilt, so she has to become part of the solution as well. Which is an interesting contrast since Ji An has a lot more interaction with her love’s brother than In Ha does.

I kind of love how both ladies act as the sounding board and voice of reason for their man. They both are plain spoken and will call their man on his BS. In fact I think the biggest difference between the two is the ability and inclination to lie, or the lack thereof in In Ha’s case. Still, I like this trend of women who are interesting and compelling characters in their own right.

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

A significant factor in the separation of both sets of brother was the lies told by the adults in their live. There were a lot of people from the older generation lying to them. In I Remember You it was people intimately connected to our leads who lied (CPO Hyun, the police chief, Lee Joon Yeong), while in Pinocchio the adults who lied were not intimately connected (the factory workers). It was the discovery of those lies that was so devastating. For Hyun it was the betrayal he felt when he discovered Chief Hyun has been communicating with Lee Joon Yeong and never looked for his brother. Jae Myung was the one destroyed by the discovery of the truth.

In Conclusion…

I actually had several other items I could talk about, such as the different valuation and portrayals of friendship, the love triangles and secondary couples, an in depth look at their treatment of memory loss, a closer look at the relationships of our OTPs, and more, but in the interest of space and cohesion I’ll stop here. These shows were both excellent and it was fun to take a closer look at them in this context.

However, now I wonder when we’re going to see some good stories about sisters who find each other again when one has become a murderer. How would things play out the same or differently? How would it affect things if it was a brother and sister? Hmm…

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