If the discourse around parenting has taught us anything in recent times, it is that good intentions do not always translate into a good upbringing. Everyone wants their child to be successful in life, and they push them toward this goal. Looking at the extreme competitiveness of today’s world, this desire for success means that children often start preparing for it when they are as young as 10 years old. There was a drama we watched quite a while back, whose name we don’t remember, in which a character said that people work hard not to be front runners in the rat race but to not be left behind completely. It did not escape our notice that of the entire cast of The Good Bad Mother in the village of Jou Ri, only Kang Ho was the most self-sufficient. Sam Sik was left behind in life, and then there was Mi Joo.
It would be unfair to say that Young Soon wasn’t successful because, despite her hardships, she had been independent and found happiness where she could. She was even ambitious, and she might have succeeded if she hadn’t been cheated by her partner. But it remains true that she never pushed herself as hard as she could during her formative school years. We are not advocating for it, but life may have been more financially rosy for her if she had done that. We also cannot forget Ha Young. She may have had access to the best educational institutions and wonderful private tutors, but what was her job at the end of the day? We never saw her do anything. The point we are trying to make is that people like Kang Ho and Young Soon, who only have themselves to depend on, have to make the extra effort.
Young Soon in The Good Bad Mother had been helpless all her life. When she lost her parents, we don’t think she was able to continue her education, looking at the job she was doing before she met Hae Sik. We saw that her parents had passed away in a car accident. While it was never stated or implied in any way, looking at the life she led, we believe that she was probably not compensated in any form. Young Soon moved on in life with that injustice behind her, but when she saw that repeated with her husband, it was too much for her to take. She said that she decided he would be a prosecutor because he picked up the gavel during a ceremony in his childhood. The said ceremony is when some items are placed in front of a baby, and whatever they pick becomes what they will have an inclination for, for the rest of their lives. Our mother never told us what we picked for our ceremony.
We don’t know what she was scared of us knowing, but Young Soon took a baby’s innocent actions a little too seriously. Kang Ho is a talented prosecutor, but we suppose that it may not have been his first choice. He was interested in art. It is possible that he liked painting only as a hobby. It is something he got from his mother and later passed on to his daughter, Ye Jin. But if Kang Ho had had a different upbringing, one in which his future was not decided for him beforehand, he may have chosen differently, or it is possible that he might not have become a prosecutor at all. There is nothing to suggest that Kang Ho in The Good Bad Mother would have been unsuccessful as an artist or, let’s say, as an engineer. But there is a certain power that one has when they are in the legal field. People are afraid to cross someone who belongs to this profession. As someone who had been on the receiving end of injustice for a major part of her life, Young Soon wanted Kang Ho to be a prosecutor so that he would be able to protect himself, unlike what had happened to her.
Young Soon had long given up on the idea of justice for herself or her husband. She knew that she did not have the resources or even the needed protection that she would require if she were to go against someone like Oh Tae Soo or Song Woobyeok. She had to give up in the interest of her son. Though she never said it, Young Soon must have carried the anger and disappointment of that throughout her life. She knew that Kang Ho might face some troubles in life, and in fact, there might be people who would wrong him as well. But unlike her, he would not be helpless. He would be a prosecutor with the law at his fingertips, and he would be able to answer tit for tit. This was the driving force behind Young Soon’s harsh upbringing. She never wanted her son to face what she had in her life. She knew that this was the only way for her to protect him and save him and his future family from the fate she had to face.
In today’s competitive times, childhood is often lost in the pursuit of an adulthood that we are too exhausted to enjoy when we get to it. People say that things are easier in small towns and villages, but Kang Ho did not have that privilege. He did not have a good relationship with food, success, or even himself and the people he loved the most because he was so consumed by revenge, whose seeds had been unintentionally planted by Young Soon herself.
The Good Bad Mother takes a holier-than-thou route while exploring Kang Ho’s feelings towards his mother for her treatment of him for all those years. In real life, it would have been far more complicated. In the series, it sufficed for the sake of satisfying the narrative. Regardless, at the end of everything, if you asked us whether Young Soon was a good mother or a bad one, we would simply say that, given the circumstances, she took the route of being a bad mother for the sake of being a good one.