When I read It’s Okay to Not Be Okay was about a guy employed at a psychiatric hospital and a girl with antisocial personality disorder, I was expecting it to be something similar to It’s Okay, That’s Love, but I was way off base.
While working as a caregiver in a psychiatric hospital, Moon Gang-Tae meets Ko Moon-Young, a famous children’s author who suffers from antisocial personality disorder. He prevents her from trying to harm one of the patients and is injured in the process, so the CEO of her publishing company, deciding to make sure the incident doesn’t reach the media, asks Gang-Tae to speak with him at the company. Although Gang-Tae would rather leave the whole incident behind, he decides to go simply because his older brother’s favorite author is Ko Moon-Young and Gang-Tae sees the meeting invitation as a chance to get her autograph for him. When Gang-Tae accidentally runs into Moon-Young at the publishing company and they have a short, impromptu conversation, he resolves to make sure their paths never cross again whereas she decides she wants this nice young man for herself – and the woman has never allowed anything to get in the way of what she wants.
At the young age of 12, Moon Gang-Tae didn’t even allow himself the chance to grieve his mother’s murder because his only thought was to not allow the authorities to separate him from his 17-year-old autistic brother, Sang-Tae. Since their father had passed away when they were very young, Gang-Tae and Sang-Tae found themselves orphaned, so the two boys ran away, Gang-Tae willingly shouldering the heavy responsibility of taking care of his brother with special needs. He gave up going to school so he could singlehandedly support Sang-Tae, making money doing odd part-time jobs here and there. Now, at 30 years old, Gang-Tae is a caregiver at OK Psychiatric Hospital, whose mission is “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.” The kind young man is excellent at his job and loved by both the staff and patients. Due to several different reasons, Gang-Tae and his brother have never had a stable home. They move each year, which is why Gang-Tae avoids building relationships.
Although Ko Moon-Young has had antisocial personality disorder her entire life, it hasn’t kept her from becoming an extremely successful author. Seven of her books are on the top ten best selling children’s books list, she’s a candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and one of her books is about to be adapted into an animated film in the United States. The woman is vicious, reckless, mean spirited, selfish, overbearing, manipulative, and just an all-around horrible person. She admits, “When I see something pretty, I want it. And I need to have what I want, whether I have to pay for it, steal it, or just take it by force.” Her father, a successful architect, designed a castle for his daughter when she was born, which is now referred to as the “cursed castle”, and she takes the princess idea one step further by having a red velvet throne/chair just for her, at the publishing company, from which she rules.
Moon Sang-Tae, Gang-Tae’s 35-year-old brother, is on the autism spectrum. Sadly, when he was just 17 he witnessed his mother’s murder but refused to say anything much about it because he was afraid the “butterfly” that killed her would come for him. As a result of that horrible incident, he is terrified of the winged insects. Sang-Tae loves dinosaurs and can rehearse facts about all of them. He enjoys watching cartoons on TV and likes to read, especially books by his favorite author, Ko Moon-Young. He is a prolific artist and has an amazing memory.
At 16 years old, Jo Jae-Soo’s met the Moon brothers when Gang-Tae got a part-time job at Jae-Soo’s parent’s chicken restaurant. The family was kind enough to allow Gang-Tae and Sang-Tae to live with them which only served to make the three young men closer. Since then, every time the Moon brothers have moved, Jae-Soo has accompanied them. Wherever they settled down, Jae-Soo would always open a chicken restaurant because he said they were easy to sell whenever Gang-Tae decided it was time to move on to the next town. This last move, Jae-Soo put together all the money he had, took out a loan, and opened a pizza place instead. Sang-Tae works there part-time.
Nam Joo-Ri is one of the nurses at Ok Psychiatric Hospital. She met Gang-Tae, whom she has a crush on, a year ago when they worked together at the same hospital. She knows Ko Moon-Young from grade school and has a fear as well as a dislike for the woman. Her father died due to an illness when she was little so she was raised by her single mother who used to cook for construction workers but currently works as a cook at the hospital. Joo-Ri lives with her mother and they rent out the rooftop room of their house to the Moon brothers and the basement room to Jae-Soo.
Lee Sang-In is the CEO of SangSangESang Publishers, the company with exclusive rights to Ko Moon-Young’s books. He is the only person who understands (kind of) the outlandish author and is excellent at running interference and fixing the problems she so often causes. Unfortunately, the last terrible thing she did stirred up so much trouble that the company had to close down. Sang-In is desperately trying to get Moon-Tae writing once again to revive the company. He falls for Nam Joo-Ri the minute he sets eyes on her.
The art director in charge of illustrations at SangSangESang Publishers is Yoo Seung-Jae. She is very intimidated by Author Ko and does much more than her job description calls for. She says she feels like she’s CEO Lee’s minion. Seung-Jae is petite, kind, and a bit on the reserved side.
Ok Psychiatric Hospital’s director is Doctor Oh Ji-Wang. He is a sympathetic, laid-back kind of guy who cares deeply for the patients. At Gang-Tae’s request, he takes Sang-Tae under his wing and tries to help him conquer his phobia of butterflies.
Ko Moon-Young’s mother is Do Hui-Jae, a famous author who wrote The Murder of the Witch of the West series, which consists of nine books. The woman is considered to be the queen of detective fiction. Moon-Young’s father was a successful architect (that’s why he built her the castle) who, because he now has dementia and a brain tumor, resides at Ok Psychiatric Hospital.
Kim Soo-Hyun had cameo appearances in Hotel Del Luna and Crash Landing on You, but It’s Okay to Not Be Okay is his first major project since returning from his mandatory military assignment. The man is a serious overachiever. You can read about him in my Producer review.
For information about Seo Ye-Ji, the actress responsible for making Ko Moon-Young so despicable, you can click on my review of Save Me.
The talented man who wonderfully plays the part of Moon Sang-Tae is 43-year-old veteran actor Oh Jung-Se. I have seen him in tons of dramas where he pretty much had just minor or supporting roles. In this show, he is the second male lead and the man absolutely blows up the screen. His portrayal of the 35-year-old autistic man was nothing short of stellar perfection. I was in awe of his performance. I dare say he did a better job at playing an autistic man than Dustin Hoffman did in Rain Man. I’m crossing my fingers he’ll dominate at all the award ceremonies and take home mounds of awards! I feel about his acting in this drama the way I felt about Ji Sung’s performance in Kill Me, Heal Me. Stupendous!
Unfortunately, I disliked Moon-Young just a little less than I liked darling Sang-Tae. I particularly hated the fact that she so easily manipulated the people and situations around her. Because I was having a difficult time believing someone could be that awful, I decided to stop the episode I was watching and read about antisocial personality disorder. I was shocked at how many symptoms of that mental illness Moon-Young exhibited. To save you the time of having to look up this disorder on your own I decided to write what I found on the Mayo Clinic website.
Antisocial personality disorder signs and symptoms may include:
- Disregard for right and wrong
- Persistent lying or deceit to exploit others
- Being callous, cynical and disrespectful of others
- Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or personal pleasure
- Arrogance, a sense of superiority and being extremely opinionated
- Recurring problems with the law, including criminal behavior
- Repeatedly violating the rights of others through intimidation and dishonesty
- Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead
- Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, aggression or violence
- Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others
- Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behavior with no regard for the safety of self or others
- Poor or abusive relationships
- Failure to consider the negative consequences of behavior or learn from them
- Being consistently irresponsible and repeatedly failing to fulfill work or financial obligations
When you watch the show, pay careful attention to the things she does and mentally check off each symptom when you see one manifest. You’ll be shocked at how many are part of Ko Moon-Young’s personality. In other words, get ready to hate the woman. Plain and simple – she’s horrid. At one point Gang-Tae tells her she is empty inside, just loud, like an empty can. That’s a perfect way to describe her – empty.
Each episode of the drama is named after a story/fairytale, some being titles of the books Ko Moon-Young authored (Zombie Kid, The Boy Who Fed On Nightmares, The Cheerful Dog, The Hand, The Monkfish, and Finding the Right Face). Her stories always have good morals but are told in a depressing and often morbid way. Even the illustrations are expressive of the darkness in the story. We learn quite a lot about her when she insists fairytales are “cruel fantasies that illustrate the brutality and violence of this world in a paradoxical manner.”
Also, in going along with the book theme of the drama, the audience is told a different story in each episode, complete with animated pictures. One is even done in claymation. Several are from the books Moon-Young has written. I thought the storytelling idea was quite clever and extremely artistic.
Ko Moon-Young’s clothes and make-up are eccentric, to say the least. Because she is so insecure and vain she uses them as armor as well as a way to stand out in a crowd. And her fingernails change color practically every other scene – like a chameleon in a flower garden – indicative of the frequent shifts in her emotional state.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay sports several guest appearances, my favorites being Kwak Dong-Yeon and Daniel Choi. I don’t know why those guys haven’t made it on my favorite actors list yet.
The child actors and actress (Moon Woo-Jin, Kim Soo-In, and Lee Kyu-Sung) that were chosen to play Gang-Tae, Sang-Tae, and Moon-Young when they were younger, looked so close to what these adult characters might have looked like 18 years prior, and their acting was excellent. Great job, casting directors!
I found it interesting that although Sang-Tae is petrified of butterflies there is a butterfly light in the cursed castle and no one ever mentions it – not even Sang-Tae, which is inconsistent with what we know of his fear. Watch for it, on the right side of the staircase at the end of episode 12 and the beginning of 13. It might have appeared earlier in the drama, I just didn’t realize it until then.
The only thing I didn’t like about this show was the character Ko Moon-Young and because I disliked her so much I had originally decided to only give this drama a seven. However, I remembered what my friend told me when I was going to do the same thing with Say You Love Me, so I changed my mind and went higher simply because I so passionately disliked that horrible woman. Seo Ye-Ji’s excellent acting achieved what it was supposed to accomplish and that was to have me say, “This woman is a witch!”
The ending is the stuff warm and fuzzy is made of. It’s good, really good – an excellent way to close the story. I was holding back tears. Did I like Moon-Young more in the end? Hummmm… slightly, just slightly.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay’s soundtrack has a few excellent ballads. Breath, performed by Sam Kim, is my favorite. The high notes he’s able to hit are unbelievable. On the flip side, if you needed a song to be the background music in a nightmare, Got You, sung by Ga Eun, would be perfect. The best way I can describe it – make-believe and slightly off. If you’d like to hear a pretty instrumental (solo piano) medley of the drama’s music I suggest you go here.
The cursed castle, Ok Psychiatric Hospital, Nam Joo-Ri’s house (where so many key characters live), and Jo Jae-Soo’s pizza shop are the main backdrops of the story. The humongous castle is isolated, situated in the middle of a forest. There’s a Romeo and Juliet type balcony, a locked-door dungeon in the basement, and the house is surrounded by a large iron fence. It’s dark inside but lit by tons of warm, golden lights that are left on 24/7. A fun place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. Why is it nicknamed the cursed castle? I’m going to let Moon-Young explain that to you. There’s a scene in the show where Gang-Tae and Moon-Young take a little trip to what they referred to as Shaky Bridge which happens to be the Wonju Sogeumsan Mountain Suspension Bridge. Because I’m terrified of bridges (going both over and under them) I watched in fascination and horror as they both began to cross it. Although I kept thinking, “No way, no way, no way,” I was awestruck at how beautiful the mountain scenery was from up that high. Breathtaking.
Although this drama is emotionally heavy and often dark it is packed with a phenomenal amount of character growth. The show encourages us to keep going, do our best, and build on our own personal character traits. It also reminds us when we fall a little short – It’s Okay to Not Be Okay!
Kim Soo-Hyun (is back and) makes Moon Gang-Tae precious
Seo Ye-Ji plays Ko Moon-Young so well
Oh Jung-Se’s acting (as autistic Moon Sang-Tae) is perfection and deserving of many awards
Amazing character growth
Excellent acting from the entire cast
Good ending/moral to the story
Ko Moon-Young’s horrible/unsettling personality