“Do you know how worried I was? You suddenly vanished off the face of the earth,” said Taegyeong, an old friend of Chief Hong.
Since its premiere on August 28, 2021, the show consistently holds the highest nationwide viewership ratings in its time slot across all channels, with Episode 14 achieving the highest record so far of 11.6%, according to Nielsen Korea.
It centers around two opposite lives, Doc Hye-jin, a perfectionist dentist from the city of Seoul and Chief Hong Dusik, a free-spirited jack-of-all-trades from the seaside village of Gongjin. The story progresses as they cross paths and get to know each other through inconveniences and adorable bickering.
But there’s more to this romantic-comedy show where the writer takes us to various metaphors and mysteries, especially the life of Chief Hong.
1. His natural charm.
Chief Hong Dusik was introduced to us as a jolly and reliable handyman who assists everyone around the village with his tireless hands, adorable smile, and empathetic heart.
“He is kind, but too nosy,” said halmeoni.
“Chief Hong is everyone’s fixer,” Mr. Chang stated.
He is a talented man who is engaged with several activities such as surfing, reading a book, biking, fishing, photography, candle-making, soap-making, coffee-making, bidding, singing, guitar-playing, collecting books, wines, and records. He also knows how to speak French, Chinese and communicate using sign language.
He even won the “Brave Citizen Award” twice for catching a purse snatcher on the street and saving a drunk old man sleeping on the train tracks. “He’s the hero of Gongjin. He’s like Superman and Iron man wrapped into one,” Mr. Ban said.
The unemployed Chief Hong we thought we knew is no ordinary man at all. He got into Seoul National University as a scholar with the highest grades, studied, and graduated Engineering. He then returned to Gongjin five years after graduating.
Moreover, the villagers revealed that he was an extraordinary and smart kid. At age six, he memorized Cheonjamun. In school, he won the gold medal at the Mathematics Olympiad and always gets the highest score or first place during classroom exams.
2. His mysterious life.
“Then why does he live the way he does?” Hye-jin asked. We have the same question as viewers and we can’t wait for this mystery to unfold.
Aside from this, there are other several mysteries in his life that convey a seemingly deep and heartbreaking story—the boat on top of the hill, the suit he wanted to throw away, the photo of a woman holding a baby kept inside the pages of his book, the regular visit with a psychotherapist in Seoul, and his chronic nightmares.
He helps others but unable to face his personal hurts. “Why is this suit out here?”, a granny asked. Hong Dusik seriously replied, “I’m throwing it out.” But later on, he advised Oh Yoon about his tape album, “I didn’t think it belonged in the trash.”
In episode 9, he refused to talk about his private life. Curious about the boat on top of the hill, Doc Hye-jin asked Chief Hong, “Why did you bring it up here? Boats belong in the ocean.” He replied with a profound reason, “I wanted to appreciate a different view since it had been sailing all its life.”
Doc Hye-jin continued to ask out of curiosity, “Why do you live here like this? What did you do after graduating from college, during those five years?”
Feeling internally disturbed by Hye-jin’s questions, Chief Hong bottled up his emotions, saying, “I’m going to live like this forever. I’m content with this life.”
3. His brokenness.
Alone all his life since his parents and grandfather died, he lived with undisclosed feelings of deep-rooted trauma and fear of abandonment that only his psychiatrist knew. He personally believed that he was the one to blame for his loved ones’ death.
“Do you still feel that those around you and everyone you loved has left you?” the psychiatrist asked him.
With trembling hands and tears streaming down his face, he painfully uttered, “Yes. And I’m to blame.”
In episode 10, Hye-jin helped him mend his feelings of guilt concerning his grandfather’s death, “Those what-ifs are pointless. There are too many variables in this world and they’re beyond our control. So it’s not your fault.”
Chief Hong smiled with ease as if it was the first time that he had a meaningful conversation with someone about his personal life aside from his psychiatrist.
Interestingly, meeting Hye-jin somehow helped mend the void in Chief Hong’s life. “She talks and giggles a lot. You easily get distracted in her presence. Still, it feels empty now that she’s not around,” stated Chief Hong when Hye-jin already left after his grandfather’s memorial service.
Spending time with Hye-jin also helped him experience less horrible nightmares. When he woke up one time from a bad dream with Hye-jin beside him, he felt comforted and did not bother to take the prescribed medication to ease his anxiousness.
During his latest appointment with the psychiatrist, he was told, “It seems you’re sleeping better now. At this rate, I think we can lower the dosage.” Chief Hong is slowly recovering.
However, in Episode 11, Chief Hong asked his now-girlfriend, Hye-jin, “What else don’t you like? Tell me everything.” Hye-jin answered, “Here’s one. I don’t want you to lie. I don’t want any secrets between us.” With the face of fear and eyes that convey anxiousness, Chief Hong tried to smile and nod positively.
The character of Chief Hong is a broken man hiding behind the mask of a vibrant town hero who suffers from deep-rooted trauma and pain of abandonment.
On a romantic date with Hye-jin in Seoul, Chief Hong happened to cross paths with an old friend who told him, “Do you know how worried I was? You suddenly vanished off the face of the earth.” This made Chief Hong feel ripped and downhearted for the rest of the day.
How his unknown backstory will be exposed, how it will shaken the image of a know-it-all, charming town hero, how it will affect his relationship with Hye-jin, and how he will manage to face his fears will be an interesting move in the storyline.
It will surely bring us to the most heartbreaking character and scene in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, perhaps a major highlight in the drama.