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.
While it centers around the romance between two opposite lives, it also takes us to the most charming yet heartbreaking character of all, Chief Hong Dusik.
Here are some psychological things to know about his trauma:
1. What is fear or pain of abandonment?
“Fear or pain of abandonment” is not a recognized mental health diagnosis but rather a form of anxiety or phobia, according to studies.
In “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha”, the character of Chief Hong reflects a broken man hiding behind the mask of a vibrant town hero, suffering from a deep-rooted trauma and pain of abandonment.
In episode 7, drunk Chief Hong leaned on Hye-jin’s shoulder, tearfully saying, “Don’t go. Don’t leave me behind.”
Equally drunk, Hye-jin responded, “I won’t. I’m not going anywhere.”
In episode 9, Chief Hong refused to talk about his private life. Curious about the boat on top of the hill, 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.”
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.”
2. What causes fear of abandonment?
Although it’s not a mental health disorder, fear of abandonment is deeply rooted which stems from a traumatic loss experienced in childhood. Because of intense grief for the people they care about, they get stuck living a life of fear related to relational loss.
Alone all his life since his parents and grandfather died, Chief Hong 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.”
3. How does pain of abandonment affect life and relationships?
According to psychological studies, “abandonment issues” have a significant effect on a person’s life and relationships.
It poses unhealthy or damaging consequences such as pushing people away when they are triggered by circumstances or when they feel challenged and vulnerable.
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. Whereas, Hye-jin felt disturbed and confused with how Chief Hong behaved, feeling that it was her fault.
In episode 13, Hye-jin was beginning to see dishonesty in the past life of Chief Hong, painfully expressing, “Will you keep doing that? Will you continue giving vague answers? I’ve shown you everything. I don’t mind showing my true self to you. Do you not feel the same way? You kept your promise about my bucket list wishes. You agreed to do all sorts of things. But why won’t you do the most important one? Why won’t you open up to me about yourself? You see, I really like you. So I want to know what kind of life you’ve lived and what’s on your mind. Why are you turning into someone else? Why are you drifting away? Why are you becoming a stranger? I don’t know who you are anymore. I don’t understand you.”
Still broken with unresolved issues in his life, Chief Hong tearfully responded, “I’m sorry. I don’t know either.”
4. How does one heal or recover from the pain of abandonment?
A series of therapy sessions with a professional can help heal from abandonment issues where a person learns to replace negative thought patterns with healthy realistic ones.
This traumatic condition has a high chance of full recovery. If a person is committed to receive proper treatment for his painful loss, a good quality of life and healthy relationships can be enjoyed.
There are cases, however, that are severe, which require anti-anxiety medications. Chief Hong’s case is a serious one since he suffers from horrible nightmares and his doctor prescribed him to take medicines.
Aside from therapy sessions, another intangible tool for a person to heal completely is unconditional love from significant people. The need to feel understood, accepted, and supported plays a major part in the healing process.
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 twice 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.
In one 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, Chief Hong needs to be transparent and face his fear of exposing his past to Hye-jin so that she can walk with him in his struggles and for their relationship to thrive.