How Episode 15 Raises Awareness On Mental Health And The Effects of Damaging Words [Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha]

“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” is a viral hit romantic-comedy Korean series and an outstanding remake of the 2004 film, “Mr. Hong”, starring Kim Seonho and Shin Mina.

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 the most charming yet heartbreaking character of all, Chief Hong Dusik. Episode 15 reveals all the mysteries in his life, exposing his flaws and brokenness.

Why did the almost perfect Chief Hong behave that way? Here are some truths about his response to crisis:

1. Words can cut deeply.

Psychologically speaking, negative words are damaging to a person’s well-being. More so, to a grieving person, who needs to hear comforting words rather than hurtful remarks.

Chief Hong’s deep-rooted trauma came from the harsh words that he received from certain people when two people he cared the most, died. Instead of a comforting embrace, he received blame, shattering his sense of worth and leaving a deep scar in his life that he believed is his identity.

On his grandfather’s death, someone uttered concerning him, “I guess it’s true that some people bring death to those around them.”

On his bestfriend’s death, the wife blamed him, “You should’ve been the one to die.”

According to a psychological study, negative words affect on a deep level, “releasing dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters, which in turn interrupts our brains’ functioning.” When such trauma or verbal abuse is experienced, it creates a huge impact on a person’s perspective on life and relationships.

Hence, the drama is realistic in portraying that words are powerful. Such damaging words made Chief Hong believe that he is the one to blame for the death of his grandfather and bestfriend. He felt unworthy to live life that he kept himself in the dark.

2. Fear is paralyzing.

As Chief Hong went through these high stress producing situations, he felt overwhelmed, trapped, depressed, experiencing nightmares. He feared intimate relationships and losing anything he cherishes.

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.”

Choi Bo-ra asked him about the hedgehog, “Why did you refuse to take care of it back then?” Chief Hong responded, “I think I’m still afraid of saying goodbye.”

The psychiatrist asked, “Do you still feel that those around you and everyone you loved has left you?” With trembling hands and tears streaming down his face, he painfully uttered, “Yes. And I’m to blame.”

Psychology suggests that fear of abandonment is deeply rooted which stems from traumatic loss experiences. In the drama, fear paralyzes Chief Hong to live life to the fullest. Because of intense grief for the people he cares about, he got stuck living a life of fear related to relational loss.

This crippling fear involves guilt and blame which also caused him to sell everything he had to appease the security guard and his family. And even though it was not his fault, his innate kindness, empathetic trait, and good relationship with the guard led him to. He felt his life was severely bruised and empty at that time, anyway. He had nothing to lose anymore.

That’s how paralyzing deep trauma or fear is. When something negative happens around him, he takes it on himself.

3. Bottled-up emotions are real.

One trait of Chief Hong when it comes to dealing with his inner life is to detach and walk away. He refuses to show his true emotions and tries to repress it as much as he can. He hates the feeling of discomfort when he talks about his emotions. He builds a wall within him so that no unpleasant pain would inflict him.

What are bottled-up emotions? Why does Chief Hong repress them? According to studies, a repressed emotion is a person’s avoidant response in the face of discomfort that are strongly linked to traumatic experiences. It involves isolating and withdrawing from certain people, events, and places that bring back traumatic memories.

For instance, when Hye-jin asked him 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.”

The drama is realistic in portraying that bottled-up emotions are real and difficult to expose. It shows the way Chief Hong had an uneasy time opening up.

What episode 15 teaches us.

Episode 15 reflects the reality that life involves meeting difficult people who will hurt us and raises awareness on how damaging words can affect a person’s well-being, even to the point of suicide just to escape the pain of shame and feelings of worthlessness.

It also tells us that not all drama characters can be perfect all the time. And so is life. Chief Hong is a relatable character that represents people who appear to have it all together but sometimes hide a lonely battle within.

He characterizes our hidden lives that we refuse to be exposed because of fear, judgment, and shame. He is all of us in moments we help others during tough times but unable to help ourselves and in certain situations where we bottle up our emotions instead of naming them to heal.

The wonderful thing about this drama is that it highlights how healing involves having the courage to be known and loved. It is in relationships that we get hurt the most. But it is also in relationships that we learn to mend the broken parts in us and restore.

This is where the community in Gongjin including Hye-jin steps in to help Chief Hong arise from his fears. It takes the love, understanding, acceptance, and support of significant people in life that sets a person free from inner entanglements.

“I had decided to kill myself that day. But Ms Gamri and Gongjin saved me. That’s why I came back. I didn’t kill myself. But I didn’t know how to carry on either. I locked myself in that dark house. But people kept knocking on my door. They didn’t ask any questions. They just brought food and checked on me. It was as if they were taking care of a stray cat. They were indifferent yet warm to me,” Chief Hong shares his story to Hye-jin.

That’s the power of a loving community. It brings healing and growth.

Since its premiere on August 28, 2021, “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” consistently took the highest nationwide viewership ratings in its time slot across all channels, with Episode 16 finale attaining the highest record of 12.7%, according to Nielsen Korea.

Additionally, it strongly remains on the Top 10 TV shows on Netflix in several countries such as the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and a lot more even after the end of the series.

Drama Creators: Director Yu Je-won, Writer Shin Ha-eun

Photo cover: TVN DramaHanible Photography