Reborn Rich (2022) Episodes 9-11
It may be premature to make any kind of declarations and I may rue the day I cautiously committed myself to these comments but if this drama continues the way it does, it could be one of the year’s best. Indeed. depending on how the final act pans out, it could be my pick for the year. There’s little doubt that Lee Sung-min is a tour de force as the family patriarch. Watching him at work especially in these lasts few episodes has me reaching for comparisons with Gary Oldman which is the highest compliment I can pay him. Without a doubt, Oldman is one of the greatest actors alive whose versatility is renowned. The fact that Lee Sung-min has done incredible things with the roles he’s taken on this year is proof that this is no hyperbole.
Here Lee Sung-min imbues the all-too-human character of Jin Yang-cheol with gravitas and flashes of vulnerability. The founder of Soonyang Group in the wrong hands could come off as an outright cartoon villain but thankfully that’s not the case here. Far from it. Jin Yang-cheol is not a great family man by any known moral code but he is a pioneering business mogul in his native South Korea with farsighted business know-how. Now that his days are numbered, he’s made it his mission to protect the company that’s like a child to him from the recklessness of his own self-serving progeny.
Like just about everyone, I laboured under the mistaken impression that I was watching a revenge story unfolding. It certainly seemed the case up to Episode 9 as well as for the fact that Do-jun’s previous identity Hyeon-woo was unceremoniously eliminated. It was all part of the mystique of the family’s youngest grandson Jin Do-jun, making cryptic or vague intentions about his many interventions via Miracle Investments, claims of wanting to buy Soonyang. On hindsight, the name of his start-up should have clued me on a lot sooner and perhaps at the back of my mind I did have some sense of what Do-jun was really up to when he was going to incredible lengths to protect Hyeon-woo’s working class family from losing what little they had.
Rather than revenge, it seems to me that Do-jun has embarked on a rescue mission. Not because of any great sense of family loyalty or even admiration of Jin Yang-cheol, the grandfather but because the entire company (for better or for worse) is the economic lifeblood of the country for whom thousands upon thousands of working men and women rely on. The inscrutable hand of fate has gifted Do-jun with foresight and a second chance to make things right. That is his “superpower” as it were. Through soul transmigration he’s been tasked with the heavy responsibility of saving lives by ensuring that Soonyang Group remains a viable concern beyond Jin Yang-cheol’s limited lifetime. If the company were to tank under the watch of his progeny, it has the potential to destroy the lives of many more than the owner’s immediate family. It’s Operation Saving Soonyang because its success has ramifications for national interest.
It’s obvious that the three oldest Jin siblings are self-centred in the extreme. Ultimately their priorities don’t lie with the longevity of the company as all their actions have thus far shown. Everything they do is self-serving in the short-term and it’s clear that they haven’t inherited their father’s visionary acumen. Moreover they don’t understand the old man’s passion. They have no to little self-awareness about where they’ve gone wrong. Up to now we’ve seen them haemorrhaging or cannabalizing the company in some form which has put key divisions of the company in jeopardy. Which in turn puts jobs, pension funds and savings in a precarious position. The oldest, Young-gi’s only concern is that his only son takes his “rightful” place as the chairman of the company. He’s completely fixated with that agenda. Not that I entirely blame him. It was how he was raised — to believe that he and his son will take over when the old man breathes his last. However, his insistence on his rights as the first born regardless of his own lack of talent or his son’s lack of moral fibre will likely undo all the good work done by his father. Hence the entire scenario that Jin Yang-cheol is faced with unfortunately does not bode well for the future of Soonyang. The company he built from the ground up is likely to be ruined by his own flesh and blood before he’s laid to rest six feet under.
Jin Yang-cheol has come to the realisation that for whatever motives he has, Do-jun, his youngest grandson is keen at the very least to see Soonyang grow and flourish. He is single-handedly saving Soonyang from internal predators. Even while he takes over what used to be his aunt’s portfolio, he leaves the management of it to hired specialists. For the grandfather the lad shows leadership skills and they appear to be cut from the same cloth. The greed that they both talk about isn’t really about accumulating wealth per se but expanding the company’s reach and scope. While I’m not cheerleading for corporatism here, it’s clear that Do-jun’s goal is to course correct and even to transform Soonyang into a far more ethical entity that serves the the common good rather than fill the pockets of the haughty, overindulgent, entitled children of Jin Yang-cheol who are on the road to financial destruction.
Having been now privy to the last few episodes, it’s not hard to see where Min-yeong fits into the overall scheme. It’s what I had suspected from the start. It’s hard to be Jin Do-jun. He could have opted for the quiet life, done his own thing and kept out of everyone’s way. But he used his knowledge of the future to turn things around and change the flow of the markets to mitigate the damage done by global events. These are his superhero moments. He is in the business of saving lives, of creating miracles. However, saving lives against huge odds and formidable opponents is lonely work. He has to be ruthless. He can’t fully trust anyone or expose any chinks in his armour lest it be used against him. Min-yeong is his refuge. A place to go to when it gets a bit too much for one man who is after all quite human. Sure, the romance is not needed in the overall story. But when I look at Do-jun falling into Min-yeong’s arms after the accident, Do-jun’s insane world is a little bit better with her around. The audience might not need her but he does.