During the first weeks of quarantine, there were times when I’ve felt guilty for doing the things I love. Lying in bed laughing at a funny YouTube video made me think about the Coronavirus victims who were also lying in bed, fighting for their lives. Dancing around our living room to my favorite music was tinged with the thought that there are doctors and nurses on their feet for hours on end, with no moment of rest in between. Stuffing myself with the yummy homemade food my mom cooked made me feel bad for enjoying it, when there are countless low-income families struggling to put food on the table because of the lack of money and work available during these times.
This feeling affected my productivity, and made me think, “What’s the point of writing an article when there are people dying?” “What’s the point of thinking about future plans or making a schedule if there are families who don’t know if their loved ones will be alive the next day?” It really got me down and made me feel lost and confused. My passions, like music and film, felt meaningless. Is a good song or my favorite movie really important right now? And yet, for comfort, I turned to watching and re-watching Crash Landing on You.
Crash Landing on You is a Korean TV series about a South Korean woman who gets into a freak hang-gliding accident and crash lands on the North Korean side of the border, finding herself face to face with a North Korean captain and his troops. CLOY was my first experience watching a Korean drama, and thanks to one of my best friends who made me watch it, I enjoyed it more than any other TV show I’ve ever seen. It was surprisingly very, very funny, and it explored so many different themes and topics. It showed how two people can naturally grow to respect and care for each other under extraordinary circumstances, and the ways they show that respect and care. It showed how a group of people not related by blood can care for each other and form a bond even better and stronger than what they have with their actual families. It showed the differences between the two Koreas, and their overwhelming similarities that transcend the border between them. It showed how our actions can affect those around us, and that we as a community and as a world are more interconnected to each other than we think. And above all, it showed that “fortune and misfortune are like a twisted rope, so they come in turns. Everything will be fine soon.”
This show, with all its funny, meaningful, and heartwarming moments, comforted me. It focused on the kindness of strangers, and humanized the people we think of as “the enemy.” It showed that there are people who do bad things, either in government or even within our own families. But, it also showed that good people and things exist, sometimes in the most unlikely or unfamiliar of places, and even in the people who we believe don’t care or love us.
When I was in the middle of re-watching the show, we started receiving good news. Private individuals were banding together to donate masks, alcohol, food, and medical suits to the front-liners and low-income families. Government officials started showing their true colors, and the truly exceptional civil servants and their initiatives were in the spotlight. People I had lost touch with were reaching out, bringing back friendships I thought had already faded. And to top it all off, the two fantastic leads of Crash Landing on You, Hyun Bin and Son Yejin, reportedly donated millions of Won for Covid-19 aid in South Korea, the first country that is successfully combating the virus and started offering aid to other nations. Things were getting brighter, much like how, in the show, a candle brought to light and comfort in a place of confusion and fear.
In light of all the good news, I also realized that it wasn’t fair to my family to be gloomy and unmotivated. Of all people, they deserve my care, attention, and positivity during this time of unease. It’ll just be the four of us together for the foreseeable future, and I need to do my part in caring for them.
In Crash Landing on You, the leads, Seri and Jeong Hyeok, are stuck together. Along with Jeong Hyeok’s band of troops, they form an unlikely family and risk their lives, fabricate increasingly elaborate plans, and spin risky cover-ups attempting to send Seri back home to South Korea. And yet, no matter how tense and stressful the situation is, there are many moments when they lift each other up and care for each other. Jeong Hyeok made sure that Seri was comfortable while being in a strange and scary country. He bought her contraband South Korean products to remind her of home and made her comforting meals. He made sure that she never felt lost or alone, making her feel safe by being a reliable and reassuring presence during nerve-wracking situations. Seri bonded with Jeong Hyeok and the men trying to send her home by asking them questions, listening to their stories, and making them laugh. She made her presence more of a pleasure than an inconvenience by helping as much as she could with their tasks, giving them tokens of appreciation, and becoming a sort of mother hen for the younger soldiers, fussing over them and putting them at ease with friendly bickering.
In my family, my mom brings us comfort by making sure we eat well. No matter how simple the ingredients, she makes sure the food she makes tastes good, that it’s healthy, and that we are full. She is the one who makes the scary journey to the grocery or the market to buy ingredients and make sure that we have food on the table. My dad brings us comfort by making sure we are safe and snug in our home. He fixes the broken electric fans so that we will stay cool in the hot weather and that our vacuum cleaner works for our house and car to stay clean and neat. He makes sure we have gas for our stove, clean sheets for our beds, and are fully stocked with ketchup, vinegar, and all the other essential condiments.
As for me and my brother, we play music while we clean, wash, sweep, scrub, chop, and all our other chores, singing along. We learn the proper way to clean the bathroom and wash clothes. As a family, we prepare and eat all three meals together, and pray together at night before going to bed. We try our best to make our presence in this family felt, by being of service and staying positive.
In times of crises, the best thing we can do is to be of service, whether it be for victims and those directly affected, or for our families and the people in our own communities. Wherever we are, wherever we find ourselves, we are there for a reason: to do good. Seri has a quote from the show: “Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station.” Seri was definitely on the wrong train when she landed in North Korea, and so was Jeong Hyeok after his brother was killed. But they found and changed each other and those around them for the better by experiencing the value of being needed and of caring about those around them instead of just themselves, no matter how crazy and scary the journey was.
I am not saying that this virus has been good for us as a society. But it is hard to deny that it is making us realize how much more care and service is needed in our world, whether it be for more effective healthcare systems or more care and attention towards our own families. Let’s make the most of this wrong train ride — stay indoors, wash our hands, keep calm and CLOY on.