This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhinus.com/en/comic/pawn But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. Besides, this manhwa is categorized as HARDCORE: 🔞 Here is the link, if you are interested in more analyses about this manhwa and others https://bebebisous33analyses.com/2021/06/06/table-of-contents-of-analyzed-mentioned-manhwas/
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One might wonder how I came up with such a question, when the title of this manhwa is clearly stating that it is about the revenge of the protagonist Je-Oh and indirectly of Seong-Rok. Moreover, the main lead makes the following statement: reminding us of the famous quote: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” a symbol for revenge. Besides, in chapter 17 the author created two panels containing so many similarities reinforcing this idea that Lee Je-Oh was getting revenge by siding with the serial killer Do Seong-Rok. (chapter 17) (chapter 17) As you can observe, the positions between the main lead Je-Oh and Ma Jong-Seok had been switched. The latter, the blond-haired man, was the protagonist’s owner due to the debt left by Je-Oh’s father. The latter had preferred killing himself than reimbursing the credit with a huge interest. The vengeance becomes more visible, when the readers discover that the chief has been brought to the location, where Je-Oh’s father committed suicide. (chapter 1) (chapter 17) This means, in chapter 17 Ma Jong-Seok is going through the same experience than the main lead. He fears for his life and begs for Je-Oh’s mercy, exactly like the main character did three years ago. The only difference is that back then, the teenager’s death was to be taken figuratively, for he was forced to prostitution in order to pay his father’s credit. By becoming a whore, the young man lost his rights as a human. From that moment he was considered as trash indicating that he was standing at the lowest social rank. I would even say, he became in truth an outcast, which the manhwaphiles can observe in the following metaphor: (chapter 1) Lee Je-Oh viewed himself as a goldfish living alone in an aquarium full of dust. Instead of living among people, he was isolated and trapped in an aquarium underlining his exclusion. Due to the debt and his job as prostitute, he was weak and vulnerable, but he never lost his fighting spirit, as he wanted to live. He was trying to survive in a hostile environment, full of pain and loneliness.
So when the chief realizes that he is on the verge of losing his life for real, he hopes to escape this terrible fate by first appealing to his executioner’s conscience and heart. If he commits a crime, then he will lose his “humanity”. This is no coincidence that the chief talks about righteousness and as such humanity. Let’s not forget that the latter is a synonym for benevolence and kindness. Facing death, the hypocrite starts treating Je-Oh as a human and no longer as his pet. This doesn’t escape the main lead’s attention who points out his hypocrisy. He has behaved like a man without any conscience and heart until now. And this explains why at some point Ma Jong-Seok confesses to like Je-Oh. The moment the loan shark views him as a human being and no longer as whore, he can admit to have some feelings for him. The irony is that even in captivity, the chief kept insulting the young boy and never treated him like a human being. (chapter 3) (chapter 5) He kept treating him as his tool. The main lead had to listen to his order and show loyalty and obedience. Sure, he was definitely stressed and desired to survive, well aware that Do Seong-Rok could kill him at any moment. But he acted like that even before the abduction and sequestration. (chapter 2)
However, what caught my attention in chapter 17 is that the prostitute starts mentioning all the people suffering from the loan sharks. He criticizes Ma Jong-Seok for being responsible for the death of so many people. With his ruthless job, he sentenced people to their death. In other words, the violent moneylender is a murderer, though he never pulled the trigger himself. (chapter 17) And his words truly exposes that Je-Oh is not just killing the loan shark for a personal vendetta, in truth he is resenting him and society for its injustice and corruption. No one felt pity for these persons committing suicide, though they had been cornered by moneylenders. The chapter 17 gives us a clue that Je-Oh is thinking more than just about himself and pure revenge. Moreover, he mentioned to his partner that he hoped with their alliance to obtain his freedom. (chapter 11) And this aspect is very relevant, as liberty is one of the national mottos from French revolution (freedom, equity and fraternity).
But I have to admit that the idea of revolution came up very early on for two reasons. First, in the initial episode, we see the main lead dreaming of burning the world: (chapter 1) This truly exposed the deep resent the main character had for the society he was living in. We have to imagine that he was just a teenager, when he became an orphan, yet no authority worried about his fate. He had been indeed abandoned and betrayed by society and authorities. And here, it is necessary to bring up the definition of revolution.
Revolution: 1. an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed. 2. Sociology. a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/revolution#:~:text=noun,Compare%20social%20evolution.
As you can see, when I saw the image of this immense fire, I thought of the second meaning of the definition. Je-Oh is creating a fire in order to change society, that’s why people are burning. They are the ones who profited from this system. This idea got reinforced, when another important detail caught my attention. While reading the manhwa, I couldn’t help myself thinking about the story entitled “Animal Farm” written by George Orwell and published in 1945. Why? In the first place, the characters in the manhwa are constantly compared to animals. It was, as if they were no human in reality:
- First, we have Je-Oh considering himself as a goldfish, but later he compared himself to a dog:
- The loan shark called the main lead a mutt (chapter 2), while Je-Oh used the same expression for Do Seong-Rok. (chapter 6) Mutt is a synonym for dog. In the prostitute’s eyes, the murderer is in truth a dog waiting for his master. (chapter 8)
- Later Chief Ma Jong-Seok compared the main lead to a rat, as he saw him as a betrayer (chapter 10), while he associated his minions to chickens. (chapter 2)
- Then the boss Koo Jeong Mo ruling over the red-light district described the mastermind Jeon Hee-Seong as a snake:
- The moneylender Ma Jong-Seok was insulted as a pig by Do Seong-Rok, (chapter 3) when the former complained that the main lead had lied, when he stated that he had been raped.
- The snake Jeon Hee-Seong seduced an innocent lamb, the future killer Do Seong-Rok (chapter 16) and called her former employer a fox (chapter 11)
- Then even in the game janggi, we have animals: the horse (chapter 13) and the elephant. (chapter 13). The loan shark is supposed to be the elephant in the game, while the horse is Choi Yeong -Gil. (chapter 13) Imagine, this city is not inhabited by humans, but by animals: chickens, a goldfish, a pig, a fox, an elephant, a horse, a dog, a mutt, a rat etc.
Secondly, with the allegory “Animal Farm”, the author portrayed the Russian revolution. In this story, the animals in the farm were suffering under the owner Jones, hence the animals led by the pigs rebelled and took over the farm. This revolution had been triggered by the old Major’s hope. He dreamed of a world where animals would be equal and free from the tyranny of humans. After the revolution, the pigs got more and more power so that at the end, the pig Napoleon, representing the dictator Stalin, imposed his ruling over the other animals. Who opposed him or was of no use to him was eliminated. The irony is that the story ends, when the exploited animals from the farm could no longer distinguish between the pigs and men. Their living conditions were even worse than before.
But, there are other similarities between these two works than the presence of animals. Certain panels made me think of the famous allegory. (chapter 2) Here, Hongok-Dong is presented as a paradise, while in reality there’s only poverty and misery. This poster reminded me of the last commandment in the farm. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This served as propaganda in order to legitimate Napoleon’s dictatorship. In other words, the banner from that Korean city made me think of propaganda. By showing such pictures, the inhabitants are lulled into in the illusion that everything is alright, whereas in reality there exists only selfishness and indifference due to corruption and injustice. Secondly, the pictures about the red-light district (chapter 2) (chapter 16) make me think of a farm, and more precisely of chicken batteries:
And let’s not forget that Ma Jong Seong compared Choi Yeong-Gil and Lee Seon-Chol to chickens. 😉 (chapter 2) Secondly, the fact that Do Seong-Rok views the usurer as a pig (chapter 3) reminds me of the dictatorship of the pigs from Animal Farm. Let’s not forget that the man could enjoy life, while his borrowers were forced either to kill themselves out of despair or to work like slaves for him. Je-Oh criticized him for taking all the money he was earning through prostitution. (chapter 2) This situation is quite similar to the life of the pigs at the farm.
Usually, people compare the world to the jungle, where the only strong ones can survive. But we have to remember that in this story, life is presented as a game (chapter 6), as Janggi. That’s why I believe that the city is like the animal farm, as Janggi is limiting the world. The animals are represented by a piece of chess. The only difference is that we also have wild animals, unlike the English novel. The killer is a player of Janggi, he is the one who uses the different pieces (chariot, cannon, pawn etc). This Korean chess game was introduced to the serial killer Do Seong-Rok by his lover Ms. Jeon Hee-Seong. She manipulated her partner by letting him think that she was a poor prostitute, abused by her husband. (chapter 16) Striking is that she told her partner that she was just a pawn in Janggi, though she views herself as King. There’s no doubt that she faked her situation in front of the main lead. She might have sold her body in the past, yet when she met again the criminal, her life had improved. She was already owning a parlor (chapter 11), when the naive lover killed her husband. But why did she ask Seong-Rok to eliminate so many people (Ma Jong-Seok; Choi Yeong-Gil, Koo Jeong Mo and Lee Seon-Chol)? (chapter 1) Even if it is implied that she resents her husband and Koo Jeong Mo (chapter 11), she has another motive. It is, because she is planning a revolution in my opinion, but not the same type than Je-Oh’s. She wants to overthrow the established system and take it over quietly, which corresponds to the first meaning. Let’s not forget that when Hitler became chancellor, he called this event “national revolution”. In my eyes, she wants to become the head of the red-light district, but hide her connections. She desires to climb up the social ladders by using the actual system. She is not fighting for freedom, but for wealth and power. Since she has deeply internalized that in this world only the strong ones can survive, she is making sure to belong to the winners. That’s why she has the officer Ahn as partner. The latter is trying to enter politics and has connection to politicians.. (chapter 11). The femme fatale purchased land in Hongok-Dong so that she will get rich, when the redevelopment starts. (chapter 9) But in order to achieve her goal, she has to erase her past as a prostitute. She needs to eliminate people who know her from her origins. And this leads me to the following observation: since this world is described as a game of war (chapter 6) , it means that people are judged as enemies and potential threats, which need to be removed. But more importantly, when the femme fatale compares the weak to a prey, the readers can perceive that she is a believer of social Darwinism. (chapter 6)
“Social Darwinism, the theory that human groups and races are subject to the same laws of natural selection as Charles Darwin perceived in plants and animals in nature. According to the theory, which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the weak were diminished and their cultures delimited while the strong grew in power and cultural influence over the weak. Social Darwinists held that the life of humans in society was a struggle for existence ruled by “survival of the fittest,” a phrase proposed by the British philosopher and scientist Herbert Spencer.” quoted from https://www.britannica.com/topic/social-Darwinism
This truly exposes Jeon Hee-Seong’s mentality. She doesn’t advocate changes or reforms, quite the opposite. This theory is used to justify political conservatism, imperialism, and racism and to discourage intervention. This explicates why Nazism was advocating social Darwinism. Enemies (Jews, Sinti, Homosexuals, handicapped people, democrats eg.) were considered as parasites and cockroaches, which needed to be eliminated. And now, you understand why the perpetrator used before a game where the hostages had to kill each other, only the winner would be able to live. (chapter 3) He was applying this theory, yet deep down he desired that the main lead would seize this opportunity to get revenge on the usurer. (chapter 3) As you can detect, the red-haired man was pushing the hostage to get revenge on his abuser.
On the other hand, we can also sense the presence of social Darwinism in Je-Oh’s speech: Ma Jong-Seok is portrayed as a bloodsucking parasite (“leech off of”): (chapter 17) He is slowly adopting this theory, while in chapter 3, he counted on the criminal’s pity and heart for saving his life.
The presence of this theory explicates why people in this manhwa are portrayed as animals. It is much easier to kill “animals or insects” or even remove “pieces of a game” than humans. If they are no human, then the perpetrator can not be considered as a murderer, thereby he doesn’t feel remorse. Though Je-Oh has now a similar perception than the femme fatale and the killer, this doesn’t mean that they have the same goal. That’s why I believe that the real third party will appear soon: Do Seong-Rok and Je-Oh will truly team up, because their goals will be the same. Right now, they are just allies. Why do I think that they will have the same purpose? It is, because the red-haired protagonist became a killer in order to liberate Jeon Hee-Seong. This explains why the murderer felt pity for the male prostitute. He saw in him another victim of the system, hence he didn’t kill him. He kept wondering what to do with him, consequently his picture contained an interrogation point. (chapter 1) Moreover, the killer punched Ma Jong-Seok out of resent, (chapter 3) after hearing how the usurer looked down on the main lead. Since he was just a whore, he had no right to survive. The red-haired man hated so much that Je-Oh was insulted for his “profession”.
But the serial killer is slowly realizing that he has been played by his lover, the snake Ms. Jeon. He dirtied his hands in order to free her, not realizing that she was using him as his cannon. Besides, now the protagonist knows the name of the mastermind and her relationship to the serial killer. Like I had mentioned it before, Ms. Jeon desires to erase any trace about her origins and plans. So the male prostitute already represents a threat to her plan. On the other hand, the woman has no idea about this, because in her eyes, he is just a pawn. But like the red-haired main lead pointed out, (chapter 13), a pawn can be powerful, once used well. Since Je-Oh is accepting to use violence for his freedom, this signifies that he will fight for a change. That’s why I believe that he will create a revolution, shaking up the whole system, where until now only rich and powerful people had rights, while weak ones were left unprotected, for the police were corrupted and congressmen are only working for their own interests. As a conclusion, you can now comprehend why for me The pawn’s revenge is more than just revenge, it’s about “slavery”, inequity and injustice. Humans are neither pieces of Janggi nor animals, no matter what they are: poor or rich, healthy or sick. The problem is that both types of Revolution bring chaos and death too.
Since the novel Animal Farm from Georg Orwell is referring to Russian revolution and the instauration of Stalinism in USSR, I couldn’t help myself thinking about Anarchism and Nihilism, two strong movements existing in Russia. First, the nihilistic tendency is perceptible with the fire in chapter 1. Then Anarchism is centered on the belief that government is harmful and unnecessary, as it contributes to injustice and inequity due to capitalism. That’s why the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) desired to abolish property, but unlike in Communism where property was in the hand of the Proletarian government, he proposed this:
“the means of production should be owned collectively, though he still held that each worker should be remunerated only according to the amount of work he actually performed” quoted from https://www.britannica.com/topic/anarchism
Furthermore, Bakunin was an advocate of a violent Revolution, contrary to the French anarchist Proudhon who believed that the existing society could be changed through reforms. The Russian thinker was definitely more radical, which explains why at the end of the 19th Century, Russian anarchists targeted Alexander II. and other representatives from Russian Monarchy. For them, these people were the symbol of inequity, slavery and injustice. By killing people, the terrorists wanted to show their desire to change their society radically. And now, you comprehend why we had this picture in the first episode. For me, it announces huge changes brought by violence. An individual is trying to get rid of a system responsible for his misery. Let’s not forget that Anarchism is advocating individuality and absolute equity (not just equality in rights, but socially). In other words, this movement was against the existence of social classes. And these observations lead me to the following deduction: Je-Oh will change Do Seong-Rok’s ultimate goal, though the method will be the same. They will target people, but the prostitute will go after the persons responsible for the misery in Hongok-Dong: corrupted politicians and officers and as such Jeon Hee-Seong, who wants now to use this system to become powerful and rich.
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