The Pawn’s Revenge: The goldfish and the lamb – part 2 🔞 (second version)

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In the second part Do Seong-Rok’s personality will be in the center of the analysis. Therefore it is necessary to study his relationship with the other characters, especially with Jeon Hee-Seong and Lee Je-Oh. Furthermore, I will compare the red-haired man’s behavior to Lee Je-Oh’s, because through the contrast the manhwaphiles can get more details about the murderer’s character. Moreover, I will give a possible explanation why the man with dyed hair saved Lee Je-Oh in the end. Let’s not forget the synopsis: “Why he rescued Je-oh is unclear, but a slick-talking manwhore was definitely not part of anyone’s plan.” Like it is mentioned, by letting the prostitute survive, Do Seong-Rok affected the game of Janggi, which neither Officer Ahn nor Jeon Hee Seong anticipated. The young man could only view the killer as his savior and feel indebted. Consequently, both protagonists got closer to the point that they became first allies and finally real sex partners.

1. The introduction of Do Seong-Rok

What caught my attention is the way Evy introduced Do Seong-Rok. Note that he is slowly inserted. First, we only see his foot, then his leg and hand. This is relevant, because it already outlines his mysterious nature. This is not just a question of anonymity. Notice that during the whole introduction, he barely talks so that the readers can’t perceive his thoughts. Moreover, he only speaks on two occasions. First, he calls Ms. Jeon and later he describes the actual situation: he has removed the first target: (chapter 1) Therefore this is no coincidence that the reason why the murderer didn’t eliminate the prostitute is obscure. In other words, the main figure is an enigma per se, and the readers are asked to discern his personality, whereas Lee Je-Oh’s character is so easily exposed.

Since the former has no face and no identity in the beginning, the manhwaphiles are wondering not only about the situation, but also about the person with gloves and his motivation. And observe that the author showed first his back (chapter 1), even before unveiling his face. It was, as if he was a ghost and he only materializes the moment (chapter 1), he uses the cellphone to call his lover, the mastermind of this murder. This explains why his face is only revealed, when he uses the pronoun “I”. (chapter 1) That’s the moment he starts existing. He only lives, when he is in contact with Ms. Jeon. Yet through his words, the readers can detect the nature of their relationship. Ms. Jeon is his superior and mentor (he calls her “teacher”/Seonsangnim/ in the Korean version), whereas in the killer’s mind she is his lover.

2. The true nature of Jeon Hee-Seong’s relationship with the killer

But this is only unveiled much later, when the manhwaphiles see a letter which ends with a love confession (chapter 8) But if you pay attention, you’ll detect the emptiness of this declaration of affection. First, there’s no name attached to the “I love you”. It is so anonymous. Furthermore, the love confession is at the bottom of the letter, totally separated from the content of the letter. The first scene in chapter 1 already illustrated the gap between these two characters, for Do Seong-Rok was speaking to her formally. The absence of the informal speech is a clue that they are not intimate and close in truth. And now, if you combine this with the “love letter”, you can only come to the conclusion that Ms. Jeon is the one keeping the protagonist at a certain distance. All this truly exposes Jeon Hee-Seong’s true thoughts. She’s using Do Seong-Rok’s naivety and innocence. With a few words and a letter, she could manipulate the protagonist to commit assassinations. What caught my attention is that the main lead was incapable to see through her lies. In chapter 6, she stated that she was willing to dirty her hands in order to survive, yet the next minute she asked her lover if he would kill for her sake. (chapter 6) This displays her hypocrisy. She is not willing to kill in reality and prefers someone else to take the fall. And this contradiction truly exposes her talent in manipulation, but also Do Seong-Rok’s lack of discernment. Because she is his superior, it explicates why the red-haired man is always the one calling her first (chapter 1 and 6). She only contacted him, when she realized the kidnapping of the male prostitute, exposing that she has the upper hand in their relationship, whereas the killer would like to get her support.

And now you comprehend why she compared him to a lamb, when they first met. (chapter 16) Right from the start, she could notice his inexperience with women and in life as well. She portrayed him as naïve and maladroit. (chapter 16) In that scene, she acted as a righteous and kind person which gave a false first impression to the future assassin. She made sure that he wouldn’t be caught with a prostitute, for he was still a soldier. In other words, she behaved like his savior. She was full of integrity despite her job. Consequently, the readers can grasp why the main lead got attached to her. Since she had showed respect towards him and had helped him, he felt gratitude. At the same time, she was able to impress the young soldier due to her social competences and discernment. She could judge him correctly: he had been living in a bubble so far, therefore he was lacking experiences (“too much discipline”). Besides, he got so mesmerized by her. (chapter 16) This panel exposes the man’s genuineness and purity, as he revealed his true thoughts so easily. I would say that he was easy to read like an open book. So he was seduced by her intelligence and her beautiful body. From my point of view, she wooed him by taking his side in this incident despite her criticisms. Let’s not forget that his colleagues not only were looking down on him, when he refused to follow them, (chapter 16), but they also left him behind. Then, when Jeon Hee-Jeong put the card in his hand, she gave him the impression that he had the freedom to come back to her. He had a place to return, when he had finished his mandatory service. (chapter 16) In other words, she didn’t abandon him, though she left him behind too. And this is important in my opinion, for it explains why the main lead chose to seek her company. She was the first person who accepted him with his flaws, but she didn’t truly leave his side. And this leads me to the following conclusion: Do Seong-Rok has abandonment issues.

3. Do Seong-Rok’s past

Exactly like Lee Je-Oh, he has been abandoned by his parents. (chapter 12) However, the father left a letter behind announcing that he would come back at some point, but it never happened. What caught my attention in this picture is the person reading the letter left by the relative. The house looks well-maintained and the woman is wearing an apron. Yet, she seems so cold and unfriendly due to the absence of a smile and the eyes. In the first version, I thought that he had not been abandoned in an orphanage, but he was confided to a particular person. However, it turned out to be wrong. The reality is that he grew up in an orphanage (chapter 27), yet the persons working there could never give what he truly wished: a family. This signifies that I had perceived the person’s attitude correctly. The personal could never give the affection and warmth he had been longing. On the other hand, From my perspective, Do Seong-Rok grew up in a family from the middle-class. This signifies that he never had to face financial struggles, on the other hand the absence of eyes in the woman exposes her displeasure. So though he received a proper education, he must have felt as a burden as well. This would explain why Do Seong-Rok lived in a bubble for a long time. Abandoned by his biological parent, he didn’t desire to annoy more people, especially the family who took him in. That’s why he felt the need to abide by laws and to be very strict. He didn’t want to stand out. For him, assimilation was a mean to get acceptance. Therefore you understand why Do Seong-Rok is a lamb, for “conformity” was like a safety net. Consequently, Lee Je-Oh and the murderer have both something in common despite the social gap: isolation, lack of warmth and acceptance. On the other hand, the huge difference in their social status explains why Do Seong-Rok is so inexperienced and naïve. He never had to struggle to survive. Thus this explicates why Lee Je-Oh is so street-smart, while the other is so clumsy. By abiding to laws, he didn’t have to use his brain properly. Furthermore, I believe that due to the abandonment he kept his distance with people… out of fear that he might appear as a burden. That’s the reason why he had no girlfriend, until he met the prostitute. Besides, it is also possible that in his childhood he could only meddle with people with a similar background, hence he never had to encounter people with terrible fates. But by entering the army, it changed, as he was forced to interact with people from other social classes and with a different mindset. This explains why Do Seong-Rok entered the red-district for the first time, when he was 22 years old.

But let’s return our attention to the conversation between the former prostitute and the future assassin. Jeon Hee-Seong created so many positive reactions in the main lead that he could only be fascinated by her. She acted the opposite to the woman in the picture with the letter (chapter 12) versus (chapter 16): smiling, willing to help and to talk to him. She was like a surrogate mother in my opinion. Their first meeting played a huge role and exposes the dynamic between these two characters. Since their initial meeting, the young man had the impression that she was a decent person whose intelligence and sensibility couldn’t shine due to her poor circumstances. That’s why he viewed her as a mentor. She knew much more about life than him. Striking is that she compared him to a lost lamb. This animal is the symbol for innocence, sociability, but also conformity (due to Panurge’s sheep) and sacrifice (the lamb embodies Jesus Christ). And if you pay attention to chapter 16, you’ll notice that Do Seong-Rok only entered the red-light district, because he was following his fellows. This truly outlines a certain compliance and obedience. On the other hand, once arrived there, he realized the purpose of their visit. Hence he refused to do the same, revealing his integrity. Thus it is no surprise that he values monogamy so much. Since he had his first sexual experience with Jeon Hee-Seong, he could only judge her as his companion and lover. Besides, when they met for the second time, she made him feel special. She was dedicating her free time to him. (chapter 16) Therefore it is not astonishing that Lee Je-Oh considers Do Seong-Rok as a dog. The animal symbolizes loyalty, unconditional love and protection. When I read the prostitute’s comment in this panel (chapter 9), I couldn’t restrain myself connecting it to Hachiko, the dog who continued to wait at the train station for over nine years for its master, though the latter had already died. And now, I would like to combine this thought with my interpretation from the first chapter. The man appeared as a ghost and only started existing, the moment he was talking to the former prostitute. Waiting is often perceived as the contrary to life. Why? While you are waiting, you are not able to make any new experience. And this reinforces my perception: the killer was not truly living while waiting for his lover. The vengeful ghost gets a voice, the moment the first task in Jeon Hee-Seong’s revenge is completed. Thus I come to the first conclusion that Do Seong-Rok’s personality is strongly attached to the ex-prostitute. In the beginning, he only speaks and acts according to her wishes. In other words, he is her pawn and puppet, which is even underlined by his words. In the crime scene, he barely talks, he doesn’t express his thoughts and emotions. Everything is revolving about her instructions.

Secondly, the manhwalovers can observe the parallels between the two introductions of the two protagonists. Both are facing a corpse (Lee Soon Cheol and a goldfish) and both characters have a similar reaction. They are neither shocked nor scared. They remain calm and indifferent. Yet what is more surprising is that in the two situations, the author let us see the corpse through their eyes. This is what Do Seong-Rok is seeing, when he looks at his victim, while the second panel represents the perception from the prostitute, when he discovers the dead goldfish. Striking is that Lee Je-Oh can’t help himself making a comment in his head, while watching the floating corpse. This is important, as it reveals his talkativeness. This explicates why we get so much information about Lee Je-Oh in the first chapter. This exposes his need of communication. The whole first episode unveils his inner thoughts and emotions. And this stands in contradiction to the serial killer. The latter doesn’t express any own thought and emotion at all. I would even say that he is not even thinking at all. Once he has put the pawn in Lee Soon Cheol’s hand, he calls his mistress in order to announce the success of the killing. It was, as if he was acting like a robot, since he only talks, if it is necessary. Moreover, his lack of empathy and coldness is particularly palpable, when he uses the pronoun “it” for the victim Lee Soon Cheol. With “it”, the murderer externalizes his view about the sufferer. He is no human, rather an object or an animal, especially if the manhwaphiles recalls Lee Je-Oh’s remark: “It’s dead”. The latter was referring to the goldfish. This pronoun “it” exposes the killer’s mentality. He doesn’t consider his action as a wrongdoing, the victim was definitely no human due to his past actions. But don’t get me wrong, the assassin is not a psychopath or a man without a conscience and heart. That’s why he didn’t kill Je-Oh, though he had planned to remove him at some point. So now, it is time to elaborate my theory about his reason for sparing the male prostitute. First, the snake was not aware of the real connection between Ma Jong-Seok and Lee Je-Oh. She only thought, the latter was just a worker (chapter 16), while in reality the usurer had some feelings for him. He needed to ensure that Je-Oh would remain by his side. That’s why the young man was constantly brought to the clients and his minions were asked to keep an eye on him. Because of this mistake, she never gave any instruction about the male prostitute. Consequently Do Seong-Rok had no idea how to deal with him. Simultaneously, when he kept an eye on him, he was reminded of Jeon Hee-Seong’s fate. He could only pity the male whore, hence he was reluctant to kill him. (chapter 1) That’s the reason why there’s an interrogation point in the picture. This explicates too why he murdered the minions in the prostitute’s absence. However, remember how the protagonist had yelled at Do Seong-Rok, imagining that the person in the car was working for Chief. This meant that the male prostitute had noticed his presence. That’s how the red-haired man noticed that the male prostitute represented a source of threat. Hence he chose to remove him. So he entered his flat and waited for his arrival, but what he didn’t expect is Ma Jong-Seok’s sudden visit. Furthermore, when he approached them, he saw that Lee Je-Oh was smiling and waiting for his entrance.(chapter 2) In other words, Lee Je-Oh could have decided to call the cops and report an intruder before entering his home, but he never did. In my eyes, all this contributed to confuse the killer. Somehow he realized that the prostitute had been helping him. Therefore he didn’t kill them in the flat. Since they were together, he had to kidnap them together. But as you can see, Do Seong-Rok had a weak spot for the main lead, but he was definitely less important than his lover Jeon Hee Seong. That’s why the main lead is not allowed to touch her belongings.

The killer with a heart felt the murder of the guard justified and this is also confirmed in chapter 2, when the male prostitute considers his death as retribution for his bad behavior. According to the belief of the red-haired man, he is removing the persons responsible for Jeon Hee-Seong’s misery. Since police didn’t protect her, while she was abused (chapter 9) and no one listened to her side of the story, he feels entitled to get rid of them. That’s why in chapter 3, Do Seong-Rok got so upset with Ma Jong-Seok’s abnegation. In my eyes, his words must have triggered Do Seong-Rok’s memories concerning his girlfriend. The former prostitute made sure to portray her husband, the chief and the pimp as dark as possible, while she made herself appear as pure and innocent as possible. She was forced to marry Choi Yeong-Gil, yet the naive lamb couldn’t detect her lies. Let’s not forget that during their first meeting, she acted as the prostitute’s superior and chased away her minion. So she was no longer a simple victim, she was reinforcing the system of exploitation. She was already higher in the hierarchy. Secondly, like I explained in the previous essay, she was already possessing a parlor, when he husband got killed. She ensured to trigger negative emotions in the young man so that the latter would feel the need to kill her so-called oppressors. (chapter 16) That’s why I believe that Koo Jeong Mo is correct about his assessment of the former prostitute. (chapter 11) She is like the snake in the Bible, hence she is wearing a black dress with a red bra (chapter 16) or a red dress with a black bra (chapter 6). These colors are not random: they are linked to evil, blood and death. She seduced the innocent and pure Do Seong-Rok to sin, a new version of the original sin. My avid readers are already aware of the signification of the Fall of Man [read the essay A new version of Fall of man]. Eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge is a metaphor for the discovery for sex and sexuality. Hence the main lead loses his virginity with the prostitute. (chapter 16) Through her, the red-haired man discovers real life and as such pain. The manhwaworms should remember that after the expulsion from Eden, Eva and Adam discovered pain and death. And that’s exactly what is happening in the manhwa, though in my opinion Do Seong-Rok is a combination of Adam and Cain. Let’s not forget that Eva’s son killed his brother out of jealousy and resent. But since the snake views the young man as a lamb, this signifies that she has already planned to sacrifice him for her own interests. That’s why she tells officer Ahn that she has no real relationship to the murderer. (chapter 11) He is just her tool to achieve her goals: getting revenge but also getting powerful and wealthy. That’s why she didn’t give him a proper instruction how to get rid of the targets. Due to Do Seong-Rok’s lack of experience, Lee Je-Oh could notice the killer’s presence in the end. The latter has never been a schemer and a real strategist. (chapter 2) The reason for his mistakes is simple: he was an idealist lulled in an illusion, hypnotized by Ms. Jeon’s words. That’s why he had a nightmare (chapter 6), where he was slowly recognizing the true nature of her words. The nightmare was slowly bringing him back to reality making him recognize the true nature of his terrible actions. My explication is the following. He lived in an illusion, until he interacted with Lee Je-Oh. The latter represents reality and its real ugliness, while the former prostitute is viewed more like a goddess… she is an illusion. Hence the man with dyed hair treasured her belongings like sacred prizes. Furthermore, the connection between reality and the male prostitute is particularly perceptible in this image: (chapter 8) Besides, let’s not forget that after the nightmare, the protagonist gave a honest portrait of Do Seong-Rok. He is a sensitive murderer . (chapter 6). The black-haired man’s role is important, as he forces his ally to question the nature of his relationship with his girlfriend. (chapter 10) In chapter 18, he made him realize that he was now cheating on her and as such was no longer faithful. The longer Lee Je-Oh remained by his side, the more disillusioned Do Seong-Rok got about Ms. Jeon’s true nature. This is not surprising that at some point the assassin is no longer blindly trusting his goddess.

But this doesn’t mean that Do Seong-Rok has no redeeming qualities at all. He is also teaching the prostitute to value loyalty, trust and respect. Because of his blind trust and his weak heart, the black-haired man imagined that he was definitely superior to the killer due to his scheming nature. However, by playing a trick, the main lead got punished and was faced with reality too: he could get killed in the end. In other words, the murderer taught his ally to respect him too. Despite their quarrel, their trust didn’t get ruined. From my point, Lee Je-Oh will become faithful despite his past and job. Why? It is because of these words: (chapter 9) If he has a lover, then he will change his behavior. Therefore I believe that Do Seong-Rok will make the male prostitute discover that real love and selflessness still exist and are no chimera.

Since the male prostitute man embodies reality, this signifies that he forces the main lead to judge sexuality differently. He had a very romantic perception of sex and sexuality: heterosexuality and monogamy were the norms. Remember what I wrote above. He had internalized social norms in order to blend in the crowd and get acceptance. That’s why he had sex with a woman very late. But in the flat, he observes two men copulating, and slowly he gets attracted to Lee Je-Oh. This is not surprising that at some point he confuses both persons. In my opinion, this panel is important, because it explains the killer’s issues. On the one hand, he is reminded of his infidelity. Secondly, it made Do Seong-Rok slowly realize that the blush was not a sign for love, but simply for sexual arousal. He had imagined that she was in love with him with her reactions and words. But Lee Je-Oh as a mirror let him see the truth. He just had a sexual relationship with her in reality. So far, he had never questioned his own sexuality and had just followed the flow. There’s no ambiguity that Jeon Hee-Seong doesn’t envision that her pawn will prefer the male prostitute over her. She has no clue that he has already distanced himself from her. The beginning of their alienation was visible with the text containing a lie (chapter 8) and she is not even imagining that he has found an ally and is disobeying her words. She is so confident about her seductive skills and her beauty. This explains why Do Seong-Rok’s sexuality is gradually changing, though he tried to deny pleasure in the beginning. On the other side, since the prostitute has associated sex with power and violence, this is no coincidence that the killer feels aroused while strangling Ma Jong-Seok. Slowly, he is under the influence of Lee Je-Oh.

Striking is that in the manhwa, the killer is viewed either as a lamb, or as a dog, or as a god and finally as a grim reaper. What is he really? He is no god, for he makes mistakes and didn’t truly save the prostitute. (chapter For the snake, Do Seong-Rok was a lamb and her cannon. As for the dog, I find it very fascinating that Lee Je-Oh viewed himself as a dog. This shows their affinities in the end. They have something in common: both were abandoned and had no real home. Hence they lived somehow in seclusion. While the one became an outlaw (prostitution as a minor, stole a toy, stabbed Ma Jong-Seok), the other was living as a perfect citizen, following laws so that he wouldn’t get noticed and rejected. Finally, both have a conscience in the sense that they have a certain sense of justice. Both were and are seeking for a companion, both desire to feel needed and important. That’s why Do Seong-Rok got convinced to commit crimes. He thought, he could remain by her side.. he wanted to be her pillar, just like he asked her to be her savior. But she abandoned him too, when she told him this: (chapter 12), and the main lead could already sense it. In fact, she had planned a long time ago to betray him, the moment he had become useless. Remember that to her, people are like pieces of Janggi. In her eyes, Do Seong-Rok had always been the sacrificial lamb. (chapter 16)

From my point of view, Do Seong-Rok acts like a grim reaper who gives the death sentence for people who committed crimes. That’s why he is introduced as a vengeful ghost in the first chapter. This is no coincidence that he is wearing black during that night, as this figure is always painted with black clothes too.

grim reaper, death quoted from

quoted from

The most intriguing part is that the Grim reaper appeared, when the Black pest took place in Europe. Many people were dying and people thought that this was divine retribution for their sins. Temporal and religious authorities (King, Church) were questioned, especially the pope and its clergy. They were judged as corrupted which led to the creation of a new religious current: the floggers. They would flog themselves in order to beg for God’s mercy, but they would also commit murders and flog people, if they were judged as immoral and impious. And note the parallels between the real historical situation and the manhwa: In The pawn’s Revenge, authorities and society are portrayed in a very negative way: selfishness, greed, corruption and indifference are omnipresent. Therefore I am more convinced than ever that Lee Je-Oh will change Do Seong-Rok’s ultimate goal. This won’t be just liberation for the ex-prostitute, they will try to change the whole system in my opinion.

The fact that Do Seong-Rok is compared to different animals or figures truly displays the complexity of the character. From my point of point, the man with dyed hair has also been suffering like Lee Je-Oh, but he could never express it. This explicates why he conceal his thoughts and emotions. But due to his encounter with Lee Je-Oh, the former is slowly opening up. Hence he cries in front of the male prostitute or he confesses that he is aroused. (chapter 18) Thus I come to the conclusion that the killer was living in a similar situation than Je-Oh’s in his past: he was invisible to people and didn’t truly feel alive.

Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My instagram-tumblr-twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and for the support, particularly, I would like to thank all the new followers and people recommending my blog.

2 thoughts on “The Pawn’s Revenge: The goldfish and the lamb – part 2 🔞 (second version)

  1. Thanks for this analysis! It really does justice to this great manhwa. I’m fascinated by Seong-Rok for that he might look simple but appeared to be quite intelligent when he explained the chess game to Je-Oh. Both of them got sexually aroused when Ma was killed, which leads me to wonder if they’d become Bonnie and Clyde.

    Liked by 1 person

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