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Readers familiar with The Pawn’s Revenge might be surprised that I selected such a title, because when you read the sypnosis and see this panel, it gives you the opposite impression: dark, asphyxiating, destructive and hopeless.
However, when I read the latest chapter (chapter 21), I couldn’t help myself connecting it to hope, and as such to belief, aspiration and goal. And now, you might wonder how.
1. Kang Hyeon-Won’s memory
First, it is related to Kang Hyeon-Jong, , the missing brother from lieutenant Kang Hyeon-Woo. When the former confides his intentions to his brother (he would like to clean the corruption in the police forces and remove the dirty connections between authorities and the red-light district), the former appears integer, righteous, courageous and determined. This means, he is full of energy and aspirations to achieve his goal.
But what caught my attention is that when Kang Hyeon-Woo recalls his conversation with his brother, we see them discussing it on the top of a hill. Not only they have a perfect view over the city, but also the weather is quite nice. The sky is blue and there are a few clouds. Finally they are sitting in a park surrounded by nature. As you can imagine, in my eyes this scenery is not random at all. This scene is full of symbolism.
The presence of the hill with the perfect view over the city is an indication that Kang Hyeon-Jong had the bigger picture of the situation in his head. He knew what was going on: officer Ahn was working with the hostess Jeon Hee-Seong, and the latter had already planned something out of resent. In addition, he was well aware that many police officers were dirty. Therefore the sight over the city is a metaphor of Kang Hyeon-Jong’s thoughts. The existence of the recorded evidence and his words to his brother truly display Kang Hyeon-Jong as an idealist and pure police officer. He was full of hope and bravery. Moreover, a hill represents the climb to higher attainment, wider view of life or opportunities. Hence it is linked to potential and change either. And now the manhwaphiles can grasp that the detective’s selected place mirrored his state of mind. He was attempting to climb to the top to remove all the corruptive elements.
This perception was also reinforced, when Evy drew this panel combined with the idioms “chance” and “expose this case to the public”. Note the presence of the wooden plank in the bottom. It was, as if the perspective and the wooden plank were the stage, and the city in the background was symbolizing the public. In other words, the scenery was representing the detective’s vision. He was full of confidence and dream here. Moreover, since it is an open air area, you can breathe more easily. This signifies that the scenery oozes a certain relief, liberation and release. The brother could confide to his brother about his intentions and his latest information. He knew that the young detective was trustworthy and would support him. It represented a moment of relaxation for the investigating Kang Hyeon-Jong. Thus the readers see the machines as a symbol for relaxation and entertainment. Since the hyung was disclosing his discoveries and his evidence, it means that the younger brother was his pillar in his quest to clean up the police forces.
But there exists another element for this interpretation. The cloud is linked to future, dream and change, because clouds always move on and their form can change. Besides, since they are close to the sky, the clouds are connected to the gods, the former are bringing messages from the gods. That’s why in certain cultures, shamans would read the clouds and interpret these. And now, you understand why the author created such a scene. The cloud was embodying the detective’s dream and ambition. He was full of hope.
2. Hope versus fear and doubt
In that moment, I realized that the author used the sceneries to express certain ideas and emotions. Remember how Lee Je-Oh reacted after leaving his testimony to Park Gwang-Soo. He expressed his admiration about the murderer. (chapter 2) Note the similarities: We had a nice weather with clouds and a hill in the background. The male prostitute was also full of hope here. He could breathe in that moment, he had lost another violent tormentor to his relief. Therefore I came to realize the existence of the connection between dream and nature contrasting to the city represented as a chicken battery.
And these two scenes (chapter 21-2) lead me to the following observation. The weather and the place reflect the mental disposition of the characters. When Do Seong-Rok killed the first victim, it was night, dark and raining. (chapter 1) Furthermore, he abandoned the corpse in an abandoned area. This scene was quite oppressing and depressing which mirrored the perpetrator’s disposition. Let’s not forget that later the manhwaphiles could witness the murderer’s fears, when he had a nightmare. (chapter 6) Instead of looking up to the sky (a symbol for dream and hope), the criminal looked down. I could bring up another scene: (chapter 16) Both characters are looking down, both hurt and depressed. The prostitute is full of doubts and resigning to her fate. She will do anything in order to survive, and if it is necessary, she will betray and abandon her lover. She announces that she will be definitely ruthless and selfish. She is no longer expecting happiness and relaxation. It’s a fight for her. Besides, in that scene, the city looks lifeless, as there are no plant or people. I would even say, it’s suffocating, for the sky is so dark and clouded. It was, as if it functioned as a lid. As a conclusion, the weather and the scene reflect the character’s state of mind. The blue sky with clouds is linked to hope, while a raining dark grey day is associated to hopelessness, fear and doubts. Thus the town is related to suffocation, loneliness and resignation. Let’s not forget that the characters are all embodying animals (Lee Je-Oh is a goldfish and a dog, Do Seong-Rok is a dog, Jeon Hee-Seong is a snake etc…), but the problem is that they are all trapped in the Janggi game, that’s why they are not free and feel so oppressed. In my opinion, the Janggi board is in reality the city itself. Instead of representing civilization and progress, the town embodies despair, corruption and asphyxiation: death.
3. The couple in the bedchamber
And now, it is time to look again at the episode 21. If you compare the bed scenes with the protagonists, you’ll detect a huge change. The room and the sheets appear so white and pure (chapter 21), which contrasts to this scene for example (chapter 7) where grey was the dominant color. Contrary to the scene in episode 7, the main leads are no longer separated by the sheet, and they are facing each other. As you can sense, the color and the position mirror their increasing closeness and trust. I would say that the main couple is full of hope in that chapter. This is particularly perceptible in this image. Lee Je-Oh is already thinking about the future. He is confident in his skills and intelligence to protect his partner. The presence of relief and aspiration explains why the main leads are tender and caring towards each other. Here, you might argue that we don’t have the presence of nature, hence this contradicts my previous interpretation that nature is a signal of liberation and relief. However, I can refute this argument by pointing out that we don’t see the city here. In my eyes, the room has now become a refuge, a shelter of two wounded and lonely souls. Lee Je-Oh is no longer viewing the bedchamber as a place where he is held hostage. He is now cohabiting with the murderer. Thanks to him, Seong-Rok could sleep much better and wasn’t tormented by a nightmare, though he had killed Ma Jeong-Seok. To sum up, the bedroom shouldn’t be judged as a contradiction to nature. It is the place for privacy and relief as well. Furthermore, the better the bond between the killer and the male prostitute is, the clearer the room appears.
4. Kang Hyeon-Woo’s hope
Due to these last significations (the symbolism of the scenery and the bedroom as a shelter and place to relax and privacy), I come to the final scene from the chapter 21: Kang Hyeon-Woo in his bedroom. The latter is still full of hope as well despite the loss of his brother. He hasn’t given up on his dream and ambition. Consequently he makes this promise to fulfil his brother’s hope. Hence Kang Hyeon-Jong’s uniform hangs on the wall at the end of the bed. It symbolizes the detective’s goal: he is seeking for the truth and eradication of corruption. The bedroom is the officer’s refuge, where he can express his true thoughts and emotions. He doesn’t feel lonely, because he still has the brother’s uniform by his side. It was, as if the latter was still alive and by his side. And if you pay attention to the images, you’ll detect the indirect presence of nature: the wallpaper. It is slightly green and there are flowers. I tried to identify the flower, but I wasn’t sure. For me, it looks like a chrysanthemum which symbolizes longevity, fidelity, joy and optimism. Naturally, this flower has other meanings, but it depends on the color. A white one is offered to the relatives of the deceased as a sign of grief. On the other hand, a white chrysanthemum signifies loyalty and honesty. Striking is that the flower has the same color than the shirt Kang Hyeon-Jong was wearing, when he was confessing his last discoveries and dream. Consequently, I come to the conclusion that the flower in the background embodies the missing brother who is supporting Kang Hyeon-Woo in his quest to find the truth. One might argue that this can only be a coincidence, yet I can bring up the following point. Evy selected for each character a particular flower and color: But like I mentioned above, I am not certain about the identity of the flower on the wallpaper. It could be a dahlia too… If you have any idea or suggestion, feel free to leave a comment.
One thing is sure: the flower represents the brother and the light green could be seen as an allusion to the lieutenant’s actual investigation. He is only at the beginning of his quest: unveiling the truth. He is not aware that his brother’s former partner, Kim Seung-Tae, is also involved. (chapter 20) Though the latter desires to give the lieutenant the impression that he is honest and supportive, in reality it is the opposite. Since he asked the lieutenant for update, though he is quitting his job, this means that Kim Seung-Tae is actually asking for information. In my eyes, he belongs to the team facing officer Ahn and Jeon Hee-Seong.
Since the recorded evidence has not been used against officer Ahn, we can conclude that the opposite team doesn’t have it either, because they didn’t blackmail the former prostitute and her lover. In my opinion, the idealist Kang Hyeon-Jong made a huge mistake. While he was investigating his superior Ahn, he didn’t imagine that his partner was unethical too. Let’s not forget that when the hyung confided to his brother, he mentioned the prostitute’s resent against the brothel crowd. That’s why I think that he must have been digging some information about the origins for her animosity. Koo Jeong-Mo revealed that they did something terrible to her, indicating that this incident was quite important. In other words, Kang Hyeon-Jong must have discovered the existence of this terrible event. And if I recognized the flower correctly which embodies loyalty, this would explain why the officer went missing. He got betrayed by his partner, for he didn’t expect it. All his attention was focused on officer Ahn and the prostitute, because the two were more obvious.
And now, it is time to refer to the second meaning of the cloud. The latter is also related to secret and danger, as it hides the sun. This truly reflects the hyung’s past situation. He wasn’t aware of the deception surrounding him. Furthermore, I have two other reasons to suspect Kim Seung-Tae: the scar on his face and the black clothes, a symbol for death. So by meeting the younger brother, Kang Hyeon-Jong’s partner can hope to find evidences against his enemy and rival Ahn. And now, you understand why the conversation between Kang Hyeon-Woo and Kim Seung-Tae took place outside close to trees. The young officer full of energy and ambition represented a source of aspiration for the former police officer. The latter could get real results in order to get rid of his enemies. Once the officers supporting Ahn are removed, he can place people close to him so that the corruption and as such connections between the authorities and the red-light district remains unchanged.
As a conclusion, the chapter 21 stands for hope, belief and confidence. That’s why I love this manhwa very much😍 and recommend it. The story might be dark and painful, yet the author manages to find the right balance between light and darkness. The killer is the perfect example. He has already dirtied his hands, yet many readers are not condemning him, for he is not doing it out of selfishness, greed and sadism. He was in reality manipulated by the prostitute. And remember my interpretation in “Janggi and life”. In my eyes, only the criminal couple and the detective Kang Hyeon-Woo will be able to destroy this terrible corruption: the revolution is on its way.
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