Mad Place: Smiling ghost 👻 and sinful priest

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After reading such a title, readers familiar with this story will wonder how I came to select such a headline, because it gives the impression that this manhwa contains supernatural elements, while in reality the story is a mystery, or more precisely a crime novel. Besides, the illustration of Mad Place is clearly reflecting this situation. The Korean prosecutor, Gu Sehyuk, has handcuffed and trapped in his arms the suspect Ha Ideun, while holding the keys of the handcuffs in one hand. But if you pay attention to the scenery, you will notice that the district attorney is also trapped, hugged by the chaebol Ha Ideun. Yet, at no moment there‘s a presence of a ghost or a priest.

However, the manhwaphiles should look carefully at the way the two protagonists are introduced and even portrayed. Only through a meticulous analysis, they will realize that both characters are more than just a prosecutor and a chairman‘s son.

1. Ha Ideun: the smiling ghost

And now, it is time to focus on Ha Ideun. (Chapter 7) After viewing such a panel, the readers can only judge him as weird, but funny. Though the main lead is now a murder suspect, he keeps smiling while making requests, and as you can see, his main condition is sex. Because of such a behavior, he can not look trustworthy in the attorney district’s eyes, rather obsessed with sex. It was, as if he was amused by this situation. That‘s even how Gu Sehyuk views him in the beginning of this story. Nonetheless, this is just a deception. The man is actually using the situation for his own benefit. Why? First, his first request is quite serious. He is asking for an investigation. (Chapter 2) This signifies that he needs Gu Sehuyk’s help and power as district prosecutor. And this observation leads me to the following conclusion. He created such an opportunity to approach his target, Gu Sehyuk. How did I come to such a conclusion?

1. 1. The true relationship between Ha Ideun and Gu Sehyuk

The author gave us clues on different occasions. First, he knows the code for the house. (Chapter 12) I doubt that the main lead gave it to the „suspect“, since the latter is under investigation. Secondly, he knows the prosecution officer’s life so well. Observe that he is the one telling the young detective how long Gu Sehuyk will stay at work. (Chapter 12) Moreover, he knows about the death of Gu Sehyuk’s brother and the circumstances of his assassination. That’s why he sent him a picture of the killer, Yoon Gyuho, who had committed suicide right after. Then, the manhwaworms can witness him kissing the prosecutor’s wrist tenderly, a sign of affection. He might have introduced himself as his biggest fan (chapter 2), yet such a gentle kiss expresses more than just admiration. Moreover, I would like to point out the absence of the eyes in the last picture, a sign that the protagonist is here wearing a mask and not entirely honest.

All these elements truly expose that he is well informed about the district attorney‘s life. But since the latter has no idea how he is connected to the „suspect“, the first assumption would be that Ha Ideun has been spying on him like a shadow. A second possibility would be that he was an acquaintance of Gu Sihwan, the assassinated brother, but the prosecutor was left in the ignorance. Yet, I have to admit that I have a different theory. I am actually more inclined to perceive him as a ghost from Gu Sehyuk‘s past, but the latter has no recollection due to his trauma. This means that he would have ghosted Ha Ideun. This theory would also explain why he proposes the deal: sex in exchange for information. That way, he would restore their past relationship. As you can detect, for me the sex scenes in a really good manhwa are not just created for entertainment, they always have a purpose (see Painter Of The Night, The Pawn’s revenge etc.) Moreover, we could perceive the ghost’s behavior in episode 18 as an evidence for this thesis. (Episode 18) Notice that in this scene, the „suspect“ is blushing and hiding his gaze with his hand, while he admits that he did it because of him. In addition, he reminds the attorney district of their actual situation. One sex session means the divulgation of intel. Here, Gu Sehyuk had the impression that he was the only one who got carried away, whereas Ha Ideun was still able to remain rational and calm. Yet, due the blushing and the covering of his eyes, it becomes obvious that the „suspect“ was definitely moved. Besides, Ha Ideun justifies his action with the prosecutor. It is for him or his brother. Then he begs him for his trust. Yet, this is just a theory of mine and you have every right to think otherwise. But one thing is sure: the young man is definitely more close to Gu Sehyuk than the latter is aware.

1. 2. The traces of a spirit

As you could see, I used in two opportunities the idiom „ghost“, when I described his relationship with the prosecutor:

  • to ghost someone one: (slang) to ignore someone, until they go away. This phrase is often applied to failed love relationships.
  • a ghost from (one‘s) past: the reappearance in the present of someone or something unsettling from one‘s past. Quoted from

Yet, at no moment I elaborated why I couldn‘t help myself connecting the chaebol‘s son to a phantom. First, the protagonist is presented as Gu Sihwan‘s shadow (chapter 6), exposing that both characters are similar and in fact related. Furthermore, what caught my attention is that the face of the chairman’s third son is never revealed to citizens, when his arrest is mentioned in the news. In fact, we only get to see a white television screen. (Chapter 1) But this doesn‘t stop here. Later, when the attorney district meets the deputy prosecutor general Na Joohwan, the latter reveals that during a search concerning the existence of a slush fund, he noticed that Ha Ideun’s room was devoid of life. (chapter 8). There was no picture and no cloth. It was, as if the owner of the room was a phantom. Besides, note that we have the presence of white again. The manhwaphiles certainly know the expressions „white as a sheet“, „pale/white like a ghost“. As you can see, these panels reflect these idioms. That’s how I connected the chaebol’s son to a ghost.

Furthermore, if the manhwalovers recall how the young man is described, they will notice that neither the detective and the prosecutors can truly perceive his identity. He is rumored to be consumed by sex (chapter 7), he is not working and he doesn’t own any apartment. In other words, he is living in the shadow, for he has no possession and is not interacting with people. His sexual habits are presented as hearsay. And now, you comprehend why I made this association. That‘s why it is not surprising that at the end of episode 18, Gu Sehyuk wondered about Ha Ideun‘s true personality.

And note again that the young man appears quite emotional, once he is alone in front of the mirror. This truly exposes that their last sex session definitely affected him and he was controlling himself, when he made new revelations.

Another parallel is his words addressed to Gu Sehyuk. First, he confesses to him that he knows the truth. (Chapter 5), while the district attorney is only aware of facts. (Chapter 4) There’s no doubt that the suspect is telling the truth. He is not blinded by agony, like Gu Sehyuk who suffered a lot from his brother’s loss. I will explain the difference between truth and facts more in details later. Besides, let‘s not forget that a spirit is able to see more than humans, because they are detached from the physical world. They can move from one place to another very easily. Therefore they can gain more insight than mortals. As a ghost, he is able to spy and discover new clues.

1. 3. The spirit’s light

Since Ha Ideun is related to the color white, a symbol for purity, wisdom, knowledge and light, it becomes obvious that the young man is in reality more than just a hedonistic and carefree person. Observe this scenery: (chapter 2) The light oozing from the television stands in the protagonist’s back and illuminates the prosecutor. It was, as if Ha Ideun was bringing light into the main lead’s darkness. With his knowledge, he will be able to help to unveil the mystery of his brother’s death. For me, there’s no ambiguity that he has long planned to approach the prosecutor and he knows very well, why Gu Sihwan was murdered. But he can‘t reveal everything at once, because the latter would never believe him. Besides, he needs to prepare the protagonist to face the truth and exactly for this reason, the young man has to investigate himself. Only by becoming the investigator, Gu Sehyuk can discover and accept the verity. Moreover, Ha Ideun has to gain the prosecutor‘s trust. And now the manhwaphiles can comprehend why he is asking for the prosecution officer‘s confidence. (Chapter 15) Therefore he is willing to be investigated and questioned by Gu Sehyuk. He has no problem to get tested. Since he is clean, he has nothing to fear. On the other hand, he is not releasing much information, because he is well aware that his knowledge could generate suspicions among the prosecution office. Observe that once caught in the CCTV, he was immediately turned into a murder suspect. Words can be misinterpreted, hence he is very reluctant to speak so freely. The readers should keep in their mind that each information he gave was related to a concrete evidence (the picture, the bag full of drugs and the knife), (Chapter 15) something that can not be tampered, as long as the district attorney is supervising the investigation. In other words, he is guiding the district attorney to unveil the mystery.

1. 4. The reason for the ghost‘s appearance

And now, you might be wondering why he approached the prosecutor after two years. In my opinion, it is related to his good notoriety. Gu Sehyuk has become famous as a hardliner, as a serious and integer prosecutor. He made sure that the accused would always receive a harsh sentence. Nonetheless, there exists another reason from my perspective. Since Ha Ideun is a „ghost“, this signifies that he is powerless. I suspect that the absence of his life and presence is related to his other brother Ha Sungjoon. (Chapter 2) After analyzing so many manhwas, I discovered that many characters wearing glasses were hypocrites, often manipulative and ruthless. Hence I am suspecting that everything is related to Hasung Group. I believe that Ha Ideun’s powerlessness is related to Ha Sungjoon. Note that in that scene, the main lead showed a disdain towards his brother, when the latter appeared on television. There exists a rivalry and Ha Ideun‘s bad reputation (lazy, consumed by sex) is definitely playing into Ha Sungjoon‘s hands. Simultaneously, it could be a diversion from the main lead‘s part, that way he could deceive his brother and investigate his crimes. The manhwaworms shouldn‘t forget the existence of a slush fund and the sudden increase of benefits from Hasung Group.

Finally, by approaching the district attorney, Ha Ideun is slowly revealing his existence to the outside world. For the first time, his name becomes public. This means, he can no longer be hidden. This is no coincidence that he allows the NFS to take his hair and blood, because that way he can prove his existence. I have to confess that Ha Ideun sounds similar to „hide“. From my perspective, it looks like the protagonist was forced to live in the shadow. And now, with this interpretation, it becomes more understandable why he would make the request to have sex. Through sexual encounters, he has the impression to feel alive. It was his only way to prove his existence. Furthermore, it would give him the perfect excuse to hide his true intentions. He needs Gu Sehyuk’s strength and trust, and through intimacy, he can get his faith and as such justice.

2. Gu Sehyuk: The sinful priest

Now, the manhwaphiles are wondering about the origin of this interpretation. What caught my attention is the protagonist’s behavior. First, he lives like a hermit, keeping his distance from his coworkers and totally disinterested in worldly pleasures. This explicates why after his victory at the trial he refuses to celebrate with his colleague. (Chapter 1) His whole life is revolving around his work as prosecutor, a life full of dedication, humbleness and chastity. He is actually not truly living, just determined to keep his vows. He is making sure that the defendants are all receiving harsh sentence. (Chapter 1) What the other district attorney calls as obsession, is in my eyes the protagonist’s religion.

2. 1. Gu Sehyuk‘s cult

The way I portrayed the main lead reminds me of a priest, and more precisely of a monk: seclusion, modesty, abstinence of worldly pleasure, hard work and virtue are the features corresponding to a ascetic. His cult is to make sure that culprits are receiving their punishment, since he failed to do it with his brother. It was, as if he was trying to absolve his sin towards Gu Sihwan. But if Gu Sehyuk is a priest, then he needs to have a shrine. (Chapter 3) The pictures on the cupboard are representing his „idol“ or „saint“. Since Gu Sihwan got assassinated, he became a martyr and his brother turned him into a „saint“. And now, you comprehend why Ha Ideun is not allowed to touch his deceased brother’s belonging. They are sacred relics. Therefore it is not surprising that the brother’s bedroom is associated to white as well: It was, as if his bedroom was a crypt. That’s why I came to the following interpretation. The mansion, which Gu Sehyuk described as „frozen in time“, is his tempel. Consequently, his residence is intemporal. Because this is a sacred place, he can’t live properly there. At the same time, he feels the intrusion of a stranger as a sacrilege. Therefore the manhwaphiles can grasp why Gu Sehyuk cleaned the house after the ghost‘s visit. (Chapter 3) The tempel had lost his purity. The reason for his transformation is naturally his brother’s murder. The latter suffered so much from it, that he couldn’t move on. This is no coincidence that once he is confronted with the culprit’s face, he gets a flashback, a panic attack. (Chapter 3) But since he is so trapped in his past, he starts suffering, once he encounters Ha Ideun, for the latter forces him to remember his repressed memories.

2. 2. Truth versus facts

Because he lived as a monk, he never got the occasion to get emotional. However, once the „ghost“ touched his wounds from the past, the prosecutor could only get infuriated and upset, and as such became a sinner. This is not surprising that he even got violent. And now, it is time to explain what Ha Ideun meant with this:

(Chapter 4) The hard working man witnessed Gu Sihwan’s murder and caught the culprit at the crime scene. Hence he could never forget his face. But the problem is that memories are never objective. They are definitely influenced by the subject‘s past experiences, emotions and mentality. What Gu Sehuyk saw here could be viewed differently. He views a murderer in this image, while I detect the killer‘s despair and angst through the eyes. From my point of view, the man was not lusting for blood, though he stabbed him 7 times, a sign for rage and madness. And notice that after the crime, Gu Sehuyk investigated the matter from the culprit‘s perspective. Why would he stab his brother 7 times? Why would he do this? In other words, he tried to find out his motivations. But like Ha Ideun pointed out, he was missing something important there: the victim. (Chapter 4) Because he was close to his brother, he had the impression that he knew his brother: he was a smiling and cheerful person with no secret. The picture of his idol exposes Gu Sehyuk‘s blindness. And now, you comprehend why the „ghost“ put it down in the end. This was not the truth, Gu Sihwan hid things from his brother. And this leads me to the following conclusion. Because the prosecutor idolized his brother so much, he couldn‘t discover the truth. Moreover, he acted like every district attorney. They just need to catch the culprit and the case is closed. However, there‘s a huge difference between truth and identifying the perpetrator‘s identity. There was definitely a conspiracy, but the protagonist failed to see this, as he was too obsessed with the assassin. Here I would like to mention my other essay called „Truth and memories: Memorist, Nobody knows, Find me in your memories and The King“, where I elaborated the problematic of unveiling the truth through memories.

Under this new light, it becomes comprehensible, why Ha Ideun switched on the light in the prosecutor‘s residence, which caught the district attorney by surprise. This has a methaphorical signification. He brings the prosecutor closer to the truth, he enlightens him. This explicates too why the spirit entered Gu Sihwan‘s room and grabbed his book. He was violating the sacred place for one reason. He wanted Gu Sehyuk to leave the darkness of his temple and fight for his brother’s rights. (Chapter 4) Why did he have to die? Ha Ideun needs to transform the deceased brother into a human so that Gu Sehyuk decides to look into his brother’s past life.

2. 3. Mad Place

However, Ha Ideun has to change the prosecutor’s way of life as well. He needs to force him to become sinful so that he stops being a monk and the house is no longer perceived as a shrine. That’s another reason why the „suspect“ requests sex as an exchange for information. He is inciting the main lead to become a sinner. That way, the main lead is pressured to drop his role as an ascetic. By turning him into a sinful priest, the latter is forced to question himself. Hence the main lead gets violent enraged in the episode 3 and 4, signs of wrongdoings. Besides, this is exactly what is happening in episode 18. For the first time, he discovers pleasures and is taken by surprise. He wonders why he acted like this. (Chapter 18) In my eyes, this scene indicates that Gu Sehyuk is slowly coming back to life. But the problem is that the main lead has lived like that for two years, therefore he won’t change right away. From my point of view, his „temple“ will become a mad place, because he commits a sin in a sacred place. (Chapter 1) Ha Ideun won’t be able to remove the prosecutor’s religion despite their sex sessions, as long as the truth is not totally unveiled. This is my explanation why Junah chose such a title.

And now, you comprehend why both protagonists are trapped in each other‘s embrace. Both need each other in order to unveil the whole truth. Ha Ideun is definitely lacking power, as he has always lived in the shadow. He needs to become a human in order to get justice, just like Gu Sihwan.

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