The 500 Won Coin
Episode 16 of My Liberation Notes starts with Gi-Jeong heading out for something to eat. However, awkwardness ensues when Tae-Hun happens to be there too. It turns out he wasn’t aware of her new hair style (which his friends comment on) and he stifles a smile.
What happens with the Liberation Club?
Elsewhere, Mi-Jeong passes her ex in the street but thinks twice about stopping Chun-Ho. Instead, she continues on to meet with the rest of the Liberation Club, Tae-Hun included.
Together, Sang-Min excitedly talks about a big opportunity. He has someone who wants to publish their diaries, believing it’ll resonate with people given it’s the inner-thoughts of regular office workers.
To protect their identities they want to use pseudonyms, although Tae-Hun is concerned as his diary is “too personal.” While the others discuss how they’ve been liberated by their experiences, even just a little, Tae-Hun doesn’t share that same enthusiasm. He tells then he’s found the root cause of his issues but hasn’t been able to do much about it.
What happens with Gu and his demons?
After wishing each other a Happy New Year, the four head home. On the way, Mi-Jeong bumps into Mr Gu. Now, earlier in the episode Chairman Shin gave the order to get rid of Hyeon and “shut the shop down” but instead, Gu shows mercy. He tells the gambler that if the revenue at the club drops below 80 million won, he’s out immediately.
With Mi-Jeong, Gu admits that he’s hearing things, typified by a phone ringing in the car. It’s obviously a side effect to drinking all day, with Gu admitting that it’s easier than staying sober. Drink has always been both a friend and enemy, and this time the boozy demons are causing hell for him.
Mi-Jeong talks about her woes too, including Chun-Ho who continues to taunt her. Gu wants his number to take care of him but Mi-Jeong refuses.
That weekend, Du-Hwan shows up to greet the three siblings as they head back to Sangpo. With bags of food, they head in to see Je-Ho for his birthday and to catch up on old times.
How does Je-Ho’s story end?
Before their big lunch though, Chang-Hee catches up with his friends, where he discusses how he’s managed to reduce down how much he spends. He’s effectively paid off his massive loan and done so by disciplining himself, remembering Gu’s advice given about the analogy involving the coins and the mountain.
Chang-Hee has always wanted to be rich and although he hasn’t won the lottery or anything, it’s fair to say he’s actually become more enriched in life.
That afternoon, he admits to the kids that he’s not as strong as they are, and even tells Chang-Hee that if he wants to live on his own then that’s absolutely fine too. It’s the first time we’ve heard him open up about his true feelings, given most of the time he’s been quiet and reflective.
What happens with Chang-Hee and Hyeok-Su?
When Chang-Hee heads back to Seoul, he arrives at the hospital but realizes that Hyeok-Su is not doing too well. He doesn’t have long left, so he hurriedly rings and messages Hyeon-A, trying to get through to her. She’s not picking up.
The thing is, this comes at the worst possible time. Chang-Hee is doing really well at work and on the cusp of having a big meeting with those from HQ. He’s left with a big decision to make. And that choice? He stays.
With Hyeon-A so unreliable, Chang-Hee comforts him, retorting how it’s his destiny to be here, given he’s the one who has witnessed 3 others (including his mum of course) passing away. “Don’t be afraid and leave peacefully. Gently.” He says, holding his hand.
Does Mi-Jeong get closure with her ex?
Elsewhere, Mi-Jeong heads upstairs and starts sifting through her old diaries. She looks through all the entries from “My Liberation Notes”, ready to ship then off to Sang-Min’s publisher friend.
At the bank, she finds Chun-Ho in front of her and tries to remain quiet. When she sees him brush past a woman in front, his bag touching her ass, she turns and confronts him. Mi-Jeong, of all people, sticks up for Chun-Ho and tells the woman the truth, that this was just an honest mistake.
This small act of kindness ripples outside, where Chun-ho waits to talk to her. The pair speak civilly outside, with Mi-Jeong biting her tongue and not shouting or demanding her money. Chun-Ho promises to wire 1 million won to her tomorrow. It’s a really nice scene, one that reinforces that sometimes kindness is the way forward rather than hostility.
Do Tae-Hun and Gi-Jeong stay together?
Back in Seoul, there’s continued drama with the family as Gyeong-Seon and Tae-Hun continue to have their problems. She belittles Gi-Jeong for not showing up at church again, claiming her father’s birthday is just an excuse.
Tae-Hun eventually heads out with Gi-Jeong, speaking to her about why they even got together in the first place. She wanted to be the one to cheer him on and definitely doesn’t want to break up.
Tae-Hun is in deep-rooted depression. He even admits to her that he’s not happy to be alive and when Gi-Jeong mentioned she wasn’t pregnant, he let out a sign involuntarily because he was relieved. Gi-Jeong listens to all of this and decides to continue supporting him all the same.
Symbolically, later on in the episode Tae-Hun drops off a rose to Gi-Jeong that night, but the head of the rose snapped off. When Gi-Jeong brings it in, she realizes she loves Tae-Hun, and messages him, telling him his buttons are done up wrong. It’s an open-ended conclusion but one that seems to hint that the pair have a future after all.
How does Chang-Hee find his purpose? Is it fate?
As for Chang-Hee, he heads off to a lecture but realizes he’s in the wrong room. When he tries to slip away, he hears the lecturer talking about funerals and being a director of this, and sees it as a sign.
This is fate once more bringing him closer to his purpose. It’s another really nice scene, and although the idea of death in itself is pretty grim and dark, the way Chang-Hee has realized that fate (whether it be God, another deity or something else entirely) is pulling him in his direction, makes him embrace this path laid out before him.
What happens to Gu at the club?
Back at the club, Gu finds himself in the presence of a number of loan sharks, who have come in their numbers to recoup their losses. Hyeon’s debt has caught up to him and with 160 million won owed, they mean business.
Gu gives the order to shut the shop, and a massive brawl ensues. In the middle of all this, Hyeon takes off with the money while Chun-Ja is a bloody mess on the floor.
How does My Liberation Notes end?
Through this hellacious day, Gu continues to take Mi-Jeong’s advice, clocking up the seconds of joy after work. When he drops a 500 won coin on the floor, it rolls over and lands on the drain, hanging on the edge.
This show has been a series of metaphors and symbolic gestures and this one is fantastic. The coin is stopped from falling into the gutter (where Gu could end up if he doesn’t make changes in his life) and as he laughs incredulously to himself, he decides to leave the bottle by the side of the road by a homeless person (which symbolizes rock-bottom in this metaphor). Trudging step by step, he’s going to try and better his life, and the first step to that is make sure he’s sober.
As for Mi-Jeong, she waits to see Gu, reflecting on how her Liberation Notes are split into two parts – before and after she met Gu. For now, she feels lovable and as she looks at the camera, smiling, this wonderful series comes to a close.
The Episode Review
There’s a lot to unpack in the finale of My Liberation Notes, and if there’s one thing this show has done fantastically well, it’s the symbolism and themes. The show has done so well to keep this going throughout the episodes and it seems fitting to end on one here too, given the coin and the drain.
For me, Chang-Hee is the one who gets the best ending. The idea of fate intervening and showing you purpose is a lovely way of giving this man some clarity, given he’s been drifting for some time now. It’s almost like he’s been tested up until this point, with every part of his life leading to this moment, stumbling into what he’s meant to do.
We’ve seen that Chang-Hee wanted to be rich but yet, the real fulfilment has come from disciplining himself into clearing all his debts and having money he can call his own. Only… that wasn’t his purpose. Not really. In a morbid but satisfyingly ironic way, Chang-Hee realizes that he’s destined to work as a funeral director which, I guess, does make sense given what he’s been through.
As for Mi-Jeong, the Liberation Club allowed her to externalize her inner thoughts we’ve been hearing through narration across the season. It’s actually quite interesting that Mi-Jeong has stopped that these past few episodes, symbolizing her confronting – and healing – her demons. That smile right at the end was so powerful and poignant.
Ultimately though, My Liberation Notes has been a fantastic drama. The writing has been superb and despite a rather slow start, has settled into a really good rhythm and managed to touch on a lot of important topics.
Is this the best K-drama of 2022? It’s certainly going to be a tough one to beat, that’s for sure!