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That this is a drama about shoes, shoes worn by Hae Re.
Hae Re played a multitude of characters in the drama and each side of her wears a different pair of shoes.
In the opening scene, Hae Re can be seen flying through the air wearing an evening gown narrating her father’s quote “There was a man who said good shoes take people to good places. But I hated it when he said that. It was like giving false hope. So, I said it’s wrong. I said all the time that he was wrong. But today, he was right.”. She was having a blast, and for once agreed with the quote. In the closing scene of that hour’s episode, the film revisited the quote, with a close in on Hae Re’s heels. She was wearing the heels her late father made, as she takes the In Joon’s hand and ascend the stairs, and metaphorically ascending the social ladder. From thus on, Hae Re wears heels when things are going well for her.
Minutes into the show, the Hae Re who was chased by the police was seen wearing a pair of canvas. As she narrates her father’s quote and vehemently refutes it. (“He said good shoes take people to good places. He’s wrong. People wearing good shoes are in good places already. Putting on a different pair of shoes changes your life? Never”). The meaning of the canvas would be known to us shortly.
The second time, the film showed Hae Re in canvas, was when they introduced her comatose sister. In that scene, her sister’s caretaker abandoned them as Hae Re faced with money troubles is behind in hospital payments and unable to pay the caretaker. In episode 3, Hae Re sat outside her friend’s house lamenting about her fate. The film zoomed in on Hae Re’s canvas as she trod down a rock covered train track, looking at the skyscrapers. She had a first taste of her dreams, but crashed back to reality immediately after. The fourth time Hae Re wore canvas, the film had her rushing to the hospital, as her sister underwent surgery. She sat outside the operating theater, distressed and clutching her heart. Although the surgery was successful, Hae Re was faced with the burden of the surgery cost. Holding the hospital bills, she signs as she gazes at her comatose sister. There she recalls being chases through the streets by the police and knocked down by a cyclist, uncoincidentally wearing the same pair of canvas. In 4 episodes, the first broadcast of the show, the film has Hae Re in canvas associated with being knocked down by life, an unfortunate Hae Re. That pair of canvas would be symbolized misfortune.
It is also no coincidence that the film in episode 1, has In Joon recollects his unfortunate childhood. The scene focused on his canvas shoes, as crying young In Joon was seen dragging his luggage, kicked out of his home, avowing to return. The film has thus firmly associated canvas shoes as misfortune.
The Hae Re who was tough and struggles in the streets of Busan, wears a pair of leather boots. The boots give her a balance of feminine charm and masculine strength.
She was first seen with her boots, wearing a street leather jacket over a flowery dress. A dress that was dainty but wore under a tough leather jacket. In the noraebang scene, after the obnoxious business man splashed alcohol over her. Her response perfectly elicits those ideas. Hae Re looks so pitiful as she commented “It doesn’t feel uncomfortable when you’re soaked.” And she grits her teeth, as she continues “I don’t have take this off now, right?”. That first scene almost looked as though she was about to cry, and the audience to pity her, to empathize with her. And the second scene, as she retorted through clenched jaws, have the audience see the toughness within. In the follow up scene along the corridor of the noraebang, when In Joon caught up to Hae Re. Hae Re again displayed her fierceness by slapping and excoriating In Joon after he insulted her by insinuating that she was prostitute. Leather boots would be worn when Hae Re needs her strength.
The barefooted Hae Re was first seen in episode 2, as she took off her heels and mount the stage as an impromptu singer. The film once again called attention to her choice of footwear by focusing on her heels and barefeet, before showing the actress. Singing barefoot, her song touched the old business’s man heart, giving him pause, and ultimately reversing In Joon condemnation by the old business man.
As a gift, the old business man invited Hae Re and In Joon on a helicopter ride. She wore her heels and the film revisited the opening scene, where she reminisced about her father quote on shoes. She agrees after a lifetime of disbelieve that a good pair of shoes bring the wearer to a good place. She is delighted as she gazes on the fireworks, high above the skyline. However, when the chopper lands, she was slapped back into reality by Cha Soo Hyun (female lead #2). Hae Re was admonished and insulted. The next scene cuts to Hae Re, holding her heels, walking backfooted in the rain. It was also raining in her heart as she struggles to held back her tears.
The camera focus again on her bare feet, as we see In Joon appears, chasing after her. Hae Re glanced back, but was perhaps too ashamed, and carries walking. In Joon caught up to her, as the music plays in the background. “You know, nobody can touch my heart like you do. I just want to close my eyes to fool you.” As though cued by the music, Hae Re looks at In Joon, then down in embarrassment and closes her eyes. A dramatic pause, and film fade to grey, as In Joon covers Hae Re with his jacket. Stunned, and perhaps hoping for more, Hae Re downward gaze wavers. The music returns, and In Joon is seen walking off. Hae Re shatters and resumed her solitude mope in the rain.
From here, the film marks the absence of footwear, the barefooted Hae Re as one in transition, where her fortunes may rise and dip, for good or for bad, it marks a change, like how she is to change her footwear.
In 1 showtime, the film has cemented the importance of Hae Re’s choice in footwear. Wearing heels symbolized good fortune, canvas misfortune, boots her feminine masked by masculinity and bare feet the transition between fortunes.
Nice analysis. I saw Hae Ra's barefoot interludes as moments of vulnerability observed by In Joon. Her third barefoot moment was when she gifted In Joon the shoes of his mother's design. She's barefoot when she tells him, "Don't get married."
Intellectually I understand your argument for shoes representing strength or misfortune. But as a designer, I hate these shoes. Why is everything so freaking high? It's not just this show. K-drama women, in general, wear towering stilettos at work when, in reality, it's hard to get through a couple hours wearing anything higher than 3 inches (unless they're platforms, reducing the angle of the foot.)
It's not just a matter of taste. It's not practical or healthy to wear stilettos every day, all day long. I admit I have a cultural bias as well. I live in a casual, cold city in the U.S. My fellow designers are more likely to wear low-heeled, slim, tall riding-style boots at this time of year. They're chic, elegant and still allow you to run and kick if you have to.