Audio Version Available
Woo to the Young to the Woo.
Dong to Geu to the Rami. HA!
If these lines sound familiar to you, congratulations on joining the legion of fans of Extraordinary Attorney Woo, which has broken viewership records, becoming the most watched non-English series on Netflix, with 69.36 million hours watched over its entire season. And fans don’t have to be too sad with the last episode airing last night in Singapore, a second season has been confirmed!
And as for those lines? That’s just how best friends Woo Young-woo and Dong Geu-rami greet each other in the hit Netflix K-drama.
It even got its own viral Tiktok trend!
@netflixph Superior bestie behavior 💕 #parkeunbin #extraordinaryattorneywoo ♬ original sound – Netflix Philippines
Over the past couple of months, Singaporeans have been glued to the screens as Extraordinary Attorney Woo spent seven weeks in the Top 10 TV shows in Singapore. The K-drama depicts how the main protagonist Young-woo takes on challenges she faces as a newbie attorney at a top law firm. The twist? She’s on the autism spectrum.
This storyline catches our attention with a fresh take through the lens of the protagonist who has high-functioning autism on how she fights her daily battles in the competitive legal industry and tackles criticism from her colleagues and clients.
@inakimieee Extraordinary Attorney Woo’s greeting 😜 #koreandrama #koreanlanguage ♬ WooYoungWooGreeting – KOJOOBOO
I was really impressed by Park Eun-Bin’s acting and her detailed portrayal of a high-functioning autistic person. These can be seen in little details, like her morning routine, her micro facial expressions, and even her habit of counting to five before passing through a door.
Of course, there have been other shows before this, like Monk and The Good Doctor, but this is the first time such a protagonist has been portrayed in a K-drama series.
There has also been some well-meaning criticism on how Young-woo is portrayed as a “socially-acceptable” person with autism — her condition, known as savant syndrome, is not common among those on the spectrum in reality, yet often shown on television and in movies as if it is.
Despite these minor issues, I found myself totally charmed by the show.
What truly captured my heart are how dicey topics were discussed and how we see our heroine grow in empathy over the episodes.
Here are four things I’ve learnt watching Extraordinary Attorney Woo.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
Different but not so different
When Young-woo first joins her law firm, Hanbada, she is viewed as “different” despite going through the same education system as her peers and even passing the bar at the top of her class.
She was well aware of her surroundings even though later in the series she explains that people on the spectrum tend to focus more on their own world.
During the series, you can see from her facial expressions that she does get affected by the criticism or comments on her actions or what she says.
In the first episode, we see how Young-woo faces her first challenge: A revolving door! It’s also where we get the meet-cute between Young-woo and love interest Lee Jun-ho (more about it later), but her moment of childlike happiness when she finds a way through it is quickly dashed by a jealous colleague, who calls her “idiot” and “stupid”.
It reminds me that just like any other neurotypical person, people on the spectrum have feelings too. We sometimes treat them almost like children and play down their feelings, thinking that they won’t feel offended.
Other stories you might like
I like how the series reminds the audience to treat people on the spectrum just like any other person — they feel down when faced with any negativity in life too.
In the last episode, when someone important to her asks Young-woo if her life had been difficult for her, she responds simply — that this is her life and though it’s rather unusual and peculiar, it is valuable and beautiful.
One thing that I really like is how Young-woo would always rebound from her setbacks with great positivity and learn from her mistakes — just don’t get her talking about whales!
A small step to a stronger us
In the episode “A Tale About Sodeok-dong”, Young-woo and the team take on a case to stop the construction of a highway through a small town. Throughout the case, the town chief tries to persuade the residents to stay strong in overcoming issues together.
Doesn’t this remind us of kampung spirit?
Life in our HDB and private estates may not be as serious as facing legal issues together in our neighbourhood, but there are always chances to help our neighbours out. All we need is just to take the first step.
Other stories you might like
This reminds me of how in Tampines, a Malay man started helping his elderly neighbours put up decorations during festive periods, and that helped them grow closer.
Sometimes, proud or shy as we are, it’s easier for us to offer help than to ask for it. We should also be open to receiving help from neighbours when we are faced with issues.
Giving can be as much of a joy as receiving, and that’s how we form friendships in our neighbourhood!
Remembering those who help the helpless
My favourite episode is “Yangtze River Dolphin”, in which Young-woo and the team defend their client, Mir Life, which intends to force female employees to voluntarily quit their jobs.
This puts Young-woo at a moral dilemma as she personally disagrees with the unfair treatment but has to advocate for her client.
In this case, she faces off with opposing Attorney Ryu Jae-sook, famous for her humanitarian work.
Even though Jae-sook eventually lost the case, her passion for fighting against injustice inspires Young-woo.
The episode concludes with Jae-sook reciting a poem she had written.
The English translation doesn’t do the poetry much justice so please go watch it. It sounds much better in Korean, of course!
The gist of the poem is about how a piece of coal can bring warmth and comfort to someone else, but only at the cost of being burnt to ashes.
Other stories you might like
That reminded me of why I work in the social sector. Our work, and many others in the non-profit arena, may seem irrelevant at times, but it is important in holding together the fabric of society.
We may not win all the time, and very often we end up being burnt in the process, but many of those who volunteer their time, their resources and their efforts to help others in need are silent heroes.
Can you imagine a world without people like Jae-sook voicing out and advocating for those who need help or cannot fight for themselves?
Love on the spectrum
Of course, being a K-drama, there must be a love interest, and the love storyline between Young-woo and Jun-ho has been keeping viewers glued to their seats and (in my case) giggling furiously.
Some of my friends have expressed the opinion that it isn’t necessary to talk about romance for people on the spectrum, but I disagree wholeheartedly.
Others, like me, think that it is great to see things from Young-woo’s perspective. It is an important and eye-opening part of the conversation.
Everything is new to her as this is her first relationship. Her energy and excitement can be seen through her interactions with Jun-ho and exploring the likes and dislikes of her new relationship.
Yet, in K-dramas (as in real life), the course of true love never runs smooth.
In the “The Blue Night of Jeju” episode, Young-woo and Jun-ho visit his sister, who lives on Jeju Island, during a work trip. While Young-woo is in the bathroom, she overhears a conversation between the two siblings which led to her break up with him as she feels that someone with her condition would not be able to bring him happiness.
This to me, is another (albeit misguided) way of her showing her love for him.
I can see how she values Jun-ho and feels that he should have the freedom to find someone to be a better fit than her. Her love for him goes beyond what she wants from the relationship but what is best for Jun-ho.
Other stories you might like
From her perspective, that was her way of showing her love to Jun-ho, yet that wasn’t the ideal way from his perspective — instead he wanted Young-woo to communicate and walk through her thoughts with him.
Isn’t that something that any couple, neurotypical or not, need to work through?
During that episode, the hopeless romantic in me was wishing so hard that they could just communicate things properly and profess their love for each other!
Watching the last two episodes of this series was really bittersweet for me.
Bitter because I didn’t want the series to end just yet, but sweet because, yes, as most of us would have expected (but still, it was fun to watch it unfold), Jun-ho and Young-woo are officially back together again!
I really like how Jun-ho described their relationship as loving a cat, with Young-woo retorting that cats also reciprocate their love towards their owners!
It’s banter like this and small whimsical moments layered with a serious social message that charmed me and so many other viewers.
I really like how the writers shed positive light and spread awareness on autism through this series. It might be putting an overly glossy finish to a real social issue – on how people on the spectrum are treated in society – but it raises awareness and that’s a good start!
If you want a sweet, emotional, thoughtful yet cutesy K-drama to pick up, you can’t go wrong with Extraordinary Attorney Woo.
Who knows, you might be doing Young-Woo’s greeting with your friends soon!
Tan to the Kerng to the Ngee, signing out!