Set during the 1999 fiscal crisis where unemployment in South Korea skyrocketed from 2% to 8% in under a year, Happy End daringly presents an unfamiliar situation that was in reality becoming more commonplace – the husband acting as domestic caretaker while the wife goes off to work. While Hollywood has tackled this subject in a lighthearted way (Mr. Mom) this was a real blow to Korean masculinity.
Casting Choi Min-sik (best known at the time for tough-guy roles) was an inspired choice. Here he plays Min-gi, an unemployed banker unable to find work who has been relegated to taking care of the house, the baby, and his wife Bora (Jeon Do-yeon). Jung wastes no time showing us that Min-gi and Bora have swapped roles not only within the household, but in societal stereotypes as well.
He spends his days sitting in second-hand bookstores reading romance novels and crying at night while watching bad television soap operas. In between, he is a Baby-Bjorn-wearing househusband responsible for keeping their lives in order. Bora works at an exclusive English-language school (for children of the wealthy), mistreats and shows no appreciation for her husband, and is having an affair with a man who works for her (who also happens to be a former lover).
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