In the entire cast of “Queenmaker,” Baek Jae Min, played by Ryu Soo Young, was the only one with enough charisma to justify his role as a politician. While that works for him, it remains a sad thing indeed for the purpose of the series. He was supposed to be the catalyst, the one whose actions forced Oh Kyung Sook and Hwang Do Hee to bring out their entire arsenal of cunning, which proved the ingenuity of thought that only women could possess. However, in our previous articles on the series, we have established why the unconscious catering to patriarchy made that impossible. This meant that Baek Jae Min turned from a formidable villain to just someone who couldn’t keep the mud away from his name in the nick of time. He was perfect for the kind of character that people love to hate, but of course, he remained mediocre.
However, unlike Oh Kyung Sook, he was not naive to politics. He had been patiently biding his time with his mother-in-law and his wife until he got the opportunity to show his true colors. His sister-in-law never failed to show her disdain for him. She openly insulted him at family dinners, claiming that he was in the family only for the money. As for his wife, we don’t think he ever loved her, but he played the part of a doting husband to perfection, not just in front of others but also when they were alone. Chae Ryeong was no less when it came to insulting him in public or disregarding him in private. Yet, Baek Jae Min was never bothered because he never cared about the love of the Eunsang family. He just wanted an opportunity to use their power for his own good.
Jae Min proved that when he openly rebelled against the Chairwoman, when it looked like he was so close to victory in the mayoral race. Before running, when he had suggested that Do Hee be let go of, the Chairwoman had reacted badly. It is pathetic how often the women slap each other in this series. But we wouldn’t have been sad about Jae Min’s slap if only every assault on him was not playing onto the angry, screeching woman stereotypes. Either way, when Jae Min thought that Eunang could do without Do Hee, he also believed in his own capabilities to take her place. During the mayoral campaign, he often had a lot of insights and could even challenge Carl Yoon with better ideas. This is very unlike Oh Kyung Sook who completely relied on Hwang Do Hee. If only Baek Jae Min was not so evil, he would have been a far better fit for the post than Oh Kyung Sook.
This exploration of his cunning makes us wonder what made the match between him and his wife possible, to begin with. It is hard to imagine anybody trying to woo Chae Ryeong. But that had to be the case since Jae Min came from a family of nothing. They were once very powerful, but his father committed suicide after being framed for corruption, and they lost everything. This makes us think that Jae Min did not have enough to enter into a marriage of convenience with Chae Ryeong. He had to have made her fall in love with him. Our suspicion is further corroborated by the fact that she genuinely seemed to be hurt when he died.
Additionally, when she learned the reason he hated persimmons, she did not hesitate in trying to console him. These are not the actions of a woman who does not care for him. She may have put on a front of irritation, but she also helped his election by fabricating the story of her infertility. Chae Ryeong might insult him all she wants, but she did care for him. Maybe after getting married, when she started sensing that he did not love her or was having affairs as he pleased, she turned as bitter as she was. She did not share his stomach for pretense, but she was his supporter, and Jae Min knew that. This is a very interesting dynamic between the two and should have been explored more.
Our introduction to Jae Min was as a very pleasant person who maybe flirted a little with even Do Hee. But it was apparent very soon that he was indeed in the family for money. Anything different, and he might have replied back to his sister-in-law. The Chairwoman was irritated by her daughter, not because she thought differently of Jae Min but because she did not think of it as an appropriate dinner conversation. We caught on to that when she mentioned his assault on I Seol. The Chairwoman knew that Jae Min had assaulted I Seol, even though Do Hee did not. It just means that I Seol was probably not the first person he had done this to, and she knew what he was capable of.
When Hwang Do Hee meets up with the woman who was the fixer before her at Eunsang, the latter tells her that she had warned the Chairwoman about Jae Min and told her not to involve him in the company. Jae Min had been inappropriate with a woman with just one day to go to his wedding. But the Chairwoman did not care, maybe because she had no need to. She just saw the potential of having an obedient son-in-law and took the opportunity. We hate to admit it, but she was right. In fact, if only Guk Ji Yeon had not gotten pregnant, he would have defeated Oh Kyung Sook. The entire election was not as much about competence as it was about who could fabricate a worse accusation against the other. Therefore, Jae Min could have won if only for that one factor.
We think in the real world, Jae Min would have won the election against Kyung Sook, not because he was a man but because he was just better with words. He had a point when he said that the public preferred theatrics over facts, and Jae Min was a master at it. All Oh Kyung Sook had was a bullish attitude and noble intentions, and despite our earnest idealism, we have to agree that it is not enough to fight a political war. Jae Min might have lost if the writer had written the mayoral race with more sophistication and cunning. But if these are the events we will get, then Jae Min would have been the winner.