Hwang Do Hee, the “Queenmaker,” was supposed to be the person with a personality that inspired spin-offs. Yet here we are, with a threadbare understanding of her. To start from the beginning, we assume that she did not grow up rich or with a lot of money. She first came to the attention of the Eunsang Chairwoman when she jumped into a pool of water to retrieve her scarf for her, which proved her loyalty. Since then, Do Hee has been favored by the Chairwoman for this very reason because she trusts her blindly. It is another thing that trust does not come with respect. The Chairwoman saw Hwang Do Hee as an asset. Her opinion only mattered to her when it aligned with her own ideas and goals.
When Do Hee told the Chairwoman to not let Baek Jae Min become the Mayor, she had no interest in her opinion. The fact that the Chairwoman’s morals did not align with Hwang Do Hee had never been as apparent as they are now. It was clear to Hwang Do Hee that the Chairwoman did not care about the harm that had befallen I Seul due to Jae Min, and it was the first time ever that Do Hee had refused to do what the Chairwoman wanted. During this conversation, when Do Hee expressed her concerns regarding Jae Min, the Chairwoman shot in her direction, barely missing her. It was a message that she did not care for dissent. As dangerous as it was, it still wasn’t the first time Do Hee was insulted.
When Do Hee goes to meet the Chairwoman during her calligraphy class, she gives her menial tasks like asking her to throw out the water or telling her to drive her around. It was all a careful balance of drowning the employee in benefits while signaling to them that they will never be equals. When the women in Episode 1 of the “Queenmaker” started speaking in French, it was clear that they were talking about Do Hee and how, despite her importance and status, she was someone who worked for them. Do Hee understood them, if not the language, then the insinuation at least. In a previous article, we mentioned that we did not understand why I Seul’s death had particularly affected Hwang Do Hee when she had had many people killed and others’ lives destroyed in the course of her “fixing” duties, as a “Queenmaker” striving to keep up the power of the Eunsang group. We are still struggling to make sense of it, but we might be getting an idea of it now.
Since Do Hee grew up poor, she probably had to struggle for even the most basic amenities. When she got the job at Eunsang, her life did turn around for the better. Not only was she given a swanky apartment and car, but her father’s entire medical bills were taken care of with the Eunsang group’s money and connections. Do Hee might have felt that she owed them her life, and that is why she was ready to push back her conscience. Do Hee had grown up believing that it was a dog-eat-dog world, and that is why she did not judge Eunsang’s actions. If the group did not take advantage of the underprivileged, somebody else would. So she might as well help the people who had been there for her when she needed them, namely, the Eunsang Group. That was the entire crux of her loyalty towards Eunsang.
But somewhere, things started to change, namely with Baek Jae Min. We don’t think Do Hee had any grand ideas about him, but she also knew him as the person who did not insult her every chance he got. The daughters were clear in their derision for her, and even the Chairwoman made it a point to give her a timely reminder. Jae Min, however, was unconditionally nice to her. He even pointed out that they were the only two outsiders in the family. When he lied to her that I Seul was framing him, she believed him because she bought into the persona he had created about himself. But when her misguided sense of duty caused I Seul to jump to her death and Do Hee saw the incriminating evidence in her hand, namely, the cuff link, she knew she had made a mistake. Up until then, Do Hee had always been prepared to deal with the moral weight of her actions. This was one time when she was caught off guard. She wasn’t prepared for the guilt and the sense of injustice taking over her, and for once, she couldn’t lie to herself or excuse away her own actions in the name of loyalty.
When she spoke to Jae Min about it, he showed absolutely no remorse for his actions, and he had taken it for granted that Do Hee would protect him. When Do Hee spoke to the Chairwoman about it, she found that even the old woman did not care what Jae Min had done. Do Hee was never under false illusions about the Chairwoman’s skewed moral compass, but this was the first time she couldn’t get behind it. Think about it this way: Do Hee has not abandoned Eunsang yet. She was still looking out for them, trying to make sure that they were safe from future troubles by not giving more power to Jae Min. But the Chairwoman just wanted things her way, even though it couldn’t have been hard for her to find a replacement for the mayor other than her son-in-law. Her absolute disregard for anything except profit and money was indigestible for Do Hee. Especially since Do Hee had spoken to her predecessor at the job and came to know that Jae Min had always been like this and his mother-in-law was always aware of his actions. The actual depravity of Eunsang became clear to Do Hee, and she understood that she could not align herself with them any longer. That is the point at which she decided to walk out of that life.