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It's Okay to Not Be Okay (사이코지만 괜찮아; Saikojiman gwaenchana; lit. Psycho But It's Okay) is a 2020 South Korean romantic television series starring Kim Soo Hyun and Seo Ye Ji. The series tells an unusual romance story between two people who end up healing each other's emotional and psychological wounds. It aired on tvN every Saturday and Sunday at 21:00 KST time slot from June 20 to August 9, 2020 for 16 episodes. The series is available worldwide on Netflix.
|“||An extraordinary road to emotional healing opens up for an antisocial children's book writer and a selfless psych ward caretaker when they cross paths.||”|
Moon Gang Tae (Kim Soo Hyun), is a caretaker working at a psychiatric ward who does not even bother to believe in love. He seems to be carrying all the weight and pain in life, and devotes himself only to looking after his disabled older brother.
Go Moon Young (Seo Ye Ji), is a children's book writer who is clueless about love. She is popular among all age groups, yet very antisocial and indifferent to others.
- Kim Soo Hyun as Moon Kang Tae
- An orphaned caregiver working at OK Psychiatric Hospital. While empathetic to everyone around him, he struggles to give himself love as a result of his past experiences in life and avoids having close relationships with anyone other than his older brother. Because of his brother's traumatic experience, he frequently moves from town to town with him and has never lived a normal life.
- Seo Ye Ji as Go Moon Young
- A popular children's book author with antisocial personality disorder. She had a troubled childhood and a turbulent relationship with her parents. She develops a romantic obsession over Moon Gang Tae after a coincidental encounter and often goes to extreme lengths to get his attention.
- Oh Jung Se as Moon Sang Tae
- Moon Gang Tae's older brother who is on the spectrum. He is a fan of Go Moon Young, as well as an aspiring illustrator. He was the sole witness of his mother's murder, resulting in his irrational fear of butterflies. This fear develops into nightmares every spring which forces Gang Tae to move towns with Sang Tae in order to "run away from the butterflies".
- Park Kyu Young as Nam Joo Ri
- A nurse and Moon Gang Tae's co-worker at OK Psychiatric Hospital. She has an unrequited crush on Moon Gang Tae, and is shown to be shy and easily jealous of others who are close with her romantic interests. She dislikes Go Moon Young, with whom she had a brief friendship in elementary school. Ju Ri lives with her mother Kang Soon Deok, a cook at the hospital.
- Lee Eol as Go Dae Hwan, Moon Young's father
- Woo Jeong Won as Oh Jung Ah, Moon Young's mother
- Choi Woo Seong as Oh Cha Yong, Kang Tae's coworker
- Kim Mi Kyung as Kang Soon Deok
- Park Jin Joo as Yoo Seung Jae
- Kim Joo Heon as Lee Sang In
- Jang Gyu Ri as Seon Byul
- Kim Chang Wan as Oh Ji Wang
- Jang Young Nam as Park Haeng Ja
- Kang Gi Doong as Jo Sae Joo
- Jung Jae Kwang as Joo Jung Tae
The blue numbers represent the lowest ratings and the red numbers represent the highest ratings.
|Episode||Part||Aired||Title||Average audience share|
|Episode 01||June 20, 2020||The Boy Who Fed On Nightmares||6.093% (1st)||7.036% (1st)|
|Moon Gang Tae has a striking run-in with his brother's favorite author, Go Moon Young, when she comes to his hospital to read to the children.|
|Episode 02||June 21, 2020||The Lady In Red Shoes||4.722% (1st)||5.474% (1st)|
|Moon Young invites Moon Sang Tae to a book signing event that ends with a nasty commotion. Gang Tae hears about a job opening in his hometown.|
|Episode 03||June 27, 2020||Sleeping Witch||5.940% (1st)||6.529% (1st)|
|Having followed Gang Tae, Moon Young begins teaching literature classes at his new hospital. Chaos breaks out when a VIP patient runs away.|
|Episode 04||June 28, 2020||Zombie Kid||4.942% (1st)||6.000% (1st)|
|The VIP patient's incident triggers childhood memories for Gang Tae, who remains an emotional puzzle to Moon Young. Lee Sang In arrives in town.|
|Episode 05||1||July 4, 2020||Rapunzel and the Cursed Castle||4.661% (2nd)||5.285% (2nd)|
|2||5.248% (1st)||5.782% (1st)|
|With nowhere else to take Moon Young, Gang Tae brings her back to his place. Discovering her there surprises everyone, most of all Nam Ju Ri.|
|Episode 06||1||July 5, 2020||Bluebeard's Secret||5.056% (2nd)||5.114% (2nd)|
|2||5.647% (1st)||5.748% (1st)|
|When Moon Young offers an opportunity to Sang Tae, Gang Tae is forced to bend to their will. A patient at the hospital rattles Moon Young.|
|Episode 07||1||July 11, 2020||The Cheerful Dog||5.054% (2nd)||5.434% (2nd)|
|2||5.555% (1st)||5.753% (1st)|
|Gang Tae takes a day off from work to spend time with Moon Young, who seems to need a distraction. While drinking alone, Ju Ri encounters Sang In.|
|Episode 08||1||July 12, 2020||Beauty and the Beast||4.744% (2nd)||5.160% (2nd)|
|2||5.634% (1st)||6.407% (1st)|
|Seeing Moon Young with something that belongs to him upsets Sang Tae. When a belligerent visitor shows up at the hospital, Gang Tae snaps.|
|Episode 09||1||July 18, 2020||The King Has Donkey Ears||4.995% (2nd)||5.416% (2nd)|
|2||5.814% (1st)||6.501% (1st)|
|Gang Tae and Moon Young decide to go on a day trip together. During their mountain getaway, an unforeseen situation crops up.|
|Episode 10||1||July 19, 2020||The Girl Who Cried Wolf||4.212% (2nd)||4.669% (2nd)|
|2||5.481% (1st)||5.995% (1st)|
|Refusing to go home, Sang Tae coops himself up in a room. Gang Tae wrestles with the demons of his past and the constraints of his present.|
|Episode 11||1||July 25, 2020||The Ugly Duckling||4.552% (2nd)||4.681% (2nd)|
|2||5.681% (1st)||5.661% (1st)|
|An escaped patient shows up at the mansion. Moon Young makes an effort to change Sang Tae's mind about allowing her a place in the brothers' lives.|
|Episode 12||1||July 26, 2020||Romeo and Juliet||5.145% (2nd)||5.597% (2nd)|
|2||5.264% (1st)||6.108% (1st)|
|Wanting to overcome his trauma, Sang Tae opens up about his darkest memory. A cruel twist of fate threatens Gang Tae's newfound happiness.|
|Episode 13||1||August 1, 2020||The Father of the Two Sisters||4.794% (2nd)||5.155% (2nd)|
|2||5.696% (1st)||6.151% (1st)|
|Sang Tae shows Gang Tae that he's been practicing drawing his greatest fear. Moon Young receives word about her father's worsening condition.|
|Episode 14||1||August 2, 2020||The Hand, The Monkfish||5.403% (2nd)||6.042% (2nd)|
|2||5.947% (1st)||6.654% (1st)|
|The identity of the vandal who ruined Sang Tae's mural sends everyone into a state of shock. Moon Young struggles to process a devastating truth.|
|Episode 15||1||August 8, 2020||The Tale of Two Brothers||5.567% (2nd)||6.198% (2nd)|
|2||6.492% (1st)||7.365% (1st)|
|After a chilling phone call, Gang Tae rushes over to the mansion. Later, Moon Young asks the brothers to leave her— but they refuse to listen.|
|Episode 16||1||August 9, 2020||Finding The Real Face||6.224% (2nd)||7.296% (2nd)|
|2||7.348% (1st)||8.535% (1st)|
|Moon Young decides she's going to publish the new fairy tale after all. Everyone comes together at the hospital for a reading of the book.|
Starting from July 4, 2020, each episode was aired in two parts.
The first script reading was held on May 8, 2020, and filming was completed on July 31, 2020 without a wrapping party out of concerns for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filming locations for the drama included Cafe Sandina in Wonju, Gangwon, which provided the background for the "cursed castle", completed with CGI effects; Secret Blue Cafe in Goseong County, Gangwon which was transformed into OK Psychiatric Hospital for the shooting using props. Outside locations included streets and beaches in Goseong, as well as locations in Yangju (Gyeonggi) and Incheon.
The five storybooks created by screenwriter Jo Yong for the series, and illustrated by concept artist Jamsan, were published (in Korean only) by Wisdom House in July and August 2020. Though The Boy Who Fed on Nightmares was published after Zombie Kid, it is listed by the publisher as the first book of the series.
|1||The Boy Who Fed on Nightmares||16||July 18, 2020||ISBN 979-1-1909-0815-3|
|2||Zombie Kid||24||July 13, 2020||ISBN 979-1-1909-0816-0|
|3||The Cheerful Dog||16||July 30, 2020||ISBN 979-1-1909-0817-7|
|4||The Hand, the Monkfish||20||August 15, 2020||ISBN 979-1-1909-0868-9|
|5||Finding the Real Face||24||August 31, 2020||ISBN 979-1-1909-0874-0|
The series' script, also illustrated by Jamsan, was published in two books: each covers eight episodes.
|1||It's Okay to Not Be Okay 1||504||July 30, 2020||ISBN 978-8-9315-8984-9|
|2||It's Okay to Not Be Okay 2||520||August 27, 2020||ISBN 978-8-9315-8985-6|
It's Okay to Not Be Okay drew an average viewership rating of 5.4% and soon became a Hallyu K-Drama following overseas popularity. It topped the Content Power Index (CPI) and also ranked first on Good Data ranking during its entire run. With four episodes released it ranked in the top 10 most talked about programs according to the results of a survey on internet reactions conducted by the government agency Korea Communications Commission for TV programs of the first half of 2020; while as a result of an analysis by Smart Media Rep on online platforms such as Naver and YouTube, the average number of playbacks per episode was found to be 3.37 million with a majority share of viewers from the 20s.
Following the popularity of drama the outfits wore by Seo Ye Ji also caught attention for its uniqueness making Korean fashion designers and brands of earrings, handbag and nightwears famous internationally. The children's storybooks that appeared in the drama were listed in the top 20 bestselling books of the month, according to the Kyobo Bookstore and YES 24 websites.
The Chilean newspaper La Tercera cited it, including in its list of the most applauded Netflix series, as "one of the most popular Asian drama" of 2020. Worldwide magazine ELLE ranked it #2 on its list of The 10 Best K-Dramas To Binge-Watch On Netflix. While Vogue India recommended it in its list of 12 feel-good Korean dramas to watch on Netflix and Rakuten Viki. Also, GQ India ranked it #1 on its list of 5 Korean dramas on Netflix with an IMDb rating of 8 and above that you shouldn't miss.
It's Okay to Not Be Okay was recognized for its visual storytelling, unique characters and was praised for the acting by the cast.
The Manila Bulletin wrote that "While clichés are necessary in romantic K-dramas, IOTNBO was unafraid to introduce fresh elements and twists." The Cosmopolitan Phillipines reviewed it saying "It's unlike any drama we've seen before... close to perfection, but just like all of us, still a work in progress." The Straits Times gave the drama a rating of 3.5/5 stars, while South China Morning Post gave a rating of 3/5 stars pointing out that "The few detective fiction fans expecting to learn the morbid details of what exactly happened should brace for disappointment."
Representation of Mental Health and Response
Although the series is a romance drama and a work of fiction, it was praised for its depiction and representation of mental health and abuse. At the same time, some details, such as female lead's Antisocial Personality Disorder, have been questioned. The Hindu reported that, "The initial buzz around the show came largely from its premise and the fact that it would shed light on mental health."
The SCMP in its review said that, "What's immediately interesting about the series is how it shines a light on mental health and depression... It's Okay to Not Be Okay highlights the fact that everyone has problems in life and how people deal with their issues," The Prothom Alo praised the series writing that, "In a world where people with autism are known as weak or helpless, this drama shows a point of view that they are kind human beings too... This drama makes people realise, societies should stop looking at those who seem different. Especially, those with special needs."
|“||When I had an interview during the early half of the project, I said he (Sang Tae) is a character suffering from autism. I learned that this was a wrong expression. Saying that you're suffering from something means you have an illness. However, autism isn't an illness, but something you're born with. I learned it's correct to say he's a character who was born with autism.||”|
—Oh Jung Se
An act of kindness by actor Oh Jung Se was a hot topic on social media after he spent a day with a fan, cellist Bae Boum Jun who was also an autist as his character in the drama, at an amusement park.
The series was criticized on social media leading to the KCSC receiving over 50 formal complaints. One was a sexual inappropriate scene where female lead Moon Young overtly stares and touches male lead Gang Tae's body as he gets dressed. In another scene a male character, who suffers from manic depression and exhibitionism, reveals parts of his bare body, with his genitals covered by a drawing of an elephant. However, many viewers defended both the actions of the character and the production team by arguing that the scenes were to express character's personality.
As a result, on August 26, 2020, the broadcast censorship body issued a legal sanction to the television series for sexually inappropriate scenes in Episode 3 regarding it against the broadcast deliberation regulations, including Article 27 on duties of integrity and Article 30 on gender equality. The reason explained by the subcommission was that, "Even considering the fact that they were meant to exaggeratedly express a character's personality, (the scenes in question) show how insensitive the drama's producers are to gender equality in broadcasting content that may belittle a certain gender and hold the possibility to justify sexual harassment and molestation."
Awards and nominations
|2020||18th Brand of the Year Awards||Actor of the Year||Kim Soo Hyun||Nominated|
|Actress of the Year||Seo Ye Ji||Won|
|Daejeon Visual Art Tech Awards||Special Video Visual of the Year Award||It's Okay to Not Be Okay|
- This drama took over the timeslot previously occupied by "When My Love Blooms".
- First script reading took place sometime during the first quarter of 2020.