Jae-yeol’s Mental Condition – Theories

Note: At this point, I have only watched seven episodes of ‘It’s Okay, That’s Love’.

The more episodes I watch of ‘It’s Okay, That’s Love’, the more curious I get about what possible psychological condition(s) Jae-yeol could possibly have. I’ll be discussing some viewers’ theories and then my own. Just take it all with a grain of salt.

What tipped me off (and most viewers, probably) that there was something off about Jae-yeol was not his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but Han Kang-woo’s existence itself. From the very first episode, some observant viewers had already noticed some interesting details about idol Kyung-soo’s character: Kang-woo did not interact with anybody other than Jae-yeol and no one had taken notice of him when he was in a crowd of Jae-yeol’s fans. We also saw Jae-yeol wave to Kang-woo when he was sitting in the audience back at the live TV show he appeared on with Hae-soo; however, another shot of the audience showed a different man wearing the exact same clothes we just saw Kang-woo was wearing, sitting next to the same people.


Once more people began to suspect that Kang-woo was a figment of Jae-yeol’s imagination, they started to wonder if Kang-woo could possibly be a reflection of Jae-yeol’s old self since Kang-woo’s situation was eerily similar to Jae-yeol’s. Kang-woo supposedly has an abusive father who physically abuses him and his mother–we almost always see him with a bruise on his face. He also writes, and has sent a manuscript to Jae-yeol to get his feedback on it. The manuscript itself retells Jae-yeol and his brother, Jae-bom’s, story, but twists it to make Jae-yeol seem like the one who killed their step-father instead of Jae-beom, who suffered for the crime.

I think it’s important that a person Jae-yeol had made up would claim that it was him who killed his step-father, since this idea is probably deep-rooted in his unconscious mind. We could assume he feels some guilt about this murder which, at episode 7, we haven’t fully understood. Jae-yeol and Jae-beom’s stories contradict each other and the flashbacks to the murder are purposefully short and vague in order to temporarily keep us in the dark. Since the show is taking care with revealing this particular scene, things could not possibly be as they seem on the surface.

Other theories that I’ve heard relate to the timing of Kang-woo’s appearance. We first see him (through Jae-yeol’s blurry eyes) right after Jae-beom stabs him with a fork in the shoulder, and Jae-yeol is lying on the floor, half-conscious. Some comments I’ve read suggest that that was the first time Kang-woo had shown up, that this school uniform-clad, imaginary figure was conjured due to the trauma Jae-yeol had received from his older brother’s attack. Or perhaps it awakened old memories that Jae-yeol had kept repressed which lead to Kang-woo’s creation (who could be Jae-yeol’s coping mechanism).

Whichever it is, we can agree that Jae-yeol went through some type of psychological change after the attack, and the most obvious indicator is the change in writing genres. Jae-yeol used to write romance novels (which possibly contained some smut), but he turned a complete 360 degrees three years ago (the time the incident happened) and began to write dark, brutal, violent crime/thriller novels. According to Hae-soo in the first episode when discussing Jae-yeol’s recent books, “He writes about ripping a person apart, burying them alive, and cutting them off. He’s crazy, I tell you.” (Viki subtitles)

Writing about violent things does not necessarily mean that person has some violent tendencies or is unstable (or else, every crime writer would be a nutcase). But then again, Jae-yeol’s sudden fixation with violence when he’d always stuck to the safe romance genre does warrant some thought. I wonder if that attack completely unleashed the monsters that Jae-yeol had kept hidden in his mind in order to cope with his past as a grown man. He could have wanted to forget the murder case and his brother’s imprisonment altogether, or at least forget enough to be able to live like a normal person. And then three years ago, all that he’d repressed had come undone without him being aware.

I’m starting to suspect that Jae-yeol’s mental issues do not end at Kang-woo’s existence–he could very well be schizophrenic. The show had dropped other hints to suggest that possibility, and had given us two different representations of schizophrenics: one of a man who went haywire after missing his pills and stole a running taxi, and the second of a woman who saw people taunt her and gossip about her when she went off her pills–she also attempted to drown herself when her husband suggested aborting the baby she was pregnant with due to the difficulty of being off her medication. The drama had already given us the impression that schizophrenia could come in several forms, though the common factor was the hallucinations and delusions.


The cars Jae-yeol sees rushing in the opposite direction.

The truly scary part is how fully oblivious Jae-yeol is to the fact that he sees a high school boy who doesn’t exist and who “lives” in an abandoned house, that he sees a young girl peering out of her top-floor window when he’s actually looking at a curtain-covered window which is later pushed aside to reveal a grown woman, that he often sees cars rushing in the opposite direction to the lane he’s driving in. It’s absolutely terrifying for such a self-aware man, who understands the reason behind him sleeping in the bathroom (a childhood trauma), who has come to terms with his OCD (and is fully aware that it’s not normal) to be unable to distinguish reality from imagination.

Forty percent of schizophrenics are usually not aware of them being schizophrenic and find it difficult to believe that what is real to them does not actually exist. We could see Jae-yeol’s repeated dismissals of all the cues that suggest there’s something very wrong with him. When he told his old friend Tae-yong to pick Kang-woo up from a place, he thought Kang-woo must have impatiently left before Tae-yong’s arrival when the latter did not find him anywhere; when Jae-yeol was at the hospital with Kang-woo and he spent a long time waiting for Kang-woo’s name to be called only to find that there was no person by the name of Han Kang-woo registered for a check up although he saw him fill out a form with his own eyes; when Jae-yeol attempts to register a complaint with the police about Kang-woo’s abusive father, confused faces were all he got as the house he mentioned had long been abandoned. There were many more instances, but the result is the same.

I wonder when the drama is going to address his mental problems -whatever they are- as we’re already half-way through. Not that I’m minding the romance slowly kindling between Jae-yeol and Hae-soo. So far, the reveals had been well-paced so I guess all I could do is put my trust in the writer and wait.

Until then~

(You could totally share your own theories and ideas here. I’d love to have a discussion.)


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