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[Drama 2021] No One But a Madman/On The Verge Of Insanity, 미치지 않고서야


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Review | K-drama review: On the Verge of Insanity – compelling office drama ditches realism for happy ending

  • For the legions of salaried workers, On the Verge of Insanity has offered a relatable view of South Korea’s often suffocating and stressful office culture
  • After several satisfying mini-climaxes in its midseason run the series embarks on a glum trajectory, then pivots to an unlikely fairy-tale ending

By Pierce Conran | September 2, 2021

Veteran actor Jung Jae-young stars in K-drama On the Verge of Insanity, which focuses on South Korea’s tough work culture.


This article contains spoilers.

3.5/5 stars

Not every TV series is designed with a broad audience in mind, and although lower ratings may seem a less appealing prospect for broadcasters, programmes with a narrow focus can often communicate their message more effectively to viewers.

Modern K-dramas are often overstuffed as their creators try to seduce a diffuse and increasingly global audience. While it’s true that the more you throw at a wall the more likely it is that something will stick, the resultant mix of incongruous elements can sometimes be off-putting. Not everything has the messy charm of Vincenzo.

On the Verge of Insanity is one of these smaller shows. The series is led by Jung Jae-young and Moon So-ri, veteran stars better known for their acclaimed film roles than TV dramas, and the setting is the Changin research and development campus of fictional household appliance maker Hanmyeong. The drama within the story is almost exclusively derived from office politics; family drama, though present, is kept to a minimum, and there’s barely a hint of romance.

South Korea’s tough work culture is notorious, and few things are as prized in the country as job offers from the country’s all-powerful family-run “chaebol” corporations, which include Samsung and LG, known for their household appliance divisions. Within the vaunted sanctums of these companies, unwavering loyalty is expected from employees – loyalty that isn’t always returned.

Human resources manager Dang Ja-young (Moon) is exceptionally devoted to her work. She places the company’s needs over any personal concerns and frequently runs afoul of workers who view her as a company stooge. Ja-young is single, lives with her friend Shin Jung-a (Cha Chung-hwa), another admin manager on the Changin campus, and essentially has no personal life, save for occasional incidents concerning her ailing father.

Engineer Choi Ban-seok (Jung) doesn’t share Ja-young’s slavish devotion to Hanmyeong, but he’s equally driven in his work, and will go to the ends of the earth to perfect the products he’s working on.

Then there is Han Se-kwon (Lee Sang-yeob), the perpetual thorn in everyone’s side. Se-kwon is rich and has family connections, including his distant cousin Han Seung-ki (Jo Bok-rae), the CEO of Hanmyeong Electronics. Se-kwon is also completely absorbed in his work, but his singular focus is neither a by-product of his loyalty or any pride in his work.

Painfully aware of his own shortcomings, he’s vindictive, tramples over people to get ahead and only cares about chasing promotions.

Jung (left) and Moon So-ri in a scene from On the Verge of Insanity.

For the legions of salaried workers in the country, On the Verge of Insanity offers a relatable view of Korea’s oftentimes suffocating office culture. Ultimately everyone is trying to survive, including the company itself, but no matter how loyal any individual worker is, they are only ever one gaffe away from dismissal.

This ever-present tension allows for characters to rise and fall in quick succession, and the show builds to several satisfying mini-climaxes throughout its midseason run. However, what goes up must come down, and the series ploughs through a pretty glum narrative in its final stretch of episodes.

After orchestrating a painful round of voluntary resignations at the start of the series, Ja-young is once again forced to put employees on the chopping block, including Ban-seok, in episode 11. Ban-seok doesn’t take his forced dismissal lightly and fights back, which puts a temporary halt to the layoffs but also causes a superior to demand Ja-young’s resignation.

She also finds a way to survive, but there are no victories here. Ban-seok and Ja-young both wind up reassigned to embarrassing positions and the pall of death hangs over the whole campus, as we’ve known from the start that Hanmyeong Electronics is planning to sell it off and dissolve the unit.

Having set up this grim scenario, On the Verge of Insanity suddenly has Ban-seok quitting the firm and striking out on his own.

He manages to convince Ja-young and a few other key members of the campus to leave their posts and join his penniless start-up as well, and within the course of the final episode they go from rags to riches, scoring a gigantic order from their former CEO with the help of none other than Se-kwon, who becomes the angel investor that saves them in the nick of time.




Lee Sang-yeob in a still from On the Verge of Insanity.

Given how consistently awful Se-kwon has been throughout the series, this feels like a betrayal of his character, not to mention a slap in the face of the protagonists who have suffered at his hands.

Of course, life seldom offers pat conclusions, and we sometimes have to deal with the devil to survive, but in the show’s final moments, Se-kwon somehow sheds his mantle as antagonist and CEO Han Seung-ki becomes the chief villain, and is promptly served his just desserts.

As a family heir turned corporate CEO, Seung-ki is an easy target, but he’s no worse than Se-kwon, just a little richer.

On the Verge of Insanity targeted an older audience, but that also meant that it was occasionally a bit old-fashioned. Se-kwon’s bad behaviour is too easily excused because of daddy issues, and Ja-young, the show’s best character – which draws its best performance from Moon – is helped or saved once too often by Ban-seok.




Moon in a still from On the Verge of Insanity.

On the Verge of Insanity is streaming on Viu.

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  • 3 months later...

Congratulations to Lee Sang Yeob for winning Excellence Actor award, miniseries for drama On the Verge of Insanity at MBC Drama Awards 2021



On the red carpet








‘Only Without Going Crazy’ Lee Sang-yeop, cheering for the Excellence Award, “I’m sorry”


Actor Lee Sang-yeop wins the Best Acting Award They clapped with cheers and expressed their joy. At the '2021 MBC Drama Awards' broadcast on December 30th, Lee Sang-yeop won the Male Excellence Award in the mini-series category.


Lee Sang-yeop takes on the role of Han Se-kwon, a mother-in-law who is full of inferiority complex in 'Only Without Going Crazy'. In the play, he received favorable reviews for his delicate expression of a character with human charm, although it is absurd. On the stage, Lee Sang-yeop exclaimed, "I'm so nervous, but I'm going to shout with this heart in my heart. Oops!"


Lee Sang-yeop expressed his gratitude to the senior actors Moon So-ri and Jung Jae-young, who worked together through the drama, in turn, saying, "Thank you." He said, "I received this award thanks to the seniors. I am very grateful. I am very grateful to all the staff including all the actors, directors, and writers. It was such an honor thanks to you."





Lee Sang-yeop won the Best Acting Award in the mini-series category in 'Only Without Going Crazy'.



In the play, Lee Sang-yeop takes on the role of Han Se-kwon, who is full of inferiority complex, and expresses his absurd but human side. Lee Sang-yeop said, "I'm going to shout with this trembling heart. Aww," and made everyone laugh. He continued, "I filmed for about 6 months this year in a city called Changwon. I worked with great seniors. They listened to my concerns, shared, guided, and persevered together for me who was having a hard time. It was an honorable time and a valuable experience. Thanks He said, "I am very grateful to seniors Jung Jae-young and Moon So-ri and it was an honor to meet them. I received this award thanks to seniors. It was an honor and thank you to all the actors, the director, the writer, the PD, and the staff." Lee Sang-yeop also added, "Thank you to many people who pray for me. I will try to become a good senior, person, and actor just like the seniors who set an example and guided me. I hope that the new year everyone will be healthier."




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December 30 2021

See list of winners at the “2021 MBC Drama Awards”


See list of winners and nominees at the “2021 MBC Drama Awards.” The award show took place today, December 30, 2021. Two big winners from the award show are “The Veil” and “The Red Sleeve.” “The Veil” received 4 awards, with the Grand Prize awarded to Namkoong Min. “The Red Sleeve” received 7 awards, including “Best Drama,” “Best Actor” (Lee Joon-Ho) and “Best Actress” (Lee Se-Young). Congratulations to everyone nominated.


Best Drama




I am glad that at least On the Verge of Insanity got a nomination to Best drama. I know it did not have good ratings but it was a well written drama. I think those three dramas were the best of MBC this year.

I watched two out of three. I will watch The Red Sleeve too because I read good reviews about this drama.

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