“If You Wish Upon Me”: the corrected Bad Boy


Annie Hsu

Yun Gyeo-rye (Ji Chang Wook) embodies the perfect version of Wattpad’s bad boy.

Nayja Shah, Staff Writer

TW: includes mention of suicide

Warning: spoilers for the first few episodes ahead


Black attire, tattooed arms, grim looks, and a mysterious vibe, Yoon Gyeo Rye could just be your favorite Wattpad bad boy, except he is written well. 

Broody and lost, Yoon Gye Rye (Ji Chang Wook) is an orphan and ex-convict in the 2022 Korean drama, If You Wish Upon Me, brilliantly directed by Kim Yong Wan. Struggling to assimilate into society after a life of severe abuse, poverty, and a criminal past, Gye Rye finds himself at the Woori Hospice Hospital as a volunteer. There he helps Team Genie: a program founded to grant terminally ill patients’ last wishes. As the story unravels, Gye Rye comes across many characters who help him break through his shell, while becoming his makeshift family. 

At first glance, Yoon Gye Rye represents the typical bad boy: conventionally attractive and mysterious with eyes glimmering with malice. Yet, unlike typical bad boy characters who are “redeemed” by love, Gye Rye is an antihero whose redemption is personally driven and that is precisely why his character is successful. 

Good intention is vital for a person to grow; Gye Rye actively yearns to improve his life in search of happiness. After being released, instead of returning to the criminal activity that initially led to his imprisonment, Gye Rye desperately steers clear of people related to his illegal past, and hopes for some normality done by cutting off contact by breaking his phone, finding a home at countless hotels, and passing days with his dog. Although lackluster and hopeless, his attempts reflect his motivation to develop, contradictory to the common archetypes who are often clueless to the need for change, remaining toxic and irredeemable. 

Gye Rye is an antihero whose redemption is personally driven and that is precisely why his character is successful. 

A lack of positive guidance thwarts his efforts to improve. Fortunately, Gang Tae Shik’s appearance becomes a catalyst for Gye Rye’s development. He is the first person Gye Rye meets outside of his past, the person who prevents Gye Rye from committing suicide, and who takes him to Woori Hospice Hospital. Tae Shik cares for Gye Rye in a rather fatherly way, mentoring the lost boy, constantly guiding him. Including Tae Shik’s character in the writing process is commendable, as most antiheroes lack such support. It lays the blueprint to a valuable development. 

Once Tae Shik introduces Gye Rye to the Woori family, his character progresses as Gye Rye begins to earnestly help others. Gye Rye’s traumatic past motivates him to come to the aid of those who experienced similar experiences. 

One day, Team Genie’s vivacious regular middle-school volunteer, Yoo Seo-jin (Jeon Chea-eun), turns downcast and stops attending school. The volunteers learn that her boyfriend is the victim of a high-profile hit-and-run car accident. She seeks the assistance of Team Genie, planning to blackmail the perpetrator, a prominent businessman, by using his young daughter. Tae Shik disagrees with her methods, not allowing her to use Team Genie’s help. But Gye Rye agrees to help her. He was initially hesitant, hoping to convince her to leave the case to the adults. Seo-jin, though, believes that the adults around her always run from responsibility and punishment. She feels the pressure to become an adult herself. This hits Gye Rye close to home; his entire life he was outcast by peers and adults alike. Gye Rye decides to be the supportive, ethical adult to her, the adult he never had. This takes him a step farther in his journey to become a better person.

From being a lonely ex-convict who loosely hung onto a single glimmer of hope to becoming a mature adult who could support others like himself, the writers of the Korean drama, If You Wish Upon Me, proved that the bad-boy trope could become more than a narcissistic, static character. They changed the dynamics in a fundamental way. If You Wish Upon Me is a must-watch for any writer interested in building three dimensional characters, as well as an audience interested in shedding a few bittersweet tears while enjoying the phenomenal portrayal of raw humanity and hope.