Viki’s Pale Moon is a classic example of what could happen if you allowed your ambitions to lead you astray. Pale Moon chronicles the story of one Yi-Hwa (Kim Seo-Hyung), who, in an effort to escape from the boring humdrum of her life, took up a job at the SD Savings Bank. However, in an effort to keep everyone around her happy and fulfilled, she started embezzling money out of her rich clients’ accounts, attracting a whirlwind of troubles her way.
Why Did Yi-Hwa Take Up The Bank Job?
The real reason why Yi-Hwa joined the savings bank was to move past her modest existence as a housewife. She had everything that a housewife dreamed of, including a nice house, a wealthy lifestyle, and many more. Unfortunately, this was all there was to Yi-Hwa’s life, as her husband, Ki-Hyun (Kong Jung-Hwan), neither spent any time with her nor ever treated her with respect. Ki-Hyun often taunted Yi-Hwa, saying that she did nothing but spend his money. Also, rather than help Yi-Hwa with house chores, he made it look like doing dishes and cleaning up were her jobs. Plus, Ki-Hyun kept a ledger that informed him exactly how much money he had spent on his wife and the in-laws. Not to mention, Yi-Hwa wanted to become a mother, and for that, she had frozen her eggs, but Ki-Hyun kept missing doctor appointments.
According to Ki-Hyun, kids are parasites and a burden. They nibble away until you die, Ki-Hyun said to Yi-Hwa one night. This left her heartbroken and teary, and when an opportunity to become financially independent came, she couldn’t refuse it. Thanks to her kind-hearted attitude and people skills, Yi-Hwa was allowed to handle VIP customers just a couple of days into her job. The new job did wonders for her, and she regained her lost confidence. Soon, Yi-Hwa realized that whatever she was earning wasn’t enough. It started as a harmless gesture to help a young man, Min-Jae (Lee Si-Woo), by secretly transferring his grandfather’s money into his account, but it soon grew into a problem. Soon after, Yi-Hwa started to embezzle small amounts from her clients’ accounts on a daily basis.
How Was Min-Jae Different From Ki-Hyun?
No matter how hard Yi-Hwa tried, she couldn’t stop herself from falling for Min-Jae. He was the grandson of Byeong-Sik (Jang Hang-Seon), who once berated him when Min-Jae begged him for money to save his friend’s life. Unlike Ki-Hyun, Min-Jae was kind and compassionate and made her feel important. He wasn’t like her husband, who rebuked her in front of other people, commenting that she was too shabby. In one instance, Ki-Hyun told Yi-Hwa to dress appropriately and not embarrass him in front of his work buddies, even when she was looking her best. Moreover, Ki-Hyun flaunted Yi-Hwa as a dormant and submissive wife who was only good at doing his bidding. But in reality, the man was just a sycophant who thought he could get ahead in his career by sucking upto his superior.
Ki-Hyun didn’t buy Yi-Hwa expensive things because he loved and appreciated her. Ki-Hyun did it so he could appear elegant in front of his superiors. In front of his vice president, he treated Yi-Hwa like a gem, but as soon as he turned around, Ki-Hyun showed his true colors. Yi-Hwa wasn’t the only one; Ki-Hyun even treated his friends like insects if they weren’t on the same financial level as him. In front of his friends and wife, Ki-Hyun pretended to be a man in control, but in front of his superiors, he was a dog with a collar, just barking to get ahead. But in Min-Jae, Yi-Hwa found her lost soul, and before they could both realize it, they fell in love.
How Did Yi-Hwa Help Min-Jae?
Min-Jae was struggling financially and had a father who was in a nursing home. Thus, he had no choice but to ask his stingy and evil grandfather for a loan. The old man hated and abhorred him, and he doubled the interest rate every day. He often sent debt collectors to extract interest and put him down. Thus, Yi-Hwa lent him a staggering amount that she had embezzled from one of her nosy clients, who suffered from dementia. In addition, Yi-Hwa even invested in Min-Jae’s film so he could achieve his dream of directing a feature. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there, and she embezzled the money a few more times to buy purses and pay for Min-Jae’s hotel bills since he had been kicked out of his flat.
Yi-Hwa planned to return the money to her clients’ accounts and had covered her tracks to make sure she didn’t get caught before putting the money back. Yi-Hwa almost got caught once when she was making photocopies of the deposit certificate. But, in lieu of returning the money, Yi-Hwa ended up taking more for Min-Jae. Yi-Hwa did this to support Min-Jae; otherwise, he would again have to beg Byeong-Sik for living expenses. Min-Jae had no place to live, while his stingy grandfather enjoyed lamb chops and other delicacies. With the money Yi-Hwa embezzled, she rented a massive house for Min-Jae. The said house was fitted with all sorts of facilities, so Min-Jae could work on his dream without getting worried. Thanks to Yi-Hwa, Min-Jae released his short film and became successful.
Why Was Roo-Ri Stealing Money From The Bank?
Yi-Hwa wasn’t the only one who often stole money from the bank. Her colleague Roo-Ri (Yoon Bo-Ra) had the same idea and stole millions of won to pay off her abusive and controlling boyfriend. Yi-Hwa took notice of this when she found mutilated bills in the shop Roo-Ri visited. Roo-Ri hated that Yi-Hwa had tons of rich clients and earned great incentives while she had to cut back on expenses. Roo-Ri also wanted designer shoes and wallets like Yi-Hwa and flinched her eyes when she saw her with trendy and expensive stuff. However, she started to like her when she saved her from her boyfriend. Roo-Ri found out that Yi-Hwa was having an affair and blackmailed her for 100 million won. In addition, Roo-Ri suspected that Yi-Hwa was taking money out of the old woman’s (the one suffering from dementia) account. However, getting exposed was the least of her problems.
Ki-Hyun was in line to get a promotion, and for that, he was required to move to Japan. He asked Yi-Hwa to leave her job, but she refused and stated she liked working at the bank. Plus, Yi-Hwa even refused a job offer from Ki-Hyun’s vice president’s wife, which also angered him. Thus, to teach Yi-Hwa a lesson, Ki-Hyun put their house on the market for rent. He figured that it would leave her with no choice but to follow him to Japan. When Yi-Hwa refused, she was told to pay the money he gave her for the house’s deposit. This made Yi-Hwa desperate, and she embezzled 200 million won at once to pay back her husband and Roo-Ri. For this, Yi-Hwa told her richest clients about some kind of secret high-interest scheme so they could invest millions of won in it. Yi-Hwa also printed fake pamphlets to back her claim, with the bank’s watermark on them. In greed for high interest rates, they all signed up and gave Yi-Hwa their money.
What Events Led To Yi-Hwa Getting Exposed?
Yi-Hwa was successful in covering her tracks; she had found perfect paper and forged identical deposit receipts. But like every other farce, Yi-Hwa’s lie saw the light of day, too. Her old manager, Min-Soo, visited Yi-Hwa and told her that she knew what she was doing all this time. Min-Soo had also about Roo-Ri’s theft of mutilated currency for months, but she didn’t tell anyone. Min-Soo was kindhearted, and rather than going to the police, she came to see Yi-Hwa. She wanted to know where Roo-Ri was. The latter had taken a long holiday but hadn’t returned to the office and most probably would be fired. Thus, Min-Soo was worried and anxious for Roo-Ri. Roo-Ri, on the other hand, blackmailed Yi-Hwa for money and expensive cosmetic items. Moreover, Roo-Ri’s rich clients asked her to return their money to their regular accounts. This was a problem, as Yi-Hwa had embezzled all their money for her personal use. She did buy some time when she told them that a sudden transfer would attract scrutiny from the tax auditors. Tae-Min also visited Yi-Hwa’s office and had her launder billions of won for him. Why? Tae-Min had found out that Yi-Hwa had embezzled money and forged fake certificates.
Yi-Hwa also had her heart broken by Min-Jae, who, after becoming a big-shot director, cheated on her with an actress. The fame and recognition changed him, and he rarely used the writing room Yi-Hwa built for him and hung out with other women. Min-Jae refused to pick up Yi-Hwa’s calls and never paid the rent for the place she rented for him, not even after he became a big-shot director and earned well. What was worse was that Min-Jae took money out of the deposit as well. Eventually, Min-Jae left Yi-Hwa and stated he would return her money in monthly installments. This left her heartbroken, and she felt that she had been conned. It appeared that all of Yi-Hwa’s problems were out to get her at once. Thus, in dire need of money, Yi-Hwa asked the vice president’s wife to pay rent for her grandfather’s painting, which had hung on her walls for years.
This didn’t sit well with the vice president’s wife, and to teach Yi-Hwa a lesson, she made a false complaint of embezzlement against her. This was unfortunate, as it brought what Yi-Hwa had done with her clients’ money to light. Unfortunately, Yi-Hwa had to make a public spectacle to save Roo-Ri from her abusive boyfriend. This gave Roo-Ri time to escape and save her life. Yi-Hwa’s luck worsened when a homeless man wrongfully framed her for attacking Byeong-Sik. Left with no choice, Yi-Hwa had to flee the country. This brought us to the opening scene of Pale Moon, where she was being harassed by a couple of goons.
At the end of Pale Moon, Yi-Hwa moved to a remote village and started working in a small lodge. Even though Yi-Hwa’s intentions were genuine and kind, stealing money from her clients was in no way justified. Towards the end of Pale Moon, we see Yi-Hwa paying for a woman’s nursing home expenses at a time when she was neck-deep in trouble. We also see Yi-Hwa helping a little boy reunite with his family. Yi-Hwa was just a kindhearted woman who thought about everyone, but this gesture was never reciprocated. But this is in no way justified her illegal acts. Yes! Byeong-Sik laundered money and charged massive interest on the loans he gave out while his grandson survived on a meager paycheck. But this didn’t give Yi-Hwa any right to embezzle money from his account. Yi-Hwa had a chance to back down after her first offense, but she chose to continue it, and it eventually robbed her of everything: her old life, mental peace, and her clean reputation.
It’s possible, and to be honest, it would be great to see Yi-Hwa getting back in action. However, the showrunners have yet to make an official announcement regarding the same. If Pale Moon is renewed for a second season, it would focus on Yi-Hwa trying to get her life back on track after things went south for her. Even though she’s off the grid and hiding in what appears to be a remote village somewhere in Thailand. Since Yi-Hwa became famous after the news of her embezzlement made headlines, sooner or later, someone would recognize her and turn her in. She would then be extradited back to Korea to face the music. It is also likely that the show will further explore Yi-Hwa’s relationship with Ki-Hyun now that the latter has finally realized how he hurt the woman who sacrificed everything for her: reputation, money, and peace of mind. The same could be said for Yi-Hwa’s husband, Ki-Hyun, as towards the end of the series, we see him throwing all the money and crying over Yi-Hwa. As discussed earlier, Yi-Hwa had divorced him and returned whatever she owed to him, according to the ledger he kept in this desk drawer. So, maybe in next season, we’ll see Yi-Hwa choosing between one of them or none.