During the Korean War, possessed nurse Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung) dreams of finding true love.
Lovecraft Country Season One Episode Six ” Meet Me in Daegu,” directed by Helen Shaver, humanizes the monster through the Korean nurse Ji-Ah. ” Meet Me in Daegu” is a flashback to when Atticus is serving in the Korean War. The episode is told totally from Ji-Ah’s perspective. We have only seen the nurse through Atticus’ visions or over the phone. Last week in the “Strange Case,” Atticus calls Ji-Ah to ask her how she knew he would die if he returned to Chicago. During the call, he questions what the Korean nurse is. We learn that Ji-Ah is a nine-tailed fox spirit called a kumiho in Korea.
Like other episodes of Lovecraft Country, this one messes with the expectation of its audience. In United States media, Asian women are often depicted as either the “Lotus Blossom,” a sexually compliant and submissive woman, or a “Dragon Lady” whose domineering, overtly sexual, and mysterious. Ji-Ah doesn’t fit into either category. In the first few scenes, Ji-Ah appears to be a bit of a “Lotus Blossom.” She is submissive to her mother, who insists she brings a man home to honor her family. At first, we think that Ji-Ah’s mother, Soon Hee (Cindy Chang), wants her to bring a man home so she can get married. Soon Hee’s husband is dead, so they need a man around. Ji-Ah is too shy and awkward to capture a man at a speed dating event for male engineers and female nursing students. Young-Ja (Prisca Kim) talks her into going to a bar to meet men. Ji-Ah seduces a man at a Spanish themed bar.
At first, she seems all submissive and compliant with this man. The nurse lays there as the man pounds into her. Ji-Ah doesn’t seem to be enjoying herself, but once I started getting worried about her, the show turns the “Lotus Blossom” trope on its head. Big reddish tails that look a bit like stingers start coming out of all her orifices. They puncture him in the back and find their way into his ears, nose, mouth, and eyes. Ji-Ah sees flashes of all of his memories, then he explodes. Blood and guts are everywhere; the mother comes into the bedroom with a pleased look on her face.
In Lovecraft Country, the kumiho is a revenging demon that absorbs the souls and kills men who take advantage of women. Back when Ji-Ah was a child, she was molested by Soon Hee’s husband. He took advantage of a young single mother who was shamed for not having a husband. When Soon Hee found out, she went to a mudang (witch) to summon a kumiho to kill her husband. The mudang warned the mother she would pay a mysterious price. The cost ended up being that the kumiho possesses her daughter Ji-Ah until the demon absorbs a hundred men’s souls. Soon-Hee wants Ji-Ah to absorb two more souls, so she reaches that goal. That way, she gets her daughter back. Soon-Hee thinks her kumiho daughter is soulless and can’t love anybody.
Misha Green and the other writers could have easily made Ji-Ah into a “Dragon Lady,” especially since, at times, the character is manipulative and dangerous. Instead, they humanize the kumiho nurse. First, she loves to see Hollywood films in the local movie theatre to escape life. Ji-Ah especially enjoys Judy Garland movies like Meet Me in Saint Louis. The name of the episode ” Meet Me in Daegu” is based on that title. She dreams of finding true love like Judy always does in her films. Second, Ji-Ah’s relationship with her best friend Young-Ja, a communist, shows she can care about people. During the Korean War, communists were imprisoned or killed by the American soldiers and hated by other Koreans. Ji-Ah shows her friendship by keeping that fact a secret. Young- Ja demonstrates her love by encouraging Ji-Ah to live her own life and not bow down to her mother’s demands. Thirdly, “Meet Me in Daegu” humanizes Ji-Ah through her romantic relationship with Atticus.
The Korean nurse first meets Atticus when he kills her best friend, Young-Ja, for leaking information from the hospital to the Communists. When the soldiers threaten to shoot Ji-Ah, Young-Ja admits she is the Communist spy to save her. Atticus murders the other nurse. The demon wants to avenge Young-Ja’s death.
Atticus comes into Ji-Ah’s hospital as a patient. At first, the kumiho plans to kill him to absorb all hundred souls so she can avenge her best friend’s death and make her mother happy. Ji-Ah doesn’t think she will find true love, so she doesn’t mind sacrificing herself for Soon Hee. But shockingly, she falls in love with Atticus. They have many things in common, like their complicated relationships with their only parent and escaping from reality through stories.
Ji-Ah can have sex with Atticus without absorbing his soul with her nine tails, but she slips up one day. Some of her tails slither out, and she able to see flashes of Atticus’ future. Ji-Ah has never foretold the future before. Luckily, She throws Atticus across the room before she kills him. Ji-Ah warns Atticus that he will die if he returns to Chicago. He freaks out after seeing all of Ji-Ah’s foxtails and runs away before they can talk. Will Atticus die? Some of the other visions she saw already happened.
Ji-Ah is a fascinating character; I hope we see more of her before the end of the first season of Lovecraft Country.