Viewers voiced mixed responses over the ending of the latest hit series “Reborn Rich,” which was very different from the conclusion of the original web novel from which it was adapted.
The last episode in the 16-part JTBC series aired Sunday, with a 26.9 percent viewership rating, according to ratings firm Nielsen Korea, Monday. The figure is the all-time second highest rating for a JTBC drama, following “The World of the Married” (2020), which was recorded at 28.4 percent.
The story revolves around Yoon Hyeon-woo (played by Song Joong-ki), a personal secretary to the family of top conglomerate Soonyang. The story unfolds when Yoon is betrayed and killed by an unknown family member. Yoon, reincarnated in the body of Jin Do-jun, the youngest grandson of the Soonyang family -- in 1987 with his memories as Yoon intact -- seeks revenge on the family.
Fans speculated on whether Yoon, in Jin’s body, would succeed in getting revenge and becoming chairman of the group, as he did in the web novel.
In previous episodes, Yoon accumulates vast fortunes and eliminates his rivals in the Soonyang family one by one, using his memory and knowledge about the future.
But the TV series instead ended with Yoon waking up from a coma -- the battle over succession had all been but a futile dream.
Yoon, who in the first episode, fell off a cliff after being shot, had fallen unconscious. In the last episode, he wakes up a week later only to find that Jin Do-jun died in a car accident.
Viewers who commented on the series highlights on the web portal Naver were less than happy with the TV series’ departure from the web novel.
“If the original ending is abandoned like this, why on earth did Yoon (as Jin Do-jun) try so hard to win over the Soonyang?” one comment said.
Another comment read, “I’ve followed the series since the first episode and I see all my time was in vain.”
“I think viewers were rooting for Yoon to take over the company and pioneer a new life as Jin Do-jun. All the narratives and promises that Yoon made with the chairman are now gone,” another comment said.
Other viewers were more understanding.
“People are angry right now, but I think people will understand later that this is a realistic conclusion,” one comment said.
“For someone who didn’t see the original web novel, I was grasped by the story until the end. Adaptation works don’t have to follow the original ending,” another comment said.
After the final episode aired, actor Song said through his agency, “I am grateful for the responses that said this drama helped family and friends to empathize and communicate with each other.”
Actor Lee Sung-min, who played the role of Soonyang Group's chairman, also said through his agency, “I didn’t expect the series would be such a huge hit. I have nothing to say except thank you.”
“I don’t know exactly why chairman Jin was so popular but I think it’s because the viewers saw in him a father or grandfather figure who gave his all and empathized with him,” he added.
The series, an adaption of a web novel of the same title by author San Kyung, was one of the most anticipated series for the year with a star-studded cast.
The series became increasingly popular for its cathartic revenge plot mixed with a fantastical second chance at life, along with the iconic tales of chaebol leaders and the country’s modern history.
Starting at a 6.1 percent viewership rating on Nov. 18, “Reborn Rich” broke its own ratings each week, becoming the only drama series to surpass a 20 percent viewership rating this year.