The various findings in “Chicago Typewriter” & their subtle contexts: from Stephen King to Dali

As previously reported, “Chicago Typewriter” provides quite many literature symbols and subtle messages within the storyline. It’s a big help if we understand the meaning of these symbols and the context to really grasp the story. Fortunately, @_Jessee from Soompi Forum shared her thoughts on the symbols and hidden messages scattered in episode 1 to 2. Let’s check them out~ 


[WARNING: Full of spoilers]


The ghost of a ghostwriter

I belong to the clan that believes Yoo Jin Oh is a ghost from 1930s because in Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, he wrote, “Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.”

1. His fashion and hairstyle remained the same since 1930s

2. He has only one name – Yoo Jin Oh – whereas Han Se Joo was called Seo Hwi Young and Jeon Seol was Yoo Soo Yeon in their past lives. Having the same last name also implied that Yoo Jin Oh and Yoo Soo Yeon were probably blood-related.

3. Yoo Jin Oh was called “유령작가”, which means ghostwriter. Just like the English equivalent, the Korean term is made up of two words: “유령” (yulyeong/幽靈/ghost) and “작가” (jagga/作家/author). Hence, 유령작가 could be a word pun to suggest that the ghostwriter in question is also in fact a real ghost.


유즈들은 유령이라서 때론 초대받지 않은 곳에 나타나곤 한다 – 스티븐 킹
The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited. – Stephen King


The various meanings of “Chicago Typewriter”

Writer Jin Soo Wan seems to love using puns. There are two meanings to “Chicago Typewriter” as explained in the drama.

1. A typewriter from Chicago

The obvious explanation is that this typewriter was found in a cafe in Chicago. The cafe owner said it was handcrafted in Gyeongsang, but historically, that is highly unlikely. Because the Hangul typewriter was actually invented in Chicago.

The oldest Hangul typewriter was invented by Song Ki Joo in 1926 when he was studying at the University of Chicago. In 1933, he entered an agreement with The Underwood Typewriter Company in New York to manufacture this 4-set typewriter. It is now being displayed at the National Hangeul Museum.

2. Thompson submachine gun

Soo Yeon: Do you know what this gun’s nickname is?
Hwi Young: I don’t know. What is it?
Soo Yeon: Because its gunshot is similar to a typewriter sound, it got the nickname “Chicago Typewriter”.

The Thompson submachine gun was popular among Chicago gangsters and police alike in the Prohibition era (1920-30s). It became widely used later on by the Allied troops during WWII (1939-1945).


In the opening sequence, the typewriter is likened to a machine gun that uses the Korean alphabet as bullets. It is especially poignant in the context of Korea under the Japanese rule. Leftist writers who believed literature should serve the cause of class liberation founded the Korean Artists Proletarian Federation (KAPF), which was eventually forced out of existence by the Japanese in 1935.

Soo Yeon: A pen is stronger than a knife. A typewriter is stronger than a gun.
Hwi Young: So?
Soo Yeon: You should write something good. Don’t write to gain fame and women. Write something magnificent.

The power of the written word was demonstrated by the stalker fan who built a gun and murdered his coworkers after reading Han Se Joo’s novel. In the same way, Se Joo’s life as a writer was killed by the stalker’s suicide letter, which led him to contemplate suicide. A murder novel begot a murder, a suicide letter begot a suicide – such is the power of the written word.

Stalker fan: Because of you, my life came to an end. Your novel and your writing have gotten me killed already… You should feel the same. Why don’t you taste death with my writing?

Something interesting to ponder about: Soo Yeon herself said that the typewriter is stronger than a gun. But later, she would need to decide whether to shoot a writer with a gun. How ironic is that? My gut feeling tells me she won’t shoot.

Also interesting is the repeated reference to Stephen King’s Misery in ep 2. Wiki summarises the novel’s plot as such: The novel focuses on Paul Sheldon, a writer famous for Victorian-era romance novels involving the character of Misery Chastain. One day he is rescued from a car crash by crazed fan Annie Wilkes, who transports him to her house and, once finding out what he has done to Misery in his latest book, forces him to write a new book modifying the story – no matter what it takes…


Seol: I can’t believe I’m reading your rough draft. I’m so thrilled.
Se Joo: Don’t say things like that. It creeps me out because it reminds me of “Misery”.
Seol: Oh right. There’s this line in “Misery”. “The only people who can read my manuscripts are my editor, my legal representative, and the one who saved my life.”



Last but not least, I must add that one of the scenes in “Chicago Typewriter”  is using a symbol from Salvador Dali‘s 1931 painting “The Persistence of Memory” in Cafe Chicago scene.


“The Persistence of Memory”, often called just “Clocks”, is widely regarded as a Surrealist masterpiece. “The Persistence of Memory” has sparked considerable academic debate as scholars interpret the painting. Some critics believe the melting watches in the piece are a response to Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. As critic Dawn Ades put it, “the soft/melted watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time.”

Coming up with the best visual representation of what it is like to be dreaming was one of the main goals of the Surrealists. The melting clock could represent dream and time in “Chicago Typewriter”. In the beginning of the story, Han Se Joo sees his “past” through his dreams and he loses the track of time twice. Have you ever woken up and expected it to be still the middle of the night and are surprised to find that it is already morning? While Se Joo is so good and strictly keeping track of what time it is while he goes about his days, keeping time while he is asleep is another story.

Legomenon says Surrealism might seem a little crazy, but we’ve all had dreams where unrelated people, places, or objects come together in completely inexplicable ways. If “Persistence of Memory” depicts a dream state, the melting and distorted clocks symbolize the erratic passage of time that we experience while dreaming. The distorted clocks don’t have any power in the dream world and are melting away because of that. “Chicago Typewriter” melting clock could indicate that Han Se Joo will be conflicting whether he’s just dreaming about writing his own future novel (“I’m sure I was the one who wrote it… Was it me or was it the ghostwriter?”), or he’s facing his reality.

So far, I kinda like the pace which the first two episodes presented to us, but I’m also eager to see the depth in Yoo Ah In’s character which has yet to be further explored. The drama quotes Stephen King’s works quite a lot, especially “Misery”, and it could also influence his character’s psychology. I hope the writer knows what she’s doing with Han Se Joo’s character development in the next episodes, and that it won’t take long to get there. 

Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win. – Stephen King


Photos: DC, @_Jessee of Soompi

12 Responses to “The various findings in “Chicago Typewriter” & their subtle contexts: from Stephen King to Dali”
  1. Mari says:

    I’m thorned between his present and past character. There are not much hints we have in his past narrative, so I would like to see this part more. Anyway, thank you to @_Jessee and Furbabe for the post, it does help me to understand the story 🙏🙏

  2. Sofie says:

    Interesting note on Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory. Not everyone could notice that scene! And this subtle reference is brilliant.

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