Christmas Specials Wiki
Christmas Specials Wiki

"Seoul Mates" is the Christmas-themed episode of the CBS drama Northern Exposure, produced and aired as the tenth episode of its third season.


On KBHR, Chris-in-the-Morning announces preparations for the annual Raven Pageant, a holiday tradition in Cicely. Maurice arrives to talk to Chris, and seems depressed because he is alone during the holidays. Just then, Shelly enters and tells him that there are people to see him. Two Korean men and one woman are waiting to talk to him, and the younger man introduces himself as Yung Bong Joo, the other man as his dad, Yung Duk Won, and the woman as his grandma, Yung Yong Ja. Maurice is confused, and asks why they are there to see him. Bong says that Duk Won is Maurice's son.

Joel watches eagerly as Ed and Dave unload a Christmas tree for The Brick, and talks about how much he's always liked Christmas trees. When Ed asks if Joel would like to have one, Joel reminds Ed that he is Jewish. However, despite his heritage, Joel has always loved Christmas. Maggie enters and trips over a pile of logs. Joel tells Maggie that this is a subconscious indication that she doesn't want to go home for Christmas.

Shelly explains to Holling that she is depressed because she watched a Christmas television special with a "really fat Italian singer" and "this little boy's choir" that reminded her of Christmas Eve mass from childhood.

Maurice enters The Brick to find his son, Duk Won, and his mother and son, sitting at a table. He tells them that Bong's story checks out, and that he may have committed some improprieties in Korea when he was 16 years old. However, Bong is apparently the only one who understands any English, so he has to translate for the others. Maurice asks them how much money they want, and Bong tells him that Duk just wanted to meet his father. Despite this show of affection, Maurice's paranoia causes him to fear a lawsuit.

At Joel's cabin, Ed and Bong carry in a Christmas tree. Joel goes on for a while comparing Christmas and Hanukkah. When Ed is about to leave, Joel asks what he should do with the tree. Ed tells him to decorate it. Joel later talks to the tree, saying that his ownership of the tree does not betray his own religious beliefs. Maggie stumbles in to see him with a hurt ankle, and comments on the tree. Joel gets defensive, because he is Jewish and owns a tree. Maggie is more concerned with her impending trip home, and knows that she will soon find a round-trip ticket to Grosse Pointe in the mail.

At Maurice's cabin, the Yung family has apparently moved in for a few days. As Maurice brings in the laundry, he apologizes to Yong Ja for his corduroys bleeding in the wash, ruining her kimono. He offers to buy her a new one, but she refuses. Maurice appears genuinely sad and regretful when he tells her that, although he's been trying, he can't seem to remember her. Although she can't understand what he's saying, the sentiment is clear. After expressing his regrets, Maurice rather bluntly comments that she would probably be more happy with someone of her own "persuasion". This comment is based on Maurice's egocentric belief that she returned to marry him. When he makes that comment, Yong is obviously hurt and sad.

At Ruth-Anne's store, Joel comes in to buy Christmas ornaments, but all Ruth-Anne carries are raven lights and ornaments. Maggie shows up to pick up her mail, and finds the expected letter from home. Upon opening it, she finds that her have decided to go to St. Thomas this year by themselves. Joel tells Maggie that now she can relax, and Maggie agrees, but she is obviously bothered by the fact that her parents didn't even invite her to visit. She plays off her disappointment and quickly leaves.

The Minnifield household is having dinner and, in the middle, Duk calls Maurice "Dad". Clearly, Maurice feels uncomfortable with this show of affection, especially from a grown man. Duk begins pouring his heart out to Maurice, but Maurice is unfeeling and unresponsive. Finally, Bong puts on a cassette tape and Duk sings "Fly Me to the Moon" to Maurice, making him even more uncomfortable.

Later that night, Maurice is walking around town by himself, thinking, and he runs into Chris, who breaks off from the carolers to talk to Maurice. Maurice is bothered by his family, disappointed that his son is "a middle-aged Chinaman", and generally annoyed by the fact that he's not white. However, he also feels guilty for rejecting his own flesh and blood. Chris simply tells Maurice that it's learned behavior and it can be unlearned. He walks off, leaving Maurice alone with his conscience.

The next day, at Maurice's, he tells Duk that he'd love to take a hike with him, but he has some work to do in his office. He rather sheepishly returns to his office, trying to avoid facing up to his prejudice. Yong bursts in on Maurice with Bong by her side translating. She tells Maurice that her son wanted to see his father for Christmas, and when Maurice tries to interrupt, she cuts him off. Maurice is quiet as she tells him that it was mistake, that they never should have come. She is on the verge of tears as she leaves. Maurice finally hears her words, and invites Duk to have dinner with him at The Brick.

Over dinner, Maurice tells Duk that, although he's not the son Maurice bargained for, Maurice is still his father. Duk is without a translator, so he has trouble understanding, but they soon begin communicating. When Maurice asks him what he does for a living, expecting Duk to be a barber or a tailor, he is amazed to find that his son is an electrical engineer. He even shouts out proudly, "Hey guys, he's an engineer!" For the first time, a sense of respect comes into Maurice's eyes. He pats him on the shoulder, and notices that Duk is rather muscular. Duk looks Maurice straight in the eye, slides the drinking glasses aside, and puts his elbow down on the table, in a challenge position. A look of determination crosses Maurice's face, and they arm wrestle, with Maurice beating Duk only after a tough battle. But after the match, Maurice has gained more respect for his son.

Maggie arrives at Joel's cabin to help him decorate his tree on Christmas Eve. After giving him a few simple pointers about how to put ornaments on, she says she's going to leave and work on her taxes. Joel is shocked, and reminds her that it's Christmas Eve, but Maggie tells him that she's not in the mood and leaves. Hours later, Joel shows up at Maggie's cabin, where she is alone and doing her taxes. He tells her to close her eyes, walks her outside, and when she opens them, she sees a magnificently lit and decorated tree. Joel explains that, under it all, he is still a Jew and the tree belongs to her. He wishes her a merry Christmas and her spirit is restored.

As Maurice returns home that night, Yong is performing a Christmas prayer to a Buddhist shrine. He tells her, with great honesty and sincerity, that she should be proud of the son she raised. He tells her that Duk is a strong man, and Yong says "big and strong" in Korean. Suddenly, Maurice's face lights up, as he remembers that "big and strong" was her nickname for him back in Korea. Suddenly, it all comes back to him, and he says her name, remembering for the first time. He looks at her, finally seeing, and asks quietly, "So how are you?"

Holling tells Shelly to meet him at the church, where she finds that he has set up a lovely Christian scene with candles and two holy figures. As she walks in, Holling begins to sing "Ave Maria", and Shelly is visibly touched by his compassion.

That night, the whole town gathers for a musical Native American performance of the Raven story, which Marilyn is a part of. Everyone stares in wonderment at the mesmerizing dancing, costumes, and acting. The ending provides lovely Christmas themes of togetherness and reconciliation, as Maurice happily accepts his new family and Maggie is cheered up by Joel.




Actor/actress Character
Rob Morrow Dr. Joel Fleischman
Barry Corbin Maurice J. Minnifield
Janine Turner Maggie O'Connell
John Cullum Holling Vincoeur
Darren E. Burrows Ed Chigliak
John Corbett Chris Stevens
Cynthia Geary Shelly Marie Tambo
Elaine Miles Marilyn
Kim Kim Yung Yong Ja
Kwi Hyun Song Duk Won
Chi-Muoi Lo Yung Bong Joo
Peg Phillips Ruth-Anne
William J. White Dave the Cook

External links[]

Universal Studios
Movies Silent Night, Lonely Night1941Merry Christmas, Mr. LawrenceThe Munsters' Scary Little ChristmasHow the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)Love ActuallyThe HolidayThe Best Man HolidayKrampusAlmost ChristmasThe Grinch (2018)Last ChristmasBlack Christmas (2019)
Direct-to-video films The Life and Adventures of Santa ClausBarbie in a Christmas CarolCurious George: A Very Monkey ChristmasBarbie: A Perfect ChristmasBeethoven's Christmas AdventureAll I Want for Christmas is YouMy Adventures with Santa
Live-action television episodes "The Day They Captured Santa Claus" • "'Twas the Fight Before Christmas…" • "Christmas Presence" • "Home for the Holidays" • "Yule Laff" • "Christmas Brains" • "Seoul Mates" • "A Christmas Secret" • "Christmas Party" • "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa" • "A Benihana Christmas" • "Mr. Monk Meets His Dad" • "Moroccan Christmas" • "Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa Claus" • "Ludachristmas" • "Christmas Special" • "Secret Santa (30 Rock) • "Christmas Attack Zone" • "Secret Santa" (The Office) • "Classy Christmas" • "Christmas Wishes" • "Josh and Mindy's Christmas Party" • "Mr. Monk and the Miracle"
Animated specials and episodes "Dickens of a Christmas" • A Wish For Wings That Work • "For Whom the Jingle Bell Tolls" • "A Christmas Peril" • "Ms. Banshee's Holiday Hits" • "Fright Before Christmas" • "A Very Woody Christmas" • "It's a Chilly Christmas After All" • "Yule Get Yours" • "The Twelve Lies of Christmas" • How Murray Saved Christmas • "ChristMess Eve" • 5 More Sleeps ‘til Christmas