Meet 3 young entrepreneurs who dare to dream big; but do their dreams survive reality!

About : Korean drama
Year : 2020
Episodes : 16
Distributor : tvN/Netflix
Type of Entertainment : TV show
Genre : Drama/Romance
Where to watch : Netflix

Cast : Bae Suzy, Nam Joo hyuk, Kim Seon ho, Kang Han na

What is it about?

Start Up is a 2020 Korean drama, distributed by tvN and Netflix. The protagonist, Bae Suzy, and Nam Joo hyuk are young ambitious entrepreneurs who dream to make it big,despite their meager background. They get their chance to work together in the fictional Silicon Valley called Sandbox. They are supported by Kim Seon Ho, who is obliged to act as Bae Suzy’s secret, “Godfather” of sorts due to the favor her grandmother had granted him in the past. He also secretly has a liking for her. She has her elder sister in Kang Han na, who is successful but looks down upon her.

The Story Brief

The START UP (2020) Korean Drama’s opening episode begins with the childhood events of the lead protagonist Seo Dal mi, played by Bae Suzy. Her father decides to start his own business; of which her mother does not approve. After a not-so-successful start, her mother leaves her father along with her elder sister. Her sister Won In jae, played by Kang Han na is impassive and does not mind moving out with her mother. Her mother later re-marries a rich businessman, cutting ties with Dal mi and her father.

Dal mi and her father live with their grandmother who runs a small corn dog food truck business. Her grandmother raises Dal mi even after her father passes away. During the same year, her grandmother helps an orphan Han Ji pyeong, played by Kim Seon ho. Ji pyeong later grows up to be a successful team leader at a venture capital firm.

To comfort Dal mi amidst these tough changes, her grandmother requests Ji pyeong to be her pen friend. He obliges her request and writes to her, but as Nam Do San. Both Ji pyeong and her grandmother would have stumbled upon Do San’s name in the local newspaper, as a young Math genius. The letters last for a year before Ji pyeong moves out of town.

Years pass by before Dal mi has a chance to meet her successful sister. Won In jae looks down upon her and taunts her if she is living off her grandmother. To snub her Dal mi confirms that she and her boyfriend Do San are doing well & plan to run a company together. Won In jae insists to meet Dal mi with her boyfriend at her networking party.


Nam Do San, played by Nam Joo Hyuk is a Math genius & runs his own company Samsun Tech, along with his two best friends. His company is not very successful, as they are waiting for a breakthrough project.

Meanwhile, Ji pyeong meets up with Dal mi’s grandmother, while following Dal mi after witnessing her kooky antiques. He is totally fascinated by her.

Ji pyeong promises grandmother to find the real Do San for the party as a payback for her favor. He manages to find Do San and requests him to fake as Dal mi’s pen friend for some time. He gives him all the letters Dal mi had written to him.

Do San agrees to do if Ji pyeong will invest in his company. However, Ji pyeong berates Samsun Tech and refuses to invest.

Do San later reads the letters and decides to help Dal mi anyway. He goes in search of her at the party to help her save face to her sister.

Things spark off between Dal mi and the real Do San at the meeting and they like each other. Dal mi thinks of him as his savior from the letters and Do San finds her attractive and falls for her outspokenness.

What is supposed to end as a one-time meeting, evolves into a full-fledged relationship. Ji pyeong and her grandmother hesitate to reveal to Dal mi about the letters so that she does not get hurt.

The plot begins when Dal mi & Do San team up together in Sandbox (similar to Silicon Valley set up), when they win a chance to set their own Start Up.

Coincidentally, Ji pyeong’s company is one of the main sponsors of the contest & he chooses to be the mentor. Won In jae also has a brawl with her stepfather and decides to take a chance to start her own Start-Up at Sandbox.

Ji pyeong helps Dal mi under the pretense to repay his debt to her grandmother but actually likes her. His dislike for Do San also keeps rising as he realizes how much Dal mi likes Do San. Do San is constantly under guilt and pressure about his lies to Dal mi and even tries to tell her the truth once. But her grandmother stops him saying Dal mi is finally happy and this revelation can wait; especially since Do San only knows about her failing eyesight.

They have a constant competitor in Won In jae’s Start-Up at the same Sandbox. But manage to win funding for their Start-Up and are taken over by a foreign firm. Post the take over, the foreign firm retains Do San and his two friends for their subject matter expertise and decides to get away with Dal mi.

Do Do San & Dal mi survive their relationship? Does Ji pyeong finally get his chance to reveal his true feelings for Dal mi? What happens to their dreams to build a successful Start-Up? This Korean drama loops in all the above questions in its engrossing16 episode run.

Review

What should you expect when you have two Dior brand ambassadors
share the screen? Nothing short of sparks, right! Well, Start-Up one of Netflix’s most awaited list of Korean dramas of 2020, delivers just that!

The START UP (2020) Korean Drama is directed by Oh Choong-hwan, whose other hit dramas include Hotel Del Luna (2019),While You Were Sleeping(2017),Doctors(2016),My Love From the Star(2014). Start Up is written by writer Park Hye-ryun

The viewers are introduced to the world of business Start-Up(s) early in the series. You have business key terms used in each episode. The script then smartly links the main story to this term. In fact, the episodes are named using these key terms! The initial episodes have a good mix of drama with lots of emotional display.It starts with Dal mi’s father predicting a technologically advanced future & how he badly wants to be a contributor to that change. There is emotional melodrama when he passes away suddenly and Dal mi’s only source of hope is the letters.

It then slowly brings in each of the characters into the main storyline, as each clash & contribute to each others’ success. Once the real Do San enters the scene, the episodes are fun romedy, while sticking to the main story of building a Start-Up.

There is something unique & very real about the two main male leads characters. The main character Do San is a typical genius; a complete geek who is not good at communicating with people. He can best talk -“machine language” as a genius coder. Nam Joo hyuk potrays this character very realistically. He owns a Start-Up, yet is almost passive in his behavior. He feels guilty about not being to repay his father, who is the sole investor in his company. But he is a “giver” and does not hesitate to help Dal mi to save face to her sister.

You will enjoy the initial meeting between Dal mi & Do San. The chemistry between the two has every element of a cute couple! She tries to relate him from the letters she got years ago. He has read the letters, but there is always the “real” Do San when he interacts with her. They click together on their own & very unpredictably, much to the viewers delight.
The shy and unconfident Do San needs the confident and brave Dal mi every bit to get his Start-Up moving!

Some of the best scenes are between Do San and Ji pyeong & its amusing to watch both of them clash over the same girl. The interesting part is that the usual shy Do San is extremely aggressive when it comes to Dal mi. Ji pyeong has the upper hand in the initial scenes when Do San meets Dal mi for the first time and is just trying to impress her. But even then he gets way around the bossy Ji pyeong !

The second lead Ji pyeong is again not your usual polite or sweet protagonist. His bitter childhood reflects in his frank behavior and ever criticizing dialogues. He is lonely with a talking bot as his regular companion at home! But you do feel sorry for him, when he slowly falls for Dal mi and regrets to have missed his chance to reveal his feelings sooner to her. Kim Seon Ho fits the role as a successful Fund manager, who is all classy in his attire with expensive cars. It is fun to watch him dilly dally when it comes to handling Dal mi.

Then finally there is Dal mi. She is a strong woman, who believes her choices are never wrong. The characterization is both dreamy and motivating. She is someone with no special skills or talent but has every bit of determination to make it big! She is adamant and stubborn about getting things done. Bae Suzy does justice to this role contrasting to her otherwise real life glamorous image.

You will also adore Dal mi grandmother, played by Kim Hae sook
She has limited means but supports Ji pyeong in his childhood. Her bonding with Dal mi is heart endearing to watch for.

You will wish you had best friends like Do San’s! His friends played by Yoo Su-bin and Kim Do-wan add to the comedy and are Do San coolest supporters. Then there is the snobbish yet gorgeous Stephanie Lee , the final co-founder of their Start-Up at Sandbox who initially has a very entertaining love hate relationship with the rest before becoming an integral part of the company.

The kdrama series has some very impressive futuristic business ideas. For example, they develop an app that recognizes objects and voices it out; something that will very useful to the elderly. Then there is a project on self driven cars, where the steering happens on it own!

Start-Up as one of best Korean drama has all elements of a “larger than life” drama. The initial episodes till the 11 episode are a full swing on how a typical Start-Up needs to function and the harsh difficulties that are encumbered during the initial process.The story line does justice and is pretty realistically conveyed. The dialogues are well written and the cast deliver experienced acting abilities on screen.

Post that it becomes a bit too focused on the emotions of the three main protagonists & the possible love triangle, making it heavy on drama part. The ending is closed neatly, knitting all characters to a happy ending.

The music is good and you will enjoy the songs especially Future (sung by Red Velvet) , Care about you (sung by K Will) and Running (sung by Gaho). Also check out Bar Suzy’s vocals for the song My dear Love.

Listen to the songs on Spotify here :

Passion Quotient : 4.5/5

Why should you watch it : ( Spoilers alert!)

This Kdrama series breaks a typical Korean drama cliche’. The main lead Do San is not the usual hero, who has it all! Do San is soft, passive, hesitates to make eye contact. These physical characteristics over shadow his strong character of being a, “total giver” to others, not being only ambitious about money and having absolutely no ego problems in admitting that he needs a CEO in Dal mi to make his company work.

Nam joo hyuk lives the role, putting his acting abilities especially being emotional to his best. We enjoyed his roles as the confident swimmer in the Korean dramas Weightlifting fairy KimBook Joo and as the cocky Water god in Bride of Habaek Here he plays the role of an, “also-ran” convincingly.

Ironically, the second lead in Ji pyeong’s character is written and looks more like the typical Korean drama hero. He is rich, caring but aloof, successful and takes care of the heroine. Kim Seon ho plays the role well; something very different from his earlier roles in Korean dramas Strongest Deliveryman & Welcome to Waikiki 2.

All Korean dramas lead to a happy ending with childhood love. Here, Ji pyeong would have written the initial letters but Dal mi falls in love afresh & moves beyond the letters!

The Dal mi and Do San couple chemistry- the way they think alike, makes their couple moments totally cute and unpredictable!

The viewers are treated for some spectacular scenes that are simply beautifully shot. It’s this kind of execution that makes this korean drama series,“larger than life”!

The scenes between Do San and his parents are a delight to watch for. The talented Kim Won hae plays the role of Nam joo hyuk’s father and as usual delivers an amazing performance. You will love them as a small family and even relate to it in a lot of ways!

Fun fact

Bae Suzy had previously worked with this writer and director for the hit best Korean drama, “While you were sleeping”. She took this role because she liked the character that wanted to build a business from scratch and the character’s age was close to her actual age. There are glimpses of Dior bags & Lancome lipsticks and make up products; both being brands that she endorses.
Nam joo hyuk’s felt goosebumps acting with Bae Suzy as her acting was totally unpredictable in some scenes. He is good friends with his co-star Stephanie Lee, as both were ramp walk models earlier.You will see the Desker brand tables in the drama, that is endorsed by Nam joo hyuk.

Dal mi and Do San were fondly called the, “Dodal” couple on social media.

Kim Seon ho rose to fame after StartUp. His fan following in Instagram rose from 6lac to 2.5million in a month post release of this best Korean drama series.

Thumbs Down

The love triangle was dragged for too long. There was lot of buzz on social media with fans choosing between the two male leads. It almost felt that Do San’s character towards the end was made to look unrealistically inferior to Ji pyeong, only to satisfy everyone!
There was scope for more scenes for Kang han na, who plays the role of a smart business woman to the “T”.
Again, would have loved to have scenes between Do San’s parents and Dal mi. There were none despite Do San’s mother being a constant supporter of their relationship.

JusKorea overall rating : 4/5

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