First Impressions: Chief of Staff

Chief of Staff is a back-door look at the Korean National Assembly—about the chief of staff of an assemblyman. The first couple of episodes impressed me with being really well done and fast paced.

Politics, you said?

I don’t know about politics. This is more like an office show where they have to outsmart a competitor. It’s like a detective show without any murders. It’s a bunch of smart people figuring out clues and thinking fast on their feet. The chief of staff (who used to be a cop and wants to become an assemblyman) feeds the clues to his team, who amazingly put it all together and often save the day. It’s about the people behind the scenes who make things happen.

The Main Characters

Since we are thrown into the deep end so fast and with so many characters, I thought it might help to identify all these people. Lee Jung Jae, who has done mostly movies, plays the main character Chief Jang Tae Joon. He is the chief of staff to Assemblyman Song and is always several steps ahead of everyone else. He remains calm through any provocation, speaks with conviction, and is able to dominate the room.

Kang Sun Young is a first-year assembly member. We all know actress Shin Min A from Oh My Venus and My Girlfriend is a Nine-tailed Fox. Her character here has hosted a tv news show and knows people and issues very well. She is not forceful, but can hold her own in most situations and is party spokesperson.

Chief Jang’s Team

Assemblyman Song is Chief Jang’s boss. On the one hand he doesn’t seem to appreciate Jang, but on the other hand always takes his advice. He is your garden-variety greasy politician who is in it for himself and has become floor leader only because of Chief Jang’s maneuvering.

Lee Elijah (who I discovered in Miss Hammurabi) plays Yoon Hye Won, the top aide after Chief Jang. She is knowledgable and quick-witted, and is the one who finds solutions when Chief Jang throws out a problem. We meet her on the same subway that Han Do Kyung (in the next picture) is riding, but they don’t know each other yet.

Han Do Kyung (Kim Dong Joon from boy-band ZE:A) was invited by Assemblyman Song for an interview to be an intern. He holds up well under cavalier treatment from the entire staff, including comments that they thought he had failed the first round of interviews. To his credit, he volunteers to help when they are suddenly inundated with work. He never really gets the interview.

Here we see aide Kim Jong Wook. He is often sent to meet with other people and represent their team. He puts up with a lot from Assemblyman Song and is still friendly with Oh Won Sik (picture below) who used to be on their staff.

No Da Jung is the only one to give the intern a break. She does a lot of the same work as the others but we know she is the secretary because she is the one who gets told to get coffee.

Persons of Interest

Assemblywoman Kang’s chief of staff is Go Seok Man, who I remember fondly as the hospital manager in Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim. He is a long-time friend of Chief Jang and is willing to help him out while still being loyal to Ms. Kang.

Assemblyman Go is of the same political party as Assemblyman Song, but they are as much rivals as if they were from opposing parties. He feels that his time should be worth something and takes bribes big time.

Kim Hyung Do is the chief of staff for Assemblyman Go and is in his boss’ confidence. On the surface, he is friendly with Chief Jang but there is verbal sparring whenever they meet.

Oh Won Sik was once on the staff of Assemblyman Song, but Chief Jang didn’t trust him and forced him out. Song still likes him and sometimes uses him as an advisor. Ex-staffer Oh seems to have ulterior motives, however. We have seen this actor, Jung Woong In, recently in Ms. Nemesis, but he forever ingrained himself in our minds as a villain in I Hear Your Voice.

We first meet Assemblyman Lee in the hospital, as a patient bickering with his wife on the phone. He is an old friend and mentor of Chief Jang and is maybe the only honest person in the assembly. Chief Jang trusts him with making fair presentations and not covering anything up.

Jang Choon Bae is Chief Jang’s curmudgeonly father, who still lives in an old house in their hometown. He does not approve of his son being in politics and wanted him to remain a policeman.

Is this worth watching?

Oh, yes! I tried it out just to see and was pulled in right away. This show doesn’t wait a few episodes to get interesting. It’s serious-minded and definitely not fluff. The writing is good; there are reasonable problems and clever solutions. The actors are great and there are characters that I can like. I hope you give it a try too!


Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

One thought on “First Impressions: Chief of Staff

  1. Thanks for the first impressions. I’m still undecided on this one as I don’t usually enjoy political dramas. The cast sure is amazing though. I’ll probably keep an eye on it and keep it on my maybe list :)

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