First Impression: Start-Up

I am here to admit for the entire Kimchi clan that we did NOT do our job with upcoming dramas and realizing that writer Park Hye Ryun had a new drama coming out. In our defense, October has been the dramapalooza of drama months. We also missed the fact that she teamed up with her While You Were Sleeping director for this one. As penance, we are prepared to share with you ALL the pretty screen shots we can for our first impression.

One thing that I will say about not realizing Start-Up was a MUST WATCH drama is the description. Fictional Silicon Valley meets down on their luck start-up companies with a possible Gordon Ramsey-like character thrown in the mix? None of it screams this writer’s wheelhouse. She must have decided to take a break from fantasy and go back to her Dream High roots. For a full synopsis you can go here to MyDramaList.

Thankfully, the first two episodes were not boring and were full of breathtaking scenes and tons of likable characters.

Gordon Ramsey? I think NOT!

If one were to stumble upon this drama without seeing the promotion for it or looking anything up, you might believe that Han Ji Pyung (Kim Seon Ho) was our leading man. He comes complete with a sad backstory and his younger self is played by Nam Da Reum. He’s featured heavily in episode one & two. He had aged out of the orphanage he grew up in, and was unable to take care of himself right away. With the help of a corndog stand grandma that takes pity on him, he’s able to turn competition digital prize money (of course he’s really smart and handsome) into a small fortune and then move to Seoul and eventually make it big as an investment firm team manger.

Drama Geek: I was a drama newbie when I watched Dream High and I thought the kiss rule was a solid way to determine the leading guy. Taecyeon had all the backstory and her love — who knew a floppy haired country boy would come in and sweep all of our hearts? I feel Kim Seon Ho is the stronger actor of these two guys (unlike the pair in Dream High) but I have also enjoyed Nam Joo Hyuk‘s last few roles. He’s pushed himself to go beyond the swimmer’s body and I’m putting my faith in him and the writer.

Karie the Maknae: I loveloveLOVE Kim Seon Ho — his dry delivery and sarcasm are some of my favorite things about his acting. He was my favorite part of Catch the Ghost, and I was disappointed when I put 2+2 together and realized he is not the lead. HOWEVER, I like where Nam Joo Hyuk’s character is headed, and it almost seems like Kim Seon Ho will be there to be a mentor rather than a second lead. This should be different and interesting.

MiataMama: I’ve seen Kim Seon Ho in every drama that he has either played the lead, or supporting character, in – I’m the ultimate Kim Seon Ho fangirl here at DWASOK!! Initially, he was the main reason that I was trying this story out, then I found out that Nam Da Reum played his younger self (double whammy). And then Drama Geek shared who the writer was and I decided I was in, even before I pushed play on the first episode. I’m also fully preparing myself for SLS heartbreak – it will be strong in this drama!! I fully expect Nam Joo Hyuk to bring his A-game. His performance in The Light in Your Eyes proves he’s entirely capable of being more than just a pretty face.

Tale of Two Sisters

When the show opens, we see Seo Dal Mi (Suzy) getting ready for what I thought was an interview. She slips into the bathroom to add marker to her worn out black shoes, and then heads into a presentation. On stage is our investment guru Han Ji Pyung and two other women. The younger of the two, Won In Jae, is called out right away for not really being a good person to take advice from regarding start up companies since she received her money from her dad. In Jae brushes it off and says she just doesn’t read hate comments. Seo Dal Mi stands, grabs the microphone, and calls her Seo In Jae. There is obvious recognition on In Jae’s face, but she doesn’t say anything about it. Dal Mi asks if she’s ever regretted a major decision she’s made in her life.

With several flashbacks we see that these two are sisters whose parents divorced and they were both faced with an impossible choice. Dad wanted to quit his job and start his own company, and that is why Mom left. She obviously couldn’t handle the possibility of an unstable future. In Jae chose to go with her mom, while Dal Mi stayed behind with her dad and grandma. Just from the opening sequence you can see where this leads our two sisters. One to toil and struggle to make ends meet, the other to becoming a very rich and successful business woman.

The writer plays with this theme for most of episode two. Split screening the sisters to show us what one has and one doesn’t. Or maybe to show us that both are lacking in some comforts of life, whether it be money or love. When they talk after the presentation, Dal Mi boasts about her own start up that she runs with a partner, who just so happens to be a her romantic partner as well. In Jae invites Dal Mi to a networking event she’s holding, and encourages her to bring her partner, of course.

Drama Geek: Sorry to keep bringing up this writer’s old dramas, but this match up really reminds me of the lawyer/prosecutor relationship in I Hear Your Voice. I LOVED Lee Da Hee‘s character by the end, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the two women bicker and then become friends again. The two sisters have so much potential to both be layered characters who grow and become better and stronger people together.

Karie the Maknae: Hey look! It’s Suzy, just in a different setting! Thankfully, I like the kind of character she plays. Kang Ha Na, however, I absolutely detested in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. I will set my disgust aside, however, to see how these two sisters play out. They already have a built-in depth to their relationship with wanting to see how the other side lives, and it’s fun to see the contrast.

MiataMama: I’ve always enjoyed Suzy in her past dramas – she seems to bring a slightly tomboyish feel to her roles, which I think makes her characters more relatable! I’m liking her here as Dal Mi, but it was actually the flashbacks with her younger self left the biggest impression. Watching the sisters endure an unwanted separation of their own, because of their parents’ divorce, was really heart-breaking. I hope that they are not destined to remain enemies and that their relationship can be restored.

Pen Pals of Fate

Remember when I said you’d think that Han Ji Pyung is the leading man? Well, part of that is because his backstory is all tangled up with our leading lady. The corndog stand grandma (Kim Hae Sook) just happens to be Dal Mi and In Jae’s grandma. She helped Ji Pyung out so that he had a place to live while he was finding his way after the orphanage, and in return, he wrote secret letters to Dal Mi once her sister and mom left and she felt all alone. They’d exchange them in a bird house and it really did seem that they helped each other out through a hard time in their lives. The twist is that Grandma and Ji Pyung borrowed a name from the newspaper to use as the pen pal’s name. So for a year, Dal Mi received letters from the youngest person to win a math competition: Nam Do San.

This was all done with the right intentions, but when Ji Pyung recognizes Seo Dal Mi’s name in the present, he follows her and eventually connects with Grandma again. She has a favor to ask … can he find Nam Do San for her? Her granddaughter never got over him, and now needs him to go to the event and show up her sister.

Drama Geek: The relationship between Grandma and Ji Pyung is my favorite of the show so far. It’s pretty funny that she tasks him with finding Do San, and then making him pretend to be the pen pal he never was. It’s also sad for Ji Pyung because he will be the catalyst for getting these to together, and eventually create his one sided love. I wouldn’t complain if he’s put into a relationship with the sister. Just saying, they look pretty together and I hate SLS.

Karie the Maknae: These two are my absolute favorite characters so far, and Kim Won Hae is in this drama, so that’s saying something! Kim Hae Sook’s character is smart and funny and caring — everything I want to be when I grow up. And her relationship with the prickly Ji Pyung is a delight to watch. I want more of them throughout the drama!

MiataMama: Kim Hae Sook had never been on my radar until Room No. 9 – I instantly fell in love with this actress because she is simply fantastic!! So, of course, I was thrilled to see her playing the role of Dal Mi’s halmeoni. But the biggest warm fuzzies came when she plucked orphan Ji Pyung off the street and tucked him under her mother-hen wing. These two have the best dynamic and I would totally watch a drama just about the two of them!!

Leading Man??

Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk) did really win a math competition at a young age, and as an adult he’s put those brains to work. He has his own start-up company with his two friends. Things don’t seem to be going too well for them — his dad threatens to pull his investment money from them. But, as luck would have it, one day his hero Han Ji Pyung shows up at his door and wants him to pretend to be Seo Dal Mi’s pen pal for one night.

Drama Geek: From his floppy hair, to his failing business, I smell a huge success in the making. He will probably soar to great heights, and let’s just hope he brings his lady love along with him this time. (Yes, I am still bitter about Dream High’s end!)

Karie the Maknae: Suzy’s character has proven to be phenomenal at handling people and turning a profit, and Joo Hyuk’s character is a programming genius. Even though they seem like opposites — she’s outgoing and he’s very reserved — there’s got to be a way that they’ll end up working together, and working well. This feels like a very different character for Joo Hyuk, and I’m liking it.

MiataMama: My favorite part was when Do San stood firm in wanting support for his work, even if it meant giving up on some fast, but much needed, cash. I do hope that he and Ji Pyung can have a brotherly relationship and team up to be supportive towards Dal Mi, not fight over her. Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate Nam Joo Hyuk’s glow-up at the end of episode two?!

Beyond the Set Up

Drama Geek: There is a balance with a first impression where you don’t want to give too much away, because it might spoil the viewer’s experience. So, there are some key events and details I have left out. But one thing this writer and director team are good at is creating lovable characters and must watch visuals. One scene at the end of episode one was so strikingly beautiful that you almost forgot you were witnessing a tragic event. The connection between the corndog stand grandma and young Ji Pyung cannot be explained or expressed without giving a bit away. That I think you just need to witness it for yourself. The two actors involved always tug at my heart and make me feel everything their characters are feeling. The stage is set to dislike the rich sister, while also seeing exactly why she acts the way she does. They are going to be two sides of a sad broken coin. I’m not certain how I will feel about the main OTP — we only see them interact at the end of two, but I have faith this team will make me swoon.

Karie the Maknae: Drama Geek made me watch the first episode and by 30 minutes in, I was in love. After finding out who the writer and director are, I was solidly committed to finishing this drama — While You Were Sleeping is, hands down, one of my FAVORITE dramas. These first two episodes have been rich and detailed without bogging down the pacing too much — the end of episode two did drag a bit, but I’m still satisfied.

MiataMama: I often don’t get to have my drama time until the end of the day after everyone is in bed and the house is quiet. While this allows me to give the story my undivided attention, it also means I’m likely to nod off if the drama doesn’t keep me fully engaged. I’m happy to say that Start- Up has passed my litmus test – I have been glued to my screen each night, not feeling the slightest bit sleepy. I’m already invested in each and every one of the characters. The story-telling is very heartfelt and I can’t wait to see where their journey takes us. (And maybe, just maybe, the second lead will get the girl? A fangirl can always hope, can’t she?! LOL)


Listen very carefully to their version of Alexa. If you can guess who is doing the voice, tweet us at @DramasKimchi with your guess.

As always,

The Fangirls

Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

3 thoughts on “First Impression: Start-Up

  1. Why does Netflix only have 4 episodes listed? Usually they have the next episode up as “coming xx/xx.” Is there more? When does it air? I’m freaking out, because the 4th episode ended on a huge cliffhanger!

  2. My Drama List says there are 16 episodes to Start Up. I’ve noticed Netflix does this on a couple of other shows too, but not a lot. MDL also says that it airs on TvN and on Netflix, so maybe that has something to do with it. We just need to wait until next weekend. (sigh)

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