K-Drama Review: ‘Start Up,’ a Glimpse into the Start-Up World!

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Start-Up — One of the Best K-Dramas in 2020

Start-Up (스타트업) is a South Korean youth growth romance drama series produced by Studio Dragon. It’s a tvN Saturday-Sunday drama starring Bae Suzy, Nam Joo-hyuk, Kim Seon-ho, and Kang Han-na. The drama aired from October 17, 2020, to December 6, 2020. Start-Up was directed by Oh Choong-hwan and written by Park Hye-ryun. It consists of 16 episodes in total with approximate running times of 72–85 minutes per episode.

Start-Up is considered one of Forbes‘ “The 13 Best Korean Dramas of 2020.” The drama is also included in “The Top 10 K-Dramas of 2020” from South China Morning Post and “11 Best K-Dramas of 2020” from Vogue.

In this article, Channel-Korea will provide you with a review of the Start Up drama series. Stay tuned!

Start Up: Drama Review

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Start-Up started with throwback stories of the characters. Going back a few years, Seo Dal-mi and Seo In-je were sisters until their parents divorced and they began living separately. Dal-mi and In-jae’s grandma runs a corn dog store. Currently, the grandma is providing shelter to young Jip-yeong, an orphan and winner of a virtual investment competition.

Due to Dal-mi’s loneliness, because her sister became ignorant after living with her new family, her grandmother is looking for a way to help her granddaughter smile again. Ji-pyeong was forced to write letters to Dal-mi under the pen name Nam Do-san, who had won the Mathematics Olympiad at the time. This context, though, was the basis for everything in the drama.

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Start-Up tells stories about the struggles of young businesses to start new companies, usually known as startups. Seo Dal-mi dreamed to be Korea’s Steve Jobs. She decided to join Sand Box, a South Korean Silicon Valley, which serves as a hub for startups to launch their own businesses. In Sand Box, she meets Ji-pyeong and her sister, In-jae, who act as guest lecturers. Nam Do-san also attends Sand Box with his fellow members of their own company, Samsan Tech. This is where the journey of Seo Dal-mi, Nam Do-san, Han Ji-pyeong, and Won In-jae started.

Spoiler Alert: The Ending of Start Up, As You Expected or Nah?

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Seo Dal-mi finally decides who her heart is attached to in the final episode. Furthermore, the startup that Do-san and his old friends developed, Samsan Tech, gains more attention.

In the final episode, Dal-mi agrees to compete with the company’s Morning IA leader, Sang Soo, in the Smart City tender. Sang Soo, In-jae’s half-brother, then bribed a reporter from the Hyungju Daily to write an article that would drag Dal-mi’s company down.

Ji-pyeong is concerned that the article being circulated will damage Dal-mi’s company reputation and prevent them from participating in the tender. However, Dal-mi and the team seem to be aware of this. They have already come up with a plan for prevention. In addition, with Do-san’s help, they were able to confront Morning IA through a hacking event, resulting in Sang Soo’s company being unable to participate in the tender. In the end, Cheongmyeong Company led by Dal-mi won the tender.

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For Team Han Ji-pyeong, it must have been a heartbreaking day for you all. In the end, Dal-mi’s heart goes to Do-san. Ji-pyeong, realizing his love is unrequited, decides not to pursue Dal-mi’s love again. He plans to move abroad. However, the grandmother that he used to know since he was young stopped him and gave good advice so he can overcome his broken heart.

Check out Ji-pyeong and Dal-mi moment here!

Fast forward to 2020, Seo Dal-mi and Nam Do-san are still the CEO and CTO of Cheongmyeong Company, respectively. Photographs show them married, meaning that they won the contract. In-jae and Ji-pyeong are still both employed by the company, and the story concludes with all four making their way to a shareholder conference.

Meet the Cast of Start Up!

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Main Cast

  • Bae Suzy as Seo Dal-mi: Seo Dal mi is a person with great energy. She aspires to be Korea’s Steve Jobs. She has worked in a variety of part-time jobs such as delivery services, golf courses, bookstore keeping, and call centers. She was able to pursue a number of occupations as a part of her early entry into social life rather than college. She was abandoned by her mother and sister when she was a child and now lives with her father.
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  • Nam Joo-hyuk as Nam Do-san: Nam Do-san is the founder of Samsan Tech and a talented software engineer. His hobby is knitting and he wears the same checkered shirt every day. He became the talk of the town as a genius when he won the youngest grand prize at the Mathematics Olympiad when he was young. However, despite his unrivaled coding abilities, his self-esteem is so fragile that he is unable to make eye contact with anyone.
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  • Kim Seon-ho as Han Ji-pyeong: Han Ji-pyeong is the chief of SH Venture Capital. He is a wealthy man who owns luxurious cars and high-end apartments with a view of the Han River. He earned the title of “the Gordon Ramsay of investments” because of his amazing investment abilities.
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  • Kang Han-na as Won In-jae/Seo In-jae: Won In-jae is Seo Dal-mi’s older sister. Different from her sister, she has an educational background, beauty, wealth, and everything else. Won In-jae is CEO of startup Nature Morning. Because of the assets and connections of her stepfather, Chairman Won, the company has dominated the industry in a short period of time since its founding.
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Supporting Cast

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  • Yoo Su-bin as Lee Chul-san: Lee Chul-san is the co-founder and software engineer of Samsan Tech along with Nam Do-san and Kim Yong-san. He is the one who is impressed with Do-san’s coding abilities, so he recognizes him as a leader and follows him.
  • Kim Do-wan as Kim Yong-san: Kim Yong-san is the co-founder and software engineer of Samsan Tech along with Nam Do-san and Lee Chul-san. He collects post-it notes with quotations from famous pioneers and great men such as Jobs and Marwin. When Do-san and Chul-san are frustrated, they are encouraged and comforted by wise sayings.
  • Stephanie Lee as Jeong Sa-ha: Jung Sa-ha majored in art and graduated from law school. She quits her position as a former prosecutor to do anything less generic. She has a high sense of self-esteem.

More Supporting Roles

  • Kim Hae-sook as Choi Won-deok
  • Song Seon-mi as Cha Ah-hyun
  • Kim Joo-hun as Seo Chung-myung
  • Eom Hyo-seop as Won Doo-jung
  • Kim Hee-jung as Park Geum-jung
  • Kim Won-hae as Nam Sung-hwan
  • Jang Se-hyun as Nam Chun-ho
  • Seo Yi-sook as Yoon Seon-hak
  • Jasper Cho as Alex Kwon
  • Kang You-Seok as Shin Hyeon
  • Joo Bo-Young as Shin Jeong

Special Guests

  • Moon Se-yoon as a security guard (Ep.7)
  • Park Chan-ho as Nam Do-san’s favorite baseball athlete (Ep.8,12)
  • Bae Hae-sun as Lee Hye-won, team leader at Seonju Life Insurance. (Ep.8)
  • Lee Bo-young as a woman at the pub (Ep.10)
  • Kim Sung-yeol as a photographer (Ep.14)
  • Yeo Jin-goo as Jang Young-shil (voice) / Hong Ji-seok (Ep.16)
  • Kim Hyun-mok as a startup guy (Ep.16)