Start-Up is set in the midst of Korea’s Silicon Valley, known as Sandbox, and tells the story of a woman (Suzy) trying to begin her own startup company and a man (Nam Joo Hyuk) with a struggling startup company as they come together to achieve their dreams.
Suzy plays Seo Dal Mi. She is bright and outgoing and wants to succeed with her own company. A boy from her childhood inspired her through letters and got her through some very difficult times. She is excited when she gets to meet him as an adult, but the problem is that the man she meets didn’t actually write the letters.
Nam Joo Hyuk is Nam Do San. He is a very smart but awkward man who runs a struggling startup company. A series of events leads Dal Mi to believe he wrote her letters when they were younger, and he gets swept up in the lie as he falls for her, and they both need to work together to succeed.
Next we have Kim Sun Ho as Han Ji Pyung. He was an orphan as a child but is now a successful businessman in the world of startups. He is the one who actually wrote Dal Mi the letters and orchestrates the present day lie to hide his identity from her.
Then there is Kang Ha Na as Won In Jae who is Dal Mi’s sister. The two separated on bad terms when they were young, and she became wealthy and successful. But her advantages in life leave her feeling like she didn’t earn her own way, so she sets out to start her own company.
Finally, Kim Hae Sook plays Choi Won Deok. She is Dal Mi’s kind and hardworking grandmother who basically raises her. The two are very close, and when Dal Mi is going through a difficult time, she asks Ji Pyung to writer the letters to her.
Start-Up comes from one of my favorite writers who penned wonderful dramas such as I Hear Your Voice, Pinocchio, and While You Were Sleeping. She is known for creating worlds filled with wonderful, well-rounded characters and incredibly heart-warming stories. I usually get lots of feels from her dramas because of how much I connect with the characters and how their stories are presented.
So, I had high hopes for Start-Up. Thankfully, it was another highly enjoyable drama! On paper, the premise for the show doesn’t sound all that interesting, but I pinned my hopes on the writer and the fantastic cast.
It had all of the elements I enjoy with a lovable main characters and supporting ones, great character journeys, and an engaging story. Watching all that the characters had to go through to achieve their dreams of creating successful companies was fun to see.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about watching people involved in startup companies, but I actually enjoyed even that aspect. The characters and their personal stories tied into the company happenings and was blended nicely. It was an underdog story of challenge and growth with a team of people that are a lot of fun. I felt their struggles and celebrated their joys. It was rewarding to see play out.
There’s also a rivalry between Dal Mi and her sister In Jae. These two sisters have very different outlooks on life, and that can be seen in everything they do. They each have their own goals but work in the same industry. This allows them to frequently cross paths and creates some tension.
We have such a sweet romance too. A love triangle does get set up early on because of the lie surrounding who wrote letters to Dal Mi. Ji Pyung creates a world of hurt for himself by concealing his identity. He likes Dal Mi and works alongside her to help her succeed, but she doesn’t know who he really is.
This opens the door for the main romance between her and Do San. He gets roped into the lie and quickly falls hard for Dal Mi. He always has good intentions towards her, but he just gets in a bad situation.
He is adorably awkward as he develops feelings for her and they progress through their relationship. There were lots of sweet, heart-fluttering moments as well as so much care and support towards each other. They made a great couple as well as business partners. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them together.
Dal Mi had such a moving personal story. She works so hard to achieve her dreams and puts her everything into what she does. Her bright personality is so endearing as is her determination. Her journey is a great one to see.
Do San was also an interesting character. He’s incredibly smart but suffers from a lack of self-confidence as well as guilt. He was such a sweet and kind man that it was hard to watch him suffer. He fought against the odds to try and succeed in his career as well as did his best to be there for Dal Mi.
This duo go through some incredible highs as well as the lowest of lows. Watching them go through challenges involving both their careers as well as in the personal lives was both joyous and heartbreaking. These two go through a lot, but they always rise to the challenge.
I wanted to briefly address some of the fan reaction to this drama. I watched this show in a bubble and didn’t read any comments or reviews during that time, so I was unaware of the vastly different experiences so many people were having towards it. It turns out people were really divided between our male leads of Do San and Ji Pyung.
The first episode involving the child actors centers more around Ji Pyung, and if you didn’t know beforehand, you would likely think he was the main lead. Do San doesn’t really even have a presence. I knew he wasn’t the lead, but even I was so taken with him that I was afraid the Second Lead Syndrome would be strong.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case. I was invested in his character and felt bad for the situation that he found himself in, but for me, he always kept a distance from Dal Mi and continued to lie to her, so there was never a chance for a true connection to form in the present day.
It only took a couple of episodes for me to fully disconnect him from any potential for romance and get onboard with Do San and Dal Mi. I continued to empathize with Ji Pyung as a person, but it was more of an independent struggle and journey that was separate from the main relationship. I was much more invested in his relationship with Grandma.
Now, not everyone had the same experience as me. Many so strongly connected with Ji Pyung in the beginning that they felt he was done wrong throughout the drama and never given a chance. I can see how that could happen.
So, if you’re in this drama primarily for the romance and choose the wrong side, you may end up very disappointed. The actual romance is very nice though, and there are so many other things to enjoy about the drama. It really just depends on how you view the direction and handling of the story overall.
END OF SPOILERS
Start-Up was such a wonderful drama. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters and watching their complicated relationships play out as well as their career journeys. It was full of heart and lots of emotion. The drama left me feeling very full and content in the end.
My Rating: 9/10
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