Start-Up Korean Drama Review

Start-Up Korean Drama - Nam Joo Hyuk and Suzy

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Suzy

Suzy plays Seo Dal Mi. She is bright and outgoing and wants to succeed with her own company.Β  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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Nam Joo Hyuk

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Kim Sun Ho

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Kang Ha Na

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Kim Hae Sook

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.

Startup Korean Drama - Nam Joo Hyuk and Suzy

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Nam Joo Hyuk, Suzy, Kim Do Wan, Yoo Soo Bin, Stephanie Lee

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Suzy and Kang Han Na

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Nam Joo Hyuk and Suzy

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Suzy Start-Up Korean Drama - Nam Joo Hyuk

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Nam Joo Hyuk and Suzy

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.

Start-Up Korean Drama - Kim Sun Ho Start-Up Korean Drama - Nam Joo Hyuk and Suzy

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.


Start-Up Korean Drama - Nam Joo Hyuk, Suzy, Kim Do Wan, Yoo Soo Bin, Stephanie Lee

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

Check out more Korean Drama Reviews.

Kdrama Kisses Sign Up Button - Korean Dramas Reviews, News, Guides

Copyright Β© 2015-2020 by Kdrama Kisses

About Kay

Greetings! I’m Kay, creator and author of Kdrama Kisses. Kdrama Kisses is dedicated to bringing you the latest in kdrama casting news, drama trailers, reviews, and more. Happy drama watching to everyone!
This entry was posted in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Start-Up Korean Drama Review

  1. Snow Flower says:


    Thank you for the review. This drama is the feel-good Bildungsroman of 2020, Korean style!
    The writer also wrote Dream High. I knew that there was something about Dosan, because he had the same haircut as Kim Soo Hyun’s character in Dream High. Haircuts aside, I was totally rooting for this character and the show did not disappoint. I liked Ji Pyeong too, but I agree with you that his personal growth consisted of him learning to connect to other people, and not necessarily in a romantic way. I liked all actors in the show, but I was particularly impressed with Nam Joo Hyuk.
    Here is my musical tribute to the show:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Agree! It really was such a feel good drama and brought me lots of smiles πŸ™‚ Yes, Dream High is another great drama from this writer that is a classic.

      And it does sound like we had a similar experience concerning the love triangle. I was completely rooting for Do San too! He and Dal Mi made such a great couple. Then I enjoyed the character journey of Ji Pyung separate from the romance. I too was impressed with Nam Joo Hyuk in this series. It fit him so well and he really has become a great actor πŸ™‚

      And you have created yet another beautiful song! It is a fitting tribute to the wonderful drama that is Start-Up πŸ™‚


  2. Kate says:

    I usually watch dramas in a bubble as well so did not know there was such fan reaction to the leads. I was admittedly a bit confused in the 1st couple of eps because it looked like Ji Pyong would be the lead but the posters all seemed to highlight Do San so I was happy with the way it turned out because of my bias πŸ™‚ But agree, watching Jy Pyong’s journey was just as enjoyable as watching Do San’s. My only quibble with the drama was the unexplored sister relationship. I thought there was more there that could have been mined but it might have taken a few more episodes, which I would not have minded! Overall I loved it so much that I’m re-watchng, AND I’ve started Dream High. I’m only 1 ep in and it is definitely dated and doesn’t seem like the kind of thing I would enjoy but as a “classic” it seems like it’s a must watch like BoF πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Sometimes watching in a bubble really helps to enjoy a drama. I wouldn’t have liked seeing all of the fan wars while watching it. I was definitely surprised by the first episode since it really felt like Ji Pyung was the lead. Of course, like you, I knew he wasn’t. I actually liked that the writer did something a bit different there though. You just don’t see the characters presented in that way hardly ever. And I too was happy with Dal Mi’s pairing with Do San πŸ™‚

      You make a good point about the sisters. I also think that could have been fleshed out more, and I would have liked to have seen that. That would have been a good use for a few more episodes, hehe. I really hope you enjoy your re-watch.

      I also hope that Dream High gets better for you. I didn’t love the first ep, but I really got into it when Kim Soo Hyun comes more prominently into the picture. It’s actually my least favorite Park Hae Ryun drama (only because her others were just so amazing!, lol), but I still really liked it, and it is a lot of fun. Definitely a bit dated, but truly a classic πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fred says:

    Ooooooohhhhhh!!!! I was planning on skipping this even though I love Suzy since I thought it was just another “career kdrama”. I forgot to do my homework. This is actually a Park Hye-run kdrama. Explains the score. LOL. I might just drop Tale of the Nine-Tailed if it does not improve and watch this instead. HAHA. Finally a drama I want to watch. I have just been watching my favorites lately and started Tale of the Nine-Tailed like 2 days ago since it seemed a bit promising.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      This is definitely another fantastic drama from Park Hye Ryun. Great story and characters with plenty of heart, warmth, and feels. Just make sure you embrace Nam Joo Hyuk as the lead quickly to enjoy it to its full potential πŸ™‚ I hope you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fred says:

        HAHAHA. I like that you emphasized that I should embrace Nam Joo Hyuk in order to fully enjoy this kdrama.

        This is a good kdrama. It’s a bit lighter than the Park Hye-Run kdramas I am used to. The setting (start-up world) is something close to my heart. It was going well especially since I followed your advice and accepted early on that Nam Joo Hyuk is the guy for Suzy. But he is not, Kay. HAHAHA. By the end of episode 9 (THE BIG REVEAL; you know I love big reveals), I decided that I didn’t want Suzy to choose Nam Joo Hyuk. I tried to hold on but I decided to drop this by episode 10. Maybe I will continue watching some other time. Maybe not.

        I was actually rooting for Do San’s success. I wanted SamSan Tech to reach their full potential. But I just didn’t want him to be the one beside Dal Mi. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why. Maybe it’s Nam Joo Hyuk (the actor). Maybe the Dal Mi-Ji Pyeong love story was developed a bit too well. What were they expecting? They showed Nam Joo Hyuk only after one hour. Why??? Who is this guy? If I did not do any prior research, I would have assumed that Nam Joo Hyuk was THE OTHER GUY WHO DOESN’T GET THE GIRL.

        Anyway, it’s a waste that I dropped this. It was actually a good kdrama. I just don’t want to be disappointed – AGAIN – when the kdrama ends with the girl choosing the “wrong” guy. HAHAHA.

        P.S. I now love Bae Suzy even more. Her acting has improved a lot. No more awkward not-so-believable moments.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kay says:

          Haha, yeah, after seeing the fan reaction to this drama, I will advise people on who to root for in this case when recommending this drama πŸ˜‚

          Sorry to hear you couldn’t fully get on board with Nam Joo Hyuk though. This was actually my favorite performance of his, so I had no problem rooting for him. And while I definitely understand why people felt misled with the first episode and who the main lead was, I personally liked that Park Hye Ryun did something different with how she structured her opening story. You just don’t see it ever presented that way. And while there was a brief time of sadness that Ji Pyung was not the guy for Dal Mi, I easily moved on from it and was then still able to stay connected with his personal story so strongly because of how his story was presented in the opening episode. But you’re far from being alone as there were many people who felt quite strongly on both sides of this love triangle, hehe.

          And I loved Suzy just as much as I always do here. She’s just wonderful! 😍

          Liked by 1 person

          • Fred says:

            I actually liked how Park Hye Run presented episode 1. It was something new, something refreshing – at least in Kdramas. I was thinking just recently about why I dropped this (LOL).

            One reason is the “Game of Thrones Reason”. I’m assuming you are at least familiar with this epic failure (sorry if you think otherwise). HAHA. Here they developed a certain character (Jon Snow) a bit too well. THEN THEY LET SOME RANDOM DUDE TAKE OVER THE THRONE. Really??? In Start-Up, Ji Pyeong is the better-developed character (love-wise) while Nam Joo Hyuk is the random dude. HAHA.

            The other reason is the lie. I dropped Secret Life of My Secretary because I could not take the fact that she was taking advantage of him and playing with his heart. In Start-Up, we have two lies. The Ji-Pyeong Lie is the epic kdrama lie. “I’m your first love but I’ll pretend not to know you” is a lie that can spice up an entire kdrama. The Do San lie? It was a bad lie. I may have accepted it if he did it once or twice. But it went on a bit longer than I can accept. #BadPeopleShouldNotHaveHappyEndings HAHAHA

            Liked by 1 person

            • Kay says:

              No worries about me thinking otherwise since I haven’t seen Game of Thrones, hehe. That one is a bit too much for me to handle, lol πŸ˜… It sounds like there was a similar element though with building up a character and then pulling a switch. Not sure how long that went on, but at least in Start-Up it was only one ep of build up before introducing the main love interest. Ah, I was just such a sucker for Nam Joo Hyuk’s character in this drama though. The sweet and awkward nerdy guy with major self-esteem issues. I think I liked both of the guy’s character journeys equally, just in different ways.

              I really like hearing your perspective on the big lie because I can definitely see your point of view. I just had a complete opposite experience πŸ˜‚ For me, Ji Pyung was the “big” liar who lied to Dal Mi from the start and then continued to lie to her rather than just owning up to it.

              Whereas, Do San gets unwittingly pulled into it. He chose to lie but then unexpectedly fell hard for Dal Mi. He actually wanted to come clean to her multiple times throughout the show, but Ji Pyung and even Grandma kept stopping him by convincing him it was in Dal Mi’s best interest, and he didn’t want to hurt her. So he was more innocent for me.

              Ji Pyung on the other hand lied to her from the start and chose to keep lying about everything, even his feelings, so I could never get onboard with him as her love interest. There was just never a true connection. Still a good character journey though. So I would agree with your #BadPeopleShouldNotHaveHappyEndings, just that my “bad” guy was different than yours πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

              Liked by 1 person

              • Fred says:

                HAHAHA. It’s always nice to see a different perspective. So I guess both guys started their lies and continued lying mainly due to Grandma’s requests. Bad Halmeoni. HAHAHA.

                As for the Game of Thrones comparison, Start-Up is a million times better. It pulled the plug after one hour. Game of Thrones pulled the plug after 8 years – on the last episode. HAHAHA.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Kay says:

                  Hahaha πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Yes, maybe we should just put all the blame on Grandma since it really was her that started the lie and also continued it #BadHalmeoni 🀣

                  Oh wow, yeah, that sounds brutal for Game of Thrones. 8 years would be devastating! 😲

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. MyKDramaticLife says:

    When I opened the blog and saw this. 😍
    So happy to see you’ve already written review for Start-Up and loved the drama.

    So here is my quick review for it:

    START-UP (2020)
    Start-Up is a very fun ride of an unexpected romance with lots of little things you hope for a great drama: comedy, drama, slice-of-life, mystery and even business. What I liked about Start-Up more than the story and its telling is the effortless deliveries of the casts. I love Bae Suzy and she nailed her character as our ambitious, hopeful and romantic Seo Dal Mi. Her chemistry with her opposites are organic, especially to her true OTP. 😍 I generally did not like Kim Sun Ho here as Han Ji Pyeong mainly because of the pessimistic vibes he gave me through my whole watch, but I actually did empathize with him in the later episodes. His moments with Grandma Choi (Dal Mi’s grandmother) were always heartwarming and touching. I also really loved that Grandma. Kim Hae Sook needlessly exerted effort for her performance as Dal Mi’s Grandma. She’s really one great actress and managed to imprint such supporting character closed to my heart.
    I kept my eyes on Nam Joo Hyuk since Weightlifting Fairy, one of my favorite dramas. So I thought I fell out of love for him after he failed to impress me in his later dramas like Bride of Habaek (which I chose to drop on its halfway) and The Light in Your Eyes where he left negative impressions to me, generally because of the nature of his characters. But I fall for him once again in Start-Up. No more talking about Nam Joo Hyuk because I don’t want to end up giving others spoileries since I think many are not yet finished with the show. So please wait for my Month-end post. Lol.
    So overall, Start-Up has been one great drama that I didn’t expect too much from the trailer. Well, trailers aren’t everything. So as an avid kdrama fan, you must be openminded at all times. Start-Up taught us a lot of learnings through its thought-provoking storytelling of hopes and desperations, and it managed to motivate many people not only to those who are business and technology-inclined, but to everyone who is in need of an inspiration or reference when having hard times in decision-making. I would say Start-Up is suitable for all types of viewers despite its business-related nature.

    Overall Rating: 9/10

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Yay! We both loved this one! 😍

      It really was such a fantastic drama. So many wonderful characters and such a great story. All of the actors were great with my faves being Nam Joo Hyuk, Suzy, and Kim Hae Sook.

      I was a little worried about this one too from the premise and the trailers, but I had faith in the writer, and luckily it paid off! And I even liked the workplace stuff which isn’t my usual cup of tea, lol.

      I’m glad to see we each gave it a 9 and then you enjoyed it so much too. Wonderful drama πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Best Korean Dramas of 2020 | Kdrama Kisses

  6. Linh Nguyen says:

    I really wish it showed more about the startup world like Pinocchio and I Hear Your Voice did with news and law. I feel like it focused way too much on the romance between Dalmi and Dosan and that weird love triangle… T-T My Han Ji Pyeong!!!! >.<

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Yeah, the startup stuff was actually pretty interesting in this drama which is not something I would normally like. But this writer did really well with it. I’ll never complain about too much romance though. I always like that πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Naz says:


    I really love your review. But i cant find this drama from the your review list. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Thank you so much catching that this one was missing from the reviews list Naz. Looks like I missed updating it there and on my recommendations page after I posted the review in all of the end of the year busyness. And it needs to be there! It’s fixed now. Thanks again πŸ™‚


  8. Chatbox says:

    It was so good ep 1 – 5 but I didn’t like where the story was going and could not help myself to know who ended with whom. So I skipped everything just to see who Dal-Mi will like… And I was disappointed for the ending. I stopped at ep 5 and did not bother to watch the rest of the episodes. Sad.. was good, but dissatisfying… :(( Was so excited at the beginning thinking that Dal Mi will end up with Han Ji-Pyeong. I like all the kdramas that I watched but Thank you.. Now I have something to hate :p

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Aww, that’s too bad this one didn’t work out for you 😦 It’s definitely one that split the audience and left many disappointed who were rooting for Ji Pyung. I was fortunate that I liked her with Do San so that left me pretty happy. We all have those dramas we hate though. It’s just part of the journey. I hope you’re next one is much better for you πŸ™‚


  9. I have seen a lot of Kdramas and only twice have I not completed watching all the episodes. And both times for the same reason, I didn’t like the guy who I could tell was going to be the one who gets the girl.

    For the first time ever I read the reviews to see what would happen and to verify that Nam Do San would win Seo Dal Mi. Yes, I know I cheated by looking at the reviews but at least I’m not alone in felling that Han Ji Pyung should of been the “winner”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay says:

      Nothing wrong with looking if it makes your drama watching experience better πŸ™‚ Some people want happy endings, some want to know what the final couple will be. I sometimes read fan reactions to just get an overall idea of what to expect from a drama and if it will fit my tastes. Whatever makes drama watching more fun for you πŸ™‚

      This drama certainly split the fandom with it really being pretty equally divided between who they wanted Dal Mi to end up with. I got lucky that I was on the right side with this one, hehe. I haven’t been rooting for the “wrong” guy/girl too many times, but when it happens, it definitely makes the drama a bit more painful πŸ˜‚


    • This is strange. I actually just finished watching this again and for some strange reason I didn’t remember watching it back in Dec. This time I wanted Nam Do San to win. How in the world did I change my mind? Probably I’ve overdosed on Kdramas.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kay says:

        Lol, that’s funny πŸ˜‚ I do think overdosing on kdramas is definitely a possibility. I can say that once you get hundreds crossed off your list some of them do blend together. You get the benefit of having two different experiences though with each time routing for a different guy. Best of both worlds! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚


  10. Minerva Rose says:

    Hi! I am relatively new to k-dramas but i happened to watch “The King’s Affection” last year and my life has never been the same! By now i have binge watched quite a few k-dramas and “Start Up” is certainly one of my favourites!

    Love this blog and hope to follow your recommendations 😍

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kay says:

      Hi Minerva Rose! I love to hear that you have found a love for kdramas too πŸ™‚ I think a lot of us have had that exact expereience. I know my life has never been the same after watching my first kdrama many years ago.

      I’m glad you enjoyed Start Up so much! It really was a wonderful drama, and I too really enjoyed it. And I’m so happy you enjoy the blog! I hope you find some other great dramas to watch πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.