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Series Review: Start-Up

Korean Title: 스타트업
Director: Ooh Choong-Hwan
Network: tvN
Broadcast Period: October 17 - December 6, 2020
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The divorce of their parents separated the once close sisters, In-Jae and Dal-Mi. One stayed with their father and one went with their mother, who later married a rich man. When they meet again years after, how will time have changed their lives?

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Dal-Mi and In-Jae

The sisters used to be joined at the hip, but their relationship changed after their parents’ divorce. Dal-Mi stayed with their father and In-Jae went with their mother, Cha Ah-Hyun. Ah-hyun married a rich man soon after the divorce was finalized. In-Jae, finally having things that they could never afford before, thought that their mother made the right decision to leave and gain a better life. This angered Dal-Mi and led to them burning bridges until they met again years after.

The story of the sisters was the most interesting part of the series. In-Jae got everything that she wanted in her youth, but her efforts as an adult were not recognized because her business was funded by her stepfather. Dal-mi deserved a promotion because of her contributions at work but, though it was well deserved, it was not granted to her because she did not finish college. Both of these women received discrimination in different ways. They both felt the need to prove themselves by starting their own business. They both joined Sandbox’s Hackathon as a result. Despite the difference in their believs, both sisters showed determination and a strong fighting spirit.

I Hate You; I Love You

There were many relationships in this series that were defined by a sort of love-hate dynamic. Although it was no secret that Dal-Mi and In-Jae hated each other’s guts, they still showed how much they care for each other in many scenes. Dal-Mi protected her sister when a hysterical man tried to harm her, and In-Jae kept tipping her sister about the troubles that she knows SamSan would be facing.

Another example was the grandmother, Choi Won-Deok, and her negativity towards her ex-daughter-in-law, Cha Ah-Hyun. After all, what Ah-Hyun did to her son was unforgivable. Cha Ah-Hyun’s transformation from a wife who cared mostly about money to a person who realizes that money is not everything was nice to see. She learned how to work and earn for herself towards the end of the story. Though I probably would not be as kind in real life, Won-Deok’s saintly character was admirable. The two were able to form a good relationship with each other in the end, which made me happy as a viewer.

Unpopular Opinion

Although they are good actors, the on-screen chemistry of the of the male and female lead was not that strong. I am also not a fan of characters who build their relationships by making a sea of lies—which is why Nam Do-San, the main love interest, did not sit well with me. His lack of success in his adult life may have been pitiful during the first few episodes, but because he prevented Han Ji-Pyeong from admitting to Seo Dal-Mi the truth behind the identity of her pen-pal in a number of instances, I feel no sympathy for him. My interest in it would be greater if it was a romance that centered around Ji-Pyeong and Dal-Mi. Ji-Pyeong has a candid and blunt character, but that is not a bad trait. He told people what was on his mind for them to change what they were doing wrong. Do-San, Yong-San, and Chul-San were just clueless developers who took honest criticism as insults. Their direction in life was going towards limbo before he stepped in. In fact, he was a big factor in the success of everyone under the SamSan Company. He practically spoon-fed them most of the keys to success. He gave comfort to Dal-Mi in her childhood and aided her in her adult life. He deserved more than what he was given in the story.

It would have been more acceptable if Dal-Mi developed feelings for Do-San after the truth was already laid out. But since her feelings towards him started and flourished because she was deceived into believing that he was her first love, no matter how good he was to Dal-Mi, my preference for her main love interest would still be Ji-Pyeong.

The Verdict

The formulaic love story may not have been my cup of tea, but putting that aside, I like how it is a story of being passionate in pursuing your dreams. Starting a business is hard, but it shows here that knowing what to do with the opportunities presented to you can earn you a better life. It also shows how neither love nor educational background should be a hindrance in achieving greater feats in life. Not finishing college did not stop the tenacious Dal-mi from becoming a CEO. She also pushed Do-San to take the opportunity in Silicon Valley that he thought of turning down in order to stay with her. The romance in the story exasperated me, but I think that it is still a good series to watch because of the development of the characters and the business aspect of the story.

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