Start Up had a lot of discourse on social media, especially about “Team Dosan” and “Team Jipyeong”. I can’t wait to finally talk about it!

The Story

Start Up’s story started with the two sisters, Dal Mi and In Jae, who were separated at a young age because of their parents divorce. Dal Mi then started receiving letters from a guy named Nam Do San who has been her “penpal” since. 15 years later, Dal Mi met Nam Do San but he isn’t the one who wrote the letters.

Start Up (스타트업) is about four adults who are chasing their dreams in the start up industry — and struggling at that. They have an intertwined past and as they met again as adults, they all have learned to discover more about their distant childhood and rediscovered who they truly are in the process. It’s about starting small, dreaming big, and taking a leap of faith.

Les Brown quotes

The Characters

Seo Dal Mi (Bae Suzy, 배수지) used to bluff a lot but she actually does the work too. She wants to prove herself to her sister, Won In Jae, who has become a wealthy and successful woman. She entered the world of start up to institute her own business. She claims that she never regrets her choices, that’s why she tries so hard to make good ones.

Won In Jae (Kang Han Na, 강한나) is Dal Mi’s sister who chose to live with their mother when their parents separated. She has become successful but her hard work is always trifled with the fact that she is just where she is now because of his rich stepfather. To prove herself, she decided to establish her own company. In Jae is ambitious with a tough front, but she actually has a soft heart.

Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk, 남주혁) is the youngest champion of Mathematical Olympiad for high school students when he was only 10. He is considered a genius but with a very low self-esteem. He is a struggling adult in the start up world despite his great, futuristic visions and idealizations. Until he gets tangled with the ordeal Han Ji Pyeong orchestrated.

Han Ji Pyeong (Kim Seon Ho, 김선호) is known as the “good boy”. Seo Dal Mi’s grandmother nicknamed him when she met him in the pouring rain without an umbrella and a place to stay. Ji Pyeong is an orphan who used Do San’s name to write letters to Dal Mi. 15 years later, he is now a successful name in the start up world. When he met Dal Mi again and he had to”negotiate” with the real Do San to pretend that Do San actually wrote the letters.

My Thoughts In General

💭 The first episode is really loaded. It felt heavy. The past unfolded there and then, so it made it more exciting for me like, “so what happens now at present??”

💭 I love all the characters, from the main roles to the support acts, they are all so natural! I also love how Start Up showed the back stories of different characters, it makes you even more connected to them.

💭 If you are not familiar with the start up industry, you might think it’s “boring”. It’s actually interesting. They were able to deliver these “business ideas and concepts” in a way that it touches your heart more than focusing on the technicalities of things.

💭 I am glad that it is not the typical love triangle. I’m not even sure if I can call it a love triangle (but more on that later). Start Up allows us to sympathize with the divorced parents and the affected children. It makes us relate to what it is like to feel little and incompetent in the “real world”. It showed the nasty parts of trying to achieve your dreams and doing business. Above all, it makes us celebrate all their wins too–big or small.

💭 It is really funny for the most parts. I enjoyed it a lot. The supporting roles are hilarious. I love the SamSan Tech squad. Some twists and turns also involve the characters outside the “main roles”.

💭 The contrast between Dal Mi and In Jae is remarkable. They have different views in life but they have one goal, and that is to succeed (and we all have different definition of success). I think their father would be very happy to see them.

💭 I am more invested in the mother-child relationship than sailing the ships.

Mrs Choi Start Up Start Up Episode 5 Han Ji Pyeong Episode 5 Han Ji Pyeong and Mrs Choi Episode 5


I want to talk about Do San and Ji Pyeong in details, so if you haven’t watched the drama yet.. you can stop reading. If you have, please engage with me in the comments! I would love to know your thoughts. 🙂

💭 With all this Team Do San and Team Ji Pyeong discourse, one of the many things I don’t get is the amount of hate Do San got. I saw a friend commented that Do San didn’t get a “glow up” or any “character development” after the 3 years he has been in the States. It made me wonder if it is that easy to heal from this trauma he got as a kid? He has always thought that he is not good enough, despite people praising him for his intelligence. He felt like he cheated in the Olympiad (even unintentionally). He carried this guilt alone. It affected his relationship with his father and most importantly, his relationship with himself. Come all the lies he got involved in, I don’t think I can expect 3 years to change all that. I think he is a work-in-progress, just like Ji Pyeong, just like everyone of us. It makes his character even more human. Flawed. I would never call it toxic.

💭 Ji Pyeong, our good boy. He will always be. But he is flawed too. I don’t really like the way he says things, the way he talks to Dal Mi and Do San at work. A part of me knows it can be his way of trying to “toughen” you up, though. Do I think there is a better way to toughen people up? Yes. Did he change? Not entirely. But it is his way, and that’s how he’s been living and surviving. Yes, he is a good boy, but we also know that there are many times that he is harsh with his words; blurts it all out first before he contemplates about it, and then come these realizations. That is how he rationalize his actions. It might be like a defense mechanism to protect himself. He knows that the world is very cruel. Dal Mi’s grandmother showed him otherwise by treating him as her family. I understand why we all have a soft spot for him, though. When Ji Pyeong said that “I want her and it feels so unfair,” I know it all broke our hearts. But yea, the consequences of our choices.

Han Ji Pyeong confession Start Up corn dog

💭 Why I don’t think it’s a love triangle? It is in a sense, yes. But Ji Pyeong, despite saying how he truly feels for Dal Mi, didn’t actually pursue her. He has always this hesitation, like okay I’ll just be here if it doesn’t work out with the two of them. But he sure indeed loves Dal Mi in his own way. Do San might be shy, but he eventually learned how to open himself up to Dal Mi. Ji Pyeong is used to bottling things inside, alone, so that is understandable too why it is hard for him to open himself up completely. He also feels indebted and grateful to Dal Mi’s grandmother so some of his actions can be affected by that. Do San, on the other hand, does all the things he does solely for Dal Mi.

💭 I am neither Team Do San or Team Ji Pyeong. I think that Dal Mi met them in certain chapters of her life because that’s when she needed them the most. Ji Pyeong, 15 years ago, was there for her when she needed a friend, someone to catch her fall, to make her feel less alone. Do San, 15 years later, is there for her to help her get off her feet, off the ground, to soar high towards her dreams. The girl on the swing, remember? Ji Pyeong is her Sandbox; the ground. Do San is the swing; he lifts her up. It just really depends what she needs at those point in her life. So I find it funny when people is questioning Dal Mi and her feelings. As if they can’t grasp the fact that she would just stop loving Ji Pyeong from the letters. Many of these people really just want to feed their own narratives more than understanding why the story unraveled the way it did.

Ji Pyeong and Dal Mi comforted each other 15 years ago.

Do San and Dal Mi cheer and lift each other up 15 years later.

Ji Pyeong is the ground.

Do San is the sky.

Both will change your life. The question is, which one do you need right now?

💭 A friend commented in my Start Up post on Facebook once and she said that it seems like towards the end, the focus shifted to the love triangle that it eventually overshadowed the lessons that made it good in the first place. My reply:

I didn’t find it as if they are focusing on the love triangle now. I think we’re going full circle. It all started in this “lie” and now they are getting to know more about themselves, trying not to be “confused” about their choices and decisions anymore and it can only happen by facing these “emotions” or “love” they have for each other. I think it’s people’s choice to overlook it.

I genuinely think that the love triangle didn’t overshadow anything because at the end, it still left us with so many lessons about life and love: the love of friends and family; the love we have for humanity and how we can improve and make it better. I think that’s what I will always remember more than the love triangle.


That’s it!! I haven’t written a review in this length for so long. I feel like there are more to say but I’m not sure anymore what I missed. I should really start writing reviews the moment I finish watching. 😂

Thank you for reading! 🤎
Please help me keep this blog running

[Featured image courtesy of tVN Netflix]


9 thoughts on “KDrama Review | Start Up (2020)

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