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Start-Up.스타트업: K-Drama Review


Serving a Silicon Valley – South Korea version in the fictional setting called “Sandbox”, young entrepreneurs and programmers will venture on the struggles and triumphs getting on a start-up. How many percentage do you think they will succeed? Along with this, connections crossed again for a first love (a story of love letters), a math olympiad, and a tale of sisterhood. Who will prevail in the end?


Seo Dal Mi | Played by Bae Suzy

She is one resilient and diligent young woman who braved out such adversities in life during her childhood – her parents’ separation and the death of her father. Left only with her grandmother, she strives hard to get a better life and never gave up on her dreams.

Nam Do San | Played by Nam Joo Hyuk

Known as the famous child Math Olympiad in South Korea, he grew up in the comfort and support of his parents ever since. He almost gave up running his own company, Samsan Tech, because there are no investors. One day, he was asked to pretend to be the love letter sender under the same name, Nam Do San.

Han Ji Pyeong | Played by Kim Seon Ho

A Promising Investor (SH Venture Capital) and Sharp Tongue Mentor (Sandbox), he has always been skeptical and brutally honest on his criticism with start-ups pitching ideas and presenting a business plan to him. Despite his difficult demeanors, he is soft to one person who granted him great favor in the past.

Won/Seo In Jae | Played by Kang Hana

The elder sister and acting young CEO of her stepfather. She let go of her connection with her sister after she left for America. She went back to South Korea and realized that starting a business of her own is a better choice than being a CEO without shares.

Choi Won Deok (Halmoni) | Played by Kim Hae Sook

Unconditional love and someone who always cares, “Halmoni” shared kindness even to a stranger boy (Han Ji Pyeong) who has no home. She works hard and took care of her granddaughter, Dalmi as she became an adult.

Seo Chung Myung | Played by Kim Joo Hun

Being relentless about his dream of owning a business in the future, Seo Chung Myung is a loving and diligent father of Dal Mi and In Jae. However, he died early because of a brain injury from an accident he did not pay attention to. The idea of the sandbox logo came from him.

//Sam San Tech team ; Source: Hypebae

Team SamSan Tech : Lee Chul San, Kim Yong San and Jeong Sa ha


I am in love with the soundtracks for this drama. All the songs are made perfectly appropriate to the story. Here is the list of my top favorites | Click to Listen! :

  1. Future – Red Velvet
  2. 가호 – Running
  3. Where is Dream – 10 CM
  4. 볼빨간사춘기 – Love Letter
  5. 정승환 – Day & Night


Start-Up is a hyped k-drama starring Suzy Bae and Nam Joo Hyuk on Netflix released in 2020. The K-drama attempts to bring the game of starting up a business – such as finding investors, pitching business ideas, and competition.

Sandbox, the place to be

Sandbox is the key setting in the k-drama, Start-Up. The idea of the place originated from the experience shared by Seo Chung Myung about creating a safe ground for his daughter while playing in the swing.

You fall and get hurt at all times. I wish I could fall at least in the sand instead of concrete. Then, I wouldn’t get hurt.

Seo Dal Mi to her Dad

Having it relevant to our protagonist’s childhood is a bright idea. It was able to ground us and never forget the root story about the Seo family, their connections, and their adversities. At the same time, Sandbox, as a setting, utilized well the scenes of different kinds of startups. You can witness the journey of every group showing their triumphs and failures that contributed to their growth as entrepreneurs.

The Issue on Love Letters

The romance started all in those letters from this Nam Do San (writer of letters) to Seo Dal Mi. This is a made-up character of Halmoni so her granddaughter will feel relieved and comforted after her father passed away, as also her mother and sister left her for America. It was her darkest moment in life so only those letters from this Do San made her smile. Unknowingly, our ghostwriter here is no other than, Han Ji Pyeong (the good boy). As a request of halmoni, he cooperated in this white lie.

//Dalmi send letters to Do San; source: zoomers corner

In the past, these love letters meant genuine friendship and comfort.

In the future, the love letters will mean betrayal and dishonesty.

Team Dosan or Team Good Boy?

The question became a hot argument in social media for this k-drama. Before watching Start-Up, it already intrigued me about why people argue who’s best for the female lead. Fans felt confused and furious about who the real first lead and second male should be. I watch it by then to discover everything – let’s dive into the hype!

Dalmi and Dosan Team Up // source:

To answer the question, I believe Seo Dalmi is best suited with the real Nam Do San. I have seen how they work together as a team in Sam San Tech from the beginning. Do San actually initiated to help Dal Mi the first time she needs her to pretend in In Jae’s party, created an app, Noon Gil, for her grandma, and support Dal Mi all the way. They made a good pair and have chemistry. And, he did not give up to pursue Dal Mi even if he completely knows he is not the first love. Meanwhile, Han Ji Pyeong acted like more of a mentor and older brother for Dal Mi. There is nothing wrong with him but his pursuit of romance for Dal Mi is not enough, because obviously, the writer wants the other way around.

For personal preference, I would choose to date Han Ji Pyeong. According to the quiz result (Haha!), we are more likely to be a good pair. Han Ji Pyeong is a man that I prefer to be with because of maturity, mentorship, and financial literacy.

madtown l💟ve — the iconic expressions of han ji pyeong

Having a boyfriend/husband who can directly say what you need to improve without sugarcoating will help you leverage your craft. If you argue as a couple, he will be level-headed and logical as well before making a decision so the less drama, the less stress. He is an orphan, so no in-laws would interfere. Most of all, I can be secured living in a neat and above-average house. Yes, I love his bachelor’s pad and Yeong Sil (the voice AI). haha!

So, instead of looking for answers, make choices. Whatever you choose, you’ll be criticized. You can’t make any decisions if you’re afraid of criticism. And if you can’t make decisions, you can’t be a CEO. What do you want to be? A good person or a CEO? Don’t be greedy. You can’t be both. Choose one. Just one.” 

Han Ji Pyeong, Episode 6

Pay it Forward Kindness

The connection between Good Boy and Halmoni moved my heart as tears run down my cheeks. Seriously, it is such a rare chance you will meet a total stranger who will help you without anything in return. Despite the hard facade Ji Pyeong has, the good boy in him shines and his vulnerable side shows whenever he is with Halmoni. He is still human that needs love.

//Crying Good Boy ; source: dramabeans

Han Ji Pyeong always thought of his debt to halmoni’s kindness is not payable by any of his assets and money. Later on, he realized that the only way to repay kindness is to “Pay it Forward“. It is the reason why he personally invested in start-ups that pair orphans to sponsors.

**cameo alert for that part**

Related Link: Weightlifting Fairy.역도요정 김복주: K-Drama Review

Bromance Humor

There is a lot of grind, tension, and competition working in Start-Up. To add a little side humor in the drama, we all saw here Do San and Ji Pyeong’s bromance scenarios. Nonetheless, I enjoyed them compete with such little things (but also fight) like real brothers.

Drama 2020] Startup (Sandbox), 스타트업 - Page 14 - k-dramas & movies - Soompi  Forums

Real Life Lessons

The Start-Up K-drama is rich with life lessons especially for starting entrepreneurs or even young people who continue to build their dreams for the future. The series also made an effort to place keyword terms (but written in hangul) of some business jargon (like what they do in medical dramas).

If you know why, you will overcome any how.

Ms. Yoon
//Founder of Sandbox ; source: kdrama diary

Here’s more for your reference:

PREVIEW MAGAZINE | 5 Life Lessons We Can All Learn from the K-Drama “Start-Up”

Nicole Alba YouTube | Lessons I Learned from Start-Up Netflix Korean Drama


No doubt that Start-Up is a highly recommended K-Drama to watch last 2020. They are effective in how the cast portrayed well their characters, the settings, and life lessons. However, the k-drama tropes still reign in every aspect of the drama. Hence, expecting a realistic portrayal of how business start-up works will disappoint you especially when you are dead serious about entrepreneurship. I mean, the real core is not here.

In terms of story transition, the 3 YEARS GAP and the San Francisco Yacht vacation felt disturbing. I wish to see how the real Silicon Valley works at least, that is what I am expecting. How come they stayed that long in the yacht?! Where are our talented engineers grind in America? I find that part ridiculous. After that, they wrapped up success quickly in the end.


Despite these shortcomings, I would still recommend you to watch Start-Up K-Drama. Overall, it is an inspiring and goal-driven watch that encourages you to pursue your dreams in life. 🙂 Streaming on Netflix!

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


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Note: All photos are taken from their respective websites. The review and rating for this drama are only based on the opinion of the reviewer.

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