Drama Recaps
War of Money / Money Warfare
by | May 18, 2007 | 47 Comments

SBS’s new Wednesday-Thursday drama, War of Money (쩐의 전쟁), kicked off to a healthy ratings start in the 16%-17% range, then jumped up to above 24% for its second episode. That’s enough of a leap to be considered noteworthy. (And anything above 20% in its first week is quite a feat.)

This drama had quite some buzz leading up to its premiere, probably mostly due to the casting of lead actor Park Shin Yang, who is perhaps best known for his role in Lovers in Paris. As for me, the only actor I’m familiar with is Shin Dong Wook, from Cloud Stairway and Soulmate.


War of Money OST – “Simple Life” by Sweet Sorrow
[ zShare download ]



Director Jung Tae Yoo / 정새유 :: Bad Family, 101st Proposal
Writer Lee Hyang Hee / 이향희 :: Solace, Loveholic

Official website: http://tv.sbs.co.kr/warofmoney/


Park Shin Yang / 박신양 :: Lovers in Paris
Park Jin Hee / 박진희 :: Come Back, Soon Ae
Kim Jung Hwa / 김정화 :: Something about 1%, Into the sunlight, Snow White
Shin Dong Wook / 신동욱 :: Soulmate, Goodbye Sadness, Cloud Stairway

First broadcast: May 16

Here’s the thing. Episode 1 of War of Money pissed me off. I almost quit entirely because I figured it wasn’t healthy for my blood pressure.

It’s not a bad show. The director is competent, the acting is good. It’s the story that got my blood boiling. I’m sure it was meant to, but I didn’t respond to it.

The setup is this: A man (Park Shin Yang’s Geum Na Ra character) lives a nice life with a lovely family. Gorgeous, caring girlfriend Lee Cha Yeon. Younger sister getting happily married. Decent job. (He has an interesting choice of name, since Na Ra is traditionally feminine. His father explains that he named him Na Ra because of its meaning — “nation” — hoping for his son’s successful future.)

But his sister’s wedding is ruined by loan sharks who come to collect money from Na Ra’s father, and they realize his father’s indebted up to his eyeballs. Or more. He’s so in debt his shadow owes rent. The amount is in excess of 500 million won and the house is being repossessed. Na Ra’s father runs away, naively believing that if he disappears, the lenders will leave his family alone. (But it sure is cowardly.) His mother collapses from the strain and requires surgery. Na Ra’s denied a bank loan. Nobody will lend him money, and he’s bordering on being fired. He’s desperate. Life sucks.

Initially, he rejects money offered by his rich girlfriend Cha Yeon. But with the situation spiraling out of control, he asks for her help. She happily offers, but her grandmother (who was in Bad Family and just finished up her role in Hello! Miss) has always disliked Na Ra, and offers him the money if he will leave Cha Yeon. He refuses.

But then, he gets the call that the hospital is about to kick their mother out without surgery. They don’t even have a house to return to. What to do?

So Na Ra takes the deal. Upon hearing about this, Cha Yeon goes to Na Ra to try to reason with him — she knows why he was forced into this. But Na Ra tells her he means it. He didn’t know he was the type of guy who could sell out his love for money, but right now he needs money more than her. And as one last parting insult, he asks Cha Yeon as she’s leaving him if she has any money she can lend him. (One of the few scenes I really liked, because it was so ballsy and desperate.) She flings all the cash she’s carrying at him, then stalks off in a fury.

Oh yeah, and then his father dies. Presumably suicide.

There’s more that goes on — the female lead, Seo Ju Hee (played by Park Jin Hee) is perhaps the only character I remotely like (and I find the actress stunning, in a girl-next-door way), but her problems are also entirely money-based and somewhat cliched (“I don’t trust men anymore; I only trust money”).

I appreciate a thematically relevant drama, but it felt like the series was trying to hammer in the “money warfare” theme a little too hard. We get it. But my biggest block with this series is entirely a personal-opinion issue, NOT a quality issue. Judge for yourselves if you like it, because I’m sure some will. I just personally found it too depressing. Everything seemed so real (just more dire). Maybe I’m too used to seeing or hearing about people’s money desperations and woes in real life to find any entertainment value in watching it unfold onscreen.

But this may perhaps explain the appeal of the show to Koreans (aside from sadomasochism?) — these private loans and debts are a huge problem in Korean society these days, and I’m sure everyone can relate, sadly enough.

After vowing not to watch any more after the first episode, I decided to give the show another try. Partly because I wanted to see Shin Dong Wook act as a coldhearted badass and partly because I loved the PD’s prior work Bad Family (which is another show that started slow but ended up fantastic).

So I watched Episode 2, and it IS a little less with the hissy-fitting and a little more with the proactive bootstraps-pulling — but not before we kick Na Ra down some more:

His mother dies too, Na Ra loses everything, becomes homeless, and constantly runs from the loan sharks. His sister (Song Hye Gyo’s friend from Full House) sells herself to a hostess bar because she can’t stand being a burden to her new husband and her brother.

Na Ra begs a famous moneylender for money advice, and embarks in Karate Kid-like lessons on the meaning of money and human nature.

It got better, but overall my opinion didn’t change.

This is a decent show. But I don’t like it. That’s all right with me. I’m sure there will be some people who love the show for reasons that I dislike it. It looks poised to become a sure hit, so I foresee lots of continued press and attention given to War of Money.

With S2 will be fansubbing this drama (you can check on the wiki site for updates on subbing status) so if this is your cup of tea, enjoy.

47 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Sal

    Interesting how it starts out with a kick in the stomach. I wonder if it’s like those reverse melodrama/comedies which start out funny but end sad. Perhaps this one starts out sad and ends funny!

    So many good dramas being released this year! Thanks for covering some of them!

  2. Ter

    The premise of this drama does not appeal to me. And the whole drama in general seems like its aimed at middle aged to older aged audiences. Anyways, I’m still trying to catch up on Dal Ja and get started on Thank You.

  3. wandergirl

    Oops, you linked a cap from Flowers for My Life– http://javabeans.files.wordpress.com/2007/05/18-020.jpg

  4. javabeans

    thanks wandergirl, that’s fixed now. wordpress sometimes does that to me. i’ve got to keep an eye on that.

  5. ginnie

    Sarah..there is another capture that’s not supposed to be in Episode Eight QSS Summary. I was reading summaries again due to my QSS withdrawal and found that that cap was mis-linked.

    WOW..War of Money’s ratings are really high. Those ahjummas and their remotes.

  6. javabeans

    thank you ginnie! sigh, i have got to figure out a better system for naming my caps. wordpress gets confused even though i’ve tried to be careful. i’ve literally got thousands of pics so you can see how that would be a pain to do each manually. i think i’m okay for now though…

  7. young hoon

    where did you download the Money Warfare OST(Simple Life)? pls send to my mail……….

    and may you please download the whole episode and send to me


  8. jiangzemin

    thanks for the review, for all those same reasons, the drama depresses me. but i’m still interested in the story ’cause park shin yang is so desperate and real. like asking his girlfriend for money as she’s leaving, and taking out the pagoda with a sledgehammer. it’s so ballsy and crazy. i get the feeling once they stop throwing more awful stuff his direction, i’ll like this drama a lot more. i’m kind of hoping you’ll stick it out too, ’cause i’d like to read your opinion about it.

  9. joyce

    yes.. ginnie those ahjummas and their remotes..
    i just watched this.. and it was very well-paced
    and it was very cruel and in-your-face…
    thats the reasons why i really like the first two episodes

  10. 10 ginnie

    Those ahjummas love this storyline as well as the actors I think. The actors look mature enough for the audience, perhaps?

    This is crazy…I just read the third episode got even higher ratings..8% higher than its debut’s ratings…CRAZY. I think it might go above 30% and become one of those 2007 hits. Right now, I think, only two modern mini series are doing that well in ratings..My Man’s Woman (theme:adultery, revenge, marriage–competitor: HIT, Flowers of Life) and War of Money (theme: money, love, selfishness–competitor:Devil, Meri-Daegu) . Both of them are with older, more experienced actors compared to their competitors of the same time slot and deals with emotional family-type themes.

    haha..I don’t know why…i think the ratings in korea are very bizarre.

  11. 11 Anonymous

    I am not an ajumma but I just saw the first episode (which was quite mad) and I’m looking forward to seeing the entire series 😀 It looks like it will be quite interesting. hahaha.

    I generally don’t like the first episodes of most dramas because most can’t find interesting ways to introduce the characters (Hotelier was a snoozefest) so may end up being rather bizzare. This episode was okay by those standards and I must say that I’m looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds 🙂

  12. 12 knuts

    I must say, I am also not partifcularly fond of the first 3 or 4 eps of this serie. Was very surprised to learn about the high ratings. It must be the theme of this drama, since the story is bit hmmm so far. I find it a bit hard to digest that the mail lead Kim Na Ra would actually sink so low as to eat from garbage bins. Could he not even get a job as a cleaner?

    Though, still watching and hoping for better times. I think/hope it is getting better after ep 4. I guess 4 eps were used to introduce the characters and create the setting, but would have been better to my taste if they had shorten that to 1 or 2 eps.

  13. 13 infiniti512

    I’m just happy to see Shin Dongwook but the drama is a bit sad and over the top. I hope it gets better.

  14. 14 kiwee

    I’m not an ajumma and i love this drama; i find it hilarious. puhaha its one of those i actually laugh out loud.

  15. 15 kiwee

    and i also dont think ratings are bizarre. sometimes they’re an accurate representation of my views of some dramas. but then again sometimes theyre not.

  16. 16 younh hoon

    I like the drama I think its good thats why I think it deserve the rating……

    may you pls give me the lyrics of Simple Life…..

  17. 17 haezi

    love this series. it’s not another typical romance and the plot is rarely slow. i love how park shin yang’s character manages to find solutions to everyone’s money problem except for his own. it’s the first time i actually enjoy watching him on television. he may be a little awkward in some parts but his charisma is a force to be reckoned

  18. 18 josephine

    i reli reli love this drama…so far i’ve finish watching until episode 2…Reli reli hope that you will write the sypnosis on this drama…
    The story line are fresh and it’s also different…
    i reli reli appreciated if you decide to write the episode summary because i simply love the way you summarise all the korean drama…
    looking forward to it!!!

  19. 19 josephine

    Pls pls…..I hope you will consider to summarise the episode summary

  20. 20 Philippa

    I’m going to start watching this drama and reading your summaries after my exams this week! Thanks a lot again. I hope you keep writing the summary for this, if this drama is good, I’m not sure if it is though. lol. My Korean friend told me it’s good. But please prioritize Flowers of my Life, Air City and Bad Couple! Thanks again!

  21. 21 Goofyfooter

    I had the same initial reaction. It was quite maddening. I was going to stop without even finishing the first episode. How that quickly changed. It’s an interesting critique on individual greed for money and many facets of the Korean social norm. There were many religiously significant scenes. Destruction of the pagoda after the mother’s death: You shall have no other gods before Me. Na Ra’s drunking tirade and his citation of the Camel and the Eye of a Needle. Na Ra, after finding out that his loan-shark boss was responsible for his father’s debt, steals a street umbrella. He rests the umbrella on the back of his neck with his arms on each side (much like Christ on the cross). He then shouts that he will judge everyone. There is more…. In the end, I suspect the writer’s intent is to convey his religious message to the nation (or na ra). I find this drama thought provoking.

  22. 22 bumfromkorea

    It is quite realistic show… and dear Christ knows Korean dramas can use realism these days.

    What’s interesting is that the original work it is based on is often describes as “a story of a man destroyed by his obsession with money”. I wonder how that’ll work out in this… (the two girls aren’t even in the original story, so… we’ll see ^^)

  23. 23 samm

    i was just wondering where you could download the whole money’s warfare ost cd. because i really love all the songs

  24. 24 sam yoon

    me too. about the ost cd.

  25. 25 Anonymous

    It must be the theme of this drama, since the story is bit hmmm so far. I find it a bit hard to digest that the mail lead Kim Na Ra would actually sink so low as to eat from garbage bins. Could he not even get a job as a cleaner?

    Actually, I think this drama�s story is extremely well-written and fast-paced. Also, I think the reason that it appeals to so many Koreans (myself included XD) is because that many people can relate to this, sadly (as someone else mentioned). Many people in Korea have suffered under �sachae� (money-lenders), and there are probably many people who have similar stories to that of Geum Nara. This drama also, like many other K-Dramas, draws upon things like family values and honor, which many Koreans can also relate to. Anyway, I really, really, enjoyed the first few episodes, and I can�t wait to watch the entirety of this show!

    (He has an interesting choice of name, since Na Ra is traditionally feminine. His father explains that he named him Na Ra because of its meaning � �nation� � hoping for his son�s successful future.)

    This doesn�t really matter, but it was something that bugged me. Actually, Nara�s full name, �Geum Nara�, can mean �obtain money�, and I�m pretty sure it isn�t relevant to �nara� meaning �nation�. His last name, �Geum�, means �gold�, or money, in Korean.

  26. 26 javabeans

    Actually, i thought the choice of naming was deliberate because geum means money. The series seems to be resonating with the nation at large, and money (and the lack, and the borrowing, thereof) is part of the current cultural zeitgeist. I think it’s pretty appropriate that Nara’s issues can be extrapolated to Korea’s woes with money — “money nation” as it were.

  27. 27 nk

    I think if you ever get the chance, you have to see the show all the way through. I have to admit I only half watched the first couple of episodes. I just wasn’t interested in the storyline at first despite the relevance of how debt consumes all our lives. But you have to give Park Shin Yang a chance. He is really entertaining to watch. Also, the script was just written in a clever way from the storyline to the character’s name to the way we see subplots play out. Despite the cliffhanger ending, this is probably the drama that brought me back to watching korean dramas again. But be warned, that this is an exhausting storyline. That said, I would skip the bonus episodes. Bad supporting cast and bad scripts. Also, I initially thought would be a continuation of the original storyline but it wasn’t.

  28. 28 ML

    So far I have watched until Ep.10…The drama has yet to dissappoint me. I think it’s a great drama (not the usual light romantic comedy kdramas). The acting is good overall esp PSY-he’s a great actor with lots of charisma (I actually prefer his acting here than Lovers in Paris maybe because the character here is more realistic); PJH was good except that I can think of a few other actresses who could play the role just as well, KJH fleshed her tiny role out well without resorting to bug-eyed expressions when she was angry/jealous, and loved SDW’s voice; his acting seems wooden but may be it’s in keeping with his cold and heartless character but his Lion King hair is a definite no-no.

  29. 29 Kaye

    I thought this was one of the best kdramas I have seen and I have seen a lot of them. The acting was superb. The story line was good and the pace wasn’t slow like in other kdramas. The story wasn’t your typical love triangle, sickness, and slow paced. Both the male and female lead actors played their parts wonderfully. I can see why the rating were so high. I think this is one of the best dramas I have seen in a long time.

  30. 30 valerie

    i agee with kaye. this was a greeat drama. i was really glad they extended the drama. i love the mixed feelings of guem nara. i also how they gave us a realistic ending. you can’t escape the troubles of money.

  31. 31 Anonymous

    I like this show because of it’s realism and style. Basically we see a man out of desperation which is something I believe almost everyone would do if put in the same situation. It’s one of the few shows that lay things out the way it is without apologizing or hiding behind a layer of fluff. Also I think there’s a lot of meaning in what the main character goes through. A lot of hard hitting lessons in this show. It’s really different from other stuff I’ve seen offered from k-drama like full house, soulmate, winter sonata, etc which sort of adds to its appeal.

  32. 32 cornballbeast

    im looking for some descent korean songs to download do you guys have any suggestions

  33. 33 ramonerz

    i like this show because of it’s theme^^,
    here in the philippines..you will not see a drama like this coz their all about boring love stories that you’ll see anywhere…

    i also love the lead actress^^ miss park jin hee 😀
    i know she’s already 30 yes old….but i can’t blame myself haha
    she’s really pretty and sexy…

  34. 34 rayan

    This drama series is so cool to me, i like the story of it…..

  35. 35 brat

    it has a very heavy topic. so depressing…

  36. 36 KAZAMA19

    this is the best K drama i watched so far… Park Shin yang is such a wonderful actor and Park Jin Hee is really a goddess…i’m a believer already.. hehehe

  37. 37 owell

    ive watched the tv drama but why it had to end that way… despite of those hardship that he had does it meaningful to end like that…well…im just hoping that it would end in a better ending or blissful and romantic life for the both of them….but…..why……………..?

  38. 38 nuew

    for me, the sad ending fits the whole story and the lesson it’s trying to convey perfectly. the title says it all, war of money, and just like any other war, everybody losses; no one ends up as the winner, even the protagonist. it just becomes a never-ending cycle of stealing from each other, lying, killing, etc, so i think the ending where the protagonist died is the perfect ending for both an entertaining and very profound story.

  39. 39 shiehnah

    hellooooooo how are you?your so good actor iwish that icould see you soon Happy valentines to you god bless you

  40. 40 jtc

    well we finished watching it last week…
    We just found the ending really odd…
    I mean the guy had the chance to kill the protagonist earlier, why didn’t he just do that back then? Did he realize, “ah this time i’ll kill him..I should have killed him before though…”
    and then they ended it with a shot where he’s dying…but he was still breathing…
    so we had no idea if he still lived after that scene or if he did die.
    After this i found out the comic on which the story was based on was still unfinished at the time, so now I’m in limbo land…
    If he did die, they should have shown him dead, right there (after that flashback).

  41. 41 jose

    ohhh i am writing this years later than the time of this post but i am enjoying this drama ,i l am liking the plot and also i feel a more male oriented feeling for this drama , a lot of drama have an appeal to female viewers but some i think are more male oriented like this or super rookie ,but whatever ,i enjoy the 2 of them even if my sex is obviously only one ,it was just an observation

  42. 42 Meyawie

    oh i love this drama, especially the twist when he stole the money of the loan shark and found love but in the end he died and on his wedding day. such a sad sad story.

    left scars in my heart for days but it was an interesting drama though but i rather prefer the happy ending type

  43. 43 ahjummabunny

    thank you so much for telling the ending! I loved park jin hee in the woman who still wants to marry and giant and I wanted to see her as a ‘baby alien’ but I don’t like drams without happy endings for park jin hee so you saved me the heartache.

  44. 44 czarfaun

    i’ve watched the drama already, the leading lady really is stunning haha i only focused on her scenes.. the story hooks you up and you’ll had the desire to devour the story in one sitting..

    i got this problem, the series i watched was divided into episodes.. there were 27 episodes in the cd but it was not the ending.. i browsed the internet for the list of episodes of this drama series but found none..

    is there someone here who knows how many episodes does this series have?


  45. 45 axelrafaeltadoy @ yahoo . com

    Final Episode – Ending

    -Ju Hee Narrating-
    The dog is barking very loud alarming Jae Soo(Na Ra’s friend).
    He then ran nervously making me uncomfortable and scared then came back shouting for help. I ran with a goose bump on my body and my heart is pumping so fast. I am very scared at that time and kept thinking that nothing bad will happen to Na Ra.

    I saw Na Ra lying with blood on his head. I cried as I see him there making my heart stops and makes it difficult for me to breathe.

    We rushed him at the hospital and it crushed my heart seeing him on his condition blaming God why a good guy has to suffer that way.

    I hold Nara’s hand as I confessed my love telling him not to leave me alone because I am scared then suddenly he holds it tightly with tears dropped on his eyes. A continues beep sound floats in the air. I grasp for air as I heard that sound, it felt like an end is coming near. I called for help as I ran crying.

    The doctor sent me outside as they tried to revive Nara. His sister hugs me as she cried and told me to fight and believed everything will be fine.

    As the doctor told the bad news, I ran to Na Ra and hugged him as I cry until I slept.

    The next day, Dad is knocking at the door and waking me up. I thanked dad for waking me up ending my bad dream. Dad looked me in the eye with a serious face telling me that Nara is dead. It shattered my heart and breaks into pieces knowing that my dream is a sad truth.

    I ran outside fast as I could and I find my self at the bridge. I shout for his name and why does he left me alone.

    Juhee: Why have you left me alone? I can’t live without you by my side, I really liked you! I still want to see how you smile one sided, how you wink your narrow eyes and I want to wash your dirty clothes everyday (smiling). But you are unfair. Why do you left me on my own?

    I decided to jump to the river to end my life and follow Nara but before I jump, a group of Crane interfered that makes my attempt to stop. I suddenly remembered Nara, It flashbacks Na Ra hiding my 50 cents coin under his feet. I felt a sudden relief, it felt that Nara is always here protecting me, I know that it is a sign from him maybe he wants me to continue living my life.

    Little Nara: Mom, mom
    Hyun-Jung[Ju hee’s BestFriend]: Hey Ju hee your son is here
    Little Nara: Mom I wrote a letter to you.
    Juhee: Wow can you read it?
    Little Nara: Dear mom, thank you for being a good mom to me. You are the best mom in the world and I will never leave you alone. I will continue to try to make you happy when at times you are thinking and crying. I love you mom and thank you!

    -Ju Hee Narrating-
    Ten Years have passed, I didn’t find another man I could not replace Nara in my heart. I have just decided to adopt a son and name after him. I know Nara is happy for me now. I am now slowly moving on but I know that I will never forget his presence.

    Jae Soo(Na Ra’s friend) decided to continue to run the Dong Po lending business with a low interest. He said that he will continue what Na Ra started. To help how our ancestors and how they gracefully accept help to those who are in need.

    Ko Cheol(Na Ra’s Teacher) died after 6 months from Na Ra’s death from cancer. His assets were donated to the poor people on Chansu’s Village he started.

    Rumor said that Dong Po hid from the authority for almost a year but his conscience haunted him resulting him to go crazy.

    Woo Sung went to Ko Cheol’s grave and asked for forgiveness. He also started a small time lending business as he runs from the loan sharks where he borrowed his seed money.

    Eun-Ji(Na Ra’s Sister) and his husband have started a small time restaurant from the money they saved and are living a simple life with their 2 children.

    Eun-Ji told me that Lee Cha Yeon(Na Ra’s ExGF) is happily married on her husband who is an art collector and a businessman after she went abroad to study and start a new life with her grand mother.

    I heard from Jae Soo that Ms. Jo found out that her boyfriend was using her for money leaving her nothing. Ms. Jo is now working as an entertainer in a karaoke bar.

    Dong Goo(Gangster) decides to live a decent life, he works hard everyday as a carpenter, driver, etc. just to make a living.

  46. 46 Fan :)

    I finished The whole episodes but I dont get it!! in episode 16 did he really die??! cuz in the additional 4 episodes he was still alive and I didnt seem to see Jun hee.. Someone! plz explain! :))) tnx

    ~ Fan

  47. 47 sara loves k-everything

    I’m sorry but let me tell you that you are very wrong by not watching this drama .
    I really didn’t like the first ep too but take my advice NEVER JUDGE A DRAMA FROM IT’S FIRST EPISODE . so I went along with it and watched the drama and it was so freaking AMAZING … the lead charachter ( Nara ) played by park shin yang is a HIT , srsly the character is really great and special … and the story is inceadibly amazing about a pour man trying to be succefful and looking for a better life . you just can’t imagin how great the idea of it and and how beautifuly the story is made and the dircscting is great too
    AND park shin yang acting stands out like FIRE !! and the plot and the ending are very smart
    so I’m teeling you give it another shot and you won’t regret it