Drama Recaps
Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 1
by | January 23, 2013 | 120 Comments

New drama! MBC’s spy-action-romantic-comedy Level 7 Civil Servant premiered today, and performed solidly out of the gates, less than a percentage point behind the leader, Jeon Woo-chi. (First place had 13.6%, Level 7 Civil Servant pulled in a 12.7%, and The Great Seer came in third with 9.6%.)

Speaking of Jeon Woo-chi, fear not, we aren’t dropping recaps—they will be up. But we were eager to weigh in on this drama too, and see if it would live up to the bubbly fun of its movie inspiration.

The answer to that… is mixed. There were good points and some not-as-good. We’re still setting up the world so it feels a bit early to give a definite verdict… although in one sense, that’s a partial verdict already: The first episode was light and easy, but wasn’t firing on all cylinders for either the rom or the com. It’s getting there, but not fully baked yet. Let’s cross our fingers that once the spy setup is complete, we’ll be ready to rock ‘n’ roll.


Yoari – “니 이름이 뭐니?” (What is your name?) [ Download ]

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We land in Seoul as a woman (our heroine) dashes along the street carrying books, running late for class. She’s KIM KYUNG-JA (Choi Kang-hee), tomboyish and serious-looking.

From the other direction, a young man (our hero) takes his sweet time, pausing to primp in a cafe window and miming firing a gun like he’s a hotshot spy. He’s HAN PIL-HOON (Joo-won), trendy and fashionably dressed. And I’m sure he knows it.

(Note: They bear different names in the character descriptions, Seo-won and Gil-ro. Presumably they’ll adopt new names with their spy identities, but for now I’ll use the names they’re using.)

They arrive in the same lobby at the same time, and Kyung-ja ducks at the last minute and sends Pil-hoon tripping over her. Oblivious, she dashes off to class, which turns out to be a prep class for entering service with the national intelligence—a CIA cram school, if you will.

Kyung-ja pays rapt attention and jots down notes in her spiral notebook, while Pil-hoon sends her a dirty look and taps out notes in his high-tech tablet. So she’s analog, he’s digital. Got it.

After class, Pil-hoon heads to the shooting range, where he hits the bulls-eye with every bullet. Kyung-ja, on the other hand, dashes off immediately to her job as a parking attendant. In spare moments, she sneaks looks at the notes she’s taped up to the side of the parking box, getting in her studying time whenever she can. Ah, she’s one of those. A dramaland Candy, hard-working and self-sufficient, crawling toward her dream one part-time job at a time.

A far cry from Pil-hoon, who drives a fancy sports car and hangs out with fellow rich kids who race their wheels for fun. Pil-hoon’s turn comes up, and he speeds alongside his rival. Both cars cut in front of each other dangerously on a winding mountain road in a scene that takes way too long—yeah, you poured money into this shot, good for you—to show us that Pil-hoon (1) enjoys the adrenaline rush, but (2) not losing.

He starts off smiling as he congratulates the winner, but can’t let the loss stand and challenges his opponent to a rematch. The other guy calls him a newbie for blaming his equipment instead of his inferior driving skills and declines, taunting that if he really wants to, he should at least put his car on the line.

Pil-hoon fumes as the crowd laughs along with his opponent, then agrees to the term. They’ll race again next time, with his car as the prize.

Kyung-ja also teaches at a geomdo (kendo) school, dashing from that job to her next gig at a convenience store, where she continues studying behind the counter. Her friend Jin-ju pops by to offer her another job, this one making decent money and utilizing Kyung-ja’s assets to best effect: “Your top-of-the-line knowledge, your just-above-average looks, and your average figure!” Oh, friends.

The gig: posing as a prospective date for those mat-seon blind date setups. It’s illegal but the pay is good, and Jin-ju runs her own dating service that needs a little help. Kyung-ja turns her down flat since it’s unethical to string along a poor guy who thinks he’s getting a real girlfriend, and her friend huffs that it’s Kyung-ja’s fault if she goes bankrupt.

Kyung-ja immerses herself in her crammed-to-the-gills lifestyle, juggling all her balls in the air with nary a spare second to breathe. In another class session, the instructor puts the students through a mock interview process where the question is “Why do you want to work for the NIS?” (National Intelligence Service, that is.)

Prodded to answer with honesty and fervor, Kyung-ja starts to say that she initially wanted to produce educational television programs and shine a light on social inequalities, but the instructor cuts her off—not that kind of honesty. That’s not what they want to hear! She resumes with the textbook answer, which gets his approval: “For my country!”

Pil-hoon arrives home at 3 in the morning to find his disapproving dad waiting up for him. Dad starts in on an argument they must’ve had hundreds of times before, bemoaning the fact that his son isn’t a chip off the old block, eager to join him in his business and pursue the only really worthwhile pursuit: making money. Dad scraped up his current fortune all on his own from a young age and thinks Pil-hoon is barking up the wrong tree with civil service—even the president only gets five years in office. He says that his youthful rebellion is a waste of time. Come and work for the company asap.

Pil-hoon is spared further lecturing by the appearance of his mother, who’s a lot more sympathetic to her boy. She’s not quite the overbearing mother of Lee Mi-sook-ian proportions, but Pil-hoon’s definitely a mama’s boy. He slips away while Mom and Dad start bickering.

Lying on his bed, Pil-hoon sends a wistful look at the 007 poster on his wall, which sends him into a flashback of the time he first saw the Bond movie in the theater and was smitten with the spy life. Man, that movie is Tomorrow Never Dies and he’s practically a baby—does that make you feel ancient or what?

Mom, meanwhile, assures Dad that she has a plan for their boy’s future. I love that Dad’s immediate response is, “Did you get a fortune read?” She launches into her findings excitedly, about how there’s this really awesome fortuneteller who is bang on the money about everything—she even credits her for foreseeing the house fire that almost killed Pil-hoon. She says Pil-hoon’s lack of direction is all due to some cosmic twistiness and bad omens that they need to work out.

Hilariously, the answer she’s been given is a woman. As in, Pil-hoon needs one. In particular, one born in the year of the tiger.

We get a glimpse of that burn scar on Pil-hoon’s back as Mom presents her plan to him, urging him to go on ten mat-seon blind dates. She’ll pick out the ladies with the perfect specs and all he has to go and meet them, keeping his options open for fate.

Pil-hoon scoffs and refuses flatly, thinking this is all a bunch of bunk. Until she starts throwing bribes at him, including a new car. He stops in his tracks.

They settle on the compromise of five ladies, with two dates per lady, each date two hours long. No blowing off the dates, and no dragging out of time just to meet her time specifications.

Kyung-ja gets a call from Mom about her father’s tractor accident and hurries down to the family house in the countryside, where her rural accent reasserts itself. The home is lined with academic awards from Kyung-ja’s youth, so she was always the high achiever.

She was also constantly at odds with Dad, it appears, which we can tell right away from the way they grump at each other and bite each other’s heads off. He gruffly tells her not to come back till she’s got a real job, complaining that she’s always going to school and never actually going anywhere with it.

The nagging is done out of love, but it’s aggravating all the same and Kyung-ja retorts that she won’t ever come back then, and storms out. She stops to give Mom more money, though, urging her to please buy some proper clothing that isn’t ridden with holes. Clearly Kyung-ja cares a lot about her parents, but it all comes out in waves of frustration and she leaves stubbornly ignoring Mom’s entreaties to take her kimchi back with her.

Pil-hoon goes on his blind dates in quick succession, infuriating the ladies one after another by ignoring them the whole time in favor of studying his lecture notes. He calls it multi-tasking; they call it being an asshole and storm off.

No surprise that they all reject his offer for a second date, and Mom takes him to task for not taking them seriously. She orders him to hand over his credit cards, cutting him off and withdrawing the car offer, sighing that she’d gone through such effort to pick out ladies with the potential to be his fated match.

Pil-hoon points out that if they were really meant to be, wouldn’t the girls have recognized that or waited for him? He says flatly that there’s no such thing as fate. Mom counters that there is, and that fate comes “like a thief.” I suppose she means that it catches you unawares, not that it robs you blind and leaves you bereft.

Kyung-ja is turned down for a new loan, since she’s maxed out her school loan limit. Conveniently, her attention strays to her friend’s business card and the date offer…

She wrestles with it for a good long while, changing her mind a half-dozen times before finally biting the bullet. She needs a new identity for the job, though, since she’s been presented as a diplomat’s daughter, and so when she arrives to meet Pil-hoon she introduces herself with the false name Seo-won.

As usual, Pil-hoon takes out his tablet to start studying. Far from being offended, Kyung-ja figures that is as good a time as any to get in extra studying time for herself, too, and takes out her books. It catches him off-guard, and they stay like that reading in silence for the whole two hours, at which point she promptly gets up to go.

By now he’s pretty intrigued, and for a moment he even sees her in a prettified light, replete with rosy haze and flattering backlighting. Heh. He asks for a second date, but is actually surprised when she agrees to it. She doesn’t much care either way and says, “Or not, whatever”—and that pricks his ego. He agrees to the second date for tomorrow, same time and place.

When her friend Jin-ju gets the recap about Kyung-ja’s date, she’s amazed to hear that they both spent the entire time in their books and mutters that they’re both abnormal. Kyung-ja shrugs that the guy turned out decent after all—because he left her alone and let her study. Ha.

On the other hand, Pil-hoon mulls over her odd reaction and the “Or not, whatever” reaction to his request for a second date. Petty, petty boy who can’t stand the idea of the girl not liking him. He considers Mom’s words about fate, and then briefly flashes back to how pretty she looked. Lol. Proof that playing hard to get sometimes does work, I suppose.

On to the NIS call center, where a beleaguered middle-aged agent, KIM WON-SEOK (Ahn Nae-sang) mans the phone line. A frivolous call sends his temper shooting, and his boss, the NIS director, reminds him to keep calm and carry on.

Won-seok takes out the director for lunch and presents him with concert tickets—he calls it a “bribe” and asks for the favor of being put in charge of picking the top new recruits. For some reason he’s got his heart set on the job, and he makes his case to the boss.

The second date starts out much the same way, with Kyung-ja getting out her timer and her book to study away the two hours. They even get to quizzing each other on test questions, which they both answer knowledgeably.

But things soon head south when Pil-hoon asks why she came to the second date, still unable to figure her out. He guesses that it was because of the money, which briefly makes her freeze guiltily until he clarifies that he means his family wealth. He starts to go off on her as being the “kind of woman I hate most,” the kind who sell themselves off for the highest price and who go to college to score a successful marriage. It’s women like her who have ruined courtship, he accuses. Well, she picked the wrong guy, since he has no intention of taking over daddy’s business.

It’s not that he’s totally wrong but he IS shooting off in the wrong direction, and Kyung-ja sets him straight: she has no interest in marrying into a chaebol family. She merely signed up for the date because she put her faith in the reputable service to find her a good man.

Pil-hoon actually invokes fate, saying that’s what brings people together—can the matchmaker serve up fate too? He calls this date over and gets up to leave.

Kyung-ja panics—she’s got to fill the two hours to get paid—and calls him back to turn the question around on him. He must have nothing but money to recommend him, which is why he’s got a distorted view of the situation, assuming everyone’s only interested in money. He retorts that she knows nothing about him, so she suggests they sit and talk to get to know each other more.

He says he’s got plans, saying she’ll have to tag along if she wants to keep chatting. “Or not, whatever,” he adds with a smirk. Ha, I wouldn’t be surprised if you planned this whole conversation just so you could toss those words back at her.

As he drives, he wonders why she studies so hard when she could just ask her diplomat father to hook her up. Wouldn’t it be better just to live life comfortably, without thinking too hard?

It chafes to be treated like the spoiled dilettante he thinks she is, but she can’t exactly defend herself honestly, so she can only speak generally about hard-working people who don’t get by on their connections. That actually pisses him off a little, and Pil-hoon tells her not to compare herself to the poor hardworking person she purports to sympathize with. It’s an interesting dynamic where both have these defensive walls regarding money, though they’re coming at them from different sides. He makes a glib comment about how she should live with more on the line instead of sitting back in her easy life, and then gets ready to race.

Only after Pil-hoon starts the engine does Kyung-ja register what they’re here to do, and that she’s now stuck in the car. Zoom zoom.

This time Pil-hoon gets off to the lead and he’s making good time, cutting off his rival effectively by swerving back and forth. Only, a freaked-out Kyung-ja starts hitting his arm and yanking his hair, demanding that he pull over. Yes, beating the driver is the best way to get out of this alive.

Pil-hoon does the best he can to drive on with the distraction, but when an oncoming truck nearly flattens them it takes everything to swerve out of danger and their car skids sideways across the finish line, slamming into (now-empty) chairs. He starts to rail at her furiously, but registers that Kyung-ja’s sobbing and shaking like a leaf.

She stalks out of the car and turns on him in a rage: “I do live with everything on the line. But I won’t put it on the line for crap like this. Do you know what living is? So you’ve got some money—that lets you look down on people? Jerks like you are trash. You’re worth 235,000 won.” She gives him a mighty kick in the shins, then starts the long trek down the mountain road.

Pil-hoon’s smug rival demands his prize, and Pil-hoon has to hand them over before making the long walk himself. Rival boy drives his new wheels down the road and offers Kyung-ja a ride, saying it’s the least he could do since she won him the car. She hadn’t realized that, but at everybody’s shockingly cavalier attitude, she mutters, “Crazy jerks.”

When she finally reaches the base of the mountain, she puts in a call for Chinese delivery, asking merely for the cheapest thing on the menu. I guess she must be hungry?

She waits out in the cold for a long while, and the food doesn’t arrive until Pil-hoon arrives as well, his eyes lighting up with a vengeful smile—she is DEAD now.

But then she asks her delivery man for a ride back to town with him, and he misses his chance. Ha, was that her plan all along, to pay a few bucks for a free ride? That’s pretty clever.

NIS agent Won-seok treats his colleagues out to dinner, encouraging them to eat up and support him in their upcoming vote to pick who gets to lead the recruitment process. He really wants the job and is all smiles, despite the fact that the mood in the room is markedly unfriendly. None of his co-workers responds, and he has to assure them that although he may be a bit of a blot on the agency’s record, he surely won’t disgrace them.

The leader of these co-workers seems to have their loyalty much more, and had in fact been asked by the director in private to take the job. Guess the “bribe” wasn’t enough. And he seems the honorable, charismatic sort who would command that kind of respect. He’s the one who challenges Won-seok now, and hits a nerve with a loaded question: Is the reason he wants this job related to the botched mission five years ago? The one where Choi sunbae died?

Immediately Won-seok gets angry, and a flashback shows us why. It’s Uhmforce! We watch as the eeeevil spy (we can tell from the smirk, and the hair) turns his gun on Won-seok, just as Choi sunbae leaps in front to grapple with the baddie. A shot goes off, and Choi sunbae rolls over, bleeding.

Won-seok says yes, Choi sunbae died because of him, and storms out of the dining room. Mere seconds later, though, he comes back quietly and tells them all in this sweetly resigned voice that he really, really wants this job. Promising to do it justice, he bows respecfully and asks for their support.

It’s surprising, then, that after Won-seok leaves it’s the leader who stands up for him to the rest of the room, reminding them that this is the kind of decent guy he is—Won-seok takes blame for things that weren’t even his fault.

The others argue that Won-seok should have protected Choi. The leader counters, “If I die, I die believing in Won-seok.”

Airport. Our resident baddie returns to Korea, and from the greeting he receives from his taxi driver (a disguised agent on his side), it’s been a while since he and his colleague (played by Kim Soo-hyun) have been here.

He seems the paranoid sort and reminds his partner to be extra-vigilant about NIS agents everywhere. Furthermore, mere mention of the name South Korea sends his lips in a curl.

He opens up a new casefile… and sees a photo of Pil-hoon. Hm, their new target?

Pil-hoon calls Jin-ju, the dating agency CEO, to complain about the bad match who cost him his car. Jin-ju pesters Kyung-ja for the details, worried about a lawsuit, and threatens not to pay her for her work. But Kyung-ja returns the pay she’d already received and says it wasn’t honest money anyway: “I’m not sure I can live well. But I won’t live badly.”

The NIS holds its open recruitment test, and from the looks of it Pil-hoon
and Kyung-ja both ace it easily. They advance to the next round of interviews, and have a few near misses where they juust barely escape an encounter.

Won-seok is indeed the man running the show, although you wonder if he thinks it’s worth it from the canned answers given by all the potential recruits. It’s all “for my country” this and “for my country” that—like they got their interview tips from a recruitment brochure.

They’re called in simultaneously to interview in different rooms, where they have a go at their own responses to the question. Pil-hoon is all confidence and smiles, saying he wants to live “a cool life.” Won-seok informs him that if he’s thinking 007, he’s got it all wrong because their jobs are not at all glamorous.

Pil-hoon has a glib response, saying that there’s nothing as cool as living a life for one reason—and his reason is for his country.

Kyung-ja’s interviewer (Jang Young-nam, yay) is much more of a hardass about her canned response, cutting her off to say that she must’ve picked it up at an academy where they coach everyone to say the same thing. Did she come here to play around?

Both get challenged further, as Pil-hoon is asked how exactly he supposes he’ll love his country forever. Pil-hoon lists all of his many qualifications — all the SCUBA and shooting and racing training he’s undergone, all with his eye on becoming an NIS agent. He boasts, “I have the confidence that I can follow this One Path [han gil-ro] forever, in my love of this country.”

But Won-seok notes, his grades aren’t so hot.

Yet in the other room, Kyung-ja is told that her exemplary grades aren’t enough, either. The NIS isn’t interested in merely good grades—what is country to her? Kyung-ja fumbles to answer, and her recruiter informs her that she’s out of the running.

So our hero and heroine are both dismissed, for seemingly opposing and contradictory reasons, and leave their rooms in a confused whirl. Just as they spot each other. Oh crap.


All in all, the first outing was something of a mixed bag. Not definitively great or terrible, and certainly solid enough to keep tuning in. But too bad it’s not the home-run hit I was hoping for, especially since I loved the film version of Level 7 Civil Servant so much. (By the way, yes I see that the show has called itself “7th Grade Civil Servant,” but I am pointedly ignoring that translation for the errant picture that conjures up of a 13-year-old Joo-won in braces and pimples, brandishing a toy gun and yelling, “Pew-pew!” I already have a hard time seeing him as a grown-up man and not an adorable wee pinchy-cheeked boy without literally calling him a 7th-grader.)

The good: There’s potential here. The leads seem interesting, though him more than her, since she’s every Candy we’ve seen before and therefore sort of old hat. I want to see more of her personality and inner thoughts, and we’ve got hints and some deeper issues with her family background, as well as her frustration with living her life diligently and unspectacularly. But there’s room for growth and development on that front.

The not-so-good: This episode felt a bit empty, in that it took longer than it needed to in almost every instance. I felt like we were ahead of the game at every step, so I wanted the story to just get there already.

This director has a tendency to belabor points, too, which can get a little annoying. It’s the type of storytelling where they clearly don’t trust you to be able to put two and two together, and so they hammer in the point. Again. And again, just in case the first two tries didn’t get the message across.

In a rom-com, this kind of hammer touch can really put a damper on the zippy fun, which needs to snap and crackle. I hope that the show learns to pace itself more crisply, because Spy vs. Spy is always a fun concept, especially with romance on the line and campy uber-villains on the loose.

Speaking of whom, Uhmforce is cracking me up, although admittedly I’m not entirely convinced this is intentional. I’ll take it even if it’s not, but I do hope the show embraces the over-the-top darkness they’re shrouding him in, because they’re definitely not pulling off the straight version of the cool mystery man.

So, I’m a little disappointed that the show isn’t as funny as I was hoping, or as fast. As consolation, it IS a light and fluffy show that is easily watchable. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of the actual premise, so I’m hoping that the leads and the spy world will get us up to speed soon.


120 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. June

    Omo, been refreshing for this lovely post. THANK YOU! n___n

    • 1.1 Ivoire

      Thank you for the recap, I have been waiting for it as well. Off to read now.

      • 1.1.1 pabo ceo reom

        I checked out the first episode without much expectation and came away feeling a bit “meh” about it. I think JB summed up best with mixed bag. Normally I’m all over a rom-com but I guess I’ll have to let episode 2 convince me. If not, then life is too short to watch dramas that don’t interest you!

        • watashiwachiaki

          “life is too short to watch dramas that don’t interest you!”
          Im also giving episode 2 a chance coz all throughout episode 1 I felt I was forcing myself to finish it.

  2. JoowonLover:p

    Omigaddd!!!! YESS!!!! Been waiting like a crazy person ahhh!

    JOO WON AHHH!!!!
    ok, off to read…..thanks javabeans!!

  3. xiaoSxin

    This drama will test out my love for Joo Won. Haven’t watched the first episode yet but hoping for a surprise and prove me wrong.

    • 3.1 sm16

      ha! couldn’t have said it better.
      joo won was the only saving grace for me, but even as a fan i struggled with this intro.
      where was the crack? the sizzle? the funny?!
      with such a fun premise (c’mon we’re talking bond!), i’m so disappointed the writers decided to recycle old plots and old characters.

      hopefully, episode 2 will bring some freshness and fun. *fingers crossed*

  4. snow_white

    thanks…..was waiting for this….
    haven’t watched it yet….

  5. Annie

    Saw the first episode and I actually didn’t think there was any reason to continue with the show. Both the leads are annoying in their own special way and they just look really spectacularly bad together.

    P.S. Choi Kang Hee, I like you, but please stop with the circle lenses.

    • 5.1 Sylvia

      I completely agree. I stopped 3/4 of the ways in. Zero chemistry and the show was all over the place.

      • 5.1.1 altair

        Zero chemistry????!!!!!! It was much worse. It was like watching someone’s mom’s antics on screen with her son’s best friend. I felt second hand embarrassment. Poor Joo Won.

        • Saema

          i hate the character set-up. does he HAVE to be arrogant like the male leads in most of the other kdramas. SO.ANNOYING.

      • 5.1.2 toystar

        Wow this is not what I expected! I also don’t think its the actors fault.

    • 5.2 ck1Oz

      Is that what it is? I was wondering why her eyes were funny from PTB.

    • 5.3 ed

      I think her eyes look cartoon-ish, guess it’s the roundness and the light brown shade of her pupils? the colour looks natural

      • 5.3.1 Annie

        The roundness comes from the circle lenses – they’re used by net idols to make their eyes look bigger by exaggerating the size of the iris and pushing up the eyelid iirc.

    • 5.4 mmmaggie

      I’m sad to say that I was so bored by this too. I was hoping for some Joo Won outside of 1N2D but I lost interest after 10 minutes and did my nails instead. It just seems so cliche and been there done that. And I agree — no chemistry between the leads. I may give this one more episode but considering I only watched one drama all last year, the disappointing Big which turned me off dramas for 2012, I don’t want to start 2013 the same way. Ah well. At least I have 1N2D.

      • 5.4.1 skelly

        This actually seems to have more of the “feel” of a jdrama rom-com – little to no chemistry between the leads, the rich jerk and the hard-working girl and their perky, silly friends, a lot of set-up and not much depth. Stereotypes everywhere. I expect lots of cute hijinks from Joo-won and the assorted idols/tarentos in the cast (and idol-level acting ability to go along with it), lots of car chases and general running around, lots of annoying music, as fluffy as cotton candy.

        • DeeDee

          “.. little to no chemistry between the leads, the rich jerk and the hard-working girl ..”

          Hey now, ‘Rich Man, Poor Woman’ was good. Although I’ll admit that Oguri Shun carried the whole drama. The dude has chemistry with everyone and everything. If his female lead was a rock, Oguri Shun would have charmed the pants off that rock.

    • 5.5 la dee dah

      Man, I feel sorry for Choi Kang Hee. She’s already getting so much crap about her looks and people saying she’s so unattractive, too old, etc. Never have I heard such snipes about a person’s age and looks before. And then she uses circle lenses, which people use to look cuter and more “attractive”, but it makes her look weird and she still gets detractors. It’s just sad.

      • 5.5.1 Annie

        In rom-coms, the compatibility of the main couple is part of the shtick. If people don’t buy the pairing, the story doesn’t work. That’s how the cookie crumbles.

        And re: the circle lenses, I have always found them unnatural and unattractive regardless of who is wearing them. Choi Kang Hee’s eyes are not almond-shaped and thus her use of circle lenses is sorely misguided. I’m not sure what is so offensive about that observation.

        • la dee dah

          And yet people were already talking about her looks and age waaay before they even saw the first episode of the show, so how do they know they are actually compatible back then? I can understand not thinking they’re compatible after watching the show and seeing the interaction, but months before it airs? It’s all because of looks and age. Just because she’s not what kdrama considers “beautiful” she gets the criticism.

          And I did say the lenses made her look weird, just commenting on how she really can’t do anything to stave off criticism of her looks to please both sides.

          • Annie

            I wasn’t one of the screaming fangirls calling for CKH’s head but imo it isn’t difficult to picture two people together and deduce whether they might have interesting chemistry. Some couples can prove you wrong but this wasn’t one of them.

            And you know what? I agree that it’s unfortunate that CKH shoulders the blame for the failure of this pairing because we could just as easily say that Joo Won is too young, etc. I don’t think I’ve read anything too disrespectful in this thread though.

          • la dee dah

            @Annie, there were many times before where I made the wrong judgment of couplings before seeing them in action in the drama. Where upon hearing the casting news, I thought this actor would not fit with this actress, etc., but was proven wrong. So that is why I’m more inclined now to watch the show before making any judgments. But that’s just my experience. Unfortunately in this case, it seems the coupling is not so successful after the first episode (though I hope later episodes it improves).

            And yes, this thread (except for a few comments below) is not as disrespectful. But the nastiness from the previous threads still lingered with me…

        • skelly

          Yes, it’s not just her. I commented on them regarding Yoon Se-ah in AGD. I find them incredibly distracting, although not as bad as pink lipstick on male characters.

          • zsa

            I have to add on the weird way the actresses’ lipstick or gloss is put on…it doesn’t fill up the whole lips and the colour is uneven…I hated it on the 2nd lead in Alice in CDD, and now all the actresses here are made up like that…is this a new style I don’t know of???

      • 5.5.2 tamagoxyaki

        It doesn’t have anything to do with her age/appearance. There are many actresses her age and even older that I like and would have no complaints about If they were to be cast as the lead.The problem is choi kang hee was a bad choice for the female lead she has zero chemistry with joowon.Honestly I was disappointed the moment I heard she was being cast,not even gonna tune in for this drama,the bad responses are enough to keep me away.Looks like joowon’s good-luck streak with his dramas has come to an end…hopefully the next drama he chooses will have a better female lead and writer to work with.

        • la dee dah

          It’s good you don’t focus on age/appearance, but my comment above was directed at the many many many comments in previous threads and on other sites talking specifically about her age and appearance.

      • 5.5.3 df

        oh well, people always have crap to say. I hope she holds her head up and continues to do what she loves despite what others say. It would be nice to see more diverse beauty in Korean dramas (in Hollywood too actually) but that ain’t gonna happen soon. It’s why I support her, she’s showcasing a different look than we usually see…alot of these actresses look so similar after awhile because of PS and trying to mimic the same standard of beauty.

        • la dee dah

          Yes unfortunately, it won’t happen soon. Actresses generally seem to be held to a higher standard than actors in Hollywood, where it’s more acceptable to have leading men that are not in fit shape or less than the “Hollywood” definition of attractive than for leading women… Not sure this really applies to male actors in Korean dramas, since most I can think of are considered fit and attractive. Well, I’ll stop talking about this subject now!

  6. lovin it

    watched just for uhmtaewoong

  7. Faranak

    Wow!!!!! I’ve missed joo won a lot! I Am Happy now, tnx for recap 😀

  8. San


  9. MariD

    I guess I have bad taste in shows because I actually enjoyed this. Yes some of the scenes were dragging a lil, but we had to get introduce to everyone. I’m looking forward to next episode where hottie comes in. Sorry ladies not trying to be rude but while I love Joo-Won’s acting, I think the second lead wins in the looks department.

    • 9.1 rose

      I must have bad taste too cuz I totally agree with you 😉 (although I must say I don’t see the chemistry between the leads at all…)

      also, woohoo! Chansung is going to appear in the next episode. He looked damn fine in the preview for ep2!! can’t wait><

      • 9.1.1 welma

        i agree with both of you. U really have bad taste.

        • meanrice

          ba ha ha ha ha.

    • 9.2 Dramafed1782

      I guess I have bad taste too since I actually enjoyed Episode 1 🙂 . Or maybe I still have to watch the movie. Guess the writer wanted to change the story from the movie though keeping the spirit of the story 🙂

      • 9.2.1 Addylovesbwood

        I think I would hv liked the drama regardless… JooWon’s one of my fav actors…so ofcourse. yes, I can see the flaws…but just refuse to admit it.

  10. 10 -K

    It’s the problem when watching a film turned to drama or even vice versa, you know where its all gonna go so you tire easily and get bored, or in the other case, feel shortchanged when everything seems to be in fast forward. It might have been better to do a squeal type spin-off, but hindsight being what it is … we’ll see how the ratings respond.

    • 10.1 3united

      it got solid ratings. not too far behind Jeon woo Chi.

      • 10.1.1 3united

        I wonder how it’ll compete against Iris 2.

  11. 11 Rani Heriyani (@aiya_anie)

    it’s getting excitting…..
    Joo Won so cute…. <3 <3 <3

  12. 12 guymonday

    Why o why dont i know how to speak korean..anyone know where I can get an episode with subs?…though from the comments perhaps i dont need to rush.

    • 12.1 Ash

      Dramafever’s been especially enthusiastic about their ~exclusive rights~ so it’ll be up for streaming there later today, if you can access it. And if you can’t, I’m sure the subs will trickle their way out to other sites pretty quickly. I don’t know if any fansubbing groups will be picking it up, too.

    • 12.2 linda macy

      dramafever has it subbed

  13. 13 OneFive1

    Been refreshing since forever!! Was a bit disappointed in this first ep, hope it picks up it game after getting all the intros out of the way!

    And I know this has been complained N times, but I really wish the stylish would fix CKH’s hair TT.TT Just coz she’s poor doesn’t mean she can’t get a good haircut -_-

  14. 14 mlou

    Joo-Won is beginning to get a little bit type-cast with his crime/solver roles… and what’s with the males having lipstick? I’ve seen it several times lately, and it looks silly.

    • 14.1 pogo

      I’ve noticed it in more than one recent drama – I get wanting to have a leetle bit of colour to your lips but makeup artists need to pick themselves a more suitable colour, or at the very least, a matt finish if they’re using lipstick on guys.

    • 14.2 skelly

      I agree! I kept looking at Yoochun in I Miss You, wondering what shade they had put on him, and why, and what on earth they were thinking to have a “cop” wear drag queen pink lipstick. It’s especially bad when you already have this chubby-cheeked, fresh-faced kid. I can’t think of even bratty spoiled chaebol, much less fierce, calculating spy, when I see that face. This trend needs to stop, now.

      • 14.2.1 pogo

        Yoochun and Yoo Seung-ho, both – and before them, the bad guy in Arang and the Magistrate. They need to stop, it’s distracting! (seriously, at least mattify the finish!)

  15. 15 R

    Yes it’s light and charming (especially Joo-won^^). I think it will be better in the next episodes because there is potential.

    • 15.1 R

      Just watched the 2nd episode and it was better than the 1st! Much more hilarious scenes 😀

      Based on the character description on the drama website something will happen to Gil-ro at the NIS and maybe that something will make the drama closer to the movie version ^^

  16. 16 chane

    Yay!! Finally here, Thanks JB!

    OMG!! Joo Won! Gaksitaaaaaaaaal!!(sorry, still can’t get over it)

    And, Uhmforce!!!:)

  17. 17 f

    choi kang hee and gil ro had quite good chemistry. imho.

  18. 18 coby

    I’ve got mixed reaction too. Not entirely bad, not entirely good. And at the end I asked myself, Joowon, how much do I love thee? Not what I’ve expected for a romcom plot. They could have given Joowon a hot tomboyish girl.

    • 18.1 rose

      Oh how I wish this drama’s female lead was Yoon Eun Hye…sigh! It would have been crazy awesome if they just casted this right…lol…right now I watching this for the comedy (and possible bromance with chansung) but I don’t think I will ever be able to accept the romance between joo won and ckh

      • 18.1.1 altair

        The female role screams for Lee Shi young!

  19. 19 DaDa

    It was just ok. I did find it entertaining but I still don’t know if I’ll continue to watch it.

    Oh and the music was just dreadful. That alone almost made me want to turn it off completely.

  20. 20 sally_b

    Thanks for the recap! It seems the consensus is that the show has had a 50/50 kickoff.

    … just watched the raw-vid and would tend to agree, with the exception of a few sticky-bits.

    I actually liked Choi KangHee in *Protect the Boss* — the role was over-the-top quirky and her face and body language suited it well. Also her OTP, Ji Sung, was playing his role with comedic abandon. There was a harmony of ‘dorkage’ about that pairing.

    But…I’m not so sure that same schtick is working for her here. Which is why (at the seon/date) when JooWon starts viewing her as a golden-lighted-sexy-vixen — I’m not buying it …at all.

    The male lead has been given zero romantic prehistory/backstory …so I guess that it’s not impossible that he’d find such a woman attractive. But based on the (to me) obvious age gap and other evident visual disparity….I’m not in any way visualizing these two as a couple.

    However, they’re both accomplished actors….so I’m looking forward to them surprising me ~with amazing OTP chemistry and HEAT. right? 😉

    • 20.1 Annie

      Oh, god yes. That scene when she’s suffused in golden light as if he had seen her inner Jeon Ji Hyun. Who does the writer think he’s kidding?

      Maybe the pairing itself is comic relief?

    • 20.2 Waca

      I liked Choi Kang Hee too in Protect the Boss, but I tended to dislike the main couple half way the drama. I just hated Ji Sung when his character got back into business man mode. I much more liked him when he was fearing people and did not want to work at the company. I wanted it to stay that way…ok, not that the poor guy would remain fearing people, but I did not want him to turn into this typical drama hero, who drags around his girl and becomes the great business man. I hated this…About at the same time, poor Choi Kang Hee changed her hair style from “poop hair” to “puppy brushing”…

      I don’t understand why heroins change their hairstyle at the moment they discover they are in love. I don’t think tied hair is unsexy, and I don’t think the female leads absolutely must untie their hair to show they are pretty women in love. Seriously. The only result it got, was that I could not bear her anymore…both her and Han Ji Min from Rooftop Prince looked like cocker spaniels with their hair untied. It was really bad and so cliché!

      I think it the same here… Choi Kang-Hee should change her make-up artist. Seriously, I have nothing against the age difference, but against that horrible look, yes I do. She is pretty, but why the mushroom hair and why the circle lense that give her Dr Jin eyes?
      I am sure we would buy it more if she had a better look…

  21. 21 Laurita

    So they are both newbies?

    I thought Choi Kang-hee will be shown in some higher rank at first… Oh, well, this storyline is still not bad, and I’ll try to watch it when I’ve time (for now, recap is enough).

    • 21.1 ilikemangos

      I actually would have preferred if her character did start off higher-ranked.
      That would have made the dynamic of their relationship alot better, imo.

  22. 22 Mira

    Cutieee Joo-wonieee Gaksitaaal-Pyooong! To be honest I started watching this drama only for you (& uhm tae woong :))
    I like Ahn Nae Sang and Jang Young Nam too !!!

  23. 23 Ace

    I forgot about this. Thank you for the reminder. Once subs are up though, I’ll watch it so I can decide for myself if it’s okay or not. I do appreciate the recaps and will continue to read when the next episode recap’s up.

  24. 24 J

    Nah, pass! Seeing CKH’s godawful bowl cut and yet another frustrating Candy traits attached to her character, I just know I’m not gonna root for that one. Not even JW can make me watch this trainwreck. I guess after three-peats of hit shows, it’s time he learnt that not all scripts are worth tackling…

    Also never got the hype of the original movie, turned it off halfway as it just seemed so tacky and loud. Oh well…

    • 24.1 divaz_sha

      This drama just like Full House Take 2 for me….
      the female lead hair style such a turn off…
      kdrama seriously need to find better hairstyle too make her look younger…bowl cut make her look stupid not younger

  25. 25 hanna

    Although i love joowonie but i am not sure if i’m gonna watch ep 2. I’ ll have to finish watching JWC first cuz i found that drama more entertaining especially the scooby gang. PLS JB hopefully you won’t drop JWC recap. Thanks a lot. The ratings shows which drama to watch then.

  26. 26 MissLuxedo

    “By the way, yes I see that the show has called itself “7th Grade Civil Servant,” but I am pointedly ignoring that translation for the errant picture that conjures up of a 13-year-old Joo-won in braces and pimples, brandishing a toy gun and yelling, “Piu-piu!” ”

    Thanks, Java… Now, whenever I watch this drama (or read recaps), I will imagine kiddie Joo-won firing a toy gun and yelling ‘Piu-piu!’

    BTW, who else actually finger-gunned the air, replete with sound-effects when you read that part of the article? Cause, I know I did…

    • 26.1 Elina

      Now I will have YOU in mind when watching this drama 😀

  27. 27 Chintu

    Y couldn’t they have made joowon a bumbling, endearingly nerdy rookie who enters service fancying himself he next Bond only to be made the resident errand boy or the guy who spouts factoids annoyingly and knows everything theoretically but practically a sweetheart?

    Is it like, after all of joowon’s previous roles, he HAS to do only manly roles? Cuz I think he’d have a great comic timing, he can do something like mgiag’s woongah 🙂

    • 27.1 scbound

      “” he can do something like mgiag’s woongah ”

      I think that role belongs to, and should be left with the guy that perfected it… LSG owns that role ALONE .

      • 27.1.1 cg

        agreed…..that role belongs to lee seung ki 😀

      • 27.1.2 Chintu

        i didn’t mean the exact character, i meant a character like that, who visualises the perfect stunt but fails comically… that was kinda what kang jihwan’s character was, in the movie… not that the drama shouldn’t deviate and take its own tropes, just that in this case the movie’s interpretation of the character was funnier and endearing…

  28. 28 chulz08

    is this a rom-com?..cant wait for the sub 🙂

  29. 29 Geneva

    I honestly really do like both Joo-won and Choi Kang-hee, and I don’t even have a problem with them together (I wait and watch for chemistry before I judge, personally) but this seems like a been there done that sort of drama… which neither of them are suited for when they’ve already done better, especially when it’s these types of trope ridden characters. :\

  30. 30 TS

    The heroine’s haircut just irritates me. So unless I read this show’s become incredibly funny, I’ll pass.

  31. 31 divaz_sha

    This pairing just sooooo wrong to me..the female lead character description is that she have everything, the look,the figure etc except the money..but here…she seem has nothing even the look if you know what i mean….
    how i wish they hired different actress
    Maybe Park min Young (just like the rumours)

  32. 32 Jackie

    Bad, bad pairing.
    Nothing against Choi Kang Hee but man, I love Joo Won and I wished he was paired up with someone younger. I actually want to pass on the series because of this, the pairing is awkward for me to watch. Sigh.

  33. 33 tessieroo

    I think the problem is the movie was so good and so friggin hilarious that those who have seen the movie will always be comparing.
    It was one of the funniest K-movies I’ve ever seen. This is just … meh so far. No spark.

  34. 34 gakdoogee

    Really turned off by Choi Kang Hee, her made up plastic-y look and her super scratchy voice. JW should have been paired with someone younger/more natural/hotter. Something about her — more than general unattractiveness — just makes me want to turn off the box. GF I think was worried/disappointed when she was cast; looks like her worries were justified.

    Will stick with FBND as that seems to be the only good thing on right now.

  35. 35 lemondoodle

    The pairing really doesn’t work. I really wanted CKH and JW to prove people wrong about the chemistry, but yeah… don’t see it. The story has pretty much been done before. I don’t like jerkass + candy once again. I’ll watch ep. 2, but something amazing has to draw me in to continue. I don’t see a reason to keep watching otherwise.

  36. 36 DayDreamer

    The inner Joo Won fangirl in me wants to watch this drama only for Joo Won but the contents of the recap deter me from watching it. 🙁 Sometimes I wish I weren’t so picky with dramas….

  37. 37 mldrt

    do you know what song and who sing it on min 46-ish?

  38. 38 Juby

    I’ve watched the first episode and I am kind of dissapointed…

    I have nothing against an older female-younger male pairing, but while some of them worked, others just fail miserably.

    For instance, Lee Seung Gi and Ha Ji Won have a 9 year gap, but they still had a lot of chemistry together in The King 2 Hearts. Yoo Seung Ho and Yoon Eun Hye also have a 9 year gap, but they still made a very cute couple in I Miss You.

    Now, Joo Won and Choi Kang Hee (10 years gap) are on a level of their own, chemistry-wise. When I first saw the pictures of the press conference, it looked like Joo Won was bringing his aunt to his prom >_< Those were only pictures, but sadly, even onscreen I feel zero chemistry between them. This is a rom-com. When you leave the ''rom'' out, there's only 50% left, but then again, even the ''com'' part wasn't that great 🙁

  39. 39 Addylovesbwood

    I think we already had our minds set against Choi Kang Hee before the drama even aired. No ones going to see any chemistry because they don’t want to see it. The age gap is very apparent but it’s not as bad as his previous pairings especially with Mok Dan(awful OTP)

    I also hated the pairing at 1st but I would choose CKH a 100 times over other suggested OTPs
    (Park Ming Young and Yoon Eun Hye). I would not watch a second of this drama if Park Min Young was lead….

    Please lets give it a couple more episodes b4 we give up on it!!

    I had high expectations for Joo Won’s 4th Big Hit Drama but I don’t think thats gonna happen.(this is pretty common with over-hyped dramas) I just hope it doesn’t flop too hard.

    • 39.1 ilikemangos

      I feel no spark between joo won& choi kang hee as of now (esp. during that cheesy glow-y scene where he looks at her studying).
      Having said that, I can still stand to see them together in the same screen without bashing the show like alot of people are doing atm.
      Do they have the passionate chemistry? No.
      But can their relationship evolve to one that is based on mutual respect/trust? Yes.
      I’m not completely turned off because it takes a while for me to settle into a show and get used to the feel.

      I hope this show goes from decent to good. As of now, i agree that this episode had some scenes that were unnecessarily dragged out. And alot of “empty” scenes.
      One thing I’m disappointed in this show is the typical candy in k-dramaland we have as our heroine. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those. Agh, been trying to avoid that common character scope. Heres to hoping the next episodes will get better. Usually a give a show 4 episodes before i give my final verdict.

      I said this earlier and i say it again: I wish choi kang hee’s character started off higher-ranked than our hero.

      • 39.1.1 ilikemangos

        Woops. this was supposed to be posted on its own, not as a reply!

  40. 40 owl

    I’m in with the thumbs up crowd – I thought ep 1 was kind of fun. I do sense some chemistry potential at least, between Pil Hoon (Joo won) and Kyung Ja (Kang hee). I like Joo won filled out here (not the boyish look in TTBY) and Kang hee was so fab in PTB that I’m looking forward to her in L7CS as well. She is a good actress, not a whiny voicce or silly presence, a big plus in my book. I like how she juggles the jobs/studying with an eye on her future in this drama. So, I’m in “let’s see” mode, and leaning towards a ‘yes’ at this point.

  41. 41 beggar1015

    I’ve not seen the actual episode, but from reading the recap this just sounds like the same old same old.

  42. 42 liam

    Uhm Taewoong!!<3 Uhmforce!!!

  43. 43 Ann

    Talking about looks–Did anyone else notice how baggy Joo Won’s pants were in the butt? Does he not have one or did the costume person not know how to fit him?

    Uhm Tae Woong was fun–I hope he will be an over the top villain kind of like the one in King 2 Hearts.

  44. 44 liam

    Want to watch this!!!!!!

  45. 45 Missmusic


    A link to the eng subbed video of episode 1

  46. 46 linda macy

    I think the first ep was ok and they laid a good foundation for our characters..time will tell if the leads have a good chemistry. Have learned not to judge a drama on the first ep. possibly even to the 4th ep. I like Joo Woo enough to hang in there and was surprised at how good the leading lady is…she is giving her best. Of course love the two ladies who play the Mothers.

  47. 47 meanrice

    I agree with javabeans. I cooked dinner with my back to the TV for the first half of the episode. I am ok with the utter lack of chemistry b/t the leads if they are going Candy Girl with Kyung Ja. I really want to see a drama once where the female lead is like, I worked three jobs for a dream, a dream I give up for no man! But if they are going to force a romance down our throat, I dont know if I will keep watching. Joo-Won nooo!!!!!

    This brings to mind his interview on Win-Win when he was like “what if the next drama I do has terrible ratings? I am always prepared for that.” I may need him to pick my lotto numbers if he is going to be psychic like that.

    Random question: Pil-Hoon’s mom (aka Jan Di’s mom – sorry lady you were in the first KDrama I ever watched, that is your name) – she got bad botox right? Something was off about her look.

  48. 48 viave44

    oh,, God…!! finally …

  49. 49 Mar

    -It was like watching a grown up less clutzy JanDi and a less mean and less hot Gu Jun Pyo that had less effed up parents.

    -I felt like there could be some potential fun. What I’m concerned about is the lack of interesting or quirky supporting characters (friends wise). Maybe there willl be more introduced. The Mom’s are great actresses though. Then again fewer characters that interact in the personal lives of the leads hopefully means more screen time between the two leads.

    -I’m kind of sick of the stuff on this actress because of her looks and age. And I think the looks hate is ties to her age. At this point it is time to forward and get over it or don’t watch it. I seem to be one of the few that do not get what the big deal is about the lead actor. I do not get what is the big deal about the real age difference between the leads either.

    -Did anyone notice that in the first scene at his home, the actor had a shapely boodie and in the race scene, he had a flat butt? Just saying.

    -I’ll give this show a chance to see how it lines up but I may skip reading the comments because I really don’t want to be irritated if half the comments are about the actresses looks or age or how the two leads don’t look good together or whatever.

    • 49.1 Annie

      Out of curiosity, what do you look for in romantic comedies? Not trying to be snarky – I’ve come to the conclusion that I may be shallower than I’ve ever suspected 😉

      • 49.1.1 Mar

        We are all shallower than we think we are hahaha!

        I guess I could probably tell someone what I do not like more easily than what I do like, because I don’t like to limit myself. My biggest turn off is bathroom humor I think. I don’t personally find farting and pooping jokes funny. That said it would depend on the rest of the drama if I could get past it. I got past it in Flower Boy Raymun Shop because it wasn’t really about the bathroom humor, it was about the character being repressed. The second thing I dislike the most is the mean/bad second lead, usually the female, that everyone puts up with instead of shunning, and I REALLY hate it when characters do awful things (like attempted murder) and are forgiven or redeemed in the end. The most glaring example of this is the sister in Rooftop Prince. Just ridiculous.

        Passion in characters would be the top of my list and that doesn’t have to mean sexual desire, but I like passionate characters, whether it is a justice girl or someone that loves their job or their family. I like to see actors with chemistry just like we all do, and I guess I buy into the sexual tension thing as well. That said one of my favorites is Pasta and that was less sexual tension and more just such great actors gelling cohesively. I like to see characters that have good friends/good family members. I’m really not fond of the torn between two lovers trope. I know that the idea of cheating is a big turn on for some people (that’s a big component of a love triangle) but it leaves me cold. Conversely I DO like that korean dramas often do have the second leads, because it teaches the lesson that there is not just ONE right person in your life.

        All that said, I could just point to my favorites, off the top of my head no particular order and I am sure I’ll forget something -Answer Me 1997, Flower Boy Raymun Shop, Sam Soon, Pasta, Coffee Prince, Boys over Flowers, The Woman That Still Wants to Marry, Secret Garden, Scent of a Woman, Personal Taste, Me Too Flower, Padam Padam, Worlds Within, Protect the Boss.

  50. 50 KDrama Fan

    Thanks JB.

    You know things aren’t going well with a drama when everyone’s critical about the characters hairdo’s etc in the very first episode. See comments above.

    Personally I think it’s a shame to see such good actors in such a blah drama. When these actors- ie. the girl’s parents, the NIS crew, and Uhm the spy-came on it felt like I was watching something else like IRIS.

    I feel JW’s talent is wasted here and his part should have been given to a lesser known actor.

    Nothing has endeared me to any of the characters in this drama.

    I don’t see any balance in the acting-actors with minor roles stood out more than the leads.

    It isn’t funny.

    Don’t see anything romantic.

    At least JW’s hair is nice.

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