Misaeng: Episode 6
How much of your pride are you willing to put on the line in order to make a sale? That’s the question Chief Oh struggles with as he must convince an old friend to now do business with his company. Another employee’s lack of confidence makes it difficult for him to be taken seriously (especially by Baek-ki), and he must decide whether ambition or integrity is more important in the end.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Baek-ki arrives early to work and revels in the sensation that he’s the first one there. As a child, he had routinely passed by a shopkeeper who would open the doors and wash down the sidewalk. Arriving early before anyone else gives him the same feeling, like he’s there to open the business doors for the rest of the staff. He savors a cup of coffee while he reads through the company’s message boards and news sites, enjoying the mix of the leisurely and work — a scene that reminds him of something out of a drama, pffft.
But reality comes crashing down when his supervisor arrives, busy on his Bluetooth and juggling multiple tasks while he ignores Baek-ki. The sound of cheering from the other side of the office gets Baek-ki’s attention, and he watches as Sales Team 3 celebrates a contract win. Chief Oh tells Dong-shik and Geu-rae that he’ll treat them to a cup of a coffee, which turns out to be him making a them a cup of instant coffee from the stash in the break room. Hahaha!
Baek-ki’s also there, making his own cup of coffee, and he tries to ignore the excited Sales Team 3 chattering around him. The sound of a manager chewing out another employee in the next room over gets their attention, and they all eavesdrop (while totally pretending that they aren’t). PARK YOUNG-GU is the IT sales department assistant manager, and it seems he’s an honest employee who tries to look out for his client’s best interests, even if it means putting the company’s priorities second.
Meanwhile, Young-yi’s boss yells at her for a mistake on a report. She tries to explain she just put in the information that was given to her, but her boss seems to want to make her pay for her “disloyalty” to the resource team after she told Geu-rae where the missing document was. He kicks her out of the meeting room, emphasizing once again that he doesn’t like working with women because he can’t trust them.
Seok-yul happens to see everything, and rushes to Geu-rae to fill him in on Young-yi’s situation. While he’s there, he leaps to attention to treat Dong-shik as his sunbae, much to Dong-shik’s irritation, as he points out that he and Seok-yul went to different schools.
But Seok-yul continues to chatter at him about the contract that all the sales teams are eager to get that hinges on Sales Team 3’s ability to get Wilmart Ramen Company to sign a contract, and Dong-shik marvels at how Seok-yul seems to know everything. He totally leans in like he’s one of the team when Dong-shik gets the email from Wilmart, requesting that they meet.
Chief Oh is particularly thrilled once he discovers that the head of Wilmart is an old school friend, BYUN HYUNG-CHUL. He brags that he’ll be able to use his past connection to easily seal the deal.
He takes Geu-rae with him to the meeting, and as they reach the parking garage of One International, they meet Young-yi who’s busy trying to gather up wood samples from the back of a van. Geu-rae stops a moment to ask if she’s doing okay, and he doesn’t just mean if she needs help to carry the wood samples. But she tells him she’s fine — besides, she’s expecting help from one of her coworkers.
Her coworker eventually arrives in time to see Chief Oh drive away, but instead of helping Young-yi, he sneers that she should have asked them for help instead. When she points out that it would be ridiculous to ask for help from another department when he was going to help her, he yells at her for only just acting loyal now, accusing her of “cheating” on their department by supporting Sales Team 3.
The wood slips out of Young-yi’s hands and lands painfully on her foot. In order to avoid getting chided even further by her superior, she insists that she’s fine and limps her way to the elevator. Baek-ki also gets on and takes note of her foot and the samples she’s carrying for a few seconds before taking the wood from her arms. He ignores her protests as he reminds her that he warned her it would be hard.
At the Wilmart offices, Chief Oh is excited to see his old school friend again, laughing off the half-hour they’ve already been waiting as just one of his friend’s quirks. Just then, Hyung-chul bursts through the door and the two men loudly greet each other in delight as they hug and slap each other on the back. Hyung-chul apologizes for keeping them waiting, but he assures them he’ll be back to sign everything soon.
While they wait, Chief Oh happily tells Geu-rae about his friendship with Hyung-chul, like the time he saved Hyung-chul from getting hit with a chair by one of the school bullies. But the “important work” that Hyung-chul had to do was play baduk on his computer while he grumbles, “Friend? Crazy bastard. Since when were we friends?”
Chief Oh and Geu-rae wait and wait and wait until finally, hours later, Hyung-chul returns to the meeting room. Chief Oh has the documents all ready to be signed, but Hyung-chul tells him that the data is insufficient for him and he’s not prepared to sign anything today, despite Chief Oh’s reassurance that he has everything ready.
Even more shocking to him is when Hyung-chul asks if he really thought it was going to be that easy, and then pointedly drops his informal way of speaking to let Chief Oh know he’ll review the documents and get back to him.
Chief Oh’s smile fades, but he responds politely in jondaemal as well. When Hyung-chul realizes he’ll need to find a tie for his next meeting, Chief Oh immediately takes off the one he’s wearing, the one his children painstakingly saved up to buy their father (and that had been considered a “lucky” tie due to his team’s success this morning). He politely offers it to Hyung-chul: “Please use this one, sir.”
As they leave, Chief Oh reassures Geu-rae that it’s merely a tactic so that he’ll see Hyung-chul again, since he’ll need to get the tie back. But Chief Oh looks shell-shocked when he returns to the office, and Dong-shik’s excitement turns awkward when he realizes that the visit wasn’t as successful as everyone assumed it would be.
Chief Oh’s alone on the rooftop as he thinks back to his boss yelling at him for his failure to get the contract, especially after he had bragged how close he and Hyung-chul were. Just then his phone rings, and he answers it formally: “Hello, Mr. Byun.” But Hyung-chul is back to his cheerful, friendly self as he invites Chief Oh out for a drink that night.
His hope revived, Chief Oh excitedly picks out the best restaurant in town based on what he remembered from Hyung-chul’s tastes when he was younger. Dong-shik thinks that since Hyung-chul also invited Geu-rae, that means they’ll be wrapping up the contract information tonight.
But Hyung-chul dismisses Chief Oh’s selected restaurant, and instead he takes the guys to a hostess bar where he’s apparently a regular. Despite Chief Oh’s obvious discomfort with Hyung-chul’s choice of venue, he laughs and reassures him that this place is to his taste.
As they drink, Hyung-chul continues to get in his digs at Chief Oh by marveling that his company would let in someone with just a high school equivalency test, and then worries about Chief Oh’s liver because he has to drink when other people want it (implying that Hyung-chul is now higher in the hierarchy).
Chief Oh’s laughter tiptoes the line of forced hilarity and utter hysteria, and Geu-rae watches in silent concern as Chief Oh continues to kiss up to Hyung-chul. He seems almost near tears when Hyung-chul, by rights of their corporate hierarchy, forces him to pour a drink, but Geu-rae picks up the bottle to pour instead.
By the end of the night, the men are utterly blitzed, and Chief Oh literally runs after the taxi to get his tie back when Hyung-chul waves it out of the window, dropping it to the ground as the taxi drives off.
The next morning, Chief Oh sits at his desk, staring at nothing while Dong-shik sends the other department head silent signals about what happened. Geu-rae is hurrying back to the office with a hangover remedy, and not a second too soon because Chief Oh is about to lose his cookies.
Young-gu is getting another chewing out by his boss for issues about one of their contracted suppliers delaying the delivery of goods. When he meets with the managers of the other company, he’s given a sob story about the the director’s daughter being in a car accident, and so he hasn’t been able to focus on One International’s accounts. Tender-hearted Young-gu is sympathetic, but when he reports to his boss, he gets yelled at once again for not seeking compensation for the orders being late.
There’s still no call from Wilmart, and Dong-shik worries that they’ll become the office scapegoats for letting this deal go south. But just then, Hyung-chul calls, and everyone waits expectantly. But Chief Oh’s hysterical laughter can only mean one thing: The deal is denied. Chief Oh’s boss is furious: If Chief Oh hadn’t tried to use his personal relationship with Wilmart, they could have used another tactic to get a contract with the company.
On the rooftop, Chief Oh calls Hyung-chul to ask him why he refused to sign the contract, and Hyung-chul tells him they never planned to work with One International in the first place. He only met with Chief Oh so that he could get a little revenge from his school days when Chief Oh was the one who had the power. When they were younger, he used to kiss up to Chief Oh, and so wanted to use this chance to have Chief Oh kiss up to him for once. Laughing to himself, Chief Oh rips up the contract and throws it out across the city.
As Chief Oh continues to brood at his desk, Dong-shik explains to Geu-rae how difficult it is to have to try and sell something to a friend, since the power imbalance means you have to ignore the friendship in hopes of wooing them for a sale. Sometimes it’s so humiliating that you have to wonder if this job is really worth it.
That night, Young-gu drinks alone and hesitantly calls his wife to try and broach the topic of quitting, but she tells him that she just signed their child up for lessons, and he can’t manage to say anything. He staggers home, depressed and drunk, thinking about his friend who had quit his job to go back to school, and then ended up getting a better job at another company.
His friend said that if he wants to make a change, then he needs to think about himself since he can’t please or take responsibility for everyone. Young-gu collapses on the sidewalk just outside his building and slurs, “I’m happy. I am happy… but I don’t want to go inside. Home… is difficult.”
The next morning, Geu-rae finds Young-gu on the roof where he’s reading through his resignation letter. Geu-rae politely greets him, happy to introduce himself since he’ll be going on a subcontractor training trip with Young-gu today. Young-gu dejectedly apologizes, since he probably won’t be very helpful, but Geu-rae happily repeats that Chief Oh told him Young-gu is a good employee, one whom all the clients trust. Then he asks to know what else Chief Oh said about him, and Geu-rae has to scramble to think of more praise. Ha!
His ego restored, Young-gu sloooooowly drives Geu-rae and Baek-ki to the subcontractor they’re to meet, all the while boasting about his experiences in the field. Baek-ki just rolls his eyes from his spot in the backseat, but Geu-rae is totally interested in everything Young-gu says.
When they arrive at the subcontracting company, they can hear the manager loudly telling the rest of his staff to make up a lie to convince Young-gu that they need more time on his accounts so they can focus on the newer, more profitable accounts. At least the manager has the presence of mind to look embarrassed when he realizes Young-gu is already there.
Young-gu’s ego is once again utterly deflated, and Baek-ki remarks that they must think One International is a total pushover. He excuses himself to return to the office, but Geu-rae tells Young-gu that he’ll stay.
A subdued Young-gu returns to the subcontractor’s office, his shoulders slumped in defeat. Just as he’s about to walk away from the manager who weaves another excuse as to why they’re behind on fulfilling One International’s order, he looks into Geu-rae’s smiling, expectant face.
He remembers all the positive things that Geu-rae had told him on the rooftop, as well as the way he had bragged about his other sales experiences. It’s adorably hilarious that Geu-rae’s eyes have literal stars in them as Young-gu imagines Geu-rae cheering him on, and he thinks back to his friend’s advice to take responsibility for his choices.
Young-gu (voiceover): Did I want to be a good person who never said anything bad to anyone? Did I ever take responsibility at the workplace?
He spins around to tell the manager that the next step is to sue for breach of contract, adding to himself that if he doesn’t speak now, it’ll be the same no matter where he goes. Aw, his courage manifests itself as huge angel wings.
But once Young-gu and Geu-rae are in the subcontracting director’s office, he’s back to his bashful self, more worried that he’ll now be the one responsible for ruining the longstanding relationship between this company and One International.
Geu-rae recognizes Young-gu’s strategy as similar to one in baduk, a risky move made to turn the tables when things don’t look good for you. It can be a clever move if completed successfully, since it proves you have the upper hand.
He texts Dong-shik to call him, and before he steps outside to answer it, he tells Young-gu that his boss won’t be worried about him staying later because, “I’m with you.” That’s enough of a confidence booster to bring back at least a small pair of Young-gu’s angel wings.
Geu-rae stands just outside the door and loudly talks into the phone so that they can overhear him as he tells Dong-shik that there’s a problem with the contract and that the director said he would go to the office and talk to everyone personally.
Everyone’s mobilized into action back at the office as the IT sales team, along with the legal and risk departments, scramble to get all the documents in order to prep for this last-minute meeting. The resident busybody Seok-yul sees everyone arrive, and is over the moon when Young-gu petitions for Geu-rae to join him in the meeting.
He hurries to update Baek-ki and Young-yi about the proceedings, and Baek-ki is mildly surprised that Young-gu is the type to initiate anything. But the true shocker is when he finds out about Geu-rae. The three contemplate what it means for such a newbie to be a part of such a major meeting, and Seok-yul’s convinced this means Geu-rae will be promoted faster.
Young-yi’s more curious as to why Baek-ki didn’t stay behind with Geu-rae and Young-gu, and Seok-yul cuts straight to the heart of the matter by pointing out that Young-gu isn’t Baek-ki’s “style.” Baek-ki admits that Young-gu seems like the weak-willed indecisive type who will avoid conflict, and questions that he’ll be able to stay strong in his testimony against the subcontracting company.
Indeed, Young-gu’s testimony is what will decide the case, and as he nervously stands up before everyone, more consumed about what will happen with the other company than himself, Geu-rae slips him a note of encouragement: “Become irresponsible!”
Young-gu’s angel wings spread out as Geu-rae tries to telepathically remind him that he needs to focus on himself. He confidently begins his testimony about the history of delayed shipments, and the other company’s clear failings. But then he suddenly adds that the real blame belongs on him because he only found out about it today.
As he looks around, everyone’s faces are replaced with his own, and he explains that he was more focused on his lack of confidence and desire to quit than the other company’s difficulties in fulfilling their contract. Instead of making the other company pay the penalty, he begs that they hold him responsible.
His angel wings and clothes disappear in a feathery gust of wind, and he stands (figuratively) naked before everyone as he lays bare his reasons for being the one who destroyed a ten-year relationship with a largely reliable company.
After his moving speech, he hangs his head low, awaiting the decision. But the rest of the directors point out someone who’s only worked here for four years can’t have singlehandedly ruined a longstanding contract. However, he’s commended for his idealistic and forthright attitude.
More than any other time when he’s lost a game of baduk, Geu-rae feels the shame of trying to teach Young-gu anything. He realizes that everyone has a different game they’re playing, and his little note was useless for Young-gu’s game.
Seok-yul passes along the results of the meeting to Baek-ki (who tries to be disinterested but Seok-yul totally knows he’s dying of curiosity). He finds Geu-rae sitting outside and looking glum. When he admits he wasn’t any help, Baek-ki sighs that he’s finally getting it: “We can’t do anything, yet.”
But a smiling Young-gu comes out to meet him, sincerely thanking Geu-rae for helping him break his shell. Baek-ki is headed back inside, but that stops him in his tracks, and he watches as Young-gu bows his head in gratitude to Geu-rae.
Geu-rae asks Dong-shik why Young-gu didn’t get fired, and Dong-shik points out that their type of job means that they have to take risks, and accidents sometimes happen. The company can’t expect the employees to take the blame all the time, so they instead focus on finding solutions for such issues. Chief Oh points out it’s all nonsense, since even if the company protects the employee, the employee will still suffer (as Dong-shik knows from his disciplinary action). As he writes up his progress report on Wilmart (deleting his original report, which was just a string of “I’m sorta very…” just like his apple apology, ha!), he gets an email from his wife.
It’s a video of his son performing in a class play about heroes, and his young son is adorably dressed as a businessman like his father, loudly declaring that working for a trading company is just like being a superhero. Chief Oh’s frown disappears and he’s all proud papa smiles, as the other office workers gather around to watch, too. It’s just the kick in the pants he needed to remember why he works for this company, and he pulls out the family photo.
Geu-rae: “Yes, everyone has their own baduk.”
I really loved Young-gu and his story. He seems to be such a pathetic sad sack, the kind who will quit and run because he just can’t live up to his superior’s expectations despite the fact that he does his job sincerely and to the best of his ability. He’s that sort of tenderhearted, trusting soul that is so easily tamped down in what can be a harsh environment where the bottom line is the most important — the type of person who can so easily be chewed up and spat out as a hollow shell from years of working in an office (and in sales, no less!).
Most powerful, however, was him seeing his face in his superiors and coworkers. This was a man who had been told again and again that if he wanted to succeed, he needed to stop caring about what others think and start thinking of himself (or the company). But this was also a man who was willing to sacrifice himself in order to save the company, who would rather strip himself bare and speak from the heart than use any savvy trick to prove that he was in the right. This was a man who, even if it ruined his career, preferred to be honest.
Which is why he was so easily dismissed by the more ambitious Baek-ki, because Baek-ki assumed that the “pushover” Young-gu would continue to be a pushover, and not have the spirit to fight back. In Baek-ki’s mind, there’s nothing to be learned from a personality like that, since why would he respect someone who still can’t gain the admiration or even attention of the same supervisor who constantly ignores the new guy?
Yet Baek-ki actually seems to be not quite so different from Young-gu. Despite his more ambitious personality, he has gradually shown that he’s the type to veer to the path of least resistance, more content to stay on a safer path than rock the boat. Even though it does seem like he helped out Sales Team 3 to get the missing document in the previous episode, he did it so there would be no evidence traced back to him. He’ll help the unfortunate so long as it won’t hurt his chances for success.
But there seems to be some hope. Even though he learned his lesson about helping Young-yi out when she didn’t want it, he was willing to withstand her wrath to take the wood from her and make sure she stopped at the infirmary (all the while letting her maintain her dignity). He knows full well what kind of treatment she’s getting from the rest of her team, and even though he’s all, “I told you so,” there doesn’t seem to be any bitterness. While I, too, have no desire for romance to come in and gum up this beautiful drama, I am looking forward to Baek-ki’s eventual thaw and him officially becoming part of the “gang” (with Geu-rae, Young-yi, and Seok-yul) instead of being begrudgingly dragged in each week.
Since this drama does seem to love showing people growing and learning, I’m hoping that the realization that Young-gu actually has some spirit and bravery will show Baek-ki that you can’t judge someone just by appearances or hearsay. So, too, with Geu-rae. I guffawed at the end when Baek-ki was all, See? We’re nobodies. Why do you think you’d actually make a difference when you barely know what you’re doing? Only to have Young-gu end up thanking Geu-rae for giving him a new perspective on himself.
That also further highlights the difference between Baek-ki and Geu-rae: Where Baek-ki had walked off, assuming Young-gu couldn’t possibly teach them anything, Geu-rae realized that he had made the mistake of thinking he could teach Young-gu, forgetting that this was a man who had his own experiences and stories to tell. He may be the baduk genius, but everyone has their own game to play — their own strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, their own motivations.
I do really love how Geu-rae is so genuine and willing to learn from everyone, and I think that’s what is going to eventually set him apart from the rest of his peers. He isn’t afraid to be humble and learn, no matter who is teaching him the lesson.
But I’m glad that Chief Oh still reigns in the top spot in Geu-rae’s mentor list, even if it might have been difficult to see his beloved department chief have to lower his pride before a man he had thought was a friend, and instead quietly take the abuse so that he could try and close the deal. Geu-rae may have Chief Oh on a bit of a pedestal (and if I’m honest, I probably do a bit, too), and it was slightly heartbreaking to watch his hopes continually get dashed while he tried to make his sale and put up with all the debasing antics required to please the man who wanted to be treated as a superior instead of a friend. To see Chief Oh put on a dancing monkey act just to make sure his department would get a sale was almost too painful to watch.
He’s still on that pedestal, though. How can he not be, when even his own son thinks he’s a superhero?