Chief Kim: Episode 12
With another victory against TQ under his belt, Sung-ryong turns now to a new mission, this one all for revenge, all for himself. It may have taken quite a bit of setup and comedy to get us here, but this long-awaited face-off feels all the sweeter for it, and I’m nothing if not a sucker for a showdown.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Yul and Executive Director Jo can’t believe that Chairman Park is really behind this disruption. Impassive to their shock, Seoahn Jangryong demands they make their decision, and make it quick.
As Sung-ryong strolls out with a shit-eating grin on his face, we flash back to his meeting with Chairman Park to see how it all went down. Presenting the Taipans Bank transaction records, Sung-ryong had threatened to reveal that TQ Delivery’s manager secretly transferred money to a TQ executive. Further, Sung-ryong had explained that the fault of TQ Delivery’s deficit was in TQ’s corruption itself.
Sung-ryong had jumped on the opportunity to make a small request to Chairman Park: restore the Business Operations department. Only then, said Sung-ryong, will the company run properly.
And so our Business Operations family gleefully packs up their boxes from their “new” departments to return to their homely little office. They move in supplies and tease each other while Director Chu brings iced coffees, everyone laughing in joy.
The mood in Chairman Park’s office is much more solemn, however, as Yul and Executive Director Jo cautiously ask what happened. Chairman Park turns the question back on them, slapping the Taipans Bank record on the table. He demands that they find out the culprit behind the leak. Before Yul can say anything, Executive Director Jo promises to catch him.
As they leave the office, Yul corners Executive Director Jo into the wall and wonders how she can catch herself. Executive Director Jo plays innocent, saying that there’s no proof that she was the culprit, which Yul takes to mean she destroyed the evidence. Sneering, Yul tells her to do whatever she wants.
Meanwhile, Sung-ryong meets with Madam Jang over coffee, where she thanks him for his help and promises to send the remaining 200 million won to him tomorrow. Unexpectedly, however, Sung-ryong requests that she instead use that money to help the TQ Delivery employees. Smiling, Madam Jang notes that he’s really unknowable, and Sung-ryong agrees: “I don’t know what kind of person I am, either.”
Sung-ryong then asks why Madam Jang decided to give him such a large sum of money, and she explains that the 200 million won she gave him was not money, but a show of how valuable he is. Sung-ryong mulls over those words, and decides to repurpose the 100 million won he’s already received, too.
Yul explodes at Accountant Kim for letting the confidential Taipans Bank document leak out, but Accountant Kim is equally bewildered — despite the countless confidential documents they’ve destroyed, this has never happened. Yul asks about any suspicious entities, and Accountant Kim points to Ha-kyung and Manager Lee as the only suspicious people. Yul orders him to say the same to Executive Director Jo.
Sung-ryong returns to Business Operations to loud cheers as they celebrate their latest victory. Manager Lee notes that they won’t get to move to the 17th floor or get an apology from Yul since they did fail the interim report, but the other employees are satisfied with being together in this crumbling office. Director Chu disagrees, wanting to get rid of the moldy walls — but when Sung-ryong promises to move them up soon, he quickly changes his mind, begging Sung-ryong not to start anything.
Just then, Sung-ryong receives a message from Yul to meet privately. Words dripping with sarcasm, Yul commends him for his latest victory, noting that getting rid of General Manager Lim was his best work yet. He sneers that it must have been nice for Sung-ryong “to work like a thug again.” Sung-ryong: “More precisely, I was working like you.”
Yul just laughs at that, and Sung-ryong is surprised that Yul can still smile after being beaten. Yul says he’s hardly been affected by this; he’s just a little angry and embarrassed. If Sung-ryong really wants to win, he says, then he needs to put Yul at the edge of death, and starting now, it’s the final death match. Sung-ryong: “I know what a death match is. It’s spelled D-E-S-S…” Yul: “It’s D-E-A-T… Get out.”
As Sung-ryong leaves, he shakes his head at his uneasy feeling: Yul shouldn’t be this optimistic.
At Business Operations, Hee-jin gasps as she receives a notification on her phone — she’s just received a 10-million-won revival plan bonus! The rest of the department checks to see that they’ve received the same, and Ga-eun leaps up from her own desk in Accounting in amazement.
Cut to: Sung-ryong sending the bonuses to each Business Operations employee (and Ga-eun). He then notes to himself that as the leader of the revival plan, he should obviously receive the biggest bonus, and laughs gleefully as he gives himself 30 million won. That is, until he suddenly regrets it: “Am I crazy? Why did I do that? What a waste of money.” LOL.
Executive Director Jo sits in Chairman Park’s office, where Chairman Park apologizes for having to act angry in front of Yul. Chairman Park says that their first order of business is to figure out who in Business Operations figured them out. Chairman Park tells her to find a scapegoat to take the fall for her transaction. Ugh, these guys are pure evil.
Sung-ryong returns to Business Operations, where the gleeful employees are still gushing over their recent bonuses. We flash back to his meeting with Madam Jang, when he’d received permission to split the 100 million won with the rest of Business Operations under her name.
Sung-ryong watches his team celebrate with a proud smile on his face, and Director Chu wonders why he’s smiling like he’s the one who gave out the money. Acting innocent, Sung-ryong motions to Ha-kyung to meet him outside. He tells her he thought she at least should know the truth: “Actually, that 100 million won…”
Meanwhile, Director Go brings Yul piles and piles of TQ Retail’s financial reports and business manuals. Director Go cautiously questions why Yul is so interested in TQ Retail, but a glare from Yul sends him scurrying away.
Sung-ryong finishes explaining to Ha-kyung that he split the money unevenly among them, and guesses that she’s angry by her expression. But Ha-kyung isn’t angry — she’s embarrassed. “I thought you came back for me, but it was the money,” she notes dryly. She insists that she doesn’t hold grudges before turning back to the office. Suddenly, Cleaning Lady Uhm appears at his side, wondering if they’re dating. He denies it, but she insists that they look great together, and pushes him to take the lead.
With the money, Sang-tae pays off his student loans, Hee-jin takes care of her mother’s hospital expenses, Manager Lee looks for a new car, and Director Chu buys his daughter a new computer.
Meanwhile, Yul has a drink alone at a bar, mulling over Sung-ryong’s words that Yul is a bigger thug than a thug. As he straggles home, he passes by the batting cage, noting that Ha-kyung isn’t there. Suddenly, Yul gets a strange feeling that someone is watching him. When he turns around, however, the person disappears.
Yul buys some snacks at a convenience store the next morning. The cashier is a young girl with scratches on her face and a bad attitude; she snaps at Yul for no reason and snatches his card to make his transaction. When he arrives at work, Sung-ryong appears behind him, nagging him about eating sugary snacks, and Yul groans that the morning is off to an awful start.
Myung-suk isn’t having the best morning either, as he rides the elevator reeking of alcohol. TQ is buzzing over pictures of a drunken Myung-suk circulating online and on the news. Chairman Park summons him to yell about the bad publicity he’s causing. This is the last straw, says Chairman Park — he’s fired.
In the office, Sung-ryong complains to himself that he feels suffocated for some reason. Director Chu guesses that it’s indigestion and suggests acupuncture, but it only makes him feel worse.
Later, Ha-kyung sits with an ailing Sung-ryong, who tells her this isn’t a problem with his body but with his mind. She starts to wonder if he’s been possessed when Hee-jin barges in to tell them about a rumor: Yul might become TQ Retail’s CEO. Sung-ryong is infuriated at the news, and screams at the injustice when he suddenly realizes the cause of his internal sickness: Seo Yul. Flashing back to all the times Yul humiliated him, Sung-ryong decides crushing Yul is the only way he’ll ever feel at peace.
He calls Ga-eun for a new task: He needs her to look into Yul. She doesn’t seem too keen on looking into such a scary person, but he explains his mission for revenge against that jerk. At that, Ga-eun grabs his hand, all fired up, promising to find out everything from his first love to his boxer size. She asks for just one day and scurries off. So cute.
Next, Sung-ryong asks Ha-kyung if she knows anything about TQ Retail. Giving him a look, she drags him to a corner of the office to ask what he’s up to now. He explains his mission for revenge against Yul, and although she’s initially disapproving, she gives in and agrees to help.
Accountant Kim finally tells Yul about TQ Retail. He explains its three main problems: First, the convenience stores are under direct management, which means employees are paid directly by the main office. But for the last three years, the employees have sued for unpaid wages. Second, the accounting isn’t precise. And third, despite all of that, it’s highly coveted. Looking through TQ Retail’s data again, Yul growls that the place is a mess.
Madam Jang finds Myung-suk at home, miserable. He really doesn’t want to go to America, he says; he really did try to work hard at TQ, but he didn’t know anything and no one would teach him, and no one stopped him even when he threw a fit. When he insists that he’s willing to change, she asks: “Then instead of going to America, will you do as I say?”
Ga-eun has pizza with her prosecutor boss, where he asks about work lately. He tells her he keeps having this recurring dream where he finds a smoking gun of TQ’s corruption, but he always wakes up with empty hands. Ga-eun apologizes and promises to work harder, then asks about Yul back in his prosecutor days. The prosecutor starts to explain how they met, and she takes diligent notes.
Myung-suk stands nervously as his parents decide his fate. Chairman Park still refuses to let him back into the company, but Madam Jang insists that this time he’s returning not as an executive, but as an employee. She asks for one last chance, and promises to take responsibility. Chairman Park gives in, but warns him that if he causes another scene, both Myung-suk and Madam Jang will head to America. Sighing in relief, Myung-suk wonders what department he’ll be put in.
The next morning, Ha-kyung whispers to Sung-ryong that she’s meeting a friend for lunch who knows a lot about TQ Retail. Director Chu’s sharp ears hear it all, however, and he loudly demands to know what Sung-ryong wants with TQ Retail. It’s not long before the department figures out he’s probably targeting Yul’s management, and guesses he’s planning to make Business Operations fight against them. They all yell at him not to start anything, and Sung-ryong just tells them not to overreact.
At that moment, a quiet, awkward-looking Myung-suk comes in holding a box of belongings. The department gives their new member an unenthusiastic round of applause, and Director Chu points him to his place in the office: “You can stand there until your desk arrives.” Lol. Ha-kyung asks the department to take care of settling Myung-suk in while she and Sung-ryong head out for a lunch meeting.
Executive Director Jo meets with Chairman Park, who asks if it’s true that Yul is taking over TQ Retail. He confirms, and gently suggests that they look for a better department for her to head instead.
Business Operations gives Myung-suk an orientation session using the familiar flowchart of the TQ power hierarchy, which hasn’t been updated in ages. Director Chu replaces the old finance director’s name with Yul’s name, and then crosses out Myung-suk’s name several times with a thick marker, much to Myung-suk’s dismay.
Director Chu explains that this flowchart used to be necessary to explain the order of Business Operations’ expenses, but it’s no longer needed. Why? “Because everything changed the day Chief Kim twisted your arm,” Manager Lee says gleefully. They decide to break for lunch, and they all treat Myung-suk like the maknae that he is.
Sung-ryong and Ha-kyung meet with Ha-kyung’s friend from Business Management, who explains that the president of TQ Retail is just the executives’ puppet, which causes loads of management problems. The purpose of sending Yul there, says the friend, is to strengthen management so that TQ Retail won’t have to be sold off.
As Sung-ryong and Ha-kyung leave the meeting, they sigh at the daunting task ahead of them. Yul will surely do his best to straighten out TQ Retail, but how many people will he hurt and laid off in the process? Ha-kyung shakes her head, saying there’s likely not much they can do.
The team takes Myung-suk to the TQ cafeteria for lunch, where they happen to sit right next to the Accounting Department. Accounting loudly provokes them, but Business Operations just insults them right back. Hee-jin gets particularly fed up with the female accountant’s provocations, and it’s not long before the two ladies are dissing each other to their faces while their respective departments support them with loud cheers.
The departments finally manage to calm their ladies down, but the female accountant becomes so furious at Hee-jin’s last insult (which she has to look up) that she throws her yogurt at her hair. Hee-jin retaliates with a handful of japchae, and from there, it’s a full-scale food fight as the ladies launch themselves at each other. Meanwhile, Myung-suk sits calmly, eating his lunch amidst the chaos. LOL.
Business Operations finally returns to the office, where Sung-ryong and Ha-kyung stare at them in shock. They ask Sung-ryong when he’ll be facing off against TQ Retail, because they want in. Ha-kyung notes dryly that the department is becoming more and more like him, and Sung-ryong just nods in satisfaction.
Yul informs Director Go that he wants to have a private meeting with the representatives of TQ Retail’s stores, and that he’s already talked to the president of TQ Retail about it. He orders the meeting to be set up for tomorrow.
That evening, Yul has another drink at a bar alone. On his way home, a masked figure follows him with a weapon, launching himself at Yul. Yul tries to fight back, but it doesn’t look good. At that moment, Ha-kyung and Kwang-sook are walking home from dinner when they see the two men grappling in an alleyway.
Ha-kyung recognizes Yul, and thinking fast, she picks up a nearby rock and pitches it like a softball at the attacker. Unfortunately, Yul moves just in time… to get hit right in the temple with the rock, knocking him out. Ouch. As the attacker runs away, Kwang-sook and Ha-kyung hurry to check for vital signs and call an ambulance.
Ga-eun presents Sung-ryong with her findings on Yul’s background. She explains that he was rude and crazy even at the prosecutor’s office, but because he was smart and good at his job, his superiors just left him alone.
Sung-ryong wonders why he quit, and she explains that he’d started becoming doubtful of his work. Furthermore, says Ga-eun, he’d kept repeating a certain phrase: “A businessman who knows and controls the law can turn that business’s finances into great power.” Realizing that Yul always wanted to turn TQ into a lawful money-stealing machine, Sung-ryong wonders if he’ll even end up betraying the chairman.
Yul wakes up in the hospital to see Kwang-sook’s face. He sits up in alarm, but Ha-kyung finally appears to see if he’s all right. They sit together in the hospital lobby as Ha-kyung awkwardly explains what happened. Ha-kyung tells him not to drink alone next time so that he doesn’t get attacked again, but Yul dryly notes that she’d love it if he got injured, wouldn’t she?
Ha-kyung: “Why do you make your life so hard? Why do you think it’s normal to make enemies and fight?”
Yul: “Because that’s the world I live in.”
Ha-kyung: “What’s so different between the world you live in and the world I live in?”
Yul: “Just because we live in the same space doesn’t mean we live the same way.”
Ha-kyung: “You already have so much. Giving up a little won’t affect you.”
Yul: “You’ve never had that feeling, have you? To want to be one step ahead of everyone. But that one step becomes two, and then ten… and eventually, you’re just too far ahead. When I came to my senses, it was too late to stop.”
Yul tells Ha-kyung that he’ll have to do things she won’t like in the future, but asks her to understand. Ha-kyung smiles and says she hopes he’ll be able to stop one day. They part ways, and Ha-kyung watches him hobble away.
Yul’s prosecutor minion meets him in his car. He asks if Yul has any suspects for his attacker, and Yul confirms, looking furious.
Sung-ryong writes up a chart titled “Seo Yul: Kill ‘Em All!” He starts to brainstorm ideas… and then decides to go to sleep. LOL.
At home, Kwang-sook nervously asks Ha-kyung whether her style is old-fashioned. Ha-kyung hesitates just a little too long, but then suggests brightly that they go out tomorrow to change her hair and go shopping.
The next morning, Kwang-sook comes in to deliver coffees to Business Operations, hair straightened and makeup revitalized. Sang-tae stares at her with puppy-dog eyes while the rest of the office praises her new look (except Myung-suk, who wonders if her voice is broken).
At that moment, Sung-ryong receives a call from a panicked Ga-eun, saying that Yul is about to have a meeting with the TQ convenience store managers.
Yul is waiting at the meeting place when he hears a commotion outside. He goes out just in time to see Sung-ryong turning all the managers back, claiming that the meeting is canceled due to Yul’s health issues. Yul screams at him, but Sung-ryong simply explains: “I have a new goal. I’m going to crush you.”
Chief Kim has never and probably doesn’t plan to surprise us, but it’s the kind of character-based developments like these that I was really waiting to see. Now that both Sung-ryong’s and Yul’s deeply personal motivations are on the line, the show can address the real face-off between our two strongest characters. I kind of feel that if Chief Kim had somehow made this conflict between Yul and Sung-ryong the center of the plot from the get-go — that is, this conflict between two amoral characters who are deeply similar but managed to develop in polar opposite ways — the show would have benefited from a more direct, high-stakes sort of conflict. What we have instead is not so much a bad thing, of course, especially since Chief Kim did its comfort food, comedy genre quite well, so I definitely won’t fault it for that — but there’s no denying it would have been a much more interesting show had it focused on its character dynamics a little bit more.
The best evidence for that claim comes from Yul and Ha-kyung’s conversation in the hospital lobby. I was very pleasantly surprised by the emotional authenticity of that scene, and am glad that the showrunners haven’t forsaken those Yul/Ha-kyung moments we loved so much before, even if they’re more muted to a hopeless tone. I also love that Ha-kyung doesn’t put the responsibility on herself to “fix” Yul, or to “save” him from himself; they both respect that they are two different people, and while they deeply disapprove of each other’s sides, they won’t force each other to act the way they want.
It is interesting that Yul seems to be losing control of himself, however, as he said in his conversation with Ha-kyung. Yul has never felt beyond redemption, all through these twelve episodes; and while I’m excited for Yul to reach into the depths of his black heart and break into the evil pieces that he is, I’m also counting on the show to let him figure out where he went wrong, and try to put himself back together.
The real best part about this development, for me, is Yul’s inconsistently sweet character; while he can be altogether terrifying on the battlefield, he’s just one hilariously awkward and confused guy in his one-on-one interactions, be it with Ha-kyung or with a slightly rude cashier in a convenience store. In a sense, Yul is humanly misunderstood, maybe because he hasn’t found his humanity yet; he has a harder time connecting with and caring for people, there’s no one close by around him, and he’s never thought of himself as having a “team” — just himself and a group of less intelligent minions who do his bidding. It’s clear that Yul has the same motivation that Sung-ryong initially had, to steal money from TQ. But where Sung-ryong developed a sense of responsibility for his newfound family (how sweet was it that he split his 100 million won?), Yul is still all alone. And if that’s not a tragic puppy-dog villain, what is?