Chief Kim: Episode 14
It’s an episode filled with shining character moments, from minor characters to former villains. It may not be so easy in real life, but Chief Kim continues to urge us to forgive each other’s pasts and press together toward a better future; and as Myung-suk learns, it’s surprising how eye-opening a little perspective can be. If only TQ could see the same.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Enraged by Sung-ryong’s antics, Yul punches him in the face for daring to trick him. “You think you’ve won? You’ve only made the situation worse,” he growls. Sung-ryong just shrugs as Yul leaves, saying that only time will tell.
Chairman Park explodes at Yul in his office for scheduling additional work on such an important day. A second board member vote will be scheduled in a month, he says, so Yul had better prove his worth by then.
Business Operations isn’t happy with Sung-ryong’s “victory,” either. Director Chu snaps that what Sung-ryong did isn’t revenge – he’s only angered Yul. But Sung-ryong explains that he didn’t do it for revenge; someone like Yul shouldn’t be allowed to run a company anyway, especially when the employees will suffer for it. Sung-ryong knows that TQ will just schedule another vote, but he needed to buy time to come up with a real plan.
Director Chu storms out, sick of watching Sung-ryong endanger himself, but Manager Lee supports Sung-ryong. He says he’s worked at a convenience before, and those employees depend solely on their wages, especially when they get so few benefits.
All this talk of convenience stores makes Sung-ryong recall his and Ha-kyung’s first meeting fighting over triangle kimbap, and he decides to go out for some sausages. At the convenience store, however, Sung-ryong overhears the employee, Min-ji, arguing with her manager. Min-ji demands to know why the workers’ opinions are being ignored – even if they aren’t directly involved in approving business decisions, she says, the workers deserve their unpaid wages and an apology.
The manager tries to tell her that it’s unlikely TQ will pay those unpaid wages when it’s cheaper to just pay the fine, but Min-ji isn’t satisfied with that. When the manager calls her too young to understand, however, Min-ji storms out.
Sung-ryong follows Min-ji out to a nearby park bench. Before he can even say anything, she grumbles about all the annoying old men around her and tells him to buzz off. An exasperated Sung-ryong finally explains that he works at TQ and that he wants to see if he can help her.
In his office, Yul looks over the convenience store managers’ signatures approving the unpaid wages. Now that the wage problem is resolved, the next problem is fund management, after which he’ll have full control over TQ Retail.
Yul notes that TQ Cosmetics is the biggest funding issue, and it’s even begun affecting other departments at TQ. Accountant Kim reluctantly explains to Yul that fifty percent of TQ Cosmetics’ funds goes to its Taiwan branch, and the bank that manages those funds is Taipan Bank. Dun-dun-dun.
At a café, Min-ji tells Sung-ryong that she wants her full unpaid wages and a public apology. But, she says, no one will listen – even if the workers issue a formal complaint, the managers say that young people should be grateful to work at all. That’s what angers Min-ji most of all, that “those geezers” think they can treat young part-timers however they want.
Sung-ryong asks if Min-ji can gather as many convenience store employees as possible, telling her that in a fight, numbers are key. Min-ji asks if one thousand employees is enough, and he stares at her wide-eyed – how could she possibly gather one thousand people? She laughs, saying that everyone is connected through social media nowadays.
At TQ, Yul asks a terrified Executive Director Jo whether it’s true that she’s stealing from departments other than Retail and Delivery and if she’s sending all the funds to Taipan Bank. She admits that it’s true, but is shocked by his next question: Does Chairman Park know?
Flustered, Executive Director Jo denies it, but Yul isn’t convinced. When he threatens her with another “drive,” she fearfully admits that Chairman Park knows everything. Yul tells her that he’ll pretend not to know for a while, so she’d better keep her mouth shut, too. When he leaves, Executive Director Jo shudders at how scary he is.
In his car, Yul orders his prosecutor minion to investigate Taipan Bank. The minion agrees and then offers to get rid of Sung-ryong – he’s only getting in Yul’s way. Yul, however, tells him that he’ll get rid of Sung-ryong his own way.
When Sung-ryong comes home, Director Chu chucks a roll of toilet paper at him (which Sung-ryong bounces off his head like a soccer ball, hee), telling him that his health is getting worse because of Sung-ryong’s stupidly daring decisions. He orders him to move out immediately.
Sung-ryong manages to calm him down over a bottle of soju, promising that everything will be fine. But a drunken Director Chu tells him that Sung-ryong reminds him of Chief Lee, who always went around investigating matters like Sung-ryong is now.
Director Chu tells him he could barely endure the burden of failing to help Chief Lee; if something happens to Sung-ryong too, he won’t be able to take it. But Sung-ryong tells him to trust him: He won’t go anywhere. Grinning at Director Chu’s glare, they share another round of soju. So sweet.
The next morning, Yul stops by the convenience store for some snacks. Seeing Min-ji at the counter, he tells her that he saw this store on the news: “I heard they don’t even pay wages right. If it’s that bad, you should leave.” Min-ji just says dismissively that that’s for her to decide. He leaves, and they both mutter about each other’s lack of manners, haha.
At Business Operations, Sung-ryong explains to the team that he wants to make a huge debacle of the unpaid wage issue so that it won’t become a pattern. Hee-jin wonders why the employees don’t file a formal complaint, but Manager Lee explains that those legal fights only succeed against small businesses, not big corporations.
Myung-suk mutters that if they really want to make this a big spectacle, they should just file a lawsuit. Sung-ryong supports the idea — though the managers failed to create a strong movement, these young part-timers might be more successful precisely because they’re so young and unafraid of anything.
Yul, meanwhile, tells Director Go that having too many employee complaints against TQ will be a problem. He gives Director Go the information for a contact in the Ministry of Employment and Labor, telling him to be prepared.
Sung-ryong meets with Min-ji, who is elated that Business Operations will help magnify their voices. Min-ji says that three thousand employees have already signed on for the fight, and those who are too far away can send in videos signatures to sign on. Sung-ryong warns that it won’t be an easy fight, but Min-ji is confident they won’t give up so easily.
Sung-ryong then calls Madam Jang to ask for support, promising her that he’s prepared to see this fight through. He notes that the person who suggested they sue TQ was Myung-suk himself, and Madam Jang smiles proudly to herself. With her support, the three lawyers from Go and Gu show up at Min-ji’s convenience store to introduce themselves to her, promising to take care of everything.
Meanwhile, Prosecutor Kim looks at old articles of Sung-ryong’s public accomplishments and recalls that Ga-eun was investigating Yul before turning to a coworker: He wants him to investigate something.
Director Go reports to Yul that Go and Gu is supporting a female employee in a lawsuit. Yul immediately guesses that the employee must be Min-ji.
Min-ji receives dozens of video signatures on her phone when Director Go walks into her store. He passes her an envelope filled with a semester’s worth of tuition, and she glares at him in disgust, telling him to be ashamed. Director Go then reports her rejection to Yul, who scoffs at her audacity.
Sung-ryong receives a similar report from Min-ji, who describes the man who gave her the money. Recognizing him as Director Go, Sung-ryong sends her a photo of him to upload on social media in order to warn other workers to beware of his antics.
Yul meets with Sung-ryong, demanding to know why he’s inciting kids to action. Sung-ryong just tells him that young people think for themselves – he’s just an adult who’s helping them out. Yul warns him that their defeat will be on Sung-ryong’s hands; Sung-ryong retorts that when TQ falls, Chairman Park will appear on TV.
Yul meets Min-ji to tell her to take the bribe. He explains his executive position at TQ and tells her that it’s best to take care of herself. But Min-ji tells him she won’t live that way. She points at the bruise on her face, explaining how she got it: Because TQ didn’t pay her wages, she had to get another job handing out fliers to pay her rent. While working, a drunken old man tried to hit on her and punched her in the face when she refused.
“Adults are all like that,” she says. “You hit us, take from us, insult us, and give us useless advice.” She tells him that she never wants to grow up to be such a horrible adult and orders Yul to leave. Yul just stares after her as he mutters that he’s not that old yet.
Prosecutor Kim receives a report from his coworker: ten million won was transferred from Sung-ryong’s account to Ga-eun’s, called “revival plan bonus.” The coworker notes that it could be possible that Sung-ryong bought Ga-eun’s loyalty, so Prosecutor Kim orders Ga-eun to come to the office after work. Oh no.
Business Operations plans a department outing to welcome Myung-suk. The cheerful mood is interrupted when Ha-kyung receives a call from Chief Lee’s wife, saying that Chief Lee’s condition has gotten worse.
Director Chu, Ha-kyung, and Sung-ryong hurry to the hospital. They sit with Chief Lee’s wife in the lobby, where she thanks him for his continued fight against the corrupt TQ. She tells them that she’s now certain that her husband’s case was fabricated, and the only thing she can do now is beg for a miracle that will reveal the truth. Grimly, they convince her it will happen.
The other team members sit at a barbecue restaurant for Myung-suk’s “welcome” party, but instead, they lament Chief Lee’s condition. Myung-suk complains about the gloomy mood and tells them that if they don’t make it fun, he’s leaving. As per his request, the members force-feed him soju (which he doesn’t like) and chicken feet (which he really doesn’t like), and they bully him every time he complains. Lol.
When Myung-suk complains about Sung-ryong’s consistent absence from the office, the other members say he’s doing important work fighting for the part-timers’ rights. Myung-suk wonders what kind of wages they’re talking about, and is scandalized at the idea that someone can work an hour and earn about $6.50, even less than an egg roll.
Meanwhile, Prosecutor Kim shows Ga-eun the record of bank transfer, telling her he could arrest her right now. When he demands to know what she’s been doing at TQ, she frantically promises to explain everything from the beginning.
The employees’ lawsuit goes viral, reporting that TQ owes 13.9 million won worth of unpaid wages. When Chairman Park explodes at Yul for failing to resolve the issue cleanly, Yul explains that Sung-ryong provoked the workers with Madam Jang’s support. Chairman Park tells Yul to solve the issue and crush them so they never fight again.
That afternoon, Min-ji’s manager fires her, and she guesses that TQ is pressuring him to do so. She coolly quits, biting that he never supported her in the first place. Meanwhile, Yul compares Director Go’s face to the warning picture Min-ji posted of him and tells him to resolve it ASAP.
Ha-kyung asks Sung-ryong what his plan is this time, and Sung-ryong says: “Finding faults in people who find faults in others.”
At Accounting, a depressed Ga-eun flashes back to being yelled at by Prosecutor Kim. He’d told her that she’d disobeyed orders, leaked information, and even used illegal tapping to spy on Business Operations. She’d apologized, but said that she was doing what she thought was right – helping the weak fight TQ. Prosecutor Kim had agreed to let her return to TQ… but no more illegal tapping.
Ga-eun sighs at her desk, even more depressed at having to get rid of her beloved tapping device. She leans in for another listen, and is delighted to overhear… Sang-tae is going on a date with Kwang-sook!
The team squeals over the big event, and Ha-kyung notes how much Kwang-sook has been looking forward to it. But when the team points out his unsatisfactory outfit and nerdy fashion style, Sung-ryong calls Myung-suk over, ordering him to lend some of his clothes to Sang-tae.
That night, a dashing, fashionable Sang-tae shows up to meet Kwang-sook in a smart, trendy suit. Kwang-sook, who is similarly dressed in Ha-kyung’s clothes, looks at him with wide eyes… before noting to herself that she likes Sang-tae’s usual nerdy style more than Myung-suk’s. Hee. Sang-tae, too, thinks Kwang-sook looks cuter with her curls (she straightened her hair for the date). Still, they smile at each other and head out.
Sung-ryong and Ha-kyung meet Min-ji at a café. Min-ji explains that she was fired, but she’s gotten all of the employee signatures for the fight. Warning her that TQ’s rumormongers will try to infiltrate her social media and slander her in the comments, Sung-ryong tells her to keep track of those people. Now, he tells her, it’s their turn: They’ll find faults in the attackers.
By the next morning, Min-ji has compiled a list of the usernames and IP addresses of TQ’s rumormongers and posted it online. Ha-kyung and Sung-ryong marvel at their power – looks like TQ is on the wrong side of this fight.
Next, Sung-ryong meets Ms. Uhm in the hall (trapping her against a wall almost romantically, which she’s all about), and she asks what her next mission is. He hands her a list of keywords, asking her to compile all documents with those words from Director Go and the legal team’s offices.
Ms. Uhm goes through Director Go’s desk and cabinets as she cleans his office, mobilizing her team of cleaning ladies to stall him. The ladies follow Director Go into the bathroom, drenching him with water in the stall and scurrying out before he can catch them. Meanwhile, Ms. Uhm finds the documents and quietly slips them out of the office. Just as she exits his office, Director Go arrives, toweling off his wet hair and barking at her to start training the cleaners more effectively.
Meanwhile, Myung-suk drops a thick document on Sung-ryong’s desk: it’s the confidential financial report for TQ Cosmetics that he wanted. Sung-ryong leaps up, wide-eyed, and announces his accomplishment to the whole office. He gives a horrified Myung-suk a big hug, everyone begins chanting Myung-suk’s name, and Director Chu even gives him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Hee.
Sung-ryong, Ha-kyung, and Director Chu look over TQ Cosmetics’ financial report, noting that all of its losses are filled by other departments – most of all by TQ Convenience, which explains why TQ Convenience has so many unpaid wages. Director Chu laments that this blatant corruption will never be caught in the audits, since TQ can easily create a false report and get rid of this one; they have to use this report now before it becomes obsolete. Myung-suk listens in on their conversation.
Ms. Uhm gives Sung-ryong her own findings, and Sung-ryong is so grateful that he tells her he could kiss her. A startled Ms. Uhm yells after him that a kiss isn’t a problem, lol.
Sung-ryong calls Yul in his office to ask for a negotiation meeting. Yul snorts that he doesn’t want to waste his time, but Sung-ryong just tells him to come out – the plaintiff and the attorneys will be there, too.
Min-ji and some of her friends arrive at Business Operations for the meeting. As they greet the team, Sung-ryong notes Myung-suk leaving the room and follows him out. He tells him he planned to use the report Myung-suk gave him, and even though he won’t tell anyone where he got it, he’ll still be using it to attack Myung-suk’s father. At Myung-suk’s grim expression, Sung-ryong decides not to use the report after all, but Myung-suk stops him: “Those employees only get six dollars an hour. Make Dad pay up. He’s such an embarrassment.” Aw.
Sung-ryong begins the meeting with Yul by stating his demand: the full unpaid wages and a formal apology. Yul scoffs and tells Sung-ryong to just show them what he’s got. So Sung-ryong complies: first, proof that Yul ran illegal background checks on the convenience store managers in order to blackmail them. Second, a list of the IP addresses that TQ used to leave slanderous comments on Min-ji’s social media accounts. And third is TQ Cosmetics’ financial report, revealing how TQ Convenience is sending money that should be used for wages to the struggling TQ Cosmetics.
Yul demands to know where he got that report, but Sung-ryong just brushes over the matter. He notes that if TQ doesn’t comply with their demands, every major media outlet will be reporting on TQ on their front pages.
Chairman Park explodes at Yul again, asking how he could lead TQ Retail like this before dismissing him from the office. Executive Director Jo notes, however, that the chairman has no choice but to suffer the embarrassment this time; through gritted teeth, Chairman Park tells her to prepare his public apology. Yul stands outside the office, infuriated.
Chairman Park holds a televised public apology, where he admits his wrongdoing to an army of reporters. Watching the apology on TV, Ga-eun pumps her fist, and Business Operations explodes in celebration. Noting Myung-suk’s silence, Sung-ryong goes to him and wonders teasingly why he and his father like to appear on TV so much. Myung-suk just calls it the celeb life, and Sung-ryong tells him he understands – Mr. Righteous is a global celebrity too.
As Min-ji leaves TQ, she receives a text from her manager apologizing for his cowardice and thanking her for fighting for their wages. That night, Min-ji shares a meal with Sung-ryong and Ha-kyung to celebrate their victory. Min-ji warmly tells them that Sung-ryong and Ha-kyung are “real” adults, and Ha-kyung tells her it’s the best compliment she’s ever received. Sung-ryong: “It’s the 32nd best for me.” Hah.
That night, Chairman Park orders his minions to get rid of Sung-ryong.
As they leave, Ha-kyung wonders if anything will change at TQ, but Sung-ryong doubts it – a fight needs to keep going to make a change. They laugh together, and then Ha-kyung tells him that she feels reassured lately because of him. He cringes at the sappiness, and they split up, grinning to themselves. So sweet.
As Executive Director Jo boils in fury at her desk, Yul gets in his car, and Sung-ryong walks down the street. Suddenly, someone shocks him unconscious with a Taser, and he falls to the ground.
The next thing he knows, he’s in the trunk of a car. Two masked men pull him out and strangle him with a rope. Sung-ryong suddenly wakes up, unable to breathe.
You know, the thing I like best about this show is how self-aware it is. Every time something feels weird, be it with the writing, a seemingly unnecessary character, or an unexplained plot device, the show resolves it sooner or later. An example of this is how easy and hollow last episode’s events were, especially when it didn’t really solve the problem at hand or investigate any societal implications. But Episode 14 immediately addressed those issues, letting Sung-ryong admit that his “defeat” of Yul last time wasn’t really intended to be a defeat, and was only a way to buy time. In addition, the episode added extra emotional dimension to this arc by exploring Min-ji’s character as a feisty, strong minor character with admirable ideals about youth in society. It’s details like this that make me assured that the showrunners know both its genre and its audience: The show seems self-aware of its strengths and weaknesses, and knows its genre inside out.
This also feeds into the weakness of the show, however, which is that it doesn’t develop its plot lines as coherently as it could. It’s definitely doing a decent and wholly enjoyable job with the comedy, but sometimes new arcs appear when the plot asks it to. As a recapper, it sometimes makes watching the show a little uneasy, especially when something feels off and I don’t know if it will be sufficiently explained later on, but I actually think it’s doing a great job in sticking to its genre and letting its characters (and its stellar actors) dictate the enjoyment factor. I don’t think Chief Kim’s goal is to make a ground-breakingly clever story about social injustice; it’s about a crew of lovable characters who choose to constantly fight against injustice, inspire each other (and us) to do the same, and look constantly toward a change in the future.
In that vein, I think the show has done a spectacular job habituating those characters to demonstrate that message. Even Myung-suk, who seemed wholly hopeless in the beginning, is changing in his own way. Myung-suk, though he’s practically done a 180 degree (okay, maybe more like 150 degree) change of heart, has never felt out of character. Thanks to a little push from the Business Operations team’s familial attitude and a few nudges (or punches) from Chief Kim, he’s discovered himself, decided to change himself based on his own discoveries, and has made decisions based on his own self. That’s a sign of well-plotted writing, and it’s those character details that make Chief Kim stand out more than anything.
While I’m worried and concerned for Sung-ryong to get out of this latest conflict safe and sound, I find myself – just as the rest of the Business Operations team is doing – holding faith in his ability to bounce back from hardship. It’s almost as if I’ve become a member of the team, both affected and inspired by Chief Kim. It may be a show where you know exactly what you’re getting when you go in, but I’ve really come to appreciate it and our well-rounded motley crew of TQ friends. If only everyone could change as cleanly and lovably as Myung-suk has. I’m looking at you, Seo Yul.