Itaewon Class: Episode 9
Danbam reopens with its new look and location, and the Big Bad Jang Ga comes swinging with blows to destabilize Danbam. Targeting our hero’s people, Jang Ga looks to poach people left and right, but it proves difficult to intervene when these people are not motivated by money. Loyalty and respect can’t be bought out, and lucky for Sae-ro-yi, he’s got a lot of it.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
At the new Danbam, Yi-seo starts promoting their new location on her social media live channel. She asks Sae-ro-yi to greet the viewers, and she teases him for being boring. Hyun-yi and Seung-kwon join them as they all vow to make Danbam the number one pub in Korea.
At a seminar, President Jang explains that new businesses often fail because they lack preparation and comprehensive planning. Citing his humble beginnings as a small pub on an overpass, he promises relentless analysis and improvements to be the best. The audience applauds, and a hand shoots up in the air — it’s Yi-seo. Soo-ah attempts to dismiss any questions, but President Jang allows it.
President Jang recognizes Yi-seo and seems curious about her attendance. Yi-seo says that she works under a boss that thinks business is about the people. She asks what President Jang’s take on business is, and he responds that business is about profit. Yi-seo commends President Jang’s impressive business and agrees with the notion of competition. She then asks if a small humble pub could compete with Jang Ga and win.
Soo-ah and Min-jung look intrigued, and President Jang acknowledges Yi-seo’s youthful ambition. But he firmly and confidently responds that as long as he’s alive, it would be impossible for a small pub to defeat Jang Ga. The seminar concludes, and Min-jung looks at Yi-seo with interest.
After the seminar, President Jang finds Yi-seo at the elevators and asks if the seminar was useful. Yi-seo smiles and says that she learned a lot. Then, President Jang asks about the new Danbam opening, and Yi-seo cheerfully responds that they’re doing their best. She remains pleasant until the elevator doors open, and then we see her fake smile drop.
President Jang recalls Sae-ro-yi’s assertion that his strength comes from the trust of his people, that his people create his business. Targeting this assertion, President Jang orders Secretary Kim to retrieve Yi-seo. When Yi-seo arrives in his office, Geun-won looks surprised that his father would invite the enemy, but both Yi-seo looks like she expected this all along.
After treating Yi-seo to a fancy meal, President Jang extends an offer for Yi-seo to join Jang Ga. Yi-seo politely declines because of Sae-ro-yi, and President Jang argues that she shouldn’t be so attached, since they haven’t even exceed a year working together. Yi-seo points out that President Jang’s offer is because of Sae-ro-yi and expresses her confidence in growing Danbam. She tells President Jang to extend an offer to her when he sees her potential, not Sae-ro-yi’s. Oh, bold.
Geun-won seems bothered by Yi-seo’s talk with his father and then thinks about Soo-ah’s explanation for rejecting him — because he hit and killed Manager Park, who was like a father to her. His mind clearly elsewhere, Geun-won belatedly slams on the breaks and crashes into the car in front of him. Without an apology, he inconsiderately asks the affected driver to choose between insurance or money. The driver notes Geun-won’s rudeness, but Geun-won erupts in anger, basically using his abundant wealth to justify his behavior.
Sae-ro-yi meets with Ho-jin and gives him a humble update on his business, claiming that it’s “not bad.” Ho-jin knows that Sae-ro-yi is underselling their current success and suggests that they prepare for taxes, which he predicts would be high at this rate. Ho-jin tells his friend not to worry, since it’s his specialty and proposes a plan.
Sae-ro-yi goes for a morning run and takes a long look at the Namsan tower. In a good mood, he breaks the news to the Danbam team that he’s going to incorporate the business and asks for company name suggestions. Tony proudly suggests Park Ga, but Sae-ro-yi doesn’t like that it sounds like a knock-off of Jang Ga. Yi-seo suggests a chic ILL (which also stands for “Yi-seo loves Ro-yi” lol), but Sae-ro-yi isn’t sure.
Then, Seung-kwon suggests Itaewon Class, and Sae-ro-yi finds it appealing. Hyun-yi and Yi-seo find it tacky, but Tony also likes it. Sae-ro-yi looks around Itaewon and remembers his first time visiting the neighborhood. He tells his team, “When I heard ‘Itaewon Class,’ I immediately thought of the word ‘freedom’ — a place where diverse cultures freely connect. It felt unrestrictive. Itaewon symbolizes freedom.”
Sae-ro-yi turns to Seung-kwon and asks if this is what he meant by suggesting this name. Seung-kwon slowly nods and takes the credit, but Yi-seo (and the rest of us) in her head calls bullshit. Geun-soo says that while the name feels forced, it’s not bad and gives off old school vibes.
Yi-seo sighs and says that Sae-ro-yi will have his way, since he seems fixated on this name. But Sae-ro-yi wants Yi-seo’s approval and says that he won’t decide on Itaewon Class if Yi-seo doesn’t want it. Yi-seo smiles shyly and says that she’ll support whatever Sae-ro-yi likes, but she says that the name wouldn’t be great for external business, since it makes them seem restricted to the neighborhood.
Hyun-yi suggests that they abbreviate the name, and Sae-ro-yi slowly spells it out to “IC,” which is close to the word “fuck.” But the association makes it a stronger name, and they’ve finally come to an agreement. Sae-ro-yi announces the staff as the founding members of the new company, IC.
While setting up for business, Danbam gets a surprise visit Hye-won and Officer Oh. Hye-won runs to Sae-ro-yi to give him a hug and waves to Yi-seo, who curtly waves back. The Danbam team split up to their respective stations, and Officer Oh pulls Sae-ro-yi aside for a private conversation about what they had discussed previously.
Hye-won watches a video on her phone but gets distracted by a stray cat, which she follows outside. When Officer OH looks back to check on his daughter, she’s gone, with her phone on the table. Sae-ro-yi and Officer Oh run outside to looks for Hye-won, and the Danbam team also joins the search.
Min-jung walks through the neighborhood and runs into Hye-won, who asks the ajumma to borrow her phone to find her way back to her dad after following the stray cat. Min-jung lends her phone and says that she’s not an ajumma, since she’s not married. Surprised Hye-won wonders why, since the ajumma is so pretty. Ha, she’s adorable.
Min-jung accompanies Hye-won at a nearby park until Officer Oh and Sae-ro-yi arrive. Officer Oh hugs his daughter tight, and she apologizes for worrying her dad. Sae-ro-yi introduces Officer Oh to Min-jung as their supplier, and they all start to head back to the pub together. Then Officer Oh notices someone watching them nearby and tells Sae-ro-yi that he’ll catch up after taking a call.
Officer Oh finds the spying photographer and demands to know who he is. When the photographer tries to run, Officer Oh grabs him and pins him down. Sae-ro-yi notices this scuffle and runs up to help Officer Oh while Min-jung and Hye-won watch from below. Min-jung asks if Hye-won’s dad is a martial artist, and Hye-won boasts that her dad was a police officer. Then, she adds that her dad is also single. HAHA, I love this girl.
Officer Oh manages to take possession of the camera, but the photographer runs off before Sae-ro-yi arrives. At Danbam, Officer Oh shows Min-jung and Sae-ro-yi the photos, which follows Min-jung’s every move throughout the day. Officer Oh seems to recognize something in one photo but doesn’t elaborate further. Min-jung and Sae-ro-yi both know that only President Jang could be behind this and suspect that he could also know about their partnership.
Back in dad mode, Officer Oh thanks Min-jung once again for helping Hye-won, and Min-jung compliments how he raised such a bright and resilient daughter. Officer Oh modestly claims that his daughter is nothing like him, but Min-jung says that children follow after their parent’s footsteps. She affirms that he’s a great dad.
Officer Oh and Hye-won head out, and Sae-ro-yi asks Officer Oh what he was going to discuss earlier. With a quick glance at Min-jung, Officer Oh says that he’ll save the conversation for later, and Sae-ro-yi looks earnest in promise to wait for Officer Oh’s decision.
Soo-ah reports on Danbam’s progress to President Jang and points out that the Danbam team renovated the new building on their own and on a tight budget. President Jang seems suspicious that Soo-ah knows the detailed process, and she acknowledges that she’s observed the process. She shows President Jang the public postings of Danbam’s renovation and building process, and she explains that the transparency has garnered interest for small business owners and young people.
President Jang watches one of Yi-seo’s live videos, in which she introduces Geun-soo. As he watches the video, Secretary Kim enters with an update. Noticing Soo-ah, Secretary Kim offers to share the update at another time, but President Jang insists that it doesn’t matter. Secretary Kim reports that they’ve been caught shadowing Min-jung.
Soo-ah offers to leave the room, but President Jang orders her to stay. President Jang doesn’t care that Min-jung knows that he’s trailing her and asks about Yi-seo’s recruitment. Secretary Kim shares that they’re finalizing her offer, and Soo-ah looks alarmed by President Jang’s poaching plan. President Jang says that Yi-seo doesn’t suit Sae-ro-yi and seems to find a likeness in her.
Secretary Jang continues with an update on Danbam’s supplier, Oh Hye-won Foods. He shares that the owner of the produce company is an ex-cop who left the police force 10 years ago and runs his company from Pajin. Soo-ah’s ears perk up at the mention of Pajin, and Secretary Kim notes that the owner must have a personal relationship with Sae-ro-yi, since he mainly supplies produce for nearby business but travels over an hour to deliver the produce to Danbam.
President Jang suspects that this food supplier may have a connection with the late Manager Park, and he decides that he’ll meet with the owner directly. As they leave the office, Soo-ah asks Secretary Kim to explain all of these investigations to defeat a small pub. Secretary Kim stops Soo-ah from demanding answers by reminding her that their opinions don’t matter. They simply follow President Jang’s orders.
Geun-won strolls through the hallway and notices the tension, but unsettled Soo-ah walks away before he tries to intervene. Geun-won asks Secretary Kim to share any intel on his father, and after a moment of hesitation, Secretary Kim decides to give Geun-won a chance. He tells Geun-won that President Jang finds Yi-seo favorable, and Geun-won could earn his father’s respect if he could recruit Yi-seo.
Itaewon restauranteur Hong Seok-cheon visits Danbam and emphasizes the challenges of running a pub on a side street. His efforts to keep parking lots open 24 hours and his attempts to collaborate with local artists increase traffic have all been denied. As Hong Seok-cheon leaves, he says that neighborhood pubs depend on regulars and runs into loan shark gran, who’s become a regular at the pub. He’s familiar with loan shark gran and warns them not to borrow money from her.
Gran reminds Sae-ro-yi that this is a cursed business spot and advises him to sell his building soon. Yi-seo seems annoyed that Gran perpetuates this curse, but Sae-ro-yi tells Tony to escort in their only customer that night.
The next day, Sae-ro-yi makes his rounds to the neighboring shops and offers his handyman services while the rest of the Danbam team watches curiously. Soo-ah finds Yi-seo watching Sae-ro-yi fixing a sign, and Yi-seo sighs that Sae-ro-yi is being useless.
Soo-ah has business with Yi-seo and asks her about her meeting with President Jang, who claimed that they’re cut out of the same cloth. Yi-seo despises the resemblance, but she’s not completely opposed to this notion. Soo-ah asks how Yi-seo would respond if Sae-ro-yi rejected her, and Yi-seo seems sure that this won’t happen because she’s never lost.
They return to Danbam, and Yi-seo demands to know why Sae-ro-yi is helping their neighbors when they should be focusing on themselves. Sae-ro-yi says that Danbam is complete and ready, but they need customers. In this secluded neighborhood, Sae-ro-yi has determined that they need to revive the street for their pub to survive.
Yi-seo expresses irritation with Sae-ro-yi’s idealism and walks out. Seung-kwon tells Sae-ro-yi to let go of Yi-seo’s criticisms, since she needs to defer to the boss anyway. But Geun-soo speaks up and asks if this submission to authority is how he wants to define them. Geun-soo’s words remind Soo-ah of Secretary Kim’s warning that they should just following marching orders.
Geun-soo says that while they may just be employees, Yi-seo is different. She’s a manager who has a larger investment in his company, and she also bet her life on him. He thinks that Sae-ro-yi needs to help her make better sense of these decisions and shares his observation that Yi-seo seems to address Sae-ro-yi differently than before.
Sae-ro-yi and Soo-ah go out for drinks, and he admits that Geun-soo left him speechless because he was right. Soo-ah starts to mention Geun-soo’s background, but Sae-ro-yi already knows that Geun-soo is President Jang’s son. She wonders why Geun-soo works at Danbam, and Sae-ro-yi cryptically says that Geun-soo probably just needs some pocket money.
Soo-ah wonders the same about Yi-seo, and she reflects on how there seem to be many reasons why herself and Sae-ro-yi won’t work out. She asks Sae-ro-yi what their relationship would have looked like if she wasn’t a Jang Ga person, and Sae-ro-yi responds that their relationship has always been defined by her. Soo-ah accuses him of hiding behind that excuse and never confessing, and then he says, “I like you.”
At Soo-ah’s shocked reaction, Sae-ro-yi reminds her that he confessed to her in jail and then again at the bus station. She’s confounded that Sae-ro-yi’s promise to make her unemployed was a confession, and Sae-ro-yi says that he couldn’t make it any clearer than that. He repeats that their relationship will always be defined by her but tells her not to feel too pressured.
Soo-ah remembers telling Yi-seo that Sae-ro-yi doesn’t change and laughs at herself for not believing her own words. She teases Sae-ro-yi for being a dummy and reminds him that she likes rich people. Sae-ro-yi responds that he owns a building, and she laughs at his flex.
Yi-seo returns to Danbam the next day and demands to know what he did with Soo-ah last night. She asks if anything happened, like if they’re dating now, and Sae-ro-yi tells her to stop spouting useless words. Yi-seo threatens to quit Danbam if he starts dating Soo-ah and then awkwardly heads back to preparing for opening, leaving Sae-ro-yi bewildered.
Loan shark gran collects money from a neighborhood business owner and marvels at the shop full of people. The business owner shares that the Danbam owner helped them with their set-up and marketing, and he’s been hopping around to other nearby business with the same aid. Gran finds his actions curious and reminiscent of someone from her past.
President Jang meets with Officer Oh and expresses his interest in his quality produce. He notes that Officer Oh’s company is the sole distributor for Danbam, and he offers a partnership with Jang Ga. Officer Oh asks if there are any conditions to this arrangement, and President Jang asks for an exclusive partnership, effectively terminating Officer Oh’s relationship with Danbam.
As Soo-ah leaves work, Geun-won catches her and offers a ride to Itaewon. He’s headed there to recruit Yi-seo, and Soo-ah reminds him that she doesn’t like him. Geun-won sincerely admits that his dream is to give her a ride in his car, and Soo-ah scoffs at his behavior. She asks if his arrogance comes from his chaebol heir status or his wealth, and Geun-won insists that he never acted superior, at least to her.
Desperate for Soo-ah’s favor, Geun-won claims that the lethal crash was just an accident and that he never meant to kill Manager Park. Soo-ah then asks if his decision to not report this and let someone else take the blame were also accidents. She makes it clear that she loathes him for these egregious actions, and Geun-won looks hurt.
Before she walks away, Soo-ah admits that she likes Sae-ro-yi. She tells Geun-won to stop harassing her, and she addresses him formerly before she walks off. Provoked Geun-won erupts in anger.
Officer Oh reviews the contract offered by President Jang and acknowledges the attractive conditions, but he rejects President Jang’s offer. President Jang asks if the rejection is rooted in his relationship with Sae-ro-yi, and Officer Oh confirms that he’s indebted to Sae-ro-yi but not with money — something greater.
President Jang advises Officer Oh that business should not be conducted emotionally and pressures him to take this opportunity to work with the best food company. Officer Oh says that while Jang Ga is currently the best, he believes in the growth of Danbam in 10 years. He insists that his investment is in the interest of gain and for his future, not based on affection.
Bothered by Officer Oh’s bold rejection, President Jang asks if he has any children. Officer Oh admits that he has a daughter, and President Jang notes that he spoke as if he had nothing to lose. He advises Officer Oh to also consider this in the interest of his daughter. Ugh, this guy is the worst.
Before Officer Oh leaves, he remembers Min-jung saying that children follow their parents’ footsteps, and he turns to tell President Jang that he understands why Geun-won turned out the way he did. Then, Officer Oh reveals that he was the police officer in charge of Geun-won’s case and says that he conducted a shameful investigation. President Jang is shook.
Officer Oh hopes that his daughter doesn’t follow his pathetic footsteps and refuses to impart any more dishonor for the sake of his daughter. Then, he bows and leaves President Jang in his shocked state.
Geun-soo finds Yi-seo on the overpass looking at Namsan tower, and he tries to bridge her understanding of Sae-ro-yi’s decisions. He says that while he understands Yi-seo, he thinks everything Sae-ro-yi said was correct. Yi-seo wonders if the idealism has spread to Geun-soo.
Secretary Kim apologizes to President Jang for his incomplete research on Officer Oh, and President Jang impatiently asks for an update on Yi-seo. Secretary Kim reports that Geun-won went directly to Danbam to recruit Yi-seo.
When Geun-soo and Yi-seo return to Danbam, they’re met by an unwelcome guest: Geun-won. He strolls up to Yi-seo and hands her a business card, asking for some time to chat. Yi-seo directs him to a nearby café and tells Sae-ro-yi as she heads out. He seems unbothered, but Geun-soo reacts more strongly. He stops his older brother and warns him not to play around with Yi-seo.
Geun-won finds Geun-soo defiance irksome and tries to hit him, but Geun-soo grabs his hand to stop him. Then, Geun-soo remembers Yi-seo’s suggestion to take over Jang Ga if he feels compelled to pursue her, and he whispers a warning in his brother’s ear, that he may go after Geun-won’s heir apparent throne.
Geun-won doesn’t take the threat seriously and just laughs. As he leaves, he tells the Danbam team that he’s there to recruit Yi-seo and seems confident about his ability to win he over. Seung-kwon and Geun-soo express concern, but Sae-ro-yi says that Yi-seo will decide what to do with her life.
Yi-seo looks through the proposal from Geun-won, and he seems to belittle her young age and lack of college degree. Geun-won leans on the Jang Ga reputation and wealth to win her over, but Yi-seo doesn’t look fully convinced.
At Danbam, the staff wait nervously for Yi-seo to return. Seung-known seems convinced that Yi-seo will take the deal if it’s more money, but Hyun-yi doesn’t think money will move her. If Yi-seo was so concerned about money, she wouldn’t have chosen to work at Danbam. Geun-soo asks silent Sae-ro-yi if he’s nervous, and Sae-ro-yi admits his uneasiness. Geun-soo asks about his reason — because he needs Yi-seo? He asks what Yi-seo means to him, if she’s just an employee or if he’s attracted to her as a woman.
At the café, Yi-seo comments that the offer was a decent proposal, and Geun-won assumes that she doesn’t understand how good this deal is because she’s young. Yi-seo responds that she has some shares invested in Danbam’s company and claims to make more than the proposed salary.
Geun-won asks how much she earns, and she openly shares that she makes about 100,000,000 won (a little more than $84,000) with their current sales. She adds that she’s confident in her ability to grow Danbam and negotiates up to 200,000,000 won. She doubts Geun-won has any power to make these decisions in his role as director, but Geun-won overcompensates and offers 250,000,000 won.
Reveling in his wealth, Geun-won advises Yi-seo to choose the right path to level up in life and abandon Sae-ro-yi’s pub that’s bound to fail. Yi-seo mockingly agrees with Geun-won and claims that she would have left Danbam earlier if she hadn’t had shares in the company. She disapproves of Sae-ro-yi’s audacity to challenge Geun-won and President Jang, and Geun-won smugly agrees.
Yi-seo saves Geun-won’s number on her phone and asks when she should start, and Geun-won says that she can start whenever. Then, Yi-seo asks why Sae-ro-yi hates Geun-won so much, and Geun-won waves it off as something in their past. Yi-seo recalls their conversation at the police station about Geun-won being the reason for the death of Sae-ro-yi’s father, and Geun-won looks nervous.
Continuing her act, Yi-seo feigns awe at Geun-won’s power to be above the law. At Geun-won’s discomfort, Yi-seo apologizes and admits that she has unclear boundaries of good and bad. Geun-won agree with this notion and says that the law controls the lowly and doesn’t apply to those with control.
With Geun-won at ease, Yi-seo asks for more details on the incident in their past, and Geun-won shares the truth about his hit-and-run and framing someone else to take the blame. Yi-seo’s smile stiffens as Geun-won’s words and laughter start to dampen. She remembers the scars on Sae-ro-yi’s arms and her vow to kill anyone who hurt him.
Yi-seo leans back in her chair with the smile wiped off her face, and she tells Geun-won to stop talking. Finally letting her annoyance show, she stops the recording on her phone and replays the part where Geun-won confesses to killing Sae-ro-yi’s father. Yi-seo calls Geun-won a complete idiot and grabs the phone before he can snatch it.
Then, she says, “I love [Sae-ro-yi] like crazy, but the problem is that his head is full of those damn Jang Ga jerks. And that makes me jealous… you bastards.” Trembling in anger, Geun-won pounces, but Yi-seo is ready with her defense. She throws her hot coffee at Geun-won, and he whimpers in pain. She adds one last line: “That’s why I’m going to destroy you all.”
I had no doubt in my mind that Yi-seo would lure Geun-won into a trap because he’s such an idiot and she’s such a manipulator. Unlike our Danbam team, I was sure of Yi-seo’s loyalty to Sae-ro-yi. Despite her disagreements with Sae-ro-yi on the business front, she remains fiercely loyal to Sae-ro-yi. It’s loyalty and trust that create this strong support system around Sae-ro-yi, his business, and his mission. And with someone who loves him like crazy, he’s got a pretty strong defense.
I love how bold and confident Yi-seo is, and though she claims to be nothing like Sae-ro-yi, I find some fundamental similarities between the two. They’re both secure in themselves and their decisions, though their approaches tend to be polar opposites. It’s the clash between idealism and realism that somehow strikes the perfect balance and result, manifested in Danbam. They’re also vaguely similar in how they express their affection — unapologetic, certain, and resolute. Yi-seo’s feelings for Sae-ro-yi are becoming increasingly more obvious, and I wonder if Sae-ro-yi is blind to this or blatantly ignoring this for convenience. But with Geun-soo asking all the right questions, I hope we get some answers that will give us a peek into his thoughts.
While I’m enjoying Yi-seo’s screen time and the relentless fight against Big Bad Jang Ga, I treasure the ensemble moments that could have a life of their own in a sitcom. I loved the chat room scene, which was a creative way to depict a chat room and a great way to show off the ensemble chemistry. Each Danbam member had their characteristic responses, and I love the amusing bickering and deadpan responses that have defined the team. The Danbam sitcom seems to be fighting for screen time in the revenge plot, and I hope they’ll find more opportunities to grace us with delight.