History of a Salaryman – First Impressions

I’m in love with this drama. I think we’re finally coming around to a good year in dramas! 2011 was a bit lackluster for me, with a few bright gems. But now, at the end of 2011 and coming into 2012, I’m excited about two dramas, in one week! Amazing…

The following is based entirely off of the first episode. Jung Gyu Woon looks like Clark Kent; businessmen fight like preschoolers; Jung Ryeo Won curses like a sailor; and segways – WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?!

[You can watch with subs on DramaFever.]


Episode 1 starts off with the discovery of the murder of Jin Ho Hae and the arrest of Yoo Bang (Lee Bum Soo) and Yeo Chi (Jung Ryeo Won). Then we zoom back to three months prior, when all the characters first come together because of a drug testing. Two competing drug companies are aiming to be the first to release it. Chunha Group is faster at it, and already doing a clinical test with Woo Hee (Hong Soo Hyun) at the helm, and Yoo Bang as a participant. Hang Woo (Jung! Gyu! Woon!) participates as a spy from rival company Jangcho Group. (I love that the two presidents of the company end up in a catfight on the golf course with Star Wars music in the background, and then their underlings get in on the fight too. It’s like a schoolyard with grown men.) Anyways – they do some testing, and it’s slowly revealed that Yoo Bang is a spy too! For Chunha group! The dead guy Jin Ho Hae is actually a VP of the company, and he’s being slighted by his father in favor of his irresponsible, bratty niece Yeo Chi. Yoo Bang was a server at a private club when he begs Jin Ho Hae for a job. Because Ho Hae wants to sabotage the project and bully his way to the position of president, he enlists Yoo Bang to steal the drug. Yoo Bang is only doing the dirty deed for Ho Hae because he was promised he would get a job within Chunha.

But a variety of comic situations and misunderstandings lead to Yoo Bang not being able to successfully complete his task, for him to suspect Hang Woo (correctly) that he’s a spy, and for another participant to take the fall for the both of them as a spy. How crazy is that?

And then you have Yeo Chi, who is Yoo Bang’s crush from afar, but curses like a sailor. Her idol boyfriend (MBLAQ’s Lee Joon) breaks up with her because he’s being threatened by her uncle to do so. (Ho Hae’s backup plan is to make Yeo Chi irrational with a breakup, and prove to the grandfather that she is incapable of running a company.) But her dress gets caught on a tree, and Yoo Bang – sitting far away – starts twirling the thread between his fingers. That also means he’s slowly unraveling her dress…

When she finds him as the pervert undressing her, the two get entangled by the falling tree and he pushes her into the fountain to “save her.” HAHA – wait til he gets an earful from her potty mouth…


I’ve never really watched Lee Bum Soo but boy, is that guy comedic. I also enjoy watching Jung Gyu Woon being so seriously funny. When he gets side effects from the drug – neck ticks – he does it with such seriousness that it’s funny. I love this guy. Anyways – it’s also nice to see Jung Ryeo Won acting out of type. She does a better job being a brat than Yoon Eun Hye did in Take Care of the Young Lady. They look alike, but Jung infuses her brash Korean with random American words, and what’s better is the show bleeps her out as if she’s too profane for real life. Hong Soo Hyun is just continuing her meteoric rise as a supporting actress, but she hasn’t had much to work with just yet. She’s in scenes, but she’s not as involved as the other characters are. However, a sly look here suggests that she’s not all she seems to be, loyalty wise.

And that’s the other thing – loyalty. It looks like Hang Woo’s older brother works in Chunha group, while he himself is in Jangcho. Iiinteresting. Then you have Jin Ho Hae with his own cronies; just because they work in one company does not mean that they’re loyal to that company.  It’s reminiscent of Tree with Deep Roots, where you have everyone in different “teams” and then they slowly ally up to create two main sides – Team Sejong and Team Root.

The drama is supposed to allude to The Three Kingdoms in China, where the president of Chunha is Jin Shi Hwang (or emperor Qin Shi Huang) and Yoo Bang is Liu Bang (the western Han ruler). Shi Hwang has an idiotic son Ho Hae (or Hu Hai in China) too. That’s the extent of my knowledge, and no wikipedia can save me at this point. Either way, the way the drama is turning out does feel very Three Kingdom-ish in the sense that I can imagine all these shenanigans happening in history between warring states. So I’ll go along for the ride.

If anyone can point me to a Cliff’s Notes version of The Three Kingdoms history, or give me a quick lesson, please do! I’m becoming obsessed.

Anyways, the tone of this drama is actually what kills me; it’s a shade farcical, quite satirical, and completely full of dark comedy. It’s got some melodrama to it, but it’s not overwhelming right now. It comes as a nice touch when revealing more about Yoo Bang’s character. The best is that everyone takes themselves too seriously when the events play out so absurdly. I’m sure that  this tone will not last for long, but I really hope it does. After all, with such an epic masterpiece that is the music video, I have high expectations, yunno?

And one more shot of Jung Gyu Woon being perfectly comedic and being perfectly serious:


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  1. endodo4ever 6 January, 2012 at 02:22 Reply

    Oh my goodness. Penguin connection! I took the same screencap of JKW with his funny facial expression and featured it on my bloggy. 😛

    And yes, let’s MINE away, shall we? XD

  2. snow 6 January, 2012 at 17:42 Reply

    it’s not the Three Kingdoms, but the Warring States period and the particular struggle for power known as the Chu-Han Contention – Three Kingdoms come after the fall of the Han Dynasty. yoo bang is a reference to Liu Bang, founder of the Han Dynasty. Liu was from the Han state and he fought Xiang Yu (hang woo in the drama), leader of Western Chu, for power and supremacy in a long battle that ended with Xiang Yu’s suicide in 202 BC. thereafter Liu proclaimed himself the new emperor and the founding of the Han Dynasty.

    wikipedia does help. here’s the entry for the Chu-Han Contention: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chu–Han_Contention

    • snow 6 January, 2012 at 17:52 Reply

      as for the other name references:

      yeo chi – Lu Zhi (wife of Liu Bang)
      woo hee – Yu Ji (consort to Xiang Yu)
      hang ryang – Xiang Liang (uncle to Xiang Yu)
      han shin – Han Xin (general under Liu Bang’s command)
      jang ryang – Zhang Liang (adviser/strategist to Liu Bang)
      bum jeung – Fan Zeng (adviser to Xiang Yu)

      • snow 6 January, 2012 at 23:38 Reply

        haha, i don’t know if hang woo will commit suicide, but Xiang Yu definitely did. so did Yu Ji – in fact, their death scene is pretty legendary, spawning among others a Beijing opera and film (Farewell My Concubine), and is a key scene in any film /drama/book involving the Chu-Han contention. the drama seems more of a comedy, so i don’t think they’ll follow history strictly.

        another name reference that site missed out is the character of Bun-Kwae, whose historical “counterpart” is Fan Kuai, a general and friend of Liu Bang. also, the site mistakenly wrote that Fan Zeng is the uncle of Xiang Yu, which is not correct – Fan Zeng served Xiang Yu’s uncle Xiang Liang, and when Xiang Liang died, Fan continued serving Xiang Yu.

        the drama title is also a giveaway: “Salaryman Chohanji” translates into Chinese as 工薪族楚汉志 (Cho = Chu / 楚, Han = Han / 汉). the drama is probably adapted from the comic “Chohanji” (초한지), which itself was a manga rendition of the Chu-Han contention from the Chinese historical novel 楚汉志 (Chu Han Zhi). the comic Chohanji draws the analogy of the Liu-Xiang battle as one big chess game, and contains many insights on mankind depicted in a humorous fashion.

        manga cover: http://swaswa.com/china/cnbooksee.asp?china_idx=309 (description in chinese)

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