After finishing the most recent episode of ‘Kkondae Intern’ and catching up with the show, I decided that I would turn it into another recapping project of mines. There’s enough heart and soul in this drama for me to like it and I’m also enjoying all the comedy that the drama is implementing. Along with a talented and handsome lead actor, there were enough reasons for me to tune in.
As described in my other post about ‘Kkondae Intern’, Park Hae-jin plays Ga Yeol-chan, the chief of sales and marketing at a ramen company. Prior to moving up the ranks at this company, he dipped his foot into another company years before where he was an intern under Lee Man-sik (Kim Eung-soo). There, Yeol-chan’s experience was horrible and he was mistreated and humiliated by his supervisor in many different ways. Fast forward to the present and the tables have turned. Kkondae Lee Man-sik (which refers to a strict and old fashioned type of person) is now an intern working under Yeol-chan at his ramen company. Interesting things unfold with the switch in the roles and Yeol-chan looks to seek his revenge on Man-sik who made his life a torture years before.
Kkondae Intern: Episode 1 Recap
The first episode starts off with Manager Lee Man-sik (Kim Eung-soo) entering a subway and demanding for a young student to give up his seat for him. Our narrator, intern Ga Yeol-chan, states that a Kkondae is slang for an old person or teacher. However, not all elders are Kkondae’s as younger people can also identify with the term. Essentially, Kkondae-like people force others to accept their old-fashioned ideas and beliefs regardless of their age. The term perfectly applies to Man-sik and he causes trouble in the subway just as the student gets up from his seat to walk away. After the student falls onto the ground due to his anemia, many people critique Man-sik for forcing the boy to give up his seat. Eventually, the student is transported to the hospital and our Manager goes on with his day of work at food company, Ongol. He arrives at the office and immediately reprimands Yeol-chan (Park Hae-jin) for arriving late. That triggers Man-sik to target Yeol-chan for a couple of other things that day: he’s not impressed with the report that Yeol-chan had written up as well as takes credit for an idea that actually belonged to Yeol-chan. It’s clear that Man-sik disproves of Yeol-chan’s efforts in the office and he makes it difficult for Yeol-chan to do his job as an intern.
That night, Yeol-chan receives a phone call from his mom. She checks up on him to make sure he has enough food and side dishes since he’s living alone. However, Yeol-chan grows upset when he discovers that Mom is working part-time again. She just got surgery for her herniated disc so she needs to rest. Mom wishes she could just rest and not have to worry about anything, but has Yeol-chan ever tried that before? It’s not as easy as one thinks. Yeol-chan grabs some drinks with his friend and ends up drinking more than he should. The stress from work gets to him and he grows upset and frustrated at how no one at the company is giving him a chance to prove himself. Just when he thinks he’s about to be given that opportunity by Manager Man-sik, the opportunity falls short of his expectations. Yeol-chan’s assignment is to help Man-sik’s son, Man-se, rather than to help out at work.
Yeol-chan barely has any time to eat or to take a break. Just as he’s about to dig into a bowl of ramen noodles, he receives yet another assignment by Man-sik. This time, Yeol-chan is to meet up with a man who’s been bothering the company and accusing them of stealing his ox head rice soup recipe. Yeol-chan is to simply just grab a drink with the man and listen to him rant about the accusations. When Yeol-chan does arrive at the man’s restaurant, he discovers a dangerous and horrendous scene: the man has committed suicide by hanging himself. Yeol-chan quickly and carefully takes him down and thankfully saves the man just in time.
After the incident, Yeol-chan is dismissed by the man who isn’t in the mood to talk to a rookie like him. However, Yeol-chan’s grumbling stomach provides him with the opportunity to stay and the man cooks up a meal for our intern. While the man is busy cooking, Yeol-chan attempts to get in contact with Man-sik and his colleague to warn them about the man’s suicide attempt. He feels as if he needs extra support since this is his first time ever dealing with a situation like this. However, neither are available at the moment to assist Yeol-chan so he’s left alone with the man. Yeol-chan tries a taste of the man’s ox head rice soup which grabs his attention for a second. However, he pretends as if nothing is wrong and he eventually bids farewell with the man that night. Before leaving, Yeol-chan clarifies any potential misunderstandings and hopes the man won’t get any bad ideas. He walks away and waits at the bus station to go home.
Some time later, Yeol-chan is interrogated by a disciplinary committee about his interactions with the man. It’s unclear as to what happened to the man, but all the blame seems to be placed onto Yeol-chan. Nothing big or serious was supposed to come out of Yeol-chan’s visit to the man, but now the company has to take action for what happened with the visit. Yeol-chan’s decision to call Man-sik and his colleague during the visit is criticized by the committee and they warn him to stay quiet and stay low in the meantime. Yeol-chan grabs some drinks and food with Man-sik who explains to him the situation with the old man. Sure, Ongol’s chairman was a regular at the man’s restaurant for decades and would joke around that he wanted the man’s recipes. However, the man’s restaurant eventually died down and their company released their ox head noodle soup around the same time that the man’s restaurant was declining so the man seized upon the opportunity to accuse their company of stealing his ox head recipe. It’s not that big of a deal as the man is making it out to be.
However, Yeol-chan has a hard time believing Man-sik’s story and he questions the whereabouts of the recipe book that the man claimed Man-sik had stolen from him. However, Man-sik quickly denies the allegations and reassures Yeol-chan that he never did such a thing. When Man-sik brings this to his boss’s attention, he’s instructed to reinstate Yeol-chan back into the company and then slowly but surely dismiss him. And so Man-sik moves forward with this strategy and he makes Yeol-chan’s return back to the company disastrous for the intern. Yeol-chan’s reports are ignored and thrown away every single time and he’s humiliated by Man-sik in front of all his colleagues.
Outside of work, Man-sik treats Yeol-chan the same exact way and his dislike towards Yeol-chan intensifies. When Yeol-chan appears unexpectedly at a company dinner, Man-sik’s mood immediately darkens and he grows angry that Yeol-chan was invited to their dinner. He begins to throw food at Yeol-chan and demands for him to leave right away. Yeol-chan reluctantly and embarrassingly abides and he walks out of the restaurant. On his way out of the restaurant, he notices his mother standing not too far away with her head down. She had just witnessed the entire incident. Oof.
And so Yeol-chan attempts to get to the bottom of things. On a late night alone at the office, he digs into Man-sik’s desk and throughout the office in search of the recipe book that was supposedly stolen from the man. However, his efforts amount to nothing and he’s unsuccessful in finding any leads or the recipe book itself. The issue is eventually brought to Man-sik’s attention and he’s contacted by a security guard who shows him CCTV footage of Yeol-chan breaking into his desk drawer. He pays a visit to Yeol-chan’s studio and punches him in the face upon seeing him in person. He had warned Yeol-chan to just stay quiet and not cause any trouble, but Yeol-chan is just as frustrated and upset. He doesn’t understand why Man-sik is making his life hard and torturing him like this. Man-sik scolds Yeol-chan for his actions; there’s a lot more that he isn’t aware about. This causes Yeol-chan to back off and take a step back. The brief altercation between the two comes to an end.
The next morning, Man-sik finds a letter of resignation on his desk from Yeol-chan. While Yeol-chan returns to the man’s neighborhood to gather some more information on what had happened to him, Man-sik and his team receives great news at work. Their contract in Russia got accepted. Everyone celebrates and cheers on Man-sik who they assume will probably be promoted to a director with this successful collaboration. Man-sik prepares for a company dinner that night with his bosses while Yeol-chan wither away in his room. He takes a stroll outside to think things through and to catch some fresh air, but he finds himself on the sidewalk of a bridge. He’s tempted to just jump and end all the pain and suffering that he’s going through. However, a supportive text message from Mom prevents him from making that leap and he gathers the courage and determination to keep moving forward. He’s going to work hard and change his life around. Things seem hopeless now, but it won’t be this way forever. He’s going to prove to the world that he’s still useful. Yeol-chan keeps his life and his hope alive. He stares at an advertising billboard with a quote from a ramen company. It seems like he’s found his calling.
Fast forward five years later and it’s the 61st Trade Day ceremony. Yeol-chan is now a General Manager of company Joonsoo Foods and he’s accompanied by Chairman Namgoong Pyo at the award ceremony. They accept their respective awards for their involvement in helping the company export $200 million dollars. As the maker of the Spicy Chicken Ramen recipe, Yeol-chan has a lot to be thankful for, but he credits Chairman Namgoong Pyo in his award speech. Among those in the audience includes Chairman Namgoong’s son, Joon-soo (Park Ki-Woong) and executives Koo Ja-sook (Kim Sun-young) as well as Ahn Sang-jong (Son Jong-hak).
Yeol-chan celebrates the award with his Marketing and Sales team that night at a bowling alley. They all congratulate their manager on his award, but they’re also curious as to what they will gain out of the win. After some bowling, they eventually conclude the afternoon get-together. With it being 6pm, Yeol-chan dismisses them and permits them to go home. He also needs his alone time as well. So when he arrives home later on that night, Yeol-chan treats himself to a nice, warm, and relaxing bath while also treating his face to a soothing face mask. His team was able to enjoy their evening that night. They should be thankful for him.
Man-sik himself is expecting some good news for his workplace. He meets with his boss in what he assumes will be news of an official promotion to become a director, but Man-sik receives another opportunity instead. He isn’t so happy with his boss’s offer of a job at one of their warehouses. It’s usually for older people like him and he knows it won’t last him long in the company. Man-sik eventually packs up his belongings in his office and walks out of the building. However, Man-sik is still in disbelief about everything and he makes one last plead to his boss. He’s devoted his entire life to the company and even neglected his family and late mother because he was committed to the company. His position at the warehouse is basically another way of them throwing him away and telling him to quit. Man-sik can’t understand how they could do this to him after all that he’s done for them. Man-sik eventually makes his way out of the building with his box of belongings, but he’s certain he can find another job somewhere else.
However, the job hunt isn’t as easy as Man-sik thought and he’s unsuccessful in finding another job. Even the warehouse position that he refused to accept before is no longer available. With no hope in sight, Man-sik has no other choice but to participate in an open recruitment competition to become a security guard for an apartment complex. Thanks to stranger-turned-acquaintance Eom Han-gil, he learns more about the open recruitment and participates in the competition in hopes of getting a job.
Yeol-chan and his team bid farewell with an employee who’s going on maternity leave. They all shower her with support and gifts, but are quickly interrupted by Executive Ahn who reminds them about their deal with India. Did they ever seal the deal with them? Right at that moment, they receive a phone call from a representative who wishes to speak with Yeol-chan. Through the phone call, Yeol-chan delivers exciting news to the entire team: their deal with the Indian food market went through. Everyone rejoices and celebrates with the good news, but the only caveat? They want Yeol-chan himself to participate in the commercial.
And so Yeol-chan’s commercial for their ramen brand spreads rapidly upon being released. It’s good news for everyone and even the higher-ups in the company celebrate the win. Well, almost everyone. Joon-soo doesn’t understand what the big deal is. It’s just India and who knows if they even eat any ramen in their country. However, Executive Koo makes it clear to Joon-soo that the deal was gold and that they could earn millions through the collaboration. Joon-soo doesn’t pay much attention to Executive Koo; he’s too busy questioning Yeol-chan and Yeol-chan’s ability in securing such a deal. Joon-soo’s afraid that his father might hand down the company to Yeol-chan instead of him so he pressures Executive Ahn to find any dirt on Yeol-chan. He needs to take him down before any decision is made. Joon-soo then follows up on the new interns they have hired. He anticipates their first day of work.
Through some more digging (more like eavesdropping), Executive Ahn discovers that Yeol-chan used to work at Ongol Ramen before working for Joonsoo Foods. However, since he didn’t mention this in his resume, Joon-soo and Executive Ahn assumes that he must be hiding something. Man-sik’s experience as a security guard isn’t going as well and smooth as he would like. After unsuccessfully helping a resident with their bathroom clog, he finds an empty wrapper of the ramen packaging for his former company, Ongol. Man-sik grows sad and he’s close to tears upon seeing the wrapper. However, right at that moment, he receives a phone call from Executive Ahn.
It’s the first day of work for our interns! Everyone’s excited and nervous for the new interns to walk into the office. Executive Ahn introduces the first two interns who will be a part of the Marketing and Sales team with Yeol-chan. Lee Tae-ri (Han Ji-eun) introduces herself first, but no one really seems that impressed by her. In fact, they’re a bit weirded out with the word play she has with her name (she compares her name to Italy since they both sound similar to each other, lol) so they quickly move onto second intern, Joo Yoon-soo (Noh Jong-hyun), afterwards. Yoon-soo isn’t as outgoing and energetic as Tae-ri and he quietly and shyly introduces himself. The team can’t help but be disappointed with the selection of the two interns, but there’s still hope. A third intern will shortly be joining them.
Of course, this intern is none other than Man-sik. He arrives to the office with a work bag and a packet in both of his hands. He’s excited and hopeful on the first day of his internship, but his mood completely shifts once he realizes who he will be working with. Upon hearing Man-sik’s introduction, Yeol-chan’s attitude also changes. He finds his former boss, the boss who made his life a complete torture and disaster, standing across from him. It takes a few seconds for Man-sik to recognize Yeol-chan, but he eventually comes around to registering who he is. The two stand across from each other in utter shock and confusion at the sight in front of them. They’re reunited once again.
Wow, I really did not pay enough attention the first time around watching this drama because now things make so much more sense with this re-watch. Despite the new details that I learned with this premiere episode, my thoughts and opinions still remain the same. Episode one was a breeze to watch and there were several touching moments in this episode that made me feel for our characters.
It’s not even that Yeol-chan is our lead that you’re rooting for him and is proud of the success he’s earned after many years of enduring his own hardships and obstacles. I know it’s a part of the premise for us to witness his struggles and his complicated relationship with Man-sik and the drama needed to set this up in order to give us everything later on, but I appreciate that we did get to watch Yeol-chan go from a naive and passionate intern to a successful and intelligent manager. He did have it in him all along and it wasn’t so much him that was the problem, but rather Man-sik who was the obstacle that was preventing Yeol-chan from succeeding. My heart broke for Yeol-chan both when he was in and outside of the office, but the scene at the restaurant where he was humiliated not only in front of his own colleagues but also in front of his own mother was the most heart-breaking. I wanted to cry for Yeol-chan because he tried his best to not make his mom worried and put on this facade that everything at work was going fine so she believed in him. To see with her own eyes that things weren’t what she thought they were all along was heart-breaking and it made me root for Yeol-chan even more.
Now that I re-watch this episode a second time, I actually didn’t really notice how dark and serious this first episode was. From the suicide attempt with the old man and that story to Yeol-chan’s own consideration of a suicide attempt to the constant torture and humiliation at work, the first half of this episode was depressing. I see why the drama set things up this way, but it still made me sad to see things be so hard and difficult for Yeol-chan. My heart broke for him. However, the episode lightened up in the second half when he successfully bounced back and eventually transitioned into becoming a successful manager at a big ramen company. Yeol-chan has worked hard to get to where he is and he deserves all the credit and success that he’s earned. I also want to take a minute to discuss about Yeol-chan’s position as a supervisor. He actually seems like a pretty cool boss with the way that he doesn’t force his team to work late into the night, supports the important practice of a work-life balance, or doesn’t intimidate them as their boss. So far, he seems pretty free-spirited and carefree which I think stems from his experience with having someone stern and strict like Man-sik as his boss. He wishes to never replicate the same traits like Man-sik did now that he himself is a boss to others. He wouldn’t want any of his employees to have to go through what he went through when he was an intern. Yeol-chan strived to become better not just for himself but for others as well. He takes his team into consideration and that’s one aspect that highlights the type of leader that Yeol-chan is.
However, as we saw in this episode, Yeol-chan has enemies in the company and there are people who wish to bring him down (notably, Joon-soo and Executive Ahn). Now it makes a lot more sense as to why they selected Man-sik and brought him into the company to intern. They hope to possibly gain more information about Yeol-chan’s background and past through Man-sik so that they can achieve their plans of bringing Yeol-chan down. However, something in me tells me that things are going to be a lot more challenging than it seems and Yeol-chan won’t be going down without a fight. I also just want to quickly add that as irritating and annoying as Joon-soo is as a character, Park Ki-Woong is doing such a great job portraying him. He actually made me despise and loathe Joon-soo just based off of what we saw of him in this episode so far which shows just how talented of an actor Park Ki-Woong is. It’s been a while since I’ve see him in a project and I actually didn’t even know he was in this drama so his appearance was a pleasant surprise. Though it’s been a hot second since I’ve watched Park Ki-Woong on my screen, I’m still as intrigued and in love with him as I was 8 years ago when I saw him in ‘Bridal Mask.’ Unlike Yeol-chan, nothing has changed for me in between those 8 years.
I know we’re not supposed to feel bad for Man-sik because he wasn’t the nicest or greatest to intern Yeol-chan. In fact, he was so harsh, brutal, and mean towards him and humiliated and dehumanized him at every chance he got. I don’t have many pity points to give to Man-sik based off of what we saw in this episode, but I do have to say that my heart did break for him a little bit when he found out about his departure from Ongol. There’s just something so sad about someone who invests the most important moments in their life to a company than to their family and they end up with nothing at the end of the day. Just like I mentioned in my first post about ‘Kkondae Intern’, Man-sik lost his job because he was not so helpful to the company anymore. He was easily replaceable by someone younger and smarter than him. You can devote decades of your life to a company, but doesn’t mean much when the company’s main goal at the end of the day is to make money. This is a constant reminder I have to tell myself too with my job. There are times where I am burnt out or when I work way too many over-time hours or when I work harder than I really should. It’s in these moments when I take a step back and remind myself that I am also easily replaceable and that things are temporary. Practice that work-life balance now while you can.
I’m not so sure what the big emphasis on the story with the old man and the recipe book was. The drama was heavily focused on it in the first half of the episode so I’m curious as to why it’s such a big deal. It seems like there’s more to the story than what the episode has shown us so far so I’m interested in where that story goes in the future. Regardless, it doesn’t change the fact that Man-sik and Ongol employed some fishy tactics to improve their company. Just as Yeol-chan brought justice to himself, maybe he can eventually do the same and bring justice to the old man who was viciously targeted by the big company.