I am here today for the much talked about K-Drama of its times, “What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?”. Although I, too, literally go gaga over the charming faces onscreen, we can do the fangirling stuff a little later. Many of you might have watched it and are thinking of skipping the article.
That will be sad, ‘coz what’s more exciting for us smitten audience to catch up on the plot discussion? Those who haven’t watched and are in a dilemma, to watch or not to watch, well, I can give you a hand with that.
“What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?” as many might already know, is a Korean Romantic Comedy television series with 16 episodes. This K-Drama has ruled many hearts and is still continuing to do so. It is directed by Park Joon-Hwa and written by Jung Eun-Young.
It was aired on tvN from June 6 to July 26, 2018. The airing days of this series were Wednesdays and Thursdays of every week. Later on, it was also streamed on platforms like Viki and Netflix.
The series is actually derived from the novel that goes by the name “Why Secretary Kim,” written by the author Jung Kyung-Yoon. After it was published in 2013, webtoon platforms like KakaoPage launched the novel as a comic, or as it is popularly known as manhwa, in 2015.
- Developed by: Studio Dragon
- Written by: Jung Eun-young
- Directed by: Park Joon-hwa
- Executive producers: Jang Jeong-do, Moon Suk-hwan, Oh Kwang-hee
- Producer: Lee Young-ok
- Episode length: 62–76 minutes
- Production company: TvN
- Original release: June 6 –July 26, 2018
- Platforms to watch: Viki, Netflix
Playing the role of the protagonists (the lead characters) are Park Seo-Joon (from Awesome ENT) as Lee Young-Joon / Lee Sung-Hyun and Park Min-Young (from Hook Entertainment) as Kim Mi-so.
Lee Young-Joon is the handsome and capable Vice Chairman of the Yumyung Group and is one of the youngest eligible bachelors in the city.
He is also the youngest son of Yumyung group’s chairman (Kim Byeong-Ok) and his wife, Madame Choi(Kim Hye-Ok). He is rumored to dislike being very close to any woman, probably because of his PTSD.
Kim Mi-So is his secretary who has worked under him for 9 years until one day, and she hands him her resignation letter.
She, too, like Young-Joo, is the youngest of her siblings. She didn’t pursue college in order to work to help her family pay off the debts. She has two elder sisters, Kim Pil-Nam (Baek Eun-Hye) and Kim Mal-Hee (Heo Sun-Mi), and her father, Kim Young-Man (Jo Deok-Hyun), used to be a rock musician. Her mother died of cancer when she was a little girl.
The second most important character in the series is Lee Sung-Yeon / Morpheus, played by Lee Tae-Hwan. He is Lee Young-Joon’s elder brother, who plays a major role in all the upcoming twists and turns of the series. He is a famous writer who lives away from his family in France.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim – The Story Plot
The story starts when the handsome, poised Lee Young-Joon (Park Seo-Joon) strides into a room (possibly of a luxurious club), beaming in that invincible “Aura” that he possesses. A group of people is already present in the room, gossiping about him.
He ignores their greetings as he walks up to the black leather couch placed in the farthest corner. He sits down on the couch in his iconic posture, legs crossed, hand on his chin, a grave troubled expression on his face, and then he asks that epic question. “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?”
To answer that, the episode takes us back to a flashback of a day. It is a typical weekday morning, following the usual daily routine. Mi-So goes to Lee Young-Joon’s house to fulfill her secretarial duties, like helping him to get ready and then accompanying him to the office while explaining the day’s schedule. They had a busy day at the office due to clearing up a mess caused by an employee.
Later they also had to attend a business party. The party scene was quite hilarious with Lee Young-Joon’s live show with his perfect self and the ever-shining ‘Aura,’ and the events with his rumored girlfriend Oh Ji-Ran (Hong Ji-Yoon). While in the car on the way back home from the party Mi-So confesses to Lee Young-Joon her wish to resign. That’s the point where the real story starts to unfold.
Mi-So’s sudden “I want to resign” announcement was a blow to Young-Joon’s face and might be a bit to the brain too. He remains in constant denial that no one can possibly leave an ideal boss like him, let alone when they have worked for him for 9 years. To quote him, “We spent more time together than most married couples have. How can it mean nothing to her?”
This phase of denial stretches for quite some time, in fact, for the whole of Episode 1. His rebuttal was so strong in his core that he persistently kept thinking of the cause and conclusion of her resignation.
In one event discussing this matter with his friend, Park Yoo-Sik (Kang Ki-Young), he even came up with the conclusion that Mi-So was in love with him and unable to bear the pain of watching him with other women. She decided to quit.
While we see Mi-So being happy to have leisure time back in her life, meeting her family and friends, and going to the office during the daytime instead of daybreak, Young-Joon spends sleepless nights and even more restless mornings.
He tried a number of ways to stop Mi-So from resigning, like bringing her to his family home for lunch and bringing her flowers that were to a pollen-allergic Mi-So. Amidst all this chaos and confusion, he even ends up hiring a new secretary, Kim Ji-A (Pyo Ye-Jin), who was supposedly going to replace Kim Mi-so.
Finally, at the end of the first episode, he drops running in circles and directly confronts her as to why she wants to quit. She explains her wish to live her life (though she has done that before but gets misunderstood), date, and get married.
No, Young-Joon does not react like us commoners. He is too hellbent on not letting her go for him to understand anything, no matter how straightforwardly it has been said. Instead of accepting her concerns, he simply prompts, saying, “I, Lee Young-Joon, will marry you.”
Lee Young-Joon keeps up with his persuasions and grand gestures to woo Mi-So. He went to great lengths, like renting a whole amusement park just so that Mi-So could fulfill her childhood dreams.
But one can understand the impending plot twists getting slowly induced when we see Mi-So’s trauma-induced phobia of spiders (Episode 1, at the restaurant) and also when she dreams of her childhood and a faceless boy whose name she can’t recall in Episode 3.
In Episode 3, we also see Young-Joon’s elder brother, Lee Sung-Yeon, aka Morpheus, a well-known novelist, who comes back to Korea from France after a long time in years. The lead characters get close bit by bit with their once-in-a-while bickering and not to mention the obvious sweet moments.
We get to see tons of them. With all the lovely scenes, the stage for the climax is seen to be set steadily in the arguments between Young-Joon Sung-Yeon over a past incident and the few seemingly uneasy encounters between Sung-Yeon and Mi-So.
In Episode 5, the scuffle between Young-Joon and his brother gets out of hand when it gets exposed that Mi-So was seeking Morpheus to head the book concert for the launch of the art center of the Yumyung group.
Resultantly, Mi-so and Young-Joo also fought as he refused to let his estranged brother contribute to the opening of the art center and therefore denied Mi-So’s book concert idea. Later on that day, she comes to know that both the Vice-Chairman and Morpheus are brothers, so she decides to apologize. But Young-Joon apologizes to her first, and they reconcile smoothly.
In the 6th episode, we finally get a glimpse of the reason for the estrangement of the brothers and the probable childhood backstory of the trio. Mi-So got to know that the Vice-Chairman was kidnapped when he was a child.
This caught her off guard as she, too, was kidnapped when she was a kid, along with a boy whose name she still can’t remember. As the day rolls, she somehow remembers the name of the boy to be Lee Sung-Yeon, which was Lee Young-Joon’s brother and not him. This made things awkward between her and Young-Joon.
In the upcoming episodes, she hangs out with Sung-Yeon in order to get her lost memories back. Although Mi-So thought Lee Sung-Yeon to be the boy who was kidnapped with her, few instances and coincidences seemed to state otherwise.
For when Young-Joon said he absolutely couldn’t bear the cold when they were stuck in the rain in the forest, also the day when Young-Joon’s mother called her to their house to ask if she could remember the details of the kidnapping and how her “Hyun” cope up, not “Yeon.”
These kept piling up, making her doubt the truth. That night she gets a nightmare again of the kidnapping scene, which leaves her scared and baffled all the same. The mystery just keeps intensifying with every passing episode, not only what happened in the past but also whom Mi-So is going to choose.
At the end of the 8th episode, one of our questions gets answered with Kim Mi-so confessing to Lee Young-Joon that she likes him too. One mystery gets quenched, but the other remains. As I mentioned, the instances that go against the fact that Sung-Yeon was kidnapped still keep repeating.
While they are taking a walk, Young-Joon talks about the designer who made cardigans only for him, same as his mother told Mi-So. The striking coincidence keeps Mi-So confused and anxious about her doubts. When a tired Young-Joon decides to rest in the car and take a nap, Mi-So is determined to get an answer to her doubts.
She calls the subconscious Young-Joon by “Sung-Hyun” Oppa, to which he responds with “What?”. This somewhat solidifies her doubts, but they remain unanswered as Young-Joon shuts up her claims and interrogations, saying it was just a habitual response to her voice. The restless Mi-So goes to the family house to ask his mother instead.
Even his mother gives her twisted replies and refuses her claims of the boy that she met was Young-Joon and not his brother. But the truth reveals itself soon enough when Mi-So sees the childhood pictures of both the brothers and Sung-Yeon, confirming their individual identities.
In the 10th Episode, Young-Joon joined Mi-So and her sisters on the day of their late mother’s birthday ( it was a family tradition to go to the beach on their mother’s birthday) to convince them that he was a suitable choice for their sister and thus to accept their relationship.
He had a hard time adjusting to their taste, but as stubborn as a mule he was, he succeeded in convincing them to give their blessings. At the end of the episode, Young-Joon and Sung-Hyun’s mother reveal the concealed truth that it was Young-Joon who got kidnapped in his childhood.
At the same time, a performance at the Yumyung group’s business event triggered Mi-So’s memories, and she fainted due to the sudden revelation of her memories.
The 11th episode shows us the truth behind the scenes. All the secrets resurface. Mi-So remembered her “Sung-Hyun Oppa” and all the other related details in the hospital. Young-Joon never forgot and just pretended to have forgotten everything from shock and mental trauma, as Sung-Yeon forgot what happened back then after he visited the crime site, and his consciousness fabricated false memories out of guilt. Young-Joon deliberately chose Mi-So as his secretary, knowing her actual identity.
That’s all about the twists and turns. After this, we are back in the romance field. Mi-So and Young-Joon continue their romantic venture. After some days the other staff discovers about their relationship. Later he proposed Mi-So, and they got married. That’s it. You all might have already predicted it. It’s like, if not now, then when?
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim Review:
The only word that can be used for this is SWEET. It was like being on a sweet romantic roller coaster for all 16 episodes. I have lost count of how many times did I change the prerequisites of a boyfriend. I mean, who assents to marry his secretary just to keep her from quitting her job?
Lee Young-Joon does. And which boyfriend willingly becomes a photographer for his girl and recommends her poses? Again, Lee Young-Joon does. Watching this series is just like being wrapped in your fluffy quilt on a super cold day and having a steaming cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows in it.
This is what you need to watch on a bad day to get back to your comfort zone. Even my strawberry ice cream might not be as sweet as this. Okay, now I might be exaggerating.
A Person With No Sweet Tooth Will Start Having One
Putting the sweetness aside, I would have liked to see more defined character and story development. I mean, there’s no doubt that I can wolf down their adorable love gestures and the cozy, mature yet childish expressions and buckets of sugar that they have put in the moments, but I felt it was kind of seventy percent about candied romance than the actual story plot.
Sung-Yeon was not a bad person, but many of us might see him as one after we watched the series. Come on, and anyone could have behaved in the way he did if they were in his place. If he was that bad of a brother, he would have never given up on Mi-So and continued creating problems between her and Young-Joon, and he would never have helped him with how to propose.
The narration only pivoted from the lead’s point of view. It should have involved Sung-Yeon more than just a character obsessed with the past. Of course, Young-Joon was more mature than him and handled a lot more pressure; pretending to have his memories washed off while knowing about everything was unimaginably hard for kids, and neither did dealing with PTSD make it any easier.
I still feel Sung-Yeon could have got a more positive outlook. Apart from this, another thing that I would like to mention is that the coming out of the truth felt a little sudden. From the parents of the Lee brothers trying to hide the truth at all costs to say “curtains up” in a wink made me go, “What now?!”
Yeah, they maintained the traditional number of episodes, but adding one more wouldn’t have harmed, or instead of dragging out the romance part in the first, a more intricate fabrication of the story could give a more intact and firm look to the series.
I Felt The Storyline To Be A Bit Underdeveloped.
In the end, it was very evident that Young-Joon had feelings for Mi-So for a long time. Therefore I think dancing away from it and projecting a completely different view of reality was pointless.
To have it look like he fell for her during the notice period and he only dated her just to not lose an efficient employee creates a dilemma as to what to believe. I would prefer a more well-spun and straightforward story. The cute romance is, of course, enjoyable, but at some point, you might start yawning because of it.
All in all, I enjoyed the series. Not to forget our good-looking and efficient casts. They all did a good job. Park Seo-Joon, as always, is very versatile in his acting and adopts just the right temperament of the characters. Park Min-Young displayed her amazing acting skills in this series as well.
Our Rating: ⭐ (4.5/5).