Autumn 1972

A couple of men square off at a poker table. They each sign a contract and push it to the center of the table. The dealer confirms that the contract requires the loser to give all his stock to the winner. If Mr. Yoon wins, Mr. Jung will transfer his stock to Mr. Yoon. If Mr. Yoon wins, Mr. Jung gives his stock to Mr. Yoon, the dealer says. Mr. Yoon is Hye-rin’s father, Chairman Yoon Jae-yong (Park Geun-hyung).

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After the cards are dealt and it’s time to show their hands, Mr. Jung places his last card face up on the table. Chairman Yoon stands up without speaking, bows, and walks away. Mr. Jung stands up too. He begins inspecting the contracts, then he glances at Chairman Yoon’s cards, one of which is still laying face down where the Chairman left it. Almost as an afterthought, he decides to have a look at it. When he turns it over, he’s stricken. He lost the game.

The scene begins alternating between Chairman Yoon’s home, where his family is celebrating Hye-rin’s birthday, and the takeover of a casino. The men were gambling for ownership and control of a casino. Even though Chairman Yoon won, Mr. Jung is not letting it go without a fight.

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As the Yoon family prepares for the birthday celebration, Chairman Yoon’s men arrive outside the casino. A bus loaded with gangsters drives straight through a wall. The gangsters on board stream out and start to destroy the hotel and attack the patrons. Meanwhile, at the Yoon home, Hye-rin’s mom looks as if something is wrong. She clutches her chest and falls as the gangsters finally complete the takeover.

Hye-rin’s mom is resting in bed by the time Chairman Yoon gets a call with an update on the situation there. Hye-rin peeks in at him as he talks. He’s inquiring after the dealer his men found working at Mr. Jung’s (former) casino. He tells his man to bring the dealer to see him because the dealer may be of some use to them. His mind is already moving forward, planning out the day-to-day operations of his new business.

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Unfortunately for him, Mr. Jung is not quite done putting up a fight. When Hye-rin leaves school one day, there’s a gangster waiting for her. She tries to walk pass, but he kidnaps her. She sits in a dark room as her kidnapper and some other men play a game of cards. He warns her to “say her prayers” and we see a teenaged boy among them who looks at her sympathetically as Mr. Jung walks into the room.

Word reaches Chairman Yoon that Hye-rin has been kidnapped, and he quickly figures out that this is Mr. Jung’s doing. Mr. Jung has left a message that he’ll call at seven.  Chairman Yoon doesn’t want to just wait around until then, but his men assure him that they’re working to find out where Mr. Jung and his men are keeping Hye-rin. Hye-rin’s brother is outside the office looking in morosely. When Chairman Yoon sees him, he warns him not to breathe a word about the situation to his mother.

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When Mr. Jung calls, Chairman Yoon is remarkably cool. He lets the phone ring a few times before picking it up. Then he asks to speak with Hye-rin and she’s just as dumbstruck as I am when he tells her that he won’t cooperate with Mr. Jung to get her back. “If I get you back by doing as they demand, they’ll just kidnap you again later. So I’m not doing anything they ask me,” he says. Mr. Jung says they’ll kill Hye-rin and we see tears streaming down her face as she listens. The thugs snatch the phone from her and Chairman Yoon tells Mr. Jung that daughters are raised to get married off to someone else. “I’ll just pretend she went overseas and got married a little early,” he says and hangs up.

Hye-rin’s brother hears this and looks horrified. He starts calling for his mom and runs upstairs (and omg, I just realized it’s a young Heo Jung-min!).

Chairman Yoon looks pained/sad/psychotic after the phone call. His wife comes down the steps calling out for Hye-rin. She grabs her chest and falls when she’s almost at the bottom. Chairman Yoon sees her fall and gets angry with his son and slaps him. Medical staff are taking mom to an awaiting ambulance outside when Chairman Yoon gets word that his men have found Hye-rin.

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Perhaps aware that Chairman Yoon will be able to find them, the kidnappers move Hye-rin to a more remote area in their hideout. One of the gangsters approaches her and creepily pushes the hair back from her face. Someone hits him from behind, and he grabs his shoulder and turns around. He gets hit again and this time he goes down. It’s the teen boy who looked at Hye-rin so sympathetically earlier. He has a pipe in his hand and signals for her to be quiet. Then he unties her hands from behind her back. She runs and hides, scared of him too, but he holds his hands in the air in front of her. She sinks to the ground in relief that she’s safe, and he sits down too.

He’s roused when he hears loud bangs and shouts from his former gang. They are trying to break in and get to Hye-rin. He can only barricade the door for so long though. Eventually they break through and attack him. Hye-rin gets hurts too, but luckily Chairman Yoon’s men arrive just in time.

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One of her father’s men is carrying her away when she sees the teen lying on the ground. She looks at him as her father comes running down the stairs calling her name. He holds his arms out to her expecting her to embrace him. His man even puts her down for her to go to her father, but she refuses to move toward him. She looks at her dad and the teen lying motionless on the ground and chooses to go to the boy instead. Her father stands there hurt and shocked (although I don’t know how he didn’t see that one coming) until he slowly lowers his arms.

Back at the hospital, Chairman Yoon walks out of his wife’s room and past his two children without saying a word. When they see him, they run into the room but can only stand and stare through the glass window as their mom’s face is covered with a sheet. Chairman Yoon sinks into a chair and hangs his head.

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When Hye-rin gets home from school one day, she sees the boy who saved her talking with her father in his office. His name is Baek Jae-hee (Lee Jung-jae). He’s eighteen and used to be one of Mr. Jung’s up and coming talents. Chairman Yoon asks what made him call them that day? (So he’s how they found out where Hye-rin was.) He looks toward Hye-rin’s hiding spot behind a wall. It’s not clear if he sees her, but Chairman Yoon continues questioning him. He asks what Jae-hee wants and offers to send him oversees to study or give him a position in any of his numerous businesses. Jae-hee says he just wants to work for Chairman Yoon. Chairman Yoon leans down and whispers in his employee’s ear and we see that Jae-hee eventually begins martial arts training.

One day Hye-rin comes home from school and sees a man in her father’s office begging for more time. He gets on his knees as he asks for just one more month. Chairman Yoon’s attorney, Lawyer Min (Kim Jong-kyeol), is in the office too.  He reads his paper ignoring Chairman Yoon and their guest. As the guest implores Chairman Yoon to consider his son, who will die if they can’t pay his medical bills, Lawyer Min stands up and tells the man to just sign the document he thrusts his way. The camera pans to Chairman Yoon who is reading paperwork with his back turned and isn’t even listening to the begging man.

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Hye-rin goes to the yard and sits on a swing deep in thought. Two employees drag the begging man away as he screams that he’ll get Chairman Yoon back for this one day. Jae-hee comes out and puts a coat over Hye-rin’s shoulders. He stands there for a moment and then walks away. The camera spins around Hye-rin multiple times until it’s the adult Hye-rin (Go Hyun-jung) sitting on the swing. Jae-hee comes and puts a jacket on her shoulder and tells her that her father is waiting.

She arrives at a restaurant with her father and Jae-hee. Jae-hee goes to the bar and looks in on them as Chairman Yoon introduces his daughter to the various politicians and businessmen in the room. Eventually Hye-rin leaves her dad with his colleagues and wanders into an area where there are some young people playing pool. She starts to play darts alone until one of the guys in the room invites her to play pool with them. He tells her he’ll teach her the game if she’s never played before.

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There’s no need to teach her a thing though. She’s on the verge of beating him when one guy sneakily prepares to interrupt her next shot to prevent her from winning. But good old Jae-hee comes behind him and leads him away before he can make his move. She doesn’t even realize Jae-hee saved her as she smiles sweetly at her opponent and asks if he wants to play again.

Spring 1976

Hye-rin is at university now. She’s walking with some friends as the uni staff work to remove protest posters and flyers from around campus. After she bids her friends goodbye, she almost collides with another student. He looks frantic and keeps looking behind him as if he’s being followed. It’s Jung Un-gyong! He makes a split second decision and surprises her by shoving his carrying case into her hands and running away. Hye-rin is confused until she sees two men coming up the steps below her and realizes they’re after the student who just gave her his carrying case.

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She runs into a nearby building and looks into the bag. There’s a paper inside with “Voice of the People” written on it. She finds Un-gyong’s passport too and that’s how she figures out who he is and where to find him.  She tracks him down in a classroom working on a protest sign. He easily guesses that she’s a new student. He says he can tell by how the red letters surprised her and we see part of the message on the banner he’s working on has “Yushin Regime” on it in red paint.

That is Hye-rin’s introduction to the opposition movement. She quickly becomes immersed. She smuggles anti-regime posters and flyers around campus and distributes materials to students and other activists throughout her day. She’s careful to avoid being caught, but it’s apparent she’s not careful enough.

Her dad sends for her one day, and when she goes home he tells her he’s spoken with Chang To-shik. Her name is among a list of students who have been demonstrating against the government. She insists it’s just a study group, but he confronts her with flyers and asks if they’re from the group. She acknowledges that they are, and he demands that she quit. She doesn’t want to quit though and defends her actions, saying she’s learning things that aren’t taught in class, like who’s helping and who’s hurting society. He asks what the group would say about someone like him, and she tells him he’s one of the people hurting society. He wants her chauffeured to and from school from now on and tells his secretary to look into some study abroad programs to send her away. She goes to her room, packs, and leaves the house instead.

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Woo-suk is at the rooming house cooking when Hye-rin arrives. She says she’s moving in. The landlord welcomes her and shows her to her room. She tells Woo-suk she moved because there were too many people living in her small house, then she asks if he can see about getting her a part-time job.


This drama holds up amazingly well for being almost twenty years old. I’ve been talking about the stellar performances from the cast. That is a major part of what is so appealing about this drama. But the writing is great too. On an entertainment level, I love what they are doing with Chairman Yoon in making him so unrelentingly calculating (except in regards to his wife), but as a human being I find him frighteningly sociopathic. While I can certainly understand the logic behind what he said to Hye-rin, it’s just wrong on so many levels. To tell your child who you voluntarily brought into this world and have a duty to love and protect that you may have to let them die for the principal of things is so sick and cruel.

And my issues may be totally shining through, but as much as I can see the foundations for totally loving Jae-hee, I also kind of dislike him already. Can we not do another hired thug in love with the boss’ daughter or the silent background guy who will do whatever to protect his charge?  Ugh.


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Sandglass: Episode 1 Recap

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