It’s late at night when Park Tae-soo and a group of prisoners arrive at one of the military’s correctional education facilities. From the looks of things, their “education” will involve getting brutal beatings from soldiers. After their beating, the commanding officer tells them they are the garbage of society and one of its most virtuous institutions, the military, has been entrusted to recycle the trash. He encourages the prisoners to cooperate so they can be reborn and returned to society.

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The soldiers then escort them to their sleeping quarters. The commanding officer tells them it’s the start of the process of cleansing their hearts and minds. He points to one of the prisoners and tells the prisoner to come forward. When the prisoner stands up as ordered, the officer kicks him in the chest, knocking him to the ground. The prisoner fights back and the other soldiers on duty attack him. Tae-soo is visibly shocked by what he sees, and he jumps in to defend the prisoner. A soldier gives him a hard hit with a baton and he goes down. He’s so hurt from the blow that he can’t get back up.

When he comes to the next morning, he’s on the floor in a cell.  He sees someone lying beside him.  It’s the prisoner he helped the night before. Tae-soo helps the guy sit up and introduces himself. He asks the prisoner if he remembers him. Ah, so Tae-soo recognized the guy. It’s the head gangster from No Joo-myung’s crew! His name is Jung In-jae. (He’s the guy Tae-soo beat up in Episode 1 at the political rally. Recall also that Jong-do stabbed him after the gang faced off with him at the take over of Mr. Oh’s casino in Episode 4.)

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Suddenly shots ring out and they take cover, wondering what the heck is going on. The cell doors open and light floods in as a soldier steps inside. The solider takes them outside where the prisoners are kneeling in long lines waiting for a barber at the front of the line to shave their heads.

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Kang Woo-suk has a visitor at the military base where he’s stationed. When he gets to the visitor’s hall, he’s surprised to see that it’s Yoon Hye-rin. She tells him about Tae-soo and says she turned to him as a last resort because so far all she’s been able to find out is that Tae-soo received a level B sentence.

Woo-suk asks if her father had anything to do with Tae-soo’s sentence. She tells him yes. She says it was her fault though because she told her father to his face she was going to marry Tae-soo. Woo-suk is surprised to hear this and asks Hye-rin if the pair was really engaged. She shakes her head yes, and he takes her hand and sees the ring Tae-soo gave her. He stops her when she starts to explain how she got the ring. He already knows it was Tae-soo’s mother’s ring.

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He stands up and walks away to think. Hye-rin gives him some space at first, but after a while she follows him. She tells him she knows he never wanted to see her again. She almost didn’t have the courage to visit, but he was once a friend to Tae-soo and her, and she hopes he can help them. He agrees to ask for leave and see what he can do. He just needs her to find out the location of Tae-soo’s retraining center in the meantime.

From the looks of things at the retraining camp, their help can’t come soon enough. Each day the soldiers make the prisoners do exhausting drills under a barrage of blows from their batons. The soldiers beat the prisoners whether they’re working hard or not and no matter how well they’re doing on the drills

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At mealtime, the prisoners eat heartily. One day, Tae-soo and the others are eating when In-jae sees someone he knows among a new batch of prisoners being brought into the facility. He jumps up and pushes pass a guard to hurry to the hallway. He has a limp though and it impedes his ability to move very fast. In the hallway, he puts his hand on the shoulder of one of the prisoners and calls out “Hyungnim.” The prisoner turns around and it’s No Joo-myung! His boss is in the same “retraining program” as he is now. The guards surround him before long though and he gets a violent beating for his insubordination.

Woo-suk has obtained leave by then and visits his former commander, Officer Ma, who is currently stationed at one of the retraining camps. Tae-soo is not at his camp, but he tells Woo-suk even if he was it’s not easy getting a prisoner released, especially if the prisoner is a real criminal. Most of the prisoners are normal people who are wrongfully imprisoned, he says—a teacher, an opposition party member, someone picked up for singing a song after drinking, etc. If it’s possible to get him out of the camp, he thinks Woo-suk should do it. If not, Tae-soo will be lucky if he can still walk after six months of labor camp, he says. He tells Woo-suk there may be a way to get Tae-soo out, but it’s a secret (which we don’t get to hear).

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The scene shifts to people gambling at a slot machine operation. Chang To-shik and Chairman Yoon are meeting with Kang Tong-hwan, who apparently is a top ranking government official whom Chairman Yoon routinely bribes. Chairman Yoon is pushing to get into the slot machine business, which Chang explains the Chairman will use to funnel money to the government as a sort of national endowment.

After the meeting, Chairman Yoon and Lawyer Min leave to work on raising money for the new operation. Chang stays behind with Mr. Kang, who asks Chang what Chairman Yoon really wants from them. Chang tells him the Chairman will need to secure the proper licenses to run the slot machine operation. He’ll need capital as well so he probably needs help from a bank. Mr. Kang agrees to do whatever needs to be done to move forward. However, he tells Chang to ensure the operation is not under Chairman Yoon’s name. Chang should give Chairman Yoon enough to keep him happy, but one of their guys should have majority ownership.

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Chang introduces Chairman Yoon to the government’s designated straw man over a game of golf. His name is Park Seung-chol and he tells Chang, Mr. Kang and the Chairman that he has no problem with them using his name as the record owner of the new venture. He does have one condition though—he doesn’t want any decision-making authority or to be involved in the day-to-day operations.

After the meeting, Lawyer Min fills Chairman Yoon in on Park Seung-chol’s history. According to Lawyer Min, Mr. Park is a director in a public corporation, but he spent the majority of his career in the military in frontline units. Lawyer Min thinks Chang recommended Mr. Park as opposed to someone more influential because Mr. Park spent his career away from the policy makers and doesn’t have connections. He also thinks Mr. Park will be satisfied with whatever he makes in the deal.

When they get back to the Yoon household, Chairman Yoon tells Lawyer Min they need to reconsider their plans. He agrees that they need a figurehead for the slot machine operation, but he’s not sure Mr. Park is the right man to use.

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As he walks down the hall to his office, he passes Oh Jong-do, who has been waiting to meet him. After he finishes his conversation about Mr. Park, he asks Lawyer Min who Jong-do is and why he’s waiting. Lawyer Min tells him Jong-do used to be one of Tae-soo’s men and masterminded the Gold Star Hotel Casino takeover. The Chairman realizes he’s the one who doublecrossed Tae-soo. He doesn’t feel like meeting Jong-do, but he tells Lawyer Min to put him in charge of the casino for now and get him involved in the slot machine business later.

He puts his hand on his chest and grimaces a bit then he takes some medicine. (Uh-oh, is this foreshadowing heart trouble?) He laments that Hye-rin met Tae-soo before he did. He thinks Tae-soo has all the attributes Jong-do lacks and says it’s a shame things turned out this way.

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At the purification prison, the men do more drills while the guards continue to beat them whether they’re doing well or not. There’s a particularly hard scene to watch where the guards cruelly beat them for no reason at all. Afterwards, Tae-soo is lying on the floor in a cell when he gets a visitor. He’s practically unconscious and the guards toss a bucket of water on him to rouse him. It barely shocks him, but he does manage to roll over onto his back. It must be freezing in the room because steam flows from his mouth as he breathes.

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Tae-soo goes to the visitor’s room and Woo-suk is there to see him. The emotion running through Tae-soo’s face is palpable. He’s clearly glad to see his friend, but he manages to maintain his composoure. Woo-suk is visibly affected by seeing Tae-soo though. He stares at his friend and when Tae-soo starts to lift his hand for a hand shake he steps forward to embrace him. He holds onto Tae-soo for a long time and a tear falls from one of Tae-soo’s eyes.

Later, Tae-soo eats hungrily as Woo-suk looks on. He’s self-conscious about how he’s tearing into the food. He’s only been there for two weeks, he says, but he’s become an animal in that time. He spends his time counting the days because his stay there ends in four weeks, but they may send him somewhere else at the end of the month. Woo-suk tells him Hye-rin found out where he was being held. Tae-soo stops eating for a moment. He realizes that’s how Woo-suk knew about his imprisonment and asks how she is. Woo-suk tells him Hye-rin is worried about him and blames herself because her father is connected to his arrest and sentence.

Woo-suk asks Tae-soo if he knows what will happen after the four-week program. Tae-soo has no idea. He knows he may have to do six months of public service, but he can’t stand to think that far ahead. Woo-suk tells him he may be able to bribe a prison official to get him released, but Tae-soo thinks Woo-suk is too upright to resort to bribing someone. Woo-suk surprises Tae-soo though by saying he wants to at least try.

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Hye-rin makes a deal to work for her father in exchange for a loan. She gives the money to Woo-suk and they go to Officer Ma’s station. Hye-rin waits nearby and watches as Woo-suk thanks Officer Ma for his help. Officer Ma gets on a bicycle and pedals away and Woo-suk starts walking toward Hye-rin. She smiles at him initially, but he stops walking and just stares at her and her smile fades. He walks away leaving her on the sidewalk. (Does that mean they won’t be able to get Tae-soo out? I’m confused.)

Back at the retraining camp, Tae-soo and In-jae are in the midst of more drills when Tae-soo tells In-jae it may be possible to make a deal for early release if they can bribe the officials during their interviews. They have to stop their conversation when a guard comes their way to avoid being hit. Luckily the guard overlooks them, but the poor elderly man next to Tae-soo is not so fortunate. He’s struggled throughout the camp and one of the guards attacks him.

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That night the elderly guy dies, and the officers carry his body away on a stretcher. When the commanding officer comes in to inspect the men, In-jae stands up and asks if he can speak with him alone. They walk outside together and Tae-soo looks on in alarm as he sees In-jae kneeling at the officer’s feet.

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The next morning, the prisoners get a new member added to their platoon. It’s No Joo-myung. (So In-jae must have asked the commanding officer to put Joo-myung in their unit.) In-jae approaches him as soon as they’re alone and takes his sack from him to unpack. Tae-soo goes up to Joo-myung too and bows, but Joo-myung ignores him. When Tae-soo tries to help get Joo-myung get settled in, In-jae tells him to stay out of his business from now on. He wants Tae-soo to pretend he doesn’t know them because Joo-myung is his responsibility

In-jae takes his commitment to Joo-myung seriously, but unfortunately it catches the attention of the officers. An officer sees In-jae helping Joo-myung when the prisoners are digging a trench and Joo-myung gets lightheaded. So he gathers the unit outside the next day and calls In-jae and Joo-myung to the front of the group for “attitude readjustment training.” He says he’s going to cut the bonds that make In-jae a lackey to Joo-myung.

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He forces Joo-myung to refer to himself as a pig and he makes him get down on his hands and knees and crawl around squealing like a pig. In-jae tries to intervene but the other officers beat him with their batons and hold him back. He cries and screams as Joo-myung crawls around oinking.

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Tae-soo watches it all and gets angrier and angrier until he leaves his place in line and starts walking forward.  And I’m dying here.  Can’t you mind your own business just once Tae-soo?  Ugh. Tae-soo attacks the officers and has the upperhand until the commander pulls out a gun and points it at him

Finally, it’s the end of the correctional education month and the prisoners gather to hear whether they will be among the ones released. The men whose names are called are overjoyed and eagerly line up to leave the facility. The ones who remain inside are visibly morose. It looks like In-jae and Joo-myung will be staying.  They are among the group that returns to the prisoners’ sleeping quarters.

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Soon after the prisoners return, an officer drags a totally battered and bruised Tae-soo through the doors. The officer lets him go and Tae-soo falls to the ground. He’s completely unable to stand. In-jae runs to him and cradles his head in his arms. Tae-soo’s right eye is swollen shut and the left side of his face has a large contusion. He’s in rough shape indeed.


I think it goes without saying that I really feel for the prisoners in the retraining programs as the brutality of the scenes is hard to watch. But I have to admit a part of me chuckled as I watched the drills they were doing. I’ve actually paid instructors to torture me with the same drills at my boot camp fitness classes (minus the beatings of course). So as I watched the scenes, a part of me was horrified while another part of me thought about what a great workout they were getting. This is probably why my shallow side should not be allowed to watch serious dramas, lol.

All jokes aside though, I did have two very different feelings watching the way the prisoners were treated. On the one hand, I firmly believe Tae-soo, In-jae and Joo-myung deserve to be in prison. I know Tae-soo is a central character and he may very well be a good guy underneath it all, but the fact of the matter is he has committed some very atrocious crimes. He harms innocent people for a living and operates illegal businesses so he should be punished and I’d like nothing better than for him and his associates to be behind bars.

But does that mean he and the others deserve to be treated the way the officers are treating them? Absolutely not. Which is why on the other hand, I can’t stand to see him locked up and so horrifically abused. Here’s to hoping Woo-suk’s connections come through and our anti-hero walks free soon.

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4 thoughts on “Sandglass: Episode 11 Recap

  1. Hi Elle, Coffee Prince will always be a kdrama classic. I referenced it in my Roommate post this week in honor of Kang Joon’s Barista skills extraordinaire at Young-ji’s parents’ coffee shop. I’ve suggested it as a first kdrama experience to two friends and, of course, they both loved it and have never looked back (sorry for supplying an addiction). How are you liking maintaining a blog?

    • Hi Cimi! Another CP aficionado, yay! I will have to check out your post on Roommate later for sure. I was just on your blog the other day reading some of your older posts. Did you ever finish the pics of the EXO members? I’d never heard of them until I saw your drawings of them, but I suddenly became curious and wanted to see your take on the whole group.

      Re: the blog–So far I am enjoying it a lot. I am still woefully clueless on the tech stuff but I’ve accepted that I will have to learn over time. And the posts take wayyyy longer than I ever imagined. But I like writing and having the chance to write again (even if it’s just summarizing someone else’s work) is great. An unexpected benefit is I have looked around the blogosphere a little more and found some truly wonderful blogs. I’m happy to be among such great company. I’d rate my experience so far as a win/win. How are things going w/you!?

      • And I see I replied on the post above Coffee Prince, heh. On my blog format, the comments ARE on top of the post, so it can get confusing. I haven’t finished the EXO group pics, although I have pics of D.O., Chanyeol (stylized, also with Mama Shin from Roommate, Luhan (who left along the Kris, so…) , Kai and Tao together, Chen, and Xuimin. They are all in my kpop fan art gallery. The gallery isn’t organized the way I’d like it, but as you noted, all this takes WAY more time that I ever expected, too. My Roommate posts aren’t even recaps, really, just highlights and my comments on my take. Real recaps – whoa, I can’t imagine the time it burns. I also like coming across other blogs, and yes – there are so many good ones! I am due for a drawing or two. Again, the posts take up free time that I used to use for drawing time, so I have to find a better balance with that. After all, the blog was intended as a place to display the kpop kdrama art I do. It’s fun, though!

      • Glad you’re having fun! That’s the point of it all anyway. I will check out your Kpop fan art gallery next. I’m sure you’ll introduce me to some new artists.

        When you figure out how to balance things, let me know. I’m in desperate need of finding that happy medium too. So far I only know how to sleep less, but I’m sure that won’t last long.

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