Over the weekend I wrapped up Chief Kim and found it a generally enjoyable view start to finish. If you liked History of a Salaryman, this might also be your cup of cha as there are similarities to the two, and I’ll explain that statement after the jump, without trying to give away too much of the plot (though some mild spoilers will occur).
This drama is all about the struggles of the ordinary workers, corporate shenanigans, and an unexpected hero in the form of ex-bookkeeper extraordinaire for the Gunsan mob – Kim Sung-ryong, the titular Chief Kim. Namgoong Min plays him with equal parts broad comedy – he’s surprisingly good at pratfalls – and sly intelligence. While he’s saddled with the worst haircolor possible for his skintone, he uses his musical voice to perfection as he schemes and manipulates and struggles with the burden of hero-dom that’s been accidentally thrust upon him.
Kim Sung-ryong leaves Gunsan when things heat up there and decides that, in order to make enough money to emigrate to Denmark (of all places) he needs to get employment at a big, mainstream corporation in Seoul where he might or might not be entirely straight with their books. This leads to his getting hired to work in an Accounting office of a major conglomerate, taking the place of a man who’s recently come under suspicion and is in the hospital, the result of a failed suicide. He’s not welcomed with open arms, this department is emotionally bruised by the inferred mistrust of their beloved Chief and of their own integrity, so it is not until Kim has the mantle of ‘hero’ thrust upon him that he gains a foothold. But things are never easy and his conscience begins to twitch.
The other newcomer to that same corporation is an ex-star prosecutor Seo Yul, played by 2PM’s Lee Junho as one tightly wound, greedy and impatient opportunist. He’s come to the corporation to Make His Mark and Chief Kim keeps getting in his way.
Nam Sang-mi is the female intermediary, but during the course of the drama there is little to no romance in this ‘triangle.’ She’s there as a voice of reason and decency, an emblem of the intelligent, hardworking, ethical salary man/woman. Yes, Seo Yul is smitten by her, and this attraction ultimately motivates him (at least in part) to rethink his ways, and this reminded me of the storyline in History of a Salaryman with the antagonist’s change in sides.
The battles for the salvation of the corporation (evil CEO and his greedy minions versus the loyalists and followers of his semi-invalid wife, former CEO – it’s her family’s business – and board member) are remniscent of Salaryman too, with moments of optimism, defeats, can-do attitudes, and occasional buffoonery. I think they could have done with a little less of this, but drawing out the battle allowed them time to give more to the sub-plot of including the ne-er-do-well son of the battling spouses in their efforts and how Chief Kim mentors him in the process. Those scenes with the heir, Park Myung-suk (played by Dong Ha), were often very touching and charming, and even thoughtful.
If you’re looking for something different, and not needing romance, give this one a try. At the very least you’ll be able to enjoy some fun anti-bromance scenes between Min and his hoobae Junho (and btw, they got on like a house on fire as you can see in the bts clips) and enjoy Min’s delicious baritone in the process!