Start-Up episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

By Daniel Hart
Published: October 17, 2020 (Last updated: November 24, 2023)
Previous ArticleView all
Start-Up K-Drama Season 1 Recap
Start-Up K-Drama Promo image courtesy of Netflix


Start-Up episode 1 is a well-written premiere; pulling at the heartstrings of the audience and bringing some thought-provoking characters who are all uniquely different.

This recap of Netflix K-drama series Start-Up episode 1 contains significant spoilers.

We will be recapping this weekly — check out the archive.

The opening

Netflix is buzzing with K-Drama original content at the moment with Record of Youth, Private Life and Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol all part of the weekly roster. The latest weekend K-Drama, Start-Up, is about a budding group of entrepreneurs but the premiere episode is more of an insightful character builder than a plot-specific opening.

The start of Start-Up shows the characters starting their day and getting ready for business. Won In-jae attends the Start-Up Relay lecture — she’s on stage taking questions — an audience member asks if she’s seen comments under her latest post. She laughs off the question by saying she has her haters. The audience then accuses her of not being self-made. Seo Dal-mi grabs the microphone and it causes a murmur in the crowd. She calls her “Seo In-jae” that confuses everyone. Won In-jae reiterates her supposed name.

15 years ago — the two sisters

Episode 1 shows Seo Dal-mi as a young girl and she’s in her bedroom with sister Seo In-jae. Downstairs, they can hear their parents intensely arguing and threatening divorce. A young Han Ji-pyeong is also shown before they all go to school. In-jae and Seo Dal-mi sneak into their father’s work. They see him getting beaten up by his boss. When they get home, their mother claims their father has to work no matter what. The father then returns home and asks for the divorce. The mother asks the two girls who they want to live with.

This gives context to the lecture — they are separated sisters from childhood.

15 years ago – Han Ji-pyeong

Episode 1 then shows a young Han Ji-pyeong check out an apartment that he wants to stay at — he tells the estate agent he’s come from an orphanage. In the evening, Han Ji-pyeong is desperate for a place still. In the pouring rain, a woman (Ms. Choi) in the streets offers him a place to stay. He eats like he hasn’t eaten in days. A teenage student living a life of poverty and hardship. In the place he stays overnight, he sees a tin of money but he does not steal it. He helps Ms Choi open a bank account.

Start-Up provides a mother-daughter relationship in a desperate situation that gives off warm vibes.

15 years ago – Han Ji-pyeong writes a letter for Dal-mi

At school, Seo Dal-mi accuses Han Ji-pyeong of following her and she runs to her grandma crying — she’s upset because her sister has run off with her mother. Han Ji-pyeong sees Seo Dal-mi crying at a distance and sympathizes. Her grandma is the same woman helping Han Ji-pyeong. Ms. Choi wants Han Ji-pyeong to write her granddaughter a letter to make her feel like she has a friend — he uses the name Nam Do-san.

15 years ago – Love letters and keeping the family unit safe

Seo Dal-mi is excited to receive a love letter from Nam Do-san and tells her father about it. Seo Dal-mi writes a reply. The two sisters keep seeing each other despite the traumatic family break-up. The father continues working hard to make a life for them all.

Seo In-jae tells Dal-mi that their mother has found a new man to marry. The sisters briefly argue about their different lives. In-jae accuses Dal-mi of choosing the wrong parent. This is the moment that Seo In-jae changed her name to Won In-jae and afterward, they fight.

The new K-Drama series sees a huge gulf between the sisters — they both disagree on what life they both want and it’s a broken sisterhood.

Present-day — the sisters reunited

The two sisters meet after the lecture. Dal-mi is wanting to start a business. She says she has a smart competent partner helping her — Nam Do-san. Won In-jae remembers that he is her pen pal. She invites Dal-mi to a networking event that will help her business idea — she wants her to bring Nam Do-san. Won In-jae walks off and thanks her sister for making her feel justified in her choice. She points out that her sister has scuffed shoes, an imaginary boyfriend, and still lives off grandma’s money.

This scene shows how both sisters still don’t meet eye-to-eye. It’s an unfortunate situation birthed by their broken family environment.

Dal-mi regrets lying

An angry Dal-mi gets in the way of Won In-jae’s car and tells her she will be going to the networking event and bringing Nam Do-san. Afterward, Dal-mi kicks herself for lying to her sister. She tries to look for a “Nam Do-san” on social media and then starts laughing hysterically at the bus stop. Han Ji-pyeong watches her from his car and wonders what’s wrong with her.

Dal-mi joins her grandma at the food van. Han Ji-pyeong seems to feel guilty at where Ms. Choi and Dal-mi have ended up.

15 years ago — new place but no money and a worthwhile investment

As well as the sisters getting the limelight in the premiere chapter, Han Ji-pyeong’s early life has some pivotal moments too.

Han Ji-pyeong signs for a place and wants to be the sole renter for the place. However, when he checks his bank account, it has been closed. Ms. Choi took out all the cash and gave it to Dal-mi’s father. She asks him to invest in his business idea and give her the shares. Moments later, Dal-mi’s father is run over by a car. He’s in a rush but he definitely needs the hospital as he continues to charge towards the investor meeting; he presents his business plan to investors — it’s a network of delivery restaurants on an app. The investors like the idea and they ask him to move forward with it.

At this point, we are witnessing a breakthrough for the sister’s father.

15 years ago — you took my money

Han Ji-pyeong is angry with Ms. Choi and leaves her place. He tells her that was his money. He regrets writing those letters and asks for his money back. Dal-mi’s grandmother comes out with a large bag of money and gives it to him explaining she never took his money. The money she gave to her son was hers.

Dal-mi rings her father. He tells her how hard he’s worked for success. Dal-mi is upset about her fight with her sister and asks for fried chicken with emotion in her voice. When her father says he will get some chicken, Dal-mi expresses her love for him. It goes to show how a father’s love can stretch way beyond trying to achieve a wealthy life — sometimes it is the little things.

15 years ago — an emotional farewell

Ms. Choi finds Han Ji-pyeong at the coach station. She asks him to call him if he ever goes through a rough patch. This hits Han Ji-pyeong hard — she’s been like a mother to him and you can see it etched on his face that he feels guilty over the money situation. He gets on the coach that is heading to Seoul but then he turns around and he wants to pay her back. Ms. Choi tells him to turn around and get on the bus — he hugs her before he departs.

15 years ago – an untimely death

Start-Up episode 1 provides a tragic moment that is emotionally impactful; even though it is the first episode it still hits hard which is indicative of the strong writing at play.

On the way home, Dal-mi’s father collapses on the bus. When he gets up he is struggling to speak properly and he’s slurring his words. Dal-mi narrates, talking about how much those letters meant to her during tough times as Han Ji-pyeong cries on the bus. The scene flits back to the bus and Dal-mi’s father has died. The fried chicken falls over the bus floor. He died just as he was about to embark on a successful life and provide for his family.

The ending

In the present day, Dal-mi is thanking her pen pal for being there for her that spring. Han Ji-pyeong helps Ms. Choi who is struggling with her food truck — she recognizes him and they share a hug. Dal-mi narrates that she wants Do-san to exist.

In the present day, a man named Nam Do-san has made a major development in facial recognition that he’s been creating. His friends celebrate with him.

Start-Up episode 1 is a well-written premiere; pulling at the heartstrings of the audience and bringing some thought-provoking characters who are all uniquely different.

Netflix, TV Recaps
Previous ArticleView all