K-Drama Review: ‘Backstreet Rookie’ Convenience Store Odyssey Delivered by Kim Yoo Jung and Ji Chang Wook

Credit: SBS

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: SBS

Webtoon-based drama Backstreet Rookie drew much attention with the meeting of Hallyu star Ji Chang Wook and Kim Yoo Jung, who has successfully taken off her images as a child actor. The drama tells the story of two people who once left a strong impression on each other, reuniting as a convenience store owner and a part-timer. Ji Chang Wook leads the story by playing Choi Dae Hyun, a handsome shopkeeper who always suffers a loss because of his naive nature, and Kim Yoo Jung plays Jung Saet Byu, who seems like a kind part-timers but is actually a girl with amazing fighting skills.

The highlight of Backstreet Rookie is the comical chemistry created between Saet Byul and Dae Hyun. Their problematic relationship dates back three years. It began when Saet Byul, a high school student back then, asked Dae Hyun to run an errand for cigarettes. That day, Saet Byul was left as a terrible troublemaker who only uses power to Dae Hyun, whereas Dae Hyun was imprinted as an unforgettable person who refused her request in a special way to Saet Byul.

The drama delightfully unfolds various “fusses” that occur when two people, who remember each other differently, work together. Many dynamic and comical episodes catch the eye: for example, there’s one when it was actually his family who took the money when Dae Hyun suspected Saet Byul to have stolen it from the store, or how Saet Byul and her friends’ drinking party was actually her “operation” to boost the store’s sales. The relationship between the two becomes a love-triangle as Dae Hyun’s girlfriend, Yoo Yeon Joo, who witnesses their friendly atmosphere whenever she visits the store, intervenes.

In addition, when good-hearted and timid Dae Hyun is in crisis because of rude customers, Saet Byul secretly resolves the problem by showing her “tough” side, marking a turning point. Dae Hyun, who only thought of firing Saet Byul because of the incident three years ago, reflects on his prejudice, signaling a closer and sweeter romance between the two.

Credit: SBS

As a webtoon-based drama, Backstreet Rookie highlights the lively production, and especially the parody of famous movies draws much attention. In the scene where high school student Saet Byul fights her rivals, a part of No Manners (2002) is shown, while in the scene where Dae Hyun’s parents, both from Busan, meets, “After the Play Is Over” scene from Friends (2001) is cited, giving a big laugh. Also, the parody of the Pulp Fiction (1994) dance scene, which adds to Saet Byul’s imagination after seeing Dae Hyun dance to endure his tedious work, reveals the emotions of the two along with a pleasant laugh.

However, the comical chemistry between Saet Byul and Dae Hyun, which gave a big laugh in the first half, gets less appealing due to repeated cliche patterns. After pitying Saet Byul, who lost her home after being scammed, Dae Hyun’s parents take her into their house, but the process doesn’t feel smooth. Even after the awkward process how the two end up in the same house, there are more obvious episodes, like how they encounter each other as they are changing clothes or how Yeon Joo, who has never visited the house before, stops by at the house at the time when Saet Byul is still present, are unfolded.

Credit: SBS

The use of some characters is also regrettable. Yeon Joo, Dae Hyun’s girlfriend and the daughter of a wealthy family, continues her love without showing off her background, but as soon as Saet Byul appears, her faith in her boyfriend wavers, shattering the immersion. Also, the appearance of Kang Ji Wook, a famous actor and Saet Byul’s childhood friend, feels sudden. I just hope that the drama will be more persuasive in dealing with Yeon Joo and Ji Wook, the indispensable characters for the sake of dramatic fun.

With six episodes left until the end of the drama, the relationship between Dae Hyun and Yeon Joo has become sour, and instead, Saet Byul’s unrequited love began to shine little by little. As the romantic atmosphere between Saet Byul and Dae Hyun started to heighten as the fact that her crush for him had started way before than 3 years was revealed, the relationship between Dae Hyun and Yeon Joo as the franchise owner and an employee of the franchiser is expected to deliver a new conflict. Leaving behind the regrets shown in the middle, I hope that the bubbly laughter and cheerful production shown at the beginning of the drama will continue until the end.

Verdict: Ji Chang Wook & Kim Yoo Jung’s 24-hour comical chemistry (6/10)

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