K-Drama Review: ‘She Would Never Know’: Balance Between Job and Love

Edited by Seo Hae Lan
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

As you can guess from the title, She Would Never Know (literal title is Senior, Don’t Put on That Lipstick), based on the web novel of the same name, is a heart-throbbing romance that begins with a cheeky remark from a hoobae (junior) who didn’t like his sunbae’s (senior) lipstick. If a handsome hoobae who seems to have just pop out of the comic book keeps showing up calling his senior “sunbae” every time, the viewers will also have to hold back their pounding hearts. Yet, this drama tries to show more than the romance between a man and a woman.

Credit: JTBC

Hyun Seung, a rookie marketer at a cosmetics company, has a crush on his boss Song Ah. The moment he makes up his mind to ask her out, he realizes that she is in a secret relationship with team manager Jae Shin. But behind her back, Jae Shin is preparing his marriage with Hyo Joo, the granddaughter of the company’s founder. After learning about Jae Shin’s betrayal from Hyun Seung, Song Ah falls into despair, and Hyun Seung suggests that she go out with him to end her relationship with Jae Shin. She holds his hands out of a desperate mind, but Hyun Seung, who was nothing but an “adorable hoobae,” walks into her heart little by little.

The drama itself is an office romance with romance between coworkers, but it focuses on Song Ah and Hyun Seung’s feelings for each other rather than incidents. These feelings are included within Hyun Seung’s eyes as he stares into Song Ah, Song Ah’s expression whenever Hyun Seung cares for her, Hyun Seung’s happy dance after he heard that Song Ah refused the offer to work at an overseas branch and Song Ah’s smile looking at him. However, Song Ah, Hyung Seung, Jae Shin, and Hyo Joo’s intertwined love square have not yet been fully revealed. Hyung Seung and Jae Shin got into a fistfight, and Jae Shin’s decision pulled the plug on his senior-junior relationship with Song Ah, but no other notable incident was unfolded. Their complicated relationships will most likely appear at the forefront when Hyo Joo learns the truth.

Credit: JTBC

As an entire novel was adapted into a 16-part drama, more storytelling for the characters has been added. Although Song Ah and her mother’s distant relationship caught the eye and more volume was put into Hyun Seung’s family, Jae Shin benefited the most from the adaptation. In an attempt to escape from his poor family, he grabbed onto his chaebol friend Jae Woon. He does his best to rise above others, but nevertheless, he is ignored by Jae Won and Hyo Joo’s grandfather and hurts his feelings when he has to clean up the mess his con-artist father made. Considering what he did to Song Ah, he is the dregs that can’t even be recycled, but we can’t help but sympathize with him from time to time.

The drama describes the characters’ work life, including marketers’ daily life and the good yet somewhat distant relationship between the coworkers. The chaebol heir also appears, but unlike other dramas, he is kind to his employees, shows off his leadership and tries to prove how he is worthy of inheriting the company. On the other hand, characters continue their love by going on a date while working overtime together, short flirting in the storage, going on a walk together during the business trip, or checking to see if they can spend time together on the weekend. If you expected romance to fill up an entire hour, then you would be disappointed as you see the characters working nonstop.

Credit: JTBC

The fact that the drama focuses on the complex emotions of characters as they balance work and love could work as both an advantage and disadvantage. Some viewers may complain that the plot is being dragged with no particular reason, while others may exclaim at the realistic portrayal of the balance. The story will end with Hyun Seung and Song Ah’s happy ending, but the drama has to sketch a beautiful journey to captivate the viewers. Though it has failed to draw out enthusiastic responses so far, I hope that it does not include provocative elements in its bid for a rebound. This hope may be a contradictory anticipation, but I sincerely hope that it keeps its unique emotional color, sometimes pink and sometimes light gray.

Credit: JTBC

This editor first learned about this drama thanks to actor and idol Rowoon. As a fan of Extraordinary You, I was delighted to watch another drama of him, but I was a bit concerned if he could do his parts surrounded by seniors. However, among all the actors, Rowoon certainly stands out the most. Of course, his gratifying visuals and perfect body figure builds up the image as a cute hoobae Chae Hyun Seung, but his impressive performance that infuses realism into “a hoobae who doesn’t exist in this world” is even more surprising. He will star in more works in the future, but I’m sure that Chae Hyun Seung from She Would Never Know will act as a turning point that made him into a real actor.

Verdict: A drama that chose lingering aftertaste instead of momentary excitement. If this suits your taste, then (6/10)

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