Once in a while, K-drama gods gift us with storylines that require little to no emotional investment with relatable characters and scenes that seem to reflect our own lives. It’s not that rare, really, but these K-drama gems are underrated, and therefore, appeal to only a handful of people. I can name top-of-mind dramas belonging to the same slice-of-life classification like Because This is My First Life, Age of Youth, Misaeng, Be Melodramatic, and When The Weather is Fine. All of these could be categorized into a more specific genre such as melodrama, romance, youth-centric but they have one common denominator – a no-nonsense plot told in the most honest narrative. I never thought I could include Run On in the same group as these dramas because first, I thought it would be a light romantic comedy. (You know the Oh My Venus and She Was Pretty type?) I thought they would even go the “pretend relationship” route. And I’m glad to say I was wrong. Heck, the life lessons that the writer wanted to impart were very impressive for an inaugural drama.
Life Lessons by Oh Mi-joo
Run On was about Im Si-wan’s character Ki Sun-gyeom. Everything revolved around him. He had a connection to almost all characters in this drama universe. But what made this series going was Shin Se-kyung’s character Oh Mi-joo. She’s a feisty heroine who already got her full circle in life and doesn’t need character development anymore. She’s not perfect as a person, but she’s not a Candy, either. I know some of you may compare her to Ahn Jeong-ha of Record of Youth, but damn, that character’s potential was wasted on so many levels. Going back to Oh Mi-joo, Shin Se-kyung’s portrayal of this delicate character was remarkable. I have seen a lot of Shin Se-kyung dramas, and this one is her best yet. Mi-joo knows what she wants and always stands her ground, especially in difficult situations. This is also why she’s the perfect plot device for the character development of the main lead Ki Sun-gyeom. She’s not only Sun-gyeom’s love interest; she’s also his rock. She paved the way for his self-discovery, and she taught him the value of self-love. I know the drama wanted us to believe that it’s Ki Sun-gyeom’s universe, but I believe it’s Oh Mi-joo who’s the main character here.
Case in point: most believable break-up scene in K-drama history. I used to hate noble idiots as a trope but gosh, Mi-joo’s monologue, when she was breaking up with Sun-gyeom, was jjang! Her points were all valid. She’s always been living alone, and if there’s anyone whose life is most important for her, it’s her own self. But you know what? That’s just the second most admirable part of that break-up scene. The best thing about that moment was that they were actually talking! This drama’s main couple was discussing their thoughts and feelings, and not just wait for them to erupt in the most immature way. They talked about their problems as an individual and as a couple. Sun-gyeom didn’t blame Mi-joo for backing out, he gave her time to organize her thoughts and think it through. It was painful, but it was a very mature way of dealing with things. Isn’t it refreshing??
Strong, independent CEO Seo Dan-ah
Another thing that I love about Run On is that it’s led by superior heroines who bring the light in every scene they’re in. CEO Seo Dan-ah is my favorite character in the drama. She has some daddy issues, and she’s still finding her spotlight in her family, but she’s not your fish out of the water character. She’s not the typical heels-wearing chaebol princess who labels everyone with their monetary value. She may still be the entitled brat who seems to have this annoying barrier that separates her from the peasants of society, but at least her sneaker-wearing persona means that she’s a lot different than the ones we are used to knowing in K-dramas. Not to mention the bizarre friendship that formed between her and Mi-joo. Her love line with Lee Young-hwa (Kang Tae-oh) was also cute and not just some typical noona romance full of thrill and adventure. It’s doomed from the start, and they both know it. They were realistic about it, and even though Young-hwa wanted to fight for her, he knew his place and that’s what makes him such a perfect love interest. I love how he recognized Dan-ah as his first love and his dream. He and Dan-ah could still end up together in the future as a legit couple and not as getaway lovers, I hope.
Dan-ah’s ending as the “VP” and not the President was actually a good one. Remember when Young-hwa said that if a dream is too impossible to achieve for now, one must focus on short-term goals while working on your greater dream? Yes, that’s what Dan-ah’s approach in settling for this second place. I know she hasn’t given up on chasing her main dream, but it’s the baby steps that matter. She’s on her way.
Role Reversals and Gender Sensitivity
Aside from the slice-of-life nature, Run On was also able to raise timely issues. We are now seeing a rise in strong female characters in K-drama, but Run On made a slight twist in its execution. In the drama, it’s the females who took the lead in the relationship. Both Mi-joo and Dan-ah were driving the wheel but it didn’t feel like they were commanding over their respective partners. There was equilibrium in both relationships, and even though Mi-joo and Dan-ah both seemed like they got the upper hand, it’s still a two-way street when it comes to communication. They were both teaching their partners how to be independent not just in directing their own lives, but also in recognizing their unique feelings. Young-hwa was able to learn more about himself through art while Sun-gyeom managed to find his purpose after quitting his career. These men were focused on only one thing before meeting their respective partners – Young-hwa’s art and Sun-gyeom’s sport – and love guided them into finding self-worth and self-improvement.
Lastly, I liked how Run On was able to inject a bit of gender sensitivity in the drama. The cute plot twist about Young-hwa’s best friend Go Ye-jun (Kim Dong-young) was unexpected! At least for me. I think they handled it pretty well. The mother had her own episode of hurt and denial but at least she accepted her son. And most importantly, I never felt any judgment on Young-hwa’s part during the confession scene! I have to admit though that Dan-ah was annoying for outing Ye-jun so abruptly in public! Good thing no one was there and she apologized eventually for her insensitivity.
Rediscovering life with Sun-gyeom
As I said, the drama’s main character was Sun-gyeom through and through. It was just the girls who got the spotlight (and rightfully so). But we were all watching Sun-gyeom’s life unfold before us along with the other subplots in the story. I thought we will see Sun-gyeom’s transformation from being an athlete to an agent at the first half of the drama. It’s my fault for thinking that this was going to be a fast-paced series, but witnessing Sun-gyeom learn the hard way was satisfying in the end. He learned to stand on his own, protect his loved ones, and decide for himself what does he really want.
Before his decision to pursue this new career path, the journey to self-reintroduction was very hard for him. His reticence was only made worse by his family background. He grew up in a privileged environment but he was not an entitled brat. And when he stood ground during the incident with Woo-sik (Lee Jeong-hwa), it only made sense that he would eventually become his sports agent. I’m glad that he did accept the offer to enter Dan-ah’s agency and not work independently because he still got a lot to master in the industry. His determination and compassion for his athlete could help him learn the ropes and improve his negotiation skills. It’s just sad we won’t be able to see this new chapter in Sun-gyeom’s life.
Run On didn’t have the trending actors and actresses as its main leads, but it sure made its mark. I’m not saying that Im Si-wan, Shin Se-kyung, and Choi Soo-young are mediocre actors, but they’re not A-listers – admit it or not. It just pains me that this is such a gem and nobody’s talking about it except the fans of the actors/actresses. I sincerely hope this drama got the attention it deserved when it aired, and may the viewers not judge the drama by its lead stars, but by the story it wants to convey.
🏃 I will miss the drunken nights of these two ~forced~ friends!
🏃 Aside from the girl power, I’m going to miss the hyung-dongsaeng bromance between Sun-gyeom and Yeong-hwa.
🏃 Dan-ah’s little brother Seo Tae-woong (Choi Jae-hyun) is a cutie, too. Made me think if idols his age act the same IRL 🤔 I was legit laughing at the “Slam Dunk” reference during his first meeting with Yeong-hwa! Their constant bicker could pass as Sakuragi and Rukawa!
Grumpy tidbit: Seo Tae-woong and Kang Baek-ho are the names for the Korean version of Hanamichi Sakuragi and Kaede Rukawa from the hit manga Slam Dunk.
🏃 Kim Seon-ho’s cameo was the most random thing that happened in the series, but we welcome it! I was just honestly hoping he was Eun-bi’s Ryan! 💔
🏃 Most unexpected twist in the story goes to May and Jeong biso!
🏃 @maknaeahjumma and I had fun watching Swoon’s short clip of movie references from the drama. How many did you spot?
🏃 Thank you for a very chill run, Run On!