City Hunter Episode 1 Recap

City Hunter, the manga of my youth, has finally arrived in the incarnation of the K-drama of my adulthood. One episode in, it resembles the original CH in concept, story, and execution about as much as a…..ah heck, screw it with the analogies, it doesn’t resemble it in the slightest. So I shall never ever compare again, and henceforth watch a K-drama that just so happens to share the same name. With that said, episode 1 was not bad, but not enough to convince me the rest of the drama will be a solid revenge thriller.

Since CH trotted out the awesome duo of Park Sang Min and Kim Sang Joong to play the two daddies of Lee Min Ho, I was inspired to recap it for them. Yes, them badass ahjusshis are da bomb, and them (and their bromance) are what anchored the first episode for me. The young cast I shall reserve my opinion until they all show up. I do have niggling worry that Lee Min Ho is miscast, period. But heck, let’s get this baby rolling.

Episode 1 Recap:

A woman (played by Kim Mi Sook) is giving birth in a hospital. Two Korean secret service agents are awaiting the arrival of the President. We flash the date, October 9, 1983. Oh shit, City Hunter gotz balls, because the drama isn’t just making up some political catastrophe, it’s going gonzo. The date tells us that we are at the infamous and tragic Rangoon Assasination – where North Koreans attempted to assassinate the South Korean president during a visit to Burma (now Mynamar) and ended up killing a handful of the South Korean cabinet and other innocent bystanders.

The two agents, Park Moo Yul (played by Park Sang Min in a guest appearance) and Lee Jin Pyo (played by Kim Sang Joong), hear that the President is running late. As the President’s motorcade turns the corner and arrives at the destination, an unknown hand presses the bombs hidden in the building and kaboomb, we’ve got total devastation. The two agents walk through the aftermath of the bomb attack, looking at the destruction of dead bodies and torn limbs. The woman gives birth to a son, and faints when she hears news reports of the Rangoon bombing.

South Korea holds a public funeral for the deceased and a nation mourns. Five politicians sit around a table (in guest appearances by elder statesman actors, other than Chun Ho Jin as Choi Eung Chan). The men are pissed about the North Korean assassination attempt, and Eung Chan speaks up, asking if they want to retaliate. The men agree. I call this the roundtable of angry plotting.

Jin Pyo and Moo Yul are asked to assemble and lead a group of soldiers to infiltrate North Korea and assassinate twenty of their cabinet members – an eye for an eye, one for each dead in the Rangoon bombing. Moo Yul visits his wife in the hospital and holds his son for the first time. Jin Pyo thinks Moo Yul shouldn’t go, but Moo Yul insists on this mission. Choi Eung Chan visits the special team and makes a vow, a promise, that he will make sure they all come home. Yeah, I see a lying liar who lies right there, or at least a dude who is surely not going to keep that promise.

The special forces don North Korean uniforms and infiltrate Pyongyeong, the capital of North Korea. As the men are efficiently carrying out their mission, Eun Chang gets the news that the President has declared there will be no military support. During the mission, Moo Yul gets stabbed, and Jin Pyo kills the opponent and saves his friend.

Eung Chan is furious that his men are left to die, and he has a submarine waiting in the harbor to pick them up. He’s told that any military presence will ignate another war in the Korean peninsula. Eung Chan is told that the men sent on the mission should be considered a sacrifice for the greater good of the country. Eung Chan accuses his colleagues of wanting to bury this mission and save their own skin in case the public ever finds out.

Jin Pyo helps Moo Yul to the beach and they swim out into the ocean. Jin Pyo urges Moo Yul to wake up. All the men swimming towards the submarine are excited to see their rescue vessel, until suddenly the first shot rings out. A sniper on the submarine is systematically shooting every single one of his comrades, silencing this mission forever. It’s devastating to watch. Moo Yul pushes Jin Pyo down into the water, keeping him submerged as he takes the final shot. The sniper is satisfied that all survivors have been eliminated. Jin Pyo surfaces to see the submarine descend on route back to South Korea, leaving the corpses of South Korean soldiers littering North Korean waters.

Moo Yul asks Jin Pyo to take care of his wife and son, telling him that he was never going to survive after that knife wound earlier. Jin Pyo lets out a howl of rage, descending into the water and letting his friend go. Jin Pyo swims back to shore. Eung Chan gets a call that all members have died during the misson. He looks distraught, while the other four guys look shifty. Eung Chan is asked to keep this mission a secret amongst the five politicians. Eung Chan is alone in his office when a knife is held to his throat.

It’s Jin Pyo, who says that Eung Chan appears to have some conscience, since he kept the dog-tags of all the men. Jin Pyo tells him that he sacrificed twenty of his friends for politics. All of the men were willing to die for their country, but they refuse to be pawns for a political play, especially politics that treat men like flies. Eung Chan tells Jin Pyo to kill him, but they are interrupted. Jin Pyo leaves before killing Eung Chan, but leaves him a note pined to the desk by a large knife, telling him that he will pay for his crimes.

Jin Pyo goes to Moo Yul’s house, and sees his wife holding his son in the yard. When the wife goes to hang laundry, she hears the dogs barking. She walks back inside to find her son missing. There is a note from Jin Pyo that he is taking Moo Yul’s son. Jin Pyo looks at a picture of Moo Yul, telling him that he has named the boy Lee Yoon Sung, and is planning the world’s most vicious revege, which is his reason for living.

Jin Pyo takes the boy to Thailand and trains him to daily in fighting and marksmanship. Jin Pyo is a relentless surrogate daddy and drives Yoon Sung hard. Yoon Sung asks to see a picture of his mom, and is told that she is dead. Jin Pyo tears up his picture with Moo Yul and his wife so that Yoon Sung cannot see it. Poor boy Yoon Sung runs in the jungle and cries. A nice Thai woman has become Yoon Sung’s surrogate mommy.

Little boy Yoon Sung plays with an elephant in the water, and we transition to young adult Yoon Sung (Lee Min Ho) riding an elephant bathed in sunlight. Niiiice.

Yoon Sung heads to the city with his friends. He sees a man being beaten up and almost getting his fingers cut off, being accused of cheating. Yoon Sung tosses a couple of fruit aces through the window at the aggressors and luring them towards him instead. He saves the man as they two of them run through the city. Yoon Sung takes his new ahjusshi friend back to his home base. We see adult Yoon Sung is a great fighter and a crack shot.

Daddy straps Yoon Sung’s surrogate mommy on a target, because her husband has taken the drugs and run away. He wants to punish her, but Yoon Sung asks if he can shoot all the targets, then she can be forgiven. Jin Pyo agrees, and Yoon Sung shoots every target, except for the last one hanging in front of her face. He goes back to his room to brood. He looks at the picture of a high school Kim Na Na (Park Min Young), asking if it’s right to shoot at someone you love. He asks the picture if she lives in Seoul and is happy there.

The gang that Yoon Sung beat up in Bangkok has found their way to the hideout and is here to exact payback. They pepper Yoon Sung’s room with bullets, but he manages to dodge them. Jin Pyo is out in the jungle and rushes back. Yoon Sung fights his way out of the room and goes outside. His surrogate mommy walks out and is killed. Yoon Sung is pissed and chases after the bad guys, with Jin Pyo yelling at him not to go. Yoon Sung tracks them down, but in his haste steps on a landmine. He’s about to be shot when Jin Pyo arrvies and offs the bad guys.

Jin Pyo helps steady the pressure on the landmine so that Yoon Sung can lift his feet and escape. The landmine goes off, and Jin Pyo loses his right leg in the blast. Yoon Sung carries his daddy back to the compound to seek medical treatment.

Jin Pyo finally tells Yoon Sung his true family history and what Yoon Sung’s revenge mission in life will be – go back to Korea and make the men in power who killed his daddy and sacrificed an entire mission of soldiers pay for their betrayal. Jin Pyo has survived for this long because he wants to see Moo Yul, who took a bullet for him, avenged. Yoon Sung asks if this is why Jin Pyo trained him so relentlessly, for revenge? Jin Pyo faints and Yoon Sung cries for the doctors to save his father.

Yoon Sung sits and broods, holding the taped back picture of Jin Pyo with his real parents (and Eung Chan). He goes to see Jin Pyo and asks who was to blame for the death of his father. Jin Pyo says that it was five men. Yoon Sung asks if the five men are killed, can he and Jin Pyo move somehere new and start over, finding happiness. Yoon Sung asks if his mother is alive, and is told that she is alive. Yoon Sung makes a vow to transform himself, that is his destiny.

Seven years later, a new and improved Yoon Sung heads back to Korea. The new Yoon Sung sure likes fancy pants. In the car, he gets a call, telling him the name of the first man he is to find. He is reminded never to forget the death of his father. He goes to a public square to soak up being back in his homeland. Standing just off to the side is Na Na, dressed like an Easter lady and handing out tissue packs.

Thoughts of Mine:

My first impression of City Hunter is thus: it’s a larger-budgeted, bigger-scoped, smaller-emotional resonance version of Time Between Dog and Wolf. I personally think TBDAW is damn near perfect, with an emphasis on story, character, and narrative over action sequences. Right now CH feels the other way around, I’m engaged by the action but feel nothing for the characters and the central story.

I think a major dissonance factor will be the fact that Yoon Sung grew up never knowing about his real parents and how his father died. Hence this entire revenge for Yoon Sung becomes a clinical exercise – in the name of my father – but I don’t feel the pain because I can’t see how Yoon Sung would feel the pain. Theoretically he could be pissed, but beyond that it’s like a task he’s been saddled with.

Reuniting with his long-lost mommy is a very viable emotional thread, and I’m looking forward to the poor boy finding his mom again. If I dig a little deeper, the story doesn’t make any logical sense. In order to shoehorn Yoon Sung into the revenge plot, Jin Pyo kidnapped him and trained him to be a killing machine. But why wait, when Jin Pyo was more than capable of offing the men by himself. Look, if Jin Pyo can run off to Thailand and assemble and run a compound full of mercenaries, don’t tell me he can’t get revenge for his fallen comrades.

If the point is to have Yoon Sung pull the trigger for symbolic purposes, I’m not too keen on that angle. It makes more sense for Jin Pyo to seek revenge since he lost his best friend and his entire troop. But I shall watch and see how the story plays out. The drama looks very pretty, though the execution is much too florid for my tastes, with an excessive penchant for slow motion filming that is already grating on my nerves a bit. The music is nice, a solid OST that is used very effectively.

The drama premiered with a 10.2 in ratings, and I think it’ll do pretty well considering it’s counterprogramming against two romance dramas, and it’s really pretty good. I’m not planning to recap this drama unless episode 2 suddenly blows my mind, because recapping two Wed-Thurs dramas this past month almost killed me. I’ll likely keep watching CH though, and if I like it enough, will be happy to bring ongoing updates.


City Hunter Episode 1 Recap — 31 Comments

  1. Ok, I’ll go first. I loved it and I watched it raw. It was like watching a movie. Except for as you said that damn slow-mo camera, annoying, everything else looked good to me. I was waiting desperately for you to recap and since you may not continue then I will wait for subs while watching the raw video like I did Midas.
    Thank you for the recap. I waited for this drama so long and now, so far so good.

  2. I loved TBDAW. Lee Jun Ki is good in action sequences and this drama is full of it. I like the bromance and the fact that they explored not just the romantic aspects but the lives of drug syndicates and the father-son relationship developed between LJK and his sort of adoptive father. So underrated…

  3. Good Lord Kang Sang Jun is HAWT!…and maybe LMH too…heh….but I dont think he has the body of a mercenary …or at least not one that I would imagine of…..but I can imagine he does for now….just like I imagined that his best bud Bummie had the body for a boxer in Dream..haven’t watched this in detail yet (except maybe to admire certain people’s features)but I’m keeping an eye open to see how the reviews fare and if it’ll get subbed…but if I do take it up I’m afraid my current drama palate will explode and it’ll be all chaos

  4. things i liked: Sweaty LMH, there was an elephant, the food looked good and that was pretty much all

    i wasn’t expecting anything to blow my mind so i don’t feel disappointed with the first episode. About the revenge plot i think he doesn’t really care about the dead soldiers and his real father, when he asked his fake daddy what he had to do for them to live happily he did it with a cynical face, like “what do i need to do for us to live as a normal family” …

    and honestly i laugh in a couple scenes when i guess i shouldn’t i.e when his fake mommy died i mean she was shot on the leg and died instantly, there wasn’t even blood loss or anything xD and sometimes the music was way over dramatic.

    Still i think there’s space for improvement so i’ll continue to watch, unless this became athena 2 O_O and i’m probably the only person in this world that is watching this for Lee Kwang Soo (running man) i love that crazy guy hehe

  5. I love LMH… just his face on the screen is enough to make me watch and drool.. hopefully you will continue the recap now that 49days out of your pocket…I’ m not korean so your site helps a lot..Thnx!!

    PS: If you had ur attendance sheet on your site ockoala..I’m sure i earn a medal for having a perfect one..

    • I totally agree with all the points you’ve mentioned ’23 nuraina’. I normally avoid the sad-action drama but I endured through the beginning bits just to see LMH. I was literally counting minutes/seconds from the newborn through ~12yr kid to viola LMHMG (Ref: Koala’s glossary), loll. It was totally worth it, his jungle style looks so cool, esp the hair <3. It's good to have him back on the screen :). I wished his jungle hairstyle was kept throughout the drama, but he still looks handsome with whichever style. And for that, I will keep watching CH no matter what happens.
      But do I hope the plot will be good so that Miss koala will keep on recapping it. Your recaps are 'daebak' ! I'm watching pretty much all the k-dramas you are recapping. Currently, LTM n BL in addition to CH. I wasn't watching BL from the beginning. But seeing how much you've praised about BL in your recaps, I've started watching it a few days ago and now I'm hooked!
      Jeongmal gamsahabnida for all your recaps :).

  6. Thanks for the recap, I haven’t watched it yet &honestly don’t if I will or not depends on how I feek about it.
    Only question I have is who is Na Na to him? &why was he looking at her picture? I assume that he grew up not ever meeting her so how did he have her picture?
    I do hope you continue to recap that way gives me something to read &know what to watch but if not its understandable 🙂
    Thanks 🙂

  7. It definitely sounds better than i expected. Time Between Dog and Wolf is a precious drama for me. So the comparison or the so-called similarity definitely up my interest. Still not planning to watch at the moment. Maybe will watch in a marathon session one fine day after few months,

  8. Thanks for the recap. I too lurrrrve Time Between Dog and Wolf, for all the reasons you mentioned plus the crime boss aka daddy’s former best friend. Heartbreaking, totally. Anyhoo, your recap of City Hunter made it sound actually quite a bit better than I’d anticipated, so I’ll be curious to see what you’ve to say of it a few episodes down the line.

  9. Oh, and I just finished marathon-watching 8 Days of Jeongjo’s Assassination, seeing fabulous Kim Sang Joong as the awesome Jeongjo. Having read Lady Hyegyeong’s memoirs, I found it a very interesting take and Jeongjo and Sado’s legacies.

    • yes I thought the same thing this was one elegant drama and charismatic Kim Sang Joong was the best thing about it

  10. It sounds this has absolutely NOTHING to do with Roy seiba CITY HUNTER. Lmh looks metrosexual, everyone but Ryo Seiba

  11. TBDAW is an absolute favorite of mines with an awesome LJK and a big cast ( except from the girl whom I have totally forgotten ) . I don’t think the story here is good enough yet for me to watch , although some veteran actors are a true bait . But LMH isn’t an appealing actor for me ( sorry for the fans )
    Thanks so much for your detailed recap .

  12. Thanks for the recap, Koala.

    The general feel (from you and the others) seems to be somewhat apathetic. SO, I’ll probably wait on watching this, and watch the Time Between Dog and Wolf instead. All the comparisons and admiration expressed for that drama just made me want to watch it instead of City Hunter. haha

    • Time bet wolf and dog is really nice.. complete spices from drama,action,thrill and all. Impressive.. especially if you love handsome faces like Jun ki!

  13. Yeah, TBDAW is gonna be a tough act to follow. Don’t know if LMH has the chops for this, but we’ll see.

    Btw, the mom is played by Kim Mi-sook (Brilliant Legacy), not Lee Mi-sook (Cinderella’s Sister, An Affair).

  14. I’m glad to see that you gave this one a shot koala. I’m also glad that it’s really not like the manga City Hunter at all. Like you said in your post we should just treat this as a drama that bears the exact name as the manga. Which is good because, I think if they did try to follow the original scenarios and story lines, it would seem odd because I think the two leads seem like a weird choice in casting. ESPECIALLY Park Min Young as Kaori. 0_O

  15. I just saw the first episode, and while it’s not a profound drama, I can say that it’s worth your time. I liked it so much that I watched the second episode without subtitles , nothing that I have ever done before. It’s definitely a must-watch.

  16. There is nothing about this drama that interests me – even from reading the recaps, there’s no tug to watch it. Maybe its because I’ve seen the BEST 2 revenge thrillers, The Devil and Resurrection, this one sounds and feels flat??

  17. hey ockoala, i still waiting for city hunter episode 2 recap, and i’ll be waiting for it. this drama is super duper great. i hope you can recap it for all episodes. episode 2 is quit interesting! but i don’t understand what they’re talking about. heee hwaiting! kamsahamnida! 😉

    • heLLo ~ Cambodia ! sorry all ~ the hype in South Korea currently is the Apple iPhone fnillay landing on its beaucoup /protective/ shores AND South Korean cell phone manufacturers’ /united/ front to counter this dreadful scenario // I honestly have NO idea of telecommunication status there . however Cambodia is one of the places I would like to visit soon, so keep in touch and I will bring a few of the cell phones I mention here with me

  18. This drama is so great. This is the first time I knew Park Min Young play the role of Kim Na Na. She was beautiful, young and not yet having plastic surgery…

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