Numbers: Guardians Of The Concrete Jungle
넘버스 : 빌딩숲의 감시자들
MBC (2023) 12 Episodes
Revenge, Business Office Melodrama
Grade: A+
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
(Some Spoilers)

OST Instrumental: Memories by Park Yun Seo


I took one look at this superb cast list and cried out, "I'm in!" Without exception I am very fond of all of them, leads and supporting actors alike. The drama Numbers (2023) explores the current state of the largest accounting firms in South Korea, their strengths and their weaknesses. I read reviews of the drama from real accountants online, who said the situations depicted in the drama were very realistic for their industry, so I was doubly intrigued (although I'm hardly a math expert myself!). If you like corporate intrigue dramas and / or revenge dramas then Numbers is one you definitely should check out.

Choi Jin Hyuk (L) and Kim Myung Soo (R)

The two male leads, Kim Myung Soo (nicknamed "L", member of the male K-Pop idol group Infinite), who had wowed me as the lead in Angel's Last Mission: Love, and who had played the younger version of my favorite Korean actor So Jisub in Master's Sun, excellently conveyed the necessary innocence of a young man entering the competitive field of accounting for the first time, and the older Choi Jin Hyuk (Gu Family Book, Tunnel, The Last Empress, Pride and Prejudice, Heirs, Emergency Couple) always depicts his characters with deep, bittersweet passion. I knew I would be in good hands watching their screen interactions with one another, and I was proven correct.

Time Flies For Choi Min Soo - 28 Years Difference!
Numbers (2023) and Epic Sandglass (1995)

Also of note was the addition of the magnificent veteran actor Choi Min Soo (Sandglass, Pride And Prejudice, Lawless Lawyer, Road Number 1, Faith, Father's House) who is always fantastic in any role he chooses (especially complex, subdued villains like this one in Numbers!). Every time Choi Min Soo and Choi Jin Hyuk had scenes together I flashed back to 2014's Pride And Prejudice, in which they had co-starred together. Then I was delighted to see one of the female leads was spirited actress Kim Yoo Ri (Master's Sun, Cheongdam-dong Alice, The Item) who is always delightful to watch, especially when she has romantic comedy scenes. Oooh, she had some GREAT scenes in Numbers, playing a mysterious venture capitalist whom accountant Choi Jin Hyuk's character had the hots for ... in more ways than one!


Also in the main cast list is pretty Yeon Woo (Alice) who is an office love interest for Kim Myung Soo, and Lee Sung Yeol (High School Love On) who plays an experienced accountant who is often butting heads with the other staff members, even though deep down he is terrified of being fired for his contrariness yet can't seem to help himself. I was quite impressed by his intense performance here, probably the best I've seen from him so far. He's also a K-Pop member of the boy group Infinite, as is Kim Myung Soo. It must have been fun for them to work together as actors, and give the singing and dancing a rest. 

I was also pleased as punch to see character actor Kim Young Jae pop up. I will never forget his totally awesome performance as Rain's brain damaged brother all those years ago in the classic drama A Love To Kill (2005). It's no wonder I often felt like this drama Numbers should really have been called Old Home Week, because so many of my past favorite actors and actresses made appearances!


Actor Kim Young Jae 18 Years Apart
Numbers (Top) and A Love To Kill (Bottom)
The Story:

A little boy around seven years of age (Choi Eun Jun) runs distressed into a large construction site late one night in Seoul. He finally sits down on a step weeping and pretty soon a kind older man discovers him and attempts to comfort him. The man is Jang In Ho (Nam Myung Ryul), CEO of Haebit Construction, who is overseeing the construction of the site. Since the little fellow doesn't seem to recall anything from his past, not even his name, and is obviously in shock, In Ho takes the child home with him for the night and the next day takes him to the police station. However, the police have no reports of missing children so it's a dead end for discovering anything about the lad.


CEO In Ho ends up adopting the boy he names Jang Ho Woo (Kim Myung Soo), and the boy grows up with him and his daughter Ji Soo (younger Kim Ji Yul, older Kim Yoo Ri). Ho Woo has a fierce sense of right and wrong and often confronts bullies who try and attack his school friends Hee Sam (Kim Sun Bin) and Yeo Jin (Do Yun Jin), and he has a great relationship with their grandma, who runs the Hanbat restaurant near the construction site; her name is Woong Cheon Ja (veteran actress Sung Byoung Sook). Hee Sam and Yeo Jin try not to mention the fact that Ho Woo doesn't remember his past, either his birth parents, or his original name, though sometimes the past does come up in conversations. They don't want to hurt him, but he remains very matter of fact about it all. He feels loved in his adoptive family and cherished friends and is very devoted to them.

After high school graduation Ho Woo says he wants to bypass college and become a police officer, but his adoptive father suffers an economic catastrophe: his corporation Haebit Construction is declared to be bankrupt by the mega-huge accounting firm of Taeil Accounting, and any current or future construction projects are axed, harming most employees in the company, on the administrative end and the construction end. This information even makes the news and CEO Jang In Ho is devastated. He climbs to the top of one of his buildings under construction and throws himself down, committing suicide. Ho Woo discovers his body and weeps. When he tries to uncover the truth of his adoptive Dad's company failing he ends up confronting the senior manager at Taeil Accounting Firm, Han Sang Jo (Choi Jin Hyuk), who tells him to forget about it and to move on with his life.

However, Ho Woo is not the type to give up! He decides to study mathematics in depth on his own and take the CPA exam, which doesn't require a college degree. He aces it, and by some mysterious means, is actually hired by Taeil Accounting, the very firm that had doomed his adoptive father's construction company! As a novice employee with only a high school diploma he is not trusted with any real financial tasks: everyone ignores him. He gets the brilliant idea to just volunteer to do the most unpleasant, menial tasks at the company: cleaning rooms, bringing employees drinks and food, shredding unneeded records, copying and printing up copies of other records that the accountants are only too glad to give to him so they don't have to do that mundane chore themselves. By doing such chores, though, Ho Woo gains the employees' trust, and gains access and insight into how Taeil Accounting is run: its financial customers, its secrets. He even discovers a box in storage with Haebit Construction on the label, but when he pries it open the box is empty! Who stole all the important information about the real reasons for his adoptive father's company supposedly going bankrupt??? Could it actually have something to do with the individual at the company who was responsible for him to be hired in the first place?

As time goes on Ho Woo is able to figure out who the real key player is in so many companies apparently going bankrupt in Seoul, due to Taeil's corrupt influence over their economic records, whether these companies are other construction firms, banks, investment houses, retail establishments, etc. The key player behind it all is Han Je Gyun (Choi Min Soo), accountant Seung Jo's father, who is the vice president of Taeil and makes the final decisions about which companies are going bankrupt (obviously the ones he wants to secretly step in and acquire himself, so he makes it look like they are going bankrupt when they really aren't, so he can step in and buy them at low-ball figures!).


So the big question is: who in the company will support Je Gyun's illegal financial records manipulations no matter what? and which employees will spy on him, or actually get fed up and leave altogether to get away from the corruption of this man? Will his own son Seung Jo turn on him? Will his right hand man Woo Sang Hyun (Shin Woo Gyeom)? Will Yeon Ah, the pretty senior associate whose own Dad's company Jisan Bank almost went bankrupt because of Je Gyun's financial attacks? Je Gyun always seems to be one step ahead of all of them, but his luck may soon be running out.

On the romance front, all the secret ongoing meetings between the principals dealing with the situation brings them closer together: Seung Jo has never really fallen out of love with his old girlfriend Ji Soo, Ho Woo's adoptive sister. Plus she has a big surprise for him that rocks him to his core. Ho Woo himself finds that Yeon Ah has become the light of his life: she is smart, capable, and gosh darn attractive. Will both ladies give up any reservations they may have about getting involved romantically with these two problematic fellows?

Numbers is likely to keep you on your toes mentally, learning many things about finance, taxation, runs on banks, corporate intrigue and greed, and most importantly of all, the complexities of human nature. I really enjoyed it; it wasn't the same old, same old predictable romance or revenge tale. The cast was filled with familiar faces I always enjoy seeing again, as a long time Korean drama fan. Give it a try if you are feeling the need to be challenged intellectually by a drama, and not just entertained. You can watch it on Viki.com at THIS LINK. Enjoy.