Protect The Boss
마지막 여비서 (2011) SBS 18 Episodes
Romantic Comedy, Grade: B

Korean Drama Review by Jil, USA


After watching a wistful and lovely spiritual Korean film called Postman To Heaven (the Koreans make so many of these beautifully romantic films, better than any other country on earth!) I fell in love with the male star of that film named Jae Joong Kim and afterward went looking for other films and shows he might be in. First thing I found was Protect The Boss, a 2011 K-drama and romantic comedy, and watched it on Streaming Netflix - twice. Jae Joong is literally gorgeous to look at, a really melt-worthy performer. I particularly fell in love with his soft, unique voice, which often sounds not much louder than a gentle whisper. He also sings as lead vocalist with his musical group DBSK, and also sings in this show, Protect The Boss.

Dreamy actor - singer Jae Joong Kim

Jae Joong Kim has the beauty and acting chops to be the lead male in films and shows, but here in this show he is the second male lead, the lead male role going to debonair and energetic Ji Sung (All In, Swallow The Sun). The two men play cousins who both work in the same family industry and who, though they often have a rivalry going on with one another, deep down still very much care for one another. As is often the case in these dramas, the older family members are really at the heart of the rivalry between the two younger men, with each parent spurring them on to see which one will end up taking over the company when the patriarch retires or dies. This story adds some extra difficulty for one of the men, in that one of their characters suffers from a frightening mental disorder called agoraphobia - a fear of crowds and large open spaces, often accompanied by fear of public speaking in front of large groups of people. The sufferer often has hysterical panic attacks and is difficult to control. You can see how that condition would more than likely impede someone from being the head of a company. However, these two young men are better than their parents, and ultimately don't give in to the competition that has been set up for them since childhood.

This K-drama is truly special in this way; it tweaks the usual romantic comedy formula and all the rivals really like each other and don't give in to the usual backstabbing approaches set up by the older family members. It's so refreshing! The women character rivals are the same way - the second female lead, the woman who is often the Bitch character in many other dramas, actually grows sincerely fond of her chief rival, the lead female character, and ends up moving in with her! Tell me where you've seen that before in any other K-drama! I just loved it. Then to add even more originality to this story, the best friend of the lead female character is very fat! Most of the time they are a little mousier than the lead female characters but never obese. This friend character is not cartoonish in nature either, as one would expect, but is really a great friend and supporter throughout, a truly loveable, sisterly character. So already we have a framework here in Protect The Boss that is different from other K-dramas I've seen.


Ji Sung and Jae Joong Kim, playing cousins and rivals, help each other out when times get rough,
even when their rivalry extends to a girl they both fall in love with

Protect The Boss begins as a story about an unusual young lady named Eun Seol No (fantastic actress Hee Choi Kang, who was so unforgettable as the dying fiance of Jang Hyuk in Thank You). Eun Seol has had a checkered past but she decides to go straight and try to be successful the old fashioned way - by hard work and dedication. She is a woman who’s struggling to enter the legit business world, even though her resume is as spotty as her past. She was a teenage thug who attended a mediocre college, the daughter of a martial arts teacher – she’s full of raw girl power, but hardly the type most big corporations are looking to hire.

One company she applies to turns out to be a shady front for loan sharks and she ends up having to fight her way out of the predicament when one of the men comes on to her. She hilariously knocks out man after man with her incredible martial arts skills. In the midst of the fight a bystander gets caught up in the situation named Ji Heon Cha (Ji Sung), who is the son of a chaebol (mogul) and who has never seen a woman quite like Eun Seol before. He calls her "poop head" because of the way she wears her hair, and when he's back in his office after the fight he creates a cardboard cutout of her and puts question marks all over its face because he can't remember what it looked like since her face got so dirty during the fight. He then uses the cutout as a dart board to relieve his frustrations! He promises himself to uncover who this woman is because she had inadvertently put him in a dangerous situation and gotten him all dirty and disheveled. For his "evidence" in tracking her down all he has is one of her high heel shoes that she lost in the battle. (Cinderella Theme Alert!).

Ji Heon at work has had a slew of personal secretaries over the years but none stay long because they cannot deal with him; he has agoraphobia and is often paranoid and irrational. He makes too many ridiculous demands on them and they take off for greener pastures. He has a cousin who is the CEO second in command in the family company, and a far more stable man, named Moo Wan Cha (Jae Joong Kim), and he is the one who holds an open interview for yet another secretary for his cousin. Guess who shows up but Eun Seol herself, and when she is ignored during the interview in favor of more qualified candidates she stands up and speaks up for herself saying she is willing to learn and work hard even though her resume is lacking. This fighting spirit of hers captures the respect and attention of Moo Wan, who hires her as his cousin's next secretary. Somehow he senses this woman might make all the difference in how Ji Heon may be able to cope while on the job, considering his mental affliction.

At first Ji Heon wants Eun Seol fired because she has the audacity to stand up to him, but little by little he falls under her likeable spell and begins to depend on her, especially when he sees she has the courage to stand up to his strong-willed father, the head of the company, Chairman Cha (Young Kyu Park, who gave a wonderful performance here as a very complex character who loves his son yet can't deal with his infirmity). His father had often been abusive to him in the past, striking him when displeased, which had not done anything to help his son get over his agoraphobia. Eun Seol even has the brilliant idea to use video technology to help Ji Heon get over his fear of public speaking, and for the first time ever Ji Heon makes a positive impression at company board meetings. This, however, threatens his cousin Moo Wan's side of the family, who fear now that Ji Heon might actually be able to take over the responsibilities of being a CEO, and ultimately maybe gain total control of the company. At first Ji Heon and Eun Seol don't recognize one another from the night of the fight, but eventually the truth comes out when Ji Heon spies the mate to the missing shoe in Eun Seol's apartment. By this time, however, they are starting to like one another, so all is forgiven.

Having an advocate on his side really helps Ji Heon become more stable, but sometimes he slips back and becomes like a scared child. Eun Seol begins to feel that she might actually be too much of a crutch for Ji Heon, and she grows concerned about losing her own freedoms in being at his beck and call so often. She tries to keep her emotional distance from him as much as possible, and maintains a sort of girlish crush on the cousin who hired her, Moo Won. Meanwhile, Moo Won finds himself seeing her more and more as a woman, and not just someone whose tenacity and ambition amuses him.

When a long gone lover comes back into the lives of both Ji Heon and Moo Won, an attractive lady named Yeon Seo Na (actress Ji Hye Wang, who was so good in Personal Taste and The Suspicious Housekeeper), who had been the object of both their affections in the past, it upsets the dynamics of both men
's burgeoning romantic relationships with Eun Seol. Ji Heon is the first to get over Yeon Seo and tells her plainly he isn't interested in her anymore, which upsets Yeon Seo, but his honesty starts to divert her attention to Moo Won instead. Moo Won is still physically attracted to Yeon Seo, and even kisses her, but his mind and heart become more and more intrigued with Eun Seol. He asks Eun Seol for dates and she accepts and they have wonderful times together, but for whatever reasons Eun Seol's heart really belongs to the more fragile Ji Heon -- I think because he needs her the most (and most of us yearn to be needed, as well as loved).

The story ends up going in unexpected places; some sub-plots are more serious, for instance the company is about to be accused publicly of tax fraud, yet other sub-plots are more domestic and delightful, like the growing friendships between the three girls and roommates, Eun Seol, Yeon Seo, and the chubby, motherly Myung-ran Lee (Jae-sook Ha of Pasta). Yeon Seo in particular proves to be a wonderful, delightful character and doesn't go after Eun Seol to hurt her when she realizes both men are obsessed with her. I really delighted in this actress' performance here in Protect The Boss. She was funny, vivacious, quirky, surprising, and completely sympathetic. What a pro she is; she can play funny and sad, sometimes both at the same time! And her characters always seem to get some of the best lines in whatever show she is in at the time. The slumber party scenes between the women were some of my favorite scenes in the whole K-drama. Fantastic and joyfully funny! Sure, romance can be fun, but girly times among friends can be the best times of all!

I really enjoyed this show and the cast was exceptional, and I liked the fact that we see a wedding at the end. Many times in K-dramas the weddings are never seen, just assumed. I think these writers set out to do some things differently with this K-drama and it shows.This was a very funny, upbeat and rewarding K-drama and I laughed out loud many times. All the secondary characters were a hoot too. It's a not to be missed experience. You can buy a legit YA Entertainment DVD boxset off Amazon. Enjoy!