Korean dramas have won the hearts of many because they offer unique stories to tell. It goes beyond the usual tropes because it also gives us nuggets of wisdom. If you’re looking to find inspiring stories in business and finance that also entertain, here is a list of good dramas to tune into.
Itaewon Class centers around underdog Park Sae-ro-yi (Park Seo-joon) who’s aiming to launch a business so he can beat his nemesis. While he may be off to a good start on his own, it was clear that he still has a lot to learn about modern marketing. But luck was on his side when he bumps into Jo Yi-seo (Kim Da-mi) while handing out flyers to promote his pub. Through this chance meeting, Yi-seo recognizes different ways his business could be improved.
Yi-seo steps in to overhaul DanBam by bringing in some much-needed enhancements. She pushed for the restaurant’s makeover, staff training, and money management. But on top of that, her most notable contribution is getting the word out about it. She uses her social media presence to generate buzz and interest in DanBam. This attracted a long line of customers on DanBam’s reopening night which got the ball rolling for them. This reminds potential entrepreneurs that marketing comes in many forms and a good one is key when you want to bring your business to the right customers.
Another significant theme in Itaewon Class is how Park Sae-ro-yi took care of and nurtured his team. By investing and valuing your employees, you’ll encourage them to be determined in helping your business succeed.
Hotel Del Luna
There’s some wisdom to be picked up from Jang Man-wol’s (IU) centuries-old journey as a hotel owner when it comes to financing and business strategy—from reducing non-essential costs to expanding the business cost-effectively.
As a century-old owner of an enchanted hotel, one would expect that Man-wol would have gained a fortune, but she actually amassed a lot of debt due to her frivolous spending habits. Throughout the series, we can see her penchant for lavish spending, from her massive parking lot teeming with luxury cars, to her obsession with purchasing new accessories. The problem is that in times of prosperity, she tends to squander money, hence, it was only a matter of time until the business encountered some serious budget issues.
Luckily, Goo Chan-sung (Yeo Jin-goo), a skilled new manager with a Harvard MBA, agreed to come on board. Chan-sung helped Man-wol curb her spending and managed the hotel’s budget much more efficiently. As she learns to let go of her vices, she starts to really do something valuable for the guests, like offering them one-minute phone calls to talk to the living through dreams. This value-add turns out to be good for business because people would be willing to pay for good service.
Goo Chan-sung is the reality-checker you need if you plan to run a business. In any company or business, he represents the level-headed, reality checker. This would be reflected in a CFO, COO, and/or office manager. It’s important to have people in the team who can set boundaries and create a focus in terms of spending and strategy, especially when the organization is growing fast or if the company is bleeding money.
In Encounter, the beautiful Song Hye-kyo plays the hands-on hotel CEO Cha Soo-hyun. She personally oversees the products that her customers will use in their stay. Recognizing your customer segments is one of the main parts of marketing, and the same goes for improving customer service. This sets a good example at how business owners should do regular quality checks with their patrons in mind.
Soo-hyun keeps her customers in mind as she chooses shower gels and towels: Will they like this particular scent? Does this towel feel more luxurious? The devil is definitely in the details, and improving even the most minute things can make a lasting impact on your customers. Bank on the experience you provide for them and this will lead them to support your products or services on their own.
Seo Dal-mi (Bae Suzy) and Won In-jae (Kang Han-Na) are sisters who were separated from each other when their parents divorced. Dal-Mi chose to stay with their father who later died even before seeing his business idea flourish. Meanwhile, In-Jae followed her mother who later remarried a rich entrepreneur.
The sisters reunite as two aspiring CEOs who are competing for a place in Sandbox—a start-up incubator in South Korea’s fictional Silicon Valley. Dal-mi joins the Samsan Tech group, a struggling start-up whose business is hinged on developing Artificial Intelligence (AI). Here she works with Samsan Tech founder Nam Do-san (Nam Joo-hyuk), along with developers Kim Yong-san (Kim Do-wan) and Lee Chul-san (Yoo Su-bin).
The series shows how launching a successful business is hardly smooth sailing, because there is really a lot to learn. But as you tread shaky waters, it’s important to hire people who share your values. In that way, your employees will be committed to the company and will do their best to provide the best products and services for your customers. In contrast, people who are good but are motivated by money will only do what is necessary to deliver what is required. They are also not loyal and will easily move to another company that is willing to provide higher compensation—which is what In-jae’s developers did to her.
When Seo Dal-mi becomes CEO of Samsan Tec, she learns that being a leader means making decisions that not everyone in the team will be completely satisfied with. She and CTO Nam Do-san realize it’s a dog eat dog world, and it’s important to have wise and honest mentors like Han Ji-pyeong (Kim Seon-ho) to help you survive. Samsan Tech team is still learning as they explore ways to grow. Dal-mi may have the vision and Do-san may have the skills, but they need to learn how to be business-savvy.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
Lee Young-jun (Park Seo-joon) is the narcissistic Vice-chairman of Yumyung Group in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim. He’s incredibly intelligent and competent, but he can be difficult to work with because of his larger-than-life ego. After nine years, Young-jun was caught off-guard when Kim Mi-so (Park Min-young), his loyal secretary of nine years, wanted to quit because she is no longer able to live her own life outside of work.
This resignation made Young-jun realize that Mi-so is indispensable to him, so he makes efforts to improve working conditions for her as well as the rest of his staff members. With upgraded teamwork and a renewed sense of duty, his team put their hearts into projects like the inauguration of Yumyung Art Hall as well as new business ideas.
As Richard Branson put it, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”.
Crash Landing on You
In Crash Landing on You, successful entrepreneur and chaebol heiress Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) struggled with depression and emptiness in her life. This pushed her to make her own business path independent from her family and start her own business around fashion and beauty.
By putting her all into her true passions, her business becomes successful. Se-ri puts a lot of work into quality checking the items her company sells and even knows how to use a scandal into a marketing opportunity. She even tests a new product herself, which is likely the reason she was successful as an entrepreneur. This is what got her paragliding in the first place which resulted in an unlikely accident that brought her way across the DMZ and into the arms of Ri Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin) in North Korea.
She is a depiction of an entrepreneur who knows her business in and out. She even called out a North Korean vendor who got the ingredients of her product wrong. This makes her far removed from the traditional portrayal of chaebol family members, who are at the helm of large organizations but have no apparent attachment to whatever their business does.
When she puts her CEO stilettos on, we can see that she is fiercely dedicated to her work. She even continues to hustle and make up for lost time even though Captain Ri moved mountains to be by her side.
I Am Not a Robot
This drama tells the story of passionate entrepreneur Jo Ji-ah (Chae Soo-bin), who is also a creative inventor. Like many of us, Ji Ah wants to be her own boss and to be taken seriously by her family. She was pressured by her brother to get a normal 9-to-5 office job and pay off her loans. To fund her dreams and responsibilities, she gets roped into pretending to be a humanoid robot. She does this as a favor to her ex-boyfriend who modeled the robot’s features after her and because she needs the money.
Ji-ah has always wanted to make a breakthrough in business by getting her inventions noticed, but it was often brushed aside. However, this did not stop her from creating inventions that will help people and make them happier.
Ji Ah’s relentless pursuit of her dream and her kindness reminds us to believe in ourselves or no one will. We shouldn’t look for approval from others or give up on our dreams just because they’re unconventional.