King The Land – K-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Not So Meet-Cute

Episode 1 of King The Land begins with the King Hotel looking for trainees in 2015 but all the candidates seem incapable. The panel is further surprised to see candidate Cheon Sa-rang as she doesn’t have a B.A. degree, plays the piano and one of her shoes is broken but she is upbeat. They ask her to play something but with no piano in the room, she pretends to play air piano and when they ask her to smile, she gives a toothy grin. 

It cuts to her looking miserable while her friends/roommates tease her. Her squad consists of Pyeong-hwa, a no-nonsense air hostess and Da-eul, a hopeless romantic. To cheer up Sa-rang, they take her clubbing even though she isn’t interested at first but they tear up the dance floor anyway. The next morning, a hungover Sa-rang is woken up by a call that announces that she has gotten the internship. 

As for the male lead’s introduction, a suave Gu Won arrives on his first day of interning at his own hotel by sky diving. With his identity a secret since he has been in the UK the whole time, his manager, Choi Tae-man puts him down for wearing an expensive outfit and for acting like a chaebol. His co-worker, No Sang-sik tries to coach him but of course, Gu Won doesn’t understand why he should act inferior.

One of his tasks leads to hijinks as he is ordered to make some copies. With the copier not working, Sang-sik tries to help while Choi suggests shaking the toner. Toner breaks, ink is spilled and their Superior is furious. Gu Won refuses to apologise and is fired. He simply calls the chairman’s secretary, Director Choi to get cleaners and a new copier.

The Superior realises that he is Chairman Gu’s son and apologises while Manager Choi is suddenly quiet. Furious that Gu Won is leaving anyway, the Superior blames Sang-sik. This just prompts Gu Won to offer a full-time position to Sang-sik who is moved.

Chairman Gu is furious as he wanted Gu Won to start from the bottom and work his way up. The panel lady who had interviewed Sa-rang turns out to be Gu Won’s older sister, Gu Hwa-ran and defends him when he irks their father by saying he will go back to the UK.

But when they talk privately, it is revealed that Hwa-ran and Won are rivals. She says she will support him as long as he stays away from the house and company. She shoos him away to the hotel and tells him to fly out the next day. Inside, the Chairman is waiting for Won with dinner and is upset as he thinks his son has run away. 

As for our smiley Sa-rang, she is excited for her first day as a trainee. She recalls memories of her childhood when she stayed at the King Hotel with her family and was blown away by the grandeur. In her training, she is told to treat the guest as king and to always smile by saying “Hermes”. Sa-rang is assigned to the fitness centre and the other employees including Manager Kim Su-mi look down on her as she is a one-month temp.

She is made to clean everything from the changing room to the sweat on the workout equipment as her senior, Park Bo-yeon thinks she is better than Sa-rang for being a full-timer. Similarly, the senior flight attendant bullies Pyeong-hwa. As for Da-eul who works at the airport branch of a luxury shop, she is bullied by her manager. 

Sang-sik seems to be faring better as he makes his way to Gu Won’s penthouse suite where he is shopping. He buys the remaining 2 out of 3 shirts of a particular tiger design and when Sang-sik mistakes it as a gift for him, Gu Won simply states that both shirts are for him because he hates it when someone wears the same thing as him. But he keeps his promise and promotes Sang-sik to a full-time position.

The only catch, they are to move to the UK for good in a week. As Sang-sik rushes to apply for a passport, Manager Kim Su-mi latches onto him and promises to help if he ever needs anything which a confused Sang-sik acknowledges. As he leaves, Su-mi is impressed by his charming and nonchalant behaviour and it is revealed that she has mistaken him for Gu Won since she saw him come out of the penthouse suite.

Meanwhile, we see the person who has the third tiger shirt. He makes a fool out of himself at the gym as he tries to impress Sa-rang who is trying not to gag while cleaning up the sweat that he leaves on whatever equipment he touches. Bo-yeon tries to shush him but he says that she is not his type since he prefers Sa-rang.

He even makes an advance as he leaves a letter and his keycard for her with Bo-yeon. As he leaves, Gu Won arrives in the same tiger shirt to work out. An angry Sa-rang who only knows him by the back of his shirt approaches Won who is unfortunately wearing the same shirt. He ignores her as he uses the treadmill and she increases the speed till he falls. She calls him a pervert and throws the letter at him before storming off. 

As he shouts after her, Hwa-ran arrives and tries to make him leave. He points out that he is a guest and the hotel is not yet hers before walking off. Su-mi is surprised to see her and tries to accompany her out when they spot Sa-rang. As Sa-rang pleasantly thanks her for the opportunity, Hwa-ran quizzes her on trainee details she hasn’t yet learned.

However, she answers it with ease in English and in Korean, all while smiling. This earns her a promotion to the lobby and her internship is extended to one year which annoys Su-mi. She tries to find a weak point but is unable as Sa-rang can also speak in Chinese and Japanese.

Meanwhile, Gu Won broods as he looks at a cracked watch and thinks about calling his father. Hwa-ran arrives to remind him that he has to check out. She tells him that he doesn’t need to call their father and that he should indefinitely move to the UK. He tells her not to worry and walks off. While leaving, he passes by a smiling Sa-rang. They don’t notice each other as they look at the hotel longingly. 

At home, Sa-rang’s roommates celebrate and think about their dreams. Sa-rang doesn’t dream big as she just hopes no one gets on her nerves at work but she forgets about it as they go clubbing. As the years pass, Sa-rang is a favourite at King Hotel and is even awarded for her hard work. Da-eul is married while Sa-rang starts dating and is promoted to a full-time employee. Gu Won haunts the streets of London all alone and finally graduates.

In the present day, Gu Won gets a mysterious package with just his name written in Korean. He looks sombre while the package shows the record of a Han Mi-so. He immediately tells Sang-sik that they need to fly back to South Korea. Sang-sik puts up a fuss as his parents are finally visiting but he gives in as he promised to stay with Gu Won forever. 

At King Hotel, Su-mi suddenly tells Sa-rang that there is a complaint due to her wake-up call for a guest but it is quite the opposite. The guest, an Italian singer is touched that Sa-rang recognised her and used her music as an alarm.

Meanwhile, the Gus have a tense reunion as Chairman Gu orders Won to move back to South Korea and Hwa-ran tries to dissuade him. Much to her chagrin, Gu Won announces that he will work in the hotel and his father is delighted. He says he should compete with his sister and Hwa-ran is unnerved. The Chairman says he will only judge competence to decide which of them will be his successor and it can also be neither of them.

He then adds that Won should move back home before their mother’s memorial and Won asks which mother. It is finally revealed that he and Hwa-ran are half-siblings and he doesn’t even know if his mother is alive. His father simply tells him to move back home and walks off. Hwa-ran comments that he is as reckless as his mother.

Gu Won walks off in the rain and Sang-sik follows him. Won tries to shake him off but Sang-sik says he is his only friend. He tries to cheer him up by joking if he will get a senior rank to take care of Won. They bicker but end up going to the hotel together.

Meanwhile, the roommates are drinking but Sa-rang is stressed as her stomach hurts. They deduce that she is tired of her boyfriend. It cuts to Da-eul’s daughter telling them not to drink as it will ruin her reputation as they are in the food court. The playground suddenly starts playing ‘Baby Shark’ and the trio starts dancing on the trampolines while Da-eul’s daughter is embarrassed. 

The next day, Won gets ready for his first day as the Head Manager. He hates those who put on a fake smile and Sang-sik reminds him that the hotel will be his anyway so he shouldn’t worry. Gu Won is annoyed by his impudence and they start bantering again. He forgets his phone and Sang-sik offers to bring it. Won then realises that he has forgotten the papers for the meeting as well. 

At that moment, Su-mi gets a call and orders Sa-rang to get Won’s phone. Unfortunately, Sa-rang’s stomach ache has intensified and she needs to use the washroom. As she rushes to the suite, she cannot take it anymore and uses the toilet. She sees that there is a remote to control the glass walls that turn them opaque.

As she plays with it while pooping, Won enters the suite to get his papers. He notices movement in the bathroom and enters it. At that moment, Sa-rang switches off the remote control and locks eyes with Gu Won through the glass walls and screams.

The Episode Review

Just as the lead stars, Lee Junho and YoonA had promised, King The Land has a promising start as a light-hearted rom-com. The writers take mercy on us so that we don’t end up in stitches as the comedy is spaced out with the melodramatic rivalry between Hwa-ran and Gu Won.

But even there, we doubt it will get too serious as the heart of the show is the enemies-to-lovers story of Sa-rang and Gu Won. And off to a great start, aren’t they, from the misunderstanding at the gym to the toilet fiasco? We wonder how the ever-positive Sa-rang is going to jump back from that mess…

And while YoonA has more than redeemed herself as an idol actor after her stint on Big Mouth, it is well worth repeating that she is finally progressing with the way she effortlessly plays Sa-rang. It could get pretty cringe as seen in some rom-coms which have a bubbly female lead, but YoonA makes it work.

Well, for those who have been staying away from King The Land solely due to YoonA’s reputation in her older dramas, the coast is clear and you will not regret tuning in for this hilariously charming show.


Next Episode

You can read our season 1 review of King The Land here!

  • Episode Rating

Leave a comment