In the beginning, there was a skate business
A lorry carrying a few people drives slowly through the idyllic jungle of Suriname at the start of Narco-Saints episode 1. A Korean man known as Kang Inju seats calmly in the lorry. He seems out of place like he doesn’t belong. He is holding a baseball and starts narrating the story of how he got there.
You see, Kang is a man who has had it tough in life. As a child from a poor background, he joined the Judo team in school to get a scholarship. His mother died when he was 14, and six years later his father also had an accident and died.
His parents’ death meant he had to take responsibility for his younger siblings and step up to be the head of the family. He had no choice so he worked hard selling Makgeolli to hikers on Mount Soyosan during the day and at night he worked as a waiter at a Karaoke bar. He soon realized that he can’t manage on his own so he decided to get married. After his siblings graduated, he and his wife started their own family and we’re blessed with two kids.
Life didn’t get easier and Kang continued to work hard to make ends meet for his family. He bought the karaoke bar years later and also opened a garage near a military base and made friends with the soldiers. Even though life got a little bit better, Kang dreamt of a better and easier life for his family.
One day, his old school friend Park Eung-soo visits him and tells him of a great business idea. He invites him to be a partner in his new business to get skate (fish) from Suriname and sell it in Korea. People in Suriname didn’t like skate so there was no market for it but it had a huge market in Korea.
At first, Kang is hesitant but after a scuffle at his Karaoke bar, he decides to go to Suriname and start the business. He joins Eung-soo in Suriname and together they start their skate export business. As with any business, they also get challenges.
Just as they are settling in Suriname and starting off their new business endeavour. They get a visit from the leader of the Suriname Armed Forces who asks for a bribe to offer their business protection. Luckily, Kang uses his charm to smooth things out and the leader is pleased. They come to an amicable decision and he leaves after getting his money.
Later that night, Kang and Eung-soo go to a local club to celebrate but run into trouble with a Chinese gang leader. The gang leader demands $5,000 as their business is on his turf or he will kill them. This doesn’t sound right to Kang and he tries to negotiate. The Chinese leader is not pleased; he orders his men to beat them up as a warning. He is insistent that they owe him money and he tells them they will have to pay at the end of the month.
After their run-in with the Chinese gang, the two decide to go to church. They are forced to introduce themselves to the congregation and later on, the pastor invites them to talk in his office.
The pastor is curious about the wounds on their faces and he offers to help after hearing their predicament. As he is also Korean, he makes it his duty to help his brothers. He takes them to Chinatown and has an audience with the gang leader. In the end, he can help them with this issue.
Business starts to look up and Kang and Eung-soo became more dedicated to making the business a success. Unfortunately, things take a drastic turn when a boat owner who was transporting their goods called. The skates were seized after cocaine was found in them.
Kang and Eung-soo are shocked to hear this and are pressured to find out how it happened. Even though it is late at night, they try to get to the root of the matter. Kang calls the pastor who promises to make a few calls and Eung-soo goes out to find out what might have happened to the skate.
As Kang waits for Eung-soo to return, the police arrive to arrest him. He tries to make a run for it but fails and the episode ends with him surrendering at gunpoint.
The Episode Review
This series starts strong with a protagonist that many can relate to. He is a hustler just trying to make ends meet and provide a better life for his family. He is trying to make an honest living but life keeps throwing him knock-out punches. Viewers can understand his desire and drive, and it is easy to see why he chose to go to Suriname.
The story flows well and the protagonist’s narration from his perspective adds a unique charm to the series. It also makes it easier to understand and empathize with his character.
I am curious to see what happens after his arrest and how he will get to the mystery of the cocaine.