Uncle Samsik Season 1 Review – Beautifully acted historical drama

Season 1



Episode Guide

Ep 1 – Three Meals a Day – Review Score 3/5
Ep 2 – Same Dream – Review Score 3.5/5
Ep 3 – Win Over – Review Score 4/5
Ep 4 – The Great Plan – Review Score 5/5
Ep 5 – Hypocrisy Disguised as a Dream – Review Score 4/5
Ep 6 – Never Say Never – Review Score 4.5/5
Ep 7 – Father vs Uncle – Review Score 3.5/5
Ep 8 – Bait – Review Score 4/5
Ep 9 – The Deceased – Review Score 3.5/5
Ep 10 – Doubt – Review Score 4/5
Ep 11 – The Two Truths – Review Score 5/5
Ep 12 – The Simmering Furnace – Review Score 3.5/5
Ep 13 – Cold-Blooded – Review Score 4/5
Ep 14 – Kang Seongmin – Review Score 5/5
Ep 15 – Rice Cake– Review Score 4.5/5
Ep 16 – Rotation and Revolution (incl & Ending Explained ) – Review Score 5/5

A Beautifully Acted Historical Drama

For those of you already watching the multi-release per week Uncle Samsik, it has been a wild ride. Showing on Hulu (US), Disney+ and Disney Hotstar (internationally), the historic crime drama depicts political, corporate and military unrest in late 1950s-early 1960 South Korea starring one of Korea’s most well-known actors, Song Kang-ho of the Oscar-winning film Parasite, among many others.

It’s Song Kang-ho’s first drama series ever – since his on-screen debut in 1997. He’s paired with Byun Yo-han – you may remember him as the reluctant fiancé, Kim Hee-sung, in Mr. Sunshine, opposite Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-ri and Yoo Yoon-seok. Together Song and Kim bring to life personas from different backgrounds and philosophies, giving us an at least partly romanticized view of how the country has grown to its current splendor.

Set in the 1960s, a stormy time in South Korean history, an elite Korean Military Academy graduate (Byun) returns to the country after studying economics in the US where he builds a dream of seeing his home country become an industrial powerhouse. He meets Park Doochill – Uncle Samsik (Song) – a dubious man with a talent for making things happen. If you call him Uncle. Park is nicknamed ‘Uncle Samsik’ for his ability to ensure his family was able to eat 3 meals a day, even during the war – a feat not easily achieved by the average guy in those days.

Even with Samsik’s questionable methods, the determined Kim San pairs with him to build on their common goal of a prosperous tomorrow for the country. But how successfully can San reach his goal if the unmanageable Samsik is pulling the strings?

Song Kang-ho (Parasite, The Drug King, A Taxi Driver), is one of Korea’s most recognized celebrities and host of 2023’s Busan International Film Festival. An early collaborator with Director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite, Snowpiercer), many of his first screen roles consigned him to play underworld characters and later antiheroes. So he’s certainly in his niche with this drama.

Byun Yo-han (Mr. Sunshine, Believer 2) plays the determined topper Kim San, a face Uncle Samsik can operate behind. Lee Kyu-hyung (Hi Bye, Mama; All of Us Are Dead) is a political candidate, Kang Seong-min. While Jin Ki-Joo (My Perfect Stranger, From Now on, Showtime) plays the equally intelligent Joo Yeo-jin, Kim San’s lover. Jun Han-min is played by Seo Hyun-woo (Love and Leashes, Flower of Evil), a friend of San and another soldier with elite distinction and big ideas of his own.

Filmmaker Shin Yeon-sik (Men of Plastic, One Win) is both the writer and director of Uncle Samsik, his first TV drama. Having collaborated last year with Song Kang-ho on Cobweb and One Win both, the two have joined hands to break the small screen with this new drama. As it’s already been nominated for several Blue Dragon and Seoul International Drama Awards, including acting awards, I think they’ve hit some goals.

Song Kang-ho and Byun Yo-han at the press conference for Uncle Samsik, held at Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas. Image courtesy of Walt Disney Company Korea.

At a press conference for the series, Song shared, “It’s a very Korean title. Since it’s set against an era when people were desperate for food, it captures sentiments unique to Korea.”

Director Shin continues, “I think Korea is the only country that asks if one has eaten as a greeting. Uncle Samsik portrays the difficult times right after the Korean War when it was truly challenging to have even one meal a day.”

While both the story and the top-notch acting were engaging, the editing with endless quick cuts sometimes made things a little tough to follow. Additionally, there was that occasional weird black screen slotted between scenes that sort of dropped you off a cliff. With such a pace, it’s been fun working together with closely watching fans commenting on reviews and adding perspective. Check out the episode reviews linked above for detailed recaps.

While the regular jumps made for a quick pace overall as noted above, sometimes it felt too clipped not sharing enough information in a scene only to dive into the next piece and then return seconds later. However, once you get the rhythm, the narrative – at some points interwoven with what appears to be historical film – is nothing short of compelling. It’s a big story that Song and Byun (plus a huge, talented cast) deliver beautifully all wrapped in an endearing bromance of two men who, against the odds in turbulent times, share a bond of trust.


Did you enjoy Uncle Samsik? Check out our Ending Explained section in the final episode review. What’s been your favorite Song Kang-ho movie?

READ MORE: K-drama reviews or previews of upcoming films and TV shows. 

  • Verdict - 8.5/10

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