Refusing to believe what he had seen and heard outside the fried chicken restaurant, Tae-moo (Ahn Hyo-seop) calls up “Geum-hui” and is shocked to see Ha-ri (Gugudan’s Kim Se-jong) answering her cell phone in real time.
Upon returning home and checking the employee records, Tae-moo is both appalled and furious that he’d not only been “dating an employee”, but that he had been deceived by Ha-ri. The young president decides to launch an all-out operation the next day, sending Ha-ri into a frenzy when he asks to meet with “Geum-hui” in Ilsan (a 30-minute drive from Seoul), and then arranging a last-minute meeting with Ha-ri’s R&D team back at the Seoul headquarters. To her team’s surprise, Tae-moo even demands that Ha-ri redevelop the white kimchi ravioli, which previously had rave reviews.
Tae-moo continues pushing Ha-ri to her culinary limits as he rejects each of her ravioli remakes, but is unable to give a definitive answer or reason for it when confronted. Chairman Kang (Lee Deok-hwa), on the other hand, actually takes a liking to the dish, despite his personal distaste for Ha-ri. Even as Sung-hoon (Kim Min-gue) makes an acute observation about Tae-moo “treating Ha-ri very emotionally” and acting out of character, the latter justifies his actions by informing his secretary about her double identity.
While on a meet-up with Tae-moo, Ha-ri is put in a bind when he tells “Geum-hui” to attend the company’s Founding Anniversary Ceremony with him – as she would have to be there as an official employee. He has a response for her every excuse, culminating in threatening her with the hefty penalty fee, per their contract. Ha-ri freaks out about it over a meal with best friend Young-seo (Seol In-a), who continues to naively believe that she’d get away with it, since “Geum-hui and Ha-ri are two different people” – at least in her eyes.
Ha-ri arrives at the office the next morning to the news of her being given the company’s Mega Hit Award, but her excitement is cut short when she realises that she’d be receiving the award from none other than Tae-moo himself. While switching between delirium and despair, she cooks up an elaborate strategy to excuse herself (the real Ha-ri) from the event, though it doesn’t stop her from having a nightmare about the possible scenario that could unfold.
Meanwhile, Young-seo heads to a popular eating spot and gets first dibs as a solo diner – only to end up eating side-by-side with Sung-hoon at the counter. Scarred from his emotional outburst during their last interaction, she passive-aggressively makes a big deal about not “crossing the line” while sitting next to him, to Sung-hoon’s bewilderment and mild exasperation.
After a celebratory team dinner-turned-drunken sobfest, a tipsy Ha-ri calls Tae-moo and pleads with him to let her off from the anniversary event. When her line abruptly gets cut off, a worried Tae-moo springs into action and drives to Ha-ri’s neighbourhood, embarking on a frantic search that leads to him finding her passed out on a playground slide. As Ha-ri comes to, she drunkenly wonders out loud if seeing Tae-moo was a dream, because there would be “no way [he] would come running to take care of [her] like this”. After cautiously confessing and apologising to a surprised (and somewhat ashamed) Tae-moo for her double life, she collapses in his arms.
Tae-moo manages to suppress his overwhelming emotions from the night before, calmly informing Ha-ri the next morning that “Geum-hui” is fired, and that they’ll “never have to see each other again”. This, and hearing that no further ravioli remakes are required, puts Ha-ri in a supremely superb mood. On the flip side, Tae-moo goes on an impromptu business trip to New York to “clear his head”, thinking that his feelings for Ha-ri were developed out of sheer confusion and frequent interactions. He experiences a mental breakdown when he starts seeing her at every turn, and begins to realise that his feelings are real. Back home, Ha-ri gazes wistfully at the white dress Tae-moo had bought her, not feeling as relieved as she’d thought she’d be from putting “Geum-hui” to rest. That changes the next day when Chairman Kang springs a surprise by asking “Geum-hui” to meet with him for dinner.
That evening, a shaken Young-seo discovers a hidden camera in the lamp from her shady neighbour, Jung-woo (Lee Ki-hyuk), whom she runs into at the apartment block’s exit as she heads out to lodge a police report. Back from the overseas work trip, Sung-hoon arrives in time to see them tussling over the lamp, eventually dashing off in pursuit and apprehension of the perpetrator.
In the meantime, Ha-ri arrives at the dinner location as “Geum-hui”, and runs into Tae-moo, who had just been updated about Sung-hoon and Young-seo’s situation. He cuts to the chase and asks her to follow him, but she does a double take when he calls her “Ha-ri”. Tae-moo admits to knowing about her double identity, but insists that being at the police station was much more important at that point. Young-seo and Ha-ri are gobsmacked when they’re shown the hidden camera footage by the officer-in-charge, and also dismayed to hear that peeping tom Jung-woo would likely be let off with a mere monetary fine. This is not fine for Tae-moo and Sung-hoon, however, who take matters with Jung-woo into their own hands.
At a clothes fitting, Tae-moo matter-of-factly informs Sung-hoon that he had developed feelings for Ha-ri, and is confident that she would accept them – because in his words: “Who would possibly reject me if I said I liked them?” This is proven otherwise when he meets with Ha-ri later that evening; despite pulling out all the stops to win her over (and imagining it in his head), Tae-moo is blindsided when Ha-ri has the impression that he wants to fire her because of her deception. She hands in her resignation letter, along with showing him a presentation deck of her achievements, as part of her plea for him to keep her in the company.
In his post-meeting analysis after their tennis game, Sung-hoon surmises that Tae-moo is missing a “heart-pounding charm”, and that it would take time for Ha-ri to open herself up to someone else after getting over Min-woo (Song Won-seok). Tae-moo insists that both he and Ha-ri had shared some “romantic moments” together, but Sung-hoon dismisses them as being part of the fake dates, adding that Ha-ri only sees him as “a terrifying boss who tried to fire her”. “From now on, you need to create real situations,” Sung-hoon advises. Despite Tae-moo’s best efforts in doing so – such as renting out an entire movie theatre for him and Ha-ri – it ends up being foiled by circumstances beyond his control.
An undeterred Tae-moo requests for Ha-ri to join him on a business trip to the eastern seaside city of Sokcho, where he and Chairman Kang officiate the opening of a new hotel. It also turns out that she has a specific yearning to “visit Sokcho and have delicious food”, which Tae-moo learns about through stalking her social media account. He manages to help her fulfill one of her must-eats: hamburgers from a popular food truck (featuring a cameo by singer Tei as the vendor). This makes Ha-ri content, and so is Tae-moo, as he watches her indulge in glee. Though he gets to know Ha-ri a little better over their seaside meal, she continues to uphold a professional boundary between them.
In Seoul, Young-seo and Sung-hoon run into each other at the same eatery as before, begrudgingly sitting side-by-side at the counter again. There is an odd air between them, fanned by her embarrassment of him seeing her most vulnerable moment (holding in her pee due to her newfound fear of being spied on), and his annoyance at how she’s taken ‘drawing the line’ too far. Worried about leaving an intoxicated Young-seo to her own devices, Sung-hoon follows her, and ends up on the receiving end of her drunken confession. Young-seo kisses Sung-hoon on impulse, which he reciprocates without hesitation.
Back in Sokcho, Tae-moo and Ha-ri get caught in a rainstorm while driving. This causes Tae-moo to have a panic attack, owing to trauma related to his parents’ accident. In his emotional state, he forces Ha-ri to alight from the car, leaving her stranded in the middle of nowhere as he heads off to collect himself. Upset at being abandoned, Ha-ri makes a long trek to a hotel to freshen up, where she coincidentally runs into her college friends, including Min-woo’s girlfriend Yoo-ra (Bae Woo-hee). As they press for Ha-ri to introduce her purported beau – as claimed by Young-seo – Tae-moo turns up in good time and coolly introduces himself as her boyfriend, complete with affectionate gestures and a tender gaze.
- In the immortal words of Uncle Ben in Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Though not exactly his responsibility, it was good to see Tae-moo use his power to deal with Ha-ri and Young-seo’s perp, albeit in his own way.
- The beautiful – and almost surreal-looking – beach that Tae-moo and Ha-ri have lunch at is a refreshing change from the characters’ city life thus far.
- Not all ‘Seoul’ locations in K-dramas are actually filmed at locations in Seoul. K-drama production teams typically source for places in regional areas such as Incheon, Seongnam and Ilsan, passing them off as capital city locales. One prime example in Business Proposal is the GoFood headquarters, which is actually a bank building in Daegu – 3 hours from Seoul by car.
- Though the inaugurated hotel in episode 4 is said to be in Sokcho, the real hotel – Skybay Gyeongpo Hotel – is actually in another seaside city along the eastern coast: Gangneung, which is an hour away. Its facade appears to have been digitally altered to portray two different hotels in the episode.
‘A Business Proposal’ airs every Monday and Tuesday on SBS at 10:00pm in South Korea, and is also available on Netflix globally