“Sunbae, Don’t Put on That Lipstick”, or more known as “She Would Never Know” to international viewers, is a recently concluded drama by JTBC starring Kim Rowoon and Won Jin-ah. It is a drama adaptation of a 2017 web novel by Elizeu.
She Would Never Know – What is the Plot of the Story
This Korean drama focused around the life of cosmetics marketers and the growth of the lead couple’s relationship from being co-workers with one having a one-sided love that eventually lead to a complicated romance.
The story begins with Chae Hyun-seung developing a one-sided love towards his senior and trainer at work, Yoon Song-Ah.
He wanted to confess his love despite Yoon Song-ah being very distant and indifferent towards him. He has been looking only at her for more than a year since he met her at a college job consultation but the professional Yoon Song-ah only sees him as her junior who she needs to competitively train. Thus, the title “She would never know” because it was a love that grew without her knowing.
Not a Fairytale Start
This drama had a rocky beginning for me. Chae Hyun-seung came to realize the reason why Yoon Song-ah never looks at him. It turns out, she is in a secret relationship with their manager, Lee Jae-shin, all along!
The plot thickens in She Would Never Know when Chae Hyun-seung accidentally uncovers Lee Jae-shin’s engagement to someone else, putting him in a tight spot. But rather than sit back and let the situation slide, he bravely decides to reveal the truth to Yoon Song-ah, adding a dose of dramatic tension to the show’s early episodes.
It’s definitely not a good start. It was annoying. I would say this is rather a rough introduction and completely a breakaway from the conventional romantic Korean dramas I got used too.
I felt Yoon Song-ah’s feelings of detests towards him. He had good intentions but it still felt wrong. It was particularly uncomfortable because he just had to confess his feelings before exposing the cheating.
But then again, I think it is this drama’s charm. It’s realistic. He’s dashing, very charming and thoughtful – but he’s not perfect. Which brings me to my next point.
Refreshingly Human and Relatable Characters
One thing that makes the show appealing for me is its realistic characterizations. We are used to some K-drama tropes that sometimes we can already guess how some characters can extremely react to a certain situation.
This drama however defies predictability of K-dramas by how they made their characters more human and relatable, if that makes sense. Nothing too cliché, too made-up or too scripted of a character. I find that every one of them behave like how we all tend to behave and react. Nothing overly dramatic – nothing too evil or doormat characters.
Even in the end, when Yoon Song-ah decided to choose career over love is understandable and something that really happens in real life. I really appreciated how this drama gave us a departure from typical and sometimes exaggerated K-drama character depictions.
Subtlety and Calmness in the Storytelling with Minimal Plot Twists
I find that everything is calm and subtle in the overall narrative of this drama. But in spite of that, I did not find it boring at all. Instead, it was a refreshing change from the usual K-drama twists and turns.
The very bright and adorable Chae Hyun-seung was the star of the show but the balance that Yoon Song-ah’s no-nonsensical character made their chemistry something to look forward to in every episode.
The Gradual Stages of Falling in Love Explored in the Show
The growth of the main lead’s love was slow and smooth but it was certain, and I super enjoyed that.
We often get butterflies from K-drama couples with love-hate relationships but this couple doesn’t need that dynamics to give us heart attacks.
How Yoon Song-ah refused to accept his heart at first knowing he’s too good of a person for her and how, despite knowing that, Chae Hyun-seung remained beside her as the same “hoobae” who’s ready to rescue and protect her anytime.
Eventually, she found solace with his presence and eventually fell in love!
The Heartwarming Sibling Relationships Depicted in the Drama
The relationship of the Chae siblings is also one of the things I loved in this series. Chae Hyun-seung shares a sweet relationship with his two older sisters, Ji-seung and Yeon-seung.
While they are all busy with their professional and personal lives, they often set some time to regularly meet up and catch up with each other over some delicious meals. How they always run to each other for support whenever they are in rough situations is very heartwarming to watch.
The Fun Office Dynamics of Team KLAR
The office setting is also entertaining. When the news of this new Korean drama as a Sunbae-hoobae office romance was announced, it kind of reminded me of Son Ye-jin and Jung Hae-in’s hit romantic K-drama, Something in the Rain (or Pretty Noona who buys me food). It was one of the sweetest and heart-melting office romances that captured the hearts of many, but at some points the office environment was way too heavy. I’m glad that She Would Never Know did not take that route. Instead, we get fun co-workers who are all supportive of our couple.
An Unconventional Chaebol CEO Character for a Kdrama
For a drama in a professional or business setting, I am also happy that we did not get the overused character of an extremely heartless CEO who can go to unimaginable extents to manipulate some other character’s life.
In She Would Never Know, we got a rather less talented CEO but someone who’s ultimately humane.
Lee Jae-woon is a charming and likable character. From the very start, despite his charming aura, I was prepared to see him do something wicked because of that usual image that chaebol CEO have in Korean drama, but on the other hand, not having that is an understated but satisfying twist.
An Inside Look at the World of Cosmetics Marketing in Korea
One of the remarkable things in Korean dramas is how they submerge us to the environment of different professional careers. This time, She Would Never Know acquaints us with the life of cosmetics marketers in Korea. With the worldwide popularity of the Korean Beauty industry, it’s nice to have a glimpse on the work life of some people behind our favorite K-beauty brands.
One aspect that stands out in the office setting is the intense work ethic of the marketers. While there are some comical characters in the office, when it’s time to work, these professionals take their job seriously. We witness their dedication in various aspects of their work, from conducting product research and testing to addressing public concerns, organizing events, and launching new products.
In one of the scenes, we even saw their BM Lee Jae-shin wearing “make-up” – particularly foundation – to test out its wearability. We were also blessed with a scene of Kim Rowoon demonstrating how to put foundation on his face which, by the way, resulted in one of the swoony moments of the drama.
A Happy Ending for All: How She Would Never Know Ties Up Loose Ends
For me, the best part of this Korean drama is its flawlessly executed ending. My usual complaint for romantic Korean dramas is sometimes, they can have great casts, very interesting narratives, and thought-provoking concepts and plot twists that will hype you up so much – only to bring you down with a seemingly hurried ending that sometimes doesn’t give justice to the entirety of the story and kind of leave you with a more bunch of questions and blanks to fill. (Yes, I meant Dodosolsollalasol!)
Thankfully, this drama is an exception, with a well-written and satisfying conclusion. Everyone got their fair share of happy endings and a closure they well deserved. As the drama ended, I found myself sighing contentedly with a smile on my face.
“People hurt you the most but they also help you heal.” – Yoon Song-ah
Yoon Song-ah and her mother resolved their unspoken conflict. Her mother eventually decided to let go of Song-ah and tried to live her life independent from her daughter. This made both of them happier and mended their distant relationship.
After years of trying to prove his worth by working like a “dog” for the rich, Lee Jae-shin finally got his resolve. In the end, he was able to start his own successful cosmetics company with his own efforts and skills alone and without relying on anybody’s influence.
Surviving a failed engagement, Lee Hyo-joo finally accepted that she can never have Lee Jae-shin’s heart and eventually learned to live her life for herself. She also took the effort to reconcile with her ex-fiancé to free him from his guilt. A lovely ending and turn-around for someone who was once crazily and obsessively in love.
Lee Jae-woon and Lee Jae-shin also rekindled their friendship. I think this is not a necessary ending for the drama but I appreciate that they included it. Although it might only be a business relationship for Lee Jae-shin, we can see that Lee Jae-woon has always been sincere with his friendship with him. To see them back in good terms (almost) despite all those betrayal and conflicts is a beautiful scene.
Our Jack and Jill couple also had their very own happy ending. Thankfully, Lee Jae-woon and Chae Ji-seung stayed together despite the awkward intertwined relationship of the people around them. Seeing them soon to tie the knot proves that, indeed, “every Jack has his Jill”.
On the other hand, Chae Yeon-seung and Kang Woo-hyun decided to end their marriage and let each other go. Although it is not an entirely happy ending especially for their child, their divorce is somehow essential for the drama’s conclusion. I think it represented the idea in Hyun-seung’s line, “You can’t always win in love even if you give it your all”.
Chae Yeon-seung did it all when it comes to love. She sacrificed her career to become a fulltime mom and housewife. Even after knowing of his husband’s identity issues, she continued to remain by his side until he was ready to face his challenges alone. What a strong, selfless woman. Although she failed to keep her man in the end, being able to let him go is the perfect closure she deserves. This will allow her to move forward more easily and without being chained to the past.
Finally, our main couple in wedding attire. For a romantic k-drama, what’s a better ending than that? Let’s admit it, we seldom get this in Korean drama. So, when we get one, I’m one of those whose heart jumps out of joy!!
It was super heartbreaking to see them apart – at episode 15 at that! It really bothers me how recent K-dramas have that pattern of breaking the couple near the show’s conclusion. (When the Weather is Fine, Record of Youth, Start Up, True Beauty – do I need to add more?) Although we know that they are more likely to get back together in the end because, well, they’re the main leads. For me it leaves a void that one final episode of happy ending simply cannot fill. But this last episode deeply moved me.
Song-ah realized how badly she hurt Hyun-seung and how great her love for him is after all. Despite their unchanged feelings, Hyun-seung refused to take her back right away. Instead, he took time until he’s certain that she’s not going to leave him when a difficult situation comes amidst their love again. How she sincerely pursued him to win him back was kind of awkward but impressive. Finally we get to see her taking the lead and giving the love and special attention Hyun-seung deserves!
Aaaand most of all! What do you say about her proposal? Over the entire course of the drama, we’ve seen Chae Hyun-seung madly in love with her. He loves her more than she does. We’ve seen that. We’re pretty sure of that. So her, proposing to him the way she did: in the middle of the crossroad, asking to spend every season with her – who really loved who more?
“She Would Never know” or “Sunbae Don’t Put on That Lipstick” is surely one of the must-watch K-dramas for the first quarter of 2021. In case you end up missing this couple after its conclusion, I heard they’re releasing its webtoon together with the drama release too! So let’s all check that out!
Did you enjoy the drama like I did? What are your favorite scenes? Let me know in the comments section below!