I am usually wary about North Korea spy thrillers — they can sometimes go very wrong (read: Level 7 Civil Servant, Doctor Stranger). So far, Spy has been keeping me on my toes…cross my fingers that it will continue this way.


Main cast:

  • Kim Jae-joong (from Protect the Boss) as Kim Sun-woo. NIS spy, and a pretty good one at that. Cos of his profession, he has to keep his real job a secret from his family.
  • Bae Jong-ok as Park Hye-rim. Sun-woo’s mum, whom everybody assumes is an efficient and graceful housewife. She is actually a N. Korea spy in hiding.
  • Ko Sung-hee as Lee Yoon-jin. Sun-woo’s girlfriend, who claims to come from the same “hometown in China” as Sun-woo’s mum. However, Mdm Park thinks she is more than juz a normal girl-next-door, and notes her quick reflexes and her evasive answers.
  • Yu Oh-seong as Hwang Gi-chul. N. Korean spy, who has an axe to grind? with Mdm Park.


Dramabean’s full recap of ep1 here. (Note: Spy releases 2eps back-to-back per week, a format new to kdramas, but very much used in HK serials)

In a staged accident, Sun-woo loses the briefcase to N. Korean spy Gi-chul, who notes the pic of his mum (Hye-rim) in his wallet and decides not to kill him. For being left alive, Sun-woo is investigated by NIS, but he passes his lie detector test with flying colors. He rushes home after the interview session cos he is introducing his girlfriend, Yoon-jin, to his family.


Yoon-jin gets invited in when Sun-woo’s parents spot her standing in the cold waiting for their son. At first, Hye-rim is friendly with her prospective daughter-in-law, but she begins to suspect that she isn’t a normal girl when Yoon-jin evades her sensitive questions on where in Shenyang, China does her (dead) parents live, and clocks Yoon-jin’s fast reflexes at saving a fallen water jug. Sun-woo and his dad think Hye-rim may juz be jealous, and try to cajole her to accept the sweet Yoon-jin.


Meanwhile, a N. Korean female spy decides to defect and warns NIS that the North has juz undergone a coup — and the decision of the coup is to hunt and kill all surviving N. Korean spies currently in the South.


Frankly, I have zero patience for kdrama’s interpretations of N Korea’s militarism and spy-elimination tactics. I’m not sure whether this is the psyche of S. Koreans, but going by how their dramas/ movies portray the North, it will always end with the North aiming to wipe out their existing undercover spies in the South. (or maybe this really happened)


The same crisis is described in Spy. Since N Koreans in kdrama are usually portrayed as cruel, and finickle, I won’t go into the logic of why they need too eliminate spies in the South cos of whatever happened in the North. However, such plotlines usually encourage loads of action — evident as early as the first 30sec of Spy, when bad spy Gi-chul kills the Chinese informant which Sun-woo is teamed up with to obtain the silver suitcase. And later, in the closing of ep1, when Gi-chul manages to find Hye-rim (who betrayed him in one of their earlier missions) via Sun-woo’s wallet.


I bet my money that sweet-faced Yoon-jin is also a spy (or a double spy). In that case, her intention of getting near Sun-woo may not be that pure. Coupled with the overarching North-killing-spies theme, she may be part of the team that is sent to eliminate defecting N. Korean spies or a spy who is sent to infiltrate NIS.

I’m keeping an open mind for Spy at the moment. So far, I am liking Kim Jae-joong‘s performance — he is the suave, cool spy yet at the same time, a doting son and boyfriend. Likewise for his capable mum. The action sequences are also tight and not sloppy. Hopefully it continues this way, without the usual degeneration into messy intrigues.