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Race to the finale: 'Start-Up' Team Do San vs. Team Ji Pyeong

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Dec 02, 2020 12:29 am Updated Dec 02, 2020 9:16 pm

K-drama series Start-Up has been giving its fans a whole lot of kilig since it first aired on Netflix on Oct. 17.

Now that it’s drawing to a close this weekend, chances are, you still find yourself at the edge of your seat, wondering who Seo Dal Mi (Bae Suzy) will end up with—the charming tech engineer Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk) or the no-nonsense dapper investor Han Ji Pyeong (Kim Seon Ho)? 

We couldn’t blame Dal Mi for being confused, as these two characters have equally crushable personalities that keep on developing in every episode of the show.

But as many phenomenal love stories would have it, viewers began to take sides and tagging themselves “Team Do San” and “Team Good Boy” early in the series.

Whichever of these two Oppas you are rooting for, here’s a side-by-side comparison of what makes each of them boyfriend material for the independent and goal-driven Dal Mi. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)


Kim Kang Hoon (left) as the young Do San and Nam Da Reum (right) as the young Ji Pyeong. Photos from Kim Kang Hoon and Nam Da Reum on Instagram.

Do San grew up having a pretty normal childhood. He was raised by his middle-class parents Nam Seong Hwan (Kim Won Hae) and Park Geum Jung (Kim Hee Jung) in a bungalow house with his own bedroom. They can afford to watch baseball games, like the one where Do San met real-life baseball star Park Chan Ho up close. A smart boy and the only child of his parents, Do San received all the support most parents would give to their children. 

With the love he was receiving, it isn’t hard to tell why the young Do San matured as a down-to-earth man. He was nicknamed “Living Buddha” because, as his father says, “he prefers to lose [to others] because he feels better that way.” A perfect example was when he intentionally wrote the wrong answers on the blackboard, just so his older classmate wouldn’t be picked on for losing to a kid like him.

Ji Pyeong, on the other hand, lived in an orphanage before he went to live on his own when he was 17 years old. Noticing that he had nowhere to go, Dal Mi’s grandmother Choi Won Deok (Kim Hae Sook) offered him shelter in her corndog shop. She learned how good of a teenager he is when she discovered that Ji Pyeong did not run away with the money she left inside the shop. Thus, the nickname “Good Boy.”


Both Do San and Ji Pyeong have a lot to bring to their table in their respective fields. 

Do San is so skillful in math, he became the youngest winner of the South Korean Mathematical Olympiad at six years old. His above-average IQ granted him the privilege to skip high school and enter college at 13 years old. But he backtracked his admission to the university not long afterward, so he could live a normal life with kids his age. He went on to take up an engineering degree a few years later.

In the same year Do San won the Math Olympiad, 17-year-old Ji Pyeong championed a virtual investment competition. He later taught himself how to invest in stocks and grew the money of Dal Mi’s Halmoni (grandmother) from two million to 80 million won

Fashion style

Though they have contrasting fashion tastes, Do San and Ji Pyeong sure know how to suit themselves based on their age and everyday tasks. 

Dal Mi both met Do San and Ji Pyeong in 2017 but in different stages of their lives. Do San was in his 20s and struggling in his career, while Ji Pyeong was in his 30s with a stable high-paying job.

With his age and nature of his work, it’s no wonder why Do San prefers to keep it low-key with a loose button-down polo or sweatshirt and a pair of light straight-leg jeans. 

Ji Pyeong, who would usually spend his day running from one meeting to another, likes to dress to the nines in casual suits and million-won watches. Adding more pogi points is his matte black Mercedes Benz sedan, which we’ve seen in almost all episodes of the show.


Do San and Ji Pyeong both have exemplary skills fit to make them a leader in their own time.

Do San co-founded Samsan Tech with his two friends Kim Yong San (Kim Do Wan) and Lee Chul San (Yoo Su Bin) shortly after graduating from college. The three engineers have been struggling to get investors for the longest time until they got their break in 2017, when they won CODA’s Large Scale Virtual Recognition Challenge with their AI technology and subsequently entered Sandbox, South Korea’s fictional Silicon Valley that funds various start-ups.

At Sandbox, Do San and Dal Mi spearheaded the development of NoonGil, a mobile app that aids visually impaired people through AI technology.

His greatest comeback (so far) is becoming the head of the lead department in 2STO's AI Center in San Francisco.

Ji Pyeong, on the other hand, has been successful on the get-go as the senior investment manager of a venture capital company in South Korea. His claim to fame is that all the companies he invests in succeeds. He was later promoted to director.

Role in Dal Mi's life

When it comes to Dal Mi, Do San brings his A-game as a fighter, while Ji Pyeong takes things slowly but surely as her protector.

Do San is Dal Mi's current flame. He may be socially awkward—he never had any girlfriend before—but he's willing to go all-in when it comes to Dal Mi.

She inspires him to become a better man. He fights for their relationship, as he never leaves her side even when Dal Mi found out that it was Ji Pyeong, not him, that penned her comforting letters in their younger years.

Ji Pyeong is Dal Mi's first love. By writing those letters, which he did disguised as Do San, he made Dal Mi feel that she is not fighting through life alone. He is blunt and straightforward but often finds himself tongue-tied around Dal Mi

Instead, he shows his affection by being her knight in shining armor even in the simplest times, like warding off another suitor.

Which side are you on?

Catch the last two episodes of Start-Up at 10 p.m. this weekend on Netflix.

Photos from TVN Drama and TVN Start-Up on Instagram.