Main Cast: Lee Sun-Kyun, Moon Chae-Won, Kang You-Seok, Park Soon, Kim Hong-Fa
Payback follows the story of Eun Yong (played by Lee Sun-hyun) and Park Jun-Kyeong (played by Moon Chae-Won) as they seek revenge against the powerful and influential money cartel led by Myung In-Joo (played by Kim Hong-Fa). Despite being incredibly gifted at math and blessed with a photographic memory for numbers, Yong had a questionable past and worked for thugs and loan sharks after his time in juvie as he struggled to make ends meet. Eventually In-Joo recognized Yong’s abilities and utilized Yong to create a profitable business that lended money to corporations. However In-Joo’s profits came at the cost of the corporations’ owners. In addition to the loans having unfavorable terms that required equity as collateral, Yong and In-Joo drove the corporations to bankruptcy as they manipulated the market and shorted the stocks. After watching a corporation owner commit suicide, Yong realized that In-Joo was consumed by greed and attempted to leave the business. However, he was brutally beaten by his former thugs and forced to leave the country.
Fast forward to the future, Yong is a partner at a successful hedge fund in Korea and is currently living and conducting business in Mongolia. However, Yong quickly returns to Korea after his beloved nephew, Tae-Chun, a new attorney at Korea’s Prosecutor Office, sends him a fax to help him decode a potentially illegal ledger that would be critical evidence for a major market manipulation case. Upon further inspection, Yong realizes that In-Joo was the main perpetrator in his nephew’s case. Yong also learns that Jun-Keyong’s mother, Yoon Hye-Rin, committed suicide after In-Joo wrongfully framed her in a bribery case and stole her company. Despite not being his biological mother, Yong deeply cared for Hye-Rin and viewed her as a motherly figure since she was the first adult who respected him, despite his criminal record. Although she was aware that he worked for thugs and loan sharks, Hye-Rin always welcomed Yong and supported his initial business endeavors. Upon hearing of the details of Hye-Rin’s suicide, case, and fabricated evidence Yong enlists the help of Tae-Chun and Jun-Kyeong to expose the corruption within the nation’s legal system and pay back In-Joo for wronging his family.
Payback starts off slow but it does a great job at laying the foundation for understanding Yong’s complex past. The series goes back and forth in time and does a great job at making you wonder and question someone’s behavior, only to have it quickly answered by the end of the episode. Although Yong is definitely not a saint, he still has a strong grasp on a sense of right and wrong and sticks to his morals; hence him deciding to split from In-Joo. However, I am curious to see how he will balance his morals and values while his revenge plays according to In-Joo’s ruthless rules.
My favorite scene of the drama is when Yong rallied a group of In-Joo’s previous victims to exact their revenge by interfering with In-Joo’s plans to profit from successfully shorting a company’s stock. It was crazy to watch Yong analyze the different screens and trends while manipulating the market as he directed everyone on how much to sell and buy and at what price. That scene really made me realize the true extent of Yong’s intellect.