[Warning: Contains Spoilers]
‘Start-Up’ might officially be over, but fan theories are just getting started. Throughout the course of the drama, fans were split between two teams as to who the male lead should be: Nam Do San, played by Nam Joo Hyuk, or Han Ji Pyeong, played by Kim Seon Ho. Until either of the actors come out with their new projects, the debate will probably remain a heated topic of discussion. While Kim Seon Ho himself admitted that Nam Do San is the one for Dal Mi despite the past that Ji Pyeong shares with her, Netizens have some varying opinions. Here are 5 solid reasons as to why Dal Mi should have ideally ended up with Ji Pyeong.
Mr. Good Boy loves Dal Mi selflessly
Ji Pyeong is severely misunderstood and Dal Mi’s grandmother is the only one who could break through his tough exterior to reveal the sweetness inside. After Ji Pyeong meets Dal Mi for the first time in years, he’s immediately taken by her charm. It’s clear that he recognizes her spirit from the letters they shared even before recognizing her by face or name. Ever since then, he looks out for her and all he really cares about, even before realizing that he might be in love, is her happiness, which is intertwined with her grandmother’s. By the time he realizes that he, too, can step up as Do San, the real Do San is smitten by Dal Mi and shows up himself. However, that doesn’t deter Ji Pyeong from wanting to carry the situation to fruition because he simply has her best interest at heart. Ji Pyeong doesn’t seek validation for helping Dal Mi and neither does he force his feelings on her until he knows it’s too late, and for what it’s worth, he just wants to confess.
Ji Pyeong is Dal Mi’s, first love
Do San might have been Dal Mi’s fated love, orchestrated by her grandmother unwittingly, but Ji Pyeong is Dal Mi’s first love, the one who helped her pull through the worst time of her life, the one who made her as bright, happy, and positive as she is, the one who is so compatible with her that she fell in love without ever seeing his face. The trust she puts into Do San – leaving her job to start a business, becoming the CEO of his company, leading them to success – is all backed by how secure he made her feel through those letters. Do San might have shown up at the right place at the right time, but it would never work as magically as it did if Ji Pyeong hadn’t created the perfect conditions so as to ensure that Dal Mi would be happy. Do San wants to make a misunderstanding into a reality, replace Ji Pyeong and the memories attached to him. Still, Ji Pyeong wants Dal Mi to be happy no matter what, even if it meant discarding his own feelings in order to maintain the illusion that Dal Mi is happy in. The force of Dal Mi’s first love was so strong that she could immediately excuse Do San for lying about being a hotshot CEO and even picks Samsan Tech for her team when she realizes that while she made it as a CEO, Do San didn’t. None of this would have been possible if the letters hadn’t made her feel the way they did. Despite her grandmother having created this relationship, the feelings that the two shared were sincere and earnest, even more so because of what each of them were going through at the time. Now, that is not something that can just be replaced.
Ji Pyeong and Do San both lie but for vastly different motives
Ji Pyeong doesn’t want Dal Mi to be hurt by the fact that the only thing that comforted her during such a difficult time of her life was fake. This is what urges him to find Do San and make reality out of a lie. He also craves Dal Mi’s love, but he doesn’t covet it over her happiness. If Ji Pyeong only owned up to using a pen name to write to her, unafraid of the consequences (which would have been far less severe than how they actually turned out to be), Do San probably wouldn’t stand a chance. However, Do San chooses to lie to her for two reasons: he doesn’t want her to be hurt simply because it’s love at first sight and not because he was part of her experience as a young adult, and secondly, he wants to be with her now than he knows how it feels to be smitten. He sails off without a map, but he’s confident because he knows where he’s going.
Dal Mi and Ji Pyeong are more compatible
Even if we disregard the letters, there’s just something about the Dal Mi-Ji Pyeong pairing that just clicks. Dal Mi is perfectly in sync with Ji Pyeong’s realism and doesn’t think it’s rude when he’s simply stating facts. Do San, on the other hand, is aggravated at the slightest comment and thinks that they’re stemming from ill intentions. Ji Pyeong and Dal Mi have similar opinions on simple everyday things, whereas Do San often has to lie in a way that makes Dal Mi think they’re compatible. Do San cannot identify himself in Ji Pyeong’s letters and cannot relate to it even if he desperately tried to. However, those letters were written years ago when Ji Pyeong and Do San were both teenagers at the brink of adulthood. This clearly shows that Do San’s emotional intelligence is in no way on the same level as Dal Mi’s. There’s no doubt that Do San grows and evolves throughout the drama, and by the end of it all, he understands maybe a part of what Dal Mi meant when she said that sailing off without a map wasn’t too bad.
Labor of love
Whenever Dal Mi needs any help or assistance whatsoever, whether it be in connection to Samsan Tech or not, Ji Pyeong is also there for her. He helps her with her pitch, answers all 461 of her questions in a typed out e-mail, helps her grow into a competent CEO from a wide-eyed dreamer, advises her honestly about whatever she needs help with, looks out for the smallest signs of discomfort, rescues her from dire situations and so on. However, despite all this, Ji Pyeong doesn’t demand her attention in return. He simply does what he can to make sure Dal Mi is happy. Even after Dal Mi has discovered the truth and Do San has left for San Francisco, Ji Pyeong doesn’t take advantage of their past and instead, allows Dal Mi to understand her own emotions. In the 3 years that Do San was gone, Ji Pyeong never preyed on Dal Mi’s vulnerability to assert his presence and Do San’s absence. After Do San returns and he’s assured of her longing for him, Ji Pyeong not only steps away but also urges Do San to go after her with confidence because he knows that’s the only thing that can make her happy. After all, it takes a lot more strength and purity of love in order to let go.