The Han-sung Steel takeover is finally over in this episode; but it turns out that the takeover is only the beginning of something far more grave than anyone ever expected. Family ties are shattered, betrayals come left and right, alliances are forged and broken—just as the entirety of Korea becomes strapped for cash.
Seo-yoon wakes up from a horrible nightmare where she witnesses Sung-jin losing Han-sung steel to Min-jae and the Eden Consortium. Breakfast then greets Seo-yoon with her sister-in-law and sister fighting over the department stores, and Won-jae attempting to taunt her with Han-sung steel bid proposal chaos (and his recent “betrayal” to Eden).
Coming to office doesn’t make Seo-yoon’s life any better since the first thing she sees is Min-jae and Tae-joo walking out of Min-jae’s office into Won-jae’s office. To cap it off, Seo-yoon and Tae-joo have a particularly awkward stare down (is that supposed to be romantic development, writer-nim???) that lasts far too long.
In Won-jae’s office, the trio of men start finding ways to deal with Seo-yoon’s bid. Won-jae suggests ratting out the issues with her proposal, but the other two say that it’s useless to “pour salt on each other’s wounds.” Tae-joo concludes that the game has become simple; just a race to see who will bet more money.
Seo-yoon finds out about the influx of cash that Eden has gotten from Won-jae’s investment totaling 1.15 Trillion Won + 1 Billion Dollars. She then demands to put all of Sung-jin’s holdings into the bid–1.2 Trillion Won + 1 Billion Dollars + another 300 Billion from the Sung-jin Auto development fund. Director Kim (Seo-yoon’s Finance Director and spy for Min-jae?) relays the information to the Eden group. Tae-joo simply says to increase their bid to 1.6 Trillion and 1 Billion Dollars, and then make up the difference by selling Han-sung Steel bit by bit at a profit (i.e. fraudulently) despite the lack of cash flow due to the IMF Crisis.
Jung-hoon and Dong-hui meanwhile start to plan their “hands in both pots” scheme, but Eun-jung is not stupid to not see through the two. Won-jae laughs Eun-jung’s warnings off, saying that Dong-hui is un-interested in the Department Stores, Eun-jung’s prized possessions. From there, Won-jae and Eun-jung have a “emotional talk” discussing their futures once the Han-sung Steel issue is over, and Eun-jung warns Won-jae to avoid falling into Min-jae’s trap.
Similarily, Jung-hee and Sung-jae have a Bae family talk, where Jung-hee annoys the heck out of Sung-jae for asking him to cut his relationship with the Choi family and his favorite sister Seo-yoon and support her cause. Sung-jae begs his mom to reconsider her nefarious plans, and asks that they both go live a quiet life in the States so he can attend Princeton University.
Back at Sung-jin, Seo-yoon reveals her master plan as Director Kim (who she protected from an embezzlement scandal) confirms the purchase price to be at 980 Billion Won + 1 Billion Dollars. Director Park is stunned as she reveals that she had set up Eden to increase their bid, and explains that if she wins by highest bid, then both the people in the Eden Consortium and the general public will never leave her alone. She assures Director Park that she can certainly win, citing that her father has won multiple takeovers with a low bid.
Tae-joo and Min-jae start discussing plans for Han-sung Steel post-purchase (counting chickens before they hatch, huh?) when Seo-yoon and Dong-jin call Min-jae and Tae-joo for a chat. Seo-yoon congratulates Min-jae on a job well done (in reference to Han-sung), but reminds him that with ownership of Han-sung comes financial problems, as the loan certificate for the last 450 billion Won is flimsy and the 1 Billion dollars is a high-interest, short term loan. She admits that a split-sale (which is the Eden group’s original plans for Han-sung) would be a way to solve those problems, albeit quite risky, so she offers to alleviate the financial stress by helping cover interest costs if they give the Steel company to her. Dong-jin supports Seo-yoon’s request and also asks that Min-jae let Sung-jin have Han-sung, out of his love for Dong-sung and the brothers’s struggle to build Han-sung together.
Min-jae is infuriated by the proposition, and especially appalled by the fact his father could suggest giving up Han-sung to Sung-jin after all the pain and loss that Dong-sung had caused for Dong-jin. But as the wise old man Dong-jin is, he tells Min-jae that his history with Dong-sung is something Min-jae will never understand, and that holding grudges will do no one good. Min-jae retorts that Dong-jin is just stupid for sacrificing his family (his wife, his son, Min-jae’s wife) for his brother who never cared about him. Seo-yoon still extends her hand to Min-jae saying that Han-sung is the product of their fathers’s blood; but he vehemently refuses, promising to rip apart Han-sung, and earn enough money to buy out Sung-jin and rip that apart too. Min-jae storms out, with Tae-joo on his heel (not before another awkward stare a Seo-yoon that is starting to look ridiculously comical).
At their office, Min-jae asks Tae-joo to promise to leave him as soon as he shows any signs of being weak like his father. Tae-joo agrees. Seo-yoon in the meantime, explains to Director Park that history—memories, tears, and sweat—will be her card to winning to Han-sung, and trusts that Dong-jin will carry her there. And as expected, Dong-jin makes a couple of phone calls that night.
The next day, the Eden crew eagerly await the takeover news, prematurely thinking that everything is in the bag. Pil-joo however, has a premonition that something is going to end badly, and he’s proven right as Sung-jin wins the bid. Everyone involved with the Eden proposal are in disarray, while Seo-yoon immediately starts setting up the takeover. Number one on her agenda? Making sure that the first furnace in Han-sung Steel that her father and uncle built is maintained for nostalgia’s sake, and as a relic of the Korean Steel industry.
Dong-jin comes to the Sung-jin main office, asking Min-jae to leave his plans to become Sung-jin’s Chairman and work with him. Min-jae still doesn’t understand why Dong-jin continues to give his life away for Choi Dong-sung, and chides him for giving everything away to his brother (and Seo-yoon). Dong-jin responds that the life he experienced; growing a company from his bare hands is very different from the life his son lives, surrounded by money from day one. Dong-jin explains to Min-jae that he’s witnessed fights and terror stem from love of money, and is regretful that that his relationship with his brother fell to shambles because of that obsession with money. He pleads with Min-jae to realize that family is more important than a quest for gold, and that a company born from sweat is better than a company born from cash. However, Min-jae ignores all of the advice, and declares to his father that he’ll take over Sung-jin and rewrite its history…in which his father and the rest of the Choi family will have no part.
In Eden, the IMF Crisis becomes a growing concern for everyone, save for the always gambling Tae-joo. He in fact, sees the crisis as an opportunity to be winner in this economic gambling game for survival. Eden then starts preparing their resources to make the most out of everyone else’s misery…including Seo-yoon’s.
Yes indeed, things are not fine and dandy at Sung-jin after the Han-sung takeover, as Seo-yoon is now struggling because of the economic downturn. She meets the scumbag, Congressman Kim, to gain government favor in the IMF related issues; however, it’s a throwaway attempt at gleaning support as no one—state included—has money. Sung-jin, like many other conglomerates, is on the brink of declaring bankruptcy as foreign currency disappears and credit ratings drop. Seo-yoon, to save her company, is forced to turn to Tae-joo and Min-jae for the 1 Billion in foreign currency they have from the Han-sung bid.
Tae-joo and Min-jae meet with Seo-yoon about the 1 Billion, which is currently under a joint withdrawal between Min-jae and Tae-joo. Seo-yoon offers to cover debt from the failed takeover, which Min-jae is willing to take, scared of the imminent economic collapse and the vast amount of debt they have. Tae-joo on the other hand, brushes Seo-yoon’s offer off and asks instead for ten Sung-jin Affiliates, but not without letting Seo-yoon know that it’s really he (and Min-jae) who has the upper hand in this gamble. Tae-joo then leaves with Min-jae in tow, with a stunned Seo-yoon. The idea of losing ten affiliates terrifies the Vice-Chairman, but Director Park reminds her that losing the entire company is way worse than giving up just those ten affiliates.
In the adjacent room, Min-jae is angry at Tae-joo for leaving such a precious opportunity behind to save their necks. Tae-joo counters that Min-jae is starting to sound like his father, and that Seo-yoon will have to take their offer because the only reason she’ll come to them is if she was on her last thread of hope.
At dinner, Seo-yoon is stressed out about Sung-jin’s finances, and her life only gets worse with news that Congressman Kim cannot help her. Unbeknownst to her however, Tae-joo is the one holding the reins behind Congressman Kim’s refusal. Seo-yoon then calls Tae-joo to accept the offer, after which, they meet at Sung-jin to discuss the finer details. However, Min-jae is not flailing behind Tae-joo as he (gasp!) partners up with Jung-hee to stop Seo-yoon from getting the 1 Billion dollars.
Wow, after complaining about how uneventful episode 9 was, I get gifted with the work to recap one jam packed episode. This episode was certainly an improvement from the slower plot advancement as well as character development. We see Min-jae truly jumping into the dark-side by joining forces with Jung-hee and abandoning his father. Min-jae is quite the unique villain because he isn’t evil throughout; you see his bleak descent from just a guy who wants a significant share of Sung-Jin to a man who has nothing left in his life but revenge towards a dead man. Jung-hee is the same, consumed by revenge for a dead man, except her reasons and schemes are outlandish and rather pathetic. She, unlike Min-jae, is consumed by the prospect said revenge (more so than the “justice” obtained from it) and sacrificed 27 years of her life to try to accomplish it. Her thirst for the Choi family’s blood is so intense that she ignores the wishes of her son and destroys his happiness in the process.
Speaking of Min-jae’s withering relationships, my favorite scene has to be the one between Min-jae and his father. It really sums up the entirety of Empire of Gold in a few moments, and was an extremely powerful exchange. It reveals Min-jae’s twisted perceptions as well as the experience and wisdom of Dong-jin that we really haven’t been able to see until now. I find it fascinating that it is Dong-jin of all people who understands the consequences of the Empire of Gold with twenty-twenty vision, and yet, when Min-jae is told this wisdom, he scoffs at it. Here is the point of no return for Min-jae…not back in episode 1 where he indirectly killed people, tried to take over Sung-jin, and divorced the love of his life over money. Here is when we as viewers can neither sympathize with Min-jae, nor hope for a better life for him. He’s gone off the deep end, abandoning the last of his family. It’s a horribly sad moment because it spells doom for the entire Choi clan, bar none.