Yes, yes, yes, Jang Hyuk enters the series midway through the 4th episode.
The Merchant Gaekju Episode 3 & 4 Recap
Episode 3 centers around Chung Bong Sam’s father’s death after being caught smuggling opium. We know he did not smuggle the opium, rather Gil So Gae did. In fact, So Gae is happy to see Bong Sam’s father in deadly trouble, for the opium he hid in his bag. So Gae’s perspective is simple. His father slaved for Bong Sam’s father only wanting the Chun Merchant Group to rise in status. Bong Sam’s father didn’t give his father enough credit. Bong Sam’s father sentenced his father to death. Bong Sam’s father watched his father drink the poisonous lye. Bong Sam’s father knifed his father who was writhing in agony from the lye. Because of all this So Gae believes Bong Sam’s father deserves to die.
Bong Sam’s father cannot reveal So Gae is the real opium smuggler. So gae is young, his father just died and So Gae is filled with bitter anger. Instead he asserts he smuggled the opium. He ignores the pleas of his own children, Bong Sam and So Rye, to recant his confession. Before he is killed, he tells Bong Sam to become whatever he wants to be. He tells So Gae to marry So Rye and take over Chun Merchant Group.
So Gae deserts Bong Sam and So Gae. He does not want to be reminded of their father and how his father died.
Bong Sam becomes gravely ill. The doctor says it is smallpox and without a cure. He stashes Bong Sam behind an alter to die. So Rye nurses Bong Sam until she feels she must return to Chun Merchant Group and assume control. She leaves Bong Sam with his father’s identification tag and a hard boiled egg in his hand then leaves.
So Rye is appalled when she returns to Chun Merchant Group and finds it in the hands of Kim Hak Joon. You have to give Hak Joon credit for doing whatever he could to possess Chun Merchant Group – he loaned money to So Gae’s father, then blackmailed him into smuggling opium, he goaded Bong Sam’s father not to reveal So Gae was the opium smuggler, all so he could gain control. So Rye demands as the eldest daughter that she should control Chun Merchant Group. With a slap and a tongue lashing Hak Joon sends her packing.
So Gae heads to the head merchant, Shin Suk Joo, to become an apprentice. A little groveling and he’s in…as a lackey. But it’s one step forward in So Gae’s plan to fulfill his father’s dying words of becoming the most powerful and rich merchant of them all.
So Rye decides to become a geisha to earn money to be able to reestablish Chun Merchant Group. One night Hak Joon gets very drunk and So Rye is forthright that whining about his misfortunes won’t do a darn thing, he needs to take action. Why is Hak Joon drunk? Because the head merchant, Suk Joo, understood his brother’s secret desire for a lucrative political position, and acquired the Chun Merchant Group for the price of his loan to So Gae’s father (30,000) not the 900,000+ from the auction that was disbanded after his brother and Suk Joo struck the deal. The next morning Hak Joon takes So Rye with him to his home where he promises to wait 5 years to have an adult relationship with her. She’s happy to be out of the geisha house.
So Gae continues to work for Suk Joo with the goal to surpass him one day. He is pleased with Suk Joo purchases Chun Merchant Group. The company of his father’s killer is destroyed. So Gae vows to forget about Chun Merchant Group, So Rye and Bong Sam.
Bong Sam recovers from his illness. He is upset to learn his sister was banned from their home town and Chun Merchant Group is dissolved. He wants to leave with the traveling merchants but they deny his request feeling it is better for him to stay and train with the doctor. Unfortunately Bong Sam is more or a servant than apprentice. Tired of being a servant, Bong Sam leaves the doctor and finds the training spot for merchants. A kind wanna be merchant helps himself and Bong Sam get approved for merchant training.
Episode 4 finishes the young story mid-way through the episode. Finally the moment we’ve wait for…the switch to the adult actors….
The traveling merchants, Jo Sung Joon and Song Man Chi, that left Bong Sam with the doctor arrive at the merchant training house. Bong Sam is loud and rude. They challenge Bong Sam to take 20 coins and return with exactly 50 coins. He takes that challenge.
Bong Sam and his merchant in training friend manage to get a chicken dealer to sell them a rooster for 100 coins. The magistrate is livid to hear that the chicken dealer overcharged and he gets a whipping. Man Chi watches it all happen.
Bong Sam returns victorious but Sung Joon and Man Chi tell him his methodology did not follow the merchants code of doing things honestly. Bong Sam retorts they deal in illegal cow leather, they should know all about swindling. Astonished at the accusation they demand to know their accuser’s name. Bong Sam stands and proudly proclaims he is Chun Bong Sam!
The third episode was about Bong Sam’s father death and the aftermath for Bong Sam, So Rye and So Gae. Bong Sam was near death but So Rye nursed him until she left him. It struck me odd that So Rye abandoned Bong Sam when she did. I would have thought she would finish what she started and not leave Bong Sam to struggle alone. I understand this was necessary to create the situation where the she spreads the news that Bong Sam was dead (or so she assumed). It also created physical separation between brother and sister. Hak Joon openly coveted the Chun Merchant Group and was willing to do whatever he must to acquire the object of his desire. I thought it was a little too easy for So Gae to be taken in by the head merchant. I understand this was necessary to create the situation of So Gae’s tutoring by the head merchant.
The fourth episode gave me what I’ve waited for…the adult actor, Jang Hyuk, for Bong Sam to take center stage. I liked the fourth episode. Bong Sam being left by the traveling merchants and then deciding to train as a merchant made his choice to follow in his father’s merchant path real, not an obligation to a dead father. I had to laugh at Jang Hyuk’s crisp flick of the fan at the magistrate and chicken dealer scene. Jang Hyuk has flair! We ended the episode with Bong Sam revealing his identity to the traveling merchants scolding them for not practicing the honorable tactics they were preaching.
Perhaps you could argue that the background young actors episodes went on a bit long but this is a 36 episode series. We’ll get Jang Hyuk for 32 episodes. I’m good with that, I’m not going to get greedy.
Now I’m interested in this story. I want to meet So Rye and So Gae as adults. Does So Rye realize Hak Joon is the mastermind behind her father’s downfall? Will So Gae have elevated himself to important worker for the head merchant Suk Joo? Will Bong Sam join the traveling merchants and begin his search for So Rye as an adult? Where will Bong Sam end up and start his career as a merchant?