When chocolate and financial advising combine in a rom-com web drama, you get a strange but lovely little mix of sweetness and struggle. Such is the premise of the drama Choco Bank, which features Exo’s Kai as a man trying to make his own success in a world run by money.
Main Cast: Kim Jong In (Exo’s Kai) as Kim Eun Haeng, Park Eun Bin as Ha Choco, Yeon Joon Seok as Bae Dal Soo, Lee Chae Won as Hong Chae Ri, and Lee Il Hwa as Eun Haeng’s mother
Running Time: 6 episodes; approximately 15 minutes per episode
Summary: Unemployed college graduate Kim Eun Haeng fruitlessly tries to get a job working at a bank. Even his name ‘Eun Haeng’ means bank in Korean and it has been as dream work in the finance business all his life. While Eun Haeng wants to pursue an entrepreneurial job, his mother is dead set on him working for an official bank due to the failure of Eun Haeng’s father’s start up business and the family’s massive debt.
Enter Ha Choco, a young woman who is living her own dream running her homemade chocolate cafe… except she isn’t earning any profits. After Eun Haeng mistakenly helps Choco’s brother ‘appropriate’ a significant amount of money from Choco, he is roped into working at her store. There he becomes a consultant of sorts, helping customers with their financial questions while Choco serves them her goods. This creates a buzz about the store, drawing customers to it. However, Eun Haeng must lie to his mother about his job to keep her from worrying about partaking in a risky endeavor instead of working for an established bank. Things become even more complicated when an old childhood friend of Choco’s returns and Eun Haeng and Choco must confront their own feelings for each other.
Review: Choco Bank is a cute, quick drama to watch. It’s no tear-jerker melodrama or thriller but it has all the right elements to be a sweet, refreshing, and interesting story. The premise itself just isn’t something you see everyday. Banking and selling chocolate? You’d think two are mutually exclusive, but they actually combine in a way that will simultaneously make you crave chocolate and want to a find a cute financial advisor to help you with your bank statements.
I like that this drama is self-aware at some points. It did rely on some standard Kdrama tropes such as the “old friend thrown into the mix to complicate the love lives of the main couple” classic maneuver. However, it played with these cliches by surprising you; when you expected the cheese to come full circle, instead you were cut off halfway with a laugh-out-loud twist. Eun Haeng seemed to a be the typical cold, handsome male lead at first but he was actually much more flawed and realistic than that. I think his dilemma of wanting to pursue his own goals in life but feeling pressured to follow his mom’s wishes is a very relatable struggle that many young adults feel. It’s a horrible feeling to disappoint your parents but an even worse feeling to be trapped in a place in life you want to move beyond, and I think this conflict was portrayed well in Choco Bank.
Choco was a fairly normal female lead (i.e. cheerful, dedicated, and struggling for money) but she was likable nonetheless and her passion for her craft is something I find admirable. It was especially cute to uncover her backstory with Eun Haeng as the drama progressed. Her infatuation with him came off as sweet, rather than clingy and annoying as some female leads can be. It helped that her affections were being subtly reciprocated too. Overall, Eun Haeng and Choco are a couple you want to root for, especially after seeing Choco’s disastrous history with Valentine’s Day. When someone has that many failed attempts to give a boy chocolate, all you can do is wish for them to find happiness with their crush.
I will say I was pleasantly surprised by Kai’s acting, especially after having seen his brief cameo in Exo Next Door, which didn’t impress me. While still a bit awkward, he connected well with his cast mates and his acting was much more natural than I anticipated. The rest of the actors and actresses performed well enough, but in a 15 minuted episode of a web drama, there isn’t too large a range or complexity to be shown by an actor or actress over the entire series.
One of the funniest aspects of this drama was the very obvious plug for online banking, likely occurring at the whim of the drama’s sponsors, Cheil Worldwide Inc. There was a lot of phone demonstrations of making transactions and managing your accounts, so I suppose it is a good way to advertise this shiny new technology, but it did seem a bit cheesy at times. Considering product placements in Kdramas are known for their laughable lack of subtly, since this advertisement coincided directly with the plot, I guess I can give it a pass.
Overall, I think the tone of this drama is appealing in that it was never too playful or too dark. In Choco Bank, there is an even mix of both winning and losing in the world of business, family, and love. And that gives this drama points in my book; even if I can’t excuse all of the silliness of the plot (like the heavy handed metaphors in the main characters’ names).
Conclusion: I would wholeheartedly recommend this drama to any Exo-Ls who like watching the members branch into acting; you definitely won’t be disappointed by Kai in Choco Bank. That being said, I think this story is also a fun one for entrepreneurs struggling with their own businesses and career goals. Not everything is going to fall into place perfectly like in a Kdrama, but it is nice to see characters find their happiness not through financial stability, but passion for their jobs. In general, anyone looking for a quick, light drama with a cute romance and playful comedy would enjoy Choco Bank.