27 July 2022

K Drama Review: Cleaning Up (2022) 4.5 || 4.3

Although this show was on Oppa's to-watch list because of Running Man's Jeon So Min (So I Married an Anti-Fan), we didn't really watch it right away. But because we always caught it on TV and we were quite engrossed with the story, we decided that we might as well watch all of it. 


Cleaning Up is about three cleaning ladies, Eo Yong Mi (Yum Jung Ah of Snowdrop), Ahn In Kyung (Jeon So Min), and Maeng Soo Ja (Kim Jae Hwa of Escape from Mogadishu and Run On), who work for Vested, a stock brokerage company. Employees at Vested carelessly talk about their transactions around the cleaners who are treated as if they're invisble. This led to Yong Mi getting involved in insider trading. She then invited her close friends In Kyung and Soo Ja. All's well in the beginning when they were just making money out of the inside information they obtained. However, things get more complicated and dangerous when they find themselves entangled in a web of criminals led by a former gangster. The story takes us through how Yong Mi and her friends escape the dangerous situation they find themselves in. 

Yum Jung Ah as Eo Yong Mi

This is the first time we've watched Yum Jung Ah in something lengthy and meaty. Her role in Snowdrop was too short. And while we saw a number of her 3 Meals a Day episodes, a variety show is not really a good gauge of how skilled an actor is. After watching her here, I can say that Yum Jung Ah is definitely one of the best out there. I hope I can convince Oppa to watch SKY Castle so I can see more of her. 

Yum Jung Ah is one of those people gifted with a very "flexible" face. She can appear very poor and pitiful but she can also turn that around and look really rich and elegant when needed. Her numerous transitions from cleaner Yong Mi to stock trader Yun Ah are proof of that. She can easily deceive anyone. 

My most favorite thing about Yong Mi is her boldness. She fears no one, especially when her children are involved. I loved her confrontation scenes with Vested's auditor, Geum Jan Di (Jang Shin Young of Suits), who was also involved in insider trading. The auditor, a supposed villain, was quite difficult to hate because of all the times she helped/protected Yong Mi. I especially loved how Geum Jan Di warned Yong Mi about the serious repercussions of the pump-and-dump transaction. She could have been greedy and not cared about what will happen to Yong Mi but Jan Di chose to be a better person. 

I also liked how brave Yong Mi was to confront the syndicate's head, the Captain (Song Young Chang), a lot of times. 

As the show progressed, however, I found it more and more difficult to watch Yong Mi. She was already having a hard time to begin with. But things really just won't go her away. And unfortunately, a huge part of that is because of errors in her judgment. She knew she was doing something illegal so she should have kept her distance from the other guys in the syndicate, especially lawyer Lee Young Shin (Lee Moo Saeng of One Spring Night, Prison Playbook, The Silent Sea, and Thirty-Nine), instead of becoming super close to them. 

Yong Mi also had this habit of keeping things from her friends in the guise of not wanting to make them worry. However, these information were important to them as well since they were also involved in the scheme. In Kyung almost handed burner phone over to Geum Jan Di because of this. 

Yong Mi was aware that her mom was not stable. Yet she opted to put Lee Young Shin's money in her mom's account. As expected, her mom ended up giving the money to Yong Mi's brother. 

I guess all these misfortunes are the show's way of rubbing it into our faces that Yong Mi's brokenness and miserable life is partly caused by her problematic decision-making and emotional weakness. 

Despite her flaws, nobody can really find fault in Yong Mi as a mother. She tries really, really hard to keep her kids Yun Ah (Kal So Won) and Xi Ah (Kim Si Ha of Samjin Company English Class). That's why it was so painful to see her give them up to her ex-husband, Jin Seong Woo (Kim Tae Woo of Romance is a Bonus Book). It was Yong Mi raising the white flag and admitting defeat that she can't raise her kids anymore. The entire time, Yong Mi pretended to be okay. But that scene where she broke down allegedly because she left her keys inside her car was so heartbreaking. She was obviously melting down because of the kids. And I loved how understanding her kids were, especially Yun Ah, who despite going through puberty still looked out for her mom and gave way to her during their arguments. 

Of course, things get more exciting when the syndicate finds out who Yeong Mi really is. When you're on the verge of giving up on Yong Mi because of her poor life choices, you find yourself incapable of hating her. After all, she's trying really hard. It's easy to judge people but we should really refrain from doing so especially if we don't know what they've been through. 

Jeon So Min as In Kyung

Jeong So Min was okay but I admit that she was my least favorite among the three main leads. But that does not mean she was not good. I guess she really just paled in comparison compared to the great actresses around her. 

So Min was okay in the cutesy parts. Or when she was scared whenever Yong Mi gave her a mission. But I was not a huge fan of her ugly cries. 

For a while there, I was scared that In Kyung would lose her way and that the money will blind her. Good thing Doo Yeong (Na In Woo) made her realize that she should not look down on her previous dreams even if she had a lot of money already. I was so happy that she pushed through with the coffee truck business and that she ended up with Doo Yeong. Let me also say that Na In Woo seems interesting even if there were times when he was going overboard with the nerdy part as Doo Yeong. 

Kim Jae Hwa as Maeng Soo Ja

I was initially indifferent towards Soo Ja because I felt that she was a threat to Yeong Mi. She seemed like a loudmouth who would rat on Yong Mi's illegal activities. But once she was in and I saw how committed she was to their cause, she won me over. Like how she blackmailed her sister-in-law (Cha Chung Hwa of Train to Busan, Crash Landing on You, Hometown Cha Cha Cha, Hospital Playlist 2, Itaewon Class, and Hotel Del Luna) to get money to fund their business. 

As I learned more about Soo Ja's back story, I appreciated and loved her more. She's the perfect example of how motherhood is such a thankless job with how her lazy husband (Go In Beom of Secretly Greatly, Hospital Playlist 2, Ms. Hammurabi, and Reply 1997) and proud son (Kwon Ji Woo) treated her. I loved how Yong Mi and In Kyung saved her from that humiliating birthday dinner in front of her family. 

It was so heartbreaking to see how her son reacted when he found out she was doing insider trading. Instead of scolding her for doing something illegal, the son was angry because they should have invested more. How twisted. Kim Jae Hwa was superb in that breakdown scene. 

Lee Moo Saeng as Lee Young Shin

Lee Moo Saeng seems to have a knack of picking jerk-y roles. His crimes in this show are more large scale compared to those I've seen in his previous dramas but I would have to say that this is the first time that I finally appreciated him as an actor (and liked his character). 

Although he would appear chill and subdued, I liked how Lee Young Shin was also cunning and scheming.  But I guess what I found most endearing about him was how despite his crimes, he was also very humane, especially with the compassion and empathy he showed Yong Mi. 

Yes, I found it weird that he was being overly righteous after his accident. But I guess we can't really blame him if he just wants to start living right. It's just unfortunate that the Captain had to blackmail him with Yong Mi to force him to go back to his old ways. 

I loved Young Shin's cute confession to Yong Mi - when he told her he probably started liking her when he felt how rough her hands were. It's weird but sweet because he was acknowledging and accepting the difficult life she's lived. That supposed final handshake sealed with a hug was so bittersweet. 

Young Shin was definitely my favorite "villain" in this show. As opposed to Yoon Tae Kyung (Song Jae Hee of What Happens to My Family) who was not only extremely evil but also had the tendency to go over the top with his acting. 


I loved how the show's intriguing and how it hooked me right away. I also liked its effort in explaining the stock market jargon in an entertaining way to help people understand what was happening. The plot twists, although probably difficult to execute, were still possible and realistic. They were not totally out of this world. 

It was also exciting to see how the alliances would pan out everytime things shifted around. What will happen once Yong Mi's identity is revealed? Will Jan Di work with her? What will happen after the accident involving the Captain and Young Shin? And how was everyone still alive after that accident? 

I also appreciated how the show tried to do a running social commentary through its stories. Like the morality/immorality behind insider trading. How it was really a victimless crime. And that it appears to be mitigated when the poor do it. Unfortunately, it's still the rich who have an upper hand in these kinds of transactions and they tend to take advantage of the lowly ones. Like how Jan Di still got a cut from the money Yong Mi earned even if Yong Mi was the only one who worked for it. Jan Di's threat to reveal Yong Mi's identity was enough to threaten the latter. And how insider trading seems acceptable but not pump-and-dump where a lot of small people can be victims. 

Of course there's that sad truth about how blue collar workers like cleaners are looked down on, which often pushes them to desperate situations that lead them to do illegal stuff. 

Then we have the sacrifices that women make for their families. How people judge women like Yong Mi who take career breaks to raise their kids and how they loose opportunities because of that. And how Yong Mi's ex-husband was not helpful at all. He knew Yong Mi was having a hard time but he didn't really have the initiative to help her. Or how Soo Ja had to take on a lot of difficult jobs to provide for her family. 

I also liked how the show touched slightly on gambling and how it's an illness that's very difficult to get out of. And the gamblers' close relations to loan sharks who exploit their need for money. And how these loan sharks can be very abusive. 

And of course, the adverse effect of poverty on children. It was heartbreaking to see Xi Ah lie and steal things because she thought it could help her family. 

And the most important lesson of all would be how all the money in the world can never make up for the void of lost/broken relationships. Soo Ja earned lot but she saw how greedy her son was. In Kyung almost lost Doo Yeong and Yong Mi almost lost her kids. 

This show was not perfect. There were moments when I found it odd that the characters would be bothered by the moral implications of what they were doing, when they were actually doing worse things in the past. Like how Yong Mi and her friends were concerned about the Dr. Topper case because they knew someone involved in it. Despite that, I liked how the show highlighted the differences in "conscience" between the rich and the poor - Yong Mi and her friends still felt guilty but Jan Di did not care at all. 

One of the reasons we were hooked to this show was because of the insider trading/financial stuff. However, there were moments when the show veered away from this main theme and would focus on other things like Yong Mi's problems. 

I also didn't like how there were a lot of gangster moments. And how Yong Mi seemed to never learn her lesson. She knew she was up against dangerous people yet she gave them the burner phone which was her only weapon against them. She continued staying in her house and she opened the door without checking. Any other person would have fled in fear. And the gangsters were not that impressive too, seeing how Tae Kyung was able to escape from the Captain. 

I would have really preferred if there were more of the exciting parts where the cleaners were doing undercover stuff to get inside information. 

In the end, I was just happy that everyone got what they deserved. The Captain was arrested and jailed. 

In Kyung and Doo Yeong were back together. They were getting married and In Kyung was still running her coffee truck business. 

Soo Ja got her wish to travel around the world. And she reconciled with her son. I loved what she said about how mothers cherish even the tough times when they had to do work for their children. 

Yong Mi got her own home and flower shop and her kids now lived with her. And how Young Shin was not jailed and he seems to have a chance with Yong Mi. 

Jan Di was reunited with her son too. But I just really need to know if the loan shark (Yoon Kyung Ho of Escape from Mogadishu, Juror 8, My Name, Vincenzo, Itaewon Class, Mr. Sunshine, and Guardian: The Lonely and Great God) survived because Yong Mi relied on him on some of the most crucial moments of her life.

Over all, the show was entertaining enough to keep us hooked until the end. 

Oppa says...4.5.

Noona says...4.3.