I think for many males, they think about physical attraction at first. According to many of the directors and other higher-up employees, Ji An is “not pretty.” Ji An’s personality comes into play as her co-workers find her rude and cold. Her education is mentioned. She didn’t finish school. So, what does Dong Hoon like about Ji An?
I think it starts out as a fascination. He is intrigued by her. She isn’t dressed warmly. She steals coffee from the office. She kills ladybugs! She is the opposite of him. He wouldn’t steal, he brings shopping carts back to the store (and pays for items left behind by Ji An). He dresses appropriately for the weather. He tries to save the small living creature. Opposites attract?! But I also feel Dong Hoon sees the similarities between her cold exterior and his empty life. Does he just want to help her as a boss and good person, and in doing so he might help himself too? So I get the mentor/mentee thing that some people see at this point. Maybe Dong Hoon does find her physically attractive. He eyes her ankles. Does he have a thing for ankles?! Or maybe he likes her neck. Ji An always has her hair tied back at the office. But of course Dong Hoon finds Ji An to be pretty. He says so himself!
Later Dong Hoon admits that Ji An is “someone who knows me.” And that makes him sad. Is he sad because he lives such a pitiful life? Or is he sad because he doesn’t present a better version of himself to a woman/love interest? Is it both? I would be thrilled to meet someone who “gets me.” But it would be sad to think that person sees the broken me.
The scene on the subway train where Dong Hoon dares not contact Ji An, it could be seen as Dong Hoon protecting a co-worker. Protecting a female passenger. Protecting a younger person. You can see it as a chivalrous act. As protecting a family member. But, you can feel the undeniable emotional restraint on his part. It is the contrast of desire and decency that provides the sparks for me. Does Dong Hoon really know if he has any emotional feelings for Ji An at this point? I think he is acting as a boss, as a decent human. But subconsciously, he is attracted to her strong personality, her don’t-give-up spirit, and her cute ankles. Dong Hoon is not interested in the females around him, but with Ji An it is different. Because Ji An is different. Guys are fascinated by different. Perhaps straight-laced engineers even more so.
Dong Hoon is not a normal guy, but still something different has entered his life, and he is shaken. Dong Hoon doesn’t eat with females he doesn’t like. Yet he so easily agrees to Ji An’s demands to buy her food. A woman asks Dong Hoon to buy her food! Normally he would refuse like he so easily refuses the Chairman. Why does he agree? Because he is shaken. It took him a few meals before he realizes his foolishness and says enough of this.
Talking about shaken, “the kiss” happens. The kiss initiated to get him fired. As a boss, he automatically responds “stop!” Morally, he responds with “what are you doing?!” He puts on a show at the office to reprimand Ji An. It is a sign that Ji An is starting to get to him. Ji An is entering his thoughts, and Dong Hoon is mad at himself for having these thoughts, any thoughts. In reprimanding Ji An, he is also reprimanding himself. As a man he is tempted. He tells his brothers that “he just has never been tempted.” Well that is no longer true. When a woman kisses/attempts to kiss a man it leaves an impression. Positive or negative, it leaves an impression. Dong Hoon doesn’t know it was an act. As angry as he is, he still has a slim thought of “am I attractive enough to be kissed? Even in my condition, do I have any appeal for women to like me?”
Dong Hoon realizes his feelings for Ji An when he acknowledges that Ji An “helps him breathe.” How? Why? When a guy finds someone that supports him then he has truly found happiness. Physical support, emotional support to help them carry on in life. She does this by supporting him in the promotion interview. But also with her “fighting.” By staying late at work because she “missed him.” By giving him slippers (I can’t list/remember them all).
They are both like minded in thinking they don’t belong in this world. Both are also pitiful. They are also different in many ways, but they have a connection of the heart. Dong Hoon wants to help Ji An better herself, better her condition. He helps her to find comfort. He also wants to better himself so that she doesn’t hurt because of him. When a guy wants to change something about himself, that is huge. When he wants to change for the benefit of a woman, he must have serious feelings for her. He must be in love!
Somehow Ji An touches Dong Hoon’s heart. She speaks to him emotionally. Stirs his passions. Feeling helpless and alone, it might have been easy to be touched emotionally, but Dong Hoon still opens his heart for Ji An to come in. Ji An gets Dong Hoon to fight (for his brother, for her, and for himself), to shed a tear, to run around like a mad man, to give a hug, to start a business, to smile like crazy, and to ask for a handshake.
I don’t know how, when, or why Dong Hoon starts to like Ji An, but the things he does for her and for himself show me that he does love her. Romantically? I have to think yes. I hope so!