Hong-Sae In ‘Revenant,’ Explained: Why Was He So Keen On Helping San-Yeong?

It’s a shame that Revenan” is over so quickly, and there’s nothing more we can look forward to in terms of a little something between Hong-Sae and San-Yeong anymore. Ships aside, Hong-Sae is a really well-rounded character in the show, and we see tremendous growth in him throughout. From arrogantly self-assured to an open-minded sweetheart, we really see him transform into the perfect male lead right at the climactic sequence of Revenant. Still, there’s never a moment where he outshines San-Yeong or tries to fight her battles for her. Instead, he just nudges her on. Hong Kyung is a relatively new actor, and this particular performance is jaw-dropping. There’s something about the character that gives you an ick at the beginning of the show, but then you realize he’s fighting his own ego to do the right thing while also appearing to be an interesting man. Hong Kyung plays this dilemma curiously well, and as episodes pass, you really start to appreciate him more, like a romantic lead in any other K-drama.

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There’s also something fascinating about the “will they, won’t they” situation between Hong-Sae and San-Yeong that is just as intriguing as the main mysterious plot of Revenant. Their chemistry is through the roof, and specifically, the scene where he realizes she can’t see is truly heartbreaking. Here’s a guy who really likes this woman and has done so since high school, but now she’s talking about ghosts and also going blind. You can just see the anguish in his eyes of wanting to help her but not knowing how to. We do get some kind of closure for their relationship because we know that, in the end, he’ll become a regular at her cafe and also hopes to be by her side for much longer. There’s nothing certain there, but we can pretend they’re each other’s endgame.

We know Hong-Sae is quietly hard-working, and even though he gets made fun of for wanting a promotion, Mun-Chun knows that he actually deserves it. Hong-Sae and Mun-Chun’s relationship is also a slow burn. The rookie doesn’t try to butter his senior and instead hits him with hard facts. They’re both open to each other’s ideas, which is why they work so well together. Mun-Chun slowly learns that Hong-Sae is actually a great police officer and isn’t just doing it for the sake of it. He’s actually really good at his job, unlike what everybody thinks because he did badly at the academy. Hong-Sae is looking to be promoted, yes, but he’s also not shying away from his work and asking for a free ride. He truly enjoys helping people, and we see this throughout Revenant Season 1.

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At first, he’s not very keen on doing Mun-Chun’s work on these cases about suicides because he thinks it makes no sense; after all, they’ve been ruled suicides. But he quickly gets completely involved in the case and finds important clues for his partner and senior Mun-Chun. On the outside, it may appear like they didn’t like each other, but they both had a great time working with each other. Mun-Chun was almost like a father figure for Hong-Sae, and just as they were finally bridging the gap, Mun-Chun died because of the evil spirit. In many ways, Hong-Sae fights this battle so hard until the end because of Mun-Chun. Yes, San-Yeong is important to him, but he also wants revenge for losing the man he trusted and the man who truly believed in him and his work. It’s a really touching scene when, at the end of the series, he gets a message from Mun-Chun to keep at it; you can just see the pain in his eyes.

Hong-Sae really pushes himself to believe in the supernatural, and Mun-Chun’s death, of course, takes him over the edge, but it’s his open-mindedness that allows him to solve all the cases precisely. It’s both charming and kind of unbelievable that Hong-Sae doesn’t just start believing in an evil spirit that has possessed the love of his life but also is unafraid to see how far it’ll push him. He talks to her freely and even follows her into dangerous situations. If this isn’t love, then he really needs to get that promotion ASAP. We see Hong-Sae grow to accept his strengths and also not care much for what the world thinks of him. At the dinner for his friend’s wedding, he walks out when San-Yeong gets insulted. He’s been trying to uphold this image of himself, but in the end, he starts to just live for himself. Hong-Sae is especially emotional when Mun-Chun dies, and he chooses to be the chief mourner at his funeral. This is a really big deal, and it shows his admiration for his senior and mentor.

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Because Hong-Sae and San-Yeong are not an actual couple or the focus of Revenant Season 1, we see them both as individuals rather than a unit, which often happens in K-dramas. Hong-Sae’s aspirations are separate, and they never overlap with San-Yeong’s; the two of them just move in parallel. Of course, writer Kim Eun-Hee probably saw the spark between them and chose to make us pine after a relationship that would be left ambiguous. It’s also great that San-Yeong’s image is never tarnished in Hong-Sae’s eyes; instead, he gives her a chance to explain herself as a possessed person. It would be so easy to dismiss this thought and just call her “crazy,” but he doesn’t do so. In the end, he finally has the courage to even bring up the time he spent in the convenience store she worked at and where they watched the first snow of the season together. This is our sign of hope for them, along with the fact that he helped her when she was practicing moving around with her eyes shut for when she would go blind. We can imagine that slowly, after another 10 coffees, when San-Yeong has finally decided what to do for herself (he would definitely give her that space), Hong-Sae will muster up the courage to ask her out. For now, he’s probably working really hard on that promotion and choosing his own cases.


Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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