...when the screen takes over...

Circle: Two Connected Worlds, Episode 2

How do you keep a memory? And how do you define memory?

Photos? Scars? Photos and scars, mental or physical, have something in common: they tell one’s stories, they are keys to one’s history vaults. While scar from physical wound may fade overtime, scar from psychological wound lasts, perhaps for a lifetime. What to do?

Their different responses to Dad’s disappearance may have driven the twins apart. But all they have left is each other so when Beom-Gyoon goes missing, Woo-Jin needs to see for himself whether there’s truth to his brother’s claims.

When a claim, of a crime-free city, sounds too good to be true, perhaps it is too good to be true. Investigation into murder incident in Smart district may require an honest look at the hefty price tag that has been paid to ensure such claim.

Beta Project, 2007

A memory with important people…

The family and the woman (Gong Seung-Yeon) are at a cafe to celebrate the twins’ birthday celebration. Dad tells Woo-Jin to smile wider but Woo-Jin says it’s the best smile he can do. Beom-Gyoon argues that ‘Noona’ is not an alien while Woo-Jin opposes his brother’s view, insisting that she is. Dad just laughs and remarks it’s a pity she can’t talk and tell the truth. She stays quiet and expressionless. At one moment, Noona’s gaze seems far away.

Then a car suddenly comes their way in high speed. It’s obvious they are going to get hit when the car crashes the cafe. Dad takes Beom-Gyoon and lunges to the side to avoid the crash. The car goes straight at them, breaking the glass wall. While its engine is still growling, the car suddenly stops, only a scant distance from Woo-Jin, who has been held, likely shielded, by Noona.

weird, ay?

No one is hurt. Or, more precisely, almost. Noona’s unemotional countenance and poise now invite gasps and screams. A shard of glass has pierced her neck, got stuck there, and caused bleeding. Anyone normal would have reacted at the pain of the injury but Noona stays quiet.

Dad calls for an ambulance. Beom-Gyoon and Woo-Jin are shocked. Noona is unflinching and unblinking.


Beta Project, 2017

At the pedestrian crossing, the woman with red umbrella takes a turn. Ignoring the heavy traffic, Beom-Gyoon immediately gives chase. Woo-Jin follows but unable to catch up. Beom-Gyoon sees the woman in a bus and runs after it. The woman watches him from the bus’ rear window.

Falling behind, Woo-Jin goes back to the motel room, reassessing the room. A camera catches his attention. He goes through it, finds images centred around a girl, and tries to convince himself that she is just someone who looks like the woman from 10 years ago. Then he gets phone call from the A&E department of Hwi-Gyeong hospital.


Beom-Gyoon has sustained minor injury but he is more upset about his failure at it. His continuous talks on alien irritates Woo-Jin, who’s got enough. Woo-Jin counters Beom-Gyoon’s arguments for the woman they saw being the alien. Beom-Gyoon also reminds him how he had been the one who believed that the woman was alien. Why does he change? Woo-Jin nonchalantly returns the question. “So what if she’s an alien?”

Beom-Gyoon brings up their father who was taken by the woman. But Woo-Jin says he no longer cares whether Dad would come back. Life is hard enough, what’s with Beom-Gyoon and his obsession, that having Dad around would add burden. Beom-Gyoon takes in his words silently. Woo-Jin asks Beom-Gyoon to just let go, forget everything, and live a normal life like others. But Beom-Gyoon refuses to let go because he needs to know the truth. Beom-Gyoon turns around and walks away.

Parting… (No!)

Woo-Jin snaps at his brother, threatening that if Beom-Gyoon leaves now, Woo-Jin will never see him again. Beom-Gyoon stops for a moment but then continues walking away. Frustrated, Woo-Jin packs his brother’s belongings and backpack and throws them out of his apartment. He convinces himself that aliens don’t exist. The next morning as he’s going to school, he finds Beom-Gyoon’s backpack still untouched on the hallway floor. Still angry, he lets it be.


The opportunity to join the research group as research assistant still stands although Woo-Jin has to put up with Professor Park Dong-Geon’s harsh words disproving his behaviour. It is Professor Han Yong-Woo (Song Yeong-Gyoo) who’s interested in Woo-Jin’s application. Prof. Han asks his opinion on treatment for PTSD to which he proposes memory removal. “If the memory is destructive like cancer, shouldn’t it be removed?” Prof. Han seems interested. All the while, Professor Park is listening in their conversation.

Woo-Jin sees the student who’s captured in Beom-Gyoon camera, most likely the Han Jeong-Yeon whom his brother thinks as alien. Woo-Jin follows her but soon he loses track of her. While waiting for a class to start, he mulls things over and convinces himself that he must have been mistaken. When the lecturer gives group assignment for twos, Woo-Jin is paired with a girl sitting in a row behind him. But the girl gets nosebleed and gets out of the class. He is about to be assigned to another group when a girl comes in, introducing herself as Han Jeong-Yeon, to his surprise. The lecturer immediately pairs him with her.

Who are you?

Woo-Jin’s suspicion grows exponentially. He immediate launches a barrage of questions — who she is, her age, and where she’s from — while Han Jeong-Yeon is giving him the odd look. Their conversation turns into quarrel, which draws the lecturer’s attention and chiding. After the class, Jeong-Yeon gives Woo-Jin her number so they can meet to do the assignment later.


Absently playing the Rubik cube, Woo-Jin is too lost in thoughts to notice a message notification, informing that Jeong-Yeon has reserved a space for them at the library, so young Lee Dong-Soo, in middle school uniform, draws attention to it.

A 3D puzzle…

“Who is Han Jeong-Yeon?” He seizes the opportunity to cut short their tutoring session, citing he is a bad student anyway but let them not make Woo-Jin a bad boyfriend. Woo-Jin pinches his eyebrow and tells him to finish his work. Dong-Soo complains that school doesn’t suit him. He’ll quit school and, following the footsteps of Mark Zuckerberg, use his computer skills to achieve glory. But Woo-Jin points out that Zuckerberg got into Harvard first then quit.

Woo-Jin is in doubt regarding Jeong-Yeon being the alien. He recalls the incident in which a shard of glass was stuck on the woman’s neck. That would leave a scar. Unable to see her neck during their time in the library, although he does try, he secretly follows her to a bar where she meets old friends. There, he gets the chance to see her neck when she ties her hair into ponytail. There is no scar visible on the neck. Woo-Jin mocks himself for ever doubting that she is normal, that her resemblance to the woman is just a coincidence.


At the police station, Detective Hong works on a composite sketch based on witnesses’ accounts. To Detective Choi, who makes fun of his analogue ways, Detective Hong flaunts his graduating from an art college and argues that his drawing is more effective than relying on digital rendering. His colleague hands him the list of offenders whose crime involved stun guns. He finds one whose features are similar to his sketch — it’s Kim Beom-Gyoon.

Out of earshot, Detective Choi gossips with a colleague about Detective Hong’s apparently famous hunches. He has been nicknamed ‘shaman’ — “an amateur shaman,” says Detective Choi — because his hunches are never right yet he acts like Sherlock Holmes.



Woo-Jin gets a call from Beom-Gyoon. He tells Beom-Gyoon to come home, having previously picked up the thrown backpack and put it back inside. But Beom-Gyoon once more speaks about aliens. This time, Beom-Gyoon mentions about finding out their hideout. Woo-Jin begins to show annoyance. Beom-Gyoon also speaks about a blue bird being the culprit. Woo-Jin just tells him to come home since they need to sit down and talk. Beom-Gyoon agrees and will go home after he finishes checking the place.

But the next day, Kim Beom-Gyoon doesn’t come home. His phone also can’t be reached. Woo-Jin calls the bakery where Beom-Gyoon supposes to work only to hear that the bakery owner has been unable to reach him and someone else is also looking for him.

Detective Hong is at the bakery, asking the owner questions about Beom-Gyoon. The bakery owner assumes Beom-Gyoon gets into trouble again and runs away. Comparing the sketch and the photo on Beom-Gyoo’s information sheet, Detective Hong says, “it’s him. I can smell it.” Detective Choi just mocks that “all I can smell is bread” while sucking a candy.

Woo-Jin checks the motel room, which is empty. The motel manager also comes to check if Beom-Gyoon has returned since he has promised to pay the rent that’s overdue. When asked about his relationship to Beom-Gyoon, Woo-Jin doesn’t answer. He observes the map and goes to check the places that Beom-Gyoon highlights. Beom-Gyoon’s notes bring him to various places including the library where he finds Han Jeong-Yeon. He goes to her to ask questions but then decides against it.

Back in the motel room, Woo-Jin notices that the camera has been moved. He finds it on top of a cupboard. He checks the camera and watches that at one point, Beom-Gyoon has returned to the motel room and moved the camera to the top of a cupboard, keeping it on recording mode. For a while, after Beom-Gyoon had left, the camera didn’t record anything interesting until a figure went inside and checked the map. When the figure finally noticed that a camera was recording, the figure turned to it, showing the face. She was Han Jeong-Yeon.

Smile, Intruder! You’re caught on camera!

Upset by the findings, Woo-Jin returns to library to call out Han Jeong-Yeon. This time he demands answer.

“Who are you?”


Brave New World, 2037

The murder incident also stir up the Human B. Lee Hyeon-Seok (Min Sung-Wook), director of future business division, reproaches his subordinates for it. Questions arise, whether something is wrong with the stable care system or Kim Min-Ji’s care chip, which gets supervisors of each division clash (“there’s nothing wrong on my part!”). Director Lee orders them to investigate, find the problem, report it, and “keep your mouths shut.” A Secretary Shin (Yoo-Young) informs him that Mayor Yoon has been calling for him.

the fault’s in our chip…?

Mayor Yoon gets briefed by Lee Ho-Soo about the incident and its connection to Kim Min-Ji’s kidnapping twenty years ago, and assumes that the murder has been an act of revenge. Kim Min-Ji is still on the loose. He orders Lee Ho-Soo to keep him updated and keep eyes on Detective Kim Joon-Hyeok, who will be staying at Lee’s.

At the meeting with Director Lee, Mayor Yoon asks whether the murder is caused by Human B system’s fault. Director Lee responds that they are still investigating it. Mayor Yoon presses for definite answer, reminding him that a murderer is on the loose. Director Lee questions the Mayor’s decision for letting in the General district detective without a care chip, which poses a threat to Smart district. Mayor Yoon contends that there is already a threat. The Mayor asks if the Chairman of Human B organisation, whom no one has ever seen (“Does he even exist?”), has taken charge of this situation. Director Lee reassures the Mayor that the Chairman is taking control of it although he’s disappointed by Mayor Yoon’s reckless decision. “Tell him not to worry,” Mayor Yoon fiercely says, “that detective will solve everything.”

Secretary Shin updates Director Lee on Kim Joon-Hyeok. There is something strange about the detective since there’s no records of his past, not even a medical record, before he became a cop ten years ago.


Joon-Hyeok and Chief Hong discuss the latest findings, Smart district’s obsession with that care chip, and why this incident happens in Smart district. If the chip prevents crime, which has made the district crime-free for 5000 days, “what does it do to the citizens of Smart district?” Joon Hyeok deduces that the chip must have other functions. If that so, Chief Hong assumes Human B must have been behind the disappearance of the twins. Chief Hong warns Joon-Hyeok to be careful and not get caught while probing the chip.


Joon-Hyeok’s presence at Lee Ho-Soo’s house gives Ho-Soo culture shock. “I thought I was back in General district again,” he sighs. His house is littered with Joon-Hyeok’s dirty clothes and empty cans of beer. But he takes it in his stride and keeps a friendly smile although he makes a jab at Joon-Hyeok’s note-taking. “Do people still use notebooks?”

I’ll make myself at home, thank you!

Joon-Hyeok schools Ho-Soo on the art of taking notes. Writing down the letters help clear your head and thoughts. “This way, you’ll remember them longer as well,” he adds, almost wistfully. Ho-Soo argues that human should make use of technology (including in note-taking) else, “what’s the point of progress?” Joon-Hyeok refers to analogue emotions which people with chips, like Lee Ho-Soo, probably don’t understand. “Too bad, we’re going to a place far from analog,” Ho-Soo gets the last words.

Since Smart district doesn’t have police service, Gong Min-Woo’s body is kept in an hidden underground facility. On the way there, Joon-Hyeok tries to get a rise out of Lee Ho-Soo, calling him Pierrot the clown for his constant smile, wondering if it’s the effect of the stable care system. Ho-Soo explains that the system regulates emotions to prevent anxiety and crime, and is activated when it detects excitement, shock reaction, or anger. Joon-Hyeok’s attempts to incite reactions in Ho-Soo, by a sudden attack or showing him erotic pictures, fails. The chip inside Ho-Soo’s head doesn’t react.

The stable care system kicks in when Ho-Soo experiences shock as he sees the corpse. His heart rate hits 111 and his emotion index 81, the chip in his head turns red. The stable care system regulates the heart rate back to 81 and his emotion index to 32, until the chips inside his head turns green.

  • a paralysing shock reaction…

  • a reaction to shock…

“So that’s how it works,” Joon-Hyeok observes. He mentions how he’d thrown up when he’d seen dead body for the first time. But Ho-Soo refuses to be brought down. He believes it’s reasonable to avoid experiencing harmful emotions. “That’s why we’ve got no crimes for fifteen years.” he says. Joon-Hyeok just throws a question, “do you really believe that you can prevent crime by regulating emotions?” Lee Ho-Soo affirms and points out that it has been proven. Joon-Hyeok relents. Ignorance is bliss.

They get back to examining the corpse. Joon-Hyeok notes the marking on the forehead bearing ‘no. 1’. Ho-Soo wonders if it means there will be more. Joo-Hyeok recalls the distress call in which Kim Min-Ji mentioned ‘they appeared again’, and assumes that there might have been accomplices in her kidnapping. He writes down the word ‘possible accomplices’ and ignores Ho-Soo’s advice to just use recording in place of manual note-taking. He also notes that the chip planted in Gong Min-Woo has been taken.

They go to the doctor, who examined the corpse, to demand Gong Min-Woo’s chip. The doctor says she is just following procedure. Joon-Hyeok mentions that according to the procedure, she should hand him the chip. She does so but Joon-Hyeok isn’t convinced. He and Ho-Soo wait for the doctor in the basement parking space although Ho-Soo thinks they’ve got everything they need from her. A call from Mayor Yoon makes Ho-Soo get out of the car and be left behind when Joon-Hyeok takes the car to follow the doctor.

The doctor meets Secretary Shin to hand over Gong Min-Woo’s real chip as requested. The detective has been given the wrong chip, which can’t be read without Human B‘s help. Joon-Hyeok shows up and interrupts the meeting, citing that fabricating evidence is a crime. He demands to know who has given the order to take Gong Min-Woo’s chip.

Joon-Hyeok, with Secretary Shin tagging along, goes to Human B tower and faces a group of men in black. He demands to see the Chairman as the company has hindered an investigation and thus shows no respect for the law. “But that’s understandable considering how this company was started,” he provokes.

Men In Black, boyband of the future?

Director Lee comes forward. Asked if he gave the order to take Gong Min-Woo’s chip, he brushes it off as a misunderstanding. Joon-Hyeok concludes that the order must have come from the Chairman and insists to see him. Director Lee refuses to let him go further as the Chairman doesn’t meet with anyone outside the company. Joon-Hyeok cites that tampering with evidence or concealing evidence of a criminal case warrants up to five years imprisonment or 20,000 dollars fine, which means he should arrest the Chairman. Director Lee tells him that Joon-Hyeok has misunderstood their intention and offers an apology. They mean to cooperate with the investigation. Joon-Hyeok can have the chip.


Chief Hong reminds Joon-Hyeok that even if they let him keep the chip, he won’t be able to read its content. Chief Hong gets excited wodering if he should put his computer skill to use. Chief Hong boasts his time in the cybercrime squad with a high success rate. Joon-Hyeok ignores him and asks for Dong-Soo instead. Chief Hong resigns to the petty task, as he calls it, of finding Dong-Soo.

Smile, Hacker! You’re immortalised on a sketch!

Dong-Soo is caught when he tries to sell the evidence of a client’s wife’s affair to the wife. Chief Hong brings a sketch of a wanted man and, since the sketch resembles him a lot, lets Dong-Soo decide if he is the wanted man. He admits to be the man in the sketch and is thus given the tracking ankle monitor.

Dong-Soo is brought to meet Joon-Hyeok at the entrance of Smart district. Joon-Hyeok gives him the chip to be analysed. Dong-Soo reminds Joon-Hyeok that cracking the chip won’t give them anything since they need to hack the supercomputer, which he can’t do. Joon-Hyeok brings up Bluebird and Dong-Soo’s remaining five days. “Whether you hack or find Bluebird, solve it no matter what.”

Dong-Soo apparently does try but his system gets hacked by Bluebird.


Lee Ho-Soo expresses his disapproval of Joon-Hyeok’s conduct. Joon-Hyeok makes his case that since there has been a deliberate cover up by Human B, he cannot trust the Smart district people. Lee Ho-Soo returns the compliment that he too cannot trust Joon-Hyeok. He thinks Joon-Hyeok enters Smart district with a hidden agenda since Joon-Hyeok is so obsessed with Gong Min-Woo’s chip, not prioritising catching Kim Min-Ji. Lee Ho-Soo warns Joon-Hyeok not to act without him knowing or he’ll report to the Mayor and Joon-Hyeok will never set foot in Smart district again.


An alert goes off informing Kim Min-Ji’s whereabout. But as they get to the location, Kim Min-Ji’s tracker signal vanishes. They find a man sustaining a stab wound, bearing ‘no. 2’ on his forehead, barely hanging on to life. Joon-Hyeok immediately asks the man where Kim Min-Ji has gone. The scene gives Lee Ho-Soo another shock. Joon-Hyeok orders him to keep himself together and call the ambulance.

The man is saved. From the hospital bed, he tells them that Kim Min-Ji is his friend’s daughter. He has been looking after her like his own daughter so he is baffled as to why he would kidnap her. He also wants to know why Kim Min-Ji attacked him. Lee Ho-Soo confirms his identity as Park Jin-Gyoo, Kim Min-Ji’s legal guardian.

Park Jin-Gyoo also mentions Kim Min-Ji’s strange behaviour lately. His memory video shows Kim Min-Ji telling him about weird memories of being kidnapped when she was little. She didn’t see faces but remembered the voices and thought she had heard them many times. He asked whether she still got headaches or nosebleeds. Both were sure that she had never been kidnapped, which was why she thought those memories strange since they were so vivid.

‘What do you know?’

Lee Ho-Soo picks on Park Jin-Gyoo and Kim Min-Ji believing the kidnapping never happened. Joon-Hyeok thinks that her lost memories must have come back. Ho-Soo wonders if she forgot due to shock but Joon-Hyeok believes it’s Smart district’s doing. He once more questions whether calming care system is the reason Smart district has been crime-free. Lee Ho-Soo questions him, “what do you know about Smart district?” Joon-Hyeok doesn’t answer and looks distant.

In a bathroom, in front of a mirror, Joon-Hyeok reaches for a bottle of pills as he experiences headaches. He touches a scar on his neck, similar to Gong Min-Woo’s where the chip has been. A stream of flashes of memories goes through him: Woo-Jin’s voice asking someone to look for his brother; Beom-Gyoon trying to get out of a room; struggles on a floor. ‘Please find my brother…’


Director Lee goes to the top level of the Human B tower. He gets into a room where a video of Kim Min-Ji’s memory of the kidnapping is being projected. A figure, addressed as the Chairman, is watching it. Director Lee reports that the memory has been shut and he’ll take care of it before the detective finds out. Yet, he is curious why the Chairman orders them to stop investigating the detective since the detective is suspicious. Getting no response, Director Lee excuses himself. But then he turns around and asks whether the Chairman has already known the detective’s identity all along.

The Chairman picks up a phone. It has the picture of the twins, which was taken when the twins celebrated Beom-Gyoon’s release from prison at the chicken restaurant.

Smile, Brother!


Since this recap is finished after one watched the second week episodes, revisiting the twins’ scenes makes one’s heart heavy. One should probably talk about it when one gets there, one supposes.

A point that sometimes grates one to no end in a kdrama is characters not behaving according to his or her age. One knows it’s subjective, but here, given their circumstances, one finds almost little to none to complain, so far, about the twins. Kim Woo-Jin is almost constantly being anxious trying to keep things together and keep going, while external forces are this close to get his life undone, choses to be pragmatic about life (“So what if she is an alien?”, “Dad abandoned us. Move on!”). Kim Beom-Gyoon is probably the opposite, an idealistic young man obsessed with finding the truth, having nothing to lose thus giving up normal life for pursuit for truth. One should applaud the actors for doing a good job in drawing one into their characters’ predicament.

At the moment, the Brave New World plays up a linear police procedural drama. One feels that some of the tricks (memory videos, writing on the forehead) are almost too convenient and handy, too plot-driven. But the characters, Kim Joon-Hyeok and the bunch surrounding him including Lee Ho-Soo, are interesting enough that one enjoys going for a ride with them. It also helps that the bunch provides comic relief.

As one is getting used to and settling in the storytelling, one begins to enjoy visual cues and wonder about them. The way the story’s Beta Project transitions to Brave New World, going up above the clouds, and going back on earth in different time, feels more than just styling. It is as if someone presses a pause button to the story here and presses the play button there. <speculation>Are we in a simulator?</speculation>.

And the search for Bluebird. This might have been mentioned in discusion forums somewhere but this reminds one of The Blue Bird play by Maurice Maeterlinck and the idea of searching for bluebird as searching for happiness. The whole concept of utopian Smart district is about living in happiness. Whether its definition of happiness fits one or should come with a price, that’s another matter.


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