Review: Operation Proposal


I admit I was a little apprehensive as I started this drama. So many people had dissed it online, condemning it as boring and makjang that I wondered whether I should even attempt it. In the end, I decided that I was curious enough to try it and see for myself.

Even though romance is a main theme, it’s character development that takes centerstage, and it is Baek Ho’s development and growth that we follow, as we watch him time travel.

Populated by an earnest and well-selected cast, this drama is by turns sweet, funny, heartwarming, sad, moving and thought-provoking.

True, there are a few plot holes, but if you overlook them, there’s a lot of good left for the appreciative eye.

Many people say this turned makjang, but it really isn’t makjang. This is a fantasy drama with several melodramatic elements. And those melodramatic elements work within the fantasy world in which this drama is based.


I find it a thought-provoking theme: if you could go back in time and live various key moments in your life again, would you behave differently, and what different outcomes would result at the end of the day? Would anything significant change as a result?

Apparently, in the original Japanese version, the main character keeps going back to the same situation every time he comes back to the present. That means that for the most part, nothing that he does in the past changes the present. I haven’t watched my download of the Japanese version yet, so I’ll have to defer judgment on that approach till later.

In principle, though, I actually like the approach of the Korean version.

Here, Baek Ho goes back in time multiple times, each time to a more recent point in time, and every time he jumps back to the present, he comes back to a somewhat different reality.

I think that makes sense, that there is a ripple effect in some way, originating from the things that he did differently the second time round.

While many viewers may find his progress painfully slow, I find it rather believable.

The point the writers are trying to make is that people generally don’t change their innate nature so easily. So each time he goes back in time, his reactions and responses to the things and people around him don’t or can’t change much because they are tied closely to the state of his character development, which is not flying forward, but inching forward.

And because he’s not changing his responses drastically, the future, even while showing some ripple effects of his actions, essentially doesn’t change. He returns to see Yi Seul engaged to his coach every single time, albeit at different stages of their relationship.

I actually felt rather bad for the Coach, coz Lee Hyun Jin does such a great job portraying him as a sincere, earnest lover to Yi Seul. He is mature, steady, sweet, gentle and romantic. In the real world, he would be who I’d pick in her place.

To answer the makjang accusations that have been leveled at Operation Proposal, I have to say that Operation Proposal is a fantasy drama after all, so certain things which would seem ridiculous in a normal drama are actually very plausible in the fantasy world in which it exists.

When the main theme of a drama is time travel, you can’t seriously expect the drama to stay within the same boundaries as a normal drama. And that’s probably the key reason I was able to enjoy Operation Proposal while so many other people seemed to be frustrated by it.

I accepted it as a fantasy drama with a good amount of focus on character development, rather than romantic development. True, the premise indicates that romance is a central theme, since he travels for the sake of love, but romance can be a central theme without actually being the area in which things develop.


One example of where the frustration hit people hard, but did not touch me, is the selective amnesia which Baek Ho had after his last time slip.

Quite a lot of commenters online agreed that this was so makjang. I find that unfair to say. I mean, the Conductor had warned Baek Ho before his last time slip, that attempting to change matters of life and death would most likely result in his own death. And if he survived by some miracle, he would have no memory of Yi Seul. That was laid down as a rule of time traveling.

So, we were warned. And since we can’t actually time travel, we have to accept the rules as they are given. We can’t say, “Oh, but it doesn’t work that way!” Coz we have no clue how it could work anyway.

Therefore, when Baek Ho asked Yi Seul, “Who are you?” I was already expecting him to. I didn’t expect him to remember her at all. I had believed the Conductor when he had said Baek Ho would either die or forget Yi Seul. So it really confounds me that so many people were so quick to point at this and scream, “Makjang! How ridiculous!”


True, there were some plot holes in the drama, where certain things weren’t explained after the time slips. Like how Tae Nam suddenly becomes a successful rich guy isn’t explained. But overall, I didn’t find those too distracting.

A big complaint by netizens was how it was really hard to keep track of all the changes that occurred as a result of Baek Ho’s time traveling. I didn’t feel the same way, and I thought the drama did a nice job including items that were changed during Baek Ho’s time traveling in the new, adjusted futures.

Since his time travel has to occur in the progressive past, as in, he can only go to more and more recent points in time, everything that he does in each time slip remains within every single present and past that he returns to, since he can never go back to undo them. I liked that and thought it was a nice touch.


Like, the red cape-jacket that Baek Ho had worked so hard to buy for Yi Seul at Christmas. That same jacket appeared in quite a few episodes afterwards, featured in subsequent time slips. I liked being reminded of the lasting effects of his trips to the past.

Another big complaint was how we always seemed to be back at square one, no matter what Baek Ho did. I guess I was kind of prepared for this, and that helped. And because I accepted the premise mentioned by the Conductor that people don’t change so easily, I found it much easier to accept Baek Ho’s lack of movement with Yi Seul.


There was a fair bit of character development despite the slow romantic progress, and that was nice. I grew to like Baek Ho as a character, and I also really liked Yi Seul and Coach as well. In fact, almost all the characters were likable.

I thought Yoo Seung Ho and Park Eun Bin were perfectly cast, and both did very, very nicely. In fact, I thought pretty much every character was well-cast. The friends were a heartwarming bunch, and I really liked Chan Wook’s character.


I enjoyed this and I probably would watch this again sometime.

If you can put aside the need for romantic development as the central driving plotline in favor of a more thoughtful, introspective treatment of character development, you might enjoy this drama too. 🙂


More of an interesting character study than a straight-up rom-com.




I really like this song from the OST. Have a listen & check out footage from the show as well 🙂

27 thoughts on “Review: Operation Proposal

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  4. jenpi \(^0^)/ (@jenpi_)

    Have you tried watching the Japanese version of the drama? because you should and I’m excited for your opinion on it. I’m kind of hesistant to watch the Korean version because the Japanese ver was so good (one of my all time favs) and Im scared that I’ll be disappointed . I am still thinking whether to give this a try because of Yoo Seung Ho!!

    1. kfangurl

      I did watch the J-version of Operation Proposal, actually. But I watched the K-version first, and liked it as it was, without first knowing what the J-version is like. I enjoyed the J-version, but I found myself connecting with the K-version more. Most people I know didn’t like the K-version, I think because they were expecting this to be a much lighter show. But I liked its melo tone, and the thought-provoking themes that it raised. I will say that you probably need to be in a melo sort of mood to like this one. Yoo Seung Ho is very good in this though. I thought he did very well – and not just with the kissing, ahem. 😉

  5. Miyu

    I watched both Japanese and Korean version of this drama and even though I am not really into Japanese drama, I actually liked the Japanese version better.

    Something I didn’t like in this story (both version) is the fact that the things he did after going back to the past changed the present. At first nothing really change because he failed to do the things better even after going back to the past but as he kept going back, he slowly change those things and when he returned to present. thing has changed and so when he finally pull that confession, things has change because the girl’s feeling changed as well because of the things he did after going back to the past. It’s just that I feel sorry for the teacher whom the girl agreed to get married because she also liked him only to dissed him in the end because her feelings changed (since their past memories is better now compared to before the MC returned to the past). The teacher loved her and he was the who was with her during the time that she’s having it tough and MC didn’t really helped. But because MC changed those bad moments, the outcome changed.
    I think I would’ve liked it better if the future didn’t changed but at least let the MC see what would’ve happened if he did this or that.. and at learn to accept the time that he wasted and learn from it and move on to a brand new beginning.

    I just didn’t like how the girl dated the teacher and learned to love him only to dumped him in the end at their wedding day, because of the MC’s confession and the good memories that they shared (even though they were never a good memory before MC returned to the past). So what would’ve happened if the MC confessed without changing the past? would she still chose him? would she still cancel their wedding even though nothing changed her mind before? Wouldn’t it look like she was just waiting for MC to actually confessed -which means she just used the teacher?
    That’s the only thing I didn’t like about this story.

    1. kfangurl

      Aw, it’s too bad that you didn’t like the time-slip rules of the drama world, Miyu, since that is a foundation of the story. I get what you mean about it being unfair to the groom; it would totally suck to have your bride pick someone else over you, because someone else is doing a whole lot of time traveling during your wedding! On the other hand, in an objective sort of way, I like the time traveling device of the butterfly effect, that things done in the past change the future. It’s this device that drives home the message, that every choice that we make in the present, has some kind of ripple effect on our future, which is why we should live wisely. 🙂

  6. Koeunjoo

    If you compare this kdrama to the concept of reincarnation in Buddhism, it’s actually very similar. The goal in Buddhism is to attain nirvana. No. Not the 90s grunge band, a state of enlightenment in which the soul has learned everything that it needed to learn from all of its reincarnated lives and is now ready to escape the cycle of suffering caused by reincarnation. This is similar to how Kang Baek Ho’s goal was to stop needing to travel back to the past over and over and relive painful moments in order to attain a happy existence with his beloved Yi Seul. In each instance, he is learning from his suffering and going back to correct his mistake. In Buddhism, the goal is to not have such attachments and desires because these things cause us suffering. It was only when Baek Ho let go of Yi Seul, sacrificed his own life, and accepted that she would be with Coach that he actually got to have her in the end. He learned to detach from her just enough to save her and have her. It’s just like, reincarnation happening way faster and way more stressfully. Poor Baek Ho ;__;

    1. kfangurl

      Ooh, that’s an interesting perspective, Koeunjoo!! Thanks for sharing! 😊 So glad that this show is still getting some love, even now. I remember feeling like I was just one of maybe 3 people in the entire dramaverse who liked this one! 😆

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  9. Lora

    I’m thinking of giving OP a try. I love the idea of it, but from the spoilers I’ve read, I’m not sure that I’ll be happy with the ending. From what I understand MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD….the lead girl marries the coach and then leaves him during the wedding reception for the main guy! What?! After she’s already married to him (for a few minutes)?! And the fact that he sounds like he’s a really nice guy throughout the whole story makes it worse! It seems like this would take a lot away from the feel good happy ending, no?

    It seems that drama writers have been giving second leads a much worse time in recent years (like…MINOR SPOILER….The Moon that Embraces the Sun’s second lead, Yikes!). Way back in the days of Winter Sonata and Beautiful days SPOILERS AHEAD…the fates of the second leads didn’t mess up the happy endings for me. In both of those dramas we got to see the guy who didn’t get the girl still smiling, happy, and still friends with the lead girl at the end.

    1. kfangurl

      I’m glad you’re thinking of giving OP a chance, Lora! I really did like this one.

      To appreciate it, though, you’d need to go in expecting not a rom-com, but a character piece. The story is less about finding a romantic happy ever after, and more about character growth. Taken in that context, the show becomes a lot more interesting and a lot less frustrating. Coz even when his time slips fail, we can appreciate the learning that he gets from each time slip. For example, one of the interesting points that I felt the show was making, is that our natures don’t change as easily as we think.

      As for the spoiler that you mentioned, I think the show does a good enough job of dealing with that, to preserve the good feels of the happy ending. If it helps, our leading lady doesn’t earn her happy ever after right away after leaving her wedding reception. There’s more that she works through, and in that sense, I felt the point wasn’t so much whom she chooses, but how she learns to come to terms with her heart and have the courage to follow it. I hope that helps to mitigate your hesitation with this one, Lora! 🙂

      Hafta agree with you that MoonSun wasted its second lead. Jung Il Woo was definitely wasted in the role. On the other hand, I thought you might find it interesting to know that in Beautiful Days, Lee Byung Hun was originally the second lead. Ryu Si Won was originally the lead, but Lee Byung Hun enjoyed so much favor with audiences that the writers switched him into first lead position to eventually get the girl. This was one of the earliest instances of a second lead swooping in to get the girl. Another interesting factoid (I’m just full of ’em today, aren’t I?) is that Hotelier had the same thing happen, and Hotelier was competing with Beautiful Days in the exact same timeslot. In Hotelier, it was Bae Yong Joon who swooped in to get the girl over original lead Kim Seung Woo. Love Hotelier, by the way, and recommend it for when you’re in the mood for some retro, if you haven’t seen it 😉

      1. Lora

        Thanks so much kfangurl for your thoughts on OP. I think if I go into it with that perspective I might enjoy it. I guess it was not quite marketed right as a rom-com, and knowing that going in will probably help. From the bits I’ve previewed it does look really good.

        Thanks for the very interesting factoids about Beautiful Days and Hotelier!! They are two of my favorites from my early days of KDramas. Knowing now that the leading men weren’t originally meant to be the leads explains why I didn’t really get the “lead” and “second lead” feeling from the guys in either drama. Both dramas felt more like they had two leading men and one leading lady, until the “lead” gets the girl. Luckily, I liked both guys in both dramas, so I would have been happy with either choice 🙂

        Here is one other factoid about the ending of Beautiful Days I learned right after I first saw it….A bit of a Spoiler ahead for anyone who hasn’t seen it…….it was originally written to be a tragic ending (writers sure do like to kill off Choi Ji Woo), but so many fans threatened to kill themselves if it didn’t end happily so they changed the script!! I for one am sooo glad they changed it 🙂

        1. kfangurl

          Oh yes, the right perspective helps a lot, I think. Coz I’ve seen a whole lot of, well, not hate per se, but strong displeasure, in response to this show, and I think a lot of that has to do with perspective and expectations. I was really quite surprised at how upset people were with the show, since I personally enjoyed it quite well.

          You hit the nail on the head, Lora – both Beautiful Days and Hotelier felt like they had 2 male leads instead of 1, which is a pretty great sort of vibe, really. It not only keeps us guessing, it gives us a stronger sense of competition between them, instead of the classic situation where the poor 2nd lead never stood a shadow of a chance! I personally favored both Lee Byung Hun and Bae Yong Joon while watching, so I was pleased AND relieved when they got their girls!

          I’d heard that the ending of Beautiful Days was originally supposed to be tragic, and that writers had changed it to please audiences, but I hadn’t realized that fans had actually threatened to kill themselves! Oy. Talk about taking your drama too seriously! 😛 While I wouldn’t recommend the threats of suicide, I am definitely happy that they didn’t kill off Choi Ji Woo. That would’ve ruined the drama for me, I’m sure! XD

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  11. Alex

    Totally agreed your review and read it only a moment after I finished the drama. I thought the show was brilliant. I tried watching it almost, if not, a year ago and quit! I was so bored the first 10 episodes because like you said, I wanted the development between the two and couldn’t see the whole point of the show until the last few episodes! Your review struck the chord of the whole point of the drama! I appreciate how different the drama was, it was very different! I’m glad it was written the way it was and actually hadn’t noticed that the more he kept going back the closer to ‘now’ he would get. Suspenseful! To be honest I think I would have enjoyed the first 10 episodes knowing that there was a direction of the show besides him consistently failing! It felt repetitive and frustrating and I sincerely thought, “Should I be enjoying this? Should I be enjoying how frustrating BOTH leads are?” I thought it was the whole drama, the first 10 episodes. Boy was I wrong. I’m glad I finished it… It needed to be. This drama should come with a warning. “WARNING: You must watch all episodes to LOVE the drama. If you give up, you’ll never know what amazing story you missed out on. LASTLY THIS DRAMA DOES GO SOMEWHERE” LOL

    1. kfangurl

      Aw, yay for drama second chances! I’m glad you gave OP another chance, even though you felt bored by it the first time you tried watching it! I think going in with managed expectations helps a lot. The promos for OP looked a lot like a rom-com, and I think that’s why a lot of viewers were frustrated when it didn’t actually deliver relationship movement like a rom-com usually would. I’d gone in already knowing people were frustrated with the slow pace, and that helped me enjoy the show more. So yes, a warning does actually help! ^^

      Totally agree with you that the focus that you take makes a huge difference. If the writers are focusing more on character development but viewers are looking more for rom-com cuteness, that mismatch can be the source of a lot of unhappy viewers.. I guess it doesn’t help that the source material, Proposal Daisakusen, is more manga-like, and campier in execution. Viewers who’ve seen the J-version might’ve well come to the k-version expecting that kind of campy tone too, and been disappointed as well. Taken as a character piece, though, I found OP really quite a nice, thoughtful watch, and I’m glad you ended up enjoying it in the end!! 😀

  12. Mikay

    I really liked the Japanese version, and after reading your review, I’m considering watching the Korean version. Thanks for sparing a little bit (or a lot? lol) of your time to write this. 🙂

    “Apparently, in the original Japanese version, the main character keeps going back to the same situation every time he comes back to the present. That means that for the most part, nothing that he does in the past changes the present.”

    Actually, something does change whenever he returns to the present time after going back to the past, even just a little. At one point even, after giving much encouragement to his friend to go get the girl he likes, they were already a couple when he returned to the present time. ^_^

    1. kfangurl

      Hey Mikay!! Glad you enjoyed the review! ^^

      I wrote this a while ago, and now, I’ve actually managed to watch the Japanese version, so I can say with authority that the 2 shows are really quite different in tone, even though they tell essentially the same story. The J-version is lighter and has a more manga feel to it, whereas the K-version is more emotionally driven. There’s no manga feel. And the K-version is longer too, so it is definitely slower than the J-version. But I liked both, for different reasons. In particular, I thought the K-version was a good exploration of our nature, ie, we don’t change as easily as we’d like to. The J-version shows that too, but doesn’t dig deeper into it. Also, I have a soft spot for our lead in the K-version. Yoo Seung Ho is such a cutie ;D

  13. BaronMW

    Great review! I thoroughly enjoyed the series, i am commenting due to one of your complaints.. It does indirectly explain how Tae Nam becomes rich and successful. At one point in time he invests and loses all of their money, however you are lead to assume in episodes after that, time changes (most likely due to Baek Ho’s time lapses changed something leading Tae Nam to become a successful investor. My source? Just finished the series, very fresh in my head haha.

    1. kfangurl

      Ah, thanks for pointing that out! I liked this show, & I like to know that it was more tightly written than I gave it credit for! I’m so glad you liked this show too, coz most people didn’t like it.. Yay for more love in the house, for Operation Proposal! ^^

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    1. kfangurl

      Aw, thanks stellarjedi!! I’m glad you like this drama too! I really enjoyed this drama quite well, and I wish more people would give it a chance. It’s such a pity that so many found it frustrating & makjang when it really wasn’t even trying to be :/ But yay to finding a fellow fan! 😀


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