Binging On “Kim’s Convenience”
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
By: Nifath Chowdhury
“Kim’s Convenience” started as a play written by Ins Choi, and the televised version available to stream on Netflix is written and directed by him as well. This was the show I chose to watch with my boyfriend to give him some insight into my cultural upbringing. I’m not Korean, or Canadian but I still manage to see myself and parts of my family (and friends) in the characters within this show.
The show centres around the lives of the Kim family, a Korean-Canadian family living in Toronto. Mr. Kim (played by Kim Sang Il) and Mrs Kim (Jean Yoon) own a small convenience store which they run with the help of their daughter Janet (Andrea Bang) and it is in this store that many of the scenes take place. The family is not complete without older son Jung (Simu Liu) who has a strained relationship with Mr. Kim, something that is made apparent from the very first episode.
The characters start off the way one would expect— Mr. Kim is the stern father, Mrs. Kim is the concerned mother, Janet is struggling to declare herself an adult while Jung is the struggling adult. They quickly dissolve into less than perfect forms that make them endearing and entertaining all at once. Mr. Kim’s relationships with the shops regulars opens him up to the viewers as a more affable person, and the regulars themselves become enjoyable to run into on the episodes. Mrs. Kim has a community of friends where her role extends beyond doting mother and wife, she is shrewd and a troublemaker in her own right. Janet and Jung are constantly trying to find solid footing in their shaky worlds, professionally and romantically, a struggle universally appreciated.
The main characters propel the show along, dealing with some small inconvenience or another each episode, and a lot of those inconveniences are stirred up by the supporting characters, each of whom are memorable and spin-off worthy in their own right. Kimchi, Jung’s roommate, co-worker and long time best friend, is an easy favourite. He delivers lines with sharpness that disarm the viewer into thinking he could sting, but very rarely does he ever make any real damage. Shannon, Jung’s manager at Handy Car Rental, harbours a loud crush on Jung and is constantly failing to check herself. Shannon’s awful puns and attempts to relate to Jung and Kimchi’s troubles nearly always land wrong —- and hilariously so.
Nayoung is another unforgettable character, mostly for her ear-splitting wails but also for bringing a striking contrast between the lives of the Kims in Canada, and Nayoung’s life in Korea. She represents the evolution of culture, and Mrs. Kim’s dismissal of Nayoung’s modern take on Korean style is all too familiar.
Janet’s friends at OCAD, where she is enrolled in a photography program, are also important in adding texture to her character. Gerald in particular stands loud in his blandness.
This show, at its heart, is one about family and community. It’s hard to contain chuckles at the dialogue and it is just as hard not to weep a little at the more sincere instances. It’s easy to binge on a first watch, and easier to re-watch over and over again.