A Little Winter is Coming: The Dog in Summer Strike

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 15: Former member of girl group AOA, Seolhyun and singer Yim Si-Wan (Lim Si-Wan) of South Korean boy band ZE:A attend the GENIE tv 'Summer Strike' press conference at stanford hotel on November 15, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. The drama will open on November 21, in South Korea. (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/WireImage)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 15: Former member of girl group AOA, Seolhyun and singer Yim Si-Wan (Lim Si-Wan) of South Korean boy band ZE:A attend the GENIE tv 'Summer Strike' press conference at stanford hotel on November 15, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. The drama will open on November 21, in South Korea. (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/WireImage) /

Summer Strike (2022), also billed as I Don’t Want to Do Anything, springs from a South Korean webtoon written by Joo Young-hyun. Written and directed by Hong Moon-pyo and Lee Yoon-jung, this series is airing on Netflix. It revolves around twenty-somethings who are reexamining their lives, and the intended audience are those in their mid-to-upper teens and upward.

In the opening and concluding sequences which are animated, we see the main characters and a small, white dog. This pays homage to the anime from which this live-action show emanated. It also reassures viewers that this cute, little dog, who fans of the prior anime already know is going to be found and named Winter, is coming.

In the first episode of Summer Strike, we are mainly introduced to the female protagonist, Lee Yeo-reum (Kim Seol-hyun), a 28-year-old office worker who is being run ragged at her job in Seoul, Korea. When she is practicing a presentation focusing on poetry for a new CEO, she is sent on a fool’s errand to retrieve the new CEO’s favorite coffee, and when she returns, the ambitious Assistant Manager Kim (Moon Hye-in) is presenting Lee’s work as if it is her own, so Lee does not get credit. Lee’s boyfriend, Jae Dong (Jang Sung-bum), tells her that the problem was not that she was tricked, but that she did not have enough cunning and drive to know that something like this could happen and then breaks up with her.

What does a person’s or culture’s perception of dogs say about their humanity?

After Lee makes a suggestion on how their company can save money, her manager, Choi Ji-won (Shin Joo-hwan) berates her, saying that her strength and why he hired her was so she could follow the orders of her superiors silently like a military dog. Even though there is no physical dog yet, we already see that a person’s true worth can be measured in their humanity. One way to measure humanity in a person or culture is how dogs are perceived. Apparently, the manager views most employees, including Lee, and dogs as subservient creatures.

The writing and directing duo and their crew are due kudos. There is intriguing photography in a number of scenes. At the start of the show, when Lee is having a nightmare about making it to some event on time, she is seen running up the stairs, and there is a mirror image on the other side of the screen. One is not sure whether this is a reflection or symbolizes the duality of the dream self and the waking self. When she is scurrying for upscale coffee through the streets, we get an aerial view, and this highlights the danger of her situation. There is also a contrast of running between characters. When we see Lee, she is rushing to meet some obligation through the train station, in the streets, and at the office. When we get glimpses of the male protagonist, Ahn Dae-beom (Im Si-wan), we see another quiet person, but he runs for exercise outdoors and over a bridge with a wonderful vista, like he is communing with nature.

Why is Summer Strike a kind of isekai subgenre and what does this mean?

After Lee’s hardworking, loving mother passes abruptly, she decides to get away from Seoul and quits her job. With only a backpack, she lands in the small town of Angok. The Japanese term for a story where someone travels to another world is isekai, which means “other world.” In an article, a Japanese writer, Ogihara Gyori, points out that it does not include just going to new, fantastical lands, but also there is a subgenre where the hero yearns for slower-paced living. Like products from other cultures, this South Korean work taps into that world-hopping theme. Lee learns that  even though it is not a big city, it is a strange, new world.

In the second episode of Summer Strike, Lee visits the library and decides to stay in town for a while. After seeking help to find a realtor from someone who is mainly blocked by books and turns out to be Aun, she rushes out embarrassed since she mistook him for a girl at first due to his longish locks. Then, when she, coaxed by kids who play soccer outside, kicks the ball, it knocks Aun, who has exited the library where he works, in the head, and he still politely hands her a hand-drawn map to find her destination as he lies dazed on the ground. As they have more interactions, we see that Aun is kindhearted and extremely shy and mainly communicates with her and others with gestures and handwritten messages. Aun hilariously tries to wake her when she falls asleep in the library by all types of nonverbal means such as clapping his hands, dropping books, and scratching a chalkboard.

In the third episode of Summer Strike, Bae Sung-min (Kwak Min-Gyoo) enlists the help of others to try to make life difficult for Lee because he is upset that his father rented her an old billiard hall in disrepair since he had other tenants in mind. But, one of these recruits, Kim Bom (Shin Eun Soo), a rebellious and lonely teen, has a change of heart and returns her payment to Bae since she sees that Lee is good person who she found out helped her father, known as the town drunkard, get home.

After a day at the library, where Aun teaches her how to repair books, she meets the little, white dog, probably a Terrier mix, who spends the whole day with her but remains behind. During a rainstorm the next day, Lee worries about the dog and looks for the canine in the pouring rain at their original meeting spot and finds him in the grass injured. She brings him home to give him shelter and walks him on a leash the next day. Outside, she is confronted by the owner,  who accuses her of stealing the dog and says she should have known there was an owner because of the collar. When the owner roughly yanks the dog to come with her and the dog is in discomfort, Lee then pays her a large sum on money for the dog, who thankfully has a new home. They rescue one another. So, Winter, even though the name has not been chosen yet in the timeline of Summer Strike, has finally arrived.