Hotel King (Hangul: 호텔킹) is a 2014 South Korean television series starring Lee Dong-wook, Lee Da-hae, Im Seulong,Wang Ji-hye, Lee Deok-hwa and Kim Hae-sook. It aired on MBC from April 5 to July 27, 2014 on Saturdays and Sundays at 21:45 for 32 episodes.
A love story between an heiress who tries to save her father’s legacy, the one and only seven-star hotel in the nation, and a hotel manager who becomes his mentor’s enemy in order to protect her.
[Warning: The following text contains many spoilers to the series]
The story begins in 1991 in the United States, with two child street beggars, Jayden and Ju-han, who are coerced to produce earnings by a criminal gang. Having failed to produce enough takings, the boys were given a beating by the gang. In all the chaos, Jayden accidentally shoots the boss of the gang and passes out. A man with a walking cane, Lee Joong-goo (Lee Deok-hwa) then takes Jayden in and tells him about his past. The man claims that Ah Sung-won, the chairman of a luxurious hotel in South Korea named Hotel Ciel, is Jayden’s father who abandoned him and his mother. Jayden then vows to avenge his father for his actions and takes on a new name – Cha Jae-wan.
Fast forward over 20 years. In the present, Cha Jae-wan (Lee Dong-wook) works as the general manager for Hotel Ciel. He is known as the “hotel monster” due to his capability and work ethics. On the launch day of a pool section of the hotel, Cha Jae-wan tells Ah Sung-won that he is his son whom he abandoned. However, Ah Sung-won denies the accusations made against him. Jae-wan demands that the chairman accepts this fact, and then gives him time to think. Unfortunately, Ah Sung-won suspiciously commits suicide by falling from his office.
After his death, his daughter Ah Mo-ne (Lee Da-hae) shows up at the hotel. She acts arrogant and uninterested towards Hotel Ciel’s management affairs, but Mo-ne is actually trying to get to the bottom of her father’s suspicious death. She also recalls her father’s last words: Not to trust anyone in the hotel.
She constantly clashes with Cha Jae-wan over a series of attempt of trying to prove that her father did not commit suicide. Jae-wan is torn between his sympathy for his sister and his lifelong ambition to take over Hotel Ciel. During the company dinner, Mo-ne claims that her father has been forced to take anti-psychotic pills which were not supposed to be taken together. Jae-wan looks into the truth and discovers that the pills were indeed Lee Joong-goo’s doing. He then threatens Joong-goo not to harm Mo-ne.
Mo-ne eventually manages to become the new chairwoman but was given a 3-month trial period, in which she needs to achieve 100% increase in sales. On her first day in-charge, Mo-ne loses her emerald bracelet, which was a gift from her father and accuses an employee of stealing her bracelet, resulting in his dismissal. At night, the frustrated employee tries to set fire to the hotel kitchen but Mo-ne succeeds in talking him out of it. However, an arsonist ignites the fire, trapping Mo-ne and the employee inside. Cha Jae-wan was able to save them from the bursting flames but tells Sunwoo Hyun not to reveal to anyone that he was there.
Eventually, Mo-ne realizes that she had misunderstood Jae-wan and goes to apologize to him at his company home. There she accidentally sees the wounds and old scars on his body. This causes Mo-ne to have a change of perception towards Jae-wan. She decides to learn from him in order to achieve the profit target and moves into the company house beside Jae-wan’s.
As time passes, the two grow closer and fall for each together. Jae-wan becomes tormented and pushes Mo-ne away. Although he does reciprocate her feelings, he knows something she does not – that they are half-siblings. Later, Jae-wan discovers that the paternity test result proving that his relationship with Ah Sung-won, has been falsified by Lee Joong-goo. The two proceeds in a romantic relationship.
On Ah Mo-ne’s birthday, Jae-wan finds a recorder Ah Sung-won has left behind for Mo-ne. In the audio, Ah Sung-won tells Mo-ne to be careful of Lee Joong-goo and Jae-wan, who is actually Joong-goo’s real son. Jae-wan is dumbfounded by this revelation and chooses to keep the secret to himself. When Jae-wan goes to meet Mo-ne that night, she brings him to a cottage called Little Ciel, which is run by her father’s ex-chauffeur and they both spend a day there.
Unfortunately, Mo-ne is arrested by the police the next morning because she had approved of a sports event in the hotel, which unknowingly turned out to be a fraud. Cha Jae-wan is forced to return to Lee Joong-goo’s side to secure Mo-ne’s release. He also returns to his former icy self and goes against Mo-ne’s efforts to build her father’s dream Culture Park. Jae-wan does this in order to keep his enemy close and Jae-wan has been plotting a way to bring down Lee Joong-goo once and for all.
A confused Mo-ne still chooses to trust in Jae-wan, but her trust slowly wavers as his actions become more and more unjustified. Mo-ne seeks the advice of Manager Baek Mi-nyeo in order to save her father’s dream. To do so, she must acquire the piece of land owned by a farm chairman (who turns out to be Sunwoo Hyun’s father) as well as attain the support of Roman Lee to invest in her project. In the end, Jae-wan manages to trick Lee Joong-goo by striking a deal with the farm chairman and Roman Lee. Lee Joong-goo is arrested by the police and is stripped off all his personal assets and belongings.
Nevertheless, the story is far from a happy ending. Lee Joong-goo tells Mo-ne that Jae-wan is his son and threatens to drag him to prison with him if Mo-ne does not bail him out. Despite feeling betrayed that she fell in love with the son of her father’s killer, Mo-ne bails Joong-goo out. However, she tells Jae-wan that she does not want to see him again and sacks him as general manager.
Besides that, Roman Lee is revealed to be Baek Mi-nyeo’s adopted son and that he is actually Ju-han (the boy who was with Jayden). Mi-nyeo is also revealed to be Jae-wan’s presumably deceased mother, Mi-yeon (unknown to Jae-wan at this point). Mi-yeon was badly burned in an accident and was told that her son had died. Her goal is to destroy Hotel Ciel in order to avenge what Lee Joong-goo and Ah Sung-won had done to her in the past.
Baek Mi-nyeo succeeds in dismissing Mo-ne as chairwoman and is appointed as Mo-ne’s successor. Meanwhile, Ah Mo-ne becomes a maid in order to stay close to the hotel and in time, she learns more about the hotel and its employees. Cha Jae-wan manages to keep his job as general manager and vows to help Mo-ne reclaim the hotel. After initially refusing his help, Mo-ne eventually realizes that she can’t save Hotel Ciel without the hotel monster. The two resumes a romantic relationship after they decide not let each other hurt anymore. Cha Jae-wan prevails in saving Hotel Ciel by buying shares from the minority holders and by causing Roman’s company in the US to fall bankrupt.
Subsequently, Jae-wan finds out Roman is Ju-han and Mo-ne finds out the Mi-nyeo is Jae-wan’s mother. Mo-ne becomes troubled on whether or not to tell Jae-wan the truth and she invites him to the Little Ciel cottage again. She then decides against telling him as she feared that he would leave her again. Mo-ne then asks Roman to persuade Jae-wan not to report his mother to the police, who initially agrees to it.
Jae-wan then finds out that the boss of the gang whom he thought he killed, did not die. He fumes and threatens to kill Lee Joong-goo, who has been using that murder against him all this while, but does not do so. Jae-wan returns to Mo-ne feeling relieved that he is finally “clean” from his past. The next morning, Jae-wan apologizes to Roman and reports Baek Mi-nyeo to the police, much to Mo-ne’s dismay. She then tells him that Mi-nyeo is his real mother. Jae-wan regrets his decision but does not blame Mo-ne as he realizes that it would have been too difficult for her to tell him the truth. Mo-ne seeks Song Chae-kyung’s help in getting Baek Mi-nyeo released. Once she is released, Mi-nyeo continues her attempts to ruin the hotel and is only stopped when Roman reveals to her that Jae-wan is her real son, Hyun-woo. A remorseful Mi-nyeo then gives Jae-wan and Mo-ne her blessings, and decides to put an end to the bitter war of the older generation by dying together with Lee Joong-goo. Jae-wan manages to save his mother but she ends up amnesia and a mental capability of a 5-year-old. Together, Jae-wan and Mo-ne takes care of Mi-nyeo and he eventually proposes to her. He promises to marry her exactly a year from then, after he manages to get Hotel Ciel back for her.
Later, Cha Jae-wan is interrogated for leaking private hotel information and Lee Joong-goo testifies against him by revealing that Jae-wan had intentionally approached Ah Sung-won 2 years ago in order to come and work for Hotel Ciel. The interrogation was somehow recorded and sent to all the employees of Ciel, including Mo-ne. Despite wanting to bring this secret to his grave, Jae-wan reveals how he initially thought that he was Ah Sung-won’s real son. Mo-ne was shocked by the revelation that he had initially thought of her as a sister, but eventually comes to accept the important fact that he loves her nonetheless.
After collecting evidence of Lee Joong-goo’s crime in murdering Ah Sung-won, Jae-wan hands them in to the police. Lee Joong-goo escapes to a sky bridge and holds Baek Mi-nyeo captive. Following a confrontation with Jae-wan, Joong-goo tells Jae-wan that he actually loves him and jumps off the bridge. Jae-wan catches hold of him, but Joong-goo lets go and falls to his demise. After this incident, Jae-wan and his mother leave Mo-ne and Hotel Ciel.
Almost a year later, Mo-ne is chairwoman again and has to deal with a celebrity customer who wants her wedding to be organized by Cha Jae-wan. Mo-ne then goes to visit Jae-wan and tells him to come back. Jae-wan tells her that he cannot escape from the fact that he is Lee Joong-goo’s son and thus, requests to end their relationship. Heartbroken Mo-ne demands that he finishes off this last wedding project as compensation to her. While organizing the wedding, Jae-wan realizes his cowardice and confesses that he still loves Mo-ne. She accepts him back and they get married.
The show then goes a few years into the future. Baek Mi-nyeo’s amnesia is cured and she returns to her training manager position in Hotel Ciel. Chairwoman Mo-ne brings her two children to their grandmother’s training session for babysitting. The final scene ends with Jae-wan’s monologue: “The hotel that I first saw was a heaven. When I looked at with one eye, it was a luxurious place for riches. But when I realized I was a human being with a beating heart, I saw the people and their stories. The hotel that I will start to work from now on will really be heaven.”