It’s not even debatable. Hyun Wook views women as the inferior sex, weak, and to be controlled by men.
I should note that I am rewatching this series, and I’m on episode 6.
The show establishes Hyun Wook as sexist
The head chef Hyun Wook asks the kitchen assistant Yoo Kyung out on a date. She says she’s free after 11pm, and Hyun Wook insinuates there’s only one thing to be done that late at night — have sex. Yoo Kyung can only stare at him in disbelief as he says he will let her keep a little of her pride — instead of scheduling the date that night, he’ll graciously reschedule it a few days later.
He also tells Yoo Kyung her newly bought goldfish will die soon. Why? “Because they are female,” he says. He implies that Yoo Kyung also cannot survive the pressure the kitchen demands. Ironically, he promotes the new kitchen assistant (male) who has only been on the job for a few days to be a chef, while Yoo Kyung is demoted to her original assistant position though she has toiled for three years in that job.
Though Hyun Wook treats Yoo Kyung harshly at work, shouting at her and even causing her to fall in the kitchen, he flirts with her outside of work — with the supposed goal of hooking up with her.
I was reading Mary Wollenstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women”, and thought the following excerpt was fitting:
She was created to be the toy of man, his rattle, and it must jingle in his ears whenever, dismissing reason, he chooses to be amused.
He later fires all the female chefs in the kitchen, despite allowing all the male staff who had made mistakes as well to stay.
Hyun Wook participates in a blind tasting of pasta made from each chef in the restaurant and decides that Yoo Kyung’s is the best. When she excitedly pulls the mask from his eyes, he expresses shock and almost regret. He cannot believe that he chose a woman.
Oh, his backstory is supposed to justify his sexism?
The audience is presumably supposed to find Hyun Wook attractive. He is the male lead. Yoo Kyung harbors a crush on him even after his repeated verbal attacks towards her as unfit for the kitchen.
We later find out why Yoo Kyung not only doesn’t hate him, but actually admires the head chef. She confesses to the second male lead that Hyun Wook does not betray her — he is always brutally honest.
Oh, she also mentions the times he was nice to her, like when he saved her goldfish or cured his cramps.
I guess Yoo Kyung chooses to forget his acerbic words towards her, his continued taunts that she wouldn’t survive in the kitchen, and his blatant ignoring her presence in the restaurant.
But wait — he has a backstory! This explains everything!
Except it doesn’t. Basically, the girl he was in love with was also a fellow chef-in-training at culinary school. She backstabbed him, causing him to lose in a food contest while she won.
… That’s it? That’s why he hates all women in the kitchen?