Korean Drama Review: Itaewon Class (이태원 클라쓰) –– An Absolute Mess
Korean drama Itaewon Class tells the story of Park Saeroyi’s life, that has been turned upside down after he gets expelled from school for punching a bully and his father is killed in an accident. Following his father’s steps, he opens a pub named “DanBam” in Itaewon and, along with his manager and staff, strive towards success and reaching greater heights.
A Sneak Peek Into “Itaewon Class”
Park Saeroyi has always been a quiet kid. Even when he was a high schooler, he liked to keep to himself and didn’t bother much about going around to make friends like a lot of his peers that age. At school, because of how cold he was and how little friend he had, Park Saeroyi was even nicknamed as someone who’s “socially inept”. Of course, following his personality thus far, not even that nickname bothered him enough to want to do something about it either.
For his last year of high school, Park Saeroyi decided to move to a new high school. It was there that Saeroyi met his first love, Oh Soo Ah. Soo Ah was an orphan who lived in an orphanage funded by a big food company called Jangga, which also happened to be where Park Saeroyi’s father worked.
On the first day of attending his new high school, Saeroyi witnessed a classmate being bullied. He was shocked by the amount of disregard regarding the bullying from his classmates and his teachers. Everyone in the class saw what was happening as the bully poured milk on a student, harassing him about how he mistakenly bought a different milk flavor, and yet nobody did a thing. Not even the teacher, who did nothing more than pretend the whole thing wasn’t happening.
Seeing that nothing was being done to stop the bullying, the headstrong Park Saeroyi with uncompromising ideals even in his teen years, stood up and immediately punched the bully, Jang Geun Won. And as luck would have it, the classmate that Saeroyi punched ended up being the son of CEO Jang Dae Hee, the owner of Jangga Corporation.
Immediately after the incident, with Jang Geun Won’s face swollen and already starting to bruise, Park Saeroyi was dragged to the principal’s office. With the gravity of the situation, Saeroyi’s father was also called to the school as well as Jang Geun Won’s father, Jang Dae Hee.
As soon as Jang Dae Hee stepped into the room, there seems to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Park family will be the one groveling and asking for forgiveness from the CEO of Jangga, especially with Park Saeroyi’s father’s job in the line. However, when Park Saeroyi was asked to kneel and apologize to Jang Geun Won for punching him, Saeroyi lifted up his chin and pridefully refused. Unable to believe what he’s seeing, Jangga’s CEO focused his attention on Saeroyi’s father, using power play to get Saeroyi’s father to get him to apologize.
Once again, defying anyone’s expectations, Saeroyi’s father quit on the spot after mentioning about just how proud he was of the his son and the man that Saeroyi had become. Upon hearing that, Jang Dae Hee only sneered, amused by the sense of pride and strong ideals that the Park family seem to uphold. Of course, being that Saeroyi hit the son of the CEO, there should be a consequence of some sorts. Not to mention that the CEO of Jangga needed to save face from that transcribed in the principal’s office. Therefore, just with half a day of school at his new high school, Park Saeroyi was expelled.
When the news of being expelled came to Park Saeroyi, he wasn’t even a little bit distressed. As he knew that he had done the right thing by his beliefs and ideals. However, he could not stop apologizing to his father for putting him out of job over something to small and irrelevant. Saeroyi’s father on the other hand, was nothing but proud to see his son slowly but surely turning into a man that stood by his beliefs and did the right thing even when it’s hard.
Eventually, Saeroyi relented after seeing that his father was actually okay about not working at Jangga anymore. Instead, his father wanted to open a small restaurant with the savings that he had and retire that way. Saeroyi was excited of course, seeing that he’s now expelled from school and have a lot of free time on his hand.
So for weeks, the two prepared and planned out everything that they would need to open a restaurant. From produce, to furnitures to marketing. They were excited to start a new chapter of their lives, now being closer than ever after overcoming a big hurdle. Just as things are just starting to settle and the Park family are getting used to being a restaurant owner, an accident happen one day while Saeroyi’s father was riding his bike home after a shopping trip. A car crashed onto the motorbike that Saeroyi’s father was riding from behind and pushed him over the ledge, and he died within minutes.
3 Words to Summarize this KDrama
DIFFERENT, DIVERSE, FLOP
Like most people out there, Itaewon Class was my first Korean drama after Crash Landing on You. After CLOY, there was just thing big hole in my heart that no kdrama seems to be able to fill. Until I saw the trailer for Itaewon Class.
At first, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure just how could Itaewon class could be, especially right then when I have quite literally just came down from Crash Landing on You high. But the trailer piqued my interest. That, on top of the good reviews that seems to be pouring in like waves solidified my decision to give Itaewon Class a try. And what do you know, after finishing the strong and promising first episode, your girl was hooked.
PARK SAEROYI AND HIS IDEALS
Hm. Where do I begin.
At the beginning, for a plot that was already so used and rehashed, seeing Park Saeroyi’s character, his ideals and how he stood for them really left a mark. It was what seriously hooked me in and kept me on the Saeroyi choo-choo train for 12 or so episodes.
I like how relentless he is when it comes to pursuing his goals, I adore how he strive to treat each and everyone with kindness and understanding, and I especially love how he’s all hard-edges yet still soft and innocent at the same time. There are a lot of things that I like about Park Saeroyi’s character, but seeing that this was a story––despite it only being 16 episodes long––I still expected to see some kind of character development.
All these years, from high school to his 30s, there was absolutely no change in Park Saeroyi’s character. Fuck, even his hairstyle was the same when the supporting characters around him changed. He might be older and wiser, but his way of thinking is the same, the way he come at problems are the same. It was as if he was stuck in time while the people around him change and grow.
I mean, fine. I could accept it. He could be the same from beginning till the end, that’s fine. But it makes absolutely no sense to me when Park Saeroyi’s character has remained constant all through these episodes, only to change 180 degrees when he hastily fell in love with another character in the drama on episode 14. Keep in mind, there are only 16 episodes.
ROMANCE? LOVE TRIANGLE?
If you don’t already know based on my constant over-dramatic-ness when it comes to romance, I love me some good as romance story. Like, I don’t even care what it is, as long as it’s good, I’ll swallow it whole.
So color me surprised when I find that not only did I not giving a flying fuck about the romance in Itaewon Class, it actually annoyed me that there were any romance in this kdrama at all. I honestly feel like the revenge plot in itself was enough to drive the story forward. If they would have just focused and really hone in on that plot line, this would have been a very successful kdrama with how well fleshed each and every single characters are.
But no. They need to go and mess the whole thing up with some weird romance that truthfully just felt off and forced half the time. But heck, what do I know? Maybe this is what people enjoy watching?
THE CHILDHOOD FRIEND AND THE CO-WORKER
Ah. Don’t we all just love a good childhood friends to lovers story? No? Oh, my bad. We prefer instead, a co-worker who’s been there since day one and helped our main character from ground up?
Why, worry not. In Itaewon Class, you don’t even have to choose. You get to have the best of both worlds. The childhood friend and the manager, both fighting over restaurant owner Park Saeroyi like he was the last drop of water on the face of earth.
To be quite honest, I couldn’t bring myself to care about these two. Childhood friend Soo Ah was a little bit too spineless for my liking. Which again, understandable since she grew up having nothing, so of course her sense of perseverance is stronger than most. However, I still would like to see her be more assertive from the beginning, instead of just offering a little bump of help to Saeroyi at the very end.
On the other hand, we have the forward-thinking and fearless Yi-Seo. Now, the girl has tried countless of times confessing her love to Saeroyi. And she has been rejected to a lot of those times. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound quite like romance to me. Heck, if you reversed the roles around, the man would be considered as a pervert for harassing women and continuously pursuing her even after she said no so many times. However, now since Yi-Seo was young, smart and decent looking, everything is okay?
None of these relationships are healthy. For Soo Ah, she seems to like to be chased, while constantly tightening and loosening the noose on Saeroyi’s neck. On the other hand, Yi-Seo is just a self-entitled bitch that seems to think just because she wants it, she has to have it. News flash ho, the world doesn’t work like that.
One of the things I really enjoy while watching Itaewon Class is the fact that they touched up on different races and sexuality.
Knowing South Korea’s culture, they can sometimes be very closed off to things that are not of the norm. Be it about your race or about your sexuality. It’s very refreshing that Itaewon Class managed to bring more awareness to this and while also showing the viewers that it’s important to not judge someone so quickly just based on how they look.
Throughout our lives, we are bound to meet new people coming from various of different backgrounds and history. It’s important to not be closed off to those experiences and be as open minded as one could afford to be because at the end of the day, we’re all human. Sure, we might look different on the surface but deep down, we’re all made of bone and flesh.
Itaewon Class started off strong and I was excited for what’s to come. But 12 episodes into the drama, the unlikable-ness of the characters are starting to show and there are cracks to be seen in the story-plot. The last 4 episodes were honestly just a total, absolute mess. Everything feels so rushed, like the writer knew they ran out of time to tie everything up into a pretty little bow like they expected. So as a result, we have this mess of an hastily hashed out ending to somewhat reassure the viewers that we have not just wasted 16 hours of our lives for nothing.
I still stand my ground that Itaewon Class shouldn’t have had any romance added into it to begin it. There wasn’t any chemistry between any of the co-stars to be honest and the romance just seems forced no matter how you try to look at it. It was where things started to spin out of control. Because the writers of this show got too ambitious and bit off more than they can chew.
As for the revenge part…meh. It was predictable. I was expecting Itaewon Class to be that one show that has the guts to take it further and darker in the name of punishing the bad guys. But alas, I was––again––too naive and hopeful.
The overall feel between the “DanBam” restaurant co-workers were fun though, so there’s that.
I don’t have much to say since I’ve already said––and cursed––everything that I had in my mind. Understandably, there will be a lot of people who are offended by this review, and that’s okay.
For me, I’d say that Itaewon Class isn’t worth the watch. There’s just so much more you could do with 16 hours of your life than to watch a subpar predictable Korean drama that doesn’t really give you a whole lot of satisfaction after finishing it. Itaewon Class’ only saving grace was due to the strong acting skills of everyone involved. But even that couldn’t save the garbage that this drama became in the end.
If you’re looking for a feel good drama, this is definitely not the one to pick. Actually, I cannot think of any instances where I would recommend this show. Well, I suppose if you’re a big fan of Park Seo Joon, then perhaps(?)
But in all seriousness, for a drama started off extremely strong and just seemed to have a lot of potential, it was a shame to see how it crashed and burned in the end.
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