“Itaewon Class” is a Korean drama, based on the webtoon “Itaewon Class”, which was written by Jo Gwang Jin. It is a common practice for Korean people to transform webcomics into TV shows, and this one is no exception. In fact, Jo Gwang Jin is also the screenplay writer for the TV adaptation.
“Itaewon Class” is one of the hottest and most popular k-dramas of 2020 so far, and that’s not without a reason. The drama tells the story of Park Seroi, who gets unfairly put into prison and as an ex-convict tries to compete with the big business owners and show that power is not everything. Park Seroi has his own principles that believes to be true and sticks to them no matter what. He doesn’t kneel to people with money and power, but rather does everything he can to prove himself right and to bring justice. He would do anything for the people he loves, especially if someone were to pick on them.
I would like to take a moment to comment on the OST of “Itaewon Class”. I rarely watch k-dramas these days, let alone go back to a soundtrack song to listen to it over and over again. “Itaewon Class” first peaked my interest with its OST songs that started coming out. The compilation of all songs fits the story perfectly and is still, to this date, something that I listen to on a regular basis. We have songs from artists such as Gaho, The Vane, Kim Woo Sung from The Rose, Ha Hyun Woo, Crush, VERIVERY, V from BTS and many more.
Had I not listened to the OST first, I probably wouldn’t have started watching the drama because the story itself didn’t really sound as something I would have enjoyed. At least not straight away. However, once I played the first episode, there was no turning back. The first few lines got me totally hooked. In the first scene we have Jo Yi Seo (played by Kim Da Mi), who everyone thinks is a sociopath, talking to her psychiatrist. Jo Yi Seo’s psychiatrist asks her “What do you usually think about when you go to sleep?” and honestly, this line just got me. Even though Jo Yi Seo doesn’t always make the best decisions, I can understand her most of the time. She does what she thinks is best in order to protect those she loves and cares about. In a way, she is just like Park Seroi, yet the two have very different beliefs of how you should live. I liked Jo Yi Seo from the very first moment and if I had to pick a favorite character, it would definitely be her.
Something I particularly like about “Itaewon Class” is that we get some background story for the secondary characters as well. Unlike most dramas, here the focus is not just on the two main characters. The viewer can really get to know each and every one of them, see for themselves what they’ve gone through in life and understand them.
As we all probably know, Koreans are a very conservative ethnicity. Probably that’s why the fact that there is also a transgender character was quite shocking to me at first. This is definitely something that I haven’t seen in a Korean drama before. There is also the factor of racism as one of the characters is black, even though Korean. I believe these are just a couple of examples that show how realistic the production is.
Speaking of which, how realistic is actually the drama? First of all, the street “Itaewon” really does exist and is mainly populated by foreigners, thus there are plenty of bars, parties and the vibe overall feels very different to the rest of Korea, so to say. Secondly, it is common knowledge that education in Korea is of utmost importance. About 93% graduate middle school and about 70-80% of those proceed to college. It is safe to say that if you don’t have a college diploma people will look down on you. Without a diploma it is extremely hard to find a “decent” job. And to go even further, for an ex-convict such as our main character it is not only hard but close to impossible to get a job. In Korea, ex-convicts usually go to work on fishing boats, where also Park Seroi starts his journey once he leaves prison. One thing I admire in Park Seroi is that even though in prison the others try to break his spirits and laugh at his dream, he doesn’t care what others think and never gives up. Just as he says, his life has just begun!
Ah~ There’s so much more I want to say, but I don’t think I can find the words to express how much I loved “Itaewon Class”. One last thing I will mention though, is that Kim Da Mi won the “Best New Actress” award with this drama at the 56th BaekSang Arts Awards. This is definitely a series I would rewatch in future! Highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it already!
Itaewon Class / 이태원 클라쓰
Release Date: January 31 – March 21, 2020
Director: Kim Seong Yoon
Writer: Jo Gwang Jin (webcomic & screenplay)
Review by: VixxYi