There’s no exact formula for what makes a good Korean drama. However, every once in awhile you will find one that strays from the expected path and delivers a powerful and emotional punch. In 2020, that drama is Itaewon Class.
Directed by Kim Sung-yoon, this drama follows the difficult life of an ex-convict who’s trying to get his pub to the top of the food industry. Along the way, he makes friends and he makes enemies. But, through it all, he never strays from his ultimate goal. It’s a whirlwind of emotions from start to finish, not leaving a second to breathe in the entire sixteen-episode show.
Itaewon Class: the Webtoon Series
Before we talk about the drama, we should probably discuss its beginning.
This drama, unlike others, began as a Webtoon series. If you’re unfamiliar, a Webtoon series is, in short, a digital comic. It originated in South Korea and has gotten quite popular outside of the country in the most recent years. Of course, this popularity has brought many more opportunities for these Webtoons to be made into dramas.
More and more dramas are starting to be made from original Webtoon series, including this short list of expected webtoon-to-drama series in 2020.
The Webtoon series for Itaewon Class was written by Jo Gwangju and published on the Daum Webtoon website from December 2016 to July 2018. It was popular because of its unique characters and well-written storyline. It makes sense that it would eventually become a drama from the response it got.
To read the comic, you can find the Korean version here. And, unfortunately, there is not a complete English translated version of the Webtoon, but this is the link to where I read the first few chapters with English translations.
Itaewon Class: the Korean Drama, 2020
Like the Webtoon series, the Korean drama Itaewon Class gained a lot of reaction from people. From its first episode release January 31st to its last episode release March 21st, this show took the drama world by storm.
Not only was the drama different than the typical ones you’d see, but it was also breaking the taboo feeling of some subjects. This drama included ex-convicts, people from the LGBTQ+ community (specifically a transgender), and racism within South Korea. Among the vast range of Korean dramas, there really isn’t another drama where you can find this level of discussion on these subjects. Itaewon Class certainly sets the bar up high when it comes to talking about real problems that people go through.
Itaewon, Seoul, South Korea
This drama included a lot of popular actors/actresses, as well. Including: Park Seo-joon (as Park Saeroyi), Kim Da-mi (as Jo Yiseo), Kwon Nara (as Oh Soo-ah), Lee Joo-young (as Ma Hyeonyi), Ahn Bo-hyun (as Jang Geunwon), and Yoo Jae-myung (as Jang Dae-hee). Out of these actors, I definitely think that Park Seo-joon and Ahn Bo-hyun played their roles incredibly well. While the other actors are also amazing, I feel that these two actors were the best fit for their roles, completely irreplaceable for those characters. (If there were different actors in those roles, then I don’t think the drama would feel the same.)
Along with the cast members, what makes this drama so impactful is the location it’s based in. Itaewon. Itaewon is the most diverse neighborhood within Seoul, South Korea. There are people of all races, of all cultures, of the LGBTQ+ community, and everything else. There are tons of restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. for all kinds of people from all over the world.
This is probably one of the reasons that the drama was able to include the less talked about LGBTQ+ and racism issues throughout Korea. If there is any place in South Korea to talk about these things, then that’s Itaewon.
Itaewon definitely played a large role in the drama, being the place where Saeroyi (the main protagonist) sets up his pub. From the moment he had first stepped into Itaewon, he knew that there was nowhere else to create his pub.
If you would like to watch Itaewon Class, it’s on Netflix (click here to go to their website).
The Reaction from People
Of course, with any great Korean drama comes quite the mixed reaction. This was no different with Itaewon Class. There were plenty of people who loved the drama and plenty of people who disliked the drama.
A few positive reactions:
Many people who enjoyed this drama enjoyed it for the uniqueness and the boldness that it brought. People loved how open it was to talk about taboo subjects and how it built the story line up—it wasn’t cliché and it wasn’t too predictable.
The characters were so much more than ones you could see in other dramas, and people loved that.
A few negative reactions:
Of course, with many people liking the drama, there are also people who dislike it.
The drama includes violence, more so than usual in dramas. There are scenes with car accidents, physical fights, and a few other things of that nature.
Most of the motivation for the main character comes from revenge, as well. Which tends not to be a well-liked theme—since it usually has the main character doing some things a little twisted.
Another reason that some people dislike the drama is because of the lack of chemistry between the main character and his love interest at the end of the drama (I will not say who that is, since that’s a big part of the drama).
My Honest Review
Overall, I really enjoyed this drama. It’s been months since I first watched it, but I find myself continuously going back to it. Out of the multitude of dramas I’ve seen, this is one that I definitely think will stick with me for awhile.
I thought the plotline was well written, the actors/actresses were amazing, and the actual filming of the drama was beautiful. I can’t explain how happy I was when they dove deeper into issues from the LGBTQ+ community and racial issues in South Korea.
However, I can admit that there were a few things that I didn’t enjoy from the drama.
1. The character of Soo-ah
Don’t get me wrong, I love Soo-ah. I felt that the actress who played her did a very good job of portraying the character. But, there is more than one occasion where Soo-ah annoys me. Without giving away too much about the show, I will say that she did turn it around for me a little bit at the end and I was glad to see that she was happy.
2. The backstabbing
While revenge is one thing in this drama, the backstabbing is another. At times I can see why the characters did so, but there are times where a character purposefully hurt another, and it drives me insane. I wanted there to be something more than their selfish desires at times and it didn’t always happen. Thankfully, it didn’t occur that much.
Overall, I definitely recommend giving this drama a chance. It’s different, but it brings so many emotions with it that you can’t get with other dramas. Keep an open mind and remember that there are good things and bad things with everything.
If you would like to check out other dramas, visit our drama page and read about other great dramas worth checking out! You won’t regret giving at least one of them a chance, I promise.