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All About 2020’s Top Kdramas #1 : ITAEWON CLASS

All About 2020's Top Kdramas #1 : ITAEWON CLASS

2020 had some of the most successful and interesting kdramas ever and Itaewon Class was one of them. Months later, the hype around the show still hasn’t gone down, only increasing as it continues to win awards.

Park Seo-joon stars in a new Korean drama, Itaewon Class, based on an eponymous webtoon. For those looking for a light-hearted Korean drama that’s not too heavy on the romance side, look no further. Itaewon Class combines snazzy visuals, a fun ensemble cast, and a storyline that you might need tissues for—either from laughter or sadness. It’s easy to say that Itaewon Class is a revenge story, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a story about second chances.

 

ITAEWON CLASS : PLOT

The central narrative is a revenge plot revolving around Park Saeroyi, a proud, almost irritatingly dignified young man with a spine of steel and the haircut of a chestnut. His singular goal is to open a pocha (think a sit-down bar with food) called DanBam (a punny name meaning Sweet Night, or Sweet Chestnut) and turn it into the biggest food company in Korea while destroying his enemies. He opens the restaurant in Itaewon, a neighborhood in Seoul known as the foreigner’s district that has rapidly gentrified in the past decade. The various interweaving B-plots involve his ragtag crew that draws from that backdrop — a group of characters still usually not seen on Korean television — including a fellow ex-convict who spent time in prison with Saeroyi, a trans woman chef, and a black Korean looking for his father.

If Saeroyi is the hero, the villains are a father-son duo in the CEO Jang Dae-hee (Yoo Jae-myung) who runs the largest restaurateur group called Jangga and wields his power with terrifying Hobbesian energy, and his chaotically evil heir to the throne, Jang Geun-won (Ahn Bo-hyun), who has an elastic smirk that begs to be punched. Jang Dae-hee is the Goliath to Saeroyi’s David, the Bowser to his Mario. He’s Bad Daddy Capitalism, who believes that because he is rich, he is powerful, and because he is powerful, he is right. He’s driven by a petty desire to see Saeroyi on his knees (quite literally), and will stop at nothing to crush him and his friends.

The Manichean moral clarity of Itaewon Class means the ending is something of a foregone conclusion, but the journey is still thick with addictive plot twists: There’s betrayal, murder, a cooking competition, and yes, pining between Saeroyi and his childhood crush Oh Soo-ah (Kwon Nara), who works as a top-level executive at Jangga, and a hypercompetent young upstart named Cho Yi-seo (Kim Dami) with vaguely sociopathic tendencies, who works at DanBam. The show delivers that great salve of middlebrow television: It surprises and delights, while still offering a comforting sense that the good can still be good, and the bad will ultimately get their just desserts.

Fans of Park Seo-joon will definitely enjoy Itaewon Class as it further reinforces his versatility as an actor. We’ve seen him become the second lead in Kill Me, Heqal Me, a swoon-worthy lead actor in other romantic comedies such as Fight For My Way or in more serious roles such as such in the movie, Divine Fury.

Itaewon Class is unfortunately not immune to typical Korean drama tropes, but it more than makes up for that. Excellent visuals filled with vibrant colors bring Itaewon’s nightlife to life. Sprinkle in a good soundtrack and you have a Korean drama worth your time. Coming from JTBC, known for its Korean dramas spiced with social commentaries, be sure to expect no less from Itaewon Class.

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