Itaewon Class K-Drama Review
Director: Kim Seong-yoon
Based on: Itaewon Class by Gwang Jin
Cast: Park Seo-joon, Kim Da-mi, Yoo Jae-myung, and Kwon Nara
An ex-con and his friends fight to make their ambitious dreams for their street bar a reality.
Itaewon Class K-Drama Review:
I’m a big fan of Park Seo-Joon. I love his all movies and TV shows. Fight For My Way, What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim, Midnight Runners, and The Chronicles of Evil are my favorite Park Seo-joon Shows and Films. Park Seo-Joon his recent film “Dream” was released in theaters on April 28th in Korea. Eagerly waiting for the film.
The story revolves around rebellious high school student Sae-Ro-Yi, who finds himself entangled in a blood feud with a bully named Geun-Won following the shocking death of his Father. Consumed by rage and subsequently thrown in prison, Sae-Ro-Yi finds himself antagonized by the Chairman of Jangga.
What follows is a revenge-fueled redemption story that sees Sae- Ro-Yi team up with the eccentric Yi-Seo to open a pub in the bustling tourist area of Itaewon Street and try to topple the Chairman and Jangga Co. and become the top restaurant company in Korea.
We start the drama off following the youth memories of Park Sae-ro-yi, played by Park Seo- Joon. His father is killed when he is a teenager by a CEO’s son, who was driving and hit him. Infuriated by this, Sae-ro-yi brutally attacks the son, who is also his classmate, and thus ends up in jail for three years.
Once he’s out, he chooses to open up his own restaurant and bar in Itaewon but initially doesn’t do well. Cue newcomer Kim Da-mi as Jo Yi-seo. A brilliant girl who happens to be social media famous, she becomes the manager of the restaurant and propels it to new levels. But this is only the beginning of Sae-ro-yi’s plans to destroy the company whose son killed his father.
One of the greatest parts about Itaewon Class is about how it uplifts and champions marginalized people who tend to be on the fringes of society. While this is largely Sae-ro-yi’s story, he is operating out of ltaewon, the foreign district in Seoul.
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There are also a lot of gay clubs in that area, which makes it a bit more progressive than Korean society as a whole from a Western perspective. Sae-ro-yi’s staff consists of his former prison cellmate and gangster who wants to change his life, a transgender woman, and a Guinean-Korean who is unable to speak any English, despite everyone assuming he’s a Black American.
Of course, the plot is a lot more complicated than that, with various different characters engaged in their own angles — including Geun- Won’s brother Geun-Soo working for Sae-Ro-Yi at his pub DanBam and Sae-Ro-Yi’s childhood crush Soo-A working for the Chairman. All of these character-driven sub-plots work seamlessly with the main plot, interweaving with the revenge angle until the finale.
With several different time jumps, the final few episodes throw in a kidnapping angle that feels slightly superficial in the way it’s presented but does a good enough job to keep things ticking across to the surprisingly well-written and satisfying conclusion to this tale.
The story itself works really well, with multiple layers built up across its run-time and plenty of topical issues explored too. From racism and sexism to the taboo subject of transgenders, ltaewon Class doesn’t shy away from a lot of controversial topics and handles them with respect throughout.
There’s never a moment where these feel contrived or forced, organically adding to the experience of the show. Although ltaewon Class does take a while to settle into its groove, around episodes 5 and 6 – drama starts to settle down and deliver a much more driven story.
The revenge plot that consumes a lot of the middle portion of episodes is interesting, with DanBam rising up from obscurity to begin challenging the Chairman, who finally starts to take things seriously as we reach the third act of this tale.
It’s around this point that the show starts to build up various peaks in the run-time that deliver some really well-written reveals and emotionally rewarding segments.
Stylistically, the series adds in a few different musical montages with all the usual Korean drama tropes you’d expect. Slow-motion shots, flashbacks, and dramatic cliffhangers are all here but they’re used well in the context of the show.
The soundtrack has some nice, catchy songs on there too and overall the show maintains a really colorful palette across its 16 episodes, reinforcing the neon-awash streets of ltaewon itself. The best part, however, about the drama is the relationships between the characters themselves.
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We see Sae-ro-yi’s and Yi-seo’s relationship develop the most, as we get romantic undertones with them (although the age gap is kind of strange and I didn’t think I approved of it really when I first watched it), and Yi-Seo, who is stoic and doesn’t really open up to anyone, eventually manages to become good friends with all of the staff at DamBam, the restaurant in which this story is set.
My only qualm about the drama is that once it shifts gears and starts to focus on Sae-ro-yi’s revenge plan, it begins to really slow down. I found it harder to pay attention here because I was lulled into the security that was held at DamBarn, but then we’re a full-on food company expanding all over Korea and I would’ve just preferred to omit the revenge portion of the drama.
I really liked everyone’s stories without the “we need to take down the CEO of a major food company” side of the story. The cinematography in this drama is absolutely beautiful.
One of my favorite things about certain dramas tends to be the way they are filmed because they manage to capture this absolutely beautiful cinematic quality. And this was present in Itaewon Class; I would watch it again just for the aesthetics. Absolutely spot-on.
Bltaewon Class is a very solid, well-written Korean drama that’s both simple enough to follow and intricate enough to keep things interesting across the 16 episodes without ever feeling like it’s dragging things out unnecessarily.
The ending ultimately makes this Korean drama one of the best. With a satisfying conclusion for every character and all the big plot points resolved by the end, ltaewon Class is well worth a watch.
Note: It’s a good drama, good for character study and their motivations in why they do what they do. It also does a good job of breaking barriers of whose story should be told—e.g. including these marginalized characters and making them human for an audience that isn’t used to them in dramas.
I found that to be bold and an awesome depiction, and hope to see that more in upcoming K-dramas. The acting also was very solid, it couldn’t have been done without good acting. All in all, as I said, it’s a good drama and I recommend it.