Based on the webtoon of the same name, Itaewon Class is a coming-of-age plot about Park Saeroyi (Park Seo-joon) who swears revenge on Jang Dae-hee (Yoo Jae-myung) for his father’s death.
Cut things short, Park Saeroyi and his team fight to transform their bar-restaurant, DamBam into a successful franchise.
The series definitely struck a chord with local and international audiences as the final episode in Korea peaked at 16.5%. Not to mention it has also consistently trended on Netflix’s Top 10.
Here’s why Itaewon Class proves itself sui generis.
- Breaking Stereotypes
Members of marginalised groups in society make up most of the crew at the DamBam bar. Take for example ex-prisoner-turn-gangster Choi Seung-kwon (Ryu Kyung-soo). Or transgender woman Ma Hyeon-yi (Lee Joo-yong).
Throughout the series, the plot journeys through their struggle in society and discrimination they face. Casual racism is also prevalent when Kim To-ni (Chris Lyon) experienced what locals term as “ib-bbaen”, a refusal of entry to a club owing to his ethnicity.
Locals also conveniently assumed that he could only speak English simply because he is a foreigner.
- Score a Deeper View in Itaewon, and Korean Culture
The drama’s diverse cast is also a rightful ode to Itaewon, the melting pot of Seoul.
And if you thought that the drama was filmed in front of a green screen, give it a second thought. Observant fans have realised that these drama filming locations do exist, and are located in Itaewon.
- Second Chances
Itaewon Class is all about second chances.
Park Saeroyi, despite being a middle-school dropout and ex-convict, still managed to build a name for himself. Some might hastily dismiss this as an unrealistic storyline with the fact that “its just a drama” but the positive messages of sticking to one’s beliefs and values, definitely hit close to home.
“To all of the cast and crew who made me think again about my life’s beliefs and values, I sincerely thank you,” says Park Seo-joon in his recent Instagram post.
- Breakthrough Leads
Both Jo Yi-seo and Oh Soo-ah (Kwon Nara) aren’t your typical female leads. On first impressions, neither of them have the most likeable personality and are unapologetically annoying at times.
But that is as real as it gets and both characters had such a strong story to tell. Their strength, grit and independence is everything we can ask for.
On the other hand, Park Seo-joon and his iconic chestnut haircut in the show is definitely one to remember for many years to come.
- Webtoon Adaptation
The webtoon or Manhwa culture has been increasingly becoming popular in Korea and Itaewon Class is definitely not the first, nor the last of such webtoon series made into dramas.
Previous adaptations include My ID is Gangnam Beauty (2018) and What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim (2018).
But what made Itaewon Class even more special is that the scriptwriter for the drama, Jo Kwang Jin, happens to be the writer of the original webtoon.
There were parts which “were lacking in the original and that it was an opportunity to remedy it on my own through the drama,” Jo revealed in an interview.
Unlike most Korean series, Itaewon Class tackles stigmas and addresses traditionally taboo topics like LGBTQ+ and racism, which are usually swept under the carpet in South Korea. Instead, it shys away from the usual romantic clichés.
Listen to the OSTs from Itaewon Class on KKBOX.
• Itaewon Class is now available on Netflix.