Fortunately for everyone, 2020 has continued 2019’s hot streak when it comes to k-dramas. From Dr. Romantic 2 right the way through to Tell Me What You Saw, there has been something on offer to satisfy any palette. But perhaps none have managed to have the mass international appeal that Itaewon Class can boast. A coming-of-age, candid look at responsibility, friendship, loss and acceptance, it’s a tour-de-force of a series, and considering it is the first small-screen production from film distribution company Showbox, an uncompromisingly bold debut into the homes of millions of viewers too.
Based on a webtoon of the same name, the show follows Park Sae-Roy (Park Seo Joon) as he opens up a bar-restaurant called DanBam in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of his father. This all comes after a tragic death, school expulsion and subsequent jail sentence, so not exactly your normal route into business. There’s a lot more to sink your teeth into, including deeper meanings as to why our protagonist’s main mission is to take down the food distribution company Jangga Group, but we’ll let you watch the show for yourselves to find all of that out.
Instead, allow us to tell you the main reasons why you should check out the drama taking Netflix by storm, with only minor spoilers to be found below.
Although a lot of the premise may be as sensationalised as you’d expect from a 16 episode series, a lot of the show’s charm comes from the real, human moments. From the heartwarming acceptance of Ma Hyun Yi (Lee Joo Young), a transgender character who wants to give her all in life, to Tony Kim (Chris Lyon), a character who is hailed from Africa but is in Korea searching for his father in an attempt to gain citizenship, there is a tangible sense of authenticity to the drama. These are all experiences that aren’t exactly over-the-top or exaggerated, but rather used to show the human side of a drama that is ultimately a broad look at standing up for what is right.
There’s an underdog story
As the cliche goes, we all love a good underdog story. Whether it’s Eddie the Eagle, Leicester City or the Jamaican bobsled team, everyone finds comfort in rooting for those who aren’t expected to bring success. Here though, Sae Roy swears to bring down Jangga due to the family that head the group being responsible for his father’s death, and although it seems like a huge long-shot, you can’t help but get behind him. Thanks to a passionate performance from Park Seo-Joon, you can’t help but anticipate the eventual fall of the antagonists, and you’ll always hope that DanBam becomes the franchise it’s meant to be.
Friendship takes centre-stage
For all the confrontation taking place, there needs to be some sort of reprieve. Fortunately, that comes in the form of friendship, loyalty and acceptance all found under the DanBam roof. Made up of a diverse gathering of people all with different hardships to face, there is a true-to-life reflection of the support groups we all need in life, and it shines throughout the drama. After all, it wouldn’t be the second highest-rated drama in JTBC history if it just cranked angst up to eleven for 16 hours.
We may have only just moved past the halfway stage of the drama, but Itaewon Class has an irresistible quality to it that makes it must-watch. The acting is fantastic, the characters are written out of generic tropes, and the story is unique enough to not have you comparing it to every other drama under the sun. At a time in which the weather is irrefutably awful and the world seems to be stuck in a constant state of panic, why not get behind Park Sae-Roy and co. and enjoy all that comes with it?