An Honest Review Of 'Itaewon Class'

HANDS DOWN: 'Itaewon Class' is Park Seo Joon at his best.
PHOTO: Itaewon Class/JTBC/Netflix

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

Aloof high school student Park Saeroyi's life turns upside down when he gets into a fight with bully Jang Geun Won. When their parents are called to the principal's office, Saeroyi finds out that the kid he punched is the son of Jangga Co. founder and CEO Jang Dae Hee (aka his father's boss). With the school administration wrapped around his finger, President Jang gives Saeroyi a chance to avoid expulsion and legal charges. All he has to do is acknowledge his mistake, get down on his knees, and apologize to Geun Won. Saeroyi stays true to his conviction and does not yield. His father backs him up and tenders his resignation when President Jang hints that the situation could put his career at Jangga Co. at risk.

Things take a turn for the worse when Saeroyi's father falls victim to a hit and run. When Saeroyi finds out that Geun Won is at fault, he finds him and beats him to a pulp. President Jang uses his wealth and influence to cover up his son's crime, while Saeroyi is sentenced to three years in jail.

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Engulfed by sorrow and the urge to avenge his father's death, our hero plans his revenge against President Jang and Geun Won. After being released from jail, he takes on a series of jobs that allow him to establish Danbam (which translates to "Sweet Night" in English), a tiny pub in Itaewon. Armed with his principles, ambition, and a team of unlikely professionals, Saeroyi pursues his dream of beating Jangga Co. by eyeing the top spot in Korea's food industry.

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The Short, Honest Plot

Underdog Park Saeroyi is driven by one goal: to avenge his father's death. Will revenge sweeten his bitter nights?

The Actors and Where You Last Saw Them

Park Seo Joon as Park Saeroyi

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We last saw Park Seo Joon on the small screen two years ago when he starred opposite Park Min Young as narcissistic chaebol Lee Young Joon in What's Wrong With Secretary Kim? The K-drama heartthrob has been starring in dramas since 2012. His lead role in She Was Pretty put him on every fangirl's radar. Must-see Seo Joon shows include historical series Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth and rom-com Fight For My Way which paired him up with Kim Ji Won.

Kim Da Mi as Jo Yi Seo

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Spunky Kim Da Mi plays social media influencer-turned-Danbam manager Jo Yi Seo (TBH, her character is a firecracker who will win you over!). She debuted in crime thriller Marionette and played the lead role in action-mystery flick The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion.

Kwon Nara as Oh Soo Ah

Kwon Nara stars as Soo Ah, Saeroyi's first love. She started her Hallyu career as a member of K-pop girl group Hello Venus. She played Ji Chang Wook's ex-girlfriend in Suspicious Partner and headlined drama Doctor Prisoner with Namkoong Min in 2019.

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Lee Joo Young as Ma Hyeon Yi

Lee Joo Young steps up as Danbam's transgender cook, Hyeon Yi. You may recognize her for her supporting roles in dramas Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo and Something In The Rain.

Ryu Kyung Soo as Choi Seung Kwon

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Ryu Kyung Soo joins the Danbam team as waiter Choi Seung Kwon. If you want to catch more of him, check out crime drama Confession and historical film A Resistance.

Ahn Bo Hyun as Jang Geun Won

You may remember Ahn Bo Hyun from his role as Alpha Team member First Sergeant Lim Gwang Nam (aka Piccolo) from Descendants Of The Sun. He also starred as Nam Eun Gi, the second lead guy who crushes on Park Min Young in Her Private Life.

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Kim Dong Hee as Jang Geun Soo

Rookie actor Kim Dong Hee is known for his supporting roles in dramas Sky Castle, A-Teen, and A-Teen 2. Itaewon Class is the first drama where he gets to go beyond acting as a student—a role he's always played in previous projects.

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Did You Know?

1. Park Bo Gum made a cameo in the drama's final episode out of loyalty to the show's director, Kim Sung Yoon. FYI, he was also Bo Gum's director in Love In The Moonlight!

2. BTS' V showed his support for BFF Park Seo Joon by self-producing and singing "Sweet Night" (in English!) for the Itaewon Class OST. He also made time to visit Seo Joon at the drama's Seoul film set where they shot the last two episodes.

3. Interest in the drama was so intense that the final episode peaked at a nationwide viewer rating of 16.5 percent! As reported by Soompi, Seo Joon had this to say to his fans: "I'm grateful to Itaewon Class that allowed me to look back on myself and think about my future life. I hope this drama was a comforting experience for everyone too. I hope you have a sweet night every night. Thank you very much for watching, and I will come back with even better acting."

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What I Think:

Itaewon Class has so much heart. The feels you get from the show are at a whole new level. The story shines with love for family, love for friends, love for oneself, and love for others. The first two episodes are super heavy but once you get past them, you'll be off on a classic hero's journey with Park Saeroyi and his Danbam crew.

I've never seen Park Seo Joon act with so much intensity. He really embraced his role as Saeroyi and injected a lot of passion into it. Though people may see him as a pushover, I admire how Saeroyi stuck to his principles, for better or for worse. The value he placed on integrity and his practice of putting people first inspired me. Throughout the drama, you'll notice his adorkable habit of stroking his bowl-cut hair. The gesture made him relatable and set Saeroyi apart from the other characters that Seo Joon has played to date.

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Itaewon Class has all the elements of a K-drama worthy of your time. Each character is well-written and realistic because of the vulnerability they possess. I really love how the drama's romantic angle was weaved into the plot in a very subtle way. The love triangle between Saeroyi, Soo Ah, and Yi Seo kept my heart racing because it was super unpredictable (It's only at the very, very end where the show's OTP is revealed!). The rawness of Yi Seo betting her life on Saeroyi—even when faced with unrequited love—tugged at my heartstrings. Her resolve to support and protect Saeroyi shows what girl power is all about. She won me over and made me cheer for her because she never expected anything in return.

Closure is another aspect that I appreciated about the script. Though the plot spans a period of 15 years, it wraps up well with elements planted early on coming into full bloom to support the final outcome. For what its worth, the time I invested in Itaewon Class led to a sweet experience. The drama was fun and inspirational. It had its share of kilig moments and made the district of Itaewon come alive (A must-visit destination to add to your future vacay!). The drama left me with two key takeaways to cherish: a reminder that people should be at the heart of every business and that dreams are worth fighting for.

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I'd Recommend It To:

Park Seo Joon fans and anyone who is down for a good story. Keep your tissue box within reach because it's a tear-jerker.

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