Writer’s note: This review contains spoilers
Asian dramas have always captivated a worldwide audience. From Korean Dramas to Chinese Dramas, their typical plot follows the traditional romance between two leading figures, and perhaps a sprinkle of comedy or tragedy here and there in order to rightfully label the series with the word: drama.
But in more recent years, Netflix has taken up a part in creating their own international television series. In 2017, they created their first Korean original series: “Love Alarm.” In 2019, they launched a few dramas in mandarin: “Nowhere Man” and “Triad Princess.” Since then, Asian dramas have arguably taken all the hype.
One specific Korean drama has recently caught my and many other’s attention. In early 2020, “Itaewon Class” was released on Netflix and it took to international social media waters by storm.
The story follows male-lead Park Saeroyi (played by Park Seo-Joon) and his journey in the district of Itaewon to create his own restaurant. His goal is to turn it into the largest and most successful food company in Korea and use this advantage to enact revenge on an enemy.
Along for the ride are Jo Yi-seo (played by Kim Da-mi) and Oh Soo-ah (played by Kwon Nara) to name a few. A quick love triangle soon develops between these two females and Park Saeroyi.
Now, do not get me wrong. “Itaewon Class” is so much more than a simple love triangle between three characters. It covers a wide range of thematic ideas surrounding familial pride, individualism, sticking to one’s beliefs, ambition, success, sacrifice, etc. Simply put, there is so much more substance to this drama than pure romance.
However, despite there being so many elements to the overall plot of the story, it came down to both the romance and ambition aspect that left me, as a viewer, most unsatisfied toward the end.
In episode one of the series, we are introduced to Park Saeroyi. We conclude that he is a calm person filled with unbelievable strength and stubbornness to stick to what he believes is ethical in this world.
We are then introduced to Oh Soo-ah, who Saeroyi first meets on the street, and later as his high school classmate.
Oh Soo-ah is an independent orphan girl whose main doctrine is to live by putting herself first; live her life and her life only. We soon earn ourselves a tragedy, as Saeroyi’s father tragically passed away in a hit-and-run accident by an enemy, who is the son of a food-business tycoon.
Because of this tragedy, Park Saeroyi vows to avenge his father, create his own successful food-business and take down those who killed his father and tried to cover it up.
As a member of the audience, it is only right for me to assume that the first two characters introduced — Park Saeroyi and Oh Soo-ah — are bound to end up together, especially as they both exhibit romantic interest in each other.
Not to mention they look like the perfect couple in their undeniably cute chemistry. It is also right for me to assume that Park Saeroyi will end up achieving his goal through predominantly his own efforts.
Fast forward and we meet cool, social media famous influencer Jo Yi-seo. She is trendy, talented, arrogant and the exact Urban Dictionary definition of the b-word. With the addition of another female character, it is almost a recipe for conflict — and there is conflict. A lot of conflict.
Long story short, the tale ends with Jo Yi-seo winning Park Saeroyi’s heart – something that still infuriates me months after this series has been released.
In support of my position, Park Saeroyi and Oh Soo-ah should have ended up together.
One, they have held onto their infatuation for one another for an entire decade if not more — which is basically the entirety of the show; two, they have a sense of respect and support for each other’s lives; and three, Park Saeroyi’s decision to stop liking her was abrupt and unrealistic as it happened suddenly in the last few episodes.
Not to mention that ethically, it is unfair to Oh Soo-ah that Park Saeroyi swore he would help her and care for her after he reached his goals. He even told her to wait for him. In my eyes, Park Saeroyi just might get the number one award for best-at-leading-people-on.
While members of Jo Yi-Seo’s team in this love triangle might argue that Yi-Seo sacrificed her life for Park Saeroyi’s dreams, devoted herself for over a decade to curing Park Saeroyi of his unrequited love for her and was physically around him for more of the show than our other leading-lady, this does not give them the excuse to proclaim such actions are love.
Because no, it is not. They are signs of a budding toxic relationship where love for someone else overrides any possible sign of self-love to begin with.
Before one begins a relationship, satisfaction with one’s own life is vital. Never should there be any sense of boredom with one’s life or neglect to live before one enters a relationship. Jo Yi-Seo displayed all the don’ts prior to her desire for a relationship with Park Saeroyi.
Right until the end, Jo Yi-seo was annoyingly petty and annoyingly confident she would steal Park Saeroyi from Oh Soo-ah. And she did.
My love for “ItaewonClass” definitely lessened as the series bore on. Regarding Park Saeroyi’s ambitions, I was expecting him to defeat his enemy with his own business in the end, no matter how long it takes.
Yet, it made me disappointed when I realized that the only reason Park Saeroyi “achieved” his goal at the end was because Oh Soo-ah helped him expose his enemy’s attempt to immorally cover up the hit-and-run accident a decade or so ago. He could not have achieved his ambitions by himself.
All in all, Oh Soo-ah was the real success story in this drama.
That is why the only redemption this television show could obtain from me is the fact that Oh Soo-ah got her happy ending in the end — much to the satisfaction of me and many others who supported Oh Soo-ah.
She gracefully let go of her love for Park Saeroyi, opened her own business and met a new possible love interest. She moved on. And if that does not represent strength and sophistication as a woman, I would not know what does.