How Itaewon Class Navigates Contemporary Social Issues In South Korea
Itaewon Class is a K-drama full of fun crazy characters, and that’s where it draws its strengths. In the first episode, the main character, Park Sae-Ro-Yi, punches a classmate for bullying another classmate. It turns out that the bully, Jang Geun-Won, is the son of a restaurant mogul, CEO Jang Dae-Hee, who happens to be Park Sae-Ro-Yi’s father’s employer. This leads to a series of adverse events that include the death of Park Sae-Ro-Yi’s father at the hands of Jang Geun-Won.
The Fun “Crazy” Team
Like all honest sons in every soap operas and K-dramas, Park Sae-Ro-Yi vows revenge against CEO Jang Dae-Hee and his restaurant business Jagga. He forms a team consisting of a sociopath, a transgender, a half black half Korean, and a high school dropout, to help him start his own business. All these characters represent issues that the South Korean society still stigmatizes to different extents. For example, if you are a high school dropout, you will be viewed merely as a loser, but a transgender person may be seen as abnormal and unacceptable in South Korea.
Foreigners In South Korea
Another touchy issue in South Korea is that of foreigners, especially multicultural children. Kim To-ni or Toni Kim, the half-African and half-Korean character in Itaewon Class, faces different forms of prejudice. For example, he gets turned away from a bar because of his skin color, and people assume he cannot speak Korean. Kim To-ni travelled to Korea from Guinea to find his Korean father.
South Korea is a country that has largely remained homogenous from its inception, which means it is not as multicultural as the United States. While the attitudes towards foreigners are changing quickly, you may still be treated like an outsider no matter how good your Korean skill is or how long you have lived in the country. Hopefully the character Kim To-ni may help change attitudes faster.
Why You Should Watch Itaewon Class
The show addresses issues of race and gender in a way that keeps you invested in the stories around the characters’ lives. A more general description of Itaewon Class is that it is a tale of underdogs teaming up to face off against a well-funded and ruthless villain, CEO Jang. As they go through this journey, you will get to see them fall in love, challenge stereotypes, and grow as human beings. You can watch Itaewon Class on Netflix.